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A Reader of Fictions: A Quiet Mind - Blue October

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Quiet Mind - Blue October

Level 2
The Memory Chronicles, Book 1

Author: Lenore Appelhans
Pages: 288
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Source: Simon & Schuster at BEA

Description from Goodreads:
Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow prisoners, Felicia passes the endless hours downloading memories and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and the boy she loved, Neil.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber disappears, and nobody but Felicia seems to recall she existed in the first place. Something is obviously very wrong. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, she learns the truth: a rebellion is brewing to overthrow the Morati, the guardians of Level 2.

Felicia is reluctant to trust Julian, but then he promises what she wants the most—to be with Neil again—if only she’ll join the rebels. Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself in the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.

First Sentence: "I'll sleep when I'm dead."

Anyone who reads my blog regularly probably already knows how much I wanted this book. It was one of my WoW posts, and has been on my wishlist from the moment I found out Lenore Appelhans, the wonderful blogger behind Presenting Lenore, had a dystopian novel coming out. I was so all over that, especially since Lenore is the creator of Dystopian August, which means she really knows her stuff. Also, oh hey, it's Dystopian August! Woo! Make sure you check out her blog as well as mine for reviews, giveaways and bookish talk!

Since Lenore is one of my favorite bloggers, and definitely the one I've been following the longest, I went into this with ALL of the expectations. ALL OF THEM. From that perspective, Level 2 wasn't quite everything I was hoping for, though, if you aren't expecting instant new favorite book of all time, I suspect this won't be an issue. Lenore's book definitely is delightful and unique, though, so do not let the fact that it didn't rise to my insanely high expectations put you off at all.

The first awesome thing about Level 2 is the world building, which is multi-faceted and complex. She reveals new layers of epic awesome as you read through the book, and I have no doubt this will continue in the next book. The world building was definitely my favorite thing, and I loved how Lenore could completely surprise me or explain something that I was at first skeptical of. She makes this work like whoa.

At the beginning of Level 2, I was a bit confused, as, indeed, you're supposed to be. You join Felicia in this weird afterlife; that's about all I knew going into it, and Felicia doesn't know any more than you do. In Level 2's version of the afterlife, you hang out in a room full of pods, spending most of your time watching the afterlife equivalent of YouTube (YouDead? lol), only you're watching your memories, pulled from your mind in high definition and with better detail than you could have done on your own. I totally wrote short story like this in college, though clearly not so detailed, and I loved seeing the idea really fleshed out. Not only can they watch all of their own memories, but they can share them with others, earning currency to buy new memories when people purchase theirs.

Why would you want to watch someone else's memories? To stave off boredom, of course! One small theme running through Level 2 which I really appreciated was the Fahrenheit 451 aspect to the printed word. In the afterlife, books only exist if someone read them closely enough that every word appears in someone's memory. Otherwise, it's gone. That is just so powerful. You'll all be glad to know that I've got Level 2 tucked away in my brain, so we're good. Also, bloggers would have so much currency in the afterlife, since we read so many things!

Of course, there are also MORE things going on, like I promised. I'm not going to go into great detail about the rest of the world building, because I think it's something best left for you to find. I will just mention that there's some awesome stuff that one can do with mind power. Also, Lenore has a wholly new take on angels. I, for one, am always skeptical of angels, because RELIGION, but no worries my agnostic and atheist friends, there's no preaching, I promise.

Felicia, our main character, is not the most likable heroine you will ever meet. I suspect some readers will have difficulties connecting with her. Partly, this is caused by what spending so long constantly replaying just one's best memories will do to someone. She's definitely not a perfect person by any means. She has made serious mistakes with painful consequences, mostly involving an unfortunate attraction to the not-so-trustworthy Julian. She's also one of those people who, if you tell them to stay in the car, will never EVER stay in the car.

Though there were some things I didn't like about Felicia, she worked for me as a heroine. Felicia has spunk and sarcasm, and she's not overly trusting. She does complain, but as soon as she finishes doing that, she throws herself bodily into a task. I don't begrudge someone a 'man, this sucks,' so long as they then do what they can, and she always does. In fact, my one complaint about the pacing of the novel is that Felicia seems to come by her defensive skills too quickly and easily. In this case, I would have liked a training montage or some way to mark time passing.

In addition to Felicia, we have two other super important people I must talk about: Neil and Julian. Yes, there's a love triangle. I know, I know. It's okay, though. This love triangle is made more interesting by the fact that we have a juxtaposition between past and present, and the fact that only Julian is actually present. Though I initially hated Julian, who is definitely too cocky and bad boy-ish for my usual tastes, I'm currently in his team, because he's complex and interesting. I want to know more about him. Neil is too perfect, too high school love, too religious, to hold much appeal for me, BUT I have yet to meet him except in Felicia's favorite memories of him. At this juncture, it's in no way clear which competitor will win fair Felicia's heart, which always helps in a love triangle.

So far as the dystopian stuff goes, Level 2 is not the most dystopian novel ever, but there's obviously some creepy stuff happening because of...whoever's in charge. There will be more dystopian goodness (errr...badness) in the coming books, I am sure.

Lenore Appelhans' Level 2 is a thought provoking read that will put you into an entirely new world. The images will stick in your brain long after you finish. In fact, rewriting this review just before it's meant to publish (since I managed to accidentally delete the original, because I'm an idiot), I find myself wishing I had time to reread Level 2, so that I could catch plot threads that I missed on my first read. I will definitely need to reread before reading the next book. You definitely don't want to miss out on Level 2.

Favorite Quote: "‘The point is to keep trying new things, meeting new people, visiting new places. Once you settle into a rut, no matter how fun that rut may seem, you stagnate. You might as well be dead.’"

"You give me a quiet mind and I...
I love you
Until the end
Until the end

Give me strength to be kind... To combine

All the good things in life that are so hard to find
But I have and I won't let them go like I do with my friends (my friends)

Remember: Every comment on a post during Dystopian August is an entry to win one of fourteen dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels IF you've filled out the form from this post.

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Blogger Nori said...

I really want to read this! It just sounds so unique. I love that it combines dystopia with the afterlife with an angel-type story. I feel like the only thing that could make that possibly better is some element of steam punk... Also, I seriously need to check out this author's blog!

August 1, 2012 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Nori, you should definitely read this. You will not regret it. Haha. No steampunk; that's hard to manage when we don't know what the typical technology level is in the afterlife, lol.

August 1, 2012 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Bekka said...

Hm. I wasn't that interested in this book until now, because afterlife, angels, etc = religion to me. And I always have a hard time suspending my disbelief for that. You made it seem really intriguing, even if I still don't know what the plot is (?). This will probably be a library book for me, but I definitely do want to check it out now.

I also love the use of books in this. Really cool!

August 1, 2012 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, if I read anything with religious themes, I always try to make it very clear whether they're tolerable for those outside of the religious tradition. I'm not religious, so if they're whacking me over the head with their views, it's not happening. I definitely don't feel like Lenore was trying to perpetuate whatever her theology is, more just that it was an interesting foundation for a story.

I didn't describe the plot much purposely, because I think you're better going into this one fairly blind. :-p That was the story can unfold as it's meant to. I didn't know and I was okay.


August 1, 2012 at 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Katie @ BlookGirl said...

::dies:: I am SO excited to read this book and am thrilled that you loved it overall :-) The idea of replaying one's memories is so interesting, and I can imagine that most would only want to relive the very best memories, which of course, skews their perspective.

You've now got me thinking about which books would be available to me in this type of after-life. Definitely The Last Unicorn! :-)

What an awesome review, Christina! Thanks for sharing your thoughts <3

August 1, 2012 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, I didn't actually think about the perspective-skewing stuff until I had to rewrite my review today. That was one of the benefits. We get to see the past, but only the very worst bits and very best bits, so it's hard to know what she and her bf were like in normal moments.

I really need to read The Last Unicorn. I would have the movie for sure. :-p

August 1, 2012 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I'm loving the zombie unicorns!

This book sounds so interesting! I have to admit, I've super wanted to read this since you did the cover reveal, and now your review makes me want to read it even more.

August 1, 2012 at 7:21 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Aren't the zombicorns the best? They're so creepy and adorable!

Woo! I love making people want to read things!

August 1, 2012 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Lilian said...

Oh, those are zombie unicorns? I was so sure they were unicorn pinatas or something!

I saw Level 2 in a ton of BEA hauls, and I was extra excited to find out it was written by Lenore (obviously, I don't pay any attention to reading author names >__<. )

From the title, I thought it would something like Ready Player One and I am taken aback to find out from your review that's it's actually about the afterlife (well, they do seem to have high-tech there, AWESOME!)
Now I'm on the fence about reading it...

Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

August 1, 2012 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Tsk tsk! They're so obviously zombie unicorns. They're falling apart, and one leg is broken.

Haha, yeah! That's okay. I didn't notice Team Human was two authors for like 6 months.

Wow, I totally do not know where you got Ready Player One from. Oh wait, it's the title, right? Haha, I guess that makes sense. But no, not like Ready Player One at all.

August 1, 2012 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger Lilian said...

"They're falling apart, and one leg is broken."
Which is why they look like messed-up PINATAS. I think its the "eye" part, which looks like a gigantic button!

Yes from the title! I WANT ANOTHER READY PLAYER ONE! And from the title I thought it was the second book in a series or something too.
Anyway, if the afterlife is as spiffy as it sounds, where I can sit there and watch videos all day...*daydreams*
I wonder if there's a Hell then (maybe where they have to watch Justin Bieber all day?)

August 1, 2012 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger Lenore Appelhans said...

Lillian - if you watched Justin Bieber all day long in life, that's what you'd be watching in the afterlife.

August 2, 2012 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Christina said...


Uh oh, Lilian. Get ready.

August 2, 2012 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Adriana @ BooksOnHerMind said...

Oh no. I want this now.
Thanks for the awesome review (:

August 2, 2012 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

If you follow the link to Lenore's site up above, she's giving away a copy!

August 2, 2012 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

This is one of those rare novels that I ordered without reading the description or anything because of the great buzz. Also - a blogger who wrote a book! (Must support!) I know how picky you are about books, so I completely trust your judgment, and I'm really excited about the book now that I know what it's about. (Your review is the only thing about Level 2 in my head!)

Anywho, great review! You would've sold the book if I hadn't bought it already. ;-)

August 4, 2012 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Woo! Blogger love! So glad you trust my judgment! :-D

I think you'll like it. The concept is so cool!

August 4, 2012 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Alessandra said...

I'm very excited about Level 2, too. When I first read there were angels in this (from another review), it gave me pause, because I usually associate angels in YA fiction with the paranormal fantasy genre... and I'm not very fond of angels in paranormal fantasy YA books. But I guess it makes sense to have angels in the afterlife.

Thank you for the detailed review. It's interesting to know more about the characters!

The zombie unicorns are totally cute :)

August 6, 2012 at 8:22 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Angels always give me pause as well, although more out of religious concerns than a dislike of paranormal. Well, that and they often tend to be the most melodramatic of books. So far, these angels have been very much unlike other angels.

Thanks! I love them!

August 6, 2012 at 8:54 AM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

I like books that touch the religiously thing without getting preachy. I really think I'll like it, too. :-)

August 7, 2012 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger M.A.D. said...

Wow, that time/memory/weird love triangle actually sounds uniquely interesting! Very cool .. and you also mentioned very baaaad, creepy stuff. Now I gotta find out who/what's in charge!!

You know, I was pretty much on the fence about whether or not I wanted to read Level 2 until I read your review ... but I just fell off the fence onto the *MUST HAVE* side ;D

August 31, 2012 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Well, I certainly think Level 2 is worth reading. I'm happy to have pushed you off the fence onto the side of giving it a chance!

September 4, 2012 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger Lynn K. said...

YouDead <- LOL! (this part sort of reminds me of the life reel thing in Black Butler)

When I first saw the cover for LEVEL 2 I thought it would be the sci-fi kind of dystopia. Never would have expected it to be about the afterlife. Definitely checking this out!

November 10, 2012 at 1:30 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ha, yeah, the cover makes a lot of people think video gaming, but, yeah, definitely the afterlife. So glad you'll be checking it out! Not too long now!

November 12, 2012 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm want to read this book so badly! It sounds unique and I love the first sentence. I really like the cover and the spine so much.

February 22, 2013 at 5:14 AM  

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