The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff (Picked up at BEA 2012)

When Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff – three celebrated young adult authors – join forces the outcome is bound to be magical. And as magical as it is, it’s also a bit curious.

What started as a shared blog used primarily to post flash fiction short stories, the Merry Sister’s of Fate only bargained for perfecting their already near perfect writing skills and gaining some critical feedback from fans and writing group partners alike.

But after several years and more than several short stories Stiefvater, Gratton, and Yovanoff have just released a collected anthology of short stories fit to satisfy any and all reading tastes. The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories as it’s titled features the best of the best that these three authors have to offer.

So what can reader’s – both devoted fans and newcomers to these authors – expect?

Some stories are truly odd, but simultaneously fascinating. Take Gratton’s Ash-Tree Spell to Break Your Heart. It’s a short story about a young girl who have been created, Frankenstein style, out of beeswax and honey who is send on a deadly mission: to break the heart of a very specific man, a man who her creator has held a grudge on for some time.

Other stories are beautiful to the point of haunting. Yovanoff’s short story titled Neighbors is one of those stories. It’s a slow story about two neighbors, young girls, who find themselves in a ghostly position.

Further still, there’s Stiefvater’s story titled Heart Shaped Box, which admittedly I thought was based upon Nirvana’s song by the same title. But I quickly found out, after reading the story that it was created after author Stiefvater’s listened to Head Automatica’s “Brooklyn is Burning.”

Whatever song it is based upon it’s a story so savagely tragic readers will have a hard time shaking it from their memory. It’s an apocalyptic world where dying musicians seek out beating hearts of dead children in order to live on.

This journal-esque anthology invites reader’s in. Readers will feel as if their peeking into someone’s private journal. Maybe it’s the doodles that cover the pages, or the critiques scrawled within the margins.

Every story is vastly different. Yet they are all linked by a single thread – a similar plot line and/or theme. The stories that fill this anthology are unique, and have personalities all their own.

Readers will develop a sense of Stiefvater’s, Gratton’s, and Yovanoff’s signature writing styles. And will find it very difficult to pick a favorite author and a favorite story. Beyond their unique writing styles, each story is extremely well written.
Besides being creative and well crafted, these stories are original.

 

Unlike any other work out there, this collection of stories are inspiring! So much so that Emma (Miss Print) and I have taken to start our very own shared blog, posting our own short stories. Titled Little Women Stories, we already have stories posted!

In you’re looking for an exceptional collection of short stories, The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories is your book.

Book of Week: Red Knit Cap Girl

Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop

Published: 2012 by Little Brown

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Red Knit Cap Girl is super cute! I loved her from the moment I saw her.

There’s a sense of curiosity and wonder within the pages of this book.

I love how the moon’s referred to as “her”. No man in the moon cliché here!

Red Knit Cap Girl wonders how she could get closer to the luminous moon. She sets out and tries climbing tree branches, trying to poke it with a long stick, etc..

She’s one clever gal.

All of her friends are forest creatures. Among them area white bunny with oversized floppy ears and a pointy-nosed hedgehog (that I just want to squeeze).

There’s an old wise owl. I love how the owl isn’t only portrayed as knowledgeable but as stoic.

I love how determined Red Knit Cap Girl is. She’s a great character for young readers to look up to.

All of her furry forest friends help make Red Knit Cap Girl’s wish to talk to the moon come true.

I love how this aspect shows the lengths true friends will go through for one another.

This is one sophisticated book.

Red Knit Cap Girl is very skilled at origami. From mere paper she creates three-dimensional paper lanterns. And why? All in the hopes of luring the moon to her since it’s so very far away.

When readers finally see the lady of the moon, she’s spectacularly beautiful.

This is the kind of book I want in my own personal collection.

This book is as much for adults as it is for children.

The writing is simple, engaging, and smart. I love the tone and the pace of this book.

The illustrations are rich, inviting, and beyond that gorgeous.

I think book shows readers of all ages that importance of dreams and dreaming. With that, I think it also shows that if you believe in something hard enough and you’re determined enough, dreams really do come true.

Keep Holding On

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti (picked up copy at BEA 2012.)

Noelle is a survivor. She’s survived a mother who is so self-obsessed she barely notices her daughter or her daughter’s needs. She’s survived a bare refrigerator and even barer cabinets, making do with nothing more than mustard sandwiches. She’s survived clothes so old and so big they hang from her slender form. But the one thing she may not survive is high school.

High school is tough for any kid, but for Noelle it’s downright brutal. She’s often teased and taunted for things out of her control, things she wishes she could fix. The names she can tolerate, but when she gets physically assaulted by a clump of cafeteria mashed potatoes that’s about all the bullying and abuse Noelle can take. Biding her time until she graduates Noelle needs a safe haven, away from the lunch room and away from her tormentors.

When she’s offered a position on the school lit magazine, Noelle jumps at the chance. There she finds food, friends, and a reason to Keep Holding On.

Keep Holding On written by author Susane Colasanti is a painfully beautiful story of bullying and persevering in the face of bullying.

In a few hundred pages Colasanti’s portrayal of a bullied teenage girl shows readers the repercussions of being bullied. Beyond the physical effects, with honest and compassion Colasanti shows readers that bullying affects both the mental and spiritual states of the person.

Keep Holding On is a fantastically believable read. What makes it’s so is Colasanti’s writing. Beyond being smart and brutally honest, her writing is in tune with the teens she writes for. Besides that, readers will appreciate just how realistic this book is.

Personally, Keep Holding On is Colasanti’s most relatable book to date.  It’s not just because her characters are real and full of raw emotion, it’s because I felt deeply connected to her characters, Noelle especially. As someone who knows what it’s like to be teased and picked on, I fully understood how Noelle felt. So much so that I found myself shedding tears alongside her.

Keep Holding On is a story that readers will sympathize with. One that’s full of characters that readers will cheer wildly for.

 

Book of the Week: Virginia Wolf

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear  Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Published: 2012 by Kids Can Press, Ltd.

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Before reading it, I’ve heard a lot of buzz/hype about this book. The buzz/hype was enough to stir my curiosity.

Readers may find this read to be whimsical and fantastical, I found it to be honest, realistic, and above all other things imaginative.

It’s about two sisters – one who goes about her normal, cheerful routine. And the other wakes up in a wolfish mood.

I think this book shows that no matter how old or young you are, bad moods happen to everyone.

Bad moods can really affect the people we truly are.

I love how throughout the book, the “wolfish” sister is actually portrayed as a wolf. I really like this aspect because I know when I’m in a bad mood I feel like a big ogre.

Everyone around her – friends, family, even birds – are affected by her bad mood.

I love how the other sister tries her best to make her sister feel better. It’s what sisters do (or I guess that’s what sisters do since I don’t know firsthand. I’m an only child.)

One point, when the whole household is turned upside down and topsy-turvy, reminds me of the exact moment Alice fell down the rabbit whole.

I love how this book shows young readers the importance of expressing themselves, and shows them that it’s okay to have a bad day. That bad days, and bad moods are natural.

Some days we all just want to be left alone.

Both sisters are relatable.

I love how understanding and calm the other sister is. She’s portrayed as, not only a caring sister, but a best friend.

I love how this book illustrates the give and take of relationships.

When asked what would make the wolfish sister happy, she answers “flying away.”

The other sister sets out to make her sister feel better. She creates a world that both her and her sister can escape to, a world that only they and their imaginations exist.

She paints vivid flowers, blue squirrels, and sprinkle covered cupcakes. It’s a world that even I want to visit!

I love how this story is told, not from the perspective of the “wolfish” sister, but from the other sister who is trying to take care of her.

This book is full of surprises, all of which readers will adore.

The writing is beyond great. It’s spectacular.

The illustrations are lush, soft, and inviting.

I really adored this book, and it has become one of those books that I want in my own personal library.

 

Shootin’ the Breeze with Amanda Hocking

I recently read and reviewed Amanda Hocking’s latest book Wake. And, as you know (that is, if you read my review) I loved it! It was my kind of book. I only had one real issue with it — it left me with many burning questions. Part of those questions will be left unanswered until  I get the chance to read  second, third, and fourth books.

But luckily for me, and for you fellow blog readers, Amanda Hocking graciously agreed to answer some of those burning questions. Enjoy the interview!

The BookBandit (BB): Can you tell me about yourself, and about your background as a writer?

Amanda Hocking (AH): I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life, and I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I finished my first novel when I was 17, and I’ve gone on to write 25 books since then. I started out writing more character driven thriller-horror, but I’ve mostly been writing paranormal romance and a little horror for the last few years.

BB: What was the inspiration behind your book, Wake?

AH: I grew up really fascinated by mythology and fantasy. Wake introduces a more contemporary take on one of my favorite stories from Greek mythology.

BB: How was writing Wake different from the writing of your previous titles?
AH: The process itself wasn’t all that different. I worked the idea in my head about a year before I started outlining and getting my notes together, and then I wrote it over a couple of weeks. Most of my other novels are written in first person, and it was a lot more freeing to write in third person, so that part was fun. I was able to show different elements of the story that I wouldn’t be able to if I could only see things through Gemma or Harper’s eyes.

BB: If you could describe your characters – Gemma, Harper, Penn, Lexi, Thea, etc. – with only one song, what song would beside describe/represent them?
AH: Gemma – Florence + the Machine “Never Let Me Go”
Harper – Arcade Fire “Wake Up”
Penn – Marilyn Manson “If I Was Your Vampire”
Lexi – La Roux “In For the Kill”
Thea – Mumford & Sons “White Blank Page”
Daniel – Led Zepplin “All My Love”
Alex – Desire “Under Your Spell”

BB: What was the most difficult part of writing Wake? Now that it’s finished, and published, looking back is there anything you would have done or written differently?
AH: The most difficult part of writing a book, for me, is always the beginning. Getting started and getting in the flow of it can be tough sometimes. Conversely, the end is always the easiest and my favorite part to write. I don’t think I’d really change anything about it. Overall, I’m really pleased with the story and where it’s going.

BB: Of all the characters in Wake, which one, would you say are you most like? Why?
AH: Marcy. She’d rather be reading than interacting with real people, and she’s into all kinds of weird stuff.

BB: What kind of research did you have to do in order to write Wake?
AH: Most of the research I did was about Greek mythology and trying to decide exactly how I wanted to interpret it. There’s some contradictory ideas about sirens, and I wanted to stay as faithful to the original mythos as I could, while at the same time being true to what people think of them now.
BB:  As a writer, you stay very connected via your blog, twitter, etc. Why is it important to you and your writing to stay connected?
AH: It was something that happened organically. Blogging and twitter are something that I enjoy, and I would use them even if I wasn’t talking to readers. But the readers of my books have been so amazingly supportive of me, so I feel like I kind of owe it to them to stay as connected as I can be.
BB: If anything, could you tell what readers will expect from the rest of the Watersong series?
AH: Wake sets the stage for the rest of the series, so as the books go on, the danger and romance get amped up. I also delve more into the history and personalities of Penn, Lexi, and Thea.

BB: What advice could you give to aspiring writers?

AH: Keep writing, keep reading, and edit, edit, edit.

***

I just want to say THANK YOU to the lovely and talented Amanda Hocking! It was great reading, reviewing, and of course interviewing you on my blog!

Wake

Wake by Amanda Hocking (Picked up ARC at BEA 2012)

Sixteen – year – old Gemma Fisher’s life revolves around one thing: swimming. For her, swimming is so much more than an emotional escape. It’s what hopefully will take Gemma away from the small fishing town in which she lives.

By day, Gemma practices and trains hard under the guidance of her high school swim coach at the local pool in the hopes of one day making the Olympic swimming team. By day, she floats peacefully in the silky smooth bay under the cover of stars.

As long as she stays focused, her dreams will one day become a reality. But Gemma can’t seem to focus. But how can she stay focused when Alex, the boy next door, is suddenly becoming something more than that. But even though he’s a distraction, he certainly is a welcomed one.

Unlink the sudden appearance of Penn, Thea, and Lexi. They’re a distraction that Gemma doesn’t welcome. They’re unlike any other visitors her seaside town has ever seen. Not only do these unnaturally beautiful strangers slink about town, but Gemma’s caught them on more than one occasion partying at the bay, often beckoning Gemma to join in.

There’s something fishy about Penn, Thea, and Lexi. Gemma can’t quite put her finger on it, but she’s positive there’s something unnatural about them. And she’s about to find out just how unnatural they are, personally.

Wake, by author Amanda Hocking, is a believable and enchanting start to a four book series – the Watersong Series.

Hocking, best known for her self-published work, has grown both as a writer and a storyteller. She’s taken a classic myth and made it her own. Beyond the impressive storyline, her writing is both solid and believable. Readers will whole heartedly believe what’s happening to Gemma, no matter how fantastical it is.

What made Wake such a great read isn’t only the writing. It’s the fact that bubbling under the guise of fantasy and myth, there’s an unexpected element of horror. Reader’s will be unnerved by the twists and turns. They too will suspect something unnatural hidden with Penn, Thea, and Lexi. Both old and new fans will appreciate the fact that Hocking has stuck to her paranormal roots.

Wake surprised me on so many levels. What surprised me most was the fact that it was told from the third person and I still managed to love it. I have a real issue with books told from third person. I find I can’t connect to the characters, the emotions, and the storyline. But that wasn’t the case for Hocking’s Wake. I felt connected to the storyline, to the characters, and to the emotion put forth in the book.

Wake is a fast paced read that will leave readers wanting more. And lucky for use there are three more on the way!

Book of the Week: Tilly the Trickster

Tilly the Trickster by Molly Shannon Illustrated by Ard Hoyt

Published: 2011 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Reasons Why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

This is a book that’s been on my to read list for a while. It was worth the wait!

Main character Tilly has real spunk. I like that in a character.

Tilly is a real trickster. From the moment she wakes in the morning to the moment she’s tucked into bed in the evening.

Some of the tricks Tilly pulls are harmless, but others … not so much. For example, when Tilly pokes a small hole in her fathers water cup, watch dribbled out. But unfortunately the excess water ends up on the floor causing the family dog to crash into the table knocking everything off it. Tilly’s father, who’s dressed for work, ends up drenched.

I love how this book shows that every child, no matter how alike they appear, have unique personalities all their own.

Tilly the Trickster also shows that what one person finds funny another may not find as funny. Especially those on the receiving end of the trick.

Even though playing tricks on family, friends, and teachers may be funny it can often lead to trouble.

Tilly may be a trickster but she isn’t cruel. She learns her lessons, and quickly realizes that tricks could lead to more than hurt feelings.

There are some serious laugh out loud moments.

This is a great story fit for both boys and girls, young and old alike.

The writing is as quick-witted and funny as Tilly herself.

The illustrations pop! They bring all of Tilly’s tricks to life.

All the colors of the illustration match Tilly’s unique personality – they’re bold, bright, and full of flavor!

I love how this book shows even if a family member or two may get upset by your tricks, at the end of the day, the accept and love you for who you are.

The book shows for every action, there is an equal reaction.  When Tilly pulls a particularly funny, but wrong, trick on her music teacher (she gives her an extra hot hard candy, telling her its sweet strawberry flavor), she’s taken to the principal’s office immediately, and punished for her actions.

Tilly always has a trick up her sleeve.

Overall this was a really fun book to read.