Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

Title: The Hallowed Ones

Author: Laura Bickle

Publishing Information: September 25, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Vampires, Dystopia

Series information: First in a series

Format: Paperback, 320 pages

Source: Borrowed from Amy (Tripping Over Books)

Recommended For: Fans of a very different kind of vampire tale.

Katie 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 (Via Goodreads).

When Amy first told me about this book I was skeptical. Amish…and vampires? I am over the vampire thing and…well, the Amish community doesn’t really do it for me. She ensured that I would love it and that it wasn’t THAT kind of vampire story so I gave it a go, and you guys, she was right. The Hallowed Ones was in a word, surprising. The plot was incredibly engaging and the atmosphere was just perfect. I didn’t really fall into the “horror” of the novel, but I have a very high threshold. I did enjoy seeing the vampires as monsters and not humanized characters, it was really different from the norm and kept me on my toes.

The characters in The Hallowed Ones were all fantastic. I really enjoyed Katie and her rebellious yet not too rebellious ways. I found her to be believable and engaging, she didn’t rebel against the restrictions of her society for anything less than what she believed was right. In other words, she wasn’t the typical teenager who rebelled against limitations because WHY NOT, but she rebelled because she knew that letting someone die for their differences wasn’t right, and following your heart is sometimes just as important as following your head. Katie’s parents were a tad infuriating to me but I especially enjoyed Ginger, the “outsider” who was forced to remain in the Amish community after the “attacks” started. Elijah annoyed me, he was a tool and I didn’t like how he treated Katie, he clearly knew little about her despite spending his entire life by her side. Then there is Alex…wooo boy did I love him. Alex is another “outsider” and boy does he turn Katie’s world upside down. Also, he has mythical tattoos that are yummy in my mind’s eye and also protect him from the bad things. Also, I can’t talk about characters without mentioning the Hexenmeister. That’s right, this book has it’s very own Hexenmeister. How awesome is that?! I loved this guy, I pictured him like an angry hermit who screams at kids to GIT OFF HIS LAWN but then also teaches them life lessons and how to shoot a shotgun. Kind of like Rafiki…but human and maybe kind of magical.

You guys I have to be honest, the blind faith thing? I can’t abide it. It really grinds my gears and makes me want to shake my fist and scream like an Amazonian woman. It is safe to say that I am not in the majority here but going into this book I was prepared to feel the rage over the limitations and blind following of the society presented. You know what though? I wasn’t rage filled (for the most part) and I really enjoyed the way Laura Bickle represented the Amish society. I grew up in a very small town in Pennsylvania, and I have some experience with this sort of lifestyle so it was really fun to read about it and see the connections. The “Elders” pushed my buttons a little bit, but they were supposed to and I found my inner rebel (LOL she isn’t buried too deeply) screaming at them a time or two. The thing that really got to me about this novel though was the idea that hallowed ground is what kept certain people safe. All hallowed ground. That means that the Catholics in their church? SAFE. The Wiccans holed up in their sacred space? SAFE. The Amish in their community? ALSO SAFE. It really made me feel good to see this universal message of “What you believe, you become,” and support of faith and not just ONE FAITH.

The Hallowed Ones was a captivating read, I didn’t expect any of the big reveals, which is always a win for me. Laura Bickle has a knack for character and atmosphere development and I absolutely cannot wait to pick up the sequel;, The Outside, as soon as possible. For those of you looking for something that stands out in the young adult, paranormal genre, pick up The Hallowed Ones immediately. It had everything I needed, all of the best things, shock, mystery, and a delicious splash of romance.

Fortnight of Fright – Movie Review: The Devil’s Carnival

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It’s almost Halloween! Last year we showed you some of our favorite Halloween shows and movies, so this year I thought I would go out on a limb and watch something that Netflix keeps recommending to me: The Devil’s Carnival. You guys, The Devil’s Carnival is a horror film. It is also a musical. A horror musical. STOP IT. You had me at hello.

The Devil’s Carnival uses Aesop’s Fables (I KNOW!) at the core of its story and long story short, the three main characters arrive in Hell and have to live out the punishments for their sins committed during their life on Earth.

The Devils Carnival Poster

Arguably, the best thing about this movie is the soundtrack. The songs sound at first like simple and fun tunes, but once you delve deeper and listen to the lyrics they are very dark and deadly. It was the songs “In All My Dreams I Drown,” and “Trust Me,” that I heard on a whim while listening to a Halloween playlist on 8tracks that had me sold on the film. Take a listen..
 

While we are on that topic…Let’s just be honest, we’re all friends here, so you guys know that I love me the macabre. What do I love more than the macabre? Bad boys. Just wait for it though…how about a bad boy, in a leather jacket, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, brooding, begging, and singing at you to “trust him,” I die. Am I right? Everything about this screams YES PLEASE. Which brings us to my favorite character/song/part of The Devil’s Carnival: The Scorpion (played by Marc Senter). The official website describes him as,

I can't even. With the hair and the singing.

I can’t even. With the hair and the singing.

“A rebel even in Hell, this drifter is always seeking beautiful, new targets for his death-defying knife-throwing act. Any takers, ladies?”

Um, PICK ME! Honestly, gals, if you don’t watch this for the amazing soundtrack and life lessons, watch it for this guy. *fans self*

Need I say more? Head over to the official website to learn more about the other characters, or just to watch the music videos over and over again like yours truly. After that catches your attention, head to Netflix, take an hour out of your day and fall in love with The Scorpion.

Also, head over to see what B has in store this week!

Fortnight of Fright: Guest Post by Vyki from On the Shelf

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Happy Friday, all! What an excellent week we have had for Fortnight of Fright! I’ve had so much time reading everyone’s posts and to end the week we have Vyki from On the Shelf to tell us all about a haunted jail. As you guys know I LOVE “real” horror stories, and this one is no exception! Take it away, Vyki!

The Haunted Jail

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There are lots of creepy haunted places that come to mind when we think of Halloween, cemeteries, run down factories, old mental hospitals, scary looking old houses, but one of the creepiest I know of in my county is the old jail.  Opened in 1958 right before the original jail was torn down, the metal bars of this jail has seen a lot over the years.  Though it has been updated some though the decades, the cosmetic touch ups can’t hide the creepiness underneath. It is what you think of with a traditional older jail.  Metal bars, clanging doors, dreary cement walls, and graffiti scribbled or etched into every space available.  Those walls have witnessed who knows how many beatings, stabbings, deaths and suicides and it seems like some of those who died still stay within those cells.  Walking down the barred corridors makes you feel like there are several eyes staring at you from the empty cells and you can almost hear the echos of the clang clang clang of inmates running things along the bars.

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The most chilling areas of the jail, however, are the solitary cells.  These were the cells where the extremely violent and mental people would go; those who couldn’t play nice with others and lost touch with reality.  These were isolated and dark, with tiny fractured windows, and if you listened hard enough, you could hear the screams of the insane still ringing about.  For a very short time, we had to open the old jail to house some inmates while some renovations were being made to the new jail, and during the stay, both inmates and officers talked of the strange incidences that occurred.  Noises, clanging, footsteps, water running, even a figure passing across the camera monitor that was never there.  Night of course was always the worst times and officers dreaded having to work their third shift in the creeptastic building.  I’ve been to the old jail twice and both times were during the day and even in the light, it gave me the willies.  I think if they were allowed to turn it into a haunted tour for Halloween, it would be the most popular and scariest around!  And I’m certainly glad I never had to be someone working or housed in this heeby jeebies building!

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Wow!! I love the whole atmosphere surround this jail, it sounds so intense! Thank you so much for joining us today, Vyki! Readers, don’t forget to head over to Brittany’s blog to see what she has featured today! Happy haunting!

Fortnight of Fright Guest Post by Dianne Salerni

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I am SO EXCITED to be featuring one of my favorite authors on the blog today!! Dianne Salerni is the author of WE HEAR THE DEAD, THE CAGED GRAVES, and THE EIGHTH DAY (a forthcoming series from HarperCollins) and some of you may remember that I gushed about her earlier this year after devouring THE CAGED GRAVES. Today, Dianne is here to talk about real caged graves, the spiritualist movement, and happenings that stemmed from both of these unique bits of history.

Graves in Cages and Spirits in the Basement

My first two novels, We Hear the Dead and The Caged Graves, are both better categorized as historical novels than paranormal or horror stories. However, each one originated from something creepy – and true.

The Caged Graves was inspired by two real graves in an abandoned cemetery in Catawissa, Pennsylvania. The graves belong to sisters-in-law who died within a couple days of one another in 1852 and whose family – for some reason — chose to enclose their burial plots in iron cages.

Grave of Sarah Ann

Grave of Sarah Ann

The story behind these graves has been lost to history. The most often cited explanation for the cages is protection from grave robbers – especially medical students seeking fresh cadavers for anatomy practice. But one has to wonder why only those two graves needed protection. Why did the family of these women consider them likely targets for grave robbers? And, more importantly, why erect a decorative, permanent structure for a danger that would only last a few days?  The bodies wouldn’t be desirable very long.

There are some other strange things about this cemetery.  On my second visit I noticed that all the graves belonged to women and children. It’s possible some headstones have been lost or broken to pieces, but it seems strange that not a single marker for an adult male survived. Not even the husbands of the two women! (I only discovered this after I wrote my novel, so the book doesn’t include this little mystery. That might have to wait for a future story!)

Grave of Asenath Thomas

Grave of Asenath Thomas

While the historical facts behind The Caged Graves have been lost to time, the inciting incident that inspired We Hear the Dead is well documented by a pamphlet published a few weeks after the events. In May of 1848, in a one-bedroom, rented house in Hydesville, New York, a persistent but unexplainable rapping sound kept the tenants up several nights in a row. The adults, Margaret and John Fox, searched in vain for the source of the noise, while their two daughters, Maggie and Kate, insisted the rapping was caused by a “spirit.” After a few sleepless nights, an exhausted Margaret Fox complained that it must be the Devil himself.

That’s when the youngest girl, Kate, sat up in bed and said, “Here, Mr. Splitfoot*. Do as I do!” She snapped her fingers three times — and was answered by three sharp raps.

Kate and Maggie enticed the mysterious noise to imitate them several times and finally to answer questions by rapping once for yes and twice for no. By this means they determined the raps were caused by the spirit of a man who’d been robbed, murdered, and buried in the basement by a former tenant.

This creepy little incident was the beginning of the spiritualist movement – or rather, when Kate and Maggie’s older sister decided to take the girls on the road as spirit mediums – that was the beginning. The Fox sisters went from entertaining/scaring the neighbors in Hydesville to contacting wealthy patrons’ dead relatives for money all over the country. The younger girl, Kate, became the Lindsay Lohan of the 1850s while her sister Maggie was caught up in a star-crossed celebrity romance with a famous Arctic explorer.

Was it a hoax? There is evidence both for and against that.  One sister admitted to fraud forty years later, but only after she was well paid for the confession. The other sister never recanted.

It’s a shame Maggie and Kate were never asked to contact the women buried in Catawissa’s caged graves and get the scoop on what happened there!

*Mr. Splitfoot is a 19th century term for the Devil.

Spirit Game poster

I bet that you didn’t know that We Hear the Dead was the inspiration for a short film called The Spirit Game, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes film festival! The trailer to the film can be found below, but also stay tuned for my review of We Hear the Dead, coming soon! Dianne, thank you SO MUCH for joining us on Books Take You Places, I loved reading all about the facts behind your books! Readers, head on over to Brittany’s blog to see what she has in store for you today!

The Spirt Game Trailer from Craig Goodwill on Vimeo.

Fortnight of Fright Guest Post by Jamie from The World for the Reading

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Hello readers! I hope that you are enjoying Fortnight of Fright thus far, we have been very lucky with our guests this year! Today we have Jamie from The World for the Reading telling us all about a TRUE HAUNTING (umm my favorite!!) Take it away, Jamie!!
The Haunting of Hoyt Hall

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I don’t believe in ghosts, so when the opportunity came to live on the notoriously haunted fourth floor of Hoyt-Bowne Hall, I took it. The rooms were huge and Hoyt was right in the middle of campus. A little ghostly shenanigans seemed a small price to pay.

The ghost’s origin story varied depending on who told it, but here’s the gist: in the late 18th century a woman having an illicit affair found out she was pregnant, was rejected by her lover, and hung herself in the attic.  Other versions have her as defenestrated by her boyfriend; still others say that the pregnancy was the result of sexual assault.  Whatever the true origin the result was a spirit said to be particularly malevolent to men. Any men who slept on the fourth floor were said to experience nightmares, headaches, trip over nothing, and if they should take a shower: extreme changes in water temperature.  For this reason only women resided on the this floor, an unusual circumstance on a campus where every other dorm is co-ed by room.

My first night there I was awoken by a creak… creak …creak.  The room’s two closet doors were opening and shutting on their own. Chalking it up to the open windows, I rolled over and went back to sleep. The next night: creak…creak…creak went the doors. This time the windows were closed. Well it’s an old building, I thought to myself. I shoved a plastic bin in front of the doors to stop the creaking, and learned to live with it. The rest of the year was spent mostly untroubled by the “ghost”: a girl down the hall yelled for me to come see a ball rolling around her floor apparently untouched by human hands, there were strange knocks on the walls at random places, my friends across the way found mysterious holes in their window screens. (This last had a clear explanation: a squirrel had chewed through the screen to get to a dish of Hershey’s kisses with almonds, the squirrel equivalent of crystal meth.) My friend Tom complained of random bruises, though they were likely the result of drinking in the woods, not supernatural in origin.

I had no more personal experiences… until one Friday night. Hoyt 4 was empty, finals were coming and we’d been given Monday and Tuesday off for “reading days”.  Many people, my roommate and neighbors included, elected to go home for the weekend. I had several papers to write and had woken up that morning with a stomach virus. I decided to quarantine myself in the dorm and get as much work done as possible in between miserable trips to the bathroom. All was quiet that afternoon and into the evening. Suddenly there was a knock at my door.  Startled, I answered it only to be blinded by a light. A camera was shining in my face and three freshmen guys stood there. These amateur Ghost Hunters wanted an interview: “No one else answered their door. How do you like living in the creepiest building on campus? Ever been attacked by the ghost? Did you know the lights are sometimes on in the attic? Are those Pokemon pajama pants?” The only thing currently haunting me was the Norovirus. Sweaty, nauseous, and mildly irritated I declined an on-camera interview and sent them on their way.

Some hours later, maybe around 2:00am I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom sink after another miserable excursion when I noticed how cold the room was. The window had been opened, even though it had been shut the last time I visited in the room about an hour before. Someone else must be up here after all, I thought, then shut the window and continued brushing. I heard a noise like swoosh swoosh coming from the side of the bathroom with the shower stalls. “Hello?” I called, “Anyone there? Cindy, is that you?” No response. The lights flickered, but then they often did. I washed my face.Creak… creak… creak. The doors of the toilet stalls were swinging back and forth. The door leading to the hallway opened. Small knocks were coming from the walls.  Finally, bang went the toilet seat that I had left up, just as the lights went out.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but I raced out of that bathroom and locked myself in my own room with all the lights turned on, shoving the bin back in front of the closets as a precaution.

I *loved* this. So much. It sounds like a scene out of a really fantastic novel that I want to exist so I can read it RIGHT NOW, PLEASE! I love scary things but even I am not sure how I would have reacted to this one! Thanks so much for sharing with us, Jamie! As always, readers, remember to head over to Brittany’s blog to see what she has featured, and check back tomorrow for a featured post from THE CAGED GRAVES author, Dianne Salerni!

Fortnight of Fright: Hallow’s Reads

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Welcome, welcome!! It is day one of Fortnight of Fright! For those of you wondering what Fortnight of Fright consists of, head on over to the intro post and take a gander!  I am so excited to have so many excellent blogger and author participation this year, we are going to be bursting at the seams with Halloween happenings! To kick off the event, Brittany and I thought that we would compile a list of some great Halloween recommendations from our fellow bloggers. So here we go, best Halloween reads!!

First up we have April from The Steadfast Reader recommended some of her favorite Halloween reads…and quick side note: I am PETRIFIED of IT (and all clowns, really) so there won’t be any images of him over here!!

– It by Stephen King (blog review): Why I love it: First line: “The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years–if it ever did end–began, so far as I can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”

It’s a deep and intricately woven tale about childhood, love, loss, and imagination. At it’s core it’s about the loss of innocence and the power children and imagination have. King does a masterful job of putting the reader in the shoes of his characters. The Loser’s Club, in all their glory, both as children and adults are what make this novel the fantastic piece of horror literature it is.

Why it’s great for Halloween? It’s the penultimate horror story. Every creepy, scary archetype ever rained down upon mankind is found in this book. What scares you? Clowns? Check. Sewers? Check. Spiders? Check. Dead children? Okay, that’s less of an archetype and more of a tragedy — but that’s in there too. It should be noted depending on your reading speed, if you start on Halloween, this one might take you until Christmas, but that doesn’t mean that the journey isn’t completely worth it.

– Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones: Why I like it: It’s a unique piece of work in that it’s written as a treatment for a screenplay. It’s packed with footnotes and so full of pop-culture that it’s practically bursting at the seams! I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever read anything else like it. Between that and the emotions that it pulled from me, I classify it as art.

Why it’s great for Halloween? Well, the screenplay treatment is for three movies that take place on Halloween. This piece pulled some visceral emotional response from me. There’s both camp-horror and really scary horror. This makes it an ideal spooky Halloween read.

Secondly we have Celine from Nyx Book Reviews  and as you can see Celine ALSO recommends IT as one of the scariest books out there…I TOLD YOU!!

– It by Stephen King (Goodreads)

It is by far the scariest book I have ever read. Not only does it deal with the evil inside humans, it also features a monster that is evil itself and that turns into your greatest fears. While reading this Stephen King classic you will find yourself turning on all of your lights and hiding underneath a blanket. It’s even more terrifying if you’re afraid of clowns.

 – The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (Goodreads – my review)

With such a creepy cover, it’s almost impossible to go wrong. The Replacement is a lovely scary young-adult book, which has one of the most unique story lines and setting I have encountered so far. Deliciously weird, The Replacement is a great read for people that love their books atmospheric, but that value getting some nightmare-free sleep at night.

– The Trial by Kafka (Goodreads – my review)

Never has a book made me as uncomfortable as The Trial has. At first glance it sounds like your average thriller – a man gets accused of a crime. Kafka manages to turn this simple premise into an absurd surreal experience that gets under your skin. Reading this book is uncomfortable and confronting, and ultimately scarier than most books about monsters are.

Thanks so much for sharing your recommendations with us, girls!! I will definitely be adding a few of these to the TBR – and steering clear of a certain CLOWN..ahem..Make sure to head over to Brittany’s blog for some other Halloween recommendations!! Happy reading, my friends!

Fortnight of Fright (2)

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Hello my friends!

Two awesome things coming your way…

First, you may remember that last year Brittany from The Book Addict’s Guide and I hosted a two week event called Fortnight of Fright, where we shared different posts on ALL OF THE HALLOWEEN THINGS. This year we are working together again to showcase different creepy books, movies, author interviews, and other excellent autumn and Halloween related goodies! The best part is that we get to work together with some awesome bloggers to make this happen, and the more the merrier, so if you think that you want to assist in ANY way, even if it is just telling us your favorite thing about Halloween, sign up via the Google Doc down at the end, below part two of this post!

Some fun posts from last year included:

The Scary-Funny Sweet Spot by Heidi at Bunbury in the Stacks

Favorite Villains

Favorite Halloween Shows

…and so many more!!

All Hallow's Read

Second, you may also remember that I told you all about All Hallow’s Read, which is a lovely new tradition started by Neil Gaiman where people give each other BOOKS instead of CANDY. Doesn’t that sound AMAZING?! Brittany, Amy and I are all participating and we are gifting each other Halloween-y books for us to read and review during the month of October. I can’t tell you how excited we have all been to choose books for each other (and um we are obviously psyched to receive those books as well!!) and you have time before Halloween so I suggest that you get together with some friends, and give each other books, because WE ALL LOVE BOOKS. For more information on All Hallow’s Read, head on over to their website, and I will keep you all in the know as well because last year Neil Gaiman gave away a free short story via Audible and it was PHENOMENAL.

Happy reading, my friends!!

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Title: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Publishing Information: August 15, 2013

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Gothic, Horror, Romance

Series information: Book 1 in a planned series

Format: Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Fans of highly atmospheric and gothic novels, such as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, and Amber House by Kelly Moore

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

I am a sucker for any novel described as being a gothic horror; it is one of the few things that make my eyes glaze over when dreaming of the possibilities. A lot of times it is hard for an author to match what the reader wants, especially in terms of writing horror. April Genevieve Tucholke weaves the perfect amount of horror and mystery into this paranormal novel. I was very taken by the way in which the atmosphere of the novel plays into the action of its characters, there was a perfect balance between the two and it made for a much more dramatic reading.

Let’s talk characters, Violet is strong and careful, she is more mature and responsible than a typical 17 year old as she has practically raised herself since her parents have been gone, she also misses her dead grandmother terribly and often talks to her as if she were still alive. Her brother Luke is somewhat reckless and where Violet has matured in their parent’s absence, Luke has developed a more obvious “craves attention” sort of personality. Sunshine is their neighbor, and is described as beautiful with sleepy and seductive brown eyes. If I am being honest, I didn’t like Sunshine at all, and I didn’t like the way that Violet compared herself to Sunshine constantly, though it did give the reader insight to Violet’s lack of confidence in herself. It was perhaps because of this confidence that Violet fell so fast for the gorgeous River West. River is good looking in a “vintage” way, with a gorgeous crooked smile. He is a very manipulative character, which obviously plays into the story, but I have to be honest I was a little frustrated with him and his constant evasiveness. Their relationship was pretty seductive, even though it did read somewhat like the paranormal romances we are used to. You know the kind where the girl “can’t stand” this guy and his ways yet she just can’t stop kissing him? I can’t complain though, because those kissy scenes? Oh, they were worth it.

Lot’s of people have bad stories, and if they wail and sob and tell their story to anyone who’ll listen, it’s crap. Or half crap, at least. The stuff that really hurts people, the stuff that almost breaks them…that they won’t talk about. Ever.

Though overall I adored Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, it wasn’t perfect. I didn’t really appreciate the so often seen “absent parents,” and how Luke and Violet are still in high school yet they somehow manage to learn to live on their own with no guidance or structure. I see how it was necessary to leave the parents out of the main storyline, but I would have felt better about it had Violet and Luke been a year older or perhaps been taken care of by an eccentric family member. This didn’t affect my overall impression of the novel but it was something that bothered me while reading it.

On the whole, the novel was beautiful and atmospheric, the description of Citizen Kane, the large house where Violet and Luke live was absolutely breathtaking, I found myself wanting Violet to explore more so I could learn more about what was hidden in the corners of the attic. I also particularly enjoyed the ending of the novel. Some readers are saying that they felt the ending to be rather rushed, and though I can see that in a way, I also think it was necessary for the novel to progress in this way in order to set it up for the continuation of the series. I also did not see the ending coming, I had musings, to be sure, but the revelation at the end was quite a surprise.

I highly recommend Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea to anyone looking for a descriptive and atmospheric novel. It is filled with enough mysterious and creepy elements to keep even the most jaded reader looking over their shoulder, also let’s not forget about the swoony bits as those are aplenty as well!

Review: Bloodspell by Amalie Howard

bloodspellTitle: Bloodspell

Author: Amalie Howard

Publishing Information: June 1st 2011 by Langdon Street Press

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Series information: Book 1 in a planned series

Format: Hardcover, 394 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a swoony, paranormal romance with a strong and likable heroine

Victoria Warrick has always known she was different. An outcast at school, she is no stranger to adversity. But when she receives an old journal for her seventeenth birthday, nothing prepares her for the dark secrets it holds — much less one that reveals she’s a witch with unimaginable power.

What’s more, when she meets the dazzling but enigmatic Christian Devereux, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Enemies will hunt her. Friends will turn on her. The terrible curse that makes her blood run black will stop at nothing to control her. And Christian has a sinister secret of his own…

Without knowing whom to trust, can Victoria survive her blood’s deadly desires? Or will she lose everything, including herself?

If there is one thing that stands out in Bloodspell, it is the character development, and level of change in the characters and their relationships with one another. Though much of the novel focuses on Christian and Victoria and their FORBIDDEN romance, it also includes layered subplots that really have more to do with the history of the characters, the characters being witches and vampires, and the struggle with the powers within them as well as those who would seek to harm them because of what they are. The secondary characters in this novel don’t get as much page time as I would have liked, specifically Leto, Victoria’s familiar (yeah, he’s a cat so obviously, I love him), and some “friends” that play very integral parts in the overall story, but don’t have much detail provided to their characterization throughout the novel.

In terms of plot, Bloodspell isn’t extremely intricate. In fact, it follows some familiar tropes that readers might roll their eyes at. There is the familiar forbidden love, (teeny) love triangle issues, and there is even a vampire council of sorts who rule over all vampire matters, specifically the law that states witches and vampires can (NEVERRRR!!) unite in any sort of…union. When it is spelled out like that, this book seems like all the rest, it seems like a slightly altered version of twilight, something that can easily be moved aside for more unique novels, however, things aren’t exactly as they seem in Bloodspell. Ms. Howard goes beyond the typical tropes and adds vast layers of self discovery, intricately dark forces, and unbeatable relationships of multiple kinds.

Speaking of relationships, I’m not going to lie to you guys, one of the biggest reasons that I enjoyed this book was because of the swoons. There are a lot of them. Good ones. Ms. Howard has a knack for writing those kissy scenes, lemme tell ya. Though the relationship between Victoria and Christian is a driving force throughout the novel, there are also stellar friendships and some very moving familial relationships that sort of broke my heart a little.

To be honest, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Bloodspell. While reading, there were moments that I was worried that it was falling into a very typical paranormal romance, and as it concluded I was happy to see that that was not the case at all. I was surprised by parts at the conclusion of the novel, and extremely happy to see that the author left many things open without tying things up too neatly. As a reader I felt that things were conclusive enough that I was happy where it left off, but also intrigued to see where things can go if and when the author continues on with the series. Bloodspell held its own in a very overdone genre, I highly recommend it to those of you who enjoy paranormal romances, but are getting sick of reading the same tropes again and again.

Review: Towering by Alex Flinn

15806868Title: Towering

Author: Alex Flinn

Publishing Information: May 14, 2013 by HarperTeen

Genre: Young Adult, Retellings, Fairy Tales, Fantasy

Series information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 304 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Fans of quick reads filled with a little bit of mystery, and a lot of insta-love
Rachel is trapped in a tower, held hostage by a woman she’s always called Mama. Her golden hair is growing rapidly, and to pass the time, she watches the snow fall and sings songs from her childhood, hoping someone, anyone, will hear her. 

Wyatt needs time to reflect or, better yet, forget about what happened to his best friend, Tyler. That’s why he’s been shipped off to the Adirondacks in the dead of winter to live with the oldest lady in town. Either that, or no one he knows ever wants to see him again.

Dani disappeared seventeen years ago without a trace, but she left behind a journal that’s never been read, not even by her overbearing mother…until now.

It’s hard to tell you how I feel about this novel because while I was reading it I really enjoyed it. However, now that I am looking back to write my review I am thinking of all of the things that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Does that ever happen to you? You read a book and you’re entertained at the moment but then looking back you find that it wasn’t a particularly good book? It’s hard to rate a book like that, but I’ll do my best.

The POV in the novel goes back and forth between Wyatt and Rachel, though much time is spent in Wyatt’s head as Rachel really doesn’t have much going on up in that tower. I liked Wyatt a lot, I found him endearing and gentle and a little bit sad. Rachel was a decent enough character as her naivete is believable due to her circumstances and her reliance on her “Mama” is necessary for her continued survival. I like Wyatt’s curiosity and strength, and I enjoyed the way Rachel took control of her own life when she felt the need, even though it did seem rather forced. However, I did not like the instalove between these two, and despite the fantastical elements that went into their meeting, it didn’t click for me and I was annoyed at how quickly and deeply they fell in love. The secondary characters in the novel were scarce and the villains fell very flat. In fact, the only time we really see the villains in depth is during the climax of the novel, and that was a disappointment as I really felt that so much more could have been done with their characterization.

My absolute favorite part of the novel was the mystery and setting. It read like one of those old school mysteries, teenage daughter goes missing, ghost starts haunting the new boy in town, mysterious singing, deep snow and wind reminiscent of the moors of Wuthering Heights. Sounds awesome, right? It really could have been, had it contained more detail and depth. On a whole, there was one interesting part that I honestly did not see coming, and there were times that I couldn’t stop thinking about the plot and even while I wasn’t reading, I was wondering what was going to happen next. I think that was the biggest disappointment for me. Once the novel climaxed, and the mystery was solved, I couldn’t help but feel let down. It wasn’t just that things were solved too quickly, though that was an issue for me, it was my disappointment in the flatness of the tale.  The BIG REVEAL happened and tied up ALL THE THINGS and Rachel saved the day (and her man) with her MAGIC and all was well!

The gist here is that before I started, and as I was reading, what I thought I was getting was an incredibly layered, detailed, and intriguing mystery. What I got was a rather typical young adult novel filled with enough magic to tie up all loose ends, and an insta-love between a troubled boy who would have a lot going for him if he hadn’t fallen so in love that he now has a live in girlfriend who doesn’t know the difference between a car and a carriage.

For those of you who are looking for a quick read to cleanse the palate in between those layered and detailed novels, give this one a go. It was enjoyable enough, but I won’t be running to read the author’s other novels any time soon.