Friday, April 29, 2011

Bill's Review - Virus on Orbis 1 by PJ Haarsma

I wasn't sure what to expect in this book. I hadn't heard about it before, but I just finished the latest Vince Flynn book I was reading and I didn't have another book to start. My wife handed me Virus on Orbis 1 and I read the back cover.

It sounded interesting, but it didn't strike my fancy at first. I took the book to work and read a little here and there, just a few pages at a time. It was a little slow at first, but picked up soon after.

The story revolves around a boy named Johnny Turnbull who is with his sister and a bunch of other kids on a ship on its way to a planet called Orbis 1. All of their parents passed away after a mysterious malfunction kills them. Once they get to the planet, these children have to take over the working contract their parents signed up for, which they are not too excited about. Johnny (or JT as he is commonly referred to by his friends) finds out he is a softwire (he has the ability to communicate with any computer with just his mind) and then is stuck in a power struggle between the business owners and the high council of the planet.

This story is full of twists and turns and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I wasn't sure when the book was going to hit its climax, but when it finally did, I was surprised and excited. Haarsma does a great job of creating another world and putting information about this world in the simplest terms that makes it very easy to understand. Also, in the end you are in for quite a surprise.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Eek! My first review ever on Afterglow! I'm excited to be apart of the team! I'm even more excited to dish on some awesome books that have been and are to come!!

The lucky book:

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

The rundown:

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.
But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.

The review:

Original, Breathtaking, and Captivating.

THE NEAR WITCH stands against those fabulous fairytales told for centuries and can hold it's own. Schwab's flawless writing will leave you yearning for more. The adventures with Lexi are amazing. The people she meets, those she protects, and the one's she believes in when all else turn them away, that's what makes this book both powerful and enjoyable. Walk into a world where The Near Witch resides and find out the secrets that are being held. You won't be able to stop until the last page arrives.

To Pre-Order:

The Near Witch - Available August 2, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Anne Riley's Afterglow From GIRL WONDER by Alexa Martin

Coming out May 3 from Disney-Hyperion

It's senior year and Charlotte Locke has just transferred to a new high school. With no friends, a terrible math SAT score, and looming college application deadlines, the future starts to seem like a black hole.

Then Amanda enters her orbit like a hot pink meteor, offering Charlotte a ticket to popularity. Amanda is fearless, beautiful, and rich. As her new sidekick, Charlotte is brought into the elite clique of the debate team - and closer to Neal, the most perfect boy she has ever seen.

Senior year is finally looking up... or is it? The more things heat up between Charlotte and Neal, the more he wants to keep their relationship a secret. Is he ashamed? Meanwhile, Amanda is starting to act strangely competitive. Could Charlotte's new BFF be hiding something?

* * *

I finished GIRL WONDER about five minutes ago, and I think the best word to describe the afterglow would be "reeling."

To be honest, I had a little bit of a hard time getting involved with the story at first. Working with teens every day has given me an excellent sense of the way they talk, and in the first half of the book I didn't feel that the conversation was as authentic as it could have been. I also struggled to connect with Charlotte at first, as she came off a little perpetual-victim-ish.

Another reason I say the book left me reeling is that I wasn't prepared for the situations Charlotte dealt with. I expected a much more lighthearted, fun, surfacey book - and that's not what this is. Not at all. Charlotte deals with some serious stuff, and I didn't see it coming, so it caught me off guard.

Hold on, keep reading! I promise this review gets better!

By the second half, when I had a better sense of where the story was headed and what its message was (because it does have a message) I found that I could not put it down. I felt deeply for Charlotte when she fell to her absolute base point, and found myself wishing I could help her. Something inside me started to hurt when she let her boyfriend treat her with so little respect. I could feel the pressure she felt to be accepted by her new friends (haven't we all felt that pressure and done things we later regret so that we will fit in?)

In the end, I felt very connected to the story and affected by Charlotte's journey through her senior year. It wasn't a pretty journey by any stretch of the imagination, but I think Charlotte dealt with a lot of the same situations as many real-life high schoolers and the lessons she learned will definitely hit home with teens.

Rated: R for language, drug use, and sex

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Paranormalcy according to Pu Aili

The Blurb:

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal.

The Afterglow:

This book (Paranormalcy by Kiersten White) is, no joke, one of the first young adult books I've read in a long time. When it started out with a vampire reference I was skeptical, but as I continued to read I found that I could not (for the life of me) put the book down. I just spent all night reading it and adjusted to my night schedule one day before I originally intended to.

This book is fast paced and charming. There are common phrases, words, and even places that tie you to reality within all the para-normalcy, really giving you a chance to further relate to the characters and understand them. The protagonist is sweet and innocent, but she isn't afraid of everything that moves. She also has a light hearted humor about her that is relate-able on many levels. She is such a teenager that my eyes rolled a few times which I think speaks to how well developed this character is.

When I closed the book I had a strong sense of pride for the protagonist and a warm fuzzy feeling. All in all, it was a fabulously fun adventure and I would recommend it to almost any of the women I know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Department 19

Department 19 by Will Hill

Department 19 (Department 19, #1)

Genre: YA
The Blurb:

Jamie Carpenter's life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein's monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.

Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond—from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it's packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.

The spoiler free gush:

This isn't another romantic, sparkly Twilight vampire book. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a sparkly vampire tale as much as the next girl, but this book is more your traditional vamp. 

It blends classic tales like Dracula (a history lesson, not fiction, according to the book), Frankenstein and a variety of historical figures with a scientific approach to the mythology. Vampires in Department 19 have fangs. They can be killed by a stake and sunlight. And some of them are out for world domination. 

The world-building and back story is brilliant. Not only do we get the story of Jamie trying to save his mother, but we also go back in time to learn about the history of Department 19. Mix in characters that you truly come to care for, and this is 540 pages of wonderful reading. 

A warning --  there is also gore. Vampires die, people die. They get blown up and the blood splatters over people, but don't let that put you off reading it. Will Hill writes in the funny too.

Now I just have to wait for book 2 next year. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

Genre: YA Dystopian

The Blurb:

What if you knew exactly when you would die?  
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.  
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.  
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

The Lovefest: 

THANK GOODNESS for targeted facebook ads or I wouldn't have heard of this book, at least not right away. Lauren DeStefano's debut novel WITHER came out March 22, 2011, so there's still a promotion going on and you can read the whole thing online for free. But it's only for a limited time, and you do need to register at Simon and Schuster's Pulse It site. Definitely worth it, in my opinion!

I started reading this book last night and had to wait to get my confirmation email from Pulse It before I could continue past page 96! Luckily, I had stuff to do in between, like sleep. :) But when I woke this morning, the story crept back into the front of my mind, devastating and twisted and compelling. The facebook ad that led me to WITHER claimed fans of Suzanne Collins' HUNGER GAMES would also love DeStefano's new planned trilogy, THE CHEMICAL GARDEN. In my case, they weren't lying. I read all day and finished at 3pm. I found definite similarities between the two authors' styles.

First person present tense.

Eloquent and tragic world building.

A modern America in which something has gone horribly wrong and evil men are taking advantage of the weak and unprotected.

Symbolism that makes you want to weep.

Real tragedy.

That last one is hard for me in any art form, but I also think it's important. We can't ignore the tragedies that happen in real life without losing our compassion and humanity. Dystopian literature is a key to this, and WITHER delivered. This dark YA novel deals with death, birth, sex, slavery, and the whole gamut of human emotion. There were times I was confused about how Rhine should feel toward her captors, just as she was. In the end, no matter what a person supposedly should feel, the true hero or heroine must be true to him or herself. And never worry, Rhine is.

Despite similarities which I'm sure many dystopian novels share, this book is not Hunger Games. The relationships are more intimate from the beginning because they are forced to be so, from the man Rhine is forced to 'marry' against her will to the boy who cleans up her vomit when she first arrives, drugged and delirious. There's less of a love triangle and more of a love tangle between Rhine and her sister wives, their shared husband, and the servant who becomes more than a listening ear.

The ending isn't the most satisfying thing ever, but I suspect that's true of most planned trilogies. There's more to come and Ms. DeStefano has left plenty of plot and character threads open for further discovery. I'm looking forward to future novels in The Chemical Garden trilogy. I especially want to know if there's hope for society after we've poisoned ourselves into near extinction. Lauren's answer to that will be one major reason I continue to read this series. And the other is that I care about Rhine. She's a main character worth rooting for and worth crying with.

WITHER is elegant and devastating.

Have you read Lauren DeStefano's debut novel yet? What were your thoughts?

Friday, April 1, 2011

About Afterglow

WELCOME to Afterglow Book Reviews! We're just getting started, so be sure to stop by later when it gets awesome. 

Remember the feeling you got when you closed the back cover on a book that spoke to you? How you set it aside on your end table or night stand and lay back feeling amazed, traumatized, bewildered, and somehow changed?

That's the afterglow.  

Afterglow Book Reviews highlight only our very favorite books, and reviews are posted in the midst of the afterglow. This makes us more like book addict enablers than reviewers, but we're okay with that.

If you'd like us to consider a book for review, contact Katrina at katrina (dot) lantz (at) gmail (dot) com or contact your favorite reviewer via his or her blog.
-books reviewed can come from any decade and any fiction genre (memoirs okay)