Beach reading

beach_feetFar more complicated, time-consuming and stressful than making sure I have the right clothes, shoes and sunscreen to take on vacation is deciding which books to take. My family vacations at the Outer Banks every summer — and every summer, I struggle with making sure I have the right novels to accompany me on my much-needed break!

Packing books for London last month was simple — in my “freetime,” I knew I wouldn’t really have my eyes open long enough to actually read anything. So I only brought a book, the I’d saved just for the plane ride to England: Megan McCafferty’s Charmed Thirds. And I picked up a few British books on my way home, of course, including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!

But this time I don’t have to worry about the heft of my suitcase and whether or not I can pull it single-handedly up and off the Tube. Oh, no — Dad and I are traveling in the SUV with plenty of space for a ridiculous amount of books! And now I have to comb my TBR stack, near collapse, for the best few to bring.

footprints“Beach reads” are, by their nature, light, breezy and often funny novels that can be read and absorbed quickly while, say, sitting out in the blazing hot sunshine with the dull roar of waves crashing behind you. I happen to think it’s a little mean to narrowly classify books as “beach reads” — often meaning they’re a little silly, not really worth thinking about — but there are some books that are just such fun, it’s easy to label them in that category.

Last summer at the beach, I carried the entire Twilight series around with me! I finished Twilight on the car ride down, began New Moon within the first few days and had a hard time setting it down the whole time I was away. Wanting to pace myself a bit, I picked up Elin Hilderbrand’s A Summer Affair at the end of the week, and I definitely enjoyed that.

And now, standing on the precipice of a fresh new vacation and a new opportunity to read like I might never read again, I think I’ve narrowed this year’s selections down . . .

Meg’s Beach Books ’09

along_for_the_rideSarah Dessen’s Along For The Ride

I rushed out on my lunch break today to grab Dessen’s latest novel, which I eagerly blogged about last Wednesday. After I carefully remove the beautiful dust jacket, that baby will be ready to sail along with me! In fact, I’m pushing it up on the top of the stack — I just have to devour that one whole. I’ll break it out as soon as we’re on the road.

Megan McCafferty’s Fourth Comings

Much like my London adventure, I’ve been saving the fourth installment in McCafferty’s awesome Jessica Darling series for another grand occasion! And I think this is finally it. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Jessica and Marcus, although reading reviews for the last two books has spoiled (a bit of) the fun for me. That’s okay, though — I have to absorb all of it myself!

penny_pinchers

Sarah Strohmeyer’s The Penny Pinchers Club

Okay, this one is cheating a little bit — because I’ve already started it! But I’m almost finished and can’t bear to leave it behind. It’s a really light, funny story about a woman who believes her husband is planning on divorcing her after she spends 20 years working her way through their savings account with her out-of-control spending — and actually a cheeky look at what we think we “need” in our society, and why. With only 40 pages to go, I’m touting it along on the sand!

Meg Cabot’s Airhead

As one of Cabot’s devout followers, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t started this series yet! I purchased the first novel in anticipation of my last trip, but ultimately decided I wouldn’t have time to read it while away. I’m eager to start!

suite_scarlettMaureen Johnson’s Suite Scarlett

Johnson is another author I thought I should have gotten to know a long time ago, but only recently read her European adventure novel 13 Little Blue Envelopes. While I felt that story was just a little too emotionally detached for my tastes, I appreciated the quality of Johnson’s writing and voice! I’m looking forward to reading this one, which seems to have been heralded all over the YA book world.

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Booking Through Thursday: Authors talking

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday!

This week’s question: Do you read any author’s blogs? If so, are you looking for information on their next project? On the author personally? Something else?

I do read author’s blogs; I find them very interesting! I don’t always remember to keep up with them faithfully, but I enjoy going through their backlog of entries when I do make my way over there. Most recently, I’ve kept up with the blogs of Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen, Jennifer Weiner and Courtney Summers, some of my favorite authors.

The main reason I frequently check out author’s blogs, I think, is to remind myself that they’re “just like us” — and, in my case, that I could be “just like them” someday! It inspires me to know that these are talented, normal women who’ve made a career out of their awesome writing. It gives me hope that someday, write meg! could become the official blog of Megan, Published & Critically Acclaimed Novelist, and that would be . . . amazing!

And, of course, I do read the blogs to see what they’re up to — what shows they’re watching, music they like, from where they get their inspiration. And to see what they’re writing, of course! Author’s blogs are usually the fastest way to get the story on their latest . . . story (no pun intended! Or totally intended, whichever you prefer). And the authors themselves are usually hilarious, fun and witty people — that’s why they’ve been so successful. So they’re just good reads!

