The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

The Hallowed OnesKatie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning. (From Amazon.ca)

You know what got me to read this? Amish. Then the word ‘dystopian’ showed up somewhere in the same paragraph. Yep. Instantly got me into the book.

So it starts off well. Katie is your typical heroine of the book. Strong willed but obedient when necessary, but knows when to say something when things don’t look right. I liked how what was ‘Outside’ was a total mystery until at least midway into the book. Even when you encounter them the first time with Katie, you’re still not quite sure what they are.

Then the tidbits of information come out (sort of like the breadcrumb approach) and once you find out what is Outside, ‘inside’ just seems a whole lot safer now. The horror aspect of this novel was very well written and well done. Sometimes, what you don’t know is a lot more scarier. You do find out what they are, and it’s still just as scary. Just the way they were portrayed and written does actually raise a hair or two at the back of your neck.

Throughout the other half of the novel there’s more horror and a bit of romance in the mix. (What would a YA be without a potential love triangle). Watching Katie make her own choices showed a lot of her development as a character – plus you also saw some other characters develop (and then go down the downward spiral) (coughElijahcough). The romance part of it was okay. A little cliche towards the end but tolerable.

The ending was good. Wasn’t really a cliffhanger but it’s good enough to keep you interested for the next one. I can’t wait to see what happens. I definitely recommend this to YA readers.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

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A Place Called Armageddon by C C Humphreys

A Place Called Armageddon1453. The empire has shrunk to what lies within those now-crumbling walls. A relic. Yet for one man, Constantinople is the stepping stone to destiny. Mehmet II is twenty when he is anointed Sultan. Now, seeking Allah’s will and Man’s glory, he brings an army of one hundred thousand, outnumbering the defenders ten to one. He has also brings something new to the city – the most deadly threat the ancient walls have ever faced. And yet, through seven weeks of sea battles, night battles, by tunnel and tower, the defence holds, and will until the final assault and a single bullet that will change history. (From Amazon.ca)

This book was so historically rich it was like reading a very entertaining text book. It’s nice to read both sides of the battle even though the main character is a Greek man named Gregoras. It switches back and forth between the point of views of various characters from both sides – my personal favorites would be Leilah and Achmed.

Although it might seem there’s a lot of characters it does focus on a select few so it’s easily memorable. There’s various story arcs to follow, but what I liked about the book is they all somewhat tie in together and bring the characters together into one seamless plot. It’s almost like an intricately woven fabric that tells a rich detailed story. The historical accuracy is pretty good (from what I know of this particular period) and the end authors note was very interesting and helpful.

What I enjoyed was the ending, all the characters stories were all tied together and some of their outcomes were unexpected and a complete surprise to me. My favorite ending was what happened to Achmed. That was completely unexpected but a wonderful ending to his story. Some characters are memorable and you get attached to them, others aren’t very nice and get a well deserved ending. (Take that Theon! yeah!)

The battle scenes are well done and can be easily pictured. There are some various terms that I was not familiar with but there is a helpful glossary at the back of the book. They’re well written, and very detailed (so yes, there’s a lot of blood) but not to the point where it’s overly ridiculous. You can certainly ‘feel’ what the Greek side was feeling. They certainly did put up a fight and you felt for them.

Definitely recommended for historical fiction lovers (those love reading a good battle, or two. Or three). It’s worth the read, with rich interesting characters, with a fantastic setting.

I give it a 9 out of 10

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay. When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas’s life.
(From Amazon.ca)

This book has everything you want in the paranormal genre. This book was slightly different as it has a male protagonist instead of a female one (that makes up the majority of YA paranormal books) so that was a nice change. Plus, Cas is everything you want in a protagonist. He’s got the personality, he’s got the wit and the humor. He’s like the high school version of the Winchester brothers from Supernatural (except there’s only one of him, and two sidekicks).

The plot of this book is quite dark and has its moments of creepiness but it lightens up whenever Cas puts in a thought or two (his humor really is quite good). The description of Anna’s house and Anna herself are well done, other beings are also included and they’re just as creepy. The paranormal aspect of the novel was also well done. Anna is a ghost with personality, and as you get to know her through Cas, you start to like her as well. I really liked how she was written, despite her being a ghost, she was ‘fleshed out’ and didn’t have a cardboard personality. The other characters in the book are also fun to read, and all are likable. (Of the secondary characters, I liked Cas’ mom.)

I loved the ending of the book and it did catch me by surprise. Which is why I can’t wait to get my hands on the second one. This book was a great read, and nice to see a male protagonist lead, with a well written ghost story to accompany it. Most definitely recommended for YA readers.

9.5 out of 10.

The Night Season by Chelsea Cain

The Night SeasonWith the Beauty Killer Gretchen Lowell locked away behind bars once again, Archie Sheridan—a Portland police detective and nearly one of her victims—can finally rest a little easier. Meanwhile, the rest of the city of Portland is in crisis. Heavy rains have flooded the Willamette River, and several people have drowned in the quickly rising waters. Or at least that’s what they thought until the medical examiner discovers that the latest victim didn’t drown: She was poisoned before she went into the water. Soon after, three of those drownings are also proven to be murders. Portland has a new serial killer on its hands, and Archie and his task force have a new case. Reporter Susan Ward is chasing this story of a new serial killer with gusto, but she’s also got another lead to follow for an entirely separate mystery: The flooding has unearthed a skeleton, a man who might have died more than sixty years ago, the last time Portland flooded this badly, when the water washed away an entire neighborhood and killed at least fifteen people. (From Amazon.ca)

If you picked this book up to read more on Gretchen, you won’t find much about her. She is mentioned but not until literally, the last pages of the book.

Anyhow, I thought this was a nice break away from Gretchen (you can only drag her out for how many books?) and focuses on a much different serial killer. I really enjoyed reading about this new mystery killer, but the setting and the floods add to an already dark and sinister setting. The floods themselves do add more action and suspense (especially towards the end) so I thought this was a nice addition to an already dark setting.

The pace of this plot was really good, and the short chapters makes the reading go much faster than usual. I like how there are no lulls in the plot. Although the sub plot with Susan Ward is not as interesting, it’s still related to the main storyline and provides more background information that is important to understanding the plot. There are quite a few moments of total suspense and thrills. The ending and the revealing of the killer had a lot of action sequences, and as mentioned before, the floods add more to the action and suspense. There was one particular moment in the book where I feared for a character (not going to reveal, am trying to keep this spoiler free!).

The only thing I didn’t like about this book is the way the killer killed his victims. It’s a little far fetched and perhaps to some readers, they might find it silly. It’s different, and I have not read anything like this. Although I found it a little unbelievable, it’s still interesting and still worth reading.

I’m glad there’s a break from Gretchen. For a moment I thought this Gretchen thing might drag and just might make the series go downhill. It may disappoint some readers, but this plot was well done, the characters are consistent, and I think it’s worth the read. With a tiny cliffhanger ending, I am curious to find out what happens next to Archie and Susan.

I give it an 8/10