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Ten reasons why I loved Beautiful Creatures, and why you should, too.

This afternoon, I finished reading the Beautiful Creatures series.

And it made me really, really happy.

I had my trepidations about it, starting out, because if there are two things I know to be wary of in the wrong hands, they are teen paranormal romance and the South. So the two of them together? Talk about a potential recipe for disaster.

But as it turned out, they weren’t in the wrong hands here at all, and I found myself in love.

Here are ten reasons why, and ten reasons why you should love it, too. ♥
 
 
 

1. The covers.

I’ll be perfectly honest: Even if I had hated the first book, I probably still would have bought the rest of them, just because they are that pretty and dammit I needed them for my collection. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but if you ask me, of course you should. A book, as a physical object, can be an experience unto itself, which includes the pleasure of staring at a gorgeous cover. It’s a story you shouldn’t judge solely by its packaging.

Also, I love that these books are beautiful because of stunning typography, not just because of some pretty girl in a pretty dress that ripples prettily out behind her as she poses in some hauntingly pretty landscape. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for pretty girls and pretty dresses and pretty landscapes, and some very striking covers have come from this combination…but words can be beautiful, too.

(Yep. I admit it. I am a fontslut, and I am unashamed.)
 
 
2. Ethan.

Teen paranormal romance where the first-person narrator is a boy? Yes, please!

Ethan’s maleness alone earned the series a major point, as far as I was concerned, but it was Ethan himself who made me start falling in love with it. Not because he is lovable (though he is), but because he sounds real. The whole time I was reading, I never once got the feeling of, Wow, I wonder how many teenage boys the writers had to talk to in order to get Ethan’s voice down so well?

Because it never once sounded, to me, like they were trying. It sounded, instead, like Ethan was a real teenage boy out there somewhere, who had found a way to start talking inside their heads (hey, that’s a skill he actually has in the books!), and just kept on talking until they wrote the story he was telling down, and that was that.
 
 
3. Link.

Link was, I think, my absolute favourite out of everyone. I’ve a soft spot for the best-friend characters, and Mr. Wesley Jefferson Lincoln here might just be one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.

Endearingly dumb as a rock (and every bit as useless with music as he is with smarts, but never let it be said that he lets that stop him from aspiring to be a rock god anyway), but achingly, achingly loyal. In short, Link is the kid you really really really want as your best friend when you have to be all “So, uh, hey man, my girlfriend’s actually a supernatural and I seem to’ve found myself in the middle of little supernatural war here and also we’re all very liable to drop dead.” Because even if he has no idea what in hell is going on, beyond the fact there’s a high probability of getting killed, he will still roll with it and have your back anyway. And crack jokes the whole time.

Link is also that special sort of obnoxious that is so obnoxious it somehow just comes full-circle and becomes incredibly charming instead, and I adore him. ♥ You can’t not.
 
 
4. Amma.

Amma is the mother-figure everyone wishes they had, and would be deathly terrified of if they did. (Pretty sure the Devil himself would be deathly terrified of Amma, really.) This lady can call up spirits and read the future and save your ass with magickal charms, all while outbaking an entire town and making teenage boys cower into submission with a wooden spoon. Talk about multitasking.
 
 
5. Macon.

Ever imagine Atticus Finch as a badass supernatural? No? Well, now you don’t need to, because there is Macon Ravenwood, and it’s sort of amazing. (C’mon, he even named his badass supernatural dog Boo Radley!)
 
 
6. Their portrayal of the South.

It’s worth stating again that I was more than a little concerned as to how this setting would go, because people tend to veer right to one of two extremes when it comes to the South: Either they completely romanticise it to a point that’s nearly more ridiculous than the real South itself, or they focus so completely on the bad and gritty and filthy that I feel the need to take a shower afterwards.

But these ladies? They nail it. They have, I think, figured out the one overwhelming truth when it comes to talking or writing about the South:

You don’t need to make fun of it. It makes fun of itself.

No mockery of the South can ever outdo the sheer ridiculousness that the South itself spews. (I can say that, as I grew up there, and had next-door neighbours literally called Big Bub and Lil Bub and would see chickens in the middle of the road to Walmart, where yes, you can buy guns. So trust me, I know.) And their South is simply what it is, nothing more, nothing less. Minus all of the supernaturals running amok, that is.

