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It could happen tomorrow . . .

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling post-apocalyptic novel about a world that could become ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.

465 pages, Hardcover

First published November 29, 2011

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About the author

Ilsa J. Bick

67 books1,587 followers
Among other things, I was an English major in college and so I know that I'm supposed to write things like, "Ilsa J. Bick is ." Except I hate writing about myself in the third person like I'm not in the room. Helloooo, I'm right here . . . So let's just say that I'm a child psychiatrist (yeah, you read that right)as well as a film scholar, surgeon wannabe (meaning I did an internship in surgery and LOVED it and maybe shoulda stuck), former Air Force major—and an award-winning, best-selling author of short stories, e-books, and novels. Believe me, no one is more shocked about this than I . . . unless you talk to my mother.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,015 reviews
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,636 reviews34k followers
July 3, 2011
It all starts with a cataclysmic electromagnetic impulse. Dead birds fall from the sky. Deer run off a cliff, maddened for unknown reasons. And people drop dead instantaneously and inexplicably--or they are miraculously, irrevocably changed, some for the better, and some for the worse.

The first half of this book is a phenomenal. 17-year-old Alex is transformed by the big event in ways that she can't understand. She is saddled with an angry 8-year-old and an attractive ex-Army guy who's hiding secrets, and they all must find safety and shelter from the other survivors who are no longer...human. The prologue is well-written and compelling, and I was drawn to the bleak, lonely mood and stark setting right from the very beginning. I liked the strong but fragile Alex, and I was thoroughly engrossed by the incredible suspense and visceral, shudder-inducing scenes that will be forever seared into my memory.

But literally halfway through the book, something really odd happens. During a tense standoff with a band of vicious kidnappers, one of the three people in Alex's group is shot. This cliffhanger ends one chapter and when the next one begins, the story takes up three days later. WHAT? Talk about leaving your readers high and dry! From that point on, things stop making any kind of sense at all. The story changes tone completely, there is a whole new cast of characters, the story is poorly plotted, the writing became disjointed, and every single element I liked about the first half of the book was completely abandoned. Alex herself suddenly seems like she's just stumbling from one random encounter to the next, and by the time it all ended with a somewhat interesting but predictable cliffhanger, I was ready to abandon them all to whatever horrible munchy fate might befall them.

It is such a shock to go from loving a book and then to being completely annoyed with it, so I had no idea what to do about rating this one. The first half of this book is literally a 5 star read for me (and I don't give 5 stars that often), but the second half is maybe a 1.5. It's as if the second portion was written by a completely different person! What a disappointment.

I really wish that these problems had been fixed in the outlining stage, but certainly they should have been sorted out by the time the manuscript made it through several drafts and edits and rewrites. I really regret the wasted potential of the amazing first 240 pages, as well as fantastic premise. I don't know if I'll ever recover from the abrupt downhill hurtle that this book plunged down; I finished this novel 5 days ago and I'm still mad at it.

First 240 pages: 5 stars + Second 240 pages: 1.5 stars ÷ incredible disappointment = lackluster 3 stars.

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher..
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
September 15, 2018
yeah, i loved it. i mean, wilderness survival and zombie survival? it's like this author knows all about me. i was so eager to get this, i even read her other book, draw the dark, while i waited.but this one was so much better.

i have been excited for this book for a while now, even though i read so many reviews on here about how the second half of the book is such a letdown. fortunately, by the time i actually got my hands on a copy of the book, i had forgotten specific complaints, and only remembered that people were not crazy about it.

but i reread the reviews after i finished the book, and while i agree that there is a definite shift in the action between the first and second halves,i think she addresses this shift in a way that totally satisfied me. on page 399:

so for me, the shift made sense; it was a deepening maturity,in a way,a realization of her situation and her limited options, but also a very understandable inward retreat. so no worries there, for me.

and as for the the complaints about the shift that weren't character-based, but pacing/setting based, that didn't bother me at all. i like the rebuilding, the mobilizing. i really liked world made by hand for this, and this was similar, only way darker.

so i totally understand what people's complaints with the book are, but i was thrilled throughout, and while i noticed the split, it barely slowed me down.

i saw the second half as an extension of the first.it is simply a different kind of survival. survival alone vs. survival in society, even if that society is a cult. it is a different skill set, is all. the transition from simple wilderness survival to zombie survival to cult survival; i saw it as a progression rather than a jarring shift.i think there is definite character development - she tests out different defense mechanisms as she adapts to her ever-changing surroundings, and i like her adaptability, which she has been honing ever since that moment with ellie on the mountain.

**oh, and lemme interject - there has never been a fictional 8-year-old i have wanted to murder more than ellie.**

i don't read romance novels, because i don't care about people overcoming obstacles in love. i do care about people overcoming more high-stakes obstacles. like zombies. and organized dog-attacks.i love watching the solutions to unexpected problems.

other complaints involve the conveeeenience of tom having the specialized skills he has. and that's true, but - hey - someone's gotta be one of those, right?? in the world?? and their story is more interesting than the people who have no idea what they are doing and die in a day or two from bad decisions. so i was glad to have him as a character. and for every convenient coincidence like this, there are a thousand unresolved plotlines that give a really nice truthiness to the story.certain details give it a shiver of reality, things that disappear or whose reappearance is hauntingly unexplained; her mother's letter, the whistle, mina. the inventory of the lost. i like that these remain questions, instead of being given tidy, contrived answers for everything.

i also love that her response to her failing cancer treatment is to go off into the wilderness alone. this makes perfect sense to me. when i was younger, i read all of those melodramatic lurlene mcdaniel cancer books, and i loved them. but the big triumph in one of those books, the way you knew this character was ready to fight to live - to beat her cancer was, she ordered a watermelon milkshake to be brought to her. that was her turning point, her giant triumph. "i am going to gain back this chemo weight and fight my cancer. with a drink!" and that's fine. i just thought this was a more meaningful response. and she had a plan, she was prepared, i have cancer, nothing is working. my parents are dead. i am seventeen. this is what makes sense to me. it made sense to me, too. the reason i enjoy survival lit so much is i like to watch characters adapt to the situation. and this book had so much of that. she starts out relatively solid, supply-wise, and from that point on, it was a constant shift between having and losing and the way she handled the difference.

to me, this is about accepting loss and moving on. this is a character who has lost so much. both parents, her health, her future. she is accustomed to taking stock and working with what she is left with. also, zombies. zoooombbieesss.

and i'm sorry, that was a fantastic ending. loved it.

i probably could have done without the supershort chapters, but that is something that comes with the territory of YA lit, and that's my only real complaint. i am amped to read the next book.

(if i am still allowed in the YA pool after my lack of discrimination.)

now i will go to school to hide out from potential name-calling backlash.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,922 followers
June 28, 2011
I hate having to review this book. I've spent the last 24 hours thinking about it, trying to figure out a way to point out the good and the bad, instead of just listing all the things that annoyed me. Here’s my conclusion: the only remotely fair thing to do is to write two separate reviews: one of the first and one of the second half of the book.

First half: ***** (five stars)
The first half of Ashes was one of the best things I’ve read recently, and that’s saying a lot! It was amazingly well written, fast paced, with interesting, layered characters and a compelling plot.
Alex is a 17-year-old girl with a brain tumor. She’s lost her parents a few years back and is now living with her aunt, but she spends most of her time in the hospital. At the beginning of Ashes, she is out of the hospital and has just decided not to do any more treatments, seeing as they are not helping her in any way. Instead, she chooses to go hiking in the wilderness. There she meets an old man and his granddaughter Ellie and shares a meal with them. Shortly after that, an EMP wipes out every electronic device and kills the old man in the process. That leaves Alex with the 8-year-old girl to take care of and some new abilities she doesn’t fully understand.
After only a short walk, the girls stumble upon two teenagers who are eating another human. It becomes pretty obvious that the EMP affected human brains as well as the electronic devices. But why then did Alex and Ellie remain unchanged?!
Ok, so we have a great plot, interesting characters, a subtle love story AND zombies eating intestants and gouging out people’s eyes. It’s no wonder we were all so thrilled. But then the second half came…

Second half: ** (two stars)
I can pinpoint the exact moment where it all went wrong. From the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next, everything changed. Ashes went from being amazing to being utterly unimaginative and even boring at times. I had to force myself to finish it. It picked up the pace again on the last 50 pages or so, but only to make the most horrible, cliffhanger ending possible.

