I love Meg Cabot. I really, really do. Not only do I wholeheartedly agree with the statement made in the title of this book, but I also love everything in between the covers. Heather Wells is one of my favorite Meg Cabot heroines (not that I don’t love them all), and I am so glad there are more books about her already out so there’s no agonizing wait (but, yes, I am also doing my Cybils reading! One Meg Cabot chapter, two Cybils chapters; it’s a good system).

Anyway, Heather Wells. She’s a former teen pop star who used to be stick thin and singing sickly sweet songs in malls across America and is now a size 12 (which is so not fat, no matter what anyone says) working at a college dorm–excuse me, residence hall–at New York College. Which seems to be the fake version of NYU, complete with pierced hipsters and a Washington Square Park location. Heather was recently dumped by her boy-band-member boyfriend, and moved into his brother’s house. Not actually with his brother–she has her own apartment, with its own set of locks and everything. She gets it rent-free for doing some work part-time for Cooper, who is a private investigator. Despite her former semi-star status, Heather can’t actually afford to pay rent because her mother took all her money and moved to Argentina. And as if Heather’s life isn’t crazy and complicated enough, did I mention she is totally head-over-heels in love with Cooper?

Heather’s had to deal with all sorts of things in her short stint at New York College, but nothing compares to what happens when a girl actually dies falling to the bottom of an elevator shaft. Her death is ruled accidental, and everyone seems to accept that, but Heather is certain of one thing: girls don’t elevator surf. This is murder. Even if everyone else seems to think she’s crazy, she’s determined to get to the bottom of this and make sure that no one else gets hurt.

Size 12 Is Not Fat is seriously addictive. It’s typically Meg Cabot in the most awesome ways–witty and smart and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious–as well as being a wonderful mystery. Meg Cabot is an amazing YA author, and even though this is an adult mystery, it will definitely appeal to her teen fans. It’s got that same awesomely funny narration, and a smart, real, relatable heroine who, despite being 28 and kind of famous, is at a transition point in her life, something that teens can definitely understand. In six words: Completely fun murder mystery with attitude.

Advertisements

This is a spoiler-free review! As Meg Cabot requested on her blog, I certainly do not intend to reveal anything that might ruin it for you, but I do want to share some of my thoughts on Airhead.

Emerson Watts is a video-game-playing tomboy, a loner at a school full of those she and her best friend, Christopher, have dubbed the Walking Dead. Christopher seems to be Em’s only friend, but she likes it that way, for the most part; she just secretly wishes that perhaps he could be something more than a friend.

What seems like an annoying but relatively routine trip to the opening of a new Stark Megastore in her neighborhood, an event at which Christopher and Em are chaperoning Em’s annoying little sister, turns out to be far more important in Em’s life than anyone could have predicted. In fact, it changes her entire existence, but that’s all I feel comfortable sharing with you at the moment–you’ll just have to wait for the book to find out what happens there!

Airhead is definitely one of my favorite Meg Cabot books, and she’s written some really fantastic ones. I loved the characters, the whole premise of the novel, and, of course, Meg’s funny, distinctive writing style. Meg Cabot fans will adore this book, but so will those who aren’t necessarily fans; I gave this to a friend of mine when she had nothing else to read on a school trip, and she quite enjoyed it, even though she usually only reads fantasy! I’d say that says a lot about the awesomeness of this book, and hopefully has convinced you to preorder it (the book will be out 1 June). Like many of Meg Cabot’s books, this is a fun and entertaining read, but also a smart, and at times thoughtful, novel. I’m really excited for this book, and already can’t wait for the next book in the series! It’s not quite a cliffhanger, but the end does leave the reader itching to know what happens next. But first, you have to read what happens to set off the whole series, and for that, you’d better mark 1 June on your calendar!

Meg Cabot is the famous, talented, and best-selling author of a ton of books, including the Princess Diaries series, the 1-800-Where-R-U series, the Mediator series, All-American Girl, and more. She is very busy and writes more books each year than most people manage in a lifetime, so we are very lucky to have her here today for an interview! Thanks so much for doing this, Meg.

You write so many books compared to most authors, who can take years to write one book, but yours are still so great! Do you think there’s any sort of “secret” to writing quickly? What’s your writing process like?

Thanks so much! I guess if there’s a “secret” to writing quickly it’s that I have a great husband who does all the cooking (he’s a chef) and also does all the financial stuff involved in my work. Thank God, because if there’s anything I suck at more than making dinner, it’s number crunching! Also we don’t have kids so it’s not like I have a lot of responsibility outside my writerly duties.

Oh, and my mom made me take typing in 10th grade. I hated it then, but now I write 80 wpm.

My writing process is to dream up a story idea, mull it for up to year, then write it in a huge burst–usually a month of just writing, no going out! So I’m basically a hermit. But I order nice clothes online so at least I’m a well-dressed hermit.

Mia, from the Princess Diaries series, is the character you’ve written the most about, and more than any of the other characters, she and her voice remind me of you, the way you present yourself on your blog, for example. Do you see much of yourself in Mia?

That’s funny! Mia’s internal voice is the probably the most like mine, but I wasn’t really at all like her in high school. I was probably the most like Suze from the Mediator series, in that I was an outcast with a few good friends…though I did have a lot of boyfriends. I was quite a bit racier than most of my characters. But it was the 80s.

You write both series books and stand-alones. What’s the difference in how you write them, and how you decide if a character needs one book for her story or more?

I honestly don’t know. Story ideas pop into my head either as a stand alone or a whole series. Princess Diaries popped into my head as a full 16 book series. Airhead, 3 books. But Teen Idol? One book. Done. It’s sad, really, that I don’t have more control over it.

What was your path to publication like, and how is being a published (and rather famous) author different from how you imagined it would be?

I must have sent out 10 query letters a week for 3 years, and just got rejections. Then one day after the 3rd time I’d queried this one agency, an agent there took me on. She’s still my agent today.

I wrote for a long time while also working my day job before I was making enough money to quit and write full time. I always thought I’d get a huge advance right away like authors I’d read about, but it didn’t work that way for me! My advances were all very tiny (including for the Princess Diaries, Mediator, and 1800 books). Basically just a quarter of what I was making working as an administrative assistant at NYU.

This was NOT at all the way I envisioned it! Where was my fancy limo with a built-in hot tub? Thank God for Disney, which gave me enough money to put in the bank to live on for a while (but I don’t get DVD money or theatrical gross or anything from the films). But the Princess Diaries movies got people to buy the books, even though quite a few of them were really mad that the books weren’t anything like the movies. Oops.

Being published now doesn’t feel all that different from being published then except that now I get more than $4,000 per book, and I get rejected less often (although I still get rejected, just in a nicer way). It still feels great. Plus I got to quit my day job and I get to write full time, which is a dream come true! (Still no limo with a built-in hot tub though.)

What are the best and worst parts of writing for a living?

Obviously the best part is being able to write all the time. Making stuff up is my absolute favorite thing to do (don’t tell anyone, but I’d do it for free).

The worst part is doing satellite radio tours at 6 in the morning, when you get on these radio drive shows where the DJ has totally never heard of you or your books, and he’s yelling in your ear, “Hey, you’re with Mike and the Dog Catcher on WBXZ and you are in the DOGHOUSE. Now, BARK LIKE A DOG!” and you’re like, “Um…okay,” and you just start barking because…well, why not?

What jobs have you had besides being a writer? If you couldn’t be writer, what job would you choose to have?

My primary job besides writing was working as the assistant manager of a 700 bed freshmen dorm at NYU for 10 years. Other jobs I’ve had include au pair (on the Upper East Side, just like in Nanny Diaries!), assistant to a private investigator, Rax Roast Beef salad bar attendant, freelance illustrator, and receptionist at a Wall Street investment firm.

Is there a way to get paid to watch TV? Because I would like to have that job. If not, I would like to work at Urban Outfitters. Everyone there always seems to be having a lot of fun.

What are some of your favorite books or authors?

Hyper-chondria by Bryan Frazer

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbon

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13-3/4 by Sue Townsend

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Walloo

Ask yourself a question (and answer it)!

Oh, wow. How many pages have you written today, Meg? Zero? Get to work!

Thanks so much, Meg!

Thanks for having me, Jocelyn!

This sequel to Michele Jaffe‘s fabulous Bad Kitty is pretty fantastic in its own right. In this book, Jasmine Callihan’s father has moved himself, Jas, and Jas’s stepmother, Sherri!, to Venice. Yes, to Italy. The day before the start of her senior year. With twenty-four hours’ notice. To research soap. He is, quite possibly, Jas thinks, insane. Or maybe evil. After all, what kind of a father would move his daughter half a world away from her friends, her new boyfriend, and her chances at graduating high school and continuing on to an institution of higher education? (Side note: I’d be thrilled to move to Italy today, right now, but I have been told that I am not representative of teenage girls–or people-in general).

Of course, moving to another continent doesn’t mean Jas will stay out of trouble like her father is hoping. Trouble can find her anywhere. In this case, it begins when her only friend in Venice is murdered, and more people may be in danger. This is a mystery that Jas can’t solve on her own, so I was thrilled to see more of some of the awesome cast of characters from Bad Kitty. Tom, Polly, Roxy, Alyson, and Veronique (excuse me–Sapphyre and Tiger’s*Eye) were as hilarious and quirky as ever.

Kitty Kitty is kind of like a mixture between Ally Carter, Meg Cabot, and Louise Rennison, but with Michele Jaffe’s own fabulously unique twist (and in many ways, dare I say it, better than these authors) on it all! It’s a smart, fresh, laugh-out-loud hilarious mystery full of cool gadgets and inventions a Gallagher girl would be proud of (reference to Ally Carter’s books, for those who haven’t read them). It’s as hilarious and insane as Louise Rennison only with a much better, suspenseful, and more recognizable plot. Jas is a heroine worthy of a Meg Cabot book. Put it all together, and you have near-perfection!

My only disappointment in this book was that we did not see more of Venice, but that’s more of a personal taste than anything else. I love great settings, and Venice was a barely-there backdrop; only the canals were of any importance, and any body of water would have worked there. Jasmine’s Italian classes and hilarious troubles with the language were the only indication that they were even in Italy!

Kitty Kitty is a funny, intelligent, and adventurous mystery that readers will love. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, and this one isn’t even out until July! I guess for now I’ll have to be content rereading Bad Kitty, but I think this book may be even better than that one (unbelievable, right?). Kitty Kitty is a madcap adventure in the streets and canals of Venice involving friendship, mystery, fashion, pigeons, crime fighting, language barriers, suspense, romance, water wings, six-foot-tall squirrels, locked-door murder mysteries, tweezer tasers, cats, gondoliers, and much more hilariousness that will have readers laughing hysterically as they turn pages as quickly as their fingers will allow.

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!

Princess Mia is the ninth in Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series. I have to admit, I haven’t read them all. I’ve read all Meg’s other YA books, but after the first couple of Princess Diaries books (which I did enjoy), the titles and covers were too similar and I couldn’t keep track of them and remember which ones I’d read, so I kind of just gave up. I still don’t know which ones I’ve read. Maybe I have read them all. I don’t think I’ve read the one where Mia runs for class president, though. Hmm. I’m really not entirely sure. I know the basic timeline of events, though, and am familiar with the characters, and that’s all that’s really necessary to reading this book (although it would have helped to have read the eighth before–they are so connected that I went ahead and read it anyway after finishing this one!).

In Princess Mia, Mia is struggling with the loss of her boyfriend, Michael. (He didn’t die; she broke up with him over something kind of stupid and then he moved to Japan to make a robotic surgery thingy to save people). She might have been able to function through that, except that then she immediately lost her best friend, Lilly, because Lilly thought she kissed her recent ex-boyfriend, J.P. (which, Mia did, kind of, but only accidentally, and they’re just friends). Now, she doesn’t have either of the Moscovitzes, her boyfriend or her best friend, and that’s just too much for a girl to handle! Add that to the fact that she’s expected to give a speech to two thousand of the world’s most elite businesswomen, and, yeah, she’s a little stressed. What’s a princess to do?

I really enjoyed this book. I literally laughed out loud at some parts; Mia’s distinctive voice just makes everything so hilarious, even if she didn’t get into so many mishaps. It’s certainly not all light-hearted fun, though; Mia’s dealing with some serious sadness in this book. Meg Cabot shows herself in this book to be very good at creating great characters, and she really does, after nine books (plus those weird little half-books or whatever they’re called that come in between some of the main books) about them, know this cast of characters very well (and so does the reader).

I think I may very well go back and read the rest of the series in order; it really is that good. This book is highly recommended! It has restored my faith in Meg Cabot (a couple of her recent books were a little disappointing to me, but maybe just not my kind of books; they weren’t necessarily bad).