Under a Painted Sky: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Maybe what matters is not so much the path as who walks beside you.”

Under A Painted Sky by Stacey LeeMissouri, 1849: Samantha is desperate to move back to New York to pursue her dream of becoming a professional musician. Achieving that will be hard, especially for a Chinese girl like Samantha.

Tragedy dashes those plans and forces Samantha into hiding. With help from a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha gets out of town and starts heading west where–hopefully–she can outrun her past and claim a new life for herself.

Knowing that life on the trail won’t be easy–or safe–for two girls, they disguise themselves as boys drawn to California’s gold rush.

Sammy and Andy both hope to find ways to move forward as they head farther west. When they take up with a band of cowboys, Sammy and Andy find some much-needed protection and friendship on their travels. But with setbacks dogging them and the law much too-close behind, Sammy and Andy will have to work even harder to hide if they want to complete their journeys in Under a Painted Sky (2015) by Stacey Lee.

Find it on Bookshop.

Under a Painted Sky is Lee’s debut novel.

Sammy is a thoughtful and frank narrator. She has made mistakes and has a lot to learn throughout the novel–two things she freely admits to herself and readers. Sammy is fifteen but this book reads younger making it appropriate and appealing for readers of all ages. Sammy and Andy have a great friendship throughout the novel and meet a variety of wonderfully written characters along the way.

Andy is a thoughtful and more experienced counterpart to Sammy who brings some healthy pragmatism to the duo’s travels. Andy is also devoutly Christian–much to Sammy’s dismay early on–which leads to a significant thread of faith and belief imbuing the novel.

Under a Painted Sky is a great piece of historical fiction and a fine western that carefully sidesteps the problematic elements traditionally found in that genre. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and westerns alike as well as readers looking for a book with a sweet but subtle romance and lots of action.

Possible Pairings: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George; My Calamity Jane by Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton; Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White, Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

Summer Days and Summer Nights: A Review

Summer Days, Summer Nights edited by Stephanie PerkinsAfter My True Love Gave to Me was greeted with critical praise and success, it’s no surprise that Stephanie Perkins is back editing another anthology featuring popular YA authors. This time around the stories all center around summer romances in Summer Days and Summer Nights.

Find it on Bookshop.

With the exception of Perkins herself, every author is a new contributor. There is more diversity among the authors and a better split between men and women which makes this a more balanced collection in that respect. With several noted fantasy authors, Summer Days and Summer Nights also boasts some excellent speculative fiction.

Summer Days, Summer Nights is a lot of fun, but it is also more of a mixed bag for me (but I am a winter person and Christmas is my favorite holiday so I suspect I was always more inclined to favor My True Love Gave to Me just a bit more). Because of that I’m including thoughts on each story below instead of a more cohesive/generalized review.

Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo: This is an intense story–something I’m realizing is Bardugo’s signature–and an interesting choice to start the anthology. The writing is very atmospheric and almost reads like magic realism (I say almost because at the end of the day it is just straight fantasy). An eerie story that is a bit creepy and a bit romantic which seems fitting when it’s centered around a mysterious lake monster.

The End of Love by Nina Lacour: My first encounter with Lacour’s writing. This is a sweet story with two girls as the romantic leads. There is not much here to give Flora presence as a main character or narrator (perhaps intentionally because so much of what she goes through in this story revolves around how she relates to others?). BUT the story does have great atmosphere and really strongly depicted emotions.

Last Stand at the Cinegore by Libba Bray: Libba’s story is one of my top three favorites in the entire collection. Reading it made me really want to read Beauty Queens which has been languishing on my shelves forever. This story follows Kevin at the end of his high school career on his last night working at the Cinegore theater. It’s his last chance to ask his dream girl, Dani, out. Which is great and totally doable. Except, you know, everything goes wrong when they start showing the last copy of a cult classic horror movie in the theater. This story also includes two of my favorite quotes from the entire book: “Dress codes are basically fascism.” and “Maybe sometimes the best thing you can do is to burn it all down and start over.”

Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block: Block is not an author I would pick up for myself. Her style sometimes gets a bit too high-concept for my tastes. Such was the case here were all of the characters names are simply initials. Although this is not a fantasy it is still a bit . . . weird for reasons that are hard to explain in a paragraph. I will say that I really liked that that the main love here was self love in this story.

In Ninety Miles, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins: This story features Marigold and North (the characters from Stephanie’s Christmas story) and picks up the summer after they first meet. Of course this story was a lot of fun and super cute and I loved it. Why wouldn’t I when I already know and love Marigold and North? That said, I am not totally sure this story is as readable without knowing the background from their Christmas story.

Souvenirs by Tim Federle: I think it might just be Federle’s writing style (this is the first time I’ve read him) but this story is very frenetic. The prose took some getting used to before winning me over. This story follows Matty and Kieth who always knew their summer romance had an expiration day. Which is great. Except that on their self-selected breakup day, Matty is feeling decidedly ambivalent about the whole thing. Favorite quote: “But the thing about scars is that, as much as they knot you up, they make you stronger, too. Collect enough scars and you get a whole extra layer of skin, for free.”

Inertia by Veronica Roth: Full disclosure time: I’m not sure I’m really a fan of Roth’s writing style and I’m not sure it works for me. This story is okay but not a favorite and it is super melancholy (a recurring theme in the collection). Claire and Matthew were best friends until they grew apart months ago–largely due to Claire’s refusal to get help for her depression–so it’s strange and confusing when he chooses Claire as one of his last visits–a futuristic procedure that allows them to communicate in share memories before Matthew’s (highly probable) death. It’s a small nitpicky thing but the fact that a doctor in the story wears nail polish while getting ready for surgery and being a doctor really pulled me out of the story.

Love is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron: It has been a long time since I’ve read anything by Skovron and I’m sad to say this story did not bump him any higher on my mental to read list. This story is part romance and part comedy of errors as two jaded teens (who definitely, absolutely do not at all believe in love) work to bring two star-crossed couples together–and maybe change their own opinions on love in the process. While the narrator’s identity was a surprise, I don’t think I’ve ever rolled my eyes so much reading a short story. Obviously the style here is intentional but why????

Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert: Another new to me author. Rashida’s cousin Audrey has been like a mother to her. So when Audrey announces she is moving across the country with her girlfriend, Rashida is understandably upset. She works through her conflicted feelings about the upcoming move with an unlikely confidante: The very cute younger brother of Audrey’s girlfriend. Although sad, this story is really well-written and engaging. Colbert also offers a thoughtful discussion about coping with depression (and why treatment is okay and not an admission of defeat) which is impressive for the relatively short length of the story. The story ends on a really nice, hopeful note and highlights a variety of relationships including inter-generational ones within a family.

Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare: Lulu Darke’s father has run the family’s Dark Carnival for years. When her father goes missing, Lulu is left to takeover and get to the bottom of her uncle’s seemingly spontaneous arrival and his insistence that the carnival needs a new–way more evil and scary–demon at its core.This story has nothing to do with Shadow Hunters which was actually a really nice surprise. Unlike a lot of the other stories, this one reads young (ironically since Lulu is one of the older heroines). While thin on character development and a bit messy, this story is atmospheric and quite fun–in a dark way what with the demons and all.

A Thousand Ways This Could Go Wrong by Jennifer E. Smith: Annie is happy to work with the younger kids at her summer camp job but she isn’t sure what to do to help the new boy, Noah, have a good time. He’s on the autism spectrum and everything she tries seems to end badly. When she gets to hang out with Griffin, her longtime crush, she is thrilled with his insights for helping Noah although she isn’t sure what to make of the varying levels of success on their dates. There are a thousand ways things could go wrong here. But, it turns out, sometimes that just means there are also a thousand ways for things to go right. This story is in my top three favorites of the entire collection (no surprise since I’m a longtime Jen E. Smith fan)! Now this is a summer story and more like what I wanted and expected from the rest of the collection.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman: When Mark realizes he’s been living through the exact same summer day for . . . quite a while . . . he starts to explore the limits of what he can do within a day. While there’s a lot of fun to be had, he’s incredibly relieved to find Margaret who is also aware of what’s happening. Although they don’t know how to fix the problem and get to a new day, at least not at first, they do embark on a project to find every tiny perfect moment that the day has to offer. This story is easily the best and my favorite of this collection. Perfect pacing. Perfect plot. Fantastic character development. I loved everything about this one and am hoping to read some of Grossman’s novels later this year.

As you can see, Summer Days and Summer Nights has some ups and downs for me in terms of quality and enjoyment (though again I think a lot of that is because I’m not a summer person per se). It’s funny seeing how much broader summer is in terms of genre and setting compared to the holiday stories collection which felt a bit more cohesive. Surprisingly (or maybe not?) a lot of these stories also revolved around breakups and had a generally melancholy tone.

Upon finishing Summer Day and Summer Nights I wanted to tear up my copy so that I could take each story and give it to the just-right reader for it. Recommended for readers who enjoy summer and short stories. A great introduction to some notable young adult authors and a fun way to explore a variety of genres for readers hoping to try something new.

You can also check out my Q & A with Stephanie Perkins to hear a little bit more about her experiences editing this anthology.

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Dreamology: A Review

Dreamology by Lucy KeatingAlice has been meeting Max in her dreams for as long as she can remember. Every night they travel through the dream world having adventures together. Alice is madly in love with Max, after all he is her dream boy.

But that’s the problem too. Max doesn’t actually exist.

At least not until Alice and her father move to Boston and Alice finds Max at her new school. Unfortunately Real Max isn’t at all like Dream Max. He claims he doesn’t know Alice and that he wants nothing to do with her.

While Alice is desperately avoiding Real Max she and Dream Max are still having beautiful dreams together. But something is wrong in their dreams too. As elements of their dreams start to appear in their waking lives, Alice and Max realize that their dreams might be ending all too soon in Dreamology (2016) by Lucy Keating.

Dreamology is Keating’s first novel.

Alice narrates this story in first person including dream sequences and her day-to-day life. While the dream sequences add a strong dose of silliness, Alice is still dealing with pent up feelings from her mother’s abandonment years ago. She and her father are still working out how they work as a family of two (two and a half with their dog).

Although she is often naive to the point of rashness, Alice is an endearing heroine with an authentic voice and problems that will be relatable (and seem surmountable) to teen readers.

There is no way around it: the premise here is kind of wacky. Readers able to provide a willing suspension of disbelief will enjoy this funny story where dreams blend with reality and romance transcends both. Dreamology is a quick diversion with a sweet romance and a nice touch of humor.

Possible Pairings: Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

 

Week in Review: June 26

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week I finally started to feel well again. I have been slowly getting over a cold and managed to knock myself for a loop on Monday thanks to dehydrating and minor heat exhaustion (maybe don’t walk over 7000 steps before noon without drinking any water is what I’m saying). BUT after a sick day and a few nights sleeping ten to twelve hours I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.

I also figured out a way to keep my hair up without it being long enough for a ponytail which has been a huge relief.

This week I’ve been reading Breaker. It’s excellent. If you’re on Instagram go like my photo and then go follow Kat Ellis:

And because I’m a ridiculous human I got the June Owlcrate and I kind of love everything about it.

You have a few more days to vote on what I should read this July.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my June Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

The Rose and the Dagger: A Review

*The Rose and the Dagger is the sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn. This review has major spoilers for The Wrath and the Dawn.*

“The trying times were the moments that defined a man.”

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee AhdiehWhen Shahrzad  volunteered to marry the Caliph of Khorasan, she never expected to find herself at the center of a power struggle that could destroy her kingdom.

Shahrzad has been separated from her husband as part of a misguided rescue attempt by her first love. Reunited with her family, Shahrzad’s heart remains tied to Khalid as he struggles to restore order within Khorasan.

The curse that has driven Khalid to take a new bride each day still looms over the kingdom while a darker, possibly more dangerous, magic unleashed by Shahrzad’s father threatens to change the power balance throughout the kingdom and beyond.

Separated by distance and circumstance, Shahrzad and Khalid will have to work together to end the curse and save their kingdom in The Rose and the Dagger (2016) by Renee Ahdieh.

Find it in Bookshop.

The Rose and the Dagger is the sequel to Ahdieh’s debut The Wrath and the Dawn.

This story picks up shortly after the cliffhanger ending of book one. Shahrzad and Khalid are separated. Khorasan is facing threats on all sides. Khalid is still cursed and Shahrzad still doesn’t understand the magic that seems to run through her and her father’s veins.

Fans of The Wrath and the Dawn will find a lot to love in this action-packed followup. The chemistry between Shahrzad and Khalid is still a palpable thing. Ahdieh’s lush prose and vivid descriptions bring the city of Rey to life.

This story expands the world of the book bringing Shahrzad and other characters to neighboring kingdoms and beyond the relatively insular walls of Rey. The book’s cast is also expanded with new characters and more page time for secondary characters found in the first book.

In a different world, Shahrzad and Khalid’s story likely could have been told in one–slightly longer–book. It’s hard to say if that book would have been markedly better but it seems likely the plot would have had more cohesion if nothing else.

Parts of The Rose and the Dagger are wonderful. The characters have many thoughtful meditations on love and strength and what it means to be a person of influence versus an influential person. Unfortunately, these shining moments are tempered with uneven pacing, a slow plot that often meanders, and character interactions that verge on clumsy.

The Rose and the Dagger is a fitting and serviceable conclusion to Shahrzad’s story. Ahdieh is a talent to watch. Fans will be eager to see what she has in story for her next project.

Possible Pairings: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Fire by Kristin Cashore, The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana, The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, And I Darken by Kiersten White, The Girl King by Mimi Yu

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Lost in Love: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Lost in Love is the second book in Colasanti’s City Love trilogy which begins with City Love. This review contains major spoilers for the first book.*

Lost in Love by Susane ColasantiSadie thought Austin was her soulmate and that her summer before college was going to be filled with the epic love she’d always dreamed of. When Sadie finds out that Austin has been lying to her, she isn’t sure how to reconcile her dream guy with the flawed one trying so hard to make amends and win her back.

Darcy planned to spend her first summer in New York City exploring and having lots of drama-free boy adventures. Summer Fun Darcy is just getting the hang of things when Darcy’s ex shows up in New York to win her back. One grand gesture can say a lot. But can one flight really make up for weeks of heartbreak?

Rosanna never expected to find love when she moved to New York for college–especially not with an amazing guy who is wealthy like D. Now that things are getting serious with D, Rosanna has to decide how much she’s willing to reveal about her past before they move forward.

After a month together in the city they all love Sadie, Darcy and Rosanna know they’re lucky to have found each other as roommates and friends. They’ll need each other more than ever as they try to figure out what comes next in Lost in Love (2016) by Susane Colasanti.

Find it on Bookshop.

Lost in Love is the second book in Colasanti’s City Love trilogy which begins with City Love.

Each girl is at a crossroad in Lost in Love and forced to make some hard decisions about who they want to be (and sometimes who they want to be with) as the series moves forward.

Still reeling from news about Austin’s secret marriage, Sadie has to pull herself together after their breakup and her subsequent depression. Sadie is honest with herself and readers about how hard it is to move forward and she is willing to put in the work to get to her next, best self–no easy feat with Austin badgering her for a second chance.

Darcy thought she had put heartbreak behind her but she doesn’t quite know what it means when her ex-boyfriend flies all the way to New York to try and win her back. This plot thread takes an interesting turn and adds a bit of mystery to the story as Darcy and readers try to figure out if there are ulterior motives at play.

Rosanna, meanwhile, is trying to reconcile her dwindling funds in New York with the lavish lifestyle her boyfriend has to offer. Still haunted by her past in Chicago, Rosanna is suspicious of anyone offering her genuine friendship (or something more) when she still feels so broken. Most of Rosanna’s arc focuses on her struggles with honesty and balancing who she is with who she wants to become in her new home. While the decision again leaves some things uncertain for book three, her final resolution here is empowering.

Colasanti delivers another fast-paced, summery diversion with New York City as a vibrant backdrop in this story that alternates third person point of view between Sadie, Darcy, and Rosanna. With romance, adventure and a lot of self-discovery, Lost in Love is another excellent City Love installment that will leave fans satisfied but eager for the conclusion of this contemporary trilogy.

Possible Pairings:The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Golden by Jessi Kirby, Anna K.: A Love Story by Jenny Lee, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Owlcrate Review: May 2016 Steampunk Box

Owlcrate is one of several YA book subscription services. The idea is that people can subscribe to Owlcrate (for one, three, or six months at a time) and receive a new box each month including a YA book and some related items. Owlcrate works around a theme each month (which is announced ahead of time) and the book and all related items ascribe to that theme. Like any subscription service there is the option, with enough lead time, to opt out of a month. The service also auto renews unless you manually cancel the service.

I love the idea of Owlcrate but as a reviewer, I get a ton of books so it’s never seemed especially cost effective for me to pay 29.99 (plus shipping) for a subscription box that might include a book I already own. But then a great thing happened and Owlcrate had the option to buy past boxes. Having discovered that I didn’t like the surprise of subscription boxes and also that I prefer to know exactly what I’m paying for, this was the perfect way for me to buy.

I decided to take the plunge with Owlcrate’s May 2016 Steampunk box.

Here’s what it looked like when it showed up:

owlcrate1

As you might have guessed, every Owlcrate looks like this when mailed. Their branding is on point and, more importantly, the box is super sturdy so everything arrives in tip top shape.

Inside the box is padded with packing paper and everything is stacked inside:

owlcratesteampunk1

That top card is a cute piece of art explaining this month’s theme on the other side.

Then we get to the fun things inside which I also shared on Instagram when I first got the box:

Here’s a rundown of what was in the box:

  • Everland by Wendy Spinale: This book is a steampunk Peter Pan retelling. I am always drawn to Peter Pan retellings and I have yet to meet a Steampunk book that I didn’t love so I felt pretty good about this this title. The box also included a letter from the author about the book and a set of gold flash tattoos.
  • Steampunk Nail Wraps from Espionage Cosmetics: I haven’t tried these yet but they look pretty standard and similar to the Sally Hansen Nail Effects stickers that I use all the time. Espionage promises they will last up to two weeks. The set includes a variety of sizes and says they can be peeled off when ready to remove. I love the darker coloring of the nail wraps and the inclusion of gold glitter and gear accents.
  • Peter Pan Print from Creative Daffodil: This print is about the size of a hardcover book and features an image of a clock with Peter Pan’s signature hat. Barrie 1860 – 1937 is written across the bottom. I have always liked clock/clockwork imagery so this print really speaks to me. I also like that it’s small enough to put on a tabletop or wall when it’s framed. You can also get 20% off at Creative Daffodil through August 1 with the code OWLCRATE.
  • Clockwork Angel Ring from Sparks Emporium: This adjustable ring is great (for me) as a pinky or ring finger ring. It features a small print of the Clockwork Angel seen on the cover of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (the first book in her Infernal Devices trilogy). This ring was a fun addition to the box because I already own a clockwork angel pendant from Hebel Design.
  • Steamworks Winged Gear Pin: There were two designs for Steamworks pins to be had for this box. I got the one with winged gears and I love it. It’s sturdy but lightweight enough to be worn on a variety of materials. It will be great on a blazer or a light jacket when the weather changes.
  • Skeleton Key from Crystal Compass: I love keys so this necklace was a big draw when I decided to buy the box. I have been wearing it pretty regularly since I received it and absolutely love it. (I did change the chain because I’m allergic to brass but the pendant looks great on anything.) You can also get 50% off at Crystal Compass with the code OWLCRATE. I already used the code to buy a couple of early Christmas gifts and necklaces for my self. Crystal Compass has a variety of pendants and necklaces in varied lengths and finishes so that you can mix and match and create a layered necklace look. As I type this review I’m wearing my skeleton key from this box and a compass necklace from the same shop. Fantastic find and I’ll likely be shopping from here again.

So that’s my rundown of everything in Owlcrate’s May 2016 Steampunk box. In case I didn’t make it clear I was beyond thrilled to be able to purchase it. I even had a great time unboxing it with my mom and explaining why I was excited about the different items. I plan on watching for other boxes as they “pass” because the one time purchase option (with optional payment through Paypal or credit card) was such a smashing success this time around.

It Came in the Mail: A Picture Book Review

It Came in the Mail by Ben ClantonLiam loves getting mail. The only problem is no one seems to want to send anything to Liam. In a fit of genius, Liam write a letter to his mailbox asking for some fun mail. The mailbox goes above and beyond with a dragon. After getting this wonderful piece of mail, Liam writes more and more letters to get more and more amazing things from the mailbox.

After getting so many amazing things in the mail (often with hilarious results) Ben realizes that an even better option is to share his wonderful mail with friends and other kids eager to get something exciting in the mail in It Came in the Mail (2016) by Ben Clanton.

This latest picture book from writer and illustrator Clanton is a real treat. With a sensibility reminiscent of Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell and zany charm similar to Special Delivery by  Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, this picture book is sure to delight readers of all ages. (In fact, my first reaction to this book was “Really fun. It’s like Dear Zoo but on acid.“)

Clanton’s artwork is deceptively simple in his full-color illustrations that bring Liam and his mailbox to life. The detailed illustrations have a lot of pieces to take in that will reward attentive readers over the course of multiple readings. The illustrations are large and bold enough to be read as easily to an audience as one-on-one.

Raucous humor and heart make this a guaranteed winner for any story time. Highly recommended.

Week in Review: June 19

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week I conquered a lot of things on my to-do list. Including streamlining how I track my to do list. I have a refillable journal with a blank notebook and a calendar one so I’ve started a weird hybrid of bullet journaling and a calendar tracker with reward stickers. It’s probably not as efficient as it could be but it works for me.

I am down to under $1000 to pay off on my 2014 back taxes which is a huge milestone. I have other debt but the IRS debt is especially stressful for me so I’m excited to have it so close to being finished.

I had a cold for most of this week but might (finally) be getting over it. I also had a consultation with an oral surgeon who I didn’t hate and who didn’t give me a panic attack so I’m feeling a lot better about getting my wisdom teeth out this summer.

I used my convalescence to knock a lot of books off my to read list which had been causing my undue stress. Books read include:

Lots of stuff happening at work too which was good because it’s exciting. But bad because who wants to deal with a lot of stuff while sick? I got to train some librarians for Sunday Service. Had a class visit with an awesome class of third graders. Ran Teen Tech Time for the week (we played Just Dance 2016 on the wiiU and I finally figured out how to reset all of the names to default). Reorganized our tech cabinet so it’s not a disaster. And had a meeting with my amazing committee to plan for our Fall New Books presentation and pregame for Mock Printz. It’s already generating a lot of work and involves many (many) moving parts but I’m really excited to see what we come up with and am already trying to figure out which books to present because there are so many good ones to choose.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my June Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Every Exquisite Thing: A Review

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew QuickNanette O’Hare has spent most of her life doing exactly what people expect of her. She gets good grades. She is the star of her high school soccer team and essentially guaranteed an athletic scholarship to the college of her choice. She works hard. She doesn’t cause any trouble.

When a favorite teacher gives Nanette a worn copy of a book called The Bubblegum Reaper she isn’t sure what to expect. Within the pages of the out-of-print cult classic, Nanette finds a character who seems to understand all of the frustration and fatigue that she has been trying to articulate for years.

An unlikely friendship with the book’s reclusive author and a turbulent relationship with a young poet and fellow fan leads Nanette to discover her inner rebel. As Nanette tries to become a truer version of herself, she realizes that rebellion rarely comes without a cost in Every Exquisite Thing (2016) by Matthew Quick.

Quick peppers the novel with references to canonical literary works of poetry and novels (all by men, almost exclusively white–this is either a glaring oversight or an intentional reference to the insular world these characters inhabit . . . or possibly both). Every Exquisite Thing is very self-aware and intentionally referential to the book within a book (The Bubblegum Reaper) which is summarized, quoted and otherwise integral to the plot of this novel.

Nanette’s character arc is intrinsically linked to her discovery of The Bubblegum Reaper. As she bonds with the author and another fan (the young poet) she learns how literature can change a person. She also learns that idols inevitably fall short of their pedestals in the real world and that fiction–however true it may seem–doesn’t always translate well into everyday life.

Parts of Every Exquisite Thing are poignant and moving–as is to be expected from a talent like Matthew Quick. Other aspects of the story, particularly in the second half, are impenetrable and mystifying. Sometimes, particularly with the one-sided representation of the majority of female characters (besides Nanette) as routinely over-sexualized and vapid. This is a high-tension, introspective novel that won’t work for everyone. Ideal for readers who don’t necessarily need to like a book to enjoy it and who want a text they can engage with on multiple levels.

Possible Pairings: Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, Decelerate Blue by Adam Rapp, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro, The Catcher in the Rye by Lee Salinger