The Book that Made Me edited by Judith Ridge

Published: 1st September 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/Non Fiction
★   ★ – 2 Stars

The Book That Made Me is a celebration of the books that influenced some of the most acclaimed authors from Australia and the world. Inspirational. Affecting.

A perfect collection of personal stories for book lovers!

Personal stories by fantastic authors such as Markus Zusak, Jaclyn Moriarty, Shaun Tan, Mal Peet, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Simon French, Fiona Wood, Simmone Howell, Bernard Beckett, Ursula Dubosarsky, Rachael Craw, Sue Lawson, Felicity Castagna, Benjamin Law, Cath Crowley, Kate Constable, James Roy, Alison Croggon, Will Kostakis and Randa Abdel-Fattah. Also features black and white cartoons by Shaun Tan!

I picked up this book because there were stories from authors that I love to read and the premise sounded really interesting. There’s always a risk with anthologies that a reader won’t enjoy all the stories equally and unfortunately this was the case for me. Sometimes it is only a few but I found with this collection I couldn’t engage with a lot of the stories. I wanted to enjoy them, I wanted to read about what books had an impact on these writers but I struggled to get through many of the stories. This may be my own personal issue and perhaps it was because they were personal essays and not fictional stories, but I kept putting the book down and finding reasons to skim.

I shouldn’t be too harsh, there are 32 stories in this anthology and some certainly were engaging; they were humorous and fascinating stories about how a single book, whether it was a massive dislike or a fascination with a concept, changed how the author saw the world and shaped who they wanted to be. Will Kostakis told how his hatred of a set book in primary school inspired him to write his own story, Benjamin Law wrote how he fell in love with Roald Dahl and reading things ten year olds probably shouldn’t be reading, while so many more mentioned that books were their treasures and offered them an escape. There were stories from indigenous authors and how their culture and stories impacted them, and there’s also voices from minorities in Australia who talk about never seeing themselves in books and how the culture of their parents affected the books they were exposed to.

These stories opened my eyes to how different people had access to different books, some read the same books I had read as a kid, and certainly the age ranges between these authors offered a wider range of books again. The reasons how and why these books made an impact were interesting in themselves. I’ve certainly felt this way about books I’ve read. My book was Checkers by John Marsden. I read that when I was in high school and it cemented my decision to want to write so I understand why these essays exist, I only wish I enjoyed more of them.

The format was not only essays, there were lists, comics, dot points, poems, and a few people had more than one book that shaped them. A nice surprise were the Shaun Taun illustrations sprinkled throughout. Tan asked random strangers why they read and seeing the responses sprinkled throughout with an accompanying sketch was an adorable and entertaining way to break up the stories.

Even though it wasn’t my favourite anthology, I still enjoyed seeing how so many books, especially ones I had read myself, had such an impact on these authors. Just shows you the true power of reading and how people can read the same book in so many different ways.

You can purchase The Book that Made Me via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Speaking Out!: An LGBT Anthology edited by Steve Berman

Published: 20th September 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bold Strokes Books
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Speaking Out features stories for and about LGBT and Q teens by fresh voices and noted authors in the field of young adult literature. These are inspiring stories of overcoming adversity (against intolerance and homophobia) and experiencing life after “coming out.” Queer teens need tales of what might happen next in their lives, and editor Steve Berman showcases a diversity of events, challenges, and, especially, triumphs.

This collection of thirteen stories tell a variety of stories from a variety of own voices. These are fictional stories but each author has a small bio at the start of their story which lets you see a little into their lives and their own experience being part of the LGBTQTIA community. These small paragraphs are an extra inspiration for readers who may be experiencing their own hardships and having these authors of all sexualities put their own experiences down are real life references outside of these fictionalised stories. The authors are American but a lot of the stories have a focus on the people rather than setting. There is a lot to gain from reading these stories even if you are from outside the States.

I found myself becoming quite invested in some of these stories. When they ended I wanted to know more, I wanted to see the scene after, the scene where they tell, where they act. I had to remind myself not only are these short stories, but they are short stories that capture the moment of speaking out, the events that lead them to have the confidence to do so. This is a testament to the power of these stories, and certainly some were better than others as all anthology readers will attest to. I found myself enraptured by the strength of these characters against homophobia by friends and family, and the danger that that homophobia can have.

The stand out stories to me were Sparks of Change by Dia Pannes which was a powerful read about family and changing the small mindedness of small towns; another one was the beautiful and mystical imagery of Steve Berman’s Only Lost Boys Are Found. One story I particularly adored was Forever is Composed of Nows by Will Ludwigsen; a story about returning back to the place where you had bullying and trauma as a teen, only to return as an adult. It was incredibly well done and insightful to read.

As I said, there are a range of identities and sexualities represented in this anthology and each one is explored in so many different ways. Seeing these characters discover who they are, who they are publically prepared to be was uplifting and something I can imagine teens and young readers would find not only empowering but comforting. Personal stories and essays about experiences by the LGBTQIA are important literature to have, but having fictional worlds to escape to and relate to are also important. This is a great collection of stories and one I found an absolute delight to fall into.

You can purchase Speaking Out! via the following

Book DepositoryDymocksAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Beginnings: An Australian Speculative Fiction Anthology by Various Authors

Published: 24th November 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Deadset Press
Edited by: Jocelyn Spark, Alanah Andrews, and Austin P. Sheehan
Pages: 147
Format: ebook
Genre: Anthology
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

16 stories. 16 Australian authors. One theme. Beginnings. 

Esmerelda is trapped in a nightmare, unable to wake and escape from the darkness. 

A simple bus trip turns into a fight for survival. 

Alone in a strange place with no memories of who she is or how she got there, Alora’s world changes forever. 

Note: I was asked to review this anthology by one of the editors

From an incredible first story I was excited by this anthology. I was amazed at the variety of styles and stories that each of the writers came up with for the same theme. “Beginnings” means a lot of things and it is evident that each of these writers has chosen their own interpretation of that.

The opening story Edge might be one of my favourites but a few other stand outs include The Inheritance Experiment, Next Journey, and Break the Spell. There is a mixture of settings and writing styles and you can clearly see the speculative nature woven through each tale. I loved discovering how each writer chose to interpret that and how it is explored in the setting of their stories.

With any anthology there will be those stories that appeal more to some people than others. Some of the stories blew me away while some actually managed to creep me out a bit. Within the speculative guidelines there is also some horror and some fantasy in these stories, as well as a range of contemporary settings. One thing I like about speculative stories is they are so broad that they can cover almost anything strange, unknown, magical, and mystical.

There are fantastic short stories that grab you from the start and amaze you as they finish, there are stories that read like a great prologue of a bigger story yet to come, but there are also a few that read like short chapters that didn’t seem to go anywhere. Thankfully those were the minority as many of the stories were truly captivating.

You can purchase Beginnings via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

From A Certain Point of View: A Star Wars Anthology

The day has finally arrived! After a long wait, the new Star Wars anthology, titled From A Certain Point Of View, has finally been released. This new anthology has been created in celebration of the 40th anniversary of A New Hope (Episode IV) and is a compilation of 40 writers who have contributed stories based on the film.

The premise is that each writer has taken a scene from the original film and told it from a different point of view, whether that’s a stormtrooper who couldn’t find the droids he was looking for or one of Luke’s X-Wing pilots who helped blow up the Death Star.

From early teasers from authors on Twitter via #OperationBlueMilk (a reference to a drink in A New Hope), the announcement that there would be a collection of short stories about Star Wars was high on my excitement list, especially since one of my favourite podcasters was going to be a contributor. Griffin McElroy (from MBMBAM and much more) is a contributor, plus 39 other creators including Wil Wheaton, Chuck Wendig, Meg Cabot, Ben Acker, Jason Fry, Paul Kemp, and Claudia Gray, just to name a few. Of the 40 writers there’s a mixture of bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from Star Wars’ literary history.

If you are a fan of Star Wars, or even if you aren’t, this is a fascinating anthology with an intriguing premise. These are a combination of totally new stories, but based in a world we know and love around the Star Wars film.  I would love to see one of these done for all three original films, but for now, I’m content with this one.

You can purchase your copy of A Certain Point of View via the following

Dymocks | Wordery

Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Amazon Aust

FishpondPenguin RandomHouse

 

Twice Upon a Time: Fairytale, Folklore, & Myth. Reimagined & Remastered edited by Joshua Allen Mercier

Published: 13th February 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Bearded Scribe Press
Pages: 728
Format: ebook
Genre: Fairy tales
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares. What if waking Sleeping Beauty was the worse thing the Prince could have done? What if Rapunzel wasn’t in that tower for her own protection—but for everyone else’s?

Assembled by The Bearded Scribe Press, Twice Upon A Time combines classics and modern lore in peculiar and spectacular ways. From Rapunzel to Rumpelstiltskin, this unique collection showcases childhood favorites unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

 Both traditionally-published and independent authors will take you on a whirlwind ride through fairytale and folklore, myth and magick. Cherished stories are revisited and remastered into newly-treasured tales of hope and heartache, of adversity and adventure.

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review

Twice Upon a Time is an anthology of fairytale retellings and cover everything from the Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Anderson, fables, myths, as well as numerous folklores. Each fairy tale has been interpreted and retold differently and the myriad of authors who contribute have created stories that reimagine fairy tales in beautiful, unimaginable, and captivating ways.

What is wonderful about this collection is each story takes a different approach; while some may stay true to the darker or original story in many ways, others deviate completely and have been reworked into completely new stories that are sometimes a world away from their originals. In doing so, there are delightful stories about romance, magic, and true love alongside stories in other worlds and battles with giants in space, hidden dangers, wicked witches, or dark bloodthirsty creatures from the deep. But no matter how much a story seems to stray from the primary story, there is always an element of the original under the surface, connecting its origins back to the well known classic and keeping the fairy tale alive.

As a lover of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, each story was fascinating in its approach but some clearly stood out from others. One of my favourites from the collection was Blood and Water, a brilliant story that is beautifully told from the first page and is one that surprises and is dark and delightful. Others like All That Glitters or Princess in Peril were also really enjoyable; these remain closer to the fairy tale style in terms of narrative style but are still unique retellings. There are also modern day adaptations as well, Spear Among Spindles takes a different look at the Helen of Troy myth and it is quite amazing to read about a myth from a new perspective but have it play out with televison, prep schools, and the threat of modern day war.

Every story is different and there is no doubting the creativity and imagination of the authors to recreate fairy tales and fables in such ways. Everything from The Grimm Brothers to and fables and myths in-between is covered, some easily recognisable others not so much, though this all depends on your own knowledge of fables and fairy tales.

There are a few peculiar ones and certainly not all will be to everyone’s liking, but with so many stories and numerous styles of story there are bound to be more than enough to satisfy every lover of fables and fairy tales alike. Even if not every story is appealing, there is no denying the work and creativity that went into each one of these stories. The approach each author has taken to these stories is clever and commendable, and they are certainly stories you can return to and reread over and over again. I really hope that one day this anthology is recognised as a great addition to the ever-growing collection of fairy tale retelling.

 You can purchase Twice Upon A Time via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

Amazon UK

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