Beautiful Redemption

Spoilers ahead!  If you haven’t already read the first three books in The Caster Chronicles (Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, and Beautiful Chaos) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, do so immediately! They are AMAZING, and you can’t possibly understand the fourth book without reading these first!

Yesterday, fans of YA literature descended on Charleston, South Carolina, for YALLFest.  Sadly, I was not among them.  I’ve been feeling kind of crummy lately, so I decided to stay at home and get some much-needed rest.  (This turned out to be a very good decision as I’ve been sick all weekend.  Wouldn’t have been a good idea to be three hours away from home with the way I’ve been feeling.)  Anyway, even though I wasn’t at this young adult book festival in person, I was there in spirit (and I hope I can be there physically next year).

Since my weekend was rather uneventful, I did get to spend a lot of time reading.  This week’s pick was Beautiful Redemption, the fourth and final book in The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (one of the driving forces behind YALLFest, by the way).  I had been looking forward to this book for a while, and my appetite was only whetted by seeing the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of the first book, Beautiful Creatures.  Beautiful Redemption was released on October 23rd, and I waited a little while to start reading it.  (I had to finish a couple of other books, and I needed to re-familiarize myself with how Beautiful Chaos ended.)  I started Beautiful Redemption at the beginning of this week, and I finally finished it this morning.  At several points in this book, I had to put it down–not because it was bad, but because I had to calm down, breathe, and remind myself that the characters I’d come to love in the previous three books had to have a happy ending in this final one…even though things weren’t looking good for them at present.  You see, I’ve become attached to these characters (as so often happens when I get absorbed in a series).  I think part of it is because the major part of the action in these books takes place in South Carolina (my home state), in a community that’s not at all different from the one I live in now.  I relate to these characters.  No, I’m not a Caster (witch)–at least, I don’t think so–but I do know what it’s like to be different in a small southern town.  It’s not easy, so I tend to root for anyone, real or fictional, who’s trying to survive when the odds are stacked against them…and when others keep telling them that what they’re trying is impossible.  And things don’t get much more impossible than rewriting history and coming back from the dead…

Ethan Wate has sacrificed everything, even his very life, to restore Order to the world.  He fell from the Summerville water tower to save everyone he loves.  But death is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Ethan is determined to find a way back to his small town of Gatlin, his family, his friends, Amma, and the love of his life, Lena. He becomes even more determined when he realizes that his death was not something that had to happen.  Horrible forces are rewriting destiny to suit their own ends, and Ethan may be the only one who has any hope of stopping them (and restoring his own life in the process).  But Ethan needs help.  This is a huge, seemingly impossible, task and one he can’t complete on his own. He needs to find a way to communicate with Lena and Amma and get their help to save the world…again.

Lena is heartbroken by Ethan’s death, but she knows that he’s somewhere out there watching over her.  Ethan, however, may be even closer than Lena knows.  When she sees things moving (things that only mean something to her and Ethan) and gets strange messages in the local newspaper’s crossword puzzles, Lena knows that Ethan is trying to reach her.  It’s not always clear why Ethan needs the things he’s asking of her–river stones, an audience with the Greats, the Book of Moons–but Lena knows she must find a way to help him  if she has any hope of uniting with Ethan one day.  Getting these things, though, is the easy part.  It then becomes Ethan’s job to use what Lena–and Amma–send him to fight the evil that is threatening to destroy the world that he sacrificed so much to save.

Ethan will face unspeakable horrors in his quest to return to Lena–old and new enemies alike.  He’ll also encounter some unexpected allies along the way, those who have been tortured by the very being that Ethan must now destroy.  But will Ethan’s quest to reverse his fate and prevent even more atrocities be successful? Can one young man defeat what he believed was his destiny and make it back to the life and love that mean so much to him?  What bargains will he and those he loves have to make this time, and will they be worth what comes next?  Nothing that Ethan is facing is easy, but he and his loved ones will do what they must to be reunited once more…no matter what the cost.  Will it be enough? Is redemption possible?  Read Beautiful Redemption to discover how far people are willing to go–and what hells they’re willing to travel through–to get just one more chance to be with the ones they love.

It should go without saying that I love this book…and the three books that preceded it.  This whole Caster Chronicles series is made of awesome, and I just wish I had been able to make it to YALLFest to hear the authors talk about the series in person.  (I would have also like to get my books autographed!  Maybe next year.)  Even though the ending of this series made me cry (which isn’t difficult since I’m a big softie), I was very satisfied with it.  It ended the way it needed to, in my opinion.  I applaud Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl on a truly excellent supernatural series, and I can’t wait to read more of their work in the future.  Kudos!

