My Basmati Bat Mitzvah: A (Rapid Fire) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman (2013)

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. FreedmanThis is one of those books that can skew as either middle grade or a younger YA. Either works and either is appropriate. Tara, our narrator, is a lot of fun with a breezy voice that sounds authentic and true without being bogged down in vernacular or otherwise “talking down” to the reader. I also loved that Tara had supportive, understanding, present parents as well as friends.

Although the story deals with Tara understanding the two sides of her heritage she is largely comfortable in her own skin. Which is huge. There is just so much to like here from the light, fun story to the cover model who looks just like you’d expect Tara to look. This is a story about acceptance and identity but also about more than that. Recommended.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

The Winner’s Curse: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Winner's Curse by Marie RutkoskiChoices for Valorian women are limited. Kestrel can join the military, as her father the general has planned for Kestrel since her childhood, or she can marry. No one would ever guess the path Kestrel truly wants to take. No one could imagine another choice in an empire that glorifies war and enslaves all it conquers.

Kestrel shouldn’t have been tempted at the slave auction. Certainly not by a defiant slave whose every move broadcast contempt and disdain for his surroundings. Even knowing she will pay too much–knowing it will set off a series of disasters even Kestrel can’t  fully predict–she buys the slave.

At first Kestrel is too busy hiding her own activities to think much of the new slave. But Arin has his secrets too. As Arin and Kestrel circle each other they will embark on a journey together that will change both them and their countries forever in The Winner’s Curse (2014) by Marie Rutkoski.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Winner’s Curse is the first book in Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy.

Rutkoski has created a vibrant world with a heroine who is shrewd and pragmatic even as she makes terrible decisions. Kestrel is a brilliant strategist–a skill that shows throughout the novel as she negotiates various obstacles throughout the story.

Secrets and lies are key to both Kestrel and Arin’s characters, creating a story that is as much about what is said as it is about subtext. This novel is brimming with non-verbal communication and other subtle cues that Rutkoski expertly manipulates as a story of love and other–somewhat darker–matters slowly unfolds.

With a fully-realized world and vibrant, flawed characters there is a lot to absorb in The Winner’s Curse. Readers will be rewarded with several surprising revelations and a story that manages to succeed both as a standalone story and as the launching point for a stunning trilogy.

Grounded in the Ancient Roman Empire’s practice of enslaving conquered peoples and all of the ramifications therein, The Winner’s Curse is a rich, meditative story on what freedom truly means and the efforts some will take to procure it. Highly recommended for everyone but especially fans of historical fiction and/or Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, A Wizard of Earth Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, And I Darken by Kiersten White

You can also read my interview as part of the official blog tour with Marie Rutkoski about the book here:

There is also a related short story about Arin up at

(My schedule is weird this week because of my super awesome interview with Marie Rutkoski which is why this Chick Lit Wednesday review is posting on a Thursday!)

You can also enter my giveaway for the book. Details here:

Author Interview: Marie Rutkoski on The Winner’s Curse

Winners-Curse-blogtour-bannerMarie Rutkoski author photoMarie Rutkoski is here today instead of my regularly scheduled Chick Lit Wednesday Review as part of her blog tour for The Winner’s Curse to talk about her new book. This book is already one of my favorite 2014 reads so trust me when I say you should read it! I’m also giving away a copy of The Winner’s Curse and will be reviewing it tomorrow.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Marie Rutkoski (MR): I wanted to be a writer from the time I could conceive of becoming anything. Yet there was a period during grad school when I didn’t write fiction at all. I was hugely intimidated by my program and decided that I should focus all of my energies on what I was there to do: research and critical writing. It wasn’t until the last year of my doctorate, when I was living in London, that I dared to write fiction again, and that was because during my long stretches of a kind of lovely loneliness there, I had the idea for what became The Cabinet of Wonders, my first book. A friend of mine, the novelist Neel Mukherjee, encouraged me to write it, and I’m pretty sure that if he hadn’t responded with absolute enthusiasm and support to the idea for the book, I wouldn’t have even begun it.

MP: What was the inspiration for The Winner’s Curse?

MR: The economic term “the winner’s curse,” which describes how, during an auction, the winner has also in a sense lost because she’s bid more than what everyone else has decided the item is worth. I was drawn to this version of a pyrrhic victory and tried to think of a story that would have that title. I wanted to write a story where winning an auction exacted a steep emotional cost. It occurred to me: what if the thing up for auction were not a thing, but a person? What would winning cost you then?

MP: The Winner’s Curse is the first book in a series. Do you already have a set arc for Kestrel’s story?

MR: Yes. The second book is written and in edits.

MP: Did you know, when you started writing The Winner’s Curse that the story would span more than one book?

No. I wanted it to be a standalone. Then, after much difficulty and trying to force a different kind of ending to the first book, I got honest with myself. I realized that the ending I hoped to have wasn’t true to my characters or the story I was trying to tell. I saw what I had to do. Once I figured that out, I also realized that I couldn’t leave matters there. And so….a trilogy.

MP: This book is very grounded in its setting in a Herran conquered by the Valoreans. Did any real locations inspire your descriptions of this world?

MR: Mmmm…I thought a bit about Pompeii. Mostly about the way the homes of the wealthy had fountains in the entryway. I’ve been there, and was struck by those empty, shallow pools. I suppose it’s not just the place of Pompeii that influenced me, but also the loss, the way some people who lived there had everything, and then suddenly had nothing, not even their lives.

MP: Working off the last question, you mention in an author’s note at the end of The Winner’s Curse that ancient Greek and Roman practices played into the ideology of the Valoreans as they claimed Herran. What sort of research played into your writing process?

MR: I read Thucydides. It was awesome. Also, I read Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian to try to get inside the mindset of a Roman emperor who was fascinated by and possessive of the conquered Greeks.

MP: Kestrel’s musical talents and her love of the piano are continuing threads throughout the story and key to her character. Later Arin’s own musicality is also pivotal in the story. Did you always know music would be such a big part of Kestrel’s and Arin’s characters? Is their love of music inspired by your own experiences?

MR: Yes, I knew. I’m not a musician, though I dabbled in music at an earlier age and have recently (well, almost a year ago) begun learning the violin. But I’m passionate about writing, and I like to think about other people’s passion and art. I’ve written about visual arts before, too.

MP: In addition to action and some romance, this story is very thoughtfully plotted. Kestrel is a brilliant strategist and Arin is cunning in his own right. As these two circle each other throughout the story, how did you decide what to reveal (both to readers and other characters) and when to reveal it during the story?MR: It was very hard– and very different, when written from the POV of one character or another. Although Kestrel’s observant, she fails to understand some things about herself, and so sometimes she doesn’t reveal things to the reader because she doesn’t know it, so the trick when writing from her POV was to let the reader understand what was going on while making it clear that she doesn’t. Dramatic irony FTW! We don’t get as much of Arin’s POV, especially at the beginning, and this is a deliberate reflection of his character: his anger, his armor, his hardened heart. He does not want to let you in. Even you, the reader. Kestrel would be as honest with you as she can be. Arin doesn’t want you to know. But he shares more as the story goes on, and this allows the plot to move forward.

MP: With so many details to explain and expand both Kestel and Arin’s world, where did you start? What was it like creating all of the corresponding locations and histories for the backdrop of this story?

MR: I love worldbuilding.  Worldbuilding can and should be intricate, but the process is sometimes nothing grander than cause and effect. I wanted a militaristic society. Ok, so… what would be the social choices of a people focused on war and empire-building? They would need to convince a rising generation of the importance of being skilled with a weapon. They’d need to boost the population: to get soldiers to fight and people to make babies….so that the babies would grow up to be soldiers.

It’s hard to talk about the locations, though. I’m not sure how I did that.

MP: As I’ve said before, I loved this story which included so many things I love to see in a book including Herrani gods and Valorean war strategies not to mention a complex tile game. What detail(s) of Kestrel’s world was your favorite to write? Which was the most difficult?

MR: I definitely LOVED writing every single scene where that tile game– Bite and Sting– is played. I also loved writing a duel. That wasn’t planned from the beginning. I happened to drop in a mention of a duel early on (because of worldbuilding. A militaristic society would totally have duels). And then it was the Chekovian gun: there must be a duel! And I WANTED to write a duel. And I thought, “Under what circumstances would one occur?” And then my mind went, “OH.” And then it all magically fell in place. Though the physical pacing of the duel, and how to weave in dialogue, was kind of hard.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project? Or when to start looking for news about the sequel to The Winner’s Curse?

MR: I can tell you that I videotaped a teaser from the sequel for Macmillan. I read a brief scene from the book. A sexy one! When my publisher will put it up online, though, is in their hands. I can tell you that you’ll see more of Arin’s POV than in The Winner’s Curse, though the sequel is still Kestrel’s book. What else….? I’ve seen the cover for the second book and it is PRETTY. Seriously, I might like it even better than the cover for TWC.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

MR: Have a good memory. The very oldest seed of this book was planted in an ancient art class I took my sophomore year in college. What I learned– that Romans, after they conquered Greece, had Greek slaves reciting poetry in their houses– was not enough for a story. Not for me, anyway. But I remembered it for twelve years. It wasn’t the inspiration for The Winner’s Curse, but it was an influence on the writing of the book.

Thanks again to Marie for taking the time to answer all of my questions so eloquently here.

For more information about Marie and her writing you can also visit her website.

Check out the other blog tour stops for more great posts.

If you want to know more about The Winner’s Curse be sure to check out my review.

There is also a related short story about Arin up at

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Reasons I Love Being a Reader/Blogger

Top Ten Tuesdays img by Miss Print

  1. The Company! – Some of my favorite people on twitter are bloggers and I love having that common ground. Some of them are in my blogroll if you want to see them too.
  2. Book events – I love meeting said company at events. I am seriously pumped for the NYC Teen Author Fest and BEA to make some online friends into real life friends.
  3. The Books – (duh?) I love books as objects and seeing design and stuff. But also it’s great seeing the different plotting and whatnot.
  4. Connectivity – YA authors in particular are so approachable and awesome. I’m so happy I have a blog and get to interview so many people on here.
  5. Experience – I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say this blog has been a great resource as an experience builder with my knowledge of books and also writing. It has absolutely been a tipping point when I was a job applicant–of that I have no doubt.
  6. Sharing – Talking about, giving away and otherwise supporting books is just awesome!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Image made by me.)

Blog Book Giveaway: The Winner’s Curse[CLOSED]

Winners-Curse-blogtour-bannerAs part of The Winner’s Curse Blog Tour, I’m giving away a copy of The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski along with some fun swag. The giveaway is open to readers in the US or CANADA. The giveaway will run all week.

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoskiwinnersswag


I’m running the giveaway through a Rafflecopter giveaway. Details on how to enter can be found by clicking “enter” above or clicking the photo!

Lintastic 2/14 Edition: Valentines, Love Notes, and other Romantic (or not-so-romantic) Edition

Lots of Valentine-y things for you guys this week!

Golden: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Golden by Jessi KirbyParker Frost knows exactly what her future holds. It definitely doesn’t include any detours onto roads less traveled. If Parker’s mother has her way, it won’t include anything poetic at all.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are as much a part of Parker’s town as any of the buildings. Once they were the golden couple of the local high school with everything ahead of them. Now they’ve been dead ten years leaving nothing behind but a crashed car. No one really knows what happened to them; no bodies were ever found and no one knows what caused that fatal accident even if everyone still wonders.

With a path to a full scholarship to Stanford followed med school and a successful life laid out for her, now is not the time for Parker to stumble. But when the key to the mystery surrounding Julianna and Shane all but throws itself at her, Parker has a hard time paying attention to the road she’s supposed to travel in Golden (2013) by Jessi Kirby.

Golden is Kirby’s third novel.

A funny thing happens sometimes with books. Sometimes everyone, almost universally, can love that book while you are sitting down, reading that book, and wondering what you missed. That, unfortunately happened with this book. (It actually happened with several books over the past couple of months.) Part of the problem here was absolutely me. I read Golden the week my mom had her brain surgery and this book wasn’t what I needed at the time. I’m not sure any book would have stood up to the scrutiny this one got while I waited twelve hours for news. That’s how it happens sometimes.

Kirby is good at what she does. Like her debut Moonglass, Golden is a story about a complicated family and a girl who feels apart in a town where everyone knows her. Parker is a narrator that a lot of readers will recognize and identify with. She’s the girl who always does the right thing and never takes a risk; she’s the girl who, at the end of high school, is wondering if all that caution was really worth it.

Kirby expertly captures the claustrophobia and unpredictability that surround life changes–especially graduating high school. Although I took very strong issue with how Parker handles (read: throws away) her chances at a full scholarship to a great school* I do think Parker is a strong point in this story. She is real and whether or not she is related to Robert Frost she was a decent character to travel follow through this book.

