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White SpaceFrom Goodreads: In the tradition of Memento and Inception comes a thrilling and scary young adult novel about blurred reality where characters in a story find that a deadly and horrifying world exists in the space between the written lines.

Seventeen-year-old Emma Lindsay has problems: a head full of metal, no parents, a crazy artist for a guardian whom a stroke has turned into a vegetable, and all those times when she blinks away, dropping into other lives so ghostly and surreal it’s as if the story of her life bleeds into theirs. But one thing Emma has never doubted is that she’s real.

Then she writes “White Space,” a story about these kids stranded in a spooky house during a blizzard.

Unfortunately, “White Space” turns out to be a dead ringer for part of an unfinished novel by a long-dead writer. The manuscript, which she’s never seen, is a loopy Matrix meets Inkheart story in which characters fall out of different books and jump off the page. Thing is, when Emma blinks, she might be doing the same and, before long, she’s dropped into the very story she thought she’d written. Trapped in a weird, snow-choked valley, Emma meets other kids with dark secrets and strange abilities: Eric, Casey, Bode, Rima, and a very special little girl, Lizzie. What they discover is that they–and Emma–may be nothing more than characters written into being from an alternative universe for a very specific purpose.

Now what they must uncover is why they’ve been brought to this place–a world between the lines where parallel realities are created and destroyed and nightmares are written–before someone pens their end.

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I absolutely adore most of Ilsa J. Bick’s novels, but this one was just so hard to read. It begins with Lizzie’s story and, truth be told, it doesn’t make much sense. Readers get the feeling that Lizzie lives in an alternate world, especially with all the made up words and strange references, but then Lizzie references London, and you have to wonder if she’s living in our world, or an alternate one, because her story with the white space and her father bringing characters to life just seems so surreal. It isn’t until Emma’s story begins that some semblance of a story begins to protrude, and it was here that I had my first “aha” moment! Emma lives in what I consider the here and now–a University student, I could easily connect with her and she made sense to me, unlike Lizzie and her family. As we learn about her and her odd life, we realize that she is connected to Lizzie in a way, but readers really have to read slowly because the connections are minute to begin with, and truth be told, you have to think a whole lot while reading this book. If you’re just looking for a fun story that you can sit down and read, well, this isn’t it. As the story progresses, and more and more characters are added to the mix, the reader knows they’re all connected, but may struggle a bit to follow everything because the points of view jump from one to another often–leaving many “stories” with cliffhangers until the next time. While I love this style of narration, and Bick is a master at it, employing it in all her novels, this time I had to work extremely hard to keep the stories straight, and though I loved the twist and putting everything together, and my mind was racing with possibilities connecting Lizzie and her family to everyone else, this was more like homework than a pleasurable evening read. If you miss any of the finite details that produce a connection, then… you’re lost for quite some time. And so, reading this extremely long work of fiction became more of a chore than a leisurely activity.

I was really into the story until about 30%, when Emma enters the house. From here, I either missed something extremely crucial, or it just became too weird, but I stopped really enjoying the book at that point. Nothing made sense any more, and while I think that the point is to keep readers guessing, at nearly 600 pages, it’s just too much for too long–without making sense. Around 60%, Bick drops a bombshell that I wasn’t expecting–in fact, I thought just the opposite the entire time I was reading, but even so, it wasn’t enough to bring me back into the novel full circle. I think this is a great idea–I LOVE Matrix and the idea of Inkheart is extremely interesting, but this was just too long and drawn out. I know Bick’s novels are generally long, but this one could have definitely dropped about 300 pages, in my opinion.

Note: This is a horror story with some exceptionally horrific tales and twists, so readers should beware. While it doesn’t start out all that horrific, Bick definitely takes readers there with her descriptions of blood and gore as the novel proceed.  I actually liked that part, but the rest was just too dense.  Two and a half stars.

2.5 stars

Egmont USA has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read and ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on February 11, 2014.

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15947841From Goodreads: The Changed are on the move. The Spared are out of time. The End…is now.

When her parents died, Alex thought things couldn’t get much worse-until the doctors found the monster in her head.

She headed into the wilderness as a good-bye, to leave everything behind. But then the end of the world happened, and Alex took the first step down a treacherous road of betrayal and terror and death.

Now, with no hope of rescue-on the brink of starvation in a winter that just won’t quit-she discovers a new and horrifying truth.

The Change isn’t over.
The Changed are still evolving.
And…they’ve had help.

With this final volume of The Ashes Trilogy, Ilsa J. Bick delivers a riveting, blockbuster finish, returning readers to a brutal, post-apocalyptic world where no one is safe and hope is in short supply.

A world where, from these ashes, the monsters may rise.

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Bick jumps right into this final installment without giving any playback, so if you haven’t read the other books, you’ll be lost in this one. And if you haven’t read the other books recently, you’ll most likely need a refresher course because there are a ton of characters, and the story jumps back and forth between them all, leaving the reader on constant pins and needles as each change over happens on a cliffhanger.  To be truthful, Bick is the queen of cliffhangers—I haven’t read another author that does it so flawlessly and so often within his/her writing; it’s an art, really, and I admire Bick’s ability to write a story like this that leaves me yearning for more and more, freaking out at each mini cliffhanger within the chapters.  And guess what?  The ending, in my opinion, leaves the door wide open for a spinoff series if Bick so chooses, which I would love, cliffhangers and all.

The characterization is great, but I was a bit confused by some of the paranormal activity that takes place in this novel, which I either forgot about from the previous novels, or I just plain missed in this one. I don’t really understand Alex’s ability and the monster within her, but I’m going to chalk it up to reader error because, honestly, Bick has never lead me astray.  I’ve highly enjoyed all her novels, and this zombie apocalypse is a smash hit.

Overall, Monsters was one hell of a ride and a great end to the series, but just a little too long for my tastes. I, personally, would have gotten more joy out of it had it been pared down from nearly 700 pages to two separate books.  Instead of a trilogy, a four book series would have been superb and made reading this final installment that much easier.  Regardless, though, this was an epic end to the series, but readers beware, it’s basically a nonstop action ride, jumping from character to character with mini cliffhangers written in between the multiple points of view.  There isn’t much down time, though I’ll admit there was a little, so I came out of it extremely tense and my body hurt from it all because I just couldn’t let myself relax as I read, and 700 pages is a long time to be tense. But it’s so good, it was worth it.  Four stars.

4 stars

Egmont USA has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on September 10, 2013.



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