Bookish Pet Peeves

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So I’m sitting in my room lost in a daydream when I see an insect scamper across the wall. Shocked, I immediately jump out of bed and hunt him down. I had never seen an insect like that before and it prompted me to run a Google search. The more I discovered, the more pissed I became which led me to do this post on my bookish pet peeves.

  1. Bending the pages
    • I HATE when people do this to my books. I can hardly tolerate it when they do it to their own or to library books. Treat the books with some respect! Though, there is something charming about a well-worn book that is all bended, folded, scraped, and torn. A book that has been held in many hands and read in myriad places.from frabz
  2. Asking to borrow my books
    • Yes, I am one of those snobbish bibliophiles who hate to loan a book. I’ll even go so far as to purchase the book for you so you’ll leave mine alone (family members and close friends only). It’s selfish and silly but loaning books lead to bended covers, torn pages, and possible loss of the book since borrowers never seem to remember to RETURN what they borrow….speaking from experience on that last one. I refrain from borrowing books. I have a library card. I hardly use it. I’m one of those people who usually have an unnecessarily high library debt. Why? Because I forget. I can’t help it. It’s not intentional, I just do.
  3. Silverfish….and other book-eating bugs
    • The reason for this post. Unfortunately in this world there are insects who love to eat books and even more unfortunate is that my house is plagued with them. Where are they coming from? I don’t know. We recently moved and I guess they were here awaiting our arrival. I’ve seen them a few times at night, lurking in corners, crawling on walls, waiting for me to turn off the lights and go to sleep so they can attack my precious. These bugs are quick, little scampers. They are silvery-grey and have too many legs. They like warm, humid climes and love to feed on starch. They do not bite or spread any diseases and it seems that one could live peaceably with them if one does not mind many-legged insects crawling about the house but I’m not such a person. The mere sight of them is enough to rile me and have me running for the insect spray. So I’ve declared war on them. Prepare to be eliminated little fuckers!
  4. Soggy books
    • I had the misfortune of being caught in a deluge the other day. I was returning from a trip to New York and the sky was bright and sunny. No need to worry about a thunderstorm, I thought. A few minutes walking down the road proved me wrong. The sky quickly grayed and it suddenly began to rain as if the clouds were unable to hold their water once they appeared. Luckily, I had an umbrella but it was of little use! I was soaked within minutes. My suitcase was as well. I was dragging it behind me and it was filled with paperbacks given to me by my aunt. Once I got home and started to unpack, I saw that my books were all crinkled and soggy, the pages sticking together. I almost cried. They were new books. I just hate it when my books are ruined before I’ve had the chance to read them.book overload
  5. Unnecessary tomes
    • I’m thinking of Robert Jordan’s 13-book series (which I am nowhere near finishing). It’s too damn long for no good reason. I am on book five of the Wheel of Time series and I wonder if I will ever finish the books in this lifetime. I am not daunted by large books or long series. What turns me off is when a book is large because the author is stalling, or when chapters are filled with pointless internal dialogue or an overkill on landscape descriptions (all of which Jordan does). I am sure the books could have been condensed to a series that is half of its current amount.

Well, that’s it for my tirade. What are your bookish pet peeves?

Note on the featured image because it’s so cool. It’s a photograph taken by Cara Barer, a photographer based in Houston, Tex. She transforms damaged books into art and also does book-sculpting. I’m in love with her work. I guess it’s the only way I can tolerate a damaged book.

“Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey

Daily Rituals

Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore.

What is your daily routine?

Me? I wake up and get dressed while listening to NPR then dash out the door to race up the street to catch the bus (I’m usually running late). Then I read or play a game (Lumosity to improve my memory) while riding the bus to the train. Once on the train, I read or catch up on any vestiges of sleep I missed when I jumped out my bed at the ring of my fifth alarm.

I grab breakfast on my way to work (bagel and hot chocolate, or, if I’m in the mood to be nice to myself, French toast) and eat while working. Break for lunch at 2 or 3, read while eating, then back to work. The afternoons are for pleasing myself, which may consist of hanging with a friend, visiting a bookstore or museum, walking and musing to myself, or more reading while travelling. My nights are spent trolling the internet or bingeing on Netflix before turning in to bed.

The weekends aren’t much different the exception being that I don’t move around as much. I wake late, read in bed, and binge on Netflix all day. I may take a walk/hike or call a friend and, if the inspiration hits, write. Otherwise I spend the day prone with my eyes glued to my laptop, numbing my brain.

My writing routine starts with me sitting (or lying in bed) in front of my laptop, staring at the screen, trying to prevent myself from distracting myself by going on the internet. It’s a difficult thing to do because I am not disciplined. Slowly, my fingers creep to the keyboard. They hover as I think of what to write, omitting whatever pops in my mind as too stupid until I get so frustrated I just plunge in and type without thinking. I get swept away by the process, the thoughts flowing easily with few pauses to wrangle images or words out of my memory.

About the book:

We learn of similar routines in Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. The book began as a blog, called Daily Routines, that Currey started one afternoon during a bout of procrastination: He was supposed to be working on a story but he was doing everything else instead. To make himself feel better, he began searching the internet for other writer’s routines. It was then that the idea came to him to start the blog.

Daily Rituals describes the daily routines of noted creatives and intellectuals—writers, artists, psychologists, scientists, etc. Currey describes each in a matter-of-fact way. If he does include an authorial statement, it’s to clarify a fact. He mostly sticks to the subject’s daily routine although sometimes he includes a bit more biographical information if it helps to clarify the routine or round out the subject.

The entries provide some insight on these figures and humanize them a bit. I think we sometimes place these figures on too high of a pedestal in terms of how they crafted their work and how they became “geniuses”. It’s easy for us to do this since we do not see the process; we only engage with the product. But to read of how they go about their day or wrangle with projects that seem on the point of failure or how they too procrastinate helps to ease our worries a bit and sometimes provide an excuse for us to not be so hard on ourselves. It helps to assure us that it’s okay to have faults (as long as we learn from them).

Which is why I read this book in the first place: I wanted to see if any of these figures’ routines mirrored my own (were they like me?); or, if I could somehow match my routine to theirs in order to reach a similar level of success (silly, I know, but I couldn’t help myself). Of course, I could have read a biography on these people or look them up on Wikipedia but the benefit of Daily Rituals is having that particular information already compiled.

“It is a danger to wait around for an idea to occur to you. You have to find the idea.” – Gerhard Richter

Another benefit is being able to read of these routines back-to-back to easily note the similarities—none awaited inspiration to hit or relied on it much. Most engaged in some physical activity, usually walking; and, of utmost importance, was the chance to get away to work by oneself like the late Maya Angelou who often rented a hotel room in which to write. Also, when tired, take a rest. It’s foolish to keep on working.

Carl Jung: “I’ve realized that somebody who’s tired and needs a rest, and goes on working all the same is a fool.”

Some believe in sticking to a regular routine while others do not. The same goes for working in the morning. Some believe that the artist should rise early and work but others prefer to work under the cover of night. Really, it all came down to preferences.

Of course, what really stood out are the odd routines, superstitions, and methods. Saul Bellow, for instance, stood on his head to restore concentration. Because he was so tall, Thomas Wolfe usually wrote standing up, using the top of a refrigerator as a desk. He also found inspiration while standing naked at a window, fondling his genitals. There are others who found sexual arousal essential to their routine.

Famous Writer’s Sleep Habits vs. Literary Production

Famous Writer’s Sleep Habits vs. Literary Production

While the book is great, I found the blog to be better. The book doesn’t seem to be organized in any particular order but the blog is categorized by occupation and habits (exercisers, drug users, nap takers, procrastinators, etc.). It also has a search box. So if you are searching for something specific, I recommend the blog. But if you would simply like to have the routines of noted figures on hand for inspiration, or to make yourself feel better about procrastinating (which I think is the most popular reason), then definitely buy the book. I recommend both the book and the blog to writers and readers. Writers, so they don’t feel like a failure while battling to create something and readers, so they can see another side to those whom they revere.

