This is What Happy Looks Like: A Review

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. SmithIt all started with a typo in an email address.

Graham Larkin thought he was emailing his pet pig’s walker, instead his email shoots across the country to Ellie O’Neill. Their conversations are always personal but they never reveal personal details. Ellie has no idea that Graham is a major celebrity. Graham knows very little about Ellie until she slips and reveals the name of her small town in Maine.

That’s all it takes for Graham to mark the town of Henley as the perfect location for his next film. And, of course, the perfect location to meet Ellie in real life.

But as Graham and Ellie get to know each other they are both hampered by “what ifs?” What if their relationship really is at its best in email form? What if a famous actor like Graham isn’t cut out for a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? What if Ellie is drawn into Graham’s spotlight has to reveal some closely guarded secrets of her own. Graham and Ellie have talked at length about happiness, but they still have to figure out if they can be happy together in This is What Happy Looks Like (2013) by Jennifer E. Smith.

This story has a slow start as both Graham and readers are introduce to Ellie’s idyllic small town home. A charming cast of secondary characters and picturesque locations vividly situate each scene in this novel. Ellie and Graham’s correspondence is simultaneously authentic and endearing as emails and face-to-face interactions work together to give readers the full story of Graham and Ellie’s courtship. Snappy dialogue also helps to make this story shine.

Smith delves into the familiar territory of missed connections (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight) and long-distance pining (The Geography of You and Me). While This is What Happy Looks Like has some of the same charm as Smith’s other novels, its characters never feel quite as well-realized or compelling.

This is What Happy Looks Like is a sweet and summery romance filled with small-town charm and memorable moments.

Possible Pairings: Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, In Real Life by Jessica Love

Results May Vary: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review from Estelle

Today I’m excited to share a CLW guest post from Estelle:

“But the thing about what-ifs is that you can drive yourself crazy, spinning your thoughts around and around until you’re dizzy; and for all that, you only ever end up in the same place you’re standing. All you can work with is what happened.”

Results May Vary by Bethany ChaseAt first sight, Results May Vary (2016) by Bethany Chase probably seems a story solely about a broken marriage. Caroline finds out that her husband has had an affair — after 10 years of marriage and utter devotion others find sickening — and she must decide what to do next? Does she forgive Adam like her friends and family think she will do or will she retreat into a new direction and embrace the unknown narrative ahead of her?

The funny truth is no matter the path she chooses, the narrative changes. The dynamics with her husband, the person she thought knew her best and she thought she knew best, will forever be changed even if she decided to stay. Just like where she lives, who she hangs out with, and the next person she sleeps with will alter the routine she’s gladly accepted for herself since high school.

Nothing, nothing will ever be as it was.

Results May Vary could easily have turned into a will-they-or-won’t-they kind of novel, but that’s not Bethany Chase’s style. And her style is exactly why I felt like this book would be a perfect fit for Emma’s Chick Lit feature. Caroline isn’t just someone’s wife. She’s an independent woman who is well-respected at her job at a museum. It’s a job she fought to take even if this meant moving a less-than-thrilled Adam out of New York City. She has a solid support system including a best friend from college, a younger sister, and a feisty artist friend who knows the value of a yummy ice cream topping. Caroline’s not afraid to curse out her husband when he can’t explain why he had an affair, she’s not against keeping him at a distance even though he wants to a swift reconciliation, and, because she’s human and not robotic, she’s not afraid to collapse in the arms of others and give into her sadness when she needs to.

I’m messing up the Pinocchio quote for obvious reasons but she’s a real girl!

So much of this book is about Caroline settling into herself — whether that means forgiveness or not, you’ll have to find out — and allowing other parts in her life to rise when the once solid ones start to crack. The girl power explodes when her little sister, Ruby, moves into the house and the two rekindle a sisterhood they hadn’t had since they were super young. Their relationship is one of the most memorable of this entire book because, while both are in their own versions of transition, they both prove to be there for one another: whether it’s about scary face masks or sharing a glass of wine.

Of course, this relationship isn’t without its complexities either. (Sisters.)

And that’s just what I mean. When I started getting into young adult books about five years ago, I was exhausted by new fiction that reflected nothing new at all. There was absolutely nothing for me to relate to, and I found the emotions I was searching for — raw and so real — in YA. It’s a pleasure to be welcomed back into the big kid world with books by authors like Chase who get it. Women are more than one thing. We can be strong as anything, but we can break down just as easily. We can be happy even when we are grieving. We can make one decision and then change our minds. We are constantly works in progress – no matter how settled we might be in one area over another.

When I finished reading Results May Vary, I felt empowered. I don’t think there’s much more you can ask for from a book.

Possible pairings: The First Husband by Laura Dave, After I Do and One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid; Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer, Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

***

By day, Estelle is a book publicist for (mostly) kid books. She is also the co-creator of Rather Be Reading Blog, where she blogged for almost 5 years with her best friend. Always writing and always brainstorming, you can find her on Twitter @thatsostelle.

Olympic Book Tag

I love the idea of book tags but often put off doing them because they’re kind of tedious to format. BUT then I saw Shannon had made a delightful Olympic-themed book tag and I decided to go ahead and dive in. You can check out Shannon’s answers on her post! (Graphics from Shannon too.)

Here’s the tag! (Click on the book covers to see my reviews.)

Girl Against the Universe by Paula StokesI read this one so recently I have even reviewed it yet. But the moment I picked it up, I know I would love this book. (Spoiler: I was totally right!)

The Darkest MindsThis series has a lot going on but all of it happens on a road trip as Ruby and the Black Betty gang making their way across the country.

Unspoken coverThis book was the first one that came to mind when I saw this heading and I stand by my initial choice. Truthfully almost any SRB book will have a good love triangle though!

The Last Place on Earth by Carol SnowI’ve been reading a lot of good books but then I remembered this one. Still. So. Many. Questions.

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter HapgoodGoing for the obvious choice here with a book that has “summer” in the title.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeAnother recent read (watch for this one in September). This book was so intense with fighting and plotting and some bloodshed that I kept needing breaks while I was reading. I’d read a chapter and then need to just sit quietly for a minute to recover!

Six of Crows by Leigh BardugoThis book has so many plot twist that the sequel even had a decoy title for a while. *mic drop*

The Last Time We Were Us by Leah KonenThis book made me shed all the tears. Honorable mention for This Raging Light by Estelle Laure which made me shed all the other tears.

And I Darken by Kiersten WhiteSince this book spans the protagonist’s entire life, it starts a bit slow but moves along to great effect.

The View from Saturday coverI love this book so much. Even now it’s still a favorite I recommend to kids at the library all the time.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin BowGoats count as animals, right?!

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly BlackI had a really hard time getting through this book for reasons that are still not entirely clear. And yet I wound up loving it. Go figure!

Tumbling by Caela CarterI’ll be reviewing this soon but OMG I was blown away by how this book. I loved how the girls really built each other up and supported each other despite the strong competition.

Tumbling by Caela CarterGirl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Have you read any of these books? Are you following the Olympics? Any favorite sports? Let me know in the comments!

Like this tag? Be sure to tag yourself and make your own post :)

Week in Review: August 14

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

I spent most of this week at home recovering from oral surgery. I had my four wisdom teeth extracted (upper two were pulled and the lower two were surgically removed because they were impacted) last Friday and the whole processed knocked me out a lot more than I expected. I am done with antibiotics and no longer mainlining Tylenol AND my stitches have been removed so I am on the mend.

During my week away I read a few books (some were better than others), slept, and watched a lot of TV with my mom. Because my apartment is located on top of a Pokestop I also played some Pokemon Go.

I’m feeling much better now compared to a week ago although the recovery is a longer process than I expected and I am spending a lot of time contemplating my jaw, my teeth, and the healing process. (I read a lot about the surgery and recovery process before and after the fact so if you ever want to talk about that, I am basically an expert now.) I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this experience but right now I’m just happy it’s over and really want the last bit of swelling to go down.

You also might have noticed: My blog turned nine this week! I’m running a giveaway for the rest of the month and have some other thoughts in my 9th blog birthday post.

I will leave you with a picture of some donuts I can’t eat:

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

How was your week?

Blog 9th Birthday!

Nine years ago, at this exact moment, I started Miss Print. I was 21 years old, looking at my final year of college and just starting to consider graduate school to become a librarian. A lot has changed since then and a lot has happened. But through the past nine years this blog and the people I know because of it have been a constant.

Blogging has brought so many wonderful things into my life including new friends, professional experiences and, of course, books.

Last year I talked about some fun things that happened to me because of this blog. This year, I decided to talk about books I would not have discovered if I hadn’t started blogging (and maybe give one or two away–details at bottom).

Books I Found Because I Started Blogging

  1. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken: A few years ago there was this micro-trend with textile fantasies including this book which came out in 2010. One year later I met Alex at my first BEA when she signed a paperback copy of this book. Alex’s book won me over immediately and I’ve been lucky enough to follow her career as each new book comes out.
  2. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: If you talk to me long enough, you will learn that I am obsessed with this book series. Like make fan club buttons and stay up at night thinking about Lara Jean and JAM obsessed. It took me a full week to recover from my shock and elation when Jenny announced book three was on the horizon.
  3. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Sometimes I don’t need much to pick up a book. A pitch about dragons in a high fantasy society is more than enough. This book got me through a very trying summer as a bookseller and my well-loved ARC has the water stains to prove it. Rachel is also an all around wonderful human and thanks to years of acquaintance I get to sometimes recommend books for her son to read. (Do follow her on Twitter if you haven’t already!)
  4. Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu: Corey is another author I started hearing about from blogging friends. I picked up Life by Committee at BEA one year when she was signing and gave the copy away. BUT the book spoke to me on such a deep level that I wound up buying myself a replacement copy this year.
  5. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: I didn’t think assassin nuns would be my thing, but go figure. They totally are! I discovered this book after I fell in love with the author’s Nathaniel Fludd books–a series I only heard about because it was offered for review–which I recommend all the time. Even now!
  6. The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski: Sometimes a book sneaks up on you. Such was the case here. Rutkoski’s novel about parallel worlds is a story that has stayed with me. This is the first book I read by Marie and the reason I was ready and waiting when The Winner’s Curse first came out. I even have a “Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?” print (much to the confusion of many friends and neighbors) because of this book.
  7. Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales: Leila is a librarian favorite so it’s possible I would have discovered this book without blogging but there was something very right and very satisfying in reviewing a title about an ill-advised road trip to hunt down a blogger WHILE being a book blogger.
  8. Break Me Like a Promise by Tiffany Schmidt: Tiffany is an author I knew about through blogging friends long before I picked up her books. When I heard that she was starting a fairy tale retelling series I was, of course, intrigued. But it was the second book in the series (this one) that really floored me and wound up being so many things I needed at the time.
  9. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab: When I started blogging, I also started going to book events. Victoria’s debut is one of the first books I picked up at a signing (I only let myself buy one). It’s funny to look back on that moment to now when Victoria is one of my favorite authors and I try to attend all of her NYC signings and events.
  10. The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick: I request this book for review because Midwinterblood was a total dark horse for the Printz the year before and I was curious. Little did I know that this book would go on to become a Printz Honor and an all-time favorite for me.
  11. Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes: I bought this book on a whim when it was on sale after hearing so many blogger friends raving about it. Turned out that was a totally solid choice as this book was excellent!
  12. All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin: My love for Gabrielle’s Birthright series is no secret. The shocking thing, to me, is that I only discovered this book (which is now an all-time favorite) because I started hearing buzz from other bloggers. That buzz eventually led to me requesting it for review through Amazon Vine and the rest is history.

I was going to post my usual statistics roundup in this post but I’ve decided I’d rather focus on the things I’ve accomplished and learned from being a blogger rather than numbers.

So now we’re at the part everyone has been waiting for: The Giveaway.

I want to share the love for some of these favorite books and authors I found through blogging. Enter the giveaway to win one book of your choice by any of the authors I mentioned above.

Giveaway will run from August 12 to August 31. Winners will be notified September 1. If I don’t hear back from the winners by September 3, I will pick a new winner from the entry pool as needed.

ENTER HERE

I’m running the giveaway through a Rafflecopter giveaway.

And I Darken: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

And I Darken by Kiersten WhiteLada Dragwlya has always known that being ruthless in a brutal world is the key to survival–especially for a princess whose only perceived worth is in the man she marries. Lada would much prefer to be measured by her own strength and intellect. To that end, she is determined to prove herself stronger and fiercer than any man.

Radu, Lada’s younger brother, is known for his charm and good looks. But those traits do little to counter his naivete and kind nature. As the third, and obviously weakest, son of a prince it seems easier for everyone to ignore Radu. But he knows how much can be heard once people forget he is listening. In a world that values action and might, Radu quickly learns to capitalize on his appearance and his social graces while hiding his own cunning spy-craft.

Lada is livid when she and Radu become hostages of the Ottoman Empire to ensure their father’s loyalty. She rails against the Ottomans and dreams of the day she will be able to escape and return to her beloved Wallachia to restore her homeland to its proper glory and reclaim everything she has been denied.

Radu, meanwhile, welcomes the new beginning these surroundings offer and throws himself into the Ottoman culture including their soothing religion, Islam. He hopes that with time he might finally find the safety and peace he’s craved for most of his young life.

When Lada and Radu meet Mehmed, the sultan’s lonely son, they find an unlikely ally. Radu sees a friend in Mehmed and the promise of being understood for the first time in his life while Lada recognizes her own ambition in Mehmed’s plans for his future and feels a kinship with him that she never thought possible.

In a world where power is a tenuous thing Lada, Radu, and Mehmed will have to weigh their bonds to each other against their desire for control over their own fates in And I Darken (2016) by Kiersten White.

And I Darken is the first book in White’s Conquerors trilogy which presents an alternate history imagining Vlad the Impaler as a girl. IBoth Radu and Mehmed are also based on real historical figures. A map, family trees, and an author’s note help to explain where fact and fiction diverge.

This book begins in 1435 with Lada’s birth and follows the formative years of her childhood and adolescence before it ends in 1451 with Lada poised, in many ways, to become the infamous Vlad the Impaler of legend.

And I Darken alternates close third person point of view between Lada and Radu. Being the kinder and gentler Dragwlya, Radu’s perspective is often a much-needed break from Lada’s vitriol-fueled outlook. Giving them equal prominence in the narrative also helps to highlight how often Lada and Radu’s distinct skills and proclivities compliment each other. This structure also, of course, positions them as obvious foils to one another.

White’s novel is well-researched and evocative–particularly as she brings the Ottoman Empire to life. Through Lada readers can see the violence and fear that the current sultan uses to maintain order. Alternately, Radu’s view of his new home shows the tranquility and comfort that can be found in a new culture and religion (Islam in this case).

Although Lada is often reckless, everything about And I Darken is thoughtful from the plotting to the characterization. The epic scope of this series starter demands a slower pace that will reward patient readers. Lada, Radu, and Mehmed’s story arcs mirror each other as they all strive in various ways (and with varied results) to achieve some level of agency and autonomy in their own lives.

And I Darken is a nuanced story about power, passion, and where the two can intersect. A sweeping and completely captivating start to a promising series. Highly recommended for readers looking for strong historical fiction/historical fantasy with a plot that plays out on a grand stage.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn, Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Everland: A Review

Everland by Wendy SpinaleLondon is in ruins, blitzed by German bombs and riddled with deadly disease. The Horologia virus never spares anyone for long.

Gwen has managed to survive but supplies are running out and it’s becoming harder to hide herself and her younger siblings, Joanna and Mikey, from the enemy soldiers, known as Marauders, who are occupying the city.

Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer–Hook–leads the Marauders and scours the city for a cure to the Horologia virus. The Marauders abduct children for experiments but none have returned.

When Joanna is taken, Gwen is desperate to get her back. Ill-prepared for a rescue mission on her own, Gwen is soon taken in by Pete, a reckless boy who leads a gang of Lost Boys hidden in London’s underground tunnels. With help from Pete and his sidekick Bella, Gwen hopes she can save her sister before time runs out in Everland (2016) by Wendy Spinale.

Everland is Spinale’s debut novel and the start of a new series.

If you haven’t guessed yet, Everland is a steampunk retelling of Peter Pan. Spinale blends a gritty, wartorn London with steam-powered technology in this action-packed tale. Limited world building helps explain the bare bones of the story including the motives behind Germany’s invasion and Hook’s role in it. However less immediate details are absent making this novel feel strangely timeless and lacking a sense of place despite Spinale’s detailed descriptions.

This novel is narrated by Gwen with chapters from Hook interspersed throughout. Gwen’s narration is sharp and brisk as she struggles to keep herself and her siblings safe. Hook’s narration is strikingly similar though darker in tone.

Although Gwen is around sixteen, she reads much younger. The novel itself is peppered with predictable plot twists and heavy handed foreshadowing although fast-paced action helps to distract from these issues.

Readers approaching this novel as a retelling will enjoy seeing the ways Spinale reinvents familiar events and characters from the original text including clever steampunk elements. Unfortunately, in staying so close to the source material, this novel often misses opportunities to push a familiar story into truly new directions. Everland will appeal most to readers with a strong fondness for the original Peter Pan as well as steampunk fans.

Possible Pairings: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, Never, Never by Brianna Shrum, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld