Stand-out Author: Garth Nix

I’m doing a series on 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out Authors who are returning to my list, in other words, my Favorite Authors. Four different authors have a total of 5 Stand-outs, and tonight I’ll be featuring Garth Nix.

Some books are so good, I can always remember the experience of reading them the first time and where I was when I read them. I remember reading Sabriel on Christmas vacation, when our family was driving from San Diego to Phoenix. It had been recommended to me by both my son and my husband, and I was blown away by how good it was.

Of course, when I got home from the trip, I immediately had to read the next two books, Lirael and Abhorsen. In a way, I was lucky I’d taken my time getting around to reading the first one, since they were all published by the time I did, and I could devour them as fast as possible. (Rats! Just writing about them makes me want to read them again! I don’t have time to put my life on hold right now, since I’m buying a house. I will have to resist!)

All three books of this series made my 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-outs in Young Adult Fantasy. Sabriel was #3, and Lirael and Abhorsen were #9 and #10, respectively.

I still hadn’t had enough of Sabriel’s World, and when a book of short stories and a novella came out in 2005, Across the Wall, it made my 2005 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, #6 in Young Adult Fantasy.

Finally, this year, Garth Nix is back on the list, this time with something totally different, a Science Fiction story rather than a Fantasy. I listened to A Confusion of Princes on audiobook, and I was completely absorbed, almost too absorbed for driving! On my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, it was #8 in Young Adult Fiction. (I didn’t divide the genres this year.)

Another cool thing that happened this year, was I got to meet Garth Nix at the Margaret Edwards Luncheon! (And, yes, he’s Australian, so he has a cute accent, too!) I was sad that I had not yet read A Confusion of Princes, so I couldn’t tell him how great I thought it was. Anyway, now I’m telling all my readers: Garth Nix’s books are the sort you will remember forever. Stand-outs after one year, but also after eight years.

Stand-out Author: Anne Lamott

I’m doing a series featuring authors whose books were 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs who have appeared on my lists in the past. It turns out a lot of names turn up multiple times. It’s not that I’m biased — it’s that these people write wonderful books.

Anne Lamott is today’s featured author, with 5 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, all Nonfiction. (And she’s the first Nonfiction author I’m featuring.) I find her interesting, because I first discovered her through her classic on writing, Bird by Bird, long before I started writing Sonderbooks. Over the years, she began writing about faith about the same time I became a lot less rigid in my beliefs. So we were coming from opposite directions, but we meet in a place where her books on faith exactly speak to my heart.

I read it before I ever wrote Sonderbooks, but Bird by Bird was still a 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-out, because I did a category for Nonfiction Old Favorites, and it was #3.

2005 was the year I first read a book by her on faith, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. I liked it so much, it was #1 in the “Musings” category of my 2005 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. Reading some of the quotations I selected, I still love them! Like these:

Everyone has been having a hard time with life this year; not with all of it, just the waking hours. Being awake is the one real fly in the ointment—but it is also when solutions come to us.

But Jesus kept harping on forgiveness and loving ones enemies, so I decided to try. Why couldn’t Jesus command us to obsess about everything, to try to control and manipulate people, to try not to breathe at all, or to pay attention, stomp away to brood when people annoy us, and then eat a big bag of Hershey’s Kisses in bed?

In my 2007 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, that year when (Alas!) I didn’t get everything reviewed, her book Grace (Eventually) was #3 in Christian Nonfiction.

And then, of course this year she had not one but two 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, #2 in Nonfiction: Personal Stories, Some Assembly Required, a wonderful journal of her grandson’s first year, which goes well with the book I read years ago about her son’s first year. (HOW did her son and my son grow up so fast?)

And she also had another #1 choice, in Other Nonfiction: That wonderful book on prayer, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. This one’s quick reading, but will make you laugh and think and pray. Here’s another little snippet:

Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before we show up.

There you have it, another Favorite Author. Her books make me look at the world with a little more humor, love, and joy.

Stand-out Authors: Elizabeth Wein

I’m doing a series featuring those authors with 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs who have had Sonderbooks Stand-outs before. In other words, my Favorite Authors.

Four authors on this year’s list have had a total of 5 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I’ll begin with the one who wrote my favorite book of 2012, Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity.

I discovered Elizabeth Wein ten years ago in 2003. In my 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, her book A Coalition of Lions, was #1 in Children’s and Young Adult Historical Fiction. Like Code Name Verity, A Coalition of Lions is historical fiction, but it is set in ancient Aksum (Ethiopia) and features the daughter of King Arthur. Technically, this was part of a series, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it first.

But that meant I had to read her others. The next two books, coming before and after A Coalition of Lions were my only two Young Adult Historical Fiction books listed on my 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I rated the book that follows, The Sunbird, at #1, and the book that came before, The Winter Prince, at #2.

In my 2007 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, I included her next story about Telemakos, The Lion Hunter. It was #3 in Historical Fiction for Teens, but that was the year when I didn’t get all of my Stand-outs reviewed. In fact, the sequel to The Lion Hunter, The Empty Kingdom was the only book of hers I’ve read that didn’t make that year’s Stand-outs. And this year she certainly is back among my favorites.

I want to highlight here that Code Name Verity was no aberration. I was happy to hear lots of people discussing one of my favorite authors this year! If you haven’t read her Aksum novels, I highly recommend going back and rectifying that situation!

Stand-out Author: Juliet Marillier

I’m highlighting some of my favorite authors by looking at those with 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs who’ve appeared on my lists before. Juliet Marillier is up next, with a total of 6 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

I first discovered Juliet Marillier in 2008, when I was on the Summer Reading Program committee for Fairfax County Public Library, and I read and loved Wildwood Dancing, a retelling of the fairy tale “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Wildwood Dancing was #2 in Teen Fantasy Fiction in my 2008 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, coming behind only Robin McKinley’s Chalice.

But where I really fell in love with Juliet Marillier’s writing was after my sister Marcy gave me the first of the Sevenwaters books, Daughter of the Forest, a retelling of the Swan Princes fairy tale, and what a retelling!

You know you love a book when you can remember where you were when you read it. In this case, I was flying to ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, but unfortunately, the airline made me fly through Boston. I began Daughter of the Forest on the way to Boston. In the airport, I tried using my laptop, and I know I also did some reading, but when I got in the airplane, the book was gone! I was exceedingly upset, and ordered a new copy first thing when I got home. Who knows? If I hadn’t lost the book, maybe I wouldn’t have given in to my exhaustion and attempted to lean my head against the window and fall asleep. When I woke up, my neck really hurt, and I ended up having a stroke a month later from that neck injury. Wish I hadn’t lost the book! (Though it and its sequels made lovely reading during the recovery process.)

Daughter of the Forest was my #1 Fantasy Fiction choice in my 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and the two other Sevenwaters books I read that year, Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy, were #3 and #5, respectively. (And that was the same year I read The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear!)

So this past year, in my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, it’s no surprise that Juliet Marillier appears twice. The next Sevenwaters book, Heir to Sevenwaters is again #1 in Fantasy Fiction.

But last year she also began a new Young Adult series. That book, Shadowfell was also a Stand-out, #5 in Teen Fiction. It was one of the last books I read in the year, and I can’t help but think I might have ranked it higher if it had time to grow on me. Though probably the biggest reason is that it did *not* tie up the plot in a tidy manner, like her adult books do. So I’m anxious to find out what happens next… and I can’t yet!

So Juliet is a relatively new favorite author for me, but she’s already high up there. I’m happy that she has many more books out there I haven’t read, so I can keep busy while I’m waiting for Shadowfell‘s sequel.

Sonderbooks Stand-out Author: Mo Willems

After posting my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, I couldn’t help but notice that some names have come up again and again. So I’m doing a series of blog posts about those authors who have appeared on my Stand-outs lists before. And next up is Mo Willems, with a total of 8 Sonderbooks Stand-outs since 2003.

I discovered Mo with that wonderful classic, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus It of course was a 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-out, my top choice for Picture Books.

Unfortunately, my kids were too old to appreciate the full power of the pigeon books, but I remember in 2006 when I stayed for a month and a half with my friend, I got to pull them out and read them to her kids. They especially liked it when I read the temper tantrum page. Another Pigeon book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, made the 2006 Sonderbooks Stand-outs list, once again #1 for Picture Books.

In 2008, I met Elephant and Piggie, and fell in love. This time, Mo had not one but three 2008 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. Are You Ready to Play Outside? was #5 in Picture Books, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! was #6, and I Will Surprise My Friend! was #7. And I still like the essay I wrote about Are You Ready to Play Outside? and contentment (and, well, my ex-husband).

My 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs featured another Elephant and Piggie book at #3 in Picture Books, Pigs Make Me Sneeze! How I wish I’d had it back in the day when I taught Intro to Statistics! A picture book lesson that Correlation does not imply Causation! Yes!

My 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs had something new, a book written, but not illustrated, by Mo Willems, City Dog, Country Frog, which was #4 in Picture Books.

And finally, this year the Pigeon was back! In my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? delightfully played with the themes from all the previous Pigeon books and hit #2 in my Picture Books list.

Now, I may not have permanent MO graffiti on my blog like Mother Reader, but I’m definitely a huge fan. I think the man’s a genius, and I’ve found that if I want kids to enjoy a storytime, all I have to do is include a Mo Willems book. May he continue to be prolific! I have a feeling he’s going to feature on many lists to come.

Jasper Fforde Ffeature

I’ve been posting features about authors with 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs who had Stand-outs in previous years. I’ve already covered Shannon Hale and Sherwood Smith, so next up is Jasper Fforde, with a total of 9 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

I discovered Jasper Fforde in 2004, thanks to the recommendation of my friend Shannon. The first two books in the Thursday Next series were both 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-outs in Science Fiction and Fantasy, The Eyre Affair at #2, and Lost in a Good Book at #5.

I kept reading, and the next two Thursday Next books were 2005 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. The third book, The Well of Lost Plots, was #4 in Science Fiction. The fourth book, Something Rotten, was #1 in Science Fiction.

And then he started writing the Nursery Crime series. The Big Over Easy, solving the mystery of who pushed Humpty Dumpty, was also a 2005 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #7 in Mystery.

His next Nursery Crime book, The Fourth Bear was a 2006 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #5 in Mystery Fiction. Have I used the words “quirky” or “bizarre” yet in talking about Jasper Fforde? In this one, it appears there are not merely three bears.

It was back to the Thursday Next series in 2007, in fact with the book Thursday Next a 2007 Sonderbooks Stand-out. But that was the year I didn’t get all the Stand-outs reviewed, since I was dealing with little things like finding a job after my marriage fell apart and moving to the other side of the world and getting my Master’s in Library Science. But, yes, it was another wonderful addition to the series and was #5 in Fantasy Fiction.

In 2010, Jasper Fforde started another quirky and bizarre new series, which was a 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-out. The whole society is based on what colors people can see. (How does he come up with these ideas, anyway?) Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron was #7 in Fiction for adults.

And finally in 2012, he wrote a fantasy novel for teens, The Last Dragonslayer, which was a 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #10 in Teen Fiction.

There you have it, 9 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and I’ve only been reading his books since 2004. I highly recommend his books for any time you’re in the mood for clever, quirky, and bizarre. More bizarre than pretty much any other author you’d ever care to read. In a good way.

Stand-out Authors: Sherwood Smith

When I posted my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, it became very clear that I have certain favorite authors. I thought it would be fun to highlight the authors from this year’s list whose books have been Sonderbooks Stand-outs before.

Of all the 2012 Stand-out Authors, Sherwood Smith has the second most, with 12 Stand-outs.

I discovered Sherwood Smith when I read her short story in Firebirds. Since Firebirds was a 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-out (#1 for Short Stories), perhaps we should say Sherwood Smith has 13 Stand-outs.

In 2004, I discovered Crown Duel, and I knew I’d found a new favorite author. In fact, I’d put Crown Duel in my top ten favorite books ever. It was a 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-out, My Favorite Book of the Year. In categories, it was #1 in Young Adult Fantasy.

I doubled up on Crown Duel when I reread it in 2009 and named it a 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-out, in the category of Wonderful Rereads.

But in 2004 I naturally read everything of Sherwood Smith’s I could get my hands on, so I also read the three books about Wren and named them all Sonderbooks Stand-outs. In fact, they were my only three Stand-outs in Children’s Fantasy that year:
#1 Wren to the Rescue
#2 Wren’s War
#3 Wren’s Quest

I didn’t find more Sherwood Smith books to read until 2007, when I read Inda, and named it #4 in Fantasy Fiction. However, that was the year I was completing my MLIS degree and didn’t get even all the Stand-outs reviewed. That simply means I have to reread them some time!

In 2009, I started seeing more of her books and devouring them whenever possible. She’s a feature on my Sonderbooks Stand-outs lists since then.

2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, #7 in Teen Fantasy Fiction was Once a Princess

I remember I read Once a Princess the last week of the year. So naturally the first book I read in 2010 was also a Stand-out: Twice a Prince was #3 in Teen Fantasy Fiction.

The truth is, I’m almost embarrassed by how romantic I find Sherwood Smith’s books. So when, that same year, she published a romance novel for an adult audience, Coronets and Steel, it was #1 in Fiction on my 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

In 2011, another stand-alone Teen Fantasy, The Trouble With Kings, was #5 on my Sonderbooks Stand-outs list.

And that brings us to last year and my current list of 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

This time, she appears on both my adult fiction list at #4 for Blood Spirits, the sequel to Coronets and Steel, as well as #2 in Children’s Fantasy and Science Fiction for The Spy Princess, which so far is a stand-alone book, but I hope will turn into the first of a series.

Remember Inda, which was a Stand-out, but I never did review? And which I fully intend to reread? Well, Inda turned out to be the first of a four-book series, and, what’s more, I own all four books but haven’t read them. You see, I bought them when I still hadn’t developed a system to force myself to read books I own. I buy books I know I’ll love, but then I wouldn’t get around to reading them because they didn’t have a due date! On top of that, the Inda books are really long, and I’m spoiled by reading lots of young adult books. But now I have a system, and I hope to get to those books this year.

Again, if you missed these books when they first showed up on my lists, that doesn’t mean you need to miss them any longer! Sherwood Smith is another Favorite Author I highly recommend!

Stand-out Authors: Shannon Hale

I’ve now posted 12 years of Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and this year I noticed there were a lot of repeats from previous years.

Now, I don’t think I’m biased in a bad way. Yes, I expect good things when I pick up these authors’ books, but they consistently turn out good ones. Some of them can’t seem to write a book I don’t like.

So, looking at only the authors who appeared in the 2012 list, I thought it would be fun to look back at their previous books that were Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

I’m going to start with Shannon Hale, because she has 3 books on the 2012 Stand-outs, and she also has more total books on all the Stand-outs lists than any other one of this year’s authors, with 15 books.

How, you may well ask, did Shannon manage to get more books on my Stand-outs lists than she has published? Well, her books tend to be stand-outs both in print form and as audiobooks.

Let’s do a retrospective.

In 2003, Shannon published her first book, The Goose Girl. It was my favorite book of the year, and #1 in Young Adult Fantasy.

In those days, there weren’t as many book blogs. I e-mailed Shannon to tell her I’d named her book a Sonderbooks Stand-out, and we struck up an e-mail friendship. Judging by how much I love all her books, it’s obvious we are kindred spirits.

2004 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 in Fantasy for Young Adults was Enna Burning, the second of the Books of Bayern.

2005 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #9 in Young Adult Fantasy was Princess Academy. I was so happy when it won a Newbery Honor, even though I’m a little more partial to the Books of Bayern myself.

2006 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 in Teen Fiction was River Secrets (edged out only by The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner)

2007 was Shannon’s first year with multiple Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I got to listen to an audiobook of The Goose Girl (#2 in Audiobooks), and she wrote my favorite book of all of hers, Book of a Thousand Days, which was #1 in Teen Fantasy Fiction. And she broke into adult books with Austenland, which was #2 in Romance Fiction.

She topped her record in 2008 with 4 Sonderbooks Stand-outs:
Three of them were Audiobooks:
Book of a Thousand Days was #1.
Enna Burning was #4.
Princess Academy was #6.
And Rapunzel’s Revenge was #2 Graphic Novel of the year.

2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs had another of the Books of Bayern, with Forest Born at #3 in Fantasy Teen Fiction.

After 2009, Shannon had twins, so there’s no surprise she had a few years off my lists. In the meantime, I got to meet her at the National Book Festival. I was so happy when she knew who I was as soon as I said my name!

Perhaps it’s getting where I’m biased about Shannon’s books because I like her so much, but I became her friend because of her books, and I’m not going to stop telling people how wonderful I think her books are simply because I think she’s wonderful, too.

And this year she’s back on my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs three times!

Midnight in Austenland completely hit a sweet spot for me. It’s for adults, a Jane Austen take-off, and has a divorced heroine seeing the truth about how valuable she is. It was my favorite adult book of the year.

And then Palace of Stone was #6 in Teen Fiction, and I finally read Shannon’s one book that I hadn’t read yet, The Actor and the Housewife, which was #6 in Other Fiction.

I think it’s safe to call Shannon Hale one of my favorite authors! If you haven’t read all her wonderful books, consider this a To Be Read List!