[Book Review] Beautiful Creatures and Awkward Audiobooks

Meg’s Review of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Audiobook read by Kevin T. Collins (with special appearance by Eve Bianco)

I haven’t read any teen paranormal romance since I attempted Twilight, which all but killed my faith in the genre and scarred my brain for life. But I’m a sucker for any book being made into a movie, so I picked up Beautiful Creatures during a nifty sale at Audible. I figured that if it sucked, at least it would only be $5 of suck.

Much to my surprise, I really liked this first installment of the four-book series. Partially, I think my enjoyment was at the deft move by writers Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl to make the narrator a teenaged boy rather than a girl. It inherently dropped the angst factor by about 75%. They also split the love story, with the majority of it revolving around the star-crossed lovers of Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes, but there was also the added love story of a boy mourning the loss of his mother that gave the book considerable, and quite unexpected, depth. Continue reading

[ Series Review ] A catpaw birthmark doesn’t have to mean she’s a shapeshifter, honest.

Series Review: Darkness Rising by Kelley Armstrong

Last week, I posted a review of Armstrong’s The Darkest Powers series covering book 1-3. The Darkness Rising trilogy makes up the next three YA books in the same world, following sixteen-year-old Maya living in a small medical-research community on Vancouver Island. In a town of some hundred people, strangers stand out, so when a journalist shows up asking about a tragic death a year ago, Maya takes notice. And she begins to ask her own questions.

The Gathering:

The mountain lions are acting up, Maya’s best friend is hiding something, a stranger is snooping around town, and a Maya is haunted by a memory of a friend’s  drowning that might just have been murder. Oh and there’s a cute bad boy in school who suddenly develops a sudden and inexplicable attraction to Maya that she doesn’t believe and doesn’t trust.

I actually read this series first, before realizing that it connected indirectly (and eventually directly) to The Darkest Powers. Still, it is a comfortable standalone, and it helps that even if you don’t have the backstory from The Darkest Powers and don’t recognize some of the references, you’ll still know that something isn’t quite right in this peaceful little town. And of course, even the most oblivious reader will zero in on the fact that Maya has a birthmark in the shape of a cat’s pawprint. Because, you know, that’s never significant.  Continue reading

[ Series Review ] The girl who sees ghosts, enter stage left

Series Review: The Darkest Powers by Kelley Armstrong

I first came across Armstrong’s writing when she published Bitten (werewolf, paranormal, romance) so when I saw that she had written a Young Adult series, I was torn between curiosity and a skeptical mistrust of yet another neck-and-lips cover – plus, the books are called “The Darkest Powers.” How in the world was the series gonna pull that off?

It starts with The Summoning.

Chloe Saunders is a regular film-loving teenage girl – right up until she has a psychotic break in the middle of the school day and nearly falls off the school roof. She ends up in Lyle House, a home for troubled teens with its own regimen of meds and surveillance. You can probably guess by the glowing jewel (and title) on the covers above that this won’t be a story about a young girl overcoming mental illness. In fact, as time goes on, Chloe begins to wonder whether the ghosts in Lyle House might just be real after all. Continue reading

Small Chirp: Dear Paranormal Fiction

Dear Paranormal Fiction (and you too, Urban Fantasy),

There is a place and time for your heroine to volley smart-ass remarks. There is a place and time for your hero to be an insufferable bastard. Everywhere else, please make your characters act like human beings (even if they aren’t).

Gratefully,

Canaries

___

View our other grumbles here.

Top Five: Vampires and Werewolves

Happy Halloween, Canaries! It’s that time of year, and I bring you some fun werewolf and vampire stories. But this isn’t a top five of Anne Rice or Bram Stoker style classics. Here are those fun, action-packed, oft-time creepy, sometimes-romantic vampire and werewolf novels that might have slipped under your reading radar. Let’s start with the honorable mentions….

Honorable Halloween Mentions:

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Nathaniel Cade was turned into a vampire in the year something-hundreds and then bound by a voodoo witch to serve the US President. Now he is a Secret Service agent, protecting the US against demons, witches, Frankenstein’s monsters and aliens.

This is a series written as if to be turned into a TV show, but it wins an honorable mention for the following excerpt:

“I thought vampires were sex gods with the ladies.”

Cade looked  at him. “What gave you that idea?”

“Uh, late night TV mostly…”

“Humans are our food. Do you want to have sex with a cow?”

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Years ago, Elena was bitten by someone she trusted. Now she’s a werewolf that lives in the city and refuses to have anything to do with her pack. Sitting squarely in the paranormal romance genre, this book stands out from the masses for the way it weaves together Elena’s struggle to come to grips with the fact that she will never be human enough for the human world she lives in.

The Sight by David Clement-Davies

While not a “werewolf” story per se, The Sight follows a pack of sentient wolves in the forests of Transylvania. Larka is born with the Sight–a trait that sets her apart from the other wolves and a trait she shares with Morgra, a wolf hell-bent on destroying Larka and her pack.

The novel combines prophecy, magic, and some heartbreaking adventure and creates what I can only call a Wolf Epic.

And now for the Top Five:

5. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Having almost nothing in common with the 2007 movie of the same title, this YA novel follows Vivian, a young werewolf who is trying to deal with the death of her father, the confusion in her family, and a lone wolf trying to take over the pack. When she sees the very human Aiden sketching werewolves in his notebook  at school, she’s sure that she’s found someone who will finally understand her.

This novel sets itself apart from the many paranormal YA novels with their heavy handed romance plots; Klause takes a sober look at the divide that separates Vivian and Aiden. Sometimes, thinking you’re in love just isn’t enough.

4. Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly

If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is the perfect addition to your shelf. Hambly brings the characters and the chilly London atmosphere to life.

“Oxford professor James Ahser, once an agent for the British government, is forced to help the vampires of Edwardian London, who are being destroyed one by one through exposure to sunlight as they lie sleeping in their coffins.” (From Publishers Weekly)

3. Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

The first installment of the Morganville Vampires series, this YA novel took me by surprise.  The pace of plot is relentless, but it never leaves the characters behind to wallow in their own personal stories.

Claire is a sixteen year old in her first semester at a university in Morganville and dreams of transferring out to MIT. But Morganville isn’t just a small backwater town and leaving is a whole lot harder that moving in.

“Run first,” Shane said. “Mourn later.”
It was the perfect motto for Morganville.

2. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

When I first saw this book on the shelves in ’03, I couldn’t believe my eyes. McKinley? Writing a vampire romance novel? Oh me of little faith. McKinley could rewrite the phone book and make it enthralling.

A cook at the local bakery, Sunshine has a boyfriend, and wonderful friends and family. But her life turns upside down when she goes off to find some quiet time by the lake…

“They took her clothes and sneakers. They dressed her in a long red gown. And they shackled her to the wall of an abandoned mansion-within easy reach of a figure stirring in the moonlight.” (Amazon book description)

McKinley’s keen ear for style and attention to character detail brings this story to life in a way that I haven’t seen for a long long time.

1. Agyar by Steven Brust

In a word, creepy.

But I am not going to tell you about the plot, because this is a book best served cold, without preamble. So check it out!

What are your favorite vampire or werewolf reads? 

[ Book Review ] Girl Meets Wolf, Girl Kicks Butt

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

(first in the Mercy Thompson series)

The book started off with the kind of strength I’m not used to seeing in the Paranormal Rom– err, I mean, in the Urban Fantasy genre. Mercedes (Mercy) Thompson is a young woman making her living as a mechanic, when a homeless kid asks her for a job. The catch?–he’s a half-starved werewolf.

From the very beginning, the novel sets out a fantastic tableau of potential. Mercy is a coyote walker (like werewolf, but without any of the downsides), courtesy of the Native American blood of a father she never met. She is also the girl who dodges her foster mother’s invitations to come home for Thanksgiving; Mercy doesn’t fit into that normal world, no matter how much she used to wish she did. The world she does fit in is that of the werewolves and it keeps encroaching on Mercy’s life in its patriarchal and uncompromising way. She left her pack to get away from that–that, and the stark truth behind a teenage romance with a werewolf.

As the story moves forward, it’s clear Briggs isn’t afraid of kicking my assumptions in the shins. Characters I liked were killed, situations I did not foresee happened, and all at a quick and engaging pace. My euphoria at having found a solid character lasted me through the first half of the book and well into the second before a niggling suspicious set in, “I feel like I’ve done this before.”

Continue reading