Miss Print’s Top Ten: 2020

What a strange year this has been. Despite a personally promising start, I know I’m not the only who will be happy to see the other side of this long and tedious year. One thing that helped get me through this year were the books I was able to read, the authors I was able to connect with, and the stories I was able to recommend to friends.

When I sat down to put together this post, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to remember–or even choose–my ten favorite reads of the year. But as I began looking back on all of the books I read and listened to, I realized most of the choices were obvious.

This year I’m giving you a top eleven and some honorable mentions because it was impossible to narrow it down more.

You can also shop this list on Bookshop or Amazon.

  • Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman
  • The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
  • Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest
  • You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
  • Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
  • Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry
  • The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
  • Recommended For You by Laura Silverman
  • Fable by Adrienne Young

Honorable Mention: The Backlist

The books I read and loved this year that were published before 2020.

  • Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
  • An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard
  • Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

Honorable Mention: The Sequels

The sequels I read and loved this year in two of my favorite series. (Start with book one to avoid spoilers.)

  • The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi
  • Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

2020 Reading Tracker Year in Review

It’s time for my annual break down of my reading tracker posts for the year.

January:

  • Read: 17
  • Bought: 6
  • ARCs: 4 (3 requested, 1 not)

February:

  • Read: 19
  • Bought: 0
  • ARCs: 16 (3 vine, 10 requested, 2 not)

March:

  • Read: 14
  • Bought: 1
  • ARCs: 1 (vine)

April:

  • Read: 13
  • Bought: 5
  • ARCs: 1 (requested)

May:

  • Read: 18
  • Bought: 1
  • ARCs: 3 (requested)

June:

  • Read: 14
  • Bought: 4
  • ARCs: 0

July:

  • Read: 13
  • Bought: 2
  • ARCs: 6 (4 requested, 2 not)

August:

  • Read: 16
  • Bought: 4
  • ARCs: 2 (requested)

September:

  • Read: 15
  • Bought: 1
  • ARCs: 2 (requested)

October:

  • Read: 15
  • Bought: 2
  • ARCs: 0

November:

  • Read: 20
  • Bought: 0
  • ARCs: 0

December:

  • Read: 11
  • Bought: 3
  • ARCs: 0

Yearly Totals:

  • Read: 171
  • Bought: 29
  • ARCs: 35

Details:

Read: So this year was a little different with reading. The pandemic became widespread and, starting in March, I began working from home and sheltering in place (like most people). I also purchased a Kindle in May so I’d have an option for reading library eBooks even if I wasn’t going to work (or anywhere). My reading was pretty similar to last year although I think this year might have included more audiobooks and re-reads.

Bought: I bought a lot more books this year. But I also think I kept more as opposed to giving them away after reading. Which means I’m making better choices with how I buy books.

ARCs: This was very different with BookExpo being cancelled and many publishers working from home and not sending physical ARCs. I think a lot of books will shift to digital ARCs in the future and I may not track the ARCs I receive as closely in these posts since a lot of why I tracked had to do with shelf space.

December 2020 Reading Tracker

Books I Had Planned to Read:

Books I Read:

  1. The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
  2. The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu (audio)
  3. Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
  4. Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost (kindle)
  5. Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu
  6. Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young (reread/audio)
  7. Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (audio)
  8. The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
  9. A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart (kindle)
  10. Defy the Fates by Claudia Gray (audio/kindle)
  11. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Books Bought: 3

  1. Fable by Adrienne Young
  2. Namesake by Adrienne Young (preorder)
  3. Lore by Alexandra Bracken (preorder)

ARCs Received: 0!

You can also see what I read in November.

Recommended For You: A Review

Recommended For You by Laura SilvermanShoshanna Greenberg is a fixer. When her moms start fighting enough that they both miss the annual family Latkepalooza on the last night of Hanukkah, Shoshanna wants to fix it before her family implodes.

With the tensions at home and her constant worries about money to fix her much loved car, it feels like her one refuge is Once Upon, the local bookstore where Shoshanna works. That changes with the arrival of new hire Jake Kaplan–an extremely cute boy who is extremely immune to Shoshanna’s charms and, what’s worse, doesn’t read.

Coworker tensions aside, Shoshanna is thrilled when her boss announces a chance for staff to earn a holiday bonus for selling the most books. The bonus is exactly what she needs to fix her car if nothing else.

The only thing standing in Shoshanna’s way is Jake and his out of the box selling strategies.

As the holiday season amps up, Shoshanna realizes that Jake might be more than a pretty-non-reading face even if he might also be her biggest competition for the holiday bonus in Recommended For You (2020) by Laura Silverman.

Find it on Bookshop.

Silverman puts in the work dismantling the white default in this inclusive story where every character’s skintone is described on the page. The inclusivity and positivity with which Shoshanna views her friends and coworkers (except maybe for Jake when they first meet!) comes through in every description and feels effortless. Once Upon’s owner Myra is woman of color and motorized wheelchair user, Shoshanna’s best friends are Black and Latinx, and Shoshanna’s “work husband” is Black and has a girlfriend with low vision.

Shoshanna is what I would call a strong personality. Her narration and her choices may not work for everyone but her heart is definitely in the right place and, as the story progresses, Shoshanna learns and grows a lot–something I always love to see in a book.

Although Recommended For You keeps things light, this story also offers frank conversations about what marriage problems can look like (something looming over Shoshanna and her moms and something that may not have an easy fix despite Shoshanna’s best efforts) and also thoughtfully explores income diversity. Shoshanna’s friend Cheyenne works at the mall for the experience while Shoshanna is there because it’s the only way she can afford gas money and other car expenses. Meanwhile Shoshanna’s other best friend Geraldine is saving up for a camera to start a beauty vlog while acknowledging she may never be able to compete in the patently expensive world of beauty influencers.

Recommended For You is as funny and exuberant as its heroine. While the winter setting makes this book an ideal choice this holiday season, Shoshanna’s winning personality, the retail shenanigans, and Shoshanna’s not-quite-instant chemistry with Jake make Recommended For You a perfect read any time of the year.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira; Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett; Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley; Snow in Love by Melissa de la Cruz, Nic Stone, Aimee Friedman, Kasie West; 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston; Tweet Cute by Emma Lord; My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins; Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Week in Review: December 26: In which this strange year nears its conclusion

missprintweekreview

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Honestly, this is so backdated, idek.

Instagram Post of the Week:

See above.

How My Week Went:

I was on vacation for the last two weeks of December and forgot to queue these up so backdating just to have them.

Into the Heartless Wood: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth MeyerEveryone knows the forest is a dangerous place. How can it be anything else when it is filled with tree sirens whose only purpose is to draw people into the forest and to their deaths?

The witch in the forest has fed souls to her trees until they are no longer trees but not human either. Instead, the witch calls these sirens her daughters but Seren knows that isn’t really true–not when the tree-sirens have to do her bidding no matter what.

Owen Merrick has grown up next to the woods and he knows how dangerous they are. He knows how lucky he is when Seren saves his life when she could have killed him. Drawn to each other, Owen and Seren begin meeting in secret. But their growing feelings for each other are threatened when the stars warn of a dangerous curse drawing Seren and Owen into a years long struggle between the witch and the king determined to stop her in Into the Heartless Wood (2021) by Joanna Ruth Meyer.

Find it on Bookshop.

While some elements of the world take a back seat to the romance here, Into the Heartless Wood is an evocative story where the setting feels like a character. The novel alternates between prose chapters from Owen’s point of view and more verse-like passages from Seren. Meyer brings together this unlikely pair in a well-realized world filled with magic and menace that is sure to draw readers in.

Into the Heartless Wood is a deliciously atmospheric, dangerous fantasy. Perfect for readers who like their fantasy with a bit of star-crossed love and mystery.

Possible Pairings: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee, The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

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

Elysium Girls: A Review

Elysium Girls by Kate PentecostSal Wilkinson has had visions of rain coming to the walled city of Elysium for years. Sal knows her vision is true, knows it’s just taking a little longer. But no one else in town believes that and most people don’t have much use for her.

No one is more surprised than Sal when she is named Successor to Mother Morevna, the powerful witch who banded Elysium together the day the city was wrench out of our world in 1935 and become the game board for the latest game between the sister gods Life and Death.

After nearly ten long years building up the city, the day of judgement if months away. If the city succeeds, Life will restore them to the world. If the city is deemed a failure, Death will claim every person within its walls as a sacrifice.

Sal thinks becoming Successor is her chance to prove her worth to the city once and for all. Instead, her first attempt to lead the city ends in disaster. Exiled alongside a mysterious outsider, Sal will have to join forces with Olivia Rosales, another Elysium exile and a young witch herself, if any of them hope to save Elysium by beating Life and Death at their own game in Elysium Girls (2020) by Kate Pentecost.

Find it on Bookshop.

Elysium Girls is Pentecost’s debut novel. The novel alternates between Sal’s first person narration and third person narrations following other characters including Asa and Olivia.

Pentecost’s story is grounded with a strong sense of place. Descriptive prose bring the Dust Bowl ravaged city and its steampunk-inspired blend of steel and magic to life. Despite the promising start, a large cast and sprawling premise still make this story unwieldy.

Despite a countdown to Judgement Day at the start of every chapter, this book is largely lacking in a sense of urgency where any stakes for at least the first thirty percent of the novel are entirely absent.

Readers drawn to Elysium Girls based on the synopsis should prepare themselves for a long haul as Pentecost takes her time building up the story. A potential win for readers seeking an immersive fantasy with steampunk elements and only minimal romance between secondary characters.

Possible Pairings: Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist, Lovely War by Julie Berry, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, The Reader by Traci Chee, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool

Week In Review: December 19: In which I wonder where all my mail is

missprintweekreview

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

I got a lot of fun mail this week–gifts and cards from friends, a secret santa package, cards from a card exchange–and it was definitely a bright spot this week. We got a lot of snow here and it was interesting for a day but I’m already over it. I am on vacation through New Years Day starting today and I couldn’t be happier. I plan to make all the things and look at my work email not at all.

Of Curses and Kisses: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya MenonJaya Rao has one mission when she arrives at St. Rosetta’s Academy with her younger sister, Isha, to rehab Isha’s reputation after a media scandal. As Indian royalty there are, of course, appearances to uphold. But Jaya is used to that and it won’t stop her from finding Grey Emerson and breaking his heart.

Grey Emerson is well aware of the animosity between his family and the Raos. It’s the sort of thing that makes sense after years of feuding, a stolen ruby, and a devastating curse. After years of keeping to himself and waiting for the inevitable, Grey knows he’s almost out of time. He never expected the curse to let him live past his eighteenth birthday. He just doesn’t understand why Jaya Rao decided to come and gloat about it.

Drawn together against their better judgement, both Jaya and Grey realize they other is not what they expect. Worse, neither of them may have the full story from their families. When it feels like everything is conspiring to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey will have to work even harder to stay together and find their own happy ending in Of Curses and Kisses (2020) by Sandhya Menon.

Find it on Bookshop.

Of Curses and Kisses is the first book in Menon’s St. Rosetta’s Academy trilogy–a series of modern fairy tale retellings set at an elite international boarding school. If you like listening to books, treat yourself to the audiobook to hear all the accents.

Jaya and Grey’s story takes a new spin on the classic story of Beauty and the Beast. I won’t spoil the ending here, but readers familiar with the source material can certainly imagine. Despite treading familiar ground, Menon brings her own spin to this classic story as Jaya and Grey make their own way in the world.

Despite the overall light tone, some of this book can be quite heavy–particularly when it comes to Grey’s relationship with his father. Grey has suffered through years of verbal and psychological abuse from his father blaming Grey for his mother’s death in childbirth and repeatedly reminding Grey that the Emerson curse will kill him. Reading this, even through Grey’s built up cynicism and detachment is painful although I’m happy to report a big part of the plot is the start of Grey’s healing process.

Jaya and Grey are excellent protagonists acting as perfect counterpoints to each other. They’re joined in this story with a stellar supporting cast including characters readers can expect to see more of in later series installments. While romance remains center stage, the friendships between characters and the sisterhood that binds Jaya and Isha together are equally important and written beautifully.

Of Curses and Kisses is a cozy, romantic story that adds originality and flair to a familiar fairy tale. A must read for contemporary romance fans.

Possible Pairings: Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney, When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer, Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins, Tweet Cute by Emma Lord, Bookish Boyfriends by Tiffany Schmidt, Jackpot by Nic Stone

Talking to Strangers: A Non-Fiction Review

How did Fidel Castro and his spies fool the CIA for years? Why did Prime Minister Chamberlain think Hitler was trustworthy? How did no one realize what Bernie Madoff was doing with all of his investments? What transpired to make it possible for Larry Nassar to abuse countless patients at his gymnastics-centered medical practice–often with parents of his victims in the same room?

Author Malcolm Gladwell explores these questions and more in his latest book Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know (2019).

Find it on Bookshop.

Before we discuss anything else, you need to know this is not an easy book–especially not during the ongoing pandemic which adds its own kind of stress to everything. Additionally, the audiobook is narrated by Gladwell and features recordings of the people being quoted whenever possible. This choice has the double-edged result of making an excellent production while also making the events discussed that much more immediate and visceral for readers/listeners.

Talking to Strangers covers a few things most of which boil down to chapters about people in the worst situations or chapters about the worst people.

Gladwell uses what happened to Sandra Bland as entry point and framing device into his topic. Some of this is reductive as it sets aside the systemic racism at the root of police brutality and the unfair targeting of BIPOC citizens by police. Similarly Gladwell’s theory that sexual assault can ever come down to misunderstandings due to overdrinking and their resulting blackouts is hard to hear and very much the statement only a man could or would ever make.

Other chapters explore Castro’s spy network within the US, Hitler’s ability to mislead Chamberlain in advance of WWII, as well as other familiar news items. Most of which is hard to hear. The book ends with discussions of so-called “advance interrogation techniques” (torture) and the circumstances that may have helped lead to Sylvia Plath’s suicide.

Despite the difficult content, Talking to Strangers includes some useful insights people can bring to their interactions with others including the need for awareness of situational context, peoples’ tendency to believe the best in people, and the reality that people may broadcast one emotion with body language and mannerisms while presenting very different ones with their speech.

Talking to Strangers is informative if challenging to read with a solid introduction to a few key aspects of interpersonal communication as well as a deep exploration of current events that readers may or may not recognize from previous news viewing. I hesitate to say I’d recommend this book because I had such a hard time with it myself, but if the premise sounds interesting then you should definitely check it out.