Junot Diaz's versatility enables him to effortlessly shift from elaborate epics to intimate, micro-level storytelling. Just a few years after his sweeping epic, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Diaz is back with This is How You Lose Her, a collection of overlapping and intersecting short stories that offer brief, nuanced glimpses of complex characters, emotions, and situations.
Although the stories contained within This is How You Lose Her are arranged in a non-linear sequence, they create a fragmentary portrait of Yunior's life and progression from a young immigrant learning English from Sesame Street to a middle-aged man reflecting on a hollow life and deteriorating body.
Some wishes are traditional – to be the fairest in the land or find a handsome prince. Some are personal – for a family member to get better, to be a doctor, learn the piano, fall in love. Some are never identified as wishes, but are rather the silent longings of the heart. Written by a truly stellar cast of authors with a foreword by Mia Farrow, What You Wish For is a collection of short stories that center on children who wish.
The collection ranges from Meg Cabot’s wry and humorous “The Protectionist” – which starts with the protagonist lamenting that the school bully has taped a note to his sister’s back which reads, Boobies: Get some; to the quietly poignant “Rules for Wishing” by Francisco X. Stork, where a young boy is celebrating his birthday in the foster care system, after his mother gave his sister up for adoption when his father could not control his fists.
You can tell a book by its cover. So, if a book’s cover or title “calls” to you, it's karma - pick it up! A couple of years ago I was in the library and a book by a debut author was in display. The Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill was definitely calling to me. I thought, “Who is this Joe Hill? I don’t know him and maybe his book isn’t good.”
A couple of weeks later a patron came into my office and asked me, “Have you ever read anything by Joe Hill?”
“No. Why? Is he good?” I asked.
“Well, you know that he is Stephen King’s son. I wanted to see if he writes like his father.”
Now I am kicking myself mentally! I should have listened to the book calling me! I ran to the display and thankfully it was still there!
“He was a big and incredibly powerful collie, with a massive coat of burnished mahogany-and-snow and with absurdly small forepaws (which he spent at least an hour a day in washing) and with deep-set dark eyes that seemed to have a soul behind them. So much for the outer dog. For the inner: he had a heart that did not know the meaning of fear or disloyalty or of meanness.” – Albert Terhune
Humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What makes one person snicker or guffaw might leave another stone cold. Thankfully, the new short story collection Guys Read: Funny Business presents many different senses of humor throughout its pages.
The brainchild of writer Jon Scieszka (of Stinky Cheese Man fame), Guys Read is a project that finds and suggests books that will inspire boys to read, to enjoy what they’re reading, and to seek out more. Different authors contributed their own pieces that will, with any luck, put you in stitches without requiring the mandatory hospital visit.
Funny Business is not just for boys, but it has a lot of things that they might like. It has goofiness and gross-outs. It has suspense and action. It has evil turkeys and chocolate swimming pools. This installment of the new series focuses on humor, but the group plans to release books that are focused on mysteries, sports, and real life stories as well.
My paperback copies of Ray Bradbury's wonderful fantasy collections--The Illustrated Man, October Country, Dandelion Wine, The Machineries of Joy, and The Martian Chronicles--are in sad shape. The pages are brittle, yellowed, and, yes, a bit musty. But I keep them because his lyrical words matchlessly probe humanity at its worst and best. When friends of mine gifted us with 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales one Christmas, I was happy to have many of those beautiful stories collected together in a hardback edition to last for years--and so was the local library for we own several copies of it.
I certainly won't go through every one of the one hundred, but I'll mention several pieces that stuck with me time and again. One of the first stories in the collection is "The Rocket," in which a poor junk man gets hold of a prototype rocketship and dreams of somehow going into space with his family. "The Sailor Home from the Sea" is a tale of loss and love and the imagination to reconcile them. "The Sound of Summer Running" is the opening piece for Dandelion Wine, and it brings back the time of year and the time of life for one young man who feels as if his whole town might capsize, go under, leaving not a trace in the clover and weeds of burgeoning summer.
The Squire's Tale by Gerald Morris
Gawain of Orkney doesn't need a squire. He's yet to make it to King Arthur's court to be knighted, and if he does need a squire later, he has a few brothers in the hinterlands who will do. For his part, Terence was perfectly happy taking care of his foster father, the hermit Trevisant. He was a kind boy and an excellent cook, though granted a bit confused at present. Just recently the trees had started talking to him.
His Majesty's Elephant by Judith Tarr
The hue and cry outside the royal stables of the Emperor Charlemagne sounded like a battle raging to Rowan. The grooms were trying to push a gigantic elephant into one of the Emperor's old war tents, and Abul Abbas, for so the elephant was called, was having none of it.
Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
The Dark Horse by Marcus Sedgwick
When Horn's war party found the girl, she was hidden in the corner of the cave, undressed, and past comforting by the wolves who raised her. They had been slaughtered by the Lawspeaker's band or else run off, howling their rage and loneliness. A foundling, surely, filthy, perhaps seven or eight summers old. Horn, the Lawspeaker, growled that she should not join the Storn tribe. A worthless child... another mouth to feed in starving times.