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

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