Judge’s remarks from the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
“Laura Lanni’s OR NOT TO BE has a fresh start. She jumps right into the intimacy of the Wixim family at the breakfast table and I completely connect with the main character, Anna. I was extremely impressed by the writing and the voice of Anna. There is nothing more important to me than to have sympathy for the main character and the author does this successfully.
Digging more into the novel, I am intrigued and interested when she dies. This really felt like a cross between women’s fiction and supernatural/time travel. It actually reminded me of PREMONITION, starring Sandra Bullock—which is a good thing! The connection between Anna and Eddie was strong and I was rooting for them to get together and when we find out that Eddie knows and understands how it works with Anna, I felt as though the tables turned on her! Now what?
This novel is well done and the character development is strong. The more you read the more information/history you get about Anna & Eddie. I empathized with both—yet felt frustrated at times for both. An intelligent novel—yet unusual. Overall, some of the strongest writing I’ve seen yet.”
“Expect the unexpected with Or Not to Be by Laura Lanni. This book was interesting with its life and death views from the main characters. Each page will bring something new to the reader. An unusual book that will keep you spellbound.
I received Or Not to Be for free from Goodreads First Reads.”
“This book was so unique and an interesting take on death. I really enjoyed it.”
4/2016 Susan Breen, author of The Fiction Class and Maggie Dove: A Mystery
“Beautifully written, passionate, challenging, imaginative, intriguing.”
This is an excellent book. Very well written, keeping you thinking, REALLY thinking, the whole time you’re reading it!
“The story is odd with many twists and turns, exploring a weird timeline. We follow the dead Anna–faced with the choice of coming back to life or moving on–and the living Eddie.
At first you follow Anna, who soon into the book realises that she’s died during the day, though she’s not sure how. She’s given the choice of returning to her life, or stay dead. She can visit any point in the past and future, which is how we learn about her life.
In the second part, you follow her husband, and get some interesting perspective on their life, though I won’t say more to not spoil things.
This isn’t light reading, at least it wasn’t for me. I really liked how non-linear it was, timeline wise, and that you could see actions from both the inside and the outside. How you’re experienced by others isn’t necessarily the same way you’re experiencing yourself, which is a point well-made by this book. I also really enjoyed the explanation of death, and the mix of destiny/choice.”
8/9/15 Melissa Borsey:
“I started reading this thinking it was a sample I downloaded by accident and I was very glad it was the full book because I was unable to put it down! Very quick, enjoyable read!”
“I really enjoyed reading this. It’s a lovely story and although it dealt with death it did it on a very uplifting way.”
7/26/15 Ellie Winslow:
“Surprised me. Intrigued me. Made me think. Kept me pulled in and along for the ride and I loved it. The metaphysics were a delight. The characters were complex, quirky and believable. You’ll enjoy it too.”
3/16/15 Rhea Parsons:
“Or Not to Be by Laura Lanni is one of the most original novels I have read in awhile. It is about love, life, death, choices, regrets, hope and so much more. This book is highly emotional and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. The characters are well-developed, quirky and I rooted for them through the whole story. The story is intelligent and complex, managing to mix science, emotions and spiritual topics seamlessly. Laura Lanni makes you think, she makes you hope and she makes you feel. The novel is suspenseful up until the end and while it was not the ending I expected, or wanted, it was a fitting ending that didn’t make me feel cheated. I enjoyed this book very much and can’t wait to see how else Laura Lanni will make my brain and my heart twist and turn.”
1/16/15 Lou Clyde:
“In Or Not To Be, Laura Lanni tells an engaging story of the relationship between Anna and her husband and best friend Eddie. In a book that is kind of a cross between “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Just Like Heaven”, Anna finds herself dead. She is able to observe her life, both before and after her death, from the other side. Lanni does an amazing job telling the love story of Anna and Eddie from the perspective of both characters. The mystery behind Anna’s death and the decisions she must make will keep readers at the edge of their seats. You will come to love the relationships between Anna, Eddie and the rest of her family. Lanni’s writing is so real you will feel like you are in the same room with 5-year old Joey as he eats Oreos with one hand and picks his nose with the other. You will empathize with Eddie for never being able to please Anna’s mother. And you will share Anna’s frustration as her relationship with Eddie seems to fall apart. Or Not To Be is a clever and wonderful story that I savored from start to finish.”
1/13/15 Liv on Goodreads:
“I finished this book, only to flip back to the first page and start reading it again. I have never loved characters so fiercely as those Dr. Laura Lanni has conceived. They are exquisitely real, raw, and full of life even on the dead side. Aside from the tangible people in this book, it is also a beautiful love story. There are no roses, no sugar-coated kisses, no elaborate romantic weekends. There are Oreos, and hand sewn pockets, and three generation sacrifices. Before sitting down to read, I recommend having a roll of soft toilet paper on hand. A box of kleenex will not suffice in checking the tears of empathy and envy for the characters. In my own life, I can only hope to experience love so wonderful and such peace with death. The afterlife described by the author is so logical and appealing, I NEED it to be accurate.”
12/20/2014 Rosann M. Baxter:
“I was very impressed with this book. I couldn’t put it down. Every time I did I picked it back up and started reading again.”
12/18/2014 Sue Cryer:
“Author, Laura Lanni, takes you directly into the slightly erratic heart of the Wixim family. This is good news, because you will want to stay with them until the very last minute of their soul searching journey. A journey where science, logic and love combine to explore the travels of the human spirit both during life and after. Lanni not only keeps her reader engaged, she compels them to embrace this family well after the written words end. This was meant to be a book I was planning to read on a trip, but I was three quarters of the way through it before the trip even started. The all-consuming gift of a story well told!”
“I loved this book for its odd enduring human-ness. The story of a family trying to understand each other is all too familiar, and Lanni tackles it with a loving hand, creating both a pseudo-science around the finalizes of death, and a believable universe of infinite possibilities. When Anna dies at the very beginning of the book, we are taken through a lengthy series of remembered and misunderstood occasions. Eventually, Eddie, both a young and an old version, get to see their own story on replay, seeing the mistakes and repeating then just as inevitably. At its heart, this story is kind to its characters, and redraws their future selves in ways they did not expect.”
12/7/2014 Rebecca Evans:
“I found this book intriguing from the beginning. A true page turner that I read in 2 days. I really can’t go on without spoiling the book for others. I will say that this book was thought provoking, tragic, and beautiful. I have highly recommended it to my friends, and will continue to do so. I also did not understand the significance of the mysterious cover until the end of the book which I loved.”
11/29/2014 Susie D:
“Smart. Clever. Unique. Touching. Or Not to Be is the first novel I’ve finished in at least a year. I buried myself in this story on a road trip to a funeral. I’d close the book and stare out the window as my husband of 40+years drove us to the ceremonies that would give us closure to the abrupt end to a siblings life, leaving wife and children. After pondering the coincidence, or not, of this trip and this book, I’d open it again and fall back into the story of these two people, so different from each other, yet remained married, struggling, loving and… well, you’ll just have to read it to understand. A smart book, written by a smart author with her feet on the ground, her heart in her chest and words flowing out her fingertips.”
12/3/2014 Millie West:
“Deeply intriguing and highly intelligent novel! The hero of this story, Eddie Wixim, has the unique ability to foresee the death dates of other people–including his beloved wife, Anna. This gift, or shall I call it a curse, takes a powerful grip on his emotions each time her annual date to pass comes around. As her date nears, Eddie becomes distraught and uncommunicative. Unfortunately, this takes a heavy toll on their marriage. Ms. Lanni explores after death experience with thoughtfulness and humor, and what will happen to Anna when her human departure date arrives? I enjoyed the book, and I confess I was surprised by the ending, but I felt satisfied with it. If you like to read intelligent novels, then this is for you! Highly recommended!”
11/24/2014 Alexander J. Rhyne:
“I couldn’t put it down! Send a copy to every smart woman (and man) in your life. They’ll thank you for it, I promise.”
“Laura Lanni’s writing is crisp and clean with a modern vibe that lures us into an age-old question with a fresh twist – what happens when we die? Exploring choice and circumstance from multiple angles, she intrigues us with the “what ifs” and “why nots” of this strange arrangement called life. With tight (but not rigid!) prose she explores in ways both humorous and heartbreaking that our exit point may not be so random after all. Perhaps within certain spaces of opportunity where matter bumps up against antimatter, we might have a choice as to whether or not we want to stay on this planet and how. Setting reverence and convention aside, she dares to explore her characters’ true feelings about the lives they’ve chosen and reflect upon the good, the bad and the uncomfortable with an inner truth we recognize but don’t always feel brave enough to confess – even to ourselves. Entertaining from the beginning and intriguing to the end, with an unexpected but satisfying conclusion that tidies up a multi-thread plot, Lanni leaves us with a teaser of yet another twist in the array of possible returns to the physical. I very much enjoyed this debut effort and look forward to reading more from this promising author.”
“Since she can remember, Anna Wixim has had an obsession with a certain date: November eleventh. So when, on a particular November eleventh, she figures out that sometime over the course of the day she’s died, she’s not particularly surprised. She’s not particularly sorry, either. For the last few months, her husband, Eddie, has been increasingly distant, caught in what she has come to know as his seasonal funk. Anna figures her death is probably for the best because her marriage was falling apart anyway. She doesn’t know, however, that Eddie is himself no stranger to the mysteries of life and death. The reason he pulls away from her every fall is that he’s known the date of her death all along.
Laura Lanni’s Or Not To Be is a beautiful and evocative book which explores the philosophy of life, death, and what comes after through the medium of Anna and Eddie’s history together. As the story jumps backward and forward in time, the reader experiences significant events in both their lives, through both their points of view, and becomes part of the tragedy of a good relationship going bad through lack of communication.
I liked Anna very much. She was an unusual character in that she was a scientist without much of a romantic streak, and Lanni gives her a practical, no-nonsense voice which suits her. When she smells a flower, its molecules trigger her scent receptors; when she and Eddie kiss, their atoms come into proximity. It’s an approach that could have been grating if overdone, but Lanni uses it just enough to give a clear picture of Anna’s character. Her scientific mind also provides a firm jumping off point for discussions of death and the soul that hinge more on relativistic theory than theology. Some of the questions the book raises are ones I wonder about myself, so it was exciting to me to see them in print.
Some of the later portions of the book contained a bit more exposition than I would have liked, and there were a few minor editing glitches. But overall, I enjoyed my journey to the “dead side” with Anna and Eddie, and I look forward to seeing what questions Laura Lanni will tackle next. Highly recommended.”
10/5/2014 R A Little
“I keep crying, which is not conducive to reading! The unfolding story is so unique, and yet relatable. I can’t help thinking about my husband and children left behind after I die. If only I could get through more than 30 pages in a sitting… Not sure if I hope for a resolved ending, or more heart wrenching prose!”