Monday, June 29, 2009

Guest Blogger Max Leone: Summer Reading Recommendations for Teens

Fourteen-year-old Max Leone is a frequent guest-blogger here at The Swivet. He also has a lot of opinions about books. Some of those opinions have appeared on this blog and some of them have appeared at Publishers Weekly. He lives in New Jersey.
My Summer Reading List
by Max Leone

The majority of school-assigned summer reading lists would violate the Geneva convention if they were used to obtain information from prisoners. Reading the books on them is akin to treading through a swamp made of expired pudding without using your legs, except less exciting.

Since I seem to be making a career out of ranting about things, usually the state of YA literature, I was asked to put together a list of books that teenagers should read during the summer. Most summer reading books contain many of my Cardinal Sins of Young Adult Books, such as outdated language and morals with all the subtlety of a flaming anvil made of snakes. My recommendations contain none of the things that make up the expired, congealed pudding of a typical summer reading book.

WARNING: Books may contain swearing, sex, independent thought, Norse deities, and other things that may thwart your attempts to keep your children safe from the outside world and/or Vikings.

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins: It will be a struggle to get through this paragraph without making dozens of bad jokes about reality TV, since this book centers around a lethal televised competition. This book is quite dark, a welcome change from the sentimentality of most YA books. It also avoids the expired pudding dilemma, by being interesting and featuring characters the reader will actually care about, as opposed to the boring, flat protagonists who lurk in reading lists.

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan: Because of my Publishers Weekly editorial last fall, I have become known in some circles as Mr. Scary Vampires, Hater of All Things Twilight and Emo. Therefore, I feel it was my duty to include this book on my list. The Strain features possibly the least romantic vampires ever. It is quite hard to imagine some teenage girl falling for a dirty, hideous, leechlike monster spawned from a Hot Zone-esque virus. Because of this, The Strain is one of the scariest and most entertaining books I have ever read.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman: A unique, often bizarre urban fantasy about deities in the modern world, this book shows that urban fantasy can be done without ridiculous teenage angst. It features a large, interesting cast of characters, and an amazing attention to detail. American Gods fits in historical elements without becoming another archaic cliché-fest. It has true depth and insight, unlike the faux-philosophic ramblings that infest lesser books (*cough* TheEleganceoftheHedgehog *cough*).

More Information Than You Require by John Hodgman: This book, simply put, is pure genius. It is no doubt one of the funniest things ever created by human hands. This encyclopedia (containing complete world knowledge) is another book that manages to have amazing depth. Hodgman manages to craft a world through anecdotes and lists, built in such a way that you can never be sure what is fact, what is fiction, and what is a Battlestar Galactica reference. Plus, how else are you going to learn about the mole-men and their hideous steeds, now that they have been driven from the surface by Benjamin Franklin?

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: American Gods showed that Gaiman could do amazing things with existing mythologies. Neverwhere is another teenage angst-less urban fantasy, this time set in an amazing world of Gaiman’s creation. Unlike the cheesy, generic results of most attempts to create an original world, Neverwhere does not end up as a contrived blob of gibberish words and generic characters. Speaking of characters, Gaiman deserves some sort of prize for Excellence in Literary Villainy, for the characters of Croup and Vandemar, two of the greatest villains of all time.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: This book combines many of the elements that made previous titles in this list great. It is hilarious, like More Information Than You Require, it has a creative fictional universe that is much better than most genre attempts, like Neverwhere and it has incredible depth and insight, like American Gods. A hundred elbow-patched, goateed professors working for a hundred years could not produce something this insightful. It’s observations on humans, particularly how they state the obvious, are amazingly true. If there were a cult based on this book, I would join.

World War Z by Max Brooks: There is something tragic about this book. It is a masterpiece of literature, but it may forever be denied it’s rightful glory because it features zombies. World War Z is one of the deepest looks at zombies (or at any supernatural creature) to date. The zombie apocalypse described is thought-out, detailed, and strangely realistic. The scariest element of the book comes from the superb writing, which makes a zombie attack seem like it could happen at any time. Maybe, if we support this book, we can form a shambling mob that will consume the brains of the literary establishment and give this book the glory it deserves.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP, Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett

Today was a bad day to be a pop culture icon. Rest in peace, Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. You made my 70s and 80s a much better place. You'll both be missed.

Never can say goodbye...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yes, yes, I know I've been neglecting all of you...

...but I've been incredibly busy with the actual WORK part of my work, thusly this here blog o'mine has gotten short shrift the last few weeks. One more writers conference to go and then I promise to pay more attention to The Swivet. (No, really. I mean it this time!)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guest blogger Max Leone: Max vs. Book Expo America!

Fourteen-year-old Max Leone is a frequent Swivet guest-blogger. Last month, he attended BookExpo for the first time. This is his report:
BookExpo America, or Fewer Scientology Space-Pirates and More Bikinis, Please!

By Max Leone

Book Expo was the first “convention” that I remember attending. When I found out it was happening, I was interested in going and seeing the ridiculous extremes writers have to go to in order to sell books. Anyway, I will say that I enjoyed BEA, however this may be because my mind has censored out the gigantic crowds, maze-like layout, and infuriating (and technically against the rules) rolling bags that made progress about as fast as advancing during World War One trench warfare.

I now pause to compose myself and avoid comparing the food to biological weaponry.

Judging by arm pain alone, I obtained a significant amount of “schscchwag”, or however you misspell it these days. I was informed that there were much fewer offerings than there had been previously, but barring actual work, (my one weakness), this will be impossible to confirm. The first free sample I picked up was a free copy of The Soulstealer Wars, by W.L. Hoffman. Speaking of ridiculous extremes, this was his first book, it was self-published, and he had a large booth complete with crystals and artwork. This industry can scare me sometimes.

Most of my time was spent searching for the fabled manga section, which I naively assumed was a vast row full of free samples of every manga series that ever has or ever will exist, but I found only a row of various comics and graphic novels, most of which were just for display, judging by my personal rule for the show: “if there's more than one of something, take it”. I considered using my skills of stealth and sleight of hand to abscond with some of the displayed books, but then I remembered that I possess that athletic ability of a drunken arthritic cheesesteak that also happens to be frozen solid.

There were plenty of memorable moments, however. The picture that greeted you when you first saw this post shows one of the two pictures taken at the convention. It is of a woman wearing a very small green bikini advertising her book on learning guitar. (The second picture I took is of the ceiling.)

There were fewer cosplayers than I expected, but I did see two women in feather-covered outfits accompanied by drummers, a man in a kilt, and a young woman in some sort of Russian army hat. Judging by the multitude of times I saw her, I must come to the conclusion that the KGB is having me followed. Or there were multiple women wearing the same hat, and I just wasn't paying much attention.

I received a free copy of Messages, the story of Stan Romanek, who claims to have been abducted by aliens multiple times, and has the implants to prove it.

Fear of alien abduction was the reason we gave the L. Ron Hubbard booth a wide berth; had I not acted quickly, my mom would have been taken aboard the mothership. You see, a few feet away from the booth were two people dressed as pirates, (curse them! tempting me with what I love most!) who asked my mom if she wished to have her picture taken. Assuming they were merely bloodthirsty sea raiders, and not scientologists, I had no objection to this. Then, I realized that they were guiding her into the Hubbard booth. I knew what the consequences would be. There would have been a picture floating around of my mother smiling in front of a large amount of L. Ron Hubbard memorabilia, an image that could be interpreted the wrong way. Luckily, I got her attention and pulled her away in time. After that, all I had to worry about were the communists.

I enjoyed the convention, and I hope to return next year. Hopefully there will be fewer scientologist space pirates and more women in bikinis.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's Small Press Day on Twitter! (And here!)

I'm declaring it Small Press Day on Twitter and here on The Swivet. (I can if I want to! Really, who's gonna stop me?) The small and indie presses don't get enough love, IMHO, so today is all about the small press love!

Recommend your favorite small press book, and the publisher. If you can, add a link. You can add in the comments below or on Twitter. If you're recommending a small press book on Twitter, use the hashtag #smallpress so people who are following can see all the great book recommendations.

I'm starting with three recommendations:
What are your small press book recommendations?