Anne’s Book Club 14 – HARROWED Cover Reveal!

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Harrowed (The Woodsview Murders #1) by Brian Letendre & Jolene Haley (blurb):

Journalism Rule #1: Always report the story. Never become the story.

Avery Blair has accepted the fact that nothing exciting ever happens in her small town of Woodsview, Massachusetts. As the editor of the high school blog, she prays for something—anything—to come along that would make for a great headline.

When Beatrice Thompson’s body is found in the girls’ bathroom, Avery has her biggest story ever. The rumors circulating the school say that Beatrice took her own life, but Avery doesn’t believe it for a second. Her instincts prove true when the next day brings another body bag.

The tiny community of Woodsview has become the hunting ground for a killer known as the Harvester. The killer targets Avery and her classmates, stalking their every move and terrorizing them with morbid messages.

With the help of her boyfriend Jason, her best friend Quinn, and an aging detective who can’t keep her off the case, Avery dives head-first into her own investigation. She discovers that the secret of the Woodsview Harvester is buried in the town’s history and its annual Harvest Festival celebration. With every clue she uncovers, Avery grows closer to unmasking the killer—and becoming the next victim.

Avery Blair has finally found a story to die for…if she can stay alive long enough to write it.

More Info on Harrowed (The Woodsview Murders #1):

Releases: 09/22/15 by Horror Twins Press
Goodreads

About the Authors:

Brian LeTendre is the writer of the Parted Veil horror series, which includes Courting the King in Yellow, Lovecraft’s Curse, and Lovecraft’s Pupil.

A gaming, comics and horror lover, Brian has co-hosted and produced a podcast about geek culture called Secret Identity since 2006, producing well over 1000 hours of programming. He also hosts and produces three other podcasts about writing (See Brian Write), design and small business (Kitbash Radio) and gaming (Co-Op Critics).

In addition to podcasting, Brian has worked as a freelance games journalist, and currently writes a webcomic called Mo Stache, which can be read for free online and will be collected in print in 2016.

Brian lives and works in Massachusetts.

Twitter | Blog | Amazon | Podcasts

Jolene Haley is the author of the Woodsview Murders series, Harrowed (out 9/22/15) and Haunted, coming fall 2016. She’s also the curator of the best-selling horror anthology The Dark Carnival through Pen & Muse Press.

She runs a YA horror blog The Midnight Society, the author resource site Pen & Muse, and Hocus Pocus & Co., a small horror press. She writes every genre under the sun, but prefers horror.

When she’s not writing she can be found cuddling her two dogs and enjoying the beach, where she lives.

Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | Facebook

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Anne’s Book Club 12

THE LAST UNICORN directed by Arthur Rankin Jr & Jules Bass (summary from IMDb.com):

TLUopeninglinesFrom a riddle-speaking butterfly, a unicorn learns that she is supposedly the last of her kind, all the others having been herded away by the Red Bull. The unicorn sets out to discover the truth behind the butterfly’s words. She is eventually joined on her quest by Schmendrick, a second-rate magician, and Molly Grue, a now middle-aged woman who dreamed all her life of seeing a unicorn. Their journey leads them far from home, all the way to the castle of King Haggard.

My thoughts on THE LAST UNICORN (1982 film):

I loved this story when I was wee, and I love it now that I’m grown. There’s something about a hero’s journey, rich characters, and the unicorn that get me every time. Plus, did I mention unicorns?

It’s no surprise that I’ve loved mythological creatures for a long time. Unicorns, flying horses, and mermaids were there in my elementary years. Werewolves absolutely terrified and delighted me in middle school. Mostly, terrified. Vampires and faeries caught my eye in high school. But unicorns and mermaids have been there since the start. (In fact, one of my published stories, La Dame à la Licorne, may have something to do with a unicorn. Just saying’.)

“There are no happy endings, because nothing ends.”
~ Schmendrick

One of the reasons I think this story translated so well from novel to screen is that the screenwriter was Peter S. Beagle, the same man who wrote the original novel. All the parts I loved in the book are represented here. Much of the dialogue is translated exactly from book to script. It runs at a little over an hour and 30 mins, which might be too long for toddlers to sit through. There’s also some violence and a swear word slips in (not in the subtitles, however. Clever!), despite the G rating. I think I was 7 or 8 the first time I watched it. Then I pretty much ruined the tape due to multiple viewings. Fortunately, the 25th anniversary DVD was released in 2007.

The movie stands up to the test of time rather well. Mostly because the story takes place in a medieval-esque world where fashions and hairstyles aren’t reflective of the year the movie was created. There’s something pure and magical about the hand-painted scenery and cell-by-cell animation. I would love to have one of the cells from this film, something we lose when the film is created with CGI. (I do own one from THE SECRET OF NIMH, which is also a childhood favorite.) The unicorn is especially well-done. She’s otherworldly, yet familiar. Her mane and tail move as she prances on spindly legs. Her eyes remain lilac, like her wood, even when she’s turned into a human. The attention to detail from the animators is amazing.

After watching the movie again last night, I’ll be singing the songs for the rest of the week.

🎶I’m alive! I’m alive!🎶

Anne’s Book Club 11

TheStrangeMaidcover

The Strange Maid by Tessa Gratton (summary from Goodreads.com):

Fans of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater will embrace the richly drawn, Norse-influenced alternate world of the United States of Asgard, where cell phones, rock bands, and evangelical preachers coexist with dragon slaying, rune casting, and sword training in schools. Where the president runs the country alongside a council of Valkyries, gods walk the red carpet with Hollywood starlets, and the U.S. military has a special battalion dedicated to eradicating Rocky Mountain trolls.

Signy Valborn was seven years old when she climbed the New World Tree and met Odin Alfather, who declared that if she could solve a single riddle, he would make her one of his Valkyrie. For ten years Signy has trained in the arts of war, politics, and leadership, never dreaming that a Greater Mountain Troll might hold the answer to the riddle, but that’s exactly what Ned the Spiritless promises her. A mysterious troll hunter who talks in riddles and ancient poetry, Ned is a hard man to trust. Unfortunately, Signy is running out of time. Accompanied by an outcast berserker named Soren Bearstar, she and Ned take off across the ice sheets of Canadia to hunt the mother of trolls and claim Signy’s destiny.

My Thoughts on THE STRANGE MAID and an interview with author Tessa Gratton:

Full disclosure: I’ve been reading Tessa’s prose since 2008. I’m a huge fan. I had the pleasure of listening to her recite a few pages from Beowulf in Old English. The memory still gives me elf-kisses. As an English Literature major, Beowulf was one of my favorite projects. Grendel by the late great John Gardner is one of my favorite books. Both play a part in this sweeping tale. Norse mythology, monsters, love, and layers abound in THE STRANGE MAID, the second book in the United States of Asgard series.

What is truth? Is truth the words we write or say, or is it the meaning behind those words? Is it both? Is it neither? Signy Valborn can see a rune in another’s eye and know their truth. But these runes change, just as our truths change given the situation we find ourselves in. Signy’s given a riddle from Odin: The Valkyrie of the Tree will prove herself with a stone heart. After years of trying to figure out what it means, she meets Ned ‘the Spiritless’ Unferth who tells her he knows the answer. In his eye she reads Truth, while in her own she reads several different runes.

Ned is key to helping Signy both figure out the riddle, but also all the meanings of the runes. Even the one given to her in the form of a scar on her palm has layered meanings. The fact that Signy not only needs the help of others but asks for it, makes her a very realistic character. Her thirst for battle and madness in a world that’s tamped down those ideals into politics and order seemed perfectly logical. (Maybe I’m more than a little mad myself.) The relationship between Signy and Ned was a slow, believable burn. And the riddle is resolved in a beautiful and unique way that left me very satisfied. Although, I’d love to see another trilogy set in this world.

“… the troll mother’s marble skin captures all the dying light, and her shifting muscles are a kaleidoscope of color, like the northern lights dancing against her stone flesh.”

Though the entire story stands-alone from THE LOST SUN, several characters visit the pages of both. As a reader, I’m always fascinated to see how characters we loved in one book are perceived by other characters in a new book (or point-of-view). It plays on the theme of truth. Your truth is not mine. Your perception is not mine. So, what is truth?

Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a destiny to follow, no matter how difficult it was to tease out the riddle of it? Maybe that’s exactly what we’re doing.

What was the seed idea/scene that set this story in motion for you as the author?

I was in grad school and took a class in Old English. As I fell farther into the poetry of the Anglo-Saxons and their neighbors the Vikings, I realized how much modern US culture still shares with them. War and religion and politics are still intertwined just like in Viking and A-S literature. So for this series, it was a thematic spark, it was a desire to create an alternate world where I could play with my thoughts and feelings about American Warrior Culture in particular.

You studied Beowulf—and even translated your own version— at university, but outside of required reading for study, how much research did you do to create the United States of Asgard?

Oh, for another guest post I counted 43 books I bought specifically for USAsgard research over the past 5 years. I’ve read at least parts of all of those books, and most of most of them. I did some traveling around the USA, too, though most of my location inspiration came from family road trips when I was a kid.

If you lived in the United States of Asgard, which god/goddess would you belong to and why?

Odin, unfortunately. 😉 He’s the god of poetry and sacrifice, in addition to having a fluid sexuality and a violent streak. It’s not a coincidence most of the USAsgard stories I’ve told revolve in some way around Odinists. I’m writing about those themes because I have so many questions about them myself. As a writer, the link between creation and violence really fascinates me.

THE STRANGE MAID is the both the prequel and the sequel to THE LOST SUN (2013) with a completely new main character, Signy Valborn. Why did you choose to structure your trilogy this way?

I never intended for this to be a trilogy. Originally I was writing short stories in this world for my story blog (www.merryfates.com), then the story that became THE LOST SUN was born, and it truly functions as a stand alone novel because I didn’t know if I’d write more. When I decided to expand, I imagined a 5 book arc. For a lot of reasons that didn’t happen. THE STRANGE MAID was always book 2, and what will be Book 3 used to be pieces of book 5. I took my ideas for the middle books and am writing novellas using those ideas and characters.

Basically: I am a messy writer. I go where the story leads me, and in the case of THE STRANGE MAID, that was a sprawling timeline that forced the book to be both prequel and sequel.

One of my favorite Songs of New Asgard short stories is Date with a Dragon-Slayer.

“This infinitely exciting tale’s twist and turns highlight the characters’ missions as they decide which identity to choose: hero, martyr, or villain.” (School Library Journal) What are you working on now?

I love that SLJ review! Thanks for quoting it. 😀

Right now I’m working on a bunch of things. I’ve drafted what I hope will be my next novel (a stand alone dark fantasy), so I’m writing some novellas in the USAsgard world, and two other secret novels. ONWARD AND UPWARD!

Thank you so much, Tessa, for letting me take a peek at your process! Tessa is also the author of BLOOD MAGIC, the novella CROW MAGIC, and THE BLOOD KEEPER. If you enjoy love, family, and fate, then you should definitely check them out!

* I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tessa Author Pic Fall 2011 2MBAbout the author: Tessa Gratton has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. She was too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in gender studies, and then settled down in Kansas with her partner, her cats, and her mutant dog.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitter | Tumblr | Goodreads

Buy THE STRANGE MAID (Book 2) Today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Buy THE LOST SUN (Book 1) Today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Anne’s Book Club 10

I love reading trilogies, tetralogies, and series. If you don’t want to wait a year (or sometimes two) between books, here’s a list of trilogies that are coming to an end, sadly, this year (in order of release):

daughtersmokebonetrilogy
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
, Days of Blood and Starlight, and Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Apr 2014) by Laini Taylor is a gorgeous sweeping story of monsters, love, teeth, lies, hope, and reincarnation. Laini Taylor is one of my favorite YA authors. Her writing is rich and lyrical. It will transport you from a magical Prague to a deadly land of dust and starlight. These books will leave you breathless and aching in all the right ways.

Note: I first fell in love with Laini Taylor’s writing when I read Lips Touch Three Times. Audrey reviewed it here after I foisted it on her to read.

grishatrilogyShadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising (17 Jun 2014) by Leigh Bardugo is a unique and wildly imaginative tale of summoners, sunlight, darkness, beauty, ugliness, friendship, and romance.  Leigh Bardugo writes magic that sparkles on the page. Her world is enriched by Russian language and folklore, but it’s all her own. The Darkling is sinister and trapped by his own lust for power. Alina and Mal are mismatched and matched brilliantly.

Note: I picked up the first book at the library completely based on the cover. I’m so glad I did. It was a thrilling read. (Also, a New York Times Bestseller, but I didn’t know that at the time.)

strangedeadlytrilogy
Something Strange and Deadly, A Darkness Strange and Lovely, and Strange and Ever After (22 Jul 2014) by Susan Dennard is sprawling epic that weaves zombies, spirit-hunters, steampunk, necromancy, love, and demons. Susan Dennard writes some intense action scenes. Anyone who enjoys historical fantasy will inhale these books. The settings of Philadelphia and Paris are delightful. I can’t wait to read about Egypt in the third book!

Note: Something Strange and Deadly is the first book in the trilogy. I put it in the middle of my collage so it looks like the other two cover girls are looking at her.

throneglasstrilogy
Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire (2 Sep 2014) by Sarah J. Maas is an epic fantasy that brings together assassins, political intrigue, sexy heroes, castles, mystery, and one of the baddest-ass female protags in Celaena Sardothien. Sarah J. Maas also writes terrific fight scenes. Each book is told from three points of view: Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian. Each of them are hiding something exquisite, and the twists and turns to reveal these things are divine.

Note: Sarah J. Maas and Susan Dennard are critique partners. It’s no wonder I like both of their trilogies, which are wildly different and amazing.

lynburnlegacytrilogy
Unspoken, Untold, and Unmade (23 Sep 2014) by Sarah Rees Brennan is a quirky story with a diverse cast, a quaint English town, magic, mystery, family legacies, and a plucky heroine. Sarah Rees Brennan is known for her humorous voice, and she certainly delivers in these books. However, there’s a darker side too, filled with need and murder. The two main protags have been able to communicate psychically since they were little things. I loved being in Kami’s head, which is funny because I’m pretty sure Jared did as well.

Note: Sarah Rees Brennan also wrote the delicious The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy, which I highly recommend. The twist in book one was perfect. It made me question things. Things I can’t tell you because I’m not going to spoil it.

darkestmindstrilogy
The Darkest Minds, The Darkest Minds Never Fade, and The Darkest Minds Never Fade In the After Light (28 Oct 2014) by Alexandra Bracken is a page-flipping thriller that deals with powers, a sadistic government, escapes, road trips, creating family, and hard choices. Alexandra Bracken writes about a future where a disease has killed most of its children. Those that did live are burdened with powers that many adults think made the kids monsters. In a world of brutality, Ruby finds love and answers to long-guarded secrets. But will she survive?

Note: I was a huge fan of comics/superheroes as a kid. These novels hit all the right buttons for me. I can see this set of books being turned into a Hollywood franchise.

Are there any trilogies, tetralogies, or series ending this year you think I should read? Let me know in the comments!

Anne’s Book Club 09

Bernie Wrightson's FrankensteinFrankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (summary by Amazon.com):

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the masterpieces of nineteenth-century Gothicism. While staying in the Swiss Alps in 1816 with her lover Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and others; Mary, then eighteen, began to concoct the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the monster he brings to life by electricity. Written in a time of great personal tragedy, it is a subversive and morbid story warning against the dehumanization of art and the corrupting influence of science. Packed with allusions and literary references, it is also one of the best thrillers ever written. Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus was an instant bestseller on publication in 1818. The prototype of the science fiction novel, it has spawned countless imitations and adaptations but retains its original power.

My Thoughts on FRANKENSTEIN:

The first time I read this book I was thirteen. It was the hardback with wood-carvings by Lynd Ward. I remember being inspired by Shelley’s use of “big words” that I had to look up in a dictionary. She was eighteen when she wrote it, which meant, I had time to expand my own vocabulary. I remember the swelling feelings of compassion for Victor’s creature as I read. Somehow, I’ve been rooting for the monsters for a very long time.

I picked up the book again when I was a senior in high school. I received the illustrated version for Christmas. Bernie Wrightson’s artwork was as moving as the text. I spent hours pouring over every minute detail. Having been a comic book fan for as long as I could read, I treasured this version. (And when a classmate knocked a glass of water across the table and ruined my book, I felt the loss in a profound and deep way.)

“It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.”

So much of the text that I didn’t grasp as a thirteen-year-old suddenly became as clear as the black and white illustrations. Bernie’s style is made-up of artists that came before, patched-up into this gorgeous movement of shadow and light — just like Frankenstein’s creature. It’s interesting how many of Lynd Ward’s wood-carvings depict the same moments as Bernie Wrightson’s drawings, as if they both felt the same thing in reading the same words. As Mary admits in her forward, she was inspired by The Iliad, Shakespeare’s Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Milton’s Paradise Lost. I finally believed that words had the power to create/inspire. When we write/paint/sculpt, we’re all Victor Frankenstein.

Finished reading Frankenstein again this week. I’m older. I’m not sure if I’m wiser, but I have more experience now than at thirteen or seventeen. I still feel for the creature though. He murders a number of characters throughout the novel, but I forgive him. I understand why he did it. I don’t know if that makes me monstrous. Both creator and created are social outcasts: the creature for his exterior, the creator for his arrogance at playing God. They’re well matched. But after reading, I’m not entirely sure who is the man and who the creature.

What do you think?

Anne’s Book Club 08

SAtrilogycoversSummerset Abbey by T. J. Brown (summary from Amazon.com):

1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of society in this stunning series starter that fans of Downton Abbey will love.

Rowena Buxton

Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey. Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the “underclass” in this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive social circle of aristocratic “rebels,” Rowena must decide where her true passions—and loyalties—lie.

Victoria Buxton

Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most unladylike wish is not her only secret—Victoria has stumbled upon a family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever…

Prudence Tate

Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess’s daughter, and to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her true place in society—as lady’s maid to her beloved “sisters.” But Pru doesn’t belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls. And when a young lord catches her eye, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever truly carve out a place for herself at Summerset Abbey.

My Thoughts on SUMMERSET ABBEY and an interview with author Teri Brown:

First, and rather shallowly of me, the covers for these three novels are GORGEOUS! The Belle Époque has always been one of my favorite times in history (though I have many. But, come on, the costumes! Budding technology! Historical amazements!). I haven’t had the pleasure to watch Downton Abbey, but I’ve enjoyed several films and books that take place (and were written) during these years. I was really pleased to see how each of the three main characters navigated the time period growing into strong independent women against an incredible historical background.

Teri writes with such rich detail that I couldn’t help but be swept up and read them all over the span of a long weekend. It’s interesting that I’ve been reading more contemporary lately because as I’ve said before I love fantasy, but I recommend these to anyone who likes this time period, strong heroines, and engaging story-telling. These books are definitely ones that cross the boundary from adult to YA. The youngest protagonist begins in her teens and ends at, I believe, 19. They’re not graphically violent or sexual, and would appeal to readers of all ages. In fact, I think our own Audrey would love them.

Through the power of Twitter I discovered her books. Teri was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about her Summerset Abbey trilogy. Viva les médias sociaux!

The Summerset Abbey trilogy takes place during what the French call the Belle Époque (Americans call it the “Gilded Age” and the English call it the “Edwardian Age”, but I like the French version best). What drew you to this time period in particular to set your novels?

I’ve always loved this time period even before I knew it was a time period! I look back at the books I read as a child and so many of my favorites take place in the late 1800’s early or 1900’s like, Amanda Miranda by Richard Peck, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith or So Big by Edna Ferber. When I saw Downton Abbey I realized that it was actually the Edwardian Period and I knew I wanted to write a series about it.

The costumes, settings, autos, and jewelry are richly drawn. How much research did you do to write this trilogy?

I did a lot of Research, but I was on a very tight writing schedule as well. I took a class from a woman who was an expert in the period and then hired her to help me with research duties. Whenever I had a question, I would just shoot it off to her and she would get on it. That way I was able to finish the stories and go back in an layer more details. That’s pretty much the way I work with all my historicals… story, characters and plot first, then details.

Throughout each book, Rowena, Victoria, and Prudence take over narrating duties. Did you write the book linearly and change perspectives according to story demands, or … ?

I wrote each book from start to finish. They seemed to come very organically for me. Of course, I was fighting cancer during the writing of these books and with the back to back deadlines, there was no way for me to write any other way! Only a few times would I have to go back and rewrite a scene in someone else’s POV.

This was written as a trilogy, but each book could certainly be read as a stand-alone. However, how much of each main characters’ end journey did you know before you started?

Honestly, I knew very little about their individual journeys when I first started the trilogy. I think of each of the books as focusing on one particular character arc, though they all grow during each book. For instance, The first books was Prudence’s book. The second was Victoria’s and Rowena got the final book, though Kit and Victoria didn’t get their happy ending either until the third book, but I think Victoria did most of her growing in book two.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently researching and working on an adult novel called Saffron Skies which takes place in 1911 India. It’s about a sharp tongued young woman who was a part of the “Fishing Fleet”, which is what they called women who went husband hunting in India during the time of the British Raj. She falls in love with a half English half Indian clerk and all sorts of troubles ensue. The research has been wonderful fun.

Thank you so much, Teri, for talking to me about your process with this trilogy! I also discovered that Teri also writes YA books. Born of Illusion is currently sitting in my tbr pile. Check it, and her historical novels out, at your local bookstore or library.

TJBrown_authorphotoAbout the author: Teri Brown is proud of her two children but coming in a close second is the fact that she parachuted out of a plane and beat the original Legend of Zelda video game.

She is a word scribbler, head banger, math hater, book reader, rule breaker, food fixer, novel writer, kitty keeper, and city slicker. Teri lives with her husband and way too many pets in Portland, Oregon.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Buy SUMMERSET ABBEY Today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Anne’s Book Club 07

CGC_BlackThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (summary by Amazon.com):

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

My Thoughts on The Coldest Girl in Coldtown:

It’s no secret that one of my favorite YA novelists is Holly Black. Her Modern Faerie series changed so many of my perceptions of what YA could be—definitely for the better!—and Valiant, in particular, was incredibly moving for les raisons personnelles, as the French say. The world-building in her Curse Workers trilogy was fresh and innovative. I couldn’t wait to read her take on vampire lore. As a teen, I inhaled vampire books. Basically, I’ve never outgrown them.

The world-building of Coldest was first introduced in a short story of the same name published in the Eternal Kiss anthology in 2009. I loved the story because of the characters, but also because of the world. I wanted to know more about Matilda, so when the novel was announced I was sad to learn that Matilda wasn’t the main character. To be fair to Ms. Black, Matilda’s story was finished. I just wanted more. Coldest delivered, and I enjoyed Tana’s story just as much—maybe more than?—Matilda’s. In the world of Coldest, when you’re bit by a vampire, you turn Cold. You’re not undead until you drink your first drop of human blood, but you crave it over everything else. You would eat your kid and not even blink. Then you become a vampire, and there’s no turning back. However, if you’re strong enough (and locked up long enough) to resist human blood, the virus will run its course and you’ll remain human.

Coldest is Ms. Black’s longest published work to date at 419 pages in the hardcover version. There are chilling flashbacks of Tana’s childhood (her mother went Cold, was locked in the cellar by her father, convinced Tana to let her out, and she bit Tana. I was a little unclear if the bite was deep enough to infect her or not, but the bottom-line is that she survived). The vampire, Gavriel, gets to narrate his own story as well. I loved the Russian flashbacks! One of my favorite chapters, however, is not from Tana’s or Gavriel’s point-of-view. It’s Chapter 14 by Midnight; a blog entry on items you’ll need to bring to Coldtown. I sympathized with Midnight, and I remember so clearly what it was like to be wrapped up and obsessed with something. If Coldtowns did exist, especially when I was a teenager, I would have been involved on the boards. I would have watched the live feeds of the Eternal Ball. I might have rooted for the vampire hunters, but chances are I’d be a bigger fan of Lucien and his lot.

“And remember, if you do come into physical contact with a vampire, you are legally obligated to report yourself to the authorities. Do not attempt to wait to see if you’ve become infected. Do not attempt to self-quarantine. Call 911, explain the nature of the attack, and wait for further instructions.”

This book is built on vampire lore dating back hundreds of years, but it never feels stale. These vampires are burned by the sunlight. They can be staked. They might be beautiful and exotic, but they are predators; and as a reader, I never forgot that fact. There are strong parallels to the short story, and it was delightful to see how Ms. Black expanded the world. How she created a handful of characters that I rooted for or against (vampire and human alike). The newer lore (21st century new) she played was exciting too. In this world, reality television still retains that voyeuristic nature, but some of these characters are lured by it while others are repelled. It’s a fascinating fictional take on current reality shows and the public’s reaction.

Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire as a short story. It was expanded years later into a novel. One of my Cimmerian Tale aspirations is to write something that starts here as a short story into a novel as well. I only hope I’m a quarter as successful as either Ms. Black or Ms. Rice.

What are some of your favorite short stories that have been elongated into novels?