Thursday, May 31, 2018

Stay Sweet, by Siobhan Vivian

When the weather gets warm, I tend to crave light, "beachy" reads. Preferably ones with a Happy Ending (and so what if things wrap up way too easily!). And even better if the story centers around Ice Cream, which is my favorite hot weather treat.

Thus was the case with Siobhan Vivian's new novel Stay Sweet. This story is just as sweet as its title indicates. The story centers around Amelia, who just graduated high school and is about to begin her final summer working at Meade's Creamery, the local ice cream stand famous for its unique homemade flavors and its tradition of employing an all-female staff. But this summer will be special. This summer Amelia is Head Girl at Meade's, meaning she's in charge, second in command to Mead's founder, Molly Mead who, as legend has it, started making and selling ice cream to cheer her friends (and herself) when the local boys--boyfriends, fiances, brothers--were overseas fighting in WWII. Molly kept it up even after her own beau did not return from the war. Mead's has been famous ever since. 

Being Head Girl is so much more than being just a manager. It's being a mentor for the younger girls. It's forming lifelong friendships. It's being part of local history and carrying on a proud tradition. And Amelia is excited to begin.

But that all changes when Molly passes away suddenly and her grand-nephew, Grady, inherits Mead's. Grady comes into the picture with ideas for how the business should be run. Ideas Amelia feels have no respect for tradition. And one thing's for certain: Amelia will protect Mead's at all costs.

But there's more to Stay Sweet than the all-too-predictable hate-to-love relationship between Amelia and Grady. This is a story of friendship, empowerment, self-discovery, and finding one's true place in this world (and thus finding happiness). And don't forget there's also ice cream! In fact, there's a mystery involving a missing recipe for a particular mouth-watering flavor.

Stay Sweet is one of those books that will leave you smiling long after you've turned the final page. And, if you're anything like me, it'll have you craving ice cream as well!


Saturday, May 5, 2018

9 Days and 9 Nights, by Katie Cotugno

I love Katie Cotugno's writing. Her stories always delve into challenging themes that will make you really think about how you feel about so many things!
9 Days and 9 Nights is the second book of the 99 Days series. It's been a while since I've read the first book, but Cotugno reminded me wonderfully in the first few chapters! That said, it might be better for me to read her series back to back in the near future.
The main character, Molly, is now living in Boston where she's majoring in Business and she's not the same girl she was when we first met her. She's reinvented herself and she's got a serious boyfriend and a plan... her life is back on track and getting back to normal. A European trip with her boyfriend Ian is the perfect next step.
While in London, she runs into the guy who derailed her life the last time and Ian unwittingly invites Gabe and his girlfriend to join them to the next leg of their trip to Ireland, and Molly can't share why it's so awkward without sharing the past she's managed to hide from the people in her new life.
Sometimes the plot is sort of awkward that it will make you cringe and my first reaction was, "Thank goodness this didn't happen to me!" But I definitely have to say the story will make your heart rise. There's no denying that this story is messy, but life is messy and complicated and Cotugno doesn't sugar coat anything.
This is a smart and riveting story and it reminded me again why I love the Cotugno's writing so much. Her amazing voice and writing style definitely make her a favorite author, but her realistic, stories are what keep me coming back again and again. She's an all-time favorite in the YA contemporary genre and I look forward to reading more of her books! *JK*

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Breadwinner

Inspired by the award winning historical fiction book, The Breadwinner (the animated movie) does not disappoint. Because the Taliban rulers of Kabul, Afghanistan, impose strict limitations on women's freedom and behavior, Parvana’s family is completely dependent on her father to provide for them. The women of Kabul are forbidden to work, go to school, or be outside the home at all without a man. Most girls are too afraid to be outside the home under the Taliban rule. One day, her loving father is wrongfully arrested, which in turn, puts the rest of the family’s survival in danger. Eleven-year-old Parvana cuts her hair and wears boy clothes to disguise herself as a boy so that she can work and buy food for her mom, sister, and baby brother. By disguising herself as a boy, she faces new adventures and new dangers than she did before. She is forced to grow up fast in her harsh environment and copes with it by telling stories.

Throughout the movie, the viewer gets to see Parvana’s is gift in the art of story-telling come to life. The colorful story she tells throughout the movie amidst all of the tragedies she witnesses in reality becomes more than just a tale. Her story gives her a power that helps her to sustain hope throughout her challenges.

This animated movie has some strong themes of feminism and the importance of stories themselves. I also love that the author of the book that it is based off of interviewed refugees from Afghanistan to base the events off of real world experiences. The book (which we also own if you are interested in checking it out) and movie is set in the late 1990’s, and the laws and political climate are true to the story even though Parvana and her family are fictional characters. I love it so much and I would highly recommend it to any teen and especially those who enjoy a great historical fiction. 11/10 stars from me.   -MC

The Wendy Project, by Melissa Jane Osborne with artwork by Veronica Fish

The art in this graphic novel was so incredibly beautiful. The Wendy Project is a retelling of the story of Peter Pan, but this time a lot- and I mean A LOT- more sad. Seriously, it ripped my heart out. Please don’t read this if you want to cry. In fact, you can stop reading this review now. Consider this a “Lemony Snicket” warning.

The Wendy Project takes place in modern day, and we see the Darling children again by another name. In this version, they are called the Davies, which is the family that author J.M. Barrie based the Darling children off of. It should be noted if you do not know already, that J.M. Barrie, who was the original author of the story of Peter Pan, suffered a lot of personal loss throughout his life. His older brother died in a skating accident when he was just a teen. I felt like this is important to know when reading this book because I think that Melissa Jane Osborne was paying some homage to J.M. Barrie’s early childhood life in this graphic novel. Anyway, in this book, the Davies experience some serious turmoil right off the bat. While Wendy is driving, the children are in an awful car accident. Wendy and John make it out, but Michael is missing. Dealing with loss is never easy, but since Wendy and John believe he is still out there somewhere, it is even harder for them. Will they ever see Michael again?

One thing I have always loved about the story of Peter Pan is that there are many different adaptations. Even with the play or movies, the tale is usually altered from the original J.M. Barrie classic. The interesting theories that are out there about the story of Peter Pan go to show the many different ways to look at and analyze the original story. I do not want to give too much away about the twist in The Wendy Project in my review here, but this book is in full support of one of the main theories out there. If you are a fan of any Peter Pan adaptation (AND are okay with crying today), check out The Wendy Project.    - MC