Category Archives: Uncategorized

Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay

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Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay

McKinlay, Jenn. Summer Reading. Berkley, 2023. 480 pp. ISBN 9780593545720 $17.00

***1/2

Chef Sam, summering at her family’s cottage on the Vineyard–think renovated but still working class Portuguese, not cottages like the Gyllenhalls or Kennedys have “cottages.” Passed over for a promotion in part due to the gender and in part due to disability (WHERE IS THE LAWSUIT???), Sam is home to regroup and lick her wounds. The timing is perfect, as she’s needed to keep an eye on her 14-year old half brother Tyler during her parent’s planned vacation to Europe. How hard can it be to keep a brilliant teenager fed and watered? Sam meets a hottie on the ferry and accidentally knocks his book into the water. Struggling with dyslexia, books are a challenge for Sam, but she does love stories, and fangirls over Stephen King and horror novels to her new crush, who she bumps into the next day while dropping her off at robotics camp at the public library. Turns out Ben is the interim library director. The cute, motorcycle-riding librarian is spending the summer trying to uncover the identity of his father and is sure he was conceived on Martha’s Vineyard. Opposites attract and he not only appreciates all of her workarounds, but helps her with new ones, from smutty romance novel read-alouds to scribing her dream cookbook. Sam lands a gig cooking happy hour cocktails and special events for a local business, and rediscovers the Martha’s Vineyard, making the Oak Bluffs setting come alive for readers.

I love Berkley romances, foodie novels, novels infused with cultural details, AND libraries, so not sure why this one isn’t resonating strongly with me. Something about this stream of consciousness style is amatuer and off-putting to my ear. It fits the voice of the character, an out-of-work chef with dyslexia and ADHD, pretty well, but the casual tone coupled with didactic intrusions to educate readers about dyslexia and ADHD detract from the narrative, like when Sam is pursuing a cooking magazine and stops to complain about the typeface, that lacks clear differentiation between b, d, and p for people with dyslexia (1 in 10 people have it, though the stat I’m familiar with as a librarian is 1 in 5). I don’t disagree that it’s an issue, or that it needs to change, I’m just not convinced this is this advocacy issue was handled as deftly as dyslexia in Spoiler Alert. Still, the author’s note is well-justified, and I appreciate that the publication favors bold instead of italics and a friendly font.

Sam is a well-rounded and absolutely brilliant character, and her growth as Ben helps her to see herself as he sees her helps her to squash her inner critic. The intimate scenes feel blow-by-blow wooden instead of intimate and passionate, but points for consent and protection. Many plot points feel very surface: a friend’s cancer scare and confrontation with her parent and pursuit of her own dreams, Sam’s not pursuing litigation for her previous boss’s illegal firing, Ben not confronting his infuriating mother on the page, and even the deepening sibling relationship between Tyler and Sam focuses on dance moves and handshakes, him trying some new foods, and quickly realized denouements with their mutual dad. The authentic recipes at the end are a nice touch, but if the cookbook had been a stronger element, there could have been more, and interspersed. Overall, I like the plot, setting and characters, but am not in love with the editing/execution of this one.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #SummerReading from #NetGalley

The Suite Spot by Trish Doller

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The Suite Spot by Trish Doller

Doller, Trish. The Suite Spot (Beck Sisters #2). Griffin, 2022. 288 pp. ISBN 978-1250809476. $16.99.

***

As in The Float Plan, change is what happens when it’s more painful to stay than leave. When single mom Rachel is unfairly fired for rebuffing the inappropriate advances of a powerful guest, she leaves behind not just her crappy job, but her mom and her ex, who barely parents, and signs on to manage a boutique hotel with an brewery–agrotourism, if you will. Unfortunately, when she arrives on an island in Lake Erie in Ohio, she doesn’t find a brewery hotel to manage, but rather an incomplete vision of one. Owner Mason is grouchy and guarded and intends to rely on the experience, expertise and taste of his new employee to bring the vision to life. She’s hooked! Details of the scenic setting and antiques shopping rounded out the romance nicely.

A few things didn’t ring quite true. Custody being what it is, you can’t just walk away with your kid, dads have rights. And technically, Mason is Rachel’s boss, irregardless of chemistry, it’s a big gamble, with a kid, to put financial security and physical safety and home at risk. Hence, things move at a slow pace. While Anna and Keane make an appearance, this is stand-alone romance. I’m an unabashed fan of heroines with curves and books with food or design details, so this was a 4 star rating for me.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TheSuiteSpot from #NetGalley back in March, but it expired and I checked it out as an ebook from my local library system.

