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Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Bryan Peterson
Pandemonium  - Lauren Oliver After being left with decidedly lukewarm feelings for Delirium, I was both surprised and pleased to find that I enjoyed reading the sequel. While the majority of my issues with the premise remain unchanged, I found them less of a hindrance to my reading experience this time around. Oliver’s dystopian alternate history is still riddled with weaknesses and questionable logic, yet with the focus shifted to action, rather than exposition, it’s much easier to just roll with this world as Oliver presents it. In Pandemonium, Lena relates two timelines in parallel. The narrative alternates between the time immediately after her escape from Portland (picking up immediately after the ending of Delirium), and some time several months in the future. The former thread serves to provide context and justification for the character growth Lena undergoes, while the latter gives the plot forward momentum and presents a new set of complications and conflicts. In terms of stakes and tension, Pandemonium is a stronger book than Delirium. The pacing is, for the most part, brisk and engrossing, and the dual timelines are complementary. They transition smoothly and logically rather than slowing the story down, which is a potential risk with a structure that moves backward and forward so much. Lena herself is a much more engaging character in Pandemonium. Her growth is interesting and believable in the circumstances presented, and her shift from somewhat passive to dynamic made her, in my opinion, a more compelling narrator. There’s a harder edge to the Lena of the future, yet her core characterisation fortunately remains consistent, as I would have found it hard to swallow a complete personality makeover for the purposes of the sequel. To Oliver’s credit, she has crafted a strong, realistic emotional arc for Lena.Similarly, Lena’s relationships with new characters in Pandemonium (particularly Raven) felt nuanced and interesting. The friendships, if they can be called such, that Lena forms in the Wilds were believably complicated. Where this element left me cold, however, were Lena’s interactions with Julian Fineman. Here, it felt choreographed to me, requiring more suspension of belief. And that cliffhanger was… not really a cliffhanger for me. I’d been in expectation of that moment so the impact was not particularly devastating or shocking. It seemed like Oliver’s puppet strings were too visible here, that her manoeuvring of events was obvious and slightly clumsy. I’m divided on the writing. Oliver’s style is descriptive and emotional – rich with imagery and lyrical phrases. However, I can’t help but think some restraint here might have strengthened the prose. Repeated eye colour descriptions begin to feel sickly and overblown after the first few times. I think Oliver has a real skill in communicating complex emotion, yet some of the descriptive passages -particularly where romance is concerned – lost some potency through their being overwritten. Granted, that’s a matter of personal taste, and it won’t draw the same criticism from everyone. I am interested to see how Oliver will conclude the trilogy, and given that Pandemonium was a better reading experience for me than Delirium, I’m feeling optimistic about the final book. * * * * *Why is Lena's disembodied head glaring at me from within some plants? Why?