Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures
(Caster Chronicles, Book 1)
Movie Tie0In Edition
Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Trade Paperback, 563 pages
Little, Brown and Company
November 20, 2012
Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, YA
Source: Marshall's Dept. Store

Synopsis:  The first book in a lush Gothic fantasy series for younger readers of Charlaine Harris and fans of Cassandra Clare.

This edition features exclusive movie cover art and a foldout poster!

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.


Quite honestly, I don't think I've ever felt so conflicted over a book before. I wanted to love this novel. As I began to read it, I did start liking it, and initially at least, kept turning pages. Then I hated it and now I'm not really sure how I feel about it....

The one thing I do know is that, as I read, a feeling of OPPRESSION grew in me. And yet, I couldn't stop reading. This is certainly paradoxical!

The authors have a wonderful prose style, and their well-written descriptions make the setting come alive. The reader really does feel as if they're actually in the town of Gatlin, South Carolina.

The references to historical events related to the Civil War were really fascinating to read. I also enjoyed the authors' not-that-subtle ridicule of the townspeople's staunch defense of the Confederate side, to the point of staging yearly reenactments of one specific battle in the war, ignoring the fact that it was the North that ultimately won. 

The supernatural events and paranormal characters together make this novel a truly INTENSE experience. Of course, that doesn't mean the experience will necessarily be a pleasant one. It does mean that it will most likely remain indelibly impressed on a reader's memory banks, the way a traumatic event might be. All the unpleasantness, all the morbid feelings and darkness, will haunt the person who underwent the traumatic event. 

This is how I feel about this novel. It is a dark story. Some readers might disagree, but then, there are varying reading tastes in the world. I'm speaking from the viewpoint of someone who can't stomach the horror genre. And this novel does come close to a horror novel, at times. Well, the word "Gothic" should have alerted me; really, Gothic fiction is, after all, a very close cousin of horror fiction.

And yet.....even now, as I reminisce about a book I no longer own (I donated it to Goodwill, along with the rest of the books in this series), I can't seem to forget the plot....and I'm wondering whether I didn't appreciate it as I should have. But then again, I could not find the enjoyment in it that I unequivocally found in The Twilight Saga, for instance.

The love story is certainly a compelling one. Ethan Wate, the male teen protagonist, is the narrator. This was a rather refreshing change from all of the female narrators in YA novels dealing with paranormal romance and urban fantasy. At last we get the male point of view! And I did like Ethan. He's a very sweet, unassuming young man. And he falls totally in love with Lena Duchannes, the female protagonist. Both are Gatlin high school students.

One quibble I have with the authors regardng Ethan: there are times when he does NOT sound like a guy, but instead, well, more like a teen girl. His descriptions of clothing, for example, are sometimes too detailed to have come from a guy. Let's face it: guys, and ESPECIALLY teen guys, are not the most observant people in the world. 

Lena is a Caster, which is another way of saying that she's a witch, because she's a caster of spells. Although this makes her very different from Ethan, she cannot help feeling very attracted to him, a mortal. 

I liked Lena, too. She's very vulnerable in spite of her powers, which she can't always control, and is also a poet. In fact, she frequently likes to decorate her room at the infamous Ravenwood mansion with her poetic thoughts. These thoughts meander all over her bedroom walls, thus serving as a sort of protective cocoon for her. 

The other characters are memorable as well, although I have to be honest and state that I didn't like most of them, except for the teen couple, and the town librarian, Marian Ashcroft. This character endeared herself to me because of the fact that she had been Ethan's mother's best friend; furthermore, her take on the unusual events in the town, as well as the existence of the Casters, was a very well-balanced one. I really admired this character!

Well, I must admit that I do like Amarie (nicknamed "Amma") Trudeau. She has raised Ethan since his mother's death, and is very protective of him. She cares about him as if he were her own son, or grandson. What scared me about her as I was reading the book was that she was proficient in voodoo, although she did work white magic. However, I did not like (please forgive the spoiler) her meeting with Lena's uncle, the very strange Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood, in the middle of a swamp, in the middle of the night. During this meeting, she brought offerings for her deceased relatives, whose graves were right in the swamp. Ugh.

