August 2018 Reading Tracker

Books I Read:

  1. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
  2. Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
  3. It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
  4. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
  5. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
  6. The Backstagers Volume 1
  7. Odd One Out by Nic Stone
  8. Tell Me No Lies by Adele Griffin
  9. The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace
  10. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily XR Pan
  11. The Hidden Witch by Molly Ostertag
  12. Instead of Three Wishes by Megan Whalen Turner
  13. Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
  14. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
  15. The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Books I Had Planned to Read:

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What books are you excited to read this month? 📚 Happy August! Last night I made some time to take book photos for the first time in about two weeks (basically all my posts for the second half of July were taken on the fly—it was very stressful). And you know what? It was really fun! I enjoyed picking out new angles and experimenting with props. 📚 These are the books I’m planning to read this month. I think it might be a little ambitious, especially with my first #missprintbookaday challenge coming up on the 25th but some are really fast contemporaries so I’m optimistic! 📚 I was tagged by @deadtossedwaves to do the #fivebooktag: 📖Last Book Purchase: The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken 📖Second to Last Gift: Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George 📖Third Book in a Series: The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rhys Brennan 📖Second Book Read in 2018: Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen 📖First Favorite Book: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta I tagged some friends but consider yourself tagged if you want to join the fun! 📚 #instabooks #currentlyreading #amreading #instareads #bookgram #bookworm #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookstagrammer #bibliophile #booklove #bookphotography #instabook #reading #reader #booktography #bookstagram #igreads #booksofinstagram #goodreads #bookaholic #bookish #bookishfeature #bookstafeatures #bookstagramfeature #readersofinstagram #unitedbookstagram #toread

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Books Bought:

  1. The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken (signing)
  2. Through the Dark by Alexandra Bracken (signing)
  3. Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson (Uppercase)

ARCs Received:

  1. Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West (requested)
  2. The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle (Vine)
  3. The Girl King by Mimi Yu (requested)
  4. 1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler (not requested)
  5. The Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy (not requested)
  6. The Hidden Witch by Molly Ostertag (not requested)
  7. Dare You to Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch (not requested)

You can also see what I read in July.

Little and Lion: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

cover art for Little & Lion by Brandy ColbertSuzette and her brother Lionel have been “Little” and “Lion” for years. Technically they’re step-siblings and their family gets a lot of strange looks sometimes since they’re all Jewish but Suzette and her mom are black while Lionel and his father are white. They’ve never let that change how close they are.

That was before Lionel was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Suzette was sent across the country to an East coast boarding school while he got treatment.

Now it’s summer and Suzette is home in Los Angeles where she expects everything to be familiar and easy. Instead, Suzette soon realizes that it’s going to be harder to go back to being Little and Lion than she thought.

Being home is almost enough to help Suzette forget about the mess she left back at school and how much she hurt her roommate, Iris. Her longtime friend and neighbor Emil is a welcome distraction–and maybe even a new crush. Then there’s Rafaela–a new girl who is like no one Suzette has ever met. Suzette’s attraction is immediate, intense, and utterly impossible once it becomes obvious that Lion might be falling for her.

When Lionel’s disorder starts a downward spiral Suzette will have to confront mistakes she made over the past year and decide if earning Lionel’s trust again is worth risking his mental health in Little & Lion (2017) by Brandy Colbert.

Little & Lion is an incredibly smart standalone contemporary. Suzette is an honest narrator who is still trying to define herself in a world that is already quick to put labels on her. She is conscious that her identity as a black Jewish woman is conspicuous and often uncomfortable–especially at her homogeneous boarding school where it felt like she had to hide pieces of herself before her classmates would accept her.

After her months long romantic and sexual relationship ends at the end of term when she and her roommate are outed to the entire school, Suzette doesn’t know how to deal with the attention. She shuts down and shuts Iris out–a constant reminder that she wasn’t brave enough to stand up for what she wanted. When seeing Emil–her half-Korean, half-black neighbor and childhood friend–ignites an attraction that she had never noticed before, Suzette is left to wonder if she might be bisexual–an identity that at first feels too overwhelming to fully consider while still adjusting to being back home and deciding if she wants to go back to boarding school in the fall.

The story of Suzette’s summer alternates with flashback chapters from her childhood when Suzette’s mom and Lionel’s father first started dating and living together. These flashbacks also detail Lionel’s initial diagnosis and treatment before Suzette was sent away.

While Little & Lion is often a heavy story with Suzette and Lionel disappointed in each other and unsure how to reclaim their easy bond as family, Colbert’s prose is also incredibly gentle and thoughtful. There are no easy answers about defining one’s sexuality or one’s mental health–things that Suzette and Lionel learn the hard way throughout the novel.

The larger story of Lionel’s coping with his new medication and Suzette trying to fit into a family that moved on without her plays out against a hazy backdrop of romantic entanglements with Suzette caught between her very real relationship with Emil and her distracting attraction to Rafaela–a pull that is even more complicated when Lionel starts to date Rafaela who seems to bring out the worst in him.

Little & Lion is as enlightening as it is engaging. A thoughtful plot and vibrant primary characters more than make up for an overly large cast of secondary characters. Evocative settings, sexy romance, and a wonderful family ground this story and make it a must read. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett, How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake, The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy, Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Down and Across: A Review

cover art for Down and Across by Arvin AhmadiScott Ferdowski is a great quitter. For as long as he can remember he has had a trail of abandoned hobbies and projects. While his best friends are driven and certain of their futures Scott just feels like he’s floundering. How can he find his passion when he can’t even commit to breakfast?

Scott’s parents want him to succeed and get serious about a secure career path like engineering or medicine. Scott isn’t sure what he wants but he knows it isn’t that.

When he hears about a professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success, Scott thinks she might be able to help him figure out how to change. All he has to do is quit his internship and run away to Washington, DC. It won’t even be that hard with his parents away visiting Scott’s grandfather in Iran.

Scott doesn’t expect to find an adventure when he runs away. It doesn’t feel momentous as he steps onto bus or even when he first meets Fiora and Trent.

Fiora is passionate about crossword puzzles and wants nothing more than to write them. Trent is trying to land his dream job in politics. But, like Scott, they’ve each hit their own road blocks. Can three misfits really help each other to find their passions over the course of one unexpected summer? Scott isn’t sure. But he’s about to find out in Down and Across (2018) by Arvin Ahmadi.

Down and Across is Ahmadi’s debut novel and it is fantastic.

Like a lot of teenagers, Scott isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life. Add to that growing pressure from his parents (especially his father) to commit to something (anything) and Scott is feeling completely overwhelmed. Scott’s efforts to balance his Iranian heritage with his life as an American teen is equally difficult–it’s why he has been going by Scott since kindergarten instead of his real name “Saaket.

Scott’s first person narration is thoughtful and endearing. Although he doesn’t start the novel with much self-awareness he does reach a new understanding of grit as it relates to his surprisingly eventful summer and beyond. While there is a heavy focus on the mechanics of writing a crossword puzzle it serves to enhance the story and Scott’s learning process mirrors the ways in which Scott’s view of his world (and himself) changes over the summer.

Down and Across is a smart, subtle novel about growing up and embracing who you are–even if you might not have it all figured out just yet. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Gap Life by John Coy, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan, Paper Towns by John Green, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, Odd One Out by Nic Stone, Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Week in Review: August 25

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

I’m pretty happy to see the end of August–it was a hot, steam month that seemed to last about three years. I’m ready for cooler weather!

Did you know I’m hosting a reading challenge starting today? Are you in?

Here are two of my favorite posts I shared on Instagram this week:

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What’s in your bag? ▪️ I’ve been wanting to do one of these posts for ages but had trouble finding a good staging area. With a clean workspace and a cleaned up bag, it seemed like the perfect time to finally take the time to lay out this photo. ▪️ Here’s what I’m carrying: -sunglasses in hard case (I have regular and clip on ones) -glasses and contact lens case in hardcase (I wear contacts in summer but I’m also paranoid I’ll need my glasses!) -Webster’s Pages notebook I’ve been using to track stuff -earphones -Fossil “Emma” wallet (this is one of my favorite small wallets) -reusable bag I got from Chronicle at BookExpo -mints -mini Moo business cards in a case -metrocard in Met Museum case -work ID -hand sanitizer -water bottle -mirror from Met Museum’s “Death Becomes Her” exhibit -flash drive -keys -capsule shaped pillbox -pen -comb -charcoal oil removing facial wipes -cosmetic case to hold smaller stuff -my current read: Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno ▪️ You can swipe over to see my bag too—a Vera Bradley Vivian Hobo which is basically my favorite shoulder bag right now! ▪️ #instabooks #amreading #whatsinmybag #bookgram #inmybag #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookstagrammer #bibliophile #booklove #bookphotography #instabook #reading #reader #verabradley #behindthescenes #mybag #booksofinstagram #goodreads #bookaholic #bookish #bookishfeature #bookstafeatures #bookstagramfeature #readersofinstagram #behindtheblogger

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What do carousels, crossword puzzles, and Freddie Mercury have in common? 📚 Oh, you know, they were all just key inspiration for @nicstone’s newest novel out this October. 📚 Courtney “Coop” Cooper knows exactly what he wants. He also knows he can’t have it. That’s what happens when you’re in love with your lesbian best friend. 📚 Rae Evelyn Chin doesn’t know what she wants. She’s new in town and thrilled to immediately befriend Coop and Jupiter. She just hopes wanting to kiss Coop doesn’t ruin things. Not to mention wanting to maybe kiss Jupiter. 📚 Jupiter Charity-Sanchez has always known what she wants. But when she finds herself caught between Coop and Rae, she starts to wonder if that’s a good thing. 📚 One story. Three sides. Nothing simple. 📚 This one hits shelves in October. The story is broken into three concurrent books—each narrated by one of the three characters. It’s funny, sexy, and surprisingly sweet. 📚 Stone says this is the book she needed when she was younger and a bit of wish fulfillment. It’s also the quirky contemporary love triangle teen readers deserve. Add it to your TBR now. 📚 #instabooks #currentlyreading #amreading #instareads #bookgram #bookworm #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookstagrammer #bibliophile #booklove #bookphotography #instabook #reading #reader #booktography #bookstagram #igreads #booksofinstagram #goodreads #bookaholic #bookish #bookishfeature #bookstafeatures #bookstagramfeature #readersofinstagram #unitedbookstagram #oddoneout #nicstone #lovetriangle

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How was your week? What are you reading?

Get ready for #missprintbookaday on August 25

Are you ready for the start of #missprintbookaday tomorrow? See below for full details.

Miss Print

Big news, everyone!

I’m hosting a reading challenge this August. I’m hoping to make it a monthly thing so stay tuned for updates.

The challenge can be done on your blog, Twitter, Instagram, or a combination of all three. It’s part reading challenge or read-a-thon, part photo challenge, and maybe even a Twitter chat. It’s also really low key.

Here are the details for my first ever Miss Print Book-A-Day Challenge

  • When: August 25 to August 31 (if this goes well it will be back!)
  • Where: Anywhere you want. You can share updates on Twitter or Instagram as well as on your blog.
  • How: Between August 25 and 31 you commit to reading one book a day and talking about it. Use the hashtag #missprintbookaday to share titles, updates, anything you want.

I’ve made a handy graphic you can use for photo prompts if you need them…

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Grace and Fury: A Review

cover art for Grace and Fury by Tracy BanghartIn Viridia, all women wear masks.

Hiding the fear and frustration is the only way to stay safe in a world where women have no rights.

Serina has focused all of her energy into training to become a Grace. If she is chosen by the Superior or his Heir, Malachi, Serina will live in luxury as an embodiment of the ideal woman. Being a Grace will ensure that her family will never want for anything. Her younger sister, Nomi, can even stay at her side as a Handmaiden.

Nomi doesn’t want to leave behind everything she’s ever known, especially not her twin brother Renzo. She knows that rebellion is dangerous. But she still can’t bring herself to be more complacent–not even now. Not even for her sister. Instead, she is furious. Nomi knows that Serina has willingly made this choice. She just isn’t sure that she’s prepared to follow her.

One brash conversation and one reckless act ruins all of Serina and Nomi’s careful plans. While Nomi is trapped in a life she never wanted, Serina is falsely imprisoned on an island where she will have fight to the death to survive. Separated and ill-prepared for the challenges they’ll have to face alone, both Serina and Nomi will have to push themselves further than they ever imagined to try and find each other in Grace and Fury (2018) by Tracy Banghart.

Serina and Nomi are interesting counterpoints. Their characters arcs mirror each other but how each heroine handles her new challenges is telling. While Serina begins the novel willfully ignorant of the inequalities within Viridia she soon (surprisingly quickly to be clear) finds herself at the center of a potential revolution.

Nomi, meanwhile, has always been painfully aware of the freedoms she and other women in Viridia lacks. Yet she routinely puts the small freedoms she has earned at risk and willfully ignores numerous (heavily broadcasted) red flags as her own plans for revolution and escape begin to crumple around her.

The main problem with Grace and Fury is that none of the relationships feel authentic. Changing dynamics and growing chemistry don’t erase the woefully unequal power dynamics both Serina and Nomi have with several of the male characters. Similarly, it’s hard to pretend the Heir better than he initially seems when his selfish and thoughtless actions set the entire plot in motion.

Grace and Fury will be a familiar story to fantasy readers. Predictable plot points and derivative characters dilute some of the story’s impact however Banghart artfully flips several tropes as the cast expands and readers learn more about Viridia.

The narrative is tightly controlled and uses the dual narration to full advantage. Grace and Fury alternates between chapters following Serina and Nomi in close third person with a tightly controlled narrative arc. Banghart uses this dual narrative structure to full advantage highlighting the ways in which the sisters’ stories both mirror each other and diverge. The restrained, unadorned prose works well to increase the tension and highlight the stark world both girls find themselves in as the story progresses.

A cliffhanger ending with questions about who will live to see book two will leave fans eager for the next installment.

Possible Pairings: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, The Selection by Kiera Cass, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green, For A Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig, Everless by Sara Holland, The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Ash Princess by Laura K. Sebastian

Emergency Contact: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Loving someone was traumatizing. You never knew what would happen to them out there in the world. Everything precious was also vulnerable.”

cover art for Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. ChoiPenny Lee is a college freshman at the University of Texas in Austin. She’s eager to get away from the drama that always seems to surround her mom who is, sadly, super hot and super clueless about the attention she attracts from sketchy guys. High school was fine but Penny knows that college is going to be her real chance to shine as she starts taking English classes and pursues her longtime dream to become a published author.

Sam Becker dropped out of college when he couldn’t afford it. He’s twenty-one and manages a coffee shop where he is in charge of all the baking and has a room upstairs. He’s taking an online course to get back on track with his goal of becoming a documentary filmmaker and dreading the arrival of his “niece” Jude who is about to start her freshman year of college. Sam’s still trying to piece his life together post-breakup but he’s getting there. At least until his Instagram famous ex (aka Liar) drops a bombshell.

When Sam has a panic attack in the middle of the street it’s Penny–Jude’s new roommate–who finds him and talks him down. She’s the one who wants him to text her when he gets home and, maybe most importantly, she’s the one that suggests they could be each other’s emergency contact.

As they start texting all the time, Penny and Sam realize they might have more in common than they thought. Their friendship helps both of them step outside of their comfort zones. But neither of them is sure if they’ll ever be ready to take the biggest leap by bringing their virtual relationship offline and into the real world in Emergency Contact (2018) by Mary H. K. Choi.

Emergency Contact is Choi’s debut novel. It has received two starred reviews as well as a glowing write up in the New York Times. The story alternates between chapters written in close third person following Penny and Sam along with the expected sections of text messages and emails.

As the title suggests, the entirety of the book revolves around support systems. How do you build a support system from scratch? What happens when the people you thought you could rely on let you down? And perhaps even more troubling: What happens when the person you never thought you could count on becomes a lifeline?

Penny and Sam are authentic, flawed protagonists. I’ve started calling them lovable train wrecks when I talk about this book. They don’t have all the answers. They may not have any of the answers (a realization that is almost as enlightening for Penny in terms of her relationship with her mother as, you know, actual enlightenment). But they both persevere, strive, and ultimately learn how to go after what they want–things they only accomplish thanks to confidence gained through their friendship.

I say friendship because while a lot of this story plays out against the backdrop of whether or not Penny and Sam will get together, the real meat of this novel are the friendships that both Penny and Sam build (with each other and with other people) as they try to survive this crazy thing called life. You can cut the romantic tension in this story with a knife, but first Choi carefully builds up Penny and Sam’s friendship. Both of them have to grow a lot and learn to care about themselves before they can start to care about someone else—character arcs which Choi expertly portrays throughout the novel.

Before meeting Sam, Penny is used to having a running internal dialog of all the things she wants to say–especially to people who try to belittle her or think their microaggressions and other racist remarks about Penny’s Korean heritage aren’t a big deal. Thanks to the freedom of being away from home for the first time and also having someone who genuinely supports her, Penny is finally able to speak up. She can tell her roommate Jude’s best friend that her racist remarks aren’t okay. She can admit what her French tutor did–what she never even told her Mom. And she can also learn how to move past those things instead of stewing in self-doubt and regret.

Sam, meanwhile, has been stagnating for quite some time. His life is a disaster and he’s used to it–especially when his ex-girlfriend announces that she is pregnant triggering Sam’s first panic attack. With Penny’s support and the knowledge that she cares, Sam realizes the first step in making better life choices isn’t waiting for things to change. Instead, it’s time for Sam to accept that his parents are incapable of being there for him—and haven’t been for some time. It’s time to take action to change things by pursuing his passions and standing up to his ex-girlfriend instead of letting her steamroll him yet again.

Emergency Contact is authentic and sardonic as it follows these two unlikely friends who fear connection almost as much as they crave it. This tension is the driving force for both the characters and the plot. Choi expertly uses close third person perspective and language to amplify that tension and to explore its limits as Penny and Sam try to figure out how to relate to each other even while, internally, they feel hopelessly inadequate by comparison.

(During one of their first “in real life” encounters Penny bemoans her casual outfit and generally messy appearance while being completely fascinated–and attracted–by Sam’s glasses. Sam, meanwhile, is completely self-conscious about his glasses and trying to avoid openly ogling Penny. A push and pull that repeats throughout the novel and perfectly captures the dynamic between these two characters.)

Emergency Contact is a sparkling debut about taking chances and dreaming big. A timely story with a singular voice sure to win over even the most cynical among us, Emergency Contact is an exemplar of what a great contemporary novel can look like.

Possible Pairings: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Teach Me to Forget by Erica M. Chapman, Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell