#PBHOWLERFEST

Today, my goodmen, today was GLORIOUS!!!!! In full nerd fashion, I embarked on a journey. A journey many months in the making, and surprisingly, not entirely about the event itself.

 

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Let me back up. Of course, the event was the entire gorydamn point. I’ve been waiting for Iron Gold for what feels like an eternity. And honestly, I probably would have simply waited for the release like any other Introvert book nerd and watched all this amazingness from afar. Except, a good friend called me, and said, “Come with me?”

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And I said YES!

So, a journey was planned. It involved matching shirts. I dyed my hair. I tried to get her to agree to matching tattoos. Spoiler: she said NO! However, she did agree to temporary tattoos as a compromise.

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But let’s get to the juicy gossip.

The event was amazing. I know that adjective gets thrown around a lot. By me. But, it was. When you walked in, they had large prints of all the fan art from around the world, and in our packet was a voting ticket.

Here’s a few for your perusal……

Once you voted, you entered the theater itself.

We also received a packet at the door, with the voting ticket and shirt ticket (if you ordered ahead of time). Our badges were Color coded and assigned us to our Color. I got Obsidian. Apparently even in this fandom, the Fandom Gods want to make me the trained killer. Weird. At least I’m not the bloodydamn villain again.

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Next to the shirt display, they had a small bookshop set up with BookSoup, featuring books Pierce himself loves. Of course I bought one or two, but you’ll have to go watch my Instagram stories in the next few days to see those goodies!

There was a bar, serving PitVipers for those daring Helldivers, and Haemanthus (mocktail) for the dreamers of the group.

Finally, there was an airbrush artist there to make sure we all had the appropriate sigils for our Color.

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And then the real fun began! Pierce came on stage, accompanied by his close friend and actor, Eric Christian Olsen. The interview was incredible to listen to on SO MANY LEVELS!

As a fan, it is always so fun to listen to an author talk about the world from their perspective. Who they see themselves in, who they had fun writing, who they hate. It’s fascinating to hear them describe the world that you, as a reader, are so immersed in. To hear the creator of that world dive into some of the rationale behind characters, plot twists, and world building is always good nerd fun!

Beyond the discussion of the world, Pierce himself is so kind and generous with his fans. He made sure to really reflect on his answers, and took his time thinking them through. His answers to questions ranged from funny, to snarky, or vague to very detailed, depending on the question. You can tell he enjoys interacting with his fans as much as we enjoy intreating with him. So much so, that he is involved in the Facebook group, Hic Sunt Leones: A Red Rising Fan Group, knows who the admins of the group are, and called up the MOST AMAZING COSPLAY EVER!!!!!

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As a writer, I LOVED EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THIS! Not just the cosplay, although, talk about #writergoals! When he talked about his life as a writer, I was so grateful I went to this event. To hear that an author you look up to, for his incredible writing style and fantastic plotting, doesn’t outline, or take notes. That he also can face writer envy of writers he considers the greats. That he can be a harsh critic of himself or his writing.

I need to remember that novels don’t happen in a moment, they happen in a series of moments. They take time, and then they take a team of people to make them the wonderful pieces of magic we lose ourselves in. I simply have to be as true to myself and to my story as I can be. I tend to forget that.

He also talked about telling his editor that Golden Son had a moderately happy ending and getting a literal WTF text when he faced the horror of the ending that traumatized us all. Or how he had the most fun writing the Jackal, and holds an appreciation for villains. I am a big believer that villains could use a little more love!

If you doubt the sincerity of his appreciation of his fans and readers, just look at that dedication! FOR THE HOWLERS!!!!

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Of course, the afternoon ended when we got called up (by Color) to take a photo with him. Again, he asked everyone’s name, shook their hand or hugged them, and truly made each person feel seen and heard. That is an incredible skill.

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The part of the journey that wasn’t the event, was simply going. Meeting Trissina in person after talking for nearly a year was awesome, but also daunting! Hi, my name is Jena, and I’m an Internet Introvert. And, there’s something intimidating about meeting someone you’ve tried to aspire your own writing to. Not that I was worried about how he would be, more, it’s just scary to open myself up for judgement. I never said introverting logic made much sense.

Anyway, driving to LA and being away from all my puppies and my books was hard. Oh, and my husband, I miss him too. Meeting new people in an intense environment is also daunting for me. But, I am so glad I did it!

The journey is about meeting authors and listening to them talk. Taking in their advice, knowing that even the greats have bad first drafts, and realizing that the glory is in the attempt. Nothing is made from nothing, but something can be made from something.

Meeting Internet friends in real life is the business! It’s fantastic that there is an entire community of book people in this virtual world. But, to take those friendships and conversations and hug them, and talk to them? Words just don’t quite capture how incredible that feels.

In all, I’m glad that I didn’t have to go to Mordor or face the Eye of Sauron. Perhaps my journey wasn’t quite as epic as Frodo’s. But it was mine, and I feel like I’ve grown for it.

The book comes out in three days, January 16, but we got the book 3 days early for attending! Was it worth it? You’re gorydamn right it was, my goodmen!

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Good night Howlers! Per Aspera Ad Astra!!!

The Hazelwood – Review

“My mother was raised on fairy tales, but I was raised on highways.”

The Hazel Wood is a remarkable creative blend of urban fantasy and twisted fairy tales with a touch of mystery added for flavor. This combination is incredibly creative and takes you deep into not just a fairy tale, or it’s retelling, but something far better.

We begin this tale through the eyes of Alice, a teenager who has spent most of her life running with her mother. What they’re running from is less clear, and only really referred to as bad luck.

“When we traveled I kept an eagle eye on the cars behind us, like bad luck could take human form and trail you like a minivan. But bad luck was sneakier than that. You couldn’t outsmart it, you could only move along when it had you in its sights.”

Alice, in true child form, becomes obsessed with her grandmother, a woman she’s never allowed to meet, and the book she wrote. Tales From The Hinterland thrust Althea into the light, but the book itself is rare, obscure and impossible to find. (Side note: I would adore this collection of fairy tales released, because oh how dark and delicious these tales would be!)

And this is where the mystery comes to light. Because in the beginning we get glimpses of this bad luck. We see Alice’s obsession with these tales and with her grandmother. Her life has the vague sparkle of something mystical lingering on the edges, but nothing defined. Is it simply Alice and her perceptions? Or is something else at play?

Whether it’s the bad luck finally catching up, or simply fate stepping in, forces conspire to drive Alice to the Hazel Wood, the mysterious estate her grandmother has hidden in. Alice finds herself learning all about these mysterious fairy tales and the woman who wrote them. More than she ever wanted to know. But once you fall down the rabbit hole, Alice learns the only way out is through. If the fairy tales will let her, that is.

“Most books’ power is in the abstract, but occasionally you’ll find one with very physical abilities.”

The first half of this novel is very much building the mystery. The mystery of the bad luck. The mystery of Althea herself and this elusive book of fairy tales. The mystery of Alice, her deep tendency to rage. The mystery of her mother and what she is so terrified of.

The mystery is what baits us. It sets the trap so that we are entangled into the core of the obsession with Alice. We feel her desire for knowledge. For something more. And once we are entwined, guaranteed to not be able to leave, the mysterious edges of what could be paranoia or fantasy begins to sharpen and reveal itself.

“Her final words had an extra resonance to them, a blur. Like they wore a mask to hide their true intentions.”

Beyond the world of murderous and violent fairy tales, this book is about so much more. I love how through this journey of fairy tales, this book really is a look at how to control your own story, to take back your voice and create your own narrative.

Alice runs because her mother tells her to. Because she is a child growing up, and children have no choice but to embark on the life their parents set out on. But when she is older, when forces plot to remove her mother from the equation, Alice has to figure out which path to set herself on. She has to decide where to go, and what to do.

A lifetime of warning from her mother, never talk to fans, never read the book, all culminate with a final warning: stay away from the Hazel Wood. Within hours she betrays the first rule, turning to fan Ellery Fitch for help. And while the book remains as elusive as ever, Fitch once owned a copy and could retell the stories with chilling accuracy.

Alice decides that even though her mother warned her, action is the only way forward. That she is the only one who can reclaim her story, who can face the bad luck and vanquish it.

“I did it because a girl doing nothing in a fairy tale ends up dead or worse, but a girl who makes a decision usually gets rewarded.”

Sometimes as children we can feel voiceless. We can feel lost in a world we don’t understand. Where our parents make rules that feel arbitrary and unclear. And while most of us don’t wake up to find our mothers missing and our world a blur between fantasy and reality, often we do find that we understand our parents only by defying them. We see their rationale and reason only after we make the mistakes they attempt to protect us from.

Fairy tales are told to teach us lessons. To help us understand the world at large in a way that will stay with us. This book does the same. It helps us understand the helplessness we feel as both children and as parents. How being an adult can sometimes lead to a reality less than we once imagined. It teaches us that we each have a voice of our own, and can choose to use it, even if someone more powerful tells us we can’t.

I loved this book for the dark and twisted path it led me down. But I loved it even more for the empowerment it quietly taught me.

Thank you NetGalley and Flatiron Books for approving my request to read and review this book!

Gunslinger Girl – Review

“She should have seen it coming. Six months and she’d be lawfully released from his control. But he couldn’t let that happen easy, not him.”

From the very first moment I saw photos of this gorgeous book being released at BookCon, I knew I had to have this book. A dystopian with a Western twist? For fans of Westworld?! Katniss Everdeen meets Annie Oakley??? Um, YES PLEASE!!!

I was thrilled when I opened a package and saw that my request had been approved and have been hugging this book EVER SINCE!

Serendipity Jones is a sharp shooter. She’s the best in her commune, but that doesn’t matter. She was born the wrong gender. A woman with the potential to be fertile is more valuable than a woman who can shoot. But she has plans. Plans to leave, plans to escape to the Capital. Unfortunately, her father also has plans. And they don’t involve her freedom.

When her best friend offers her the chance to escape before her father can sell her, Pity jumps at the chance. But the world outside of the gates of the communes is deadly, and Pity quickly finds herself a prisoner headed to the lawless city of Cessation, the last bastion of freedom standing against the oppressive forces of CONA, the Confederacy of North America.

“Is this a city, she thought, or an asylum?”

Now she has something resembling freedom being offered to her by the city’s leader, the beautiful and lethal Selene, but there is a price. With little options in front of her, Pity accepts and tries to navigate the treacherous path that she finds herself on.

This book is incredible! Pity is such a delightful protagonist. This is YA that sucks you in from the very beginning and doesn’t let go. I love when characters are so real you feel like you could know them. Pity is strong and determined, but she is also a little unsure of the path before her. She makes mistakes, some with horrific consequences that haunt her and make her doubt herself. I enjoyed reading her journey on that path to self-discovery.

“The low burn of anger that had been coursing through her exploded suddenly, fury hot and vicious cold at the same time, and tinged with guilt.”

This guilt and sureness over who she wants to be, combined with the battle of hesitation and unsurety over whether she actually could be that person made Pity so heart-achingly good. I like a character who has to face the idea versus the reality of their inner selves, especially when outside forces raise the bar on the consequences of that struggle.

Beyond Pity, we get introduced to an array of diverse characters. Duchess, Luster, and Max are a few of my favorites, but even Selene and Halycon add to the complicated deliciousness of the world Pity finds herself in.

Clean was the first for that popped into Pity’s mind as his raptor’s gaze tracked them. Dangerous was the second.”

The vast cast of characters all give the world in Cessation a rich texture, with each character highlighting a distinct piece of that world. We get to see through the eyes of security and performers. People escaping lives in communes that are unthinkable. Each accepting their role with varying degrees of success and hiding from a past that haunts each one of them in it’s own way.

Each characters gives you the sense of what a real oasis this city can be, while simultaneously being a gilded prison. This dichotomy really drives home the idea that everything has a price. Especially freedom.

“What others did to secure themselves wasn’t for her to judge – not when their situations were dire enough to make her wonder what she might do in the same place.”

It isn’t just the world of Cessation or the colonies that we get to see, although the bigger world of CONA is something I suspect we’ll begin to see more of in future books. We know that this world is what we are left with after a Second Civil War. We know the rumors of the Capital, and then we learn the reality. At least, some of the reality. But the history of the War, and the reality of other communes are things only hinted at in this book.

I tend to like my dystopian worlds to be revealed to me slowly. The horror of the future our characters find themselves in showing itself in unexpected and surprising ways. Gunslinger Girl did not disappoint in this way. Just as we accept the world as it is, new details emerge that really stab you in the gut with the terrible reality of what the world really can be. And I love when authors give us a slow road into hell, bringing us deeper into the world with more revealed in each new book. It gives the world a rich texture that just can’t be accomplished all at once.

Gunslinger Girl is a unique new dystopian and I adored every moment of it. The characters are complex and fun. The world is intoxicating and horrifying. The writing is beautiful and brutal.

“When someone brought her a cup of ice water, she took it without a word. It slid down her throat and into her stomach like a blade.”

Lyndsay Ely has created something incredible with this book and has quickly made me a fan rabid for more. Her voice and imagination are both stunning and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next!

Thank you Little, Brown & Jimmy Patterson Books for sending me a copy to read and review!

The Wolves Of Winter – Review

“Snow can save you and sustain you, crush you and kill you. Snow is a fickle bastard.”

The Wolves Of Winter is a phenomenal debut post apocalyptic novel! I devoured this incredible book in a day. From the moment I opened the pages it was impossible to put down.

Gwendolynn, or Lynn, as she prefers, is living with her family in the North Yukon. After raging nuclear war and a viral flu managed to take out most of the population, her father included, her family fled to the far reaches of civilization in hopes of finding survival. And survive they did. Until Lynn comes across Jax and his husky Wolf.

“If I wasn’t embarrassed by Mom’s paranoia, I probably would have thought the sight of her cooking food with a  shotgun in her hand was hilarious.”

Jax is the first stranger they encounter, but he isn’t the last. With each new encounter, Lynn is pushed into a new world, finding out secrets about herself and her family that were long buried. Survival takes on a whole new meaning, and Lynn has to learn survival with a whole new set of rules.

“Arrows are like snow or sorrow or secrets – they seem small and light, but their weight adds up.”

As I mentioned, this book is a crazy addictive read. The way Johnson writes is simple yet powerful. He creates such stunning imagery but you never feel pulled out of the plot or the action, even when describing the snow. It all feels natural, fitting. It gives you the feel of being there, with Lynn, in this wild place. This, in addition to the pace he sets, makes you really connect with Lynn. Because in her world, even when things are quiet, you never know when deadly danger is right around the corner. That state of suspense is held throughout each page, even her memories.

One of the things I really enjoyed in this book was how Johnson handled explaining the world before compared to the world now. Lynn flashes to memories of before, but they are brief, to the point, and all tie in with what is happening to her in the present. Again, rather than pull you out of the plot, it actually pushes you further into Lynn’s head, because this is how our brains work. Thinking, remembering, all while currently doing. It made her feel more real to me.

“If fear had a sound, thats what it sounded like. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of men. Crunch. Creak. Closer. Closer. Closer.”

The world Johnson has created is chilling. Besides the obvious nod to the frozen world stuck in perpetual winter, the actions humanity took to trigger these catastrophic events sound frighteningly similar to news reports we listen to today. It’s easy to imagine this world, which makes the reading that much more intense. The goal of post-apocalyptic fiction should be to serve as a warning of things that could come, and The Wolves Of Winter nails it!

Lynn is an amazing protagonist. She’s strong and fierce but is also flawed. She’s stubborn and makes choices that make things worse for her and her family. In her defense, her decisions were based on keeping information from her, but she still defies her mother and uncle to make them. Yet, even when you know she’s making a bad choice, you feel her yearning and curiosity for the world at large. To see what’s left. To hope for something better. Her humanity is stunning in that sense, and makes her so vivid to me.

“I was in one of my moods, the ones that can be changed only by long bouts of solitude. Strange, the things that survive the apocalypse.”

For a novel full of harsh realities and intensity, there are only brief moments of violence. They happen, but aren’t graphic or overdone. They are used to illustrate and highlight the reality of this world. Survival can bring out the best of mankind, and it can also bring out the worst. Even if we don’t see the entire possibility happen in person, we still get a sense of how bad things could get. How bad people could be.

As each memory helps us understand what happened, and the days drive forward for Lynn, pieces of an obscure puzzle fit into place. Things begin to make sense, and we start to understand the reason behind the secrets. We also increase our fear as the danger in the situation continues to escalate.

I don’t want to reveal anything in the plot, not beyond the blurb because this novel unravels itself in such a beautiful way. The connections between past and present, the possibility of the future, they are all paced and revealed with amazing momentum, never too soon, and never making you wait too long. I am very curious to find out if there is more to this story, because the novel ends in a way that could simply be ambiguous and open, or as a possibility to a sequel. I am very much hoping for a sequel, myself.

If reading about the world gone wrong, with a Call Of The Wild feel added to it, combined with a beautiful prose, sounds like something you’d enjoy, then you need to pick this book up! This is a debut novel from a voice that I will be anxiously awaiting to hear again.

Thank you Scribner Books for sending me a copy to read and review.

Angel of Death – Spotlight + GIVEAWAY

Happy Tuesday!!!

Today I am happy to spotlight the book Angel of Death and help promote a giveaway on this blog tour! These amazing tours and giveaways are hosted by Rockstar Book Tours and I am so thankful to be included in this one! Be sure to click the banner below to visit their site. And be sure to pop over to all the other fabulous blogs for reviews, spotlights, interviews and more chances to win!!!

ANGEL OF DEATHTormented by dreams and visions from an early age, Emily Dunhurst battled her way through childhood, missed the excitement of teenage years, yet still managed to arrive in her twenties with some shard of sanity.

But, when the Angel of Death appears at her grandmother’s bedside, Emily’s world is remolded in pain and worry. Her ability to see otherworldly creatures is the only way to stop the Creator’s Servant—and save her family. 

However, Emily soon finds out that angels are hard to stop.

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Angel of Death came out yesterday, so be sure to check it out!!!

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Title: ANGEL OF DEATH

Author: Eamonn Hickson

Pub. Date: December 4, 2017

Publisher: Eamonn Hickson

Pages: 338

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon

Eamonn

Eamonn Hickson is an Irish author. He released his first novel, The History Maker, in December 2012.

He has undertaken a number of creative writing, and writing for print courses recently.

His second novel, Angel of Death, was released in December 2013.

Twitter | Goodreads

DID SOMEONE SAY…….. GIVEAWAY??????

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1 winner will receive a finished copy of ANGEL OF DEATH, International.

giveaway_1_CLICK THE GIVEAWAY ABOVE TO ENTER

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And don’t forget to visit the other blogs along the way!!!

Tour Schedule:

12/4/2017- Am Kinda Busy Reading– Review

12/4/2017- A Gingerly Review– Interview

12/5/2017- Jena Brown WritesSpotlight

12/5/2017- BookHounds– Guest Post

12/6/2017- Bookalicious– Review

12/6/2017- Owl Always Be Reading– Excerpt

12/7/2017- Stuffed Shelves– Review

12/7/2017- Confessions of a YA Reader– Guest Post

12/8/2017- Abooktropolis– Review

12/8/2017- Tales of the Ravenous Reader– Excerpt

Ultimate Sacrifice – Review

“Blood is the first thing I see, covering the front of his white V-neck tee and down across his yellow swim trunks.”

As we open the book, we meet Vickie, enjoying the quiet of her family home in rural Tennessee. Quiet and peaceful until she hears her twin brother, Travis, screaming for help and emerging from the woods covered in blood.

If that isn’t enough to make you sit up and take notice, finding out that the blood is from 4 year old Michelle, their neighbor and family friend will. Even worse, Michelle was found stuffed inside a goat in what looks like Satanic Ritual.

This book! I devoured it. Seriously! I read this in less than a day. It is fast and intense. It draws you in from the very beginning and all you want to know is what’s going on! Who killed Michelle? And why?

“Anyone can step into these woods at any time. There is no fence. I’ve never thought about that before. Never worried. Never needed to. But now I do.”

S.E. Green does a fantastic job shedding doubt on every single person in Vickie’s life. I mean, everyone. It’s brilliant writing as you feel this building distrust right along Vickie. As she learns new information, or overhears snippets of conversation, you feel the unease right in your gut. You can’t help but feel that you are being led down a very dark path, but seeing the details of the path is murky and difficult. Which is fantastic horror.

Ultimate Sacrifice isn’t horror at every turn. But Green uses your discomfort and uneasiness to work against your imagination the entire time. It isn’t what’s happening, but what could happen, or what did happen that kicks your pulse into high gear. Because you know that you are being led somewhere. And that somewhere can’t be anyplace good.

“What is this life I now live that I took a gun into the woods earlier and am now sitting on my own porch with a butcher knife at my side?”

As we go through the days following this atrocious discovery, the funeral, the investigation, it becomes obvious to Vickie that there is some connection to Satanic ritual. Even though there seems to be a logical explanation, Vickie can’t help but see these connections everywhere she looks.

For Vickie, this murder is personal. She loved Michelle. She is frustrated at the police, at the news, even at her parents. She wants to know who killed her, not just for her own piece of mind, but to be able to mourn the little girl. You can feel her desperation as she makes her decisions, some questionable, some rash, but you understand them and her frantic state of mind. Her fear clouds her judgment, but as you read, you realize that your vision is clouded too.

I do think that a few characters and story lines could have been developed a touch more. It doesn’t take away from the reading, or the overall book, but it would have added more depth to the overall experience. But again, it doesn’t take away from the experience.

Ultimate Sacrifice is a book where you find yourself questioning everything. By the end, your hesitation to actually know only adds to the suspense and horror. And what an ending!

I am not going to spoil this book, because those last few pages are horrifying and shocking, which is exactly the ending a book like this needs. However, I will say, that it isn’t about predictability. Even if you suspected the ending, I would be surprised if you didn’t find it shocking nonetheless. Sometimes seeing the picture out of the dark shapes surrounding it makes it less scary. Sometimes it only highlights the gruesome reality. This book is definitely the latter. Seeing the details only shoves the horror from a vague discomfort in the pit of your stomach into a scream clawing its way out of your throat.

If you’re looking for a book this Halloween season that will make your skin tingle and the hair on the back of your neck rise, this is it. Ultimate Sacrifice releases October 9. Just in time to prepare you for Scream Season.

Thank you to OfTomes Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book early!

The Wildling Sisters – Review

“It’s not the dead who suffer. It’s the living, you see.”

The Wilding Sisters is an exceptional book that spans the lives of two families separated by decades.

In the 1950’s, we are introduced to the Wilding sisters. A group of four girls, raised by a bohemian mother in London. The highlight of their summers used to be visiting their cousin in the country and losing themselves in the magic of Applecote Manor. But tragedy strikes, and those summers come to an end. Until several years later, when their mother decides to send them back for one final summer.

Over 50 years later, Jessie, a young mother and struggling step-mother, sees the magic in Applecote Manor. She sees the crumbing estate as the chance to escape London, where her husbands deceased ex-wife holds them all hostage, especially her teenage daughter, Bella. In Applecote, she sees the chance to heal, to escape, to rebuild.

We flip back and forth in time. Margot tells us her story from the past, and Jessie from the present, but the mystery and tragedy around Audrey refuses to disappear, intertwining and impacting both womens lives. Margot wants desperately to know what happened, thinking that the answer will somehow save them all, especially her Aunt Sybil and Uncle Perry.

“For the first time since she went missing, I realize I desperately need to know the truth.”

Jessie wants the mystery and rumor of Audrey to simply go away. She is terrified that the truth will taint Applecote, thereby making the idea of uniting her family impossible. Bella clings to this mystery, obsessing over every small artifact she finds in the yard or buried within the house. Even worse, she has turned her room into a living shrine to her mother, Mandy, shocking Jessie with the totality of it. Mandy on every space on the wall. Mandy’s clothes. Mandy everywhere. Between clinging to her mother’s memory and her determination to uncover the mystery of Applecote, Bella is farther away from accepting Jessie than ever before.

“Bella’s face simply empties, and she runs upstairs, slams her bedroom door in the way only Bella can slam it, like an act of war.”

This book is quite a powerful discussion on the relationships women have with each other. Sister. Mothers. Daughters. They are all complicated and complex.

At the beginning of the summer, Margot, Flora, Pam and Dot, are a tightly knit unit. They are united against the world. But the more time they spend at Applecote starts to introduce small divisions. Secrets and unspoken changes. When two young men stroll through the meadow, the divisions become more pronounced as each sister, except Dot, see each other as competition for the first time.

The summer continues, driving the sisters further apart until a shocking turn of events forces them to decide: will they go their separate ways, or unite together again?

For Jessie and Bella, their timeline isn’t over the course of a summer, but rather a winter. The symbolism of the corresponding seasons is striking and appropriate, and I felt really highlighted the differing tensions between the relationships. Hot and passionate, versus cold and indifferent.

“She had no idea that trying to love Bella, let alone parent her as she grew into an angry teen, would be like trying to hug an animal that wanted to sink its teeth into her neck.”

The tension between Jessie and Bella is different. Bella does not want Jessie or her step-sister around. She would rather have her mother back, but in absence of that, would much prefer to simply have it be just her and her father. She is resentful and cold. But some of her behavior with her peers in London and then to her younger sister Remy are concerning to Jessie. Distrust blooms, which puts significant strain on Jessie’s marriage.

“There’s something in Bella’s gaze that is just not sisterly sometimes, not even particularly human.”

Even though there is an element of mystery, in regards to the mystery of Audrey woven between the two narratives, this really isn’t a mystery. There are parallels set up for comparison, or maybe even to simply observe, the complexity of love.

Margot and her sisters have a mother, but she is flighty and irresponsible. She is not someone seen as deserving of four daughters. In contrast, Sybil, a woman where motherhood is more natural, lost her only daughter Audrey to mysterious circumstances.

Jessie is Remy’s mother, but Bella’s mother died, unexpectedly and tragically. There is no mystery to the loss, but it doesn’t make it any easier to bear. Unlike Sybil though, who tries to find Audrey in Margot, Bella doesn’t want a replacement in Jessie. She wants less while Sybil, and even to some extent Margot, wants more.

There is also the contrast between the sisterly relationships. Margot and her sisters are an intimate tribe when they first arrive at Applecote. A unified front against the world. An oasis that they know they can always rely on. At least they were. But Harry and Tom bring out a competition never before known, and words from their mother suddenly begin to make more sense.

“Brothers always want to murder each other, Ma would shrug, It’s sisters you need to look out for. They’re the ones who can break your heart.”

It’s interesting that men are the divider in both relationships. Between the sisters, because they all want the attention that only two will win. With Bella and Jessie, they both are vying for Will’s attention. Even though Jessie still wants to mother Bella, Bella’s rejection sets the stage for them to compete. Men, both knowingly and unknowingly, are the catalyst for division.

Tragedy and shocking events also shake Jessie’s world, but it is Bella who has to decide whether she will accept Jessie or not. This acceptance is pivotal in determining the future of this small family.

Secrets and betrayals and heartbreak unfold slowly as we come to the end. And even though the timelines are decades apart, the resolution fits them all succinctly together. Questions are answered, and while some leave you reeling, they are all satisfying.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The pacing was perfect. Each chapter ended with just enough momentum that you felt the mystery building. Each story was framed to be solid on it’s own, but left enough clues that you knew they tied together, but you weren’t quite sure how. It was suspenseful without being terrifying.

The writing is breathtaking. Some sentences and passages are so beautiful they hurt.

“The dusk sky is aflame, volcanic and otherworldly, like something might actually be about to happen.”

There is magic in her descriptions. Chase captures the struggle to be a sister, a mother, a wife, in all it’s difficulty with the same lyrical precision. There is heartbreak in love. And in letting go.

Finally, I think the examination of death is one of the most captivating pieces of this novel. Not actually knowing makes Sybil and Margot hold on to Audrey. What begins as hope turns unhealthy and obsessive. A refusal to mourn and grieve. Yet Bella is dealing with the opposite. Knowing her mother is dead and refusing to move on anyway.

Life and death. Love and loss. These are complex issues that we all can relate to and identify with. I loved the story and how these issues were framed and explored. And I absolutely loved the writing. It was gorgeous. Very well done.

This book comes out July 25. Pre-Order link for Amazon is below:

The Wilding Sisters

Thank you so much to the First to Read program through Penguin Random House, and to Putnam books for allowing me to read this beautiful novel.

Block 46 – Review

There are some books where the synopsis cannot possibly prepare you for what you are about to read. Where the synopsis cannot begin to encompass the words contained within the covers. Where words like shocking and breathtaking are inadequate to describe the experience.

Block 46 is one of those books.

It’s been one week since I finished this book, and I am sitting here struggling to form words for this review. Everything I want to say feels inadequate. Or is full of spoilers. And this book should not be spoiled.

The premise of two dead bodies, mutilated in the same way but found in different countries sounded interesting. Then you add in the story of a young man struggling to maintain his humanity in Buchenwald during the Holocaust.

“Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?”

That one sentence from the back cover was enough to captivate me. However, the skill in which Johana Gustawsson draws the reader in, made me frantically turn the pages wanting to know what was happening and what would happen next.

How do you tie in current events with the horrors of the past? Each clue we are given doesn’t make sense. How can a survivor match the profile of a killer between 35-45 years old? How could we believe that someone who fought to live would then seek to take lives?

The art of suspense in this book is deeply psychological. Gustawsson takes us down a path, unveiling glimpses of the scenery around us, making us comfortable with where we think she is taking us. She allows us to form our own opinions and solidify our beliefs before she reveals the reality.

Profiling serial killers is already a plot line full of psychological suspense. I’ve always been fascinated with the skill behind profiling. How can you put yourself in the mind of a killer and maintain your humanity. To hunt, or be hunted. To take the clues from gruesome and horrific scenes where pain and terror taint every surface is impressive. And also terrifying.

But there is more than the psychology of a profiler or a serial killer lurking in these pages. There is the exploration of being a victim, of being a survivor.

I think alternating the story with scenes and descriptions from the Holocaust, makes this book especially haunting. She does not back away from the horror of a concentration camp. We are shown the brutality in a matter of fact narration, which serves to only drive home the harshness of that reality. There is no minimizing the horror, no glamorizing or softening the impact.

There is evil in this world and Block 46 doesn’t allow you to forget this.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am always surprised when a plot twist manages to actually shock me. This book didn’t feel predictable exactly, but I did feel comfortable with the direction it was taking me. Except, when the end came, I found that I wasn’t prepared at all for what the ending revealed.

The twist was unexpected, but the ending felt more like being in a fight. The hits continue to land from all around, leaving you gasping as you turn the final pages.

Block 46 is a book that will stay with you long after you put it down. I find myself picking it up, only to shake my head as I remember the journey it took me on. Johana Gustawsson artfully weaves suspense and mystery together. I am in awe of the final result.

Anyone who enjoys suspense, mystery and thrillers needs to read this book!

Thank you Orenda books for the amazing opportunity to read and experience this exceptional novel.