I think it’s incredible that we live in a world in which I can sit down at my computer, pop open a little box and see the individual thoughts of folks — writers, artists, musicians — who’ve decided to make them public. In 2009, I can go on John Mayer’s site, too, and see what he felt like sharing after winning a Grammy award on Sunday. I know we have to take all blogs with a grain of salt — especially those written by celebrities, who may or may not pay someone to “write” the blogs for them! — but I think that most are serious, actual thoughts, and it’s amazing to think that I can sit down and see what Meg Cabot is doing right now as she posts on Twitter or how Sarah Dessen felt about a recent basketball game. Ten, twenty, thirty years ago — this would have been insane and unfathomable! Technology can be a beautiful thing! On the flip side, of course, we could argue that the “fourth wall” has been broken down by our gaining access to the lives of people we admire . . . and maybe taking them down from the pedestal on which society has probably placed them. But I think it’s good that we’re reminded of the humanity of people in popular culture . . . and that they make mistakes, have dreams, act silly and have fears just like we do.

write meg! gets around, pt. 2

When I logged in to WordPress last night to check out my blog stats (as I often do, I won’t lie), I nearly fell out of my seat when I noticed my visits had skyrocketed. Meg Cabot, my favorite author, posted a link to my review of Forever Princess on her blog! I am . . . ecstatic! Meg (Queen Meg C., as I’ll call her, since I’m also Meg!) says:

Meanwhile, I couldn’t help tearing up at this lovely Forever Princess review that someone sent me, and then doing the same thing over this one, too.

Yes, and “this one” is — me! You’re here!

My favorite author read my review of her book — and teared up! And felt compelled to post about it on her blog. My skin is leaping! I’m having a hard time sitting still! But now I need to regain some self-control, pace around my office quietly and get back to work. But I had to post.

[ / end incredibly excited adolescent gushing ]

But before I do that, let me thank Becca for the lovely award she gave me yesterday! I greatly appreciate it.

dardo_award

I’m off to do some more squealing — and crank out a few pages for the newspaper! Let’s see if I can regain my compsoure by lunchtime!

Book review: ‘Princess Diaries X: Forever Princess’ by Meg Cabot

princess_diariesI started reading Meg Cabot’s popular Princess Diaries series when it was first published in 2000 — and I was fifteen! Through high school and college graduations, full- and part-time jobs begun and ended, a few broken hearts and a whole lot of friendships renewed and lost, I’ve stuck it out with Mia Thermopolis on her never-ending quest in wooing Michael Moscovitz, taming her unruly “triange-shaped” hair, achieving self-actualization and, ultimately, rising to power as princess of Genovia (a small, fictional European nation). Princess Amelia has nursed more than a few of her own heartbreaks, too, and it’s with a bit of sadness that I finished Cabot’s Princess Diaries, Volume X: Forever Princess, the tenth and final book in the series.

First, let me preface my review with the fact that plenty of spoilers will probably abound. I’m not sure if I can really write about my love of this book without blowing a few secrets!

A little background, especially if you’ve seen the popular film of the same name starring Anne Hathaway (which was awesome, but didn’t really parallel the book): Mia Thermopolis was just like another other teenage girl in New York City, living with her artistic mother and beloved chubster cat Fat Louie when, upon hearing of her father’s cancer scare, she was informed by her mysterious (and annoying) grandmother that she is, in fact, heir to the principality of Genovia. Her father, Prince Phillipe, is the son of the reigning monarch — Grandmere.

Mia’s having a hard enough time surviving life as a gangly, awkward high school student to actually worry about being a princess — but, much to her mother’s dismay, the truth comes out. Enter the usual angst of “oh my God, Mom and Dad, you’ve been lying to me all these years!” and you have the first book or two. Mia undergoes a serious transformation, becomes slightly more glamorous, gets into arguments with her free-spirited (and highly opinionated) best friend Lilly and tries to somehow get the attention of Lilly’s older brother, Michael.

I won’t further bore you with summaries of past books, though I loved all of them! By the time we reach Forever Princess, my most recent read, Mia is about to turn eighteen; graduate from high school; attend the senior prom; figure out whether or not she’s ready to Do It with J.P., her boyfriend of two years; get over her ex-boyfriend and first love, Michael, who has suddenly returned from a medical sabbatical in Japan; and actually choose a college to attend next year.

And, oh yeah — prepare for her official duties as princess of a small country.

img_5055 I love, love, love these books. They are, as the title suggests, Mia’s personal “diaries” — her frantic scribblings about all of the chaos erupting in her life (and there’s always chaos). I love that they feel current and in-the-moment, and that we feel, as readers, that we’ve literally stumbled across her personal journals. There’s nothing pretentious about these books; they’re completely devoid of any self-consciousness, too. They’re just pure, unadulterated fun — and books in which I totally lose myself.

In this, the tenth installment of Mia’s adventures, she has definitely grown up — and the world around her has totally changed, too. Gone are the “handwritten” notes passed between Shameeka, Tina, Mia, Lilly and Lana — they’re all texting from their cell phones and BlackBerries now. The ninth book in the series chronicles her life as a sophomore, and now we’re dropped right into the end of her senior year. Though it surprised me a bit at first, this absolutely worked for me. While Cabot’s audience has aged considerably since the series began, Mia herself had not. She’s finally catching up with us and dealing with very relatable issues: choosing a profession, a home, a lover. Along that vein, the books absolutely feel real to me. I’ve always related to Mia’s plight and adventures, and I ran through this 400-page book in a little more than a day. It had wide margins, mind you, but with the exception of the Harry Potter and Twilight books, hardly anything is able to keep my prolonged, obsessive attention for that long.

As Mia makes decisions regarding her relationships, both romantic and familial, writes a romance novel (Ransom My Heart — smokin’!) and begins to plot out the rest of her life, I was right there with her. I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like about this book, and about the way the series ended . . . Cabot did a masterful job. Though life-long best friends, Lilly and Mia still had to take some time apart to realize how — and why — they’d been depending on each other, and Mia needed to spend time in a relationship with someone else to realize how much she truly loved Michael. His reappearance in the novel was like Edward showing up in New Moon — you knew it was coming, but it still took your breath away when it finally did! I was excited. I laughed and, yes, I cried.

And in the final chapter of our journey with her, Mia is all grown up — and I guess I’m getting there, too. But we sure had a heck of a run together. By the end of Forever Princess, I was definitely teary-eyed — she made the right choices. I couldn’t ask for anything more!


5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061232920 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Diary
Personal copy purchased by Meg

Booking Through… Friday: Reading resolutions

booking_through_thursLet’s go Booking Through Thursday — on Friday! I was running around yesterday and didn’t get to answer one of my favorite prompts . . .

Any Reading Resolutions? Say, specific books you plan to read? A plan to read more ____? Anything at all? Name at least ONE thing you’re looking forward to reading this year!

I have so many books waiting in my TBR stack and keep adding more and more titles to it . . . but there are many books getting ready to come out this year that I’m really looking forward to reading! I got incredibly excited when I saw Sarah Dessen has a new book coming out in June, Along For the Ride. She’s one of my favorite young adult authors — or just authors in general — and I can’t wait to get something new from her. Closer to the home front, the last installment of Meg Cabot’s incredibly popular Princess Diaries series comes out this Tuesday, Jan. 6 — Princess Diaries X: Forever Princess. I’m saving up my Borders Bucks to put toward that! I also recently acquired several books from my wish list on BookMooch, including Laurie Notaro’s The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death. Can’t wait to start there!

I’m participating in a few book challenges this year, so I’ll probably be reading more young adult than normal. I’m really into contemporary fiction, a little romance and a smidge of non-fiction, but I really want to start writing young adult fiction . . . that’s a writing goal for 2009! So to be a great young adult writer, I’m going to have to really know the genre. I’ve been reading YA since I was . . . well, a YA myself! But I didn’t look at it from the perspective I will be now. Plus, YA books are just fun!

Booking Through Thursday: Meg Cabot

Let’s go Booking Through Thursday! Thursday is rapidly becoming my favorite day of the week.

booking_through_thurs

1. Do you have a favorite author?

meg_cabot1 I’ve long considered Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries young adult series and numerous contemporary fiction books, to be my favorite author. I love her quick, fresh writing style and become totally immersed in her stories, which usually prove to be incredibly fun reads!

2. Have you read everything he or she has written?

No, I haven’t — I’ve totally missed out on her mystery series for adults on character Heather Wells, starting with Size 12 Is Not Fat. I actually have an ARC of Big Boned, the third book in the series, but won’t pick it up until I have the first two! There are a few independent novels I’ve missed, too. After reading most of what she’d put out, I decided to take a break and try out different folks.

3. Did you LIKE everything?

I liked everything, but in varying degrees. Of all her books, my favorites are definitely the Princess Diaries novels following would-be Princess Mia Thermopolis. Of her stand-alone books for adults, I wasn’t as drawn in by Queen of Babble as I thought I would be. It was light and still a good read, but not quite up to the standards I have for Cabot. For that reason, I haven’t checked out the other two books in that series.

4. How about a least favorite author?

Most of the time if I’m not liking a book, I’ll just go ahead and set it down and won’t pick up another title by them. So no one comes to mind, although I sometimes find Joyce Carol Oates to be difficult to work through.

5. An author you wanted to like, but didn’t?

Ian McEwan. Don’t worry, I’m not giving up on him — I still have Atonement waiting patiently for me on my bookshelf, discarded after a few chapters because I was falling asleep while reading! Blasphemy, I know. I’m really intrigued by the premise of On Chesil Beach, so eventually I plan on getting that one, too. I think I just might like him yet!