Monday, August 26, 2013

Christina Read: Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Release Date: May 14, 2009
Published by: Razorbill
Recommended by: Cait (The Cait Files)

Christina Reads Your Recommendations is a regular Monday feature here (inspired by A Reader of Fictions' Sadie Hawkins Sunday) in which you, my readers, get to choose what book I will read and review next. Got a book that you love and want everyone to read and review? That you're not sure what to think of and want a second opinion on? That you think I'll love or that I should have already read? Send in your recommendations via this form!

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

In Strange Angels, Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.) Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her?

Ten Likes/Dislikes:

1. (+) Dru, the protagonist - Dru is what kept this book somewhat entertaining for me. She's got some attitude, I tell you. She's one of the types of heroines who I've wanted to read more about. Practical, but spirited, loving, strong (“Better to be strong than pretty and useless”), crude, harsh, decisive ("bullying" but willing to do what's needed), snarky, needy, conflicted. She burps unapologetically, practices her katas for tai chi, sometimes accompanies her father on his hunts, and knows how to handle knives and guns and uncontrollable situations without losing her head (though she does have moments of pure, raw, aching vulnerability, such as when she's grieving over her father). And she does something early on that I think makes it nearly impossible not to feel something for her.
2. (+) World-building - This is one of those series that takes the old concepts of vampires and werewolves (plus some other freaky, freaky creatures) and spins them into something completely new. There's a familiar and popular myth that fans of another popular YA PNR series will immediately recognize with regards to the vampires and how that'll propel the series plot, but it too is reinvented in a fresh way. There's a hierarchy among the vampires ("suckers") in terms of power and strength, desire and magical abilities, and one among the wulfen (werewolves) with similar constrictions as well. There is a bit of tension between the two races, but they also do have their moments of agreement, and I imagine the politics between the two would be interesting to explore in the later books. Plus, it's interesting to note how Ms. St. Crow added in gender dynamics. And there's also a lot of other world-building in little details about Dru's assignments with her father, his contacts and missions, and the knowledge that Dru already possesses of The Real World, full of creatures that go bump in the night.
3. (+/-) The Beginning - 25% of the way through the book, and only three events have happened. The rest of the space is taken up by narration from Dru, which, while fun to read, I started to skim because I wanted more action, more intrigue, more suspense. To combat this effect, other books similar to Strange Angels usually include the introduction of multiple new characters, but the character cast was rather small, and I later wondered whether this was just an introductory book.
4. (+) Romance - This book gets major props not only for including a PoC (half-Asian) romantic love interest but also not making him the-most-beautiful-thing ever. A lot of PNRs emphasize an otherworldly beauty, but thankfully, Goth, skull earring touter Graves is not like that. I actually quite liked the various descriptions of him, and that Dru outright admits that Graves is not pretty now, but might be in a few years, when he's no longer quite as beaky and lanky (realistic, huh?). While there's not a whole lot of romantic action - just the promise of it, I think - it's still nice to see their friendship grow. Graves doesn't quite fully interest me just yet. He's very nice, loyal, supportive, but some of his actions didn't quite match for me (if he's so ambitious, why does he let Dru drag him down? why doesn't he ever get angry?). (Side note: I'm also seeing a potential love triangle in the future, but am choosing to ignore that aspect.)
5. (+/-) The Plot - I don't know, maybe it's a function of my having read a bunch of other YA novels like this, but I predicted most of what happened. Predictability is not always necessary - in YA, it's rare to come across a book that's unpredictable - but usually there's something else to compensate, like more action or more world-building. There's definitely that of the latter in the plot twists, so while I predicted the general gist of what would happen, I didn't know the details just yet. But without a whole lot actually happening and few other characters to distract from that, I couldn't find it in myself to care much about those details. (Kind of felt like there just weren't enough scenes in this novel).
6. (+/-) Exposition & Info-dumps - You learn ~ 80% of the information on the world-building from other people or from Dru's inner monologue / narration. Here's an example (~10% in Kindle app): "I’m probably the only sixteen-year-old girl in a three-hundred-mile radius who knows how to distinguish a poltergeist from an actual ghost (hint: If you can disrupt it with nitric acid, or if it throws new crap at you every time, it’s a poltergeist), or how to tell if a medium’s real or faking it (poke ’em with a true-iron needle). I know the six signs of a good occult store (Number One is the proprietor bolts the door before talking about Real Business) and the four things you never do when you’re in a bar with other people who know about the darker side of the world (don’t look weak). I know how to access public information and talk my way around clerks in courthouses (a smile and the right clothing work wonders). I also know how to hack into newspaper files, police reports, and some kinds of government databases (primary rule: Don’t get caught. Duh)." I love her voice, but having too, too much narration like this is one of my pet peeves in YA, especially when I wanted more plot. There are a few action scenes to show Dru at her best, but otherwise there was a whole lot of telling.
7. (+) Familial Relationships - It's not a spoiler to point out what happens to her Dad (synopsis!), and yet what kept me from feeling like it was a combination of the disappearing parent syndrome and absent-parent-due-to-grief trope was Dru's own grief over her father's death and her memories not only of his training but also of her grandmother. Their conversations, everything about the way Dru remembers her childhood - they were one of the more touching and real familial relationships that I'd read about, and I loved all the mentions because they made the characters feel alive, even if they were only in Dru's head.
8. (+/-) The Writing - Although Dru's voice is well done and the descriptions are usually very thorough, I had little idea of what was going on during the action scenes. Something started to happen, but was resolved without my full understanding of why or how. The writing also got repetitive at times. There are a couple of points in the narration that get brought up maybe four times before Dru acts.
9. (+/-) The Pacing - It does build up to a climax, but quite honestly I felt bored in the middle because there didn't seem to be as much tension. Some things are still happening... but it lacked the driving force that would normally propel me towards the ending with anticipation. Things happen, and then there are blank stages when the narration seems to come up in long spells until the next event occurs many pages later - the pacing seemed uneven to me, but that is not what other reviews have said. Also, the climax is kind of short compared to all the build-up and revelations.
10. (+/-) The Cover - I feel the same way about this cover as I do about the rest of the book.

Dru has a fantastic voice - she's quite the refreshing heroine in YA UF/PNR - but that and the creativity of the world wasn't enough for me. Although I understand why was promoted in the back of my Vampire Academy paperbacks, prologue excerpt printed and all, I can't help but feel that this just wasn't as exciting for me as it could have been. Your experience may be different, so I'd urge you to peruse some other reviews as well.

Other reviews:
Kat Kennedy
Jessie (Ageless Pages Reviews)

Up Next: The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

((Please send in some recommendations :D. Especially of books from this list!))


  1. So happy that you liked this overall. I got the combined copy of the first two books and I'm so hesitant to read this. I tried about 4 chapters in Estonian when I first borrowed the book from my local library, but it wasn't.. exciting. Nor did those Richelle Mead words really have a meaning behind them after these first 4 chapters, because I could not, for the life of me, get into this one. Just as you said, it's too talky-talky (haha, I sound like an imbecile when I wrote that. whatever, it sounds funny lol) and not that.. intriguing. I thought that maybe if I had the English version, I'd get into it better. No luck, because I had already gotten the thought in my head that I wouldn't enjoy this pretty. Sooo, your review is ilke a help received on time, because now I actually want to finish this and perhaps continue with the second book. If not, I'm going to gift this one away. It takes wayyy too much space on my bookshelf and if I won't re-read it ever again, what's the point of keeping it when someone else could enjoy it? I'm glad that the love interest Graves, figures--I had a feeling he'd stick around, is quite different, but I'm not all that excited to hear that there could potentially be a mathematical object of love further on in the series. Hmhhh.. -.- I'm not a fan of descriptive, long-monologues and such writing style, but I do think this could hold something undiscovered for me and I could potentially enjoy this. I hope I do and I'm glad you found it somewhat enjoyable as well:)

  2. This is a VERY interesting feature :) You let the readers choose... Hm.. I've heard a lot of mixed things about this book as well.LOL. I can predict most of the plot as well. Only novel that I read recently that really shocked me was unravel me.. Have you read that? *runs to check previous reviews*

  3. I first heard about this book several years ago, when I was really into YA paranormal (read:post Twilight/ TMI ) but I got burned out on all the similar YA paranormal storylines a year or so ago (turned to YA contemporary) so what I really wanted to know was, does this book stand out from the sea of other paranormal stories out there? It sounds like it does and doesn't in some ways. But I do like that the protagonist has a great voice, that the romantic interest isn't perfect in every way (looks or otherwise) and that there is a strong family bond/presence. That means a lot to me. I own this book and I think your review has convinced me to bump it from the dusty bookshelf to the not-as-dusty nightstand;) Thanks, Christina:)

  4. Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed this, Christina! My friends are pretty sharply divided on this series, but I think Dru's a pretty fun character, and I really like the love interests as well. (props for the POC as well.) I liked the first few books a lot, although some are obviously better than others. Will be on the lookout to see what you think of the rest. Especially, um...the last one, hah.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  5. I did read Unravel Me. I don't remember if I found that predictable, but I do think that it's got a unique enough writing to make everything feel fresh :). And thank you! I like letting readers choose. More interaction! And also I'm still hoping people will recommend books I own so I'll finally get through the TBR pile.

  6. Sarah (Escaping Through Books)August 26, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    I borrowed this book from the library a few years ago after devouring one of the Vampire Academy books and returned it unfinished. I don't think I was in in the right mood for it and did not give it a fair chance, as I was comparing it too much to Vampire Academy and not finding the similarities. I might try to give this series another shot someday, though, as I don't think I was judging it fairly at the time.

  7. hm, seems like a solid "decent" book? Good, but not great? I like books like that sometimes when I'm just looking for something light to read and I don't need to be swept away by greatness. Sounds like this fits the bill. Also sounds like I don't need to rush to bump it up my TBR anytime soon. Thanks!

  8. Lol. It is a lot of internal monologue. Maybe trying again will help, but I get the feeling that you'd enjoy more action and that you might have the same problem with it that I did. If you do try it again, I'll keep my fingers crossed that you like Dru's voice, since I think that'll happen. It's sad that you might have to give away the book, but I have seen quite a few other reviewers who really like this one so *shrug*. (Lol, yes, Graves, right? I was seriously wondering whether that was his real name, or if that was a part of the Goth identity).

  9. It stands out with the heroine's voice (reminds me of why it's in the back of the VA series; she's not quite as bold and brash as Rose, but they are of a similar type), a different spin on the traditional paranormal creatures, and a not-totally-beautiful but actually somewhat awkward and nice love interest. Other than that, I'd say it's like the others. The strong family bond is huge - all the mentions of her father. I do wonder if that continues throughout the series. Woo! I hope you enjoy the book whenever you get around to it :D

  10. Uh oh... does the last one not match the rest? You've got me worried now o.O. I wasn't sure whether I ought to continue with the series, but if you're a fan of the first few books, maybe I'll have better luck with them! Dru was really great to follow. :)

  11. It has a few things similar to VA - a few world-building details, Dru's voice is kind of similar to Rose's - but is mostly different, I think. A lot less action than VA. But maybe you could give it another shot :) especially if your library has it there for you.

  12. Decent, definitely. For me personally, it was a bit meh, but yes, the world and the heroine could push it up to a decent read. It could very well fit the bill you're looking for. :)

  13. Is this not the series that ends so horribly? *Goodreads* Yup, I believe it is.

    Dru sounds nice. She has many aspects I look for in main characters, especially the strong and snarky part, ha. How cool that she handles knives and guns with intelligence. I hate it when they are able to fight, but turn into panicked whiners when they have to. The world-building sounds interesting. I like it when authors manage to come up with something original. Hmm, the beginning sounds a bit boring, that’s a shame. How fun that the love-interest is half-Asian without the stunning gorgeous looks. The not-perfect love interests are much better :) Potential love-triangle, oh boy. I agree about predictability. It’s not worse when that happens, but there have to be other things to make up for it. The familial relationships sound nice and realistic. I like that.

  14. I'm glad that you were able to enjoy Strange Angels somewhat Christina. I think I would find the romance and world building highly appealing! I think I still will end up giving it a go, but won't be in that much of a rush. Great review!

  15. Is it??? I haven't heard much about the series, just the first book o.O, but that is frightening to consider and probably another reason for me not continue on with this. And no - Dru definitely doesn't turn into a panicked whiner. She's decisive through and through. And ha, not-perfect love interests are definitely better for me, though if I did continue with this series, I hope the guy gets more developed... becomes a bit more complex.

  16. "still will end up giving it a go, but won't be in that much of a rush" <-- Very accurate way of describing the series & book for me too. If I continued on, at least. Thanks, Jasprit!


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