Teaser Tuesdays (No. 3) Broken by A.E. Rought

tuesdays

13515848It’s Tuesday and you know what that means! Time for Teaser Tuesdays!!! This bookish meme, hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading, is all about tantalizing readers with two “teaser” sentences from a current read. I’m about halfway through Broken and am loving the deliciously spooky Halloween ambiance! If you’re looking for a good YA paranormal mystery filled with teen angst and unearthly romance, check this one out. It’s only two bucks on Nook, so you really can’t go wrong!

Here are the rules:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two “teaser” sentences
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title & author, too, so other bloggers can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

 And here’s my teaser:

Jack-o’-lanterns leer from porches, glowing faces following my every step, as if they see the hollow space in me and find it familiar. The Peterson’s pumpkin is particularly vicious looking, with narrow pointy teeth and angular flaming eyes, squatting like a gargoyle on the front step.

What’s on your nightstand? Care to share some teasers with me?

Short & Sweet Sundays: Forever Charmed by Rose Pressey

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too wordy.

17331698Summary (from the publisher) Halloween Laveau is descended from a long line of witches. Yes, her name is Halloween. The cosmic universe is definitely playing some kind of sick joke on her. She’s the ultimate witch cliché, complete with a black cat and spooky house. Thank heavens she’s missing the warts and flying broom.

When Halloween inherits her great-aunt’s manor, she decides to put the house to good use as a bed-and-breakfast. Her first guest is the sinfully good-looking Nicolas Marco, but he’s not here for the continental breakfast. Halloween discovers a ratty old book in the attic. It’s written in an unfamiliar language, and unknown to her, the tome is cursed.

Halloween soon learns there’s a link between the book and her newfound talent as a necromancer. But her new skills come with a catch: the reanimated dead aren’t as cupcake-sweet as they were when they were alive. When a rival witch comes after the book, Halloween doesn’t know who to trust–the sexy vampire who says he wants to save the day, or the warlock who says he can destroy the book once and for all.

Halloween had better learn fast. Because when the dead start rising, only a powerful witch can put them back under

What I liked: The premise is the book’s biggest selling point. The author was really on to something when she created a series about a witch named Halloween running a mystical B&B in a charming little town. Sprinkle in a love triangle with a couple of mysterious bad boys and I’m sold.

Favorite character: Sorry to be an asshole, but I have to be honest. All of the characters fell flat for me. I could see that the author was trying to paint Halloween as a lovable, quirky fledgling witch, but it just didn’t work out. I needed more of a backstory about her struggle as an outsider – something that could have resonated with my own plight as a nerdy social outcast back in high school.  I’m not saying that she’s unlikeable, she just needed more depth. Plus the witty banter between Halloween and her best friend seemed forced. I got the sense that she didn’t really have a good handle on her characters, resulting in wonky dynamics and stilted dialogue.

The cover: Speaking of shallow, I admit that I bought this book because of the cover. While I was shopping around on my Nook, I immediately honed in on the fearless, fashionable blonde standing before a creepy haunted manor amidst the backdrop of a starry midnight sky. I love a good Halloween story filled with spooky atmosphere and magic! Moral of the story: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Overall assessment:  If you like fluffy, uncomplicated paranormal romances, perhaps you’ll enjoy this book. And hey, sometimes it’s nice to read a little fluff every now and then. When my brain needs a break, there’s nothing I’d rather do than veg out in front of one of those paint-by-the-numbers Hallmark movies. But if you’re looking for a witchcraft series with a little more depth and suspense, I recommend picking up a book by Juliet Blackwell or Debbie Viguie.

Beautiful Creatures: Movie & Book Review

Beautiful-Creatures-2013-Posters-alice-englert-32920228-632-960When I found out Beautiful Creatures was going to hit the silver screen, I knew it would be a gargantuan disappointment. I mean, come on, how in the world can moviemakers crunch a 500+ word tome into a two-hour flick without garbling the plotline and obliterating important characters? As I expected the movie distorted the entire story, characters and plot threads into a hot mess of teenage melodrama. Not since Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, have I seen such a warped movie adaptation of a book.

But I have to confess,  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained. Despite the choppy scenes and unanswered questions, the movie put an interesting spin on some of the characters and left me hanging with an entirely different ending. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but I will say that the ending in the movie is far more interesting that where they left off in the book.

To show you the hits and misses, let me break it down for you like this.

beautiful-creatures-Alden-Ehrenreich-Alice-Englert-ethan-lena-warner-brosThe Cast

How awesome is the Emily Blunt lookalike actress playing Lena?!? With her porcelain complexion and luxurious dark hair, she fits the profile perfectly. But what about the electric green eyes and crescent moon-shaped birthmark? How could the moviemakers overlook these significant features? Symbolic of Robert Frost’s “nothing gold can stay” prose, her stark green eyes mark her temporary state of purity. She’s constantly scribbling “nothing green can stay” on the walls with her Jedi mind-trick powers, foreshadowing her inevitable fate as a dark castor.

 Literary symbolism is a huge part of the book, but the moviemakers didn’t really bother with the many references to T.S. Eliot and Faulkner. I guess it kind of makes sense considering that it would probably be lost on their teenage audience.

As for Ethan, I was not impressed by this guy at all. I pictured more of a tall, lanky, disheveled writer-type, not a short pretty boy. Sure he’s cute and all, but his big, cheesy smile has all the charms of a schmoozy used car salesman. Ethan is so much more loveable in the book because of his tragic backstory. After his mom dies in a car accident, his dad completely shuts down into a walking catatonic state. The authors did a beautiful job making me fall in love with Ethan and his sad life as an orphan. Hopefully in the next movie, they’ll delve more into his mother’s death – and Sarafine’s possible involvement.

Ethan-and-Lena-1024x681The Romance

I wasn’t digging the leading man, so maybe I’m a little biased, but the romance just kind of seemed forced in the movie. You get a better feel for their magnetism in book, especially because they can speak to each other telepathically – and when they touch, sparks literally fly! In the movie, Ethan is about as sexy as a sweet little puppy dog.  

review-beautiful-creatures2-e1360830491815Ridley Duchannes

I have to tell ya, Ridley is much more interesting in the movie. Emmy Rossum does a bang-up job playing an evil-to-the-core seductress. In the book, she’s more of a rebellious punk rock princess who walks a fine line between good and evil. Yet in the movie, she clearly reached a point of no return and is a shining example of what happens when a caster girl goes dark. I really liked the flashback scene where Lena describes Ridley’s moonlit transformation from a sweet farm girl into a stone-cold killer. She has no reservations about manipulating horny boys into early graves, and I’m interested to what’s next for her in Beautiful Darkness!

BEAUTIFUL-CREATURES1Amma

Considering that it’s probably politically incorrect to cast a black woman as a housemaid in a very white bread movie set in the South, I can see why the changed Amma’s role from the loyal housekeeper to the town librarian. In fact, this was a very clever way to fold two characters into one.

To speed things along, they had to get rid of  some characters, including Marian, the town librarian, castor watchkeeper, and Ethan’s mother’s best friend. Since they decided to cut out Ethan’s backstory, I guess that makes sense. I think Vioa Davis did a great job playing a wizened mystical voodoo lady of the swamps, but I was picturing more of a little old eccentric grandmotherly woman who rules the house with an iron fist. It’s a shame the movie had to leave out her complex relationship with Macon Ravenwood, and her super-cool time-bending powers.

BC-17715rV2-jpg_211413The Library

I was so excited to see how they were going to create the library in the movie. Considering that the story is set in a small Southern town, I pictured a two-story Carnegie library with a spiral staircase and walls of books. But nope, they just decide to plop the library in a dumpy nondescript building. And that’s not the worst part! The castor library, described as a dark, dank crypt-like labyrinth of books, is just another brightly-lit extension of the library. Boring!!! With the wonders of CGI graphics, you’d think that they could come up with something more Harry Potteresque than that.

Oh and what’s the deal with the Book of Moons? Of course they had to save time by omitting characters and scenes, but why did they have to leave out the creepiest, most deliciously atmospheric scene in the whole story? I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll just say that Ethan and Lena had to go on a rather gruesome grave-digging quest to find the book.

BEAUTIFUL-CREATURES2Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood

Of all the magical characters, I found Uncle Macon to be the most fascinating. As the story unfolds, he gets more and more complex, leaving me with more questions than answers. Is he a castor or some sort of dark angel? What’s going on with his strange connection with Ethan’s dead mother? Of course, he isn’t nearly as interesting in the movie, which basically pigeonholes him as just another castor. And what about Boo Radley, Macon’s ginormous dog? I was really hoping he’d make it to the big screen, but hopefully he’ll make an appearance in the next movie.

imagesCAL8KKVWThe Mean Girls

Now here’s where the moviemakers made some smart choices in cutting the fat. The book is long, and in some spots, it gets really tedious. The movie left out a lot of the stereotypical mean girl antics and high school party shenanigans, which is totally fine by me. I was glad to see that the movie didn’t bother with Lena’s surprise birthday bash, which seemed to go on and on and on forever. However, the book beautifully captures the evils of small-mindedness and bigotry.  It’s a sad fact of life that we live in a society filled with judgmental, unforgiving people. And what better way to bring this message home than by sticking a witch in a god-fearing bible belt? 

I would love to go into detail about the plot twists and alternate ending, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. But I will say that if you resolve to only watch the movie, you are missing out big time!

 

 

Review: Under Suspicion by Hannah Jayne

 In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! 

The gist: As a human immune to magic, Sophie is an anomaly at the Underworld Detection Agency, a governmental agency of sorts that helps paranormal beings blend into San Francisco society. Supernatural hijinks ensue when her alimony-seeking client, who happens to be a fire-breathing dragon, goes missing.  Soon more underworld creatures disappear – and it seems as though a slayer is on the loose. When someone – or something – tries to take Sophie out with a wooden stake and silver bullets, she suspects that something far more sinister than a renegade Van Helsing is at work. And if she doesn’t nab the killer soon, all hell will break loose – literally! Why are Sophie’s friends and clients caught in the killer’s crosshairs? And why are the vampires unaffected? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

 The romance:  As with most paranormal romances, Sophie is torn between two supernatural hotties: A handsome fallen angle Alex Grace, and a hot guardian angel Will Sherman. In the last book I was really rooting for Alex, who may or may not have a hidden agenda for wooing Sophie. But in this new installment, she’s spending a lot more quality time with Will and the romantic tension is really heating up! For more about this yummy English gent, stay tuned for my next book boyfriend pick of the week. 

Why it’s unique:  The humor. A lot of the mainstream zany sleuth mysteries are a little too contrived. Usually these types of books (which are about as funny as an episode of Full House) involve the requisite zany granny, an eccentric sidekick and a snarky protagonist. But in this series, the humor isn’t forced. The author clearly has a silly side and it comes through in Sophie’s goofy antics.

The best friend: I would be remiss not to talk about Nina, an uber-sexy vampire who’s always up for a new adventure. Even though she’s older than Hugh Heffner, she can be totally clueless about men. In this book, she falls for a famous author who makes a killing off of proving the nonexistence of supernatural beings – including vampires! Despite this minor hangup, Nina is smitten with the fame-obsessed author and decides to write a vampire mystery series of her own. The author does a fine job sprinkling her stories with these funny little subplots without getting too silly. I giggled and snorted so much – my fellow gym rats must think I have Turrets.

The setting: Of all places to set an urban fantasy, San Francisco is the best! The underworld of supernatural beings can easily blend in with the diverse mix of yuppies, hippies, hipsters, eccentric artists and drifters. Hmm..sounds a tad bit like Austin. Hopefully one of these days I’ll get to explore this wonderfully eclectic city and check out some of Sophie’s hangouts like the Fog City Diner (also featured in my favorite comedy, So I Married and Axe Murderer)  and China Town.

Emma Stone would make a fabulous Sophie!

Favorite character:  Of all the fantastical creatures in this book, my favorite character is Sophie. Normally the secondary characters (the quirky best friends especially) are my faves, but Sophie’s hilarious neuroticisms really won me over. Plus she’s from my generation, so I could totally relate to her mid-90s high school memories of Geo Storms and BUM sweatshirts.  With her sardonic wit, fearless attitude and unruly red hair, I couldn’t help but picture Emma Stone as Sophie.

This book is best paired with: A stiff Bloody Mary and a swinging hammock.

Overall assessment: Once again Hannah Jayne delivers a tightly-plotted mystery jam-packed with humor, hijinks and off-the-wall characters. She does a fine job keeping the pace and tying all the plot threads together in the final pages.  Fans of Juliet Blackwell, Charlaine Harris and Victoria Laurie can’t go wrong with a Hannah Jayne mystery.  Can’t wait to sink my teeth into Sophie’s next big adventure!

A Q&A with Cynthia Leitich Smith

If you’re a fan of gothic fantasy and paranormal romance, you should sink your teeth into Cynthia Leitich Smith’s newest book Blessed, a young adult thriller filled with brooding shapeshifters and night crawlers set in Austin.  The third installment in a gothic triology, the story revolves around Quincy Morris, an orphaned teenager who’s struggling to keep her parent’s vampire-themed restaurant afloat while saving Central Texas from a legion of rogue vampires. While fighting off blood-sucking fiends, Quincy must keep her new thirst for blood at bay, salvage her soul and clear her best bud and soul mate –a hot-blooded werewolf cross-breed – of murder charges.  Wow – and I thought my high school days were hellish!

Adding a unique spin on the ever-evolving vampire genre, she  gives readers exactly what they want: fast-paced thrill rides filled with vampire lore, preternatural bad boys and steamy romance.  If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, Tantalize or Eternal, you’re in for a treat!   

I had the pleasure of meeting Cynthia at (be still my heart!) a vampire book launch party, and she graciously agreed to chat with me about blood-suckers, her love for dark fantasy and what’s up next!

Welcome Cynthia! Tell us about yourself. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?  

Thank you! I first began reading and writing from a very young age. I recall that my first “performed” writing was a short story I wrote in second grade about catching crawdads. It was read over an intercom system at my Kansas City, Missouri area elementary school.

By sixth grade, I had a column, “Dear Gabby” in Mr. Rideout’s class newsletter.

In junior high and high school, I served as editor of my school newspapers.

I went on to major in news/editorial and public relations at the White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, taking several fiction-writing classes as electives.

I continued onto The University of Michigan Law School (with the idea that I’d eventually become a media law professor in a journalism school or first amendment professor in a law school) and continued pursuing journalism through internships at small town and suburban papers as well as The Detroit Legal News and The Dallas Morning News.

The fiction bug bit me hard after graduation while I was clerking for the Department of Health and Human Services in Chicago. I became a full-time writer at age 27.

I couldn’t think of a better city for a vampire-themed restaurant than Austin! How did you come up with this concept?  

Thanks! I’d always been a fan of spooky stories and gravitated heavily toward the horror shelves in the bookstores. Though I began writing realistic fiction, I longed to explore Gothic fantasy from early on. 

It struck me that Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) was perhaps the quintessential horror novel (or one of them anyway) and, being a big classics geek, drew on that for inspiration.

 More personally, I’d worked as a waitress in my teens—first at a Mexican chain restaurant and then at an athletic club (both in Overland Park, Kansas). It struck me that restaurants were such terrific stages for drama. They have thematic music, décor, menus, costuming. Sometimes people even burst into song. 

And sure, folks tend to think of vampires as more drinkers than diners, but I thought that might give my story some of the fresh blood I was looking for. 

Could you give me an example of how you incorporated Austin’s unique culture in your books? 

Tantalize and Blessed are heavily set in Austin. Eternal, only in the beginning of the story. 

That said, the series exudes Austin-ness. Sanguini’s, the vampire-themed restaurant in the book, is set on South Congress, which is an eclectic restaurant-dining-entertainment district. Heroes Quincie and Kieren live in the Bouldin Creek and Fairview neighborhoods respectively. Danger lurks along the hike-and-bike trail to either side of Lady Bird Lake.

Beyond that, there’s a strong sense of the community here. University profs and tie-dyed hippies, indie musicians and filmmakers, professional bikers and politicos and ex-dot.com millionaires. 

It’s welcoming, sunny, optimistic, diverse in every sense of the word, and proudly itself. 

Austin isn’t trying to be another city. Austin is Austin and loves it. You feel that in the characters. 

Unlike other protagonists in popular vampire fiction, Quincie is strong-willed and unwilling to sacrifice her soul for love. How does she embody the characteristics of a tough Texan?

Quincie is smart enough to realize that her soul is who she is. If she gives herself up, there’s nothing left. Not her evolving patchwork family or the business she inherited from her mama or her amazing connection to Kieren. He loves her, the real her, not some monster walking around in body. She fights for herself because she has value intrinsically and to those who truly care about her.

As to how Quincie embodies Texas characteristics, I think she’s a particularly Austin flavor of Texan. She’s very open-minded and accepting and loyal to the folks in her life. She’s independent and ambitious and has one heck of a work ethic. I associate all that with Texas, though she’s also the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, who’ve built their business from scratch, and she values that too.

If your vampire books hit the big screen, which actors would play Quincie Morris and her lifelong best friend and love interest, Kieren?

Honestly, I couldn’t begin to say. At the moment, I’m completely enchanted with how Ming Doyle has brought them to life in her early sketches for the graphic novel, coming this fall.

What is your all-time favorite vampire movie/book? 

That’s a toughie. Other than Dracula, I’m going to go with “Lost Boys.” It’s very 1980s in all of the best possible ways—spooky, funny, and romantic. I’m all about that.  

What is the most important piece of advice you could give to an aspiring YA author? 

Write! Don’t play writer. Don’t just talk about writing and go to conferences and haul around that same manuscript for a decade. Show up to the page day after day after day and mean it. 

Can you give me a sneak peak into what you’re working on now? 

Next up is Tantalize: Kieren’s Story, which is told from the point of view of one of my favorite characters, the hybrid werewolf Kieren Morales.  It’ll be released in August by Candlewick Press. 

I also have an essay called “Isolation” coming out next fall in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories, an anthology edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones from HarperCollins. 

Beyond that, I’m working on a fourth novel in the Tantalize series, which will be more of a sequel to events in Eternal. At the moment, it’s told in multiple point of view by three of the most popular characters in the series and set in both Austin and rural Vermont.

Take a look at Cynthia’s website to learn more about her books.