Archive for October, 2016

Review of Brave Enough, by Cheryl Strayed

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

brave_enough_largeBrave Enough

by Cheryl Strayed

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 135 pages.

I love quotations, as anyone knows who’s stumbled across my Sonderquotes blog. On top of that, Cheryl Strayed has already gotten many quotes on Sonderquotes from when I read her book Tiny Beautiful Things.

But you might not be aware that I’ve collected quotations since I was in high school. I’ve got a little notebook that holds index cards on which I’d write out quotes. So I was charmed by this story that opens Brave Enough:

At age twelve, when I came upon a sentence on page two hundred and something of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Ring of Endless Light, I was so taken by it I had to stop reading. “Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light,” I scrawled in semipermanent marker on the inside of my forearm, where it stayed for the better part of a week (and in my mind for the better part of my life).

I’ve been a quote collector ever since.

I so agree with this part:

I think of quotes as mini-instruction manuals for the soul. It’s my appreciation of their very usefulness that compelled me to put together this book. Not because I believe in my own sagacity, but because I believe in the power of words to help us reset our intentions, clarify our thoughts, and create a counternarrative to the voice of doubt many of us have murmuring in our heads — the one that says You can’t, you won’t, you shouldn’t have. Quotes, at their core, almost always shout Yes!

This aims to be a book of yes.

And I start with a great big Yes to this at the end of the Introduction:

The best quotes don’t speak to one particular truth, but rather to universal truths that resonate — across time, culture, gender, generation, and situation — in our own hears and minds. They guide, motivate, validate, challenge, and comfort us in our own lives. They reiterate what we’ve figured out and remind us how much there is yet to learn. Pithily and succinctly, they lift us momentarily out of the confused and conflicted human muddle. Most of all, they tell us we’re not alone. Their existence is proof that others have questioned, grappled with, and come to know the same truths we question and grapple with, too.

There you have it. I went through this book one page per day, pausing to put especially good quotes into Sonderquotes.

This book contains lots of yes.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Books to Nominate for the Cybils!

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

cybils-logo-2016-web-smNominations are open for the 2016 Cybils Awards until October 15!

I’m a judge in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category this year, and I’ve already begun reading.

You’re only allowed to nominate one book in each category, and I’ve already used up my nominations, so let me urge readers to nominate some of these books before time runs out on the 15th:

First, one I’ve read and enjoyed tremendously is Love, Lies, and Spies, by Cindy Anstey. That would be for the Young Adult Fiction category.

The rest of my suggestions are books in the Young Adult Speculative Fiction category. They look intriguing. I haven’t read them, but I would like to — so please give me an excuse to do so by nominating them in my category!

First, by two very good authors:
Railhead, by Philip Reeve
Lady’s Pursuit, by Hilari Bell

Some others that look intriguing:
Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard
Julia Vanishes, by Catherine Egan
Once Upon a Dream, by Liz Braswell
The End of Fun, by Sean McGinty

Happy Reading!

Review of Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk

Monday, October 10th, 2016

wolf_hollow_largeWolf Hollow

by Lauren Wolk

Dutton Children’s Books (Penguin Random House), 2016. 291 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s the Prologue of this book:

The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.

I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears — things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one.

It was the autumn of 1943 when my steady life began to spin, not only because of the war that had drawn the whole world into a screaming brawl, but also because of the dark-hearted girl who came to our hills and changed everything.

At times, I was so confused that I felt like the stem of a pinwheel surrounded by whir and clatter, but through that whole unsettling time I knew that it simply would not do to hide in the barn with a book and an apple and let events plunge forward without me. It would not do to turn twelve without earning my keep, and by that I meant my place, my small authority, the possibility that I would amount to something.

But there was more to it than that.

The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered.

So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden.

But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could.

At the end of the book, Annabelle says:

But Wolf Ho

So this is a story about Lies and about Truth, about basic questions of Right and Wrong.

It’s not a World War II story, even though that’s the backdrop. Annabelle lives on a farm in Wolf Hollow. She attends a one-room school and looks out for her little brothers.

The story involves a dark-hearted girl who comes to Wolf Hollow, and who looks sweet and pretty to the adults, but is a cruel and relentless bully.

It also involves a homeless man named Toby, a veteran of World War I, who roams the hills with three guns on his back and camps out in an abandoned building. Again, to adults Toby looks scary, but he’s open-hearted and kind.

