Monday, July 6, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (19): Summer Books

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. Sometimes they're themed, because that's fun.

A World Away by Nancy Grossman

Published: July 17th, 2012 by Disney Hyperion, but the paperback I have came out about a year later.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback (obviously)
Page Count: 394 + acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Eliza Miller has never made a phone call, never tried on a pair of jeans, never sat in a darkened theater waiting for a movie to start. She's never even talked to someone her age who isn't Amish, like her.

When she leaves her close-knit family to spend the summer as a nanny in suburban Chicago, a part of her can't wait to leave behind everything she knows. She can't imagine the secrets she will uncover, the friends she will make, the surprises and temptations of a way of life so different from her own.

Every minute Eliza spends with her new friend Josh feels as good as listening to music for the first time, and she wonders whether there might be a place for her in his world. But as summer wanes, she misses the people she has left behind, and the Plain life she once took for granted. Eliza will have to decide for herself where she belongs. Whichever choice she makes, she knows she will lose someone she loves.

Thoughts: My first "summer" book and it's got a cover that's rainy and gloomy. SO SUMMERY. I borrowed this one as another possibility for my English project, but honestly, the cover made me unsure if it would work more than anything. I think the hardcover cover works so much better for the book. The paperback cover is pretty, yes, but it made me wonder whether it'd be a serious book, or a "Amish Girls Gone Wild" type book - whether it'd be respectful to the subject matter, basically.

I enjoyed this, and I liked the relationship Eliza has with the women in her life (that's kind of a theme with me, you may notice), but sometimes these books can feel almost voyeuristic, in a way. It's obviously an interesting subject matter, but it's just... kind of one of those moral questions I'm not sure about, you know? Also, I wasn't a big fan of any of the romances in it, there was a serious lack of nannying, and the drinking game mentioned was the most boring drinking game ever. "Let's sit around counting and watching each other get drunk." Seriously, why not just drink if you're gonna drink?

All in all, this was fine, not amazing, and I'm left with questions it can't answer. Better coming-of-age and family story than a romance, though.

A Summer in Paris by Cynthia Baxter writing as Cynthia Blair

Published: Originally in 1992 by Fawcet Juniper, but there was a Kindle copy released in 2013, and I'm using the cover of that because it's prettier.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 214 plus about the author, a summary of another book, and that "order more books through the mail" page books used to have.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: Bought in a library sale post-weeding.
Amazon for the Kindle version, and you can find copies on Abebooks.

Summary (from goodreads): Nina Shaw loves everything French and always has. From cooking to irregular verbs, she can't get enough. For as long as she can remember, she has dreamed of going to Paris, and this summer, if she can convince her reluctant parents, she will, taking with her a secret that she has been keeping for years....

Kristy Conner thinks she can't compare to her little sister's acting career or her older sister's beauty. She might as well go to Paris, since her parents don't pay attention to her anyway. Maybe some Paris glamour will rub off on her....

Jennifer Johnson has absolutely no interest in anything remotely connected with Paris. She wants to spend her last summer before college hanging out with her boyfriend. But her parents think travel will broaden her interests, so she has no choice but to spend eight boring weeks with a dull old couple - unless she can open her eyes and her heart....

Although none of them knew it, Nina, Kristy, and Jennifer were about to embark on an exciting adventure they would always remember.

Thoughts: I may be having a situation in the future where it may be better to have less stuff than I currently do, along with my house just needing a generous round of summer cleaning. One area where I should do some weeding is definitely books, but I don't really like getting rid of books without having read them, regardless of what kind of book they are. So, I've been reading a lot of really random books, like this one.


This book is only a few months older than me, and honestly I'm hoping that I've aged better than this. It is quite dated, especially when it comes to the language, and how the characters speak. The writing style especially is very different from what we're used to today, and I actually had a hard time connecting to it. It's not a very long book, but it took me a while longer to read than I'd expect.

However, it was pretty cute. At the time it was published, it would have been a good beach or summer read. Not too heavy, lots of romance, Paris. Also, the cover on the copy I have is mostly identical to the one on the right, except it is much pinker. That could actually be a weird age thing, though, because the back of the book is yellow, except for along the spine where it becomes the kind of pinkish colour it is, pretty unevenly. I really don't know what that deal is, but regardless, it does seem like a very summer-y book. It is is set in summer, obviously, but it's also that kind of mindless "It's 30 degrees and sunny and I'm outside" read.

I didn't love it, honestly, and I will probably get rid of it now that I've read it, but I'm kind of glad I did read it before I do that, and if you're a Paris lover who wants something lighter and fluffy, you may wanna consider grabbing the Kindle edition of this since it's only a few dollars.

Oh, and one of the plotlines reminds me a lot of Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, so if you do get this or have read this, tell me, because I would love to talk about that!

Jenna's Dilemma by Melissa J. Morgan

Published: March 17th, 2005 by Grosset & Dunlap
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 148 plus an excerpt of the next book.
Part of a series? Yes, it's one of 25 books in the Camp Confidential series.
Got via: I'm not sure. Possibly a yard sale. It's in very good condition, barely read.
Amazon / Indiebound / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Summer camp means lots of things: new friends, roommates, bug bites, bathroom duty...But it's also a chance to be on your own and to reinvent yourself. A shy girl can become the belle of the ball, and a jock might find new competition. Natalie, Jenna, Grace, and Alex have all found themselves at Camp Lakeview for different reasons. And each is keeping a secret. But if everyone is hiding something, how will they ever become friends?

Jenna Bloom is a Lakeview legacy. She's been coming to camp for three years and so have her siblings. All of her siblings. Jenna used to think that was cool, but lately she's been dying for some independence. Bubbly, outgoing Jenna has always been known for her pranks. But now her jokes are less and less funny. Are the family ties pulled too tightly-or is there something else going on?

Thoughts: This is really, really cute. It's one of those "girl groups doing things" books, you know? Think Baby-Sitters Club or Sleepover Friends, but modernized. Or that one series, Camp Sunnyside, would probably be pretty similar. (I own a copy of one, but have not read it.)

I have not read any of the other books in the series, but judging by the excerpt and how these things go, I'm going to guess they're fairly formulaic, somewhat unrealistic in tone or voice, and pretty predictable. However, I don't really have a problem with this book. It is really cute, and it would be really good for the intended audience. There are a ton of girls, and they're all different, and they don't act older than their ages. The plots are appropriate for the age of the character, as are their characterizations and emotional arcs. I really have no problems with this. This is a great summer book for young girls, and I will actually be keeping this because it was both adorable and would be great for kids in my life.

Plus the cover is absolutely adorable. It's a perfect cover for this book, really, and the change after book 7 is very strange to me. The later covers look much older, like for an older audience, than I'm assuming the books that follow this one are. But I don't have those ones, so I'll stick with liking this cover a whole lot! The colours are all sunset-y, and it just screams summer.

Killer Cruise by Jennifer Shaw

Published: September 23rd, 2008
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 344 plus an excerpt of another book
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: Apparently I bought it from the drug store for four dollars, according to an old blog post, but I totally did not remember that.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): ONBOARD FACILITIES

Pool 1, Caribbean Deck
Met hot crewmember while soaking up the sun!

The Santorini Restaurant, Olympia Deck
Heard about last year's mysterious disappearance on board. What could have happened?

Movie Theater, Fiesta Deck
Still can't stand horror flicks. Too scary.

Paris Boutique, Panama Deck
Then again, so was my near-death fall overboard last night . . .

Glamorama Spa, Bermuda Deck
Must relax. No one's trying to kill me—I'm just being paranoid.

Club Paradise, Diablo Deck
But what if someone does want me dead?

Thoughts: This was very fluffy and cute. This kind of reminds me of the modernized version of A Summer in Paris with added murder, or a more modern/fluffier Fear Street book. It is not groundbreaking or incredibly deep, but if you're expecting it to be, you're going in with the wrong idea and you're going to be disappointed. I mean, there are pink hearts on the cruise ship and on the anchor, people.

This is a very unrealistic, somewhat shallow, very fluffy book. It's the kind of thing that's perfect for reading next to the pool or on the beach where you can stop in the middle and go take a dunk, or fall asleep partway through, and not really get lost. The characters' outfits are described constantly, in a way that actually reminds me of the Baby-sitters Club (two references in one post - that's a new record), there's a ton of romance, there are multiple pop culture references which do date the book somewhat - and it's fun. It's definitely something you can read with very little thinking. The premise is pretty silly - a rich 16 year old on a cruise meeting a hot guy, shopping all the time, and eating tons of great food - but it's enjoyable to read about something so removed from my reality.

It's brain candy, basically. Go in expecting it to be what it is, a fun, fluffy summer read without a ton of substance, and maybe read it outside in the sun, and you may enjoy it. I thought it was kind of ridiculous, but in a good way, and quite enjoyed it. It gets to keep its spot on my shelf.

Here's a quick amusing thing - the excerpt at the back is for Sleepless by Terri Clark which looks cute in this same kind of way. But there's also Sleepless (Cyn Balog) and Sleepless (Thomas Fahy). Wouldn't that be a fun blog post?

What are you guys reading this summer?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

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