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.

Maud Hart Lovelace Roundup Round 2

Voting ended last Friday (8th) but the winner isn’t announced until April 23rd, so I still have time! Since my last post I crossed two more off the list.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

I kind of wish I’d read it instead of listening, since I missed out on all the awesome illustrations. However, the audio is read aloud by Neil Gaiman himself, so that makes up for a lot. It’s a great story about time travel and imagination, as told by the father who went out to get milk for his children’s cereal.

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

The Fourth Stall certainly kept me on the edge of my seat! I’m torn because I want to like Mac, and sometimes I did, but mostly I didn’t. He makes for a great narrator however, and I really liked the gangster/noir vibe the audio book had. I didn’t notice the noir feeling as much when reading as opposed to listening, but that’s probably because the narrator did such a great job with the stereotypical inflections and stylizing when speaking. However, the narrator gave Vince a very NYC/New Jersey accent which doesn’t fit with the Illinois location.

Not my personal vote for the Maud Hart Lovelace winner, but I can see the appeal.

Maud Hart Lovelace Roundup

Elementary students across Minnesota will vote on their favorite Maud Hart Lovelace nominees by Friday, April 8th. I’m hoping to finish them all, but I only have two weeks left. I managed to read three this week though!

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Ever wonder why Rumpelstiltskin wanted a the lady’s baby? Or why the king thought she could spin straw into gold in the first place? Rump explains all these questions and more.

Rump was born only knowing half his name (and not the great half), as his mother died halfway through announcing his name. In Rump’s world, your destiny is tied to your name, and with only half a name, he had half a destiny. Until he found his mother’s spinning wheel and Rump begins to discover his destiny (and full name).

I love fractured fairy tales so I was really excited about Rump. I don’t know if it was the narrator of the audio book or because I know how the story ends and was impatient for all the ends to meet, but the book seemed to drag on forever!

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos by Vivian Vande Velde

This little book is hilarious! It reminds me so much of Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School books. Anyway, 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos, tells the story of Twitch, the school yard squirrel, who got chased into the school by an owl, and then a dog. The dog and squirrel embark on a haphazard chase through the school, with the school pets trying to help their friend Twitch. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different animal.

My favorites are the hamster and the snake.

Double Dog Dare by Lisa Graff

Francine Halata desperately wants to be the anchor for her elementary school’s announcements. When the Media Club vote for anchor comes to a tie between her and new kid Kansas Bloom, the two begin a Dare War to decide who will be anchor for the next semester. Along with the dare war, the two kids are facing similar family issues at home.

I checked this book out multiple times from the library and kept returning it after time was up and I still hadn’t read it. I don’t know why I lacked interest, since once I started, I couldn’t put it down! I loved Francine and Kansas! The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way is the principal’s obsession with “crushes.” Just let the two kids be friends!

Looking for Alaska

I wanted to love Looking for Alaska by John Green, but I just didn’t. Maybe I just don’t get John Green. I enjoy his books, so far Paper Towns is my favorite, but I don’t love them the way everyone else does. 

When I last mentioned  Looking for Alaska I had high hopes. My husband and I laughed and commiserated with Miles (Pudge) as he integrated himself into his new boarding school, befriending Chip (The Colonel) and Takumi and falling head over heels for Alaska. 

Then the “after” happens. I don’t want to say too much and give away the plot, but Pudge drove me crazy. 

Despite not loving any of his books, I’m still not going to give up on John Green. An Abundnace of Katherines is still on my to read list.