The Sweetie Chronicles

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Book Review: Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison

I know I already try to keep track of the books I'm reading through Goodreads, but I thought I would also put some thoughts on these books up on my blog. Especially when what I read is mostly Young Adult fiction anyway. Since I've been feeling a bit less than ideal lately, my husband suggested I spend more time reading. His goal, of course, is to try to get rid of some of the mountain of YA books I have stacked around the house, haha! Our rule is that when I finish a book, I have to give it away or sell it at the used bookstore unless it's one of my favorites, in which case I get to keep it. With that said, I'm hoping to be reading more in the upcoming months.

My latest pick from my shelves was "Once Dead, Twice Shy" by Kim Harrison. This is a relatively short YA and is Kim Harrison's debut YA book.


I originally picked up this book because I was really drawn to the cover. It's got a punk kind of look to it, so I thought the heroine might be kind of bad-ass. Plus, this is another example of a NYT bestselling author throwing her hat into the ring of YA, so I figured it would be worth checking out.

I will do my best to keep the spoilers out of this, but still let you know what I thought of the book. I did finish the book, which is saying something for me lately. It seems like I'm constantly in search of the type of book that will draw me in from the start and just not let go. For me, those types of books are few and far between, and unfortunately, Once Dead was not one of those grabber kind of books.

Here's the blurb from the inside cover jacket:

Madison's prom was killer - literally. For some reason, she's been targeted by a dark reaper - yeah, that kind of reaper - intent on getting rid of her, body and soul. But before the reaper could finish the job, Madison was able to snag his strange, glowing amulet and get away.


Now she's stuck on Earth - dead but not gone. Somehow the amulet gives her the illusion of a body, allowing her to toe the line between life and death. She still doesn't know why the dark reaper is after her, but she's not about to just sit around and let fate take its course.


With a little ingenuity, some light-bending, and the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys! Maybe...), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison's ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before it takes control of her.


Well, if she believed in that stuff.


Great premise, right? I mean, angels, reapers, a hint of some kind of magic. Sounds great. Unfortunately, the beginning was super slow for me. It wasn't quite slow enough to make me put it down and stop reading, but then again, it was probably not until after page 100 of an only 232 page book that I started getting interested enough to want to stay up past my bedtime to read. Part of it for me was that the beginning was confusing. Wait, she's dead? And what exactly is Barnabas, this light-reaper, trying to teach her to do? I didn't get it at first and had to do a lot of re-reading to figure it out.

Also, I think sometimes the fact that Kim Harrison is used to writing adult novels showed itself pretty glaringly. The language these teens use in a lot of the dialogue (especially for a teen like Madison who is supposed to be kind of punk and off-beat) is very stilted. Other times, she uses teen-speak like freaking, which does sound punk, but then also phrases like 'puppy presents', which sounds more like it belongs on the mouth of a do-gooder Christian girl who couldn't bear to swear. I guess for me, it just seemed inconsistent at times. Sometimes, though, the writing was so beautiful. "Looking up, I was blinded by the sun reflecting upon a moving blade, and I gasped as it sliced cleanly through me with the sensation of dry feathers against my soul." (p. 17 in the hardcover) Beautiful writing, right? Yes, but since it's supposed to be Madison's voice here, why does she use the word 'upon'? That doesn't sound very naturally teen to me. It sounds like the author's voice instead. See what I mean?

Or am I being super picky? Lol. Probabaly too picky, I know, but sometimes that's the problem with adult authors writing YA - I'm not sure I believe the voice. And little words like 'upon' instead of just 'on' throw me out of the teen's head just a little bit.

But like I said, somewhere after about page 100, I started really getting into the story. The conflict suddenly seemed real and I was rooting for Madison to figure it all out and learn to use the amulet she'd stolen from the dark reaper. The last few chapters were by far the best part of the book and kept me reading late into the night. Bottom line? If you can make it through the slower first part of the book, I think you'll really enjoy this read. This is also just the first book in a series. I recently purchased book 2, "Early to Death, Early to Rise", and plan to start it right away. There is third book also, titled "Something Deadly This Way Comes".

Have you read this book? Have you read any of Kim Harrison's adult novels? How do they compare? What did you think of  'Once Dead'?

1 comments:

Erica December 7, 2011 at 12:03 PM  

Can't wait to read the next book!!

Sarra Cannon

Young Adult Indie Author

I always secretly wanted to be a cheerleader. And a witch. Now, I write about both. The first five novels in my Peachville High Demons Young Adult Paranormal series are available now in ebook!

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