Amanda loves Peaches!

Amanda loves peaches. Peaches to eat, peaches to read about. Summer is the perfect time to do both! Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson is an excellent middle-of-summer book to read in-between summer reading selections for school.

The story of three girls placed at a failing peach orchard in Georgia to work for the summer just screams hot, humid weather and juicy peach deliciousness. Birdie is the slightly overweight daughter of the orchard owner, very insecure and very lonely in her Georgia peach world. Since her mother ran off, a lot of the orchard responsibility has been placed on Birdie and she takes her job very seriously.

Leeda is Birdie’s rich and spoiled cousin and she opts to spend the summer at the orchard instead of planning her sister’s wedding. Leeda is incredibly jealous of her sister and wants nothing to do with making plans and knows she isn’t exactly wanted around the peach house either.

Murphy is the resident bad girl. She is sentenced by the town judge to work at the orchard as community service for petty crimes she continuously commits. She has great attitude and adds some excellent dramatic flair to the story.

Though putting distance between themselves at first, the girls grow closer as the summer moves on and find they actually have quite a bit in common. They work together through boyfriend problems, family dramas, and the doubt that the peach orchard will survive. This was a lovely and refreshing book, with believable friendships. I wanted to be friends with these girls!

This is the first in a series, so if you love it, follow it up with The Secrets of Peaches and Love and Peaches. Make sure you have a bowl of fresh PEACHES to eat while you read. Yum!

Great for fans of The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares or those that love books by Sarah Dessen.

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson; $8.99; HarperTeen; Ages 14+

Attention Grownups: Arcadia by Lauren Groff

Grownups, this one’s for you. Throw it in your beach bag and thank me later.

I don’t need to waste a lot of time spouting Arcadia‘s praises. For that, read this glowing piece  in the New York Times or this starred review in Publisher’s Weekly or Ron Charles’ review in the Washington Post. The book world clearly loves this novel. And I do, too.

Told in three parts, this is the story of one man. Nicknamed Bit, he is raised in a hippie commune in upstate New York (the titular Arcadia). Lauren Groff’s tale is rich, detailed, atmospheric, and engrossing. Her landscapes spring brilliantly to life, and Bit’s story avoids the “flower child” cliches that it so easily could have embraced.

This is one of those reads that will take over your brain. The beauty, scope, pain, and confusion of Arcadia are vividly rendered, and it will take some time to tear yourself away. Believe me, you won’t want to.

Arcadia is the perfect intelligent, emotionally relevant pick for the savvy summer reader. It’ll make a great book club pick for the fall, too.

Read on!

Megan

Arcadia by Lauren Groff; Voice/Hyperion (Simon & Schuster); 25.99; Ages 16-adult 

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Yes, as you might have guessed, this story takes place in Neverland. Yes, we meet Peter Pan and Wendy and Captain Hook. But if you’re expecting the sugary cartoon escapades of the Disney film, or even the dark magic of J.M. Barrie’s original Peter Pan and Wendy, you’re in the wrong place. This is something else entirely, something new and a little surprising.

Tiger Lily has never quite fit in with her tribe. Adopted by the shaman, Tiger Lily has been raised in the tiny village but never truly accepted. Still, she abides by the rules: never wander off, never oppose the pirates, and avoid the Lost Boys at all costs. Everyone on the island knows their place, and so Neverland stays in a sort of uncomfortable balance. But when Tiger Lily saves a strange Englishman from shipwreck, she finds herself slowly but surely challenging the status quo. And when she meets the mysterious, impish Peter Pan, her entire world is flipped upside down. In the end, a terrible choice must be made: leave and grow up with Peter, or stay in the home she has always known.

Here’s the thing about this book: it doesn’t care about expectations. It’s not restricted by preconceived notions of who Peter Pan is and where he comes from, or even what becomes of him in the end. It’s not a slave to Barrie’s plot or characters. It is not, most certainly, a retelling of the original.

DC-based author Jodi Lynn Anderson  gives a voice to a character that is usually left silent, and it’s the sort of unique, multi-faceted voice that keeps you interested and engaged. This is a great read for teens who have fond memories of their own Neverland games, or who perhaps are swept up in the many current stage/film/TV spinoffs of Pan’s tale.

Also, can we gaze at the cover for a brief moment? It looks like a flower (a tiger lily, even?), but look closer. It’s a leaping girl in a dress! Surprise! I usually dislike the “girl in prom dress” covers so prevalent in the YA section, but this one’s creative. I give it a thumbs up.

Read on, readers!

Megan

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson; HarperTeen; 17.99; Ages 12+

Dragons Are Cool Again: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

I never got on the Eragon train. All the best to Mr. Paolini, but I just wasn’t interested in dragon fantasy and there were other things to read, so I moved on, and missed most of the recent dragon craze.

I picked up Seraphina because the positive buzz on the interwebs was almost deafening. I gave in to peer pressure. And, possibly for the first time ever, that ended up being a very good thing.

I usually hesitate to assign the title “best” to any particular book, because reading is so subjective. As we’ve established, I like some books better than others, but elevating just one above all the rest seems impossible and unfair. So I won’t say that Seraphina is the best book of the summer. But it’s probably my favorite.

Enough with the wishy washy attitude. It’s my favorite.

As decreed by treaty, dragons are permitted to live and work alongside humans in the kingdom of Goredd, provided they assume a human shape. In theory, there is peace between the races. In reality, prejudice and anti-dragon sentiments are rising, inspired by the recent mysterious murder of a member of the royal family, a murder that is rumored to have been committed by a dragon. Into this tenuous situation enters Seraphina Dombegh, hired as assistant to the head court musician. Seraphina is no ordinary girl with a talent for music–she is also half dragon, a horrible secret she must protect at all costs. Drawn into the court’s investigation by Lucian Kiggs, captain of the guard, Seraphina finds her stamina for concealment challenged almost beyond what she can bear.

But as the drama and intrigue swirls around her, Seraphina is surprised to learn that she may not be alone. There are others like her, halfbreeds with various skills and gifts who just might be able to help. Gradually, Seraphina begins to come to terms with who she is, and, strange as it seems, begins to wonder if perhaps her dragon ancestry is something to be proud of. Perhaps what she has striven to hide is in fact the key to bringing peace once and for all.

Rachel Hartman’s world building in this novel is simply fantastic. I loved the little historical and societal tidbits that she dropped casually along the way, never overloading me with information, but giving me enough to imagine clearly the landscape she was creating. Goredd is the perfect blend of the recognizable and the strange. And the characters are compelling, sympathetic, and layered. There’s plenty to discover here! Hang on for some awesome twists and turns, too. A spectacularly fun read!

P.S. Hey, Game of Thrones fans! This book is for you. Read it and make the season three wait more bearable.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman; Random House; 17.99; Ages 14+

The Brixen Witch by Stacy DeKeyser

Ready for some fairytale-style adventure this summer? Here’s a little something just for you.

Rudi doesn’t mean to take the witch’s coin. It’s an honest mistake. But once it’s done, strange things begin to happen in his tiny village, and even when he tries to return the gold, the plagues and pestilences continue. When rats infest every home in sight, it becomes clear that dark magic is at work. Rudi must summon all his courage in order to restore peace to his community. Along the way, he makes surprising discoveries about himself, his friends, and even the witch herself.

Told with a classic air, this short novel is a great read for children who love fables, fairytales, and epic quests for glory. Stacy DeKeyser has delivered all of that here, plus a disgusting rodent or two (thousand). What’s not to love about that?

The Brixen Witch by Stacy DeKeyser; Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster); 15.99; Ages 8-12

Awesome Teen Author Panel!

We’ve been so lucky to have a steady stream of YA Authors dropping by the store to share their books with all of you and next week we have 4 more! Come join us at 3:30 on June 30th and welcome Elizabeth Scott, Alethea Kontis, Diana Peterfreund, and Brigid Kemmerer to Hooray for Books!

Elizabeth Scott introduces her latest book, Miracle, the story of a young girl who is the only survivor of a plane crash. Megan is a miracle. At least, that’s what everyone says. Having survived a crash that killed everyone else on board, Megan knows she should be grateful just to be alive. But the truth is, she doesn’t feel like a miracle. In fact, she doesn’t feel anything at all. Then memories from the crash start coming back.  Miracle, Simon Pulse, $16.99

Diana Peterfreund’s book, For Darkness Shows the Stars, features 18-year-old Elliot North, a girl who chose family over love four years ago, refusing to run away from the caste system she grew up in, as the servant, Kai, wanted her to. Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.  For Darkness Shows the Stars, Balzer & Bray/Harperteen, $16.99

Alethea Kontis’ foray into the young adult world is Enchanted. It isn’t easy beign the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true. When Sunday meets an enchanted frog, the two become friends and the friendship deepens into something magical. Sunday’s love transforms the frog into a prince!

A lovely retelling of “The Frog Prince.”  Enchanted, Harcourt Children’s Books, $16.99


Brigid Kemmerer has written Storm, a fast-paced story with lots of thrills and will definitely have you turning the pages faster and faster!

Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her, Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys — the ones she doesn’t want. Then she saves Chris from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water– just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They’re powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death. Storm, Kensington Publishing, $9.95

Come join us as the authors talk about their latest books, answer questions, and sign your copies.

Miss Megan’s Favorite Summer Reads

There are some books that are just better during the summer. They’re good all the time really, but they’re all the more memorable if you’re reading them on the beach with an ice cold lemonade in your hand.

These are my favorite books for summer, as synonymous with the season as the smell of sunblock or the taste of watermelon. (Yum!)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall; Yearling Books (Random House); 6.99; Ages 8-12

Four sisters spend the summer on a grand estate and have all sorts of adventures! There’s plenty to discover and plenty of mischief to get into, especially when there’s a boy next door who’s ready to play and a rambunctious dog frolicking about. I like to compare this delightful read to a modernized version of Little Women with younger characters. It’s got that kind of winning, classic feel that’s impossible to resist! And, with four sisters, there’s sure to be a heroine for every reader to identify with. Indiebound says: “Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.”

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker; Balzer & Bray/Harperteen (HarperCollins); 15.99; Ages 9-12

When unexpected events leave Stella and Angel alone for the summer in a house on Cape Cod, the girls must work together to stay afloat. As the summer progresses, they make surprising discoveries about themselves and each other. At the end of the day, this is a novel about family, the family we are born into and the family we choose. I love Gary Schmidt’s (Okay for Nowdescription: “Beneath the comedy and the suspense and the horror and the wit of this remarkable read lies the deepest secret of all: that we can learn to love each other.” Read my full review here.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han; Simon & Schuster; 9.99; Ages 12+

You’ve gotta love a heroine with a quirky nickname. Our central character in this charming novel is Isabel, but she’s known as Belly. See? You want to read it already, don’t you? Every summer is the same for Belly, spending the season with her family and best-friends-who-are-boys in their beach house. But this year is different. This year, Belly isn’t a little girl anymore. This summer, as the title hints, Belly has turned pretty. You may think you know what happens next, but you’d be surprised by the poignant twists Han gives this coming of age novel. And, lucky for you, there are two more books in the series: It’s Not Summer Without You and We’ll Always Have SummerThis is a great adult/teen crossover book for the beach this year!

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder; Razorbill (Penguin); 17.99; Ages 14+

This book is seriously good. Seriously well written, seriously hilarious, seriously awesome. I laughed out loud more times than I could count. And, yes, the main protagonist has cancer. Don’t run away! Debut novelist Wendy Wunder has created a wondrously creative, hilarious, and ultimately satisfying read that will keep you glued to the very last page. Heartfelt without being sappy, sarcastic without being rude, Wunder’s characters are brimming with energy and warmth. This is most emphatically not a book about cancer–instead, it’s a book about family, first love, baby flamingoes, Polynesian dancers, and the small miracles of everyday life. I loved every moment. Read it read it read it!

BONUS PICK FOR GROWNUPS: Pure by Julianna Baggott; Grand Central Publishing (Hachette); 25.99; Ages 14+

I’m sort of cheating with this one. It doesn’t take place during the summer. At least, Julianna Baggott never indicates that. But it’s made of pure awesome. And isn’t that what you want to read in your hours and hours of summer leisure time? I know I do. Give me fantastic dystopian world building (check), non-stop action (check), multiple perspectives to keep me interested (check), and some shocking twists and turns (check, check). And while you’re at it, make sure this dystopian world is super creepy and weird and unsettling. In a good way. I dare you to put this book down without finishing it. Give yourself some uninterrupted time, because you’ll want to tear from cover to cover in one sitting!

Come by the store anytime and ask our other booksellers for their favorite picks for summer. If there’s anything we love doing, it’s matching people up with the perfect book!