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.

Challenge!

Call me crazy, but I decided to start two other reading challenges. I’m going to try and make the books I read count towards all three, but sometimes that just won’t work. Why, do you ask? A coworker of mine is doing Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge and we’ve compared some notes. Once I started looking at that challenge I realized I could easily fit in many of the books I’ve already read. Also, planning out the challenges got me out of my reading rut (for now at least).

Where does the third challenge come from? I frequently peruse the Modern Mrs. Darcy website and realized it wouldn’t be much extra reading to add her challenge into the mix. So there you have it. I now have three spreadsheets* going in my Google Drive and I think I’m having more fun trying to place (and find) various books in the challenge than I am actually reading the books! Hopefully the excitement will keep going.

Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge (my spreadsheet here)

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (my spreadsheet here)

PopSugar Reading Challenge (my spreadsheet here)

*someone in the Goodreads PopSugar Reading Challenge group shared their spreadsheet and I used it for all my reading challenges. I wish I could take credit for this, but my spreadsheet skills are not so great.

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.

Just Okay

Maybe it’s my  mood, or maybe my book picker is off, but the last three books I read are only so-so. One plus? I got to check of three of the Popsugar 2017 categories.

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I was so excited to start The Kitchens of the Great Midwest  by J. Ryan Stradal, and I really enjoyed the first few chapters about Lars. Then it got boring. Firstly, the hugely pronounced Minnesota accents on all male characters got old real fast. Secondly, I found that I did not care for any of the characters once Lars’s story ended. I am, however, interested in making some of the recipes included in the novel. Particularly the peanut butter bars.

Popsugar: A book about food

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My next book was That Summer by Lauren Willig. I started it on the plane and while it wasn’t great, it definitely hooked me. I know Willig isn’t the greatest writer, but there’s something about her style that get’s me sucked in right away. The middle of the story was great, but the ending really disappointed me. I felt the historical story had way too many open ended questions and the modern story wrapped up too neatly. I suppose if it had kept on the way the middle went, it would be an overly long novel, but I felt a bit cheated out of answers.

Popsugar: A book with one of the four seasons in the title

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Lastly, I started (and finished) Taylor Reid Jenkin’s Maybe in Another Life while on the return flight. I did not like this one nearly as much as After I Do. I think it’s because I did not particularly care for Hannah or her best friend Gabby. I felt like so much time was spent setting up the two various stories (it’s all about how one decision can affect a person’s life), that we never really understood the various characters and their motivations. I was obviously invested enough that I read the book

Popsugar: A book that is a story within a story

Make them Laugh, Make them Laugh

I’m on a bit of a comedienne kick lately. And I’m loving it.

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Eprhon was on my TBR list for quite some time. When I realized it was also under 150 pages (on the Pop Sugar prompts) I knew I had to finally read it. While I’m not the target demographic (I don’t feel bad about my neck, yet) I still thoroughly enjoyed it! Ephron is smart and subtly funny, and reading this book just made me want watch You’ve Got MailSleepless in Seattle, or When Harry Met SallyAccording to a New York Times article about the book the various essays were written for magazines and newspapers before being compiled for the book.

The chapter about Maintenance is my favorite with the parts about hair speaking to me most. “…The amount of maintenance involving hair is genuinely overwhelming. Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.” Maybe it’s just me, but I can be incredibly vain about my hair. The amount I stress about my hair is what is probably causing it to fall out…

 

I started Why not Me? while on the train from New York City to Boston. It made the four hour train ride on an overheated train car go by so much more quickly! I read her previous book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns, and this one is just as great. Mindy Kaling is hilarious! I especially appreciated the honesty in the essays on body image and the crazy Hollywood beautification process– it’s ok to want to be a few pounds lighter or enjoy pampering spa treatments, but those attributes are not a person’s only defining characteristics.

“I want to say one last thing, and it’s important. Though I am a generally happy person who feels comfortable in my skin, I do beat myself up because I am influenced by a societal pressure to be thin. All the time. I feel it the same way anybody who picks up a magazine and sees Keira Knightley’s elegantly bony shoulder blades poking out of a backless dress does. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my shoulder blades once. Honestly, I’m dubious that any part of my body could be so sharp and firm as to be described as a “blade.” I feel it when I wake up in the morning and try on every single pair of my jeans and everything looks bad and I just want to go back to sleep. But my secret is: even though I wish I could be thin, and that I could have the ease of lifestyle that I associate with being thin, I don’t wish for it with all of my heart. Because my heart is reserved for way more important things.

I love that Mindy Kaling is simultaneously a celebrity and also a completely normal person who has friend break ups and weird dating stories. Although her work schedule sounds absolutely awful… If you want to laugh and feel like you’ve found your new best friend, look no further.