Friday, June 29, 2012

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

[Beautiful Darkness is the sequel to Beautiful Creatures, so it is suggested that you read Beautiful Creatures before you read this review so nothing is spoiled for you!]

"We don't get to chose what is true. We only get to chose what we do about it."

Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen. Sometimes life-ending.

Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.

So this might mean I'm crazy, but I have this thing with book series: if I start one, I always finish it. No matter how terrible the characters, no matter how long each book is, no series will get the best of me. Even when they try really, really hard. (Yes, Last Survivors Trilogy, I'm talking about you.) So even though I thought this book's predecessor was a mediocre read, I'm signed on for the whole four book deal. 

I don't know if this happens to all people who plan to write in the future, but when I read books, I'll get writer-jealous: I'll read something and think "Why didn't I think of that?" It's the little details for me—Lena's necklace made of memories, her constant writing or how words appear all around her room, Ethan's shoebox storage system. They're, I don't know, quirks, and they make the characters seem real. I absolutely applaud the authors for these.

Back to Lena's writing: I just love it. We only get bits of it throughout the books—a phrase here and there—but they're my favorite parts. Her writing is always the perfect way to put her situation into words. 

On my final note, I'd like to say that I liked seeing other characters come into the story. It wasn't just EthanLenaEthanLenaEthanLena the whole book—we saw a lot of other characters—which makes a book a lot more interesting.

Okay, I have a major problem with Gatlin's high school and its students. That's right. I'm calling you out, Savannah. And you too, Emily.

Maybe I'm just not from a very small town, but I don't understand how two girls' opinions can control the entire student population of Jackson High. As far as I've ever experienced, the mean it girls that everybody wants and everybody listens to live only in our imagination. I actually just read a post about small towns and their it girls, if you're interested. 

My problem was poor Lena's over there, practically depressed, and all because not one person at that whole school (besides Ethan) can be nice to her. And it's all because of the mean girls. 

Really? Where is this inspiration coming from?

Like I said, maybe I've just never known one, but I would think it's a pretty powerful teenager that can turn an entire student body against one girl.

And another thing: this book is so long. And I like long books, I do. But this book has what I'm going to create my own term for: unnecessary length

Un·nec·es·sar·y Length [uhn-nes-uh-ser-ee lenth]
when referring to a YA book
      1. when a book's length is unneeded to tell the story the author[s] set out to tell
See also: Unnecessary Amount of Made-Up Words in a YA Book

If my fancily-created definition did nothing to explain that to you, I basically mean this: I felt like the book could have been condensed without losing the story.

Lastly, I have a message for you, beloved YA authors. Don't listen to the publishers, your handbook, or whoever it is that is telling you that awful lie: I'm going to tell you the truth. You don't have to break up the main couple in the second book

I know, I know. It's incredibly hard to believe. Put away your copy of New Moon and any other YA sequel that encourages you to do so. You don't need their inspiration—your couple's relationship can make it two consecutive books. And your book can still be awesome.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but I was rooting for Lena and Ethan. And then all of a sudden What? When did the breaking up happen? Nooooooo. I'd like to see an author keep a couple dating for us poor tortured readers. Show us what a steady relationship is. Have pity on the poor, poor souls of YA guys.

I pretty much had the same reaction to this book as I did to the first one: it didn't knock my socks off, but it's not bad. It's hanging somewhere in the middle—or in my rating system—at two hearts of "It's Okay."

Read more reviews for Beautiful Darkness at:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

“The right thing and the easy thing are never the same.”

There were no surprises in Gatlin County. We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere. At least, that's what I thought. Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. There was a curse. There was a girl. And in the end, there was a grave.

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.

I'm one of those people that always reads the book before I see the movie, and so when I heard that Beautiful Creatures had started filming, I moved the series up on my TBR list so I could rightfully support a YA movie adaption when it hit theaters.

This is, I believe, the first YA paranormal book I've read that's from the point of view of a guy—and it's definitely the first one I've read that's written by two female authors. I think just writing outside of such a basic perspective is a huge jump, and it's always interesting to read.

There was something I really appreciated in this book that I haven't seen in too many other books: the main girl wasn't invincible. Lena hadn't had the normal teen girl life, and she was insecure about it. She wanted all those typical experiences, even when it didn't make sense, and even when everyone thought it was crazy of her to want it. I got a little aggravated with her sometimes, especially when she'd go around breaking rules for something stupid (I'm too much of a good kid to understand), but it's important that every character have their flaws and shortcomings, and I think that Lena was nice and filled out because of hers.

I also want to note that there wasn't insta-love—I thought, for the YA world, there was actually a good amount of a relationship built up throughout the story. 

This is probably something that bothers only my English-loving self, but I have to point this out: there were a lot of badly written sentences. As in, sentences where I stopped reading my book, grabbed the nearest human being (be it family, friend, or stranger), and had someone else read it to make sure it wasn't just me being crazy. But no, there were definitely some grammatical errors. Here's one such sentence, when Ethan's teacher tells him when he's late for school:

"I'm busy fillin' out your detention slips, which is where you'll be spendin' this afternoon." 

Notice how she's talking about detention slips, not just detention. The way that sentence is set up, it sounds like Ethan will be spending his afternoon in detention slips, not detention. Now here's another one—this one is when Ethan explains why he doesn't have a southern accent:

“Professor parents, and a jar full of quarters every time I dropped a G.”

There wasn't a jar full of quarters every time he dropped a G—there was a quarter every time. I was sitting there saying: "It's from. A jar full of quarters from every time you dropped a G."

There were other similar errors that I just simply don't understand how they made it past editing for a published book. 

Another problem I had: scene skipping. That's probably not the official term, I know, but it's just that call something that is mentioned, but the readers don't experience. In the book, Ethan and Lena talk for a bit once, and then he says they talk for three hours...but doesn't say what they talk about.

Also, the scenes in the book tended to end at odd moments, like in the middle of a conversation. It just felt off-kilter.

Mostly, I wasn't too impressed with this book. It wasn't really funny, really romantic, really action-packed or really plot-driven. While it had its highlights, it was just a mediocre read for me.

Read more reviews for Beautiful Creatures at: