Lacking real bite despite the vampires
KISSES FROM HELL brings together five popular young adult paranormal authors with short stories about love and vampires. Similar to the companion anthologies that came before it (LOVE IS HELL, PROM NIGHTS FROM HELL, and VACATIONS FROM HELL), this book is composed of five different tales, each centered loosely around the title's theme. Different from the other volumes, however, this book focuses on vampires only, instead of a wider host of paranormal creatures.
"Sunshine" by Richelle Mead - Set in Mead's Vampire Academy universe, this story explores how Lissa's parents met and fell in love, and it succeeds in providing a great backstory for that series. "Sunshine" was cute and showed good character development, but it wasn't overwhelming. 3/5
"Bring Me to Life" by Alyson Noël - In this story, Noël presents a modern twist on the Dracula myth involving an eerie fog, an old English manor, and a cute artsy boy. Though okay, "Bring Me to Life" wasn't very engaging or original with its use of obvious and cliché plot clues throughout. 2/5
"Above" by Kristin Cast - In "Above," Cast attempts to create a complex new paranormal mythology about creatures who live below the surface of the earth and their enemies who live above. Even with its two sympathetic main characters, this story fell extremely short due to its confusing and unclear world building that seemed like an attempt to be avant garde or edgy. 1/5
"Hunting Kat" by Kelley Armstrong - Set in Armstrong's world that appears in her Darkest Powers series, "Hunting Kat" introduces a feisty young vampire named Kat who is being pursued by the Edison Group. In the process, she meets two boys, either of whom may be with her or against her. "Hunting Kat" was fast-paced and interesting with a strong, likeable female protagonist and a likeable male lead. I really enjoyed this story and would love to see a longer novella or book based on these characters. 4/5
"Lilith" by Francesca Lia Block - In this story, Block puts a vampiric twist on the original bad girl of the Bible, Lilith. This story had the potential to be very original, but it seemed out of place in this collection with its very dark tone and lack of any real romance. 2/5
While I enjoy short story anthologies and the opportunity they present to sample multiple authors, KISSES FROM HELL left me disappointed. Outside of those by Mead and Armstrong, the stories weren't very interesting or well-written. In addition, the huge font size and the chapter breaks used within individual stories felt like an attempt to hide the overall short length of the book. Despite its title and description, most of the stories also contained very little romance or kissing. If you're willing to branch out into other paranormal creatures in search of a good short story anthology, I would heartily recommend KISS ME DEADLY: 13 TALES OF PARANORMAL LOVE or LOVE IS HELL instead.