Week in Review: November 15

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

My posting schedule got weird last week apparently so I had a whopping two posts. Oops.

This week I got some awesome book mail

and a giant nutcracker

Since nothing will ever top the nutcracker, I’ll leave you with that.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my November Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Author Interview: Nancy Ohlin

I’m very excited to have Nancy Ohlin here on the blog as part of the Consent blog tour. Nancy is answering some questions about her latest novel today. Be sure to check the bottom of this post for links to the other tour stops. You can also enter my giveaway for a copy of Consent thanks to Simon & Schuster.

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

Nancy Ohlin (NO): I was writing stories from the time I was six or seven. My mom saved a bunch of “books” that I wrote (in Japanese, which is my native language) and illustrated with manga ­style princesses and cute, smiley pets.

In college, I majored in English and creative writing. In my late twenties, a publishing friend took a chance on me and hired me to ghostwrite for a popular children’s mystery series.  That led to more ghostwriting, and eventually, to writing my own novels under my own name.

After all these years, I’m still astonished and grateful that I actually get to tell stories for a living.

MP: What was the inspiration for Consent?

NO: I originally wanted to write a YA novel about sexual assault. I’d had a bad experience with a teacher in high school, and I needed to recycle that experience into something healing and helpful: a book, a cautionary tale.

But a few chapters into the first draft, my characters—the “bad guy” and the “victim”—kind of went rogue. They had their own ideas about where the story should go.  In the end, Consent became what it was meant to be: a complicated, no­-easy-­answers novel about a very important and very controversial subject. I’m hoping that it will spark a lot of debate and discussion.

MP: Bea is a reluctant piano prodigy at the beginning of the novel and her musicality is a big part of the story. Do you play the piano? Is this aspect of Bea’s character based at all on your own experience with music?

NO: I do play the piano, and for a while, I thought I was going to pursue a career as a musician. I started lessons in Japan at age five; after I moved to the U.S., I continued studying with my American grandmother, who was a piano teacher in Ohio, and with a concert pianist named Olga Kuehl.

But I wasn’t talented or committed enough to stay on that path, and besides, my true passion was writing. Still, classical music was and is a huge part of my life. Also, my son, who is the real musician in the family, is a piano performance major at Juilliard.

MP: Bea is a bit unreliable in certain aspects of her narration. Did you always plan for her to be a semi-unreliable narrator?

NO: Yes! Bea lies to herself and to the people around her because it keeps her from having to deal with difficult truths. So it made sense to me that she would lie—or try to lie—to the reader.

MP: One of the interesting things in Consent is the push and pull between what is perceived and what is true about Bea and Mr. Rossi’s relationship. How did you go about writing a story that operates in such a grey area?

NO: Having a semi­-unreliable narrator is part of that. The reader has to sift through Bea’s narrative and pick out the truths from the untruths, just as Bea has to figure out what’s real and what’s not about her relationship with Mr. Rossi.

Consent is all about grey areas—romantic grey areas, legal grey areas, moral grey areas.  In writing it, I had to make myself pull back from my characters and not judge them. My job was to tell their story, even if the story got very uncomfortable sometimes.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

NO: I’m working on a bunch of things, including a mystery set in Alaska, a dystopian fantasy inspired by Chernobyl and Fukushima, and another, equally dark fantasy about monsters and medical procedures.  Also some chapter books for younger readers. Never a dull moment!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

NO: I always tell aspiring authors the same thing I tell myself, which is: Just show up. Show up to your computer or notebook every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes, and put down some words. Also, stay with your page. Many writers have that experience where they sit down and type a couple of sentences, and they’re not sure where to go next … and so their minds start wandering, and pretty soon they’re berating themselves: This sucks, I can’t write, I’ll never be a writer. Just stay with your page. Stare down those awkward sentences. Make yourself write the next sentence and the sentence after that.  Have faith in the process, and in yourself.

As far as getting published goes: There are so many good websites about how to submit work to agents and editors. Some of my favorites include: Pub(lishing) Crawl (http://www.publishingcrawl.com/) and Fiction University (http://blog.janicehardy.com/).

Thank you for having me on your blog!

Thanks again to Nancy for this awesome interview.

You can see more about Nancy and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of Consent.

Consent: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Consent by Nancy OhlinBetween all of the lies she tells at school about her non-existent piano teacher and her supposedly okay home life, Beatrice Kim has a lot of secrets even before starting her senior year at Andrew Jackson High School.

Then Bea meets her music history teacher. Mr. Rossi is young, good-looking, and completely believes in Bea’s potential as a professional pianist–something Bea hasn’t ever allowed herself to consider.

When their shared passion for music turns into something else, Bea and Rossi begin a sexual relationship that could ruin them both. Bea thinks she knows what she is doing and what she wants. She thinks Rossi understands her and loves her. But with the threat of discovery looming, Bea will have to confront uncomfortable truths about herself and her relationship with Rossi in Consent (2015) by Nancy Ohlin.

Consent delivers two stories in one slim volume. One, reminiscent of Sara Zarr’s The Lucy Variations, explores how Bea lost her love for the piano and how she can reclaim it; the other is an often uncomfortable examination of a relationship that never should have happened.

Despite the problems Bea hints at in her home life and the lies she tells, everything comes very easily to Bea in Consent. She is at the top of her class despite having no real interest in college. She is a piano prodigy with perfect pitch although she has never had formal lessons. She is also, conveniently, at a recently rebranded  “Campus for Baccalaureate and Performing Arts” despite having a nearly pathological desire to avoid the piano at the beginning of the novel. Readers who can get past these contrivances will be rewarded with a layered and thoughtful contemporary novel.

The push and pull between what is perceived and what is true throughout Consent adds another dimension to Bea’s often unreliable first person narration as readers, and Bea herself, contemplate Rossi’s agenda.  Despite some heavy-handed moments, Ohlin delivers an open-ended novel ripe for discussion as readers follow the plot’s twists and turns.

Possible Pairings: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, Teach Me by R. A. Nelson, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten, The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the September 2015 issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen on various sites online*

You can also read my review with Nancy Ohlin starting November 12.

Blog Book Giveaway: Consent by Nancy Ohlin

Thanks to Simon & Schuster I have a giveaway this week as part of the Consent blog tour for a hardcover copy of Consent by Nancy Ohlin. Watch the blog for my review on Wednesday and my blog tour stop on Thursday when I’ll have an interview with Nancy!

Consent by Nancy OhlinGiveaway is open to any readers over the age of 13. US only.

Giveaway will run from midnight November 9 through November 15. Winner will be notified November 16. If I don’t hear back from the winner by November 17 I will pick a new winner from the entry pool.


I’m running the giveaway through a Rafflecopter giveaway. Details on how to enter can be found by clicking “enter” above or clicking the photo!

If you want to see more of the blog tour, check out the full schedule below:

Week in Review: November 8

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week I continued Christmas decorating.

But the big news is: I went to see A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder with Nicole on Saturday and it was absolutely fantastic! So much fun! I can’t wait to listen to the cast recording again. Such fun!

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my November Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Dream Things True: A Review

Dream Things True by Marie MarquardtAlma is less than happy to be leaving her academically challenging high school in Atlanta to return to the small town of Gilbertson to help take care of her cousins. She always thought Atlanta was her ticket to something better. Now, Alma isn’t sure how she’ll get out of Gilbertson and away from her overbearing father. She just knows she has to try. Alma’s brother let his status as an undocumented Mexican immigrant keep him away from his dreams. Alma refuses to make the same mistake.

Evan has never had to think much about immigration. He’s never had to think about a lot thanks to his family’s wealth and privilege. Like Alma, Evan’s family wants to keep him close but Evan knows college is his chance to get away before he settles for the life his distant father has planned.

When Alma and Evan meet, their attraction is immediate and undeniable. Despite their different lives and other obstacles, the unlikely couple falls in love. But with family pulling them in different directions and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids threatening Alma and her friends and family, Evan and Alma will have to work harder than ever to be together in Dream Things True (2015) by Marie Marquardt.

Dream Things True is Marquardt’s first novel. Marquardt has done extensive work with an advocating for Mexican immigrants as outlined in her author bio. The story is written in a close third person point of view that alternates between Evan and Alma’s focus.

Dream Things True does some things very well. It is an important and timely novel about immigration. It is a diverse title, of course. And, despite the numerous challenges they have to deal with, this book also has a really healthy and positive relationship as Evan and Alma get to know each other and try to help each other.

There is a lot of good stuff here and Dream Things True is undoubtedly a valuable novel. However it’s also worth noting that it often felt like the portrayals of non-white characters could have been handled better. Evan compares Alma’s skintone to coffee with cream in it. An African-American character is described as being lighter skinned. Evan’s descriptions of Alma often seemed to portray her as more other and exotic perhaps in a misguided attempt on Marquardt’s part to create an authentic male protagonist, perhaps for other reasons. Regardless of intent, it’s the one aspect of this novel that repeatedly grated.

In order to keep the focus of the novel on immigration issues, several plot points in Dream Things True feel contrived in order to move the plot along. While Alma’s father is convincingly problematic, even his logic for why Alma has to return to Gilberston from Atlanta is murky at best. While this focus makes sense, it often made the characters and settings feel one-dimensional by comparison.

An ideal choice for readers looking for a light romance that still has some depth, Dream Things True is a thoughtful novel that proves Marquardt is an author to watch.

Possible Pairings: The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu, Drown by Junot Diaz, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, A Step From Heaven by An Na, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

* A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Soundless: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Soundless by Richelle MeadFei’s entire village lost its hearing generations ago. Some claim that mythical pixius eliminated sound on the mountaintop so that they could slumber but no one really knows. For Fei and her people it is the way life has always been in their village isolated by mountains on all sides.

Life in the village can be bleak as miners work to extract precious metals from the mountain’s mine in exchange for food rations sent up via zipline from the kingdom of Beiguo far below.

With villagers going blind and food–already a precious commodity–coming in smaller and smaller quantities, the fate of the village is uncertain. Fei can see the growing threats to her people every day as she observes the village to paint her part of the day’s record that are displayed in the village center each morning.

Awoken one night be unsettling dreams and a noise unlike anything she could imagine, Fei realizes that her hearing has been restored. With this strange new sense to help her and steadfast Li Wei by her side, Fei has the power to change her own life and that of her entire village forever in Soundless (2015) by Richelle Mead.

Soundless is a standalone fantasy inspired by Mead’s fascination with and love for Chinese folklore.

Fei is a fantastic heroine fueled by fierce love for her sister. She is strong, capable and confident in her own strengths. Fei brings an artistic eye to her world as she begins to push against the status quo in her village. Surprising twists and shocks make for an surprising final act as Soundless builds to an exciting conclusion.

Although this novel does employ a magical cure for Fei’s deafness, the subject is still handled thoughtfully with cleverly integrated dialog (written in italics as characters sign to each other) and carefully blocked scenes (Mead is always mindful that the characters are looking at each other before they begin signing for instance). Fei’s struggle to make sense of sound after a lifetime without is fascinating and extremely well done. Moments in the narrative also highlight times when not hearing is an advantage as well.

Fei does come to see her restored hearing as an asset and something of value that she hopes her friends and loved ones will also experience one day. However it is important to note that lack of hearing is never portrayed as a limitation for any of the characters.

Soundless is further strengthened with a sweet romance between Fei and Li Wei who are thrown together to save their village. Their evolving relationship throughout the novel is, in a word, adorable.

Diverse characters, unique mythology, and a thoughtful examination of deafness add another dimension to this rich narrative. Soundless is a provocative and original fantasy novel in a rarely seen setting. A must-read and highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Mistwood by Leah Cypress, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Eon by Allison Goodman, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier, Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Updraft by Fran Wilde

*A copy this book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2015*