Cover Image: Someone You Can Build a Nest In

Someone You Can Build a Nest In

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Member Reviews

Cross-cultural relationships rely on clear communication and not making assumptions. Shesheshen, a blob monster, learns this when she realizes her new human girlfriend, Homily, doesn’t consider laying your eggs in your partner so they may be eaten alive by your young…to be the logical goal of dating.

Somehow, as a reader, I’m with Shesheshen on this. Infest me, Mommy.

This is definitely a pick for queer readers with family trauma. Despite this book being about a ravenous blob-monster on the run, so much of the real drama and interest is about Homily’s ruthless family, and how they have left scars on her past.

It’s also a rather asexual romance, where the asexuality is not a point of tension, which I really appreciate.

Somehow, I found this book almost cozy. The horror definitely comes through in the end, but I was so much more invested in Homily and Shesheshen’s romance and latching onto their every scrap of domestic bliss. I loved the end, and felt quite satisfied. There doesn’t need to be more. It’s just…nice. Very nice.

Advanced reader copy provided by the publisher.

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The perfect book for an old fairy tale feel. As someone who is not big into romance, this book is just enough that the love story doesn't overshadow the whole story. It is just enough to drive the plot without being overbearing. I will recommend this book to any and all looking for a quick, fun read, that doesn't mind a bit of darkness.

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Thank you DAW and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an e-arc of Someone You Can Build a Nest In by John Wiswell.
There is virtually no way to concisely describe this novel. With elements of horror, romance, humor, fantasy, action and family drama, there is something for every reader to latch on to. And just like the nest Shesheshen fantasizes about (both past and potentially future) the book wraps you in a warm, nurturing albeit sometimes gory hug from start to finish.

While our MC is a monster, one can argue she may be one of the more human characters in the story. Her inner thoughts highlight a range of emotions that show Shesheshen as more than just the ravenous beast the townsfolk fear. She is smart, she is cunning and resourceful, and while solitary in nature, she looks for connection with the first person who show her kindness. Her burgeoning relationship with Homily, while at the center of the story, is also the platform for Shesheshen’s growth. I was rooting for her, and them, through the entire book, even throughout the gruesome bits. And any book that includes such an awesome pet/mascot/ gatekeeper as Blueberry deserves 5 stars. 5/5 star read

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Cozy fantasy horror sapphic monster romance? Count me in!
I loved everything about this. The characters are amazing the worldbuilding is just right for a book of this size.
Theres a good balance between cozy romance and plot, sprinkle in a bit of a mystery and some body horror and you get this gem of a book.
There also was amazing ace rep which is so hard to find.

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This book was wild, engaging, and original. It's terrifying, in ways, but also beautiful. I love that it's written from the perspective of a monster who's just trying to exist and, though villified, has heart.

It's hard to categorize the book, part horror, part fantasy, and part romance. I thoroughly enjoyed my read.

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I love the combination of horror, romance, and fantasy in this! Completely up my alley. I've read short stories from John Wiswell before and was really excited to see a full length debut novel. I loved the characters in this, I loved how creative the premise is. Thank you for the opportunity for this advanced reading copy, I'll definitely recommend this to friends and book clubs I'm in.

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Someone You Can Build a Nest In by John Wiswell – Review

Equal parts disarming and charming, Someone You Can Build a Nest In is one of the most original works of speculative fiction that I’ve read in a long time.

Shesheshen is a monster, the wyrm of the Isthmus, a formless blob-like creature whose infamy has helped her craft a life of blessed solitude. Feasting on flesh and absorbing the bones of her victims to take any physical form she desires, Shesheshen’s got a pretty sweet gig. If only those pesky humans would stop trying to hunt and kill her! When Shesheshen infiltrates a monster-hunting family, she finds herself falling for Homily, the black sheep of the family…and a human!

A delightfully strange blend of horror and romance, Someone You Can Build a Nest In is about revenge, void creatures, and what it really means to love someone. Some heavy topics are discussed, including child abuse and self-harm, but Wiswell handles these with care and respect. Tonally, this story has quite a cozy vibe – which is a real feat, given how objectively horrific the subject matter is. The protagonist is a blob monster who eats people, her love interest is in an abusive relationship with her family, and the world’s socio-economic system is deeply exploitative. Wiswell doesn’t shy away from the violence, desperation, and psychological impacts of these circumstances, but the matter-of-fact presentation ensures they don't feel gratuitous or voyeuristic.

Shesheshen’s is a fantastic narrator, with a dry wit and a rather unique perspective on humanity. Her observations about everything from the “big issues” like the hypocrisy of human violence to the challenges of small-talk were poignant and clever. I understand why Homily found Shesheshen so funny – I found myself laughing out loud several times myself! She’s also surprisingly earnest and sweet, at least when it comes to her beloved pet bear (yeah, you read that right) Blueberry and her girlfriend. Don’t let that fool you though: Shesheshen is also angry, prone to violence, and starving. Some people just need to be eaten, you know?

While most of the plot was pretty predictable and well-telegraphed, there was one major twist that took me by complete surprise. I appreciate that Wiswell puts some juice into the plot, because the predictability of my previous forays into “cozy” books made them…well, kind of boring. Someone You Can Build a Nest In is most certainly not boring! The “magic system” is essentially non-existent, but this makes sense given how isolated Shesheshen is from other beasties. I was happy enough to accept that she knows nothing (sometimes less than nothing), although, as always, I would’ve loved more lore.

I would happily read another story from this universe, but even if Wiswell never revists the Isthmus, he’s made me a fan! Add Someone You Can Build a Nest In to your TBRs and keep an eye out for whatever he’s working on next. I, for one, can’t wait.

Highly recommended.

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This is really hard to say, but I read this book on and off for almost 3 months before giving up at ~40%. I was so stoked to be reading this early... The very idea of reading a book from the perspective of the monster seemed so great, and the first few chapters were great, but then it just .. trailed off. ;( I think I might pick this up at a later time again.

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What a delicious cozy queer monster romance. I feel like plenty of books have taken the queer subtext of BEING the monster and made it text, but John Wiswell did an amazing job of making it clear just how monstrous we can become, as well as those who seek to keep up contained and hidden.

Our two romantic stars, the monster Shesheshen and Homily were both fully fleshed out characters (most of the time for Shesheshen given her monstrosity - ha) even with the quick pacing and the romance.

As a mother, I thought the book also had interesting and complicated things to say about motherhood and how it works - what you give up, what you claim and what you fight for as a mother - good or bad. I cannot wait to encourage a few other friends to read this so we can talk about it!

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For all my queer fantasy romance lovers, this is something that you will definitely want to sink your teeth into! The book is told from the viewpoint of the shapeshifting creature Shesheshen and they do not disappoint with their development from "monster" to something all together quite human in response to their relationship with the human Homily. And while the novel is in turns gore ridden and darkly humorous, I would contend that the overall message focuses on familial trauma and the complicated nature of healing from it and it does it with aplomb. This isn't a steamy romance, as it focuses most on the developing feelings of the main characters more than the physical, but it is rewarding nonetheless.

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Being a monster is hard. Everyone runs away screaming when they see you or, even worse, keeps trying to murder you when all you're doing is minding your business and looking for someone to start a family with. But what happens when you fall in love with one of those people interested in killing the monster? Meet Someone You Can Build a Nest In by John Wiswell, a delightful Fantasy Romance which will answer those questions. It also has a stunning cover! Thanks to DAW and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monsters; we love to be scared of them. I recently taught a university module on monstrosity and Otherness in medieval literature and one of the theoretical frameworks I discussed with my students were the seven theses of monstrosity, as proposed by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. He suggested that we can explore societies and cultures through the monsters they create, because our monsters reveal a lot! His first thesis, for example, speaks of the monster's body and how it is a cultural body, across which social issues are explored. Think of the body of Medusa, from Greek mythology, for example, and how her monstrous body is a consequence of a sexual assault. Another thesis speaks of how the monster always returns, which we can see through the figure of the vampire, which returns again and again to popular culture to explore concerns about immigration (in Bram Stoker's Dracula), homosexuality (Ann Rice's novels) and teen romance from a Mormon perspective (see Twilight, which also responds to another thesis of Cohen's, about how we desire the monster as much as we are afraid of it). I really like Cohen's approach to monstrosity and while reading Someone You Can Build a Nest In I kept thinking of how interestingly Shesheshen fits to some of these theses and how she, as a monster, reveals cultural anxieties. From her shapeshifting abilities, her desire for home and belonging, and her dangerous sexuality (in the sense that her offspring devours her partner), I think Wiswell explores some very interesting things through Shesheshen. Most importantly, however, to me at least, is also how Wiswell asks us to identify with the monster, to question who truly is wrong, and whether those who are different couldn't just happily live alongside us, if some people would just stop screaming 'Monster!'.

Shesheshen is rudely awoken one morning by intruders in her lair. She had been enjoying her hibernation but now she has to get up, arrange her limbs, and deal with a threat. Recovering from her injuries, she has the delightful misfortune of meeting Homily, a human who is much warmer and kinder than Shesheshen has come to expect from the species. Kindness turns to love and now Shesheshen finds herself in front of a difficult choice: assist Homily in hunting herself down or walking away from the one person she could consider starting a family with. I fully enjoyed Someone You Can Build a Nest In from page 1. Shesheshen is a great main character, in part because she is utterly confused about human interaction. I loved the bluntness of some of her statements, how she would just say what she did or did not want and how this led to some very honest communicating. Homily is also a great character, both gentle and sharp, both wounded and determined. The world in which the story takes place is also built up quite nicely, with enough info to make it distinct but not so explicit that it overwhelms the story. In a way, Someone You Can Build a Nest In is a very simple novel, in the sense that its basic storyline is not complex. Yet what Wiswell does with it is excellent, leading to this book being both delightfully but innovatively romantic and a solid Fantasy romp with villains you can hate and heroic monsters you can adore.

This is my first book by John Wiswell, but I'm definitely down for reading more by him! When I began Someone You Can Build a Nest In, I had expected something a bit harsher and more horror-focused, but the tone of the novel is that of a delightful fairy tale. There definitely is body horror and violence in this book and Wiswell also very explicitly deals with abuse and trauma. However, the focus there isn't on shock but rather on tenderly exploring something painful with someone you trust. In that sense, I found the way Wiswell approached the romance in this book enlightening. Shesheshen and Homily are consistently discussing their boundaries, consent, their desires, etc. without it feeling forced or unnatural. While the Romance genre has definitely learned that consent is sexy, it is always good to see authors exploring different ways of presenting it, especially in LGBTQIA+ contexts as well. The same is true for the trauma discussions, which are handled with care. And on top of all of that, this book is funny! I highlighted plenty of phrases that made me laugh and I can see myself rereading this when Halloween and the dark time of the year comes around.

I really enjoyed reading Someone You Can Build a Nest In! It is fun and sweet, while also bringing in a solid dose of body horror and conflict. The way Wiswell addresses trauma, family and belonging throughout the narrative elevated it to a 4 for me.

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2.5 ☆

And the award for the most annoying MC name goes to.... SHESHESHEN!

Highly recommend *not* picking up the audio for this book and/or co-reading like I did because hearing SHESHESHEN being said every sentence was the most grating reading experience of my life. While some might say focusing on the names Shesheshen and Homily re beyond the point of the novel and human names are insignificant, in a sense, those names 100% detracted from my reading experience and enjoyment of the book especially on the audio version.

This is a sapphic aroace story of a monster learning how to live and think the way humans do. It's about a monster learning the ethics of what it means to be human and how to handle and process emotions, including love. That to me, was the best and most beautiful part of the book. I loved the FMC's exploration of human feelings with every person she ended up consuming. At the end of the book I really loved her so much as a character and wished I could give her a hug. Homily, on the other hand felt quite bland as a love interest.

Also, I glanced at a couple of reviews before diving in and many claimed this was cozy fantasy-horror. I'm not quite sure about that classification as this was filled with really vivid descriptions of body horror and a whole lot of gore so while it's not scary, it is very much horror. I quite enjoyed the body horror in this novel.

As for the audio narration as I co-read this with my eARC, I didnt enjoy the narrator at all, and I tend to be fairly easy to please with European accents. To me, she felt as devoid of enthusiasm for what she was narrating even to the very end of the novel when our FMC was filled to the brim with human emotions she could barely describe.

Overall, I felt very conflicted about this. There were things I Really Quite Enjoyed in reading this book and a whole lot of others I wished I did without. Nonetheless, I'm def recommending this to a couple of my friends who enjoy queer horror stories.

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Thank you to DAW and NetGalley for an advanced e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review!

This was…unexpectedly delightful? Far more of a cozy fantasy than I was expecting, “Someone You Can Build a Nest In” is gory and sweet, gritty and soaring. Shesheshen is both funny and horrifying, and being in her POV was a fun place to be for ~300 pages.

I loved the subtle body positivity (Homily is often depicted as a larger woman, which Shesheshen finds attractive because hey: the more to eat at the start of their encounter/the better nest for young once they start traveling together!), asexual representation, and trauma representation.

“No young woman of means has gone through her entire life without at least once surveying her opportunities and wishing for a dragon instead.”

For being a man-eating monster, Shesheshen is surprisingly astute at analyzing human interactions and honoring the history between history while providing support to her allies. The plot was compelling: as Shesheshen encounters Homily’s terrible family members, there are horrifying secrets she must keep from her new friend that kept me turning pages to see how everything would play out.

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I loved this book so much! It had wonderful characters and a plot that I did NOT figure out like I usually do with stories. The "monster" was unique and I really appreciated that.

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This queer horror romance from the erspective of the monster, Shesheshen, is insane. I adored the romance between Homily and Shesheshen - well mostly Shesheshen trying to figure out what "love" is. From her monster background, when you find a mate, you lay eggs in them and they become a human-nest consumed by their off spring. Insane. Shesheshen really likely Homily though, and starts to rethink using her as a nest. If you like body horror - definitely check out Someone You Can Build a Nest In . I personally was squirming a bit.

"In that warmth, they were fed raw life. Her father’s ribs, rich in marrow, cracking delicately in their mouths, and providing the first feast of their lives. His fat deposits were generous, and his entrails sheltered them from the cruel winter elements. If Shesheshen could have spent her entire life inside the nest of his remains, she would have."

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I’m not sure how I feel about this book. On one hand I was very interested, but on the other? I’m not even sure. I don’t think I realized what type of story this was before I requested it. I was too drawn in by that gorgeous cover. I do think this will be well loved, I just feel like I wasn’t the right audience.

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Actual Rating 3.5

Shesheshen never expected to be awoken from her hibernation by monster hunters hoping to slay her. Nor did she expect to literally fall into the hands of someone who might just cause her to feel love for the first time. But as her life is thrown into disarray, she also realizes that something is growing inside her, yearning to get out. But she isn’t the only one keeping secrets, and Homily’s secret might just be enough to spell disaster for Shesheshen. But monsters don’t back down from terrible odds, and the two find themselves caught in a tangled web of secrets and betrayals.

This work of fantasy horror took a minute for me to become situated in. I was instantly drawn in, although I wasn’t sure where things were going or what to expect. But as the narration continued, it was much easier to settle in and enjoy the ride. I love that the book is told from the POV of the monster, and the uniqueness and grossness that is added because of that.

The characters were well written. While the secondary characters weren’t generally all that unique, they worked well in their roles and were good support to the main characters. Shesheshen and Homily both steal the show, both on their own and through their interactions. That being said, the romance didn’t work for me and felt forced, especially when it came to how easy the resolution was. I wish they had been left as kindred spirits and a meaningful friendship rather than trying to make it romance.

The setting wasn’t a focus of this work, and while that would normally be a major setback for me in a work of fantasy, just enough was included to support the plot and characters in this one. The pacing was also a bit off, with several places where the story lagged and seemed to lose focus.

If you’re interested in odd, gross monsters, then you’ll probably love this one. My thanks to NetGalley and DAW Publishing for allowing me to read this work. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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Someone You Can Build A Nest In is a marvelously creative novel that is-at times-grisly, poignant and very entertaining. It provides intriguing examinations of the nature of humanity through the eyes of its protagonist Shesheshen: a shapeshifting monster who falls in love with a young woman named Homily who tends to her following a fall from a cliff during a pursuit by monster-hunters.

