Summer Reads Recommendations: Books with Ice Cream

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Emoni Santiago is magic in the kitchen, but she’s not sure she can pursue her dream of attending culinary school–not with her baby daughter to take care of.  But new opportunities at school get her thinking, and she starts to wonder if the impossible might be possible after all.  A fresh contemporary story about a high school senior finding her way in the world.  Told in effortlessly beautiful prose, this YA novel is sure to appeal to readers looking for a relatable protagonist, or a story with a touch of the magical.

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A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Magic used to flow throughout the town of Midnight Gulch, where people could sing up rain, turn invisible, or play a tune that got everyone dancing. When twelve-year-old Felicity Pickle arrives, she hopes that enough magic remains to cure her mother of her wandering heart and allow her family to grow roots in the first place that has ever felt like home. Along with her first-ever friend Jonah Pickett, a do-gooder kid who helps her to believe in her own magic, Felicity will attempt to lift the curse that lies on Midnight Gulch and make her family whole.  A heartwarming story about the power of kindness, friendship, and family.

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Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone

Sloane made life exciting, but now she’s gone, leaving Emily only a list.  Emily wonders if doing the list will bring Sloane back.  But…does she really have to kiss a stranger?!  A thoughtful book about friendship featuring a compelling protagonist.  Fans of Morgan Matson will adore this book, but it’s also a fine choice for readers of contemporary YA in general.

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The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Andie is the daughter of a politician and she has her life all planned out.  Then comes the scandal and she’s suddenly living with her dad.  And walking dogs.  And maybe, just maybe breaking her rule about no guys for more than three weeks.  An engrossing summer read.

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Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

Meade Creamery, founded in 1944 by Molly Meade, has always been special to Amelia. Four years ago she had the honor of becoming a Meade Creamery girl and now, her last summer working there before heading off to college, she dreams of making memories that will last forever. Then Molly Meade dies and her rich grandnephew Grady inherits the stand. Grady is desperate to prove to his father that he can manage his own business. But, in the process, he threatens to destroy everything Amelia loves about the stand.  A unique YA romance focused on female entrepreneurship and mixed with a taste of historical fiction.  A sweet summer read.

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Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Before Lina’s mother dies, she insists that Lina go to live with her old friend Howard in Italy. Somehow she forgot to tell Lina what her grandmother does–that Howard is really her father. Lina doesn’t want to live with a man she barely knows. And she certainly doesn’t want to stay in Italy, even if it is beautiful. But then she receives her mother’s old journal and she’s suddenly experiencing Florence for the first time along with her mom. As Lina continues to read, however, things don’t seem to be adding up. Why did her mom leave Italy? And who is Howard, anyway?  A classic travel romance in which a teen finds herself and love in another country.

Secrets to Blogging Success: How to Schedule Ahead

Running a blog can be a struggle.  There’s so much to do, from writing content to taking pictures to commenting around to handling social media.  Here are some of our strategies to keep everything on track.

Pick a schedule and stick to it.

Our general schedule is to post reviews on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  We used to do memes like Top Ten Tuesday when we first started out, but have since stopped, leaving room for other days to have discussion posts and recommendation lists, or more reviews if we have them.  Having this schedule means we don’t have to spend time figuring out how or when to post.  We simply fill in the dates with posts as we write them.

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Fill in the most important dates.

To make it easier to stay ahead, however, we don’t typically fill in the schedule one week at a time.  Instead, we schedule weeks ahead.  For instance, we might fill in all the Mondays and Thursdays with reviews first.  If we have a several discussions ready, we’ll start filling in all the Tuesdays.  This has two advantages.  The first is that, should we find ourselves unable to post for awhile, we have content scheduled to go up for weeks, not just one week.  The second is that this leaves us room to add in time-sensitive posts.  We can fill in empty days with reviews for new releases, ARC reviews that need to be posted at a certain time, etc.

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Look ahead to events and holidays.

When we know we want to do an event (such as our celebrations of L. M. Montgomery and William Shakespeare) or recognize a season or holiday, we save posts for those events.  For instance, we typically feature reviews of spooky stories in October.  However, we don’t read all those books at once.  Instead, if we read a spooky book a few months in advance, we just schedule the review for October.  Then, we don’t have to rush to find and read ghost stories suddenly when fall comes around.

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Keep running lists.

Sometimes Briana and I have ideas about lists of recommendations we could post, such as YA books featuring male protagonists or YA books with little to no romance.  However, we may not have ten titles to recommend at the time we have the idea.  So we create a draft and add titles to it as we read them.

What are some of your strategies for success?

Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi (DNF Review)

Girl Gone Viral CoverInformation

GoodreadsGirl Gone Viral
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: May 21, 2019

Official Summary

For seventeen-year-old Opal Hopper, code is magic. She builds entire worlds from scratch: Mars craters, shimmering lakes, any virtual experience her heart desires.

But she can’t code her dad back into her life. When he disappeared after her tenth birthday, leaving only a cryptic note, Opal tried desperately to find him. And when he never turned up, she enrolled at a boarding school for technical prodigies and tried to forget.

Until now. Because WAVE, the world’s biggest virtual reality platform, has announced a contest where the winner gets to meet its billionaire founder. The same billionaire who worked closely with Opal’s dad. The one she always believed might know where he went. The one who maybe even murdered him.

What begins as a small data hack to win the contest spirals out of control when Opal goes viral, digging her deeper into a hole of lies, hacks, and manipulation. How far will Opal go for the answers–or is it the attention–she’s wanted for years?

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Review

I usually try to get a decent way into a book before writing a DNF review, so I freely here admit I only got a view chapters into Girl Gone Viral before giving it up, and there may be something secretly fabulous about the book that I am missing.  (Notably, I didn’t even get to the part of the book that seems to be the major plot–the protagonist looking for her missing father.)  However, I so rarely DNF books in the first place, especially YA books that barely take any time to read, that I thought it worth explaining why.

The primary reason I gave up is likely just a pet peeve of mine and won’t be a problem for many other readers: the book clearly thinks it’s incredibly clever…and it’s not.  I hate this.  The one thing I can truly think I despise about books is protagonists who think they’re smart, are acknowledged as smart by other characters and/or the narrative voice, but are glaringly, obviously not.  Now, it isn’t the case here that protagonist Opal Hopper is actually stupid, so she has that going for her, but the premise of the opening chapters is that it’s incredibly clever that Opal has figured out that people lie when they write comments online.  

If you haven’t gasped, shocked and appalled, completely taken aback by this wild and enlightening information, then you are not alone.  However, Opal (and friends) are completely convinced that if they do a video (well, more of a VR experience) where they reveal to people that they say they hate a certain celebrity but they really feel bad for her and it troubles, it will be earth-shattering.  They’re revealing that people lie online. (*gasp*)  They’re so convinced of this that they stake winning the contest mentioned in the book summary on making a video revealing this mind-blowing information.  Showing that people write trolling comments and say things they don’t mean when they’re online will totally make them go viral and win the competition because it’s just such amazingly, shocking information.  They’re geniuses for coming up with this unbelievable theory that definitely no one would have ever known or thought of before.

…I’m getting sarcastic enough that you’re probably already imagining me rolling my eyes, and that was my general experience reading the first chapters of this book.  I do admit that the trick of children’s books is that information that seems obvious to adults might actually be delightfully new and surprising to kids or teens, and maybe teens will, in fact, be taken aback by the wild information that people write things they don’t mean online, especially when it means going with what seems to be the general consensus.  (Why say you hate Ariana Grande on an online forum where her fans are going to mob you?  Just say she’s fine and move on, right?)

And maybe the book gets better from its here and goes on to have a fascinating plot and to actually say things about technology that haven’t been said before (though the general premise right now seems to be fear of privacy loss, which is relevant to many readers but not exactly a new theme for literature–See The Circle by Dave Eggers.)  However, the opening is so lackluster and so proud of its own cleverness when it’s not even clever, that I can’t keep reading.  Combine this with the fact I feel no connection to the characters, and the author seems to be fond of writing confusingly and withholding information to reveal it more “surprisingly” later on, and I’m just not interested in spending more time with this book.

Briana

Ten Interesting Posts of the Week (6/23/19)

Post Round-Up

Around the Blogosphere

  1. Mere Inkling writes about C.S. Lewis and animal authors.
  2. The Orangutan Librarian shares misconceptions of negative reviews.
  3. Forever and Everly shares 10 pieces of blogging advice she wishes she’d given her younger self.
  4. Starry Sky Books asks why you blog.
  5. The Orangutan Librarian discusses “entitled” fans.
  6. Michael shares: Spider-Man: Life Story – An Evocative Argument for Letting Superheroes Age.
  7. May kicks off the third annual book blogger awards voting.
  8. Margaret lists 8 contemporaries to read this summer.
  9. Holly explains why she loves the Libby app for audiobooks.
  10. Sionna lists 20 best romances she’s read this year so far.

At Pages Unbound

The Demise of Selma the Spoiled by Evangeline Lilly

Information

Goodreads: The Demise of Selma the Spoiled
Series: The Squickerwonkers #1
Source: Purchased
Published: 2017

SummarY

Selma is now a part of the Rin Run Royals and she gets everything she wants.  But when a peddler comes to town, Selma’s greed may be her undoing.  A disturbing cautionary tale in verse by Evangeline Lilly (Lost, The Hobbit, Ant-Man and the Wasp).  Illustrations by Rodrigo Bastos Didier.

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Review

The Demise of Selma the Spoiled is a short cautionary tale told in verse.  This is technically the second in the series, following some sort of prequel, and the intent seems to publish a book about each member of the Rin Run Royals and how their particular vice leads to their undoing.  The premise will appeal to fans of the morbid, but I suspect the illustrations (and Evangeline Lilly’s star power) will be what really entice readers to pick up the book.

Writing a story in verse is difficult and, while Lilly’s effort is not flawless, it does have a musicality that many other children’s books I have read lacked.  It is easy to imagine the book being read aloud, though readers will have to change the natural stress of some lines in order to make the rhythm work.  This may not bother all readers, however, as these instances are not many.

The story itself is deliciously creepy and readers who enjoy disturbing works by authors such as Roald Dahl or Shel Silverstein will likely find The Demise of Selma the Spoiled delightful.  (Parents with impressionable or easily scared children, however, may want to wait on this one.)  However, it must be admitted that the complex and weird illustrations ultimately steal the show.

The illustrations strike me as very busy.  There is a lot going on in each page and this, at times, makes it a little difficult to read the text, especially when it is presented in thin, wobbly, colorful fonts.  I felt slightly overwhelmed during my first read through and found it a little difficult to concentrate on the text when presented with so many vibrant, full-color spreads.  However, a second read was more enjoyable as I spent more time perusing the bizarre illustrations, wondering what parts signified (if anything), and trying to decide if I liked them or was just creeped out.  Fans of the macabre will definitely want to take a look.

The Demise of Selma the Spoiled is not exactly a stand-out children’s book.  However, the full-color spreads will appeal to book collectors while the promise of a morbid cautionary tale will appeal to readers looking for more stories to delight and disturb.  And, if nothing else about the book seems enticing, you can read it just because you love Evangeline Lilly’s work.

3 Stars

Are Libraries Lacking Media Coverage?

Last year, I was present in the library when a local news reporter walked up to the desk and seemed stunned to realize that the library, every single year, offers a summer reading program along with a host of programming for children and adults.  But I’m sure he won’t be back this year to announce the library’s offerings to his readers.  Why?  Because the local news almost never covers the library and, when they do, it is, of course, typically after the event has ended.  And I’m starting to wonder–is the lack of media coverage a key reason why so many people remain unaware of common library programs and services?

Libraries, of course, offer a wealth of resources, far beyond lending books, magazines, music, videos, and more.  They provide Internet access and computer help for individuals searching for jobs, filling out government forms, or looking for local resources.  They teach early childhood literacy, provide tax help, and offer an abundance of workshops and classes.  If the community has a need, libraries are often among the first to step in.  And yet, it seems very often that people who do not regularly visit the library have no clue what the library does.

The problem here seems to be that libraries may often be stuck advertising internally.  They can post events to their social media, upload programs to their online calendar, and pass out flyers to people who walk in the door.  But, unless a person follows the library online or regularly goes to the library, they are very likely to have no clue what is happening there.  All the people who have never stepped foot in the library have no clue what they are missing. They have no clue that they may have been able to get free legal counseling or that they could have learned a new language or created a DIY project, or that their child, whom they can’t afford to send to summer camp, could have attended a music or reading or writing camp.  They have no way of knowing–not if no one tells them.

I’m not sure what the solution here is.  I’m not sure how newspapers determine which local organizations to cover.  I’m not even sure this is a common problem–maybe my local media is just singularly bad at remembering the library exists.  But I do think something interesting is going on here because it so often seems that the same local businesses and organizations get coverage.  And everything the media loves to cover seems to be geared towards people with money.  (People without it don’t patronize these businesses and probably don’t care about them.)  The library, on the other hand?  The library is inclusive.  It’s about equal access.  It’s even for people without money.  And the library is forgotten.

I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe the library isn’t sexy enough to warrant coverage.  Or maybe the people in the local media have no need to use the library themselves, so they simply forget that it exists.  But this is doing a disservice to their readers, who may not be interested in all the upscale events being advertised, but who may be interested in, or even desperately need, the services of the library.  So I’m left wondering.  How can libraries advertise their services to people who have never visited them?  And why doesn’t the media seem interested in covering them?

What do you think?  Does your local media cover the library?

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Information

Goodreads: Serious Moonlight
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2019

SummarY

After having a one-night stand, Birdie really does not want to see Daniel again–not even if he’s incredibly hot.  But she’s working her first-ever job as a night-shift employee at a Seattle hotel and he just happens to work there, too.  Birdie wants to avoid Daniel, but he gives her an offer her mystery-loving heart can’t resist: help him discover why a famous author is checking into the hotel every week, but only staying a few hours.  Birdie and Daniel are on the case.  But Birdie may lose her heart in the process.

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Review

Jenn Bennett has done it again.  Serious Moonlight is a sweet contemporary romance about deciding what one wants in life and whether one has the courage to pursue it.  In this book, Birdie is a somewhat introverted teen who has been homeschooled much of her life and is excited to have the opportunity to have her first job–even if it is the night shift a local hotel.  However, she is stunned to find out her co-worker is Daniel, the hot guy she had a one-night stand with, and she’s unsure how close she is willing to let him get.  He promises her they can solve a mystery together, which appeals to her bookish heart.  But, as time goes on, she realizes the mystery is becoming less important to her than her feelings for Daniel.  Readers who love contemporary YA romance will find this one enchanting.

Even though the book jacket promises readers a mystery, readers will likely have a more positive experience with the book if they go in realizing the mystery will not necessarily be a key part of this story. It is mainly a vehicle to have Daniel and Birdie hang out together, go on dates, and reveal parts of their past to each other.  As the novel progresses, the mystery falls to the wayside a little as Birdie begins to question what she wants out of life. Does she want Daniel?  How badly?  Does she want to sleep with him again?  Does he want to sleep wit her?  Should they sleep with each to determine if they’re compatible?  Because what if they’re not?

The book has gotten a lot of positive reviews from readers pleased that it features a one-night stand (somewhat unusual in YA) and that it features sex positivity.  I have mixed feelings on this as I think the message of, “Sex can be messy and imperfect” is essentially muddled as Birdie and Daniel (SPOILERS ahead in this paragraph) eventually have such a perfect sex life that they use up a box of condoms in one go (after their third try).  Then they’re basically like, I don’t know, sex machines?  Always sleeping together and it’s the best ever!  I appreciate a book that says, “Hey, the first time can be awkward,” but, then it just goes on to make everything perfect all the time anyway, which seems unrealistic, especially combined with Daniel who (like the protagonist in Alex, Approximately) is basically a walking advertisement for what men are supposed to act like when sex is involved.  I just don’t know that the average teenage guy is going to reach that level of perfect sensitivity, but I guess the book is aspirational and encouraging women to be treated with respect, so that’s good.

I did feel like Birdie’s character development got a little lost in the attempt to balance the mystery and the sex positivity message.  Drama is created by the author telling us Birdie has issues, but I never felt like those issues were integrated organically into the story or the character.  Birdie has to give Daniel a big speech about them before I realized they were even supposed to be a part of the plot.  And, eventually, I felt like her issues where left a little unresolved. (More spoilers ahead in this paragraph!)  Yeah, she’s in a relationship with Daniel, but does it only work out because sex is perfect all the time?  If it’s not one day, will she question their relationship?  And what will she do if Daniel wants to leave one day?  Can she actually handle rejection?  Readers don’t know. We only know that Birdie seems to be doing okay right now because nothing is really going wrong in her relationship–she’s not being challenged to handle adversity in any way.  If she can’t handle adversity, she really has not matured.

Overall, however, I think the book portrays a sweet romance.  Readers will likely feel sympathy for Birdie, especially introverted ones who feel a little naive (or like others are always assuming they are naive). Birdie is a promise to them that they can branch out, do new things, even do kind of wild and unacceptable (illegal?) things.  She’s the age-old shy girl who “finds herself” by stepping out of her comfort zone–and finds love in the process.  A sure hit with readers of contemporary YA romance.

3 Stars