In February, I read twenty-four books. That’s five short of the twenty-nine required to average one a day for the month, and my total in 2008 for January and February is only thirty-nine of sixty books. I am going to have to do a lot of catching up on school breaks!

Anyway, that said, last month, I read some awesome books.

Only two were non-fiction: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and Not Quite What I Was Planning. The other twenty-two were fiction.

One was read for English class (The Great Gatsby) and one was research for a school project (Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera).

I was a contributor to one of them (Not Quite What I Was Planning).

One was an anthology of short stories (Shining On) and part of its profits go to charity.

A few that particularly stood out were A Little Friendly Advice; Audrey, Wait; Good Enough; Lock and Key; Song of the Sparrow; What Happens Here; Shining On; and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.


This wonderful little anthology includes stories by Lois Lowry, Meg Cabot, Sue Limb, Anne Fine, Celia Rees, Rosie Rushton, Malorie Blackman, Jacqueline Wilson, Cathy Hopkins, and Meg Rosoff. Two things about that list of star authors stand out to me: One, they’re some pretty fantastic writers–some of my favorites. Two, most of them are British. According to the biographies in the back, Lois Lowry and Meg Cabot are the only ones who live in America (but I think Meg Rosoff is from the US, she just lives in England). I now have a confession to make: I love all things British, an obsession that has its root in a trip I took last summer to England. It was one of the best experiences of my life, so now I love to read English books and watch BBC America and such. It’s kind of dorky, I’ll admit, but it meant I was super psyched to read this story collection!

And it is in no way, shape, or form disappointing. There’s not a weak story in the bunch! I was completely captivated from the moment I started reading. They are all wonderfully well written (as they should be; all of these authors are masters of their craft).

Of course, I did have the problem I always have with great short stories–I wanted more! For every short story whose characters I fall in love with over the course of a few pages, I always wish that there was more to the story. For two of these, there actually is more–Lois Lowry’s is an excerpt from her novel. And Sue Limb’s story is about her character, Jess (star of Girl, 15, Charming But Insane and its equally fabulous sequels). But for the rest, sadly, as far as I know, this is all we will see of these characters.

While there are certainly no weak points in Shining On, there were a few stories that stood out to me personally as being exceptionally brilliant.

Sue Limb’s You’re A Legend is one. It’s a complete story in itself, but part of a larger body of work about this wonderful character. In this story, Jess goes to help her Granny sort through her dead husband’s belongings and makes a surprising discovery in the attic. I absolutely loved it!

Another story I loved was Malorie Blackman’s Humming Through My Fingers, an incredibly wonderful story about a blind girl who sees more than most of us who are sighted do. Simply brilliant! I mean, I adore Malorie Blackman, but I was still surprised at how completely marvelous this short story is! I’d love to read more about the characters, unsurprisingly. Hmm. Perhaps I’m too greedy to read short stories!

Anyway, another one I particularly enjoyed was Rosie Rushton’s Skin Deep, about a girl who is seriously traumatized (physically and emotionally) by an accident. I’ve never read one of Rushton’s novels, but I’ll have to after reading this story, which I thought was amazing (and I really shouldn’t even bother to say it after all this, but, yes, I wanted more! I feel so greedy).

Those are just a few of the highlights for me, but, trust me, all of the stories are breathtakingly wonderful. This collection is, of course, worth buying and reading because of its marvelousness, but even more so because a portion of the profits go to charity. So, to the bookstore! Or to your favorite online bookstore, if you want to let your fingers do all the hard work. And buy this book immediately!

First Kiss (Then Tell) is an anthology filled with the true first-kiss stories from a number of fantastic YA authors, including Deb Caletti, Justine Larbalestier, David Levithan, Alyson Noel, and Scott Westerfeld. The stories are told in different forms–stories, plays, comics, poems (Scott Westerfeld writes a haiku! I love haiku)–and are very different stories, from the funny to sweet and awkward to disgusting. Overall, this book is a lot of fun!

The story that stood out to me the most was Paul Ruditis’s, Improvisation. It’s a “dramatic reenactment” that made me laugh out loud, it’s just so short and sweet and funny and perfect. I also really enjoyed a couple of the cartoons, which surprised me, because I don’t read graphic novels or anything. Maybe I should; A Brief History of First Kisses written by David Levithan with words by Nick Eliopulos was one of my favorites, as was Amy Kim Ganter’s The Third First Kiss. Another one that I really liked was the story of Shannon and Dean Hale’s first kiss with each other (a story that they both tell differently).

I didn’t love every story in this collection; some were just, “eh,” and some were good but not really my thing (I have a weak stomach, so some of them made me rather nauseous!). It’s a well-executed project, though; great concept, great title, great lineup of authors! And there are quite a few awesome stories here. It’s certainly worth reading!