Friday, January 16, 2015

[Blog Tour] Thicker Than Blood by Madeline Sheehan and Claire Riley

Today I am thrilled to be hosting a blog tour stop for Thicker Than Blood, by Madeline Sheehan and Claire C. Riley.  Make sure you follow the buy link below - this is a book you don't want to miss!


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.

Madeline Sheehan and Claire Riley have written one of the most thoughtful, powerful and emotional books that I have read to date.  Thicker Than Blood is exactly what the title says - it's a story about friends who are closer than family.  It is about a friendship that transcends every other relationship.  It is about survival and consequences, guilt and destruction, promises and failures, and intricate relationships and hope.  Thicker Than Blood is gritty, in-your-face, terrifying and realistic.  This is so much more than a zombie novel.  It is a study in relationships and in coming to terms with one's choices.  It is complicated and messy, and I loved every single minute of it.

People, I'd come to learn, were rarely congruent to the face they put on.

Evelyn and Leisel have been best friends since before the infection.  Their husbands were best friends, and they spent most of their time together back before the world was flipped upside down.  This book opens up with Leisel killing her current husband.  Both Eve and Leisel are living in a safe community, forced into marriages that neither wants.  Eve passes the time having an affair with the dashing Jami, while Leisel crumbles under her powerful husband's imperial fists.  When Leisel faces serious consequences, Evelyn is there to rescue her.  This is where the story started in earnest, with Eve, Lei, Jami and Alex (a town guard) on the run from the only safety they had known for four years.

He used his chains to strangle the thing, and ripped its head clear off.  Then he tore open the body, dug out a leg bone, snapped it off, and waited until someone came looking.

Evelyn was described as the strong woman - the one to protect and comfort the weaker Leisel.  I never once thought of Lei as weak.  I thought that too many fussed over her and didn't give her a chance to be anything but weak.  Leisel always had a fire in her belly.  From the first scene in this book, we know what she is capable of.  She was constantly being protected by those that loved her, and I felt that if they had just given her a chance, she would have proved them wrong.  Leisel might have appeared weak and whiny on the outside, but she had the inner fortitude to survive in this nightmare of a world.  The most compelling part of this book, for me, was the change we see in Leisel.  Although she never loses herself, she becomes more than I ever thought she could be.

She might be fragile physically, she might be easily upset, always wearing her emotions on her sleeve, but out of the three of us - Alex, Leisel and myself - she was the one who'd held on to her humanity the most, not an easy task in a world gone to hell.

Evelyn was the strength of the duo on the surface.  She was a protector and would do anything to get Leisel to safety.  Eve is a tough, smart and sometimes cold character.  She has a lot of inner demons that she is not able to cope with.  Her struggles are all internal - from her past to the promises she made Leisel's first husband before the infection killed him.  She also has a bit of a savior complex.  Her self-identity is wrapped up in her role as Leisel's guardian.  When her identity is challenged, Eve has some difficult thoughts and feelings to work through that almost destroy her.

Leisel's words took on a life of their own, imbuing me with the knowledge that she did in fact still need me, despite her having Alex.  More than anything, she still wanted me, and I was still worth something.

 Alex, oh Alex.  Alex was the guard who had loved Lei from afar.  He lived with the guilt of watching her suffer at the hands of her second husband.  He is also the light in Leisel's world.  Their relationship is slow building and under constant attack, but it is sweet and gentle and oh, so very hopeful.  Alex is the protector and the fighter that Eve and Lei both need.  He is the type of man that would lay down his life for either of these women.  I love, love, love Alex.  He became the light in this dark, dark place that these characters lived in.

He hadn't just loved me, he'd freed me.

The world that Alex, Lei and Eve lived in was bleak and unforgiving.  The setting moved the plot along brilliantly, portraying how the changing world changed humanity along with it.  We are left wondering who is worse in this new world.  The infected monsters, or the human monsters?  It becomes apparent rather quickly that what's left of humanity is the greater evil.

Everything good left in this world was going to be eventually snuffed out altogether, one by one, and not by the infected but at the hands of the selfish, greedy people who'd taken control, who'd turned a worldwide devastation into their own personal playground.  Soon there would be nothing decent remaining, only sin or sacrifice, and my only solace was the hope that eventually they'd all kill each other off.

There were many parts to the journey of Leisel and Alex.  Their survival was threatened at every juncture of the story.  There were so many obstacles for these characters to overcome.  As I was reading, I kept thinking to myself," When is this going to end?  When will these characters catch a break?"  It seemed that the characters would leave one bad situation and enter and even worse one.  Almost all hope was lost for me in this book.  There were fights and deaths and close calls that had me on the edge of my seat.  And just when I thought - "No!  Sheehan and Riley wouldn't do that!" - they did it.  Time and time again.  

Alex was quiet, forever internalizing his demons, always a silent soldier.  Leisel was the victim, constantly relying on everyone else to save her from herself.  And I was...I was the whore.

This story is written with a lot of heart.  I didn't expect to it to be as emotionally charged as it was.  This is a story that is going to stay with me for a very long time.  And the epilogue!  Oh, sweet Jesus, the epilogue.  If you thought this was an emotional ride before the ending, think again.  The epilogue had me in tears and clenched my heart with its unforgiving fist.

You were...worth it.

If you are a fan of strong women, strong relationships and apocaplyptic settings, then you must one-click this book now.  I highly recommend this story - not just to zombie aficionados, but to everyone.  This book is very well written.  I wasn't able to detect a difference in writing style between the two authors.  The main characters in this book are all realistic - their thoughts, anxieties and inner dialogue are all highly relatable.  The inner turmoil each characters faces, the outside stresses they must all endure and the underlying themes of undying platonic and romantic love and respect make this book a winner in every possible way.  Thicker Than Blood was everything I was hoping for and more.  Luckily for us, there is another stand alone book planned in this same world, and I'll be putting it right at the top of my most awaited books of 2015.  

Fantastical realm dweller Madeline Sheehan is the USA Todaybestselling 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.

Claire C Riley is a Best Selling British horror writer.
A reader and writer of dark paranormal romances and zombie horror, plus a ton of other things to give you chills!

She lives in the United Kingdom with her three young daughters, husband and one scruffy dog!  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 is an avid reader of all genres, book collector, general procrastinator and has a great zombie apocalypse plan in place thanks to a questionnaire she asked her readers to fill in for her.  She encourages reader participation on her blog, author Facebook page, and twitter account with questionnaires, quizzes, and fan art. So please feel free to stalk her at any of those places!


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