Rich People Problems

I discovered the Crazy Rich Asians series well after the second book came out, and devoured them in days once I got them from the library. That’s the advantage to coming to something (be it a TV series or book series once all parts are available). I did not think Kevin Kwan would write a third book, but once I knew a third was in the works, I immediately began impatiently waiting. Lucky for me, I was approved to read an Advanced Reading Copy through NetGalley!

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Once I started reading Rich People Problems I realized I’d forgotten a lot of what happened in the first two books. This is what happens when I read too quickly. However, Random House has the family tree available on their website and Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of the first two books with character descriptions.

Despite needing some refreshers on character connections, reading Rich People Problems felt very familiar, but in a good way. I love Kwan’s writing style and the humor he exudes. Generally, I’m a sucker for footnotes, and I love Kwan’s. Although reading footnotes on an e-readers is obnoxious. Also, when most authors try and describe fashionable people, or what their characters are wearing, it sounds like a What Not to Wear episode. Kwan, on the other hand, makes me believe Astrid is as fashion forward as she is portrayed. I also really enjoyed re-connecting with Astrid. She is by far my favorite character in the series. Learning more about Su Yi and the history of Singapore was a nice surprise. I wish I knew more about the area’s history and culture. Lastly, Eddie and Kitty were just as annoying as always. Which was perfect.

Popsugar Reading Challenge: A Book Involving Travel

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: A Book that is set more than 5000 from your location

The Art Forger

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On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.

Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life.

*Summary courtesy of Goodreads.com

I wanted to like this book. I really did. There were some details I found intriguing, mostly the passages about the artwork and the process of forging painting traditional oil paintings. I also liked that I recognized most of the places mentioned. I used to live just down the street from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where the heist this story is inspired by takes place.

However, I did not like Claire at all. Not that you have to necessarily like the characters you read about, but she felt flat. This could also be due to the narrator. I found the narrator’s voice grating and the character of Claire is already annoying, so an annoying narrator only emphasized the annoyingness. As I said earlier, the only redeeming qualities (since I don’t buy the love interests or friendships or the ease of which Claire is able to find her information) are the details surrounding art. Shapiro clearly did a lot of research in painting, art history and forgery. I have to admit I never thought about the possibility of forgeries hanging in museums, but clearly it happens!

This is Shapiro’s debut novel, so maybe her other books will be better, but I felt the characterizations were all over the place. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but I also felt Claire was not a reliable narrator. By the end she seems to believe many of her own lies about the forgery. Because of this, I’m including The Art Forger as my PopSugar unreliable narrator selection.

PopSugar 2017 Roundup

For reference, here’s the Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

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I loved this book. It took me a moment to get into the swing of the story, what with slightly fantastical elements, but once I got there I was hooked! I’m being lazy and don’t want to write a summary of the plot, so I’m going to copy and paste the Goodreads plot summary:

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.   

If I were a better writer, this is what I’d want my book to look like. I am an admitted over user of parenthesis and I love all the snarky asides. I can’t wait until the other Lady Janie books come out! What will these crazy ladies come up with for Jane Eyre and Calamity Jane. My only complaint: I wish there was a little bit more romance between Jane and G.

I haven’t decided if this book will fit in book written by multiple authors, book about a mythical creature, or book with a character’s name in the title. I currently have it in character’s name, but it can fit so many slots, I’ll decide at the end of the year where it’s needed most.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Lauren Willig and Beatriz Williams

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I downloaded this book the same time I downloaded Maybe in Another Life but I could not get into it! I read the first page a dozen times over the course of two weeks. It wasn’t until I checked out the large print version at work one day that I made any progress. However, once I made progress I was hooked.

New York Times bestselling authors Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig present a masterful collaboration—a rich, multigenerational novel of love and loss that spans half a century….1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel’s portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?

The Forgotten Room, set in alternating time periods, is a sumptuous feast of a novel brought to vivid life by three brilliant storytellers.

This book requires its readers to suspend their disbelief, because the plot really is outlandish. But, that’s okay. It was just the right amount of romance and history and drama for me. Many Goodreads reviewers say they got confused about characters and who belonged to who. Maybe I read more multi generational or multi perspective stories than the average person, but I found keeping track of the plot and characters simple, once I got into the story.

Again, this book can fit multiple Popsugar categories: Written by more than one author, takes place during war time, and a book set in two different time periods. Again, I have multiple titles for many of these categories so I’m going to wait and see.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

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I’ve read many young adult novels in verse and many children’s poetry collections, but never (at least to my recollection) a young adult collection of poetry. For a book review article I wrote for April, which happens to be National Poetry Month, I read Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann. Each poem is based on a fairy tale and retold from the perspective of a teenager (usually teenage girl). Many of the poems focus on body image and weight and the ridiculous headlines found in teen (and women’s) magazines. One of my favorites is

Sleeping Beauty’s Wedding Day

After the kiss and the trip to the castle comes the

showering, shaving, shampooing, conditioning, detangling, trimming,

moussing, blow-drying, brushing, curling, de-frizzing, extending, texturizing,

waxing, exfoliating, moisturizing, tanning, medicating, plucking, concealing, smoothing,

bronzing, lash lengthening, plumping, polishing, glossing, deodorizing, perfuming,

reducing, cinching, controlling, padding, accessorizing, visualizing, meditating,

powdering, primping, luminizing, correcting, re-curling, re-glossing, and spraying.

No wonder that hundred-year nap

just doesn’t seem long enough.

I have to admit, I didn’t love all the poems and many were a little too angsty for my preference, but it was definitely interesting! Also, I love fairy tales.

I’m putting this collection in a Bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read. I’m not positive it was a bestseller, but it was included as a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Poetry in 2014, which implies it was as popular/bestselling book of poetry.

After I Do

A new coworker of mine recommended Reid a while back (specifically when I was raving about Jennifer Close’s The Hopefuls). I found After I Do on Cloud library and was almost immediately hooked. Maybe it’s because, like Beth and Matt in The Hopefuls, Lauren and Ryan are normal, relatable people. The descriptions of their disagreements are so normal (losing a car in the parking lot, disagreeing about what to eat for dinner etc etc). I really appreciate authors who can so eloquently describe, and find meaning, in our day to day lives.

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The gist of the story is that Lauren and Ryan are college sweethearts, but a few years after marriage, are taking each other for granted and their marriage is falling apart, Instead of divorcing, the two take a year apart to re-discover themselves. My only complaints– after a lot of build up, the novel ended too soon. Also, I wish we had more of Ryan’s perspective. Otherwise, highly recommended! I will have to check out more of her work soon.

Holiday Reading

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I’m running a bit behind on this year’s Christmas-y listens, and haven’t quite finished The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, but since it’s about the 12 Days of Christmas and those go beyond Christmas Day, I figure I’m good. The Twelve Clues of Christmas is the 6th installment of Her Royal Spyness series, and one of the most grisly. Our fearless gang finds themselves in a quaint English village for Christmas were a death a day occurs in the order of the 12 Days of Christmas song. Doesn’t sound very Christmas-y, nor very quaint, but I love it. Probably because Georgie and Darcy finally make some headway in their “relationship.”

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I started with my annual re-listen of Lauren Willig’s Mischief of the Mistletoe. I believe I’ve mentioned my love of Willig’s Secret History of the Pink Carnation series before, and I think this is one of my favorites! It’s so hard to decide sometimes… Mischief of the Mistletoe is the only one in the series not to include Eloise and Colin, our modern day frame story couple. When I first started reading the series I really enjoyed the Eloise storyline. I was also a student in England and could appreciate several of the dilemmas Eloise found herself experiencing. However, as the series went on, I found myself skipping the Eloise and Colin chapters (much harder to do in audio), so I really appreciate not having to deal with them in this version. Also, I love Turnip. He certainly isn’t a swashbuckling hero, but a nice, loyal, (if goofy one), which is a nice change of pace.

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Since my parents moved up north we have a 4 (ish) hour drive each way. To pass the time I checked out The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, which is my husband’s favorite Christmas book. Maybe it was lack of sleep (we hosted my high school friend’s annual holiday party the night before), or maybe it’s the cultural/political climate today, but I almost cried at the end. I don’t remember having that kind of reaction in the past.

*updated for pictures and links*

Lonesome Dove

I do apologize for my long blogging absence… My husband and I have several new(ish) house projects and an adorable new(ish) puppy dog that are taking up lots of our time. However, I have been reading! And listening.

A while back I downloaded Lonesome Dove onto my Audible account. At the time it seemed like the best way to tackle the 945 page saga. Then when I read through  the 2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge categories I decided I would use Lonesome Dove to check off “a book that’s more than 600 pages” and “a book and it’s prequel.” Generally I decided not to use a book to check off more than one category, but in this instance, I made the exception, since any of the two prequels were also 900+ pages.

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In the end, I decided not to use Lonesome Dove or Comanche Moon as the “book and its prequel.” Mostly because I waited too long to start Lonesome Dove and it took me more than a month to listen to it, even while painting kitchen cabinets and walking the dog. I certainly couldn’t cram it in the last few weeks of December.

This is all really pointless and muddled information, but it’s all kind of related…

As for Lonesome Dove, I loved it. Lee Horsely narrated the audible version and he is fantastic. Sometimes, when I listen to a book I can’t read it simultaneously because I need the narrator’s voice, or it feels wrong. This is one of those instances. Horsely really made the story for me.

I can’t quite explain why I liked the story so much. Maybe it’s because the “main” characters are older, which seems to be uncommon today. Maybe because McMurtry skillful creates a multitude of believable characters, and tells the story from each of their perspectives. Maybe because I could really sense his love of the American West throughout his writing. Maybe it’s because the concept of driving cattle from Texas to Montana with no roads or modern amenities is completely foreign to me and I admire their strength and determination. Maybe because the writing is so vivid and the characters so timeless I felt like I was on a cattle drive in the 1800s.

While there are flaws (I wish the Native characters were given a stronger voice, for example), it is overall a skillfully written saga of the American West as told by a multitude of historical viewpoints. I can completely understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize.

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The miniseries on the other hand, did nothing for me (except that Robert Duvall reminds me of my grandpa). I felt it was way too short and unless you read the book you have no understanding of most character’s motivations. Also, Tommy Lee Jones is practically impossible to understand, he mumbles so much. I wish Lonesome Dove and the rest of the series were turned into a real TV show like Outlander or Game of Thrones.

Best Books I Read this Summer, or Books with Pretty Covers

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

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Astonish Me follows the story of Joan, a young ballerina in the 1970s; Arslan Ruskov the Russian dancer Joan helped defect; and Jacob, Joan’s childhood best friend. Told from alternating perspectives the story moves from the ballet studios of New York and Europe in the 1970s to the suburban paradise of California in the 80s and 90s. While the story moves slowly, Shipstead’s writing is amazing and the characters, while not all likable, kept my interest.

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It doesn’t hurt that I have a slight obsession with all things ballet. Pretty sure it stems from my lack of grace and dance ability. I hate to admit, if I saw the first cover I wouldn’t have read the book. The pretty pink ballet ribbons drew me in, but now that I read the book, I love the first cover.

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

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When I picked up this book all I knew about it was that the author wrote Girls in White Dresses (which I loved) and that it took place in DC during a political campaign. Turns out the main character’s name is Beth, her husband’s name is Matt and he hails from the DC suburbs of Maryland. I saw a few other similarities between myself and my Matt and Close’s characters, but I think that has a lot more to do with her ability to write realistic characters, with regular jealousies and fears and flaws.

And that is what I love about The Hopefuls. Yes, Beth is passive, but there are so many passive people out there in the world. We can’t only read about one kind of person. Yes, Beth and Matt are kind of awful to each other at points, but again, nobody is perfect. I get the sense that Close is a very insightful and introspective person, because I don’t think this book could be written by someone who is not honest with themselves.
This one of the few times I read a book on e-reader since there were so many quotes I wanted to highlight, but since it’s a library book I didn’t. And now I’m totally the actual quotes, but I know there were a lot of good ones!