Cover Image: Wake the Bones

Wake the Bones

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Member Reviews

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’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.

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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DNFed; after reading a list of content warnings, I don’t think this book is for me. Of what I did read, though, the writing itself was lovely!
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*Arc provided by Netgalley and St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.*

Protagonist Laurel drops out of college and moves home to her small farm town to work a tobacco field and engage in her favorite hobby of taxidermy. Shortly after coming home the land starts to dry up and now Laurel is seeing her dead mom's ghost.

Originally, upon reading the description I thought this seemed strange, but had the potential to make for good horror. On second glace, the synopsis feels just as disjointed as the book. I found it incredibly difficult to get through as the characters were not very engaging and it seemed like things were being thrown in as last second ideas. This one wasn't for me at all unfortunately.
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Wake the Bones was one of the most interesting reads I've had this year, and I will definitely be recconending it to everyone.
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I would give this book 3 stars for the characters and the plot but add another start for the setting because it is so well done. I have lived in the county this book is set in or the one right next door that has the hospital that you would rather go to Cincy than go to since it is a good place to die (or at least so people in town say, I never needed either hospital thankfully). The creeks and valleys of the foothills and the farms stand out for themselves, and the sense of pride of place but also hopelessness is done beautifully. Now on to plot and characters. I liked the start and the buildup but some of the choices at the ending felt inconsistent and the ending felt rushed. The MC’s love interest felt flat, but I think that was somewhat the point and I was ok with the resolution of that arc. Mostly, I was let down by how rushed the ending felt and how it felt disconnected in parts from the earlier build-up. In conclusion, I would read more by this author, especially if set in rural Kentucky.
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I was drawn in quite quickly to this eerie gothic horror story set in a small town.
As a character Laurel is really unique and different to any other character I have read about before which I appreciated. She’s firmly entrenched in the realms of death, decay and plants. I found the parts about taxidermy fascinating. 

Set in Summer, this book has a very Southern gothic feel to it. The woods setting was incredibly creepy and has a slow, sweltering build up as more information is revealed about the dark presence in the woods. 

Some cons: I personally didn’t care too much for the other characters or the romance. The magic was also a bit difficult to follow at times. 

This is a dark read and as such expect it to have many trigger warnings such as death, suicide and abuse. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.
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I really tried to like this, and I did at first, but as the chapters continued, I found myself continuously frustrated with most of the characters, and while the plot is intriguing, I just can't finish it right now. 

I might try to resume this later, and I hope I get to finish it to figure out the ending, but ultimately it just wasn't for me.  I will say that the writing was quite engaging at times and that there were some genuinely creepy moments. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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When big city living doesn’t work for Laurel, she returns to her childhood home in Kentucky to way much more than expected!  
This story may start out a little slow, but it delivers an amazing ending! Wake the bones is Young Adult Southern Gothic Horror at its finest. I love the creepy and magical elements in this book. 
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys gothic, magic, and young adult novels. 
Thank you to St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to read Wake the Bones!
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