Also of note: Check out Maria Popova’s infographic, Famous Writer’s Sleep Habits vs. Literary Production. Maria Popova is creator of Brain Pickings, a website and newsletter that provides a wealth of information on a variety of topics and disciplines. The title of the infographic is self-explanatory. It includes the writer’s wake-up time, awards they have won, the types of work they produced (poetry, nonfiction, etc.), and the dates of birth and death. It’s a pretty cool infographic. What I noticed is that 6am is the most popular time for getting out of bed and those who woke earlier tended to win more awards (“the early bird gets the worm”). I’ve included a small version of it above but it links to Popova’s site that allows you to zoom in. It is also for sale as a poster on Society 6.

Quotes from the book:

“Sooner or later the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.” — V.S. Pritchett

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.” — W.H. Auden

“A writer can do everything by himself—but he needs discipline.” — Federico Fellini

“I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.” “Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.” — Haruki Murakami

“Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process.” — Toni Morrison

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” — Chuck Close

“I’ve found over the years that any momentary change stimulates a fresh burst of mental energy.” — Woody Allen

“A writer must be hard to live with: when not working he is miserable, and when he is working he is obsessed.” — Edward Abbey

“Discipline is an ideal for the self. If you have to discipline yourself to achieve art, you discipline yourself.” — Bernard Malamud

See more quotes here.

New Spring cover

“New Spring” by Robert Jordan

Cover of New Spring novel

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Spring, the prequel of The Wheel of Time series, seems to be the shortest book in the pack but that doesn’t mean it’s quick reading. Shortly after completing The Shadow Rising, I rushed to the bookstore to pick up New Spring. I was too curious about the history in the series to wait until later or until I completed the series to read the prequel. So much had occurred prior to the first four books and I wanted the details on those events. What were Moiraine and Lan up to before finding the boys in Two Rivers? What was going on with the Seanchans and were the Forsaken loose and prowling about then too? What was Padan Fain doing before he became a peddler in Two Rivers? The Aes Sedais mentioned something of Padan Fain’s past in The Eye of the World but I want more details.

I thought the prequel would provide a broad view of key characters, noting their activities prior to book one but such was not the case. Instead, the prequel focused on Moiraine and Lan, mostly Moiraine; however, it is Lan who begins the story. The Aiel Wars are winding down and ends when the Aiel oddly retreat. Lan is relieved of his duties as commander of his unit and has plans to return north but his plans are upset with he learns that his carneira, some old lady he banged back in the day, wants to raise support and crown him as king of Malkier. So he travels to Chochin to face her. Really, Lan’s story didn’t do much except to give us a smidgen of the Aiel War and to remind us who Lan is, the last of the Malkier kings, and how he is, grave, loyal, honorable.

Meanwhile, Moiraine and Siuan are at the White Tower in Tar Valon in their final months as Accepted. We are with them when they hear Gitara foretell the coming of the Dragon and when the Amrylin Seat issues the odd command to record the names of every child born within sight of Dragonmount. I did not expect the prequel to start here since Moiraine and Siuan often refer to this event and their days as Accepted in their reflections in the other books. But this retelling of the prophecy and what ensues gives us some perspective on the magnitude of work Moiraine and Siuan must have put in to track down the boys at Two Rivers. However, I didn’t like that it is by conjecture that Moiraine and Siuan discover the Amyrlin Seat’s plan to locate the Dragon Reborn. As smart and informed as they are, I do not believe that the Amyrlin Seat would have a plan that can be easily deduced by two Accepteds. If so, then it’s no surprise that she was overthrown and killed. Elaida of the Red Ajah also makes an appearance. She bullies and tortures Siuan and Moiraine as they practice for their exams to gain their shawls. I guess she was included only to give Moiraine and Siuan a hard time and to show how much she hates them. She did little else. It was cool to see how the Accepteds are tested for the shawl and how the Ajahs are organized and the politics involved in the White Tower.

E-book cover art of Lan becoming Moiraine's warder. Pretty cool but I prefer the original covers. They fit the story's ambiance.

E-book cover art of Lan becoming Moiraine’s warder. Pretty cool but I prefer the original covers. They fit the story’s ambiance.

