Cover Image: Wake the Bones

Wake the Bones

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Member Reviews

DNF at 29%. I tried and tried and TRIED but I just couldn’t get into the book, or bring myself to care about what happens.
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Animal carcasses, bones, and death don’t scare Laurel — she knows the wild woods and cultivated fields of her ancestral land like the back of her dirt-stained hands. But when Laurel and her friends Ricky, Isaac, and Garrett encounter unexplainable gruesome corpses and old bones moving around seemingly of their own accord, the summer’s routine of farmwork is shattered by their fear. Though unsure what she wants for her future, Laurel is determined to protect her home and loved ones at all costs…even as it becomes clear that she’s up against something much more sinister than any natural force.

You know how every so often when you pick up a book, read the first page or two, and immediately know you’re going to love it? “Wake the Bones” is one of those rare, beautiful books for me and I loved it more the more I read. From the first sentence, I was immediately arrested by Kilcoyne’s writing style — the imagery is lush and palpable, the characters alive and complex, and the blend of modern reality and gothic mysticism somehow feels effortlessly visceral. While the narrative focuses on the supernatural mysteries and dangers plaguing Laurel and her home, underlying themes such as death, grief, prejudice, love, and loss are also explored. Throughout the story, horror elements and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night are used to draw out character’s depths in an artful and expertly crafted way. I truly loved everything about “Wake the Bones”; it’s a stunning debut novel and I cannot wait to see what Kilcoyne writes next.
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I have been sitting on this really wondering how I feel about this, and I remain conflicted. The writing in this is stunning - Kilcoyne has this flowery writing style that I absolutely adore. There are sentences throughout the novel that really sound like poetry. The relationships between all the characters in the novel are romanticized and feel dreamlike due to this style, not to mention how the gothic horrory elements feel. There were moments where the atmosphere completely spooked me, and it is definitely an attest to this style of writing. However, besides the writing style and gothic atmosphere, there is quite little else that I enjoyed. I think the plot of the novel was fairly boring and I believe this is due to the fact that the magic system of the novel is not fully explained in a way that made sense to me. I really wanted to enjoy this and I just wasn't invested in it.
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This atmospheric and grotesque debut novel is bound to make your skin crawl - and it's so worth it! I'm honestly not sure what I expected when I requested this on NetGalley, but I was pleasantly surprised as I started thumbing through the pages.

The writing of this book is so descriptive and masterfully done. There were times when I could feel what the characters were feeling; the smell of must and rot from the woods the sticky feeling of congealed blood on your fingertips, the monochrome wash of nature in the night. 

The characters were all very different and fleshed out. Laurel, the main character, is a curator of odd hobbies - mainly taxidermy. The scene is set with her collecting and cleaning bones, along with her innate sense of connection to that past lives of the bones she handles. I think her fixation on death is a reflection of her own grief and loneliness, after losing her mother as an infant and only having her uncle to raise her and being a social outcast due to demonic rumours surrounding her mother's death 

Other characters include Isaac, her close friend. Garrett, Isaac's forbidden love interest. Ricky, her love interest. Jay, her skeptical uncle. Each has different impacts on the story, but mainly they act as a source of comfort, protection and fear as they help Laurel deal with the "devil". The only other female character is Christine, a weird and underused, as she is pivotal for Laurel to start understanding her inner power.

This book deals with a lot of tough topics, including death, grief, loneliness, alcoholism, queer identities in the deep south and mental illness. The imagery attached to each is artistic and well done. Twisted into magical realism, it brought an inanimate condition to life in the shadows of the woods, making it more of a representation of overcoming another being rather than overcoming something inside oneself.

This is such a great introduction to Young Adult horror. Though horror always has grotesque elements to it, this is written in such a way that the subject matter is palpable, but not so severe to give younger readers nightmares. Intimate interactions are all kept above board and fairly decent, which makes it better for youth.
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This book is gritty, that’s the best word for it. It was part horror, part fantasy and I couldn’t put it down. It was so different from anything I’ve read before, the pacing was great, and so was the story. I loved the characters and I was genuinely spooked for some of this book!
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This book interested me because of the eerie factor. 

It did not disappoint! The mix of fantasy and horror was perfect. 

This wasn’t my usual type of book, but I found I liked it.
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Thanks to the publisher for an eARC via NetGalley for review. 

