About missprint

Librarian. Writer. Blogger at Miss Print since 2007. Reader. Feminist. SLJ reviewer. YALSA Hub Blogger. PPYA 2015/16. Amateur spy. Zen. 🦄

Week in Review: January 16: In which I go to many (virtual) meetings

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Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

I had 8 required virtual meetings this week and two optional ones. It’s been a whirlwind!

Tales From the Hinterland: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Tales From the Hinterland by Melissa AlbertTales From the Hinterland (2021) by Melissa Albert presents Althea Proserpine’s  notorious collection of dark and twisted short stories that form the backbone of the world building in both The Hazel Wood and its sequel The Night Country. For the first time the stories that protagonists Alice and Ellery encounter in Albert’s previous novels are presented in their entirety.

Readers familiar with Albert’s oeuvre will recognize many of the tales and characters here notably including Alice, Ilsa, and Hansa. Albert aptly channels classic fairy tale sensibilities into eerie and brutal tales that would have the Brothers Grimm reaching for an extra candle at night. Centering female characters in each story Albert explores the facets of girl-and-womanhood in a world dominated and usually shaped by men.

Standouts in the collection include “The House Under the Stairwell,” where sisterhood wins the day as Isobel seeks help from the Wicked Wife before she is trapped in a deadly betrothal; “The Clockwork Bride,” a richly told story where a girl hungry for enchantment carelessly promises her first daughter to a sinister toymaker who, when he tries to claim his prize, instead finds a girl who wishes only to belong to herself; and “Death and the Woodwife,” where a princess uses her wits and her mother’s unusual gifts to outwit Death and his heir.

With stories fueled by feminist rage, the frustration of being underestimated, and the insatiable longing to experience more Tales From the Hinterland is a collection that is both timely and universal.

You can also check out my interview with Melissa to hear more about this book and the companion novels.

Possible Pairings: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, Caster by Elsie Chapman, Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Sender Unknown by Sallie Lowenstein, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Realm of Ruins by Hannah West, The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

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

Author Interview: Melissa Albert on Tales From the Hinterland

Melissa Albert author photoCR: Laura EtheredgeMelissa Albert is the author of the fantasy noir novels The Hazel Wood and its sequel The Night Country. In her latest book, Tales From the Hinterland Albert presents a collection filled with the short stories that form the underpinnings of her previous novels’ world building. These eerie, dark, extremely feminist stories are exactly the kinds of tales we need in this strange moment in world. I’m thrilled to have Melissa here today to talk more about her writing and her latest release.

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

Melissa Albert: As a kid devouring the Chronicles of Narnia and Peter Pan I always dreamed of being a fantasy author, but when I got older I decided the more “practical” path (lol) was to become a journalist. I did some beat reporting and arts writing (mostly book and theater reviews) in Chicago, then started blogging for Barnes & Noble. Through my work with B&N I discovered this booming golden era of YA fantasy had begun. I became obsessed and decided in 2011 to try writing a novel during National Novel Writing Month. It was a hideous disaster, of course, but when I recovered I was determined to try again. Which developed into a bloody-minded determination to finish something I’d started. It’s very easy and fun to start writing a book! It is less easy to finish one.

Miss Print: Tales From the Hinterland presents Althea Proserpine’s notorious collection of dark and twisted short stories that form the backbone of the world building in both The Hazel Wood and its sequel The Night Country. What came first when you started writing within this world: the stories or Alice (the main character in The Hazel Wood)? Did you always know you had multiple stories to tell within this framework/world?

Melissa: The first thing that came was the idea of a reclusive author alone in a house in the deep dark woods, and the idea of her being preyed on by something more sinister than isolation. Then came Alice’s voice, which I wanted to give the world-weary vibe and alternately spare and lavish style of Raymond Chandler’s noir narration. Then I had to figure out why this young, healthy person was so world-weary, and figure out how to pull the floor out from under her sense of herself as being jaded and self-sufficient. I didn’t know till later drafts that I would dare to weave in more than just references to the Hinterland tales.

Miss Print: Tales From the Hinterland includes some stories that readers of your previous novels will recognize as well as some new tales that were only ever mentioned as titles before. How did you go about returning to these familiar tales from a fresh perspective? How was writing the short stories for this collection different from writing the excerpts included in your previous novels as Alice and Ellery learn more about the Hinterland?

Melissa: In THW and TNC I had the context of the novels to give the stories and pieces of story that I shared extra resonance. They were imagined as standalone tales, but told within larger works. With the actual collection of Tales, I had to be sure each story worked as its own distinct, self-contained universe, as well as a piece of a larger whole. It was an interesting headspace to be so immersed in, for so long, because when I wrote fairy tales to include within the novel duology it was very refreshing to jump as a writer from the voice of a contemporary heroine to that cooler, more matter of fact fairy-tale tone. Finding the tale-telling voice again took some time, as did finding my balance between the utterly stripped tales you find in old collections and the lusher stories of later writers like (of course) Angela Carter.

Miss Print: 2020 was a strange year with some things carrying over into 2021 as we all continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and work together to stop the spread of Covid-19. So, of course, I have to ask: How would Alice and Ellery mange during this pandemic? Would any of the other Hinterland characters be especially well-suited (or ill-prepared) for dealing with our current circumstances?

Melissa: Alice wouldn’t mind the built-in excuse to stay away from other people, though she’d miss the lost wages. Finch would get really intense about sourdough and attempt (again!) to write a novel.

[Miss Print: I could totally see Finch on a quest to figure out the perfect sourdough technique!]

Miss Print: For me three standout stories in this collection were “The House Under the Stairwell,” “The Clockwork Bride,” and “Death and the Woodwife.” Do you have a favorite story in this collection? Were some stories easier to write than others?

Melissa: I love all my wicked children, but I too have a real soft spot for “Death and the Woodwife.” Some of the stories required lots of revision, lots of reimagining, but “Woodwife” came out very close to fully formed. I also love how the setup for the main narrative operates as its own distinct fairy tale–that was a nod to the shape of one of my favorite classic tales, “The Juniper Tree,” which opens with an almost vignette-sized take on the Snow White tale, before opening into the very weird main story. Also, as the closing story in the collection, I’m very happy with the note it ends on.

Miss Print: Can you tell me anything about your next project? Can we expect more Hinterland tales?

Melissa: I’m thrilled to say that I’m deep into drafting the next book, which is a novel unrelated to the world of the Hazel Wood. I don’t know what I’m allowed to say just yet, so I’ll err on the side of being cagey. But it’s another contemporary fantasy, my great love!

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

Melissa: Read LOTS, protect your writing time (even if it’s just twenty minutes–you can probably find twenty minutes at least a few days a week!), and remember your writing is SUPPOSED to look insufficient to you for a long time. Writing “badly” shouldn’t be discouraging (though it is, I know it is!), it just shows the gap between your vision and your current abilities. I try to look at narrowing that gap as the work of my life as a writer. That, and constantly working on the next thing I don’t yet know how to write, so it always feels exciting and destabilizing and sometimes really hard.

Thank you again to Melissa for these great answers!

You can also read my review of Tales From the Hinterland here on the blog.

Week in Review: January 9: What a week . . .

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Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

What a week. The news is bananas. I’m glad some of the people who breached the Capitol on the 6 are being identified and charged. I hope more consequences are down the line for those who were involved and those who instigated. Stay safe out there and don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Lore: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“It’s not always the truth that survives, but the stories we wish to believe. The legends lie. They smooth over imperfections to tell a good tale, or to instruct us how we should behave, or to assign glory to victors and shame those who falter.”

Lore by Alexandra BrackenEvery seven years Zeus punishes nine Greek gods by forcing them into the Agon. Warrior families have hunted the gods in every Agon for generations hoping to absorb their powers and receive blessings in the intervening years.

Lore always knew she was destined for greatness and glory in the Agon, meant to restore her family house’s honor. That was before Lore’s own disastrous mistake brought about the death of her entire family.

Now, seven years later, Lore thinks she’s finally made it out and started a new life. But the return of her childhood friend Castor and the goddess Athena appearing at Lore’s door prove she never escaped the brutality of the Agon. Not really.

After years of hiding and trying to forget, Lore will have to come out of the shadows and embrace her complicated past if she wants to live long enough to have a future in Lore (2020) by Alexandra Bracken.

Find it on Bookshop.

Lore is a standalone fantasy novel. Although the world building is heavily intertwined with Greeky mythology, the story itself includes enough information to make it approachable to those unfamiliar with the inspiration material. The book also includes a character list broken down by the family houses and lines. Lore and Castor are white although several members of the Agon families (including dark skinned Van and Iro) are from other racial backgrounds.

Lore is a fierce and often reluctant narrator. Most of her past is colored by trauma and regret over events that slowly unfold in flashbacks for readers as the novel builds to its explosive final act. Despite her desire to isolate herself and avoid further losses, Lore is surrounded by a strong group of friends and allies who add drama and levity to this potentially grim story. Lore’s best friend Miles Yoon–an outsider to the world of the Agon–is an especially fun addition to the cast and a steadfast friend to Lore.

Set over the course the week-long Agon this fast-paced story plays out against the backdrop of New York City as Lore and her allies search for a way to end the Agon forever. Lore’s efforts to find a place for herself as a young woman, both away from the Agon and within it, in a world all too quick to dismiss her is both timely and empowering.

Lore seamlessly blends elements from Greek mythology with a modern fantasy setting for a perfectly paced story of survival and fighting for what we deserve.

Possible Pairings: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake, Starling by Lesley Livingston, The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Strange Exit: A Review

“No one earned their salvation. Only the rich and lucky survived.”

Strange Exit by Parker PeevyhouseIn the advance of a nuclear holocaust, a group of teenagers won a lottery to escape Earth aboard a spaceship designed to keep them safe until it was time to return. In stasis all of the passengers enter a complex virtual reality simulation to prepare them for that return.

After sleeping for decades, many of them are still unwilling to wake up–unwilling to admit that even the sim’s barren wastelands might be worse than what they’ll face on Earth after being gone so long.

But the ship was never meant to house them forever. Food is running out. Equipment is breaking down. Still the ship won’t return to Earth. Not until everyone is out of the sim.

No one is supposed to go back in; it’s too easy to get trapped, to want to stay forever. But someone has to wake the sleepers so Lake risks it. She secretly searches the sim’s post-apocalyptic pockets for survivors ready to wake up while desperately wishing her sister was on board the ship too instead of just part of the sim.

When she rescues Taren, Lake finds an unexpected ally ready to help her search the sim. But as the situation on the ship becomes even more dire, Lake realizes Taren is willing to take dangerous chances waking the sleepers and to sacrifice whoever he has to if it means reactivating the ship. Lake isn’t ready to lose anyone else on the ship, not after they’ve all lost so much. Now Lake will to work against Taren to find the heart of the sim and shut it down herself before it’s too late in Strange Exit (2020) by Parker Peevyhouse.

Find it on Bookshop.

The story alternates close third person narration primarily from Lake’s point of view with chapters from other key characters including Taren. While the story starts strong with an engrossing opening, it is slow to build to any of the twists readers familiar with the genre may expect. Similarly, the characters who receive the most attention are often at cross purposes with the plot’s forward momentum.

Strange Exit is an eerie science fiction story set against the stark backgrounds of a failing spaceship and the ominous post-apocalyptic sim. Peevyhouse’s world building is top notch as she brings both landscapes painfully to life bringing new dimension to what is otherwise familiar sci-fi territory.

Possible Pairings: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers, Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski, Warcross by Marie Lu, The Final Six by Alexandra Monir, Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, The Matrix

Week in Review: January 2: In which it’s still a pandemic but I choose to stay positive

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Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

This week marked the end of my vacation, back to reality as of the 4th. Obviously the new year didn’t fix everything (anything) wrong in the world right now but I’m still choosing to see it as a fresh start. Onward.

Miss Print’s Top Ten: 2020

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

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

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

You can also shop this list on Bookshop or Amazon.

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

Honorable Mention: The Backlist

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

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

Honorable Mention: The Sequels

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

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

2020 Reading Tracker Year in Review

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

January:

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

February:

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

March:

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

April:

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

May:

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

June:

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

July:

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

August:

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

September:

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

October:

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

November:

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

December:

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

Yearly Totals:

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

Details:

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

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

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

December 2020 Reading Tracker

Books I Had Planned to Read:

Books I Read:

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

Books Bought: 3

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

ARCs Received: 0!

You can also see what I read in November.