The Eternal Kiss by various authors, edited by Trisha Telep

I actually tend to like anthologies because it gives me a chance to “try out” or find new authors I may not have tried out on my own. Usually there are always hits and misses, but what I liked about The Eternal Kiss was that although it is a young adult anthology and it’s about vampires it doesn’t make the mistake of only being about teenage romance, and it doesn’t shy away from the darker side of vampires. I picked this ARC up at BEA.

I did something a little different here – I wrote up my review as I read the book, just jotting a couple of sentences on each short story. Very brief reviews follow (my two favorite stories were the ones by Karen Mahoney and by Sarah Brennan):

1) Falling to Ash by Karen Mahoney – Vampire girl (Moth) comes home to find her sire wants her to get the ashes of a recently staked vampire. Really like this one, this author has been on my radar on LJ, but I hadn’t connected the the LJ user with “Karen Mahoney” (sometimes things get past me), until I had already read and liked this.  This is the introduction to a series about Moth, so now looking forward to it.

2) Shelter Island by Melissa de la Cruz – 15 year old Hannah has a mysterious visitor at night. I couldn’t connect with this one. I think the characters, particularly the female protagonist were a not substantial enough in the amount of pages this story was for me to grasp them.

3) Sword Point by Maria V. Snyder – Girl fencer discovers that the prestigious fencing school she goes to is more than it seems – interesting at first but then I started to lose interest halfway when the relationship part occurs. The action at the end felt very perfunctory.

4) The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – A bitten girl tries to stay human, but then learns her ex-boyfriend and a neighbor girl have run away to Coldtown, the vampire section of town. A dark story about the glamorizing of vampirism. Liked it, nice and chilling.

5) Undead is Very Hot Right Now by Sarah Brennan – A nineteen year old who has been a vampire for a year joins a boy band. Hilarious. I laughed aloud so much reading this one. Another author I plan to look for in the bookstore.

6) Kat by Kelley Armstrong – A teen is awoken by her vampire guardian and try to escape would-be captors in the middle of the night – Interesting. Ending makes me want to read more, maybe the start of a series?

7) The Thirteenth Step by Libba Bray – Teen gets a job at a halfway house which may not be all that it seems. I think my own experiences cloud the way I read this story. It bothered me that the protagonist become like the addict sister she considered selfish.

8 ) All Hallows by Rachel Caine – Vampire boyfriend of the narrator gets into trouble and she goes in to save him. Readers may need to have read other Morganville books. This is a short story in that world that seems to fit in the timeline after the first 4 or 5 books.

9) Wet Teeth by Cecil Castellucci A vampire begins to feel alive for the first time in a long time after meeting a strange girl in the park. This one seems to focus on the ending, and left me a bit wanting for the rest of the story, but seems to be in the right vein for horror.

10) Other Boys by Cassandra Clare- A girl begins to get interested in the new boy in school, who says he’s a vampire. This one had elements of nice old school horror.

11) Passing by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié – A girl has to pass the final class in her vampire hunter academy – only one student will get a special elixar. A bit too complex of a back story to cram into a short story space.

12) Ambition by Lili St. Crow –  Smart but poor schoolgirl meets boy at club. Girl falls out with rich best friend. Boy may be supernatural. Dreamy, sort of hazy relationship that may be dangerous à la Heavenly Creatures. I keep re-reading the last three lines, wanting questions answered.

13) All Wounds by Dina James – Girl discovers her grandmother and the bad boy in detention aren’t exactly who she thought they were, and neither is she. Looks like the start of a new series so there’s a lot of plot set-up, but not much time for more than brief character sketches.

The Eternal Kiss will be released July 27th.

Author Interview: Lili St. Crow

I decided to do something I’ve never done before in this blog. An author interview. ooOooo!! Very exciting! 😀

I just reviewed Lili St. Crow’s new book, Strange Angels (link to  wordpress / LJ)  and I sent her some questions about the series and some general questions about being an author. She reveals some interesting information about the rest of the series, plus talks about being an author who uses plenty of profanity (hehe), and I think it gives people an idea of what to expect from this series. Thank you for answering my questions Lili.

Read on for more.

Strange Angels questions:

Please tell us something about Strange Angels. How would you describe this book?

