Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Spotlight + Giveaway: How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer by Taryn Souders

You may be wondering why the picture above shows a goat in a canoe. 

Good question! Now that I have your attention, it's time to put the spotlight on How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer by Taryn Souders. If you've ever been to summer camp, I think you'll love this story. Chloe's summer camp experience is both hilarious and adorable, which makes this the perfect addition to your warm weather reading list!

Top Three Reasons Camp Minnehaha is The Worst
1. The spiders (wayyyy too many legs)
2. King Arthur (a rampaging goat intent on my destruction)

3. Victoria a.k.a The Diva (an evil cabin mate obsessed with French beauty products and my humiliation)

Chloe McCorkle knew a summer camp where you had to learn a career was a bad idea. She tried to tell her parents, but they just had to go on vacation to Alaska and ship her off for two weeks. It’s not ideal, but she’s going to try to make the best of it. She might even learn some skills that will help her make money for the new bike she’s been eyeing. But Chloe quickly discovers there’s only one area at which she excels; she manages to get more demerits than anyone else in camp…

Poor Chloe. All she wanted to do was get a summer job, and save up for a bike. What she ended up with... well.. I'll let you discover it for yourself.

Buy links are below, as well as an excerpt and a giveaway! You can win a copy of How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer for your very own. Happy summer reading!

     Someone once told me that money can't buy a girl happiness. Well, they obviously never had to ride a baby bike to the first day of middle school.

     My parents didn’t think there was anything wrong with my existing bike so they weren't going to shell out money for a new one for the fall. Apparently they didn't realize that in middle school, once you were labeled a dork, always a dork. My dorkiness would come in the form of a hot pink bicycle plastered with Dora the Explorer stickers. Definitely not a stellar way to debut my sixth grade year. But the parents said if I wanted a new bike, I’d have to pay for it myself.

     My best friends, Elenna and Jireh, didn't need new bikes, but they were obsessed with the idea of getting Zoo 'N You’s. I couldn't turn on the TV without seeing a commercial of giggling girls at a slumber party wrapped up in oversized blanket-pillow combinations of animals. The pillow part of a Zoo ‘N You was shaped like an animal's head, and the attached blanket looked like fur. It even had sleeves to slip your arms through so you could wear it like a robe—if you wanted the pillow hanging down your back. Personally, I found the whole concept bizarre and could think of a million other ways to spend $49.99 plus shipping and handling.

     So between a new bike and Zoo ‘N You, Elenna, Jireh, and I all needed money. The only way we could think to earn it was babysitting. The library offered a free babysitting class at the beginning of each summer. They taught CPR and everything, and the three of us had signed up right away.

     My plan for summer was simple: Make lots of money to buy a new bike.

     That was it.

     Nothing else.

     No summer school. No road trips. No awkward family reunions. And definitely no camps—on account of I'd heard they have tons of spiders. (I’m absolutely terrified of anything with eight legs. Actually, anything with more than two and you’re asking for trouble. Animals are irritating, destructive, and smelly. And the problems snowball out of control the more legs they have. By the time you get to eight, watch out world!)

     My parent's plan, on the other hand, was to celebrate their fifteenth wedding anniversary by taking a two-week long Alaskan cruise . . . alone.

     They came into my bedroom one night while I was reading and handed me a letter.

Dear Chloe McCorkle,

Let me be the first to say we are looking forward to having you at Camp Minnehaha. Enclosed you will find a packing guide and other helpful information. Please take the time to read through the electives we offer and get ready for two weeks filled with fun and excitement!


Linda Mudwimple

Camp Director

      My jaw dropped as my eyes darted back and forth between my parents and the letter.

      "Umm . . . I had other plans." I folded the letter and held it out to my mom.

      Mom smiled.

     Dad barked a laugh so loud I dropped the letter. Based on their responses, strategic negotiating was needed if I wanted to get my way. I could handle this like an adult—after all, I was going into middle school. I decided to use last year's lessons in Peer Mediation about handling conflict. I needed to A.C.T.
  • Acknowledge the other person's feelings.
  • Compliment them.
  • Thank them.
     I cleared my throat. "I get you're going on a cruise, and I need to be somewhere while you enjoy artic blasts of air and whale watching. This Camp Minnehaha, while I'm sure it's fascinating, doesn't really fit into my summer plans. Thanks for thinking of me though."

     Nailed it.

     Mom raised one eyebrow and let her smile slip to the left side of her face—a look that directly translated to Think again.

     Maybe reasoning would work.

     "But now I'll never be able to get a new bike!"

     "The bike you have is perfectly fine," Dad said.

     "It's adorable!" Mom added.

     Yeah—adorable, if you’re a DORK.

     I tried reasoning again. “I would really like to take the babysitting class at the library with Elenna and Jireh. I can't do that if I'm not here."

     "The library offers the class more than once, Chloe.” Dad said. “You can take the babysitting class when you return."

     It was time to resort to begging—it wasn't very adult-like, but it sometimes worked. I clasped my hands together in desperation. "But Elenna and Jireh are taking the first class," I whined. "They'll get all the customers."

     Dad pulled a brochure from his shirt pocket, and handed it to me. Keeping my eyes on his, I slowly took it from him and then read aloud. "'Camp Minnehaha is a fun, educational, kid-approved career camp, surrounded by gently rolling hills and clear streams,'" I narrowed my eyes and cocked a brow. "What's a career camp?"

     Dad tapped the brochure. "It's where you'll see what it's like to be a cake decorator, athlete, scientist, and veterinarian," he said. "You try out all of them the first week, and the second week you pick your favorite and spend the rest of the time with that career."

     "Sounds thrilling," I said. “You know animals and I don’t get along and you want me to spend time pretending to be a veterinarian?”

     When I was nine my parents got me a hamster that I named What (because he always had an expression on his face like he was asking a question). Every time I picked him up he’d pee on me and then bite my finger. After six months, he escaped from his cage. I couldn't even keep a hamster safe and healthy. I didn't need to go to some career camp to know I'd never be a vet.

     This was horrible! It wasn't just the fact that going off to camp meant I couldn't hang with Elenna or Jireh. It also meant that when middle school started in the fall, I was going to be riding my baby bike. Put that together with my terrible hair problem, and I was going to be looking like the World's Biggest Dork.

     My hair? Totally out of control. On a good day I could be mistaken for a stalk of broccoli. And if the humidity was extra high, I looked like an electrocuted lion. Mom always said I was beautiful, but moms are supposed to say nice things.

     My hair I couldn’t change, but my bike situation I could . . . or at least I had hoped.

     Dad looked at me sadly, and a dagger of guilt poked my conscience. I knew they signed me up for camp thinking I'd enjoy it. I hated disappointing them.

     I glanced at the brochure. "Cake decorating, huh?" Ever since Baker's Dozen aired on TV, I'd obsessed over every episode. Thirteen people would compete in decorating cupcakes for a $5,000 cash prize.

     Mom joined Dad near my bedroom door, signaling the end of the family meeting. "Get some sleep, sweetie. In the morning, we'll go shopping for the things you’ll need. You leave the day after tomorrow." She winked. "I'm so excited for you!"

     I flipped through the camp brochure and paused at the Cake Decorating page.

     A few weeks ago my friend, Mrs. Marie, the owner of Beth-Marie’s Ice Cream Parlour, had introduced her new ice cream flavor, Cupcake Confetti. She told me she also wanted to sell cupcakes at the parlor since the ice cream was sooooo popular. The only thing stopping her was she didn't have time.

     A brilliant idea popped into my head. My forced exile to Camp Minnehaha just might work in my favor—as long as Mrs. Marie agreed to my plan.
Taryn Souders graduated from the University of North Texas with a specialization in mathematics. Her first book, Whole-y Cow! Fractions Are Fun was published by Sleeping Bear Press (2010). She lives in Florida, with her family.
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