I’ve Got Your Number

When I first saw the “book you bought on a trip” prompt for the PopSugar Reading Challenge I knew I had to re-read I’ve Got Your Number. I don’t often think of myself as a “chick lit” person. I don’t particularly like the rest of Sophie Kinsella’s books (the plot of the Shopaholic series annoys me in general) nor do I enjoy Emily Griffin or Jen Lancaster. But, I do like Lauren Willig and her Pink Carnation series is basically historical chick lit and I love I’ve Got Your Number.

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British Cover

I visited a friend of mine while she was living in Mozambique and we met in South Africa to go on a safari. Our safari ended in Durban, South Africa and we had to take a public bus from Durban to Maputo. My iPad battery died and therefore all of my bus entertainment, so I decided I had to have a physical  book for the bus ride instead of reading on my iPad. Off to the local bookstore we went and I picked up the paperback copy of I’ve Got Your Number (side note, I like the British cover much better than the American). I devoured the book on the bus ride and then promptly began it again the day after finishing.

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American Cover

I can’t quite describe what I like about the, because Poppy is such wackadoo. She makes some seriously questionable choices. Yet, I’ve read or listened to this book maybe four times now in the last 4 years. So there is obviously something that draws me into the crazy. Maybe it’s the British-ness. Maybe it’s the somewhat normal-ness of Poppy, even if she is a wackadoo (the plot of the book is wildly unrealistic) or maybe it’s because Kinsella has a way of creating characters you root for, even if they drive you nuts.

Luckily for me, all my other reading challenges have a “book you’ve already read” prompt, so I got to check off lots of prompts with one old favorite.

The Wednesday Wars

I read The Wednesday Wars for the PopSugar Reading Challenge (read a book with a month or day of the week in the title), and it just so happened to also fit in the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge as well (Newbery Award or Honor book). The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt snuck by me in that awkward time between when I was still reading Newbery Award Winners and going to grad school, so I totally missed it. Until now. While the blurb did not interest me at all (see below), the book ended up totally engrossing me.

Blurb from Goodreads:

In this Newbery Honor-winning novel, Gary D. Schmidt offers an unforgettable antihero. The Wednesday Wars is a wonderfully witty and compelling story about a teenage boy’s mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967–68 school year in Long Island, New York. 

Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

There seems to be a lot of mixed reactions on Goodreads as to whether or not the intended audience enjoys this book, or will enjoy it, or if it’s a book adults think kids should like and read. I go back and forth on this one, as I tended to really enjoy award winners when I was at the intended age. However, a lot of my peers felt they were automatically boring books.
In the case of The Wednesday Wars, I don’t see most kids picking it up off the shelves loving it, but I do see it as a very meaningful and enjoyable read aloud and discussion in the classroom. Much of the context surrounding the Vietnam War and Shakespeare plots are foreign to 4th graders, but could lead to some excellent discussion perhaps an early appreciation for Shakespeare.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Another wrap up to a wonderful series. What I love about Lara Jean is that she’s a young teen. She likes to stay home and bake and scrapbook. She doesn’t drink, have sex or go to crazy parties*. While those aren’t bad, I think it’s important for all teens to see themselves in literature. Whether that’s race or gender or sexuality (which are also incredibly important), but it’s important to note that not all teens are Katniss Everdeen or Blair Waldorf, and that’s okay.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean, by Jenny Han, follows Lara Jean in her last year of high school. She’s worried about which school to get into and will she and her boyfriend Peter stay together and how her older sister will handle their dad remarrying. A lot of stuff is going on!

I wasn’t dating the star Lacrosse player during high school (or dating for that matter) nor was my dad remarrying, but I still saw a lot of myself in Lara Jean in this book. The pressure to chose a college is immense. Especially when you’re not really psyched about all your options and put all your hope into one or two… Despite the realness of this issue facing teens, along with the typical sex and drinking and growing up, I felt the ending of Always and Forever, Lara Jean was a bit rushed. Without giving away too much (I hope), it seemed like Han was going to end it one way, and then changed her mind (or her publisher or agent changed theirs). So the ending fell a little flat to me, and I wish it had ended the first way (or at least what felt to me like was supposed to be the ending).

Talk to me if that makes any sense. I want to hear someone else’s thoughts.

* she definitely becomes a more mature teen throughout the series, through Peter, but she’s still a young teen. It’s also interesting to watch that change throughout the series.

Popsugar Reading Challenge: A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you

Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge: A book by #ownvoices or #diversebooks author

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 Marvels

I started reading The Marvels by Brian Selznick back in March, and tore through the pictures. Then I got to the text and read maybe 20 pages and got bored. The book lived in my car for almost a month. I even changed my Goodreads to mark it DNF (did not finish). For some reason, however, I was drawn back to the book on Thursday.

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I stayed up way too late reading. Since it had been almost a month since I began the book I had forgotten who was who, so I kept having to flip back. In the end, I really liked it! I like the construction of The Invention of Hugo Cabret more than The Marvels (I still haven’t read Wonderstruck) since the text was interspersed with the pictures, and the pictures are really Selznick’s strength.

I don’t want to summarize too much, because I’m afraid I’m going to give away the twists. Check out the blurbs on Goodreads, but for goodness sake, don’t read the 1 star reviews. Makes me sad for humanity. So many close minded people out there.

PopSugar Reading Challenge: Book with pictures

Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge: Book over 600 pages

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: A YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ

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.

Heartwood Hotel: A True Home

A friend of mine from grad school posted on Instagram that she was approved for a NetGalley copy of Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan and I decided I had to try as well. I am so pumped about the third installment of Crazy Rich Asians! Anyway, once I got into NetGalley (it had been a while) I poked around and found a few more books that might fit into my goals of 1) reading more juvenile books this year and 2) could fit the PopSugar Reading Challenge checklist. One of which is Heartwood Hotel: A True Home by Kallie George.

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The story centers around orphaned mouse Mona who finds herself carried away in a storm and finds refuge in a fantastical hotel called Heartwood Hotel. Readers meet sweet woodland creatures (like Mrs. Prickles the cook, Tilly the squirrel maid and owner Mr. Heartwood the badger), go on brave adventures with Mona, and learn about Mona’s family and past.


One Goodreads reviewer compared Heartwood Hotel to The Wind in the Willows, and while I see his point, I disagree. Mostly because the writing and characterizations are lacking. While Heartwood Hotel is no The Wind in the Willows it is a sweet and enjoyable read. I foresee those who like Critter Club and Puppy Place and The Saddle Club snapping these up. The fact that the book is an ARC and already a “book one” tells me publishers are also seeing the connections.