Friday, June 14, 2013

Review, Author Interview & Kindle Fire Giveaway: Family Magic (Hayle Coven #1) by Patti Larsen

Family Magic (Hayle Coven, #1)
Make sure you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this post to check out the Kindle Fire giveaway!

Title: Family Magic
Series: Hayle Coven
Author: Patti Larsen
Genre: YA/Urban Fantasy
Release Date: October 27, 2011
Pages: 466, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 3.96 stars
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Content: Rated PG (one kiss and one magical battle scene - but definitely appropriate for younger readers).

Her mom’s a witch.
Her dad’s a demon.
And she just wants to be ordinary.

I batted at the curl of smoke drifting off the tip of my candle and tried not to sneeze. My heavy velvet cloak fell in oppressive, suffocating folds in the closed space of the ceremony chamber, the cowl trapping the annoying bits of puff I missed. I hated the way my eyes burned and teared, an almost constant distraction. Not that I didn’t welcome the distraction, to be honest. Anything to take my mind from what went on around me.

Being part of a demon raising is way less exciting than it sounds.

Sydlynn Hayle’s life couldn’t be more complicated. Trying to please her coven, starting over in a new town, and fending off a bully cheerleader who hates her are just the beginning of her troubles. What to do when delicious football hero Brad Peters–boyfriend of her cheer nemesis–shows interest? If only the darkly yummy witch, Quaid Moromond, didn’t make it so difficult for her to focus on fitting in with the normal kids. Add to that her crazy grandmother’s constant escapes driving her family to the brink and Syd’s between a rock and a coven site. Forced to take on power she doesn’t want to protect a coven who blames her for everything, only she can save her family’s magic. 

If her family’s distrust doesn’t destroy her first.


Family Magic started out looking really promising to me.  While the book lost some steam for me in the middle, it got exciting again at the end, so overall I enjoyed it.  The story follows a teen girl named Syd, half witch, half demon - she wishes she could just be normal!  Unfortunately, when things start to go wrong with her coven's magic, she finds that her powers just might be inescapable!  

Issues I had with the book:
  • Syd's attitude.  For the first half of the book, Syd just seemed really annoying and whiny.  She complained about everything - her perfect parents, her lack of friends at school, her inability to escape magic.  It was okay at first - teen angst and all, but then it just started to get so severe that I was getting tired of reading it.  I had to put the book down for a bit because I just didn't like Syd very much and I didn't like reading about her either.
  • The emotional instability of the characters. Honestly, there were times when I felt that all of the characters in this book must have had multiple personality disorder because they changed their entire personalities at the drop of a hat.  Syd at one point in the book literally went from giggling with her little sister to dropping a chandelier in rage in the span of about two lines of the book.  She also went from loving to hating her mother about a million times throughout the book, often with very little provocation.  Other characters shifted equally abruptly - sometimes multiple times in the book.  The girls in the high school were so incredibly mean to Syd for no apparent reason - they attacked her mercilessly - and then with one confrontation, they all want to be her friend - and then one of them becomes her best friend and the others all turn back into horrible mean, caricatures again with seemingly no reason.  Syd would deal with this by cowering and then deciding to stand up to them and then becoming aloof and ignoring the nice kids who actually want to be friends with her and then... really, it changes so many times, I could go on forever.  Speaking of the bullying...
  • The high school storyline.  Okay, let me start by saying that I think this storyline actually might be appealing to pre-teens and younger teens.  Bullying was a big theme in the book and I think that it was great to present this theme to kids who might be feeling like school is a battlefield. I just thought that the entire storyline was a bit too cliche - the mean girls and the high school football star who is really good at heart and so on and so forth.  All of this has been done before and I feel like it's been done better, so I wasn't loving it.

What I really enjoyed:
  • The premise.  Like I said, this book started out really great for me.  I thought that the premise was interesting and I loved that Larsen put a bit of a fresh spin on the typical teen witch storyline.  Instead of a normal teen girl who is suddenly plunged into the world of witchcraft when she discovers that she has powers, we have a girl who has always known exactly what she is and she just doesn't like it.  I actually kind of thought it was fun that the magic that was going on around her was no big deal to her (even though it all seemed rather impressive to the reader).  Of course, she has to come to realize that magic is a part of her and that she shouldn't run from them, but it's a journey - and I thought that this part of the story was strong.
  • The magic.  There were some really fun magical scenes in this book that made me laugh.  I also really enjoyed the mystery behind what was happening to the family's magic and who was behind it all.  I did think that some of the reveals weren't all that surprising, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. The final battle scene kept me on the edge of my seat and I loved it when Syd finally let her demon really come out to play.  I hope to see more of that in future books (I"m sure we will!).
  • The family bonds.  There were times when Syd drove me crazy with her love/hate relationship with her mother, but I loved that blood was thicker than water in the end and the good moments between the family members (including Syd's little half-demon sister, her demon dad, her mom and her crazy witch grandma) were really sweet.  It's nice to see parents depicted as something other than a non-entity in a YA book.
So, overall, I enjoyed the magical parts of this book, but was less excited about the high school storylines.  I do, however, think that this book would be really great for a younger teen (or even pre-teen) girl.  There were some great messages in the book for girls of this age range and they might relate to the high school storyline enough to overlook some of the cliche elements there.  Syd transformed into a much more likable character in the second half of the book - I'm really interested to see if that character development continues in the next book!    3.5/5 Stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own***

Don’t miss the exciting sequels in the Hayle Coven Novels:
Witch Hunt
Demon Child
The Wild
The Long Lost
Flesh and Blood
Full Circle
Divided Heart
First Plane
Light and Shadow
Queen of Darkness
Dark Promise
Unseelie Ties
Ancient Ways
The Undying
Shifting Loyalties

And Coming Soon:
Coven Leader
The Last Call

Buy Now @ Amazon

More details about the author

Connect with Patti Larsen on Facebook & Twitter


Tell us a bit about your family. I grew up with readers and dreamers, a family of creatives. My mother loved romance novels, sewing, can knit anything and is a championship woodcarver. My father raised me on hard-core science fiction and fantasy and served as my Dungeon Master for almost a decade. Both of my sisters are also avid fiction fans, the oldest a successful businesswoman and my middle sister a Bohemian who loves to travel and volunteer in third world countries. I’m married to a workaholic like me, who runs a golf course. Together, we are raising five massive cats.

What is your favorite quality about yourself? I only say yes to things that make me happy. I learned long ago I was accepting responsibilities that weren’t taking me where I wanted to go and saying no to the things that really mattered out of guilt and false obligation.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself? I’m a chocolate addict. While I love the stuff, it’s my nemesis and if I could quit, I would. Maybe. Probably.

Snort. Who am I kidding?

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why? Trust the Universe, Mike Dooley. I have it tatooed on my right foot. Because it is the only thing you need to know. Trust. Then leap.

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? Becoming a full-time author who is actually making a living on my books. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, my very first passion. And I’m finally doing it.

What is your favorite color? Blue. All shades. There’s just something amazing about it, like it’s soul color.

What is your favorite food? I have to pick one? Chocolatepizzaburgerbutterchickenfries.

What’s your favorite place in the entire world? My beautiful home, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Stunning red cliffs and beaches, deep green fields, fun and happy people who create as a way of life, not as an afterthought. I really love it here.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing? I was a nerdy, geekgirl with a terrible self esteem. I lived in my head, with my characters from such a young age, it was more real to write and engage with the people of my imaginings than those in the real world.

With two extrovert sisters and a very charismatic mother, it was hard to be the quiet, melancholy one. Though I am very grateful for my geekiness now. And, as they say, trial and pain make better writing. I’m just glad the dark stuff is behind me, if not the nerdadge.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I had never read any young adult before, raised on hard-core sci-fi and fantasy thanks to my father. But when a friend handed me a Nancy Drew mystery, I read it in two hours. Literally closed the book, looked up from it and told my parents I was going to write a book of my own.

What inspires you to write and why? My husband always tries to shush me when I say this out loud, but I ignore him. I don’t care if it sounds nuts. I hear voices. Loud and clear, badgering me almost constantly to tell their stories. Teenagers, mostly. Bossy bunch. But I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

What genre are you most comfortable writing? I have some adult and middle grade books in the pipeline, but for some reason my inner teenagers are the loudest. And until they decide their stories are told, I’ll be focusing on them.

What inspired you to write your first book? I had just finished the last book of the Harry Potter series, coming to the realization I needed to be writing novels again after many years dabbling in screenwriting and other forms of creativity. I asked the Universe—basically my subconscious—for an idea. And I woke in the middle of the night, about 2:30 am, with a girl’s voice in my head. She prodded me to get up and wouldn’t let me rest until I did. She had me write the following: My mom’s a witch, my dad’s a demon and I just want to be ordinary. I’ve been writing about Sydlynn Hayle and her crazy family ever since.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began? I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons in my youth, starting at about age nine. So living/breathing/dreaming in the worlds my father and others built around our characters was a huge influence. I also found a great deal of inspiration from reading about history, taking classics courses, studying ancient Greece and Egypt.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? None of it. I love what I do so much. From finding the core idea to developing an outline, writing and editing and all the things in between. Just. Awesome.

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? That I was good enough. I’d always doubted, was told I wasn’t ready. But when I wrote Family Magic, when I heard Syd so clearly and the book poured out of me as though she was writing it, not me, I knew then I’d finally reached the point I could do this for a living.

Do you intend to make writing a career? Yes, I already am. I’ve been happily writing full time as my only job for three years now.

Have you developed a specific writing style? I don’t think so, but maybe I’m wrong. Each character’s voices are so distinct, some preferring choppy, pithy sentences, others with long, drawn out ways of speaking. I know I probably share certain ticks and phrase usage, but when I’m writing a character, I only hear their voice.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? I trust my talent now. I know to step out of the way of the character and let them speak through me. I write with my right (creative) brain and never allow my left (logical) brain to take part. Even in editing. Logic has no place in edits.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? I don’t believe in writer’s block, not even in the case of serious trauma. If you can write a Facebook or Twitter post, you’re not blocked. Fear is the greatest downfall of every writer and it is that fear—either of success or failure—that keeps them from writing.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? I’m presently writing book eighteen of the Hayle Coven Novels, Enforcer. Syd begins her journey in Family Magic as a sixteen-year-old who just wants out of the family coven. To live her life like an ordinary teenager. By the end of the series, she’s a force to be reckoned with, a powerful being with the universe in the palm of her hand who still screws up, has a fun sense of humor and feels so much for others it’s constantly getting her in trouble.

How did you come up with the title? The title came when Syd showed up the first time. The tagline and title just fell on me, and there was never any question it was perfect.

Can you tell us about your main character? Oh Syd, Syd. Sydlynn Thaddea Hayle is the daughter of a powerful witch, the leader of her coven, and a Demon Lord of the Seventh Plane. And yet, all of her life, she has only ever wanted to be ordinary. Snarky, sarcastic, with a wicked sense of humor and often hilarious inner dialogue, Syd barrels her way through life with her fiery temper and sense of right dropping her into trouble on a regular basis. Strong willed, argumentative and stubborn, she is a force to be reckoned with.

How did you develop your plot and characters? I use a very specific outlining method I’ve developed over the years, tying in my training in journalism, screenwriting and prose. It works very well for me and allows me to write quickly and cleanly.

Who designed the cover? Stephanie Mooney from Mooney Designs created the Family Magic cover. I love it as much now as I did when she first showed it to me.

Who is your publisher? I work with three publishers, but the bulk of my work I’ve published on my own, through my company, Patti Larsen Books.

Why did you choose to write this particular book? I laugh at this question, only because I feel like I didn’t choose—Syd chose me. And I’m so very grateful she did.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? Having to go to work when all I wanted to do was write. I owned a hair salon at the time I first developed Family Magic. It was so difficult to shift out of Syd’s world in Wilding Springs and back to the real one. I felt like I was a teenager again, losing myself inside. It was awesome.

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it? I learned I was supposed to be writing books. No more working on other things, time to focus. I’m so grateful I listened to my instincts and did just that.

How do you promote this book? I’ve used a number of avenues, such as the KDP Select program through Amazon, advertising, social media. I do countless giveaways of ebooks and swag. But I really think the biggest promotion so far has come from my readers who love it. Tell everyone they know about it. They are so valuable and their kindness in sharing never ceases to make me all squishy inside. I love it.

Will you write others in this same genre? I tend to write mostly young adult, and always paranormal, though I do cross genres frequently. I’ve published horror, thrillers, post apocalyptic, urban fantasy. You name it. But everything I write has a paranormal element, for some reason.

And I have several spin-off series planned after this particular twenty volume run is over.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? I don’t write with a message in mind. But Syd has her own ideas, I suppose. To her, family is everything. Standing up for what’s right no matter what it might mean to her personally. Taking charge and action when no one else will. I love her as a role model, because she knows she’s flawed, but acts anyway.

How much of the book is realistic? I find it funny how normal everything is to Syd. From high school to coven life, soccer to her vampire uncle and his undead girlfriend who live in cupboards in her basement. Just folks. Her preppy best friend and her demon Persian who is always lecturing her on her manners. Syd manages to weave the real with the paranormal in such a way it feels like she could live next door and you wouldn’t think twice about it.

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? Not at all, at least not on purpose. Though Syd is as real to me, her family and friends—even her enemies—so clear and solid it’s as though I really know them.

How important do you think villains are in a story? Very important. But even more so, villains who are as real and flawed as the main character. Who you can empathize with, or see later had their own motivations. Enemies you can almost understand while hating their guts.

What are your goals as a writer? I’ve always said I’m aiming for world literary domination and I’m not even kidding. I want to be a household name. And I’m doing everything I possibly can to make that happen, one reader at a time.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? I don’t travel extensively, though I am attending my second convention this year. I’m really looking forward to it and hope to make it a regular occurrence.

What books have most influenced your life? I grew up on hard-core fantasy and science fiction, so my biggest influences come from those genres. The Belgariad by David Eddings, the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffery. Anything by Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, JRR Tolkien, Isaac Asimov. The list is long and all of the authors on it left a mark on my spirit.

Have you ever considered anyone as a mentor? When I finished reading Harry Potter, I had so much admiration for JK Rowling. I really credit those books with waking me up to the fact I needed to be writing novels again. And the more I learn of her, the more amazing I think she is. So not a direct mentor, but I humbly follow in her footsteps and hope to someday be as influential.

Who is your favorite author and why? I honestly can’t pick just one. I have so many favorites, it would be impossible.

Can we expect any more books from you in the future? With thirty seven behind me and fifteen more coming this year alone, I think it’s going to be a long time before I run out of books to write.

Have you started another book yet? I’m already working on several, with a new spin-off series ready to be written this summer, based on the Hayle Coven Universe.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Writing. Happy. Writing some more.

What are your current writing projects now? I’m presently working on the final book of the Hayle Coven Novels, #20 The Last Call.

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I am! I love to read and try to fit in at least an hour a day. I’m presently in the middle of NYT Bestseller Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase. Since I always wanted to be a princess, she’s making my old fantasies come back in a rush. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s fantastic.

Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why? Nichole Chase is one. I love her writing style and her storytelling makes me smile. It’s no wonder she’s a New York Times bestseller. I also love Angela Scott. She writes zombie westerns—just fantastic. Kimberly Kinrade is another favorite. Catie Rhodes’s Forever Road is just brilliant. I could go on and on, you know. I’m finding so many amazing writers in this new publishing world, writers who may never have seen their work published. A shame, because they are top notch.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? Microsoft Word, as much as everyone complains about it, is really the best software and the only one I use, for editing especially. I know there are other writing programs, such as yWriter and Scrivener, but I prefer to do all of my outlining by hand and find those programs make me anxious. Too crowded!

What contributes to making a writer successful? The spark, first and foremost. I don’t care who you are, if you don’t have it, you’ll never be a writer. Everything else can be learned, but that tiny touch of creative need is absolutely necessary.

From there, education, and not just from studying English lit, but actually dissecting stories that work, from books to television shows to movies and short stories. All writing.

Actually writing. Not just playing at it, but sitting down, butt in chair, and putting the words on the page or screen.

And trusting the muse, the Universe, you’re doing it right.

Do you have any advice for writers? Three pieces I’ve finally come to believe are vital. One, explore all kinds of writing. Try a screenplay. Poetry. Short stories. Outline. Write by the seat of your pants. Play with it to find what works for you. Two, don’t stop, not ever. No matter what someone else thinks/tells you. Yes, you can. Maybe you’re not there yet, but you will be. And three, have fun, would you? We fall into the pit-trap of ego where we worry and fret and judge. This is fun. Or it is supposed to be. If it isn’t, time to refocus.

Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers? Thank you for loving Syd as much as I do.

What do you do to unwind and relax? Read in the tub. My favorite.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing? I’m doing what I love, when I want. I’m making stuff up and writing it down and people pay me for it. How cool is that?

Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us? I’m so excited to be part of a three-author live chat with the amazing Kimberly Kinrade, award winning author of the Seduced series and Nichole Chase, New York Times and USA Today bestseller. We’ll be talking writing, our books and doing an amazing giveaway of signed copies of our novels as well as having a whole lot of fun with our readers. You can find the event here:

If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be? Always follow the dreams you had as a child. Do them in whatever capacity you are able. Trust the little person you were knew what they were talking about.

When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have? I wrote until I had no more stories to tell. And the ones I did tell made people happy/sad/angry/excited. I made a difference in lives with the characters I wrote about and they made a difference to me. 

About Patti Larsen: You’re not looking for my polished bio, huh? You sure you want more? The real dirty, down deep, nitty gritty? Fair enough. Here goes: I’m a card-carrying nerd. It’s taken years to admit it. I’m also a hermit in a writing basement who prefers solitude to people (cats always welcome). I’m a writing fiend who hears the voices of teenagers and blushes at the S-E-X parts. I don’t sleep very well. Ever. My mind is too busy. I am a feline loving married woman who could easily end up a crazy cat lady if my husband would let me. I am a paradigm shifter, a believer in self and my own personal power. I see everything in black and white until the gray is explained to me. I am a fiercely loyal friend, a confidant and a Tarot card reader and intuitive. I am a proud roller derby girl, a total dweeb and can’t dance to save my soul. I am terrified of heights and challenge that fear every chance I get. Oh, and I’m the Creator. The Queen of my own Destiny. I love that.


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  1. Most definitely a fairy! So cute and tiny and magical!
    Thanks for the awesome giveaway :D

  2. Probably witch, because it comes with magical abilities. I wouldn't mind being a vampire either if I could be the non-human-blood-drinking type.

    1. Don't we all wish we had magical abilities? Good luck on the contest!

  3. I would like to be a fairy because they are cute and magical.

    GayAnna Weddle

  4. Vampire, speed, strength, immortality, sex appeal :)

    1. Ah, yes, I definitely have to agree with you on that list - it does sound very appealing!

  5. I would be a wizard because the magic could grant me quite a lot, and if I am powerful enough I could probably kick most butts.

    1. Sorry, witch, although I suppose wizard is the male counterpart.

    2. This would be Getty Hesse.
      By the way, this blog is phenomenal! I shall be following you from now on.

    3. Glad you stopped by, Getty! I just checked out your blog as well (and followed) and am happy to be able to welcome you to the blogosphere!

  6. Fae

    1) A fae is a humanoid mystical creature that wields great power in magic and elementals.

    1. Good choice - it would be cool to be anyone that wields great power in magic and elementals! (Although in Family Magic, the fae are actually kind of like slaves, so I don't think I'd want to be one in that world!)

  7. I think I would rather be a Fae as well, in most worlds at least, lol! Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. Fabulous review!! Personalities shifting that much would be a bit annoying, but I'm glad you still enjoyed the book. The Magical aspect is what has drawn me to this story, will have to add it to my ever growing pile of books to read!!

    1. Yes, I'm definitely interested in reading more in this series and seeing how it continues. While there were some things that held me back from absolutely LOVING this book, I still think it was a great start to the series and the magic in it was awesome!