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Bent Heavens

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Liv Fleming's father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he's dead, though that doesn't mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so despera Liv Fleming's father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he's dead, though that doesn't mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so desperately believed were after him. But Liv is done with childhood fantasies. Done pretending she believes her father's absurd theories. Done going through the motions for Doug's sake. However, on the very day she chooses to destroy the traps, she discovers in one of them a creature so inhuman it can only be one thing. In that moment, she's faced with a painful realization: her dad was telling the truth. And no one believed him. Now, she and Doug have a choice to make. They can turn the alien over to the authorities...or they can take matters into their own hands.


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Liv Fleming's father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he's dead, though that doesn't mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so despera Liv Fleming's father went missing more than two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Liv has long accepted that he's dead, though that doesn't mean she has given up their traditions. Every Sunday, she and her lifelong friend Doug Monk trudge through the woods to check the traps Lee left behind, traps he set to catch the aliens he so desperately believed were after him. But Liv is done with childhood fantasies. Done pretending she believes her father's absurd theories. Done going through the motions for Doug's sake. However, on the very day she chooses to destroy the traps, she discovers in one of them a creature so inhuman it can only be one thing. In that moment, she's faced with a painful realization: her dad was telling the truth. And no one believed him. Now, she and Doug have a choice to make. They can turn the alien over to the authorities...or they can take matters into their own hands.

30 review for Bent Heavens

  1. 4 out of 5

    ✨Brithanie Faith✨

    4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I, too feel as though I've been abducted by aliens after reading this novel. I'm still not entirely sure what I just read, but it was pretty great nonetheless! If you're looking to dip your toe into young adult sci-fi/horror then this might be the book for you! The horror aspects of this were pretty mild, but at times it was definitely unsettling. Aliens- and conspiracies- and inner conflict aside, Bent Heavens also t 4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I, too feel as though I've been abducted by aliens after reading this novel. I'm still not entirely sure what I just read, but it was pretty great nonetheless! If you're looking to dip your toe into young adult sci-fi/horror then this might be the book for you! The horror aspects of this were pretty mild, but at times it was definitely unsettling. Aliens- and conspiracies- and inner conflict aside, Bent Heavens also touches on grief- and how people act when they're under a lot of pressure.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Crowinator

    "She widened her eyes as much as she could and took it all in, because she’d seen worse, participated in worse, was worse.” I'm amending my star rating from 4 to 5 stars because I just cannot stop thinking about this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/03/01/... For so long, I’ve been on the lookout for a YA horror that truly terrifies me, and I think I’ve found it. That’s not to say author Daniel Kraus doesn’t make a few plays toward YA traditions in Bent Heavens, but after reading it, I certainly feel as though I’ve been through a hellish, insanity-inducing nightmare and barely made it back with my mind intact. Our story stars Liv Fleming, whose father Lee went missing more than 4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/03/01/... For so long, I’ve been on the lookout for a YA horror that truly terrifies me, and I think I’ve found it. That’s not to say author Daniel Kraus doesn’t make a few plays toward YA traditions in Bent Heavens, but after reading it, I certainly feel as though I’ve been through a hellish, insanity-inducing nightmare and barely made it back with my mind intact. Our story stars Liv Fleming, whose father Lee went missing more than two years ago, shortly after he started becoming mentally unstable and claiming that he had been a victim of alien abduction. The resulting paranoia had led Lee to take his daughter and her childhood friend Doug out into the woods to set traps for the aliens, which never ended up snaring anything more interesting than the odd squirrel. Still, even with her dad gone now, Liv continues to go out with Doug to the woods each day to check on the traps, partly out of tradition and partly out of hope. Even though what Lee had claimed about his abduction seemed impossible, neither do the teens want to believe that the man, whom they had both loved and respected, had been completely out of his head. But then one day, just when Liv was about to give up hope and take down the traps once and for all, she and Doug find a strange, monstrous-looking creature caught in one of them. With shock and horror, they realize Lee had been right, which now puts his disappearance in a whole new light. Desperate to find out what had become to her father, Liv reluctantly goes along with Doug’s plan to keep the alien a secret while they figure out how to communicate with it and force it reveal Lee’s whereabouts. Much of this occurs in the first half of the book, where the content remains quite tame. It’s what happens later on—as the story descends into dark, uncomfortable and disturbing territory—that makes Bent Heavens such a chilling, skin-crawling read. The beauty in it, too, is that there is not just a single dimension to this terror. It’s difficult to describe without giving away too much of the plot, but I will say the reason why I thought this novel was so effective is because of the combination of graphic detail and an atmosphere of unease. Kraus doesn’t pull any punches, and many of the ideas in here are meant to make you squirm, or like you’ve just taken a sucker punch to the gut. One-part body horror, one-part psychological thriller, this novel is designed to explore the darkness of human nature and the lengths we go to justify certain choices. Bent Heavens is a “mature” YA horror in that sense, one I would hesitate to recommend to everyone, let alone every teen, because there are moments that get too “real” for comfort despite the story’s speculative fiction undertones. So be aware, this book is not for the faint of heart, and if you do not want to read about themes related to pain, cruelty and torture, I would stay far away. Personally speaking, though, the darkness was what I loved about this book, the bold way it was written, knowing the complex emotions it would stir up and not caring. In fact, in some ways I wish this had been a purely adult novel, so we could have dispensed with certain YA conventions such as the exaggerated, high-school-style affectations in the dialogue or over-embellished prose. Liv herself is pumped full of adolescent angst, and she’s also involved in a lot of petty school-related drama that ultimately served little purpose. Furthermore, there was a pitiful attempt to shoehorn in a romance when the story really didn’t need one. Bruno’s presence seemed entirely unnecessary, and by the end of the book you realize he was just there as a tool to further plot development. Worse was how underdeveloped his character was, and rarely do Liv’s thoughts of him go beyond ogling his good looks. There’s meaningful diversity and then there’s token representation, and unfortunately, Bruno’s shallow portrayal makes it feel like the latter. That said, the overall storyline was solid and tightly paced, even with the aforementioned diversions and the needless hanky-panky with Bruno, because in the greater scheme of things, any flaws were just minor distractions. On the whole, Kraus did a phenomenal job tracing Liv’s evolution of thought, which serves as a reflection on the darker side of human psychology. Because of this, none of the main characters are going to feel all that sympathetic, but likely this is by design. And finally, there’s the ending, which admittedly had a twist that I saw coming, yet it was still so nauseatingly and viscerally awful and devastating that I think the intended emotional impact was still felt. So yes, Bent Heavens is a book that will stay with me for a long time. I would recommend it—but with caveats. You’ll probably need to be in a certain frame of mind to read and appreciate it, but if a truly unsettling horror is what you’re looking for and the novel’s description piques your interest, I would give it a try.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is going to blow a lot of readers' brains. It is part alien story, part story about conspiracy theories, part story about the power of the media, part story about growing up without much in rural Iowa, and part story about family. It's by turns heartening and heartbreaking, and it's a story featuring a main character who is unlikable and angry and violent...and also one full of compassion, discovering a moral compass, and wrestling with unbelievable grief and frustration, taking it out thro This is going to blow a lot of readers' brains. It is part alien story, part story about conspiracy theories, part story about the power of the media, part story about growing up without much in rural Iowa, and part story about family. It's by turns heartening and heartbreaking, and it's a story featuring a main character who is unlikable and angry and violent...and also one full of compassion, discovering a moral compass, and wrestling with unbelievable grief and frustration, taking it out through the only means she can. Smart, complex, and exceptionally timely, Kraus's part-horror, part-science fiction, wholly human story is engaging, enraging, and an absolute winner. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time, and I can't wait to revisit it and see exactly how he wove everything together in such a compelling and savvy way.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Robinson

    YES!!! What a great read. Family. Sacrifice. Suffering. Conspiracy. All of these things craft the main threads throughout Bent Heavens. This book was my first experience reading Kraus’ work. Prior to this I had only watched The Shape of Water, a collaboration with Guillermo del Toro that was also released as a novel. I even have two more Kraus books waiting in the wings, and after reading this one, I will be digging in sooner rather than later. As the synopsis notes, we follow the MC, Liv, as she YES!!! What a great read. Family. Sacrifice. Suffering. Conspiracy. All of these things craft the main threads throughout Bent Heavens. This book was my first experience reading Kraus’ work. Prior to this I had only watched The Shape of Water, a collaboration with Guillermo del Toro that was also released as a novel. I even have two more Kraus books waiting in the wings, and after reading this one, I will be digging in sooner rather than later. As the synopsis notes, we follow the MC, Liv, as she traverses a personal and public hellscape that would challenge even the toughest adult. I just love her. She is flawed and a mess and beautiful all at once. I work with teenagers on a daily basis and Kraus just really nails the high school environment and pressures. All from the perspective of a female. It’s impressive. I’m a fairly fast reader. Some of that is due to just who I am and some is due to necessity. I, like so many of us, have a busy, crazy life full of lots of things that demand my attention. All of which takes away time from reading a book. This book is one that even when I was away from it (against my will), I thought of it. I needed to know what happened. Two days ago, I finished this while sitting in the grocery store parking lot. I needed to read the last 50 pages and everything else could wait. Even food. I see many readers who don’t normally read or enjoy YA (hey – I don’t read much YA at all) mentioning they’d like to expand out a bit. This book may have a teenage protagonist and some teenage issues, but this is very much an adult fiction book. Emotional and physical trauma exist within these pages in a tug-of-war that left me reeling. It’s because I was so invested in the characters that I found myself flipping these pages, desperate to know what would happen. This book made me laugh, cringe, and cry: that’s a winner for me. TLDR? A relatively small cast of characters, in a small, nowhere Iowan city, experience otherworldly and very real traumatic experiences throughout the book. A blistering pace combined with conspiracy, revenge, love, and heartbreak combine to create a binge-worthy read for readers of YA and adult horror/sci-fi fiction. Add this one to your TBR – I need to discuss!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stacee

    Well, this is something I probably wouldn’t have looked at if I didn’t get the email from the publisher. It’s being marketed as YA and I’m not sure how because it’s quite graphic. I liked Liv. She’s struggling with grief and doesn’t quite know how to deal with it, so she’s lashing out and pretty much being a dick. Her relationship with Doug is interesting and I feel like a lot of that is what kept me reading. There are a few other characters, but this story is 100% focused on Liv. Plot wise, it Well, this is something I probably wouldn’t have looked at if I didn’t get the email from the publisher. It’s being marketed as YA and I’m not sure how because it’s quite graphic. I liked Liv. She’s struggling with grief and doesn’t quite know how to deal with it, so she’s lashing out and pretty much being a dick. Her relationship with Doug is interesting and I feel like a lot of that is what kept me reading. There are a few other characters, but this story is 100% focused on Liv. Plot wise, it was okay. I thrive on dialogue and most of this story is inner monologue and sort-of-flashbacks. I spent a good portion of the story wondering how much of Lee’s story was going to be true and once something was caught, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. As I said above, it’s really graphic. There’s loads of violence and blood and I was feeling really bad for the thing they caught. Overall, it was a fairly dry read, but the last 25% of the book was amazing, very shocking, and raised my rating from 3 to 4 stars. **Huge thanks to Henry Holt BFYR for the invite to read**

  7. 5 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    I don't know how much I can emphasize that, despite the ages of the characters, despite the parent trouble and the bully trouble and the general teen angst, this book is not YA. It's brutal, dark, and depressing. I also need to tell you that it's not E.T. Remember E.T.? Find the ugly/cute big-eyed alien, have compassion, try to save it? Nope. I'm not going to spoil it for you. I'll just say that, in this case, E.T. should have stayed home. It's a well written book and the author clearly didn't even t I don't know how much I can emphasize that, despite the ages of the characters, despite the parent trouble and the bully trouble and the general teen angst, this book is not YA. It's brutal, dark, and depressing. I also need to tell you that it's not E.T. Remember E.T.? Find the ugly/cute big-eyed alien, have compassion, try to save it? Nope. I'm not going to spoil it for you. I'll just say that, in this case, E.T. should have stayed home. It's a well written book and the author clearly didn't even try to make it a pretty or light one. I just think it's a case of expectations crashing into reality...be prepared for reality to suck. Not for me, but if I were in a really dark, rage-filled mood, this might suit. Then again, it might not. I missed...compassion.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)

    3.0 Stars The premise of this novel was so incredibly intriguing that I had to check out this novel for myself. However, the synopsis was almost bit misleading because I did not get the story that I expected. It’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers, but I know that this book is going to be divisive among readers.  In many ways the story reminded me of the author’s previous work, The Shape of Water. I liked that one, but I did not love it. I feel similar about Bent Heavens. The writing w 3.0 Stars The premise of this novel was so incredibly intriguing that I had to check out this novel for myself. However, the synopsis was almost bit misleading because I did not get the story that I expected. It’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers, but I know that this book is going to be divisive among readers.  In many ways the story reminded me of the author’s previous work, The Shape of Water. I liked that one, but I did not love it. I feel similar about Bent Heavens. The writing was good, the characters were decent, but I did not find the actual mystery to be as intriguing as it should have been.  Despite being classified as young adult, I personally felt this novel read like adult fiction. Other than the ages of the protagonists, I honestly don’t know why this book was targeted at a younger audience. The story goes to some very dark places and has a level of maturity that I would not normally associate with YA literature. The science fiction elements in this book were very light. For the most part, this one read more like a contemporary story and could easily be consumed by readers who do not typically read science fiction.  Overall, I would recommend this one to readers looking for a slow-burn character story with some gut-punching emotional moments.  Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tracy (The Pages In-Between)

