Rating: 4.5 StarsDear Paula Weston, I hate to break this to you, especially since your novel has already released in many parts of the world, but I think you forgot to write an ending. Do you mind sending me those missing pages in the mail? Or will you accept chocolate chip cookies in exchange for Shimmer? Would a few of my limbs entice you instead? Sincerely, Willing to Do ANYTHING For the Ending of This Book Haze is undeniable proof that Middle Book Syndrome is a thing of nightmares - one that can clearly be avoided by Aussie writers. With her sophomore novel, Weston has crafted a sequel that is stronger, darker, richer, and all the more enticing than her stunning debut ever was. Shadows is a promising start to a new series, but that's all it is: a beginning. With Haze we are finally allowed to delve deeper, not necessarily into the foundation of this world, but rather its characters, which, in my opinion, always makes for a much stronger story. If Haze has any glaring flaws - beyond its lack of an ending, of course - it is that the crux of this novel only emerges well after the first-half of the book. In other words, Gaby and Rafa's quest to find Jude only really begins there. And yet, this book is all heart-pounding action and sexual tension, two aspects that are guaranteed to keep you flipping the pages frantically. (Or, you know, re-reading those paragraphs with a shirtless Rafa.) What I loved about Haze, from the beginning itself, was that it immediately solidified our bond to Gaby. While I sympathized with Gaby's predicaments in Shadows, I can't claim to have truly known her mind and heart. In Haze, however, Gaby has become as dear and close to me as a sister. Not only is Gaby still adjusting to the shocking fact that her memories are not real, she is also coping with the hope that Jude may be alive and, moreover, he may be different from the Jude she remembers. As such, Gaby doesn't jump at the chance to find her brother like Rafa does, and her hesitations are so palpably believable that you cannot help but want to prolong the inevitable search as well. Quite thankfully, the events in this book are by no means unnecessary or filler. Instead, the plot focuses on finding a way to keep Maggie safe, which unearths a whole trove of Jason's past and hidden secrets even the Rephaim don't know about. It took me by surprise that Jason wound up playing such a huge role in this installment, but in retrospect, it makes the most sense. After all, unlike the other Rephaim Jason has living family members and his past is not only different, but unusual, from that his fellow brethren have shared. Thus, getting to know more about him, and his relationship to Maggie, was a pleasant spin. Maggie, too, comes more alive in this book. We finally see, not only how much she means to Gaby, but also how much Gaby means to her. Although both girls are facing new and life-changing revelations about themselves and the people they knew, their friendship endures. YA suffers from a dearth of realistic friendships, but I truly loved the manner in which Gaby and Maggie managed to remain close, all while moving apart from each other and into their own roles, at the same time. I would be lying, though, if I said Haze was as good as it was without the presence of Rafa. Shadows established a murky commencement of the relationship between Gaby and Rafa. I, for one, was a little skeptical and worried about Rafa's continued insistence that Gaby remain in the dark about their past relationship. In Haze, however, not only is Rafa a kick-ass fighter, but he is also incredibly tender and understanding. It was those moments that made me fall head-over-heels for him. Yet, Rafa isn't simply the romantic interest of this tale. As a character, he brings a load of baggage to the table, working through his own inner demons, and we finally glimpse a sense of how difficult the past year has been for him without either Gaby or Jude. And this Rafa, the real Rafa, is a shocking and beautiful sight to behold. I love that Rafa and Gaby work through their relationship in this book. Actual, live conversations side-by-side with the raging sexual tension made this romance shoot up to become one of my favorites. It still remains merely an aspect of this series, and never an overwhelming majority of it, but it simmers and sits, boiling in the back of your mind and your heart. If you haven't already picked up Shadows, I'm not sure what more I can say at this point to convince you to do so at once. Paula Weston is Australian. Surely that's enough? Plus, the sequel is much better novel, full of close friendships, tight bonds, and simmering romance. I savored this book, reading only a few chapters a day because I didn't want to leave this world. It is so rarely that I ever enjoy a series to this extent, and those are the books to watch out for and cherish. Needless to say, Haze is one of the best books I've read this year and I cannot wait for the rest of the world to devour it. Paula Weston - my chocolate chip cookie offer still stands. Meanwhile, excuse me while I scrounge for money to pre-order Shimmer. I doubt I'll get a good night's sleep until that book is in my hands.