Anthology review: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins

Summer Days and Summer Nights
edited by Stephanie Perkins
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Source: Borrowed

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 author 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.

Featuring stories by 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.

Every time I picked this book up, that song from Grease started playing in my head. You know what I mean, right?


Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo: ★★★★☆

I loved Shadow and Bone and was one of the approximately twelve people in the world who didn’t love Six of Crows, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about her short story in this book. Turns out it was pretty good! I was waiting for that extra something I’ve come to expect from her, and it showed up in the last two pages or so. The story was good — it perfectly captured that feeling of a new crush and I loved the atmosphere. I feel like some of the middle could’ve probably been cut out for it to flow better, but still, I really enjoyed it.

The End of Love by Nina LaCour: ★★★★☆

I’ve got a lot of Nina LaCour on my TBR, but at the time I read this book, the only thing of hers I’d ever read was her collaboration with David Levithan in You Know Me Well. Let me tell you, this short story was so sweet. The background of the story isn’t — Flora’s parents are divorcing and she enrolls herself in summer school as an excuse to stay out of the house. When Flora finds that the first girl she ever had a crush on is in her summer math class, cuteness ensues.

Last Stand At the Cinegore by Libba Bray: ★★★★☆

I’ve read nearly everything that Libba Bray has ever written. She was one of my favorite authors when I was in high school and I’ve really enjoyed reading her Diviners series as an adult (even though Before the Devil Breaks You is still sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read). I wasn’t sure that I would really enjoy this short story about a cursed horror film because that’s not really my thing, but of course I did. I love Bray’s writing style. She has some great lines and, as usual, the atmosphere was so spooky and perfect.

“Aw, you pussied out, didn’t you?”
“‘Pussied out’ is sexist. I prefer ‘made a strong choice for cowardice.'”

Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block: ★★☆☆☆

I’d actually never heard of Francesca Lia Block (or any of her books) before starting this short story, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. It’s well-written and I loved that it takes place in the 80s at punk shows, but I’m not sure what it’s doing in a romance anthology! It was so sad and just… disheartening.

In Ninety Minutes Turn North by Stephanie Perkins: ★★★☆☆

After reading about Anna, Lola, and Isla, I’ve come to expect really cute love stories from Stephanie Perkins. And this was a really cute second-chance romance. I just kind of felt like I was missing something, which makes sense, since apparently this is a continuation of her short story from My True Love Gave to Me, which I haven’t yet read.

Souvenirs by Tim Federle: ★★★☆☆

I’ve never read any of Tim Federle’s full-length novels, but I did read his short story Secret Samantha in the Flying Lessons anthology and I thought it was really cute! Souvenirs is less cute, featuring a couple, Matty and Kieth, on their pre-determined break-up day. In a way, I suppose I’m happy that Matty and Kieth are breaking up, because I didn’t really like Kieth. Still, I don’t know what’s going on with this book and all of the unhappy endings.

Inertia by Veronica Roth: ★★★☆☆

Fun fact: I haven’t picked up a single book by Veronica Roth since 2014 when I threw Allegiant across the room in a fit of rage. This was a surprisingly nice story about friends who’ve grown apart. The sci-fi twist on it all was a nice touch and very… Veronica Roth. I’m rating this one three stars because, while it was certainly cute, it was also super predictable.

Love is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron: ★★★☆☆

Jon Skovron is the second author in this anthology that I’d never heard of before. Even looking through his books on Goodreads didn’t do me any good! I went into this one with absolutely zero expectations. It’s a cute matchmaking story that takes place at a fancy resort. The writing style reminded me of someone but I can’t for the life of me figure out who. I liked the diversity but that wow factor was missing, so I’m stuck at three stars.

Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert: ★★★☆☆

Someday I’ll find the motivation to read Little & Lion, but it hasn’t happened yet. This short story was my first experience with Brandy Colbert, and it was… fine? I love that Rashida wants to major in linguistics! It’s a super fun program but, honestly, I’m not sure if I’d recommend it as an actual major because what do you even do with it? I work in a doctor’s office. But anyway, the romance is okay but it moves really quickly. There’s one point where Rashida says, “when we finally kissed” and I was just sitting there like… you’ve known each other for like two hours.

Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare: ★☆☆☆☆

I have such a complicated relationship with Cassandra Clare and I would honestly prefer not to read anything else of hers, but here’s this story and I have this thing about DNFing, so I read it. I just felt like it was… not good.

If I have one major pet peeve when I’m reading, it’s medical stuff being wrong. There’s this one part where she says, “Etta had alopecia which was making her hair fall out” and I just can’t. Alopecia is, quite literally, a medical condition in which your hair falls out. That is the actual definition of the condition. This is like saying, “She had a cough which made her cough,” and then I just couldn’t take the rest of the story seriously. Yes, I am petty.

I’m also not sure what it is with Cassandra Clare and fake incest? First it was the whole Clary and Jace possibly being related thing in TMI and now it’s this girl falling for her stepcousin and trying too hard to justify it. The only thing I liked was the creepy carnival setting.

A Thousand Ways this Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E. Smith: ★★★★★

I’ve read one book by Jennifer E. Smith — The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight — and it was so long ago that I don’t really remember anything about it. But this story was so cute! I loved it! The romance, for once in this whole anthology, didn’t feel rushed. I think I’ll have to give this author another try.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman: ★★☆☆☆

I’ve never read The Magicians, nor have I ever really had the desire to, so I went into this story kind of blind. It took me a little while to get used to the writing style (I still didn’t end up a huge fan of that aspect of the story) and I’ve definitely seen this topic done to death before, but it was okay. Not great, just okay.

Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge: the colors of summer

Have you read this anthology? Who’s your favorite of the authors?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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In Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, we got two very slow-building romances. In fact, one half of each couple was with someone else for the majority of each book. In Isla and the Happily Ever After, we start off with romance.

Isla, hopped up on painkillers after getting her wisdom teeth removed, heads out to a cafe called Kismet, where she runs into Josh, her long-time crush. While Isla is normally very shy, the painkillers take away some of her inhibitions that night, and she ends up having a very fun night with Josh. Back at school, Isla and Josh’s relationship unfolds beautifully and realistically… until it also implodes, also quite realistically.

I read this book in one sitting on a Saturday afternoon. I am a big fan of Stephanie Perkins’ work, but Isla really surprised me. Anna and Lola had a very similar structure, very similar themes of unrequited love and leaving the one you might be comfortable with, but who isn’t necessarily right for you. Isla is very different in that it’s about finding yourself and not letting your insecurities get the best of you.

In that way, it’s actually a very frustrating book to read, because it’s clear that Isla and Josh are so good for each other. They balance each other out perfectly. But Isla’s insecurities and her uncertainty about what her future might hold end up putting a strain on her relationship with Josh until she snaps and breaks it off. Break up with him before he realizes he can do better than you. It’s heartbreaking, and I almost cried reading it, because it’s just so realistic.

In Anna and Lola we saw what it takes for two people to realize they’re meant for each other. In Isla, the story was more about what it takes to make that relationship actually work. And I think that’s a good thing for teens, the target audience of these books. Yes, it’s great to find someone you love. It’s all sunshine and roses at the beginning. But as that relationship goes on, you have to work at it. And that’s not often shown in YA novels. But yes, couples fight, and past relationships can come back to haunt you, and there will be days where you’re not sure that it’s going to work out. And that doesn’t mean that your relationship is bad, or that you should break up, or that there’s something wrong with you. It means that your relationship is normal, and I have to give Stephanie Perkins a lot of credit for doing a great job at showing that.

Isla is so different from its predecessors, but it’s still a really great book. Highly recommended for fans of Stephanie Perkins’ works.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

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I’ve tried to write a review of Lola and the Boy Next Door at least four times now with absolutely no success. I liked it, I really did, I just can’t quite figure out why.

Let’s start with the plot: Lola lives in San Francisco with her two dads. She’s a budding fashion designer who never wears the same outfit twice, loves wigs, and is a whiz with a sewing machine. She’s dating Max, a super cool guy who plays in a band that’s gaining popularity – and is also several years older than her. She’s really happy with her life until Cricket, the boy next door, moves back in and destroys everything.

Aside from the major plot points, Lola and the Boy Next Door is extremely similar to Anna and the French Kiss. The plot develops almost identically. Anna and St. Clair are even featured pretty heavily in this book – much more than I would have expected.

I’m trying to come up with a list of things I liked in this book, and I’m drawing a blank. The only thing I can really think of is Cricket. He’s a great character, and it’s obvious from the beginning that he’d be a better choice for Lola. While Max is always pushing people away, Cricket draws them in. While Max acts like Lola embarrasses him (so, I wonder, why is he dating her?), Cricket is happy to be seen in public with her, happy to do whatever she’s interested in. Max is uncomfortable with Lola’s dads (parents in general, I think), but Cricket is almost part of the family, and he knows her deep, dark secrets, right down to who her mother is and all the issues that come with that.

And it’s because of this that I really couldn’t understand why Lola stayed with Max as long as she did. As the book continued, he became a progressively worse character – blowing her off, treating her like a child, being downright mean – and she still clung to him. Even when Lola realized that her feelings for Cricket were developing into more than just a silly childhood crush, she still insisted on trying to save her failing relationship with Max. He’s not being himself, she thinks. He’s uncomfortable spending time with my friends, she rationalizes. He’ll be better when we’re alone. And so she stays with him. And he’s never better. He just gets worse. I didn’t really understand that, and it’s the same thing that bothered me about Anna and the French Kiss, in which St. Clair knows he’d rather be with Anna, but won’t break up with Ellie. It seems to be a pattern in these books, and it’s probably the only part that I really can’t get into.

Lola was a bit of a drama queen, and I feel like a lot of her problems could have been solved if she just calmed down. Example: when she finds out that Cricket is moving back in next door, she literally drops a stack of plates and passes out. I thought Cricket was going to have, like, some crazy, dark, possibly murderous secret. But no, it’s just Lola’s childhood crush moving back in. No big deal, really, except that Lola is a drama queen. Another example: Lola has hated Cricket for two years because of a misunderstanding they had on his last day in town. If she had just spoken with him, she would have realized that. Instead, she passes out and drops a stack of plates at the mention of his name. Drama queen.

But aside from all of that, I did really like the book. It’s cute, in the same way that Anna and the French Kiss is cute. If you liked that book, you’ll most likely like Lola and the Boy Next Door as well.

Final rating: 

Book review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #1
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: December 2, 2010
Source: Purchased

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

I finished Anna and the French Kiss a few days ago, and I’ve held off on my review because I have not been able to form a coherent thought. When I think about this book, the only word that comes to mind is “cute.” Seriously. It’s cute from the first chapter to the very last page.

Anna is a perfectly ordinary teenager whose father happens to be a rich author of the Nicholas Sparks variety. One day, her father decides that he’s shipping her off to an American boarding school in Paris. Oh, the humanity. Anna is devastated. It’s her senior year! She’s been inching towards dating this cute guy she works with! She doesn’t speak French! It’s going to be awful! WHY IS HER DAD SO MEAN?! But then Anna gets there, and she makes some great friends pretty quickly. The place isn’t so bad. She finds that the students at the School of America have a lot of freedom, and the professors are almost all awesome. But most of all, the reason for her changed attitude goes by the name of Etienne St. Clair – the cutest, most charming, most unavailable boy she’s ever met.

Let me be honest for a second. I don’t think I’ve ever read a boarding school novel that I didn’t like. I just love the magical atmosphere and the shenanigans and living vicariously through these kids. My high school experience, while not awful, was less than magical. Anna and the French Kiss scored some easy points right off the bat for being set at a boarding school in Paris. It scored some additional points for just being really cute and friendshippy and not delving too far into the ever-present YA love triangle.

I’m looking forward to reading Lola and the Boy Next Door. If it’s half as cute as Anna and the French Kiss was, I’ll be all over it.