Sundial author Catriona Ward By Catriona Ward

“Sundial” by Catriona Ward is a novel I was excited to read ever since I read “The Last House on Needless Street” which I absolutely loved. That incredible book put her on my radar and since she’s such an amazing author, I wanted to keep reading everything she wrote. I finally got to read this novel for a book club and at first, it drew me in. Before I get into it, I wanted to give everyone a heads-up about several serious trigger warnings.

This novel has violence against women, kids, and animals. There is a ton of animal cruelty and experiments against dogs/puppies which I felt wasn’t needed at all. As a dog owner, it didn’t bother me reading this because it’s just words but I know readers can get triggered by this so I wanted to let everyone know. The level of animal cruelty in this one is the most I’ve ever read in a novel so please keep that in mind.

Now that I’ve said that, I enjoyed all the unique characters in this novel, and knowing Ward’s great style of writing, I was excited about where the story could potentially go. The character development was good but one issue I had right from the start was the names of some of them. I wish instead of Rob and Jack, they had different names as at first, it got a bit confusing because those are typically male names and not female names. It took me a bit to remember that and I also didn’t like another character’s name in Falcon.

Unfortunately, when things start getting good and creepy, “Sundial” started to drag on a bit around the 30% mark. I figured it would probably pick up again soon but that wasn’t the case here. It stalled for a huge chunk of reading, from the 30% - 70% mark and that’s a huge no-no in my book. The issue for me was that it got confusing since Ward decided to go the route of telling a story within a story, going back to the past and then the present then back to the past as it disrupted the natural flow of reading.

I don’t mind flashbacks but it wasn’t done right and just dragged on everything. I actually started to dread any of the flashback chapters because they were boring and then all the animal cruelty/puppy farm stuff on top of that just didn’t make it a pleasant read. It was too much dialogue and fluff that just completely took me out of the story from those chapters dealing with the past.

There were way too many timelines here and I felt it was a long, drawn-out read while reading. It would have been better if it was trimmed down a bit, especially the chapters dealing with the past. If it was just kept in the present with maybe a chapter or two explaining the past and why it mattered in the present, it would have probably worked out better.

When it comes to the ending, it was alright but it didn’t change my overall impression of “Sundial” as this novel didn’t really click with me. Perhaps I went in with too high of an expectation than I should have due to the massive success of “The Last House on Needless Street” and how much I enjoyed it but this wasn’t anywhere near as good as that novel, unfortunately.

I give “Sundial” by Catriona Ward a 3/5 as she is a fantastic author but this wasn’t great. This novel was a decent read if anything. It wasn’t terrible but it also wasn’t outstanding. It was an okay read in the grand scheme of things but I definitely expected much more. I honestly feel all that violence against dogs wasn’t needed and completely overshadowed this novel big time. It dragged on way too much and when it’s a huge chunk of a novel, that’s a major turn-off for me. Her incredible writing saved this from being a 1 as I hope her next novel is better than this one. I’m still a huge fan of Ward and will keep reading her work but this just wasn’t it. Screaming face. Horror, Thriller, Suspense HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY!

The latest unique offering from the author of The Last House on Needless Street is about a woman named Rob, married with two children. The family is quite dysfunctional, which quickly becomes evident. When Rob fears that her older daughter, Callie, might not be the sweet princess she hoped she’d be, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Rob and Callie take a trip to Sundial, the desert home that Rob grew up in. Sundial has a dark and disturbing history…one that Rob was hoping never to revisit. Now she’ll have to face her past if she wants her family to have a future.

I can’t say too much about the plot. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t find it as clever as Needless Street. I didn’t feel that brilliant level of bamboozlement that I hoped for, and I found it to be rather slow-paced until the climax. If I can be frank, there are also some awkward and pointless “book within a book” chapters that probably could’ve been left out.

And yet, the prose is rich and unique…and I did have a desire to soldier on. I thought this would be 2 stars at best, but the last 15% is exceptionally solid! I enjoyed the direction the story went in, and there was a delicious reveal and some sneaky bits and bobs that kept me plowing through to the end.

Overall, a bit of a mixed bag. I’m glad to have read it…but I am an outlier as I didn’t find it absolutely brilliant and exciting. Many reviewers have been blown away by this one, so make sure to check out their fab reviews!

TW: Reader beware that a large part of the plot has to do with dogs and other animals in an unpleasant fashion. Interestingly enough, while it is difficult to read, I was able to disassociate myself from feeling truly bothered by it (for the most part). I think that’s because this story can feel so “out there” at times, making it easier not to view it through an emotional lens. Therefore, I wasn’t affected by it as much as I normally would be. With that being said, I wouldn’t have picked this one up if I knew more about that aspect of the plot.

Thank you to Tor Nightfire for sending me a physical ARC in exchange for an honest review. Visit Sundial (or don’t) on 3/1/22.

Review also posted at: Horror, Thriller, Suspense **Many thanks to NetGalley, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, and Catriona Ward for an ARC of this book!! Now available as of 3.1!!**

What if an experiment in nature vs. nurture went wrong...horrifically wrong?

Dark, dizzying, disturbing, and dazzling, Catriona Ward is BACK to explore just that in Sundial!

Much like Needless Street, you are GUARANTEED to leave this read with more questions than answers. To start the story off, you have Rob, wife to Irving, and mother to daughters Callie and Annie. She lived a sheltered and unique life growing up in a mysterious community in the Mojave desert known as Sundial. She is now settled into semi-normalcy with her husband and works as a professor, but has the darkness she was immersed in as a child followed her there? It certainly seems to be popping up in daughter Callie, who displays an odd fascination with animal bones and talks to figures nobody can see. Rob feels an urgency and a calling, driving her back to the desert and a desperation to protect her family at all costs. Are the murky and muddy waters of her mind clear enough to save her daughter from herself...or is it Callie who needs protecting before she becomes just one more secret the desert keeps?

Ward's books are deftly plotted, and Sundial is no exception. The opening provides a quick hook, and chapters alternate between Rob in the present and past, and Callie, giving just enough from each perspective and gore at different points to peak your interest...AND turn your stomach. The first 40% of this one whizzed by in a dizzying blur for me, as tiny pieces of Rob and Callie's worlds were brought to light. Ward's writing is as sharp and crafty as ever, painting the scenes that let you get absolutely entrenched in her horrifying world. She is an author who is dedicated to the craft, and this is ALWAYS evident throughout her work.

At this midpoint, however, things began to slow down dramatically for me, and several glimpses into Rob's past were revealed....and went on for quite a while. This sharp contrast to earlier chapters was a hit on the pacing and unfortunately, at the same time, the book started to veer into very dramatic animal abuse territory. Many of these scenes are graphic, and although they aren't my primary animal of choice, if you are a dog lover: TAKE PAUSE before picking up this book! You may be able to skip some of the content, but when it comes to Ward, details matter, and you won't want to miss much.

There is also some book-within-a-book content that could have been eliminated entirely. My guess is that it was included to urge the reader to question further what was real and what was fantasy, but then again, that seems to be a recurring theme with Ward's writing anyway. Like Needless Street, I CERTAINLY could benefit from a re-read...but unlike Needless Street, I can't say that I'd have interest in revisiting this one. As hypnotic, poignant, dramatic, and artfully crafted as this book was, I just didn't love the plot. I can't say too much about it for obvious reasons, but from about 40-80%, my interest definitely waned. Luckily, Ward's trademark whopper of a twist popped up in the third act to carry me to the finish line, and it was quite the well hidden surprise, certainly enough to keep my twist-loving heart happy!

There's a reason why many are calling Catriona Ward the heir to Stephen King's throne: she has the goods in spades and she can WRITE. Honestly, there's something breathtaking and haunting about her prose, and the fact that I didn't love this plot yet I am still dying to read her next book really speaks volumes about the dynamic superstar Ward has already become in the horror genre. I cannot wait to see what baffling, creepy, disturbing, and twisted tale she has ready for us next!

…or as Callie would say, Grinning Face! 😉

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for PHENOMENAL writing! Horror, Thriller, Suspense NOW AVAILABLE!!

Something is happening and it's not what I thought.

that line sums up my experience with this book; hell, it sums up my experience with catriona ward, after last year's The Last House on Needless Street:

Something is happening and it's not what I thought.

this is another elaborately-wrought story about which the less said the better, but in broad strokes, it's about a woman named rob who, yearning for a normal, unremarkable life after an...unconventional upbringing, has painstakingly created the home of her dreams; designing, renovating and decorating her safe little suburban nest, but her domestic life is in shambles—her marriage is almost theatrically toxic,* her eldest daughter callie is a death-obsessed and bullying daddy's girl, while sweet young annie is fragile and sickly.

rob seems extraordinarily passive; accepting irving's numerous infidelities, his violent rages and threats, studiously not-reacting to callie's sly insinuations with the calm patience of a saint, but you know what they say: still waters do not fuck around, and when rob finds callie's secret bone collection and has reason to suspect annie's bones might soon be added to that collection, she takes callie on a road trip to sundial; her childhood home deep in the mojave desert for some tough love, hard truths, and difficult choices.

and—oof. tough, hard, difficult, those words are understating the vibe, as rob sits callie down for the creepiest mother-daughter bonding session ever, sharing the story of her childhood growing up with her sister jack isolated from the world-at-large on sundial's sprawling compound, where their father falcon and stepmother mia were a pair of hippie scientists—if you can wrap your head around that juxtaposition—studying animal behavior by conducting research experiments on dogs. so many dogs.

that's enough to entice you, yes? because this one is a haunting slow-burning doozy that'll break your heart and give you goosebumps at the same damn time.

it's a credit to her writing that i was caught so off-guard by this one. after an extended period of WTF is going on?, it's one twist after another, but i should have seen that first sucker-punch coming after reading The Last House on Needless Street and that's all i will say about that. shame on me, indeed.

it's another masterful, delicious striptease of a novel, and while it probably plays too rough for sensitive readers (so many dogs), it's a tremendously effective piece of psychological horror that, like The Last House on Needless Street, made me want to read it all over again immediately.

in conclusion:

Something is happening and it's not what I thought.

* this is some vicious marital sparring, boy:

I'm going to wait, he said. For when this fighting is over, and we're happy again. We'll go to French restaurants like we used to. We'll fall back in love. So deeply in love that it burns us to be apart. Then, one day—maybe we'll be having breakfast, maybe we'll be watching a movie. Something normal. But you'll look over to me to make a joke, ask a question, and I'll be gone. Then you'll look for Callie, and she'll be gone too. I'm going to leave you when you least expect it, and I'm taking her with me, He looms over me and plants a kiss on my forehead, light as a dry leaf. I'm smarter than you, he said. I've got endurance. I can wait long enough to make it really hurt. He picked up his glass of water from beside the night table and hurled it at the wall. The sound was like the world opening. Glass flew like diamonds. Irving smiled at me. Then he got into bed and a moment later he was asleep.


when a glitchy thing happens six times in an ARC by a notoriously tricksy author, you have to wonder whether it's a recurring typo or if you're something.

i will wait and see

conclusion: typo.
and a lot more than 6 times.

dammit—i really wanted it to MEAN something. still—a badass-wonderful book.

come to my blog! Horror, Thriller, Suspense The less said about the plot the better, so suffice it to say that this centres on Rob, her daughters Callie and Annie and with her marriage to serial philanderer Irving as another important element. Sundial is Rob’s deceased parents home in the Mojave Desert where the ‘old dead and gone’ Rob takes her daughter Callie for reasons which become increasingly apparent.

I couldn’t write this review for over 24 hours because I was too stunned and unable to put pen to paper, stunned, but in a good way. First of all, this book won’t be for everyone especially the faint of heart as there are several triggers. However, the beautiful writing is unbelievably powerful I’m unable to put it down and it’s as if you are being held there by magnets or is that because of the magnetic prose? The characterisation is incredible and the sections where Callie speaks to us are truly amazing and mind blowing. As the book progresses each chapter reveals more of their personality and nature and there are some major surprises in store that leads to questions that people have debated for years about nature or nurture.

To start with you think you’re engaged in some sort of toxic game albeit the mortal combat kind and then you realise it goes much, much deeper than that. The dynamics between all the main characters will give you every kind of chill and that raises a multitude of emotions. Sundial has a unique atmosphere that begs a million questions and trust me, it’s unlikely you’ll see its truth as it’s beyond your wildest dreams or more accurately nightmares. There are so many twists and turns it will explode your brain. It’s amazing, incredible, creepy, horrifying and utterly unforgettable.

Overall, for me this is an absolute winner albeit a horrifying one! Brilliant!

With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Serpents Tale/Viper/Profile Books for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review. Horror, Thriller, Suspense

Sundial is a new, twisty psychological horror novel from Catriona Ward, internationally bestselling author of The Last House on Needless Street.

You can't escape what's in your blood...

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future. Sundial author Catriona Ward


review Sundial author Catriona Ward

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Rob doesn't have a good relationship with her husband. In fact, their relationship is so toxic that I had to take a break only 10% into the book just to get away from it.

The couple have two young daughters. Callie, the oldest, favors her father, while Annie, the youngest, is definitely her mother's favorite.

Rob struggles to understand Callie and her increasingly disturbing behaviors. Unfortunately, the older Callie gets, the more frightening her behaviors become. It even seems that Callie may pose a serious threat to Annie, something Rob cannot stand for.

Rob's husband, Irving, doesn't see the way Callie is. He doesn't understand Rob's concerns, not that she could have expected him to be on her side anyway.

Knowing she has to do something before tragedy strikes, Rob steals Callie away and heads back to Sundial, the mysterious property where Rob grew up, deep in the Mojave desert. What her parenting plans are for after that point seem ominous, at best.

After the pair arrives at Sundial, the focus shifts to exposing the history behind the property, about Rob's childhood and the truth of who she really is. Through this, the Reader also learns how Rob's own history could be influencing her current circumstances, as well as her daughter's lives.

I was very intrigued by the past perspective. It was an interesting set-up and like nothing I have read before. I enjoyed the SF-feel of some the activities occurring during Rob's childhood.

I do think it is important to note that Rob's parents kept dogs on the property and I don't mean as pets. I was hesitant once I discovered that because I am quite sensitive to any harm coming to animals in books.

I can get past it, as long as it is not too drawn out, or as long as it has a point within the larger narrative more than just shock value. In this story, there's a point. There were a few places I had to skim read, but for the most part, it didn't have too much of an impact on my overall enjoyment level.

There were times that I even wished the entire book was just the past perspective, but on arriving at the end, it became clear why there's two perspectives. I was impressed with how Ward tied it all together, as well as the themes explored by doing so.

The ending was wild and crazy, but I liked it. For the most part, while I wouldn't say I enjoyed this story, as there is literally no joy to be found within these pages, it's definitely intriguing. Ward succeeded in keeping me uncomfortably interested the whole way through.

It's the kind of story where you are desperate to know what the heck is going on. I won't claim to understand the points Ward is trying to make here 100%, but I think I have enough of it to be impressed.

Unique from start-to-finish, this is definitely worth a pick-up for Readers with the stomach and mental fortitude to tackle such a story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I think it is fair to say that I will pick-up whatever Ward throws at us next! Horror, Thriller, Suspense After thoroughly enjoying The Last House on Needless Street, I was excited to see what else Catriona Ward has up her sleeve. But after finishing Sundial, I'm not sure I totally got it.

On the surface, Rob has the family she's always dreamed of: a husband and two beautiful daughters. But when her eldest daughter Callie starts acting strange and her husband seems to encourage it, Rob decides the best thing for everyone is to take Callie to Sundial, the desert town where she grew up. She left Sundial many years ago, swearing never to go back, but now she suspects it will give her the answers she's been looking for.

This was a really uneven reading experience for me. Initially, I had a lot of trouble getting into the story. There was something about the style that came across a bit awkward, with its abundance of odd phrases and metaphors and even characters. I think this is done on purpose to give the narrative a sense of discordance, but it made it hard to follow. It wasn't until the halfway point that I felt like I was finally invested enough in the story to want to continue.

There's a lot going on in here, maybe too much. What at first seems like a dysfunctional family story quickly morphs to include spousal and child abuse, animal abuse, infidelity, scientific experiments gone wrong, ghostly interactions, and lots of maggots. I'm a simple girl, and all of this put together confused me a bit. At times, I wasn't sure what exactly was going on or what the focus was supposed to be.

There is even a story within the story. It is a completely separate thing, but it uses the same names as the characters in our main story. If you're scratching your head like, What? you're not the only one. I'm not afraid to admit I was really befuddled. Even though it was only a few pages here and there, it didn't feel necessary and could've easily been left out.

That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the story because there were parts that really grabbed me. But as a whole, it reads more like a first draft instead of a final one. There were lots of interesting ideas, but they don't all seem to congeal into a cohesive narrative that flows and makes sense. Still, I remain a fan of Ward's imagination, and I suspect I'll keep coming back for more.

My heartfelt thanks for the advance copy that was provided for my honest and unbiased review.

See also, my thoughts on:
The Last House on Needless Street

Horror, Thriller, Suspense 3,5/5
Moja recenzja składałaby się z przekleństw, więc Wam jej podaruję 😂 Horror, Thriller, Suspense “Kids are mirrors, reflecting back everything that happens to them. You’ve got to make sure they’re surrounded by good things.”

I can’t think of a better book to be reviewing on Halloween, because this one gave me ALL the heebie jeebies.

Catriona Ward has done it again. She’s built another creepy house of mirrors where so much of what you see isn’t what you think it is, and even the parts that you think you’re seeing clearly change with each step. By nature, I’m not one who devours books in a day, and I’m no joke the wimpiest person I know when it comes to horror, but I stayed glued to these pages for hours, even when it was genuinely disturbing … and it IS. This is top notch psychological horror that will get inside your head and make itself at home for awhile.

As with The Last House on Needless Street, there’s very little I can say about the plot that won’t be too much, but I’ll give the bare bones premise. Rob is a mom and teacher, married to Irving, an English professor, and they have two daughters, Callie, twelve, and Annie, nine. On the outside, they’re a normal family living the suburban life, but inside their walls lie secrets, betrayals, and threats … and for Rob, a long-buried past at Sundial, her Mojave Desert childhood home, that she’s forced to confront when circumstances with Callie bring it screaming to the surface.

The story is told in the past and present, mostly by Rob, with scattered chapters told by Callie and even some book within a book chapters. Callie’s chapters were 'chills up my spine' creepy and Rob’s were like a Pandora’s box that I was never sure I wanted to see inside of - each lift of the lid unveiling new horrors. It’s provocative, with content warnings galore, but it's also an extremely thought-provoking book about human nature and how much we can control it. I've put those content warnings under spoiler tags at the end, but PLEASE read them if you have particular triggers you're concerned about.

It’s a solid 4.5 star read, but I’m rounding down to 4 stars, due to some upsetting content and not being a huge fan of the book within a book chapters. I found them confusing and didn’t feel they added much to the story, but that’s just personal preference. All-in-all, it's an amazing follow-up to her last book. It's much more straightforward and less ‘mind-bendy’ than The Last House on Needless Street, but the wickedly good twists (and there were some doozies!), as well as the ideas about human nature, still blew my mind and leave me eagerly waiting for her next book!

★★★★ ½ ❤

Thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, NetGalley and author Catriona Ward for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinions. It’s due for publication on March 1, 2022.


Horror, Thriller, Suspense Dear horror/ psychological thriller lovers! Just put down the books you plan to read it and urgently start reading this one ! This is the biggest winner of the year!

Last year I was addicted to Last House on Needless Street! I was so close to climb up the roof and scream “Read that book!” This year I plan to do exactly the same thing! Because this book is even better! Dysfunctional sisterhood bonds, psychological twists you never see it coming, mind blowing POVs, darkness pouring chapters, violence, shock, whirlwind mind games, bleak, claustrophobic dog farm theme, jaw dropping cliffhangers, deeply layered characters, the saddest, creepiest, harshest back stories you hardly digest! This book is definitely MASTERPIECE! I couldn’t put it down! It gives me creeps! It shattered my heart! It freaked me out! But I couldn’t help myself to fall so hard for it!
Let’s quickly look at the plot:

Rob, English teacher, mother of two daughters, married with charming professor; correction: cheat scumbag who has serious anger issues. When she sees her 12 years old Callie starts acting weirder like collection animal bones, talking with ghosts, she gets worried at first. And when she finds out Callie might hurt her little sister Annie, she thinks that’s the last straw.

She takes the matters into her own hands and takes her daughter with her to drive to Sundial, the creepiest place she’s inherited from her parents. Rob is adamant to come clean with her daughter by sharing their family’s dark past. When her story will be over, she has to make the toughest decision to save her daughters. How far she could go to save them? Can she save the daughters from the darkness she’s kept for years? Who is the real monster? It seems like for saving their family, someone should be sacrificed, but who?

This is the best work of the author and even it’s too early to announce, this is the best horror book of 2022 ( I am all set to vote for it on Goodreads choice awards just like I voted for Last House on Needless Street)

I’m giving five billion stars! It’s definition of pure PERFECTION! I absolutely highly recommend it!

Millions of thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge -Tor Nightfire for sharing this incredible digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions. Horror, Thriller, Suspense