Gatlin is a character of its own, and it comes across as human — not entirely good, not entirely bad, not Light or Dark, but human. Real.
 
 
7. “Don’t think of me as a librarian. Think of me as a mad scientist; this is my secret laboratory.”

This quote would be the point where I came to the conclusion I was not just enjoying this series; I was falling rather rapidly in love. And also that I really want to be a mad-scientist-librarian when I grow up.
 
 
8. Badass librarians. Plural!

See above.
 
 
9. Absolutely insane hundred-year-old screaming sisters who fight over Jeopardy!, insist that iffen is a word in Scrabble, consider the word “naked” profanity, have a collection of taxidermied dogs all named after one of their numerous dead husbands and a cat named after Lucille Ball, and aren’t entirely clear on the fact that Elvis is dead or that the Confederate flag isn’t actually in use anymore.

…enough said, I suppose.
 
 
10. The fact that while the romance drove the story, was the reason for the story, there were still countless reasons to care about the story even without it.

Sure, I wanted to see what happened with Ethan and Lena, but I was equally interested in all of the rest of the characters and their relationships and backstories (Link and Ridley’s relationship and Macon’s backstory, in particular), in the setting and the lore of the world(s). In short, the story isn’t just a romance. It’s actually strong.

 
 
 
So what’re you waiting for? Get going and read it, already — or if you already have, tell me why you loved it, too!

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Of Goliaths and Leviathans and Fictional Relationship Happy Buttons™.

Yesterday, right before work, I finished Scott Westerfeld’s Behemoth. And then instantaneously wanted to flog myself for not having brought Goliath with me as well for the trip back, toting about two hefty hardcovers at once be damned.

I more than made up for this once I got home, however, and promptly pulled my Bookslut Energizer Bunny trick. By which I mean I picked up Goliath, intending to read just a few snippets before bed (and save the rest for the train today)…but then I just kept reading…and reading…and reading…

And to make a not-very-long story even shorter, I could not put the book down, instead very happily chewing my way through 500+ pages in a handful of hours and refusing sleep until I was finished, ’round four am.

(Waking up for work in the morning also be damned. Who needs sleep when you’ve got books?)

I woke up roughly four hours later, still in a ridiculously happy post-book haze…until I crashed at the junction of ‘dammit why did I do that I was not ready for it to be over‘ and ‘what the hell do I read now and what could possibly follow this‘, anyway.

Regardless, I regret nothing. Oh my god.

I’m not going to do up a proper review — not now, at least; I’m still far too booklove-hazy to really think straight or be coherent.

But, for now, I at least have to say this:

Alek and Deryn hit almost every single one of my Fictional Relationship Happy Buttons™. ♥

Which are as follows!
 
 
1. ‘Oh balls I’m in love with my best friend.’ Now, I understand the fairytale-esque appeal of that magical sparkly (sometimes literally) moment where Beautiful Princess Damsel takes one singular look at Studly Prince Heromuffin and knows, instantenously and irrevocably, that he is her One True Love Forever and Ever (at least until the third part of a love triangle inevitably comes along). I do. Fairytales are supposed to resonate with us, after all, and that is certainly something ripped straight out of one.

However, it also has a tendency to bore me near to tears.

If I am going to become emotionally invested in a pairing, if I am going to root for them, then I need something to invest myself in. Something to root for. I want to watch them grow, both separately and together. I want to see for myself just how they fit, instead of just being summarily informed that, well, they do.

And personally, I think that being in love with your best friend is a million times more romantic and wonderful than some random mystical connection with the nearest brooding stranger (no matter how glittery he may be).
 
 
2. Couples repeatedly rescuing each other. Note the key words here: Each other. I’m all for the whole romantic rescue thing, as much as anyone else — so why just have one character only ever rescue the other, when you can have twice as much fun by making it mutual? And why not make both characters that endearing and strong, instead of just the one?

The more your readers have to root for the better, after all.
 
 
3. Highborn/commoner pairs. This has been a fictional vice of mine since childhood, for which I fully blame my favourite childhood series. (It had quite a bit of highborn/lowborn drama, and it was all very darling and apparently stuck with me for all of these years.) It’s instant relationship conflict, without vampirism! Fancy that.
 
 
4. Secrets. No character trait will endear me to a character more than, well, their traits not actually being known. If you add a relationship into the mix, the elements of unravelling one another and acceptance…nothing sells me faster. (And I’m particularly fond of these two for having said secrets involve genderbending, incidentally.)
 
 
These books execute all of these things rather flawlessly, and could have probably stolen my heart on the merits of that alone, even if the rest of the plotting and worldbuilding wasn’t fantastic as well.

And so, all in all?

Why the hell isn’t more YA like this? (Or any sort of romance plot in fiction, really.)

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In which I finally find my niche, and love on Lauren Oliver’s Liesl & Po.

A long chat with a rather lovely customer the other day finally confirmed something I’ve been slowly coming to realise over the course of this year.

See, when people ask me, “Oh, what do you read?” my answer is always, invariably, “Everything!” And I am not exaggerating in the least, because I do.

Every kind of fantasy, science fiction both hard and soft, science non-fiction (experimental physics! ♥), oh my god I love all sorts of mysteries (classical and cosy alike), psychology (Jung, anyone?), general fiction, general nonfiction, classics, YA, certain middle-grade (Holly Lisle’s Moon & Sun trilogy springs immediately to mind), reference books, picture books… The only things I can think of that I don’t regularly read are probably political books and fluffball romances.

But out of all of that, out of the more-or-less-everything that I read, I think my most favourite thing in the entire world is magical realism.

I’d wondered, once, if it was just urban fantasy that I loved the best, but no. At the end of the day, it’s magical realism that has the particular flavour that I truly crave. It’s the sort of world that I myself want to create with my own words.

It’s even perfectly illustrated, too, by so many of my absolute all-time favourite books: Good Omens, The Little Prince, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Neverwhere (and almost everything else Neil Gaiman has ever written, really), the Harry Potter series, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

And so many of my favourite books from this year are in fact gorgeous examples of magical realism as well: Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Lauren Oliver’s Liesl & Po.

Which brings me to my next point.

I love Liesl & Po.

I love it, I love it, I love it.

I’ve talked before about what a wonderful feeling it is to finally see a book you adore in print (probably it’s the next best thing to seeing your own book in print, I would venture to say). Finally seeing Liesl & Po in print took that one step further.

Namely, seeing it for the first time on a cart stacked high with other books, buried roughly in the middle of said stack — and promptly getting so excited that I immediately dropped to my knees and proceeded to play Epic Book Jenga to dig it out, just so I could finally hold and fawn over a finished copy.

Yeah. That is how much I love this book.

And if that does not tempt you to go pick up a copy of your very own (and then every single other book I mention in this post, if you’ve not already!), then you are hopeless I do not know what would. ♥

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Booksluttery: Let yourself become enthralled.

I’ve been sensing a theme with rather a lot of my favourite books that I’ve read thus far this year.

Said books include:

• Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Read the first chapter, if you haven’t yet already and don’t believe me!)
• Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus
• Lauren Oliver’s Liesl and Po

(Hilariously and ironically, my favourite book I have read thus far this year is resoundingly Will Lavender’s Dominance. But then again, Will Lavender generally has that sort of reaction with me — nothing in 2009 came close to touching his Obedience, either. For lack of a better term, this man’s writing gets my proverbial bookslut rocks off, and hard.)

Modern-day fairytales, and modern retellings of fairytales, things that are more fantastical than even fantasy, really do seem to be making a resurgance these days.

And while I normally don’t pay much attention to or care much about current writing trends (my brain does as it will, and I’ve long since given up even attempting to argue), this is one that I actually fit into, that I can actually get behind.

The world needs all the magic it can get, now. ♥

And what better place to find it than inside books?

Maybe it’s a neccessity even moreso than a trend; fairytales are reminders that the world can be fascinating and beautiful, even amidst the dangers and the filth. Perhaps the word I’m looking for is enthralling; fascinating, yes, but still with an element of danger and threat involved.

Maybe this is what resonates with the world at large, right now. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t resonate with me.

So go take a peek at The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland for now, and make a note to hunt down The Night Circus and Liesl & Po when they come out, and tell me what you think! ♥

(And then if you need a break from the fantastical, go get yourself a copy of Dominance, too. You can thank me later.)

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Booksluttery: On Lauren DeStefano’s Wither and Will Lavender’s Dominance.

There are a lot of things I love about working in a bookstore. (Okay, really, I love everything. I don’t even mind the uncertainty of it, with the publishing industry the way it is, because at least if I’m going to go down I’m going to go down doing something I love.)

But there are definitely moments I adore above all of the rest — two of which have happened very recently, and one of them today. :)

One is the moment where you see a copy of a book that you already read and loved as an advance copy finally sitting out on a shelf, ready for others to find and fall in love with in their turn.

The second is that moment where you discover a shiny new advance copy — of a book that you’ve been waiting and waiting for months (if not years) to read. And knowing that not only is your wait over, your wait was even cut short.

 
We’re going to talk about two very different books, now.
 

Scenario A, here, revolves around Lauren DeStefano’s book Wither. Admittedly, I don’t read much YA these days — I do enjoy it when it’s done well, but I’m particular and, as a result, reluctant to just try my luck with random examples. I’ll dive into YA if I’m already familiar with the author (Neil Gaiman and Kelley Armstrong come to mind) or if the book is personally recommended to me by a trusted friend, but that’s generally as far as it goes.

However, I’m happy to admit it. I’m one of those people.

I judge books based off their covers.

Not solely, of course (Twilight, I am looking at you), but it can help to push me over the edge in my bookslutting decisions. I love books — the physical objects — almost as much as I love stories, so I have no problem separating an actual book from its content and viewing it just as an art piece. Ergo, even if the tale just drives me up the proverbial wall, I’ll still have something beautiful to display in my library.

The world needs all the beautiful things it can get, these days.

Enter an advance copy of Wither.

I glanced at it and almost instantaneously dismissed it as untested YA — and then I actually looked at it. And I fell a little bit in love.

Go to your local bookstore. Pick it up. Flip through the pages. (Look at the beautiful typography in the beginning, showcasing a quote from T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”, and hopefully smile just as hard as I did. Maybe it’s one of your favourite poems, too.)

The book’s designer, Lizzy Bromley, is something of a genius, if you ask me.

Needless to say, I stopped worrying about the book’s content and just very happily took it home. Words are an art form all their own, after all, and they can inspire me in and of themselves even if the sentences they form do not.

But, as it turned out, the sentences did inspire me, and the story snared me much like its house. It’s a glitterdark sort of tale — showcasing that sort of debris and grit that serves to reflect shine, a not-so-hidden weakness of mine.

I won’t outline the actual content here. I’d much rather you see the story’s summary on the back of the book itself, because even if it’s not typically your cup of tea, hopefully the typography at least will impress you.

But the point is, it’s both beautiful and actually deserving of its design. That can be a damned hard thing to find.
 

And that said, onwards to Scenario B! This one centres on a man named Will Lavender, and one of the hardest fucks my brain has ever had.

In February of 2009, I picked up a book called Obedience. I devoured it, and, upon reaching its end, was promptly depressed.

Not only because the book was over, but because I knew that, for all that it was only February, I had already just torn through the best damn book I would read all that year.

(I wasn’t wrong — though Stephen King’s The Dark Tower could tie with damn near anything, if you ask me — and neither was I complaining.)

I discovered, afterwards, that Will Lavender was working on a second novel, called Dominance. And my general reaction was roughly along the lines of “yesnowgodmoreplease” like the good little bookslut that I am.

I waited.

I waited.

I waited.

I tried wanting harder, as though that might help.

And, finally, today.

I came across the advance copy of Dominance, waiting just for me. ♥
 

Books have a magic all their own, and it’s moments like these that remind me of why.
 

(And, if you were wondering, my other favourite moment working with books? When someone comes up to me to purchase a copy of Good Omens, and I get to beam ridiculously at them as I excitedly announce that it is my favourite book forever and ever. Every single time. ♥)