Review: Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman

 

Title: Beautiful Lies

Author: Jessica Warman

Publisher:  Walker

Beautiful Lies DIGITAL

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Rachel and Alice are an extremely rare kind of identical twins-so identical that even their aunt and uncle, whom they’ve lived with since their parents passed away, can’t tell them apart. But the sisters are connected in a way that goes well beyond their surfaces: when one experiences pain, the other exhibits the exact same signs of distress. So when one twin mysteriously disappears, the other immediately knows something is wrong-especially when she starts experiencing serious physical traumas, despite the fact that nobody has touched her. As the search commences to find her sister, the twin left behind must rely on their intense bond to uncover the truth. But is there anyone around her she can trust, when everyone could be a suspect? And ultimately, can she even trust herself? Master storyteller Jessica Warman will keep readers guessing when everything they see-and everything they are told-suddenly becomes unreliable in this page-turning literary thriller.


Review:

Wow, this book left me reeling several times, as the painstakingly developed twists and turns began to unfold.  I don’t know how to review this without major spoilers, but I am going to try, so if I am vague, it’s so I don’t spoil any of the suspense.   I finished this yesterday, and I am still trying to decide how I feel about the book.  It was hard to put down, but because the author was keeping me on my toes and only revealing bits and pieces about Rachel and Alice, I didn’t feel that I ever got to know the twins.  I learned about their history, as life-changing events in their past were slowly picked apart, but I never felt that I got to know  them.  There was an emotional distance around them that I couldn’t breach.  I also hated the ending.  Hated it!  It is dark and brutal and unforgiving, and it made me uncomfortable and depressed.

Alice and Rachel are identical twins.  They also know when something happens to the other.  If one of them is injured, the other is as well.  They look so much alike that even their aunt and uncle can’t tell them apart.  Their parents were killed when they were young girls, and their mom’s sister and her husband stepped up and took them in.  There is a history of mental illness in the family, and because of her tenuous grip on reality, their aunt refused to allow their grandmother to have custody of them, even though the girls often spent time with their grandmother.  Due to their personality clashes, their mother and aunt hadn’t spoken to each other in years, and the girls hadn’t even met their new guardians.  After a rough adjustment, they settled into life in their new home, but they never felt  that they were part of their aunt and uncle’s family.

When one of the twins disappears, the other is frantic to find her sister.  One second, she felt her sister’s familiar presence, and the next, she was gone.  Like she had never existed.  The problem, Alice was a troublemaker, always finding herself on the bad side of a situation and forbidden to see her boyfriend because of his bad influence.  The adults in her life, including the police, are skeptical that Alice has been abducted, and they all think that she’s only run away.  She does this often, so nobody is in a hurry to try to find her.  They all expect her to come home in a day or so, because she always does.  Only this time, she doesn’t.

Beautiful Lies is an engrossing read, and it was very hard to step away from the suspense.  I almost turned down lunch at the Indian buffet so I could stay home and keep reading, and if you know me and how much I love food, you’ll understand what a big deal that thought was(my stomach did win out in the end).  I was always wondering what was real and what was a figment of the protagonist’s imagination.  Her grip on sanity was questionable, and it was difficult to tell whether she was seeing something that was really there, or whether she believed that something was there.  This back and forth between questioning her sanity and  taking everything at face value kept me turning the pages.  I had to know!  Was she nuts?  Had her sister really been abducted, or did she have something to do with her disappearance.  To add to the tangled web, both sisters kept secrets from the other, and some of those secrets were huge!  As each was unearthed, a very real and understandable sense of betrayal and hurt permeated the pages. 

I loved being off balance and not really knowing what was going on.  It is only the ending that keeps me feeling reserved about this book.  Though it is a fitting end, it is not easy to read, and it disturbed me.  I did not want the story to come to this end.  If you read the book, how did you feel about the conclusion?

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Jessica Warman, Author of Beautiful Lies

Jessica Warman is the author of Beautiful Lies, which just hit store shelves.  Jessica recently dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her new book and writing influences. Check out what she has to say.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Jessica Warman] Introvert w/ a wonderful life doing what I love. Born w/an itch for trouble. Mouth like a trucker. I grow on people. Crazy like a fox.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Beautiful Lies?

