Friday, January 20, 2017

The 39 Clues: The Sword Thief - Peter Lerangis

The 39 Clues: The Sword Thief
Title: The 39 Clues: The Sword Thief
Author: Peter Lerangis
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 156
How I Found It: We're listening through the series.
Date Completed: 12/30/16

Summary: Amy and Dan Cahill take their search for clues to the family secret to Asia.

What I Thought: We listened to this book on the way home from Christmas in the Midwest. As I've mentioned in posts about previous books in the series, they make for good road trip entertainment. They are fast-paced and fun. They also require a serious suspension of reality and adult wisdom. These kids do all sorts of stuff without any adult involvement or supervision. Sure, there are some token adults around from time to time, but they do way more on their own than would ever be possible in the real world.

Case in point: in this book, Amy and Dan are booted from their international flight when their also-underage cousins pose as them and end up on the flight with their au pair instead. Thus, Amy and Dan are left to wrangle passage to Asia on their own. Sure, they run into an uncle who helps, but my gosh. Everything about this storyline is absurd. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It's Not Okay - Andi Dorfman

It's Not Okay
Title: It's Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak Into Happily Never After
Author: Andi Dorfman
Publication Date: 5/10/16
Pages: 320
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I watched Dorfman's season of The Bachelorette.
Date Completed: 12/29/16

Summary: Andi Dorfman rose to reality fame when she chewed out Bachelor Juan Pablo on national television after their overnight date. She went on to start as The Bachelorette and endure a very public breakup with her fiancĂ©, Josh Murray. 

What I Thought: The rise of the Bachelor memoir has been quite interesting to watch over the past few years. I've talked before about how I enjoy watching the show, though not every season. It's a guilty pleasure, to be sure. Kevin loathes it, but my sister, girlfriends, and I all get a kick out of watching and dissecting the absurd "reality" of the show. 

That perception of reality is what makes these post-show memoirs so interesting. I get that these books are opportunities for Bachelor franchise stars to hang on to their fifteen minutes for a bit longer, but still. They offer glimpses behind the scenes and into the real relationships that stem from the show. It is particularly interesting when a big name from the show, like Dorfman, releases such a tell-all. 

Thus far, the Bachelor books have spanned a wide range of dirt dishing and personal reflection. Dorfman's memoir falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. It's certainly closer to Courtney Robertson's trashy tell-all than any of the others I have read. Yet, her whole premise is breakup recovery, and so it necessarily includes a lot of self-reflection as well. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Wapshot Chronicle - John Cheever

The Wapshot Chronicle
Title: The Wapshot Chronicle
Author: John Cheever
Publication Date: 1957
Pages: 352
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 12/27/16

Summary: The Wapshot family has lived in their small New England village for generations. Cheever, famous for his short stories, uses the novel to give snapshots of the lives of one particular Wapshot family.

What I Thought: I enjoyed this one much more than I was expecting to. I enjoyed Cheever's writing style and his characters were both entertaining and sympathetic. 

The Wapshot family is a bit of a sad case. None of them seem particularly happy at any point in the book. They never do anything especially interesting or dramatic. Instead, Cheever has captured their normality and mundanity. The book is simple in so many ways, but its simplicity is somehow what makes it lovely. 

A Goodreads reviewer compared the book to a person who is physically attractive until you start picking apart their features. Everything works together in a way that is perfectly lovely, but individual features are not anything remarkable. I thought that was a great analogy for this book. In many ways, it is nothing special. Picked apart, there is not much to separate it from other novels. Seen as a whole, though, it really is something special. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train
Title: Orphan Train
Author: Christina Baker Kline
Publication Date: 4/2/13
Pages: 278
Genre: Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins generously sent me a copy.
Date Completed: 12/28/16

Summary: Molly is a seventeen-year-old under the charge of Maine's foster care system. In a bid to complete community service hours and avoid juvenile detention time, she volunteers to clean out the attic of a wealthy older woman. Along the way, she learns about the experience of Niamh ("Neev") Power, an Irish immigrant who finds herself orphaned and sent across the country in hopes of being placed with a new family.

What I Thought: I enjoyed this book. I burned through it in a couple of days over the Christmas holidays. While I don't always love historical fiction pieces, I found this one interesting and engaging. The modern storyline added in really kept me interested. I think if it had just been the story of Niamh/Vivian, I would have struggled more to stay engaged. However, the addition of Molly into the story and the foreknowledge of who Niamh became really helped me stay interested in the historical chapters.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The 39 Clues: One False Note - Gordon Korman

One False Note
Title: The 39 Clues: One False Note
Author: Gordon Korman
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 174
How I Found It: We're listening through this series
Date Completed: 12/24/16

Summary: The Cahill kids, Amy and Dan, continue their international hunt for family clues which hold the key to global power.

What I Thought: Kevin and I listened to the first book of this series when we traveled north for Thanksgiving. It was silly and fast-paced and entertaining enough to keep us engaged. It felt natural, then, to continue the series on our epic Christmas journey (24 hours+ hours in the car over a week). We actually made it through this one, Book Two, and Book Three. I'll be talking about Book Three next week, but let's focus here for today.

While Book One had the Cahills and company running around America and Europe looking for a clue from Benjamin Franklin, this book led them to Vienna and Venice in search of a clue related to Mozart. The musician in me really liked the use of music throughout this book and it was fun to have a little dose of music history infused as well. The parts in Venice also made me really excited for the trip to Italy we are planning.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Secret Chord - Geraldine Brooks

The Secret Chord
Title: The Secret Chord
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Publication Date: 10/6/15
Pages: 302
Genre: Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: I really enjoy Brooks' writing.
Date Completed: 12/21//16

Summary: A fictional look at the life of Israel's King David, told from the perspective of the prophet Nathan.

What I Thought: I have been a fan of Brooks' writing ever since I read Year of Wonders for a grad school class. She as a way with words and characters and I enjoy her tone. I am slowly working my way through her body of work. 

The Secret Chord seemed a natural next step for me. It reflects on the life of King David, an important figure in both the Jewish and Christian faiths. As with The Red Tent, I went into this book expecting exactly what it is: a fictional representation of events I believe really happened. We don't know all the details. This is speculation, as is any historical fiction. If you can accept that premise, I think this book is a fascinating, thought-provoking read.

The story is told from the perspective of the prophet Nathan, or Natan, as he is called here (Brooks reverted most names away from traditional English transliterations). At first, I was startled that Brooks chose him as narrator, but ultimately I liked his voice. She added significantly to his story to make him present for more of David's, but having a his relatively neutral outside perspective gave balance to the story.

Friday, January 6, 2017

5 Year Blog-iversary

Today is my blog-iversary!

It's hard for me to believe, but today I have been blogging for five years. 

Five years ago, I was reentering the world of reading for pleasure. While I read voraciously as a child, my pace slowed considerably during high school and college, as it does for most students due to the work load and the amount of textbook reading required. After graduation, though, I found myself once again returning to literature as a form of relaxation and self-education. And I wanted a way to talk about it with others.

Enter: From My Bookshelf.

Oh yeah. That's what it was called back then. Naming things has never been my particular strength and I wanted to spend more time focusing on content rather than coming up with the perfect name. I went with the first thing I thought of. After all, I hardly had grand expectations. I just wanted a place to process what I was reading and hopefully get to chat about it a bit, too. I wanted to read 52 books over the course of 2012. I wanted space for analysis and discussion. I wanted to push myself.