    My Review- Thank you Henry Holt Books For Young Readers for gifting me an E-ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review. All opinions are my own. I rate this book 3.5 out of 5 Stars. It is out today to buy at your favorite retailers! I was so excited to see something new and fresh in the YA world! I love Alien stories, and I really enjoyed this one. Don’t let the fact that this is YA fool you though. It is pretty damn intense, and dark. I am not an avid horror reader, but this was the perfect My Review- Thank you Henry Holt Books For Young Readers for gifting me an E-ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review. All opinions are my own. I rate this book 3.5 out of 5 Stars. It is out today to buy at your favorite retailers! I was so excited to see something new and fresh in the YA world! I love Alien stories, and I really enjoyed this one. Don’t let the fact that this is YA fool you though. It is pretty damn intense, and dark. I am not an avid horror reader, but this was the perfect book to open my eyes to the genre. Parts of this book do get pretty gruesome, there is some body mangling/gore so if you are weak stomached or triggered but such things, proceed with caution. For me, the writing was dark and delish, and it had me sitting on the edge of my seat, with my heart racing, and the urge to look over my shoulder. Not to mention the Alien Abduction dreams that this book induced! I haven’t read any other books by Daniel Kraus, but I am ready for more!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelsea

    WHOA. That. Was. INTENSE. I've read one Daniel Kraus book before, The Shape of Water, so I had some hint of what I'd be in for. I thought it would be interesting to see what his YA is like. I buddy read with a friend who ended up DNF-ing the book because of all the body horror, and I completely understand that choice. I also find it unpleasant reading those parts and have stopped reading other books for similar reasons. If you're really averse to disgusting and physically horrific scenes, you may WHOA. That. Was. INTENSE. I've read one Daniel Kraus book before, The Shape of Water, so I had some hint of what I'd be in for. I thought it would be interesting to see what his YA is like. I buddy read with a friend who ended up DNF-ing the book because of all the body horror, and I completely understand that choice. I also find it unpleasant reading those parts and have stopped reading other books for similar reasons. If you're really averse to disgusting and physically horrific scenes, you may want to skip this one. The premise for Bent Heavens, however, had me really intrigued, so I read on. And just like The Shape of Water, Bent Heavens is full of paranoia and darkness and human depravity and people who take things too far, but it also has moral quandries and people with compassion trying to do the right thing. And above all, it's really, really different... and thought-provoking. There was a moment so stunning it made me gasp aloud. I will say that this did not read at all like YA to me, and if you're expecting the usual YA trappings, you may be disappointed. However, if you're looking for something that is very different, intriguing, dark, and deeply unsettling, pick this one up. Free ARC received from Fierce Reads in exchange for promotions. All opinions are my own.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Stover

    Liv Fleming’s father went missing two years ago, after claiming to have been abducted by aliens. What Liv does and becomes because of this made this book so hard to read, mainly because of the brutality but it’s also filled with grief, love, belonging and not belonging, hope and hopelessness. At times I had to take a break from this book. Surprising twists and turns near the end kept me from putting this book down. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time. So, I’m still thinking about Liv’s s Liv Fleming’s father went missing two years ago, after claiming to have been abducted by aliens. What Liv does and becomes because of this made this book so hard to read, mainly because of the brutality but it’s also filled with grief, love, belonging and not belonging, hope and hopelessness. At times I had to take a break from this book. Surprising twists and turns near the end kept me from putting this book down. I’ll be thinking about this for a long time. So, I’m still thinking about Liv’s story. The amount of bravery she showed at the end was incredible. I’m glad a young female character displayed this.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    3.75 rounded up. This was so much darker than I expected. When I started to realize where it was going I hoped I was wrong. When my premonition was proven correct in the most horrible way my stomach hurt from the horror of it. This is a brutally sad story. Humans are always the most savage in the end.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Ugh. I went in expecting a very different story than what I got (difficult to elaborate without spoiling things) but I think the message of the book is very important. Instead of a sci-fi adventure story this is more of an exploration of violence and what makes people human. What really motivates people to inflict pain? Who deserves dignity and why? Very thought-provoking, graphic, and odd.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: A bloody, scary good time, skillfully written and paced, Bent Heavens kept me flipping pages, even though I had some issues with a few elements. I’ve seen some fantastic reviews for Bent Heavens, and so I went into it with high hopes, knowing this was a thriller/horror story revolving around aliens. And without spoiling things I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The nitty-gritty: A bloody, scary good time, skillfully written and paced, Bent Heavens kept me flipping pages, even though I had some issues with a few elements. I’ve seen some fantastic reviews for Bent Heavens, and so I went into it with high hopes, knowing this was a thriller/horror story revolving around aliens. And without spoiling things for you, I will say it was very scary and compulsively readable. BUT I have to admit I was disappointed with the twist at the end when we finally get some answers, which is the main reason for my middle-of-the-road rating. So overall this was a mixed bag read for me, although lots of readers are giving it four and five stars. I also need to caution readers, particularly those who are triggered by torture scenes, this story is pretty harsh in places and was very difficult to read at times. I’m not opposed at all to graphic violence, but in this case I feel compelled to add a hidden spoiler below as a warning to sensitive readers (see spoiler at the end of this review). The story takes place during high schooler Liv Fleming’s senior year. The past few years have been rough on Liv and her mother Aggie, after Liv’s father, Lee Fleming, disappeared for four days and returned naked and haunted, insisting that he had been abducted and tortured by aliens. Eight months after his return, Lee disappears again, this time for good. Ever since that day, Liv and her good friend Doug have kept a promise to Lee to check his elaborate traps in the woods, traps Lee set to catch any “skinners” that might come after him (his name for the aliens). So for the past two years, every Sunday morning, Liv faithfully follows Doug into the woods to check the traps, which usually yield nothing more than a careless squirrel or two. But one day, something else gets caught, a disfigured, humanoid being with lumpy skin and bulging eyes. Doug is convinced it’s a skinner, and he takes it back to Lee’s garden shed and ties it up. Liv is horrified but also feels sorry for the creature, but Doug is ruthless and determined to get justice for Lee at any cost. As Liv begins to spend more and more time with Doug and "A," as they begin calling the creature, her life becomes tangled up with Doug's mission of vengeance as her old life slowly slips away. I want to talk about the elements I loved first. Kraus is such a good writer, and his pacing was excellent. The story is broken up into four distinct sections, and each one ramps up the terror and suspense just a little more—that is until you get to the last section, which dials things up to 100! I loved the way he incorporated a few elements that carried through the entire story. For example, Lee Fleming was a high school English teacher and he used a book of poetry called Resurrection Update by James Galvin to teach his students. An old copy of the book plays a part in Lee’s eventual disappearance, and I thought it was interesting that when I Googled the book, it turned out to be real (and yes, I Google stuff in books all the time!). I love details like this because it shows that the author put a lot of time and thought into his story. I also loved the character development, especially that of Doug. Doug is the weird kid at school and he doesn’t have many friends. He falls into that nerd/geek category because he spends time designing corn mazes, of all things. But as the story progresses, he completely changes into something nearing evil. His relationship with Liv changes as well, and that might have been the scariest aspect of all. Let’s just say the real monsters in this book are not aliens and leave it at that. Kraus also knows how to scare the pants off his readers. There were so many creepy elements in this story, and he spreads them out in a way that keeps the mystery going for quite a while. One of the most bizarre things to me was the idea of building and setting alien traps in the woods. Lee Fleming gave each of his traps a horrific name, like the Amputator, Hangman’s Noose and Neckbreaker, for example. Lee’s obsession with building these traps in secret was also unnerving, and as much as I wanted to turn the pages faster to see what would happen, I was also terrified at the same time. The tension was so skillfully done, so if you love that sense of horror and uncertainty that comes with this type of storytelling, you will probably enjoy this book. Those positives aside, however, I still had a few issues. As I mentioned before, the twist near the end came out of nowhere (at least to me), although looking back there are plenty of clues that I should have picked up on. But the twist still made me mad, I guess because I was hoping the story would go in a certain direction, and then it didn’t. There is a lot of high school drama in the background too, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, beware. And the the drama doesn’t really add much to the story, although it does establish that Liv has a fairly normal life with friends and school activities, that is until the weird stuff starts happening. We also meet a new kid at school named Bruno who becomes a love interest for Liv, but I think the story would have been just as good, if not better, without him. His presence creates a weird love triangle of sorts with Liv and Doug, and he does make an intuitive leap at one point in the story that helps Liv solve the mystery of her father, but it felt blatantly shoehorned in and rather awkwardly done. The ending went completely off the rails for me, in that ridiculous way that some horror stories do. What could have been an eerily believable tale turns almost laughable with over-the-top action, as if the author was trying desperately to tie up all the loose ends. I know this is horror fiction and it’s not real (or at least I hope it isn’t!), but for me to enjoy a story that’s grounded in reality, I need those speculative elements to make a certain amount of sense. But overall, I found this to be a compulsive and thrilling read, even if I didn’t enjoy everything about it. Horror fans who aren’t afraid of graphic violence and enjoy over-the-top storytelling are going to love this, but squeamish readers should proceed with caution. Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Liv and Doug capture an alien-like creature and bring it back to the old tool shed on Liv’s property, tie it up, and proceed to inflict various types of torture on it, with the purpose of getting it to tell them what happened to Liv’s father. That was bad enough, but what I really hated was that I pictured this alien creature in my head as E.T., and to me these torture scenes felt like animal cruelty. Animal lovers beware!This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    [Content Warning: Depictions of physical torture, mutilation, (view spoiler)[human experimentation, body horror] (hide spoiler)] Okay, listen. This isn't a nice book. In fact, it's a pretty damn depressing book. It's a book that roams the dark and shadowy place that Mufasa warns about. Nothing good can come of chasing it but death and singing hyenas. Which is why I'm here, on my knees, asking you to chase read it. Contradiction, thy name is Bent Heavens. This is my third Daniel Kraus read (well, two an [Content Warning: Depictions of physical torture, mutilation, (view spoiler)[human experimentation, body horror] (hide spoiler)] Okay, listen. This isn't a nice book. In fact, it's a pretty damn depressing book. It's a book that roams the dark and shadowy place that Mufasa warns about. Nothing good can come of chasing it but death and singing hyenas. Which is why I'm here, on my knees, asking you to chase read it. Contradiction, thy name is Bent Heavens. This is my third Daniel Kraus read (well, two and three-quarters--I still have to finish Zebulon Finch) and here's what I've gathered about the guy so far: when you leaf through the pages of Dictionary: Daniel Kraus Edition, you'd find burnt holes under the entries "comfortable," "pleasant," and "simple." Kraus doesn't do soft. He doesn't do pretty. Interpersonal horrors and intimate darkness--darkness made almost beautiful by its closeness--are spaces in which he thrives (which is why he works well with Guillermo del Toro, I suppose). He has a knack for taking discomfort and instinctual revulsion and turning them into compelling art. Calling this book "art" might be an arguable point for some, but it is definitely compelling. The first half is pretty slow, focused on the psychological ramifications of having a father who went missing and returned, telling everyone he'd been taken and experimented on by aliens, and then promptly disappeared again. It's a stripped-down, realistic take of your typical abduction plotline; less of flashing lights and crop circles, and more of the abductee's obsessions and fears and the toll they have on his family. It sets up the lonely and insulated environment for the main character quite well. The second half is where things get truly heavy. Let's talk about the elephant in the room: this story has alien torture. Not as graphic as I'd thought it would be, but still pretty graphic. One of the characters quotes and takes inspiration from George W. Bush's policies on torture of al Qaeda prisoners, and they become the springboard for everything that follows. And there's a lot that follows: an exploration of prisoner/prison guard psychology; the ease with which people dehumanize and justify their dehumanization. What happens when tragedy meets anger in an echo chamber, Kraus asks, and then proceeds to muddy waters by slipping weariness into the mix. And more so than the anger, the latter is what really stuck with me. Atrocities you commit because you've been ground down and you're exhausted and it's easier to let someone else's rage fuel you than to scrounge up your own and realize you're not that angry--at least, not enough to brutalize. No. Much easier to give someone else the reins and follow. I think passivity is a difficult trait to portray, as you're fighting against reader expectations of what a protagonist should be, with popular media teaching us to love active characters and scoff at the inactive ones, but the author does a brilliant job of it. There are scenes that ride the edge of suffocation and frustration, and I would've hated them if they weren't written so honestly. At the same time, I hated them because they were written so honestly. The prose is the biggest complaint I have. I wish Kraus had used the first-person POV; it's where he works best, and it would fits the narrative better, making the introspective scenes more, well, introspective. But maybe that's exactly why he didn't use it. Because he wanted a buffer between the readers and everything that happens with the characters. A deep dive into Liv's emotions might have been too raw. Regardless, the third person POV combined with Kraus' style--surplus descriptions and use of adjectives--has the unfortunate side effect of making things comically overdramatic at the wrong moments. And while the dialogue is mostly fine, sometimes it gets a little cringey: "You're a barrel of monkeys today." "I didn't ask for this ride." "Will you take ten chill pills?" My second complaint isn't really a complaint, just another rendition of Why the Hell Is This Marketed As YA. I've looked at Kraus's books in the past and thought, "I'm not sure what age group this belongs to," and that feeling is doubled here. It's very mature, despite the high school characters, and the themes would feel more at home in an adult horror/thriller. If nothing else, though, I recommend it for the ending because it's probably the most bonkers thing I've read in a while. I'd call it entertaining if I didn't feel bad about finding it entertaining. Horrifically delightful? Delightfully horrific? It's like watching a train plummet straight into a ravine, and then seeing a land kraken erupt out of nowhere and bash the locomotive to pieces. And you can only laugh at the chaos inbetween whispers of "What the fuck." So yeah. Not a nice book. It's twisted and claustrophobic and heartbreaking and... And I couldn't stop thinking about it. So, come on, Simba. Take a walk on the dark side. (Review copy provided by the publisher.All opinions are my own) ~~~ Find me on: Blog | Twitter | Instagram

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tracy (Cornerfolds)

    Actual rating: 3.5 stars

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Jacobson

    I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review OH.MY.GOD. I am screaming, I am shaking. I am quaking. This book ripped me to shreds and it is easily the best book I have read so far in 2020. Daniel Kraus has been a longtime favorite author of mine so when I saw he was writing a book about a possible alien abduction I knew I had to pick it up. Because I am nothing if not an avid lover of science fiction and aliens. I literally have an UFO abducting a cow tattooed on my body s I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review OH.MY.GOD. I am screaming, I am shaking. I am quaking. This book ripped me to shreds and it is easily the best book I have read so far in 2020. Daniel Kraus has been a longtime favorite author of mine so when I saw he was writing a book about a possible alien abduction I knew I had to pick it up. Because I am nothing if not an avid lover of science fiction and aliens. I literally have an UFO abducting a cow tattooed on my body so clearly I am the demographic for this. I expected a darkly morbid tale with some lovably flawed characters and impeccable writing. What I did not expect was to have my heart torn to shreds and to scream multiple times in awe and rage. Please read this. Please read all Daniel Kraus books, but please start with this because it is glorious. Now please excuse me while I go stare into the void for a million years.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Claude's Bookzone

    CW: (view spoiler)[Brutal torturing, described sex scene, self immolation. (hide spoiler)] Well that was a lot like being in a theme park. First you are sitting peacefully on the boring log flume and then suddenly you are in the House of Horrors with a machete wielding Jason (or Doug) jumping out at you, then you arrive at the ridiculous House of Crazy Mirrors and don’t know what’s real or not, then you head home feeling a little nauseous after all the crap you have ingested over the course of th CW: (view spoiler)[Brutal torturing, described sex scene, self immolation. (hide spoiler)] Well that was a lot like being in a theme park. First you are sitting peacefully on the boring log flume and then suddenly you are in the House of Horrors with a machete wielding Jason (or Doug) jumping out at you, then you arrive at the ridiculous House of Crazy Mirrors and don’t know what’s real or not, then you head home feeling a little nauseous after all the crap you have ingested over the course of the day. Please do not read this book if you are at all upset by the idea of torturing helpless beings. It’s really awful stuff and I wasn’t sure if I could read on but I ended up pushing through. I know some people have said this is a book about dealing with grief and how that impacts your behaviour but I have to categorically say that I don’t believe anyone would take the actions of the two MCs unless they were also psychopaths. So yes, it is a book about psychopaths dealing with grief. As much as psychopaths can. This is an incredibly ‘out there’ and bizarre book. After the story entered the House of Crazy Mirrors section I felt like it improved a bit. Improved? Well, I became a bit more intrigued anyway. I won’t be rushing out to recommend it to anyone but I neither would I discourage anyone from reading it. It's like one of those situations where something horrific is happening but you can't look away. Those people who have read it will know that there really isn’t much more you can say. Please read the content warnings before reading if you are sensitive to pain and torture scenes. The 3 stars are because it is so crazy that I can't stop thinking about what was going through the writers head as he wrote it. Otherwise it would have been 2 Stars.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)

    You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight 3.5* This is such a wonderfully bizarre book. Dark at times, and absolutely strange, it will leave you stunned in the best of ways. So let's chat about what was great and what was less so! The Good: • This is absolutely unlike anything else I have read. The unique genre mashup just works, somehow, even though I'll fully admit that I was skeptical. • The ending is perfect. You kno You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight 3.5* This is such a wonderfully bizarre book. Dark at times, and absolutely strange, it will leave you stunned in the best of ways. So let's chat about what was great and what was less so! The Good: • This is absolutely unlike anything else I have read. The unique genre mashup just works, somehow, even though I'll fully admit that I was skeptical. • The ending is perfect. You know how I talked about when endings ruin books? Well, what about when endings make books? For me, the ending made me adore this book! I obviously cannot talk about it other than to say I thought it was phenomenally done, and it made me appreciate the book a lot more. • It's incredibly dark. But please note, that some of the stuff is absolutely triggering, in the form of some really messed up torture/abuse. But if you are down with dark, it's really quite messed up, especially the way that some of the characters justify their actions. (And frankly, it says a lot about current societal issues and people overlooking and/or justifying monstrous acts,  just my two cents.) • There's no doubt it will provoke all the thoughts. Oh yes, this one is going to make you think, and wonder how you'd react to a lot of various scenarios. Many are spoilery, but one that is in the synopsis sparks questions: What would you do if your beloved family member claimed to be kidnapped by aliens? Is there any way you'd believe them? And that's just the beginning! The Not-As-Good: • I felt almost no connection to the main character. And the connection I did feel, I didn't really like her? I mean, I understand that she's flawed and trying to get through a lot of junk so I was able to cut her some slack, but I think that had I felt a little better connection, I would have been able to overlook some of her more unpleasant qualities. • The pacing is a little messy. When it picks up, it's quite good, but in the slower moments, it's definitely a bit of a slog. I still think it is worth reading, and dealing with the slower bits though. Bottom Line: Unique and full of surprises, it's definitely worth the ride.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    The disappearance of a parent lead to a heart-breaking chain of events in convincing genre-bending YA horror thriller Although Daniel Kraus’s forthcoming collaboration with zombie godfather George A Romero The Living Dead will undoubtedly pick up the headlines in the horror world, I would suggest also checking out the excellent Bent Heavens. Kraus has a superb back-catalogue of dark/horror YA fiction, including the highly recommended Rotters, and this latest release maintains his high standard. Su The disappearance of a parent lead to a heart-breaking chain of events in convincing genre-bending YA horror thriller Although Daniel Kraus’s forthcoming collaboration with zombie godfather George A Romero The Living Dead will undoubtedly pick up the headlines in the horror world, I would suggest also checking out the excellent Bent Heavens. Kraus has a superb back-catalogue of dark/horror YA fiction, including the highly recommended Rotters, and this latest release maintains his high standard. Surprisingly, in the UK he remains a relatively unknown quantity and Bent Heavens merits a proper release on this side of the pond. Eighteen-year-old Liv Fleming leads this genre-bending thriller which dances around horror, science fiction in a very convincing, Ohio, small-town setting. Teenage readers will easily tap into the troubled psyche and angst of a girl whose world was turned upside down when her father disappeared two years earlier. Her pain and grief from the lack of closure radiates from the page. She believes him to be dead, but a tiny part of her suspects he is still alive somewhere and has never given up hope, taking solace by competing for the school’s track team and remaining emotionally distant and detached from her friends. It is the circumstances of the disappearance of her father which makes this story fascinating with the occasional flashback thrown in. Lee Fleming was a very popular English teacher at the school Liv attended and before he disappeared indefinitely, vanished for a much shorter period before reappearing, naked, on the school campus. He was not the same man and was deeply psychologically traumatised claiming to have been abducted by aliens, or at least having vague memories of being experimented upon. Officially, it was presumed he suffered some sort of breakdown and the family struggled to cope with the emotional fallout. After his initial naked reappearance Lee Fleming directed, as he did every year, the school’s annual musical and reimagines “Oliver!” in a way which hints at aliens, abductions and other crazy stuff which lead to the show being halted in embarrassment. Early in the story Liv finds out the school will be staging a new version of “Oliver!” and is deeply upset by the insensitivity as the wounds are still very raw. This kicks off a chain of events which lead to her getting into trouble at school, which are not helped by the fact her mother is failing to cope at home. The relationship between Liv and her absent father and the sense of loss she feels lie at the heart of Bent Heavens and plays a major part in this convincing emotional drama. She is conflicted, confused, and struggling to cope within a realistic high school setting. Daniel Kraus does not ram usual high school tropes down our throats and the changes are subtle as Liv begins to pull away from her track group friends. She was an engaging central character and some of the scenes, such as when she loses control with the drama teacher were superb and any teen reader will surely connect with her pain. I do not know whether Daniel Kraus has come across the Iain Banks Scottish cult classic The Wasp Factory as Bent Heavens shares some of its vibe. Once Lee Fleming returns after his first disappearance, he becomes obsessed with aliens and constructs a series of six very dangerous traps in the woodland surrounding his house and names them; Amputator, Hangman’s Noose, Crusher, Neckbreaker, Abyss and Hard Passage. If you have ever read The Wasp Factory the traps might ring some bells and soon the creations catch something significantly larger than a squirrel. In other articles Ginger Nuts commentaries, I have lamented the lack of male lead characters in current YA fiction and Bent Heavens is yet another example of the boys being kicked into touch. I found this very disappointing at Doug Monk was a fascinating, tragic, and ultimately underused character. This troubled teenager was the same age as Liv and was taken under the wing of Lee, who Doug hero worshipped. Touchingly, even two years after the disappearance Doug still maintained and checked the dangerous alien catching traps created by Lee. The dynamics between the two teenagers was great, but I would have liked to have seen more of the boy who suffered the loss of Lee as much as Liv. It was also touching that Liv also continued to watch out for Doug at school and, ultimately, he was a very sad and broken character and their relationship could have been explored further. I found Ben Heavens to be a great read and it has enough strings in its bow to attract differing types of teen readers with its convincing blend of horror, drama, and thriller. In the end the story did not go where many readers might expect it to and is backed up a killer twist (although I saw it coming) which was also rather heart-breaking. I will be interested in finding out whether genuine teen readers figure it out. Reading it from an adult’s point of view, Liv probably solved the ‘mystery’ too easily, but YA audience should be happy with how things conclude. Ultimately, even though Liv might not have been the most sympathetic of characters, her pain and grief were convincingly portrayed in a powerful novel about the lengths people will go to know the truth. Even if the answers are going to provide more pain, there is at least closure. I have this book in my school library and look forward to recommending it to kids aged around thirteen or older. 4.5/5

  21. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    This book messed with me. I won an advanced reader at an event the Greene County Library hosted with Daniel Kraus and as Kraus said, it’s a mix of ET and torture. The writing throughout is great and at times disturbing. The descriptions of certain characters is cringe inducing and disgusting. If you’re up for a little teen and torture, give this one a try.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    The book was slow to build, but then it really took off and even had an unexpected twist. This is the first Daniel Kraus book I have read, but I want to go back and read more. I enjoyed it as an adult, and I will absolutely recommend it to the teens (and some adults) at my library.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Glatt

    It has been quite a while since a book has affected me so profoundly to the point that I had to take emotional breaks from it. The last one I remember is Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Daniel Kraus explores grief, loneliness, guilt, revenge, and more through this science fiction/conspiracy/horror tale. What makes this story so unsettling and horrifying is that it illuminates (in an unexpected way) just how completely trauma and loss can shape our thoughts and actions and send otherwise re It has been quite a while since a book has affected me so profoundly to the point that I had to take emotional breaks from it. The last one I remember is Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Daniel Kraus explores grief, loneliness, guilt, revenge, and more through this science fiction/conspiracy/horror tale. What makes this story so unsettling and horrifying is that it illuminates (in an unexpected way) just how completely trauma and loss can shape our thoughts and actions and send otherwise reasonable people into an inescapable downward spiral. I'm an educator, so a significant portion of our recent professional development has been focused on how we can address all the "baggage," for lack of a better word, that students must carry with them on a daily basis. Not one workshop or article has been able to drive this point home as much as Bent Heavens has. This book will stay with me for a long time, and then I will read it again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    ARC review This was my most anticipated title of 2020 so it's great to be able to read it a full 6 months early. Early reports of this being dark even for Kraus are exaggerated; if you got through the gruesome Scowler you can manage this. It's definitely got all the telltale signs of Kraus - father issues, small-town Iowa, traumatized protagonist, grounded "realistic" setting with one major outlier. However, I found it to feel very empty; while this is no doubt an intentional choice to reflect th ARC review This was my most anticipated title of 2020 so it's great to be able to read it a full 6 months early. Early reports of this being dark even for Kraus are exaggerated; if you got through the gruesome Scowler you can manage this. It's definitely got all the telltale signs of Kraus - father issues, small-town Iowa, traumatized protagonist, grounded "realistic" setting with one major outlier. However, I found it to feel very empty; while this is no doubt an intentional choice to reflect the mental state of the protagonist, I found it made the novel move far too quickly. Of course, as dark as it is, you probably don't want to spend your time relishing this, but as far as Kraus' prose goes it's one of his weaker novels. Even with that qualifier it is a fantastic title sure to please dark YA readers and longtime fans.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    What the hell did I just read? Check out my full review at Forever Young Adult. What the hell did I just read? Check out my full review at Forever Young Adult.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Albert Riehle

    Clunk. That's the sound of of me being let down again. Daniel Kraus got off to an amazing start with his book Monster Variations and since then, every book of his I've read has been less than stellar. This one, in particular, was a clunker. The plot was a clunker because you can see where it's going the whole way. I don't accept "but it's a YA book" as an excuse. YA does not equal stupid. Once the "Crossing the Threshold" portion of this book takes place, I think it's obvious to every reader, wh Clunk. That's the sound of of me being let down again. Daniel Kraus got off to an amazing start with his book Monster Variations and since then, every book of his I've read has been less than stellar. This one, in particular, was a clunker. The plot was a clunker because you can see where it's going the whole way. I don't accept "but it's a YA book" as an excuse. YA does not equal stupid. Once the "Crossing the Threshold" portion of this book takes place, I think it's obvious to every reader, what should have been at very least a consideration of it's main characters, but it isn't obvious to them and the do all kinds of dumb things because of it. You don't have to read past the book jacket cover to know that this book is going to involve some aliens and supernatural elements. I had no problem suspending my disbelief for those parts. The disconnect with this book wasn't the unbelievable aspects; it's with the actions, choices and unbelievable human beings in the book. Simply put, once they find "it," the protagonist and her sidekick have unbelievable and unrealistic reactions. If you know a teen who upon finding what they believe to be an extra terrestrial caught in a trap they've set, that they'd do anything but put it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat and try to go viral and become famous, I'll eat my shoe. But that never even occurs to either character in this book. Liv, the protagonist, is turned into a damsel in distress and is bullied into doing terrible things by a boy who she doesn't even really like--a boy she pities. But add a little pressure to her life and she needs this big strong boy to do all the dirty work and make all the decisions and gets talked into doing cruel, abusive and terrible things. There reason given for it is thin at best. And like some kind of mindless bimbo she just keeps going along with it. It's terrible. It's the humans in this book who are unrealistic. It's the people and their reactions that are inhuman. Kraus tries to play with the grand literary theme of Man's Inhumanity Toward Man but he fails to bring anything of substance to it. He certainly doesn't bring anything new or interesting. He definitely doesn't give us anything more than the weakest of background or psychology involved in it. In the Author's Note at the very end we, at least, get an understanding of what Kraus wanted to do. This is a book/story that was motivated by the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's Torture Program that used "enhanced" interrogation techniques. I don't have any problems there. I don't mind a writer who has a political motivation--in fact, I admire a writer who has something to say, along with telling a good story. But this is just terrible. The parallels are weak. The cause of these actions aren't given a strong enough reason. And again, the characters, who are clearly supposed to fall into the kind of hive-mind mentality of mutual enabling that allows this kind of torture to take place, don't do so in anything nearing a convincing way. I can't possibly recommend this book. It's out of touch. It draws the female protagonist as a helpless victim. The YA audience understands what it means to be cruelly tortured. They understand how easy it is to fall in line with an alpha doing terrible things to someone and ganging up on that person. This is a theme that is perfect for the YA audience--the problem is that I don't think Kraus understands his audience. I think he's writing the YA audience of himself at that age. And it's a different time. Skip this one. I can't possibly recommend it. It fails on every single level.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sadie | The Library Lane

    *I was sent a finished copy in exchange for an honest review.* Unfortunately Bent Heavens just wasn’t for me. I went into this thinking it was going to be a really cool alien science fiction, but what I got was something completely different. I’m really bummed out honestly. I am going to start with the one thing that I did really like about the book. There were quite a few twists and turns at the end that I was not at all expecting. They definitely kept me on he edge of my seat. The stakes were so *I was sent a finished copy in exchange for an honest review.* Unfortunately Bent Heavens just wasn’t for me. I went into this thinking it was going to be a really cool alien science fiction, but what I got was something completely different. I’m really bummed out honestly. I am going to start with the one thing that I did really like about the book. There were quite a few twists and turns at the end that I was not at all expecting. They definitely kept me on he edge of my seat. The stakes were so high and I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know how things were going to end up. Okay now for the things that didn’t work for me. This book is considered Young Adult, but I think it reads more as an Adult. While the characters in this story are teenagers, I feel like the content is better suited for a more mature audience. I didn’t really care for any of the characters. Liv was so unlikeable.. She had such a bad attitude and with that came random bursts of anger. She was also very disrespectful especially to her teachers, who literally did nothing to deserve it. In the beginning I liked Doug. He was misunderstood and I felt really bad for him because Liv was such a terrible friend. As the story unfolded, his character went in a direction that I didn’t like whatsoever. Bruno was another character that I could have really liked, but sadly he was so underdeveloped. There were other side characters that we could have done without. We learned nothing about them except for their name and relationship to Liv. Liv’s home life hasn’t been the same since her father’s disappearance. Her mom works two jobs to pay the bills and when she comes home she drinks pretty heavily. There is a point in the book where Liv pushes her mom to drink even after seeing that she was trying to make the better choice of drinking water. Not only that, but Liv mixes some pills into the drink. There’s a reason why Liv thought she had to get her mom drunk, but I didn’t care. That whole scene was not okay and definitely not needed. It left a really bad taste in my mouth. Bent Heavens has a massive amount of torture scenes. I mean, it’s a lot and it’s brutal. I’m not usually one to get triggered by anything, but I honestly couldn’t read certain parts. It was just way too much. I ended up scimming through those sections. I also couldn’t get over the fact that teenagers were performing some of the torture. Like they literally had a book of the ways to torture someone and just went down the list. I was so uncomfortable reading this. I really am sad that Bent Heavens didn’t work out for me. It had so much potential in the beginning, but things went downhill very quickly.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bang Bang Books