If you’d like to learn more about this series, the authors, or the upcoming movie adaptation of Beautiful Creatures, I urge you to visit one (or more) of these sites:

You may also want to check out this book trailer for the entire series.  It doesn’t give away much, but it does look pretty cool.

Published in: on November 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sweetly

Notice:  Sweetly is a companion novel to Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce.  It is not absolutely essential to read Sisters Red first…but it would help.  And since Sisters Red is awesome, you should really read it anyway.  The cover alone is reason enough to pick this one up.

Now, moving on to Sweetly…like Sisters Red, it is a retelling of a familiar fairy tale.  Where Sisters Red gave us a new way to look at Little Red Riding Hood, Sweetly gives us a new view of Hansel and Gretel.  (In my review of Sisters Red, I mentioned that I was not a big fan of Little Red Riding Hood.  Well, the same is true of Hansel and GretelSweetly may have changed that.)  And again, readers are blessed with a cover that does its part in drawing us into the story before we even get to the first page.

Sweetly begins twelve years ago with a brother and two sisters in a forest. They are looking for the witch that a book said lives in the woods. Unfortunately, they find more than they bargained for.  The book may have been right, and a witch–or something even more sinister– comes upon the children in the forest, and this mysterious yellow-eyed thing begins to chase the young children.  They try to stay together–holding hands as tightly as possible–but they have to let go to run faster.  When they reach their home, it immediately becomes clear that every child did not make it.  Ansel made it, Gretchen made it, but Gretchen’s twin sister never returned home.  Ansel and Gretchen know the witch took her, but no one truly believes them…and the two siblings have to live with the knowledge that the witch is still out there, waiting, watching, while a family is slowly torn apart.

Fast forward twelve years…Ansel and Gretchen are on their own after their stepmother throws them out.  They are all alone and trying to start a new life away from the pain of the past.  The brother and sister make a long journey from the only home they’ve ever known in Washington to a small town near the coast in South Carolina, a town where outsiders are viewed with contempt.  Only a few people treat the siblings with kindness.  One of those people is Sophia Kelly, the local candy maker, who is dealing with her own problems with the people of Live Oak, South Carolina.  Sophia takes the two young outcasts in and makes them feel welcome in her home.  They had only intended to stay a night, but a night quickly turns into a week, a week into a month.  Before they really know how it happened, Ansel and Gretchen have found a home, one that is far removed from the past they are running from.

But is it really?  As everyone knows, small towns tend to have secrets, and Live Oak is no exception.  It seems, though, that the secrets in Live Oak revolve around one Sophia Kelly, the girl who has befriended Gretchen and bewitched Ansel.  The townspeople blame her for their daughters leaving and never returning.  They don’t visit, they don’t call, they don’t write.  In fact, no one ever hears from them after they attend Sophia’s annual chocolate festival.  Could Sophia have something to do with their disappearance, or is she as innocent as she seems?  Gretchen knows that Sophia is keeping secrets, but she just can’t believe that the girl who has become her only friend could have anything to do with girls vanishing from the face of the earth.

Gretchen reevaluates her views, however, when she encounters the very thing that has haunted her for twelve years.  She discovers it wasn’t a witch that captured her twin sister.  It was a werewolf…more specifically, a Fenris.  When Gretchen narrowly escapes one of these monsters, with the help of the mysterious Samuel Reynolds, she is determined to learn more about these horrible beings and what they have to do with the missing girls of Live Oak.  What do they want with the girls, and how is Sophia involved?  The truth may be more than Gretchen is prepared to handle, but handle it she must.  Gretchen must face her own fears if she has any hope of preventing other girls from vanishing like her sister did.  Is she strong enough to face an evil that has ruined nearly everything she holds dear?  And can she face her dearest (and only) friend’s role in the horror surrounding her?  Join Gretchen as she learns that living in a candy shop isn’t as sweet as it seems.

If your interest has been piqued at all by this post, I strongly urge you to make both Sisters Red and Sweetly part of your holiday reading.  They’re awesome books with strong, yet flawed, female characters, and they turn the “fairy tale” idea of a helpless girl who has to be rescued by the handsome prince on its ear.  (Don’t get me wrong.  There are handsome guys in these books, but these strong ladies could get along just fine without them…most of the time.)

According to Jackson Pearce’s website (http://jackson-pearce.com/), there is going to be another companion book to Sisters Red and Sweetly (and given the way that Sweetly ended, I expected this and even predicted which fairy tale would be retold next).  The book is Fathomless, a retelling of The Little Mermaid, and will be released in August of 2012.  I’m very interested in the connections between these three stories, and I hope Fathomless answers some of the questions that popped up at the end of Sweetly.  At any rate, I know I’m in store for another great story from Jackson Pearce and, I hope, another fantastic cover to grace my bookshelf.

Beautiful Chaos

Spoiler alert!!! If you haven’t read Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness, turn back now. Even if you have read these wonderful books, it might not be a bad idea to reread them a bit before starting book three, Beautiful Chaos. This book will make absolutely zero sense if you’re not pretty familiar with the first two books in the Caster Chronicles. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I finished reading the third book in the Caster Chronicles, Beautiful Chaos last night, over a year after I read the second book, Beautiful Darkness. That was not smart. I really should have reread book two before re-entering this world. But it’s too late now, and, to be honest, it didn’t take that long to re-familiarize myself with the fascinating characters created by authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. (Revisiting my blog posts on the previous two books did help, though.) The characters, plot, and setting in each of these books are unbelievably rich and dramatic, so a little effort expended to remember details was well worth it.

If you’ve read Beautiful Darkness, you may recall that Lena, a powerful Caster (or witch, to you people not in-the-know), claimed herself as both Light and Dark, an unheard-of occurrence in the Caster world. Well, in Beautiful Chaos, we learn that big decisions like the one Lena made can have catastrophic consequences…

Ethan Wate, a Mortal, and his Caster girlfriend, Lena, have barely survived Lena’s seventeenth moon, and now they must deal with the fallout of Lena’s decision to be both Light and Dark. Lena may be both Light and Dark, but Gatlin, their small South Carolina town, is all dark. The Order of Things has been torn asunder, and Gatlin–and the entire world–is in total chaos. Gatlin is experiencing record-breaking heat, swarms of locust-like insects, lakes drying up, and lots of other stuff that makes people thing that the End of Days is near…and they might be right. Even Lena’s family of Casters is experiencing the chaos. Their powers aren’t working the way they should, and they all know that things will get much worse before they get better–if better is even an option.

Ethan is experiencing his own brand of chaos. He’s forgetting things, he’s being haunted by a strange voice that has followed him out of his dreams and into the real world, and he can no longer trust Amma, the woman who has always been there for him, because she has delved into a darkness that he can’t pull her out of. Is there anyone he can turn to? How can he figure out what’s wrong with him when there are so many wrong things happening?

As Ethan, Lena, and several friends–both known and unexpected–try to find a solution to the madness engulfing the world, secrets are revealed, more questions arise, and Ethan is faced with a horrible choice. What will he have to do to restore order to the world and save everything he knows and loves? Can order even be restored when Ethan and company are seemingly fighting fate itself? What price must be paid to save the world? Find out when you read Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

But wait…there’s more!

Beautiful Chaos is not the end of the Caster Chronicles (and based on the way it ended, I can only say, “Thank the Maker!”). In addition to a novella, Dream Dark, that takes place before the events of Beautiful Chaos, there’s also going to be a fourth book in the Caster Chronicles. I don’t know what the title will be yet, but I do know the book is set for a 2012 release–most likely in the fall. I’ll post any information about the book’s release, title, and cover as soon as I possibly can. No matter what the details are, based on the previous three books, I can guarantee that book four will be amazing. (I’m also hoping that it has a happy-ish ending, especially if it’s the last book in this emotionally-draining-yet-somehow-satisfying series.)

For now, though, you can find a lot of wonderful Caster Chronicles stuff at the authors’ website, http://beautifulcreaturesnovels.com/, and the official fan site, Caster Girls & Boys, http://castergirls.com/. Enjoy!

Published in: on November 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Beautiful Darkness

Danger: Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, stop what you’re doing, go immediately to your local library or bookstore, get that book, and read it. When you’ve finished, come back here to learn more about the sequel, Beautiful Darkness. Beautiful Darkness is not a stand-alone novel. You really need to read the first book for things to make sense. Warning over.

So, as you may have gathered from the oh-so-subtle warning above, I’ve just finished reading Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  Since I absolutely adored the first book, Beautiful Creatures, I was eager to read the sequel.  Unfortunately, life interfered (as it often does), and I didn’t get to read the book as quickly as I would have liked.  But I’m finished now, and I have to say that Beautiful Darkness took me on the same emotional roller coaster that its predecessor did.  I grew frustrated with the characters even as I was rooting for them, I was as confused as they were at times, and I never knew what was around the next corner (or on the next page, if you will).  Beautiful Darkness was, in every way, equally as wonderful as Beautiful Creatures, and I can hardly wait to see where the authors take us next.

In Beautiful Darkness, we continue the story of Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes.  You may remember that Lena is a Caster (fancy word for “witch”), and Ethan is Mortal.  After the events that unfolded at the end of Beautiful Creatures, including the death of Lena’s Uncle Macon and the fact that Lena was not Claimed as either a Dark or Light Caster, things are more complicated than ever.  Lena does not know where she truly belongs, and Ethan does not know how, or if, he can help her.  Ethan knows that something is seriously wrong, and it has to be more than Lena’s sorrow over losing her beloved uncle.  Lena is withdrawing from him, and Ethan has no idea what he should do.

With the arrival of two newcomers in town, one Mortal and one a mysterious supernatural being, things become even more strained between Lena and Ethan.  It doesn’t help that Lena seems to be convinced that, upon her Seventeenth Moon, she will be Claimed as a Dark Caster.  In fact, she is seemingly embracing the darkness within her, and the whole of Gatlin is about to find out just how dark Lena can get.  Can Ethan somehow bring Lena back to the Light?  Can anyone?

As things go from bad to worse with Lena and Ethan, help arrives in forms that were not expected.  Unexpected dangers are also faced, but Ethan knows he must do everything in his power to save Lena from the darkness she is facing.  He knows that his Lena has not left him, no matter what appearances are.  She’s being influenced by something or someone.  The question is who?  And does Ethan or anyone helping him have the power to stop these Dark forces before Lena is lost forever?  Find out when you read Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

I really, really enjoyed this book, and I hope that you will, too.  After visiting the authors’ website, http://beautifulcreaturesthebook.com/, I discovered there will be at least two more books in this series, fittingly dubbed The Caster Chronicles.  Book three should be published in the fall of 2011, and book four should be out in the fall of 2012.  That’s a long wait to find out what will happen with Ethan, Lena, and the other characters I’ve come to know, but I know the books will be well worth the wait.

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Beautiful Creatures

So, I just finished Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and let me just say that I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!  It’s got everything a weirdo like me could love–witches, curses, true love, secrets in a sleepy Southern town, eccentric relatives, and a kooky librarian.  Best of all, the action takes place right here in South Carolina.  Yay!  Because of this setting, I could definitely relate to some things the main characters experienced.  Living in a small Southern town can be a blessing or a curse, depending on one’s point of view…but that’s another story.  I also loved that this book was presented from a male perspective.  That’s something that a lot of fantasy books are lacking.  In Twilight, we get the story from Bella’s perspective; in the Mortal Instruments trilogy, we hear Clary’s side of things; but, in Beautiful Creatures, Ethan tells the story, so it’s an interesting twist and one I think a lot of readers will appreciate.

In Beautiful Creatures, we meet Ethan Wate, a sophomore in high school who is counting the days until he can leave Gatlin, South Carolina, forever.  His mom died last year, his dad is a shell of his former self, he’s tired of the people in Gatlin, and he just wants out.  Things begin to change, however, when he encounters the new girl in town, Lena Duchannes.  She’s strange, she lives in the oldest town in Gatlin, she’s immediately hated for being an outsider, but Ethan is drawn to her.  See, Ethan’s been dreaming about Lena for years, and, when they finally meet, the electricity is instant.  Ethan is sure there is something magical here.

How right he is.  Magic is definitely involved.  Lena is a Caster.  (“Witch” is such a cliched term.)  On her sixteenth birthday, she will be claimed as either a dark or light caster.  Her birthday is in less than six months, and she’s freaking out.  It doesn’t help that everyone in the town seems determined to hate her, and some of the “concerned” citizens even try to throw her out of school.  Her one port in the storm is Ethan.  For some reason, they are connected.  They can even communicate telepathically.  They don’t know why.  As Lena’s birthday draws closer, she and Ethan grow closer as well even though they may be ripped apart when Lena is claimed.

Ethan is determined to find a way to help Lena.  He knows she cannot be “turned to the Dark side,” for lack of a better phrase, but he must find some way to make sure that she stays in the light.  He and Lena seek out the help of Amma, the strange woman who helped raise Ethan, and Marian, the town’s weird librarian.  They also receive help from a couple of unlikely sources.  (You’ll have to read to find out what I’m talking about.)  In the process of their search, they are engulfed in a story as old as the town itself and the possibility of history repeating itself.  What will happen?  Will they find a way to save Lena from what seems to be her fate?  Read Beautiful Creatures to find out.

By the way, the sequel to Beautiful Creatures comes out on October 26th.  The title is Beautiful Darkness.  For more information, visit http://beautifulcreaturesthebook.com/.  Enjoy!

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