ARC REVIEW: How To Experience Death For Beginners – by Jessica Branton

Title: How To Experience Death For Beginners
Author: Jessica Branton
Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: February 14th 2019
Publisher: Charlie’s Port-FRINGE
Finished reading: January 26th 2019
Pages: 330

“I experienced death when I was seven years old. Ten years later, I found myself wondering if I would ever stop.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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When I first heard about How To Experience Death For Beginners, I was immediately intrigued. A YA mystery with a paranormal angle? Yes please! I had really high hopes for this one, but sadly I cannot say those expectations were met. While the writing in general reads easily enough and the pace reads quite fast, I found myself struggle with the plot. Or should I say plot holes. The premise itself is fascinating, but I don’t think the execution is all that great… The plot is kind of all over the place and between plot holes and lack of credibility not the easiest foundation to build the story on. This brings me to the many many high school cliches, cliche gay best friend and the way cutting is handled in one of the principal characters. This all left me with a bad taste in my mouth and was a turn off for this story. The main characters themselves were also quite cliche, bland and lacked fleshing out. I also felt they read a bit young for high school seniors. The idea behind the paranormal aspect and so-called powers is fascinating, but lacked developing more since this is basically the book’s strongest feature and would have made it stand out from other stories. Instead, I didn’t find it credible how the paranormal was handled nor how others react to it… A shame, because the premise had all the signs of turning into an extraordinary story. Instead, we get a cliche high school drama with a bunch of cliches as main characters and a serial killer and paranormal powers both pushed into the background. One of those stories where the priorities were set wrong? Maybe. But the fact is that sadly How To Experience Death For Beginners didn’t hit the mark for me.

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When Casey and her twin sister lose their father in a car accident when they are seven, their lives change forever… And not only in the most conventional way. Ever since seeing those final moments of her father, Casey somehow can enter the minds of people just before they die. She has isolated herself for years trying to protect herself and keep her from harm, but she might not have a choice when a serial killer makes her small town his hunting ground. And this situation might escalate faster than she would think…

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I can’t deny that the idea behind this story is fascinating and shows a lot of promise, but I don’t think the execution lived up to expectations. The paranormal element of How To Experience Death For Beginners, by far the most interesting aspect of this story, lacked development for me as instead we get an uncomfortable mix of different and sometimes cliche elements that fail to combine into a coherent plot. The lack of credibility, the main characters, the way difficult topics were handled… Sadly this story just didn’t work for me.


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WWW Wednesdays #207 – January 30th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’ve been neglecting those poor physical copies on my shelves, so I decided to pick up noir classic The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler on a whim. I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t heard of the author before, but so far my first experience with his work has been interesting. I’m also reading one of my 2019 most anticipated releases Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus. So far I’m flying through it!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Psychology Of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas (4/5 stars) REVIEW 07/02
This story is part sci-fi, part psychology, part murder mystery, part family drama and part romantic fiction. There are a lot of different elements involved in The Psychology Of Time Travel, and somehow they all manage to work together and create a very fascinating debut. The complex plot will have you on your toes as you try to fit everything together, but only in the most positive way. It was interesting to see the different characters evolve over time and the psychology behind time travel is simply intriguing. I loved the details of the time traveler’s slang as well! This book definitely left a mark and will stay with me for quite some time.

2. Exquisite by Sarah Stovell (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 09/02
Exquisite is an excellent psychological thriller that will give you all the feels and will most definitely manage to shock you before you reach the final page. Simply exquisite and absolutely worth the read if you enjoy the genre! I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long to finally read it.

3. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon (4/5 stars) REVIEW 11/02
It might have to do with the fact I was in the mood for a feel-good story, but I enjoyed my time with this story so much better than I thought I would. This story is cute, fluffy, quirky, geeky and has unique characters and that #ownvoices element that seems to be so popular right now. Yay for etnic diversity and interesting characters that represent a different culture in a realistic way! The characters are what made this story into a success for me and I loved reading about Dimple and Rishi’s story. The coding, the comic art, the geeky elements in general… This was just quirky heaven for me.

4. The Familiars by Stacey Halls (3/5 stars) REVIEW 05/02
What seems to be a historical paranormal fiction story about witches, turns out to be a mostly historical and romantic family drama with only a hint of the supernatural. This lack of a role of the witches, familiars and the witch trials was rather a disappointment for me and not something I expected when I picked up my copy of The Familiars. The fact that Fleetwood was rather dull and lacked a proper personality didn’t really help either, as the story evolved around her and it was hard to keep myself invested in a story when I couldn’t care about the main characters. Having cheating and a love triangle involved didn’t really help either… But if you enjoy character driven and more romantic and family focused historical fiction stories, you will probably end up enjoying it better than I did.

5. How To Experience Death For Beginners by Jessica Branton (2/5 stars) REVIEW 08/02
I can’t deny that the idea behind this story is fascinating and shows a lot of promise, but I don’t think the execution lived up to expectations. The paranormal element of How To Experience Death For Beginners, by far the most interesting aspect of this story, lacked development for me as instead we get an uncomfortable mix of different and sometimes cliche elements that fail to combine into a coherent plot. The lack of credibility, the main characters, the way difficult topics were handled… Sadly this story just didn’t work for me.

6. The Shattering by Karen Healey (3/5 stars) REVIEW 11/02
Even though The Shattering didn’t turn out to be a big hit for me, I’m still glad I finally picked it up. This probably has a lot to do with the setting, since I hardly ever seem to read books set in New Zealand. It also doubles as a negative though, because I would have loved to see more local culture and descriptions included. As it is, The Shattering feels more like a melting pot filled to the brim with different story elements and bits and pieces, making each feel superficial and underdeveloped. The story itself has a lot of potential, with the paranormal aspect, the secrets of Summerton and three different POVs to follow. But with so many different elements distracting you, the story didn’t come out as strong as I thought it would be.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m definitely picking up What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon next as she is one of my favorite authors and I’m dying to read her newest story. I’m also planning on making good to my promise to read more Agatha Christie and pick up the second Hercule Poirot book The Murder On The Links. And to further reduce my ARC pile, I’m also picking up An American Marriage by Tayari Jones soon (I’m not sure which cover I prefer…) And I have a new TBR jar pick: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.


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WWW Wednesdays #206 – January 23rd

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m currently reading one of the last pending February NG ARCs: The Psychology Of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas. I’ve heard lots of things about this story so fingers crossed this time travel experience will be a good one. I’m also finally starting Exquisite by Sarah Stovell. I can’t believe I’ve been posponing it for this long!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. We Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott (2,5/5 stars) REVIEW
I had high hopes for We Told Six Lies, but sadly I can’t say this story lived up to expectations. Part of this feeling has to do with the fact I was expecting a mystery, not a romantic drama with two unlikeable main characters I couldn’t care less about. Sure, at least Molly wasn’t ment to be likeable in the first place, but it’s hard to stay invested in a story when you can’t stand the main characters. The amount of sexy scenes and (romantic) cliches were likewise a huge turn off. Sadly, the plot was quite predictable as well… The writing does flow well and the story reads superfast. The right person will probably enjoy We Told Six Lies better than I did.

2. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 28/01
Ghost Boys is such a powerful read! With race problematics and discrimination sadly being all too real even today, this is such an important book for middle graders and adults alike to read… The topic itself is brilliantly handled, well developed without things becoming too political or dull. The power behind Ghost Boys is the twelve-year-old Jerome, who gives the fatal consequence of racism a face and will make your heart break.

3. The Winter Sister by Megan Collins (4/5 stars) REVIEW 25/01
My instincts told me I was in for a treat with this one and it turns out they were right. The Winter Sister offers us a well balanced mix of a family drama, cold case murder and psychological thriller with a focus on the complicated relationships between mother and daughters alike. The writing is solid and the plot well crafted and interestingly developed. The switches between past and present added to the intrigue and suspense around Persephone’s death and the truth what really happened to her… There are a lot of secrets and twists to discover, and while I did see some of them coming, others managed to surprise me. All in all The Winter Sister was a very satisfying read fans of the genre will love.

4. End Of The Lie by Diana Rodriguez Wallach (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 29/01
I love a good international setting where it seems like reading a story comes with free travel. Add the fact that this story visits two places I’ve recently been able to explore and love myself, and it’s easy to say that the international feel of End Of The Lie was a huge bonus for me. I still struggled with the main characters, the bitchiness and the romance (although I liked some of the romantic developments), but the writing reads like a train and once the pace picks up things get interesting. Fans of international YA spy thrillers will have a great time with this trilogy.

5. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (4/5 stars) REVIEW 04/02
I really enjoyed my time with The Last Time I Lied. The writing is strong and draws you right in; the descriptions of the art and surroundings are done in such a way that really makes them come alive. Using the unreliable narrator technique and a whole bunch of twists, secrets and lies, Riley Sager will be able to keep you guessing about what really happened all those years ago. And not only that, because things are happening in the present as well that make you wondering what is really going on and who is behind it all.

6. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (3/5 stars) REVIEW 04/02
I was looking forward to a historical fiction read and the promise of a foreign setting in the 1920s sounded great. Add the fact that reading it would mean crossing off my first classic of the year early, and I was fully convinced. What I didn’t expect is just how focused this story is on the romance, adultery and love triangle. This never goes well for me and I guess it’s part of the reason I’m guessing The Painted Veil simply wasn’t for me despite my love for historical fiction.

7. Bright We Burn by Kiersten White (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 09/02
I think Bright We Burn is my new favorite of the series. The historical setting, the references to Vlad The Impaler, the worldbuilding, the descriptions, the writing, the characters… There is so much to love here and I have enjoyed every single minute I spent emerged in this world. It’s hard to compare books since it’s been too long since I read the first two, but what I can definitely say is that The Conqueror’s Saga ends stronger than ever.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I still have a pile of ARCs I need to get to, but I’m liking this balance between ARCs and backlist titles I’ve been able to maintain so far. I’m probably reading the ARC How To Experience Death For Beginners by Jessica Branton next, and then I get to read two more backlist titles afterwards as a reward. I’m in the mood for something contemporary, so that will probably be When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon… There has been such a hype around this book that I’m afraid to pick it up, but fingers crossed it will be a good one for me. I’m also planning on making good to my promise to read more Agatha Christie and pick up the second Hercule Poirot book The Murder On The Links. (The fact that this means another classic I can cross off is a huge bonus.) My newest TBR jar pick is still The Shattering by Karen Healey, which I’m hoping to read before the end of the month.


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