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Beautiful Creatures - Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia Good read w/room for more, 3.5 stars

Beautiful Creatures was an enjoyable read, but it left me wanting more Southern atmosphere, more romance, and better pacing. Set in rural South Carolina, Ethan has grown up feeling limited by the small town that surrounds him. He longs for the impossible - for things to change. Things do change when Lena Duchannes moves to town, bringing with her suspicion and prejudice on behalf of the townspeople. Ethan feels inexplicably drawn to Lena, and very soon, he finds himself part of a world where the supernatural, history, love, and curses all meet.

On the strong side, the story itself is fascinating and unpredictable, with multiple, intersecting plot lines that reveal themselves over time. The book has a different and developed supernatural premise compared to the typical werewolf or vampire fare. The writing is mostly clear and strong overall. The novel takes a welcome departure from books typical to this genre by featuring a mortal guy (Ethan) as the narrator who's involved with a supernatural girl (Lena). Many secondary characters, like Amma and Macon Ravenwood, are fleshed out and of value to the plot throughout. There's also a strong, consistent theme that one's actions have consequences - even when done in haste, even after generations.

However, I expected this book to grab me and keep me reading into the wee hours; this never happened. The novel felt too long, and the story dragged significantly in the middle. For a story that's centered on the fear of an upcoming date and the potentially devastating changes it will bring, I didn't feel a sense of impending doom and tension until the end. Ethan and Lena had a relationship that developed in a non-rushed, realistic way, but I didn't feel the spark between them as romantic characters as much as I have with other books. Despite the generally good writing, there were also a few notable discrepancies in the narration that pulled me out of the story. While the setting had a small-town, rural feel, it wasn't specifically a Southern one. I wanted more description so I could envision the landscape or environment. Finally, I was disappointed because the book, like so many others, concluded with an obvious unresolved ending to set up a sequel.

Overall, it wasn't a huge gripe on any matter; it was merely that the book didn't grab me as much as I had hoped. I look forward to Garcia and Stohl bringing more clarity, a better sense of place, and more even pacing in the novels to come.