Thursday, February 28, 2013


My first read of 2013 was MEMENTO NORA by Angie Smibert, and I Afterglowed that one, too.

But Book 2 in the series?

Even. better!

I just clicked out of my kindle copy of THE FORGETTING CURVE and I am experiencing some serious Afterglow feels. Angie Smibert is an expert at giving me a less-than-happy ending that manages to offer both hope and meaning. I kind of feel like part of the revolution now.

Before I get too rambly, let me show you the book I'm gushing over:

add it on goodreads

"This sequel to Memento Nora follows tech-wiz Aiden, who joins the growing underground resistance."

DISCLAIMER: Not the actual blurb. Goodreads was lame, so I wrote my own:

Fresh out of his boarding school in Switzerland, where terrorist attacks are only just beginning, Aiden is looking for trouble, doors to rattle on, code to de-crypt, something--anything--to hack and charm his way into. 
His cousin Winter sent him some strange hollowed out book filled with a homemade comic called MEMENTO, but when he joins her in the states, she doesn't remember sending it... or printing it... or ever seeing it before in her life. All she can tell him is that it's definitely her friend Micah's artwork. 
Winter, you see, is crazy. Her parents think so. Her doctors think so. The hummingbirds that flutter in her mind disagree. So do her kinetic sculptures, lurching and ticking and beeping in the breeze of her grandfather's Japanese-style rock garden. 
Velvet knows Winter isn't crazy, not that anybody would ask a thrift store clerk with no specific talents or hobbies other than being able to throw together a killer retro outfit. Velvet has Aiden's number from the beginning, and she won't be charmed into anything. But when Aiden comes up with a way to save Winter from the over-medication that's turning her into Stepford Winter, even Velvet is impressed... a little bit. 
Then things get intense. People aren't just forgetting anymore. They're remembering things that didn't really happen. The MemeCast infiltrates mobiles. The revolution will be co-opted. 

No place is safe anymore.

My Afterglow: 

I read a review for this second book before I had the chance to start it myself, which I always/usually regret. This time it set my expectations kind of low because the reviewer didn't enjoy the narrating characters (Winter, Aiden, and Velvet)  as much as she had in the first book (Nora, Micah, and Winter).

Boy, I couldn't disagree with her more!

As much as I enjoyed the first book, I LOVED the second book.

The narrators were my kind of crazy (literally, different brain chemistry from "normal" folks), and each with his or her own unique way of seeing the world.

For Winter, it's the hummingbirds (caged bird motif?) that drive her to tinker, to create.

For Aiden, it's this idea of needing to rattle doors, see which ones will open to him (hacker).

For Velvet, it's a killer sense of thrift store fashion with her very own Book of Velvet filled with rules that keep her emotionally safe.

See what I mean? They're crazy. And I LOVED it. Set against a backdrop of corporate/government conspiracy to control the populace with TFC's (the distributor of a neurochemical that "helps" you forget traumatic events), crazy is exactly what we need for tour guides!

Beyond the killer concept of this, and the fantastic characterization, there's this wellspring of emotion that just freaking geysers at the end. The last few scenes are short and painful, and yet...

Like I said before, there's this hope. There's this meaning.

It's profound.

Without the violence of the Hunger Games series (which I also read and loved), MEMENTO NORA and THE FORGETTING CURVE give you all that deep, thoughtful exploration into the mind of man, his free will vs. the machine. Even though both series are dystopias, it's not really a comparison because the books have completely different tones. The narrators of MEMENTO NORA and THE FORGETTING CURVE are more accessible than Katniss, at least to the modern teen. It's a glossy future, not a dusty coal town. It's a future within which many teens can probably picture themselves trapped... in a "safe" living compound with parents who make sure they're properly chipped according to the law. As such, it feels more present, like something you might live through in your lifetime.

The character arcs totally worked. The relationships felt genuine (which is why the emotion geyser at the end hit me so hard). I can't wait to read The Meme Plague.

Here's what the author says about the third book, set to release August 13, 2013.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Runaway King

The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, #2)

A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen's blockbuster THE FALSE PRINCE!

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!

