Archive for January, 2012

2011 Sonderbooks Standouts: Children’s Fiction

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Most years, I have a clear favorite category (YA Fantasy), but not this year! This year I had books I totally loved in all the categories, and I’m so thankful I have a precedent of making categories so I don’t have to rank them against each other.

In Children’s Fiction, I didn’t have such a hard time with the ranking, at least the top of the list. Although I adored Okay For Now, and it’s my pick for the Newbery Medal, my definite most-loved and most-enjoyed Children’s book this year was Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George. What can I say? It completely won my heart.

I have to add that Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run had to be included, because it helped convince me NOT to go to the 150th Anniversary and Reenactment of the First Battle of Bull Run, for which I had tickets, on a day when the weather was over 100 degrees and I’d had a headache for three weeks. Since I had a stroke the very next day, I’m absolutely convinced that was a fabulous (possibly life-saving!) decision. Besides, it’s a really fun book!

So here are my favorite Children’s Fiction books that I read in 2011:
1. Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George
2. Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
3. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
4. Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis
5. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg
6. Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run, by Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleburger
7. Clementine and the Family Meeting, by Sara Pennypacker

Here are the other lists I’ve posted so far:
Fiction for Grownups
Teen Fiction
Last Year’s Standouts

2011 Sonderbooks Standouts: Fiction for Teens

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Young Adult Fiction tends to be my favorite category, particularly the Fantasy books. This year was no different, except that there were some outstanding fantasy books I loved in both the Adult and Children’s categories. I’m glad I’ve set a precedent of separating the categories so I don’t have to rank them against each other! It’s hard enough ranking these. The top three Fantasy novels were books I thoroughly loved. In the end, The Scorpio Races won out for my favorite because it channeled so much little-girl Black Stallion nostalgia. An awesome book!

The most bizarre, most distinctive, most, well sonder, was definitely The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, and its translation, Der Orden der Seltsamer Sonderlinge. But where to rank it? I’m tempted to put it in a category of its own, which it will actually get when I start blogging about reading the German translation (which I intend to do after I get all the Standouts posted, honest).

As with Adult Fiction, I split the books into two categories: Fantasy and Everything Else. Now, a few of these walk close to the line of fantasy, so I went with gutlevel thinking to decide which book goes where.

I really cut down the list of books I wanted to include. Please remember that books I gave a starred review to are books I think are excellent! And ranking my favorites was difficult, and might change on a different day. Remember that this is extremely subjective, and just a measure of how much I personally enjoyed them. All of these are outstanding, memorable, excellent books:

Fantasy for Teens:
1. The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater
2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
3. Chime, by Franny Billingsley
4. Red Glove, by Holly Black
5. The Trouble With Kings, by Sherwood Smith
6. The Ring of Solomon, by Jonathan Stroud
7. The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy

Other Teen Fiction:

1. Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly
2. Shipbreaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi
3. Page by Paige, by Laura Lee Gulledge
4. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
5. Lost and Found, by Shaun Tan

I promise I will get the remaining reviews posted as soon as I possibly can!

Happy Reading!

2011 Sonderbooks Standouts: Fiction for Adults

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

It takes awhile to post a new page of Sonderbooks Standouts, so I’ve decided to blog about one category at a time. I will post the pages and reviews as soon as possible, but for now I can post the lists.

I’m starting with Fiction for Adults, simply because that was my shortest list. I also have more of the books already reviewed and/or posted.

The decisions in ranking were still difficult, though. Two books I read seemed resoundingly, lastingly good, and it’s hard to rank them. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, is written in lyrical prose and immediately pulls you in. It’s an epic that you can compare to Tolkien with a straight face. However, when I read the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, although it is still incredibly well-written, I did get annoyed that the story just stopped at a random place and definitely isn’t finished. I also suffered some excessive eye-rolling at the interlude involving the character learning about sex from a woman of faery whose beauty drives ordinary men mad. Though I have to admit, even that part was written expertly and compellingly.

However, another series I read completely captivated me. Even though I would probably give Patrick Rothfuss the prize for outstanding work of fantasy literature (assuming that when he finishes up, he keeps up the quality), with Sonderbooks Standouts, I’m rating how much I enjoyed reading them. So I have to give my first place honor to Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier. Like so many of my favorites, it was a fairy tale retelling, and was so incredibly well done, weaving in Irish History and seeming totally realistic.

I always like to separate Fantasy (my favorites) from the other books I read. So here are two lists of 2011 Sonderbooks Standouts in Fiction for Grown-Ups:

1. Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier
2. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
3. Son of the Shadows, by Juliet Marillier
4. The Snow Queen, by Mercedes Lackey
5. Child of the Prophecy, by Juliet Marillier
6. The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss

Other Fiction:
1. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
2. Minding Frankie, by Maeve Binchy
3. The Pericles Commission, by Gary Corby
4. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley
5. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, by Alexander McCall Smith

Books Read in 2011

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Tonight I finished making my lists from which I’ll choose the 2011 Sonderbooks Standouts. Not counting picture books, I read 132 books in 2011. Also not counting books during the year that I read but decided not to review. I’ve got 35 picture books on my list (only my favorite picture books read), so that will also be a challenge to narrow down.

I really do enjoy looking over a year of great reading. I hope to post the Standouts tomorrow.

Coming Soon: Sonderbooks Standouts 2011

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Happy New Year!

What I like to do, ever since New Year’s Day 2001, is use New Year’s Day to post my list of Sonderbooks Stand-outs, my favorite books I read in the previous year.

I always do wait until the year is OVER to decide which books were my favorites, because, the truth is, I always hope to get a lot more books read than I actually do finish.

The list will not be Newbery or Caldecott or Printz predictions. I think I’ll make another post about those in a couple weeks. These are just the books that I, personally, most enjoyed reading this year. They were not all published in 2011, but my rule is that I had to read them in 2011.

Oh, and today the Cybils announce their short lists. These are great reading, but I’m not even going to peek until I’ve chosen my Sonderbooks Stand-outs, because I don’t want to be influenced.

This year, there’s a catch: I’m way behind. I’m way behind on writing reviews, and I’m way behind on posting reviews.

Now, I have a very good excuse. I had a stroke at the end of July, and wasn’t recovering as quickly as I’d hoped. In fact, as of October, I was feeling worse instead of better. But when I went to the ER about it, they told me I hadn’t had another stroke and just sent me home, so I decided to try to ignore it.

However, a few days before Christmas, I saw the neurologist. He was not impressed with my tales of slight dizziness, which I had to admit was nothing at all as bad as when I actually had the stroke. But then he did a neurological exam and found that my eyes aren’t tracking together if I look up and to the right. He said I probably had another stroke, a mini-stroke this time.

So, it seemed perhaps I shouldn’t ignore my symptoms after all. On Tuesday, I noticed at work that now I was seeing double when I looked up and to the left as well. The neurologists’ office said I should go to the ER for that, though they did a CT scan that didn’t show any problems. I had an MRI & MRA done on Thursday and now need to wait for an appointment to go over the results. And on top of everything else, I’m still feeling a persistent low-grade dizziness and am extra tired. And this all happened right in the middle of trying to get Christmas gifts and cards sent.

What it all boils down to is I haven’t been posting much. I’m reading as much as ever — lying around a lot, so of course! But getting the reviews written and posted is harder. I’ve missed a lot of work, and when I do work, I tend to be too tired to do much at home. So I’m getting more and more behind.

I’m afraid that by the time I post the 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, no one will care any longer. But I’m going to do it anyway! (After all, the fun of having your own website is doing it for your own enjoyment.) Here is my plan:

1. I will make my list. I’ll post it, with links to the reviews that are already up.
2. I’ll post the already-written reviews of stand-outs, probably one category at a time.
3. All the while, writing reviews of the books I haven’t reviewed yet.
4. I’ll post the rest of the reviews as I write them.

Some day, maybe I’ll catch up! I’m probably going to be forced to stop reviewing every book I read, but for now I’m going to at least review the 2011 Stand-outs.

I’ll get back to you soon!