Here are some of my problems with the book:
- Alex is 17, but she is far too skilled and mature for that to be believable, even more so because she's been very sick for a very long time. People who spend years in the hospital usually don’t know that much about surviving in the wilderness. She could have been book smart, sure, but building fires?!? I don't think so. She kept saying that her father taught her, but he was dead by the time she entered her teen years.
- I had the same problem with her knowledge of medicine. Apparently her mother was a doctor and they used to spend their time together stitching up chickens. Honestly, I don’t know a single teen or pre-teen that interested in his/her parent’s work.
- I hate cliffhanger endings, and this was the mother of them all! I don’t understand why authors feel the need to do that! A cliffhanger ending will make me less likely to read the next book, not more! And this particular author likes cliffhangers so much, she even ended a few chapters with them. When you end a chapter with a cliffhanger and start the next one with the words Three days later , you can count on losing a few readers.

Maybe Ilsa J. Bick is a pseudonym for two people, much like Ilona Andrews, only these two people don’t get along as well?!? I will still read the next book when it comes out, but I can’t say I’m too happy about it.

Michelle R., Wendy Darling and Bonnie have made this experience much better than it would have been without them. Thanks, girls!
Profile Image for Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker.
596 reviews379 followers
July 11, 2011
2.5 stars out of 5

The story:

Alex, has a brain tumor. She does not want any more treatments, is tired of hospitals, treatments, and false hope. So, when you are questioning your own survival, what do you do? You go on a “survival” trip! Ok. We straight here? Good.

So, Alex is in the woods. She is just minding her own business, being the withdrawn, moody teenager, when she meets 8 year old Ellie and Ellie’s grandfather. We don’t need to go into the details of Ellie but let’s just nickname her “superbrat”.

Ok, so big zap, WTF, weird electrical zipzap stuff happens and this big bad pulse kills Ellie’s grandfather. Oh shit.

Ellie survives the zap, and Alex not only survives the zap but also regains her sense of smell, (which she had lost due to her brain tumor). But oh no, just wait, now she is a living bloodhound. Her sense of smell is off the charts. She can sense more than your basic BO, let’s just say Alex’s nose knows all! (sorry couldn’t help it).

Ok, nothing wrong here. Alex and Ellie, I mean superbrat, are surviving, moving along, surviving when they run into other teens. But wait, these aren’t your average everyday teens, they are zombies! Yikes! Seems there are 3 outcomes to the big zap, 1) you survive with no side effects or heightened side effects, 2) you die or 3) you become a flesh eating zombie.

And here is my warning to you- these zombies love slurping gooey eyeballs, sucking fresh intestines right out of the dying body cavity and it is all detailed in black & white. So, if you don’t have a strong stomach (or intestines) you might want to skip this book.

Now, don’t worry, we have a boy coming into the story (it couldn’t just be two young girls surviving, that would be boooorrrrinnng right?). Let us introduce Tom, he happens to be a explosive ordinance disposal expert. No problem, we’ll need a bomb expert later in the book. It’s a good thing one survived! Oh, and if you are worried about medical problems or surviving in the wilderness, don’t you fret! Our girl Alex happens to have a Mom (sorry she is dead now) that was a doctor and a dad (that was a cop, also dead). What does that mean? Alex is skilled in sewing up her dinner (long story) and shooting guns, rifles and other weapons! It is amazing how these characters always have the perfect past to survive in these dystopian novels.

Ok. So no problems here. Ellie, who is no longer superbrat, she is now a halfway decent kid, Alex, and Tom make a decent living in the woods. All is fine and the story is not that bad. In fact, up until this point….. 4 stars.


After Ellie and Tom disappear (long story), Alex finds herself in this weird cult. I cannot even tell you what the hell the 2nd half of the book is about but it was so strange, and so WTF, that I kept thinking it must have been written by someone else.


I don’t know what happened to this book. It was fine. Not the best I’ve read, pretty predictable, very unrealistic but I’ve come to expect that in dystopian novels. The 2nd half of the book just was awful. Simply awful. Nothing redeeming about it!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Reynje.
272 reviews962 followers
November 19, 2011
Everything was going so well..

...relatively speaking. Things were going as well as can be expected when a series of massive electromagnetic pulses has sent the world hurtling into a nuclear maelstrom. People have dropped dead on the spot. Birds have fallen from the sky. Deer have flung themselves off cliffs. And some people have turned completely, cannibalistically feral.

So when I say things were going well, I mean that Bick was spinning a very compelling story.

Seventeen year old Alex is hiking in the Waucamaw, with only her personal demons and her parent’s ashes for company, making a solo journey of deeply personal significance. A fellow hiker and his granddaughter happen upon Alex’s camp at the time of the “zap” (as she comes to refer to the inciting incident of the ensuing apocalypse). When the older man dies in the moment of inexplicable chaos, Alex is left with an eight-year old girl, no idea what has happened, and a whole world of horror to face.

Bick’s story is gripping from the get-go, forcing her characters into horrific situations and a desperate fight for survival. As it becomes clear that not all is well with some of those who have survived, there are some truly disturbing scenes of stomach-turning gore, pierced with a sense of visceral fear. The apparent reprieve in the form of young army veteran Tom’s appearance on the scene (I call this moment the “anti-meet-cute”, you’ll know why when you read it) is momentary. The three characters band together amid the madness, finding a period of brief respite, only to be confronted with yet more terror.

Ashes is refreshingly told in third person, and I don’t feel that hinders the reader's closeness to the main character. In fact, Alex as a character generally comes through loud and clear, particularly in the first half of the book, where her strength and intelligence really come to the fore. Her inner turmoil is well realised, making her a dimensional character who feels real and interesting.

I had advance warning that this book takes a rather large turn, and I will openly confess right now that I was cocky. "Do your worst, Ilsa J Bick", I thought – figuratively stretching and cracking my knuckles, "throw me some curveballs, I can take it." (Because I can be annoyingly smug like that, sometimes.)

The thing is, this book doesn’t really throw curveballs.

Instead, it walks up behind you, clubs you violently on the back of the head, then grabs you by the ankles and starts dragging you in a direction you really don’t want go, laughing maniacally all the while.

I don’t cuss that often, but please allow me to take this opportunity to say: WTF, Ashes. WTF.

While there is a chapter or two roughly halfway through that essentially act as a hinge between the two sections of the book, the transition is jarring enough to make Ashes feel like it is fragmented into two different novels.

On their own, these two sections work: the first as a story of white-knuckle survival and horror, the second as a claustrophobic story of entrapment, with sinister, almost cultish undertones. I actually really liked both parts of the novel, to be clear. It’s the butting of these two stories together that is hard to take – an alloy that does not entirely work.

The second half of the Ashes occasionally had me figuratively kicking and screaming and generally raging against the book. At one point, our main character muses “Where was the Alex who’d grabbed the ashes and run? The one who said to Barrett, I’m calling the shots now. She sure as hell didn’t know”. Well I sure as hell didn’t know either. Where was the Alex of the first part of the book? Logical and driven and smart? I missed her and I wanted her back. It was painful to watch her fade into a dim copy of herself, loose her grip on her determination (although in a way, it made sense that she would be lulled into this state by her circumstances, and the illusion of safety). I guess I just wanted her to fight so badly, that I struggled to calmly read on as she floundered.

The relationship between Tom and Alex had been developed so well in the first section – sure it was partly born out of fear and desperation – but it felt real and gradual and had my full investment. Then

In spite of this, and to my chagrin, I couldn’t stay away. Ashes does tension well, and I think the inherent creepiness of the second half actually does stand up well against the action-packed first half, even if they don’t blend particularly smoothly. I still wanted to know how things would play out. Surely there had to be a good reason for all the torturous turns the book had taken. Surely all this angst was laying the groundwork for a truly epic finale.

Well, that depends on your definition of epic. If that would be: A cliffhanger so abrupt and shocking it feels like being flung out of a vehicle moving at high speed, then this your book. If not, then tough luck I’m afraid. Ashes isn’t going to be gentle with you. But that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, because for 465 pages, this book hasn’t made any pretence of tip-toeing around the reader’s feelings. It hasn’t pulled punches, it hasn’t censored the gore, it hasn’t spared the characters from grim choices and ever bleaker fates.

It’s fair to say that there are elements of this book that I found frustrating. After such a strong beginning, I can’t help but feel that the book falters in places with unwelcome plot devices, foolish choices, and turns of events that feel a bit forced.

However, I felt more compelled by this book than I have by some other recent mediocre post-apocalyptic offerings, and I found it hard to put down . The writing is tight and sets a swift pace, dropping in mini cliffhangers and steadily cranking up the tension. Ashes certainly had my attention by the throat, even when I was railing against it. And overall, there was still so much that I liked about this book and I think it’s a strong offering in its field.

So, I’m not just going to read the sequel.

I’m going to pick myself up, dust myself off, limp for a while, then hunt that book down. Because I’m a fighter, Ashes, and I will be back for Round Two.
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,137 followers
January 6, 2014

I read ASHES by Ilsa Bick a year ago- when I was on this "YA post-apocalyptic" rollllllll. I couldn't get enough of them!

Noooow not that I am trying to ruffle any feathers, but after reading some reviews of ASHES, I kind of had to chuckle. Quite a few people gave it low marks for various things being "unbelievable". I don't have that opinion. In fact I rarely have that opinion when reading fiction...because it is after all...fiction- this is horror YA to boot. Maybe I should be more judgmental, but I tend to suspend disbelief when opening fiction of any kind, but I especially do with horror or science fiction. It just makes it so much more fun! And in a world where:

-George Bush got elected into office...twice.
-Kim Kardashian is still able to stay relevant.
-One of the number #1 comedies on TV is The Big Bang Theory.
-...and there really are people who call themselves Beliebers.

I can belieb/believe almost anything.

 photo 6b7b92f4-f68b-40c4-a805-7ca84607a05c_zps71ba9d0b.jpg

An electromagnetic pulse zaps every electronic device and kills billions. Spared for reasons unknown- are the very old and the very young (with some exceptions). Teens are spared as well but at a cost. They become "the changed" -zombie like creatures who feed on human flesh(with some exceptions).

One of the "spared" -exceptions to the rule- is Alex a 17 year-old girl living with her aunt, after both her parents were killed in a helicopter accident three years earlier. If that wasn't bad enough, Alex is also living with a terminal brain tumor, which has screwed with her memory and taken away her sense of smell.

Before the zap- Alex has decided to finally spread her parents ashes in a favorite spot in the Michigan wilderness. She has also brought her father's glock just in case she decides to opt out of life altogether.

After the zap- Having passed out, Alex wakes feeling different. Returning is her sense of smell...and then some...and what she smells isn't goooood.

What a gross, disgusting, roller coaster ride of a book. And I loved every minute of it! Ashes is the first in a series of three, and I have one word of advice- If you can, read them as close together as possible- There are a lot of characters and a lot of details that can be easily forgotten in between.

Profile Image for carol..
1,576 reviews8,234 followers
October 4, 2012
Unfortunately, while Ashes was an interesting book--it did manage the triptych of the apocalypse (wilderness survival, cross-country travel-survival, and dealing-with-deviants survival)--it was troubled by plotting, narrative jumps and character consistency. I'd call it a three-star read--good enough to survive a little longer, but it could go either way next season. Call it the 'Carol' character of The Walking Dead. Might get more interesting, but just as likely to get killed.

Our protagonist is a young woman, Alex, who is headed into the wilderness for emotional closure, planning to scatter her parents' ashes in the remote woods they loved. With an actively growing brain tumor, aka 'monster,' she's been under the watchful eye of her aunt, and has had to sneak away to accomplish her goal. Recently, she's had experimental radioactive/ chemoactive seeds implanted in her brain to treat the tumor, but she's finally decided that was her last treatment. Hiking the trails, she meets an older man, Jack; his young granddaughter, Ellie; and her war-trained dog, Mina. They share a cup of coffee, but before Alex can continue on her way, all of them are suddenly struck down in agony. Strangely, all the animal life in the area seems to be effected as well.

Having an ill teen as heroine was a fascinating choice, particularly one wrestling with the issues of terminal illness. Alex's perceptions and reactions are highly colored by the experience of cancer survivor. She has huge memory gaps, although her survival skills remain, leading to one of the logic complaints other readers fix on. However, neurology is incredibly complicated, let alone neurology filtered through a 17 year-old's perception, so I was willing to accept the premise. It's definitely interesting and one of the reasons I kept reading was Alex. It seems likely that the seeds in her head had something to do with her unusual reaction to the world events, but we don't know for sure, and though Alex spends some time thinking about it, most of her attention is focused on reacting to events. Undoubtedly one of the reasons I kept reading was a desire to have more of Bick's picture colored in.

One of the strengths of the book was world building. I felt Bick captured the sense of what it's like to be in the midwest woods, far from civilization. I felt like I was hiking with her, conjuring pine smell from my own memory, and feeling the chill in the fall air. However, Bick failed on the intrinsic Midwest friendliness coupled with the natural comradarie of people in the wilderness. She is deeply suspicious encountering Jack's group. To his gentlest of inquires, she was hostile and couldn't wait to get away. It struck me as odd that someone like Alex--used to meeting a wide variety of people in medical facilities, used to hiking remotely--was so impolite and guarded about general details. I wondered if there was deeper anger issues that would be clarified later, but they never were. It was the first hint of oddness to come.

Contrast that suspicion with her meeting up with Tom not long after the pulse--she isn't freaked out that he stitched her head, removed her wet clothes or that they immediately settled into a family unit. Had it been my 17 year-old self, I would have reacted oppositely--trusting a grandpa, 8 year-old and their dog, and suspicious of a 24 year-old guy, no matter how good he smells. Her initial wariness was dropped, most likely to make for an interesting potential love interest, although she resumes it later in the book.

One thing you can say about Ashes is that the plot moves. However, it seems overly troubled by plot contrivances instead of organic happenings out of character or event development; I first started to wonder at author intention when in short order Alex lost a coffee press, a stove, a map, a water bottle, a backpack, parka, food and then finally, her father's gun. Really short order--like about two days. It started to feel like plot points designed to up the tension rather than realistic losses or consequences of bad behavior/decisions.

This contrivance really started to bother me in the section that results in leaving the ranger station. Not long after meeting Tom, the bomb disposal expert, the survivors end up at a well-provisioned rangers' cabin and have a chance to recuperate. After hanging out for three weeks at the cabin, suddenly our orphans (isn't that convenient?) decide to go on a road trip. Tom decides Alex needs to know how to hunt if something happens to him, so they take two days to have bow hunting practice (if only it was so easy!), learn to change a tire and drive stick shift. Weak. Which led me to one of my first serious logic confusion--why would they leave when they've acknowledged the world is likely in disarray? Well, for the plot. Still, would've been nice to have a good reason. Tom says, 'medical supplies.' Not that any of them are sick, but in case. And--hear him out--they'll go even father north, to someplace even less populated and figure out how to live off the land. Um. If they were going to live off the land, wouldn't they be in a fairly isolated place already? And how would being isolated get them medical access? And why trade known resources (that include a generator!) for unknown? It didn't make sense. You give me a swanked up cabin with a generator, fireplace, guns, ingredients for chocolate chips cookies (really!), a dog and a lake for fish and I'll chill all winter. Heck, I'll move in for good. I get it, we needed to move the plot along. I'd rather settle for the old fashioned "I want to find my family" over this lack of reasoning.

Assorted other oddities: The narrative format doesn't quite work, trying to force tension instead of naturally letting a story about zombies develop it. There is half-assed foreshadowing at many chapter ends and all the book sections that is overly portentous. As an example: "That was the last good time" and "I never saw her again." Especially disconcerting are weird narrative jumps. For instance, one chapter midway through the next leaps forward three days and is missing a character, leading me to re-read to see if I had missed what happened.

There's a few canned-ham scenes, most notably when "I need to tell you--" "No...don't. It doesn't matter now..." "But it does matter. I need you to know..." "I'm listening." "I won't... can't tell you everything now... But I want you to know... I found it. I found my fate."

That sound you just heard? It was me snorting water.

The last section of the book was the least interesting for me, as Alex learns to survive--if not thrive-- There, the cardinal author sins of the love triangle and the cliffhanger ending are committed.

Ultimately, the book sucked me in but left me somewhat unsatisfied. I confess the developing plot point of Alex' special relationship with canines was a big fat lure I wanted to chase down, and likely kept me interested in her but alas! I remain disappointed. Reviews for the second have me wondering whether it's worth picking up due to narrative disjointedness.

Three triplicate stars.

If you want a great zombie read, I'd recommend heading over to visit Benny in Rot & Ruin for some well-written zombie survival action.

Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...
Profile Image for Lucy.
102 reviews1,813 followers
October 22, 2011
Imagine two fish swimming around in a big fish tank. There's a castle and a little treasure chest that opens up to send bubbles shooting up in the water. One fish is bright blue and the other is neon orange. They're about the same size and they definitely look like they'd swim around together in the ocean if left to their devices. Now imagine the very strange owner hacking the two fish in half and stitching the top of the blue fish to the lower half of the orange fish with crude Frankenstein-esque stitches. Jarring, yes?

Ashes felt like reading two stories spliced together -- and not in a good way. Thankfully, both of the stories fit with the world building. Hence my two fish comparison, had the world building not matched you would've been greeted with a much weirder splicing. Still, the first and the second halves of the book are so different that I felt cheated out of the book I started reading. I felt like I was reading a choose your own adventure book and I'd chosen wrong! I kept wanting to go back to the place where Alex and Tom decided to leave the ranger station and choose another path for the story to follow.

I'm getting ahead of myself though, as I so often do. Also, now might be a good time to throw out there that I have a terrible cold and cannot be held responsible for the coherency of this review.

Ashes is a pretty decent end of the world book. The event isn't quite as standard as most "zombie" novels. The book's monsters are the author's own unique take on zombies, which are scarily more intelligent, durable, and instantly more numerous than Hollywood's version. The narrator, Alex, is self-reliant and easy to relate to. I wasn't thrilled with how she initially treated Ellie, the little girl she happens to be with when the world starts to come to an end, but she makes up for it and eventually their relationship became one of the things that interested me the most.

For the first half of the book, Alex is a terminal cancer patient who has gone AWOL on her latest useless treatment for a retreat into the woods. It's one of those live because you're dying trips. She's in the woods to scatter her parents' ashes and find herself a little before she loses herself altogether. The end of the world event seems to be some sort of electromagnetic pulse. I don't think the author really knew what was going on there so she kept it as vague as possible, but I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't expect too much in the way of big world explanations from an intimate and limited POV story.

Alex is with an older man and his granddaughter when the pulse occurs. The old man dies right along with all their gear. Alex decides they have to push forward toward the ranger's station because 1. they're equally distant from the road and her car and 2. she doesn't think her car will work anyway if they get there. At first Ellie does not want to come and Alex feigns leaving her. She travels slowly so Ellie can catch up, but Ellie almost falls off the fucking mountain trying to catch up, costing them their limited supplies. At this point they haven't traveled too far from the grandfather and his bag of supplies. I was frustrated Alex didn't double back to get it, even if it meant killing the dog who guarded the old man's body. It's not like she didn't have TWO guns.

Anyway, Alex and Ellie face dehydration, starvation, people who were changed in the pulse from perfectly normal to man eating, and packs of wild dogs. They are saved from one of the changed people and a pack of wild dogs by a guy named Tom. I would have liked to see Alex pull it all together, but I liked Tom all the same. They make it to the ranger station which is mysteriously abandoned. They hang out there for a few weeks. A tentative romance begins to bloom between Alex and Tom. They are safe with enough supplies to make it through the winter. For some reason Tom thinks it's a good idea to abandon that security because one of them might get hurt and there'd be no one around to help. It is, however, a nice change of pace that the guy is TSTL instead of the girl.

They go along their merry way after some grim foreshadowing about how nothing was ever okay after that. This is a pet peeve of mine, authors. Please don't take a time out to warn me of scary things in your best Doomy Gloomy voice. I don't even think this counts as foreshadowing because it wasn't hinted at lightly. The author flat out told you things were going to get fucked up from here on out. This, my friends, is the end of the blue fish and the beginning of the strange orange fish.

After a few days on the road they get robbed. People take their supplies and steal Ellie because children are a golden ticket into some towns. Tom tries to save Ellie and gets shot in the leg. Alex and Tom are left without supplies and without weapons. They limp along for a few miles, all while Tom becomes sicker and sicker. They bump into a town. Alex sets Tom up in a grocery store so she can go get help. When she gets back with help, Tom is mysteriously gone. Sad face. Of course, she got attacked by some creatures just outside the store where she left him and didn't think to move him after...

The people Alex went to for help are a sort of religious cult that keeps the young people around for breeding. Alex isn't allowed to leave. She spots one of the men who took Ellie while she's there. The man says Ellie got away and ran off into the woods, blah blah blah. They shun the man out of the society.

Alex just wants out of this crazy place, to find Ellie and Tom. She thinks about Tom obsessively and worries about Ellie, who is in all likelihood dead. I think the latter half of this book could have been more connected to the first half if either Tom or Ellie had remained a consistent presence throughout the book. Instead, Ellie is swapped out for teenage girls in the same situation as Alex and Tom is swapped out as a love interest for Chris, the grandson of the leader of the weird cult. More weirdness ensues including a trippy ending that made very little sense. (I don't think it was supposed to make sense so that the cliff hanger would be bigger.) Honestly I can't be bothered to recap it. I just kept wanting to go back to the first half of the story and get Tom and Ellie back. I couldn't get invested in anyone new because I was terribly distracted.

The first half of the book is a solid four stars. The second half is a sort of flat two stars. Three it is. I might read the next book to see if it gets back on course, but I think the erratic writing is not something one can easily recover from.
Profile Image for Anagha Uppal.
185 reviews57 followers
September 25, 2012
Review also posted on my visitable blog!

A fast-paced, riveting read.

“It was that stages-of-anger thing. I was shocked and then I got pissed and then I fought like hell … and then I went numb. They called it acceptance, but it wasn’t. It’s what happens when you have only two choices: live with the monster, or kill yourself.”

Alex thought the shrink was full of shit. Her parents were dead.
She knew that. The dream was all about her life jumping the rails,
blowing up in her face, leaving her with nothing but ashes.

If I had to pick my favorite dystopian reads, Ashes would be right up there at the top of it (along with Hunger Games, 1984, Blood Red Road, Gone, and Enclave). I've read Ashes twice, and each time, it gripped me with an iron fist until the end (and even after). When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about the latest twist in the story and after finishing last December, I obsessed about the crazy cliffhanger for months... actually, right up until the the day I got my hands on the sequel!!

Ashes starts out with an almost-teary goodbye with Alex's aunt on the phone because she's about to hike out into the mountains for a week-long trip before she becomes too weak (she has terminal cancer - heartbreaking, I know). But of course, our resourceful protagonist can't just die! She meets this old guy and his 8-year-old granddaughter while sitting on top of a mountain, and suddenly, some kind of invisible laser of intense pain (you'll have to read Ashes to find out what it really is!!) attacks all of them, leaving the man dead, Ellie weeping, and Alex... different. Cancer had taken away her sense of smell but somehow, she can now smell everything around her, including things normal people can't smell like fear and lies. What's more - most teenagers have reacted to this beam by becoming flesh-eating zombies - the alive, fast, and insanely dangerous kind.

If you like horror movies or shows like The Walking Dead, you're definitely going to enjoy Ashes. Not only is it fast-paced and gritty, it is also super gory (guys, if you're looking for a book, this was made for you). Those who might be squeamish about reading explicit descriptions of regular-looking people renting human flesh, rupturing bellies, and enjoying the meal, close this review and don't look back. My favorite scenes of this book were two of the most spine-tingling moments I've ever had the pleasure of reading - even I turned my head in disgust. The rest is pure evasion and fighting to live through the horrifying circumstances.
Instead of banding together, the survivors (mostly elderly people) grow desperate and steal and kill each other for their goods. It's a dangerous world, but Tom, Alex and Ellie (who's just the best character in dystopian lit - she's so small and goes from a whiny, snot-filled kid to a survivor) manage to navigate it... well, that is until a small gang steals Ellie and their supplies, and injures Tom (possibly fatally). Then, Alex must travel alone to find help from the nearby town of Rule... leading to Part 4 - Rule!

This was the dullest part of the novel, and in my opinion, the portion that could have been much shorter. It's all about her getting to Rule, finally finding safety, and falling instantly in love with a dude called Chris. They're all passionate and lovey-dovey, in contrast with the rest of the book where there were at most two kissing scenes. This portion served mostly to create an unnecessary love triangle. BUT this part totally and utterly redeemed through the aforementioned cliffhanger, where Alex realizes just what the town leaders are up to. And I can't say anymore in fear of spoiling this fantastic book :D

I CANNOT wait to start Shadows (the sequel). Be sure to stop by to chat with our awesomesauce author on Wednesday, September 26 at 7PM ET!
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,376 reviews931 followers
August 16, 2017
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

‘Ashes’ is the story of Alex, a 17 year old girl with an inoperable brain tumor who leaves home by herself to go on a camping trip. While out in the wilderness, an event occurs that prevents the use of her electronic devices; she later discovers that an EMP had gone off and had not only shut down all electronic devices but killed billions. She begins caring for 8 year old Ellie as her grandfather was one of the first people killed by the EMP. Alex begins noticing that she’s changing in ways that she can’t explain. For one, her brain tumor had caused her to lose her sense of smell and taste but following the EMP those senses not only come back to her but they are heightened like never before. The changes continue in her throughout the story.

First impressions? Alex was not an immediately likable character but she does grow on you after some time. I’d say around the time the other main character, Tom, is introduced she starts acting like a likable human being.

Second? This CANNOT be a young adult book. This was one of the most gruesome books I have read in a LONG time. Not to say it wasn’t amazing, because it was, but planning meals around reading this book to make sure that you’re don’t have food in your stomach and/or are about to eat was essential. (I can stomach most things, I’m not exactly squeamish, but man can this author describe your internal organs. Lol)

One main issue I have with this book, which actually is an issue I have with many ‘YA’ books, is the situations that the author puts the characters in and how these characters act in these situations does not fit their age. The way that Alex acts in this book does not fit a 17 year old I don’t care how mature you are for your age. Tom was a bit more believable because he was in his 20’s and he had been in the army and had proper training and such.
Possible spoilers…

My second issue was the fact that the first half of the book was super exciting and I loved every minute of it. It seemed like as soon as I hit 50% it just went immediately downhill. She got to the town Rule and I got seriously lost because all of these new characters were thrown in the mix and I got so confused keeping everybody straight. Plus? No zombies. No gruesome gory internal organ comments. Just life in this weird religious cult amish society. Just weird. I was trending on 4 stars up until the second half. And I missed Tom. No Tom, no zombies, the second half sucked. The author seemed to be following an interesting path in the storyline but then at the half mark she went in a completely different direction and I didn’t like it one bit. It seemed to me as if the first half was about survival and the bonds of friendship and such, and then the second half turned into some weird love triangle and it was completely inappropriate as far as I’m concerned. Didn’t fit at all with the rest of the story.

Compared to the many other dystopian novels I’ve read recently, this one lacked the realism that many others had. Ashfall, for example, was believable and you could imagine each and every eventually happening. With this novel, I don’t know if these characters just had bad luck but it just seemed to me like they were constantly dealing with a ridiculous amount of shit. Sure the world has gone to hell, but these damn kids just could not catch a break. Maybe that’s the way it’ll truly be if things like this ever happen, but for me it just didn’t seem realistic.

It’s not often that I will read a book that is the start of a new series and not want to continue. There’s either a cliffhanger that forces me to or an overall desire to see what happens to the characters. The ending of this book did not have me feeling the need to continue, the last half of the book just ruined the good parts, very disappointed!
Profile Image for Justine.
1,158 reviews312 followers
January 28, 2020
3.5 stars

As several of my Goodreads friends have pointed out, this book doesn't break much in the way of new ground, which is the main criticism I have of the work.

That said, it delivered what I wanted, which was a fast and mostly entertaining read.

That cliffhanger ending though? I was glad I already had the next book queued up.
Profile Image for Jake Rideout.
232 reviews20 followers
March 19, 2011
This book was completely not what I was expecting. Although, rereading the back, I'm not sure why I was so surprised. The back cover reads:

An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human...

Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom--a young army veteran--and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse.

This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.

My first surprise was the writing. It seems like there are dozens of post-apocalyptic novels getting published these days, in the wake of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, and quality of writing is not always the first consideration. This book, though, is actually well-written. Ilsa J. Bick obviously has a vast knowledge of guns, wilderness survival, emergency medicine, and human biology, and her descriptions are detailed yet accessible. It's not all about the action, though--Alex's emotions are vivid and real.

The second surprise was the scope of the novel. This is no cookie-cutter action book, where monsters keep popping out of nowhere and the characters are running helter-skelter from one disaster to the next. There are quiet periods. A realistic amount of time passes. I was not exhausted and glad to be finished with the book when I came to the end. And the world is complex, well thought-out.

There is one similarity with other post-apocalypse novels: the cliffhanger ending. I should have been ready for it, since I was very clearly approaching the end with no resolution in sight, but I was still thrown for a loop. All in all, a pretty impressive start to an exciting new series.
Profile Image for Lou.
879 reviews865 followers
October 29, 2011
A dog a man's best friend and in this case a girls, Alex the main protagonist in this story.
A story set in the backdrop of a desolate land forsaken with an ever growing amount of people, particularly young, transforming into Zombies. Alex tries to come to terms with her fate set before her. She has a sense of smell which is far more greater than the average persons capabilities, she can sniff out the Zombies, the dogs she encounters in this story seem to sense that too. She is 15 and an orphan with a brain tumor. Alex teams up across the land with Ellie aged 8, a dog and Tom an explosive ordnance disposal expert and slowly their fates weight up in the balance of survival. The whole decline of events started with something called 'the Zap' since then there has been no planes or iPods working an E.M.P electromagnetic pulse killed most electronic devices, power grids and communication arrays. Alex finds herself in company of a band of men and they are from a small knitted group called The Rule, what will her fate be in this story how will her journey end?
Well this question was the driving force of the story for me that kept me immersed and one that the reader will have to discover for themselves. The story ends with more left to your own imagination of what next to come, so there seems to be a second book in the works.
I enjoyed the story it had enough of a dosage of cannibal Zombies, Love and fear.

"As long as you're alive their is hope," Jess said."Hope is saying that I will live one more day, and that is a blessing, too."

Author video interview @ http://more2read.com/?review=ashes-as...
Profile Image for Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker.
596 reviews379 followers
July 10, 2011
2.5 stars out of 5

The story:

Alex, has a brain tumor. She does not want any more treatments, is tired of hospitals, treatments, and false hope. So, when you are questioning your own survival, what do you do? You go on a “survival” trip! Ok. We straight here? Good.

So, Alex is in the woods. She is just minding her own business, being the withdrawn, moody teenager, when she meets 8 year old Ellie and Ellie’s grandfather. We don’t need to go into the details of Ellie but let’s just nickname her “superbrat”.

Ok, so big zap, WTF, weird electrical zipzap stuff happens and this big bad pulse kills Ellie’s grandfather. Oh shit.

Ellie survives the zap, and Alex not only survives the zap but also regains her sense of smell, (which she had lost due to her brain tumor). But oh no, just wait, now she is a living bloodhound. Her sense of smell is off the charts. She can sense more than your basic BO, let’s just say Alex’s nose knows all! (sorry couldn’t help it).

Ok, nothing wrong here. Alex and Ellie, I mean superbrat, are surviving, moving along, surviving when they run into other teens. But wait, these aren’t your average everyday teens, they are zombies! Yikes! Seems there are 3 outcomes to the big zap, 1) you survive with no side effects or heightened side effects, 2) you die or 3) you become a flesh eating zombie.

And here is my warning to you- these zombies love slurping gooey eyeballs, sucking fresh intestines right out of the dying body cavity and it is all detailed in black & white. So, if you don’t have a strong stomach (or intestines) you might want to skip this book.

Now, don’t worry, we have a boy coming into the story (it couldn’t just be two young girls surviving, that would be boooorrrrinnng right?). Let us introduce Tom, he happens to be a explosive ordinance disposal expert. No problem, we’ll need a bomb expert later in the book. It’s a good thing one survived! Oh, and if you are worried about medical problems or surviving in the wilderness, don’t you fret! Our girl Alex happens to have a Mom (sorry she is dead now) that was a doctor and a dad (that was a cop, also dead). What does that mean? Alex is skilled in sewing up her dinner (long story) and shooting guns, rifles and other weapons! It is amazing how these characters always have the perfect past to survive in these dystopian novels.

Ok. So no problems here. Ellie, who is no longer superbrat, she is now a halfway decent kid, Alex, and Tom make a decent living in the woods. All is fine and the story is not that bad. In fact, up until this point….. 4 stars.


After Ellie and Tom disappear (long story), Alex finds herself in this weird cult. I cannot even tell you what the hell the 2nd half of the book is about but it was so strange, and so WTF, that I kept thinking it must have been written by someone else.


I don’t know what happened to this book. It was fine. Not the best I’ve read, pretty predictable, very unrealistic but I’ve come to expect that in dystopian novels. The 2nd half of the book just was awful. Simply awful. Nothing redeeming about it!

Profile Image for Donna.
1,194 reviews
December 11, 2014
When I first saw Ilsa's new book in a Publisher's Weekly article highlighting look-out YA books at BEA this year, I emailed her immediately and started hunting for her publicist's information to get a copy. I loved, loved, LOVED Draw the Dark so much that Ilsa could have written PUDDING!!! in blue crayon for 180 pages and I still would have wanted to read it. Guys, I don't love books like this very often but DRAW? OMFG love. So I saw a chance to jump at ASHES and I took it.

After some back and forth I ended up with a copy and my ultimate goal was to read it before BEA and then gush about it here and send my attending readers over to her signings to get copies. Obviously I'm just reviewing it now but gush I did already. And I hadn't even finished it at that point. Now that I've finished it, I want to consume it piece by piece, perhaps marinated in a nice remoulade sauce, so I an absorb her talent for my own.

Srsly, ASHES is an apocalyptic/dystopian novel that all other YA apocalyptic/dystopian novels should aspire to. None of those lazy worldbuilding, OMG lurve triangle piles of horse poop. Well, there's a little bit of a love triangle but it's more like two disjointed lines that haven't connected yet that are on like 25% opacity in Photoshop. It's all about the world and the characters surviving in it. Everything is so expertly figured out that it's hard, if not impossible, to find loopholes in the logic. The shit that should happen does. Nothing is conveniently explained away. There are no fades to black and then POOF everything is better. Logic rules. Science rules. This all makes the story pwn.

Alex is one hell of a strong, resilient character that almost wasn't. To keep this review spoiler-free, I won't say why but I will say when this girl needs to keep pushing forward, there isn't much that'll be able to stand in her way. And just when you think she gives up, she slaps you upside the head and proves you wrong. Ellie is the type of character you want to slap. Yeah she's young and scared but Alex is a better person than I probably would be if our roles were switched. Would I leave Ellie behind? No. Would I slap the snot right out of her when she gets petulant? Probably. At the very least be screaming my head off. My patience with children is pretty low under normal circumstances. And Tom. Dear Tom. What a saving grace he was. A perfect compliment, filling in the gaps in Alex's survival knowledge. And I loved how Ilsa balanced that relationship that, for the most part, wasn't there like it is in many other similar books.

One of the reasons why I liked ASHES so much. Romance isn't the focus. It's hardly even a blip on the radar. The book is about the world, the destruction of it and these characters' subsequent survival. Romance is tertiary at best and that's how I like it. There's just enough in there to spark something but she has you so sucked into the world that it doesn't really matter.

Ilsa's writing is detailed almost to a fault. There were a couple of places where it went on a little too long and gave a few too many details that probably wouldn't have hurt the story if they were removed but ultimately I didn't mind. All that detail played well when it mattered. Again, no spoilers but I will recommend not reading this book while eating anything. There were many times I found myself a little nauseous reading some of the things that happened. In a good way, if that's possible.

I alluded to it before but I'll say it straight out: Ilsa is merciless with her characters. She shows them no mercy. Anything that can happen to them will. They don't get reprieves, they don't get spared, they don't amazingly escape dangerous situations without some damage done at least. Logic holds strong to these characters and just because Alex is the MC doesn't mean she's boo-boo free. Holy hell no. If anything she gets it the worst. Ilsa does everything with her characters that I hope to do with mine. It takes true bravery to submit your babies to this kind of torture and I commend her for it. Not many authors do this and it makes her work all the stronger for it.

And last but not least, there are zombies. Sort of. They're not the already-dead-and-then-alive type of zombies. They're Changed. And evolving. Oh man they evolve and that makes them all the more terrifying.

Seriously, this book is terrifying. It will have you looking up at the sky and wondering what if. Because it could happen. It makes sense. So why wouldn't it? Truly frightening that at any second ZAP! Gone. And what then? ASHES is the type of apocalyptic/dystopian novel that gives other like-minded novels complexes. It puts them to shame in terms of worldbuilding and character development. And the ending? GAHHHHHHHHHHHH! If you don't want to read more after that ending, then go to a hospital and have them check your pulse because I think you might be dead.

Read ASHES. Now. Or when it comes out. You will not regret it.
Profile Image for May.
Author 11 books8,594 followers
August 6, 2015

Cenizas es la primera parte de una trilogía que lleva el mismo nombre. Es una novela post-apocalíptica con una ambientación interesante y con una idea general que me ha gustado mucho. Empecé a leerla sin saber qué esperar de ella, el tema zombies me gusta mucho pero lo cierto es que la contraportada y la portada no me llamaban demasiado la atención. Sin embargo, me ha sorprendido positivamente.
Por un lado me ha gustado mucho la ambientación de Cenizas porque, si bien es cierto que es muy tópica, está muy bien descrita y sitúa perfectamente a la lectora en la historia. Es muy tópico el bosque post-apocalíptico -por no hablar del tema de los zombies en sí- pero la autora le da a todo un lavado de cara. Los zombies ya no son lo que eran y lo convierte en algo original e innovador. Esta punto me ha gustado mucho.
También me ha gustado el ritmo trepidante que tiene y cómo la novela absorbe a la lectora. Me enganché desde el primer momento y leí las 200 primeras páginas en una hora a las tres de la madrugada. No podía parar de leer y cuando lo hacía era porque tenía que dormir o debía dejarlo por alguna razón. Porque sinceramente, esta novela me ha atrapado muchísimo.
Lo que más me ha gustado ha sido la primera mitad de la misma porque a partir de la segunda todo empieza a decaer un poco. Las cosas pasan demasiado rápido, la trama da un giro extraño y no terminó de convencerme.
Hay detalles que se me han quedado fuera de lugar. Por ejemplo, el tumor cerebral de Alex lo veo fuera de lugar y poco necesario. La protagonista no necesitaba ese tumor y se queda descolgado en la trama. Me parece añadirle un drama absurdo que está de adorno en la novela.
Los personajes tampoco los veo muy bien trabajados. Alex es muy plana, Tom y Ellie tienen poca profundidad. Espero que esto cambie en las próximas novelas.
El tema de los zombies me gusta mucho y me encanta cómo están tratados en esta novela y qué explicación va dando a todo la autora. Me ha gustado, lo he disfrutado muchísimo y me deja con ganas de saber más de esos zombies.
En resumen, es una primera parte de trilogía buena, que tiene un ritmo increíble, que me ha atrapado como no lo ha hecho ninguna otra novela en mucho tiempo, que tiene ciertos detalles que espero ver mejorados en su segunda parte y que me ha dejado con ganas de mucho más. Si os gusta la literatura post-apocalíptica y los zombies, esta es vuestra novela
Profile Image for Josu Diamond.
Author 8 books33.2k followers
February 10, 2015


Tengo que decir que no, un dos no es mala nota. Cenizas está bien, es entretenido pero tiene muchas cosas absurdas. La primera mitad de la novela es la mejor parte de todas, especialmente cuando aparece el personaje de Tom. Ahí es cuando la novela de verdad me enganchó. Pero cuando ocurre una cosa y se llega a un sitio (no quiero hacer spoilers), todo cae en picado. Se lee rápido y eso es un plus. Seguramente lea la segunda parte porque sí hay tramas que me han interesado y creo que la protagonista está muy bien construida, además, lo que se deja abierto para la segunda parte me interesa algo. Así que en fin, ya os contaré. Pero por lo que a Cenizas respecta, ha sido una lectura más. NEXT.
Profile Image for Schokigirl.
352 reviews36 followers
July 19, 2017
Sind jetzt doch nur 4,5 Sterne geworden, weil es an der spannendsten Stelle einfach abgebrochen wurde & weil Alex mir gegen Ende zu lange absichtlich auf dem Schlauch stand.
Ansonsten war es echt total top. Richtig gut. Würde gern direkt weiter lesen. Allerdings ist Band 2 kaum zu bekommen -.-
Profile Image for Audrey.
19 reviews
March 9, 2012
I can say with the most unbridled sincerity that Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick earned the one start rating. I disliked it, and anyone who has been around me for the last few weeks can testify to this fact. I was very verbal about it. But I had to finish it, just so I could give you a complete picture on why this story irks me to my very core.

Don't listen to them, because trust me, this is not any foreseeable future. It's science fiction, plain and simple, not any accurate description of what would actually happen in the case of an Electra-magnetic Pulse. I don't care that this fact is true (even though a lot of the logic behind it seems quite flawed and ludicrousness), it just bothers me that everyone keeps saying stuff like "a glimpse of what our world can turn into at any moment"--which its not.

Second myth I'd like to personally dispel about Ashes: It doesn't have zombies. I know, all you Ashes fangirls and fanboys just went "Yes huh! There are totally zombies." First of all, the only thing the cannibalistic kids have in common with zombies is that they smell like rot and they eat human flesh. I am not a zombie purist. I am okay with the zombies being able to run or climb or have fine motor skills or whatever but these are NOT zombies. 1. They do not infected others. They just eat them. 2. They are not DEAD. They smell dead. But they can freeze to death, and even can starve and can be killed very easily. 3. They are smart. Zombies are primitive at best. What ever these creatures are, that are not primitive, they are smart and organized. So they are not zombies. And this isn't even Bick's fault because not once do I think they actually call them zombies.

Moving on. Beyond the fact that this book was severely unrealistic, the main character being unlikable, and how desperately boring it could be, it was radically inconsistent. The beginning seemed (while completely misleading) a story about survival and being among the last survivors. The second half of the book was completely different. It was about cults and society and church and rights. It felt like I was reading to entirely different stories. And might I add that the second half of the book was just stupid. That is the only word I could think to use. It described a society that had apparently already set up a new system: said screw the US we are going with our backward hick, Christian view, we got the Council of Five and all our obscure one word titles for things like The Changed, The Awakened, The Spared, blah blah blah. Trust me, if you read it, you will agree with me on this fact, it was stupid.

The saddest part of this book is it falls for the saddest YA trope of all time: the love triangle. I should call it the appending love triangle because it hasn't really become an issue yet, but it is so clear. I could sense it since the moment she met the second love interest. I don't understand if this is a ploy to get little hopeless romantic teenage girls to gobble up books, or if Bick sincerely thought she was original. Ilsa J. Bick, if you read this, let me just say this one thing to you: this was the single most unoriginal thing in the entire story and ought to have been rethought completely. Who told you this was a good idea? It's not.

Finally, the writing was terrible. I appreciate diction, syntax, figurative language, and all of those fun literature words. But Ashes lacked those things or they were very poorly done.

I strongly urge you to skip this one.
Profile Image for Tilly Booth.
181 reviews930 followers
September 10, 2014
The edition I bought of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, it had a small sticker saying ‘As good as The Hunger Games or your money back’ and let me tell you, this series is definitely as good as THG and maybe even better! This book has easily become one of my favorites.

I had Ashes sitting on my shelves for almost a year when I decided to pick it up. I finished it in less than a day and went straight to the bookstore for the second book. The characters are great. Alex has a tough background and when she is partnered up with an 8 year old with a bunch of attitude it makes the story great. Then a mysterious ex-army cadet is introduced and it makes it amazing. The dialogue flows and it’s realistic.

There is a cliffhanger in the middle that I questioned. It changed the whole plot of the story and at first I was disappointed but when I finished the book it made me think, how often does a book manage to surprise you?

Ashes is face-paced, action packed and gory. If that sounds up your alley then I definitely recommend this book! It was so, so much better than I expected!

Genre: Horror/Dystopia
Rating: 4/5
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
778 reviews519 followers
October 9, 2011
"Ashes" is a uniquely-set example of zombie dystopia that manages to keep the reader on her or his toes with a lot of action, a compassionate, brave and stong heroine, a cute-kid-sidekick, who repeatedly puts a strained smile on the worried reader's face, a loyal dog and a likable, but difficult-to-grasp kind-of-love-interest (Forget what the book-flap says. Don't expect a romance novel, please.):

After two years of chemo and nano-pebbles and other ineffective treatments seventeen-years-old orphan Alex has given up on fighting her tennis-ball-sized brain tumor. Armed with some gear and a heavy case (I pretty much guessed from the beginning what it contained, but it was kept a secret for three quarters of the book. ) she sets out to hike through the wilderness toward Lake Superior.

She has just shaken hands with an an old guy on a fishing-trip and his whiny eight-years-old grand-daughter Ellie, when something later identified as an electromagnetic pulse kills off all electronics - including Jack's pulse-maker and a lot of birds and game. Interestingly Alexs instantly not only gets back the sense of smell her tumor had previously eliminated, but is able to use it at a superhuman capacity, too. In addition she loses the slight tremor in her left hand and shortly after that - because of Ellie - most of her outdoor equippment and food. After surviving a couple of kids who were gorging themselves with the intestines of a lone camper, Alex starts to develop alarming theories about what happened to whom, in which perimeter and why Ellie's and her own brain did not turn them into juvenile cannibalists. But there is not really time to ponder, because the girls are attacked by a small pack of wild dogs and later by another "brain-zap" - who gets shot just in time by the youngish soldier Tom. Tom claims to be on holiday leave from his duty in Afghanistan and seems to have his own difficult past.

At this point the road trip/hell ride really takes off, takes some shocking, some ruthless and some unexpected turns and finally lets us hang on a real, stomach-droppingly, fist-in-the-mouth, blink-blink-blink-do-not-mess-with-me cliffhanger that costs my rating a fully filled-in and carefully lined star.

Otherwise I liked "Ashes" (at least the first, "road-trip-style" part) quite well. But not well enough to rate it five stars (if you put the cliffy aside, I mean). And not well enough to buy the sequel, either. Some strange things about the settlement "Rule" and the relevation about it works bothered me a lot in the last third, but I am too exhausted to pull them out of the fogginess of my setting-saturated mind. Maybe I will prod/study some enlightening reviews later.

If you consider reading a rather interesting, no-filter-gruesome Zombie dystopia, "Ashes" is definitely no bad choice. But if you asked me, I would in all likelihood say: "Buy Enclave first!", because it was simply better rounded, had a far stronger pull on my emotions and a hero that stole a larger chunk of my heart. Still, "Ashes" is better constructed than the also fast-paced, pretty similarly-set, but city-based, romance-induced and self-published monster apocalypse Released, which is to be had as a Kindle version for almost nothing.
Profile Image for Matt Mead YA Librarian.
37 reviews2 followers
March 16, 2012
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC of Ilsa Bick's fantastic new book Ashes, which is scheduled for publication in September.

I enjoyed Draw the Dark, but this book totally blew me away. I'm almost sad that I got it as an ARC since now I'll have to wait longer for the sequel than I would have had to wait if I had picked up this book in September. The plot is original and well paced. There are structural similarities to the Hunger Games and Dashner's The Maze Runner that give this book a read-alike feel and should appeal to fans of both of those series.

The story centers around Alex, a teenage girl who is hiking in the Upper Peninsula, when a catastrophic electromagnetic pulse destroys all electronic devices and apparently the brains of most people in the area if not the whole world. Some people simply died when the EMP occurred, but a number of people, particularly people around Alex's age have turned into raging cannibalistic zombie types referred to as "the Changed". She meets up with other survivors and together they attempt to find safe haven, but that's hard to do when even other survivors are likely to shoot teenagers on sight in fear that they are changed. Twists and turns appear at just the right places, a love triangle is set up (a la Peeta and Gale) and the cliffhanger ending is so perfectly unexpected that the anticipation for the next volume in this series is almost painful. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Emily (Obsessed Reader).
430 reviews287 followers
October 12, 2015
This was a re-read for me.

First time I read the book, February 6th, 2012: Wtf just happened?! Gah. I need book 2 NOW!
Rating: 4 stars

Second time, October 12th, 2015: I liked it even more the second time around. I've read/watched quite a few zombie stories, and this is one of the best. I absolutely adore Alex, and I feel like she is a lot like Katniss. This story is just so engaging and it captured me from page one. Every time I put the book down, I couldn't wait to get back to it! Absolutely loved it, and I highly recommend it.
Rating: 5 stars
Profile Image for Emma.
2,512 reviews857 followers
January 6, 2020
The first half was good but the second half dragged a bit and I was looking forward to finishing. Quite good but nothing original.
Profile Image for Leigh Collazo.
671 reviews224 followers
June 2, 2023
What I liked: More, please!!! The Stand, The Hunger Games, Chaos Walking, and now Ashes. I do love me some apocalyptic fiction, and I read Ashes compulsively. I read it at the breakfast table, in the closet waiting out a tornado warning, in the bathroom, in the car, at the eye doctor, at the gym. I even skipped the American Idol Finale to finish it. When I wasn't reading it, I was talking it up to others or thinking about it. Quite simply, literary euphoria.

While there are relatively few characters for much of the book, the main three (Alex, Tom, and Ellie) are complex, courageous, and believably flawed. Alex's sardonic references to her brain tumor show that while she accepts that the tumor will eventually kill her, she won't be going down without a fight. She's a survivor who can navigate the wilderness and isn't at all squeamish around guns and knives. While at first Tom seems a bit too good to be true, he's clearly battling his own demons and, like Alex, does not back down from doing what's necessary to survive. Little Ellie is understandably bitter and has been through more than any eight-year old girl should; readers will easily forgive her bad attitude once they learn more about her struggles. She's only eight, after all.

Bick sets up a love triangle that I can't wait to see develop in second book. While both romances are a bit predictable, the leading men are likeable enough that many readers will root for them both. Bick left herself lots of room to expand both male characters in later books; there is more to them than meets the eye.

What I didn't like: The events of the last 50 pages happen so quickly that they are confusing. I closed the book and thought, "What just happened there?" Like Alex, I have lots of unanswered questions, which leaves me anticipating the sequel even more.


Language: mild-medium; language is sprinkled throughout, but it is not at all gratuitous

Sexuality: mild-medium; some kissing, talk of young women being necessary to continue species; a couple of references to menstruation

Violence: extremely high; very graphic descriptions of "The Changed" eating various human body parts; several murders; lots of gore and blood. Not for weak stomachs.

Drugs/Alcohol: nothing more than aspirin, ibuprofen for pain; medical drugs in surgery and cancer treatments

Status in my library: Oh, the conflict! I would love to get this one and can think of several students who would definitely love it. The gore is my main concern, and I rarely reject a book for the library based solely on violence. I do get tons of requests for "the scariest book in the library" or "a book with murders," and Ashes would fit both. Requests for "zombie books" can be difficult to fill, and this would satisfy that niche as well. As gory as it is, I do believe there is a middle school audience for Ashes. As a former middle schooler myself, I know I would have loved it.
Profile Image for Anna.
52 reviews7 followers
August 17, 2011
The beginning of this book sucked me in immediately with a very different sort of beginning compared to the average YA novel. Bick seems to create a well fleshed out character in Alex effortlessly. She is vulnerable for reasons I don't want to spoil, yet capable and independent. Like Alex, Tom quickly comes across as a real person, a genuinely good, real person. And Ellie. Ellie is a kid with issues. (I actually pictured Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl from the movie Kickass--attitude, not violence--when I read Ellie.)

Not only are the characters intriguing and unique, but the plot! The plot is so different from what I've come to expect in the YA genre. It is gritty and suspenseful and plausible enough to willingly suspend my disbelief. It basically starts right before an apocalyptic event that changes most of the population in a catastrophic way and takes us beyond it into the very new post-apocalyptic landscape.

The problem with this book (why I didn't give it 5 stars) comes in just past the middle. I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say it reads like Bick had two VERY different versions of this manuscript and just spliced them together. Midway through everything about the focus of the book shifts. All of the existing plot threads and characters (with the exception of Alex) are basically cut and all new ones manifest the way they should in the beginning of a book.

For me this was a huge let down for the plot. Because the initial story arc basically gets severed, the resolution at the end of the book only addresses the new arc, challenges, and characters introduced halfway through the book. Another problem, that may just be personal preference, is that the first half was far superior to the second, so the drastic shift was even more disappointing. Also the strength I loved in Alex through the first half seemed conspicuously absent in the second half.

It's hard for me to discuss the details of this book without giving too much away, and half of the enjoyment for me with this story was the discovery. It's part sci-fi, part post-apocalypse, part zombie, part wilderness survival, and the telling was extremely visual and well-paced.

This is the strangest 3 stars I've ever given a book. What it really breaks down to is 5 stars for the first half of the book and 2 stars for the second half. I am very optimistic for the next book, hoping Bick can get the story back on track, and personally hoping she returns to some of the characters and plot threads she ditched halfway through.

Profile Image for Katrina Passick Lumsden.
1,780 reviews12.8k followers
November 14, 2011
Realistic, likable characters and an intriguing plot line. What more could you ask for? How about religious undertones (both for and against), a little romance, science fiction, modern warfare, survivalism, mysterious superpowers, and honest-to-god zombie teenagers?

I can't help it, I love this book. Alex, our heroine, isn't some simpering, helpless idiot. Sure, she doesn't make the brightest decisions at times, but she knows how to take care of herself. Finally, a protagonist my inner feminist doesn't have to shy from or be ashamed of.

The peripheral characters are surprisingly well-written. Ellie is like a small mirror image of Alex, but with her own unique twist. Tom is the valiant hero who has issues but, refreshingly, doesn't wallow in self-pity like certain other YA men. The trauma and dangers encountered are realistic enough that I didn't feel like it had been whitewashed for the sake of sensitive readers. After all, those of us who are most interested in these stories usually aren't super sensitive to gore and violence.

I found myself actually relating to the characters in a way I'm not often capable of. This book had me alternately tense, confused (in a good, effective way), heartbroken, and incensed (also in a good, effective way). I couldn't help but root for Alex as she tries, against some fairly insurmountable odds, to do what she believes is right.

I've read a lot of reviews on this book and I see a lot of people were disappointed with the way the story shifts in the middle. To this I say....annnnd? All stories have turning points, this just happens to be the turn this story took. You either like it or you don't, I guess. It didn't bother me. Sure, I stared at the chapter after the cliffhanger with a little incredulity, but it's not like it was difficult to catch up, and the situation Alex finds herself in later is the set-up for the rest of the series, sooo...yeah, I guess I just don't get the anger. It's called suspense. Deal with it or don't.

If you liked The Hunger Games, odds are you'll like this. I like Ashes more, actually, because it's less melodramatic and a bit more realistic. Even with the zombie teens.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,607 reviews5,994 followers
November 6, 2014
This book started out with me just wanting to kick an 8 year old's whiney butt. She did get better once the story got rolling so I gave in and didn't run her down.
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This book was really good read for me. Had some survival skills going on and of course the kids in the story that have been "changed". Not really zombies because they are still alive but yes alive and eating other peoples is still pretty gross. But what do I do? Read every thing I can get my greedy little hands on that have to do with them.
Poor Alex's character in this book just couldn't win for losing. You would think that she was going to catch a break and bam! it would go against her every stinking time. The whole thing with the dogs though. That was pretty cool that they could sense who was about to turn or "change."
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Alright; I hate giving things away in my reviews but I just put in at the library for the rest of this series and most series books just tick me off. So that's says something about how much I liked this one.
Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,456 reviews84 followers
December 5, 2017
Wow, this one is SCARY. Like the whole time you're reading it you expect Changed kids to be standing behind you, and more than once I got that shivery feeling of being watched. Probably doesn't help that the two afternoons it took to read this were stormy; the wind creaking oddly, the gentle patter of rain. Once yesterday and once today my pupper Paddy barked and startled me while reading, so I was even more freaked out!

It's kind of obvious that even though I read a lot, I come back to the same kinds of books again and again. I like zombie novels because they really do scare me, and I like post apocalypse stories because I like knowing what survives. I watch my boyfriend play Fallout and know I would be terrible at it, because I would salvage everything, not just what was needed. I also generally like survival stories, and this definitely fit the bill there. Although I liked the first half far more than the second, I'm hung up on that ending and I want to know what happens. Sneaky, Ilsa, sneaky.

The writing is very gory; fair warning. There isn't any simplifying of death, rot and murder. Characters are out to survive, however they can. I liked that, but some of the animal scenes were too much for me. It added realism, but I check 'Does the dog die' before I watch movies for a reason!

A really good start to the series, I can't wait to track down the next books and find out what happens. Five stars!
Profile Image for Belle Sabattin.
410 reviews37 followers
March 16, 2018
De cierta forma es un libro de zombies, pero al mismo tiempo no lo es, ya que hay seres que cumplen con características tipo zombies, pero a penas se sabe un poco de ellos en este libro... Creo que es más bien un libro de supervivencia a algún tipo de apocalipsis, pudiendo ajustarse lo que pasa a cualquier eventual escenario del "Casi fin del mundo".

Principalmente se centra en la miseria humana en la que nos convertimos como sociedad y en como una chica súper fantástica sobrevive a todo esto...

Ahora, sin duda, no hay mucha cosa novedosa en esta historia, de hecho tiene bastantes similitudes con la Quinta Ola. Pero, como siempre, estos libros adolescentes distópicos no suelen destacar por su originalidad, si no más bien, por la adicción que producen y los finales impactantes. Dejando claro este punto, debo decir, que este libro no es la excepción.

Es adictivo, tiene un buen final que te hace pensar "Wow, no puedo esperar por el próximo", pero si están buscando una historia de zombies, de supervivencia humana y con algún toque de originalidad no lo vas a encontrar, pero si quieres algo que utilice la antigua fórmula que nunca falla, incluyendo el triángulo amoroso infaltable... no se lo pierdan, además hay que reconocer que este tipo de libros son un PLACER CULPABLE (Si, así en mayúsculas).
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