[Jessica Warman] Sure! The book is about a set of identical twins, Rachel and Alice, who have always had an incredibly powerful bond. When one of them goes missing, it is up to the remaining twin to figure out what happened, primarily by tapping into this bond. I’ve been told by more than a few readers that it’s a pretty scary book, which pleases me to no end.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Jessica Warman] My family has a strong history of what I’d suppose you’d call clairvoyance. A number of people on my mom’s side of the family have either worked as psychics or else claimed to be psychic. That being said, I’m extremely skeptical about these kinds of things, but it fascinates me nonetheless. My idea for the concept came from sorting through many of the family stories I’ve been hearing all my life, and then putting my own spin on it. Some of the characters mirror members of my own family pretty closely. As for the twins, my husband’s sisters are red-headed twins. They’re gorgeous and smart, and they also have an incredible bond – they were my inspiration for Alice and Rachel.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Rachel?

[Jessica Warman] She’s secretive, guarded, and kind.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Alice would never have in her purse?

[Jessica Warman] The first one is definitely black licorice! Also, a picture of herself and her boyfriend together, and a to-do list.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Are you more like Alice or Rachel?

[Jessica Warman] I’m definitely more like Alice. I’ve always been pretty wild, especially when I was a teenager. But I’ve also mellowed quite a bit with age, to the point where I understand there’s a time and place for certain kinds of behavior. No matter what, though, I think the maniac in me will always be in there somewhere, waiting for an appropriate time to shine.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Jessica Warman] David Foster Wallace is my favorite writer of all time, hands down. His work – especially his nonfiction – is just the greatest stuff I’ve ever read. People talk about art “changing their life” all the time, but in this case it’s true: his writing has changed my life. It’s made me a better person. It has enriched my life in ways I never could have anticipated, and made me feel whole in ways nothing and nobody else has ever been able to do. He was a genius, and we should all support his legacy by reading his work.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Jessica Warman] 1) Complete silence. I mean no noise whatsoever, not even the sound of a kitten purring, or rain falling.

2) I have to be well-rested. I’m nonfunctional if I don’t get enough sleep.

3) I have one of those e-cigarettes, even though I haven’t smoked for years. The cartridges I use are just filled with water, so I’m only inhaling water vapor, but it gives me something to fidget with whenever I need to take a little break from typing.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Jessica Warman] “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” by Benjamin Alire Saenz. This book… I was awestruck at the end. What he does with words is nothing short of sorcery. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful piece of art. If I ever see Mr. Saenz again, I’m going to hug him. Then I’m going to thank him for sharing this story with the world.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Jessica Warman] Probably “The Twits” by Roald Dahl, followed by everything else he’s ever published. The man was a magician. I recently gave my 7-year old daughter the boxed set of his complete works, and I’m having so much fun living vicariously through her as she experiences them for the first time. Even today, as an adult, reading any of his books makes me feel like I’m getting a big hug from the universe.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Jessica Warman] Well, I read a lot. I read everything I can get my hands on. And as boring as this sounds, I actually really enjoy cleaning my house. I love cleaning up big messes, because it provides such an immediate sense of accomplishment. If I hadn’t become a writer, I think I would have started a crime scene cleanup company.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Jessica Warman] The best way is through email. They can email me at jwarmanwrites@gmail.com, or jkwarman@hotmail.com, or they can send a message via my website, www.jessicawarman.com. They can also follow me on twitter (@jkwarman) or contact me through my Facebook page, which is just www.facebook.com/authorjessicawarman. Sometimes it takes me a long time to respond, but I truly do try to write back to as many people as possible.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Beautiful Lies from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widgets below. Available in print and digital.

Review: Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs

 

 

  Title: Tempest Unleashed

  Author: Tracy Deebs

  Publisher: Walker Childrens

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In Tempest Rising, Tempest chose to return to the sea, following in her mother’s footsteps and forging a relationship with the selkie Kona. Now many months have gone by, and she yearns to see her family again. Life under the ocean is full of rigorous training to eventually take over the throne, which leads to Tempest’s powers growing and manifesting in new ways. When Tiamat, Tempest’s power-hungry nemesis, attacks Tempest’s brother Moku on land, she returns to his side, which also brings her back to her old flame, Mark. But was the attack calculated to get Tempest out of the way? As the battle rages, Tempest’s two loves will collide to both protect her and force her to choose. And when the biggest casualty of all befalls the merpeople-the Queen loses her life-will Tempest be able, or willing, to take over the throne?

