News for one of our fave authors… Ilsa J. Bick! Release dates, upcoming titles, and more!

Ilsa Bick

Photo from VonnaCarter.com, where Vonna posted about Bick’s visit to a local bookstore in 2011.

Seriously. We should just give Ilsa her own segment on AtLP since we adore her so much.

So to show our adoration, we’d like to share some exciting news about her new and upcoming books!

First off, I’m uber excited for the release of Monsters, the third and final book in the Ashes trilogy. And we finally have a release date! SEPTEMBER 10, 2013 IS THE DAY, PEOPLE! Mark your calendars! No cover art yet, but rest assured – as soon as we see it, we’ll make sure you do, too!

The Sin Eater's ConfessionNextly, Bick is known in the YA community for her very provocative writing. Along with the Ashes books, Draw the Dark and Drowning Instinct are powerful and thought-provoking novels. She has a way of delving deep into the minds of her characters and pulling out each and every intricate aspect of their true nature so we get a full understanding into the character’s personality. (And, if you’re reading the Ashes books, very often those minds end up splattered all over walls. But that’s neither here nor there.) Being a child psychologist, Bick has keen insight into the ins and outs of young minds, and uses that knowledge to create very real and well rounded  characters.

Expanding on her other stand-alone novels, on January 1 The Sin Eater’s Confession was released by Carolrhoda Lab (which is a publishing imprint known for putting out edgy and “boundary-pushing” novels). I can’t believe I didn’t know about this book until today!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

People in Merit, Wisconsin, always said Jimmy was . . . you know. But people said all sorts of stupid stuff. Nobody really knew anything. Nobody really knew Jimmy.

I guess you could say I knew Jimmy as well as anyone (which was not very well). I knew what scared him. And I knew he had dreams—even if I didn’t understand them. Even if he nearly ruined my life to pursue them.

Jimmy’s dead now, and I definitely know that better than anyone. I know about blood and bone and how bodies decompose. I know about shadows and stones and hatchets. I know what a last cry for help sounds like. I know what blood looks like on my own hands.

What I don’t know is if I can trust my own eyes. I don’t know who threw the stone. Who swung the hatchet? Who are the shadows? What do the living owe the dead?

I know nothing about this novel, except that it sounds good and I’m going to try to get my hands on a copy as soon as I can.

Lastly, next on tap for Bick after the Ashes trilogy is a two-book venture called Dark Passages. Book 1 will be titled White Space and it slated for release in 2014, followed by The Dickens Mirror (book 2 in the series, date undetermined). Both books will be published by Egmont.

The series is being pitched as “The Matrix meets Inkheart, about a seventeen-year-old girl who jumps between the lines of books and into the white space where realities are created and destroyed – but who may herself be nothing more than a character written into being from an alternative universe” (from Bick’s website). Bick said as of right now it is a two-book series, but could potentially stretch to a trilogy.

The only thing left to say is ROCK ON, ILSA!

Second Look: SHADOWS by Ilsa J. Bick

For all of us who read Ashes and were blown away/shocked/enraged/held in unrelenting suspense by the cliffhanger ending, I can happily say that Shadows provides some answers for us all. It provides many, many more questions as well, but it at least picks up where it left off and scratches the “OMG WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!” itch.

SPOILER WARNING: As my standard disclaimer when reviewing sequels will tell you, revealing details (including the ending) of a series’ previous installments is unavoidable. You’ve been warned!

The Story: As I previously said, Shadows finds us right where the end of Ashes left off. In the months following the EMP, things have gone from bad to worse. After leaving Rule, Alex finds herself alone in the wilderness and, having just stumbled upon a ritual ground for the Changed (also known as “Chuckies”), is facing down some bad ass characters. What’s scarier, the Changed/Chuckies are evolving into something more advanced, the Spared are continually being being picked off, and others have simply gone bat-crap crazy. Ruthless bounty hunters are rounding up the Spared in exchange for supplies, and characters we thought we could trust are revealed to be loathsome traitors. And now people are discovering that the Change might not be over yet, and those that were Spared might not stay that way for long.

The Low Down:  This is an extremely hard book to review without giving away any spoilers because it has so much going on. I’d love to tell you that Tom comes riding in on a white horse, saves Alex from a horrendous Chucky-attack, and they live safely and happily with Ellie far from cannibalizing heathens. But I’d be lying if I said that.

The first thing I have to say about Shadows? RE-READ ASHES BEFORE YOU START! Or at least flip through the last few chapters. Or, better yet, go to Bick’s website, where she provides readers with a fantastic refresher. It is super important to have Ashes firm in your memory before reading Shadows. It picks up right where Ashes left off (literally. EXACTLY where it left off) without a recap or summary of the events in the previous book. Things slowly came back to me as I read the book, but I still found myself very confused in the beginning in regards to all the characters and where they left off. Trust me on this one, guys. Save yourself the trouble and read Bick’s recap.

Nextly, (today’s Made-Up-Word-of-the-Day) the gore factor is sky high in this one, folks. Be warned, oh squeamish ones. Shadows is not for the faint of, well, stomach. There’s some serious Stephen King-esque shizzle going down here. It’s been a little less than a year since I’ve read Ashes, but I’m almost certain that Ashes was not quite as gory as Shadows.

And now for the story itself. All the main characters are separated, so the chapters are told in alternating POV’s, which can add to the confusion. In the first half of Shadows, we read about Character A for a chapter, then Character B, then C, then A, then two chapters of B, three of A, one of C, and so on. (Could you follow that? Because I couldn’t either.) In the second half, the chapters still alternate, but are more consistent. I think this has both a positive and negative impact on the book. On the good side, it definitely keeps the reader invested in the story and the characters. When the chapter cuts off, you can’t wait to get through the next one so you can find out what happened. It definitely makes the pages turn quickly. However, on the other hand, it also makes things a little choppy in terms of keeping track of what is going on with each character.

We also didn’t get any more answers as to how/why any of this is happening. I realize the focus is on the after-effects of the EMP, not the cause. But Ashes introduced us to lots of mysteries and gave us nuggets of information to help solve them. There was lots of speculation as to why people changed after the EMP and who was developing super senses and why. These mysteries weren’t even discussed in Shadows, which I found disappointing because that was part of the draw for me. However, it does have it’s fair share of revealing “OMG! HOLY CRAP!” moments, which made up for the disappointment I initially felt.

One quality that never changes is Bick’s writing. It’s not just that the woman can write a good story, but the fact that she can do it so gosh darn well. Phrases like, “her thoughts were like wet watermelon seeds that kept slipping between her fingers no matter how hard she tried to hang on” and “this was a bubble in time that was no more than a gasp and as fragile as the thinnest, most perfect glass” are not just descriptive, but are beautifully crafted. Bick’s writing style is elegant and lyrical without coming off as boring or pretentious, and instead leaves the reader hanging on every word.

Extra Goodies

  • As I mentioned above, Ilsa Bick is awesome and has a link on her website titled “So You Read ASHES a Year Ago…” which give us a rundown of what you may have forgotten about Ashes. Wasn’t that nice of her?
  • Also on Bick’s website is a blog post in which she talks about why she ended both Ashes and Shadows the way she did. It’s pretty interesting, and I was eager to see what she was referring to when she discussed the ending of Shadows. (Read the post, you’ll get what I mean.)

Readability: Shadows is evenly paced and the chapter cliffhangers encourage readers to race through it. However, the writing is a little complex for young and/or reluctant readers. Like Ashes, Shadows is definitely recommended for stronger readers, both in terms of content and readability.

Content: Language is moderate (a random f-bomb or two, and a smattering of other lighter obscenities), a scene or two alluding to sex and sexual acts, and off-the-charts violence and gore.

Bottom Line: The addition of more characters and alternating chapters make Shadows a bit difficult to follow, and without a recap of Ashes, readers should refresh their memories of the first installment before reading the sequel. Though still action packed and suspenseful, Shadows seemed to fall victim to the Curse of the Sequel. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it or won’t read book 3 (titled Monsters, to be released in 2013). It’s still an engrossing, groundbreaking series, but I wasn’t as enamored with Shadows as I was with the first book in the Ashes Trilogy.

OFFICIAL RATING: 7/10

Because we didn’t get enough cannibalism in Book 1… News for the Ashes trilogy!

