Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A NORTHERN LIGHT by Jennifer Donnelly

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown asks her to burn a bundle of secret letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers the letters reveal the grim truth behind a murder.
I discovered this book on Carolina Valdez Miller's blog, she had a 17-year-old guest reviewer who gave a great review. You can read that post here.

Talk about Afterglow. I'm still glowing from this book. Not because I love historical fiction, not because I love strong female characters, and not because the MC loves to read and write. Well, all of those thing, I guess.

I loved the book because it was unexpected. I thought it was going to be a murder mystery, but it wasn't. Not really. At times I thought it was going to turn into a love story, but it didn't. The characters felt real. Mattie had lots of doubts about herself and what she really wants in life, but ultimately it was her love of reading, writing, and a deep knowledge that she was worth more than those around her thought. She had a quiet confidence that wavered a bit, but never went out. And I love love love the ending.

I loved all the old fashioned names in the book. I love the strength of the characters, especially Mattie and her friend Weaver. Also, I love the cover. I picked up the book because of the review on Carol's blog, but I purchased it because of the cover. I just couldn't put it down.

I highly recommend! (Can't you tell?)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros

The Blurb (on goodreads):

Abigail Donovan has a lot of stuff she should be doing. Namely writing her next novel. A bestselling author who is still recovering from a near Pulitzer Prize win and the heady success that follows Oprah’s stamp of approval, she is stuck at Chapter Five and losing confidence daily. But when her publicist signs her up for a Twitter account, she’s intrigued. What’s all the fuss?
Taken under the wing of one of her Twitter followers, “MarkBaynard"—a quick witted, quick-typing professor on sabbatical—Abby finds it easy to put words out into the world 140 characters at a time. And once she gets a handle on tweets, retweets, direct messages, hashtags, and trends, she starts to feel unblocked in writing and in life. After all, why should she be spending hours in her apartment staring at her TweetDeck and fretting about her stalled career when Mark is out there traveling the world and living?
Or is he?
Told almost entirely in tweets and DMs, Goodnight Tweetheart is a truly modern take on a classic tale of love and loss—a Griffin and Sabine for the Twitter generation.

The Afterglow:

Teresa Medeiros swept me off my feet, tweet style. For those who don't understand twitter or use it religiously this book is the perfect blend of comedy and romance. Her gift of communication through 140 characters will leave you wild-eyed and thirsty for more!
Abby Donovan was a New York Times Bestseller and now known as the New York Times Best Blocker when a bad case of Writer's block keeps her from writing anymore novels. From the get go you're left feeling sorry for Abby but wanting nothing more than for her to exceed. When her agent sets her up with a brand new twitter account she's left to her devices in hopes to make new friendships and hopefully the long lasting kind.

This is where she meets Mark Baynard and the friendship between the two blossom. For nightly tweets and the occasional tweetdate they fall into a whirlwind romance neither of them expect. When truths are revealed about Mark, Abby realizes she'd do anything to be by his side and the detective work goes until the last page.

This novel was both hilarious and heart warming. With their nightly good-bye's Medeiros will keep you chuckling. My personal favorite portion of the novel are when they say goodnight to one another. She's set a new and lovable ending to say goodnight. She is extremely witty in the 140 characters or less and I was impressed with each passing page that she could keep it all together.

A light and fun read and the ending will melt your heart!

Find Teresa on twitter @TeresaMedeiros!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

HEREAFTER by Tara Hudson

Plot Summary

For Amelia, time has all but slowed to a stop as her spirit remains stranded alone in the dark waters of a mysterious river. She knows she's died, but with no recollection of her past life - or her actual death - she's trapped in one long, continuous nightmare, in which she cannot feel anything or interact with anyone.

All of this changes when she tries to rescue a teenage boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in a moment of connection, he looks in her eyes and becomes the first person in the world to see that she still exists.

When he touches her, Joshua sparks strange and wonderful sensory feelings in Amelia - at first just momentary flashes, then pulses that become ever stronger as he leads her out of the river and into his life.

As Amelia and Joshua uncover who she was and the strange circumstances of her death, new problems arise: somehow, Joshua's grandmother seems to know exactly what is going on between them, and Eli, a ghost enforcer, is hell-bent on destroying their happiness and dragging Amelia back into the spirit world.

With every touch and the growing feelings that come with them, Amelia and Joshua begin to wonder if there's something special not only about Joshua, but also the dark river that held her captive for so long. Can there truly be love after death?

The Afterglow

This book is one of those that hooks you from the first paragraph and never lets go! I sat up late many nights, turning page after page, wanting it to last but unable to stop reading. A wonderful story with excellent writing!