Lan and Moiraine meet on the way to Chochin. Lan, as stated above, is going to confront his carneira, and Moiraine is tracking down the Dragon Reborn. Often Moiraine reminded me of Nynaeve. Actually, I think young Moiraine, Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene are all the same—stubborn, easily angered, often overlook that they lack experience, believe they are invincible because of the power, childish, and petulant. Indeed their interior dialogues are all similar and I was sad to find that Siuan was the same. I thought her fish metaphors would further set her apart from the other young females in the series but no such luck. Like the others, she seems to constantly compare herself to Moiraine, which I find annoying because of how frequently this is done. In Chochin, Moiraine is no closer to discovering the Dragon Reborn but she has her first battle with a member of the Black Ajah. And it’s there that she makes Lan her Warder, which I wasn’t impressed by. For some reason, I thought that such an event would have more bells and whistles and not be so solemn.

Overall, the story was okay. It did not give me what I was looking for and now that I’ve read it, I think I could have done without it. I had already known about the prophecy and it is expected that Moiraine would encounter obstacles while searching for the Dragon Reborn and that the Black Ajah would want to find him as well. I really didn’t need to know about Moiraine and Siuan’s time as Accepted or what they thought about since it’s similar to Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene. The exception is that they have different goals. Lan’s story I could have discovered later if/when Jordan writes from Lan’s perspective. I am pretty sure Lan would have reflected on his carneira and the Aiel War at some point. I was grateful for the test for the shawl and a peek at the Ajahs’ quarters and politics and for meeting Cadsuane. Cadsuane is a bad ass. Oh, and also to learn a bit of Moiraine’s background and her connection to the Cairhien throne.

A word on Jordan’s narrative style: I do not hate it but I do not love it either. He includes so much that it wears on me and since I’m reading the novels almost back-to-back, his style often becomes a nuisance. The books were published within a year or so of each other so I see no reason for the characters’ redundant thoughts. I think we know them quite well already. I’m often told that Brandon Sanderson’s style is a lighter so I look forward to the books he has written for the series though I’m a long way off. I just want Jordan to hold back a bit. So far I know every thought of the characters except when the urge to piss and shit is upon them.

The Eye of the World (book 1) ->

Quotes from the book:

“When a man believes he may die, he wants to leave something of himself behind. When a woman believes her man may die, she wants that part of him desperately. The result is a great many babies born during wars. It’s illogical, given the hardship that comes if the mad does die, or the woman, but the human heart is seldom logical.”

“Verin Sedai said that most mistakes made by rulers came from not knowing history; they acted in ignorance of the mistakes others had made before them.”

“Friends lightened many burdens, even those they did not know of.”

“Her father used to say that once was happenstance, twice might be coincidence, but thrice or more indicated the actions of your enemies.”

The Shadow Rising cover

“The Shadow Rising” by Robert Jordan

Cover of "The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of...

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. (Cover via Amazon)

The Shadow Rising was too damn long. Although it is a good read, the length turned me off and soured my enjoyment of the story. This might seem like unnecessary ranting since I’ve completed the first three books in the series, which are all hefty, and read the prequel of the series shortly after completing The Shadow Rising. But for some silly reason I thought (or convinced myself) that by the fourth book Jordan would realize how unnecessary it is to make his books so long for no reason. I should have known better. The length of the series should have been an indicator that Jordan never realized that he was going overboard with length.

Despite that, this installment of the Wheel of Time series was great in that we learn more about this fantasy world as we see it begin to change. We see a bit more of the Aiel and learn their history; we realize how corrupt the White Tower is, or rather, how divided it is; and we see Perrin become the leader he is destined to be. We pick up with everyone (Rand, Perrin, Mat, Moiraine, Lan, Nynaeve, Elayne, Egwene, Faile, Loial, Thom) in Tear. Rand has Callandor and is trying to control his power while staving off Moiraine’s influence, rule Tear, and keep some of the Forsaken at bay. Mat wants to leave Tear but can’t because of Rand’s pull as a ta’veren. Perrin wants to return to Two Rivers to help his people, who are being attacked by White Cloaks and trollocs, but wants to protect Faile as well. So, for the while, they dawdle.

What gets the characters moving is a trolloc attack. Like in the previous three books, it is the attack that gets the characters moving and it is always preceded by a moment of security, or of the characters dawdling, wondering what they should do and then—Surprise!!—the trollocs attack. Totally did not see that coming (rolls eyes). I wonder if all the books are structured this way.

Shortly after the attack, the characters decide on their chores for this installment. The decisions: Perrin returns to the Two Rivers with the annoying Faile in tow. Three of the Aiel join him and Faile as well as Loial, who leads them through the Ways. Since Egwene was carelessly hopping around Tel’aran’rhiod, one of the Wise Ones of the Aiel summoned her for a study abroad program so she joins Moiraine, Mat, Lan, and Rand as they travel to the Aiel Waste, to Rhuidean. Mat tags along because he is compelled to go. Moiraine wants to keep an eye on Rand. And Rand must go to Rhuidean, says the Aiel. After questioning the two members of the Black Ajah that they caught in Tear, Elayne and Nynaeve realize that the rest must be in Tanchico. They decide to go there and are accompanied by Thom (sent by Moiraine to protect them) and Juilin (sent by Rand and Lan). Meanwhile, Min is at the White Tower, posing as a silly, pretty girl while working undercover for the Amyrlin Seat.

Cover art for the e-book.

Cover art for the e-book.

We read from various perspectives in this installment and not just the perspectives of those we are familiar with. We hear from two officers in the White Cloaks’ army and the Amrylin Seat as well. There is also a tidbit from Padan Fain who now calls himself Ordeith and a new character pops up, Egeanin, a Seanchan who falls in with Nynaeve and Elayne’s group. While I appreciate these switches, it did not provide the effect I was looking for. The different perspectives allowed me the chance to see what’s going on in various places and what the plans are on both sides—the good and the evil. But while some stood out, most seem to run together. All the females sound alike and all the males sound same. That’s because they all have the same worries: The females worry about how the males perceive them and the males worry about how to prevent the females from bossing them around. It is Jordan’s style to be repetitious when it comes to a character’s thoughts and that makes the characters’ interior dialogues all the more annoying. Much of this installment is composed of interior dialogues, filled with repetitious thoughts, and unnecessary descriptions, most already familiar to the reader. They could have been cut.

Actually, the interior dialogues of Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene drove me up the wall. They are the most annoying characters in the series and their perspectives are a pain to read from. I’m tired of their stubbornness and Nynaeve’s pointless anger. I hope that the next time Nynaeve tugs her braid her hair falls out because I see no reason for her to be angry so frequently. With the exception of Min, I more so enjoyed reading from the guys’ perspectives than the girls. I enjoyed Perrin’s parts but disliked his redundant thoughts and Faile’s stubbornness, though I do respect her. Mat is always interesting. And Rand is getting a bit boring now but I am still interested in his story. I’d prefer if another character tells me what Rand does.

Like The Dragon Reborn, this installment could have been shorter. Actually, if Jordan had held back a bit and cut all the excessive fluff, he could have joined this installment to The Dragon Reborn to make one book—The Dragon’s Reborn but the Shadow’s Rising. My interest in the story is still strong so I will continue with the series. I began skipping sentences in this installment and it is highly likely that I will continue to do so in the others if their structure is the same. As annoyed as I am by the length, I am still impatient to find out what happens next.

Despite these misgivings, I do admire Jordan’s work. I find it to be a great high-fantasy series with flecks of Christian imagery and bits of Celtic mythology sprinkled throughout. There might be some influence from other religions and mythologies but since I am not yet familiar with them, they do not stick out to me. The Christian influence is strong with Rand as the savior (Christ) come to save the world through self-sacrifice. This particular sentence especially stood out to me in this installment: “The White Tower shall be broken by his name, and Aes Sedai shall kneel to wash his feet and dry them with their hair.” It made me recalled a story in the Bible when a woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair.