    2.5 I was curious about this because I've never read anything by Kraus but I've been in the same room with him and... Issues I Had With This Book * I didn't like the main character. I don't know who she was and she would have these huge violent outbursts-WTF was that? In the beginning, she seemed like she was OCD but it didn't seem to come back although I was skipping around so maybe I missed it? Don't know, don't care. * Word Choice, Man! This read like an adult book because there was some pretty f 2.5 I was curious about this because I've never read anything by Kraus but I've been in the same room with him and... Issues I Had With This Book * I didn't like the main character. I don't know who she was and she would have these huge violent outbursts-WTF was that? In the beginning, she seemed like she was OCD but it didn't seem to come back although I was skipping around so maybe I missed it? Don't know, don't care. * Word Choice, Man! This read like an adult book because there was some pretty fancy vocabulary. I'm not saying that teens don't have a big vocab but as someone who reads 99% YA, the word choice was a bit too mature. Kraus' writing isn't bad; it just didn't seem to be YA. * The supporting characters were bad too. Bruno seemed like a checkmark and if he had have been Swedish, it wouldn't have impacted the plot. And he was totally the quirky guy love interest-UGH. The mom could have been good but her whole jam was fruitless. Kraus listed like five friends and three of those friends were not in the story-so why the fuck do I need to know their names? And the other two who did get page time added nothing to this story. Doug was the only good character. * I Was Duped-I thought I was gonna get a nice sci-fi story about aliens but nope. Sometimes I can get over that and enjoy the story but I couldn't with this one. * The setting was a missed opportunity. It's set in small town Midwest America and Kraus could have really done something with this besides the obvious but nothing new was done here. * Too much going on-the overall idea was solid but there were other little inconsequential plots that muddied the good parts. The mom, the play seemed forced, Liv's girlfriends who were underdeveloped, Bruno's race which seemed like a checkmark. What I Liked: * I appreciate the attempt at something here. * Doug-I liked him and how he began to spiral but he wasn't enough to save this for me. Overall: I love weird YA and this should have been right up my alley but I didn't like the characters or the setting or the writing so I didn't like this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    Liv Fleming’s father went missing two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Strictly for tradition’s sake, every Sunday, her and her friend, Doug Monk, trudge through the woods to check the alien traps her father left behind. But one day, Liv decides she’s done pretending, and goes out to destroy the traps… only to discover the traps have caught something so unhuman it can only be one thing: an actual alien. After having read the synopsis, I was immediately hooked Liv Fleming’s father went missing two years ago, not long after he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Strictly for tradition’s sake, every Sunday, her and her friend, Doug Monk, trudge through the woods to check the alien traps her father left behind. But one day, Liv decides she’s done pretending, and goes out to destroy the traps… only to discover the traps have caught something so unhuman it can only be one thing: an actual alien. After having read the synopsis, I was immediately hooked and knew I had to discover this mysterious story. But I’ll admit that the exact direction and plot of the book evaded me for the majority of my read, and the last third of the book felt like a completely different story than the previous parts. While the last part felt like a horror, the majority of the book was about Liv and Doug torturing this helpless alien in order to get information about her father. And while I finally deduced that this book was about grief and hatred, torture and government conspiracy theories, reading about the graphic torture was difficult for me. Despite the point that was trying to be made, I felt the detailed torture of the alien went too far, and at times I even felt a little nauseous with the startling descriptions of what Liv and Doug did. I found myself thinking, “am I really reading a book that’s entirely about torturing a helpless being?” and almost DNF’ed it at one point. The thing that redeemed it even a little to make it 3 stars was the last bit of the book. The unforeseen twists and creepy action-filled pages is something I would have appreciated being more prevalent earlier on. The characters were well built (although their eagerness to torture made them completely unlikable), and the writing truly was very good. But unfortunately I spent most of the book grossed out and confused as to what this book was even about. This is apparently a young adult fiction, but with a graphic sexual encounter between teens and the graphic content of the torture, this book is definitely NOT something I would have enjoyed as a young adult. And I barely enjoyed aspects of it as the adult I am now; it still teeters on the edge of being a 2 star. 3/5 *‘Bent Heavens was given to me in exchange for an honest review; all thoughts and opinions are my own.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katie Steele

    Check out the original review and more on NovelKnight! This book was provided by the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Bent Heavens is the perfect example of why I advocate for trigger and content warnings on books. If this book had included TWs I might have steered clear, but as it is I didn't. I've had to really think about this review, because my feelings toward this book are very complicated. I think it's a great story, with average wri Check out the original review and more on NovelKnight! This book was provided by the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Bent Heavens is the perfect example of why I advocate for trigger and content warnings on books. If this book had included TWs I might have steered clear, but as it is I didn't. I've had to really think about this review, because my feelings toward this book are very complicated. I think it's a great story, with average writing but excellent moments. I just didn't enjoy reading it. The pacing in Bent Heavens is off. The beginning is awfully slow, to the point where I almost DNFed it. It started to finally pick up at around 100 pages(I think) and really took off from there, but it was a lot to slog through at first. The sad part is that when the pace finally started to pick up was when I faced my biggest personal issue with the book. I so wish I had known there would be torture in this book. If there were trigger warnings somewhere then I wish they'd been better advertised. If there weren't, well then that really sucks. Because the minute a torture scene started playing out on the page it completely took me by surprise, and not in a good way. It became a theme of the book, and while the author was definitely presenting torture as a bad thing, I wasn't in a place where I could read about it. This led to me having to skim portions of the book and feeling a bit disconnected from it. Another thing Bent Heavens had going against it was the writing itself. It's just not that good. The author cam up with this really great story, but the writing didn't suit it. It felt lackluster and uninspired throughout, bordering on robotic at points. I will say, though, despite its many flaws, Bent Heavens  is a great story once it really kicks in. I thought the twists the author threw in were really great, keeping me on my toes and genuinely taking me by surprise at times. It all built to a fantastic climax, which was easily the best part of the book. It had all of the emotion that was missing elsewhere. The ending was simultaneously thought-provoking and gut-wrenching and it made me glad I had stuck it out after having so many other issues with the book. My feelings about Bent Heavens are just so complicated. On one hand I hated how the triggering content took me by surprise and make me view the entire book through a negative lens. And even when I'm about to look past that lens, this book has an abundance of problems. But on the other hand, I know I can be a pickier reader that a lot of other readers, and I find myself thinking of people I would recommend this book to. It has a truly intriguing story, thought-provoking messages, and a spectacular ending. And maybe, if I'd seen a trigger warning before I'd started reading, I could have gone in prepared and enjoyed this one a lot more. I just have to accept that my feelings toward this book will always be complicated and hope that other readers can enjoy it more than I did. For More Bookish Content: Blog || Twitter || Facebook || Bloglovin'

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