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Afterlife #1


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Why let a little thing like dying get in the way of a good time?

Thirty-six-year-old Irene Dunphy didn't plan on dying any time soon, but that’s exactly what happens when she makes the mistake of getting behind the wheel after a night bar-hopping with friends. She finds herself stranded on earth as a ghost, where the food has no taste, the alcohol doesn’t get you drunk, and the sex...well, let’s just say “don’t bother.” To make matters worse, the only person who can see her—courtesy of a book he found in his school library—is a fourteen-year-old boy genius obsessed with the afterlife.

Unfortunately, what waits in the Great Beyond isn’t much better. Stuck between the boring life of a ghost in this world and the terrifying prospect of three-headed hell hounds, final judgment, and eternal torment in the next, Irene sets out to find a third option—preferably one that involves not being dead anymore. Can she wipe the slate clean and get a second chance before it’s too late?

369 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 2012

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About the author

Terri Bruce

13 books261 followers
Terri Bruce has been making up adventure stories for as long as she can remember. Like Anne Shirley, she prefers to make people cry rather than laugh, but is happy if she can do either. She is the author of the paranormal/contemporary fantasy "Afterlife" series, which includes Hereafter (Afterlife #1) and Thereafter (Afterlife #2), and several science fiction and fantasy short stories, including "Welcome to OASIS" ("Dear Robot" anthology, November 2015), "The Well" ("It's Come to Our Attention" anthology, Third Flatiron Press, February 2016), and "The Lady and the Unicorn" (NH Pulp Fiction "Live Free or Dragons" anthology, Plaidswede Publishing, Fall 2016). Her third novel, Whereafter (Afterlife #3) releases March 15, 2016. Visit her on the web at www.terribruce.net.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 86 reviews
Profile Image for Julia Sarene.
1,322 reviews143 followers
January 29, 2018
Finished 3* Rather good audible version available!

I am not sure if I even like the main character? But her voice was a good one to tell the story, and it kept me hooked. I definitely liked her sidekick more than her.
Jonah has some things going on in his life - but while it is hinted at over and over, we never get to know what. I felt he stayed a bit of a cardboard cutout teenager to bounce the MCs character off of when needed. I would have loved to learn more about him.
He seemed to be a bit in love with the main character at times, and I found it a bit off putting, even though there wasn't even the slightest romance scene between the two.

Main character has some ghost sex with another ghost later, but not a big focus on it, so UF, not PR.

It was rather entertaining, but thinking about it, there wasn't much real plot. They run around, and random things happen, but there is no real story arc. The arc should have been the MCs development and slow acceptance of being dead - and it being her own damn fault - but somehow that fell flat. So it was more a telling about all kinds of death rituals in all kinds of cultures and running around without any real plan. I like the last bit when she actually starts to think about her life, and where it could have been managed better, but it took to long to get to any actual inner development for my taste, if that is supposed to be the plot of the book.

All in all fun and entertaining, and if my TBR wasn't longer than I could ever finish already, I might actually have picked up the second one.
Profile Image for Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight).
903 reviews126 followers
August 7, 2016
3.5 Stars

Full Review:
*I received a free ecopy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.*

Sometimes I hate that I have to give books a star rating, and this is one of those times because there were so many things about this book that weren't necessarily positive or negative but rather ambivalent and thought-provoking and atypical. I actually have a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head, so I'm going to split this into sections.

1) The Main Character

I looked at a lot of reviews before deciding to read this, and almost every single one talked about how selfish the main character was. And they're right, she was. She was also immature and made terrible decisions sometimes.

But there was so much more to her than that.

The nice things she did weren't heroic, grand gestures, but I always say kindness is about the little things. Like the way she shared her last ketchup packet with Jonah ("living" food tasted flavorless but the ketchup crossed over with her, thus it had flavor) even though Jonah wasn't dead and only had to endure the food for a few meals whereas she had to endure it forever. And the way she tried to give him a suggestion and boost his self-esteem when he was feeling down about not knowing what to do with his life. And the way she gave Amy the sleeping bag and took the plain blanket for herself because she knew she wouldn't even have anything that night if it weren't for Amy's help. And the way she picked up a lighter as a gift for Ernest because she remembered that he ran out of matches. And the way she wanted her body to be found so that her mother would have closure and not wonder forever.

Not only that, her selfishness was realistic. I definitely do NOT support some of her behavior, but many people in real life are selfish, not the self-sacrificing, perfectly imperfect martyrs that we're used to seeing in books. Plus, she started to realize her flaws and change by the end of the book. So I didn't feel like she was an inherently bad person, just someone who needed a wake-up call.

2) The (Non-Romantic) Relationship

I realized recently that the books I read tend to either a) have romance, or b) have a gritty, rough-around-the-edges, often snarky male protagonist.

So I really wasn't sure I'd like a book about a 36-year-old woman (well, ghost) and a 14-year-old boy helping her. But the premise was interesting and the promise of romance in later books was enough, so I went for it, and I'm glad I did because Jonah was a sweetheart and the dynamic between these two characters ended up being my favorite thing about the book. Sometimes they teased and aggravated each other just for fun. Other times they got mad at each other for real. But they always cared about each other and stuck around when it counted. Their relationship was kinda like friends, kinda like siblings, and altogether unique, but it worked. It was awkward, it was funny, it was frustrating, but, most of all, it was adorable.

(As a side note, there was one more-than-friends relationship in the book, and I really liked the guy, but it still wasn't exactly romance.)

3) The Thought-Provoking Aspect

Not only did I learn lots of tidbits about the afterlife beliefs of different cultures, this book really made me ponder things about ghosts, the afterlife, and even life itself.

I also loved the ghost culture the author created---the market, the barter system, the bar with all its hodge-podge decor, the ghost doors, the way objects can cross over, etc. And the explanations given for the ways humans subconsciously avoid ghosts were kinda freaky because they make you wonder if they could be true!

4) Everything Else

The cover is so pretty! I really like the covers for all the books in the series.

The only complaint I really have is that it was pretty slow-paced. This was not a heart-pounding type of book, but it wasn't supposed to be. So while I would have liked a bit of that, I still appreciated the focus on the afterlife and character development.

Overall I enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one!

Recommended For:
Anyone who likes books about the afterlife, books that make them think, and unique but sweet friendships between characters.

Original Review on Blog
Profile Image for Laura *Little Read Riding Hood*.
681 reviews203 followers
September 18, 2012
I am always nervous when I read a book about life after death. Not because I am religious and offended or anything, but just because most some of them are SO BAD. Fortunately, this is not one of the bad ones.

Have you ever read a book where you didn't really like the main character, but still liked the book? That is this for me. Irene makes bad decision after bad decision. Starting with driving home black out drunk and crashing her car into the water. I am sure you are asking yourself, "But how can it get worse?" It does. Just trust me. I really wanted to punch her in her face page after page, and just when she would do or say something that would start redeeming her in my eyes, she would follow it up with an idiotic statement or action. Oh Irene, I want to root for you. I want to like you. I also want to kick your legs out from under you and leave you in the street. You are selfish.

Of course, her little sidekick, Jonah, is a doll. And many of her hateful comments and actions are toward him. Which make them worse. He is just a kid who has figured out how to hang with the dead. There is nothing wrong with that. I suppose. He has the patience of a saint, and even after being mistreated by Irene, he still stands by her, and even helps her accomplish her goal.

There are a few other side characters, who I thought would become more important as the story went on, but they didn't. So I won't spoil anything for you by talking about them. They did provide some good perspective on the afterlife for Irene. And by the way, if the afterlife is like it is portrayed by Bruce, I am not looking forward to it.

There were hints of a love connection, but nothing concrete. I know Bruce did not intend it to be a love story, and that she intended it to be about an imperfect woman finding her own way (which I would have to say, she was successful in getting that point across) I still felt the absence of a romance. I believe it would have given Irene more depth as a character, and she could still save herself. Romance isn't always about the knight in shining armor coming to the rescue. Sometimes the damsel in distress finds she can save herself.

Overall, Hereafter gets a solid 3 1/2 from me. I think it would have made up that other 1/2 if it had been a little bit shorter. I appreciate the detail, but don't need to know what is going on every second of every day. Cut maybe 50 pages, and I would have been left wanting more.
464 reviews401 followers
January 29, 2018
3.5, decent urban fantasy based on the afterlife. longer review to come.

This was part of Fantasy Factions grouping and has since been eliminated.


Irene is a 36 year old woman who still likes to party, the book opens with her hungover and heading home thinking of excuses to call out of work because she feels so shitty. It’s not the first time either, she’s used every excuse under the sun and doesn’t know how many more times her boss will let this slide.

She gets home and sees that she’s missed a ton of calls, from her boss, her friends and her family members. The time is also off, her watch reads 2 o clock, but when she gets home it says it’s 11am. Lot’s of things start taking a turn for the weird, and Irene can’t explain it.

She runs into a kid who asks if she’s dead, because she’s glowing. The kid, Jonah, is fascinated with the afterlife and has seemingly read every book on the afterlife he could get his hands on. Irene freaks out and is in some serious denial for a long time, she can’t come to terms with the fact her life is over.

He starts helping Irene come to terms with the fact that she’s dead, and trying to help her reach the real afterlife. They believe that ghosts are stuck in a limbo, and that Irene should be able to pass on into the real afterlife if they can just figure out how to do that.

Final Score: 7.5/10



Irene is the main character, and for most of the book I didn’t like her. It could be because I was once a manager to people who acted a lot like her – people in their mid 30’s who were calling out hung over and lying about it, it gets on my nerves. She’s also pretty snappy and unkind to Jonah for the first half of the book, she keeps getting angry that he doesn’t have ALL the answers, and is more or less biting the hand that’s feeding her. Jonah doesn’t have to help her, he’s doing it because he’s a nice person. She would tease him over not having a girlfriend, not having a life, reading too much, being a nerd etc. They do develop a different relationship that’s a much healthier friendship than it was in the beginning of the book.

Final Score: 7/10

World Building:

This book pulls on a lot of different afterlife theories and beliefs from different cultures, so that was kind of interesting.

Like the Egyptians believed, the things you die with carry over with you to the next world. Your food on your person, or in Irene’s case she still has her car.

Irene feels like a real person, she can feel a heartbeat, she can feel her skin going clammy if she’s anxious about something, etc.

Ghosts can see other ghosts, she’s developing a relationship with her one time elderly neighbour who passed away several years ago. Some ghosts have been around for hundreds of years.

Kids can sometimes sense ghosts, there are two grandchildren who can sense their grandmother pushing them on the swing.

Ghosts can somewhat interact with their environment, if they try hard enough they can move things around or get someone to stop and look around thinking they heard something.

Final Score: 7.5/10


This was overall a lighter book, there were some funny moments and it wasn’t all that complex – the story was straightfoward and was one of those books you can just kind of turn off your brain and enjoy it.

The pacing was pretty quick, it wasn’t a terribly long book and there was something going on most of the time.

Pacing Final Score: 8/10

Writing Final Score: 7.5/10


I don’t read too many after life stories, I do come across them from time to time though. This book took a lot of tropes and put them all into one book with the characters trying to tease out what’s just a myth, and what myths/religions are built on reality.

Final Score: 7/10


For people who like single pov
For people who like female pov
For people who like urban fantasy
For people who like afterlife fantasy
For people who like lighter tones
For people who like quick stories
Final Score: 44.5/60 or 7.4/10

Profile Image for Amber.
228 reviews10 followers
February 4, 2022
I was drawn to this book because I love all things paranormal. However I am left feeling a little underwhelmed.

I was impressed by the obvious well done research the author did when including all the theories and beliefs by various other cultures in regards to life after death. (And in most instances, all the information can sometimes read like an essay but this case it did not)... I honestly think that was my favorite part 🤪

I found the main character to be highly unlikable, selfish and an all around horrible person.

Thank you to the author for giving me the opportunity to read this book.
292 reviews228 followers
September 18, 2012
This review was originally posted with a guest post from the author on my blog on 12th September, here

in the beginning
Sometimes, when I’m reading and reviewing a book, I often kick myself for never introducing half ratings on the blog. Personally, I can’t stand them. It’s one of those things that just really irks me but there are a few times when I find myself wondering why this is. While reading Hereafter, I have had this very feeling. I almost want to scrap my rating system just to accommodate this book; and some others, so that it fits better. I really enjoyed this book but it also had its few flaws for me. It should be deserving of three and a half hearts, in my opinion, but because I don’t work in that framework, I am rating it three hearts. But I feel it was important to let you all know that it is closer to four hearts than it is to two hearts!

it’s all a mystery
One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the concept. If you awoke one day to find out that you were dead but still wandering on earth, how would you deal with the things you come across? I loved how well this is executed throughout the novel and it is so clear that Terri has done a lot of hard research to make this book what it was. I cannot say with any accuracy whether the informational facts used within the book were true or not but they certainly fit well within the book and it was nice to read them all. I liked how it all fit together eventually, how things occurred, and how they mixed together.

I think this book may have been a little better if we were given more than just the POV of Irene but this may also be due to the fact I’ve reading a lot of dual POV books lately but I felt that some great characters were being missed and it sometimes failed to give a full scope of what was going on. Fortunately, this was only few and far between, didn’t make me want to stop reading and is definitely more of a “me” issue then a novel issue.

until the pieces fit
It took me a really long time to get my head around Irene. I often found her childish and just annoying to read. Her character and the depth of it took a long time to fully come to surface. When it did I found myself clicking with her but before then it was just a bit of a struggle. Obviously her situation wasn’t great but I honestly just felt like hitting her on the upside of the head and telling her to stop being such a fool. This did make it a challenge to read at times but it was nothing major and it was still easy to carry on reading – I still found myself wanting and needing to know more – where was it all going?

Jonah was by far my favourite character. He was so intellectual, protective, caring and just downright awesome. He was so kind to Irene and just kept coming back even when she just kept pushing and pushing. The relationship between the two felt so raw and real and just perfect. It wasn’t easy, they didn’t know what they were to each other but he treated her like a friend and he really was the best friend. Despite this, there were times when he got on my nerves and I just wanted to tell him to leave Irene alone, which Irene proceeded to do for me anyway, but even at these times I still felt a lot of respect for him.

in perfect harmony
The first thing I noticed when I started reading this book was that I loved the writing style. I have been reading a lot of YA books lately and it has, admittedly, been a bit of a while since I read an adult book but I really liked the writing style that Terri has. She has found the perfect balance between description and dialogue and just manages to stop the reader from getting too lost within the plot and narration of the book. It flows really well and really does a good job of keeping the reader interested and wanting to come back for more. The story kept going, more information to cover, more plot twists to uncover and really Terri did a great job in putting together this book.

and create something new
Hereafter may not have been one of those books that grabbed me from front to end, it may have been a book that was difficult to rate but it is still a book that I really enjoyed and one that I am really glad I picked up to read. It is funny in places, sad in others, aggressive elsewhere and full of peace and clarity as well. It really paints a nice picture on the after-life and what could come next and is just a lovely book that I think many people will really enjoy and be glad that they picked up. I would recommend this book to people who like adult paranormal books that can get into the real nitty-gritty emotions. It is a grand book that has made me very intrigued for the next in the series!
Profile Image for Fangs for the Fantasy.
1,449 reviews189 followers
March 9, 2014
Even though she has to work the next day, Irene goes out drinking with the girls. Her friends sensibly tell Irene to take a cab with them but Irene, realizing that she needs her car to get to work the next day hops behind the wheel of her car. Irene then suddenly finds herself standing on the side of the road next to her car. It takes a while for her to realise that not only is she dead, no one can see her or hear her. Luckily for Irene she meets, Jonah whose interest in death rituals has allowed him to find a spell which allows him to speak to and interact with the dead. Irene, with Johah's help, embarks on a mission to learn what comes next or more specifically, what to make of her undead life.

Fans of urban fantasy won't find much to draw them into this story. Irene is indeed a ghost but this is far from a typical ghost story and is actually more of an examination of life - specifically what matters and what doesn't. There is little action to speak of and the one major question which is asked throughout the novel really doesn't get answered. Despite that fact, Hereafter doesn't have an incomplete feeling and this is probably because I personally could not take another minute of reading about Irene the protagonist.

Irene is an extremely unlikable character and it is worth noting that I don't believe Bruce means the reader to identify with, let alone like Irene. She is very much in denial that she died as a result of drinking and driving and might even have a drinking problem. Though Irene is a supposedly 36 year old woman with an M.B.A (a fact we are reminded far to often), Jonah, her 14 year old sidekick, is far more mature than her. Irene vacillates constantly between fits of rage and remorse. She lashes out cruelly at Jonah though he does nothing but help her, risking the trust of his parents and his good school record. At times, I honestly could not understand why Jonah kept coming back because Irene was certainly not worthy of his attention, let alone his concern. Irene is beyond self absorbed and only seems to show momentary concern for Jonah when he is in physical danger.

The plot of Hereafter is quite slow moving. Though Jonah encourages Irene to plan and act with agency, the only time Irene acts with any agency is when she is being petulant. As a result, events just seem strung together with Irene simply reacting and Jonah playing the role of the clean up man. Hereafter is set up as an existential crises which is a boring read at the best of times. I kept waiting for Hereafter to go somewhere and the ending was simply anti-climactic after all of those pages of angst.

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Profile Image for Danielle (Bookwhoreblog) Perez.
130 reviews43 followers
August 7, 2012
After a night out drinking with the girls, Irene wakes up on the side of a road. Not really sure how she got there, or why some Good Samaritan didn't stop to help her, Irene jumps in her car to drive back home. Once home things just don't seem to be adding up, like the amount of missed calls she has, or the endless amount of mail at her door. In full blown panic Irene bumps into a boy names Jonah who breaks the news about her untimely death to her. The two characters set out on an adventure to get Irene to the afterlife. Sounds simple? Being dead is a lot more complicated then searching for a door and tunnels with lights at the end.

I really enjoyed this story. The thing I love most is the character interaction between Jonah and Irene. At first I just thought Irene really treated Jonah like crap. I mean here Jonah is perfectly alive dedicating his free time to helping Irene and she is fussing at him, and just being rude to him. As the characters develop I enjoyed the intersection between the two and it reminded me more of a sister and brother bickering away. Also Irene's emotions are more realistic because she is newly dead and lost and confused that would make any ghost snippy.

I also loved how factual this book is. There are so many different kinds of afterlife theories and religious beliefs it is mind boggling. I love learning about the different afterlife traditions of each culture. Terri Bruce really took the time to research her material, to give readers a factional take on the afterlife but cleverly twisted it into the story. I as the reader felt like it was real and was excited to learn so many awesome facts.

As Irene is bumbling along in the afterlife you get a take on the world through the ghost perspective. The rules they have to follow, and things only they know about and can see. You also get to learn what you really see out of the corner of your eye that makes you look, and why humans can't really see ghost. I loved it, yes I see you giving me crazy eye because this is only a story, but it gave me moments of excitement like "Oh ya that could totally be true". I have don't have a hard time separating fiction from reality I just chose not to.

I definitely recommend this book to readers. I loved wondering the Hereafter with Jonah and Irene, and other things that go bump in the night.
Profile Image for Chrissi.
1,194 reviews
May 4, 2014
I have had Hereafter on my radar for a while now. I do read a lot of YA books, so I’m always on the look out for something adult/paranormal/fantasy! I thought Hereafter didn’t have the most likeable main character, but it was an enjoyable book nonetheless.

Hereafter starts with Irene and the girls. They’re spending a night out drinking. However, the night doesn’t end well for Irene. Irene wakes up on the side of the road, unaware of how she got there, or why no one has helped her. Irene drives back home and realises things aren’t how they should be. She has so many missed calls, the post has piled up, and her mother isn’t paying any attention to her whatsoever. Irene freaks out, but things are about to get even more strange. Irene bumps into 14-year-old Jonah, who has a strong interest in the afterlife. Jonah breaks the news about her death to her. Together they attempt to get Irene to the afterlife, but it’s not as easy at it might seem.

Hereafter captured my attention. I didn’t immediately warm to Irene. I actually found her quite annoying. Once she had met Jonah and started to work out what to do next, I started to like her. The interactions between Irene and Jonah are incredibly fun to read. Irene really develops as a character. She goes from being quite crappy to Jonah, to actually enjoying and needing his company. Their relationship reminded me very much of sibling relationship.

I feel like Terri Bruce really researched into the different theories of afterlife. It was intriguing to read about different traditions. Yet, it didn’t feel like it was too factual. It was cleverly written into the story. The reader learns as Irene learns.

I enjoyed Hereafter, it may not have been the fastest paced or action packed book, but it is intriguing and worth a look at if you’re looking for a paranormal read. It may not focus much on being a ghost, but its focus on afterlife will interest many.
Profile Image for Cobwebby Eldritch Reading Reindeer .
5,256 reviews297 followers
September 15, 2012
Review of Hereafter by Terri Bruce

5 Stars

I REALLY enjoyed this Paranormal story. Author Terri Bruce demonstrates a vivid and creative imagination, and gives us a “land of the dead” that, honestly, is pretty similar to the “land of the living,” only with less fun, excitement, and consequences. (Our newly dead protagonist Irene, for example, drinks to excess-or it would be excess in a living individual, which is exactly WHY she is “newly dead”) with no effects and no consequences beyond boredom). Poor Irene: she’s gone from friends/drinking buddies and guys hitting on her at bars, an irritating mother, a really exasperating next-door-neighbor Jack Russell, and a demanding career-to blah-ness par excellence: driving her BMW, spending home time, visiting her mother and her mother’s dead neighbor Mrs. Boine, once Irene’s unwanted babysitter. Oh, but Irene has made one new friend and a few ghostly neighborhood acquaintances. A fourteen-year-old high school student who is obsessed with death, death rituals, death customs, and traveling the Astral Plane, finds Irene, sees her, visits her, and unwittingly becomes Irene’s “Guide” to the “land of the dead” she now inhabits. But that’s not enough for adventurous Irene; no, she’s got to go and discover what else might be available in this blasé afterlife experience of hers.

This book is so good that I can’t wait to make time to reread it. I highly recommend it. Not what I expected, in fact much much more. Do yourself a favour, and go out and get it-now.

I reviewed an e-book copy provided by author Terri Bruce on Sept. 6, 2012, via the Goodreads Group Making Connections, in return for my fair and impartial review.
Profile Image for Heather Boustead.
267 reviews42 followers
September 24, 2012
By Terri Bruce

After a night of bar-hopping with her friends Thirty-Six year old Irene gets into her car and starts to drive home, when she wakes up she is on the side of the road and she soon realizes she has been gone not just over night but for days. When she is wandering around she runs into a fourteen year old boy who explains to her that she is actually dead. Now Irene is determined to find the “tunnel” and make her way to heaven.

This is an interesting look into a ghost story, it is not scary it is more of a dramatic novel than anything else. The only problem I had with this novel is the May-December romance. I am not sure the author initially created a romance between the fourteen year old and the thirty six year old but when you have them “joking” with each other and it ends with one or both of them blushing and looking away that scream flirting, add in how Jonah gets highly upset when she gives attention to anyone but him, and how “over protective” he is it screams romance. Besides this you have an arrogant woman who has to reevaluate her entire life and come to terms with the position she has found herself in it is a great novel.

As always if you have any requests or recommendations email me at:
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Author 2 books17 followers
August 10, 2012
What a book. Wow! To sum it up - witty, sarcastic, funny, smart, and a good book to curl up and read until you're too sleepy to see the words. This book shows the afterlife of Irene Dunphy, a 30-something year old woman who liked to party a little too much, resulting in her death. When she learns that she's dead, she meets this 14 year old kid, Jonah, who is really book smart.

You can really tell Terri did her research as I learned facts about the different beliefs of dying through the words of Jonah. I was amazed and loved learning every little detail that kid spat out. The relationship between him and Irene is hilarious at times, and sad at others. I loved how Terri didn't pick one belief over the other when it came to death, and took a literal meaning to "walk into the light."

The ending is bittersweet and sad; something I never saw coming. I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read that'll make you laugh out loud.
Profile Image for John.
100 reviews2 followers
August 21, 2012
This is going to be the first book I read when my Kindle Touch arrives on Wednesday!

And OK, this is five stars not just because I am friends with Terri, but it's really GOOD!

Hereafter is a book about death, the afterlife, but it's really about Life and Living.

High five to Terri on her accomplishment! Great read.
Profile Image for Kim.
16 reviews13 followers
Want to read
August 30, 2012
This is currently on my really really want to read list, because it just sounds sooo interesting.
All the details about death sound nice!
Hopefully I can get it soon and review it...
Profile Image for Lexie.
135 reviews10 followers
October 25, 2012
I have to admit this book really wasn’t what I expected. I thought it would be much more action packed, filled with intrigue and fight scenes; however that wasn’t the case. It was much slower paced filled with a chance to look back on one’s life and reflect the choices that were made whether directly or indirectly. I had a hard time really getting into this book; in fact it took about 130 pages until I started to actually feel a pull to keep reading. Then I couldn’t finish until I raced into the end.
Irene, the main character is killed in the first chapter of this book due to a drunken driving accident, and she was the one driving drunk. And before you start yelling at me, that’s not a spoiler! Throughout the first half of the book of the book Irene is so self-absorbed, selfish, and unwilling of learn or take advice that had she not been a ghost I would have shaken her myself!! It was because of this that I didn’t feel engaged with the book. However, I then took a step back and realized that Terri Bruce had created a character that I had such intense emotions for so she had already done her job. Granted, I would much rather have a charter I like and am rooting for than one who is mean to her one true friend; a 14 year old boy who is alive but can communicate and interact with the dead named Jonah.

He helps her to first realize that she is indeed dead, and then helps her in her research into crossing over. She never saw the “white light” that is typical in ghosts crossing over, and she had no unfinished business on earth so why was she stuck here? Irene was so mean in the first half of the book to Jonah, she is sarcastic, frustrated, and angry. Her thoughts kept centering around, “Why should I have died? I wasn’t a bad person. I had so much more living to do.” Irene’s living centered around drinking and bar-hopping. Jonah on the other hand was an extremely smart 14 year old boy, who had skipped a grade and wasn’t popular at school at all. For some reason he had a fascination with learning the various rituals of “passing over” from a book. That was how if I understand correctly he could see Irene and all of the other ghosts that hadn’t chosen to cross over. He can astral project into the “dead world” which is an exact duplicate of the “living world” except there is no taste in the food, you can’t get drunk (much to Irene’s dismay” and any type of sex isn’t worth it. Keep in mind Jonah’ s a 14 yr old boy who is already uncomfortable with himself and others, so when Irene lashes out at him in anger, whether it’s over being too blasé about passing around her living items or what ghosts she keeps company with it must hurt him even more because she is one of the few people he interacts with. That was one of the reasons this book made me so upset, Jonah was doing so much work to help Irene cross over into the afterlife and she ignored all of his advice. Her sarcasm came across to him as plain mean words plus the fact that she actually was mean and you can see my dilemma.

However, that changed around half-way through the book. Irene helped Jonah loosen up and get used sarcasm and she finally started to listen to his advice, well at least some of it. They both poured over books in the library look for the “tunnel” Irene needed to walk into. He did research on his with Irene and on his own, while she began questioning her new ghost friends and reading the one book that she had obtained on being a ghost and crossing over. The book she had made me laugh, it was like the Cliff Notes version of being a ghost/going into the afterlife, except it kept leaving out truly important parts. Hmmm, similar to real life; each person has to make their own choices and interpret how they choose to live their life. The books she and Jonah researched were contradictory since they covered all types of customs and religions. What is a ghost to do?

While you would think that there would be a zillion ghosts in a city as populated as Boston, but there were weren’t. Quite a few yes, but nothing that would equal the number of people who had died there over the centuries. Neither Jonah nor Irene can find out why. Could it be the hell hounds (which totally made me think of the TV show Supernatural by the way) or had those ghosts learned how to cross over? The ghosts that Irene became friends with were no help, except for Ernest somewhat in the end, they simply chose to keep living their undead lives the way they had lived their real lives. Jonah, who keeps coming back finally starts getting sarcastic with Irene, and then the dialogue become much more fun to read.

Finally, Irene is approached by Samyel who is apparently her “guide” into the afterlife Madame Majicka had spoken about. Apparently, if Irene threw around enough “good will” she would find one; the only thing Irene had was good at throwing around was her “live goods”, sarcasm, and downright meanness. Perhaps that’s why Smayel wasn’t what you would call a “good ghost.” And no, I’m not saying anymore than that since I don’t want to give any spoilers away. Irene had learned why lots of ghosts don’t move on, and she didn’t want to end up like them. I will say one thing about her; she’s ballsy and stubborn in a good way.

While Jonah still doesn’t always approve of who Irene is spending time with he keeps it to himself, and she in turn treats him as an equal not a child. At one point, I thought Bruce was taking an unexpected turn in her book, and I started to cry in anticipation. I was much relieved that I was wrong. The only time I’ve ever been wrong in life. *laughs* They learn to trust one another and that is what leads to the discovery of how to continue into the afterlife. The question is, now that Irene has a pretty good idea of how to do that she doesn’t know exactly what it entails, only that it will be unpleasant. Will she have the courage to follow through, or will she choose the easy way the way she did when she was alive?

Terri Bruce clearly did a thorough job researching other cultures’ beliefs into the afterlife which made this interesting and informative. She also obviously did a great job at characterization, particularly with her two main characters; the others were rather bland. Perhaps that was one purpose since the “dead world” is bland itself. She did a good job of portraying an unlikeable character and showing her growth even after being dead, and that’s what drew me in.

I would have given this books 3 ½ stars (yes, I know you can’t round up)if it wasn’t for the fact that I liked the character development and 2 quotes that I personally found significant because they were so profound to me and applicable to most people.

If you are looking for a fast paced thriller, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you are looking for a thought provoking and reflection on how someone lived their life that will make you question how you live yours then this is your book.

Great job Terri on such good characters that are polar opposites and profound thoughts on how we choose to live our lives; are we content with the status quo or do we seek out knowledge and thirst for the unknown? For those reasons I am giving the book 4 stars, because it caused me to take a step back and continue to change my own life even though I am nothing like Irene.
Profile Image for Stefanie.
652 reviews16 followers
July 10, 2017
Not gonna lie: I purchased this book on accident. I was reading the Kindle sample for it and oops - finger slipped. I decided to give it a chance anyway and I'm glad I did. The main character is kind of a hot mess, and there's a weird semi-romance with a fourteen year old, and just those two details alone should tell you this is a ballsy, unusual story after "life" after death. And I ended up being into it.

*light spoilers ahead*

This book is right off the bat unusual in that it focuses very little on the actual life of Irene Dunphy, the main character. She kicks it pretty much right away, drunk behind the wheel of a car, and the bulk of the story is her figuring out what's going on in her afterlife, whether or not she should move on, and if so, how exactly that works. Unlike most post-death stories, there is little to no grappling with people left behind or unfinished business - she's not even that worried about people finding her body! In truth, I felt this was ultimately a weakness of the story. It stretched credibility that she wasn't at least a LITTLE worried about this kind of stuff. But the author did have plenty of diversions, starting with #1 - Jonah, the just-turned-fourteen-year-old who is so obsessed with death he's found a way to enter a trance and temporarily join the land of the dead.

Irene is understandably psyched someone can see her and explain some of what's going on with her. The sections with Irene and Jonah bantering back and forth and exploring the land of the dead are the best, and the part of the book where Irene is without him drags. Luckily that part doesn't last too long. And I don't think it's just me but Irene and Jonah kind of a develop a pseudo-romantic relationship?? At any rate, he's definitely the adult in the room, and for a while I was like, why did the author have to make him so young?! And really, I felt that it was because despite Irene being 36, she's kind of emotionally a 14 year old. (Sidenote: the character she DOES end up hooking up with is a ghost who died when he was 19. So, um...be cool with the older woman / younger man vibe if you read this.)

Despite some diversions that aren't explained (um, Samyel?!) this book leads to a satisfying climax and conclusion, and yeah, I even felt myself get a little emotional over it. I think I will be checking out the sequel.
Profile Image for Jill Elizabeth.
1,553 reviews37 followers
February 24, 2018
Honestly, I've finished and I feel like there's a lot to talk about but I don't know what to say... I'm going to do something I don't normally do and start with the negatives. I did NOT like this protagonist. In fact, I can honestly say that I found Irene Dunphy one of the least sympathetic, most unlikable characters I've come across - and not because she's so spectacularly evil or horrifying but because of the banality of her selfishness, which I think is altogether emblematic of the current ME ME ME culture. Because I disliked her so much, I struggled with the book. A lot. Which is a tragedy, because there's a surprising amount of very thoughtful and intriguing stuff going on around Irene. There were a number of points where I got so sick and tired of her whining and complaining and using everyone around her that I almost closed the book - she was THAT bad.

So enough about her.

Let me now bring you the highlight of the book for me - Jonah. A character who doesn't even get mentioned by name in the book blurb (or the blurb for the second book, incidentally). A character that I think deserves to, at least, share billing with Irene because he is as major a part of the story (IMHO) as she is. Jonah is where all the actual adulting comes in - even though he's only 14. He's also where the depth and sincerity and relatability and enjoyment came in for me. Without his character as the foil for Irene, this would have been a book I put down early on.

The concept of afterlife here is interesting if not entirely novel. I did enjoy the "living" and "dead" food/drink/accoutrements concept, and the tidbits of trivia and history Jonah throws in randomly all over the place were some of my favorite bits of the story. I would like to have seen more backstory on him - and even the Dreaded Irene. It might have helped (especially with her) to understand where they were coming from a bit - tiny smatterings are teased out over the course of the story but there are still rather gaping holes in my understanding of who they are and why they are who they are. A lot of the text felt draggy to me - I get that the monotony of death is a huge part of what Irene is experiencing, but it felt monotonous to me as a reader to keep hearing, over and over, how boring and listless everything (and everyone) was.

On the whole, this was a three-star book for me because it just didn't move at the pace (or with the depth/breadth) I expected. There are some very funny and very poignant moments, and a smattering of lessons woven into the text - usually against Irene's will. I understand this is book one of three; I'm curious where things go, although my dislike of Irene (seriously - even I was surprised at how viscerally I responded to her!) makes me a bit ambivalent about reading on.

My review copy was provided by the author.
188 reviews8 followers
July 8, 2021
Book obtained from Author via Voracious readers only for an honest review.

Afterlife was an enjoyable book that only took me a little more than an hour to get through which is perfect if you fancy reading a book that doesn���t tax your brain much. Despite the heroine dying in the first chapter, the book is funny, not particularly introspective, surprisingly cheerful and I found myself laughing out loud at some of Irene’s descriptions of the reality of being dead- like the thought of spending your afterlife in a pair of strappy. sandals with high heels. Jonah, the fourteen-year-old, is Irene’s Guide to the afterlife. I learnt loads about various death rituals from other cultures and the past through him.
Despite this being marketed as Bridget Jones in the afterlife, there are quieter, introspective periods with the other ghosts inhabiting this world. Amy’s story about trying to lead a full afterlife, doing the things she could not do when she was alive, was haunting (no pun intended). So was Ernest fears about how his death would affect his afterlife. There is a sweet romance between Irene and Ernest, but this is not a romantic story.

I hated Irene. This is a testament to the writing in the book as I stop reading a book when I actively dislike the main character who is the focal point of view character. I admire the author for writing Irene this way when she could have taken an easier route to making her more sympathetic as a character. I’m not sure I would ever have the courage to do this in my writing.
Irene dies in a car accident when she was clearly drunk and refused her friends' offer of a shared taxi. While I can understand her despair at being dead and being stuck, her impatience and her demands from Jonah throughout the book are difficult to understand. Especially as she knows, Jonah is a young, naïve fourteen-year-old.
Afterlife is the first book in a series, so I imagine Irene will grow with evidence of this towards the end.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
9 reviews
July 13, 2021
I received a free copy of this book for an honest review.....

And honestly, I'm sorry but I couln't get half way through this book.

Agree with the other reviews, the main character is hard to empathise with. I could barely remember her name, because I simply didnt want to. From what I read (about half the book), Irene just wandered back and forth between home and the city. In the name of providing context, all the references to various cultural beliefs around the world relating to death, just felt like a high school essay. I felt there should have been references at the end of each chapter.

The few people she spoke to (from what I did read) provided no answers, not even her supposedly helpful sidekick, Jonah.

Jonah didnt read like a 14 year old boy (nerd or not), he seemed like a whiney little 7 year old. Irene was 2 dimensional, self centred, selfish. Demanding of everyone and not giving a care for others. I mean who demands a 14 year old travels with them and helps them.

For the lack of character depth and storyline, the writing was natural and easy to read.

Wish the athor all the best for her writing, but hopefully other books will read better.
Profile Image for James Latimer.
Author 1 book22 followers
September 4, 2017
I read this as part of SPFBO, and am glad I did. It's not the sort of book I would normally pick up, what with the real-world setting and the paranormal. Despite the reprehensible action that starts things off, and the obviousness of the outcome, something grabbed me about the protagonist--and the setting. The former is very forthright, and never really asks the reader to feel sorry for her; the latter is very well realised, and the city of Boston seems as much a character as anyone else. That said, some of the actual side characters are a bit shallow and convenient...but this is Irene's story (though only the start of it), and she carries you through. I also enjoyed the worldbuilding around the existence of ghosts, and appreciated the sense of realism in the story, which somewhat excused its more meandering moments. 3.5 stars rounded up.
Profile Image for Alison.
374 reviews9 followers
October 6, 2020
I didn't really enjoy this book very much. The main character is unlikable and doesn't really improve much. Jonah is interesting, but not given enough development. Characters come and go, potential plot lines come and go and there's a lot left unanswered at the end. I know it's the start of a series, but a little more information about Samyuel and the necklace would have been nice. I gave it three stars simply because it did read quickly, which was a pleasant surprise considering how I felt at the start and the slightly longer length of the book. I don't know that I'm really interested in going further with the series, though, as Irene just isn't enough of a draw.

I received a free copy via voracious readers only.
7 reviews
June 30, 2021
This was an enjoyable and well written book. It was really easy to jump into and absorbed me straight away. The story and plot flow really nicely and it doesn't feel heavy or clunky to read. Bruce's imagined afterlife is really interesting and actually relatable.
The book provokes thought about making the most out of life and encourages the reader to think about your own beliefs on the afterlife while keeping a lightness about it.
There was good character progression in the book, although don't expect to like the protagonist much at the beginning.
I have put the other books in the series in my to be read list!

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
20 reviews
July 23, 2020
Strangely I enjoyed this book. The main character is petulant and self absorbed, I couldn't really warm to her, but this was no detriment. It has it's funny moments and there are dark bits too. For the most part it is quite a light read, but thought provoking too. I am not sure I am brave enough to enter the next level in book 2. I received a copy of this book through Voracious Readers Only thank you.
7 reviews
December 26, 2021
I loved this book so much! It opens your mind to endless possibilities of what really does come next. It is very well written and makes you not want to put it down, yet you don't want it to end. So excited there is a second book! Thank you so very much Terri Bruce for sending me a complimentary copy of it via Voracious Readers Only. I'm hooked!!
Profile Image for Natasha Clark-French.
211 reviews3 followers
January 6, 2019
This was an ok book. I hated the Irene though so that made it hard to get through. But there are some poignant moments and quotes that I enjoyed. Overall, I'm glad I read it but I doubt I'll reread it and I don't really have a desire to continue the series.
Profile Image for Megan Watt.
15 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2021
While I overall enjoyed this book, I found the main character to be unlikable which made it hard to read at times. It was hard to believe anyone would genuinely want to help her, as self-centred and abusive as she was.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
8 reviews1 follower
July 11, 2021
I received this complimentary copy of this book from VRO.
I really don’t like to put anything bad but I struggled to carry on reading this. I loved the idea of what happened after we passed but didn’t finish reading it as I just didn’t find it that good.
I’m sorry for the bad review
Profile Image for Sharon.
737 reviews
May 20, 2017
This one was so slow. I finished it but it wasn't to my liking.
Profile Image for Rae Stoltenkamp.
Author 25 books12 followers
August 30, 2018
An excellent read. A great concept. Very intriguing. Made me want to read the rest of the series. Always a good thing in a piece of introductory writing.
Profile Image for K Huskić.
1,218 reviews12 followers
July 24, 2020
Whilst I liked the whole concept of this book, and I enjoyed Jonah with all his interesting research, and liked some of the other minor characters, I just didn't enjoy reading Irene's story. She wasn't very likeable to me, and it took me many days to get through this book, when ordinarily I can read a book in a few hours. Overall, I thought the book was okay/average.
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