CWs: animal death, death, violence, gore, abusive parent (mention of bruises, on-page scene with a slap), minor homophobia

This was a really interesting read. I liked the premise a lot, and I think the author did a good job of capturing the setting. I felt like I was on the tobacco farm with the characters in the heat of the summer. I found that the writing style was hard to get into at times, but other times it flowed really easily and I got completely sucked into the story. 
Laurel was a good character, but I felt like we didn’t really get super deep into her character. I liked the idea of the magic in this book, and also Laurel’s dreams about her mom. I also thought it was really interesting how her mom was able to be seen and heard by all of the characters. I liked Laurel’s relationships with Isaac, Ricky and Garrett. 
Christine was a really fascinating character. I liked how she was an outsider to our other characters, but she played an important role in the story. 
Isaac was also a good character. I liked that we got to see the push and pull of his relationship with Garrett and his desire to get away from this small town and his abusive dad. 
I thought the pacing was good in this one, and it had some intense and scary moments. It was a good summer horror.
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“I CAN MAKE IT WORK HERE AT HOME. I KNOW WHAT TO DO. I’LL BLOOM WHERE I’M PLANTED.”
Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne is a book that—on first glance— is outside the norm of what I normally find myself reading. Elizabeth Kilcoyne incorporates all the right elements for a story that had my attention from the first page: magic, darker elements, a small town, and a legacy that our main character is tied to.  I found myself easily swept away by the incredibly descriptive prose and the intriguing plot that has been injected with seemingly indescribable magic.

Laurel Early knows death. She’s been surrounded by it for her years, ever since her mother’s tragic death years earlier when Laurel was a small child on her family’s farm. She has a special affinity for the bones she finds on the family farm. As a taxidermist, Laurel takes the tragedy out of death and creates something beautiful from it instead.

Left to be raised by her uncle, Laurel has carved out an existence in a small Kentucky farming town called Dry Valley that feels as desperate as the seasonal need for a good summer crop yield. Her best friend, Isaac has been biding his time until he too can escape the monotony of their town permanently. Whereas brothers Garrett and Ricky are both equally drawn to the land and area where they were born—and Isaac and Laurel, respectively. While Isaac refuses to allow himself to think of a future with Garrett, Ricky seems perfectly content for Laurel to come to the realization that he’s been steadfastly by her side since they were children.

“LAUREL PLAYED WITH DEATH EVERY DAY. SHE KNEW IT’S CALLING CARDS. THIS CREATURE DEFIED EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM.”
Laurel’s small group of friends is both inclusive and secretive. Progressive relationships don’t fare well in small close-minded town and those fierce sparks of “other” also get easily squashed by the status quo. It’s no surprise that she and her closest friends all hold their own secrets close to their chests. That is until Laurel’s abrupt return from college brings everyone’s secrets to light. But all these secrets seem trivial when faced with death that walks on sun-bleached bones and rotting sinews.  It’s after a bone-chilling incident on the farm leads Laurel and her friends to town eccentric, Christine, who helps them discover there is more to the death of Laurel’s mother than anyone is aware.

I honestly had no idea what to expect while reading Wake the Bones, but I am not disappointed in the least. Equal parts horror, thriller, magical fantasy, and college-aged romance, Wake the Bones is dark and gritty but also hopeful. It embodies the ancient seasonal changes—death to rebirth— in a fresh and unique way. I’m reluctant to give any more details because I don’t want to spoil the riveting ending to the story.

“THE STORIES WERE PROOF: BODIES WERE MEANT TO SURVIVE, OR NO ONE WOULD HAVE SETTLED IN THE SOUTH.”
I applaud author Elizabeth Kilcoyne for including trigger warnings as she absolutely does not shy away from hard themes surrounding death. Wake the Bones is a heavy story, filled with grief but it’s also filled with yearning for a better and brighter future. I am absolutely charmed and I believe that other readers will be as well. There is so much included in this debut novel that I loved that I guarantee that if you take a chance on this novel you’ll absolutely love it too.
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This book is haunting and delicious. It reminds me of the same atmosphere as Horrid by Katrina Leno, or House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland. The writing is so atmospheric that it transports you, and I loved every second of it.
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As someone who grew up in the rural Midwest, I was immediately immersed in this book and its representation of that experience. While I didn't come from a farming family, I recognized so much of my youth in the setting of this book. Kilcoyne captures the tension of loving a place while feeling that it is dangerous for you to be there perfectly. Recommend this for older teens or new adult readers who enjoy supernatural horror.
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In Dry Valley, Kentucky Laurel loses her mother.  Her mother dies in their old well.  Her mother had strange gifts but Laurel thinks they we’re better than her gift of being able to read “death stories” from the bones.  She goes to live with her aunt as now both parents are gone.  When she and best friends discover a ghastly scene by the reopened well, it the start of dangerous happenings.  Something’s has gone rotten on the farm and the suicide of her mother cast a shadow over Laurel.  The magic travels through the woods and the town’s whispers, the long hidden secrets are exposed.  Sadly it isn’t friendly magic as it allows Laurel’s discarded bones turn itself into a murderous night-stalking monster.   In this story her four childhood friends are another problem as they need to deal with the barriers of adulthood.  Laurel doesn’t want to admit to her friends that she dropped out of college.  Why doesn’t she want them to know?  Issac wants to leave Dry Valley to get away from his abusive father and live his life with his boyfriend.  

