October 2017 Reading Tracker

You can also see what I read in September.

Books Read:

  1. An Enchantment of Ravens by Marg Rogerson
  2. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
  3. Forever in Love by Susane Colasanti
  4. Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
  5. Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  6. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
  7. You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
  8. Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
  9. The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron
  10. Dear Martin by Nic Stone
  11. Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
  12. Spellbook for the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  13. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
  14. All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry
  15. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

Books On Deck:

  1. Berserker by Emmy Laybourne (Oct.)

Books Bought: 0!

ARCs Received:

  1. Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda (Amazon Vine)
  2. Turn It Up by Jen Calonita (not requested)
  3. Haven by Mary Lindsey (not requested)
  4. Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz (not requested)

October 3: Really loved An Enchantment of Ravens. Be sure to request a copy from your local library ASAP!

October 16: Just had a run of a lot of books not being exactly what I expected them to be.

October 28: I am feeling a little untethered book-wise lately. I can’t find anything. I don’t want to read anything. Trying to refocus and get back on track to read in preparation for Mock Printz at work and also to catch up on reviews.

October 31: But can we talk about how good All the Wind in the World is?

Week in Review: September 30

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

 

This week was weird. This post is really late. Moving on.

Here’s my latest from Instagram:

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

How was your week? What are you reading?

Let’s talk in the comments.

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic: A Review

Leigh Bardugo follows up her popular Grisha trilogy and its companion Six of Crows duology with The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic, a collection of atmospheric short stories which serve as an excellent introduction to the Grishaverse for new readers while expanding the world for seasoned fans.

Find it on Bookshop.

The six short stories (including three previously published by Tor.com) are inspired by the cultures found in the Grishaverse as well as traditional fairy tales, folk tales, and myths. In her author’s note Bardugo explains her thought process as she examined familiar fairy tales and pulled at the troubling threads found within.

Every story is accompanied by Sarah Kipin‘s border illustrations which grow around the pages as the tales unfolds culminating in a double page illustration at the end of each story. Two color printing enhances the collection and makes this a stunning addition to any bookshelf.

In “Ayama and the Thorn Wood,” a Zemeni tale with nods to Cinderella, The Thousand Nights and Beauty and the Beast, Ayama ventures into the Thorn Wood where she must speak truth while placating a fearsome beast with fanciful stories.

The Ravkan story “The Too-Clever Fox,” follows Koja–an ugly fox–as he learns that sometimes help from a friend outweighs mere cunning when he tries to stop a ruthless hunter.

Bardugo’s answer to Hansel and Gretel, “The Witch of Duva” follows Nadya into the woods where she finds a wondrous witch who can help her discover the truth about her new step-mother–but only for a steep cost.

Beautiful Yeva questions her father’s decision to follow the common fairy tale tradition of setting nearly impossible tasks to choose her future husband in “Little Knife” as Semyon uses his abilities as a Tidemaker to get help from a river to complete them.

The Kerch tale of “The Soldier Prince” explores themes of identity and desire when a demon named Droessen creates a nutcracker soldier who comes to life–but is being alive the same as being real?

The collection finishes with the Fjerdan story “When Water Sang Fire” about a sildroher mermaid named Ulla who dreams of being able to use her singing magic as she chooses, until her attempt to create a fire that will burn underwater ends in betrayal and heartbreak, suggesting a possible origin story for the Little Mermaid’s notorious sea witch.

Themes of feminism and empowerment color each story with heroes and heroines given the chance to choose their own fates and stir the pot, for better or worse. Strong writing, compelling stories, and gorgeous illustrations make this collection a must have for fans of the author and readers eager for new fairy tale retellings to devour.

Possible Pairings: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, Entwined by Heather Dixon, Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Frogkisser! by Garth Nix, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde

*A more condensed version of this review appeared as a starred review in the October 2017 issue of School Library Journal*

Always and Forever, Lara Jean: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and  P. S. I Still Love You. As such there are major spoilers for both preceding books in this review.*

“There’s so much to be excited about, if you let yourself be.”

It feels like everything is changing for Lara Jean the spring of her senior year in high school. She and Peter K. are still together but she is waiting for those much-anticipated college acceptance letters. Margot seems farther away than ever in Scotland especially as their father announces his plans to remarry. Kitty, the youngest Song girl, is ecstatic about the wedding and seems to be growing up all too quickly.

Lara Jean knows exactly how she wants the rest of her senior year and college to go. But even with all of her careful planning it seems like Lara Jean will still have to face some unexpected decisions and opportunities in Always and Forever, Lara Jean (2017) by Jenny Han.

Find it on Bookshop.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the unexpected third book in Han’s Lara Jean trilogy which began with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and  P. S. I Still Love You. Han wrote this book in secret as a surprise for her readers who are fans of this series and these characters.

This final installment starts near Easter as Lara Jean is anxiously waiting to hear back from colleges and trying to plan what will come next for her own future as well as her future with Peter. Surprise college decisions and other changes prove that even the best laid plans can be changed and, more importantly, your future is your own to shape.

Lara Jean remains a sweet and thoughtful narrator here facing some universal dilemmas particularly when she realizes her dreams about college are not going to resemble her reality. Lara Jean has always had an excellent support system with her family, friends, and Peter but it’s especially nice to see Lara Jean making her own decisions here even if sometimes they are scary choices. Throughout this quiet novel Lara Jean demonstrates her signature blend of resilience and optimism.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the perfect conclusion for this series and these characters. A memorable and satisfying send off for fans of this much loved series.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhatena, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Don’t forget to check out all of my buttons inspired by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before & P. S. I Still Love You

Hosting a Cookie Swap (with help from Paperless Post e-vites)

A table setting from Tiffany’s miniature holiday windows. Also: table setting goals.

When Paperless Post approached me to write a post about the services they have to offer, I knew it was the perfect time to share some tips for hosting my favorite type of party: a cookie swap. It’s still too warm here to really maximize my baking time but while I wait for the weather to cool, here’s my step-by-step guide to hosting a cookie swap of your own.

  • WHAT: A cookie swap is exactly what it sounds like. Guests come with a large stock of cookies and before the party ends everyone samples cookies and shares what they have brought. Everyone leaves with different kinds of cookies to try and share.
  • WHEN: Any time is a good time for cookies! While I host my cookie swap near the holidays but you can really host a cookie swap any time of year as long as it’s cool enough for baking.
  • WHO: Because there’s so much baking involved, I usually keep the cookie swap invitation list small. If I invite five people that means everyone is making five to six dozen cookies so that there are cookies to taste and for people to take home. I also give wiggle room saying people will leave with as many cookies as they bring. Because everyone has to make time to bake in addition to usual party planning I always try to send invitations out roughly a month in advance. I always send out e-invites because they make it so easy to send and to track RSVPs. Paperless Post has tons of invitation options whether you want to go with an e-invite or send physical invitations. I’ve got my eye on one from Kate Spade or one from Peppermint Patio for this year’s invites. But don’t tell anyone, it’s a surprise!
  • You can check out all of Paperless Post’s invitations here: https://www.paperlesspost.com/cards/section/invitations 

Now that you know what a cookie swap is and have some options for invitations, here’s what I always have on hand to put my party together:

  • Food: While everyone arrives expecting cookies, I serve some light food too. Since I usually have my party start in the early afternoon I like to go with brunch options like bagels or rolls with cream cheese, butter, or jam. Egg salad, tuna salad, and chicken salad are also good options. Just be sure to check if your guests have any allergies or dietary restrictions (if this is the case you should let everyone know ahead of time and be mindful of that with cookies as well).
  • Tableware: I host my party near Christmas so my holiday decorations always serve as part of the decor. I also spruce up the dining table with tablecloth and matching place mats. (I’ve never met a print I didn’t like so you’ll note that these are all red plaid designs.)
  • Utensils: I try to keep this party low key and simple so I go with plastic silverware and paper plates to serve everything. I also have plastic trays and serving utensils that I pull out every year to serve sandwiches and condiments during the party.
  • Storage: I always pre-package my cookies for friends. It makes it easier to keep track of how many I need to bake and it helps keep the cookies fresh if I decide to bake them a few days ahead of time. My favorite packaging method has been cellophane food bags. The standard size is perfect to hold 12-24 cookies and they can be found with cute designs or decorated with curling ribbon to tie them closed. Plastic bowls with lids are also great to store any cookies you receive.

I hope these tips inspire you to host your own cookie swap soon.

To get you started I will also give you one of the simplest and tastiest cookie recipes I’ve found: Easy Oreo Truffles (as seen on AllRecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 ounce) package OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, divided
  • 1 (8 ounce) package PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted

Directions

Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. (Cookies can also be finely crushed in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin.) Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.

Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.

Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.

You can also buy a cookie press to make simple but stunning spritz cookies. (This link goes to the model I have–I use the butter cookie recipe on the box, add food coloring, and stamp out the cookies using different dies to up my cookie game.)

heart shaped spritz cookies

If you’re looking for more recipes, be sure to check out my Pinterest boards for more recipes.

*This post was created in cooperation with Paperless Post to review and publicize their services*

Strange the Dreamer: A Review

“He’d sooner die trying to hold the world on his shoulders than running away. Better, always, to run toward.”

No one knows what happened in Weep two hundred years ago to isolate the wondrous city from the rest of the world.

Lazlo Strange has been obsessed with Weep since he felt the city’s true name stripped from his mind when he was five years old. Now he spends every free moment tracking down what clues he can about the city as it once was and hints to what might have transpired there.

Unlikely as it may be for a war orphan turned into a lowly junior librarian, Lazlo’s greatest dream is to visit Weep and see its wonders with his own eyes. He knows such opportunities, such legends, are more suitable to men like Thyon Nero–a scholar renowned through the land for his alchemical wonders–but that does little to tamp down his hope. Lazlo is a dreamer who survives on a steady diet of magic and fairy tales. To deny the possibility of either in his own small life is unthinkable.

When an unexpected caravan led by Eril-Fane, the Godslayer, arrives Lazlo has to embrace his dream and strive for the impossible: not just the chance to see the Unseen City for himself but possibly the chance to save it.

The city is more than even Lazlo could have expected filled with wonders and horrors in equal measure. The city is still haunted by the centuries long legacy of war and terror under the Mesarthium–blue-skinned gods who came down from the sky when the city was still whole.

There are problems to solve in Weep and answers to find. But as Lazlo explores his dream city, he realizes there are also more questions as his own dreamscape becomes something he doesn’t recognize with moments that are strikingly, vividly real, and a blue-skinned goddess who seems nothing like the terror he’s heard about from the Godslayer.

In a world where the old gods are dead and dreams have weight, Lazlo will have to decide what he wants to protect and what he’s willing to lose in Strange the Dreamer (2017) by Laini Taylor. Welcome to Weep.

Find it on Bookshop.

Strange the Dreamer is the first book in Taylor’s latest duology which will continue in The Muse of Nightmares. While this story is very obviously unfinished (the last line of the novel is “Because this story was not over yet.”) Strange the Dreamer does provide a partially contained arc in terms of Lazlo’s journey and growth as he comes into his own upon arriving in Weep.

Through Weep and its history Strange the Dreamer artfully explores themes of forgiveness and recovery as both Lazlo and the rest of Weep struggle to determine next steps for the wounded but healing city. The imagined city of Weep is evocative and vibrant with distinct customs, landscapes, and even language. The use of language is demonstrated especially well with the words in Weep’s native language used to start each section of the novel.

Taylor builds drama that remains taut from the opening prologue until the very last page. Written with an omniscient third person point of view this story is very self-aware and encompasses numerous points of view. This narrative structure and the tone of the novel are deliberately reminiscent of the fairy tales that Lazlo so richly loves and serve to underscore the fairy tale nature of Strange the Dreamer where magic continuously appears in seemingly mundane and unexpected places.

Strange the Dreamer is a captivating fantasy sure to appeal to readers looking for an intricate and unique story. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, The Reader by Traci Chee, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Lirael by Garth Nix, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Week in Review: September 23

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week I reviewed one of my favorite books of the year and, surprise, it’s a non-fiction title! Definitely check out my review of Vincent and Theo and then get the book. You won’t regret it.

I’m having an incredibly hard time keeping track of posting these recaps on Saturdays so I might shift them back to Sunday. I don’t know. On Friday I ran to a book signing after work and have a beautiful hardcover of The Bone Witch signed. Yay. And I got to see Nicole for a brief catchup. Yay.

This weekend I worked on Saturday and had a very full Sunday. I went to see Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind as part of Ghibli Fest (Nicole and I have already ordered our tickets to see Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away too!). It was great! After the movie I finally caught a Raiku in Pokemon Go. And I even did laundry and groceries. Productivity ftw!

I hit 200 follows on Instagram! I’m very excited! I’m doing a giveaway there to celebrate!

Here’s my latest from Instagram:

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

How was your week? What are you reading?

Let’s talk in the comments.

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers: A Non-Fiction Review

“One must work and be bold if one really wants to live.”

Vincent Van Gogh’s life is the stuff of legend filled with passion, creativity, and the  larger-than-life personality of a man whose paintings would change the art world forever with their contributions to Post-Impressionism. Maybe you’ve heard about his explosive time in the Yellow House with fellow artist Paul Gauguin. Maybe you know the salacious details of when he cut off his own ear.

No one knew what the future would think of Vincent when he was a young man in the Netherlands. Vincent was known for his passions, yes. But he was also erratic, bombastic, and to put it frankly, difficult. Even Vincent’s favorite brother, Theo, sometimes found him hard to take. The brothers had a lot in common. They both had red hair and neatly trimmed beards–in fact, if you look at Vincent’s self-portrait and his portrait of Theo you might have a hard time telling them apart, especially when they swap hats. They wrote each other copious letters and shared a love of art. They would both die in their thirties but the legacy they left behind would last far longer.

Vincent didn’t realize he wanted to be a painter until he was in his twenties–he made up for the late start with a zealous commitment to his work and a prolific output over the course of his short life. Vincent only started to get the recognition he craved near the end of his life. Even then his true genius wouldn’t be recognized until years after his death.

While Vincent created the art, it was Theo who helped build the legend. Theo nurtured Vincent’s talents, supported him financially, and made sure his paintings were seen in galleries that were beginning to move away from the old masters and show art in newer, brighter and more abstract styles.

Now, so many years after their deaths, it’s hard to imagine a time when their lives weren’t intertwined. But it wasn’t always like that. It all started on a long walk to a windmill and a pledge of lifelong friendship and commitment to both each other and to their mutual work. That fateful day–the pledge, the commitment, and the companionship–would shape the lives of both brothers as they chased their passions and ambitions both together and apart over the course of their short, turbulent lives in Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers (2017) by Deborah Heiligman.

Find it on Bookshop.

Vincent and Theo is the 2017 winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction.

Heiligman’s latest book explores the complex relationship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh as both men tried to define who they wanted to be and to pursue their dreams. Vincent and Theo rarely lived in the same place as they grew older. But they wrote letters to each other constantly detailing their hopes, their failures, and details of their daily lives. Of course, they also talked often about art as it related to Theo’s career as an art dealer and to Vincent’s work as an artist.

These letters serve as a centerpiece to Vincent and Theo and tie together this story of family, friendship, devotion, and art. Short chapters and inventive formatting make even familiar information feel novel as Heiligman delves deep into Vincent’s early life, his changing relationship with Theo, and his rocky journey as both an artist and a young man. Theo, the lesser known of the brothers, is shown equally as he struggles with his own demons while he searches for professional success and love.

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers reframes Vincent and Theo’s lives by examining the give and take in their relationship and the ways in which the brothers influenced each other. New perspectives on key points in Vincent’s life as well as detailed information about the brothers’ early devotion to each other–and the previously little known painting that documents that moment–add new insights even for readers familiar with the artist and his art.

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers is a fascinating and informative story that tenderly explores the momentous and sometimes tragic lives of two of the art world’s most important figures. A must read for art enthusiasts, history and non-fiction buffs, and anyone who needs a reminder that it’s never too late to follow your passions.

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

Flannery: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Flannery Malone knows the exact moment she fell in love with Tyrone O’Rourke. She also knows that their paths diverged, possibly forever, as they grew up. Now Flannery is sixteen and Tyrone is suddenly back–gorgeous and tall and never in school long enough to leave anything more than an impression. He is also, unbelievably, Flannery’s partner for their entrepreneurship class.

Making love potions for her entrepreneurship project should be easy–even with Tyrone being more of a figurative partner than an actual help. Unfortunately that’s only the beginning of Flannery’s problems. Her free spirit mother, Miranda, is struggling to reconcile her vision as an artist with the family’s very real bills. Her little brother is quickly moving from adorably contrary to complete menace.

Then there’s Amber, Flannery’s best friend. Amber used to care about two things above all others: swimming and her friendship with Flannery. That changes when Amber falls for a new guy who seems determined to make sure Amber cares about him–and nothing else–with dangerous consequences.

When word spreads that Flannery’s love potions might actually work her simple project gets a lot more complicated as the potions, Tyrone, and Amber make Flannery rethink what she thought she knew (and what she thought was true) about love in Flannery (2016) by Lisa Moore.

Moore’s standalone contemporary is a thoughtful commentary on love in its many forms. This deceptively slim novel is a meaty slice-of-life story centered on Flannery and her unconventional family. The love potion project–which spans a significant portion of Flannery’s school year–frames this story and gives a unique lens to the events Flannery observes at home and at her school.

This novel is written in first person with a stream of consciousness feel. Flannery’s narration is sharp of tongue and wit as she neatly parses friends, family and acquaintances in the present and through flashbacks. It’s easy to imagine Flannery telling readers this story over a cup of cocoa in the mall food court.

Flannery has some beautiful moments about love, heartbreak, and family. A clever vignette of a book about the enduring power of love and choosing to be happy.

Possible Pairings: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan, Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby, The Romantics by Leah Konen, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockheart, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintera, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Decelerate Blue: A Graphic Novel Review

In the future the world is obsessed with efficiency. Adjectives are a waste of time. Reading needs to be streamlined. Even conversation is utilitarian with “goes” at the end of every sentence.

Angela’s parents are on board with everything the Guarantee Committee is selling. Why would they do anything to jeopardize their guarantee and its promise of a better life?

Angela isn’t so sure. She wants a chance to slow down. To think. To feel.

After reading a book called Kick the Boot Angela realizes she isn’t alone. Soon she finds herself at the center of a radical movement determined to slow society down in Decelerate Blue (2017) by Adam Rapp, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro.

Find it on Bookshop.

This standalone graphic novel offers a startling view of a bleak dystopian future where human interaction and contemplation are secondary to speed and efficiency.

Rapp’s fascinating and disturbingly possible premise is dampened by a simplistic plot and world building that falls short of developing many of the story’s most interesting points. Who are the Guarantee Committee? What exactly is a Guarantee? Decelerate Blue is short on answers.

Cavalarro creates some interesting spreads but the impact is often diminished by the comic largely being in black and white. (Blue is a key color to the story–a fact which is often lost given the black and white palette.) Although the comic does some clever things with full color panels contrasted with black and white it isn’t enough to make the artwork cohesive. A blue and white palette might have been more effective.

Angela has a romance with another girl during her (brief) time with the underground resistance. But instead of creating an empowering queer relationship readers instead get yet another tragic lesbian death.

Decelerate Blue takes on a lot of things to create an interesting sci-fi dystopian comic but it doesn’t always negotiate the form well leading to questions of how the story might have functioned with different artistic choices or even as a novel with a bit more development.

Readers looking for an intriguing piece of flash fiction or a superficial treatment of dystopian themes might find what they’re looking for in Decelerate Blue.

Possible Pairings: Feed by M. T. Anderson, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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