Friday, May 27, 2016

Blog Tour Review: Summer Days and Summer Nights

Title: Summer Days and Summer Nights
Editor: Stephanie Perkins
Contributing Authors: Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina Lacour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: St. Marin's Griffin
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Source: St. Martin's for Review
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Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom.
Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

My Review

Just like my review for My True Love Gave to Me, I'm breaking this up into mini reviews for each story. This time, they will all be in one post.

"Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo

I feel like I'm in the minority here... Before reading "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail," I'd never read anything by Leigh Bardugo. Now that I've finally read something by her, I can say that I'm intrigued, and I will probably be reading more by her in the future. 

"Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" is a very unique short story about a girl named Gracie living in a very small town called Little Spindle. The story is set during a few different summers, starting when she is fourteen and following her up until her senior year of high school. She's felt lonely most every summer, up until she meets Eli, because all of her friends from school live in Greater Spindle. But Eli changes everything. Gracie finds herself looking forward to his arrival every Memorial Day and dreading his departure every Labor Day. They spend a lot of their first summer looking for a monster in the lake, but eventually the two form a very close friendship.

I really enjoyed this short story. It was a little weird and strange, but I expected it to be that way, especially from the title. Even though I'm not a huge fan of paranormal literature, I really enjoyed the paranormal elements and details. The friends-to-lovers storyline is also fun to read about, and I think that anyone who's ever been curious about Nessie or other lake or sea monsters will get a kick out of this cute story.

"The End of Love" by Nina LaCour

Another author that's new to me is Nina LaCour with her short story for Summer Days and Summer Nights, "The End of Love." Before reading this short story, I had literally no idea what to expect as I'm not very familiar with Nina's work. After reading this story, I'm looking forward to reading more from Ms. LaCour, especially contemporary romance.

Flora is struggling with a lot of things in "The End of Love." After a few trial runs and separations, her parents have finally decided to divorce. The atmosphere in their house has been very different since the two came to the decision. It's been quiet, and her parents are actually getting along. It's all driving Flora nuts, and she's lost all hope of ever thinking that love could work out. She decides to audit a geometry class at a local high school just to get out of class. There, she runs into her ex-boyfriend's friends, and old feelings for one of them resurfaces.

"The End of Love" is a cute contemporary story. It's got a little bit of everything that readers are demanding these days with a few diverse characters, and a F/F love story. While I thought it was cute, I thought it lacked a lot of substance. The story also felt too short, and the romance felt a bit rushed once it fell into place. It's a good story, but I think it could use a few more pages to really bring it to life.

"Last Stand at the Cinegore" by Libba Bray

I'm starting to feel like a broken record here, but Libba Bray is another author that I've never read before. "Last Stand at the Cinegore" by Libba Bray brings some horror to Summer Days and Summer Nights, and it's certainly one interesting story to read.

Three teenagers, Kevin, Dani, and Dave, work at The Cinegore Theater in Deadwood, Texas. After many years of subpar sales, The Cinegore is finally closing, and Kevin, Dani, and Dave have decided to play the last existing copy of a cursed movie called I Walk This Earth. Supposedly horrible things happen to the people who watch the film, but these three decide that it's just a rumor. They play the film so the theater goes out with a bang! They just don't know what's in store for them once the movie starts playing.

Honestly, this story was so much more than I thought it would be. I really like how it felt like a contemporary but very quickly changed once the movie started playing. I also like the romance in this one. There's a bit of pining, but in the end, it's cute to see how our two lovebirds realize that they are meant to be. I think fans of The Walking Dead will appreciate this story the most.

"Sick Pleasure" by Francesca Lia Block

Francesca Lia Block takes readers back in time to a summer a few decades ago with her short story for Summer Days and Summer Nights, "Sick Pleasure." Again, this is an author that I've never read, and honestly, I'd never even heard of Francesca Lia Block before this anthology was announced. I'm glad that I had a chance to read her because she has a very unique writing style that brought something very different to this summery and lovey dovey anthology.

Although it's not specifically stated, "Sick Pleasure" takes place during the 1980s. The styles that the girls and the guys in the stories and the songs that are mentioned confirm this. It's about two groups, Sick Pleasure and Healthy Pleasure that frequent a teen dance club. Over the course of a summer, I gets to know A on and off the dance floor, and the two reveal secrets about themselves.

Honestly, this is one of the more realistic stories in the anthology. The teenagers in it deal with changing feelings and they make choices about alcohol and drugs. They also make choices that will change their lives forever. I appreciated the story, but I didn't enjoy it very much. While I don't want to spoil this one for readers, I will say that the ending is one that more than a few readers probably won't enjoy. It's a bittersweet story that anyone who's ever had their heart broken will probably relate to.

"In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" by Stephanie Perkins

"In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" is one of the stories that I was looking forward to reading the most when I picked up Summer Days and Summer Nights. Not only was this story penned by one of my favorite authors, but I was really excited to see what Stephanie Perkins had in store for two characters that I met and loved in My True Love Gave to Me.

"In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" takes place nine months after Marigold and North met in "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown." The season of summer isn't easygoing for North and Marigold, and now they are separated by more distance because Marigold moved to Atlanta for an internship. This has caused a lot of stress on the two, and Marigold is determined to find the answers that she needs, even if it means getting her heart broken.

Perkins writing is once again perfect, and readers who have read her first short story featuring these characters will fall in love all over again. Even though time has gone by, she just gets right to everything, and the new plot and setting is simply satisfying. I enjoyed the reminders of Christmastime in the writing, and I was able to actually smell the Appalachian Mountains while reading this story. Anyone who's ever read anything by Ms. Perkins will enjoy this story, and I can see so many readers jumping ahead in the book just to read this short story first.

"Souvenirs" by Tim Federle

Although I've never read any of Tim Federle's books, he's been on my TBR for a while because he is originally from my hometown. That being said, I was really excited when I saw his name included on the list of authors for Summer Days and Summer Nights because I would be able to sample a bit of his writing before actually reading a full-length novel. I'm so glad his short story, "Souvenirs" was included in this anthology because it's one of my favorites.

It's break up day for Matty and his boyfriend, Kieth. (Yes... that's the spelling! Read the story if you're curious!) After meeting the local amusement park where both teens work, they started dating and dated for the rest of the summer. But it's closing day for Wish-a-World, and that means that Kieth will be moving to college while Matty stays in Pittsburgh for his last year of high school. Matty already knows that their relationship is over, but he wants to make the last day of it worthwhile.

"Souvenirs" is one of my favorite stories in this anthology for a few reasons. First of all, I loved seeing Pittsburghese in this book. (If you're lost, just Google it!) It just felt right, and I laughed a lot when some of the more peculiar words were used. Secondly, I just felt like this story had a lot of heart. Even though it's not the happiest of stories, it's realistic and anyone can appreciate that. I think anyone who wants to read a story about two boys figuring things about life and love out will enjoy this short story.

"Inertia" by Veronica Roth

When I saw Veronica Roth's name on the cover of Summer Days and Summer Nights, I was more than a little curious. I knew from reading the Divergent trilogy that she could write books with a little bit of romance, but I wondered how she'd be able to write a romance that fit into the theme of this anthology.

Claire and Matthew used to be best friends, but that was before everything  that could possibly happen between two friends happened to tear them apart. Now they don't speak. All of that changes when Matthew gets in an accident and requests to see Claire for a Final Visitation, one last chance to see someone and revisit memories together before death. Now Claire is rushing to the hospital at two in the morning to see why her former best friend requested her presence.

Honestly, I liked this story. It's cute to see how these old best friends became and stayed friends and how they eventually drifted apart. It's also interesting to see them interact subconsciously while visiting their shared memories. However, I felt like this story didn't fit the feel of the entire anthology. There's really only one flashback to a summer memory, so it feels out of place for that reason. The story also has more of a science fiction vibe than romance. That being said, I feel like Ms. Roth wrote something resembling a romance with "Inertia," but I think it would have been better fit for another collection, but it's still an enjoyable story to read.

"Love is the Last Resort" by Jon Skovron

Before seeing the list of authors for Summer Days and Summer Nights, I'd never heard of Jon Skovron. I didn't even bother to research him (or some of the other authors) because I thought it would be fun to go into some of these stories without any expectations. "Love is the Last Resort" is one of those stories. Because I was ignorant, I didn't know what to expect from this author. I'm glad I went in blind because this story had me on my toes the whole time!

Lena Cole works at the Hotel del Arte Spa and Resort. She's been there every summer for the last few years and knows all the ins and outs and all of the regular summer guests. It's her job to keep them happy and she's rather good at it. So when newcomer named Arlo Kean is hired, Lena is skeptical. She's immediately intrigued by him, but she thinks he could be trouble for the resort and for her. Arlo picks up on a lot of unrequited love between a few of the guests, and he asks for Lena's help in getting these couples coupled.

"Love is the Last Resort" is one of those stories that will keep readers smiling the whole time they are reading it. It's a bit corny but in a cute way that will make readers think about being in love and falling in love. While the plot is cute and refreshing, the dialogue is a bit odd for teenagers. It's very formal and stiff. Maybe it's the fact that the guests are rich and Ivy League bound and the employees must be formal with the guests but it feels out of place and dated. This is one of the longer stories in the anthology, but it's definitley worth the read.

"Good Luck and Farewell" by Brandy Colbert

Brandy Colbert is another YA author that I've never read before, and upon seeing her story's title, I'll admit that it had me thinking, "How is this going to be a love story?" It looks like it's going to be a sad story, right? Well the title is accurate for the events, but this short story is so multidimensional that readers will literally cherish all the happy, sad, and bittersweet moments.

Rashida hasn't had the easiest life. Her mother died when she was younger, and she's always felt like her father doesn't show love and affection towards her. She's constantly worried about the mental health of everyone on her mother's side of the family because she doesn't want what happened to her mother to happen to herself, her aunt, or her cousin, Audrey. You see, Audrey stepped in to mother Rashida, and the two have been like peas in a pod ever since. But now Audrey is moving from Chicago to San Francisco with her girlfriend, and Rashida feels like no one will be able to understand her now that she's being left behind.

I loved this love story for so many reasons, and one of them is because Ms. Colbert shows readers that there are so many different kinds of love. In life, people, like Rashida, will experience all different loves. There's the love that you have for family members, the love between a parent and a child, romantic love, and budding romance. All of those kinds of love are present in "Good Luck and Farewell," and it made for such a heartwarming read. I also really enjoyed the diversity in this story. Not only are the characters African American, but there's even a F/F pairing that readers will get to know about through the eyes of Rashida. "Good Luck and Farewell" is one of the most charming stories I've ever read, and I can see so many different kinds of readers enjoying this tale.

"Brand New Attraction" by Cassandra Clare

If you are friends with me or follow me on Goodreads, you probably know that I'm not the biggest fan of Cassandra Clare. But rather than skip this story, I decided to give it a try to see how it fit in with the rest of the tales of summer love. Unfortunately, this one didn't keep my attention, and I finally decided to DNF it after attempting to read it over the course of a few days.

So what didn't work for me? Mostly, I think it was the setting and the plot of the story. I'm not the type of person to be afraid of things like dark carnival and scary things, but Ms. Clare just couldn't keep my attention, even with all of the interesting and different things in this story. The writing is a bit dull, and I found myself annoyed with the narrator, Lulu Darke. And to be honest, this story felt like more of a Halloween story, even with the romance.

"A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong" by Jennifer E. Smith

Although I've never read any of Jennifer E. Smith's books, I was extremely excited for this short story. I've heard amazing things about all of Jennifer's books, and I couldn't wait to get a taste of her writing style with "A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong," and I'm so glad that this is the story that Jennifer penned for Summer Days and Summer Nights

"A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong" couldn't go wrong, in my opinion. This is the short story that surprised me the most, and for all of the right reasons. It's very rare to see characters in YA that are on the autism spectrum, and Jennifer E. Smith provides not one, but two in this lovely short story about learning new things and acceptance. While both characters play different roles in relation to the story's narrator, Annie. Noah is one of Annie's campers while Griffin is the boy her heart has been longing for. These two characters widen Annie's world for the better. She does not judge them, but she's open to learning more about them and accepting them for who they are. It made the teacher in me squeal with joy.

Jennifer E. Smith's story wasn't at all what I was expecting (keep in mind that I've never read her books!), but it was so much more. I can decisively say that I am now a fan of hers and I will be picking up her books in the future. I would recommend this short story to anyone, especially those who are fans of diverse characters.

"The Map of Tiny Perfect Things" by Lev Grossman

Once again, Lev Grossman is just one of the many authors included in this anthology who is new to me. In a way, it feels fitting to have been introduced to so many talented writers. Honestly, I hadn't heard of Lev before reading this, and to keep myself out of the loop, I decided that I wouldn't look him up on Goodreads. That move paid off because I think I've found another author to add to my favorites list.

"The Map of Tiny Perfect Things" is the perfect way to end this anthology. This modern day tale could be considered a zany and beautiful mashup of Groundhog Day and Flatland, both of which are actually mentioned in the story a few times. Mark and Margaret keep reliving August 4 over and over again, and these two are the only people alive who realize what's going on. After they meet, they start mapping the little moments in life that they deem to be perfect. They also want to know if they can break the spell, but when they come up with a plan to do it, Margaret flees, leaving Mark confused as to what's been upsetting her the whole time. Will Mark be able to figure out Margaret? Will they figure out why the world is on repeat? You'll find out in this adorable tale.

I really enjoyed "The Map of Tiny Perfect Things" because it seemed like everything - plot, characters, romance - just fell into place for Mr. Grossman. There wasn't a minute of it that didn't entertain me. Quirky, charming, and bittersweet, "The Map of Tiny Perfect Things" is a winner. Freaks, geeks, and the beautiful will be able to enjoy this unique and emotional story on a warm summer day or during a warm night that's lit up by lightning bugs.

Final Thoughts

Summer Days and Summer Nights is an adorable anthology full of wonderful stories by superb authors. There's something in it for everyone, so even if you're only interested in reading just one or a few of the stories, it's worth purchasing or borrowing from the library. 

Stephanie Perkins is the New York Times and international bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and Isla and the Happily Ever After, as well as the editor of My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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