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was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What Are You Reading 4/5

It's Monday! Time to implement my schedule, starting with What Are You Reading, a meme hosted by One Person's Journey and which I found out about and filched from Emma. (I am the epitome of original.)

This week I've been reading a couple of things. First, since I'm coming out of spring break, I've been reading Vacations from Hell, an anthology of horrific vacation tales, written by five young adult authors. Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, Claudia Gray, and Sarah Mylnowski.

So far, I've only read two of the 5 stories all the way through; Maureen Johnson's Law of Suspects and Libba Bray's Nowhere is safe.

These stories show what a mixed bag anthologies can be quality wise, and also the differences in writing that can appear when comparing an authors short stories to their longer works.

Maureen Johnson: Law of Suspects

Personally, this story left me feeling room temperature. It was an excellent premise in my opinion; trapped in the French country side, the victim of a cursed story, with no clue who the murderer will be. The idea of it excited me then and now. It's one of those stories which I think someone else could flesh out into a full novel. But I digress. Overall, I liked the idea. Execution, however....

I like Maureen Johnson's voice. Devilish is one of my favorite YA books, and I recommend The Bermudez Triangle to everyone. But it's a voice that doesn't always work in every situation. It fell a little flat in this one. Whenever I was getting involved in the suspense, something, a throwaway sentence or just the phrasing of the narrators thoughts, would rear up and drag me back out, and I'd hope she died. Maybe this wouldn't have bothered me as much if the story were longer and I had more time to get used to the main character. Also, do make outs have to be in EVERY short story? Are they really THAT necessary? Or am I just not feeling the love? Discuss.

I really liked the ending though. Overall, good bones of a story. Needs a hell of a lot of elbow grease to make it as awesome as it could and should be.*

Moving on the Libba Bray.

Libba Bray: Nowhere is Safe

This was the first story I read, even though it's at the end of the book. This story had a lot of modern day Poe and Lovecraft feeling to it. She even named the main character after Mr. Poe (a giant plus in my book). Basic premise is that four friends from high school go backpacking across Europe the summer before they start college. However, when the group moves off the beaten tourist track, they find themselves involved in the centuries-old practices of a town on the brink of destruction.

Yes, it's a plot you've probably seen a dozen times on SyFy channel, but Libba Bray pulls it off with a lot of class and genuine fear. The dynamic of the relationships between friends, watching them shift and deteriorate as the situation gets more extreme, is fascinating and powers the story nearly as much the plot. Also, I loved reading about a male protagonist, and a multi-ethnic one to boot (YA authors, more of this please). The romantic drama was appropriate; mentioned often enough to establish it, but not so often we want to hit Poe for not making his move.

The twist at the end, when we discover the villains, is a little predictable but not in a way that hurts the story. The ending itself is mostly satisfying in how it ties things up, but makes me want to hear more about Poe and his adventures.

My biggest complaint was the writing itself. It's not bad by any means, but I love Libba Bray and am used to the shining, sterling quality of The Gemma Doyle Trilogy and now Going Bovine. In Nowhere is Safe, you can tell that it was rushed, especially when paired with her longer works.

This gets to the roulette aspect of anthologies. It's hard to tell what you're getting. Even if you know and like the authors whose works are included, there's no guarantee that they'll hold up quality wise to other stories you've read by them. Some authors excel at short stories while other need 400 pages to really make it work and express themselves completely. And it's hard to know whether an author will fall into one category or another until you read both types of writing.

I just started Cassandra Clare's story. When I get around to finishing all the stories, hopefully I'll sit down and write a full review.

The other book I started reading this week is A History of Violence by John Wagner, illustrated by Vince Locke. More on this later in the week. Until tomorrow.

Planning your untimely demise,
Maria D.

*MJ, if you ever find this blog and read this post, I still love you long time. Promise.

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