Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2012

This month, I’m celebrating 20 years of writing Sonderbooks!

My main way of celebrating is more posts! I’m posting about outstanding books I read for the first time each year of Sonderbooks. Today let’s look at Sonderbooks Stand-outs from 2012.

For Grown-Ups

Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale

I love this book so much! It’s a tribute to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, but as if that weren’t enough, it features a divorced heroine whose husband cheated on her. This heroine has a scene where she tells off her ex — or at least a man who treated her like her ex did — in a thoroughly satisfying and wonderful way.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, by Alice Ozma

Alice’s father read to her every night from a day when she was in third grade until the day she left for college. This book tells that wonderful story.

Victory Over Verbal Abuse: A Healing Guide to Renewing Your Spirit and Reclaiming Your Life, by Patricia Evans

All Patricia Evans’ books are good for learning to recognize verbal abuse. This book is especially good for healing your spirit after you’re out of the situation and feeling much better about yourself.

For Teens

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

This book is astonishingly good. It tells a tale of women spying during World War II — told by one who is being held by the Nazis. And it’s a story of friendship. And it’s the kind of story that you will want to read over and over again to catch the details right in front of you that you didn’t realize were significant.

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund

A science fiction retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. So good!

Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers

This is the first book of Robin LaFevers’ amazing historical fantasy novels about assassin nuns, the daughters of the god of death.

For Children

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling, by Maryrose Wood

This is the beginning of a delightfully silly historical fiction series about a proper and earnest governess taking care of children raised by wolves.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker

This book begins with two 12-year-old girls deciding to hide a dead body. It continues with the consequences of that choice. So good!

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

Recalling Charlotte’s Web, this Newbery-winning book tells the story of a captive gorilla who decides he must act to save a baby elephant.

How Many Jelly Beans? A Giant Book of Giant Numbers, by Andrea Menotti, illustrated by Yancey Labat

It goes to one million!

Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar, by Masaichiro and Mitsumasa Anno

A picture book that explains factorials!

Penny and Her Song, by Kevin Henkes

The first beginning reader about Penny, and I just love the way she makes up a song and wants to find someone who will listen.

Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten!, by Hyewon Yum

This picture book is fun, because it’s the kid who has to reassure his mom that everything’s going to be okay.

So many good books! The trouble with doing these posts is they make me want to spend the next year rereading books. If you missed these, check them out!

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2011

This month, I’m celebrating 20 years of writing Sonderbooks!

Today I’m revisiting favorites that I first read in 2011, the year that was memorable because I had a stroke.

For Grown-Ups

Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, and Child of the Prophecy, by Juliet Marillier

This was a fantastic year for reading fantasy. Juliet Marillier’s amazing Sevenwaters series begins with a retelling of the fairy tale where the princess must be silent for seven years and knit shirts out of nettles to save her brothers who have been turned into swans. The further books show further generations and more dealings with the otherworldly. They are unfailingly wonderful. And they all have romance, but the details are never the same.

The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss

Another truly amazing fantasy series. This one is not finished even yet, and I hope Patrick Rothfuss will remedy that soon! But the beginning pulls you in from the first sentence. The idea is that a mysterious figure, the King-Killer, is telling his story over three days. We hear the story he tells on the first two days, but we the readers have been kept waiting for the culmination of the tale — but we’re already enchanted.

The Pericles Commission, by Gary Corby

A mystery series set in ancient Greece! Very fun.

Sex, Mom, & God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics — and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway, by Frank Schaeffer

It was beginning to dawn on me that the attitudes I grew up with regarding sex — the same ones Frank Schaeffer grew up with — might not be the healthiest. This book gave me lots of food for thought.

Faith and Will: Weathering the Storms of Our Spiritual Lives, by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron writes wonderful books musing about writing, and it turns out she also writes wonderful books musing about faith.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, by Brené Brown

The first Brené Brown book I read, and probably my favorite. Because I am a perfectionist who has always struggled with perfectionism. This book helps me relax and live wholeheartedly, even with my imperfections.

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rob Bell

This isn’t even close to being my favorite book about universalism. But it is the book that most of my Christian friends have heard of and the book that opened up the conversation. And I appreciate that so much.

For Teens

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

This book is like The Black Stallion combined with Misty of Chincoteague, but featuring killer water horses who like to eat people. Add in a girl competing in a race against men, including a guy she’s attracted to — and both of them desperately need the prize money.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

Another amazing trilogy by Laini Taylor. This time about angels and demons. Or what looks like angels and demons. And it starts out with a student in modern-day Prague who stays with a guardian who grants wishes and trades in human teeth.

Chime, by Franny Billingsley

A haunting novel with witchcraft and guilt and mystery. It begins with the narrator saying she deserves to be hanged. But does she?

The Trouble with Kings, by Sherwood Smith

I think Sherwood Smith’s books are so much fun. There’s the usual princess, plus romance, danger, magic, and political intrigue.

The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy

This is it! My review of this book tells me that 2011 was the year I began posting Sonderling Sunday. The Order of Odd-fish is a bizarre fantasy novel with things like riding on ostriches and prophecies of impending doom. I met the author at ALA Annual Conference, and when he announced that his book had been translated into German, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, I asked if there was any way I could get a copy — and he sent me one. Since then, I’ve used the English edition and the German edition as a sort of Very Silly Phrasebook, writing posts on Sundays showing phrases in children’s books (I’ve added more) and how they’re translated into German in the German edition. I get a big kick out of doing it, though I haven’t done as frequent posts lately. Looks like I’ve been doing it ten years! And I haven’t even finished going through The Order of Odd-fish, though I’m getting really close.

Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly

A powerful novel with resonances and strange connections between a modern girl in Paris and a girl living during the French Revolution.

For Children

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George

A fantasy tale where the castle itself has a personality and grows rooms on a whim. The young princess knows the castle best, so she’s important when her parents are gone and the country is in trouble.

Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt

Wow. Now Gary Schmidt tells the story of the troublemaker in town and completely wins this reader’s heart.

Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis

My first Stephanie Burgis book! This series has a Jane-Austen-with-magic vibe, with an incorrigible twelve-year-old girl as the viewpoint character.

Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run, by Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleburger

I have to mention this one, because it may have saved my life! It’s the story of a kid whose parents named him Stonewall Trigger Hinkleman and who drag him to Civil War Reenactments over and over. He hates them and thinks they’re stupid. But a magic bugle sends him back to the actual Battle of Bull Run, and he gains an entirely new perspective. How did this save my life? I had gotten tickets from a friend to go to the 150th reenactment of the Battle of Bull Run on a Sunday in July. But I’d had a headache for weeks, and the temperature was forecast to be 104 degrees. And I read Stonewall Hinkleman’s words that reenactments are stupid, and I decided to stay at home and read the book in honor of the 150th anniversary. And the next day I had a stroke! I was very glad I didn’t have it the day before outdoors in a crowded field in the heat.

Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers

This silly, silly picture book still makes me giggle. A kid gets his kite stuck in a tree. He throws bigger and bigger things into the tree, trying to dislodge it. The items get more and more ridiculous, and it’s done in a deadpan, completely silly way.

I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen

This picture book is a classic in the Someone-Gets-Eaten genre that I love so much.

Chalk, by Bill Thomson

A wordless picture book that shows kids playing with chalk that makes whatever you draw come to life. That’s a lot of fun until a kid draws a t-rex.

A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka

Another charming picture book, this time about a dog whose ball gets popped. I got to hear Chris Raschka give his Caldecott Medal speech about this book, which made me appreciate it all the more.

You Can Count on Monsters, by Richard Evan Schwartz

This is one of my very favorite mathy books for kids, doing with monsters what I did with colors on my Prime Factorization Sweater.

Something I’m finding out by doing these posts revisiting past years — I really do read a lot of wonderful books every year!

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2010

As of this month, I’ve been writing Sonderbooks for 20 years!

To celebrate, I’m reminiscing about my favorite books over my last 20 years of reading. Today, let’s look at Sonderbooks Stand-outs 2010.

2010 was the year my job got cut from the library and I had to work in the Office for Children for six months before I got back to the library. At the same time, I finally filed for divorce and in November 2010, that divorce became final. So it was something of an awful year. But I did some good reading!

For Grown-ups

This Is Not the Story You Think It Is. . . A Season of Unlikely Happiness, by Laura Munson

This is the story of a marriage that fell apart — and came back together. I wonder sometimes if I had handled things as well as Laura Munson did, if my story might have been more like that — and then I remember that everybody’s story is different, and my husband was determined to go. But this story still charmed me.

Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness, and Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

Tracy Kidder does stories of real people exceptionally well. Strength in What Remains tells the story of Deogratias, a survivor of genocide in Burundi, who went back and brought health care to Burundi, working through Paul Farmer’s agency, Partners in Health. Then Mountains Beyond Mountains tells about Paul Farmer and the founding of Partners in Health. A special note at this time is that Partners in Health has a special focus on healthcare in Haiti, and I can’t think of a better organization to donate to if you want to help Haiti after their recent earthquake.

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, by Jill Bolte Taylor

A neuroscientist tells about her own stroke and what it taught her. Little did I know when I read this that I’d have my own stroke (though in a different part of the brain) the following year.

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, by Daniel Tammet

The story of a man with synesthesia, seeing distinct colors and shapes with different numbers and letters.

The Ten Things To Do When Your Life Falls Apart, by Daphne Rose Kingma

Let’s just say I’m glad I read this book the year that I lost my library job and my divorce was final.

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Fairy tales that shine light on women’s lives. Another one I’m so glad I read during that tough year.

Feel: The Power of Listening to Your Heart, by Matthew Elliott

This is one of the best books I’ve ever studied with a small group. It talks about how much we can learn from our emotions, and showed the fallacy in the teaching I’d grown up with that you shouldn’t trust your feelings. It’s a Christian book and teaches that God gave us emotions to drive us to our best.

This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, by Marilyn Johnson

It was affirming to read this book and be proud to be a librarian — as we were being devalued and library jobs were being cut. This book is a lovely look at the vocation of librarianship.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

This book covers new research about child development, covering many different topics. Many of the ideas are surprising, and have stuck with me all this time. Some fascinating things about the way humans grow up.

Coronets and Steel, by Sherwood Smith

A swashbuckling modern-day European adventure and romance — with a touch of the paranormal thrown in.

The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey

I heard about this classic mystery somewhere and was not disappointed, about the solving of a historical mystery.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

The first Flavia deLuce mystery about a precocious girl with a penchant for poisons and an unhealthy interest in death.

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

This gut-wrenching story of refugees in the United Kingdom tore me apart — but I won’t ever forget it.

For Teens

A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner

Another installment in the Queen’s Thief series. We find out what happened to Sophos and the country of Sounis. More developments and intrigue.

Ice and Enchanted Ivy, by Sarah Beth Durst

Both of these magical books involve a big, furry, wild creature. In Ice it’s the enchanted bear of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” retold in a modern setting. In Enchanted Ivy, there’s magic afoot at Princeton University, and a were-tiger is involved.

White Cat, by Holly Black

This is the book that starts the trilogy in a world where many people can curse others by touching them. Cursing is illegal, so everyone wears gloves. Cassel is part of a powerful crime family and learns about his own power and people who want to use it.

Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The start of a fun contemporary romantic series about a girl who plays football on the boys’ team in Red Bend, Wisconsin.

The Cardturner, by Louis Sachar

A novel about a kid playing bridge! So good! It includes puzzles and intergenerational relationships and competition.

Suspect, by Kristin Wolden Nitz

My writing buddy got published again! This one’s a mystery for teens.

For Children

Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee

This begins a series of illustrated chapter books about an irrepressible, unforgettable third grader. I love these books so much.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

This begins a wonderful series as well. In this multiple-award-winning novel, three sisters go to visit their neglectful mother in California in the sixties and get involved with the Black Panthers distributing food and helping the neighborhood.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

The start of yet another memorable series. This one is more light-hearted, about an origami yoda puppet that seems to give wise advice to kids at a middle school.

Katie Loves the Kittens, by John Himmelman

Here’s a wonderful picture book for kids with a new sibling, as Katie the dog tries to be gentle with the new kittens, but doesn’t know her own strength and size.

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2009

I’ve been writing Sonderbooks for 20 years this month!

To celebrate, I’m revisiting old favorites from each year I wrote reviews.

Today, let’s look at some Sonderbooks Stand-outs from 2009.

In 2009, I was working full-time as a youth services manager at Herndon Fortnightly Library. I was still married but separated, and having some very prickly negotiations with my husband about child support and visitation and trying to come up with an agreement. But at last, the nonfiction books aren’t all about saving relationships or moving on from relationships, though there’s a little bit of that. Anyway, here are some wonderful books I first read in 2009:

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust and Led by Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide, by Immaculée Ilibagiza

These amazing books tell about how the author survived the Rwandan genocide hiding in a bathroom with seven other women — and how she learned to rise above that experience to heal and forgive. Beautiful and inspiring.

The Trance of Scarcity: Stop Holding Your Breath and Start Living Your Life, by Victoria Castle

This is a book about telling yourself stories of abundance and joy. Note to self: I need to reread this book!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A delightful novel-in-letters set on the island of Guernsey shortly after World War II, when the island was occupied by the Nazis.

His Majesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik

This book started me off on the Temeraire series about fighting the Napoleonic Wars with dragons instead of ships.

Still Life, by Joy Fielding

A gripping thriller! Our heroine’s in a coma, but she can hear every word around her and finds out exactly who plans to kill her….

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, by Farahad Zama

Here’s a feel-good story about a retired gentleman in India who opens a marriage bureau.

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

A wonderful Newbery winner, mixing a mystery with historical with science fiction with adventure, following a kid in New York City.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

Another Newbery winner, this one from the previous year, about a boy raised by the denizens of a graveyard. The audiobook read by Neil Gaiman himself is especially wonderful.

Home of the Brave, by Katherine Applegate

This is a powerfully told immigrant story of a boy who moves from Sudan to Minnesota and tries to make sense of his new world.

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech

A Newbery-winning intergenerational road trip book that contains a story within a story.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor

Another amazing Newbery winner, the first I read from the Logan family saga, with the family struggling against racism and hatred and trying to keep their land.

Jeremy Draws a Monster, by Peter McCarty

When the monster Jeremy draws comes to life, he has to figure out how to deal with it.

Orangutan Tongs, by Jon Agee

Tongue twisters! I can never resist them.

Pigs Make Me Sneeze! by Mo Willems

Elephant and Piggie present the perfect way to get across this great truth: Correlation does not imply causation. It’s the way to this former statistics teacher’s heart.

The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney

This Caldecott-winning wordless picture book tells the story of the fable with gorgeous paintings, full of emotion.

Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund

Killer unicorns! Here’s a wonderful book about a girl who learns she’s from a legacy of unicorn hunters, and that unicorns are evil and dangerous. Definitely not sparkles and rainbows.

Graceling and Fire, by Kristin Cashore

These books are set in a unique fantasy world. The first book tells about Katsa, who has the grace of killing and has been used by her ruthless uncle the king. Fire lives in a different kingdom, where there are monsters — colorful animals and humans who are beautiful to look at but hunger for human flesh. Both young women must grapple with who they are and who they love and if they can seize their own destiny.

Blackbringer and Silksinger, by Laini Taylor

These books introduced me to Laini Taylor’s amazing world-building abilities. Her stories of magic always have details that surprise you. In these books, we have fairies — but fairies quite different from those you’ll read about anywhere else.

Once a Princess, by Sherwood Smith

A swashbuckling tale about a girl who lives in Los Angeles, but learns she was born a princess in a fantasy kingdom — and now they need her back. The first of a duology. Twice a Prince is equally good.

A Curse as Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce

This was the author’s debut novel and was the very first winner of the Morris Award for a debut YA novel. I always love fairy tale retellings, and this one takes the Rumpelstiltskin story in an unexpected direction.

Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork

A teen with Asperger’s has to work in his father’s law firm for the summer and learn more about how the world works. A lovely novel that will win your heart.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt

Another powerful historical Newbery-Honor-winning novel from Gary Schmidt. Warning: This one’s sad! But it earns your sorrow and you won’t be sorry you’ve read it.

Note: This year’s Gary Schmidt novel, Just Like That, had elements from both the Gary Schmidt books I read in 2009. You don’t have to read them first, but I like the way it’s from the same fictional universe as those books.

Be sure to look at the Wonderful Rereads I mentioned on the 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs page!

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2008

I’ve been writing Sonderbooks for 20 years!

This month I’m celebrating by revisiting old favorites from each year I wrote reviews. Today, let’s look at 2008. That was the year I began working full-time as a librarian, the first I’d worked full time since 1990. It cut into my reading time! But at least working at a library, I was still around books.

Highlighting some favorites:

Chalice, by Robin McKinley

A new Robin McKinley book is always a treat! (And this is reminding me, it’s time for a rereading of this one.)

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan

This graphic novel helps you understand what it would feel like to be a stranger in a strange land. By using strange symbols for the language on signs and strange creatures for pets, everything seems alien.

The Prophecy, by Hilari Bell

A delightful fantasy story about a misfit prince who takes on a quest.

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt

Here’s when I became a fan of Gary Schmidt. The Newbery-Honor-winning story of Holling Hoodhood and his adventures with Shakespeare.

Mozart’s Ghost, by Julia Cameron

A light-hearted story about a romance being interfered with by the ghost of Mozart.

Italian Lessons, by Peter Pezzelli

A warm and wonderful novel about going to Italy.

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

An original fairy tale by Neil Gaiman! Need I say more?

Timothy and the Strong Pajamas, by Viviane Schwarz

This picture book still delights my heart. Timothy’s mended pajamas make him super strong!

Millie Waits for the Mail, by Alexander Steffensmeier

Looks like 2008 was a stellar year for picture books! This one, too, is one of my all-time favorites — about a cow who loves to hide and ambush the letter carrier. It’s from Germany, too!

A Visitor for Bear, by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

This is one of the best read-alouds ever, working well for audiences from a broad age range. Bear does not allow visitors — but he reckoned without small, grey, and bright-eyed Mouse.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

This is one of my favorites for Baby Storytimes, made by two of my favorite picture book creators. Delighting in sweet babies in an almost musical text.

Are You Ready to Play Outside?, by Mo Willems

This is one of my favorite Elephant & Piggie books — it’s a brilliant sermon on contentment in a picture book. Be sure to read my blog post about what really brought it home for me.

Stay Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying, by Michael Riera

I’m glad I read this book toward the beginning of the time when it was just my teen and me in our home. The book helped remind me that what I want is connection, and reminded me we’re on the same side.

This Is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water when Life Keeps Dragging You Down, by Deborah Collins Stephens, Jackie Speier, Michealene Cristini Risley, and Jan Yanehiro

This is another book about coping when life doesn’t go as you expect and coming through with joy.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, by Kadir Nelson

This came as I was beginning to be familiar with Kadir Nelson’s work and his amazing paintings. A beautiful and informative book.

Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka, by Jon Scieszka

Jon Scieszka’s hilarious memoir for kids. He tells about life as a mischievous boy growing up with five brothers.

Greater Estimations, by Bruce Goldstone

I always like the math books! This photo-illustrated book gives tips and techniques for making good estimations of large groups of objects.

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2007

This month, I’m celebrating 20 years of writing Sonderbooks by revisiting favorites from each year. Today, I’m looking at Sonderbooks Stand-outs 2007, the year I was working half-time and attending library school online — and too busy to write very many reviews. But here are some that I read and loved:

Sacred Choices: Thinking Outside the Tribe to Heal Your Spirit, by Christel Nani

Christel Nani teaches about tribal beliefs and how we let them harm us — but also how to let go of them and heal.

The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life, by Dr. Robin Stern

At this point, I was still married but had been separated for two years. It was not a pleasant or nice divorce. And I was working through things that happened in the marriage. Any time someone has an affair, a whole lot of lies get told. This book helped me work through what had been lies and what had been truth and what patterns of covering things up had already been present in my marriage. Best of all, it got me to stop arguing with him about what I thought or what I felt or what I had done. I learned the powerful words, “I disagree.” And then I was able to move beyond arguing. A powerfully insightful and eye-opening book.

Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card

Here’s a fabulous fairy tale for adults. What if Sleeping Beauty woke up today? Orson Scott Card weaves this into a love story that’s far more complex than the fairy tale, but every bit as beautiful.

Austenland, by Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale’s first book for adults — and perfect for this Austen fan. Our heroine goes to a Jane Austen theme park — and finds love, with some pride and prejudice involved.

Grandpa for Sale, by Vicki Sansum and Dotti Enderle, illustrated by T. Kyle Gentry

Another dear friend and writing buddy got published! This picture book tells what happens when Grandpa gets offered for sale among the antiques.

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale

One of my favorite books by a favorite author, this one tells about a mucker girl locked up in a tower with her lady for a thousand days — and what happens after. Beautiful portrayal of healing after great danger.

Saving the Griffin, by Kristin Wolden Nitz

Another book by a writing buddy, this book features American kids in Italy who discover a baby griffin. They need to keep him hidden while trying to figure out how to get him back home.

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2006

I began writing Sonderbooks in 2001, so I’m celebrating 20 years this month!

I’m looking through all my Sonderbooks Stand-outs posts and highlighting some extra-special books I read and reviewed each year. Today we’ll look at 2006, which was the year my husband separated from me, we left Germany after ten years, and I moved to Virginia.

But let me get straight to the books!

Once again, I’ll start with relationship books.

You Don’t Have to Take It Anymore: Turn Your Resentful, Angry, or Emotionally Abusive Relationship into a Compassionate, Loving One, by Steven Stosny (Later retitled to Love Without Hurt)

This is an amazing book if you’re in a verbally abusive situation, to help you stop the cycle and change your own attitude. It helps you turn your resentment and hurt into compassion, thus feeling much better about yourself. This was my introduction to Steven Stosny’s writings, and all his insights are tremendously helpful.

Forgive for Good: A PROVEN Prescription for Health and Happiness, by Dr. Fred Luskin

When trying to deal with my husband leaving me, I read many books on forgiveness. This one was by far the most helpful. He reminds the reader that forgiveness is good for you. Why should you let someone continue to harm you?

How We Choose to be Happy: The Nine Choices of Extremely Happy People–Their Secrets, Their Stories, by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks

This was another book that helped me adjust to all my major life changes. I got to choose to be happy while I faced it all, and this book helped remind me that’s what I wanted.

Waking the World: Classic Tales of Women and the Heroic Feminine, by A. B. Chinen

Another book of fairy tales from Allen Chinen, this time an international collection of tales featuring strong women changing the world.

NOT “Just Friends,”: Protect Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal, by Shirley P. Glass, Ph.D.

By this time, I’d learned that my husband had an affair. This book is outstanding for helping me work through that revelation and get on with healing.

I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers, by Tim Madigan

This is a beautiful and inspiring story about a man going through hard times and the help he got from Mr. Rogers being who he is.

Diary of a Medical Intuitive: One Woman’s Eye-Opening Journey from No-Nonsense E.R. Nurse to Open-Hearted Healer and Visionary, by Christel Nani

I was surprised how much this book moved me and helped me. A very personal story with lots of insight into life and health.

Busting Vegas: The MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to Their Knees, by Ben Mezrich

This is a second book by Ben Mezrich about brilliant kids using math to beat the casinos — and getting in danger because of it.

Now for Fiction:

The Canterbury Papers, by Judith Healey

Amazing historical fiction with suspense, romance, intrigue, and a smart, capable heroine.

Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs, by Paula Marantz Cohen

A retelling of Persuasion about a modern-day high school guidance counselor.

The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner

Oh, how I love Megan Whalen Turner’s books! I read the first two before I started writing Sonderbooks. Every single one is a treat.

River Secrets, by Shannon Hale

The third in the Books of Bayern series. Another series I love.

Ptolemy’s Gate, by Jonathan Stroud

And yes, another third book, this time the culmination of the Bartimaeus trilogy, where I enjoyed each book even more than the one before.

Hit the Road, by Caroline B. Cooney

A wild intergenerational road trip novel about a 16-year-old inexperienced driver behind the wheel as her grandma makes plans for a reunion with her friends, complete with a kidnapping caper.

Happy Reading!

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2005

This month, I’m celebrating 20 years of writing Sonderbooks! I’m looking back at all my Sonderbooks Stand-outs posts of each year and highlighting the books I still remember with great love.

So far, I’ve been skipping the books I reread each year, since there are too many! But do take a look at my Stand-outs posts if you want to see even more — I reread books that are wonderful, knowing they’re wonderful.

2005 was the year my life fell apart. I learned my then-husband was seeing another woman behind my back, but believed him that it was not an affair. (It was.) I learned that he was very unhappy with me and all about every way I’d disappointed him over the years, but thought that, now I knew, I could make it up to him and win him back. (I was not able to do that. I sure did try.) So — I read relationship books and feel-good stories that year.

Here are some of the highlights from my 2005 Sonderbooks Stand-outs:

The Divorce Remedy, by Michele Weiner-Davis

No, this book did not save my marriage. But it may have saved my sanity. Among many things to try for less far-gone cases than mine, she presents a Last-Resort Technique: Stop pursuing. Get a life. Wait and watch. She convinced me that trying with all my might to keep my husband was more likely to push him away. The step of “Get a life” involves remembering who you are and enjoying life again — whether or not your spouse comes back. You’ll be more attractive that way, but you’ll also be much happier. Though it may have taken a while to sink in, eventually that advice helped me in so many ways.

The Script: The 100% Absolutely Predictable Things Men Do When They Cheat, by Elizabeth Landers and Vicky Mainzer

This book told what was happening to me even better than I realized at the time. When I picked it up, I recognized at least nine lines from “The Script” verbatim from things my husband had said to me. Things about how he would take care of me. Things about how he needed to be alone. But especially things about how it was all my fault. It was this book that opened my eyes to the fact that these were lies. And I needed that validation badly. I was used to believing my husband, and being lied to was crazy-making. Of course, I thought the book was wrong that the husband who goes through the Script so far is always having an affair. But no, that’s what was happening — the book was right. I still highly recommend this book to any woman whose husband has been cheating. Because it’s good to hear that, contrary to what he says, it is not all her fault. I can’t ever emphasize enough how helpful this book was to me.

A Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian D. McLaren

The subtitle of this book is: Why I am a missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentalist/Calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + Methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished CHRISTIAN. This book was my introduction to Brian McLaren’s writings, and I love his more expansive, much less rigid approach to the Christian faith. Refreshing and inspirational!

What Does the Bible Really Say About Hell?, by Randy Klassen

Now I was finding more and more authors defending universalism and explaining why these teachings are in line with the Bible. And I was delighted.

My Descent into Death: A Second Chance at Life, by Howard Storm

This book stuck with me. It’s a book about a near-death experience — but the author was an atheist and was attacked by demons until he cried out to Jesus for help. Then he was overwhelmed by God’s love in heaven, and after he came back to earth, his life completely changed. The whole thing is a powerful story of life-transforming love.

Once Upon a Midlife, by Allen B. Chinen

This truly marvelous book uses Jungian psychology and fairy tales from around the world to take a look at midlife. So helpful as I faced my husband’s midlife crisis, which started a crisis of my own.

Leaving the Saints, by Martha Beck

Another powerfully told memoir, this time about her family, embroiled in the Mormon church, and how she left.

Here Speeching American, by Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras

Hilariously bad translations into English to give you a laugh and a dose of humility in case you’re thinking about trying to speak in another language. How much I enjoy this book may have something to do with my decision to start writing Sonderling Sunday later.

The Confessions of Super Mom, by Melanie Lynne Hauser

I loved this one so much! A single mom gets super powers — Super Cleaning, Super Hearing, Super Mom Sense, and a Merciless Gaze. Perfect!

Q & A, by Vikas Swarup

This is the book they based the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” on — the story of a kid from the slums who wins a million dollars in a quiz show — and the fascinating coincidences in his life story that enabled him to know the answers. I think the book is better than the movie, because I love the way his story is told in the order of the questions, instead of chronological order.

Zorro, by Isabel Allende

The magnificent, swashbuckling story.

Knitting, by Anne Bartlett

A beautiful novel about widowhood and friendship — and knitting.

In the Coils of the Snake, by Clare B. Dunkle

The third book in the amazing Hollow Kingdom trilogy and goblins who need human wives.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling

Book Six! The last of these we got to read as a family.

The Golem’s Eye, by Jonathan Stroud

This is Book Two of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, and I enjoyed each book more than the last. Amazing world-building about alternate-reality England where magic is done by commanding demons.

By These Ten Bones, by Clare B. Dunkle

A werewolf novel by Clare Dunkle! Also one of the first books I got to read as an advanced reader copy.

Unlikely Pairs: Fun with Famous Works of Art, by Bob Raczka

I still love this book — and it still makes me laugh every time I read it. The author simply puts famous works of art next to each other, and they interact in hilarious ways.

The Adventures of Cow: The Amazing Exploits of a Huggable Holstein, by Cow, as told to Lori Korcheck, photographed by Marshall Taylor

Another one that still makes me laugh. To add to the fun, we had a toy identical to the squishy cow featured in the very silly picture book.

The Story of Honk-Honk-Ashoo and Swella-Bow-Wow, by Ralph Cosentino

I can’t even explain why this one strikes me so funny. Read it yourself!

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2004

This month, it’s been 20 years since I began writing Sonderbooks! To celebrate, I’m doing 20 posts reminiscing about my favorite books I read each year. So far, it’s been extra fun to realize exactly how long I’ve loved the books of some of my now-favorite authors. With some of the nonfiction, I’m discovering when my thinking started going a certain direction.

Today let’s look at favorite books from 2004. As usual, I’ll start with the Sonderbooks Special Edition I wrote summing up my reading year. I’m not going to repeat the books I reread, mostly listed here as “Old Favorites” and “Classics.”

Oh wow! When I look at the list — this is going to take awhile. I read some amazing books that year. Again, I’ll start with the three favorites:

Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith

How I love this one! I read it because of a story in the Firebirds anthology I mentioned in the 2003 post. It’s one of those slow-burn romance fantasy stories that’s just exquisite. Two books were put together in this edition. Both have wonderful twist endings. The second has a relationship building in letters, so she doesn’t even know who she’s falling in love with as it happens.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

This one’s so good, too! Despite being extremely long and for adults, I couldn’t stop reading it. This is alternate reality England during the Napoleonic Wars where magic exists. Magic users must decide what they’re willing to do to fight Napoleon.

The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness, by Joel ben Izzy

I still think of this as one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Joel ben Izzy was a storyteller — and he lost his ability to speak. He tells that story in this book, weaving in tales from around the world for a completely enchanting tale.

Sabriel, by Garth Nix

Wow! That’s still my reaction to thinking about reading Sabriel. It presents an elaborate fantasy world where some have the power of necromancy — walking into the realm of Death and sometimes learning things, sometimes bringing people back, but many times helping send people on or keeping things away that should not come out of death. That same year, I read the wonderful follow-ups, Lirael and Abhorsen.

Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

So much fun! This is essentially a Jane Austen book with magic added. The two authors wrote it in letters to one another as letters between the young ladies in the book. I also read and enjoyed the follow-up, The Grand Tour.

The Hollow Kingdom, by Clare Dunkle

This wonderful novel is about a teen who gets pulled into the underworld to be the Goblin King’s bride — but things don’t then go as the reader expects. This author lived near me in Germany, and I think of her as a friend after some wonderful conversations together. Later that same year, I read the also-wonderful follow-up, Close Kin.

Enna Burning, by Shannon Hale

This sequel to The Goose Girl goes beyond the fairy tale that inspired the original and adds to the system of magic in that world as Enna, a friend of Ani, discovers a power that can be used in war.

Wren to the Rescue, by Sherwood Smith

This is the start of a trilogy, and I also devoured Wren’s Quest, and Wren’s War. Yes, I read them because of how much I loved Crown Duel. This is a full fantasy adventure trilogy for kids.

Defending Irene, by Kristin Wolden Nitz

Yay! Another good friend and writing buddy got published! This tells the tale of an American girl wanting to play soccer — while her family lives in a town in Italy.

Indigo’s Star, by Hilary McKay

Hilary McKay’s stories about the Casson family continue to be wonderful.

The Schwa Was Here, by Neal Shusterman

This was my introduction to Neal Shusterman, with a character who is memorable for being unmemorable.

godless, by Pete Hautman

This one’s sticking with me. A kid decides to worship the water tower and recruits others to his new religion, and consequences ensue.

Nights of Rain and Stars, by Maeve Binchy

More Maeve Binchy! This one’s about a small group of tourists who meet on a Greek island.

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

My first Ann Patchett novel! This tells about an opera singer who gets taken hostage by a group of terrorists — and somehow makes an enchanting and haunting story out of that.

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

Oh boy, my first Jasper Fforde book, featuring literary detective Thursday Next! In his alternate-reality England, people can go in and out of books, and Jane Eyre’s life has been threatened. But that’s only a little bit of the wackiness.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

A fable for adults, poetically told.

An Assembly Such as This: Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, Book 1, by Pamela Aidan

This is the beginning of a delightful trilogy that gives us the events of Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s perspective. I read the second book, Duty and Desire, that same year, and the third book, These Three Remain, the following year. Marvelous!

Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck

This is a memoir about an incredibly difficult pregnancy while the author was a grad student at Harvard, combined with the pressure to abort the baby because he had Down syndrome. And what an amazing gift that baby turned out to be.

The Inescapable Love of God, by Thomas Talbott

I became a Universalist from reading books by George MacDonald along with the Bible, before I started writing Sonderbooks. But Thomas Talbott’s book was the first book I read by a living author arguing that Universalism is the clearest and most straightforward way to interpret the Bible. He gives a systematic defense of Christian Universalism.

If Grace Is True and If God Is Love, by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland

These books aren’t as Bible-based as Thomas Talbott’s, but they do present a logical case for Universalism, and they opened my eyes to how many of the church fathers taught Universalism.

Count Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World’s Toughest Math Competition, by Steve Olson

Another book about brilliant kids and Math! With thoughts about doing math.

Earth From Above, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

I’ve read other books that do this — gorgeous photographs of our beautiful world, taken by satellites. I’ll never get tired of looking at them.

Actual Size, by Steve Jenkins

This was my introduction to Steve Jenkins’ amazingly realistic paper-cut artwork. In this book, he shows parts of animals in actual size, and it’s visually stunning.

I, Crocodile, by Fred Marcellino

Why do I so enjoy picture books where someone gets eaten? (Don’t answer that.) Anyway, this story of a crocodile taken to Paris still makes me chuckle.

This list is so long, you won’t believe me it’s only the highlights from 2004! But take a look at my full list of 2004 Stand-outs to appreciate that I really am pulling out a few.

Celebrating 20 Years of Sonderbooks: Favorites from 2003

This month I’m celebrating 20 years of writing Sonderbooks by looking back at some of my favorite books I’ve read over the years, the ones that have stood out among the Stand-outs.

As I look these over, I’m blown away by what good books I was reading! It must have helped that at the time, I worked half-time. More time for reading! Once again, I’m only going to focus on the books I read for the first time in 2003.

Tonight I’ll reminisce about my favorites from the Best Books of 2003.

That year, I posted my three favorite books of the year on top of the page, so I’ll start with them.

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale

The first of the Books of Bayern series, and the book that made me fall in love with Shannon Hale’s writing! It’s a retelling of the classic fairy tale about a princess who must learn her own worth. Still one of my all-time favorite books.

Beyond the Limit: The Dream of Sofya Kovalevskaya, by Joan Spicci

Another that’s still one of my all-time favorites. A novelization of the life of the great mathematician Sofya Kovalevskaya, who had to enter a fake marriage in order to leave Russia and study mathematics, but who still faced incredible obstacles.

Saffy’s Angel, by Hilary McKay

This is the first Hilary McKay book I read, introducing me to the amazing and chaotic Casson family. Brimming with joy.

East, by Edith Pattou

Another fairy tale retelling that arrived at the Sembach Base Library the same day as Goose Girl. This one retells “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” It’s also amazing.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling

Yes, Book Five came out that year. We were still reading them together as a family.

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, by Vivian Vande Velde

So much fun! Six new versions of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale that all make more sense than the original.

Feed, by M. T. Anderson

This one’s already a classic. It’s set in a future society where people get a chip implanted in their brain to stream the internet — and we can see that their language and ability to think deteriorates.

A Coalition of Lions, by Elizabeth E. Wein

The first Elizabeth Wein book I read! It’s about a daughter of King Arthur who has had to flee to Africa and the kingdom of Aksum.

Run from the Nun!, by Erin MacLellan

My own friend Erin got published! This delightful book is about a girl who tries to get herself kicked out of Catholic school.

Firebirds, edited by Sharyn November

This truly wonderful short story collection led me to some new favorite fantasy authors.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon

A novel for adults, this story is told by an autistic boy who solves a mystery.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

This novel was an amazing accomplishment, telling the story of a man with an illness that makes him skip around in time without any warning. Who manages to fall in love and get married. The book skips around in time, and yet the author pulls it off.

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

Another astonishing and memorable book. About a boy in a lifeboat with a tiger. Amazingly, he lives to tell the tale — and we believe it. Or at least maybe we do.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, by Lorna Landvik

Isn’t that the best title? A fun story of female friendship and how it can get you through the crises of life.

Children of the Star, by Sylvia Louise Engdahl

This is an amazing science fiction trilogy about a society built on a new planet.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith

Wow, that was when I read the first of these wonderful books. I now have seventeen reviews of books from that series posted, about a woman who starts a detective agency in Botswana.

The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France, by Ina Caro

A wonderful combination of history and travel guide — my only sorrow is that we never did make it to these parts of France while we lived next door in Germany.

Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life, by Leonard Mlodinow

Some really wonderful musings about life based in the author’s relationship with Richard Feynman.

What Should I Do With My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question, by Po Bronson

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book and how much it stuck with me — true stories of how people decided what they’d do with their lives.

Take Joy! A Book for Writers, by Jane Yolen

A book that reminds writers to take joy in what they’re doing.

The Myth of Laziness: America’s Top Learning Expert Shows How Kids–and Parents–Can Become More Productive, by Mel Levine

This eye-opening book explains that nobody wants to be unproductive — but many different things block the productivity of children and adults. It’s also full of ideas for helping open up that productivity.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, by Mo Willems

This classic picture book was my introduction to Mo Willems, one of the greatest picture book authors of them all.

Serious Farm, by Tim Egan

This picture book about a farmer who’s too serious still makes me laugh.

The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds

A picture book about making art your own way.