Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Thicker Than Blood by Madeline Sheehan and Claire C. Riley

Series: Standalone
Release Date: January 12, 2014
Publisher: Madeline Sheehan & Claire C. Riley
Genre: Adult, Post-Apocolyptic 
Source: From Author for Review
Rating: ★★★★

A true friendship never dies.

Leisel and Evelyn lost everything. Husbands. Families. Friends. Lives that made sense. All they had left was each other, and a friendship that could withstand anything…

Even an apocalypse.

Until one fateful night, the marginal safety they’d come to rely on comes to a vicious and brutal end. With the help of Alex & Jami, both unlikely allies, Leisel and Evelyn are able to escape their shattered sanctuary only to find themselves face-to-face with a much altered, much crueler life where they have to find the way—and the will—to stay alive in a world they no longer recognize.

Traveling across a broken and infection-ridden country; the road-weary group are pitted against endless violence, improbable circumstances, and the ultimate loss.

Everything comes at a price—especially safety, the cost of which could very well strip them of the one thing they’ve tried so hard to cling to: their humanity.

Yet along with all the trials they’re forced to endure, there’s also hope in the form of love. Having loved Leisel from afar, Alex attempts to put the pieces of her fractured heart back together.

But in such a savage world, is there room for love?

In a place of nightmares-made-reality, where the living should be feared far more than the dead, an unbreakable friendship and a love amongst all odds can mean the difference between life and death.

There are friends…

And then there are Leisel and Evelyn.

*Spoiler Free Review*

"Always together, Eve. Always."
What happens when you mix Thelma & Louise with The Walking Dead? You get the masterful piece of work written by Madeline Sheehan and Claire C. Riley. Set in a world that's been ravaged by disease and death, Sheehan and Riley breathe life and humanity into this tale about friendship, love, hope, and survival. THICKER THAN BLOOD isn't just about the walking dead or the apocalypse, it's about the determination of two friends, who vow to fight for survival, no matter what, and at what cost. I'm not a huge reader of post apocalyptic zombie fiction, so for me to like this book as much as did is a pretty big deal.

We were together, and as long as we had each other, I knew we would be okay.

Sheehan and Riley totally slayed me with their first collaboration. There were times while I was reading this book that I felt like I had just been running as hard as the characters in this book. With my heart beating profusely, and my blood pumping through my veins at gushing speeds, Sheehan and Riley had me feeling every bit of terror while I imagined living in this world. Their vivid writing placed me right in the thick of this harsh world, and it was easy to imagine the abandoned and empty world they had created. It was like Sheehan and Riley plucked me right out of my comfortable home and dropped me right in the middle of the Walking Dead set. Their take on zombies was scary and horrific enough, but not too gory to where a non-zombie fiction reader would be totally turned off. But the scariest characters in this book weren't the infected, but the humans. Humanity has been lost and the survivors of this new world are savages. They will hunt, steal or kill anything and everything they come across in order to survive. They were the ones I was most scared of and the ones that could inflict the most pain. Sheehan and Riley's depiction of society in this new world was utterly scary and made me think that I would not survive one hour in this world. 

...what good is surviving an apocalypse without the battle scars to prove it...

In between all the zombie horror was a story about friendship that made this book so much more. While the threat of the infected, and other humans was what got your blood pumping, the personal journeys that Evelyn and Leisel took is what kept me so wrapped up in the book. The bond between these two characters is stronger than any friendship that I have ever seen, and thicker than any blood relationship that I have read about. Evelyn and Leisel's friendship was able to survive all the hurdles they had been through and they walked hand-in-hand through their new nightmarish lives. I'm finding it really hard to describe just how strong their bond is. It's something that you have to witness yourself. Eve and Lei brought a different dynamic to their relationship that both soothed and uplifted them. While they each filled a different role at the beginning, they somehow switch places as the story moves along. Their role reversal shows just how humanity or the lack of it, and their harsh environment makes a big impact on how you move forward. But even with their struggles, and up and downs, the bond that they share, and their dedication they had to each other was so unreal and beautiful.

I did love him in the sense that he held a place in my heart, one that was solely and irrevocably his and his alone. It might have been a different type of love than what I felt for Thomas or the way I loved Evelyn, but it was love nonetheless.

There's also a nice bit of romance thrown in between Leisel and Alex, which provided a nice little break in between all the desolate times. Alex is a character that you meet early on, and is one person that helps Evelyn and Leisel leave the cruel life they were living in. Even though he leads them through another hellish world, Alex was the ray of hope that these two women needed at the time of their lives. Alex made a huge impression on me and he's definitely one of my favorite characters. By the end of this book, your heart will be bleeding for Alex. He's one character that I won't forget for a long time. What I liked most about it was that Sheehan and Rilye didn let this romance over-shadow the rest of the book. The moments between Lei and Alex were poignant and showed me that even when you're walking through hell, it's still possible to find a connection with someone you totally unexpected. Through all of the horror and terror, Sheehan and Riley were able to demonstrate that nice and tender moments could happen even when you're stuck in hell. 

I refused to let her go, even for a second. When she stumbled, I stumbled; when she fell, I fell. We were in this together; she was all I had left.

The story of Leisel and Evelyn's friendship will have you biting your nails while you wait and see what happens next; and have you crying at times when you feel grave danger or sheer terror of what it's like living in a post-apocalyptic world. Sheehan and Riley balanced the human story with zombie horror perfectly, and they had me spellbound with their compelling story-telling. THICKER THAN BLOOD isn't an easy story that you can quickly breeze through. Evelyn and Liesel's journey keep a tight grip on you as you watch them maneuver their way around a world that has been ravaged by death, disease, and the new evils - both dead and live - that walk their new world. Sheehan and Riley had me totally absorbed in this world, and they made you feel every bit of fear, anxiety, and horror of Evelyn and Leisel's lives, from beginning to the bittersweet end. 

We should have learned by now that nothing was ever easy in this world. Yet, like children, we remained forever hopeful, optimistic that just once something would go right for us.

I was already a huge fan of Madeline Sheehan prior to reading this book, but after seeing what she can do in this genre, my love for her has grown exponentially. I'm also glad to have discovered Claire C. Riley. With this book being the first book of Riley's that I have ever read, I am definitely looking forward to reading her other work. Even if you're not a fan of zombie/apocalyptic/dystopian/horror stories, THICKER THAN BLOOD is definitely one book worth checking out. Eve and Lei's friendship more than makes up for the lack of a heavy romance because in a way their relationship played out as it's own love story. Sheehan and Riley writing duo has definitely made a huge impression on me, and I cannot wait to see what they have to offer us in the future. 

Book Links: Amazon | Amazon Paperback | B&N 
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Fantastical realm dweller Madeline Sheehan is the USA Today bestselling author of the Holy Trinity Trilogy and Undeniable Series. 

A Social Distortion enthusiast, lover of mud and anything deemed socially inappropriate, Madeline was homegrown in Buffalo, New York, where she can be found engaging in food fights and video game marathons with her husband and son.

Connect with Madeline
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Claire C Riley’s work is best described as the modernization of classic, old-school horror. She fuses multi-genre elements to develop storylines that pay homage to cult-classics while still feeling fresh and cutting-edge. She writes characters that are realistic and kills them without mercy.

She lives in the United Kingdom with her three young daughters, husband and one scruffy dog!

Connect with Claire
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

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