FIRSTLIFE by Gene Showalter

I’m getting the impression from the reviews I’ve read of FIRSTLIFE that you either love it, or you hated. Which am I, you ask?

Does that answer your question?

If not, check out this puppy:


I freaking loved FIRSTLIFE. Does it have its faults? Absolutely. Am I going to lay them all bare for you beautiful readers? Oh, you could stake your life on it. But this book is going in my…


As I read through the reviews of author Gene Showalter’s novel, I was amazed at just how many people HATED the book. There were hundreds of 1 Star ratings! All on the first page! I bought the book from Barnes and Noble without any prior recommendation from friends or family. Was actually looking for a mystery pop-up book as a gift and stumbled upon a lovely three books, FIRSTLIFE being one of them. So I hadn’t read any of the reviews on it. I just read the synopses, thought to myself, “It’s got a pretty cover!” and bought the book!

Yes, I’m that shallow.

Then, about twenty pages into the book, I realized my major screw up and went on Goodreads to actually check the book out. When I saw all the HORRIBLE reviews, I immediately thought, “Oh, I’ve made such a mistake…”


So what is FIRSTLIFE?

FIRSTLIFE is the brilliant story of seventeen-year-old Tenley Lockwood (Ten to her friends) who is imprisoned in the Prynne Asylum by her parents. She is tortured, yet she is strong. She’s resilient. She never gives up. She watches death all around her but doesn’t crack. How could she? She’s a fighter…or is she a runner?

Ten’s reason for being in Prynne? She refuses to choose Myriad, one of the two realms of the afterlife, as her realm. In fact, she refuses to choose either. Now, I’ve heard some squabble over how stupid this aspect of the story is (which is a major issue, since it’s THE WHOLE STORY) but I’ll get into that a little later. Point is: she won’t choose.

But both realms want her. Desperately. So in order to convince her, Myriad sends their best Laborer, and Troika (the other realm) sends their best. Both with the intentions of swaying Ten to their side. But which side is right for Ten?

Oh. She currently doesn’t care. Because the ONE thing on her mind is getting away from Prynne and her torturers. Yeah, I’d be thinking the same thing.

So without further ado…our favorite part of this dissection.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good: 

Gosh, where do I start?

Hidden Messages:

For those of you out there who really enjoy hidden messages and finding little easter eggs throughout stories, you will LOVE this book. There are so many hints and clues both about the writing of the book itself, and the story line. You have to pay attention to everything.


I love Tenley’s character in the first hundred pages. She’s strong and knows how to survive in the Asylum. She’s got a little strange fascination with numbers but I think eventually Ms. Showalter will explain why.

I’m not totally sure I should include him in this section…maybe he should be in the bad…but not because he was a bad character…because he was a bad boyKillian Flynn is the love interest in the book, and he’s a Myriad Laborer, sent to sway Ten to Myraid’s side. Now, what’s Mr. Flynn, gorgeous hottie with dark hair and gold-and-blue eyes, going to use as his tactic to sway her? Seduction, of course. It’s the way he sways every one of his assignments. But Ten’s different. She’s not crazy for him, and it’s beginning to drive him crazy. All in all, Killian Flynn was an AMAZING character with a GREAT character arc. One of the most noticeable ones I’ve seen in a book, but without being corny.

The next good is probably Sloan. Those of you who have read the book will stare at me with your mouths gaping open, but I loved her character. She was a brilliant one. There isn’t much I can reveal about her without giving away some of the plot…so I won’t. Just trust me. Ms. Showalter didn’t skimp on this character.

Ten’s Choices and Lack Thereof:

Now, this has been a point of contingency. In almost every review I’ve read, nobody liked the fact that Ten refused to choose which realm she’d up in. But I COMPLETELY get it. Let me give you the scenario.

It’s today. Real life. And when you die, it’s been accepted that you go one of two places: Troika, or Myriad. You’ve heard great things about both, and you’ve heard HORRIBLE things about both. You’ve heard that in Troika, the sun is so blaring you can never see. You’ve heard in Myriad, they praise darkness and there is never any light.

Troika claims that Myriad is deceptive.

Myriad claims Troika only wants drone soldiers.

You only have one choice.

Which do you choose?

See? That’s what I thought. It’s not as easy to choose. As Ten, I wouldn’t want to be forced into choosing where I was going to live for eternity! Are you crazy? If you choose the wrong place, you end up suffering for that entire time! And both sides have their moments where you think, do I really want to end up there?

The Bad:

There’s got to be something bad, right?

The Set-Up:

So, I can’t talk much because I’ve had many a person gripe about my lack of description in Crown of Crimson, but at least you know where you are. There are a few kingdoms, separated by borders and sometimes water, and you are in a fantasy world. There is another realm separated by a veil, and inside that realm are Afterlighters. I think everyone who’s read the book can verify that that right there is not hard to get.

FIRSTLIFE? Guys, I’m done reading the book and I still don’t know where the heck we are! They mentioned LA, and Russia, so I guess it’s current day…? But WHAT? It’s so confusing. There was no definitive point where Ms. Showalter laid out where exactly we were in time or on the planet. For half the time, I thought it was a futuristic utopia. Now I’m not sure if it’s a dystopia.

The Spelling Errors:

Again, something else I can’t harp on, but I’m a self-published author with a non-professional editor. Yeah, a couple typos are going to slip the system. But in a book published by a well-known publisher?? Harlequin Teen?? I’ve got no idea how so many typos managed to find their way into the book. That, and missing quotations, missing lines, and occasionally it makes you go back and re-read the sentences a few times to make sure you’ve got the gist of what the author was saying.

The Pace:

…was slow. Most of the time. I still loved the book, give it 4 Stars, Two Enthusiastic Thumbs Up, but I had to skim a good portion of it. There wasn’t enough mystery or allure to keep me reading every word. I felt like I could skim a couple pages and pick up later and never miss a thing.

Too much skimming needed.

The Ugly:

And now for the fun part…

Language Warning:

There is a small bit of language in this. Not nearly enough for me to throw up a major language warning, but parents and readers that are sensitive to it should be warned: there’s some in this book.

Sexual References:

There’s plenty of that. I didn’t mind it at all (because most of it was coming from crude, vile guards within the asylum and it only made you feel sorry for–and occasionally proud of–the heroine) but it should be noted. Comments are made by asylum guards, her friends, and by Killian Flynn.

*SPOILER* Sloan does refer to Ten as “nutter,” due to the “size of her breasts.” That was a little annoying. For some reason, it was more annoying that the heroine admitted it. It was like she was bragging.

Thankfully, guys, that’s all of the Bad and the Ugly I have for FIRSTLIFE!

FIRSTLIFE was a thought-provoking mystery where at every turn, you had a new favorite realm, a new favorite character, and a new worst enemy. The romance was beautifully woven, the mysteries were intricately spun, and the action sequences were hard to turn your eyes from! This book will have you giggling, laughing, crying, and pumping your fist in the air for a victory “WOO-HOO!” If you are looking for your next novel, look no further!

Which realm would you choose?

That’s it for me today, guys! Hope you all enjoy FIRSTLIFE and let me know which side you’re on!
The Swordmaster Paperback Attempt 2As a quick side-note, The Swordmaster releases in 27 days! Pre-order it now and have the Kindle version sent straight to your device the day it’s published!

Later, babes!

What’s on your bookshelf?


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