October 2021 Reading Recap

Miss Print's Reading Recap

Planned to Read:

  1. Lawless Spaces by Corey Ann Haydu
  2. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslian Charles
  3. It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi
  4. Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente
  5. The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi
  6. The Pick-Up by Miranda Kenneally
  7. A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Read:

  1. Yolk by Mary HK Choi (audio)
  2. Little Thieves by Margaret Owen (audio)
  3. Lawless Spaces by Corey Ann Haydu
  4. It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi
  5. Yolk by Mary HK Choi (audio)
  6. Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab (audio)
  7. A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
  8. Salt Magic by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
  9. ParaNorthern: and the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calypse by Stephanie Cooke and Mari Costa
  10. Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen
  11. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles (audio)
  12. A World Without Email by Cal Newport (audio)
  13. The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur (audio)
  14. Shades of Magic Volume 1: The Steel Prince
  15. Shades of Magic Volume 2: Night of Knives
  16. Shades of Magic Volume 3: The Rebel Army

Recap Video:

You can also see what I read in September.

Week in Review: October 30

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

No lies. October Kicked my butt. I’m so tired.

ParaNorthern: And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calpse: A Graphic Novel Review

ParaNorthern: and the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calypse by Stephanie Cooke and Mari CostaFall break for Abby means helping out at her mom’s coffee shop and babysitting her little sister, Ella. Hopefully in between all that Abby will get to hang out with her friends Hannah (a ghost who immigrated from a spectral dimension), Gita (a wolf-girl), and Silas (a pumpkinhead doing his best to spread awareness and encourage a gourd-free autumn for all). If she’s really lucky Abby will also get to practice some of her spellwork and potions–if she gets goods enough maybe her mom will add some of Abby’s potions to the menu.

When Ella is bullied by speed demons, Abby obviously has to help. But something goes wrong with her magic. Instead of diverting the bullies Abbby opens a portal to another realm. A realm filled with chaos bunnies.

The bunnies are super cute when they’re on their side of the portal. When they start hopping through North Haven they’re decidedly less cute and markedly more chaotic.

With the bunnies leaving a trail of, well, chaos in their wake Abby will have to get help from her friends to fix her magic and stop this a-hop-ocalypse in its tracks in ParaNorthern: And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calpse (2021) by Stephanie Cooke, illustrated by Mari Costa.

Find it on Bookshop.

ParaNorthern: And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calpse is a fun middle grade graphic novel that introduces readers to Abby, her friends, and the magical town of North Haven. Abby and her family are Black. Hannah is brown skinned and wears a hijab. Cooke and Costa have worked together to create a town that is presented as both inclusive and magical with background characters as well. This creates a lot of front-loading in terms of world building but it also makes North Haven a town readers will want to return to again and again.

Cooke drops readers into the middle of the story without a lot of explanation about North Haven’s clearly magical underpinnings or Abby’s abilities as a witch. As it turns out, that’s something Abby is still figuring out herself which becomes a big part of the book’s plot. Costa uses an orange-hued palette for scenes in North Haven while more magical panels on other planes are more purple. Snappy dialog between Abby’s friend group demonstrates support and gives space to a developing romance between Abby and Gita. Costa’s illustrations make bloodthirsty chaos bunnies cuter than they have any right to be while also admirably portraying motion and action including an expertly drawn double page spread of the rabbits runnning rampant through the coffee shop.

The fast clip of the story can feel rushed but remains enjoyable. Themes of support and love from both friends and family add heart to this magical adventure.

Possible Pairings: Moonstruck by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, Kate Leth; Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner; Snapdragon by Kat Leyh; Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen; Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks; Camp Midnight by Steven T. Seagle; The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner; Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

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

The Nature of Witches: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Nature of Witches by Rachel GriffinWitches maintain the weather and climate in every season. But as the weather becomes more erratic, the climate more damaged by shaders (those without magic) who take the witchs’ help for granted, it’s becoming harder for the witches to keep nature in balance. More witches are dying of depletion than ever before as they push their seasonal powers beyond their limits to try and help.

Clara could change that. As the first Everwitch born in a hundred years, she is stronger than any other witch alive. With her magic tied to every season, she should be positioned to help with out-of-season storms and other unpredictable weather phenomenon.

The problem no one is willing to acknowledge is that Clara’s magic is as dangerous as it is strong.

In Autumn, Clara is ready to do anything to deny her power. Her magic has already cost Clara her parents and her best friend. She isn’t prepared to lose anyone else.

In Winter, it’s harder to ignore how dangerous things are becoming for witches and shaders alike. Even Clara has to accept that she needs to help–no matter the risks.

In Spring, Clara falls for Sang, the spring witch helping her learn to control her powers. As Clara becomes more comfortable with her magic, falling for Sang feels inevitable even if it means making him a target for her magic. Clara already severed ties with her ex-girlfriend to protect her. She isn’t sure she can do that to Sang.

In Summer, Clare will have to decide once and for all if she can balance her happiness and her magic–and how much she’s willing to give up for either in The Nature of Witches (2021) by Rachel Griffin.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Nature of Witches is Griffin’s debut novel. Clara is white, Sang is Korean American, and there is diversity among the supporting cast.

This novel is strongly tied to the seasons which are on full display at the Eastern School of Solar Magic in Pennsylvania where most of the story takes place. The novel is set over the course of one year with parts broken up by the seasons which trace both the changing weather and subtle changes in Clara’s personality and moods as different seasons gain dominance.

Clara’s efforts to find control and ground her magic read as an extended (and for many readers, much needed) metaphor for mindfulness and acceptance. While some narrative threads–including Clara’s reluctant status as a rare Everwitch–will feel familiar to genre readers, Clara’s path to internal acceptance will be affirming and welcome for readers living in a world that often feels as out of control as Clara’s own. The weighty beginning as Clara moves through grief for her parents and other casualties from her magic also lightens throughout the narrative as Clara fully processes her losses. The slow burn between Clara and Sang as well as Clara’s complicated history with her ex-girlfriend add another dimension to this story and cue Clara as canonically bisexual.

Griffin’s lush writing is evocative and well-informed. Griffin became a certified weather spotter for the National Weather Service while writing this novel. A magic system that is cleverly integrated into our modern world underscores the current climate crisis and need for change while offering readers a decidedly escapist story. The Nature of Witches is the perfect choice for readers looking for a magic-infused story with high stakes, characters with chemistry, and lush writing. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw, Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, Sweet and Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley, The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, Twister

It All Comes Back to You: A Review

It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz RishiKiran Noorani has life after high school all mapped out. She’ll stay close to home in Philadelphia for college so she can be near her dad. Being a premed freshman at UPenn will be challenging, of course, but Kiran she and her sister Amira will be able to make up for lost time when they move into an apartment together near campus. It won’t be perfect because Kiran’s mother will still be dead. But it will be close.

Except Amira has been dating someone for months without telling Kiran. Someone she might want to move all the way to California with even though she barely knows him. Kiran wants the best for her sister and she’s already certain this mystery man is not it.

Deen Malik couldn’t be happier when he hears that his older brother, Faisal, has a great girlfriend. It’s no less than Faisal deserves–especially after everything he’s given up for Deen.

Deen is less enthusiastic when he realizes that Amira’s sister is Deen’s secret ex. No one knew when Deen and Kiran dated three years ago. Which is fine. It’s long over between them. But Deen is determined to make sure Faisal’s own romance doesn’t meet the same fate.

While Kiran does everything she can to sabotage this relationship, Deen is just as determined to keep the romance on course. With the two of them so busy obsessing over their siblings’ relationship, will they miss their own chance at closure and maybe something more in It All Comes Back to You (2021) by Farah Naz Rishi.

Find it on Bookshop.

It All Comes Back to You alternates between Kiran and Deen’s first person narrations in the weeks leading up to Amira and Faisal’s wedding. Chats from the MMORPG that Kiran and Deen both play and text messages help flesh out the backstory that broke up their secret relationship three years ago. Kiran and Deen (and their relatives) are Pakistani American and Muslim.

Rishi packs a lot into this story that centers around the whirlwind wedding preparations. Kiran is still grieving her mother’s death the year before while trying to reconcile her premed plans with her love for dance Deen, meanwhile, is struggling to care about his freshman coursework and determined to self-destruct before anyone can expect better of him.

Although the two couldn’t be farther apart in real life, anonymous chats in their MMORPG game Cambria are a touchstone for both protagonists as they pursue their singular goals. Kiran and Deen both mean well and want the best for their siblings. They also both make some really terrible decisions to accomplish what they think is best. Kiran, in particular, is hard to cheer on while she works so hard to sabotage the wedding, expose secrets that aren’t hers to tell, and otherwise make sure Amira stays on the path that Kiran wants her to follow.

It All Comes Back to You is a fast-paced contemporary romance that is as focused on family as it is on second chances. Recommended for readers looking for a new hate-to-love romance and two main characters who have a lot of room to grow throughout the story.

Possible Pairings: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett, Tweet Cute by Emma Lord, Save the Date by Morgan Matson, Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes, Don’t Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd, Charming As a Verb by Ben Philippe, Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey

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

Week in Review: October 23

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

Last weekend didn’t really feel like a weekend with moving all of the furniture in my living and dining rooms while the cable technician rewired the apartment (whether this resolved the ongoing signal issues is unclear) and the week has been go go go since then. I moderated the Forging Your Own Path panel on Thursday and it was really fun. Of course I work this Saturday so another weekend without much in the way of rest. Maybe in November?

Awake: A Picture Book Review

Awake by Mags DeromaIn a big, big city on a busy street a little girl has her bedroom at the tipity-top of a pretty tall building. Just as she is getting sleepy and ready for bed  …

SPIDER!

… now the girl is not sleepy. She is awake.

No way is she going to sleep with a spider in her room. So the little girl starts brainstorming ways to remove the spider only to realize that the she might not be the only one scared by this sudden development in Awake (2021) by Mags Deroma.

Awake is Deroma’s picture book debut. As the copyright page notes, her artwork is created “with paint and soft pastels on a gazillion pieces of cut paper all collaged together.” This technique gives a colorblock look to Deroma’s illustrations while also offering opportunities for intricate details in wide views of the city outside the girl’s bedroom windows.

Every piece of this book ties back to the story from the copyright laid out like a spiderweb to the endpapers urging readers to open their eyes, minds, and hearts to be awake. The endpapers at the back of the book includes tips to remove any pesky spiders with a glass and a piece of cardboard–the technique our protagonist employs upon realizing the spider is more itsy bitsy than big and scary.

Awake is a dynamic picture book that makes use of the brief text and bold artwork to add action and drama to the story as the little girl contends with her unwanted companion. The artwork also contrasts the girl’s reality in her bedroom well with her interior monologue as she tries to figure out how to deal with her arachnid visitor.

Awake is a fun, sweet story ideal for reading at bedtime or in tandem with other pro-bug picture book adventures.

Possible Pairings: Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian and Mike Curato, The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle, Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss, How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers, Thank You and Goodnight by Patrick McDonnell, The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen

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

Gods of Jade and Shadow: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Words are seeds, Casiopea. With words you embroider narratives, and the narratives breed myths, and there’s power in the myth. Yes, the things you name have power.”

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno GarciaCasiopea Tun’s quiet life in a small Mexican town is very far from the Jazz Age’s action and splendor. Her father taught her to love the stars. Sometimes, even without him, the stars are enough of a distraction from the drudgery of life in her grandfather’s house where she is more likely to be found cleaning than listening to jazz. Like her mother, she is used to suffering the petty digs of her family in silence. Their complaints that she is too dark, that she is a girl, can’t touch her. Not when she dreams of more.

Even her cousin Martín’s abuses are bearable because Casiopea refuses to believe this house will be her life forever. It can’t be in a world where there are stars and movies and automobiles.

Everything changes, as it sometimes does, in the blink of an eye when Casiopea opens a strange wooden box in her grandfather’s room. Instead of treasures or secrets, she finds bones and accidentally releases the spirit of Hun-Kamé, Lord of Xibalba, the Mayan god of death.

His kingdom has been stolen by his traitorous brother who left Hun-Kamé trapped in the box for years. Missing his one ear, one eye, one index finger, and the jade necklace that represents his power, Hun-Kamé cannot face his brother alone. With Casiopea’s help he can make himself whole and recover what was stolen from him. Tying herself to Hun-Kamé could be fatal for Casiopea if they fail. But success could bring her everything she has ever dreamed of.

Helping a god will bring Casiopea from the jungles of Yucatán to glittering Mexico City and beyond. Traveling with Hun-Kamé will also bring Casiopea closer to her truest self and to feelings she dare not name because the things you name always grow in power in Gods of Jade and Shadow (2019) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Find it on Bookshop.

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a quiet, character driven story with a close focus on Casiopea through the lens of an omniscient third person narrator. This degree of separation lends a timeless, inevitable quality to the book as it moves toward the final confrontation between Hun-Kamé and his brother.

Fantastical world building and subtle characterization breathe new life into the Mayan mythology that scaffolds this story of a girl striving for more and, finally, having a chance to grasp it. Subtle conversations and nonverbal interactions between Casiopea and Hun-Kamé underscore the changing relationship (and chemistry) between these singular characters.

Gods of Jade and Shadow is, in my humble opinion, a perfect book. Come for the adventure and engrossing plot, stay for the well-realized characters and bittersweet ending that will linger long after the story is finished.

Possible Pairings: Lovely War by Julie Berry, The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close: A Non-Fiction Review

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann FriedmanIt takes about three hundred hours to become best friends with someone–in other words, just twelve and a half days. But it takes so much more than proximity to go from acquaintances to friends. Even after forging that shared wavelength, forming those bonds, you have to keep showing up to keep the friendship healthy.

Being a good friend is a lot of work. Friendships can be messy. They can be unwieldy. Sometimes they can feel uneven when you put in more than you get back (or the other way around).

Friendships can also be just as important as any romantic or familial relationship you’ll ever have.

So why don’t we talk about friendship more? Why is there so little written about these relationships that can define so much about our support systems and, ultimately, about ourselves?

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close (2020) by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman doesn’t have all the answers but it does include a lot of smart observations about friendship.

Find it on Bookshop.

You might know Sow and Friedman from their “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast. This book (which the authors narrate for the audiobook) brings readers behind the curtain of the highlight reel of their friendship to look at the moments that brought them together, tested their friendship, and ultimately kept them close.

While Big Friendship is not a guide to creating and maintaining friendships, the book does include smart tips through the specific lens of Sow and Friedman’s relationship. The book also explores the stretches inherent to maintaining friendships and the unique challenge of making space for something that society often tells adults to devalue in favor of a focus on work or family.

In a time that has tested more than a few friendships, Big Friendship is a timely and thoughtful read sure to provoke some valuable conversations and offer needed space for introspection.

Possible Pairings: Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen, Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond by Lydia Denworth, Crossing the Racial Divide: Close Friendships Between Black and White Americans by Kathleen O. Korgen, The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate by Harriet Lerner, Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship by Kayleen Schaefer, You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships by Deborah Tannen, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle, Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship by Kath Weston

Week in Review: October 16: In which I link to many things

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

Here’s what you need to know:

  1.  I have a witch reading list over at Library Journal’s website: https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=A-Witches-Reading-List-17-titles-to-read-and-share
  2.  I’m moderating a virtual panel with Thanhha Lai, Debbie Rigaud, and Romina Garber next week. Details here: https://missprint.wordpress.com/2021/09/14/see-me-virtually-in-october-at-the-tampa-bay-teen-lit-fest/
  3.  I am going all in with a fall theme on Instagram. If you use the site, consider giving my pumpkin-y pics a like or two :) https://instagram.com/missprint_/