Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Vacations From Hell Anthology

Last night, I discovered Books of Wonder, New York City's oldest and largest independent children's bookstore. They have everything from children's classic to contemporary literature, picture books to young adult novels, and board games to foreign language books. They even have an entire wall of rare and old books at the back of the store, including a copy of Lord of the Rings, the first edition of the collection published as one book, signed by J.R.R. Tolkien! Sure it’s listed for a cool $16,500, but I did feel a little light-headed standing that close to it.

Anyway, I trekked over there after work to see Libba Bray (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy), Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments), Claudia Gray (Evernight), Maureen Johnson (13 Little Blue Envelopes), and Sarah Mlynowski (Bras & Broomsticks), who all contributed to an anthology from Harper Teen called Vacations From Hell. I picked up a copy of the book and settled in to listen, as each author – after fighting over who went first, none of them wanted to – told their worst vacation story and a little bit about what their short story was about.

*disclaimer* I will not be able to do these stories justice. But I'll attempt to fill you in on what the authors said anyway.

Maureen Johnson begrudgingly went first after getting the most audience applause for her introduction, and despite her good natured complaints about being unprepared to speak, her story was probably the second best of the night. With a witty self-deprecating and sarcastic sense of humor, she told a story about a family vacation to Mexico where her family piled into the car for a long drive, her dad didn’t make hotel reservations, and as a result they had to stay in the only rundown hotel which still had a room, they at breakfast at a diner which served neon orange eggs and had a cockroach (still alive) swimming in the maple syrup, and her dad joked with a bunch of locals about selling her to them for five dollars. And she ended the story with “And that was actually a pretty normal vacation for us.”

“The Law of Suspects” by Maureen Johnson:
Synopsis (from author’s site): Charlotte and her sister Marylou are sent off to France for a month-long trip to get in touch with their French roots. But what is supposed to be fabulous visit to Paris turns into days of misery at a remote cottage in Provence, where the neighbors tell creepy stories about the bloody French Revolution, and there is nothing to do but count the tiny black frogs that hop up and down the path. Finally, there’s an exciting development in the form of a handsome French boy named Gerard, and Charlie senses that this will actually be good vacation after all. But instead of romance, there is a night of murder and mayhem ahead, and everyone is a suspect.

Claudia Gray volunteered to speak next. Her worst vacation started out as a simple trip home for Christmas, but happened to be during the worst ice storm Memphis had seen in years. Her connecting flight kept getting delayed, when she arrived at the airport her sick brother who was supposed to pick her up wasn't there (he was home with the flu), she couldn't get a taxi so she had to make him come get her anyway, her phone battery died so she couldn't get ahold of him when he got stuck in horrible traffic and took over an hour to get there instead of the fifteen minutes it should have taken him. She ended up leaving the airport five minutes before he had her paged with a group of six people who'd rented a van, and when they dropped her off at her brother's house, he was still at the airport. Then later the vacuum exploded and coated all of her clothing with lint and on the drive to her parents house the car got caught on a patch of ice and just kept spinning in a slow circle and they couldn't get to their destination.

"I Don't Like Your Girlfriend" by Claudia Gray
Quick Synopsis: A teenage girl, Cecily Harper, goes on a family vacation to the Outer Banks with her mother and a group of her mother’s friends from “college” (college is code for their coven – they’re witches). This year her arch-nemesis, the daughter of one of the other coven witches, brings her boyfriend who is an amazing and perfect guy, but there’s absolutely no reason he should be with her.

Sarah Mlynowski told a hilarious story about booking a cruise on an Italian cruiseline with her boyfriend of six years only to find out it was filled with people in their seventies, all of whom only spoke Italian. And since the cruise was over New Year's Eve and her birthday, she had been dropping hints to the boyfriend about wanting an engagement ring. So every time he dropped down to tie a shoe or did something remotely romantic, she thought he was about to pop the question, but all she got from him was a necklace for her birthday, and the flu. Then to top it off, in the airport on the way home from Miami, she saw someone reading her first published book only to see the reader finish the book and throw it away!

"Cruisin" by Sarah Mlynowski:
Quick Synopsis: A group of friends go on a cruise to nowhere hoping to have the best vacation ever, but it turns out there are vampires on this cruise and they are killing people and then throwing them overboard into the ocean.

Cassie Clare told a story about a trip she took with a friend in college. She wanted to cheer up her friend who'd just broken up with her boyfriend, Vincent, so they went to Amsterdam. Only the window of the hotel room where they were staying in Amsterdam just so happened to be right across the street from a building with a flashing neon sign which read "Vincent." This drove the friend to tears in her room and then sent her out searching for an escape. She found special brownies and disappeared. The next thing Cassie knew, the police were knocking on the door telling her they couldn't get her friend out of a shoe. Sure enough, her friend had crawled into a huge shoe outside of a tourist shop, and the police and some tourists had gathered to watch her. A few days later, the friend met a guy and ran off with him for a few days, and Cassie ended up heading back to the states by herself, and later she learned the friend had a habit of running off with guys on vacations. They don't take vacations together anymore.

Her short story is called "The Mirror House" and was inspired by a trip she took to Jamacia and the story of woman who owned a plantation in the eighteenth century and what would happen if she was brought back to life today. For an excerpt click here.

Libba Bray had pictures to go with her vacation from hell story which included a polaroid of a bright red sunburn she got traveling to Galveston, TX with a friend and her dad and his partner when she was sixteen. Only the trip was cut short by a hurricane (not the only hurricane to ever follow her on vacation), and her dad the "male version of June Cleaver" insisted they clean the place where they were staying before leaving despite the impending storm, and the ten hour trip home took double the time because of traffic.

"Nowhere is Safe" by Libba Bray
Quick Synopsis: A group of friends trying to travel Europe cheap decide to go to the town of Necuratul, an old Medieval town nicknamed the "Town of the Damn." Only, in a similar vein to Hotel California, once you go there, you can't leave without giving up your soul.

All five authors were friendly and talkative and a blast to hear from. I haven't had a chance to actually read the stories yet, but I have a soft spot for quick themed anthologies like this, and based on the glimpses I've had of the stories, I think it will be well worth the read.

If you want to win a copy of Vacations from Hell signed by all five authors, post a comment below with your email address so I know how to get in touch with you. For an extra entry become a follower, and for an extra extra entry tweet or blog about this contest and paste the link into the comments. Contest ends June 19th. I'll post the winner on the 20th.


californiameaghan said...

this book sounds hilarious and awesome! i would love a copy...

meaghan_koci (at) yahoo (dot) com

bridget3420 said...

I really hope I win this! Keeping my fingers crossed:)


bridget3420 said...

I'm already a follower


bridget3420 said...

Posted contest link on my sidebar


kim said...

I've been wanting this book so bad! Please enter me.

I'm already a follower


kim said...

I linked your contest to my blog.

kim said...

I twittered about this too!


Shooting Stars Mag said...

Oh, I would love to read this. So many awesome authors. Thanks for sharing your time, I loved the stories the authors told.


lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I'm now following. :)

lauren51990 AT aol DOT com

dissectingperfection said...

This sounds like the perfect summer read! Such great authors too. I'd love to enter!

mya (dot) rooney (at) gmail (dot) com

dissectingperfection said...

I'm already a subscriber of your blog!

mya (dot) rooney (at) gmail (dot) com

dissectingperfection said...

Tweeted about the contest here:

mya (dot) rooney (at) gmail (dot) com

Mitali said...

I would love to enter!

Mitali said...

I'm following you too!

Mitali said...

And I tweeted about it!


"Win a copy of Vacations From Hell! Contest ends June 19th!"

The Compulsive Reader said...

Cool contest! Thanks!

Off to tweet about this (

Hollishillis said...

Hahahaha Gosh Maureen cracks me up. I've only read her, Libba, and Cassie's books but the other two authors sound just as witty. I'd love to win a copy of this book! Signed and all! Wow!

(yes three e's)

Yan said...

I would love LOVE this! This contest is beyond amazing!


debbiesworld said...

Please enter me! dasuzuki at yahoo dot com

debbiesworld said...

I also blogged about the contest here:

dasuzuki at yahoo dot com

debbiesworld said...

Oh and I already follow you in Google Reader. dasuzuki at yahoo dot com

Erica said...

Amazing contest!!!

:) Erica

Jess J said...

please enter me!

BreiaB said...

Awesome stories, I would love to win this book.

Beth said...

Sounds like a fun book - would love to have it!

donnas said...

Sounds great. Please include me.

I am a follower.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Esme said...

This sounds pretty funny-we have all had the vacation from hell

chocolateandcroissants at yahoo dot com

Lifestooshort said...

Please enter me :)

lavery328 at yahoo dot com

elaing8 said...

Please enter me in the giveaway


elaing8 said...

i'm a follower


Alexa said...

This books sounds awesome! Enter me please!


Alexa said...

I'm a follower.


Alexa said...

I blogged about it here:


Lilibeth Ramos said...

Sounds absolutely great, so want to win!

mindy said...

sounds fabulous thanks for the giveaway

Anonymous said...

zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

I absolutely LOVE a good anthology! And this one has got to be great :) Please enter me to win and thank you so very much!

Nicole D. said...

Please enter me! Thanks!
nicoledzuba at

kathy55439 said...

I would love to read....

Hillary said...

Looks good. Please enter me1 Thanks!

Renee G said...

I'd love to read this. It sounds like a good book to take to the beach.


Alexia561 said...

Sounds like a great book! Please count me in!

Belinda said...

Sounds like a great read.
1bmore @ gmail . com

Tonya said...

Sounds like a perfect summer read! Thanks for offering it!
heavenlyalchemy @ gmail (dot) com

Mishia said...

Sounds like a great read. Thanks!

Mishia said...

I follow!

Nickolay said...

Looks like a great book. Thanks for the chance


Lady Roxi said...

Love to have this.



Anonymous said...

Mary D
zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot)com

Anthologies are my favorite format and this honestly sounds like a fantastic one to enjoy! Thanks so much for the opportunity to win it :)

tatertot374 said...

I would love to win.
Thank you for the chance.

wendy said...

I love anthologies and I love vacations so it seems I can't go wrong with this book.

madamerkf at aol dot com

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