Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Worst Gifts of the Season

Seeing as how this is the season of giving and all, I'd like to do my part by helping those of you getting desperate for last minute holiday gifts. Not that I have suggestions for what to get, beyond echoing Micol’s call that a book always makes a great gift. But I’m offering equally useful advice for the last minute shoppers. I know quite well that as the clock ticks down even the tackiest of gifts begin to look promising. But I beg you. Put. Down. The. Chia Pet. And while you’re at it, avoid the following (especially if you happen to be shopping for me). They may seem like good ideas in the moment, but they are prime candidates for re-gifting…

Fruit Cake

A train with square wheels, a Charlie-in-the-Box, a cowboy that rides an ostrich, or a doll with emotional issues. They’re on that island for a reason. (Hey, maybe that’s the secret to the island on Lost. Sawyer is totally a misfit toy.)

Roast Beast

The Moon: George Bailey may have thought it incredibly romantic to offer this to Mary in It’s a Wonderful Life, but it is simply not practical. And don’t even get me started on the idea that he could throw a lasso around it, pull it out of orbit, have her SWALLOW IT WHOLE and then it would still glow inside her. No wonder he never got out of that hick town. (But, like Debbie's post says, this movie is a must see!!)

Hanukah Gelt: Don’t get me wrong. I love chocolate. But if anyone’s going to give me gold, I’d prefer ACTUAL gold.

But no Frankincense or Myrrh.

A hippopotamus

12 drummers drumming, 10 lords a-leaping, 8 maids a-milking (the gifts for the other 12 days are negotiable).

A chain for the pocket watch I don’t own or combs for the long hair I do not possess.

And finally … Star Wars “Disturbance at Lars Homestead” playset: I’d show you a picture of it here, if I could find one that’s not copyrighted, but allow me to describe it to those of you who are fans of the original 1977 Star Wars film. This is a plastic toy playset that recreates the never filmed moment when the Stormtroopers visited the home of Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. It’s a fairly innocent little playset until you realize that the Stormtrooper action figure has a flamethrower on his back because he’s about to TORCH LUKE’S RELATIVES!!! If this morbid toy isn’t a prime guest for the Island of Misfit Toys, I don’t know what is.

Happy Holidays and all the best for 2009!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Christmas Spirit

My husband, Matt, just gave me the most wonderful Christmas gift ever. He took me to New York. Neither of us had been before, and he thought I'd like to hang out with my fabulous agents and meet my editor and the fine folks of Simon Pulse. Boy, was he right! And what better time to visit the Big Apple than Christmastime?!
We had so much fun, from seeing "Wicked" on Broadway (thanks to my friend Anna for the amazing seats), the Rockettes, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the New York Public Library, the famous departments stores (pictured below left is Macy's window display), the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza (pictured above right), Times Square (below right), Central Park, listening to the amazing Kaskade at Webster Hall, Little Italy, etc., etc. It's taken me a few days to recooperate, but I can honestly say I LOVE NY.

Thanks for letting me share.
Now, I'd like to give away a FREE, autographed copy of The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren. Here's the deal. I'd like you to nominate someone who'd like this book (recommended for ages 14 and up) who has done something special for you lately. Just tell me her (or his) first name and write a few sentences about why this person deserves a new book. Leave a comment here or contact me via my web-site . So this contest is to win a copy of my book for someone else, in the spirit of Christmas. I'll choose a winner on Friday, December 26, which is the one-year anniversary date of The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren.

Best wishes for a fabulous holiday season!
Wendy Toliver

Holiday Film Faves

Yesterday I read a NY Times story about the reporter’s first viewing of the holiday classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This reporter was a teenager in 1981 when his teacher set up the film on the projector for his class to watch one day after school.

That’s kinda how it happened for me—except it was in the 90's, during class, and viewed on VHS.

It was during my senior year Lit class when my teacher first mentioned the film mid-lecture. Everyone served her blank stares. Taking this to mean our memories simply needed jogging, she proceeded to toss out a few freebies:

Teacher: “You know—George Bailey”
Students: [Blink, blink.]
Teacher: “Bedford Falls?”
[Cricket sound effects.]
Teacher: “Lasso the moon?!”

