Miss Print’s Top Ten: 2021

Better late, than never when it comes to sharing favorite books right?

After much deliberation, and a few detours, here are my top reads from 2021 (click the title to read my review):

Miss Print's Top Ten Books of 2021

You can shop the list on Amazon or Bookshop.

*backdated as I post content I missed in December (details why here: See you in 2022).

December 2021: Reading Recap

Miss Print's Reading Recap

Planned to Read:

  1. The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  2. One Way or Another by Kara McDowell
  3. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
  4. A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey
  5. You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

Read:

  1. ExtraOrdinary by VE Schwab
  2. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (audio)
  3. Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon
  4. Book of Night by Holly Black
  5. Into the Bloodred Woods by Martha Brockenbrough
  6. Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
  7. The Pick-Up by Miranda Kenneally
  8. Amari and the Night Brothers by BB Alston
  9. This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

You can also see what I read in November.

*backdated as I post content I missed in December (details why here: See you in 2022).

Week in Review: December 18

Blog Posts of The Week:

How My Week Went:

Doing some blog cleanup and backdating December content although my last “real” 2021 post was See you in 2022.

See you in 2022

1/10/2022 Update: One last update on this post before I put it to bed and move onto to new posts. Mom came home from the nursing home on January 3. She left a little earlier than planned but her mental health was such that she needed to get home. I also feel like with the continuing bad covid situation, we made the right choice.

Mom has been improving every day. She still gets tired easily and is definitely not back to 100% but she is able to move around the apartment no problem. Bella, our puppy, was scared when she came back home in the wheelchair (Bella doesn’t like moving furniture) but I’m happy to report things are back to normal on that front now too. Bella is very happy to be part of a two person household once more and has resumed jumping on Mom at inopportune moments just like before.

Thank you again to everyone who checked on me and my mom and Bella during a very rough December. Thank you again to everyone who kept us in your thoughts. I always knew I had the best blog readers and social media followers but this confirmed it, I have been so grateful and so humbled to have so many people in my corner. Thank you.


12/23 update: I’m writing this update with a lonely puppy in my lap. Bella looks for Mom around the apartment every morning. After we went for a walk she ran back to search for my mom to no avail.

Mom was transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility (a nursing home with short stay options) last night. I’m really glad she’s out of the hospital as covid cases continue to rise. Have you ever seen a zombie movie where everything is fine, then the news starts talking about weird headlines, then suddenly you’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? Being at the hospital feels a lot like that right now.

In retrospect, as ominous as it felt I’m glad Mom had a lot of contact protocols in place. I had to be in a gown, rubber gloves, and a mask the entire time I visited her. Which is so scary. But hopefully kept her from being exposed to other stuff.

The rehab place feels so much better and safer. I didn’t even realize how scared I was having her in the hospital right now.

Mom’s slowly trying to eat again and she’ll be getting physical therapy at this new place to get her strength back. We’re still taking it one day at a time and trying not to dwell too hard on missing Christmas. I am also trying to take care of myself and get rest so that I don’t make myself sick while being there for Mom.

The double whammy of this happening during the holidays and a pandemic has been unreal.

Honestly, I’m not going to make any pleas to anyone to get vaccinated or wear a mask. If you aren’t doing those two incredibly small things to protect yourself and others, I have nothing left to say to you. I have no sympathy left for anyone leaving their job over vaccine mandates and no patience for anyone acting like the pandemic is in any way over.

I’ll close with a thank you (again) to everyone who has been checking on me, showing up for me, and being there for me (and sending Seamless gift cards). It still feels like a long road but it doesn’t feel like it’s all up hill anymore.


12/19 Update: I have an update and I thought id add it here for anyone who might be following. Mom isn’t going to be home for Christmas.

She was admitted to the ER Thursday after falling twice at home and being very sick and dehydrated. We have since found out she has rotavirus. No idea where she got it.

The main treatment for rotavirus is to let it run its course but it’s wreaked such havoc on my mom’s entire system. She hasn’t been eating since Thursday and she’s extremely weak. Aside from not starting at 100% (I suspect the hospital doesn’t fully understand how she navigated the world before as an elderly/disabled person but that’s a different story).

Right now she can’t get out of bed and she’s still on fluids and they’re trying to figure out what she can eat without aggravating her symptoms. She has some IVs for electrolytes and fluids too but it’s sort of a wait and see stage I think.

The doctors are saying maybe two weeks. But I think a lot depends on how she continues to respond to fluids etc.

Thank you to everyone who has checked in or offered well wishes. This isn’t the first holiday I’ve spend worrying about my mom in the hospital but I sure hope it’s the last.

It’s especially scary right now with covid cases on the rise. All I ever want in situations like this is to not be alone. But I can’t even ask that of anyone right now because I’m exposed to so much stuff every time I go into the hospital.

Part of the protocol for rotavirus involves having a gown and gloves on the entire time I’m with my mom in her room–same for anyone else going in–so it’s been extra fun. I just dropped $50 on disposable face masks and N95 masks and I’m just really hoping we get out on the other side of this soon.


12/16: I’m putting the blog on hiatus until the new year. This post started shorter while I decided what I was comfortable sharing but I decided I didn’t want to talk around it.

Partly this is because I was sick for three weeks after thanksgiving and that burned through my entire queue of written posts. So I need more content. But then something else happened.

My mom is in the hospital. She fell and was in bad shape with symptoms presenting as sepsis. Her numbers are improving but it’s an as yet unidentified infection. Longtime followers will know this isn’t my mother’s first serious hospitalization.

I don’t think it’s as bad as her previous ones. Her numbers are improving but she’s very weak and has a fever. So it’s hard to feel like things are moving in the right direction. Im not even sure if they are honestly. And I’m not taking it as well. I was hysterical and had a massive panic attack when I called 911. I’m still waiting to find some kind of baseline. But I don’t know how to do that.

Being in a hospital in the middle of a pandemic is a nightmare. I’m writing this in my mom’s room while she sleeps. I’m in a face mask and a gown because they’re still isolating the source of the infection. You know, on top of worrying about covid in the hospital.

I don’t really have a grand statement here. I’m grateful to all of my friends who have been checking in and helping me make sure my puppy Bella is okay. But it’s still exhausting and I still feel so isolated and lost and scared.

If you have any space for it, please keep my mom in your thoughts and I’ll be back in 2022.

The Heartbreak Bakery: A (WIRoB) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Independent Review of Books:

The Heartbreak Bakery by A. R. CapettaSeventeen-year-old baker Syd is an “agender cupcake” who still has a lot to figure out about love and the literal magic of baking.

Syd (no pronouns, please) has been with the same girlfriend since coming out as queer in middle school. Four years later it turns out the relationship Syd thought was perfect has more cracks than a badly set cheesecake, leading to a drawn-out breakup with W over one painful weekend. As Syd notes, “I think she’s great, and she thinks I like having a girlfriend too much to notice that sometimes she isn’t.”

Still smarting from the breakup and feeling blindsided, Syd does the obvious thing for a teen holding down a job as a baker while finishing high school: try to bake it out with an easy recipe for brownies which “require three things: a single bowl, a sturdy spoon, and a dedication to dark chocolate.”

Syd’s baking catharsis takes a turn when the post-breakup brownies turn out to be magical Breakup Brownies with all of Syd’s anger, frustration, and hurt baked in. Instead of letting Syd process all of those pent-up feelings, Syd has accidentally fed several bakery customers brownies that precipitate their own breakups–whether the breakups are warranted or not. Obviously, Syd feels awful and wants to erase the “special tang of guilt that comes with subtracting so much queer love from the world.”

Things get even worse when Syd witnesses bakery owners–and husbands–Vin and Alec eat the brownies and start fighting too. Every baker knows you have to clean up your own kitchen but now that the Breakup Brownies have drawn the Proud Muffin into their vortex, Syd is even more frantic to correct this magical mistake before it inadvertently causes the best queer bakery in Austin to shut down.

Proud Muffin’s cute bike delivery person, Harley (he or they–it’s always on the pronoun pin, check it first) is surprisingly receptive to Syd’s magical baking confession and, even better, ready to help mend broken hearts across the city. As Syd works through an impressive baking repertoire ranging from Very Sorry Cake to Shiny New Scones, Syd is able to bond with Harley and process the breakup with W while trying to fix all the relationship collateral damage. The only problem is that as Syd’s feelings grow for Harley, it’s unclear if their chemistry will lead to a recipe for romance or more heartbreak in The Heartbreak Bakery (2021) by A. R. Capetta.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Heartbreak Bakery is an ode to the city of Austin, queer communities everywhere, and baked goods in all of their wonderfully varied forms. Fictional locations like the Proud Muffin complement actual Austin locations like Barton Springs and 24 Diner. Syd and Harley are white with a supporting cast that is diverse and inclusive with characters from across BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities showcasing the intersectionality of many identities.

Even as a member of the Proud Muffin’s enthusiastic and supportive queer community, Syd struggles to articulate to friends and family what it feels like to be agender when “every single time [Syd] stared at the mirror and what [Syd] saw screamed back girl.” Now Syd is “pretty sure that no particular body would make sense to [Syd] all of the time” but also isn’t always sure how to explain that to anyone as easily as others share their pronouns.

Each chapter ends with a recipe, sometimes for actual baked goods readers can make themselves like the peach, strawberry, and basil Honest Pie and sometimes for abstract concepts like Today’s Gender or Baby’s First Polyam Brunch. All of the recipes are written in Syd’s distinct, wry narration with witty asides like “Realize you probably should have added the zest earlier, but you’ve been distracted by the presence of a cute baking partner. Realize that everything is going to turn out delicious either way.”

Part romantic comedy and part bildungsroman, The Heartbreak Bakery beautifully follows Syd through the madcap quest to undo the damage of the Breakup Brownies while also unpacking Syd’s fledgling relationship with Harley and Syd’s journey to fully vocalize their identity as agender (with help from freshly baked Agender Cupcakes, of course) and find their people–agender, magical baker, and otherwise.

Possible Pairings: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim, Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey, Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher, Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian, Simply Irresistible (1999)

Od Magic: A Review

Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillipThe sign for the Od School of Magic sits in front of a cobbler’s shop on a busy street in the ancient city of Kelior. Brenden Vetch finds the door under the shoe.

It is hardly the momentous entrance he envisioned upon receiving a personal invite from Od herself to come to the school where all wizards in Kelior must be tested and trained before serving the kingdom of Numis. But Brenden isn’t there for magic. He’s there to garden. Brenden is gifted with plants–the one refuge he has left after his parents’ deaths and his brother’s departure to seek his fortune–and the school needs a new gardener. Simple.

Except Brenden is more than a talented gardener. More than anyone except Od herself imagined. As Brenden is drawn into the school’s secrets and intrigues he finds himself at the intersection of unrest that has been brewing for years and a crossroad that could change everything for the school and the kingdom in Od Magic (2005) by Patricia A. McKillip.

Find it on Bookshop.

Od Magic is a standalone fantasy with shifting, close third person points of view between the principle main characters. McKillip’s lyrical writing lends itself to this quiet, character-driven novel where the magic system and political situation in Numis slowly unfold.

Light romance, adventure, and plenty of intrigue will immediately draw readers into this story.  Audiobook readers should also check out the audio production which is excellent narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir.

Od Magic is a thoroughly engrossing slice-of-life fantasy perfect for readers looking for a new quiet story to get lost in. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Week in Review: December 11

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

https://twitter.com/miss_print/status/1468407570436083716

Instagram Post of the Week:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CW_P0m1rdRf/

How My Week Went:

Backdated again because I was still in recovery mode this weekend. I was on vacation from November 20 to December 1 and then out sick from the 1st to the 10th with the flu. What a time.

Last Chance Books: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Last Chance Books by Kelsey RodkeyMadeline Moore is counting the days until she can take over at her aunt’s beloved bookstore, Books & Moore. Her family has owned the store for generations; it’s always felt like a second home to Madeline. Her family stubbornly insists she has to go to college first. But Madeline knows after that she can come home and pick up right where she left off making her bookish dreams come true.

At least that was the plan until a chain bookstore opened across the street. With cheaper books and multiple locations, Prologue is a big threat to an indie like Books & Moore. Especially when Jasper Hamada starts scoping out the competition under the guise of flirting with Madeline. Flirting well. But still.

With her long-absent mother back in the picture and threatening to move home for good, Madeline’s personal life is a mess. She misses her brother who is spending more time at his dad’s to avoid the drama at home. She doesn’t understand why her aunt is always taking her mom’s side. Madeline needs one thing she can control and she’s pretty sure saving Books & Moore is it. She is definitely not going to let Assper Hamada distract her by being super cute and sort of . . . nice to her?

With help from her reluctant family, her BookTuber best friend Zelda, and the store’s community, Madeline hopes she can save the store and win an escalating prank war with Prologue. Turns out Jasper is as good at pranking as he is at flirting and more than prepared to give as good as he gets.

As sparks–and barbs–fly, Madeline will have to decide if connecting with Jasper Hotmada is worth risking her entire future. All’s fair in love and books (and prank wars) but that might not mean Madeline can have it all in Last Chance Books (2021) by Kelsey Rodkey.

Find it on Bookshop.

Last Chance Books is Rodkey’s debut novel. The story is narrated by Madeline who is white as is her mother and aunt. Her brother and his father are brown skinned. Jasper and his family are Japanese American.

Rodkey presents a well-developed cast and tackles a variety of side plots against the main focus of Madeline’s feud (and flirtation) with Jasper. Madeline has been raised by her aunt with a lot of help from her younger brother Benny’s father. Madeline and Benny’s mother, an aspiring actress and bit of a flake, has been absent for years leaving both Madeline and Benny to wonder about the ulterior motives–and permanence–of her return this time around. While Madeline has to deal with the possible upending of her clear plan for her future (taking over Books & Moore), Jasper faces a different challenge in getting his family to accept his dream of going into design–a passion he currently feeds through cosplay.

Moments of humor (and more than a few hijinks) add levity to the story and help flesh out the main characters as well as their authentically quirky retail settings. Madeline’s snappy narration and satisfying banter with Jasper make Last Chance Books a real treat. Recommended for readers with a soft spot for books about bookstores, enemies to lovers romances, and stories that will have them laughing out loud.

Possible Pairings: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, The Heartbreak Bakery by A. R. Capetta, Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan, We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, Tweet Cute by Emma Lord, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story by Lauren Morill, It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi, Recommended For You by Laura Silverman, This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura, Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian, The Shop Around the Corner, You’ve Got Mail

Little Thieves: A Review

The little thief steals gold, but the great one steals kingdoms; and only one goes to the gallows.
-Almanic proverb

Little Thieves by Margaret OwenFor Vanja Schmidt, nothing has ever been free–not even the love of her godmothers Death and Fortune. After years struggling to avoid trapping herself in service to either of the godmothers who refuse to claim her as their own, Vanja has almost earned enough to buy her freedom. By earn, she means stolen.

Vanja has left an impressive trail of damage in her wake ranging from stolen jewels to, most recently, a stolen life. Being Princess Gisele’s trusted maid should have kept Vanja safe. It didn’t. So Vanja finds her own way to safety by stealing Gisele’s enchanted pearls and using them to impersonate the princess. Gisele is left penniless and alone. But that is a small price to pay for Vanja to be safe and free–one she’d pay again twice over.

When Vanja is so close to freedom she can taste it, all of her lies threaten to bury her.

Vanja angers the wrong god and incurs a very dangerous curse on what should have been her last heist. Now Vanja will become exactly what she always wanted unless she can break the curse. It starts with a ruby on her cheek that could pay her entire way if only she could pry it loose. She can’t, of course. And neither can anyone else who covets it. That isn’t Vanja’s biggest problem.

If Vanja is unable to make amends for her past misdeeds in two weeks, the jewels will spread and kill her. Even if she survives that, Gisele’s fiancé has pushed up their wedding. Meaning Vanja might find herself married to a brute of a prince who seems intent on making sure his bride never makes it past the honeymoon.

Worse, someone has finally caught onto Vanja’s schemes. And he might be the one person too smart for Vanja to outwit.

After years of cons and heists, Vanja is intimately familiar with the trinity of want. She knows how dangerous it is to be loved, or wanted, or used by the wrong people. She is less certain of how to find the right people to help her–let alone convince them to trust her–to steal back her life in Little Thieves (2021) by Margaret Owen.

Find it on Bookshop.

Little Thieves is an inventive retelling of the German fairytale “The Goose Girl.” It is also the first book in a duology. The story is narrated by Vanja with section headings grouped under different fairy tales Vanja shares with readers–each tale includes an illustration done by the author. Vanja is among several characters cued as white although the world Owen conjures strays from the stereotypical Germanic setting of many fairy tales to make space for characters who are BIPOC and from span the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Owen breathes new life into this familiar tale by reframing the story to follow the supposed villain. Flashbacks in the form of fairytales illuminate the deeds and misdeeds that led Vanja to steal Gisele’s pearls. They also offer hints of how Vanja can make her way back from it and break the curse.  Young sleuth Emeric Conrad is an apt foil to Vanja’s schemes and ably keeps pace with her throughout this clever tale.

After years of getting by on her wits and what she could steal with her own two hands, Vanja is slowly forced to admit that she might not be able to do everything alone. As she finds new allies–reluctant and otherwise–she slowly builds out a support system and confronts the role her own tendency for self-destruction played in her checkered past. Owen skillfully demonstrates Vanja’s growth throughout the novel as she moves from a girl willing to pry a ruby off her own face (if only she could) to one who might have to sacrifice everything to save the people she’s hesitantly begun to care about.

Little Thieves is a sleek page-turner that seamlessly blends classic fairytale elements with a high stakes con, sardonic humor, and flawed characters you can’t help but adore. Come for the imaginative world building and a truly distinct retelling, stay for the gasp-worthy twists, found family, and slow burn romance. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater

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

Week in Review: December 4

Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

Backdated from week 1 of my convalesence with the flu.