Posts tagged ‘Short stories’

Homesick for Another World

Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.
Homesick for Another World.jpgTitle: Homesick for Another World
Author: Ottessa Moshfegh
ISBN: 9780399562884
Pages: 294 pages
Publisher/Date: Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, c2017.

A collection of short stories that all emphasize the desperate, the desolate, the depraved, and the depressed nature of people as they question and search for connections in their restricted social spheres. A older man attempts to seduce a much younger neighbor during her separation. Another guy tries to seduce his neighbor’s wife into having an affair. A third guy suspects his dead wife of cheating on him during their last vacation together. A struggling actor runs away from home in search of his big break. Two musicians get locked in a practice room. It’s difficult to describe these characters sufficiently in a short blog post. All of them though seem to be seeking validation from others of their worth and existence. Honestly it was a depressing read, and not one I expected or want to repeat.

Around the World

Around the WorldTitle: Around the World
Author/Illustrator: Matt Phelan
ISBN: 9780763636197
Pages: 237 pages
Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press, c2011.

“I will bet twenty thousand pounds against anyone who wishes that I will make the tour of the world in eighty days or less: in nineteen hundred and twenty hours, or one hundred and fifteen thousand two hundred minutes. Do you accept?”
Thus begins Jules Verne’s rollicking adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Verne’s novel, like his previous books, was an international success. Millions read it and pondered the possibility of racing around the planet Earth. A few intrepid adventurers — for a variety of reasons both known and unknown — decided to attempt the amazing feat. (11)

Author Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days planted in many minds the thought of seeing the world, traveling to foreign lands, and experiencing all that the planet has to offer. Three people who actually set out upon the journey are featured in this compilation biography. First came former miner Thomas Stevens, whose efforts began with a 3.5 month trip across the United States on a big-wheeled bicycle. Once he succeeded with that trip and secured sponsorship, he continued on across the globe, spending a year showcasing the bicycle’s abilities as he went. Two years after he returned, reporter Nellie Bly had the intention of beating the challenge that Phineas Fog set in the novel. Many said it couldn’t be done, and the paper she wrote for even took guesses from readers as to when she’d arrive back. Finally, there was the old retired sea-captain Joshua Slocum, who quietly set sail in a time of steam ships and pirates, spending years alone as he circumnavigated the globe just like old times.

Matt Phelan’s style is almost instantly recognizable once you’ve read some of his works featuring watercolors accented with pencil, ink, and gouache. Thomas Stevens’s story is the most colorful, featuring panoramic landscapes in greens, golds, and reds and a beautiful double page spread silhouetting the rider in front of the iconic Taj Mahal. Phelan briefly touches upon the changes that were happening while Stevens was on his ride, including the development of newer bicycle models and a gasoline engine. Phelan’s portrayal of the trip is the shortest of the three stories in terms of page count, and I do wish we had heard and seen more the trip, especially since Phelan mentions the exorbitant length of Stevens’ own account of his journey.

Nellie Bly’s is more muted, with her bright blue outfit and plaid orange-brown ulster standing out among the grays, whites, and browns of her transportation methods. I was somewhat surprised at his portrayal of Nellie as an impatient, irritable woman, but maybe she has good reason to be perturbed. It’s shown that the deck is stacked against her from the very beginning as she purposes the idea to her editor, is shot down immediately by staff due to her gender, and then she is given the assignment a year later as their own idea. It’s just another reason that I should do some research on a trailblazer in journalism.

Joshua Slocum’s journey sets a very different tone, both in the style of illustrations and the actual narration. It’s a solitary tale of a solitary man who is not in a race against time like Nellie or interacting with many people like Thomas. In fact, the minimal interactions portrayed are with hallucinations, memories, and ghosts from his past indicated with greens and yellows that separate their content from the blues and grays of the seemingly never-ending sea journey. There was no mighty fanfare upon his return, and when the story ends with his disappearance at sea 10 years later, it’s made abundantly clear to readers that this restless man was searching for a life and solace he could not find.

Phelan includes a short author’s note and bibliography of sources at the end, although I question how many of those resources would be beneficial to children. Epilogues are also included after each of the three stories, giving answers to the inevitable “and then?” questions that would follow a tale of a trip around the world. Captain Slocum’s is the only one played out in graphic novel format. Readers expecting the daring feats that they find in the 39 Clues series will be disappointed, but introspective adventurers looking to whet their appetite on true tales may enjoy the stories and provide a launching point for further speculation on their own future endeavors.

2 The Point Tuesday Explorer: The Lost Islands

Each month for my job, I write a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ll be expanding that idea to the blog in a new feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Explorer Lost IslandsTitle: Explorer: The Lost Islands
Editor: Kazu Kibuishi
Contributors: Jake Parker, Chrystin Garland, Jason Caffoe, Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier (colorist Braden Lamb), Michel Gagne, Katie and Steven Shanahan (colorists Eric Kim and Selena Dizazzo), and Kazu Kibuishi (colorist Jason Caffoe)
ISBN: 9781419708817
Pages: 127 pages
Publisher/Date: Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, c2013.

There’s a rabbit with a helpful robot. A young child discovers there is more than you think behind a carnival mask. A teenage boy stranded on a deserted island finds help from a ghost crab. A teenage girl discovers a woman whose life sounds eerily similar to her own. A flying fish rescues her friends from an erupting volcano. A mage in training learns the value of the radio as she tries to hatch a pixie egg. A boat full of fishermen almost becomes fish food. These seven stories all revolve around exploring lost islands and what you might find on their shores and in their waters. A compilation of graphic novelists take turns sharing through vivid colors their interpretations of the theme, some complete and some with open endings leaving readers to wonder what is next in the adventures of the characters.

Kiss Me Deadly

Title: Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love
Authors: Michelle Zink, Diana Peterfreund, Karen Mahoney, Justine Musk, Sarah Rees Brennan, Becca Fitzpatrick, Caitlin Kittredge, Carrie Ryan, Michelle Rowen, Rachel Vincent, Daniel Marks, Maggie Stiefvater, Daniel Waters
Edited by: Trisha Telep
ISBN: 9780762439492
Pages: 430 pages
Publisher/Date: Running Press Teens, c2010.

**FULL DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book free from the publisher. If I get it back in good shape from the teen I’m lending it to, it will be added to my library’s collection. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review, and a positive review was not guaranteed.

“After death, mortal love lives on in the lover’s memory, a sweet, gentle reminder of the life-affirming splendor of everlasting devotion (aw…). But, is that it? Is that really love? A love that can…die? What kind of cruddy love is that?
Choose paranormal love and make your relationship last forever! I mean, shouldn’t all true loves be able to survive a reanimation…or two?” –Trisha Telep (7, Introduction)

Have you ever read a story that you initially were apathetic about, and then the book improved upon a second reading? This was that kind of book for me. Initially, I felt lost with a lot of the stories, because they’re set in worlds that are established and detailed in books that I haven’t yet read. “Dungeons of Langeais” by Becca Fitzpatrick bills itself as A Hush, Hush Story, “Errant” by Diana Peterfreund is set in the same world as Rampant, and “Many Happy Returns” by Daniel Waters is A Generation Dead Story. The only authors of this collection that I’d read previously were Daniel Waters (Generation Dead) and Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver).

That being said, I have a teen at my library who saw this book sitting on my desk and has been clamoring to read it ever since. So I decided that I’d better page through it a second time. It’s difficult to review a collection of short stories, and even more difficult when you like some of the stories better than others. It’s especially difficult when you’re not sure if reading the other works by those authors would have led to the short stories making more sense.

For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed Daniel Waters’ story about a father’s love for his daughter, and his coming to terms with her feelings of love towards a boyfriend. I liked the uniqueness and the idea behind Sarah Rees Brennan’s “The Spy Who Never Grew Up”, even though the main character has seemingly gone a little insane in his “old” age. “The Assassin’s Apprentice” by Michelle Zink moved along at such a clip that I was left wondering what exactly just happened. “Vermillion” is another story that, while I’m sure Daniel Marks meant well, I was never really sold on the setting or the story, although the characters were engaging and kept you guessing until the end. In contrast, “Behind the Red Door” by Caitlin Kittredge spans an entire six months, and builds suspense and tenson at a snail’s pace as it skims through the months, coming to a startling and fiery conclusion. Rachel Vincent’s “Fearless” will leave you with goosebumps and a fear of falling asleep at night, wondering what or who will be praying on your dreams when you do finally drift off to bed. The one with the best ending is Michelle Rowen’s “Familiars”, which has one character telling another “I feel the same as I did before […] like I belong to you.” He smiled. “And that’s kind of hard to ignore.” (280) (Go ahead, you can say AWWWWWW, because I did.)

All in all, I think people familiar with the authors featured will get the most out of this compilation, but even people who aren’t familiar with any of them will ultimately find something they enjoy. Would I have recommended it after reading it just once? Probably not. But after seeing the teen’s reaction to just the cover, and flipping through them a second time, I recognize the teen appeal for the book. Just be prepared that at least one story will probably leave you scratching your head and asking yourself “What did I just read?”

Zombies Vs. Unicorns

Title: Zombies vs. Unicorns
Compiled by: Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black
Authors: Team Unicorn: Kathleen Duey, Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan, Naomi Novik, and Diana Peterfreund
Team Zombie: Libba Bray, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld, and Carrie Ryan
ISBN: 9781416989530
Pages: 418 pages
Publisher/Date: Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2010.

Since the dawn of time on question has dominated all others: Zombies or Unicorns?
Well, okay, maybe not since the dawn of time, but definitely since February 2007. That was the day Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier began a heated exchange about the creatures’ relative merits on Justine’s blog. Since then the question has become an unstoppable Internet meme, crowding comment threads and even making it to YouTube.
Here in the real world Holly and Justine are often called upon to defend, respectively, unicorns and zombies. The whole thing has gotten so out of hand that the only remedy is . . .
Zombies vs. Unicorns. The anthology. (Introduction)

In this compilation of twelve short stories featuring either zombies or unicorns (and in one instance, both), Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black have searched the globe (okay, primarily Australia and the United States) for contributions to their cause. Before each story Justine and Holly provide commentary that lasts about a page or two, debating the pros or cons of each group and focusing on an aspect presented in the story. These include the slow, shambling walk of zombies, the virgin fascination of unicorns, and the dangers of these creatures respective weapons, whether it’s a unicorn’s horn or the zombie’s teeth. I’ll be honest, I think Justine’s impassioned arguments gain a little more ground then Holly’s cold and calculating rationale, but that’s up for debate just as which one is best is up for debate. I think they really thought over this compilation, providing readers with icons to designate zombie stories from unicorn stories to ensure that “No unwary zombie fan will accidentally start reading a unicorn story or vice versa.”

Each of these stories are so unique that it wouldn’t be fair to summarize just one. I will comment on my favorites however. Garth Nix opens things up, and although it’s billed as a unicorn story it is the only contribution that contains both a unicorn AND a zombie, although Justine writes in the introduction that he was “supposed to write a zombie-unicorn story. But he messed it up, didn’t he?” Zombie fans might appreciate knowing about this one, even if it is marked as a unicorn story. Meg Cabot’s Princess Prettypants stands out as one of the most humorous, filled with a farting unicorn given as a birthday present who proves to her skeptical owner that there are benefits to owning a unicorn. Naomi Novik’s snarky and smart-mouthed unicorn comes in a close second, who doesn’t seem to care if he actually gets a virgin or not (“Are you a lesbian? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count toward virginity.” “I’m pretty sure it does,” Alison said, “and sorry, but no.” (54))

On the zombie side of things, Alaya Dawn Johnson writes a love story that reminds me slightly of Romeo and Juliet, where homosexual star-crossed lovers must come to terms with the parent’s qualms about the relationship. (Hey, I said slightly). Maureen Johnson tells a spooky story of babysitting gone bad in The Children of the Revolution and provides a reminder that maybe the weird people who live at the top of the hill live there for a reason. Cassandra Clare contributes a story of political intrigue and corruption as a prince seeks justice for his murder.

I can see these stories having a lot of teen appeal, and it might encourage other such compilations in the future. I’m seriously considering having this be one of my teen book discussion books next year because of the wide variety of stories, voices, and contributions. Readers of this series will be scrambling to find more novels by the authors they enjoined the most, so you’d better prepare your fiction areas with an appropriate number of novels. And if you’re interested in finding the blog post that started it all, which really had almost nothing to do with zombies initially, click here — really, scroll down to the comments section. (okay, it continues in the comments here and here). Actually, it would probably be easier just to click on the “Zombie” tag, and you can see how many times the creatures really do get mentioned on her blog.

On a personal note, one of the reasons I would love to be a young adult author is because I could be friends with all these great authors and have debates like whether zombies or unicorns are better. Oh, I dream of that day…

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