Book Review: Summer Days and Summer Nights

Summer Days and Summer NightsAuthor: Stephanie Perkins (and various others – each listed by their story below)

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: May 17, 2016

400 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

After reading My True Love Gave to Me, a collection of short stories edited by Stephanie Perkins, last year, I was super excited to hear that she was doing another collection. Everything from the cover to the list of contributing authors had me looking forward to a wonderfully sweet and fun collections of romance-y stories perfect for summer. It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. There were several stories that I LOVED (Leigh Bardugo’s was probably my favorite) but quite a few that I did not like. I’ve broken it down by story below.

“Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail” by Leigh Bardugo: Pretty cool! I like romantic stories that have a bit of fantasy mixed it. I totally love Eli. Bizarre but in the absolute best way. Just further proves how much I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing. What a perfect way to start the anthology.

“The End of Love” by Nina LaCour: Her writing is so wonderful and sweet. This one was lovely. So good to have LGBTQIAP+ representation, but like LaCour’s Everything Leads to You, it’s not an issue in the story. It just is.

“Last Stand at the Cinegore” by Libba Bray: Meh. I wanted to like it more than I did. Kinda cheesy, and not in a good way. The plot is a bit muddled and the humor didn’t make me laugh.

“Sick Pleasure” by Francesca Lia Block: Not really what I was expecting. Not exactly bad either. You feel like you’re in a daze for the whole story and it’s not really all that happy. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing?

“In Ninety Minutes, Turn North” by Stephanie Perkins: Obviously cute but rather predictable. I adored North and Marigold in the first book, so I was looking forward to seeing them again, but the story was one of those “Will they/won’t they?” kind of stories, which was pointless. I obviously love Stephanie’s writing, but it wasn’t as good as I was hoping.

“Souvenirs” by Tim Federle: Sadder than I was expecting but I liked it. Realistic. I’ve decided that I just really like Tim Federle’s writing style. I know a few people who don’t like the way he writes or his characters, but I’m drawn to them. I’m not sure if I can really articulate why. They have a bit of dry humor and personality that I like.

“Inertia” by Veronica Roth: What an interesting concept. It was the only story in the book that was sci-fi, which was cool. I don’t think I really connected to the characters in the way that I should have, but the idea was too cool to not like it.

“Love is the Last Resort” by Jon Skovron: Super unique. I could see this as a movie in the vein of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I don’t know if you guys have ever watched that movie or other Wes Anderson movies, but the dialogue and plot are kind of…awkward and strange but in this wonderfully funny way that totally works. At least for me.

“Good Luck and Farewell” by Brandy Colbert: Lots of feels in this one. I liked the diversity, families, and love – both romantic and not. I haven’t read anything by Brandy before, but it makes me want to pick up Pointe.

“Brand New Attraction” by Cassandra Clare: I’ll be honest. I didn’t even finish this story. I don’t know why Cassandra Clare has this weird obsession with incest, but it grosses me out. Direct quote from the story: “He reminded me of a cup of coffee: wet, hot, and bitter. I tried to decide if it was immoral to lust after your step-cousin. I figured it wasn’t. We weren’t actually related. No shared blood.” Just…why?

“A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong” by Jennifer E. Smith: Cute and awkward and adorable. I love Jennifer E. Smith’s books, and I could definitely see this one being an entire novel. I wish it was, tbh. I liked that the love interest was different.

“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” by Lev Grossman: Unique and interesting. The end wraps up too quickly though. Must like Veronica Roth’s, the idea behind this one made me like it so much because of how unique it was. A cute romance too.

Favorites: Leigh Bardugo’s, Jennifer E. Smith’s, Jon Skovron’s.

Least Favorites: Cassandra Clare’s (DNF), Libba Bray’s.

ARC Review: Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Author:  Marie Marquardt
Genre: YA, contemporary
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
352 pages, hardcover (328 ARC)

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher as Marie was on one of the panels I moderated at the Decatur Book Festival. This does not influence my review.

Dream Things True is essentially a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet but the boy is a white, upper-middle-class son of a senator and the girl is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. In terms of the characters, I really appreciated how flawed everyone was, because it felt real and relatable, even though my life falls nowhere near either of these characters.

I’m sure most of you won’t be surprised when I say one of my main issues was the relationship – because it developed WAY too quickly. There was a bit of instalove instalust almost right away, and it made me pretty uncomfortable. I think this took the focus away from the actual issues in the book and I would’ve appreciated a little less of the Romeo and Juliet inspiration here. I think the book could’ve benefited a lot had the (somewhat forced) relationship not driven the plot so much.

My favorite character is hands-down Whit. He was witty and smart, open-minded and oh-so-flawed, but that’s why I loved him. He was real. He stood up for what he believed in, and although he did some terrible things, he acknowledged what he’d done and worked towards fixing it. I also appreciated Alma a lot; she was honest and young and felt very realistic to me. I honestly probably could have done without Evan’s perspective though.

I appreciated the end of this one as well. Marie obviously knows what she’s talking about, and I think she did a great job of properly representing the tediousness of immigration and race and the issues surrounding it. I really respect the fact that Marie just presented the story as is – this is what happens and this is how our society is. I do feel like we could’ve gone a little bit deeper into some of the issues, however.

The bottom line: Dream Things True is a realistic, complex, dramatic, engaging story of immigration and young love. I had some issues with it, but I enjoyed it overall, and I would recommend it to fans of romantic tragedies.

 Rating: 6.5

Book Review: Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. StoutAuthor:  Katie M. Stout

Genre: YA, contemporary

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: June 9, 2015

304 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Hello, I Love You was really cute. Grace is running away from her family, and she decides to head to the complete opposite side of the planet to a school in Korea, where she meets a Korean musician who is brooding and…even rude at times. Grace has to navigate a country and culture completely different from her own as well as potential love.

When I first finished this book I was kind of…angry? Grace is not a nice person. She was ignorant, patronizing, judgmental, and just flat out rude to a lot of the people around her because they were different than her. Now that I’ve had time to think about it though, I realize that a lot of that was because of how she was raised – her family shaped her and influenced her thoughts on other cultures. While I do think she began to break out of that by the end of the novel, I don’t think it was quite as much as I wanted her to. But it was a start.

The romance was cute at times. I got a little annoyed by Jason (the love interest) as he continued to flip flop about his feelings and I wanted to reach in and shake him. Well, honestly, both Grace and Jason were hot and cold for each other throughout the novel. There were several times when I questioned WHY they even liked each other. However, this did kind of remind me of KDramas a LOT, which I know Katie is a big fan of, so I guess it makes sense.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to you if you think this a book about KPop or Korean culture because those themes are almost non-existent. Differences in American and Korean culture/customs/food/etc. were mentioned occasionally but not explored in depth like I was hoping. I was pretty disappointed with that. However, if you’re looking for a book that really resembles a KDrama (emphasis on the drama bit), Hello, I Love You is for YOU! The end of the book will give you all the feels.

Rating: 5.5 – take it or leave it (some people could really dig this one)