Speaking of "dear Uncle Macon", I never liked him. He doesn't like humans much, especially those who live in Gatlin. And he thinks much too highly of himself. Furthermore, although he's supposedly always looking out for Lena, he's not very affectionate toward her. He's more like a legal guardian with paranormal powers.

There were some clichés in the plot, as well, and these bothered me. For instance, there was the usual group of mean girls at school, who bullied Lena and attempted to have her expelled. They were supported in this endeavor by Mrs. Lincoln, the mother of Ethan's best friend, Wesley, known as "Link". Mrs. Lincoln is the stereotypical self-righteous Christian who has gone out of her way to try to get books banned at the local high school, and who is always up in arms about anything she deems "just not right", by her standards. She has a whole slew of friends from a Confederate association she belongs to who fully stand behind her, too. 

In spite of the fact that Lena and her family are supposedly good witches (except for Ridley Duchannes, who is a Dark Caster, and who was another stereotypical character -- a femme fatale, luring unsuspecting males to disaster), they sure do seem to use dark magic. Lena has a powerful influence over nature. It seems that whenever she's distressed, she causes terrible storms. Unfortunately, she can't control them. And I STILL don't know why she's always driving around in a HEARSE. Is this just for dramatic effect? It certainly doesn't seem to fit into the plot at all. Why a hearse? Was Uncle Macon an undertaker in his younger days? Or maybe in a previous life? What's UP with that, I wonder....

At one point in the novel, the Ravenwood family members get together for Halloween. One of the visiting cousins enjoys turning his arm into a very realistic snake.... All of you out there are most likely familiar with the scene in the Garden of Eden in which Eve succumbs to the temptation offered to her by....A SNAKE. So yeah, these are GOOD Casters, who only work WHITE magic. Right.

And then, to make things even more creepy, the whole family clan form a circle around Lena in order to protect her from some mysterious force that's trying to claim her. As they stand in the circle, they chant something that has to do with blood....

There's also a curse on Lena's family, due to one of her ancestors having used forbidden magic from a mysterious spell book known as The Book of Moons. And oh, as a "special bonus", there's also some grave-digging connected with this book....

Okay, so I do enjoy reading paranormal romance and urban fantasy, but this novel is just much too dark for my taste. I just felt that strongly oppressive state of mind throughout. It was relentless, too. At times, I even started to question Lena and Ethan's whole relationship. I alternated between wanting them to be together, against all odds, and wanting Ethan to get the heck away from Lena. I kept sensing that this relationship was somehow dangerous for him. 

I didn't quite finish the novel. It's one of the longer books I've read in recent years, and I did get as far as page 496. The book has a total of 563 pages. You might think it's silly to go that far into a book and then not finish it. The thing is, though, that I lost patience and peeked ahead to see how the the whole ended. And I didn't much like what I came across; the ending leaves things up in the air, and history ends up repeating itself. 

This book has received a lot of praise. It has even garnered awards. I was expecting to love it, since it's been touted as the perfect next read for those who have enjoyed The Twilight Saga, as well as Charlaine Harris and Cassandra Clare fans. However, it just didn't do it for me.

One thing I did find interesting was the constant references to Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. Macon is compared to Boo Radley, a reclusive character from the Lee novel. The town of Gatlin is just as fictional as Maycomb, the town mentioned in To Kill A Mockingbird. I think the similarity between the name of Lee's town, and the name "Macon" is not accidental. 

All of the ingredients in this novel should have guaranteed that I would love it. Somehow, that simply didn't happen. It wasn't the slowness of the plot, as other reviewers on the Internet have pointed out. I found the pacing to be just right. I repeat, the whole atmosphere of the novel was just overwhelmingly oppressive to me, and I finally couldn't take that anymore. All I wanted to do was to get out from under that evil cloud!

Readers who might be tempted to start reading this book should, quite honestly, pick up either The Twilight Saga, or the Vampire Academy series, instead. In all honesty, I think these are much better choices for the YA reader who's also into PNR and UF.

Then again, I know I'll probably read this book again in the near future, in order to re-evaluate it. If I can take it better at that future time, I will come back and change the rating. I do wonder if that will ever happen, thogh. Who knows....



Kami Garcia is the #1 New York Times & USA Today bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures and  the Dangerous Creatures novels, as well as the author of the instant New York Times bestseller and Bram Stoker Award nominated novels Unbreakable & Unmarked, in the Legion Series. Her contemporary romance The Lovely Reckless was released on October 4th, 2017 (Imprint/Macmillan).

Kami grew up outside of Washington DC, wore lots of black, and spent hours writing poetry in spiral notebooks. When Kami isn't writing, she lives to bake, watch bad disaster movies, and listen to Soundgarden. She lives in Maryland with her husband, son, daughter, and their dogs "Spike" and "Oz" (named after characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Margaret Stohl is the #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures and Dangerous Creatures novels, the author of the New York Times bestselling Black Widow: Forever Red, and Black Widow: Red Vengeance, from Marvel Press (Marvel YA), and of the Icons Novels. As of November 2016, she is also the author of the Mighty Captain Marvel comics from Marvel Comics.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tour Spotlight/Giveaway!! Delightfully Witchy, by Acacia K. Parker

Welcome to the Delightfully Witchy Blog Tour, sponsored by
Bewitching Book Tours!!

For my stop, I'm featuring a 
mini-review with excerpt!
There's also a tour-sponsored giveaway!!

Delightfully Witchy
(Delightfully Witchy, Book 1)
Acacia K. Parker
Trade Paperback, 2nd edition, 432 pages
Parker Publishing
September 26, 2017
Kindle Edition, 2nd edition, 388 pages
Parker Publishing
May 29, 2017
Cover design: Acacia K. Parker
Humor, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy


Looking for true love? Having dreams you need to recall more clearly? How about that pesky curse that just won’t go away? Let Delightfully Witchy Herbal Shop conjure up the perfect charm for you! Meet Emerson Harper—herbalist, shop owner, witch—exceptional at the first two, not so much on the last. She finds there are perks to living a quiet life, especially when those perks involve Lincoln Summers walking into her shop asking for a rare Stone. Powerful, wealthy, and famous, she finds it hard to resist selling him what he seeks when those dazzling blue eyes of his linger a little too long. What Lincoln failed to mention, however, is someone evil is looking for the Stone; a witch who now has Emmie in his sights. Luckily, Emmie made more of an impression on the sexy stranger than she realized, and when he comes to her rescue she finds herself suddenly pulled into Lincoln’s world of dark magic and buried secrets. In the fight to reclaim their lives—and save the world from a deranged witch hell-bent on destruction—Emmie is thrust into a journey of mystery, peril, and self-discovery, only to learn that sometimes . . . All magic needs is a little push.

Awwww.....this is such a sweet scene.... It starts out on a note of anxiety, as Emmie wakes up from a terrifying dream. But then he's there -- this wonderful guy, Lincoln, showing concern for her, wrapping her in his arms....sigh.... I already love him! Lol. 
In this short excerpt, Acacia Parker has already made me care about her characters. (Especially, of course, Lincoln!) This scene tells me that these two have a wonderful relationship, and that, whatever happens, they will face things together, supporting each other when need be.
I DEFINITELY want to find out more!!

I awoke screaming and scared, feeling like I was locked in that trunk again, bound and unsure of the outcome. I was dazed. I knew I was awake, but it was still hard to tell what was real. I felt the mattress underneath me, and the clothes that smelled of spices and were faintly musky and sweaty. There was a light beside the bed I could turn on to show that I was perfectly safe. None of that mattered, though, because I was frantic, tears falling down my face, trying to get out of the confined space that had me caged in.
Someone was talking to me, calmly and evenly. Whoever it was grabbed my arms and lifted them, moving me so my back was to a chest, clearly not my sister’s. I yanked my arms to get free, but whoever had me was too strong, the voice continuing to speak, telling me I was all right, that I was safe, and there wasn’t anything to be worried about.
“Emmie, it’s just a dream, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Lincoln. It was Lincoln’s voice that finally trickled through, and I realized where I was. He had his arms wrapped around me, holding me still so I wouldn’t hurt myself—or him, for that matter. My head was somewhere near the crook of his neck as I craned it back, looking up at the black ceiling, its endless depths forbidding and ominous. Tears fell, my breathing was labored, and my heart raced. He never moved, even as my legs kicked the blankets away, hating myself for allowing this to happen.
When I finally got myself to calm down, Lincoln turned me and without a word pulled me into a hug. I wrapped my arms around his waist, listening to his heartbeat as it hammered violently in his chest. With his head resting on mine, I barely felt the stubble scratching at my forehead, abrasive but welcome.
“You scared me.” His voice was throaty, like he’d just woken up himself. “Are you okay?”
“I think so,” I managed to say, pulling back, noticing the light on the nightstand was on, dim in the darkness. “I’m so, so sorry. That was—”
“Expected . . . considering.” He shrugged, his hand on my shoulder as I wiped the tears off my face.
“I guess it’s a good thing I don’t sleep naked,” I giggled, trying to lighten the mood.
“I think that depends on who you’re asking.” He smirked.
And I blushed, of course. I was feeling all warm and cozy with his hand still on my shoulder and then I noticed he wasn’t wearing a shirt. Good Lord. Trust me, it was everything I ever thought it would be. No, it was definitely better. He was perfect; chiseled chest, washboard abs, thick arms, and a dark line of hair leading from his belly button until it disappeared underneath his pajama pants. I’m pretty sure if I kept looking I was going to start drooling, literally, and that would be . . . just no. 
“What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing! It’s nothing.”
“It doesn’t look like nothing,” he said, raising his brows.
“It’s not important,” I answered nervously, biting my lower lip.
“Are you sure?”
“Yep.” I nodded. “I’m sure.”
“Ok.” He squeezed my shoulder lightly.

Purchase Links

Acacia has been what some may call a "gypsy" for most of her life. With her father serving in the Air Force for twenty years, she's enjoyed many different homes in many different states, with a decent portion of her life lived overseas in Germany. Always one to be creative, she has been drawing since she could write, and writing has become a passion of hers since her teenage years where she discovered she loved telling stories and creating eccentric characters.

Currently residing in Phoenix, AZ with her husband Shawn and their two golden retrievers, "Boomer" and "Sookie", the duo find any excuse to enjoy the weather (when it's permitted), and you can often find them scuba diving (their favorite place is the Florida Keys), hiking, visiting one of the many beautiful lakes Arizona has to offer, or finding winding, dirt roads to discover. Unfortunately, it's not all fun and games. A good chunk of Acacia's time is taken up to complete her Bachelor's in Business Management at Grand Canyon University - although procrastination does ensue.

In her writing adventures, Acacia hopes that one day her stories may inspire others to follow their dreams - no matter how crazy they may seem.

To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below!


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Shelf Candy Saturday No. 227: Scepter of Fire, by Vicki L. Weavil

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!

This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful covers!
It also provides information, 
if available, on their 
very talented creators!

Here's my choice for this week!

Scepter of Fire
(The Mirror of Immortality, Book 2)
Vicki L. Weavil
Trade Paperback, 272 pages
Snowy Wings Publishing, 2nd ecition
May 16, 2017
   Fairy Tale Retellings, Fantasy,Romance,
Young Adult Fiction


My Thoughts About This Cover

This is the sequel to Crown of Fire, which I featured last week (click HERE), and its design is no less impressive than the design of that other exquisite cover! I do prefer the color scheme in that first cover, but this one has its own fiery beauty.

This book is a continuation of the story in the first one, which is a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Snow Queen". There are some new plot elements, of course, but the story still revolves around the Queen's world.

With this cover, all of the coldness of an ice world has disappeared, and, instead, we have a scene in which a magical portal, surrounded by flames, has appeared in front of a young woman. She seems to hesitate just before she steps into that portal, and heck, I sure don't blame her! I would hesitate, too, if I were that close to flames! However, it looks as if the world on the other side of the portal is a serene one, from the glimpse we get of the bird flying calmly overhead.