Review:

When I first picked up Tempest Unleashed, I was totally engaged in the story.   It picks up eight months after Tempest has made the difficult decision to live with her mother’s mer clan and work for the merQueen.  She and Hailana have a volatile relationship, their strong personalities constantly clashing as the merQueen attempts to mold Tempest into her idea of the perfect future queen.  Hailana is a demanding and ruthless leader.  She doesn’t hesitate to harshly enforce her rules when they aren’t followed to the letter.  Tempest quickly begins to question her leadership style, and she chafes at the thought of being Hailana’s weapon.  Fighting Tiamat is one thing, but punishing her own people is another.

I found the mer society and their alliance with the selkies fascinating.  The world building is very solid and believable, and kept me turning the pages – for the first 31% of the book. Then, when Tempest travelled back home because she had a premonition that her younger brother, Moku, was in grave danger, the pace of the story screeched to a standstill, and the focus shifted to my least favorite trope in YA fiction; the love triangle.  I find this particular plot device tedious and overused, and it is one that just don’t hold my attention.  The entire middle part of the book was consumed by Tempest’s back and forth feelings between Kona and her human ex, Mark.  There was no plot advancement, the impending war against Tiamat takes a backseat to Tempest’s internal war over which guy was her true love.  I wish that the relationship conflict had been better integrated with the rest of the larger storyline, and I felt that Tempest, who has such a strong personality, was too fickle and too flighty as she wrestled with her see-saw feelings for Mark and Kona.

The war against Tiamat kicked the pacing up again, and I whipped through to the ending.  The confrontation between Tiamat and her henchmen proved how fierce and fearless Tempest could be when the people she loved were threatened.  I enjoyed the battle sequences, and how Tempest finally accepted her role as the defender of not just the mer people, but the entire underwater world.  If Tiamat was victorious, life would never be the same, not for the creatures in the water, nor for the humans living on the land.  Tiamat’s ambitions to rule the world needed to be quickly and brutally crushed, just as she crushed everyone in her path.

While Tempest Unleashed wasn’t completely satisfying for me, I am invested in Tempest’s underwater world and would like to know what happens next.  I just hope that the love triangle isn’t the main focus of the next book.  If you do enjoy this plot device, I think that you will enjoy the book far better than I did.

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Cover Shot! Transcendence by C. J. Omololu

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café.  I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share.  More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents.  There is an allure to a beautiful cover.  Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I love this cover!  The intensity of the couple just jumps out, and made me do a double-take.  I like the simplicity of their pose, and how the focus is on the cover models.   They looks so real to me, not all polished and shiny and overdressed like so many YA covers are.  The premise looks awesome, too.  Dirty Little Secrets was such a good book, so I am looking forward to reading Transcendence by C. J. Omololu.

 

Love isn’t the only emotion to survive death . . .

When a visit to the Tower of London triggers an overwhelmingly real vision of a beheading that occurred centuries before, Cole Ryan fears she is losing her mind. A mysterious boy, Griffon Hall, comes to her aid, but the intensity of their immediate connection seems to open the floodgate of memories even wider.

As their feelings grow, Griffon reveals their common bond as members of the Akhet—an elite group of people who can remember past lives and use their collected wisdom for the good of the world. But not all Akhet are altruistic, and a rogue is after Cole to avenge their shared past. Now in extreme danger, Cole must piece together clues from many lifetimes. What she finds could ruin her chance at a future with Griffon, but risking his love may be the only way to save them both.

Full of danger, romance, and intrigue, Transcendence breathes new life into a perpetually fascinating question: What would you do with another life to live?

In stores June 2012

 

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Review: Fracture by Megan Miranda

 

Title: Fracture

Author: Megan Miranda

Publisher: Walker Books

ISBN: 978-0802723093

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine
-despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she’s far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can’t control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she’s reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy’s motives aren’t quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?

For fans of best-sellers like Before I Fall and If I Stay, this is a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the fine line between life and death.