The problem is that for all its talk in the plot summary, Golden isn’t really a book about Parker Frost. Parker is essentially just a framing story for the mystery that unfolds surrounding Julianna Cruz and Shane Farnetti.

Golden is strongest in the beginning and the final chapters. In between what we have is a draggy story told in journal entries as Parker learns that the alleged golden couple of her town were really anything but.

A lot of time is spent with both Julianna and Parker wondering what they will do with their one “wild and precious” life (that quote is a key plot point). And many of the high school experiences rang true. Still, this story never came together for me as anything more than a frustrating read. Part of that, I am absolutely sure, is because I wasn’t in a good place while I was reading and there was too much other stuff taking up head space. Part of the problem might also been that, for better or worse, a lot of the big choices in my life are made and I’m on this road wherever it leads for the next while.

Golden is an interesting book and another solid if not (to me) exceptional read from a competent author. If you can get past the obvious framing structure and the frustrations I outlined here it might be more of a winner for you than it was for me.

*I also needed a full scholarship to get to college. Which I happily did get. I find it hard to believe anyone who wants to go to college so badly would throw that chance away just to see what comes next. This is what changing majors was designed for people!

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, City Love by Susane Colasanti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols, Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney, Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that will make you swoon

Top Ten Tuesdays img by Miss Print

  1. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones: Oh Polly and your two sets of memories. Oh Tom and your mysterious past. This is probably the most recommended book in my entire book reading history.
  2. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta: While this does have a cute romance, the part I really love is the emphasis on friendship and family.
  3. A Little Wanting Song or Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley: Really both books are fantastic stories about growing up and friendship. And yes there are cute boys. Impossible to pick just one.
  4. Dream Hunter and Dream Quake by Elizabeth Knox: These books are stunning on every level. The writing itself is swoon worthy.
  5. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: My favorite of Maggie’s books and my go to readalike for Diana Wynne Jones. Who doesn’t love these characters?
  6. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: You wouldn’t think a post-apocalyptic sci-fi retelling of Persuasion would work. But it totally does!
  7. The Archived by Victoria Schwab: This one actually has no romance but I love the banter and dynamic between the two main characters all the same.
  8. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski: I haven’t posted my review yet so you’ll just have to trust me, but oh em gee this book is amazing!!!
  9. In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin: I just love this series and this ending was so spot on. Plus Yuji <3 Review coming eventually. Promise.
  10. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier: A haunting retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses where the male lead is a frog? Sounds absurd yet totally works!
  11. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: Bonus book! Lola and Cricket are easily my favorite fictional couple. I love their give and take throughout the story and I especially love that they are both such snappy dressers.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Image made by me.)

On Supporting Books Without Buying Books

Last month Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner shared some thoughts on how being unemployed changed her reading (more specifically her book buying) habits. It’s a very thoughtful, honest post and it touched on a few things I’d been thinking about for a while myself.

Here’s the thing: I identify as a blogger, a reader and a librarian.

I do not identify as a book buyer.

I love books. I love reading. But I can’t buy books with wild abandon.

I tried to be but my mother and I share a small NYC apartment so there is just no space to buy tons of books. Since I was 14 I’ve had a rule where I can only buy books that I have either read already or know I will love. That strategy went out the window a bit while I worked at a bookstore and had an employee discount (literally this was the only perk–it was a terrible job) and access to hundreds of signed books. The temptation was far too great.

But it’s been a year or so since I left that job. Money and space are tight; I’ve gone back to by non-book-buying ways. For a while I budgeted a book a month but given the review copies and Advanced Reader Copies that come in and that I have to wade through, that was still too much. Now it more depends on events and things coming out.

Also: If I bring one book into the house I’m trying to get rid of at least five. This has been torture but my piles are finally all actually on shelves and it feels like I might actually read all of the books I have lying around in my lifetime. (That will completely be blown apart come BEA 2014 but I’m trying not to think about that and I’m not even adding new books to my goodreads to read queue and just generally avoiding new book talk to try and focus on what already exists and is taking up space in my house.)

Now a big part of supporting an author or a book does come with buying books or using a library copy. I don’t often do either. I get books from publishers through publicists or Amazon Vine or BEA. I get books from other librarians at Shiny New Job. I get books as gifts or trades from friends. I don’t have the money to “upgrade” from ARCs to finished copies so a lot of my books aren’t actually books–they’re galleys. (Granted a lot of them are signed but that’s a whole other bag of chips.)

For a while I felt really guilty about all that. Then I did more thinking. I looked at my blog. I looked at the authors I had interviewed. I thought about the books I recommended to people on goodreads or in blog comments.

It isn’t the same as buying books. It isn’t even the same as going to the library. But I realized I do support books and authors I love. Not always in tangible ways but by talking about them and sharing them. It’s still not always ideal getting an ARC signed for a blog giveaway or showing up at a bookstore for an event without buying anything (I do this a lot at the bookstore where I used to work because of the blood, sweat and tears factor–I figure it’s allowed in that one case). But it’s something.

So what do YOU, dear readers, think about supporting books? Is monetary support required? Are you a monster if you give away (or even get) a signed ARC? Let’s talk it out in the comments!

How to Love: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

howtoloveBefore everything went to hell, Reena Montero had loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she could remember. Watching Sawyer and wanting him from afar in their small Florida town came as natural as breathing. Sawyer always seemed so distant, so unattainable until one day he suddenly isn’t. After circling each other for years, Reena and Sawyer are finally together for a torrid, messy moment before it all falls apart. Sawyer blows out of town without a word and Reena is left behind. Pregnant.

Almost three years later and Reena has finally made sense of what a life without Sawyer should look like. Her dreams of college are long behind her but most days her daughter Hannah more than makes up for that. Then, quick as he left, Sawyer is back and supposedly a changed man. Reena has her doubts. As these two circle once again all of the ugly parts of their past are brought to light but in the midst of all the painful memories there are some beautiful ones too.

It’s taken Reena years to get over Sawyer LeGrande and make a new life for herself. With so many other changes is it possible to leave all of that past behind for a new future with Sawyer in it in How to Love (2013) by Katie Cotugno?

How to Love is Cotugno’s first novel. Chapters alternate between Reena’s “before” as she and Sawyer first get together (told in past tense) and her “after” with Sawyer coming back into town and finding Reena and daughter Hannah. Although the book ostensibly contains two stories (one YA and one more Emerging Adult  since Reena is a mother now) Cotugno expertly blends the two plots together to create one larger narrative that spans years.

This book is extremely well-written. Cotugno is a prize-winning writer and her skill here shines through every page. Reena is a dimensional, realistic narrator. Even with her flaws and extremely poor decisions, Reena is mostly a heroine readers will want to like and want to succeed. Cotugno’s descriptions of Reena’s Florida landscape are evocative and vibrant.

Outside of the lovely writing, How to Love is a book riddled with barely developed secondary characters, a poorly paced plot and a tragically unsympathetic love interest.

Cotugno does a good job conveying the difficulties and stigma Reena faces as a teen mother and also shows the complexities of Reena’s family life. However, many aspects of Reena’s story are presented in a one-sided way. It is never quite explained how this responsible girl winds up pregnant except for her to say that she had thought she and Sawyer were “careful.” The possibility of abortion is explained away with Reena’s religious family but the idea of adoption is never once discussed even in passing.

There is also a strange correlation throughout the story between Reena standing up for herself only to have to face dire consequences (in one instance her father, who has a bad heart, has a heart attack after Reena yells at him). By the end of the story, Reena gains a bit of agency and is able to move past her role as a teen mother to try and make a better life for herself and her daughter. The problem is that all of this agency comes from finding out that Sawyer came looking for Reena before he left town years ago. Reena’s relationship with her best friend is also handled strangely. Allie shifts from an obstacle, coming between Sawyer and Reena’s flirty budding relationship, to a plot device as she becomes part of an inciting incident that brings Reena and Sawyer together.

A lot of how you feel about this book will depend on how you feel about Reena and Sawyer and their supposed epic love that looks a lot like standard lust. Basically Sawyer is a train wreck. He brings out the absolute worst in Reena at every turn before the pregnancy and leaves an impressive wreckage of mistakes in his wake. He is a user in every sense of the word and even Reena knows at the peak of her infatuation that it is only a matter of time before Sawyer implodes.

How to Love is marketed as a story of one couple falling in love twice. The problem is that Sawyer getting even a first chance with Reena makes no sense much less him getting a second one. The fact that Reena is continuously drawn to Sawyer after seeing him at his worst again and again exhibits the worst kind of self-destructive behavior.

Possible Pairings: I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt Bell, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, City Love by Susane Colasanti, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols, Golden by Jessi Kirby, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle, Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke, Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker, The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff