Week in Review: February 29: In which I am a treasure


Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

As you can tell from my Tweet of the Week I had a committee meeting this week for which I baked Monster Cake as seen in Tweet Cute by Emma Lord–it was delicious and well received but I would do some things differently if I were to make a different batch. I also gave my committee punny (belated) Valentines and basically continue to be a joy to work with.

February 2020 Reading Tracker

Books I Read:

  1. The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi
  2. Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. Turner
  3. Saga Volume 4
  4. Saga Volume 5
  5. Saga Volume 6
  6. Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives by Adam J. Kurtz
  7. Saga Volume 7
  8. Saga Volume 8
  9. Saga Volume 9
  10. Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  11. The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
  12. Stumptown Investigations Volume 1
  13. All the Invisibly Things by Orlagh Collins
  14. We Are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo
  15. The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne
  16. New American Best Friend by Olivia Gatwood
  17. By Night Volume 2
  18. Life of the Party by Olivia Gatwood
  19. A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

Books I Had Planned to Read:

Books Bought: 0!

ARCs Received:

  1. Theory of the Hashtag by Andreas Bernard, Valentine A. Pakis, Daniel Ross (Vine)
  2. Palace of Silver by Hannah West (Vine)
  3. The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne (Vine)
  4. Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (requested)
  5. The Insomniacs by Marie Weisenberg (not requested)
  6. The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood (not requested)
  7. Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee (requested)
  8. Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest (requested Fierce Reads box)
  9. I Am Here Now by Barbara Bottner (requested Fierce Reads box)
  10. Love Is For Losers by Wibke Brueggmann (requested Fierce Reads box)
  11. The Con Code by Shana Silver (requested Fierce Reads box)
  12. Not Another Love Song by Olivier Wildenstein (requested Fierce Reads box)
  13. Hunted By the Sky by Tanaz Bhatena (requested Fierce Reads box)
  14. A Peculiar Peril by Jeff Vandemeer (requested Fierce Reads box)
  15. Take Me With You by Tara Altebrando (requested)
  16. We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian (requested)

You can also see what I read in January.

Top Fives: Penguin Young Readers Summer 2020 Preview #pyrpreview

Here are my top fives from Penguin’s Summer 2020 preview for librarians and educators.

If you want to see all of the tweets from the preview, you can check out of the #pyrpreview tag on twitter. (You can also find all of my tweets from the preview too!)

First things first: major shoutout to author Simran Jeet Singh who opened the preview  talking about his forthcoming picture book Fauja Singh Keeps Going–beautifully illustrated by Baljinder Kaur. This book shares the story of Fauja Singh who ran his first marathon at the age of 100 (he’s 108 now!). When the author met Singh he described the runner by saying, “Sometimes you meet people and they’re everything you’d dreamed they would be.” When asked about his biggest regret in life, Singh said that he wished he had done more to inspire children–which planted the seed for Simran Jeet Singh to write this book. Fauja Singh Keeps Going will publish in August 2020.

Here are the top five titles I’m excited about from the preview:

Picture Books

  1. Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky: An essential board book to help grownups engage in conversations with our youngest readers about the state of our world and how to improve it. Publishing June 2020.
  2. Runaway Signs by Joan Holub, illustrated by Alison Farrell: This book about street signs run amuck is narrated by Caution. I’m all about it. Publishing June 2020.
  3. The Stray by Molly Ruttan: It’s all fun and games taking home a stray until he ends up being a sad alien trying to get home. I’ve been obsessed with It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee for years and I think this one is its spiritual successor. Publishing May 2020.
  4. First Day Critter Jitters by Jory John, illustrated by Liz Climo: This new back-to-school book is structure like a documentary and it sounds absolutely delightful. I can’t wait to check out a copy. Publishing July 2020.
  5. Shirley Chisolm is a Verb by Veronica Chambers, illustrated by Rachelle Baker: This new Shirley Chisholm biography is equal parts tribute and call to action. Publishing July 2020.

Middle Grade

  1. What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado: Maldonado’s followup to his debut novel Tight is a fast-paced story about a biracial boy trying to figure out where he fits. Publishing April 2020.
  2. The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean: This epistolary MG novel explores how Rowan finds a place for himself as a transboy in Michigan in the late 1990s while surviving abuse and searches for someone to understand. Described by the author as a gift to their ten year old self. Publishing May 2020.
  3. Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz: Kid detectives. Unlikely friends. I’m ready! Publishing July 2020.
  4. Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone: This novel explores the ways girls’ bodies are policed when a girl starts a podcast to protest her school’s unfair dress code. Publishing July 2020.
  5. City of Secrets by Victoria Ying: I am so hype for this steampunk graphic novel from Victoria Ying who I first discovered through her Victoria Schwab fanart on Twitter. Publishing July 2020.

Young Adult

  1. Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson: New book Andrea Cremer who is back and better than ever in this series starter written under a new name. Game of Thrones meets An Ember in the Ashes with a swoon-worthy trickster thief and a slow burn romance. Publishing May 2020.
  2. We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez: A striking portrait of current events. Sanchez spent five years writing this novel born of empathy, humanity, and anger about children who deserve to be seen. This one is so important. Preorder your copies now. Publishing May 2020.
  3. Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis: I am so excited for this creepy thriller about the daughter of a horror film director returning to the site of her father’s infamous film. Publishing August 2020.
  4. Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson: Andra wakes up 1,000 years too late at the start of this sci-fi adventure where technology is seen as magic. I. Cannot. Wait. Publishing June 2020.
  5. They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman: Gossip. Girl. Meets. One. Of. Us. Is. Lying. Basically everything I never knew I always wanted. Publishing August 2020.

Let me know if any of these were already on your radar or if this post helped you find some new titles for your to read list!

Spindle and Dagger: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson CoatsWales, 1109: When Elen’s home was raided by a warband three years ago her younger sister died in the ensuing fires. Her older sister was cut down just short of killing the warband’s leader, Owain ap Cadwgan. Despite the violence and her own sexual assault, Elen survived, healing Owain ap Cadwgan’s wounds and weaving a tale of protection.

She tells all who will listen that Owain ap Cadwgan cannot be killed–not by blade, blow, or poison–so long as Saint Elen protects him, so long as he keeps her namesake by his side.

None of what she tells them is true.

Balanced on a knife’s edge and haunted by echoes of the raid that killed her family, Elen knows one false step, one accident could leave Owain dead and render her own life forfeit.

When Owain abducts Nest, the wife of a Norman lord, and her children, war soon follows. As her lies begin to unravel, Elen dares to imagine a different life but first she will have to determine where her loyalties lie in Spindle and Dagger (2020) by J. Anderson Coats.

Find it on Bookshop.

Elen’s first person narration is frank and immediately engrossing, drawing readers into the precarious world she has created for herself. With violence and danger everywhere, Elen is forced to be as calculating and as ruthless as the warband that is both her greatest protection and her greatest danger.

High action and battles contrast sharply with the choices Elen is forced to make to ensure her own survival. Coats’ evocative prose and themes of agency and feminism add nuance and depth to this otherwise fast-paced story.

Spindle and Dagger is brutal, bloody, and carefully researched historical fiction. Recommended for readers looking for fierce heroines and history with all the gory details.

Possible Pairings: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold, The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green, Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez, Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

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

The Night of Your Life: A Review

The Night of Your Life by Lydia SharpJJ and Lucy made pact to go to prom together if they both wound up dateless. While JJ’s being single is pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point, he’s surprised to find Lucy still dateless and going with him on the day of the prom.

Prom is the perfect chance for JJ to have a last hurrah with all of his friends and he can’t imagine anyone he’d want to spend it with more than Lucy.

Except everything goes wrong.

JJ wants nothing more than to forget that prom ever happened. But when he wakes up, it’s prom day again.

With endless chances to try and fix things, JJ has to figure out if he can chase his perfect prom while holding onto his best friend in The Night of Your Life (2020) by Lydia Sharp.

Find it on Bookshop.

This standalone contemporary takes on a speculative twist as JJ relives his prom over and over again trying to improve events and break the loop. Despite the high concept premise, The Night of Your Life‘s main strength is the LGBTQ+ representation which adds a nice layer to an otherwise flat story.

JJ is an extremely vanilla narrator with few defining traits beyond being excited about prom and an unfortunate predilection for making up words (like “twibble). He is a terrible friend who chooses not just to ditch Lucy when a cute girl’s car breaks down but also never tells her what is actually happening. Why he deserves numerous chances to fix his prom night, let alone why he deserves a friend like Lucy, remains unclear.

Stilted writing in both JJ’s first person narration and the dialog make most of the relationships in the novel feel forced and do nothing to hint at even a little chemistry between JJ and Lucy as the next phase of their friendship (and if they should pursue anything more) becomes the main question of the story.

The Night of Your Life is an uninspired take on a familiar premise. Unless you’re all about that prom setting, skip this one and read A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody for a better executed version of the same conceit.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

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

Week in Review: February 22: In Which That Boring Problem Was Not Actually Solved But Many Other Things Are


Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

That very dumb and specific problem I thought I solved last week? Still totally unresolved but I think maybe we’re getting closer to resolution. Mercury went into retrograde this week and, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling it acutely. I did some fun Pokemon stuff with one of my friends this Monday when I was off before moving into an endless work week (including Saturday!). If you hear a tiny violin playing anywhere, it’s probably playing for me.

Author Interview: Isabel Bandeira on Practically Ever After

Isabel Bandeira is the author of the Ever After series. She’s here today to talk about the third book in the series, Practically Ever After, super planner MC Grace, and wrapping her first trilogy. (Don’t worry, the books all read as standalones so no risk of spoilers for Bookishly Ever After here!)

Miss Print: Practically Ever After is the final book in your Ever After series. Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for and focus of Grace’s story?

Isabel Bandeira: I know the primary focus for readers of my books is the romance, but all three books start from a premise where the romance is secondary to the character learning to embrace their strengths (and flaws) and use them to chart their own happily ever afters in every aspect of their lives. Like Phoebe and Em, Grace’s journey is about learning that she’s more than her lists and plans, that she is more than the labels she projects onto herself, and that perception is definitely *not* reality.

In the last two books, all we saw was the perfect facade she projected to the world– perfect clothes, perfect grades, glitterati status, upper middle class family, perfect girlfriend– and this was a chance to let readers see things from her point of view, flaws and all. The downside of starting the story with a “perfect” life and relationship, though, is that us evil writers (and life) need to shake things up to make things interesting. The last part of senior year in high school is hard– not because of classes or homework since most of that is winding down, but because it’s right on the edge of a turning point in your life: everything is about to change. I wanted to reflect the excitement, fear, and bittersweet nature of that experience in Grace’s story. Change makes us grow, and Grace learning to deal with her perfect plans falling apart was how I was going to help her grow through her story.

Miss Print: Practically Ever After focuses on Grace and her girlfriend, Leia–a character we don’t see as much of in the other novels in the series. What were some of your favorite details to share about Leia as readers get the chance to properly meet her?

Isabel Bandeira: Leia is sunshine. She’s Grace’s balance, the one person who can tone down the Queen of plans and perfection while also bringing out Grace’s inner dork. While Grace is about fitting in–salon-perfect blonde highlights and gliteratti-approved clothes, Leia’s unnatural hair colors shift through the story (and the prequel story) and she spends most of the book in her school uniform or grubby gardening clothes. Like Grace, she’s smart, but unlike Grace, she doesn’t show it off. One thing readers may notice both in earlier books and the beginning of Practically is that she’s skilled at stepping aside to let others shine and is too good at making allowances for others, so a big part of her journey in PEA is to learn to stand up for herself.

A Leia primer: unlike the rest of the group, she goes to a private school on the outskirts of Lambertfield. She loves working with kids and wants to be a teacher, she loves to garden, and just barely tolerates her mom’s love of antiques. She and Grace met through model UN (and, back then, she had long red hair that made her look like Ariel from The Little Mermaid) and she’s the type of person who will drop everything to help you out.

Miss Print: What was it like writing the final book in a series? Did you know where you wanted all of the characters to end up when you started writing this series? Did anything change between then and now?

Isabel Bandeira: Yes, I had to provide synopses for all 3 books as a part of my contract with Spencer Hill Press, so I knew where the books and characters were going to go from the very beginning. What changed in the actual books from my synopses were mostly details, such as side characters, character names, or certain aspects of execution, like timing and adding shadows and color to really flesh out the story. I was going through a few changes in my life at the time of drafting and revising the book, so some of my own personal stresses at the time– including being in my own period of career change–helped me to better empathize with Grace’s situation and better capture the feelings I had wanted to convey.

Miss Print: We’ve talked in previous interviews about how you balance your career as a mechanical engineer with being an author and other creative pursuits–a balance that Grace herself is trying to find as she decides what comes after high school. What was it like tapping into your own experiences for this story? What’s one thing you wish you could tell yourself when you were in Grace’s shoes?

Isabel Bandeira: It was wonderful being able to show Grace falling in love with engineering, like I did the first time I realized it was more than just engines and boring machines, and showing her deep in the spark of a new idea. It was also wonderful to dance again (vicariously) through Grace, since I had to give up ballet and contemporary because of problems with my feet and legs. Those moments where she was one with a design or with the music were magical to write. There’s this false perception in society that STEM and arts don’t intersect and I wanted a character who loved both because I want other girls who love science and art, math and dance to know that we exist and thrive and are needed.

For Grace: I’d tell past me and her that you can be practical and still find your own niche in the world. I had always seen Mechanical Engineering from the limited lens of what I knew– either machines or power/thermodynamics, like what my dad did for a living. What I didn’t see was how my love of art and design and creativity could fit into that space and how the human body is the most amazing machine ever. I’d tell her that we contain multitudes and those multitudes are what make us strong and unique. Instead of sacrificing what makes us special, we can learn how to combine them into the right future career for ourselves. And I’d tell her that sometimes the best things happen when life decides to veer you (slightly) off your plans.

Miss Print: Can you tell me anything about your next project? What’s the first thing you did when you finished work on Practically Ever After?

Isabel Bandeira: I rested and slept! The last few rounds of revision took a lot out of me and I needed a break from writing to recharge my mental batteries. 2017-2019 involved a ton of career changes (engineering-wise) and family illnesses. Combined with the stresses of writing, revision, and promo, I had to spend some time after I turned in my manuscript not trying to do or be *everything*, and that included writing. I am currently in the middle of a YA contemporary set in Portugal and pulling from my experiences as a third culture kid (hyphen-Americans, first gens… whatever we’re called this month…). I love it, but I’ve taken this time to pause, step back, and let my body and brain recover.

It’s so easy to get caught up in this whirl of book/writer social media where you feel like you’re not a good writer if you don’t have a book deal or you aren’t always writing or having a book or two or three out a year or promoting or engaging with readers or spending every weekend signing at a table in a Barnes and Noble or flying out to book festivals or… or… or… And it’s easy to think you’re never good enough, not enough sales or readers or likes on the latest tweet/insta post, not part of the right clique of authors, not loud enough on social media, not good enough to be invited to panels or maybe invited to the wrong ones or invited to too many and you don’t want to miss out, and the moment you get a really nice review, someone is out there to remind you that you suck or you don’t write “real books” because they’re for kids or have people kissing or are happy or are commercial. And even with your publisher and readers and friends are awesome, it happens. So, sometimes we need to step back, breathe, and remember why we started: because we love books.

I’ve learned that my best work comes when I write out of joy and for myself. I took this time between finishing PEA and now to examine my motivations and just fall in love with writing for the sake of writing. I broke ties with my former agent who represented the Ever After novels mid last year and I have a few books sitting and ready to query, but I’m waiting to finish the Portugal one first. I’m really excited about this one because it’s close to my heart, so wish me luck!

Thanks again to Isabel for taking the time to answer my questions!

You can see more about Isabel and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of Practically Ever After.

Foul is Fair: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Foul is Fair by Hannah CapinElle’s glittering life is torn to shreds when she and her friends crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party and the golden boys there choose Elle as their latest target.

Her best friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer get Elle out of there. They help her bandage the cuts, throw out the ruined dress, and most importantly change her appearance.

Because after that night, after what they did to her, Elle is gone.

She’s Jade now and she is going to make every single boy who hurt her pay.

Her parents are going to turn a blind eye. Her coven of best friends are going to help. And a boy named Mack is going to take the blame for all of it in Foul is Fair (2020) by Hannah Capin.

Find it on Bookshop.

Capin’s modern retelling of Macbeth is a gory revenge fantasy set against a world of luxury and decadence and LA’s upper echelon. (Readers can find a content warning at the front of the book as well as on the author’s website.)

Jade’s first person narration is sleek, sharp, and almost lyrical enough to call iambic pentameter to mind. While the story does little to develop any character beyond their designated role in this revenge fantasy, Jade’s coven of friends is diverse including bisexual Summer, Jenny who is Korean, and Mads–a trans girl and Jade’s oldest and best friend.

The accelerated timeline and copious murder both require a willing suspension of disbelief as Jade sets her revenge quest in motion–all over the course of one week.

Foul is Fair is as bloody as it is campy. Recommended for readers who prefer their revenge fantasies with justifiably angry girls and a healthy dose of gore.

Possible Pairings: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart, The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke, Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, Anna K.: A Love Story by Jenny Lee, The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, The Kingdom by Jessica Rothenberg, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney, Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

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

All the Stars and Teeth: A Review

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn GraceAmora Montara, princess of the island kingdom Visidia, has spent years preparing to become the next High Animancer–her kingdom’s ruler and master of souls. The High Animancer is the only person in the kingdom able to wield multiple forms of magic.

When Amora’s attempt to demonstrate her mastery of dangerous soul magic goes wrong she is forced into hiding until she can prove herself capable of ruling.

A mysterious pirate named Bastian may be able to help, but only if Amora can help him reclaim the magic he has lost.

Sailing away from everything she has known Amora will have to face dangers and legendary creatures to find what she needs in All the Stars and Teeth (2020) by Adalyn Grace.

Find it on Bookshop.

All the Stars and Teeth is Grace’s debut novel and the start of a duology.

Grace delivers a world filled with magic and danger at every turn in this high action, largely  nautical adventure.

Amora is an interesting heroine, unafraid to acknowledge her power or her ambition as she works to claim her title as High Animancer. A varied ensemble cast and the lasting consequences of secrets surrounding Visidia’s legacy add nuance to Amora’s journey.

All the Stars and Teeth is a high action story filled with monsters, pirates, and plenty of adventure. Recommended for readers looking for a new plot-driven fantasy to dive into (pun fully intended).

Possible Pairings: Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard, Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen, Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch,  This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede, Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser, Fable by Adrienne Young

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

Week in Review: February 15: In Which I Solve a Boring Problem


Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

The main event for me this week was solving a very dumb and very specific problem for a work project. It is exciting for me and my coworkers but boring for just about everyone else so just trust me when I say it was a big deal to find a solution.