Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Blog Tour: The Stars of Summer by Tara Dairman Interview and Review

Blog tour button: Kristin Rae:

Today I’m very excited to be participating in Tara Dairman's blog tour stop with an interview and review of The Stars of Summer. I adored All Four Stars, so was very excited to be able to participate in the tour for its sequel.  

The Stars of Summer is the second book in Tara Dairman's lovely series about a girl who is a "secret agent critic" writing reviews for the Dining section of the New York Standard.   Gladys is celebrating her twelfth birthday with her friends. While waiting for their tapas, they're talking about plans for the summer. While most of her friends will be away or at camp,  Gladys is looking forward to getting into the kitchen to try out some new recipes. That is until Charissa surprises her with a free registration at Camp Bentley for the summer.    At first this seems like the worst thing that could possibly happen, but summer camp might  just make the perfect cover for Gladys to continue writing her reviews.   Yet, camp life keeps Gladys busier then she expected.  What with swim lessons, her new responsibilities as counselor in training and assisting in the kitchen.   Plus,  there is this "celebrity" camper who keeps getting in her way.  When Gladys receives her next review assignment, to find the best hot dog in New York City, how will she ever find the time to sneak away and explore hot dog stands?  And once she finds out   a former rival might be the one who sent her on this wild goose chase in the first place, will she still want to embark on her quest to find the "Top Dog" of New York City?

Hardcover, 366 pages
Published:  May 5th, 2015 
by Putnam  Juvenile
Genres: MG Realistic Fiction, 
Cooking & Food, Humorous Stories
In exchange for an honest review, 
an ARC was received from the publisher for free. 

What is it about writing for a middle grade audience that you enjoy the most?

I love that middle-grade readers are starting to figure out how the grown-up world works, and are thinking about their place in it in the future.  I find that MG readers are full of curiosity and have lots of big ideas of their own, so to write for such a thoughtful and engaged audience is a real privilege.

Were there any particular MG books that have inspired you? Or a favorite book that your reading now?

When I was growing up, Roald Dahl’s books were my favorites—I loved the way they made me laugh, and the way they showed intrepid kids often one-upping bumbling adults to save the day. Then, when I was in my 20s and the Harry Potter series hit it big, I fell in love with kids’ books all over again and decided that I wanted to give writing one a shot.

These days, I appreciate a book that keeps me turning the pages but that also makes me think long after I’ve put it down. Authors who can write concisely but evoke complex ideas and emotions are the ones I really admire. Some of my favorite recent examples are Nikki Loftin’s WISH GIRL and NIGHTINGALE’S NEST, Jennifer Holm’s THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH, and Louis Sachar’s HOLES. Speedy, unputdownable reads that also dig deep.

Were there any differences in your writing process when writing the sequel to All Four Stars?  

There were HUGE differences! ALL FOUR STARS took me more than five years to write, working on it here and there squeezed in among a million other obligations. In contrast, THE STARS OF SUMMER only took a few months, helped along by a tight deadline, much more writing time, and the fact that I already knew most of the main characters pretty well by the time I dove in. Plot comes pretty easily to me, and characters are more of a struggle, so having characters already developed made writing the second book in the series (and now, the third) much easier than the first time around.

What was your favorite part of writing The Stars of Summer?  Do you have a favorite scene or line from your novel?

Oh, there are so many scenes I love in this book! The very first scene, where Gladys finds herself on the brink of having her identity as a restaurant critic exposed during her birthday outing, was so much fun to write. I also love pretty much every scene with Gladys and Hamilton—but if I had to choose a favorite, I’d pick the one where they’re sharing a sandwich at the South African restaurant.

I loved reading about all the variations of hot dogs that you include in your story, what kind of research did you do to prepare?

For the foodie element of THE STARS OF SUMMER, I drew inspiration from hot dogs I’d discovered during my travels—mostly during the two-year, 74-country backpacking honeymoon I took from 2009-2011. Hot dogs are popular the world over, and I’ve been a big hot dog fan since I was a kid, so I was really surprised and pleased to stumble upon different versions in countries as far apart as Chile, Thailand, Iceland, and South Africa. When it came time to send Gladys on her quest for New York’s best hot dog, I knew I could just refer back to my own memories—jogged, perhaps, by some of the food entries my husband and I wrote on our travel blog (www.andyandtara.com)–to find great hot dog varieties for my young critic to try.

What are you working on now?

I am hard at work on the third book in the ALL FOUR STARS series! Gladys will facing a whole slew of new dilemmas—foodie and personal—as she starts middle school. This book doesn’t have a title yet, but it’ll be out in the summer of 2016.

Thank you Tara for answering all my questions!!


Book covers: Kelly Murphy
After finishing All Four Stars (Link to  my review) ,  I was really excited to read the book that follows the infamous " creme brulee incident?"   Dairman, you are a foodie after my own heart.  You took  "salty meat on white bread"  gave it your creative flair and end up taking me on a world wide tour of hotdog's.  Yep, hotdogs.   I adored The Stars of Summer,  Dairman's books are such fun to read filled to the brim with lovely descriptions of food, friendships, and Gladys herself is such a wonderful character.  She's creative, a risk taker and I adore her passion for food.  I love her creativity when it comes to cooking and the way that she introduces such a wide variety of foods and flavors just makes you want to do some exploration of your own.   "While, at first bite, the potatoes may seem too crispy to some diners, once they're dunked in fusion's homemade garlic aioli, the texture hits just the right note." She'll inspire the perusing of cooking magazines and online recipe searches for the foods described in The Stars of Summer, with names like The Icelandic pylsur, The Sonoran, The Thai dog it's easy to see why.   I know I would love to try and make a Sonoran.  Or at least visit this restaurant, El Guero Canelo and sample one.

The Stars of Summer is also about change and growing up.  Some of the characters that we know and love are still present helping Gladys with her quest, just in new and unique ways.  There is also the addition of new boy, Hamilton, who provides for some interesting complications.  What with him being infuriating, slightly pushy and really liking to talk about himself.  Still, somehow he is endearing and an asset to Gladys.  Even Charissa's character expands as she and Gladys share time together at Camp Bentley.  They become closer friends and Gladys begins to feel that she can trust her more.   My favorite change is within Gladys parents and their overall relationship.  Gladys helps them to finally learn to enjoy good food, and the ways that Gladys is able to rub off on them and they in turn inspire her are heart warming.  Yeah to no more microwave dinners!   One of my favorite lines is when Gladys is trying to pass her swim test... 

 "Gladys's arms and legs, feeling simultaneously heavy and weak, beat against it, like the whisks of an electric mixer stuck in too goopy batter. But then her mother's words came to her:"Swim like your limbs are knives, cutting through butter." 

I don't know about you, but I sure can picture that goopy sticky batter.  I also loved that Gladys began to have fun and forgot about chronicling every food in her notebook for her assignment, illustrating how important it is to savor the moments too.  But Gladys is still Gladys, trying to find ways to complete her assignment, while keeping her identity secret from the restaurants she critics. Overall, I love the characters, plot and the believable way that Gladys completes her quest.  Dairman's books are perfect for that budding foodie and parents who want to share a passion for food.   Best of all, Gladys' adventures aren't ending as Putnam signed on for a third installment and I for one can't wait to see what foodie adventure is in store for her next.  


THE STARS OF SUMMER blog tour schedule:














About the Author:

Tara’s author photo: Tiffany Crowder

Tara Dairman is the author of ALL FOUR STARS, which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a Mighty Girl Top Book of 2014 for Teens and Tweens. She is also a playwright and recovering world traveler. She grew up in New York and received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. After surviving the world's longest honeymoon (two years, seventy-four countries!), she now lives in Colorado with her husband and their trusty waffle iron.

Keep up with all of Tara's latest news on her:

 Website,      Twitter,      GoodReads,     Facebook   and Instagram

Links to purchase Tara's books:


  1. Hooray! I just got a copy from the library; need to review. Really enjoyed it. Not very many books involving summer camp. I just hope the third book does NOT include bullying, a school election, or a school dance!

    1. So true :) I just want lots more food to relish over! Glad you enjoyed this, look forward to your review.

  2. This sounds fabulous! I still want to read the first one and now I am super excited to know there is going to be a series. I also loved hearing from the author. How interesting that she was able to write the 2nd book so much more quickly than the first. I am finding the opposite to be true for my 2nd book. Wishing Tara the best of luck! :)

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