There are obvious stylistic similarities between these two covers; we have the same mirror effect, with the frame surrounding the scene. The decorations around the frame are the same ones depicted on the first cover, except that these have a brownish tone. On closer inspection, the frame looks like it's made of old, burnished gold.

In spite of the different color tones, the theme of a lone young woman is also the same, although, in this cover, she's turned completely away from the viewer, whereas on the cover of Crown of Ice, the young woman's profile is partially visible.

The warmth radiated by this cover is almost palpable. The colors are perfect for autumn, too -- orange, brown, gold, with a splash of red near the bottom edge. The young woman's hair is red. Just as the first cover is a winter one, this second cover is definitely an autumn one.

The classic font is just as striking here as it is on the first cover. I especially like how part of the letter "R" extends down in a dramatic "slash" behind the number "2".

Of course, this STUNNING cover is also the work of the BRILLIANT cover artists at "Deranged Doctor Design"! As I mentioned in last week's post, this is a group of cover artists who create covers for self-published authors. I was also unable to find out which one of them was responsible for this second cover, but it's obvious that the same artist who created the first cover also created the one above.  

Be sure to check out the links below for more samples of the work of these AMAZING cover artists! They are already on my list of favorite cover illustrators and designers, of course! And, I will be featuring more of their great covers in future "Shelf Candy Saturday" posts!!

What do you think of 
this week's cover?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday No. 37: Love, Life, and the List, by Kasie West

Welcome to "Can't Wait Wednesday"!
This is a weekly event hosted by
Tressa @ Wishful Endings, and inspired by "Waiting On Wednesday", which used to be hosted by
 Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

For more information, please click HERE.

As in the previous meme, this one showcases future releases  we book  bloggers 
are eagerly anticipating!!
There's also a Linky widget, so participating blogs can link up!

Here's my choice for this week!

 Love, Life, and the List
Kasie West
Hardcover,  384 pages
December 26, 2017   
Art, Contemporary Romance,
Young Adult Fiction


Everyone knows Abby Turner is in love with her best friend, Cooper Wells. Including Cooper Wells. But despite what people tell her, it doesn’t affect their friendship. And she’s practically over it, anyway. What she really can’t get over is when her boss at the local museum tells her that her paintings lack heart.

Art is Abby’s passion and she hopes her future as well. She is determined to change his mind and earn her way into the upcoming exhibit at the gallery. So along with her family’s help, she compiles “The Heart List,” a series of soul-stretching experiences that are sure to make her a deeper person and better artist in six weeks or less. When Cooper decides to complete the list along with her, she realizes this list is expanding her heart in more ways than one. Maybe she needs to start another project.

Love, Life, and the List is about a girl who, in an effort to bring more emotional depth to her art, compiles a list of soul-stretching experiences to complete with her best friend — a boy she also happens to be in love with.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

Why I can't wait for this one!

This novel's female protagonist is an artist, which is something I find SO FASCINATING! She's not simply longing for  "her guy", but is actively interested in bringing more depth to her art. The fact that her best friend and crush decides to complete this wonderful list right along with her is a bonus. The most important thing, though, is that she's willing to work on herself in order to be a better artist, and thus, exhibit her work at the local museum gallery. I find this INSPIRING!! 

Another HUGE PLUS is that this book is by the author of another book I featured in a "WOW" post in December of last year -- By Your Side!!

I write YA. I eat Junior Mints. Sometimes I go crazy and do both at the same time. My novels are: Pivot Point and its sequel Split Second. And my contemporary novels: The Distance Between Us, On The Fence, The Fill-In Boyfriend, PS I Like You, and By Your Side. My agent is the talented and funny Michelle Wolfson.

 I graduated from Fresno State University with a BA degree that has nothing to do with writing.   

 I am the mother of four -- three daughters and one son.  We live in Central California where the summers try to kill us with their 115 degree stretches.  

  I love sappy alternative rock ballads and reading way past my bedtime.

What do you think of my choice?
Leave your link below, so I can
come check out your pick(s)!