This novel is horror but also a coming-of-age story. It’s a great story as far as I am concerned because I did like the horror in it but also that the teens were treated respectfully not as “dumb kids.”  All of character still love and respect each other after all that they have gone through.  The characters become a family that will stay a family even if they live in different locations.  The novel ends with hope not diepresion.
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Personally, I didn’t love this book. It has some great elements: a summery horror atmosphere, a swampy farmland setting, and relatively quirky characters with their own relationship dynamics. It just didn’t all come together the way that I wanted it to. However, I truly do think that it was more of a “me” thing and not the fault of the book.
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3.5*? 3.75? 4?? I'm struggling a bit with how to review this book because I'm not sure I can adequately rate its quality. I enjoyed many elements of the story, but the horror elements were a bit much for me, and that likely colored my overall experience. What is even more confusing is that I would like to read more stories about Laurel and Isaac and Ricky and Garrett and Christine and Jay and Anna. I really liked the characters quite a lot. Maybe I'm a bit too squeamish for books like this.
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Something in this was lacking and I did have somewhat of higher hopes in it. I feel like it took me forever to get through it too, I just did not want to pick it up!  Laurel is a taxidermist on a farm and weird things start to happen around town. Soon, a devil pays her a visit and things get even more weird with ghosts and bones coming alive. 

I found this a little slow despite what it tried to be. I never really got any gothic vibes. the way it was written gave me reality TV romances with horror elements. I’m not even sure if that makes sense/ this did remind me a little bit of What We Harvest by Ann Fraistat and T. Kingfisher but not even close to as good. It also took a little halfway for things to actually happen which is a shame because it could’ve been interesting. 

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced copy of this book.
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Not too gory or too scary, but definitely creepy and dark — this book didn’t have me feeling afraid, but it did have me eagerly reading to find out what would happen to each of the characters. 

From reading other reviews, it seems that people either love or hate the prose of Kilcoyne’s descriptions. I’m on the yea side: she evoked the South, or what I know of it, quite well and I could easily envision the tobacco fields, the loose jeans, the intense weather and of course, all of the wild woods that hold much of the story.

The plot moves quickly, for as dark and twisty as it is. It’s not long before you, the reader, are embroiled in the spooky mysteries of the Early farm. The characters are just as moody as the setting.

With the various complexities and tough knots of this story — abuse, abandonment — I am surprised that it’s considered a YA book. I think a lot of young adults could handle it, to be clear (and a lot of young adults are also dealing with what these characters are carrying) but I wouldn’t want to pass this over to a younger teen or pre-teen without a good idea of the content warnings.

 An unsettling book that will keep you page-turning nonetheless.
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First my thanks to the publisher and Elizabeth Kilcoyne for the NetGalley eARC of "Wake the Bones", published July 12th, although this review comes August 1st. I apologize for the delay.

I have a weakness for the mixing of magic and plants, a while back I read the The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest in it is "Joshua Tree" by Emma Bull that sense of desert and green magic is very like "Wake the Bones". It's not something I have read often but am always eager to see more of in fiction.

"Wake the Bones" is a loving study in description of nature while telling a tragic story in Laurel Early and get family and friends, a college dropout coming home to her uncle Jay who's farm is haunted by her mother (once the town witch) and grandparents too quick deaths. Her friend and almost brother Isaac Graves, who's single alcoholic father beats him - who's secretly gay in their small town. And the Mobley brothers, Ricky and Garrett who've entangled their lives and hopes for the future.

When ghosts and devils come to Laurel Early first in visions and then in fact she finds she has magic and with help from the loner and local psychic Christine Maynard, there may be a way to save the people and farm she loves.
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A great atmospheric novel filled with the macabre and dread, definitely a good read. I wish we'd gotten a little more information on what the supernatural element was, the narrative felt a little bit disjointed, and the characters a little flat. But it was well worth the read.
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Thank you Netgalley for the advance reader copy of Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne in exchange for an honest review. This book was amazing. It took me a bit to get into it, but once I did I couldn't stop. I had to find out what happened with Laurel, Issac, Ricky and Garrett. I loved this story of love, tobacco fields, death, heartbreak, and the devil. I grew to care about the characters and my life became fuzzy as I raced to the end to see if they all survived.
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I really enjoyed this book. As an Appalachian horror fan this ticked all my boxes! Readers who grew up being told "If you see something in the woods at night no you didn't" will feel especially affirmed.
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Thanks to Netgalley for letting me read the e-arc of this beautifully haunting book.

The amount of detail put into descriptions made the story so rich and unsettling and I loved that so much that it is very hard to compile everything into words. But the main point is that it is worth all the praise it's been given and I'm so thankful I read it.
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