I still remember my teacher’s shock that no one in our class had seen nor heard of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” She said something about not being able to live in a world where we haven’t experienced such an enduring holiday tradition. Actually, I’m not sure whether I read it in her aching expression or if she said it out loud. I still wonder if she blamed our lack of exposure to a generation gap or to a socioeconomic one (we were, after all, Black and Latino Catholic school students in inner city Newark).

So with a spirit of community service, my teacher devoted the next few classes to this film’s viewing. And whaddya know—were all touched by the movie!

I’m glad I had that brush with George Bailey. Although, at the time, my family’s holiday tradition was more about singing Christmas carols around the piano, we did have a few film faves. My father adored “Miracle on 34th Street” and my mom loved cracking up at “A Christmas Story.” And, of course, we all enjoyed adaptations of “A Christmas Carol”—like “Scrooged” starring Bill Murray.

Today my favorite holiday movie is “While You Were Sleeping” starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman.

After all, you can never go wrong with a romantic comedy. [wink, wink]

Here's to a fantastic holiday season and a happy new year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Symbol of Death

You might think that this is the symbol of death:

Or maybe this Mexican parade is more your mental image:

But really, it's this:

Last week, while my MacBook was doing nothing more strenous than powering up, I heard it make a series of cranky noises akin to an elderly, lifetime smoker coughing up his left lung. The MacBook had never done that before, so of course, I wondered who'd messed with it (answer: no one.)

Then, when the screen finally blinked on, I got the questioning file folder.

I called Apple immediately ('cause what good is AppleCare if you don't call the gurus?) and a friendly guy had me restart the computer from the startup disks. That worked...I had a beautiful blue screen, with no questioning file folders in sight. I thought I was saved until I went into the Utilities (as directed by AppleGuy) and the hard drive was nowhere to be found. The conversation went something like this:

AppleGuy: You don't see the hard drive anywhere? It should be in the list. Look on the left.

Me: Nope. I see the startup CD. That's it.

AppleGuy: You're looking in the left-hand column?

Me: Yep. (I do know my left from my right.)

AppleGuy: Could it have another name?

Me: No. There's nothing else in the list at all. Just the startup disk.

Big Pause.

AppleGuy: Okay. You may have fried your hard drive, but don't panic yet.

Me: That's not funny.

AppleGuy: Sorry.
Me: Dude, don't say "fried" and "hard drive" in the same sentence! That's going to make a person panic every single time.

AppleGuy: I'm getting you an appointment at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. They can run some tests. It's possible they can find it. No promises, though.

Me: You said "fried." Once you say that about a hard drive, you know you can't go back.

AppleGuy: Is your data backed up?

Me: About 95%.

AppleGuy: Then you definitely shouldn't panic.

Me: But you said FRIED!

So off to the Genius Bar I went. Sure enough, my not-so-trusty laptop, which is less than two years old, was DOA. Apple offered to replace the hard drive--which they did in only three days--which was nice. On the other hand, since I've never had any trouble with my MacBook before the startup coughing fit, they couldn't tell me what I'd done, or how to keep it from happening again.

On the bright side, no laptop gave me three days to clean my home office. Even the windows got washed. And while I was at the Apple Store waiting for the death sentence to be passed on the MacBook, I splurged and bought a Bose Sound Dock for my still-functioning iPod.

I figured if I was going to panic, I may as well do it with my credit card.

Do you think Apple planned that?!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Read all about it!

Like every single other person in the greater free world, I have lately been giving much thought to holiday gift lists. I'm sad to say, the only present I've bought thus far is for the fiance, and I'm now in lockdown mode of getting everything else ordered and on its way.

Well, it's no secret that the publishing industry (like so many industries, alas) has DEFINITELY seen better days. To that end, I know what I'm buying for most of the folks on my list: BOOKS! And at the risk of being too self-interested, I must implore that you do the same.

The truth is that the right book can be the perfect gift for anyone on your list. Got a fashionista friend? Check out the Olsen twins' gorgeous new coffee-table tome, INFLUENCE. And lots of your favorite series are offering fancy-schmancy boxed sets for the season. My dad loves to cook, and every year I like to buy him a cookbook with exotic new fare to try. My mother loves thrillers. My brother is an avid graphic novel enthusiast.

Yeah, there's a good reason that I've got multiple accounts on file at Amazon.

So what about you? What are you reading this holiday season, and what--if any--books are you gifting? I'm always open to suggestions and recommendations!

Oh--and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Public Displays of Holiday Spirit!

I love people who decorate for the holidays (though my dh may be shocked to hear me say so, since I grumble every time he brings out our bins of lights, houses, and garlands collected in many years of after-holiday sales). I usually leave the in-house decorating to our household Santa and his elves (I do the cards, having the only legible handwriting in the home). We don't do outside, though. Only inside. Mostly the living room.

Some years our living room is blinding. Others, not so much. This year we have our winter village houses out. And some lights (we never get the tree until close to the 24th, since we can then leave it up for half of January without worrying about redecorating the floor with pine needles).

To be honest, if it weren't for the others, I might not do much. Because I'm lazy. Which leads me to the point of my post: those overgifted with the spirit of the holidays. You know who I mean. The people who light up every eave. The people with the giant blowup snowglobe, Santa, Snoopy, electric candles in every window, giant wreaths with big red bows lit by landscape lighting. Yep. Those.

So far, we've been out twice to look at lights. I had been afraid in this economic times no one would light up. Hah! The display is more magnificent than ever.

Maybe dh and I should consider getting out the ladder? [Horrible pictures of me hanging upside down from the ladder, with a Santa around my neck]. Okay. Maybe not.

Don't forget to drive through your neighborhoods and appreciate those people who worked so hard to put up those public displays (and will have to pay the electric bill next month).

If you are one who does the whole PDHJ -- I salute you.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Grinch or Griswold?

My husband and I have always avoided decorating for Christmas, except for a basic tree. Last year our son had grown old enough to complain. We promised him we would decorate next year, hoping he would forget. Guess what? Now it is next year, and my son forgets NOTHING.

Also, I'm having Christmas lunch for forty relatives. When I held this gathering two years ago, my only decorations were the ones my mother brought me from her house because she thought I was pitiful.

So this year we have broken down and decorated. A few fabulous samples:

The den. We actually bought the faux-grapevine reindeer four years ago when we were trying to sell our house in Atlanta and move back to Birmingham. The realtor could not believe we hadn't decorated for the holidays! Didn't we want to impress potential buyers? We were resentful when we shelled out forty bucks for reindeer and the house didn't sell until February.

The living room. This is precariously balanced.

The dining room. I am not sure about this. I picture my relatives at lunch craning their necks to talk to each other around the strange hanging balls. Also, the lowest one may drag through the sweet potatoes.

The kitchen. I am not sure about this either. In terms of festivity level, I think this may surpass "Season's Greetings" and veer toward "roller skating rink."

Do you celebrate a holiday during December? When it comes to decorating, are you a Grinch or a Griswold?

BTW: Remember my blog post two years ago entitled Seven uses for an exercise ball during the holidays? While unpacking Christmas decorations, I came across said exercise ball. I thought you might like to see what has happened to it and exactly how much use it has been getting.

Monday, December 01, 2008

(Post) Thanksgiving Top Five Things For Which I'm Thankful...

And yes, I know, I'm late to the party. I usually post on this blog around the 15th of the month, meaning that this month I have managed to fall fully two weeks behind. But given how crazed my schedule has been this semester (and yes, I will continue to measure out my life in semesters until I graduate from my MFA program this Jan; bear with me), two weeks is actually not too shabby.

Anyhoo, around this time of year I, like so many other people, do a lot of sentimental taking-of-stock, and I wanted to share the top five things for which I'm all grateful and stuff this holiday season:

1) My friends and family (which OF COURSE includes the little devil pictured above, Miss Bridget Jones, aka my constant partner in crime). As I've mentioned on this blog, my family will be increasing in size exponentially come next fall via the wedding that ate Manhattan, and I can't believe that I get to live out my own personal RoCom with the coolest, funniest, smartest guy around.

2) My health. I haven't been running or hitting the gym nearly as hard as I have in years past, but I'm dedicated to keeping fit. Sound body, sound mind, etc., etc...Top New Year's resolution? I'm going to be way more diligent about flossing. Swearsies.

3) Inspiration everywhere! Every time I read a book I adore, I fall in love with writing all over again. Most recently? THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, THE WAY HE LIVED, and PAPER TOWNS. Have you read them yet?

4) The opportunity to make a living doing exactly what I've always wanted to do. How cool is that?

5) Fans/readers/writers/cyber-buds like YOU.

Okay, you've heard my list. So what I wanna know now is what you're thankful for, these days! Post post post!
(But don't worry; if I don't hear from you, I'll be back here mid-month--right on time, this time. I promise!)

Oh--and happy holidays.

We've got the scoop!

Look for these new Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies coming soon! ♥


Sea of Love
By Jamie Ponti

When it comes to love, sometimes it’s sink or swim

Like it’s not bad enough that Darby had to leave her longtime boyfriend and NYC life to move to Florida, where her family’s started running a hotel. Now Darby has to help with the hotel’s annual Valentine’s Day "Cupid’s Ball." Things start looking up when local beach hottie Zach takes Darcy surfing and shows her around. Beach life actually starts to grow on this fish out of water.

Then--surprise! A week before the ball, Darby’s NYC ex decides to pay her a visit. Darby’s knee-deep in guilt--because she realizes that she’s head over heels for Zach!

This Valentine’s Day, is Darby ready to dive into a new relationship with the guy who’s captured her heart?


Miss Match
By Wendy Toliver

Want to snag that certain someone? You need Miss Match!

Sasha Finnegan has always had a knack for matchmaking. It all started with Barbie and Ken and grew from there. Now she runs her own match-making business under the disguise of "Miss Match." So far, most of her clients have been strangers...but when Derek Urban hires Sasha to match him up with none other than her gorgeous and popular sister Maddie, she's not sure if she's up for the challenge. Especially since Sasha's crushing on Derek herself.

***COMING IN APRIL 2009***

Love on Cue
By Catherine Hapka

When you have to sing your heart out, it’s best to know how...

Maggie Tannery is a true theater girl--at least she is now. Back in middle school, she was so self-conscious her parents actually made her try out for her school play, but amazingly, Maggie discovered that when she's on stage her shyness disappears. Everyone knows that Maggie's practically a shoo-in for the lead in this year's production of Romeo & Juliet. But Maggie's got other things on her mind besides playing Juliet--she's hoping fellow drama club member Derek O'Malley will be her Romeo on and off-stage.

But Maggie gets a major case of stage fright when she finds out that her school has decided to stage a musical instead of a play--and Maggie can't sing! Knowing that Derek's still going for the lead male role, she keeps her eyes on the prize and decides to get some voice lessons from Nico Vasquez, a drama club member in charge of mixing background music for their performances. Things get complicated when Nico starts making backstage passes at Maggie. It looks like the music man of Maggie's dreams is not who she thinks it is...

***COMING IN JUNE 2009***

Drive Me Crazy
By Erin Downing

Three friends kick off the summer with an unforgettable road trip. Destination: true love!

Kate’s tote is packed and she’s ready for a road trip! She and her two best friends, Sierra and Alexis, are geared up for a week of fun and freedom on the road to their family lake houses in Love, Wisconsin. Best of all, when Kate reaches Love, she’ll be reunited with Lucas, with whom she shared a steamy end-of-summer kiss last year. Kate can’t wait to see Lucas again and pick things up exactly where they left off.

Then Kate gets some seriously bad news: Alexis’s sarcastic, condescending, hot-but-he-knows-it cousin is crashing the girls’ road trip. Adam bugs Kate in every possible way. Now Kate just wants to get the road trip over with so she can spend the summer in Lucas’s arms. But the road to Love is full of surprises…

Shopping list!

Here’s a complete list of the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies published so far. They’re all still available in bookstores--if you don’t find them on the shelves, ask the store to order them for you. Happy reading! ♥

How Not to Spend Your Senior Year
By Cameron Dokey

Rule #1: If at all possible, don't pretend to be something you're not. Specifically, don't play dead. Trust me on this one. I did it, so I should know.
Jo O'Connor has spent her whole life moving around. When it comes to new schools, there's not a trick in the book about starting over that Jo doesn't know. But life is about to teach her a new trick: how to disappear entirely.

Rule #2: Always expect the Spanish Inquisition, no matter what anyone else does.

They have to move again. Now. This very night. Jo knows better than to argue. Her dad is the key witness in a major case against a big-time bad guy. But Jo just can't resist one last visit to the school where she's been so happy. All she wants is to say good-bye. That can't cause any problems, can it?

Rule #3: Never assume you can predict the future.

Now Jo's one last visit has landed her smack in the middle of a ghost story. Specifically, her own. By the time it's over, she'll have a whole new set of rules about what's real, what's make-believe, and -- most of all -- what's important.

Royally Jacked
By Niki Burnham

Valerie's life is pretty good. While she's not the most popular girl in school, she does have decent grades, great friends, and a potential boyfriend. All a girl could want.Then her mother announces that (1) she's gay, and (2) she's leaving Valerie's dad for her girlfriend. Not what Valerie envisioned for her future. And just when Valerie is getting over this bombshell, her father tells her he's gotten a new job as protocol chief for the royal family of some obscure European country.

Valerie's world has come unglued. She can either stay in Virginia with her mom and her ├╝ber-organized, veggie-burger-eating girlfriend, or go with her dad, leaving everything she knows for some place she's never heard of. Valerie opts to go, and quickly discovers that it was a mistake -- until she meets the prince, and all bets are off!

Ripped at the Seams
By Nancy Krulik

There's a new fashion designer in town, and "Fashion Don'ts" have never been more in style!

Sami Granger is fresh off the bus from the Midwest when some crazy person in the bus terminal warns her that life in New York City won't be what she always dreamed of. But Sami's determined to make it in an industry that is notoriously hard to break in to. Nothing she ever learned in her small town can prepare her for her first job working for a hot-shot designer: He steals her designs!

Now the only place that will hire Sami is a trashy lingerie store that she's too embarrassed to tell her old-fashioned father about. Will a visit from her father land Sami on the catwalk, or out on the sidewalk?

South Beach Sizzle
By Suzanne Weyn and Diana Gonzalez

Is Enrique trying to win her over -- or just trying to win?

Road trip! Lula Cruz has her last summer before college all mapped out. She's checking out of NYC and checking in to the sizzling hot "SoBe" scene with her best friend, Jeff.

When their day jobs get to be a drag, they spice things up by entering a local band contest. And spicy it is! Turns out that the hottie Lula keeps running into is also her band's toughest competition! Enrique might seem like the perfect guy, but as things heat up Lula has to wonder: Can she trust her biggest rival with her heart?


By Caroline Goode

Dating in high school is like reality TV. It can get pretty surreal.

Between the strict social ladder (geeks' lockers left, jocks' to the right), and silly, pointless rules (no hand-holding, no kissing, no breathing!), high school is the single worst place to find a boyfriend. And Laura Sweeney is no exception. She hasn't had a date since...well, ever.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. So Laura is calling in the big guns. She needs guidance. A proven "get the guy" strategy.

Luckily she knows exactly the expert to call. He's a matchmaking mastermind who actually has the bow and arrow to prove it. Let's just call him...Cupid.

Spin Control
By Niki Burnham

Valerie Winslow never thought life in the tiny country of Schwerinborg could be so great.

But then she never thought she would be dating the prince of Schwerinborg either! Georg, a real prince, is also her first real boyfriend.

And then everything falls apart. Georg's decided they need to cool off for a while and her dad's sending her back to Virginia to visit her mom.

Valerie's bummed -- until she decides to go out with her old crush, David Anderson. David may not be a prince, but maybe he'll take her mind off of Georg -- or will he?


She’s Got the Beat
By Nancy Krulik


Miranda was the quiet type...until she moved to Austin. Home of the hippest college rock bands, Austin, Texas, is a scene. And Miranda is dying to break out of her small-town shell. So she decides to do something totally un-Miranda: learn to play the drums.

When crashing the cymbals, the girl's a wild child! Plus there's a perk to her new gig: a cute bass player. Unfortunately Mr. Bass Man isn't exactly looking for love. Can this rocker chick change his tune? Or does finding her own rhythm mean sacrificing true love?

30 Guys in 30 Days
By Micol Ostow

Practice makes not-quite-perfect

Claudia Clarkson just cut the cord from her high school love-you-forever boyfriend. Sure, she misses Drew. But with so many eligibles on her new college campus, why study ancient history?

Problem is, Claudia's lived in la-la-loveland for so long that she's completely forgotten how to meet boys -- and how to flirt.

Then her roommate proposes a solution: Meet one new guy every day for thirty days. Consider it "target practice" for when Mr. Perfect comes along. Claudia's game, but she definetely hasn't got game. In fact, Flirting 101 could be her toughest course to pass...

Animal Attraction
By Jamie Ponti

The Season of (No?) Love

Jane's life is one giant Conspiracy, with the whole world plotting to keep any chance of romance far, far away. Her social history (17 years, 0 boyfriends) is proof positive of that. But this summer, she's determined to crank it up.

Jane's snagged a gig at the local theme park as part of the star attraction -- the Mermaid Show. But then the Conspiracy strikes, and she ends up starstruck in a furry beaver costume all day long. Hard to breathe, let alone flirt....Can Jane figure a way out of the beaver suit and into the arms of her summer love?

A Novel Idea
By Aimee Friedman

Required reading has never been so hot.

Once upon a time there was a Brooklyn hipster named Norah. Unlucky in love, and short on extracurriculars for her college apps, Norah decided to start a book group. She knew the perfect locale -- a local indie bookstore with a crush-worthy cutie manning the soy latte counter.

When the first meeting arrives, Norah gets a page-turning surprise. The attendees may be bookish, but there are also a few hotties! Most noteworthy: sweet, literary James. He's like a modern Jane Austen hero.... Only, how to snag him?

Ever the romantic heroine, Norah devises a secret plan. And if it works, Norah may just find her "Happily Ever After" love story. The End.

Scary Beautiful
By Niki Burnham

Chloe Rand's life is great.

She has a serious boyfriend, she's about to start her junior year of high school, and she has a tight group of girlfriends. But when her boyfriend moves across the country and decides the long-distance-relationship thing just isn't for him, Chloe's devastated. Worse, she soon learns that when you're the prettiest girl in school and totally unattached, everyone starts treating you differently. Girls don't trust you, guys aren't sure what to make of you, and everyone assumes you're either spoiled, dumb, or both.

Chloe realizes that she's been living the last few years in a bubble and decides to do something about it. But when she falls for Billy, a total geek, will it make her situation better...or worse?

Getting to Third Date
By Kelly McClymer

Could a forgotten cutie be Katelyn's newest catch?

Katelyn Spears is a firm believer in the two-date rule. First dates are so awkward; every guy deserves a second chance. But a third? Not unless he's got serious Romeo potential.

Enter Tyler. Tyler thinks Katelyn's rule is too harsh. He dares her to go back through her Little Pink Book and grant a third date to all the two-date duds. Oh, and she should report back to the whole school via her newspaper column.

Standing by her policy (and determined to prove Tyler wrong), Katelyn makes a few phone calls. But will any of her old flames rekindle a romance?

Dancing Queen
By Erin Downing

Who needs Prince Charming if you've got a rock star?

It's official. Olivia is a superfreak. Sure, she may have landed the hottest internship at an ├╝bercool TV music station. And yes, she's chilling with A-listers in London all summer. But when she meets her very first pop star, she gets caught in a revolving glass door and falls smack down on her bum -- all in one quick motion.

Luckily, Rocker Boy thinks Liv's quirks are adorable. He takes her clubbing at the hippest spots! Liv may be clumsy on solid ground, but on the dance floor she sparkles. The summer's just begun and she's already captured the spotlight -- and a celeb's heart, too. Now if only she was sure he's the right guy...


Major Crush
By Jennifer Echols

Marching to the beat of a different drum...

Tired of the beauty-pageant circuit, Virginia Sauter tosses her tiara, pierces her nose, and auditions for the most unlikely of roles -- drum major of the high school marching band.

Virginia wins, but is forced to share the title with Drew, whose family has held the position for generations. Sure, Drew is hot, but because of his superior attitude, he and Virginia are constantly arguing. That is, until they share more than just their half-time salute...

But as the drum major's heated competition turns to sizzling romance, explosive rumors threaten everything -- including the band's success. Love seemed to be a sure hit, but Virginia and Drew may be marching straight into disaster.

By Niki Burnham

When it comes to love, how many chances do you get?

Girl meets prince. Girl loses prince. Girl gets prince back -- right? Well, that's what Valerie is hoping. She's back in Schwerinborg after spending some time with her mother in the good ol' US of A, and hopes that sparks are still flying between her and Georg. At first it looks like things are going great, until a ski trip to the Alps has Val and Georg's romance hitting some moguls. Could Val's love life be heading for a face-plant?

Love Undercover
by Johanna Edwards

True love needs no disguise.

Kaitlyn Nichols craves a little mystery and mayhem in her life. Having a top-secret agent for a father should do the trick, but unfortunately Dad is no 007, and danger is nowhere on the horizon.

But all that changes when Mr. Nichols brings home Blaine, a seventeen-year-old hottie who’s about to enter the Witness Protection Program. Suddenly Kaitlyn’s in the perilous position of protecting the cutest guy she’s ever met!

When Dad enrolls Blaine in her high school, it’s up to Kait to detect the girls who want him... and the guys who want to kill him. Meanwhile, Kait’s about to discover that there’s one thing she can’t protect--her heart...

Prom Crashers
By Erin Downing

Will you go to the proms with me?

It was love at first sight for Emily and Ethan. But then Em lost his number, and with it, lost all hope of finding a real boyfriend before the end of senior year. All she knows about Ethan is his first name, that he has a super-cute smile, and the fact that he’s going to a prom this month. Which high school? That’s anyone’s guess...

Em enlists the help of her three best friends, who quickly score some formalwear and hail a limo. Together, Emily, Charlie, Max, and Sid vow to find Ethan, to find a cure for senioritis, and most importantly, to find true love--one hilarious prom night at a time.

Gettin' Lucky
By Micol Ostow

Looking for love in Las Vegas...

Cass Parker is a big believer in luck, fate, and all things karmic. So she’s devastated when she walks in on her supposed best friend macking with Jesse, the guy she’s in total "like" with. Talk about bad karma. Vegas is just full of cheaters, she concludes, even the locals.

But Cass refuses to sulk. She finds new friends, and even gets invited to join their weekly poker night--totally casual and not-for-profit, of course. They seem pretty chill, and Cass definitely needs to get out more. So after consulting her horoscope, she gets in the game.

But when Jesse turns up for a final showdown, it turns out that Cass isn’t so good at bluffing--not when it comes to matters of the heart...

The Boys Next Door
by Jennifer Echols

Cute, available, and one cabin over.

Lori lives for summertime at her family's lake house. She spends all season wakeboarding, swimming, and hanging with her friends--including the two hotties in the cabin next door. With the Vader brothers, Lori's always been one of the guys.

But while Lori and the "baby" brother, Adam, are inseparable friends, she can't deny a secret crush on Sean, the older Vader boy. This year Sean's been paying Lori a lot of attention, and not in a brotherly way.

But just as Lori decides to prove to Sean she's girlfriend material, she realizes that her role as girl friend to Adam may be even more important. And by trying so hard for the perfect summer romance, she could be going way overboard...

In the Stars
By Stacia Deutsch & Rhody Cohon

Which do you follow: your head or your heart?

When Sylvie loses the diamond from her late mother’s ring, her best friend Cherise insists it’s a sign that love is about to enter Sylvie’s life. Yeah, right. Sylvie doesn’t believe in signs--she only star gazes through her telescope. But she also knows Cherise won’t drop it, so to humor her Sylvie agrees to date the next boy who asks.Sure enough, a new guy in school appears and Sylvie’s the object of his affection. Maybe Cherise was right after all? But when the sparks don’t fly and Cherise thinks she’s just scared, Sylvie ends up confiding in an old friend. Could finding the perfect guy be as rare as catching a shooting star?


Crush du Jour
By Micol Ostow

When a girl bites off more than she can chew...

Laine barely has enough time for herself, much less for romance. But she's always hungry for more projects--so she decides to start up a cooking class at her local community center. As it turns out, Seth, the guy co-teaching the class with her, is not just cute, but downright delicious!

When Seth offers her a waitress job at his family's restaurant, Hype, Laine can't resist. Just as Seth finally warms up to Laine, Laine finds out that Callie, another waitress at Hype, is cooking up a plan to steal Seth for herself. But tensions really reach their boiling point when Laine's restaurant critic mother writes a scathing review--of Hype! Will Laine have to put love on the back burner again?

The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren
By Wendy Toliver

Geeky to gorgeous in sixty seconds...

Roxy’s about to turn sixteen, but life isn’t so sweet. As a band geek, Roxy can barely get the cute guys to notice her, much less go out with her. Then, on her birthday, Roxy is transformed into a siren: seductively beautiful with the power to control all men. She though sirens were an ancient myth, but suddenly Roxy can get any guy she wants with just a few notes on her flute.

There are only two rules: don’t tell anyone about being a siren, and don’t fall in love. When she starts dating Zach, the guy everybody’s crushing on, Roxy realizes she could get used to this siren thing...but how can she keep herself from falling in love?

Love, Hollywood Style
By P. J. Ruditis

True love doesn't always follow a script...

Tracy Vance’s love life is a total flop. Sure, she has a cool job as a tour guide at a real Hollywood movie studio, but when it comes to her personal life, she can barely get her crush, Connor, to notice her.

Then Tracy gets a brilliant idea: Why not win Connor’s heart with some help from the big screen? Taking her cues from her favorite chick flicks, Tracy puts "Operation Ro Com" into action, and it actuallyseems to work!

But Tracy soon realizes that getting the leading man isn’t the same as keeping him. Maybe things never work out like they do in the movies--or do they?

Something Borrowed
By Catherine Hapka

She’s ready to catch the bouquet, not steal the guy!

When Ava gets dumped by her boyfriend, she’s pretty upset. He wasn’t the love of her life of anything, but with her sister’s wedding--a.k.a. the social event of the season--just two weeks away, Ava’s got to save face by finding someone cute and fun to bring as her date.

With the clock ticking and no dates in sight, Ava asks her best friend if she can "borrow" her boyfriend, Jason, for the night. Ava’s never been a big Jason fan, but he’ll look great in a tux and at least she’ll have someone to dance with. But it doesn’t take long for Ava to realize she’s got him all wrong...

What do you do when Mr. Right is wrapped up in a package that belongs to your best friend?

Party Games
By Whitney Lyles

If only life were one big party...

Sara would be looking forward to her sixteenth birthday, but thanks to her mom’s party planning business, she’s way too wrapped up with someone else’s: spoiled socialite Dakota London‘s. Sara would much rather spend her summer hanging out with Ian, an up-and-coming guitar player and her new crush. But Sara is so busy catering to Dakota’s every wacky whim, she’s got no time to spend with him.

And then, the icing on the cake: Dakota wants Ian to be her date for the big bash! Sara can’t believe the favor she’s been asked, especially because she thinks she’s fallen for Ian. Will this birthday end up more bitter than sweet?


Puppy Love
By Nancy Krulik

Romance can be ruff...

Alana loves her dog-walking job, but it blows her mind to see how pampered these pooches are. Her newest clients actually feed steak to their prized poodle and treat her to massages at a doggie spa! Alana can’t make heads or tails of why anyone would do this--or why she seems to be confiding her frustrations in hunky handyman Connor, and not her own boyfriend, Sammy.

When Sammy starts keeping an awfully tight leash on her, Alana wonders whether Connor might be a better match. But Alana's puppy love comes to a screeching halt when she learns that Connor isn’t who she thought he was. Is Alana barking up the wrong tree with him, too?

The Twelve Dates of Christmas
By Catherine Hapka

Lexi’s feeling a little holidazed this winter...

Lexi Michaels has been with her boyfriend of four years, Cameron Kehoe, way too long. Sure, he's a nice guy, but lately she's felt like there's a spark missing between them. And his plan of staying close to their Christmas-obsessed town of Claus Lake, Wisconsin to attend culinary school just don't mesh with Lexi's big-city dreams. She comes up with the perfect plan--get Cameron to fall for another girl, and she'd be free--guilt-free, too.

But on a chilly December morning, when Lexi sees Cameron looking awfully cozy with new girl Jaylene, she realizes that she's made the stupidest mistake of her life. Will one of Lexi's many schemes get her all she really wants for Christmas--her boyfriend back?