This blurb doesn't tell nearly enough about everything that happens in book two of the Ascendance Trilogy. As I've just finished it, I'm still attempting to decide what's worth mentioning, and what isn't. What I think, bottom line, though, is that it's important to know that no matter what you think about anyone in THE FALSE PRINCE, you need to have an open mind in THE RUNAWAY KING. So many things are not what they seem in TRK!!! Things are constantly changing!

I'll be honest--I'm the first person to admit that when I finish a book I like things wrapped up in a pretty little bow and completely resolved. So, going into THE RUNAWAY KING, after having so much happen in THE FALSE PRINCE, I wanted to enjoy the fact that things had finally been fixed and Jaron (or is it Sage???) was the ruler of Carthya. (YAY) So when conflict arose (almost immediately), I was a little frustrated. I mean, really, Ms. Nielson? Could we not, I don't know, simply celebrate the arrival at the point the entire previous book worked so hard to get us to for at least a little while?

But, the further I got into the book, the more I enjoyed it. As in THE FALSE PRINCE, the chemistry between Jaron and Imogen was still obvious and alive. I'm not going to say much more about that except that the way he treated her at first made me want to scream; but he did something later proving he'd learned from that action, and that really redeemed him for me. Jaron learns a lot in this book, actually--especially how to see other people's feelings, and how to better share his own. And he continues to have such quick wit that I find myself laughing at his responses.

As I said, the blurb doesn't say enough about everything that goes down in TRK. Jaron Sage infiltrates the most unlikely group of people, and one person you'd never expect to come against him wants him dead. I wish I could say things were wrapped up in that perty little bow, but as usual, the moment things seemed wrapped up and resolved and I had that "yay to this ending" smile on my face, another issue arose. 

Which brings me to my conclusion: Why must I insist on reading books the second they come out? The final book in the Ascendance Trilogy is sure to be full of action--true, it'll probably be a year until reading it is a possibility, but I can't wait. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rouge by Leigh Talbert Moore

From Goodreads:

Hale Ferrer is the rising star of the hottest cabaret in New Orleans. And her one goal is escape. Escape from the lies, from the crime, and from her growing fear that one day she'll have to earn her living in the secret back rooms, where the dancers do more than dance.

But she won't leave behind Teeny, the orphan-girl she promised to protect.

Freddie Lovel is rich, handsome, and in love with Hale, and he's ready to sweep her away with him to Paris. But her heart is captured by Beau, the poor stagehand with eyes as blue as Louisiana iris flowers.

Denying her fears, Hale is ready to choose love and a life with Beau, until a predator hidden in the wings launches a chain of events that could cost her everything--Teeny, their one hope of escape, and possibly even her life.

I must say, I went into this book with some unfair expectations. I mean, Leigh is a friend of mine, and I know she's a talented writer, but let's just say a historical romance about a cabaret singer is not the type of novel I generally pick up, or would want to be seen reading by my co-workers.

But I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, there's plenty of kissing and deep sighing, but there is also intrigue, violence, corruption, and even murder.

Moore's portrayal of Reconstruction Era New Orleans is vibrant and detailed, and you can feel the city teeming with life and culture, even as Rouge's characters flee from it. Then there's the theater, the actors, the dancers, the singers, and yes - the stagehands. I've never lived in a theater the way Hale and her companions do, but I did used to be a stagehand in a former life, and the way Leigh portrays the camaraderie of life in the theater, and how well she understands the magic of the show must go on is clearly evident in this tale.

Anyway, I don't want to give too much away, but I will just briefly add that what really sold me on this novel was the ending. It was bittersweet, certainly, but it was honest, and I loved that the author had the courage not to take the easy way out.

I look forward to reading more from Leigh Talbert Moore, and would recommend this book to anyone, but especially any reader interested in the nefarious ways of the denizens of a historical Big Easy.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Unravel Me

Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)

The Goodreads blurb:






it's almost

time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.

Wow. Just.... Wow. I'm so glad I stayed away from spoilers before reading this. There were a couple of unexpected twists that had me sitting up in my bed yelling, "Holy crap"! And "This is going to be such a good movie--is it going to be a movie?" and "oh my GOSH!!!"