Not Here to Stay Friends by Kaitlyn Hill

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Not Here to Stay Friends by Kaitlyn Hill

Hill, Kaitlyn. Not Here to Stay Friends. Delacorte, 2023. ISBN 978-0593483701 $12.99

** 1/2

Another reality television show themed novel from Hill. Sloane’s bestie from way back, Liam, moved from Tennessee to Hollywood when his parents got divorced, and the two friends have kept in touch over the passing years and finally get to spend some time together again and bond over stuff like their favorite teen dramas when he invites her to visit for the summer. It turns out that Liam is going to be interning on his dad’s latest project: a Bachelor-style show to find the next leading lady for heartthrob Aspen Wood, and the only way to hope to spend some time together is for Sloane to participate in the show by filling in the abandoned slot left by a no show contestant. An aspiring writer, Liam’s dad sweetens the pot by promising connections if Sloane can make it to the final four. Sloane’s parents are disappointingly quick to sign her over to this TV gig without even a check in, much to her chagrin.

The instant attraction at the airport pickup that neither Sloane or Liam has the guts to discuss, much less act on, throws a monkey wrench into the plot when Aspen asks Liam to help him win Sloane over–her low opinion of his shallowness is no secret. He agrees, and when Sloane finds out, she’s pretty upset. Will they work things out?

Lots of drama ensues, but it’s pretty watered down for tween readers. Like in Love from Scratch, the romantic parts are mostly longing, a sweet kiss or two, and overall pretty tame. The title is a very clever play on words–does it refer to Liam and Sloane’s relationship, or her spot on AWFLL (Aspen Woods Future Leading Lady)? Liam’s woodworking hobby that he wants to turn into a career is a nice side story that allows him to confront his dad, find a mentor, and make a beautiful grand gesture to Sloane.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #NotHeretoStayFriends from #NetGalley.

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

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The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

Denker, Jayne. The Rom Com Agenda. St. Martins’ Griffin, 2022. 320 pp. ISBN 9781250821485 $17

***

This completely predictable but very sweet and satisfying romance is about a man pining for the one that got away. Eli’s siblings push him to watch romantic comedy movies so he can make a grand gesture when Victoria returns from her time abroad and more often than not, their new friend Leah becomes his default practice date. A bit of an introvert (and a bit insecure), the more time Leah spends with Eli, the more sure she is that he is pretty perfect as is, and anyone who didn’t accept him doesn’t deserve him. Eli is confused at how he can be attracted to Leah when he is waiting for the return of a woman he prematurely proposed to.

The story has a lot of the heart, and the allusions to many favorite romantic comedies (and the dissection of them!) is a major plot point,. Lots of fan service for Gen-Xers.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TheRomComAgenda from #NetGalley

All The Feels by Olivia Dade

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All The Feels by Olivia Dade

Dade, Olivia. All The Feels. Avon, 2021. 416 pp. ISBN 978-0063005587 $15.99

*****

As the wildly popular but going off the rails Game of Thrones like television series Gods of the Gates wraps, its stars are still contractually bond to not give away spoilers and act in accordance with set behavior guidelines. Alexander Woodrow, who stars as Cupid in the series, has a big mouth that often gets him in trouble, and when a bar fight lands him in the tabloids, he’s assigned a short, squat minder: Lauren Clegg, the cousin of one of the producers whose no-nonsense attitude and failure to crack a smile gives Alex a new challenge in life. Predictably, they become friends, then romantically involved, in spite of Lauren’s unconventional appearance. When she fails to keep Alex in line as promised, she fires herself, sacrificing their relationship so they can split up to get back together.

Incorporating popular fanfiction tropes (#ForcedProximity, #OnlyOneBed, #BeautyAndTheBeast), the novel also goes a bit meta, with references to the protagonists incorporated roleplay and other tropes into their relationship. Most gratifyingly, the sex involves consent and lovemaking that doesn’t include penetration the first time, or perfect immediate orgasms.

This companion novel to Spoiler Alert brings back many successful elements: quick, clever dialogue, a down-with-the-patriarchy tone, a body-positive attitude, and lots of non-narrative writing: a text chain with the stars of the hit fantasy television show, fanfiction, press releases, screenplay excerpts, a scene at a fan convention, and emails complete with cross through edits. The cover art is by the same artist as Spoiler Alert, and several characters make an appearance, creating a cohesive feel.

I received an advance reader’s review copy of #AllTheFeels from #NetGalley.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris & Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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I finished listening to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim last week and since then I have been missing David Sedaris. It felt like he was keeping me company on my commute and I cherished every moment we had together! I gave the tapes to a coworker who has confessed the same feelings…in fact, she told me today she anticipated the loss and ordered the audio online! At times I found myself choked up and teary eyed by a bittersweet story or some poignant tale of heart ache … and many, many times I found myself belly laughing, again teary eyed but for a different reason. I just absolutely love David Sedaris and even though he is amazing & funny to read I highly recommend you give this a listen…nothing rivals it! And if you can read/listen to nothing else do not miss the last chapter, Nuit of the Living Dead, …just try and stay focused on the road while you’re driving & laughing!

I tried to fill the void with another book on tape and recently started Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Running Out of Time. Unfortunately, tape 2 broke on me! Luckily, I have amazing access to a public library and got a copy of the book which I finished this morning… very quick read, it’s a fast-paced, suspenseful, adventure! And I have to say, I think I preferred reading it on my own which I vaguely remember happening with another Haddix book. Audio publishers should really take more care with narration. It is amazing to me the spectrum you experience and the real difference in quality you can hear and that doesn’t mean aural quality but the actually tone and expression and overall feel of the narrator. Anyway, Running Out of Time got some press recently for it’s similarity to M. Night Shyamalan’s movie. the Village ( the book was published first). I saw The Village before reading the book and I have to say overall it is pretty different BUT the basic premise is so similar and so unique (not your usual plot device here) that it is very suspicious!

I really love Haddix’s work and have yet to be disappointed. I find her characters strong and intriguing and the plots always very suspenseful and as I said above, unique … her story ideas are never run-of-the-mill! In this story a 13 year old girl, Jessie, discovers her 1840 village is actually a living history tourist attraction and she must be the one to save her friends and family from a diphtheria epidemic. So not only is she dealing with a huge lie, she also has to adapt to the 20th century, AND save the lives of all these people…including her own! This is why when the tape broke I had to get the book…there was no way I could wait for the replacement!

All-American Girl by Meg Cabot & Don’t You Know There’s a War On by Avi

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I’d never read any of Meg Cabot’s books until last week. One of my favorite 11-year-old patrons, who is not into the Princess Diary thing, said that she loved All-American Girl.

students and shows interest in their families and makes a point of emphasizing that even the littlest things can help in the war effort. He does everything he can to make sure she will keep her job. Howie also spends a great deal of time worrying about his merchant marine father and about his friend’s father who is fighting in Africa. He watches his sister after school while his mom works at the factory and looks forward to the 25 cent kids movies on the weekends. This is a great book to listen to with all the 1940s slang and the official news reports of the war. Yeah for great books on tape!

The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes & A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

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I just read The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes. This was not my favorite of Marian Keyes’ fun escapist single women novels, but it was a fast read and kept my mind off being sick and all the busy library stuff going on with the summer reading program.

I also had the pleasure of reading A Northern Light which is a new historical fiction book by Jennifer Donnelly. This is a must read for all book people, word people, writing people, dictionary people, history people, women’s movement people, poetry people, animal people, love story people etc. You get the picture? The setting is upstate New York, near Old Forge, in the early 1900s. Mattie is the oldest daughter and bound by a promise to her now dead mother that she will stay with the family and take care of her Father and siblings. But Mattie is an excellent writer and a great lover of words. Her teacher encourages her to take the New York state Regents exams to be able to apply to college. Mattie is torn apart by her desire to continue her education and become a real writer. She feels obligated to take care of the family since her Mother’s death. She also has a love interest, that handsome Royal Loomis. When his arms are around her she couldn’t be happier. Will Mattie choose her family or an education? Please read this wonderful novel to find out!

Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo & Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York 1880-1924 by Deborah Hopkinson

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First, I was inspired by the PLA non fiction booktalk to read Close to Shore (the younger readers adaptation) and then because Allison read it and liked it I just had to read it too! I finished it in one morning… it’s a definite page turner! The story is fascinating but the storytelling really is what makes this book incredible. Facts we now know about sharks today are intermingled in the story of what happened in 1916. It’s really amazing how little people knew about sharks… to the point that even the shark experts (ichthyologists) believed these attacks were done by a Killer Whale or other sea mammal.

I also loved the facts and stats thrown in like a person is more likely to be attacked by a shark if they are swimming with a dog! (Because the dog’s erratic swimming causes sound waves a shark wants to investigate.) I learned so much from this book but I have to admit that if I had been watching it…I would have had to close my eyes at some of the gory parts!

Another nonfiction read I really enjoyed is Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York 1880-1924 by Deborah Hopkinson. Like Close to Shore this book is filled with photographs and primary sources which really give you a feel for the time and place. This book follows the lives of five actual children and young adult immigrants who lived in tenements in New York City. Their profiles begin in their home countries…Italy, Russia, Lithuania, Romania – describing their hardships and their reasons for emigrating. The last chapter outlines the rest of their lives answering the question “What happened to them?” The book also includes great resources like a timeline, further reading, and bibliography. If you find city histories or immigration intriguing then you’ll want to read this book.