It’s like Supernatural meets Buffy, plus Appalachian folk magic and Eastern European folklore, plus a soupcon of Vampire Hunter D. Dru Anderson, our heroine, has been traveling around with her dad, killing things that go bump in the night. When her dad shows up as a zombie, suddenly she’s on her own–and all the secrets her parents never told her start crowding in. The things she and her dad hunted start hunting back.

The scene with Dru at the beginning of the book with the zombie had a lot of suspense and I had to reassure myself that she’ll be ok because there would be no book otherwise. It reminded me of good horror movies where you’re freaking out along with the person on the screen. Are you a big zombie horror movie fan and if so do you have any favorites?

I’m not a huge zombie buff. I’ve seen Romero’s movies, sure, and I watched Shawn of the Dead and Planet Terror like everyone else. My favorite horror movies tend to include more vampires than zombies, because I’m fascinated by the polymorphous aspect of the vampire myth.

The scene with Dru and the zombie was in the very first bit of the book I had done, and when I was asked to do some YA I sent that along, so the editor would kind of see what they were dealing with. To be honest I expected there to be trouble over it, because it is such a troubling scene. But that is the kind of writer I am, and I wanted it up-front. I wanted to say, this is what we’re dealing with here, there is real risk and real danger. Without real danger to the character, horror just isn’t…well, frightening.

The werewulfen and zombies and other creatures in this book are familiar yet different. For example the zombies turn to dust after being “killed”. What’s your favorite otherworldly creature and why?

There are so many otherworldy creatures! I don’t know if I can pick a favorite; they are a feast for a writer. Certainly the creature I’m most fascinated with is the vampire. The permutations and changes of the vampire as each generation starts playing with bloodsucking as a metaphor are something I find fascinating. People’s vampires tell you a lot about them, a lot about how they view the world and what they’re scared of.

I noticed that for Strange Angels, you use the name Lili St. Crow and I’ve seen you as Lilith Saintcrow on other titles. Is this to distinguish your young adult books from adult ones?

Yes. I’m a fairly prolific writer, and we wanted to be clear that these books weren’t part of my adult oeuvre, so to speak.

How did deciding to write a young adult series come about? Was it just a natural progression – the next story you wanted to tell happened to be young adult, or was it more planned – you wanted to try your hand at it? And how different is it writing adult versus young adult?

I actually never thought I would be writing in the young adult. My work has plenty of profanity and plenty of troublesome themes that I thought would mean I’d never get close to writing anything for younger readers. But…I was asked if I had anything that might do for a young adult book, and I had the first few chapters of Strange Angels lying around. It was something I was very interested in, because I could tell the rest of the story was there, but I hadn’t had time to work on it yet.

So I sent those first few chapters off and started working on it full-time, and next thing I knew we had a contract for a series. And I was terrified. I’d never written young adult before, and part of the process was me calling the editor and saying, “You’ve read what I write, right? You know I put the F-word in things, right? You know characters are going to die, right?” And she was fine with that. That was why they’d asked me, as a matter of fact.

So I was still terrified, but I decided to just barge in and do it. Nothing ever gets done if you’re too afraid to make a move. Besides, I feel very strongly that if I show up consistently to take dictation, the Muse won’t let me down. My job is to be available for the words, and the words will take care of the rest.

For fans of Strange Angels – any influences? Are there authors or books you’d recommend for young adult readers?

Of course the first few episodes of Supernatural and the first two seasons of Buffy were huge influences, as well as Vampire Hunter D and Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John books and short stories. And Dru and her father listened to a lot of classic rock, so I’m rediscovering classic rock stations now, and music I listened to in my childhood since it was the only thing the whole family could agree on. The music is a huge part of my creative process.

When I was younger, I read omnivorously. I particularly enjoyed Stephen King, Alice Hoffman, LJ Smith, Robin McKinley, Anne McCaffrey, early Mercedes Lackey, and of course all the Algernon Blackwood, Robert Aikman, and Tanith Lee I could get my hands on. That’s not a bad lineup of authors, I think.

Strange Angels is the start of a series – do you have an idea how many books this series will be?

Right now there’s three in the series, with the possibility of another two books later. That’s about as far as it would be possible to tell Dru’s story.

Any hints you want to give us about what to expect in the second book? When will it be out and what will it be called? 🙂

The book will be out in November ’09, and it’s called Betrayals. We have two first kisses, lots of fight scenes, burning buildings, a car chase, and treachery. In other words, I had a lot of fun.

General questions

It seems to me that you are a prolific writer – the Dante Valentine series of five books all came out within two years and then you started the Jill Kismet series and I’ve seen books from you at other publishers (The Demon’s Librarian which I want to read, and Steelflower..amongst others). You must be very busy! Tell us something about your day to day schedule.

My day is pretty boring. Get up, make breakfast for the kids, tend to correspondence and the weblog. Make lunch, settle down to writing between the other minutiae of childrearing and keeping the house from sinking into chaos. Make dinner, clean up, go back to writing. Put kids in bed, then write until about midnight. Go to bed around 1AM. Get up in the morning and do it again.

See? Boring. Most days I don’t even leave the house.

I really liked Selene and Nikolai when they were first introduced in the Dante Valentine series and then reading the serialized novel “Selene” online. Are you planning to continue their story from where “Selene” leaves off?

Eventually, yes. I know what happens next. The problem is time–I literally have no time for discretionary projects at the moment.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for asking me! That about covers it. Thank you very much.

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Strange Angels
Lili St. Crow

Note: this review is based on an ARC I received from the publisher

Premise: Dru Anderson knows all about scary creatures like werewulfen, suckers, gator-spirits, chupacabras, ghosts, and zombies and she’s helped her dad track and kill a few. It’s a rough life but Dru has been doing this since her grandmother died and her dad came to take her with him. They’ve moved from one town to the next while tracking down the next supernatural target. Now Dru is sixteen and the latest town is Foley, South Dakota. They’ve been here for a very short time, still unpacked (though they never unpack anymore), when one night Dru’s dad goes out after something doesn’t come back the next morning. Dru knows something horrible has happened – her gifts warn her in her dreams and it isn’t long before she’s forced into battling creatures by herself. An unexpected ally appears in a schoolmate – goth boy Graves has taken an interest in Dru and offers his help despite not knowing anything about the trouble she’s in. Both of them are alone in the world until that point, but things get further complicated when Christophe shows up talking about the Kouroi and telling Dru she’s more special than she thinks.

Excerpt of Strange Angels

My Thoughts: This is the first young adult book by Lili St. Crow. She’s also written adult books like the Dante Valentine series, the Jill Kismet series and others.

I’ve read a couple of books into the Dante Valentine series and Dante to me is a really tough kind of character and once I read some of her past I understood where her demons were coming from. I think it’s Lili St. Crow’s speciality to create strong women characters because Dru also has some elements of this toughness in her. She’s also realistic. Dru has been through a lot and her coping with her father’s death was dealt with in a reasonable way. Dru has to fall apart a little bit, and that’s when Graves finds her. She’s in shock, but she rallies because her life is in danger, and part of her coping mechanism is hearing her father’s voice pushing her on to survive. I prefer having a main character like this, especially since she’s our narrator.

Graves too is not without his depths. To Dru he first he came off as naive, but as she gets to know him she learns he’s smarter and more resilient than she’d expected. I’m always happy (um, possibly biased) to see half-asian characters in books so he’s already a positive addition to the book there, but his sense of humor in scary situations also endeared me to him. I hope in the next book we can learn a bit more about his back story (and Dru’s).

Lots of action is going on as Dru and Graves run into supernatural creatures I was not familiar with along with some familiar ones (werewolves, vampires, zombies) with their own special twist. The zombie scene was particularly nerve wracking and brought to mind those horror movies where you have to watch through your hands! But maybe I’m the only chicken who does that.

It’s a sensory read – for example, weather is one of the things I found very well described. It’s winter in the Dakotas, and the descriptions of the cold and the snow and ice in a small town were prevalent throughout the book. Boy, am I glad it’s spring now because St. Crow’s descriptions took me to a place with bad winter storms and a hushed world covered in white.

Overall: If you want a recommendation for a young adult urban fantasy, I’d put this on the list. It has a serious, believable teen as a protagonist and the creatures that roam around in this book are really creepy.  It’s refreshing to read an urban fantasy aimed at teens that doesn’t have a high school cliche as a main character  because I don’t recall knowing anyone really like that.  Dru on the other hand is tough, but she’s also vulnerable and scared and thinks that she’s just a kid, and she is believable. This is the start to a very promising series.

Strange Angels is available May 14th.

Betrayals (book 2) is available November 17th (this date I’m not 100% sure of)

Reviews elsewhere: