The Bookworm: New takes on happily ever after

Terri Schlichenmeyer, Columnist


By Ashley Poston

c. 2017, Quirk Books

$18.99, $23.99 Canada; 320 pages

Sometimes – many times – you wish you had a magic wand. You’d change your entire life, from your room to your wardrobe, your school to your love life. Everything would be perfect forever; but alas, there’s no such thing as a magic wand. Then again, as in “Geekerella” by Ashley Poston, dreams can come true.

“Geekerella” author Ashley Poston.

Danielle Wittmer was sick of never-ending chores around the house but what was she gonna do? Since her father died and left her with a stepmonster and two ugly-inside stepsisters, 16-year-old Elle didn’t have much say in how things were run.  

Elle did the cleaning, the cooking, she did it all, but though stepmonster Catherine could use up Elle’s free time, she couldn’t take away Elle’s memories. Catherine couldn’t erase the time Elle spent with her dad or their love for the TV show “Starfield.” Unlike so many of the things Elle’s father gave her through the years, Catherine couldn’t throw out Elle’s memories of ExcelsiCon.

Yep, Elle was practically born a “Starfield” fan and because her dad started ExcelsiCon, most of her childhood was spent with its actors and other fans. She knew every episode by heart, word-for-word, scene-by-scene – which is why she was angry that the directors of the new “Starfield” movie hired Darien Freeman to play the handsome Carmindor.  

“Geekerella” by Ashley Poston

Freeman was a teen soap opera star. He wasn’t Carmindor – he was totally wrong for the part! Fuming, Elle blogged about it before she went to work at The Magic Pumpkin, a greasy vegan food truck where life didn’t stink quite as bad as it did at home.

Darien Freeman didn’t want stardom. Not really. He longed for his old life, when fan-cons were fun, fans were nice, and people didn’t blog bad things about him. He told his manager, Mark (who was also his father), that he didn’t want to attend ExcelsiCon but once it was announced on national TV, Darien was stuck. All he could do was hope that his text-crush would be there.

He’d “met” her while looking for the phone number of someone at ExcelsiCon who could release him from that ridiculous obligation. He’d never seen her face-to-face but he somehow knew her heart. To Darien, she was already magic …

Remember how, as a child, you were utterly captivated by the tale of a poor orphan girl and her accidental path to Princesshood? That classic tale has grown up now, and “Geekerella” is pretty cute.

Gone are sewing birds and horse-drawn carriages. The stuffy king is now a driven businessman. Author Ashley Poston gives her heroine a Fairy Godmother with green hair and a carriage that smells like grease, but the romance is still here: teen readers will be thrilled by a dashing (but secretly geeky) prince and they’ll love to hate the evil (but beautiful) stepmother.

Best of all, there’s a happily-predictably Happily Ever After here, and whether you’re 12 or 90, it’ll make you smile. If a just-right ending is just-right for you, put “Geekerella” in your basket. Go ahead. You know you wand it. 

“Once in a Blue Moon Lodge”

By Lorna Landvik

c. 2017, University of Minnesota Press

$25.95, higher in Canada; 312 pages

No matter how old you are, you never get tired of hearing your birth story. It’s a story of anticipation that’s different from every other on the planet. You’re at the center of it, though not quite. It’s a story you can never tell first-hand and, as in “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” by Lorna Landvik, it’s only a beginning.

“Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” author Lorna Landvik.

In writing down the Dobbin-Strand-Rolvaag family stories, Nora Rolvaag had crossed off more than she’d actually left on the page.

She’d promised herself that she’d have a book completely done by the time her triplets turned 18. She knew that Sena, Grace, and Ulla would each want different things from the family tales. But what would Nora tell?

Grace would require romance in the story, so Nora would write about how Thomas came to be the girls’ father. She’d remember to include how Nora’s grandmother, Ione, was betrayed by her own cousin, though everyone knew how that story ended. She’d explain how friendships sparked and why Patty Jane, Nora’s mother, loved two men, one of whom could barely remember her.

Ulla would want the story to include humor, so Nora would write about how the Once in a Blue Moon Lodge landed practically in her lap. She’d write of the eccentric woman who made Nora a steal-of-a-deal offer after a random kindness in the snow, and how an Ocean came to be located in Northern Minnesota.

Nora’s firstborn, Sena, would want to know everything, warts and all. So how could Nora forget to include the story of when Lewis became a part of the family? Or the House of Curls, Etc., and its importance? Or how Ione, well into her senior years, wanted to make a difference, and started the OBFC (Old Bags Filled with Change)?

“Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” by Lorna Landvik

There were so many things Nora wanted to tell her daughters; things that would stay with them as they left the nest. She wanted to tell them about new family, but also about loss. She’d write of opportunity, of sickness and health.

And absolutely, she’d tell her girls about happily ever after.

There are two kinds of people who read books by author Lorna Landvik: those who are gasping in anticipation, because they know these characters … and those who are fans, but just don’t realize it yet.

Readers in the former camp can just get the car keys. Get outta here. Go get your book.

If you fall in the latter category, you should know that this story may sometimes seem clichéd, or maybe a little silly, neither of which it really is. Sure, there’s some weirdness here, and some Only-in-Minnesota-ness. Uffda, it’s quirk-to-the-max, but mostly, “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge” is like warm cookies and fleecy jammies. It’s comfortable, and it’s familiar, sad and funny, and filled with good people.

Yes, this is a sequel but don’t fret. You’ll get caught up in short order, and you’ll get wrapped up even faster. Storytelling like you’ll find in “Once in a Blue Moon Lodge,” it never gets old.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.