Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe by Josh Allen

A perfect book to give to kids who want spooky! Or, a perfect book for adults like me who don’t really like to be scared. The weirdness is reminiscent of David Lubar, but I have to say I much preferred these. There’s certainly a lot of similarity in the stories in this collection -in general you can tell what bad things might happen and there’s a lot of revenge. Despite that I think this is a great collection for kids. I’m pretty sure this is a book I would have enjoyed reading over and over, and as for me I can see a few stories I might like to read aloud to my classes. They are just right for being spooky and creepy but not terrifying or violent.  I especially liked “The Vanishers” and the classic Devil story.

The End and Other Beginnings by Veronica Roth

I really liked Divergent and was pretty interested in this collection of futuristic short stories. As with pretty much all short story collections–mixed bag. I really liked the first 2/3, but ended up skipping the last stories because I just didn’t care for the whole premise/setting/story.

My favorite story was the very first one, which read mostly like a good YA story about friends and mistakes. The future element was that a technology/medical procedure has been invented so that before you die you can hook up to a friend/loved one and share favorite memories, truly feel you are reliving them together, but you also get to talk to each other. I mean, who wouldn’t love that? I thought this was a great story.

A little more “less rosy future” was the Hearkener story, in which the world is constantly being exposed to biological warfare in an attempt (by fanatics) to eliminate the population. Certain members of society are Hearkeners and futuristic technology has allowed them to hear people’s life and death songs (something that’s been discovered.)

 

Hits and Misses by Simon Rich

I have an EE (“eagle eye”) for finding misshelved adult books in the children’s section. And thank goodness, because that’s how I found there was this new Simon Rich book!

It was hilarious! As with any collection some stories I liked more than otherse. As with all his collections I just find it absolutely hilarious when he, say, gives a modern style of talking to God, Saint Peter, Jesus’s contemporaries, etc. The foosball story was super funny and I thought the very first story was also great (in part because I was so tickled and surprised by the suprise factor of it.)

Calypso by David Sedaris

I have one expectation with a David Sedaris book and it is this–to laugh out loud while reading it, possibly in public and unable to stop.
Expectation met!
Even though my husband was all “oh I already read most of the stories in The New Yorker” I never read the New Yorker and they were all new to me. So there. Pretty much every store made me laugh out loud at something-I just love the things he says, the way he writes. But in this collection I also found a certain sweetness or poignancy. Although you can tell that events in stories span a few years by references to his niece’s age, most of the stories are about his whole family being together at the beach house he and Hugh bought in South Carolina. (I suppose reading them all together, rather than spaced out in the magazine makes it all seem like everything happens in one year.) There’s always been stuff about his family, but his youngest sister’s suicide is what really brings out the stories about how much he and his siblings really get each other and love each other, how much they loved their mother, and how they are with his now pretty elderly father. They’re a weird and funny family and I love reading about them.

I probably laughed the most reading about the Japanese stores he and his sisters can’t resist shopping at.

Spoiled Brats by Simon Rich

I did not love this as much as the previous two books of his that I read. That said, I laughed out loud plenty of times.  As the title might suggest, there is lots of commentary on spoiled brats, and privileged millenials. Consequently, a lot of the stories feature incredibly unlikable characters. Nonetheless, their unlikability is pretty funny.

In a stand out story for me (and the longest one), Sell Out,  a man falls into pickle brine and is preserved for 100 years. When he wakes up it’s 2014. This hard-working immigrant is matched up with his great great grandson, Simon Rich (all the characters are named that which cracks me up), who is just an awful guy. With just 7 cents the old sets out to make millions. His work ethic and lack of understanding of modern ways resonates with Brooklyn hipsters in many funny exchanges. Ultimately Herschel is really just as much of an ass as Simon, but oh the trip there is so funny. Dumb hipsters abound in the stories, too. The Elf on the Shelf story is disturbing (especially read post-holidays). Played Out features a guy so in search of the hippest thing that he is living in a sewer.

I really liked the last story, Big Break, which was a great end to the collection.  A bunch of guys who just know they’re going to make it finally are super excited by the talent agent that comes to their show, but they’re in for a surprise when they find out who he really is.

If the last book had love as a theme, this one has “growing up and getting a real job” as a theme. It’s a concept in most of the stories, always poking fun at the characters.

The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories by Simon Rich

lastgirlSimon Rich is hilarious. It’s been a while since I thought of him, but an appearance on some late show had Paul looking up what he’s done lately and bringing home his two newest works.  This one is a collection of thematically related stories, vignettes, jokes.  Divided into three sections (boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl) the stories all work together well.  Some of the stories are typically clever and funny  and others are straight up cuckoo and funny.  I didn’t outright dislike any, making this a very solid even collection.  Stories include sirens living in the Gowanus Canal; God’s girlfriend getting mad at him on the phone when she can hear him continuing to work while supposedly listening to her boring work story (“Let there be elephants.” I heard that!); Girlfriends acting mean because of defective parts; Dog Missed Connections, and more. I laughed out loud a lot during this, so be forewarned should you be reading this on a morning commute or airplane right.

21 Proms ed. by David Levithan and Daniel Ehrenhaft

21-proms.jpgThis is collection of 21 stories by today’s best young adult authors. The topic is obviously the prom. Or, as everyone outside of New Jersey says, “prom”. (This is true. We say “I’m going to the prom.” But apparently everyone else, especially in John Hughes movies set in the Chicago suburbs, says “I’m going to prom.” or “What about prom, Blaine?” )

As with any collection there are hits and misses. I skipped a few stories, but overall a pretty solid collection. My favorites:

John Green’s “The Great American Morp”–Girl hosts an anti-prom at her house. John Green is a Printz and Printz Honor winner, and also very witty and charming to boot. Check out his video blog http://www.brotherhood2.com This story was v. funny and had characteristic John Green smarty pants humor. Also the phrase “jill off”, which made me laugh out loud.

“You are a Prom Queen, Dance, Dance, Dance” by Elizabeth Craft–Girl has date at the prom who makes her reveal her true feelings for him. A nice regular old story.

“Mom Called She Says You Have to go to Prom” by Adrienne Maria Vrettos Continue reading