September 2022 Reading Recap

Miss Print's Reading Recap


  1. The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb by Candace Fleming
  2. The Princess Will Save You by Sarah Henning
  3. The One True Me and You by Remi K. England
  4. Alice Austen Lived Here by Alex Gino
  5. Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life by Marilyn Nelson
  6. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  7. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
  8. The Song That Moves the Sun by Anna Bright
  9. Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty
  10. The Queen Will Betray You by Sarah Henning
  11. Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen
  12. The King Will Kill You by Sarah Henning
  13. Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor
  14. The Hunger Between Us by Marina Scott
  15. Fresh by Margot Wood

You can also see what I read last month.

Author Interview: Kendare Blake on All These Bodies

Kendare Blake author photoAll These Bodies is an atmospheric story at the intersection of true crime and horror following Michael Jensen in the summer of 1958 when a grisly killing spree lands in Black Deer Falls, Minnesota. As Michael begins working with the police to interview Marie Catherine Hale, the only person found alive at the most recent crime scene, Michael is drawn into an investigation that is much darker–and surprising–than he could have imagined. This book has been living rent-free in my head since I finished it so I’m very excited to have Kendare here today to talk about it.

Miss Print: Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Kendare Blake: Yikes, the path is so long at this point it hardly feels like I know. I wrote for a long time as a kid, and as a college student, working on craft, messing around with fanfiction which is also working on craft. Writing short stories and novels that weren’t ready for publication. I did a Master’s in Creative Writing that let me live in London for a year, and that was cool. Eventually my writing got better, and stories started selling, and then I wrote Anna Dressed in Blood. Now I’ve been publishing novels and short stories for more than a decade.

Miss Print: What was the inspiration for All These Bodies? Was any research involved to nail the historical period and atmospheric setting?

Kendare Blake: All These Bodies was inspired by three true things: the murders of the Clutters and Truman Capote’s true crime masterpiece, IN COLD BLOOD; the multi-state murder spree of teenaged killers Charlie Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate; and the Vampire Hysteria of New England.

As for research, I did some, like looking into what students in the 50s might have eaten for school lunch, but I still messed up: apparently blue lights weren’t added to police cruisers until the 60s and my dad says they did not have pop top beer cans.

Miss Print: All These Bodies was a 2021 Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Novel–an award given for horror novels (congrats!). After your more recent fantasy adventures in the Three Dark Crowns series and Buffy: The Next Generation (your addition to the Buffyverse), what was it like returning to the horror genre?

Kendare Blake: Thank you for the congrats! I was so excited to be a finalist! It was great to return to the horror genre, and in many ways I felt like I’d never strayed far. Both Three Dark Crowns and Buffy: the Next Generation have some horror elements. What can I say, I like entrails.

Miss Print: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have been thinking about All These Bodies nonstop since I finished it. One of my favorite things about this book is the interplay between what your narrator Michael knows to be true about the case and what Marie tells Michael which leaves readers to draw their own conclusions. How did you balance this push and pull?

Kendare Blake: This is so wonderful to hear. Writing the back and forth between Marie and Michael, and balancing the known world of true crime with the speculative aspect of vampirism was one of the most challenging parts of the book. But it was also one of the most fun. Michael is a natural journalist, and the way he processes Marie’s story did half the work for me. I absolutely loved working with him. Over the course of the story his views are tested, and even by the end, when he’s made his choice about what to believe, he’s still being tested. The kid is so unassuming, but he became one of my favorite narrators ever.

Miss Print: We’re living in a strange time with the pandemic as we all continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and work together to stop the spread of Covid-19. How would your characters be handling the pandemic?

Kendare Blake: It’s hard to take characters with 1950s viewpoints and plop them into our modern day problems without having experienced the transitional decades in between, but I think both Michael and Marie would be handling it pretty well. They have rich interior lives, so they’d have plenty to think about and keep themselves entertained while sitting at home ordering groceries for delivery.

Miss Print: What does a typical writing day look like for you? Has this changed in light of the pandemic?

Kendare Blake: Writing is quite solitary and I generally did it from home, so my day-to-day hasn’t changed much. I do occasionally sneak off on writing retreats or write with friends in cafes though, so there was a period of time where I didn’t see my writing clutch in person for over a year. And I missed them!

Miss Print: Can you tell me anything about what you’re currently working on?

Kendare Blake: Of course! Right now I’m working on a number of things: the final book in the Buffy: the Next Generation trilogy, and my new epic fantasy series, which is set in the same world as Three Dark Crowns. It doesn’t have an official title yet, but I’ve codenamed it AMAZON JEDIS, because it’s like if the Wonder Woman Amazons had a baby with the Jedi Order. Comes out in Fall 2023, and I should have more announcements about it soon! Hopefully like an actual title.

Miss Print: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

Kendare Blake: Always. Though the worst vice is advice, and it won’t be applicable to everyone. READ. You learn a lot from reading, consciously and unconsciously, and you will continue to throughout your writing career. And: WRITE. Which sounds like the easy part, but isn’t. Find a way to get your butt in the chair and the words on the page. They don’t need to be perfect words the first time around. They just need to get out of your head and into reality.

Thank you to Kendare for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Kendare and her books on her website.

You can read my review of All These Bodies here on the blog.

All These Bodies: A Review

All These Bodies by Kendare BlakeA series of strange murders is leaving a grisly trail across the Midwest in the summer of 1958.

The bodies are found in their cars, their homes, their beds. All of them are drained of blood. But the scenes are clean. No blood anywhere.

On September 19 the Carlson family is slaughtered in their secluded farmhouse in Black Deer Falls, Minnesota and the police might finally have a lead when Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene.

Covered in blood, mistaken for a survivor, it soon becomes clear that Marie is something else when police realize the blood is not hers.

Michael Jensen has been following coverage of the murders all summer, eager to test his mettle as an aspiring journalist and pave the way out of his small town. When his father, the local sheriff, arrests Marie, Michael knows it’s an opportunity he likely won’t see again.

Talking to Marie, assisting the police, having firsthand access to the case files gives Michael a close-up view of the investigation and the girl at its center. Marie doesn’t look like a killer, but she’s confessing to Michael over a series of interviews. She says there’s more to the killings than anyone can imagine but as her story unfolds Michael is the one who will have to decide if the truth is the same as what people will believe in All These Bodies (2021) by Kendare Blake.

Find it on Bookshop.

All These Bodies was a 2021 Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Novel. The story is narrated by Michael and all characters are assumed white.

Blake expertly unspools Michael’s naked ambition to become a journalist with his increasingly thorny ethical dilemma when it comes to using Marie’s story for his own gain. The narrative focuses on Marie and whether being complicit is the same as being an accomplice while slowly teasing out what may have happened to the Carlsons and all the other victims.

Centering Marie while having the story related by Michael explores questions of the male gaze and agency as the story builds to its dramatic finish. Marie’s journey in the media from victim to villain is nuanced and contrasts well with Michael’s own conflicting feelings on whether Marie can be the violent criminal authorities seem to think she is while also being his friend.

Michael’s pragmatic narration only increases the tension as Marie shares her confession to her role in the murders and hints at something even more sinister at play while leaving space for readers to interpret events for themselves.

All These Bodies is an atmospheric story at the intersection of true crime and horror; one that will stay with you in all of the best ways.

Possible Pairings: No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, Breaker by Kat Ellis, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus, Broken Things by Lauren Oliver, Sadie by Courtney Summers, The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

Want to know more? Check out my interview with Kendare.

Week in Review: September 24

Blog Posts:

My Week:

My schedule has had zero consistency or routine right now while I go to various appointments and get some errands off my to do list. It feels fitting to have this Mercury Retrograde end during a chaotic time but I’m definitely looking forward to things calming down soon!

You Truly Assumed: A Review

You Truly Assumed by Laila SabreenIn the wake of a terrorist attack three Black Muslim teens find unlikely comfort online.

Sabriya is close enough to the attack in DC that her father picks her up from the dance studio; close enough that Bri, her younger sister, and their father all hold their breaths until Bri’s mother walks through the door. With the news cycle stuck on the attacks, on the terrorist with a name that sounds just Muslim enough for people looking for an excuse, Bri doesn’t know what to do with all of her big feelings about the attack and the aftermath and the way her perfectly planned summer of conservatory auditions is impossible now. Usually she’d write it all down in a notebook but this time she goes to a blog instead. Which changes everything.

Every Muslim in the US feels the ramifications of the attacks, worries about the Islamaphobia it will help justify. But it all feels far away for Zakat in the idyllic Muslim community she has always known in her town in Georgia. Until a childhood enemy is hired at the bookstore alongside Zakat and her best friend. While Aafreen is quick to trust and offer second chances, Zakat can’t help but wonder if this new addition to their social circle has anything to do with the vandalism at their mosque and other hateful incidents. Contributing her artwork to a new blog called You Truly Assumed should be a refuge and a distraction. But it becomes anything but as hateful commenters find the site.

Farah’s summer pushes her way out of her comfort zone. Instead of spending it with her mother, Farah is sent across the country to get to her father and meet her step-mother and half-siblings for the first time. The trip is a chance to explore college options on the east coast and test the waters of a long distance relationship. Farah doesn’t expect to also find community as a co-runner of You Truly Assumed much less as someone helping to plan a vigil after another attack.

As the blog gains momentum and attention Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah will all have to deal with the fallout as they try to make a place for themselves and other Black Muslim teens in You Truly Assumed (2022) by Laila Sabreen.

Find it on Bookshop.

You Truly Assumed is Sabreen’s debut novel. Chapters alternate between Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah’s first person narrations. While the three start as strangers in different areas their growing connection brings both the characters and their divergent stories together. These protagonists also help break down the idea of the Muslim or Black experience as a monolith. Zakat, a hijabi, is an aspiring artist attending a Muslim school who is very active in her local mosque. Farah and her mother are Muslim but Farah is spending the summer with her Black father and his family who are Christian while she considers STEM college options on the east coast.  Sabriya comes from a inter-faith household and is weighing the pros and cons of attending college or a conservatory ballet program after high school before the blog takes off.

While the advent and maintenance of the blog is what initially starts the story, each girl has their own arc as the novel progresses with navigating new family dynamics, micro-aggressions, friendships, and romantic relationships. Sabreen balances these multiple plots and protagonists well giving each girl adequate page time to stand out. Questions of how each girl negotiates being Black or Muslim enough in spheres that try to treat the two as mutually exclusive also lead to empowering moments as each heroine comes into her own. Unfortunately the writing doesn’t always do as much work to distinguish between the narrators with the voices sometimes blending together. (I listened to the audiobook and even having three different voice actors as narrators didn’t help.)

You Truly Assumed offers an authentic perspective on what it means to navigate online spaces showcasing both the highs–as Sabriya, Zakat, and Farah form a real friendship thanks to running the blog together–and the lows–when a conservative, alt right site lists the blog for a targeted harassment campaign. The girls’ families are also refreshingly present and, as situations escalate, involved in the resolution including some hard conversations about what happens next. Although Farah is in a relationship for the entirety of the novel, the story remains firmly focused on friendship and community rather than romance.

You Truly Assumed is an empowering story about finding your voice and your community. A must read in these disconnected times.

Possible Pairings: Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed, Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali, Girls Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake, Love Times Infinity by Lane Clarke, Does My Body Offend You? by Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt, Until We Break by Matthew Dawkins, Home is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Seton Girls by Charlene Thomas

Only a Monster: A Review

Only a Monster by Vanessa LenSixteen-year-old Joan Chang-Hunt has a lot to look forward to this summer. She is once again staying with her mother’s eclectic family in London but this year is even better. Not only does she have a dream job at the historic Holland House–she gets to work alongside fellow nerd and crush Nick.

Going on a date with Nick is truly a dream come true. Or at least it should be. Unfortunately, the day of the date does not go as planned.

Instead of the start of a perfect summer, Joan finds herself in a nightmare as she learns more about her family–and their secrets.

Joan comes from a long line of monsters. Actual monsters with horrifying powers. Powers Joan might have herself.

Monsters are the least of Joan’s problems when she realizes that Nick is a hero–a monster hunter from the stuff of legend whose only goal is destroying monsters like Joan. And her family.

Desperate to protect her loved ones, Joan is willing to do anything even if it means working with a snobby stranger who happens to be the equivalent of monster royalty. Aaron Oliver is insufferable but he also knows how to navigate a world of actual monsters and heroes and maybe, just maybe, how to help Joan survive it too.

Joan is a monster. Nick is a hero. Everyone knows how that story ends. But Joan also knows that if she wants to keep her family safe it’s time for a rewrite in Only a Monster (2022) by Vanessa Len.

Find it on Bookshop.

Only a Monster is Len’s debut novel and the start of a trilogy. Joan is biracial (her mother is white and her father Chinese Malaysian) with other main characters assumed white although there is diversity among the monster families and secondary characters.

Distinct world building including a sprawling network of monster families and magical powers ranging from perfect memory to time travel create a rich landscape for Joan’s adventures as she struggles against enemies and even time itself to try to save her family. Ethical questions of what separates so-called heroes and villains inform Joan’s character arc. These moral questions also lend nuance to male leads Aaron and Nick as as their own backgrounds and development factor into the plot.

Readers will appreciate Len’s eye for detail as she brings both present and 1993 London to life while also expanding Joan’s knowledge of the monster world. In a community where everything from clothes to mannerisms carry loaded meaning Joan is doubly aware of her status as a biracial teen and–more dangerously in her current circumstances–as a half-human, half-monster girl in a world that usually sticks to strict binaries.

Only a Monster is a fascinating urban fantasy where nothing is as it seems. Well-drawn characters, action, and numerous surprises make Only a Monster an unforgettable read. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: In Every Generation by Kendare Blake, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Week in Review: September 17

Blog Posts:

My Week:

This week is brought to you be Seoulmates by Susan Lee. Happy release week!

Seoulmates: A Review

Seoulmates by Susan LeeHannah Cho’s dreams of perfect summer before senior year go up in smoke when her boyfriend dumps her. Nate, like most of their friend group, is obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas. While Hannah is Korean American, she has no use for Korean pop culture. After years of leaning into the American parts of her identity to better fit in, Hannah doesn’t know how to handle this shift. Especially when it leaves her suddenly single.

As a rising K-drama star, Jacob Kim struggles with questions of whether he’s committed enough–and Korean enough–to succeed. After years of training, he isn’t sure how much longer he can deal with the pressure to make himself constantly available to his publicity team, his costars, and the press. When a press junket leads to Jacob needing some down time, he’s excited. Until he finds out his mom plans to have them stay with the Chos.

Jacob and Hannah used to be inseparable as kids. But that was before everything soured between them. The two strike an uneasy bargain–and an even more tenuous truce–when Hannah enlists Jacob’s help to win back her boyfriend and Jacob, in turn, asks Hannah to help him complete his summer bucket list of all the things he’s missed in San Diego over the years.

As Hannah and Jacob get to know each other again they’ll have to decide if new memories are enough to make up for old hurts and whether they’re headed for a happy ending or some K-drama level tears in Seoulmates (2022) by Susan Lee.

Find it on Bookshop.

Seoulmates is Lee’s debut novel. The novel alternates close third person perspective between Hannah and Jacob with some fun vignettes from their mothers’ points of view along the way. All principle characters are Korean or Korean American.

Hannah’s relationship with K-dramas and K-pop is partially inspired by the author’s own journey to embrace her heritage and cultural identity. As such, Seoulmates is lovingly filled with as many zany adventures and heart-string tugs as K-drama fans would expect. While Hannah starts the novel bitter and angry at Jacob, her hurt is clearly defined on the page never leaving readers in doubt of the long history between these characters and the difficult conversations they have in order to get back to each other.

Their hate to love relationship plays out against the backdrop of a summer filled with big questions. Hannah has to figure out what it means to be Korean American when, at last, being Korean finally seems to make her cool enough without trying to change herself. Jacob, meanwhile, has to figure out if continuing as an actor is worth the lack of privacy and the pressure–a stressful question to consider when he’s also been supporting his family since his father’s death years ago.

Lee balances these different plot threads well leaving room for the characters to realistically learn and grow as they reconnect while also delivering gasp-worthy twists in the rocky road of Hannah and Jacob’s relationship.

Seoulmates is a fun and breezy summer romance where finding love is tempered well with finding yourself.

Possible Pairings: The Charmed List by Julia Abe, 29 Dates by Melissa de la Cruz, Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things by Maya Prasad, It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Susan Lee here on the blog.

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

Author Interview: Susan Lee on Seoulmates

Susan Lee author photoSusan Lee’s debut novel Seoulmates is an ode to all things romance as estranged childhood best friends Hannah Cho and Jacob Kim reconnect over one hectic summer filled with San Diego sites, memories, and more surprises than the best K-drama. I got to read Seoulmates early for a panel I moderated in May for SLJ’s Day of Dialog (read the recap) and knew I had to ask Susan to chat on the blog about her swoony debut.

Miss Print: Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Susan Lee: I hadn’t set out be a writer. In fact, it wasn’t something even on my radar as I’d already built a pretty long career in corporate America. But, as I started to read more and more, my own stories started swirling around in my head! I wrote my first completed manuscript in 2018, which got my into the mentorship program Pitch Wars, and eventually allowed me to sign with my first agent. My career has taken some twists and turns in the few short years I’ve been writing, but I feel like every one of those steps was going down the right path for me!

Miss Print: What was the inspiration for SeoulmatesYour book alternates between Hannah and Jacob’s narrations–did you always know you’d follow both characters? How did you decide which parts would be from which point of view?

Susan Lee: I just wanted to write a romance about 2 Korean American teens. That was the original base of the inspiration. But it all came about during the rise of BTS’ global phenomenon…and as I was dealing with my own “identity crisis” of sorts surrounding all of this, I started writing these bits and pieces into the story. I read a lot of adult Romance and alternating POV’s is much more prevalent in those books. So it felt natural for me to do this.

Miss Print: In Seoulmates we see Hannah reconnecting with her Korean culture including Korean foods like kimchi while Jacob tries to recapture his childhood in San Diego with a bucket list including a search for the perfect California Burrito. Can you talk about how you integrated food into your stories? How did you choose the dishes you highlight?

Susan Lee: LOOK..FOOD IS LIFE. ha! When I go on vacation to other places, I look first to where I want to eat before researching what I want to see! :) Also, food plays such a huge part in family dynamics in Korean culture. So yeah, I was pretty sure food was gonna be its own character in the book!

Miss Print: Who was the hardest character to write? Who was the easiest?

Susan Lee: Hannah flowed very naturally for me as I wrote her chapters. I wouldn’t say she IS me…but there’s a lot of myself in her. Snark, abandonment issues, the tendency to push people away instead of face the emotions. I LOVE HER. :) Jacob wasn’t hard to write, per se, but I did want very much to get a male “voice” correct. I wanted to write a tender, kind, strong lead…who was vulnerable but reliable. I LOVE HIM. :)

Miss Print: We’re living in a strange time with the pandemic as we all continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and work together to stop the spread of Covid-19. How would Hannah and Jacob be handling the pandemic?

Susan Lee: Cue scene…and action! “Hey you idiot, why aren’t you wearing a mask? Can’t you see we’re indoors and there are a lot of people here?” My voice gets louder with every word, but I can’t help myself. Why can’t people just try? “Hannah.” Jacob’s kind voice pulls me from my rage and he gently squeezes my arm. “But Jacob…” I whine. I know he won’t judge me for getting angry. In fact, I know he agrees with me. But we just communicate…differently. “All we can do is wear our masks and protect ourselves. Let’s grab the stuff our moms put on the shopping list and get out of here,” he says. Voice of reason. “Fine,” I grumble. “But can we get McDonalds soft serve cones on the way home?” His smile spreads slowly and it makes me all gooey inside. I’m such a sap. “Yeah, we can do that,” he says. And suddenly I forget why I’m so angry. He’s right, we can only do our best to get through these hard times. No use getting angry at everyone else. I hold back the swoony deep sigh I’m tempted to let out any time I think of Jacob Kim. I look down at my mom’s chicken scratch on her shopping list and lead the way to the eggs.

Miss Print: Both Hannah and Jacob are struggling with some big questions in this story while they try to figure out if they’re enough of any one thing for themselves, their friends, and the people they choose to love. What is some advice you would have given your characters or advice you wish you’d received as a teen when you might have had similar questions?

Susan Lee: I think I was one of those teens (and adults, frankly) that always wanted to get it right. That needed a plan. That was driven. But what I’ve come to realize as I’ve gotten older, as those plans have often changed or fallen by the wayside, as I’ve failed many times in life and not gotten it “right” is that we need to show ourselves a lot more grace. It’s okay. We’re okay.

Miss Print: What does a typical writing day look like for you? Has this changed in light of the pandemic?

Susan Lee: I honestly don’t have a “typical”. I don’t always write in the mornings or in the evenings or even at all some days. I spend most days thinking of writing (ha!). But honestly, I’m a “when the inspiration strikes me” type of writer. So I sit and wait. I stress. I daydream. I procrastinate. And then…when the time is right…I write.

Miss Print: Can you tell me anything about what you’re currently working on?

Susan Lee: It’s a YA contemporary romance with 2 Korean teens from very different backgrounds…but that’s about all I can share right now! ha! I think it’s SUPER cute and funny and I love it!

Miss Print: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

Susan Lee: WRITE YOUR STORIES! It’s the most basic advice…but everything hinges on you WRITING YOUR STORY. So, when things seem overwhelming and there’s too much to think about, bring it back to the core…WRITE YOUR STORY! :)

Thank you to Susan for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Susan and her books on her website.

You can read my review of Seoulmates here on the blog.

Week in Review: September 10

Blog Posts:

My Week:

This week’s theme was getting stuff off my to do list and getting books off my to read list. And I am fine with that. ICYMI I’m sunsetting my Chick Lit Wednesday feature. I’ll keep reviewing books on a Monday/Wednesday schedule but am no longer giving a special name to the Wednesday reviews. Now you know everything.