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The Undead: Playing for Keeps

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When an undead woman with serious de-comp issues stalks sixteen-year-old Lyla Grimm, her hope of rescuing her rock-bottom reputation takes a back seat. Especially once Lyla’s new talent of resurrecting the dead draws the attention of Eric, a Grim Reaper with a guitar and a chip on his shoulder.
While Lyla navigates the gossip-ridden halls, Eric works to gain her trust and discover why Death’s clients aren’t staying down. If she passes on her gift, his death-messenger destiny might be altered. But the closer he gets to Lyla, the less sure he is of his plan. The dead are way easier to deal with than the living.

Gossip explodes, the Grimm family implodes, and desperation sets in. Death wants the gift and a soul. Lyla and Eric face hard choices with hidden consequences. Sometimes life’s choices aren’t really choices at all.

242 pages, Paperback

First published September 3, 2014

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Elsie Elmore

1 book28 followers

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Displaying 1 - 25 of 25 reviews
Profile Image for Katie Hamstead.
Author 18 books216 followers
April 22, 2017
***Note: I was the Acquiring Editor for this book***

Sixteen year old Lyla, is the daughter of the town mortician, and the family has been morticians for generations. When their cosmetologist quits and leaves her resignation painted in lipstick on a body, Lyla rushes in to fix it before all the guests arrive and see it.
But that night, the body vanishes. Everyone thinks it's stolen, and since Lyla is already a social outcast, the mockery at school intensifies.
She has one friend, Cassie, who stands up for her. She is also close to her older brother, Ben, who she sees as her protector. He, in contrast to her, is a cool, popular, lead singer of a band.
Then, the body reappears... reanimated!
A new band member soon appears in her brother's group. Eric seems disinterested in Lyla at first, but when she finds herself confronted with the walking body again, he saves her, and a friendship starts. Lyla even starts to develop feels for this mysterious new band member.
Talk about a great read! This is a fabulous YA read about a girl struggling with self-identity with everyone tearing her down, and things only getting worse as she discovers new things about herself and Eric. But she struggles on, despite the people she cares most about turning against her.
It's rather gripping, and the descriptions of the walking corpses are creepy and gross. I found myself wanting to keep reading, despite needing to sleep and live.
1 review
September 2, 2014
**Just a heads up, I know the author.**

Lyla's a pretty typical teenager growing up in a small town with an older brother she adores (aside from the whole "parents own a mortuary" bit). She's a lovely character to spend time with--a little shy, but charmingly level-headed. Of course, things change when she accidentally wakes up a dead person, attracting the attention of a Reaper (Eric) who comes to town to find out what's going on.

Their relationship grows slowly throughout the book, giving us plenty of time to get to know both characters. There's also a lot of development given to Lyla's relationship with her brother and her best friend--both delightful characters in their own right.

Where this book really knocks it out of the park, though, is in the descriptions of the undead--it's spectacularly creepy. Secrets are revealed slowly here, with Eric keeping his cards very close which added to the tension. Because, seriously, why are all these dead bodies following Lyla around? (The answer doesn't disappoint.)

I'd read about 40 pages of this a year ago and then it went under contract which meant I had to wait until it was released to finish it--agony! As soon as I could get my hands on it, I pretty much devoured it--especially since I knew a little about one of the later twists and I needed to know what Lyla would decide to do... It's a fast, fun read with characters I really enjoyed spending time with. Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Kisa Whipkey.
Author 4 books10 followers
September 12, 2014
I’ll admit that when I first saw the cover for this, I wasn’t terribly impressed. But don’t let it sway you, this is a fantastic read. Elmore had me hooked from the first sentence, and she never let me down. The Undead: Playing for Keeps is not your average zombie story. It starts with Lyla Grimm, the daughter of a mortician, applying make-up to a corpse after the cosmetologist for her family’s funeral home quits with a horrifying flourish. What she doesn’t know is that her touch is special — she can reanimate the dead. When the body mysteriously disappears later that night, rumors start to circulate.

Speculation isn’t the only thing the oddity draws, though. It also garners the attention of Eric, a Grim Reaper/rock star. Sent to find out why the dead aren’t staying that way, Eric and Lyla’s paths soon cross. What happens after will keep you guessing, and the ultimate reveal doesn’t disappoint. Deceptively simple in its good vs. evil set-up, this book is actually about issues that resonate on a much deeper level — identity, self-confidence, morality, and bullying. Lyla struggles to find herself in the face of ridicule and gossip, much like “normal” teenagers do. The paranormal addition is expertly delivered with a gruesome creepiness that surprised me, but it was the humanity in the story and characters that I enjoyed most. The dual POV is strong, and each character has a distinctive voice. Elmore’s prose is effortless and smooth, and I found the entire experience to be engrossing. Fast-paced, but gripping, I highly recommend this book to fans of YA urban fantasy/paranormal romance. In a genre that is over-filled with mediocrity, this book stands out. I will most definitely be reading more of Elmore’s work in the future.

**Disclosure Statement: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **
Profile Image for Cobwebby Eldritch Reading Reindeer .
5,130 reviews271 followers
September 3, 2014

"Young" Grim Reaper meets Young LifeGiver: it's a competition, who can win? Socially unadept Lily doesn't too much mind being part of the Grimm Funeral Home dynasty--not.the way her older brother Ben hates the idea. But she's not really involved, until an employee.quits unexpectedly, leaving the guest of honor quite a mess, and Lily steps up.to redo the deceased's makeup. Next morning the lady in question has departed--absent from the casket and the building--because all unknown to her, Lucy has a special, magic, touch--a healing touch.
Profile Image for ☆Joycedale☆.
894 reviews38 followers
March 31, 2016
I found parts of this confusing. Such as what Eric is and just what he thought Lyla was up too.
Lyla I felt horrible for, I would be freaking the crap out if this was going on with me. It doesn't help that Eric was making it worse.
I loved the ending though. Lyla ended up being much stronger than she thought she could. I would like to see a sequel but I can't find anything about one and it has one of them endings where I don't know if it'll continue.
Profile Image for Lina (From the Verge).
306 reviews33 followers
September 7, 2014
This book was fun!
It has necromancy, an amazing rock band and a few kisses. What else do you need?

It's told from two alternating points of view, Layla and Eric. Their encounter is triggered by the unexpected disappearance of a dead woman's body from Layla's family Funeral Home. Lost between their own explanations and roles, their confrontations become more and more uncomfortable, as the recently deceased appear to haunt Layla's sanity.

Issues about family obligations, friendship, trust, hope and bullying will certainly keep you glued to this story.

It made me wonder a lot about those dark teen years, when you learn life is not as simple as it seems and high school is just dreadful.

The book was short and satisfying. Although, I wished for more kisses, they were perfect when accomplished :)

What I really like (besides the paranormal necromancy stuff), was the commitment of Layla to her family. Her devotion and love to her parents and brother is something that shone through her ordeals. I also enjoyed imagining the music her brother, Ben plays. I love rock music and being able to infuse such enthusiasm for his band, made Ben a key star in this book. Obviously, Eric's song was swoony enough to make me kind of forgive him.

I received a copy of this book from its publisher Curiosity Quills in exchange of an honest review, no songs where sang during this exchange. Thank you.

 photo cookingghilbi_zps9658be6d.gif

For my Fictional Meals section, I decided to focus on the High School cafeteria food fare. My experience and popular culture has infused me with the notion of what to expect in a High School cafeteria. I was gingerly reading through this book when I came across Sloppy Joes. Since I'm not from the US, I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with this meal. So obviously I did a quick search and found out what I was missing! However, since I don't eat beef I wanted to know if a vegetarian solution was possible and voilá..... Jaime Oliver to the rescue! Yes, the same one who has made great efforts to change school's diets has a perfect recipe for this on his website.


Vegan lentil sloppy Joes

Serves 6

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 red or yellow sweet pepper, diced
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 cup (200g) French lentils
1- 28oz (796ml) can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
6 whole-wheat or sprouted grain buns, sliced in half
Toppings (optional): relish, pickles, avocado, coleslaw, sliced onions…anything goes!

Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion, pepper and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, or until they soften. Sprinkle in the cumin and chilli powder; cook for an additional minute.

Add the lentils, 3 cups of water, tomato sauce, tomato paste and Sriracha. Increase heat to high and bring the lentils a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if the level falls below the lentils.

Taste the lentils, and if they are sufficiently tender (stoves and pots may vary) add the salt and balsamic. Stir and serve over buttered buns you favourite toppings.
Profile Image for Lady.
1,173 reviews13 followers
October 15, 2014
Touch Not The Corpse

This book was very original and well written. The characters were incredibly alive and conflicted which was amazing. Definitely not the normal teen angsty ya or normal zombie fare!

Lyla has always been shunned and bullied at school ever since she made the mistake of taking her father to career day... Who knew kids would think she was a freak just because her father is an undertaker from a long line of undertakers? So she keeps to herself and only talks to Cassie who is her one friend. Coming home to find a defiled corpse with her parents' only employee's resignation scrawled on her face makes Lyla do the unthinkable... She doesn't want her parents to freak so she cleans up the corpse and redoes the old lady's make up tastefully... And lies to her mother about it... Her parents want her brother to take over the family business so why is it such a big deal that SHE stay away from the dead people? Is she just not good enough for her family? Everything seems fine until the corpse disappears. What is going on? Who stole the body? Dead people don't just get up and wander away right?!

Eric is a Reaper and he is in town to get to the bottom of the lively corpse issue. But he has no clue at all who is behind it or why they are doing this. He HAS to figure it out and put a stop to it! Before some regular person figures bit out! When he sees Lyla he is drawn to her. He just wishes he was normal and could touch her. Why is he drawn to her so totally? He can't resist getting to know her... And starts to hate what he is. How will he solve the zombie problem once and for all? Who is behind it?

***This book is suitable for young adult through adult readers
Profile Image for Nikki Tetreault.
71 reviews6 followers
September 24, 2014
First of all, I'm realizing that I absolutely LOVE multiple POV's especially when it's between a romantic interest. Let me talk on each character POV individually.

Could easily relate to her as the shy, self-conscious girl in school, and I really felt every ounce of her embarassment. I did get frustrated a bit later on when she was so upset and still wouldn't stand up for herself, but she eventually figured it out, and I'm a bit of a Red personality so perhaps I'm just a tad hot-tempered. She didn't immediately fall in love with him which I liked, but she was willing to a) give love a chance once she did and b) stand up for herself when he was a douchebag even though she did care for him a lot.

Favorite character, althogh sometimes I found myself thinking, "Stop being such a DUDE ERIC" but I guess that comes with the territory of a male POV. He is definitely one sexy piece of Reaper's Assistant though, and I'm a sucker for tall, dark, and musician any day of the week. I also like that at some points I hated him, it showed that he was human and did stupid or bad things, but he had plenty of redeeming qualities.

The ending was a bit quickly wrapped up for such a climactic moment for me, but I still enjoyed how it ended.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 11 books522 followers
September 24, 2014
Lyla, Eric, Ben, Cassie... these are the reasons to read this book. I attached to these fabulous characters immediately and they will stay with me. Lyla's self-doubt and fear, slowly changing to strength... Eric's uncaring just-doing-a-job attitude transforming to selfless love... Ben's love of music and struggle to be himself... and Cassie's humor and friendship all wove together to create complex relationships. I love them. I do, however, have a favorite... Ben. He spoke to me even being a secondary character. The book is well-written and holds an intriguing premise, a strange power to bring back the dead, the effects of a near death experience, makes me love it more. And in the end a happy little twist left a smile on my face.
My one problem was the romance. I'm not a big romance-y girl. In books they so often feel forced and not real and here there was something I didn't connect with, not like I did with the friendship and the brother-sister love. Overall, it didn't take away from the story.
Profile Image for Lake Reviews.
108 reviews2 followers
September 29, 2014
The overview pretty much said it all. Lyla Grimm is a socially awkward and only has one friend. Crazy stuff starts to happen that makes her freaked out. As it seems to happen only now that Eric came to town. We do not know much about Eric at the start of the book but we will learn more about him. Mostly there is teenage drama with a side of paranormal to add to it.

When you read this you will get sucked in because you want to find out who Eric really is and what will happen to Lyla. Eric has powers that he used in ways that were uncalled for. He thought that it was needed because he was trying to get close to Lyla. Lyla thought that Eric was playing some awful trick on her but learned that it was all her doing. The ending was what you would hope for. However, it did leave some questions for me still unanswered. All in all it was ok and I would recommend it you enjoy teenage drama plus paranormal.
Profile Image for Sherry Ellis.
Author 8 books56 followers
December 21, 2014
Lyla is a sixteen-year-old with a strange ability: When she touches dead people, they don't stay dead. It's a bit of a problem, because of her family's funeral home business. Missing dead people are just plain bad for business. Trouble is, Lyla doesn't know she has this ability. Then Eric shows up. He's a Reaper who wants Lyla's gift. Of course things get a little complicated when the two of them end up falling for each other.

The characters in this book are interesting, and the plot is one that keeps the reader turning pages. They will want to know who the next "undead" person will be, and what is going to happen with the relationship between Lyla and Eric. The Undead, Playing for Keeps is a book that would appeal to YA readers who enjoy urban/paranormal fantasies and romance.
Profile Image for Matthew Cox.
Author 180 books259 followers
May 20, 2015
This was one of the rare books where I didn't see the ending coming. Lyla's unusual gift stirs up quite a bit of accidental trouble, and the dearly departed are not the only souls she affects. Playing around with the dead (even by accident) attracts the attention of a grim reaper. A love story with a supernatural twist, I found the portrayal of Lyla and her family compelling and believable.

Her parents operate a funeral home struggling to stay afloat in the face of competition from a larger outfit on the other side of town. When she tries to 'help out,' the dead wake back up. Naturally, this winds up causing some issues for her family's business. This is an endearing love story wrapped in a cloak of supernatural flair and a bit of dark humor.
Profile Image for Sharon Bayliss.
Author 9 books229 followers
December 22, 2014
Lyla Grimm's parents run the town funeral home. Someone has to do it, right? That's weird enough to hurt her reputation at school but things get weirder when one of the corpse's goes missing...and then starts stalking Lyla. This was a fun and creepy read that I think young people will enjoy. As a grown-up, I had some trouble connecting with Lyla because she reads as very young and insecure, but I think that real teens would find her relatable. The author did a good job creating the characters' voices as the other POV character, Eric, had a completely different feel.
Profile Image for Patricia Lynne.
Author 21 books107 followers
May 15, 2015
I really hate when I reach the end of a book and don't want it to end. This one did that. Elsie crafted a great tale. I enjoyed Eric's character development. Not sure Lyla should have been so easy on forgiven him. Make him squirm a little more, girlfriend. ;) Then again, she is a sweet character and was very timid at first. I liked how she grew a bit, but didn't loose her sweetness. The first 50% of the book I was able to pick up and put down, but the second half, nope, I needed to know what was going on too bad.
Profile Image for Dena.
3,976 reviews13 followers
June 29, 2016
I enjoyed this story however this should be a teenage book. The maturity issues are below me of course since I'm an adult and the plot line seemed ridiculous. Like I have stated before this is a book that should be read by teenagers not for adults since the issues are really very black and white. I thought the characters handled themselves very well for the situation they were in. The reason for my 4 stars is because this would be perfect for my daughter to read and I did recommend it.
Profile Image for Abby Reed.
Author 12 books84 followers
November 28, 2014
I loved the family dynamics--not your typical zombie books. Worth a read if you're looking for an orignal YA paranormal!
Profile Image for Victoria.
132 reviews27 followers
January 25, 2015
Originally posted at Revenge of the Feels

Rating: 3½ stars

*Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for a honest review.

Fascinated. Confused. Amazing. Painful.

The synopsis of The Undead fascinated me and this lead me to gladly accept the author’s request in reviewing her book! Grim reapers are my thing nowadays and I absolutely love getting my hands on books with them in it.

When I first started this book, it was really confusing for me. I re-read the synopsis of the book a few times just to get a clearer understanding of what’s going on in the first chapter. I didn’t know what was happening with Lyla or…anything else for that matters.

I was on the verge of halting my reading but as I move onto the next few chapters, I was slowly sucked into the story. I wanted to continue reading it and I couldn’t put it down till I finished it! Of course, more confusion soon followed. This is perhaps, due to the style of writing by the author herself but story wise, it was amazingly PAINFUL.

Painful, as in it hurts for me to continue reading. Lyla Grimm is the kindest person I’ve ever read about in any books and her character is so real, so scarily realistic. In this world we live in, there are people with similar personality that suffers in silence.

What I love about Lyla Grimm, is her utmost devotion to her family and especially to Ben, her older brother. If anyone have a younger sibling like her, they better cherish her because Lyla is a treasure. Seriously, I think most people would be jealous of Ben having Lyla as his sister. Though I must say, sadly, Ben is not most people.

In the middle of the book, to put it nicely, I have unpleasant feelings towards Lyla’s brother and her best friend. Putting it bluntly, I WANTED TO GO ON A MURDER SPREE. Then, Eric happened.

First of all, Eric acts as if he is one horrible jerk but he isn’t.

Secondly, he became the jerk.

Finally, HE ISN’T. Oh, and the murderous thoughts disappeared.

Confusing right? Yes, that’s what happened to me. Just when you think everything is going peachy and rosy for Lyla, BAM!


That’s all you guys need to know and honestly, I’m shocked I am able to put all my thoughts and feels into words.

Recommended for readers who wants to experience a bunch of different emotions!
Profile Image for Michelle .
2,016 reviews230 followers
December 18, 2014
**You can see this full review and more at Book Briefs: http://bookbriefs.net** 

The Undead: Playing for Keeps is the story of a girl that can raise the dead with a touch. And as an added twist, her family is the owner of the town funeral home. I thought that was a hilarious twist to the story. Because the daughter has no idea that she is the one bringing the dead to life, and the funeral home is getting into all sorts of trouble because the corpses keep going missing! And in a small town word gets around pretty fast.

Lyla was an easy girl to like. I have no idea why she was such a social outcast. She really only had one friend and the other kids at school either avoided her or made fun of her. I thought it was BS. She is a sweetheart, but I guess high school kids don't need a reason to be mean. I felt bad for her, and I totally understood why she was so skittish about everything,. It took her a long time to warm up to Eric, and I really admired that about her.

Eric is a reaper that shows up in town to find out who is raising the dead. What he doesn't expect is Lyla because people are turned into Samaritan (which is what she is) but they aren't already them. She is a special case. (which you will find out about in the story) Lyla is the main character of the story, but it is told in dual narrative between her and Eric, and as an added bonus we got to learn a lot more about his background. I wasn't expecting that at the start of the story and it took a while to dig into his past, but we do get to see glimpses.

I'm not sure if there is going to be another book or not, but it would be kind of cool if there was. The end of the book got really crazy and I would love for someone to kind of rehash all of that in the next book, if there is one. I think there is still a lot the author, Elsie Elmore, can do in this world of reapers and Samaritans. The Undead: Playing for Keeps is an interesting paranormal young adult read. If you are a fan of reaper books, this is a fun take on them that I think you will enjoy.

 This review was originally posted on Book Briefs
November 20, 2016
Sixteen year old Lyla, is the daughter of the town mortician, and the family has been morticians for generations. When their cosmetologist quits and leaves her resignation painted in lipstick on a body, Lyla rushes in to fix it before all the guests arrive and see it.

But that night, the body vanishes. Everyone thinks it’s stolen, and since Lyla is already a social outcast, the mockery at school intensifies.

She has one friend, Cassie, who stands up for her. She is also close to her older brother, Ben, who she sees as her protector. He, in contrast to her, is a cool, popular, lead singer of a band.

Then, the body reappears… reanimated!

A new band member soon appears in her brother’s group. Eric seems disinterested in Lyla at first, but when she finds herself confronted with the walking body again, he saves her, and a friendship starts. Lyla even starts to develop feels for this mysterious new band member.

Talk about a great read! This is a fabulous YA read about a girl struggling with self-identity with everyone tearing her down, and things only getting worse as she discovers new things about herself and Eric. But she struggles on, despite the people she cares most about turning against her.

It’s rather gripping, and the descriptions of the walking corpses are creepy and gross. I found myself wanting to keep reading, despite needing to sleep and live.
Profile Image for Sarah Cass.
Author 44 books129 followers
November 29, 2015
*I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own*

3*s for lore alone. I like the idea of Reapers and Samaritans and I liked the world. I just wish...well.

Lyla was a girl I could understand. The ridicule she suffered through life, and popular brother, all of it. While my parents didn't own a funeral home I understood where she was coming from. I connected with her in all her whimpering glory and her attempts to be strong.

Eric...at first I thought he was the typical antihero. When the stated and blatant manipulation to take an already isolated girl and cut her off from everyone hit...I lost any sort of possibility of warm feelings toward him. I lost any belief in true affection. I just flat out didn't like him.

Which is a shame, because it just ruined the rest of the book for me and I almost pulled a DNF.

Profile Image for Christa Hogan.
35 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2015
The Undead takes ordinary teen meets supernatural powers to a unique place. Embalmed neighbors walking around a small town while a good-looking, guitar-playing grim reaper tries to corral them back into their coffins? Yes, please. While the concept is fun and creepy, it's Elmore's deft handling of the characters that creates a book well worth your time. Readers will relate to Lyla Grimm as a likeable teen trying to survive the complicated world of highschool while maintaining the fragile ties that bind her family together. I also appreciated Elmore's nuanced handling of dark and creepy versus gorey or graphic. A great read you won't mind your teen picking up.
Profile Image for Joey Stone.
1 review1 follower
October 1, 2015
I am not normally into "zombie" type books, and if you aren't, this is not your usual zombie book! It's not your usual book at all which made it for a very original young adult book in a world of read-that-story-already young adult books.

I loved the dual point of views and without giving away too much of the story, the many reasons Lyla would have for freaking out are HUGE.

If you like complicated (whoa, is it complicated!) teenage romance, family drama, big moral decisions, and twists along the way, you should definitely give this book a read!!!
Profile Image for melissa.
671 reviews12 followers
November 5, 2014
This took a little bit to hook me in, but once it did, it was hard to put down.

The author alternates between POV from Lyla to Eric so we get a pretty good feel for each of the characters. It's kinda awesome to see the slow changes in each with Lyla becoming a bit more self assured and Eric not being such a self absorbed prick.

There's some paranormal hijinks and high school crushes along the way.

*Digital review copy provided by NetGalley and the publisher.
Profile Image for Edward Aubry.
Author 8 books136 followers
November 12, 2015
Highly enjoyable. The horror parts were just the right amount of gruesome to keep the story engaging without overshadowing the teen angst. I would have liked to see some of the mythology more fully developed. The little snippets delivered here are compelling, and I sense there is a much deeper story to be told there. Overall, a promising debut. I will be watching for her next book.
Profile Image for Patricia Lynne.
Author 21 books107 followers
August 14, 2018
Beta read this and really enjoyed it. Have to read the final version one day.
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