Honestly, I connected so easily with Amelia. She was a 3-D character, with weaknesses and flaws, even in death. And the concept of the afterlife presented in this book was fascinating.

Kind of funny; one of my favorite things about Amelia is the way she's always trying to fix her hair or her dress, even though they can't be changed. It shows her humanity and her personality. I also loved the concept of "Seers" like Joshua's grandmother: people who can see spirits and try to exorcise them. Terrifying!

HEREAFTER will be released June 7, 2011. That's only a couple weeks away! Hooray!

Have you entered Afterglow's Beginning of Summer Giveaway yet? It's easy to throw your name in the hat for a chance to win a free book! Click here!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beginning of Summer Giveaway!!!

Welcome oldies (in a good way) and newbies!

All of the writers here at Afterglow LOVE reading books and so glad you decided to stop by not only for the giveaway but to check out some of the fabulous reviews that have already been shared on the blog!

We decided to band together and add some fabulous books to giveaway! So let’s not waste time! Here’s what’s up for grabs!

1. Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams
2. Lost Saint by Bree Despain – ARC
3. The Gift by James Patterson - ARC
4. City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare – UK Copy
5. The Marbury Lens – ARC
6. Prophecy of Days by Christy Raedeke
7. The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski – SIGNED COPY
8. Ten Things We Did (and probably shouldn’t have) by Sarah Mlynowski – ARC
9. Vanish by Sophie Jordan – ARC & SIGNED COPY
10. What Happened to Good-bye by Sarah Dessen – PERSONALIZED SIGNED COPY

*NOTE – For the personalized copy of the Sarah Dessen novel it will be shipped later than the others. She is in Houston on June 17th but will be mailed directly after the signing.

Every copy is up for grabs! That means on June 10th when the contest results are announced there will be TEN winners!

So how do you win?

First you will need to be in the US. I apologize for all of those who live out of the country. We will have a giveaway courtesy of The Book Depository in the coming months that I’ll make sure is international!

FOLLOW US AND COMMENT BELOW (we love fun comments so give it some flare and be original)!

Official contest dates: May 23rd thru June 10th

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Christine Reviews SHINE by Lauren Myracle

Hi all! I am so excited to be doing my first review for Afterglow. And I picked a perfect read...
SHINE by Lauren Myracle

The Blurb (from Amazon)
When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

My Take:
Wow, where do I even begin? This is one of the better reads of 2011. The writing was powerful, the characters rich, and setting - oh my word, what a fabulous setting. I was immediately drawn into the world Cat lived in. Each of the characters were well-developed, 3-dimensional characters that had both good and dark sides to their personality. The heroes were flawed, and the villains redemptive (well, most of them).

What really grabbed me with this story, however, was the storyline itself. Myracle confronts the difficult topics of drugs, poverty and intolerance. The story is gritty, dark and painfully realistic. And the ending - now, I personally think some will hate the way things end in this story. For me, I found it to be a pretty accurate depiction of the power of hate and the willingness for some to maintain the status quo, even when the status quo is wrong.

Why You Want To Read This:
I don't know about you, but I am really enjoying the trend of contemporaries that have made their way to YA shelves, and SHINE is one of the better ones I've read. Stories like this do a great job of opening up a conversation about some of the ills of society and dangers of closed-minded thinking.
Definitely a must-read, in my opinion.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shallee reviews The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Hey folks! I'm excited to be a new member of Afterglow. I write YA myself, so a lot of my reviews will probably tend toward YA books. Today, though, I've got a fabulous middle-grade to review: The Healing Spell.

Eleven-year-old Livie is terrified when her father insists that they bring her comatose mother home from the hospital. How can she look at, much less touch and care for, Mamma when she alone knows that she caused her illness? As Mamma continues to languish in bed, Livie grows more and more estranged from her family, a chasm that begins to close only after she gathers her courage to visit the local traiteur, who gives her the formula for a healing spell. As Livie collects the spell's necessary ingredients, she begins to open up to the knowledge that she is loved and cherished by her family.

The first word that came to my mind to describe this was "rich." The book was rich in emotion, rich in culture and setting, and rich in characters. Watching the family pull together and break apart through Livie's eyes took me through a myriad of emotions. The characters are so deftly drawn that they became real to me, heightening that emotional connection.

The landscape of the book-- the Lousiana bayou-- is delicious. I'm a sucker for stories with a strong, unique setting, and this one was perfect. The setting didn't just exist; it became another character as Livie and the rest of the family interacted with their world. It made the world more real for me, and took it beyond the basic family story into a place that was unique and enthralling.

I highly recommend this to anyone wanting to bask in the afterglow of an original, emotional contemporary middle-grade. And, if you're interested in my writer's perspective on the book, you can find it here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

STARCROSSED by Josephine Angelini

Plot Summary:

Helen Hamilton has always known she’s different from the other teens on tiny Nantucket, but it’s not until Lucas Delos moves to town that she realizes just how special she is. Facing Lucas in the halls of high school, Helen’s possessed by a powerful need to kill him--and she almost succeeds. But when their mutual hatred of each other transforms into desire, Helen and Lucas discover they are both Scions--descendants of Greek gods--and that their two families have for centuries been engaged in a deadly blood feud. As Lucas teaches Helen to use her powers, which include flying, controlling lightning, and an immunity to weapons (in addition to her gorgeous face, which she’s inherited from a certain namesake whose own face “launched a thousand ships”), the two grow ever closer--but can never be together until they find a way around the curse that’s destined to keep them apart.

The Afterglow:

When I started reading STARCROSSED, I wasn't sure I would like it. It seemed a little too out there (and that's saying something for someone who loves paranormal fiction as much as I do!). While I thought the premise of demigods interacting with mortals was interesting, it didn't feel as fresh as I wanted it to.

However, the more I read, the more sucked into the story I became. Helen, the main character, wakes up in the morning after having a terrible nightmare - only to find physical evidence that the nightmare actually happened. I thought this was really interesting, and this was one of the first things that hooked me.

When she meets the Delos family - Lucas the love interest, Hector the slightly dangerous brother, Ariadne the kind and personable sister, and Cassandra the Oracle, I kind of had a TWILIGHT flashback but got over it pretty fast.

I've always loved mythology and enjoyed learning the stories of the demigods; how there were four Houses who went to war with Zeus and Mount Olympus, plus the legend of Atlantis. I also liked the Romeo-and-Juliet-style forbidden love that wove its way through the book, although I wish that part would have started sooner.

The end leaves the reader hanging quite a bit, but luckily there will be a sequel. Hopefully it will come out soon, because I am anxious to see what happens with Lucas and Helen!

This book will be released on May 31.

STICK by Andrew Smith

Synopsis, from the jacket copy:

Stark McClellan (“Stick”) hears the world in a different way. He is surrounded by cruelty and ugliness, but holds on to a powerful sense of wonder, faith, and love for his best friend, Emily, and the most important person in Stick’s world -- his older brother, Bosten, who happens to be gay.

When the boys’ father throws Bosten out of their home, Stick steals a car and takes off on a three-state odyssey to find and rescue him.

My take:

This book rocked my world, and my perceptions of YA genre conventions.

It's a very sad, disturbing story about abuse and cruelty, and the things that people do to each other when they don't understand or can't handle someone or something. Yet, there are kindnesses and characters so full of love and compassion that they make up for all the evil.

The heart of this story is the love and acceptance that occurs between brothers when they must survive truly adverse conditions, and how Stick has to grow up and learn to achieve knowledge of self, in spite of all the things that make him so-called different.

Andrew is an incredible writer, and the prose and formatting in this novel are powerful and unique, but for me, it's the strength and believability of the characters that really set this book apart. The main characters are just as real and flawed as anyone, and even the despicable villains are given enough depth that they come across as less shallow than some main characters in other books.

I actually finished it over a week ago, but I'm still basking in the afterglow.

This book is not for very young readers, or for the faint of heart, but I can highly recommend it to anyone who likes truth in fiction.

It does not come out for five months, but you can pre-order it from Amazon, here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BEASTLY by Alex Flinn

Synopsis: From Goodreads

I am a beast.
A beast!
Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright. I am a monster.
You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll, stay this way forever ruined unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly...beastly.


I was expecting to like this book, I love fairy tale retellings. But the way Alex Flinn wove the classic Beauty and the Beast story into a contemporary YA novel was absolutely amazing! Kyle Kingsbury is the ultimate jerk—gorgeous as all get out—and a complete and utter beast on the inside. He gets his comeuppance and ends up regretting every single beastly thing he ever did to anyone. He turns inside out and ends up becoming a better person as a result of his curse. There were a few twists and turns as he grows as a person.   

I don’t want to give away the ending—but of course you know the story, it’s not a surprise!
I highly recommend the book. If you love happy endings, you’ll love this book. Has anyone seen the movie?

Submitted by Kristine Asselin

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Kiss of a Stranger : by Sarah M. Eden

LOVED this book! You know it is good when you are yelling at the characters, "Come on already! Figure it out people!" I read it in one day completely ignoring my kids and dinner (we had cereal :) A great regency romance with very well developed characters. I met the author at a conference. She was so funny and personable it made me want to read her books.
- Angela Cothran

When Crispin, Lord Cavratt, thoroughly and scandalously kisses a serving woman in the garden of a country inn, he assumes the encounter will be of no consequence. But he couldn't be more mistaken--the maid is not only a lady of birth, she's the niece of a very large, exceptionally angry gentlemen, who claims Crispin has compromised his niece beyond redemption. The dismayed young lord has no choice but to marry Miss Catherine Thorndale, who lacks both money and refinement and assumes all men are as vicious as her guardian uncle.

Trapped between an unwanted marriage and a hasty annulment, which would leave his reputation tainted and Catherine's utterly ruined, Crispin begins guiding his wife's transformatoin from a socially petrified country girl to a lady of society. Their unfolding relationship reveals encouraging surprises for both of them, and privately each of them wonders if theirs may become a true marriage of the heart. But their hopes are dashed when forces conspire to split asunder what fate has granted. As a battle of wits escalates into a life-threatening confrontation, will it be possible for Crispin and Catherine to live happily ever after?

Vanish by Sophie Jordan

The cover is to die for!!! If you don't own Firelight then you best get your hands on it because come September you'll be running to the bookstore for Vanish. Let's not waste time here.... let's get to what we're all here for - the review.

The synopsis:

To save the life of the boy she loves, Jacinda did the unthinkable: She betrayed the most closely-guarded secret of her kind. Now she must return to the protection of her pride knowing she might never see Will again—and worse, that because his mind has been shaded, Will’s memories of that fateful night and why she had to flee are gone.

Back home, Jacinda is greeted with hostility and must work to prove her loyalty for both her sake and her family’s. Among the few who will even talk to her are Cassian, the pride’s heir apparent who has always wanted her, and her sister, Tamra, who has been forever changed by a twist of fate. Jacinda knows that she should forget Will and move on—that if he managed to remember and keep his promise to find her, it would only endanger them both. Yet she clings to the hope that someday they will be together again. When the chance arrives to follow her heart, will she risk everything for love?

In bestselling author Sophie Jordan’s dramatic follow-up to Firelight, forbidden love burns brighter than ever.

The Afterglow:

Sophie Jordan will leave you breathless with the second installment to the Firelight series!!!

Jacinda is in trouble. Having to face the pride after leaving it all behind there will be consequences. However lucky for her things start to unfold that give her the relief and allow her to keep some of her freedom. None as the only firebreather among the pride she still holds leverage to stay alive but that doesn't mean she's free from bonding. Cassian will stop at nothing until he has Jacinda for himself. Though she's praying that when her sister gains a draki power he'll want to bond with her instead.

Oh if things were only that easy. Vanish gives you new family dynamics, unwanted bonding, and a cousin who just won't quit. Mix in a kidnapping and her mother being banished from the pride and Jacinda has her hands full.

As each page turns the feelings become more intense. As a reader there is no way you'll be putting it down after the chapter is complete. Jordan keeps the speed and intensity at full force throughout each page leaving you only wanting for more even after the last page. Sure to rock your socks off and beg for book #3!
Details to come! The ARC copy I received will be given away :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Anne Riley Is Enchanted By DIE FOR ME

Kate Mercier's wonderfully normal teenage life comes crashing down when her parents are killed in a car accident. Suddenly, she and her sister, Georgia, are forced to leave everything they've ever known in America and move to Paris to live with their grandparents. For Kate, the only way to survive is by sealing off her heart and escaping into the comforting world of books and beautiful art.

Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate's guarded heart with just his smile. He also happens to be one of an elite race of paranormal beings known as revenants - undead creatures who exist to sacrifice themselves over and over again in place of other humans whose time to die has not yet come.

As Kate's attraction to Vincent grows, she must choose between the shattered life she was trying to rebuild and the risks of loving again. But when she learns that her sister has become involved with a group of evil revenants who exist solely to murder and betray those around them, Kate is thrown into the midst of a centuries-old battle which threatens the lives of everyone she loves.

* * *

Oh, people. If you are not standing in line to buy this book THE MOMENT it releases, you'll be missing out.

I was completely enchanted (enchanté, if you will) (sorry if that's wrong, I speak Spanish, not French) from page one of this lovely novel set in Paris. Kate, the main character, is easy to connect with; Vincent, the handsome love interest, is as strong, charismatic, and chivalrous as they come. Plot elements tie together smoothly for an engaging read that will keep you sucked in until the very last page. Loved it! Well done Ms. Plum, and congratulations on your debut!

* * *

DIE FOR ME releases Tuesday, May 10, from HarperTeen.