Although it does have its moments of coziness, Someone You Can Build A Nest In also touches upon familial abuse, trauma, the consequences of low self-esteem and the inevitable damage caused by unintentionally destructive coping mechanisms.

Shesheshen is an immensely unique protagonist and the novel does not shy away from the more disturbing aspects of her behavior. The body horror as she constructs her body time and again is fascinating, as it goes beyond the more traditional shapeshifting that is often depicted. Facets of her personality were also very relatable: the unease with interacting with others, the not always comprehending social customs and the concern of saying the incorrect thing due to ignorance.

Homily is an intriguing character as well. While immensely compassionate, she is also depicted an individual who is accustomed to self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. She also isn’t miraculously “healed” by Shesheshen’s affections, but they both make an effort to try and help one another and do so at their own pace rather than following any particular conventions.

The plot overall is engrossing, the antagonist is quite monstrous and the conclusion really does wrap things up wonderfully.

Thank you to NetGalley, DAW Books and to for John Wiswell providing access to this ebook. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

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My foremost concern going into Someone You Can Build a Nest In was that it wouldn’t be weird ENOUGH. Not only was this novel wonderfully bizarre and full of the body horror shapeshifting of my dreams, it was also gut-churningly emotional, leaving me choked up at several points throughout.

Shesheshen, the monster protagonist of our story, is brought out of her hibernation at the beginning of the novel by hunters determined to murder her. She flees her lair, badly injured, and wakes to find herself cared for by Homily, an extremely thoughtful and caring human. Unfortunately for Shesheshen, even though Homily would make a great nest, there’s another problem: Homily’s hunting for a monster that sounds a lot like Shesheshen.

There’s so much I adored about this novel that it’s hard to know where to start. First and foremost, Shesheshen was a fantastic protagonist. Sometimes in monster fiction, the monster loses its inhumanness. Not the case in this novel. Throughout the entire story, Shesheshen keeps many of the traits, thoughts, and beliefs that mark her as ‘other’. While a great deal of this resonates personally with me, like her complete bewilderment with confusing human behavioral norms and the fluidity of her body and her asexuality, I stand by the fact she’s a compelling character even without personal relatability.

Homily’s character and arc were devastating at points. There’s a deeply poignant discussion of trauma, the ways it shapes us, and the ways we can learn to overcome it that I wasn’t expecting from my funny, gross monster romance book, yet here it is. I also loved seeing Homily’s fatness through Shesheshen’s eyes. The narrative takes great pains to not only remark on Homily’s size but to paint it in a positive, admirable light; this kind of fat positivity is still exceedingly rare and I appreciate it when I encounter it.

I struggled with the pacing of this novel, to the point where I felt the mental drag as plot elements were prolonged. There are several repeated try-fail cycles that hit similar beats and don’t really move story or character along. I think if it had been just a tiny bit shorter, it would have been perfect.

As it stands, this book just marches to the beat of its own drum. It’s warm, loving, weird, delightful, and emotional. It also elaborates on a theme I can’t get enough of, which is interrogating what ‘monstrous’ and ‘human’ even mean, and the ways in which humans are monstrous and monsters are human.

Someone You Can Build a Nest In won’t be a book for everyone, but I believe it’s a book that will deeply speak to the audience it’s meant for. If a charming sapphic fantasy romance blended with creepy horror elements and deeply emotional character arcs sounds up your alley, give this one a shot.

Thank you to DAW and NetGalley for an advance reader copy. All opinions are my own.

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This fantasy/horror novel was a mixed bag. I thought the concept of the monster, Shesheshen, was unique and interesting, and it was the main reason I finished reading the book. I haven't encountered any other monster that had such an alien physiology, which was compelling. However, the alienness of Shesheshen's body was not matched by her inner thoughts, and this disconnect was jarring and frequently took me out of the story. Her thoughts were too human, even if they weren't "refined" or "filtered" like most humans' thoughts and speech would be. I especially didn't buy her falling in love with Homily. Everything was just too convenient, and I found myself rolling my eyes a lot. Additionally, the story itself started to get very repetitive and stagnant by the last third or so of the book. Ultimately, there were no surprises and I was disappointed by the end.

Thank you to NetGalley for the free ARC.

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