Review:

I picked this book up to while away some time before our New Year’s Eve festivities got underway.  What a mistake!  I didn’t want to put it down, so after we returned from our annual family dinner, I rat holed myself away with the book.  I was so engrossed that midnight didn’t even register for me.  It’s a good thing that Dean doesn’t really care for the holiday, and he was just as engrossed in bad horror films as I was in this book.

I loved Delaney from the first page, and I suffered with her as she tried to make sense of her death – and subsequent second chance at life.  After her best friend, Decker, pulled her out of her watery grave, giving her CPR even though she’s been submerged in icy water for eleven minutes, she is, miraculously, resuscitated.  In a coma for six days, she suddenly awakens, wondering what happened to her.  As she struggles to understand how much her life changed in those eleven minutes, everything starts falling apart.  Her dreams of becoming valedictorian, her friendship with Decker, her relationship with her parents.  Delaney’s difficulties felt real and were so compelling that I couldn’t put the book down.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have to go to work on New Year’s Day!

Fracture reminded me of Jen Nadol’s The Mark series.  Delaney is an ordinary girl, but she has to deal with very extraordinary circumstances.   By all accounts she should be dead.  Even scans of her brain map out the damage those eleven minutes without oxygen wreaked on her gray matter.  Suddenly, nothing is the same as it used to be.  Worse, she seems to have acquired an empathy for death; she can sense when something bad is going to happen to someone, but she is powerless to help them.  It makes it challenging to study for finals when you are freaked out by a sense of impending doom. 

When Delaney meets Troy, another accident survivor, she thinks she’s found someone who can understand what she’s going through. Someone who can help her deal with the overwhelming guilt and her feelings of inadequacy.  Help her find an answer to the one question that keeps burning away in her mind – why is she still alive?  As she gets to know Troy, however, her other relationships begin to spiral hopelessly out of control.

Fracture is an emotionally gripping book about a girl who is impossible to not rally behind.  Delaney just wants to know where she fits into her new life, and the reason why she was granted another chance at life, when so many others aren’t.  What a great book, and what a great way to get my 2012 reading underway.

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Bleeding Hearts by Alyxandra Harvey

 

Title: Bleeding Hearts

Author: Alyxandra Harvey

Publisher: Walker Books

ISBN: 978-0802722843

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

As vampires from all over the world descend on the Drake farm for the Blood Moon gathering, security is ramped up. Lucy has been temporarily banned, for her own safety—and to allow Solange some time to adjust to her new existence. But their enemies realize how much Lucy means to the family, and plan to abduct her to use her for leverage against the new royal family. Instead, Lucy’s cousin Christabel is kidnapped by mistake—and Connor Drake immediately heads off in pursuit, but isn’t in time to prevent Christabel’s infection by the Hel Blar. He can’t save her human life, but he can still try to save her new vampire life, and is willing to put his own life on the line for the girl he has grown to care so much about. Can he save Christabel, the Blood Moon, and his mother’s newly forged Vampire Alliance?

Review:

For me, the greatest enjoyment with the Drake Chronicles comes from revisiting the characters with every new book.  The focus may have turned from one character to more fully flesh out another, but all of the Drakes and their significant others pop up time and again, offering advice (whether solicited or not), someone to ride shotgun in the deadly world of vampires, or providing someone to bicker with.  I love the family, and feel that I get to know them better with each installment.  This is one series that collects very little dust once it hits my bookshelves.  Even when I am pushing the limits of my free-time, I always find an extra minute or two to devour these books.  This is one of my guilty pleasures, and I count down the days until each new adventure is released.

This book takes a slightly different approach from the others.  Instead of just following the new couple around, there are multiple points of view.  Lucy has a starring role, and as she is my favorite character, I didn’t mind.  It was interesting to see how she’s changed from the events in Hearts at Stake, and it was sad as well.  There is a new distance between Solange and Lucy, and it’s breaking Lucy’s heart. Suddenly, for her own good, she has been cut off from her second family, the Drakes.  She doesn’t feel welcome in their home anymore, and most of the family is avoiding her.  That makes it hard for her and Nicholas, and it causes a bit of tension in their relationship.  Lucy hates being cut off from the people she loves, and she is determined to figure out what the heck is going on with Solange.

