Review: Between by Cyndi Tefft

Book: Between
Author: Cyndi Tefft
Publisher: Self-published
Release date: June 1, 2011
Source: Ebook from author
Summary: (from Goodreads) It just figures that the love of Lindsey Water’s life isn’t alive at all, but the grim reaper, complete with a dimpled smile and Scottish accent.

After transporting souls to heaven for the last 300 years, Aiden MacRae has all but given up on finding the one whose love will redeem him and allow him entry through the pearly gates.

Torn between her growing attraction to Aiden and heaven’s siren song, Lindsey must learn the hard way whether love really can transcend all boundaries.

First impressions: The book opens with Lindsey in a car, kissing her boyfriend and not really enjoying it all that much. Hilarious and sweet, and it made me like Lindsey a lot. Then the action picks up and before you know it, Lindsey is dead. It’s a great beginning that keeps you glued to the pages.

Lasting impressions: What will stick with me the most about this book, unfortunately, is how offensive I found its moralizing.

Conflicting impressions: This book was full of inconsistency in the characters and their choices. The decisions made stretched the bounds of plausibility for me, so I wasn’t able to fully invest in what was happening.

Overall impressions: I really, truly wanted to like this book. It’s a Scottish boy who falls in love with his very own Sassenach (Outlander) and sort of time travels with her! Plus, Lindsey is a college student, and I’m all about more YA fiction for the college set. It had everything going for it, but just couldn’t deliver.

My first problem with this story was the insta-love. MAJOR case of it going on here. Lindsey dies in a car wreck, is whisked away by Aiden to this “between” place on her way to heaven. At no time does she seem overly concerned about being dead. She’s sad, sure, but not sad enough to miss the fact that Aiden is smoking hot and she kind of wants his bod. This didn’t really ring true for me. If I found out I was dead, I would not automatically be concerned with the attractiveness of my reaper.

Lindsey decides that she’s really upset about going to heaven still a virgin. And Aiden gets all uppity about deflowering a maiden and it really wasn’t working for me. Aiden came off as more jerky than chivalrous or old timey. I get that he would find modern female behavior strange, but when he gets Lindsey make believe drunk and she starts flirting with him he basically calls her a whore. And she doesn’t immediately tell him to eff off and run away to heaven. Bad move, Lindsey!

It touched a nerve. On the one hand, Aiden is skinny dipping and lusting after her, but on the other he doesn’t want to take her maidenhead or have her acting too much like a floozy. I mean, what a turnoff, right? (Insert eyeroll sprain here.) Similarly, Lindsey is supposed to be a college aged nice girl virgin, but yet she jumps in naked in the lake with Aiden and sleeps with him, and later practically gives him a lap dance after some drinking. Where is the conflict here? She has no qualms about giving up her virginity in the afterlife? It seemed inconsistent with my idea of Lindsey and so I couldn’t figure out who these characters were supposed to be.

I admit that I had a very personal reaction early on that may have colored my perceptions a bit. Cyndi Tefft really lost me when describing Aiden’s story. Aiden explains that the reason he’s spent 300 years transporting souls to heaven while not going there himself is because he committed suicide and God was mad at him. Later in the book, there’s another discussion of suicide with similar blatant moralizing about how all suicide victims are selfish and cowardly.

I realize that this is almost always true, but I don’t need it flung in my face. The whole concept was handled in a clunky way at best, and in an offensive way at worst. I have been personally touched by suicide, and so having the basis of Aiden’s position be a punishment for his suicide just didn’t sit well with me. At all. But that’s just me, and it may not bother most readers.

The time travel elements were fun to read, though I had a hard time getting into them knowing they weren’t actually happening and were memories instead. I did like the idea of “casting,” where the characters in Between can make their own reality by just imagining what they want. It was a cool world and an interesting story of two people facing the ultimate obstacle. The story does take an interesting twist into new territory about halfway through, but a lot of the side characters and backstory didn’t add much to Lindsey and Aiden’s tale. If I had been able to get past the preaching and really believe in these characters and their love I may have enjoyed this book, but in the end I couldn’t and I didn’t.

Rating: 1/5 stars

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Want a different perspective? Read this rave review by Steph: Short & Sweet.

Review: Happy Birthday to Me by Brian Rowe

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Happy Birthday to Me
Author: Brian Rowe
Publisher: CreateSpace/Self-published
Release date: April 5, 2011
Source: Free ebook from author for review
Series: Birthday Trilogy #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Seventeen-year-old Cameron Martin has a huge problem: heâ??s aging a whole year of his life with each passing day!

High school is hard enough; imagine rapidly aging from seventeen to seventy in a matter of weeks, with no logical explanation, and with prom, graduation, and the state championship basketball game all on the horizon. Thatâ??s what happens to Cameron, a popular pretty boy who’s never had to face a day looking anything but perfect.

All Cameron wants to do is go back to normal, but no one, not even the best doctors, can diagnose his condition. When he finds love with a mysterious young woman, however, he realizes his only hope for survival might be with the one person who started his condition in the first place.

First impressions: Cameron is really engaging with a powerful voice. I felt like I knew him right away. The book opens with Cameron on death’s door, rapidly aging on the outside despite being only 17 on the inside. I just had to know more!

Lasting impressions: Not enough conflict for my tastes and the supporting characters seemed not to serve much purpose. But I loved Cameron’s voice and I thought the prose was well written.

Conflicting impressions: I wanted there to be some kind of external conflict. This book was all about Cameron’s struggle with this aging process, and for too long we don’t have any idea how he can overcome it. I ended up just assuming he couldn’t, so there wasn’t a whole lot driving me through the pages. We don’t find out what’s going on until the very end of the book, which ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied.

Overall impressions: The beginning and end of this book really pulled me in. Cameron is a cocky athlete with a pretty girlfriend who doesn’t seem to care about him all that much. His best friend, Wesley, is a wannabe film auteur – he reminded me of a hippie grunge Dawson, but in a good way. Cameron is a basketball star, and the son of a successful plastic surgeon. He’s got pretty much everything going for him.

Then Cameron starts to age rapidly, and the stage is set for this ticking time bomb of a deadline. Cameron is aging one whole year per day, and soon his time will be up. As he gets older, his friends and family go through various stages of shock, and life gets pretty lonely. His mom is weepy, his dad is horrified and distant, his sister keeps bugging him to come to her music recital, and his friend Wesley wants to make a film about him. His girlfriend flakes, the weird girl from the pizza parlor keeps showing up, and the librarian incessantly harasses him. Oh, and the basketball team wants him to quit pretending his aging body can keep up.

Somewhere in the jumble of all of these extraneous characters, the story got lost for me. I didn’t know what Cameron was supposed to be learning. Cameron has no idea what’s happening, there’s no medical explanation, and so ultimately he just keeps living his life, one miserable day after another. I was dying for him to figure out who was holding all of the secrets, and wished that had happened way before it did. My focus was too scattered between the relationship with his dad, the upcoming state basketball championship, the film Wesley is directing, the girlfriend who leaves him, and the librarian who ends up in the most bizarre scenario with him that really left me confused.

I think the main reason I didn’t enjoy this as much as I could have is that the motivations of the characters seemed off somehow, and the story didn’t seem to go anywhere for long chunks of time. Still, I have to say again that Cameron has a really great voice and it’s fun to be in his head. The story is unique and interesting, and I think Brian Rowe is a gifted writer. I found this book to be a breath of fresh air in a market flooded with paranormal romances; I just wish it had kept my interest a little better.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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Are you looking for something to read for the All Male Review Challenge? This is a book with both a male protagonist and a male author! Score!