June 2021 Reading Recap

Miss Print's Reading Recap

Planned to Read:

  1. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
  2. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce
  3. An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi
  4. A Spindle Splintered by Alex E. Harrow
  5. Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason
  6. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
  7. The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
  8. All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue
  9. Baby & Solo by Lisabeth Posthuma

Read:

  1. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
  2. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce
  3. Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells (audio)
  4. Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (audio)
  5. Network Effect by Martha Wells (audio)
  6. Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
  7. King Henry IV, Part 1 by William Shakespeare (audio)
  8. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (audio)
  9. All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue
  10. Baby & Solo by Lisabeth Posthuma
  11. Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst (kindle)
  12. Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (audio)
  13. The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
  14. The Excalibur Curse by Kiersten White
  15. A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
  16. Cymbeline by William Shakespeare (audio)
  17. The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst (kindle)

Recap Video:

You can also see what I read in May.

Roses and Rot: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Roses and Rot by Kat HowardImogen has spent her life reading fairy tales and wishing she could live in one herself. Surely even an evil stepmother would be better than her actual mother. Surely a chance at adventure–even a dangerous one–would be better than waiting, constantly and always, to see what new ways her mother would find to hurt her, to try and turn her and her younger sister Marin against each other.

By the time she’s sixteen, Imogen has found a way out. She has to leave Marin behind. But their mother never hurts Marin the same way she hurts Imogen. And sometimes there is no happily ever after. Sometimes there’s just survival.

Now Imogen and Marin are adults, trying to mend their years-long estrangement and about to live together for the first time since their adolescence at an elite artists’ colony–Imogen for her creative writing and Marin as a dancer. Everything about the program, from its list of accomplished mentors to the patina of success that seems to cling to every alumni, seems too good to be true.

It’s also impossible to pass up.

Once they arrive the program seems to be everything the brochures promised and more. But the pressure is real too. Marin knows taking a year off from performing as a dancer is risky and she isn’t sure it will pay off–even with the attentions of her famous mentor. Imogen, meanwhile, knows the colony is the perfect place to begin piecing together her novel.

But not everything is as it seems. As Imogen and Marin learn more about the program and its background, the sisters realize that success can mean very different things–and have a much higher cost–than either of them ever imagined in Roses and Rot (2016) by Kat Howard.

Find it on Bookshop.

Roses and Rot is Howard’s debut novel. Most major characters, with the exception of Ariel who is described as dark skinned, are white. The novel is narrated by Imogen with excerpts from the fairy tales she is working on during her fellowship.

Howard’s writing is beautiful as she brings the secluded artist’s colony to life with atmospheric descriptions of the changing seasons and the woods looming nearby. References to Imogen’s abusive mother in narrative asides and small flashbacks lend menace to the story as readers learn more about the events leading up to Imogen and Marin’s estrangement.

While all of the pieces are there, the ultimate reveal in Roses and Rot feels abrupt with a payoff that is disproportionate to the buildup as fantasy elements are added to the narrative. Imogen makes sense as the center of the story however her arc is ultimately one of the least interesting as she works to save her sister from her own success. Added elements of competition between the sisters also crop up with almost no explanation beyond the existence of their previous estrangment.

Roses and Rot is a strongly evocative debut that explores the power of both success and creativity as well as the deeper motivations that drive artists to strive for their best. Themes of sacrifice and belonging are explored to better effect in Howard’s stronger sophomore novel An Unkindness of Magicians, an urban fantasy and obvious progression from this debut.

Possible Pairings: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, Bunny by Mona Awad, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less-And Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined: A Non-Fiction Review

Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less -And Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined by Scott SonensheinHave you ever needed one thing and had to make do with something else? Maybe you’ve had to use a shoe when you really needed a hammer. Maybe you’ve baked a loaf cake in a sheet pan. Or did you wait and tell yourself you can’t move forward until you find the exact right tool for the situation?

Depending on your answers you might be a chaser who is always searching for newer and better resources. Or, if you’ve adapted when you had to and made do, you might be a stretcher.

People, it turns out, are really bad at gauging what we need (spoiler: the answer isn’t always “more”) and we’re even worse at estimating our ability to make more out of what we have–something most people routinely underestimate.

Stretching can’t solve every problem. But it can solve a few–especially when the biggest challenge is getting started in Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less -And Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined (2017) by Scott Sonenshein.

Find it on Bookshop.

Sonenshein is an organizational psychologist. In this book he outlines his theory of stretching (making do with what you have rather than growing for the sake of having more) and shares research–both anecdotal and from scientific data–detailing why this approach can be so helpful for so many people and organizations.

Much like in Joy at Work (his collaboration with Marie Kondo). the research and strategies here are approachable and easy to implement. While not every working professional will have the latitude to put these practices into play, the strategies are sound and do help provide options for a mindset shift in approaching problems. As with every new work strategy, there is the risk of leaning in too hard which, in this case could lead to falling into a privation mindset. Sonenshein outlines some of these pitfalls at the end of the book both for individuals and companies.

This slim volume offers chapter-by-chapter strategies guiding readers through how to work with what you’ve got, the causes and consequences of a chasing mindset, the basic benefits of a stretching mindset and the value of knowing a little about a lot as Sonenshein outlines the stretching strategy. In the second half of the book chapters explore why we sometimes perform better without a script (and without all the time and money in the world), how beliefs make us and the people we care about better (or worse), the power of unlikely combinations, and how to get the right stretch.

The book closes with practical strategies and steps to begin stretching in your own life including but not limited to shopping your closet (figuratively or literally), surrounding yourself with new people (and ideas), appreciating what you have, turning trash into treasure, and remembering that when you’re already lost any map will do to get your started.

While not everyone can stretch all the time, Stretch offers practical research and advice for how to embrace flexibility and change–two things that many of us have had to learn often as work situations continue to change in light of current events.

Week in Review: June 26

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

This was the most annoying week I’ve had in awhile as I continue to try to deal with missing keys for a work desk and myriad other issues (centipedes!) while preparing to go back to work full time (instead of every other day). My favorite (least favorite) part was a systemwide meeting meant to boost morale by cheering on every single branch and department in my system managed to entirely skip my department so it’s like we don’t even exist. Great feeling. Morale totally boosted. In better news I am reading a lot of good books and catching up on blog posts here. Can I just say, thank god for Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells which I have been reading this month and have been one of the handful of things keeping me sane.

How was your week?

Read-a-Likes for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Becky Albertalli’s debut novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda took the book world by storm when it was published in 2015 earning Albertalli a National Book Award nomination and winning the William C. Morris YA Debut Award in 2016. The movie adaptation (retitled “Love, Simon”) hit theaters in March 2018. Any fan of this book knows you can’t have too much Simon, but in the meantime these books can fill that Simon-shaped hole in your heart.

Click the book titles below to read my reviews.

You can also shop the list on Bookshop.

cover image college for Booklist: Read-a-Likes for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

 

If You Want a Book with Blackmail or Mystery:

  1. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus: All of them were caught using cell phones during school hours. All of them claim they were framed. On Monday afternoon the five of them walk into detention at Bayview High. Only four of them walk out alive.
  2. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart: Frankie embarks on a path of unprecedented mischief, mayhem, and intrigue during her sophomore year at boarding school.
  3. The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby: Charlie and John have nothing in common except for art and ambition. They are both determined to win and they won’t let anything stand in their way. Not a soul-killing job at Salad Stop or an unsympathetic girlfriend. Not a dad’s girlfriend’s drug-addicted ex-boyfriend. And definitely not a very minor case of kidnapping.
  4. The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed: They start as nobodies. Three misfits trying to find their way. Bound together by shared outrage new girl Grace, queer punk girl Rosina, and nerdy loner Erin become the Nowhere Girls as they try to seek justice and change in their small Texas town in the aftermath of Lucy’s attempt to report her gang rape–a crime most of the town chooses to ignore.

If You Want a Book with a Musical (or a Play):

  1. The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle: Quinn doesn’t know how to deal with his sister’s death but his best friend insists that it’s time for Quinn to rejoin the living. One haircut later Quinn meets a hot guy at his first college parts and starts to think the movie version of his life might have a happy ending after all.
  2. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan: Two boys, one name, and one collision course that sets both Wills on the path of love, friendship, and an epic high school musical.
  3. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills: Already on the wrong side of her school’s worst mean girl, Claudia doesn’t know what to think when they’re both forced to try out for the school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But mandatory participation might be exactly what Claudia needs to broaden her horizons.
  4. Anything Could Happen by Will Walton: Tretch knows his dads will support him if he comes out. But he’s not sure what it would mean for his quiet small town life, or his painful crush on his straight best friend. But practicing dance routines alone can only go so far. Tretch will have to put himself center stage if he wants to get his due.

If You Want a Book with Pen Pals:

  1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: No one was ever supposed to see Lara Jean’s love letters except for Lara Jean. They were never meant for anyone else. With all of her feelings laid bare for these five boys, Lara Jean isn’t sure how to go back to the girl she used to be before the letters were delivered.
  2. In Real Life by Jessica Love: Hannah thinks the Nick she’s known online can’t be that different from Nick in real life. But she only has one night in Vegas to figure that out and decide if she’s ready to risk her heart trying to make their friendship into something more.
  3. The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty: When Cassie, Emily, and Lydia join their school’s pen pal project they don’t expect to make friends–let alone fall for–they boys they’re writing to at a neighboring school. But taking their written correspondence to real life proves more challenging than any of them realize and might even put the rest of the pen pal project at risk.
  4. Dear Martin by Nic Stone: Justyce hopes to find some answers in the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after he is profiled and unfairly detained by the police. But as Jus tries to follow his teachings and writes to Dr. King to try and make sense of his life, Justyce starts to wonder if those teachings have any place in the modern world where boys like Justyce are still dying.

If You Want a Funny Story:

  1. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsburg: When Rafe moves to a new all boys’ boarding school he decides to start with a clean slate where he isn’t “the gay kid.” Except keeping a secret like that isn’t easy. Especially when he might also be falling in love.
  2. Who’s That Girl by Blair Thornbough: Nattie is fine with blending in, joking with her friends, and possibly, sort of, flirting with Zach the Anarchist. But when local pop star Sebastian writes a hit single called “Natalie,” Nattie suddenly finds herself at the center of speculation about “Natalie’s” identity and wondering if she might have a future in the limelight, after all.
  3. The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne: Enthusiastic Daisy is more than ready to support her best friend, Hannah, when she comes out. But Daisy’s can-do attitude backfires when her efforts to end her school’s ban on same-sex dates at dances goes viral and pushes Daisy’s efforts to support her best friend to the sidelines.
  4. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde: Three friends, two love stories, one wild convention, and fandoms galore.

If You Want a Story About This Crazy Thing Called Love:

  1. One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva: Alek Khederian’s summer school nightmare starts to look up when he meets confident, irreverent Ethan and realizes he might be exactly what Alek needs.
  2. You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan: Mark and Kate don’t know each other beyond adjacent seats in class. They’re both in love, they’re both scared, and they just might be able to help each other face what comes next.
  3. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: Both Noah and Jude are haunted by old ghosts and past mistakes. With the help of a curmudgeonly artist and a spectacularly messed-up boy, Jude thinks she can put the pieces of her family back together. Except she only has half of the pieces. It will take both Jude and Noah, together, to make things right.
  4. Fan Art by Sarah Tregay: As senior year wraps up, Jamie is forced to admit he has a problem: he’s fallen hard for his best friend. Jamie might be able to get together with Mason with help from the girls in his art class. But is the chance at romance enough to risk a lifelong friendship?

This post originally appeared on YALSA’s Hub Blog in 2017.

Don’t Hate the Player: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Don't Hate the Player by Alexis NeddEmilia Romero is the star of her high school field hockey team, a straight A student, and a world class secret keeper. It’s the only way she’s found to keep her double life as a player on a competitive esports team in Guardians League Online (GLO) on the down low. Emilia isn’t ashamed of her gaming–she knows she’s great at it. But she also knows that the gaming community is very white and very male and not a great place for a Puerto Rican teen girl to be honest about who she is.

When her team qualifies for a local eSports tournament, Emilia knows she can’t miss this opportunity. Keeping her gaming life separate from her real life, gets a lot more complicated when Emilia recognizes one of the competitors.

Jake has had a crush on Emilia since they met as kids at an arcade birthday party. His underdog team qualifying for the tournament is exciting enough. Seeing Emilia and being thrown back into her orbit? That’s a whole other level.

Competing in the tournament should be as simple as letting the best player win. But when the stakes rise Emilia and Jake both realize they have a lot to gain–and potentially lose–depending on the tournament’s outcome. Growing closer as gamers is great but it will take more than the perfect hidden combo to make sure they can stay close in real life too in Don’t Hate the Player (2021) by Alexis Nedd.

Find it on Bookshop.

Don’t Hate the Player is Nedd’s debut novel. Most of the story is narrated by Emilia with some chapters in third person following Jake.

Nedd knows her stuff and delivers a story entrenched in online gaming that remains approachable to non-gamer readers. The high stakes of the tournament contrast well with the tension as, with Jake’s help, Emilia tries to keep her identity a secret to avoid harassment from the gaming community. Jake has been a gamer all of his life and is aware of the harassment faced by non-male/non-white players from the experiences of his own GLO teammates who include BIPOC players who are queer and trans.

Emilia’s efforts to balance her parents’ expectations with her own desires adds a lot of dimension to the story. Both Jake and Emilia’s friends offer a strong support system as the competition at the tournament amps up and add a lot of humor to the story.

Don’t Hate the Player is a funny, romantic story that shines a light on the joys (and hazards) of the gaming community while proving that sometimes a little competition can bring people together. Recommended for gamers, romantics, and readers looking for books with a healthy dose of humor.

Possible Pairings: Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi, Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner, In Real Life by Jessica Love, Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes, It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi, Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith, Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi

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

The Cousins: A Review

The Cousins by Karen M. McManusThe Story family always lived by one simple rule: family first, always.

That was before the family matriarch mysteriously disinherited and banished all of her children from the family estate on Gull Cove Island with nothing but a letter saying, “You know what you did.” Now cousins Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah barely know each other. They’ve never met their infamous grandmother.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t familiar with the Story family reputation: glamorous, mysterious, and just a little bit tragic. It doesn’t mean they aren’t just a little bit curious when their grandmother reaches out inviting the cousins to work at a local resort for the summer and reconnect. They soon realize the letters they received are a far cry from the real grandmother they find when they arrive on the island.

Everyone in the Story family has secrets but there’s something seductive about family secrets and the way they can become a part of you until exposing them feels just like losing part of yourself. After a lifetime of secrets surrounding their family history, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah will have to uncover the truth to help their entire family move on in The Cousins (2020) by Karen M. McManus.

Find in on Bookshop.

The Cousins is a standalone mystery. Chapters alternate between Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah’s first person narrations. Third person chapters interspersed throughout the story from Milly’s mother, Allison, in 1996 show the events leading up to the disinheritance. With the exception of Milly who is half-Japanese, the Story family is white. A few secondary characters are BIPOC and play small but key roles in the story.

McManus packs a lot into this slim, fast-paced novel as the cousins begin to collaborate to start putting together the pieces of their family’s troubled past. Aubrey, a guileless narrator eager to connect with her estranged family, is a fun contrast to calculating Jonah and shrewd Milly who have more complicated reasons for coming to the island.

The Cousins balances its multiple timelines and plot threads shifting viewpoints so the right character is able to present the right information to readers for maximum impact. Tightly controlled narratives and excellent plot management leave just enough breadcrumbs for readers to try to make sense of the Story family’s secrets along with the protagonists.

The Cousins is an utterly engrossing mystery filled with suspense, complex family dynamics, and three narrators that are as multifaceted as the mystery they’re trying to solve.

Possible Pairings: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee, In the Hall With the Knife by Diana Peterfreund, The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg, How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao, Knives Out

Week in Review: June 19

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

Things that had been in flux are slowly getting back on track as I deal with various work things if nothing else. I signed up for a Christmas in July gift swap to remind myself what it’s like to feel joy so I’m excited to get my person and start putting together a gift box for them.

How was your week?

A Season of Sinister Dreams: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy BanghartStill grieving the death of his son and heir during the Sickness years earlier, the elderly king of Tyne forces all magic workers to the capital where they can prolong his life and protect the castle while the rest of the kingdom suffers.

Annalise has spent years in the castle secretly using her unwieldy magic to weave a web of influence around the king, his grandson (and her cousin) Prince Kendrik, and the king’s advisors. Annalise hopes to exact revenge against the king for her mother’s death–a plan that is close to fruition when Annalise accidentally uses her magic on Kendrik leaving him hidden and monstrously transformed while Annalise becomes the new heir.

Meanwhile, Evra’s quiet country life is ruined when her magic manifests years later than expected making her the first girl ever to become a Clearsee. As magical prophets Clearsees (usually men) use their magic to interpret visions meant to guide and protect the kingdom. While Annalise prepares for her coronation, Evra reluctantly arrives at the capital where she sees cryptic visions hinting at danger. But is the danger a threat to Tyne’s rulers or is it the rulers themselves? in A Season of Sinister Dreams (2021) by Tracy Banghart.

Find it on Bookshop.

This plot-driven standalone fantasy alternates chapters between Annalise and Evra’s first person narrations. All characters are presumed white.

With Annalise used to hiding the scope of her powers and Evra newly invested with magic, both narrations are claustrophobic leaving readers and characters floundering. Themes of agency as both heroines try to defy expectations are undermined by extremely limited world building and backstories that never fully explain character motivations or actions–particularly Annalise’s.

Fans of Banghart’s Grace and Fury will appreciate this book’s strong female leads, fast-paced action, and the focus on Evra and Tam’s friendship despite other shortcomings.

Possible Pairings: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

*A more condensed version of this review appeared as a review in an issue of School Library Journal*

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Summer TBR

These are some of the books at the top of my summer to read list.

  1. An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi
  2. A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
  3. Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason
  4. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
  5. The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
  6. All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue
  7. Baby & Solo by Lisabeth Posthuma
  8. Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
  9. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  10. The Bonemaker by Sarah Beth Durst

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.