CGG Book Club: Summer Days & Summer Nights
Today’s entry of the CGG Book Club is all about love! Which is apt, because summer is a fun time for romance, even if spring often takes the credit for love being in the air.
First up, I recently devoured Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible. If you’re unfamiliar with Curtis Sittenfeld, she’s a wonderful writer – her coming-of-age book Prep still ranks amongst my faves – that’s earned particular accolades for her book American Wife, a fictional take on Barbara Bush. Her latest reworking is a unique one – a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s legendary Pride & Prejudice. And if you don’t know that story? In a nutshell, it’s about five unwed sisters, their meddling mother who wants to marry them off to save the family estate, and a plucky heroine named Elizabeth Bennett who defies the expectations of one Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Those who’ve read (and loved) Austen’s original will especially delight in this retelling, as you see how Sittenfeld bends the original tale to suit modern-day calamities (Chip Bingley, for example, is now fresh off a season on a Bachelor-style show in his hunt for a wife, the titular Eligible). The sisters are aged up, with chill beauty Jane cresting at 40 and pursuing pregnancy via sperm donor, Liz rocking the independent working woman thing in NYC with a hotshot magazine writer job and a (pseudo) married boyfriend, Mary being a grisly possible lesbian / eternal student, and Kitty and Lydia being obnoxious millennial types, buried in their phones and doing crossfit. With Cleveland taking the place of rural England and Darcy stepping in as a wealthy, handsome, yet altogether awkward and stilted doctor, even if you know the story it’s still a trip from start to finish. The super short scene-length chapters help too, as you’ll constantly tell yourself just one more chapter! And then end up reading a dozen.
My next book, Summer Days & Summer Nights, is pretty much the definition of a hot summer read. It’s actually a sequel to another book I featured on this blog in one of my holiday-themed posts – My True Love Gave to Me. Only, it’s really not (with one exception). Intrigued? Read on!
What’s The Buzz?: This book, like its mate My True Love Gave to Me, is a short story anthology featuring a dozen stories by some of today’s brightest young adult writers. Edited by Stephanie Perkins (of the lovely Anna & The French Kiss series), the books are great if you’re into a particular author and desperate for new content between books, or if you simply like the short story medium. While all the stories in Summer Days & Summer Nights are once again about teenage love, the twist this time is the season of course. The first book centered on the holiday season, whereas the self-explanatory title of this one takes you into the lazy hazy days of summer love. Cotton candy kisses and campfire cuddles abound!
What’s The Plot?: Summer Days & Summer Nights has 12 different stories that totally run the gamut of style and concept. For those looking for an off-the-wall romance, Libba Bray’s ‘Last Night at the Cinegore’ is a genuinely terrifying story of unspoken feelings set against the possible end of the world, while Cassandra Clare’s ‘Brand New Attraction’ takes place in an eerie, semi-magical carnival. Sci-fi fans will dig Veronica Roth’s ‘Inertia’, which takes place in a surreal dreamscape, or Lev Grossman’s ‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’, which spins a Groundhog Day-style story. Of course, there’s plenty of classic romances that take place in typical summer settings – Tim Federle’s ‘Souvenirs’ is set in a tourist trap theme park, Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Head, Scales, Tongues & Tail’ drifts along in cottage country, Jennifer E. Smith’s ‘A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong’ is tied to a summer day camp, ‘Jon Skovron’s ‘Love is the Last Resort’ centers on the guests and employees of a posh summer resort, and Nina Lacour’s ‘End of Love’ is a mix of summer school and a camping excursion. Honestly, between the writing styles, settings, and tone of each romance, there’s bound to be at least one story you love.
How Summery Is It?: Easily /4 suns! The entire book’s only really connective tissue is the fact the stories are about love, and they’re about summer. Admittedly, compared to the Christmas entry into this short fiction anthology series, there’s definitely a bit more of a bittersweet vibe – after all, you generally associate ‘summer love’ with a short-term, temporary romance that sets sail with the warm weather. But even when the stories take a sadder approach, you’ll likely stir up some fond memories of your own summer flings.
What’s That You Say About a Sequel?: So as I mentioned above, Summer Days & Summer Nights isn’t really a sequel. Yes, both anthologies are edited by Stephanie Perkins, and yes, the conceit is the same (a dozen stories about teenage romance tied by a seasonal element). But you most definitely don’t need to one to read the other. On the plus side, if you read one and love it, chances are you’ll enjoy the other one. As a fun Easter egg, however, there is one element of clear continuity. Editor Stephanie Perkins contributed one of my favourite stories in the first anthology, about a girl named Marigold that is dealing with a grim Christmas in a new apartment. That is, until she meets a boy named North who works at a Christmas tree farm and takes the time to help her out. Well, this book picks up months after their encounter, giving you an update of where they’re at, and it’s honestly one of the best stories in the book – whether or not you read the other one!
Who Should Read This Book?: As I mentioned above, if you like short stories? Read this. If you like young adult fiction? Read this. If you liked My True Love Gave to Me? Read this. If you just want to reminisce about summer love? Well, you get the picture. You’ll enjoy Summer Days & Summer Nights, I promise!
Want to win a copy of Summer Days & Summer Nights my friends? Here’s how to enter for your shot at nabbing this easy breezy summery tome.
1) First & foremost: you must be a subscriber to the Canadian Gift Guide to enter this giveaway. It’s as simple as finding ‘The Gift of Gab’ box in the righthand column and dropping in your email or clicking follow. Then, tell me in the comments below by August 14, 2016 – why are you interested in reading Summer Days & Summer Nights? Are you familiar with any of the authors that contributed to this anthology?
2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around August 15, 2016 to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible for this promotion.
4) Bonus Entry: Follow Raincoast Books on Twitter, tag them and me (@cdngiftguide) in a Tweet about why you want to read this book! Post a link to your Tweet below in a separate comment to earn yourself an extra entry into the draw.
5) Bonus Entry #2: Add this book to your to-read list on GoodReads, and leave a link back to the page it’s on below in a separate comment to earn yourself another bonus entry.
6) Bonus Entry #3: Follow me (@cdngiftguide) on Instagram and share the cover of this book in your own post, tagging me and Raincoast Books, telling us why you’d love to read this book. Post a link to your photo in a separate comment below to earn yourself an extra entry.