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Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?: Zombies vs. Unicorns (Audio)

I hope authors of young adult fiction who didn’t get invited to write a story for Zombies vs. Unicorns didn’t feel left out or unpopular. It seems the coolest young adult authors were recruited by editors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier to contribute either a zombie or a unicorn story, depending on preference, for this anthology of short stories. Holly (Team Unicorn) and Justine (Team Zombie), on whose blogs the original argument took shape, contribute cheers and jeers before and after each story.
Listening to the razzing from the two co-editors on the Brilliance Audio edition, I kept picturing a boisterous party with Holly and Justine and cool authors Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Diana Peterfreund, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, Carrie Ryan, Scott Westerfeld, Naomi Novik, and other less-well-known authors (but who must be cool, because they were invited) all having a great time arguing over which make for better stories: zombies (disgusting creepy corpses, or powerful metaphors for the human condition) or unicorns (wimpy play ponies, or powerful mythical creatures.)
A female perspective is noticeable in many of the stories, but the stories should appeal to male fantasy readers, as well, and romance in the stories is not confined to heterosexuals. Many of the stories are darkly humorous – an immortal unicorn bent on suicide in one; a passel of adopted zombie children in another. The audience for the book is older teens, with graphic language and details in some of the stories, so this isn’t a good choice of audiobook for the family car trip.
I enjoyed most of the stories, but Meg Cabot’s story Princess Prettypants was my favorite of the humorous ones. It takes familiar elements of young adult chick lit (the girl with a cheating ex-boyfriend, the boy next door, the unpopular but faithful friend, the high school party in the house with no parents) and throws in a stately, live unicorn with a cringe-worthy name for Liz to deal with on top of having no car, no boyfriend, no money, and no invitation to the biggest party in town.
Professional narrators Ellen Grafton, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, Julia Whelan, and Phil Gigante read the stories, which is good, because, although the editors’ trash talk is amusing, you can definitely tell the difference when the professional voices take over.

Other opinions about the audio version of Unicorns vs. Zombies (all good):
Alaskan Bookie
The Opinionated Me
Presenting Lenore

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I thought I was so behind in reading this novel or collection of linked short stories that reviewers have been raving about but when I finally got around to it, I realized that three of the first four chapters had been published as short stories in The New Yorker, so I wasn’t as behind as I had thought. Anyway, the feeling of being behind is a good way to come to the book, which is all about the passage of time — growing up, growing old, gaining perspective, losing your touch, falling behind, looking ahead.

You probably heard that A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan won the National Book Critics Circle Award this month.  If you haven’t read it already, why not?

In case your reasons for not reading it yet are the same as mine, here’s why they shouldn’t keep you from making the same mistake as me, i.e. not reading this right away:

  1. The title: If I had known that A Visit from the Goon Squad was a reference to an Elvis Costello song, the title would have been more appealing. Instead it made me think Mafia, and put me off.
  2. The theme: A Visit from the Goon Squad was described as about the “music industry“, a “rock and roll novel“, and as having lots of references to songs and artists that I figured I wouldn’t get. I probably did miss a lot of musical references but that’s OK. The story was about a lot more than music. And I did happen to grow up in the same musical era as the author, which was nice.
  3. The cover: i.e. a picture of a guitar. See #2 above.
  4. The form: Since the author herself admits in interviews that a novel’s being described as experimental doesn’t make her want to run out and read it immediately, I don’t feel so bad that I didn’t put A Visit from the Goon Squad at the top of my list because it was referred to as experimental so often.

Some other bloggers’ recent opinions:
Books I Done Read

Hungry Like the Woolf

The New York Times review of A Visit from the Goon Squad
The Washington Post review of A Visit from the Goon Squad

How It Ended by Jay McInerney

>If you only read one collection of contemporary short stories this year, How It Ended is a great bet.
Jay McInerney’s first novel, Bright Lights, Big City, came to embody the frenzied, cocaine-fueled excesses of New York’s young and hip of the 1980s, although the book’s reputation largely ignores the serious soul of the book.
How It Ended
, the author’s newly released collection of short stories, zigs and zags through the author’s 26-year writing career, including stories in which characters from some of his novels first appeared. The jaded, jangly narrator of Bright Lights, Big City first appeared in the story, It’s Six A.M. Do You Know Where You Are?, which opens the collection.
The audio version of How It Ended, read by Ray Porter, is done so well that as soon as the last story ended I wanted to listen to it all over again from the beginning. Skip this book if you have no patience for flawed young people, but if you want to hear some good writing read aloud – especially if you came of age in the 80s and don’t mind some “dirty bits” – you need to listen to this amazing collection.
Even if you think you don’t like short stories.
The New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin has somewhat grudgingly said it best:

Mr. McInerney was a callow, facile and extremely entertaining writer from the very first. He had a smart student’s command of technical virtues and an eagerness to show them off. He also had such a tiresome infatuation with 1980s-style decadence that it lingers sentimentally even now. But his stories have grown more elegant, subtle, shapely and reflective over time, to the point where some of the recent works are perfect specimens.He has quietly achieved the literary stature to which he once so noisily laid claim.

Listen to a short sample at http://www.blackstoneaudio.com.

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