“Because I know now that I’ve found her: my future partner in the inevitable struggle to survive in post-apocalyptic America.” - Adam Blum in “The Ext“Because I know now that I’ve found her: my future partner in the inevitable struggle to survive in post-apocalyptic America.” - Adam Blum in “The Exterminator’s Daughter,” by Meg Cabot
This collection of five paranormal prom-themed stories is a hoot. Not only do you get to read some super stuff, you might find a new author you like as well. My favorite stories were the ones by Meg Cabot, Kim Harrison and Michele Jaffe, but they are all good and your tastes might be different than mine.
In “The Exterminator’s Daughter” by Meg Cabot, Mary (the title character) is out to avenge her mother’s conversion to the undead - a crime committed by Dracula himself. When Dracula’s son Sebastian Drake bewitches Mary’s friend Lila, Mary sees an opportunity to get a little of her own back and force Dracula out of hiding. If she can slay Sebastian, his father’s rage should pull him out into the open, giving Mary her chance. Of course, things rarely go as planned and Mary finds herself with some unlikely allies - Lila’s ex-boyfriend Ted (who is still pining for Lila) and Ted’s distractingly handsome best friend, Adam. Adam insists on accompanying Mary to prom to provide her with ‘back-up’ while she tries to get her stake into Sebastian.
“The Corsage” by Lauren Myracle is based on the short story “The Monkey’s Paw” and, as such, is much more of a traditional tale of horror. Frankie’s plan to get her friend, Will, to ask her to prom takes her, Will and their friend Yun Sun to Madame Zanzibar’s psychic parlor. While there, Frankie is strangely drawn to a dried and desiccated corsage she discovers on the fortune teller’s shelf. The corsage supposedly has the power to bestow three wishes to it’s holder. Too bad Frankie forgot about that old adage, ‘be careful what you wish for.’
Madison Avery is determined to have a bad time. She didn’t want to move to this town and and didn’t want to come to this prom - it’s a theme prom for God’s sake. Still, she’s horrified to learn that her date Josh only asked her because his father - who works with her dad - forced him to. Madison decides to show Josh that she isn’t anybody’s pity date by flirting with the unbelievably sexy guy in the pirate outfit. It doesn’t take long for Madison to realize that she’s gotten in way over her head. “Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper” sets the stage for Kim Harrison’s Young Adult novel, Once Dead, Twice Shy.
Michele Jaffe’s “Kiss and Tell” introduces readers to Miranda Kiss - high school student, chauffeur, roller derby star and secret super hero. Miranda’s not sure where her powers come from, but she has learned that she has to be extra-careful using them. Lately, her undercover heroics have been drawing a little more attention than she would like. While working her shift for 5B’s Luxury Transport, Miranda picks up a prepubescent kissing fiend by the name of Sibby Cumean, and that’s when the trouble really starts. It seems Sibby’s not all that normal either, and some not-so-nice guys are out to kidnap her. Which means, of course, that Miranda will have to come to her rescue. When she decides to hide Sibby at her prom, things get way out of hand.
In Stephenie Meyer’s contribution, “Hell on Earth,” good guy Gabe is hyper-aware that all is not right at his high school prom and it’s not just the fact that his date seems hell bent on playing tonsil hockey with as many guys as possible. First of all, it seems that most of his fellow students are there with dates that are completely wrong for them. Then there’s the sense of despair and misery that is spreading through the crowd like pink eye at a public pool. Gabe can sense that someone at the prom really needs his help. He just has to figure out who that someone is....more
January James is the ninth of ten children and even worse, she’s the only one in her family without a lick of artistic talent. The ONLY one. That make January James is the ninth of ten children and even worse, she’s the only one in her family without a lick of artistic talent. The ONLY one. That makes it pretty easy for Jan to get lost in the crowd, but she’s got a plan. Jan has decided to become a journalist - a tabloid journalist, in fact, because tabloid journalists make a lot of money and have a lot of fun. And because there is no time like the present when it comes to launching a career,, Jan has signed up to work on a dig in Egypt this summer. She ought to be able to come up with sort of story about ancient curses and ill-fated tomb workers, at least. Almost as soon as she gets to Egypt, Jan discovers she was right. There IS a curse hanging over the dig site, only it’s not the tomb that’s supposed to cursed, it’s Seth Tousson, younger son of the excavation leaders and incredibly exasperating (but admittedly hot) to boot. Clearly Jan needs to spend lots of time with Hottie McHotterton - er, Seth - if she wants to get to the bottom of this story.
Eyeliner of the Gods, written by adult author Katie MacAlister under her Y.A. pseudonym, is a great romp through romance, comedy and mystery, all set in the sultry heat of the Egyptian desert. Jan, who is very smart about some things and completely clueless about others, makes a fun and likable heroine. Seth is smoldering, of course, but he also proves to have some more substantial character traits as well. This is a quick read, a silly but well-written bit of fluff for when you just want to relax and have a good giggle....more
Sweet, fun historical romance. Is it a bit predictable? Yes. But in the end, that fact doesn't really detract from the book at all as Meg Cabot's tradSweet, fun historical romance. Is it a bit predictable? Yes. But in the end, that fact doesn't really detract from the book at all as Meg Cabot's trademark writing style (fun and sassy) more than overcomes the familiarity of the plot. Sometimes, what you really want is a satisfying romance where the heroine and hero are people you can cheer for, the villains are people who get their comeuppance and everything works out perfectly in the end. This is just such a book and I enjoyed it thoroughly....more
“Exactly two weeks, one day, and ten hours ago, my mother completely ruined my life. She announced over her usual dinner of Kraft macaroni and cheese “Exactly two weeks, one day, and ten hours ago, my mother completely ruined my life. She announced over her usual dinner of Kraft macaroni and cheese (with tomatoes and broccoli bits mixed in - her attempt at being healthy) that she no longer wished to remain married to my dad. She planned to move in with her new girlfriend, Gabrielle. Yep. Girlfriend.” - Valerie Winslow
It’s not like Val is anti-gay or anything - she’s not, truly - but her mother could not have picked a worse time to decide she’s a lesbian. Val is a sophomore in high school - half way through her sophomore year, in fact. Hardly the time to be moving, but one way or another, Val is going to have to relocate. Her mother is living with Gabrielle in an apartment in the next school district and her dad will be taking up a position as protocol advisor to the royal family of Schwerinborg, a tiny country nestled in the alps between Germany and Switzerland. Schwerinborg. Really? Or Lake Braddock High, of course, which is practically worse.
All this comes when David Anderson, Val’s crush since kindergarten, has finally taken an interest in her. David Anderson - he of the beautiful eyes, sexy hands and über-conservative father. Oh yeah. David idolizes his father so, even if Val stays in Virginia and if they could get past the fact that they won’t be at the same school anymore, she would definitely have to keep her newly-out-of-the-closet mother a secret, if that’s even possible. You know what? Maybe Val is feeling a little resentful toward her Mom after all. Having gay friends is one thing, but a gay parent? That is something else, thank you very much. Whatever. Val doesn’t want to deal with explaining her mom to David or her friends, so she’s off to Schwerinborg - where it turns out she just might meet her very own Prince Charming.
I’ve read Niki Burnham’s Val Winslow trilogy a few times before and I’m always struck by how very good these books are - clearly more than a few cuts above the standard titles in the Simon Romantic Comedies series. They are funny without having the humor detract from a good plot and incredibly well written. Val is a vibrant, honest character - totally real, with strengths and flaws like any teenager. The same can be said for Georg, her Schwerinborgian love interest. He’s sweet most of the time, but he’s as capable of doing stupid, unintentionally hurtful things as the next teen boy. What I love most about these books is the dialogue, which is sharp and clever, but never awkward of fake. Val’s voice, in particular, is wonderful. She’s innately funny, but never overly snarky, which makes it even easier to root for her....more
“Yep. I, Valerie Winslow, a totally boring, non-cheerleader, non-athletic, non-popular sophomore redheaded nobody from Vienna, Virginia, have official “Yep. I, Valerie Winslow, a totally boring, non-cheerleader, non-athletic, non-popular sophomore redheaded nobody from Vienna, Virginia, have officially hooked up with an European prince. A prince who knows how to kiss in the most knock-me-on-my-ass way, and who is formal and polite and looks beyond hot in a tux, but who also knows how to kick back and be cool and totally un-prince-like when we’re alone, if you catch my drift.” - Val Winslow
After one fabulous date and a wonderful weekend, Valerie Winslow is totally blissed out over her brand new relationship with Prince Georg of Schwerinborg. When her mom came out of the closet and asked her dad for a divorce six weeks ago, Val didn’t opt to come to Europe with her dad because she thought she’d find Prince Charming. Nope, it was more that she didn’t want to stay in Virginia and deal with the weirdness that is her mother with a girlfriend. Well whatever, because she’s found romance anyway. And her bliss is sure to last all the way to ... Monday?
Everything comes crashing down when the Schwerinborgian press gets a hold of the wrong end of a rumor and decides to run an article - a front page, screaming headlines article, no less - implying that Val might be a corrupting influence on their beloved Crown Prince. As if! Now Val’s dad, in his capacity as protocol advisor to Georg’s parents, is telling Val that she and Georg will have to be much more discreet in the future. Well, it looks like that won’t be a problem because Georg has just told her (on the phone, if you can believe it) that he thinks they need to ‘cool it.’
While Val is agonizing over how, exactly, Georg might define ‘cool it,’ her father informs her that he’s sending her back to Virginia to spend the week of winter break with her mother. On the one hand, Val will have to finally face the fact that her mother is a lesbian. On the other hand, Val figures she can spend some quality time with her three best friends, Christy, Nat and Jules. There’s also the enigma of David Anderson, who Val had a crush on for like, ten years (seriously, ever since they took care of the class rabbit together in kindergarten), and who finally decided he was interested in her just before she left for Schwerinborg. Maybe cooling it with Georg will give her the chance to heat things up with David, just like she’s always dreamed.
Niki Burnham’s three stories about Valerie Winslow (Royally Jacked, Spin Control and Do-Over) are some of the best examples of why Simon’s Romantic Comedies line for teens was so popular. These stories may be light and funny (at least most of the time) but they are also incredibly well-written, Val is an engaging heroine - smart, slightly geeky and witty - who reacts to the gigantic changes in her life about as well as you might expect. There’s some resentment, some subterfuge and some tears, but Val also knows how to see the humor that’s so often right in front of her. Spin Control is a quick read, but it manages to deal intelligently with a couple of significant issues while still maintaining it’s quirky humor....more
“I know it’s pronounced like “Hell-moot” and not like “Helmet,” but I still don’t like saying it aloud. I can’t fathom how anyone gives their kids the “I know it’s pronounced like “Hell-moot” and not like “Helmet,” but I still don’t like saying it aloud. I can’t fathom how anyone gives their kids these wacko names non-Germanic-speaking people can’t begin to stay without wanting to crack up. It’s taken me weeks to get used to Georg and Manfred, adding Helmut to the mix is like God daring me to say something snarky aloud, probably at whatever time it can get me into the most trouble.” - Valerie Winslow
It seems like Valerie Winslow managed to cram a whole lot into the week of winter break, which she spent back in Vienna, Virginia. After resolving a few of her issues with her newly-out-of-the-closet mother, hanging with her three best friends and trying a couple of dates with David Anderson on for size, Val is back in Schwerinborg and - her ongoing difficulties with the German language notwithstanding - happy to be there. The media storm that began when a Schwerinborg newspaper suggested that Val might be a corrupting influence on Prince Georg has thankfully passed, Val and Georg are back to being a very happy - if exceedingly discreet - couple. All is right in Val’s romantic world except, you know, she hasn’t figured out how to tell Georg about the dates she had with David Anderson.
Everything else is peachy keen too, if you don’t count the fact that her father has started dating, which Val TOTALLY DOES. Then there’s the girls ask guys dance at school, which Georg can’t go to with her (not discreet enough, apparently), which will undoubtedly give the heinous Steffi plenty of chances to make her favorite little cutting remarks about Val. And oh yeah, wasn’t there something Val meant to tell Georg?
All three of the books in this trilogy (Royally Jacked, Spin Control and Do-Over) are witty, interesting and quick reads. Valerie’s entire story takes place over the course of a few short months so everything feels real and immediate. If you’re looking for both romance and laugh-out-loud comedy that still manages to avoid being total fluff, you can’t go wrong with this trilogy. ...more
Kayla McHenry isn't part of her high school's in-crowd and she's okay with that. Really, she is. She has her best friend Nicole and she doesn't actualKayla McHenry isn't part of her high school's in-crowd and she's okay with that. Really, she is. She has her best friend Nicole and she doesn't actually need anyone else. Not her workaholic mother, who spends more quality time with her Blackberry than she does with Kayla. And certainly not with her father, who walked away from the family seven years ago and never looked back. No. Nicole is enough. Even though she has a boyfriend now and doesn't spend nearly as much time with Kayla as she once did. And even though that boyfriend is none other than Ben Mackenzie, the boy Kayla has been crushing on for the last three years.
Kayla' was a little hurt when Nicole said she was going to be late to Kayla's Sweet 16 party (she and Ben were going out to dinner to celebrate their three-month anniversary), but whatever. It's not like she ever wanted the stupid party in the first place. In fact, she told her mother - repeatedly - that she did NOT want a party. But her Mom couldn't resist turning Kayla's birthday into a chance to promote her event/party planning business, so Kayla got a Sweet 16, whether she wanted it or not. Without Nicole there, Kayla had no one hang out with, since most of the people her mother invited were strangers. So Kayla was in a pretty sucky mood, which is probably what led to her wish: "I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin' do." What's the worry. That wish isn't going to come true either, right?
And yet, when Kayla woke up the next morning she was greeted by the sight of an atomic pink, life-sized My Little Pony romping through her back yard. The morning after that, it's a seemingly endless supply of gum-balls . Kayla is horrified when she realizes that all of the birthday wishes she has ever made are coming true, one every day. She needs to, has to, positively must, make them stop. Because last year? Last year she wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her.
In You Wish, Mandy Hubbard expertly balances the truly funny notion of a lifetime of birthday wishes suddenly coming true with Kayla's slow, painful realization that she is not happy with what her life has become and that it's her own fear of getting hurt that has caused her to be unhappy. The narration is wonderful and spot on, capturing exactly the honesty of Kayla's emotions. I don't think I've ever read a better description of how it feels to have a crush than Kayla's description of sitting next to Ben in class: "For the next fifty-five minutes, I will hold my breath, my heart will beat erratically, and the hairs on my arm will stand on end. This is life inside Ben's orbit, and it is the height of every day of my otherwise meaningless existence." Perfect....more
“Britt is always on my case about being too cautious, she wants me to actually create every over-the-top outfit I sketch, no matter how wild or weird, “Britt is always on my case about being too cautious, she wants me to actually create every over-the-top outfit I sketch, no matter how wild or weird, and then wear it to school just to see what happens. But unlike her, I’m not a just-to-see-what-happens kind of girl. I prefer to test the waters first.” -
Lauren doesn’t believe in love at first sight. She leaves that kind of thing to her best friend Britt, who claims to ‘feel sparks’ for about half of the boys she meets. So while Lauren has a new boy on the hook every two weeks or so, Lauren has only had two real boyfriends, like EVER. All of which only makes what happened at the planetarium even stranger. The planetarium, where Lauren took one look at a boy and ‘ping’, there it was, instant connection. Of course, she didn’t even get his name, so that should be the end of it. Then Britt finds this über-romantic FaceBook post from a boy named Riley who is looking for his ‘Planetarium Girl’ and IT’S HIM. Lauren is totally psyched because it looks like she’s going to get a chance to explore the ‘ping’ after all. Of course, she didn’t plan on all the impostors who took one look at Riley’s romantic message and decided to claim that they were “Planetarium Girl,’ or for Riley, who is happy to meet a ‘new music buddy’ but absolutely refuses to believe that Lauren is “Planetarium Girl.’ Doesn’t he still feel the connection? What’s a girl to do?
At its core, At First Sight is a romance in the ‘girl finds boy, girl loses boy, girl finds boy again’ mode, with just a bit of a twist. It’s pretty standard fare for the Simon Romantic Comedies, although it is better written than most. I should point out, however, that while At First Sight is light, calling it a comedy is stretching things a bit. The point with romances like this is not ‘how is it going to turn out,’ because you pretty much know the answer to that question as soon as you read the blurb on the back cover. No, the point is, ‘how does the book get to the happy ending.’ At First Sight gets there via a lightweight and breezy story and leaves you feeling happily satisfied....more
When Niki Burnham’s royal trilogy ended, Val was happily reunited with Prince Georg, Christie and her boyfriend Jeremy were past their rough patch and When Niki Burnham’s royal trilogy ended, Val was happily reunited with Prince Georg, Christie and her boyfriend Jeremy were past their rough patch and going strong, and Nat had just had a killer first date with PFLAG John at the annual Oscar party. And Jules? Well Jules was still her independence-minded, boyfriend-free-and-loving-it self. But the love bug is about to dig its teeth into Jules, right through her ass-kicking combat boots. Told completely in e-mails, Reality Check is a short story revealing exactly how crazy love can make the indomitable Jules Jackson....more