While reading the Celtic section of The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, I couldn’t help thinking of The Wheel of Times series. I realized that Jordan took certain elements straight from the Celts, sometimes changing them a bit to fit his story (similar to what Tolkien did for his LOTR series with Nordic mythology). Names such as Tuatha De Danann, Uther Pendragon (was already familiar with him), Sangreal, and Galahad were unfamiliar to me prior to reading up on Celtic mythology so the connection wasn’t readily apparent while reading WOT. This is a personal frustration of mine. I wish I knew more of everything so I can quickly pick up on the allusions and other elements that authors include in their work and be even more amazed by their talent, resourcefulness, intelligence, and imagination. But while I work at expanding my knowledge, I’ll stick to rereading and revisiting to make these connections.

The Fires of Heaven (book 5) ->

<- The Dragon Reborn (book 3)

Quotes from the book:

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”

“…no one fears what is familiar as much as what is strange.”

“To believe a thing is not to make it true.”

Amazing Posts I Found Online: Make-up, Statue, Cup

I found these amazing posts while perusing the web, reading blogs, or skimming through the many newsletters I’ve subscribed to.

A make-up artist paints album covers on her face:

grizzly_rsd_1397887604_crop_550x729

Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear; make-up by Natalie Sharp

I found this one on Flavorwire. It’s pretty cool. I’m unfamiliar with the albums featured but I am amazed by the artist’s skills. Her name is Natalie Sharp and she’s very talented. Visit her website to see more of her work.

Edgar Allan Poe statue:

poe 1

“Poe Returning To Boston” by Stefanie Rocknak

I found this on Huffington Post back in April. It’s a cool rendition of the writer Edgar Allan Poe and a raven by sculptor Stefanie Rocknak. I love the details on statue. In one of the close-up photos you can see the bags under Poe’s eyes and I like how his coat billows out, the raven’s wing follows a similar arc, so you can easily imagine a wind blowing. Spilling out the back of his briefcase are what seems like books and papers and a human heart. I do hope they set it in a room with enough shadows to give it an ominous look. What makes this photo of it work for me is that the dark background emphasizes the shadows on the statue, giving it a Gothic feel, like one of Poe’s stories. The statue will be officially unveiled on October 5.

Chipotle Cups:

“Two-Minute Seduction” by Toni Morrison

Everyone has probably heard of these by now. I read of the updated Chipotle cups on Vanity Fair and thought it a great idea. It has renewed my interest in Chipotle so now I’ll dine there just to get their cups…and a quesadilla. I like how they designed it so, along with your drink, you get a story and a doodle. This will be great for when I’m having a bad day. The story will inspire me, the doodle will cheer me up, and the drink will wash my sobs away. I just might collect them.

“Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Cover of "Beautiful Creatures"

Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore.

It took me a while to work up an interest in this book. I first watched the movie and because I enjoyed it so much, I decided to read the book. Unfortunately, when I first attempted to read it, I put it down almost immediately. I enjoyed the prologue but when the story began, I found the voice too dry to bear. But after reading The JK Review’s review of the novel and movie, I decided to give it another try and be patient. It paid off.

Quick summary:

I read this book a while back so the details of the story are a bit foggy but here is the gist of what I do remember. Beautiful Creatures is told from the perspective of Ethan Wate, a teenager in his junior year of high school. He resides in Gaitlin, a small town in the South Carolina, which he hates because he finds it too backwards. He can’t wait to escape its borders and explore the wider world. In the meantime, he escapes through books. He is an avid reader on account of his late mother being a librarian. When the story begins, he’s been having weird dreams of a girl and hearing a strange song on his iPod in the mornings. Soon the girl he sees in his dreams turns up at his school. She is the new girl in town—Lena Duchannes, niece of the town’s shut in.

Ethan is immediately drawn to her and, of course, they fall head over heels in love. Their respective families try to keep them apart at first since Lena, whose family are Casters (like witches) have a curse on it—upon her sixteenth birthday she will be claimed for the light or the dark. Her uncle Macon Ravenwood tries to ensure that nothing prevents her from being claimed for the light. But Seraphina, a dark Caster, wants Lena for her side. It is believed that Lena is a powerful Caster.

Various events occur to threaten Lena and Ethan’s relationship and Lena’s nature. They are ostracized by the town—Lena, because she is different; and Ethan, because he’s with the weird girl. Along the way, Ethan and Lena learn how the curse began and how connected their families are. Ethan also learns that there is another side to Gaitlin that he was unaware of. With the story ending on a tentative decision, the reader will be tempted to immediately grab the next installment to see how things work out.

My reaction:

Okay so that was a brief summary with none of the juicy bits but it’s what I remember, plus I didn’t want to give the story away. Though the story faded from my mind over time, what stuck with me is my reaction to it. Such is usually the case. I enjoyed the story immensely once I got into it. It takes a while to build up. It has a meaty backstory that helps to propel it along and I love that. Gaitlin has deep roots and I am tempted to continue with the series just to find out more about its history.

I found the concept of Casters interesting. The authors try to deviate from the common witches and wizards and simply go by what the person does. There are even some that are akin to vampires, some drink blood while others feed on dreams. Actually, I was so curious about this world of Casters that I often hopped on the series’ Wikia page to find out more. I was too impatient to wait until I read through the series. The past greatly influences the present day in Beautiful Creatures (especially the Civil War); so much so that flashbacks are incorporated into the story. I love that. The authors can easily have one of the installments be a historical fiction. That excites me. Also, it shows how much our ancestors’ decisions affect our lives, who we are and how we define ourselves.

The authors also incorporate various “summer reading” texts into the story. It was done smoothly and didn’t seem forced on the reader. Sometimes they were included as small mentions and sometimes the characters had fun with them when certain passages of the books were incorporated into their dialogue. It’s quite a cunning way to get teens interested in the classics and not to feel daunted by their summer reading list.

While reading, I couldn’t help thinking of Romeo and Juliet, what with both Ethan and Lena’s families not wanting them to be together and how tragic their love seems to be. Speaking of their love, I often wondered if it is too passionate. Are they too stuck on each other? At times it seems that if they should be severed from each other in any way, bad things would happen and one of them would die. Then I wondered if their strong feelings for each other was on account of innocent, simple love or does the curse have something to do with it. Are they drawn to each other because history is repeating itself?

I like that the story made me ask these questions, made me want to engage with it in some way. Though I enjoyed reading it, Beautiful Creatures does have some faults. First, I think it’s too long—about 563 pages, excluding the back matter. Some of the telepathic chatter could have been cut and certain scenes could have been condensed, such as when Ethan visits the Sisters’ house to dig up the backyard only to learn one minor clue. And the rock concert, that could have been condensed too. I’ve read some reviews that claim to dislike how the authors portray the small, country town of Gaitlin. They think the authors focus too closely on the stereotypes of the South when creating the town’s characters but I like it. Some criticize Ethan’s personality, stating that it doesn’t ring true for a teen-aged boy and I do agree with that. He does sound more like a girl sometimes but I still like his voice. Also, the ending pissed me off. All that build up, count down, and waiting for seemingly nothing. But that’s just me.

Overall, I gave it three stars on Goodreads. I thought Beautiful Creatures to be a good read because it’s intriguing, the world building is intricate, and it leaves you wanting to know more. I recommend you pick up both the book and the movie. Though it’s probably best to watch the movie first so you don’t feel upset that certain scenes were cut or characters condensed, among other changes. By itself, the movie is a nice little paranormal romance flick. So yea, go get both to enjoy on a summer night.

some insight on how bad moments influence our identity, from Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon TED quote

“We don’t seek the painful experiences that hew our identities, but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences.”

“Forge meaning and build identity: Forging meaning is about changing yourself; building identity is about changing the world.”

“We cannot bear a pointless torment, but we can endure great pain if we believe that it’s purposeful.”

“Ease makes less of an impression on us than struggle.”

“We could have been ourselves without our delights, but not without the misfortunes that drive our search for meaning.”

“Identity itself should be not a smug label or a gold medal but a revolution.”

Andrew Solomon, from his TED Talk, “How the Worst Moments In Our Lives Make Us Who We Are.” Solomon is a writer on politics, culture, and psychology. He is a regular contributor to NPR, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other publications. His book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2001 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

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