Monday, July 4, 2016

Mini-Reviews: Princesses and Bullies

After my disastrous foray into reading the latest "it" book of the moment, I decided that I needed a little fun.  Brain candy. A chocolate chip cookie read. So naturally I went with a book that was written for a middle grade, juvenile audience and an erotic romance.  As you do.

Royal Wedding Disaster is the second book in Meg Cabot's From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess series.  It's a spin-off of her popular Princess Diaries series and Mia's half-sister, Olivia is the star of the show.  In this installment, the royal family is consumed with Mia's upcoming nuptials to Michael (and the fact that she's pregnant - with TWINS!), their father is consumed with renovating the summer palace, and Grandmere has her own plans for making Mia's wedding one for the ages - much to Mia's...uh, "delight."

It's only been one month since Olivia found out she's a princess but she's been busy!  She has her own pony (squee!) and like Mia once did is taking "princess lessons" from Grandmere.  She's also helping Grandmere with the wedding, in between starting a new school (ugh!), having her "first crush," and running afoul of her Mean Girl cousin.

This is a children's book so there's not a lot for me to say here except it's cute, the characters are delightful, and I loved returning to the world that Cabot has created.  I appreciate that while Cabot has returned to this world, Olivia isn't a cookie-cutter of Mia (for one thing, Olivia is more "sure of herself" than Mia was as a teen) and that the author has moved the series out of New York City to the fictional Genovia.  I also don't think it can be overstated that Olivia is biracial - the product of an affair her father had with her pilot mother (now deceased).  I know the "princess thing" is fairly loaded (thank you Disney...) but little brown girls deserve fairy tales as much as little white girls and Cabot has created a pretty sweet one.

Final Grade = B

There have been a ton of glowing, squee'ing reviews for Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein.  Brace yourself, Wendy won't be squee'ing.  Oh, I liked it.  But given the obscene amount of hype I read about this book I expected to love it beyond all reason and....I didn't.

Letty Carmichael graduated high school two years ago and is just now starting college.  She had an accident thanks to a group of meat head jocks who were her high school tormentors (nothing involving sexual assault).  Imagine her horror when she looks up in her film class to see one of those tormentors, Tate Sullivan, sitting in the lecture hall.

Despite Letty's initial terror (and really, who could blame the girl!), what follows is this slow unfolding romance between her and Tate...her former bully.

I will give Stein credit - this concept is inspired and could have been a dumpster fire.  Given the severity of Letty's accident, and Tate's involvement, the fact she doesn't explore options to get the hell away from him (oh, a restraining order?) or that her parents have zero role in this story (your kid has a horrible accident thanks to a group of bullies and one of them shows up at your daughter's small college and they aren't on the page at all outside of a mentioned phone call early on - and not mentioned AT ALL once Letty and Tate hook up.  Maybe it's just me - but my parents would have had PLENTY to say about that....).  So even though Letty's mental struggle is evident on the page, it really, truly didn't feel like enough to me.  Also, as far as guy's go - Tate oftentimes read like Wish Fulfillment Guy.  He says the things women readers want to hear, but his personal growth (seemingly all on his own - it's like the light magically dawns one day) weren't always convincing for me.

But Wish Fulfillment is a powerful thing (I'm not immune), I liked Letty, I even liked Tate (who is totally smitten with her).  There's lots of dirty talk, a lot of Sexy Times outside of Insert Tab A Into Slot B, and Stein writes the tap dance just about as well as anyone.  But (and you knew there was a but...) - there's a shortcut written into the Black Moment that just smacked me with incredulity.  I kid you involves the mob.  Yes, the mob.  It's borderline absurd and, in my opinion, totally unnecessary.  There's enough baggage between the couple (boy howdy!), enough emotional turmoil that honestly?  THE MOB?!?!?!  It's like someone putting a warm, gooey cinnamon roll in front of you, dripping with decadent cream cheese icing, and when you take a big bite?  Ick.  They put nasty, shriveled up raisins in it.

So while this is good - no, it's not great.  You want great?  Read Stein's Sweet Agony instead.

Final Grade = B


nath said...

Good for you, Wendy! Going with authors you know and have enjoyed before :)

Interested about Never Sweeter. It does sound interesting... but I hear you on the issues. I think perhaps the story would have worked better if there'd been more years between the accident and the romance. And yes, I can't see the parents role being null here, unless they don't care about Letty ^_^;

Wendy said...

Nath: The absence of her parents felt really off to me. There's a brief mention of a phone call to her father after she discovers the hero in her film class and then....nothing after that. The parents are totally off page. Given the seriousness of the Letty's accident and Tate's role in it - it didn't feel right to me.