As you have most likely come to realize if you have been reading my reviews for any length of time, I can be quite harsh on books. Some people have even asked me why I continue to read and review books if I find it so hard to like them. The answer is simple really. I do it for the "gems", the ones that come along and surprise you with their awesomeness.
Ashes is one such book.
Let me be honest...I expected to really NOT like this book. One of the few reasons I actually picked it was because I was new to book blogging at the time and I was trying to get a handle on NetGalley. Egmont USA was one of the few publishers that didn't require you to request a title for review, you could just click Read Now...and so I did. I grabbed a bunch of their titles, not really being familiar with their company, and hoped I could work myself into getting accepted for better books that way. I had little to no expectations for these books.
Boy was I wrong!
Ashes was brilliant! Let me just say that right now. If you haven't read it I suggest you rush out now (well tomorrow when it is officially released) and pick up this book and devour it!
The first thing that impressed me about Ashes was how the reader is immediately immersed in the story. There is no long drawn out description of the setting, the weather, the house, whatever...you are thrown into the middle of a heated telephone conversation that tells you everything you need to know....the main character is terminally ill and obviously fed up with her never-ending treatments, her parents are dead and she has taken off from her aunt's place where she is now staying so she can have a much needed mental health break. This is all explained to the reader through realistic dialogue the engages the reader instead of boring them to death with lines and lines of poorly written back story. And the last line of the first chapter leaves you haunted and dying to know what happens next.
"They never spoke to one another again."
I love the author's amazingly descriptive vocabulary. She is never afraid to hold back and describes everything like it is.
"Hadn't done the woman any good either, judging from the way her guts boiled out in a dusky, desiccated tangle, like limp spaghetti."
I love her for that! A few times I stopped and asked myself if this amount of gore was appropriate for the YA genre, but Hell, I was reading Stephen King during my "YA" years because books like this weren't really available for us. And I don't have any serious mental problems...I think...
I loved the short chapters that were just long enough to not be ridiculous, but weren't too long to bore you. Sometimes people like to read in bursts and often people feel they have to finish at the end of a chapter. Ashes gives you lots of opportunities to do so. That is just something I always appreciate in a book.
As an animal lover I always enjoy when animals are added to a story, and not just for shock value so you can kill them off. I hate nothing more than an author who throws in a family dog just to kill them off because that way they can get some shock value without hurting an actual person. Well newsflash! Sometimes people bond closer with animals, especially dogs, than they do with the characters themselves, and just sometimes killing off those animals pointlessly really irritates the readers. Can you tell I really hate when authors do that? Luckily Ms. Bick isn't THAT kind of writer. The animals in Ashes play a specific role and they burden a nice portion of the story on their furry little shoulders. I love that! Some of the animals in this book are as important as the main characters and you develop a bond with them so strong you hurt when they hurt, just as much as you do (if not more) when something happens to the main characters.
The story houses some great mysterious qualities that you feel compelled to search out. Nothing is right out in the open and people are very guarded with their motives and emotions. It keeps the readers guessing and invested in the story. I can't wait to read the other two books in the trilogy so I can finally learn just what the Hell is going on!
Some minor things that did bother me about Ashes were the endings of a few chapters that were meant to be foreshadowing, but after a while just got irritating. Always something along the lines "later she would wonder if things might have turned out differently if she hadn't just..." It was a little repetitive and just seemed forced at times.
Also, the ending really pissed me off. It made me so mad I swore out loud. My boyfriend looked at me like I was about to murder him. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a horrible ending...the problem was that I was unaware it was meant to be the first book in a trilogy, and if I had of known in advance I would have expected some type of cliffhanger. This one smacked me in the face so hard I was left in shock, mostly because it was unexpected, and also because the story was moving so fast at this point and I was just waiting to get to the end, to find out things, and then boom, no more. I think I almost cried. I even called out the poor author on Twitter...to which she responded very kindly. I love authors like that who interact back with their readers...it eased the blow...a little...that and I made her promise to send me the next book (Shadows) as soon as it was available...
...and so I wait...