Without giving too much away, Unravel Me picks up with Juliette and Adam (her boyfriend, one of two people in the entire world immune to her deadly touch) and Adam's pal, Kenji, in the compound they escaped to at the end of the first book in the trilogy, Shatter Me (the compound's called Omega Point). Kenji is by far my favorite character out of all of them, now. He's the quick-witted, sarcastic friend everyone wants to knock upside the head, but still loves to pieces.

One of the main points in Unravel Me is Adam and Juliette trying to learn how to deal with/harness their "energy". Adam discovers something about his "energy" that is a big issue in his relationship with Juliette (Issues are constantly coming up in this book. Constantly.) and that's quite the problem. Juliette still isn't sure how to get her strength to work on command, though boy are there some up close and personal strength moments in there!

Another main point is Warner. Now, if you plan on reading this series, I am telling you, you need to read the novella (ebook), Destroy Me, before reading Unravel Me. I am serious. This is Warner's story, it gives you a window into his brain, his heart and his soul, and not reading it before Unravel Me will only make you want to go read it halfway through Unravel Me to hear more about him, anyway (or kick yourself for not reading it first when you read it after Unravel Me). So, just read it first. I promise you will thank me later.

Regarding sensuality in this book, the heat is turned up even higher than in Shatter Me. Another... wow. There are moments you really truly did not think would ever happen. There are moments you're wanting something to happen, even though you know you should not be wanting it to happen! I wish I could say more, but I don't want to give it away! (As I was reading/reacting, my 13 year-old asked if she could read it. It's going to have to be a no--obviously others will feel different, but I'm talking hot and steamy Nicholas Sparks-y scenes here, guys.)

Regarding the "holy crap" moments, I am not going to ruin the mystery. But let me just say, Tahereh did a wonderful job of tying something in perfectly to where I almost thought later, Well of course she would write it that way--it's perfect. Of course! (And then another OH MY GOSH!)

A quick point before I draw this (hopefully really vague but decent) review to a close: for readers who have issues with Tahereh's prose and metaphors, I personally felt that she relaxed on those a little bit. (Or maybe I was just reading over them too quickly to notice!) And honestly, if just feels like Juliette. That's who she is.

Bottom line: if you liked Shatter Me, you're going to love Unravel Me. If you liked the novella Destroy Me, you're going to love Unravel Me even more. And if you're like me, you're definitely going to be rooting for... Warner.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity

Before I begin, I’d like to clarify that this is my first *ever* official review. (Not sure if there are particulars to doing this, but I’m going to go with my reaction and opinions, as the whole title of Afterglow Book Reviews is the afterglow when finishing a book, and I just finished CODE NAME VERITY.)

I’d like to be upfront by saying that I don’t usually purchase books based solely on reviews (as in, most books are purchased because I’ve seen them around online--trending in my Twitter feed, blowing up the blogs, things like that); but I hardly ever up and order a book because of reviews alone. In fact, the last time I ordered a book based on shock and emotional and surprised reactions only via reviews was THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. (I tend to find some of the best books this way, I’ve noticed--and they’re usually not books I’d normally buy for myself.)

I almost don’t even know where to start, there’s so much in this book. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

This is the premise of Code Name Verity. To be honest, I did not expect it to open with the MC already captured and writing her confession. But her voice--oh her voice! Wein does a memorable job of creating a character who is speaking like someone at her wit’s end, being tortured and forced to confess, while having more strength than most of us would ever have in the same situation. I was enthralled and loving it by the end of page one. Here’s an example (from my book’s page 6): 

...I am a prisoner in the Ormaie Gestapo HG because I have no sense of direction whatsoever. Bearing in mind that the people who trained me encouraged my blissful ignorance of airfields just so I couldn’t tell you such a thing if you did catch me, and not forgetting that I wasn’t even told the name of the airfield we took off from when I came here: let me remind you that I had been in France less that 48 hours before that obliging agent of yours had to stop me being run over by a French van full of French chickens because I’d looked the wrong way before crossing the street. Which shows how cunning the Gestapo are. "This person I’ve pulled from beneath the wheels of certain death was expecting traffic to travel on the left side of the road. Therefore she must be British, and is likely to have parachuted into Nazi-occupied France out of an Allied plane. I shall now arrest her as a spy. ”

This is how the first bit of the book goes. Her banter. Her defiance. Her fear of being tortured. And then, just as you think you know what’s going on, things change. And then, they change again. And again. And... again. Until things build up to a point where you love these two girls and you feel what they feel and you get why they’re doing what they’re doing and yet surprised at the same time that half of what you thought was going on was actually something else entirely, and then the scene--THE SCENE--and the emotional part I had read about on the reviews and was anticipating just hit me and I was so emotional about it I actually had to set the book down and walk away. (This has never happened to me before.)

As I type this, I am still affected by it. And yet, the story continues. (I went back to reading a couple of hours later.) I can’t imagine anyone not liking Code Name Verity, but as I was impatiently awaiting its arrival, I read a few reviews and was shocked to see that some people flat-out hated the plane/flight elements of the book (it’s quite a bit of info, yes, but I did what I always do when I don’t “get” something I read about... I took the character for what they said, or glazed over it when I couldn’t perfectly picture it). One reviewer said they couldn’t even bear to finish it--I understand how subjective reading is (and here’s a quick shout-out to writers everywhere--this is life, it is never going to change, some will love us and some will hate us, but for the ones who don’t like what we’ve written, there are ten who do, and for the ones who didn’t like it, they’ll find ten books that they do) but all I could think as I read that one part, the part that tore me apart was DID THEY GET THIS FAR? WHEN THEY QUIT, HAD THEY READ TO THIS POINT?????

So bottom line, I loved Code Name Verity. I loved the characters, I loved the setting (World War II--Europe), I loved Wein’s voice. (Quick side note since this is YA: there is a bit of profanity in it, but in my opinion, it's all in context. Considering what was going on, however, it was used quite rarely.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

TO TRUST A THIEF by Michelle McLean

On goodreads

The Blurb:

Minuette Sinclair's parents are in trouble and her fake fiancé is too. A legendary lost necklace might be their salvation, and Min is determined to find it and use it to buy her family and fiancé out of their misfortunes. 
Master thief Bryant Westley is also looking for the fabled necklace. He knows Min’s got information he can use so he poses as her dance instructor and tries to seduce it from her. 
What he doesn’t count on are his feelings for her. He offers to partner up in the search – even though she is a distraction he can’t afford.  
Things become more complicated when Min realizes that her convenient engagement means more to her fake fiancé than her and that she’s fallen in love with Bryant. Bryant realizes that he can’t double cross the young lady he’s come to love. Can they find the necklace together and admit their love before it’s too late?

The Afterglow:

Sexy and suspenseful, To Trust a Thief kept me on the edge of my seat as well as making me fall in love with the characters. Lost treasure, hidden rooms, a regency era boarding school for girls, and a hot dance instructor who's really a master thief. What more can you want in a romance novel?!

I was blown away by this book. I've read my share of candy romances, where it's all so predictable and delicious, but this is not a candy romance. It's got romance -- oh boy, does it have that! But it's also a mystery, a coming of age story for a young Victorian woman, a love triangle, a treasure hunt, a bit of a scandal. The characters in this Victorian era finishing school are not well-behaved.

Minuette is a heroine to root for. She has fears like anyone, but she's brave when it counts. She's clumsy, but it's endearing and totally believable thanks to her wild island upbringing. From the beginning, the reader is led to feel Aunt Laura's hopes to refine Min Sinclair are hopeless. Bryant is truly a master thief, but one with a personal code of honor -- the best kind.

Arthur... oh, Arthur. I loved this character so much, and my heart broke for him a hundred times in the course of reading this book. Charlotte, Min's best friend, and Arthur, really make this book for me. Their loyalty and common sense make the larger-than-life-ness of Bryant and Min actually work. Bryant also has a loyal friend who surprises me with his devotion toward the end of the book.

I can't say enough about the depth and passion in this book. I just loved it, and finished reading it at nearly 2am this morning. The author has a gold-rush era historical romance trilogy coming out this year, and I simply cannot wait to read more from Michelle McLean.

(full disclosure: Michelle is an Operation Awesome blogger)