I found this storyline very compelling, and I felt so bad for Lucy.  Life is just not the same without all of the Drakes to surround her, and it’s even more distressing that she and her best friend forever are barely on speaking terms.   Everyone wants to protect Lucy, but she doesn’t want that for herself.  That is what I like the best about her.  She isn’t going to be a damsel in distress, and she is hell bent on being responsible for her own wellbeing.  All of the women in this series are tough and stubborn, and they don’t need anybody to pamper them.  I appreciate that; it gives them all a sense of empowerment, and it keeps me coming back for more.  The women in this series kick just as much Hel Blar ass as the guys.

Lucy’s cousin Christabel has moved in while her mother struggles with rehab.  When Christabel is mistaken for Lucy and is kidnapped by a tribe of vampires before the Blood Moon, Connor runs off to her rescue.  He needs more practice conducting rescue missions, and he fails to prevent her from being gravely wounded.  This was an action packed, danger-filled sequence that didn’t let up for a second.  I love the complications that are constantly being added to the series; in addition to the action, adventure, and romance, there is a steadily unfolding world of vampire politics that I find both interesting and intriguing.  It’s just Christabel’s bad luck to get caught up in the power struggle between the vampire factions.  At least she found herself a bad boy to get her nose out of a book and herself into lots of trouble.  Dating in the land of the Drakes occasionally comes with terror and lots of running for your life.  Oh, and maddened, blood-crazed monsters out for your blood.

My only  complaint with this foray into the world of the Drakes is that it felt unfinished.  Heck, it didn’t have an ending. It had one of those huge, tear-stained, blood-covered cliffhangers on the last page.  Thanks for reading, see you in six months!  Yeah, I didn’t like that overly much, because every other volume was complete and could stand on its own merits.  Not this one, sadly, and as that is one of my biggest pet peeves, I had to reduce the grade just a bit.  Still, now you can bet that I will be counting down the days until Blood Moon is released in June.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Nowhere Girl by AJ Paquette

 

Title: Nowhere Girl

Author: AJ Paquette

Publisher: Walker Books

ISBN: 978-0802722973

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Luchi Ann only knows a few things about herself: she was born in a prison in Thailand. Her American mother was an inmate there. And now that her mother has died, Luchi must leave the only place she’s ever known and set out into the world. Neither at home as a Thai, because of her fair skin and blond hair, nor as a foreigner, because of her knowledge of Thai life and traditions, Luchi feels as though she belongs nowhere. But as she embarks on an amazing adventure-a journey spanning continents and customs, harrowing danger and exhilarating experiences-she will find the family, and the home, she’s always dreamed of. Weaving intricate elements of traditional Thailand into a modern-day fairy tale unique unto itself, Nowhere Girl is a beautifully rendered story of courage, resilience, and finding the one place where you truly belong.

Review:

This was a fantastic read!  The cover made me think that Nowhere Girl would have some fantasy elements, which it did not, but I wasn’t disappointed in the least.  This is a contemporary drama about a young girl who is trying to find her place in the world.  If you follow the blog at all, you already know that I love books that explore this theme.  I think it’s because I am still trying to figure out just exactly where I fit in the grand scheme of the universe, so I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit when I read a story with a similar theme.

Nowhere Girl is unusual because Luchi Ann has spent her entire life with her mother, a prisoner in a Thailand jail.  Luchi was born there, and it’s the only world she knows.  When her mother falls ill and suddenly dies, Luchi is left alone.  She doesn’t know who her father is, or who her mother really was.  Her life is a giant jigsaw puzzle, and Luchi is desperate to discover the one thing that she is missing – herself.  Her quest from the safe confines of the prison to the endless world of the outside, with its dangers and mysteries, is a huge step for her to make, all alone.  She has nothing, save for the memories of her mother, and box of mementos that she has accumulated while living in the jail. 

I loved this book.  I loved the language, and how lyrically AJ Paquette crafted her sentences.  They are a treat to read,  and the words skillfully caused a cascade of emotions to course through me as I compulsively turned one page after another.  I was quickly invested in Luchi’s quest – would she find the answers she sought, or was she traversing a path to heartbreak?  Luchi is a very complex character, and she has one flaw that causes her grief time and time again.  She is gullible and she is too trusting, having spent most of her life within the orderly confines of the prison.  I experienced her betrayals and her confusion as the people she encountered treated her with varying degrees of trustworthiness.

Though the ending was a bit too rushed, and a bit too rosy, I loved Nowhere Girl.  The setting is interesting, the emotions felt so real, and I was sad when I reached the last page.  This is one of the most underrated books of the year.  While it is marketed to Middle Grade readers, I think that it has a much broader appeal, and that older readers will find much to like about Luchi, and will become just as caught up in her adventures, as I did.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Between by Jessica Warman

 

Title: Between

Author: Jessica Warman

Publisher: Walker Books

ISBN: 978-0802721822

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Elizabeth Valchar-pretty, popular, and perfect-wakes up the morning after her eighteenth birthday party on her family’s yacht, where she’d been celebrating with her six closest friends. A persistent thumping noise has roused her. When she goes to investigate, what she finds will change everything she thought she knew about her life, her friends, and everything in between. As Liz begins to unravel the circumstances surrounding her birthday night, she will find that no one around her, least of all Liz herself, was perfect-or innocent. Critically acclaimed author Jessica Warman brings readers along on a roller-coaster ride of a mystery, one that is also a heartbreaking character study, a touching romance, and ultimately a hopeful tale of redemption, love, and letting go.

Review:

I am a bit confused about my feelings for this book.  There were many elements that I loved and that is what kept me reading.  There were also bits and pieces that I wasn’t so fond of, that detracted from my enjoyment of Between.  I love the concept, too, but felt that the execution was just a little weak in spots.

My biggest dissatisfaction stems from the pacing.  This is a leisurely look at the life and death of one very spoiled young woman.  Starting with Liz’s death, the book jumps between the present and flashbacks to the past to unravel the mystery of her death.  How did she end up in a cold, watery grave on her birthday? Why didn’t anyone hear her fall off of her parents’ boat, or her struggles to save herself from drowning?  Liz has very few memories left, so with the help of another ghost, she begins to fill in the pieces of her life that she has forgotten.  As she slowly adds one fragment of her past after another, she starts to see that she wasn’t a very nice person, and that despite all appearances to the contrary, she wasn’t a very happy one, either.

This is a character driven book, which brings me to the other reason why I didn’t totally love this read.  I wasn’t head over heels with any of the characters, except maybe Alex.  Alex has been dead for a year, killed by a hit and run driver.  He has been stuck somewhere between life and death, restlessly seeking a way to move beyond where he’s stuck now.  He was never a popular kid at school, and unlike Liz, he had to work for everything that he had.  His parents weren’t wealthy, and he had to work at the local market, riding his bike back and forth to his job.  It’s obvious from the start that he can’t stand Liz, he can’t stand her friends, and he isn’t happy that he’s with her in death.  She is about the last person he would want to spend time with, and now it looks like he’s going to be spending eternity with her.   Life, and death, just aren’t fair!

Since Liz can’t remember much about herself, she has a hard time believing that she was as big a witch as Alex claims.  Through flashbacks, she begins to see what a mess she was.  Having witnessed her mother’s untimely death, Liz has had many issues to deal with, and they have left her with a skewed outlook on life.  Her father denies her nothing, and her step-mother and step-sister are also accustomed to getting every material thing that they want.  This leaves Liz a shallow, materialistic girl, and I never connected with her.  Even in her death, she’s hard to like.  She’s catty and judgmental, and she’s always critical of the people around her and how they look or what they have.  It’s like she still can’t see beyond outward appearances, even when she is seeking redemption for herself.  This frustrated me about her.  She is petty and shallow, from the beginning of the book to the end.   This is a passage near the end of the novel:

Nicole saunters out the back door of our house. She’s wearing a flowing white skirt that grazes her ankles, a yellow halter top that exposes her belly – which is just a tad pudgy – and a light jacket.

If I had ever met her in real life, we would have hated each other.

Having said that, Liz does possess one character trait that I admired, and kept me from totally disliking her.  She is so intensely loyal and in love with Richie, her boyfriend.  Though he is a flawed character as well, their relationship was convincing.  They have known each other since they were both babies, and they have developed an intense and unwavering love between them.  They have always been together, and they believe, firmly and unflinchingly, that they will always be together.

While Between didn’t always work for me, I never wanted to put it down and stop reading it.  I did want Liz and Alex to find some kind of meaning in their deaths, and I wanted Liz to find the happiness in death that she never found in her troubled life.  I just wish I had liked her better during her journey to find inner peace.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher