Author Interview (#2): Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst author photoBack in May, I was lucky enough to interview Sarah Beth Durst about her book Enchanted Ivy. At the end of that interview she mentioned that her next project involved a vampire who was stabbed by a unicorn. I was, of course, intrigued.

Now that Drink, Slay, Love is officially out in the world, Sarah is back to talk with me once again about her unique take on vampires (and unicorns!). If you want more preliminary information about Sarah and her writing, you can also check out our earlier interview.

Miss Print (MP): In a fun post on your blog you talk a bit about the inspiration for Drink, Slay, Love coming from your love of both unicorns and vampires. What drew you to those two creatures? What is the appeal, for you, of vampires and unicorns?

Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): I think my love of unicorns can be traced to elementary school.  In my school, unicorns were considered the crowning jewel of any girl’s sticker collection.  As to vampires…  I blame Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was pretty much the best show on television ever.

MP: There is a long history of tales about vampires or unicorns. How did you decide what aspects of vampire or unicorn lore to keep and what to reimagine for your story?

SBD: I liked how opposite the vampire and the unicorn are.  One, a sexy and bloodthirsty creature of the night.  And the other… much more apt to eat marshmallows and poop rainbows.  So I wanted to strengthen that dichotomy by going with the darker, more evil and less brooding version of the vampire.  And for the unicorn, I decided that their fluffy and happy reputation is mere propaganda spread by the unicorns themselves to disguise their true purpose as vampire hunters.

MP: Drink, Slay, Love is one of the catchiest titles I’ve heard for a book this year. How did you come up with the title? Did you find this title before or after the novel was written?

SBD: Drink, Slay, Love had many, many, many titles.  All the credit for the final title goes to my husband, who thought of it in this epiphany-like moment where I expected a cartoon lightbulb to appear over his head.

MP: I really enjoyed that the heroine of Drink, Slay, Love is named Pearl because it seems like such an unlikely name for a vampire. How did you know Pearl was the right name for your vampire protagonist?

SBD: I knew Pearl’s name before I even knew her story.  It just felt so wrong that I knew it was right.  The name “Pearl” implies such innocence and purity, and my Pearl is… well, evil.

MP: Being a vampire and a natural predator, Pearl isn’t always the most sympathetic heroine. What was it like writing about a character who starts the book as kind of scary and not nice?

SBD: I loved writing Pearl!  Seriously, this was the best writing experience I’ve ever had.  It’s so freeing to write a character that doesn’t suffer any fools.  She’s fierce, fearless, and funny, and I loved hanging out with her.

MP: One of the really fun things about this book is that it has a lot of strong, memorable secondary characters. So many, in fact, that it’s hard to pick an example but I really enjoyed Bethany and Jocelyn (and Matt and Zeke’s banter). This isn’t a fair question for a writer, but did you have a favorite character in the story? Was one more fun to write about than the others?

SBD: I love them all, of course.  *blows air-kisses at characters*  But I have to admit to having a soft spot for Antoinette, Pearl’s vampire cousin who is utterly evil and loves Molly Ringwald 80s movies.

MP: Given the plot of Drink, Slay, Love I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask your opinion on the two great debates of our time: Vampires vs. Werewolves and Zombies vs. Unicorns. Any thoughts?

SBD: Werewolves.  Much more cuddly.

And unicorns.  Much less gooey.

MP: What can you tell us about your next book? Do you have any plans to revisit Pearl and Evan (and Bethany and Matt and Zeke) in a future project?

SBD: I don’t have any immediate plans for a sequel to DRINK, SLAY, LOVE, though I do miss Pearl and Evan, so who knows what the future may bring…  My next book is a standalone YA fantasy called VESSEL.  It’s coming out in fall 2012 from Simon & Schuster, and I’m really excited about it!

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thanks again to Sarah for taking the time out of her schedule to answer all of my questions.

If you want to know more about Drink, Slay, Love be sure to check out my review.

Drink, Slay, Love: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth DurstPearl is like a lot of sixteen-year-old girls. She likes to steal cars and drive too fast with her handsome, dangerous boyfriend Jadrien. She wears a lot of black. She is extremely flammable in direct sunlight.

Okay. Maybe Pearl isn’t exactly an average teenaged girl. But she is an average vampire. Completely ordinary and almost completely evil; Pearl is the perfect predator at the top of the food chain in her Connecticut town. And she is fine with that.

With the vampire king of New England coming soon for the annual fealty ceremony that marks the start of a vampire’s adulthood, it’s a good time to be a young vampire. Since her Family has been given the honor of hosting the king’s feast things are especially good for Pearl.

At least until the unicorn comes along and stabs her in the heart with his stupid sparkly horn.

But instead of dying a quick death, Pearl survives the attack. Not just that, she can now withstand sunlight. No one in her Family believes her about the unicorn (they are mythical creatures after all–even vampires know that), but even they can’t ignore her new resistance to daylight.

Within the king’s feast looming and no volunteers in sight, Pearl’s Family decides to take advantage of her newfound ability by enrolling her in high school. Securing the king’s feast should be easy with an entire high school of students to choose from, right?

Wrong, as it turns out.

Blending in among the human students is harder for a vampire than Pearl expected. Some students, like Bethany seem overly eager to befriend her. Others want to prove their dominance (unlikely). Then there’s Evan. The deliciously cute boy who Pearl can’t decide if she wants to bite or . . . not.

Torn between what her Family needs and what she actually wants, Pearl finds that after the unicorn incident nothing is black and white anymore. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for things to change and maybe, just maybe, Pearl is the one to bring about those changes in Drink, Slay, Love (2011) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Filled with twists and turns, Drink, Slay, Love is fun new spin on vampires (and, of course, unicorns too). Durst stays true to traditional vampire mythology (Pearl does not sparkle) while also adding her own unique spin to these familiar mythical monsters.

Viewing high school through Pearl’s eyes brings a level of humor to the story as she evaluates teachers as potential threats and brings her predator mentality to cafeteria politics. (Think Katniss Everdeen walking the halls of Sweet Valley High.) What results, in addition to a satisfying urban fantasy, is a dryly fun commentary on the ins and outs of high school.

Durst aptly demonstrates her range as readers follow Pearl’s journey from scary vampire to something else entirely. There are, in fact, enough drastic changes throughout the course of the story that the opening for a sequel is very wide indeed. Drink, Slay, Love is a clever, entertaining book complete with a winning heroine readers will want to cheer for–albeit from a safe distance.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Rampant by Diana Peterfreund, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford, Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde

You can also read my exclusive interview with Sarah Beth Durst about Drink, Slay, Love starting October 27, 2011

**This book was acquired for review through the publisher/author

On swapping books online

I love giving away books on here but my restrictive postage budget prevents giveaways from being a regular feature of the blog. However, being a book reviewer, I have a constant and often very large influx of books. Since the books keep coming, they also need to keep going out.

Previously I had been using the bookswap feature on Goodreads which, much to my dismay, is closing at the end of this month.

My main criteria in finding a replacement swap site was that I never had to pay postage to ship books. Since I already am giving the books away and rarely request books in return I had no desire to pay upwards of three dollars for every book I sent out into the world. That one requirement made my final decision surprisingly easy: My research yielded only one book swap site where senders did not pay postage up front. That site was Bookins.

The interface is inferior, the site takes a long time to load, and the process for listing ARCs (advanced reader copies) is more involved without being more effective. BUT I can list as many books as I want (ARCs included) and I do not have to deal with anyone–I just say I’m ready to ship a book and print the postage for free through their site (which someone else has “purchased” for a flat $4.99 fee). The major downside is that Bookins requires a credit card number and they do threaten to charge you for the postage if you print a label and fail to ship the book within 48 hours. But, once again, I don’t pay postage up front.

As I am sure some of you are also looking for a book swap site, I thought I’d share my latest find of Bookins.

You can view my swap list on Bookins as well.

In which I win a Liebster

Last week I got a fun email from Heather of Nightly Reading informing me that she was giving me a Liebster Award. Thanks again Heather!

(Fun Fact: I love blog awards even though I rarely mention them. There’s just something about those virtual buttons that really makes me smile.)

The Liebster Award is intended to bring attention to blogs with less than 200 followers.

As is the way with many awards (at least, so I imagine) there are requirements that need to be met:

  • Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  • Reveal your 5 picks on your blog with links.
  • Let the winners know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Post the reward on your blog.

And now I’m happy to share the wealth with my own blog awardees:

  1. TheBookBandit’s Blog: Run by my real life friend Nicole. I like reading for the reviews (especially Book of the Week which features picture books), interviews and her take on all of the books and events we go to together.
  2. Dog Ear: Run by an entirely different Nicole, I enjoy Dog Ear’s honest, thoughtful reviews that include quotes and real critique and analysis. We often have differing opinions and I like seeing her take on books I’ve read or been hearing about.
  3. Klickitat: Julie blogs about lots of things including books (and reviews). I especially like her posts about libraries or writing because that’s how I roll.
  4. booked up: Yet another Nicole, crazy! I first discovered her blog while familiarizing myself with other Cybils 2010 panelist and judge blogs. I like Nicole’s reviews that get right to the point and I especially like that instead of including stock cover photos she photographs each book in situ to post with her reviews.
  5. Jacket Knack: Who doesn’t love a nice blog about book covers?

Tags have come to Miss Print (one last post about changes to the blog)

I’m always unclear about how many regular readers I have who actually spend time on my blog as opposed to just reading through an RSS reader but if you are one of those readers you might have noticed some wacky changes going on here at Miss Print during the past few weeks.

First and foremost, my review indices are actually usable now. You can view them by author or by title. In addition, I’ve also organized my Interview index in a similar fashion. It’s not as impressive because the feature is newer but eventually I hope the organization there will also become vitally useful.

After that was done, and I had some time to do some soul searching, I decided to add tags to the blog.

I can say now that all of my book reviews, interviews, book lists and some other posts have been tagged (not all because I’m crazy but not certifiably so). I’ve added a lot of features retroactively (book cover images, possible pairings, year of publication, amazon links, and even the original review index). Not one of those was as horribly painful to complete as this tagging. It took forever, I thought I’d never finish. Even when I thought I was done, I wasn’t done. There was more to do.

When I was truly, finally, done I didn’t look at the blog for a week because the thought of dealing with any of it was too horrible. But I’m back now and things are, I hope, better organized and appealing for all of my toils. (So far the only change aside from more work seems to be more spam comments sadly.)

On every book review post you can expect to find tags for: author, pub. year, publisher, key themes or other information I deem appropriate and necessary. Other posts follow similar guidelines. Some tags are obvious (“vampires) while others like “reference” might be more obtuse (reference: basically anything I did research for or that I deem valuable information). Some tags like “charming conmen (and conwomen!) are just funny. We’ll see how it goes.

Categories are also a tag fixture. In the midst of this my “Chit Chat” category absorbed the previous “Words of Wisdom” and “Random Poll” categories. “Quotes” might eventually go the same way but since I don’t feel like dealing with it right now those posts get a pass.

My sidebar now has a tag cloud which, I believe, is the only WordPress option for displaying tags. The thing I’m happiest about is that my Chick Lit Wednesday posts now have their own tag so they can all hang out together. Most surprising was my need for a “chickens” tag and the fact that it has received multiple posts already.

Anyway, I’m feeling all kinds of accomplished having all of this finally be done and I hope some readers out there find the changes helpful in some small way.

National Book Award nomination shenanigans: My Thoughts

This story has already been covered quite thoroughly by both popular media and the book blogging/librarian circuits. All the same, I thought it couldn’t hurt to compile my thoughts and some links to the coverage in question.

The basics: Last week the National Book Award finalists were announced. (You can see the full list on their website.) There are some great books getting some well-deserved attention in the Young People’s Literature category. Before getting into where things got weird, I want to really point out that these books have been getting a lot of buzz for months, several of them are on my “to read list” already, and the authors all deserve big huge congratulations. Being nominated for a book award, any award, but especially for a National Book Award is a SERIOUSLY big deal.

So this is the finalized list of nominees for Young People’s Literature:

Franny Billingsley, Chime
(Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc. )

Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy
(Marshall Cavendish)

Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again
(Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

Albert Marrin, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now
(Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Young People’s Literature Judges: Marc Aronson (Panel Chair),
Ann Brashares, Matt de la Peña, Nikki Grimes, Will Weaver

I say finalized because this wasn’t the list that was first announced. Chime was not on that original list; instead Lauren Myracle’s novel Shine was named as one of the nominees. Apparently the nominations were submitted via phone and somewhere along the way, Chime was confused with Shine. Which is still baffling since one would assume author names, publishers, etc. would be included with that initial nomination list.

Later, Chime was placed back on the list (it was the original nomination that was supposed to be there in the first announcement) and it was announced that Shine would stay on the nomination list as well. There were would be six finalists this year.

Then it was decided that would not happen. The upshot of all of this is that Lauren Myracle has since withdrawn from the NBA proceedings and the NBA has made a 5000 dollar donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation to make up for their mess (my words not anyone else’s). And I get that decision. The judges chose these nominees based on merits, they evaluated them. A book shouldn’t get a pass because of a mistake no matter how ridiculous that mistake is. What I found so sad, and so troubling, was that the NBA took so long to make that announcement causing everyone involved even more distress.

Publisher’s Weekly has a brief article about the whole debacle. For me the money phrase there was when Harold Augenbraum, the executive director for the NBA, said “The integrity of the awards is paramount” and Myracle withdrew her name to preserve said integrity. Aside from being shockingly insensitive to Myracle’s position in this whole predicament (that would be as the person who did nothing wrong by the way), I thought it was interesting to talk about integrity after such an egregious error on the NBA’s part. Does an award get to have “integrity” when it can’t even properly announce a nomination list? What kind of “integrity” is needed to keep raising an unsuspecting author’s hopes only to let her down repeatedly over the course of a week or two?

Unsurprisingly, Libba Bray has a very eloquent post on her blog about this whole mess which voices some of my thoughts in a much more concise and compelling way.

Finally, Lauren Myracle herself shares her thoughts on the whole thing in an interview with Vanity Fair.

In the end, I do think the decision makes sense even if the NBA managed to find the most hurtful and unhelpful way to get there. I still don’t understand how such an important announcement can depend on one phone call. I’m happy for the nominees and still excited to read them. And I’m so, so impressed by Lauren Myracle’s grace throughout this whole horrible thing.

There’s a lot of things to learn from this about awards in general (not the least of which being the value of email communication) . While they are wonderful, much like standardized tests, they don’t have an inherent meaning. Any award is an endorsement given by a group of people saying they liked a book. I’ll be a part of one such group with the Cybils this year. But the thing is, these groups that give awards are human. And being human, there is a chance for human error. There are better ways to learn such things but I do think this was a unique opportunity to see behind the curtain and see that even at as high a level as the NBA, mistakes can be made.

What I choose to take from this whole thing is that there are some fine NBA nominees in Young People’s Literature this year and there are a lot of ways that the NBA can improve their operations.

At the same time this mess confirmed that the community of YA readers/authors/bloggers/librarians/etc is a wonderful group of people who not only was willing to talk about this but was willing to rally for something they believed. But then, if you are a YA reader, you probably already knew that too.

The Name of the Star: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Rory Deveaux’s parents decided a long time ago that it would be good for all of them to spend some time living outside of Louisiana which is how Rory finds herself arriving at a London boarding school the September of her senior year while her parents begin a teaching sabbatical in Bristol.

Rory isn’t sure what to expect of England much less her English school–especially when she finds out she will be playing hockey every single day as part of her curriculum. Rory’s expectations become unimportant soon enough when something strange happens.

Someone is killing London women and mimicking the gruesome crimes of Jack the Ripper–the notorious killer who terrorized London in the autumn of 1888 without ever being captured or even identified. The modern-day murders leave few leads. Nothing shows up on camera. No one sees anything. Still the murders continue as “Rippermania” grips the city.

In the midst of the murders something even stranger happens to Rory. She sees a man the night before a body is found on school grounds. Rory knows what she saw. But her roommate was with her and saw nothing. It can’t be coincidence. But can it really be the New Ripper?

An outsider in every way, Rory soon finds herself at center of the investigation of the Ripper murders. As she learns more about the crimes and the suspect, Rory learns she is also at the center of something else–something stranger and possibly much more dangerous in The Name of the Star (2011) by Maureen Johnson.

The Name of the Star is the first book in Johnson’s Shades of London series.

Starting with details from the original Ripper murders, Johnson creates a tense mystery all her own in The Name of the Star.  Suspense blends with the supernatural as Rory learns more about the Ripper (new and old) and also about her own strange connection to the investigation.

Rory is a completely likable, authentic heroine. Her take on London and English boarding school, colored by her Southern sensibilities, adds much needed wit and humor to what could have been an otherwise horribly grim story.By the middle of the novel Johnson turns everything upside down taking the story in a surprising direction and introducing many of my favorite characters.*

In addition to her usual humor, Johnson keeps the writing her tense building suspense to nearly unbearable levels by the last quarter of the novel.

In addition to being a mystery with a unique setting, The Name of the Star is filled with twists and not a few surprises that will keep readers guessing well past the last page–not to mention leaving readers extremely eager for the next Shades of London book.

The Name of the Star is an exceptional start to what I fully expect to be a brilliant series.

*Team Stephen forever! In all seriousness though, I think the latter half of the novel is more indicative of the direction the series will take in the next book and I’m really excited to see if I’m right. Reading more about Stephen is just an added bonus.

Possible Pairings: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills: A (Rapid Fire) Review

The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills by Joanna Pearson 2011

If Harriet the spy had kept up her notebooks into her teen years and developed an interest in Anthropology (and been moved to North Carolina by her parents) this very well might have been the resulting book. Interspersed with Janice’s anthropological notes and observations, facts, not to mention her letter to the editor of Current Anthropology submitting her latest article (AKA the book) readers find a story of a budding anthropologist, her friends, her enemies, and the Miss Livermush pageant.

While the premise is amusing and Janice’s foibles somewhat endearing, the book was a bit too focused on the Anthropology gimmick. Janice’s focus is singular (to the point of referring to the mean girl bullies and her own circle as “tribes”) and often detracts from the story at hand. While it’s funny and will appeal to fans of Miss Smithers or The Sweetheart of Prosper County, Janice’s chosen interest is not enough to set this book apart.

The Scorpio Races: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Scorpio Races by Maggie StiefvaterNo one knows what draws the water horses to the beaches of Thisby year after year. It is never safe–not when a capall could appear at any time bigger than a regular horse, faster too, and much more dangerous. It is never safe but it is never so dangerous as the first of November–race day.

Each year the race draws tourists from the mainland coming to try their luck in the races or observe from the relative safety of the cliffs surrounding the beach. The racers keep their own counsel on their reasons–some seek glory while others hope to prove their worth guiding a capall down the race path and well away from the tempting waves of the sea. The race purse itself is, of course, another motivation.

Sean Kendrick cares little for any of that. All he wants is Corr–the one water horse he can’t have. Corr remains elusively out of reach race after race. Until this year at least.

Puck Connolly has already lost a great deal to the water horses of Thisby. Yet the races might be her only way to hold onto her older brother before the mainland spirits him away forever. Is the winning purse from one race worth challenging some of Thisby’s most basic traditions as the first girl to ride on race day? Is it worth riding beside the horses that have already taken so much?

Only one rider can win on race day–if they can stay alive long enough to finish the course–and the stakes for both Sean and Puck couldn’t be higher but as this unlikely pair trains side-by-side they might find a greater prize than anything from the race purse in The Scorpio Races (2011) by Maggie Stiefvater.

If Stiefvater proved her appeal and gained wide popularity (not to mention New York Times Bestselling Author status) with her Shiver trilogy about the (were)wolves of Mercy Falls, she proves her range and talent with The Scorpio Races. Evocative and charming this novel is as much an experience as it is a book.

In the tradition of Diana Wynne Jones and many other talented fantasy authors, Stiefvater has not just written a story in The Scorpio Races. She has created a world. The island of Thisby and the beautiful, deadly capall uisce (pronounced CAPple ISHka) come vividly to life with each page as the culture (and inhabitants) of Thisby become as much a part of the story as the plot itself.

Told in chapters alternating between Sean and Puck’s narrative voice, this book has not one but two winning narrators readers will want to cheer for. Filled with beautiful landscapes, memorable characters and a fierce hope and affection for a great many things The Scorpio Races is a beautiful, satisfying, fantasy that will stay with readers long after the race is finished one way or another.

Possible Pairings: Grafitti Moon by Cath Crowley, Entwined by Heather Dixon, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2011

Eve: A (Rapid Fire) Review

Eve by Anna Carey (2011)

Eve is the first book in a dystopian trilogy. Eve’s mother died in 2015 when she was five. That was twelve years ago. Now she looks forward to finishing School and moving on to learn her trade and contribute to New American society. Except that isn’t what happens when School ends. Everything Eve thought she knew is actually a lie and she has no choice but to escape.

While the premise sounds compelling, I had several issues with the plot right from the beginning. Raised to be dependent on School for safety and to fear men and boys, Eve is such a passive character that it never felt true or right that she would so readily doubt School or its truths after years of indoctrination. She also felt more like a “gateway” character (used to introduce readers to the world of the story) than a heroine. I couldn’t help but wonder what the story would have been like if it had followed Arden instead of Eve.

Other basic tenets of the story also bothered me. The plague ravaged society in 2015. Ninety-eight per cent of the population died. So who was running around protecting books like Winnie the Pooh and albums like Let It Be while the plague ran rampant? If there are no cities left standing, nothing of the old society, how do Eve and her classmates know about artists like Frank Lloyd Wright and Frida Kahlo? Ultimately it was this issue that never let me fully immerse myself into the plot. As necessarily fantastical as a post-apocalyptic novel is, that basic premise never rang true in the slightest for me.

Eve is an interesting addition to the growing world of dystopian fantasy novels but it never comes together quite as well as some of the other more well-known books in the genre. Eve seems very similar to Wither by Lauren DeStefano to name just one example but somehow lacks the immediacy or urgency of the latter’s plot.