Sunday, August 29, 2010

How They Met and other stories, by David Levithan

After I returned those Odd short story books to the library, I was scanning the shelves for another anthology that I could glean inspiration and learn from. (I want to write my own collection of short stories now. ^_^) So I found this. Now by the cover, it looked like this would certainly be my kind of book. I've tackled short stories about magic and odd things, and now I was ready to read short stories about love. Awesome!

What I didn't know, and what the inside cover didn't bother to tell me, was that about a third of the stories were about gay couples. O,o

Now I certainly don't have anything against gay people (one of my best friends is gay ^_~). It's just that I'm not used to reading from the perspective of a gay person. It was just... different for me. Hey, I wouldn't have minded if one or two stories were about gay couples, but we're talking about 7 out of 18 stories here. The very first three stories, in fact, were gay. So yeah, this kind of affected my opinion of the book as a whole in general.

To be fair though, the stories that were about straight couples were quite good. The author certainly kept me guessing. O,o He usually wrote in the first person, so it was a little hard to figure out sometimes whether it would turn out to be a gay story or a straight story. But I liked the guy's writing style. The fact that I bothered to finish this book shows that it wasn't all that bad of a reading experience.

Maybe this book was false advertising for me, personally, but don't let that stop you from picking this book up yourself. Who knows? Maybe you'll like it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Short Stories

It appears that what I think are my favorite types of books in the world seems to come in phases to me. In 2007, my Harry Potter phase pretty much ended (because all the books were written), along with my ASOUE (A Series Of Unfortunate Events) phase around that same time. Then in 2008 I started my Pendragon phase, which sadly ended last year ~,~ (but it was an awesome ride all the same! ^_^). By the end of that year, I began blogging and a new collective phase opened up: James Dashner books, the Twilight saga, and popular books recommended on other book blogs in general. Also really big books. I loved big tomes that I could spend more than one day on.

For much of 2009 and 2010, it was clear that I was in my graphic novel phase. Maybe my readers have noticed this? First there was Bone and Flight, and then Cirque Du Freak and Runaways, plus lots of others. I only post about the good ones though. I've probably read many more graphic novels than I've bothered to mention, because I always read them very quickly. So I can be in a bookstore or the library, and if I see a catching graphic novel, I'll read it in one sitting. And then I'll gobble up another, and another if I'm lucky. Yes, graphic novels are truly awesome. I love their quickness. ^_^

And now folks, you will be witness to the birth of another book-loving phase. Now I am in love with *drumroll, please*: The Short Story. Or to be more specific, the Short Story Collection. Here's what happened.

First, I came upon this book in the library. The curious cover caught my eye, and when I saw Diana Wynne Jones on the cover I got even more interested (name recognition). So I took it out. I'm quite glad I did. There's a lot of funny stuff in those 15 short stories + 1 novella. Characters, worlds, styles, situations, mostly different, but all thoroughly entertaining. ^_^ Just like a graphic novel, I read through them all pretty quickly, but I also took my time a little, taking breaks between stories.

The theme for each story was pretty much what the title says: Unexpected Magic. Which meant that in each story, the characters either try to use magic but it doesn't turn out the way they thought it would, or they're normal people who fall victim to strange occurrences. I believe my favorite stories were the couple that were told from a cat's point of view. I loved the way the cats thought and reacted to situations.

The next time I went to the library, I found 2 books entirely by chance. I don't really remember why I took them down from the shelf in the first place. I'd certainly never heard of a guy named Bruce Coville before. But they looked like thin quick reads, and the titles kind of caught my eye. Oddly Enough, and Odder Than Ever. Obviously, these books were part of a series. Then I saw that they were both short story books, just like the one Diana Wynne Jones wrote! Once I looked at the inside flaps of both books, I was sold.

As with Unexpected Magic, the title said it all. These stories, in one way or another, were odd. The characters were odd, or the whole situation was odd. The hero either meets, or becomes, something entirely strange. Mythical creatures like ghosts, vampires, werewolves, monsters, brownies, elves, and angels are covered in this book.

When the stories were supposed funny, I really enjoyed their humor. And when the stories were told in all seriousness, I appreciated the worlds and ideas that Bruce had come up with. Definitely a wonderful book to read. Which is why I was very happy that I had the foresight to take out the next book.

This was kind of more of the same, but the stories were all totally different. I loved them all a lot. ^_^ There's nothing more for me to say.

I didn't see this in the library, but I heard that it was another book in the Odd Story Collection series. I am definitely going to look for it next time I'm there, just because I loved the first 2 books, and because I am now crazy about short stories. ^_^

Really, you've got to read these books. They are all utterly amazing. Those short stories I read gave me lots of ideas, perhaps even inspired me, as a writer. They made me think about how you don't have to tell a story that spans 200 or 300 pages long. The story can be simple and to the point, and it can affect the reader just as much, in a fraction of the reading time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Demon Spawn, by *. ***** ******

I don't exactly know if I'm at liberty to discuss this, but if I get any complaints about it, ANY at all, I promise that I will take this post down in a heartbeat. I won't mention any names, except for the title of this fantastic book-to-be. I've just been bursting to share the news (if I may) that I recently finished my role as beta-reader to a novel called Demon Spawn. It was an amazing experience in every way. ^_^

I have served as a beta-reader for my friends more than once before, but this time I had the privilege to read and give my honest opinion on an established, quite popular author's manuscript! I received the book in installments of several chapters each, and he sent me the last couple chapters just before sending it out for his publisher to read. How did I get such an honor? I got connected through a very close blog friend who was thoughtful enough to recommend me highly to the author, because he was specifically looking for a "female teen reader" to give her take on the story.

I've been on this wild ride since early May, and now finally, after about 3 whole months, the author finished his writing and I finished reading. It was amazing! Now from the very beginning I promised him that I wouldn't share the story with anyone, so I can't say anything or give this book a proper review. But I will say this: Remember the name DEMON SPAWN. It is an incredibly awesome read you will NOT want to miss when it goes public. That is all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Boston Books

It seems that since coming to Boston I've been a little behind on book reviews, so here I go.

The first awesome book I read was finished in one sitting at the Newbury Comics store in Faneuil Hall. Flight Volume 7. I love the Flight series. Every time I read a new volume, I think it's the best collection of short story strips ever. This time is no different. There are some very talented artists and story-tellers that contributed to this book. If you haven't picked a Flight book before, I sorely suggest you do. It's a fantastic reading experience. I'm not sure how many Flight books there will end up being, but I hope Kazu Kibuishi keeps printing more!

I finished this book next. Another collection of Calvin and Hobbes. We got it from the library. So adorable. ^_^ What a hilarious dynamic duo those two are.

The library that we go to in Boston is awesome! It has a big teen section with LOTS of graphic novels, and comfortable chairs to read them in. I've probably whiled away hours reading GNs, but this book, Earthboy Jacobus, is one I remember the most and I think most deserves mention and review. I once read another book by the same author called Tommysaurus Rex, but that was before I wrote a book blog. I liked the familiar art style, and the story was intriguing. It was about a boy from some kind of alien parallel universe who somehow ends up on Earth, and an ex-army guy adopts him and raises him like his own son. The boy, Jacobus, has a weird black mark on his hand. There is some coming of age and a big alien battle near the end. For me, it was a good story, and I liked it.

This is a book I checked out from the library. It's a collection of 15 short stories from the author of Howl's Moving Castle and House of Many Ways. I haven't finished it yet, though I only have a few more stories to go until I'm done and can give it a proper review. But for now I really must say that Diana Wynne Jones is quite the creative writer. I love reading short story collections like this. They give me so many ideas, and lots of inspiration. They make me want to do better than just writing poems. I can probably write a decent short story, if I only set my mind to it. Anyway, I highly recommend this book. It gives you such an inspiration boost. Look for a review of this very soon.

Oh! Wait, wait! I almost forgot to mention something important! In less than 2 weeks, on August 31st, I'm going to be meeting another famous author! The amazing Suzanne Collins, the genius behind the Hunger Games trilogy, is coming to our library to promote Mockngjay, which is coming out in stores very, very soon, I believe. I am very excited for this event. How incredibly fortunate that I'll still be in Boston at that time. ^_^

The only thing is that it was mentioned that Suzanne won't exactly be signing books, per se, because something's wrong with her wrist, I think. But she'll be stamping each book, and I believe she'll allow pictures to be taken, so that's great. I can still prove I met her. ^_^ The event will be "First come, first serve" though, so I don't know how early I'll have to go to insure that I get to meet her. I hope I can talk to her and ask her questions. Shaking her hand will be awesome, at the very least.

That's it, I guess! Until next time, my fellow book lovers. ^_~

Friday, August 6, 2010

Calamity Jack, by Shannon Hale

What a nice follow-up to Rapunzels Revenge this book was. I read it all in one fell swoop, and it was fantastic. As I predicted, Jack was more the focus of this story. New characters were introduced, hilarity ensues and it seems that everyone lives happily ever after. (Although the last frame is highly suspect. Is it a cliffhanger? Does it indicate a future sequel? I have no idea.)

I liked the prologue, Jack's back-story. Very informative. It flowed right into the present time pretty smoothly. It's funny that Rapunzel still kept her long braid lassos even after she'd had her hair cut off in the last book. I liked the villain, that mean old giant. He was just as horrible as Rapunzel's witch mother, and I liked seeing him go down in the end. I definitely recommend reading this graphic novel, as well as the one that precedes it and any that will succeed it.

I didn't get to finish this book (we had to return it to the library), but I though I might as well mention it. It's quite a well written self-help book that was originally written by Dr. Phil, and this book was adapted by his own son. Pretty darn cool. Very good life strategies indeed are included in this volume. All you really need to know are the 10 principles that are covered in it:

1 ~ You either get it, or you don't
2 ~ You create your own experience
3 ~ People do what works
4 ~ You can't change what you don't acknowledge
5 ~ Life rewards action
6 ~ There is no reality, only perception
7 ~ Life is managed, not cured
8 ~ We teach people how to treat us
9 ~ There's power in forgiveness
10 ~ You have to name it before you can claim it

If you'd like to learn about and understand these principles in better detail, then read this book.