Saturday, December 1, 2012

Flash Reviews: The "Middle Books" Edition



It's always hard for me to review books that take place later in the series.  There will be people reading them that haven't read the earlier titles, etc.

This year, a lot of highly-anticipated "middle novels" came out.  I didn't want to review them right away, because not everyone has time to get to them, and then spoilers are out there.  Flash reviews are perfect, because they can't spoil too much!

Now that we have months under our belts and the books have been out a while, here are my thoughts on some of the hottest sequels of 2012.

This is your SPOILER warning.  If you haven't read the first book in any of these series, please don't read the following reviews, but find one for the first book instead! 

Title: INSURGENT
Author: Veronica Roth
Release Date: Out now (May 1, 2012)
Publisher: HarperTeen 
Received: Purchased
 
SUMMARY:

One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

"New York Times" bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian "Divergent" series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.
Hands down, my favorite "middle book" of 2012.  I wouldn't have said so last year after reading DIVERGENT (Indeed, DIVERGENT wasn't even my favorite dystopian of 2011), but this year, INSURGENT blew me away.  If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say this is my favorite dystopian series.  Is it any wonder it's been selling so well to everyone looking for something similar to THE HUNGER GAMES?  I can't tell you how many people I've loaned my copies too (Seriously.  They're BATTERED.), but everyone agrees that this series is far and away the cream of the crop!

I think what appeals to me most about this series is that, where THE HUNGER GAMES had holes and gaps that Suzanne Collins brushed past or never filled in, The Divergent Trilogy has yet to have these issues.  Granted, we're still one book away from the end, so things may change, but for now, I feel comfortable saying that this series feels much "fuller." 

I especially like how healthy the relationship between the two main characters is!  There's no love triangle, there's no will they/won't they angst, there's no abuse.  These characters get together in the first book and are still together come INSURGENT.  True, they have problems, but they work them out and grow together.  I applaud Roth for this strong relationship model that teens need to see!

COVER FLASH:

All the covers in this series are so striking.  I can't wait to see what the final book will look like when the cover (and title!) drop!  Have you seen the gorgeous Collector's Edition that just came out?  It's even more stunning!  How is that even possible?  It's shiny and striking, and I am so tempted to buy a second copy, but no, I will not.  I have willpower and I will resist the shiny! (That, and my bookcase really doesn't have the room for me to buy duplicates of anything...)


Title: HALLOWED
Author: Cynthia Hand
Release Date: Out now (Jan. 17, 2012)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Received: ARC for Review (But have also purchased)
SUMMARY:

For months Clara Gardner trained to face the fire from her visions, but she wasn't prepared for the choice she had to make that day. And in the aftermath, she discovered that nothing about being part angel is as straightforward as she thought.

Now, torn between her love for Tucker and her complicated feelings about the roles she and Christian seem destined to play in a world that is both dangerous and beautiful, Clara struggles with a shocking revelation: Someone she loves will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

In this compelling sequel to UNEARTHLY, Cynthia Hand captures the joy of first love, the anguish of loss, and the confusion of becoming who you are.
 
 
Last year, UNEARTHLY was a sleeper hit for me.  I wasn't expecting to like it, but I loved it.  And I'm not even into angel books!  I wanted to know more about everyone when the next book came out, even secondary characters such as Clara's best friend, her mother, her brother, etc.

I also had theories for where the series was going, and after re-reading UNEARTHLY right before HALLOWED, I picked up on a LOT of nuances I missed the first time around.  This gave me even more theories, even small ones such as additions to the angel families and thoughts on Clara's father. 

I was excited to find the answers to almost everything I was looking for in HALLOWED.  The rest is sure to come when BOUNDLESS comes out next month!  Because of this, HALLOWED felt very satisfying, though I still wanted to know what was happening next to these characters.

I will admit, however, that HALLOWED didn't match the perfection of UNEARTHLY--at least for me.  And I think it has to do with the fact that there's something captivating and special about falling in love for the very first time.  Plus, there was a lot more Tucker! That isn't to say that HALLOWED wasn't a good follow-up; it just didn't have that magical first time moment.  I had this problem with other follow-ups, too, and I'm pretty sure it's just me!

COVER FLASH:

The first time I ever saw a cover for this series, it was an ARC, and everything was white, but would be silver in print.  Same thing when you see the covers online.  The books look washed-out and ordinary.  In person, however, they sparkle and gleam and scream, "Buy me, buy me!"

I have a love/hate relationship with this one!
 
Title: PANDEMONIUM
Author: Lauren Oliver
Release Date: Out now (Feb. 28, 2012)
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Received: ARC for Review (But have also purchased)
 
SUMMARY:

I'm pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence, behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Lauren Oliver delivers an electrifying follow-up to her acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Delirium. This riveting, brilliant novel crackles with the fire of fierce defiance, forbidden romance, and the sparks of a revolution about to ignite.


My review of DELIRIUM

Last year, DELIRIUM was one of my favorite books of the year.  Lauren Oliver's writing is gorgeous, and sucks you right in.  I was so excited about PANDEMONIUM, but I had the same issue with it that I did with HALLOWED: In DELIRIUM, you fall in love for the first time, and that can only happen once.  Again, that's a me thing.

I also felt that PANDEMONIUM was more of a build-up for REQUIEM.  I've always been a careful reader (too much so), so it's harder to surprise me than the average person.  I saw all of the big surprises at the end coming, from Lena's mother, to the "shocking" ending that had everyone else's jaws dropping.  I think the loss of surprise, combined with Oliver's attempt at a love triangle, threw me this time around.

Oliver still excels at gorgeous writing that sucks readers in, however, and PANDEMONIUM continues to build the world of The Delirium Trilogy.  I'm really anxious for REQUIEM.  Indeed, who doesn't want to pick up exactly where the last book left off?  Even though it wasn't a surprise, I'm still more than ready to continue!
 

COVER FLASH:

This series has had its ups and downs with cover design.  The first cover treatment failed, so Harper tried something new with a re-design.  I'm still not in love, though I do like the shimmer and the quality of the images.  Maybe I'm just spoiled by all the dystopians with great symbols on the cover, but it's weird to see just a pretty girl among flowers!

Title: FEVER
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: Out now (Feb. 21, 2012)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing 
Received: Borrowed (But have also purchased)
 
SUMMARY:
 
Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind. Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness. The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion...by any means necessary. In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing WITHER, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price - now that she has more to lose than ever.
My review of WITHER

I think I still like WITHER better than FEVER because there's a different sort of grittiness to it.  While a lot happened in FEVER, it didn't feel as though it was 100% necessary to get to SEVER.  I did, however, like the fact that there's more action than WITHER, and that the situation and environment has completely changed.  That was absolutely necessary in order to get to the next volume.  So there are both pros and cons.  I waver a lot.  In some ways, I do like FEVER and its development better.  Again, it wasn't fully necessary, though, so I lean back toward WITHER again.  I have no explanation for my thoughts!

My biggest praise for Lauren DeStefano is the fact that the world she's built is dark, harsh, and uncompromising.  I know a lot of people who won't read it because it sounds so depressing, but the series has more depth than so many others out there.  DeStefano gives us a world like no other, and does nothing to sugarcoat what her characters experience, which I really admire!

This one did surprise me at the end, and I'm really looking forward to next year's conclusion!

COVER FLASH:

WITHER's cover is still my favorite in the trilogy.  I love how much thought is put into these covers, though.  When I first saw the cover for FEVER, I thought the model looked too weird, but in context, it makes a lot of sense after reading this one!I still think this series has incredibly innovative covers!


Title: SPELL BOUND
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Release Date: Out now (March 13, 2012)
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Received: Purchased (at a signing, no less! ^_^)
SUMMARY:

Hailed as “impossible to put down,” the Hex Hall series has both critics and teens cheering. With a winning combination of romance, action, magic and humor, this third volume will leave readers enchanted.

Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late
 
 
Okay, I'm cheating.  This is a third/final book, not a middle book.  But...I don't really have any other final books to review until all of the aforementioned books come out, so... I'm cheating.  You forgive me, right? ^.~

The HEX HALL series is so much fun.  It's not something I ever expected to enjoy because it's so paranormal, but the books are too funny to put down!  And the kissing scenes!  There are a lot of those, too.  Combine humor, kissing, and enough action to blow your socks off, and you have a fun read!  I was lucky to meet Rachel Hawkins at a signing when SPELL BOUND came out and she is even funnier in person!  Her humor really comes across well and showcases her well. 

I like that this series isn't so black and white.  No one is completely good or evil, and I like that a lot.  Hawkins is also good at turning stereotypes upside down for a compelling read.  This book, does, however, contain one of my least-favorite elements when it uses a tired way of cleaning up a loose end.  I had a feeling Hawkins was going there, and I hoped she wasn't, but was so disappointed when she did!  It didn't take away from other good feelings from the book, but it did take a couple of points away from my favor because the book feels lesser for this. 

I also liked the introduction of a brand-new character and family that will spin-off into a new series, the first of which, SCHOOL SPIRITS (with a kick-ass cover, mind you...even better than all the HEX HALL covers!), will launch on May 14th, 2013.  Eep, that's only half a year away!  I was wondering what Hawkins could possibly due with her spin-off, but it all makes so much sense now, and I'm eager for this new perspective!

COVER FLASH:

I like the way these covers are like looking into a mirror.  In the past, Sophie has been in her modern-day clothing looking in on her fantasy bad-ass self.  This time around, the bad-ass is looking in on her past, and embracing her destiny.  Love!  This is quite possibly my favorite cover in the trilogy yet!

2 comments:

  1. You are so lucky to have read all of these. I am currently reading Hallowed. It's awesome. I wish I had read the others, maybe soon.

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  2. INSURGENT- I was a little disappointed in this one. It didn't blow me away like the first one. I think the biggest disappoint was the big reveal at the end because it wasn't foreshadowed at all. And I struggled with the fact that Tris' behavior wasn't rational and I didn't always understand why she was behaving the way she was.

    HALLOWED- I am really enjoying this series as well, though I liked the first book, Unearthly more for the same reason you did: Tucker. I thought the romance with Tucker was so perfectly slow and gradual. I loved that they fell in love while doing things outdoors, and that it wasn't insta-love. I think the world-building is surprisingly well done in this series.

    FEVER- This was a DNF for me. And it's not because I can't handle the grittiness. It's because there is no explanation or logic as to how the world got this way. And I don't feel any sort of attachment to the characters. I'll admit that DeStefano can write beautifully and I like the haunting quality of the beauty mixed with the darkness. But I couldn't buy in to her characters or her world.

    HEX HALL- I really enjoyed this series! I read them all back to back, and enjoyed how witty and hilarious Sophie is. It was fun to get back into a "magical boarding school" for a setting even if it wasn't Hogwarts. My series review is coming out this week, I believe.

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

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