Review: Getting a life… by Beth Watson

Getting a Life, Even if You’re Dead (No Going Back, Book 1) by Beth Watson is the next entry in The January Project, my one month effort to give authors reviews.

I love the title and cover for Getting A Life, Even if You’re Dead and I enjoyed a previous book by one of Beth Watson’s alter egos so picking this up on a Kindle free day was a no brainer.  Two female leads narrate. Kendra isn’t happy about being dragged along on her mother’s trip to photograph cemeteries in Paris.  How will operation get a boyfriend succeed if she’s not at home? Soon, Kendra has bigger problems in the form of her best friend, Amber. Amber (the other narrator) is dead and has been long before meeting Kendra three years ago.  Amber implores Kendra to help her with two lost souls, one alive, Pierrot and one dead, Loic. Loic doesn’t remember his death, but blames his brother Pierrot. To help Loic pass on to the afterlife, Kendra needs Amber to navigate mysteries in a physical world.

Great concept, but something fell a little flat for me in the execution and I wish I could pinpoint the issue. From a technical standpoint, I have no quibble with the book. The plot buzzed along.  The setting made me feel as though I were creeping around a Parisian cemetery and traipsing through the streets.  The hook at the end makes me want to read the next book in the series. A number of pity one liners prompted my husband to ask “Why are you smiling?” All the elements are there. I think the hiccup for me was a failure to develop a deep relationship with the characters.  It may be because I read this concurrent with the deeply emotional satisfying The Boys of Summer by Sarah Madison.  The dual narrators may have thrown me for a loop. I only connected with Amber in the last few chapters. Maybe I’m too old to relate to this young adult/teen novel? Perhaps if I had dreamt of Paris or viewed it as a romantic city rather than one where I battled waves of tourists and couldn’t get service at restaurants, the story would have resonated more.

In my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, I’ll go with a 4/5 although a 3.5 more accurately reflects my reaction.  If my daughter is interested, I’d share this book with her. The story is wholly appropriate for the intended audience of later tweens and teens. I suspect the failings to fully enjoy this novel fall more to this reader than the author.  Besides, due to that hook, I am looking forward to more of this series.

I make no money by offering these, but here are the buy links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Life-Even-Youre-Going-ebook/dp/B00G4BJ06O/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1390153644&sr=1-1&keywords=beth+watson

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/getting-a-life-even-if-youre-dead-beth-watson/1117229236?ean=9780989521949

My top reads of 2013

If you’ve followed me since inception, you know the routine, and you might need your head examined. For the rest of you, here’s the run-down.  Each year in December, I post the ten best books I’ve read all year, regardless of when the book first appeared in publication.  I consider ebooks, audio books and yes, paper books so long as I read them this calendar year.  And since a few days remain in 2013, I pledge I will only read crap the rest of the year so as to not ruin my list.

10. Flowertown by S.G. Redling — I had high expectations for this dystopian novel and this book met-if not surpassed- them. After a chemical disaster leaves an Iowa town in quarantine, the inhabitant yearn for freedom or at least answers. Ellie is a terrific anti-hero who must decide whether to continue a slow death or find a way to channel her rage at the true enemy.  As an FYI- There’s a lot of language in here – didn’t bother me but it may put off some readers and may explain why it hasn’t taken off like some other dystopian series aimed more at the young adult market.

9. If the Shoe Fits by Amber T. Smith — This updated Cinderella story features an evil ex-stepmother, a talking cat, a pair of memorable shoes, Mr. Charming and an even more charming heroine in Ella.    I love that Ella has a lot of self-confidence and can laugh at her own propensity for getting into awkward social situations. She is the type of gal who will make you laugh so hard to spit beer out your nose on girls night out.  There is a terrific sense of play in this book.  If you want serious literature, run the other direction.  This book is a light as air delightful bon-bon, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.

8. Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter — Jane Porter did something I never thought was possible – she made a type A perfectionist super Mom human. Part of the appeal for me in this book stems from how well it meshed with book #2 on my list.  The heroines surely ran into each other somewhere along the way with bile and hilarity ensuing.

7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett — this is one of those books that will fuel conversations for years.  It’s not a perfect book, but memorable with winning characters you think about long after you close the covers.

6. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea — I blogged about this book last week.  Click here to see why it made my best list.

5. The Time Between by Karen White — Not only is this a strange choice since it actually came out this year, but I haven’t met anyone else who has read it, which is weird and a shame.  I’ll be honest, if I’d seen it in a bookstore, I might have walked past it, but I received a complementary copy from the author at a writing conference and picked it up when a bunch of other books were in moving boxes.  I won’t spoil the mystery surrounding the great aunts, but will say if you enjoy Southern Fiction (it’s set in the Carolinas), or even stories that address familial guilt, pick up this book.  You can practically smell the sea breeze.

4. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim — Embrace your inner Nellie Olsen – Alison did, but this book is so much more. Part Hollywood memoir, part feminist manifest, part overcoming horrors, you’ll learn about humanity and laugh so hard you might pee your wetsuit. (See – that’s why you need to read the book).

3. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker — Another young adult dystopian, but this one, I’d share with my 10 year old.  Unlike many dystopians that feature a world divided by have/have nots and marked by violence, this looks at transition time.  The earth’s rotation is slowing, the time between sunrise and sunset increases daily.  This almost poetic look at the banal during a life changing epoch reminds me of my fave nuclear holocaust film/series of the 1980’s Testament.

2. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple — freakin’ hilarious and I admire the untraditional storytelling.

1. The Fault in our Stars by John Green — I finished this several months ago and words still fail me when I try to communicate the elegant, unapologetic beauty of this story of about teens with childhood cancer

So that’s it – what should I read next?

Review: The Iron King/ The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Young Adult literature is an exciting place to be. As J. K. Rowling proved in Harry Potter, Young Adult isn’t just kid stuff. I adored the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and, yes, I’ll admit it, even the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.  When I heard the buzz around Julie Kagawa‘s The Iron King, I had to check it out.

I’ll be blunt. I like Kagawa’s books about the Iron Fey and I’ll seek out the next installments. The fairies occupying Kagawa’s world are vicious, petty and vain creatures, far removed from the Disneyfied version of happy creatures making flower necklaces. They draw more inspiration from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Indeed, the infamous Puck is a major character in Kagawa’s books. The descriptions of the worlds the fairies occupy are at times opulent, at times vague, but done in a way that makes sense given the first person point of view.  Our narrator, Meghan Chase doesn’t have time to consider the curtains when she’s running for her life from fairies with shiny, sharp teeth.  So far, the series balances action with moments of reflection that say more about our human world than the one occupied by mythological creatures.

But, and if one is going to muse on something like this, there better be a but, I find myself troubled by the over all message that seems to be emerging.  Although neither the Summer nor the Winter Fey emerge as particularly heroic, the Iron Fey represent the villainous forces our heroine and her rag-tag team of outsiders must defeat. The Summer and Winter Fey draw their magic from human imagination, creativity and lust. The Iron Fey, developing from technology, destroy the forces the rest of the Fey hold  dear.

The anti-technology message in The Iron King and The Iron Daughter rings loud and clear. We’ve heard similar arguments before – TV rots the mind, video games destroy our capacity to think.  I finished the second book the day after Steve Jobs’ death was announced. He, to me, is a prime example of how technology and creativity are not mutually exclusive.  Consider the explosion of e-media. Looking at Rube Goldberg Machines on You-Tube with my children a few months ago showed people using their creativity to create a ‘buzz-worthy’ video. We spent nearly an hour watching them, then spent longer trying to create our own. I’m a firm believer that technology can enhance, not destroy, creativity.

I wonder how many people are reading Kagawa’s series on an e-reader? Do they pick up the same uncomfortable message I do? There are several more books in the series. I intend to read on.  In that way Kagawa succeeded.  I have to continue to find out if my fears are substantiated.