Ok, I exaggerated a teeny, tiny bit. It’s not BIG news. But I do have book titles and a release date for the upcoming books!

Book 2 in the Ashes trilogy by Ilsa Bick will be called SHADOWS, and is tentatively set for release on September 11, 2012. Book 3 will be titled MONSTERS, and doesn’t have a specific release date yet, but one can assume it will most likely be as some point in 2013. No cover art for either book yet, but when it’s released, you’ll be the first ones I tell.

Ashes is a dystopian/apocalyptic survival story about 17-year-old Alex, who is dying of a severe brain tumor. The tumor has taken her sense of smell (and therefore, her sense of taste) and is starting to take her hearing, too. While hiking out in the woods alone, she survives an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) which either kills you, leaves you alone, or turns you into a flesh craving, cannibalistic zombie. As she travels with people she meets along the way to try to find help, she discovers that not only has her sense of smell returned, but it’s suddenly heightened to superhero-like levels. She must use this new “power” to help her survive among The Changed (aka. The Flesh Eaters) and everyone else who survived the EMP.

With a ridiculously amazing cliffhanger ending, it’s will leave you hungry for book 2. Check out AtLP’s official review here.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! To celebrate the release of her new book Drowning Instinct, she’s offering a giveaway for a signed copy of the book! Pop over to her website for deets. You can enter through February 8.

Random Facts about Ilsa J. Bick (impress your friends with all this newfound knowledge!)

    • Was an English major in College
    • She is a child psychologist.
    • She’s a former Air Force Major.
    • Wrote Star Trek novels
    • Won second prize in the Writers of the Future Contest in 2000.

Second Look: Ilsa J. Bick’s ASHES (2011)

I have to admit, when I first found out this was going to be a trilogy, I wasn’t pleased.  I’m so over series.  But after finishing it this afternoon, I cannot wait for book 2 to come out!  That being said, the review (and subsequent squealing).

The Basics
ASHES (Ashes Trilogy, BK1)
Ilsa J. Bick
September 2011, Egmont USA, Hardcover

The Lowdown
It’s the end of the world as we know it.  While on a spontaneous camping trip to say good-bye to her dead parents, several EMP (electromagnetic pulses) go off and destroy all electronic devices.  Alex must find a way to survive, with 7 year old Ellie, and find help. 

That’s not the worst of it, though.  On their way down from the Mountain, they run into The Changed – kids and young adults who have become animalistic versions of themselves after The Zap (as Alex calls it). 

It’s Into the Wild meets Hunger Games (though I’ve not read either, so I’m just assuming the comparison works). 

And since I hate writing summaries of books – I’ll end there and tell you why you should read it.

Reasons Why You Should Go and Read This Book
Bick is an awesome writer.  This isn’t normally my genre to read, but I couldn’t put it down.  Her writing is smooth and fluid.  I was so into the book within the first few pages and I found myself not wanting to do anything other than find out what happens next. 

The storyline’s pretty unique. For all the apocolyptic fiction out there, this is an interesting take.  It’s sort of like nuclear fallout with zombies – I will admit that.  But Alex is a strong character and drives the story forward.  With all the technology we use today, it’s interesting to think what we would do when we couldn’t just get on a cell phone and call home.

Cliffhanger! Bick ends almost every chapter with a cliffhanger.  The worst, though, is the cliffhanger on the last page – I want to pick up the next book so badly!  Like I said earlier, I wasn’t totally sold on reading the other books in the series, but now I know I’ll get the second.

Romance? Shomance.  There’s two blooming romances for Alex, though one doesn’t develop until well into the book.  The second Alex fights, but by the end of the book I found myself rooting for this kid.  I’m a hopeless romantic, though.  So if you’re not into romancy-things, that’s OK because the book really doesn’t focus on it, like at all.

There’s a cult – who doesn’t like a good cult? Rule – the main “city” of the book is quite the cult.  Alex rails against this but then finds herself becoming “one of them” only to be pushed into trying to escape.  I won’t give away more because this is what really leads to the cliffhanger ending and the OMG-I-CANNOT-WAIT-FOR-BOOK-TWO!  Let’s just say, it involves a very tricky trickster.

Star Rating: 8.5/10]

If you’ve read this – PLEASE COMMENT! I’m dying to talk about it.