Annabelle has a window on both those people that isn’t shared with most of the folks in Wolf Hollow.

This book isn’t light-hearted and doesn’t really have a happy ending. But it’s a book about doing what’s right and seeing who people really are.

But it’s also a lovely book about love and friendship that leaves you uplifted in spite of the tough issues it uncovers.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday – In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books. Tonight I’m looking at Winnie-the-Pooh, otherwise known as Pu der Bär.


Last time I looked at Winnie-the-Pooh, we covered chapter 4, in which Eeyore loses his tail. This week, we’ll look at Chapter 5, “In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump.” The German chapter title is In welchem Ferkel ein Heffalump trifft.

I like to begin with the first sentence, so here it is:
“One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet were all talking together, Christopher Robin finished the mouthful he was eating and said carelessly: ‘I saw a Heffalump to-day, Piglet.'”

= Eines Tages, als Christopher Robin und Winnie-der-Pu und Ferkel alle miteinander sprachen, schluckte Christopher Robin bin das, was er gerade im Munde hatte, herunter und sagte beiläufig: »Heute habe ich ein Heffalump gesehen, Ferkel.«

(Translation back to English with the help of Google is: “One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pu and Piglet all with each other talked, swallowed down Christopher Robin what he just had in his mouth, and said casually: ‘Today have I a Heffalump seen, Piglet.'”)

I like this one:
“Just lumping along”
= Einfach so vor sich hin gelumpt

“You don’t often see them.”
= Man sieht sie nicht oft.

“Not now”
= Im Augenblick nicht.

“Not at this time of year”
= Nicht in dieser Jahreszeit

“as they stumped along the path”
= als sie den Pfad entlangstapften

The number here is 160. It doesn’t seem to have to do with the conversion to square meters.
“Hundred Acre Wood” = Hundertsechzig-Morgen-Wald

“stepping stones” = Trittsteine

“heather” = Heidekraut

“If you see what I mean, Pooh.”
= Falls du verstehst, was ich meine, Pu.

“It’s just what I think myself, Piglet.”
= Genau das finde ich auch, Ferkel.

“But, on the other hand, Pooh, we must remember.”
= Aber andererseits, Pu, müssen wir auch daran denken.

“Quite true, Piglet, although I had forgotten it for the moment.”
= Sehr richtig, Ferkel, es war mir nur kurz entfallen.

“very solemn voice” = sehr feierlicher Stimme.

“I have decided to catch a Heffalump.”
= Ich habe beschlossen ein Heffalump zu fangen.

“Cunning Trap” = listige Falle

“That’s just it. How?”
= Das ist es nämlich. Wie?

“they should dig a Very Deep Pit”
= sie eine sehr tiefe Grube graben sollten

“humming a little song”
= ein kleines lied summen

“looking up at the sky”
= den Himmel betrachten

“He would Suspect.”
= Es würde Verdacht schöpfen.

“It isn’t as easy as I thought.”
= Es ist nicht so leicht, wie ich dachte.

“gorse prickles” = Stechginsterstacheln

“much more trappy” = viel fallenmäßiger

“larder” = Küchenschrank

“top shelf” = obersten Brett

“No doubt about that.”
= Gar kein Zweifel.

“It is honey, right the way down.”
= Es ist Honig, bis ganz unten.

“And have you got any string?”
= Und has du vielleicht Bindfaden?

“Heffalumps come if you whistle.”
= Heffalumps kommen, wenn man pfeift.

“Some do and some don’t. You never can tell with Heffalumps.”
= Manche kommen und manche knommen nicht. Bei Heffalumps kann man nie wissen.

And this chapter is longer than I realized. Translating it ist nicht so leicht, wie ich dachte. I will come back to this chapter the next time I do Sonderling Sunday. I’m leaving off right where the Very Deep Pit has been dug and the Cunning Trap is set. The actual meeting with the Heffalump, I will save for next time.

Meanwhile, this chapter had lots of Handy Phrases to try to work into your conversation. Gar kein Zweifel.

Bis bald!

Review of My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

my_lady_jane_largeMy Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

HarperTeen, 2016. 491 pages.
Starred Review

This is the first book I’m reading as a 2016 Cybils first-round panelist for Young Adult Speculative Fiction — and it bodes well that this whole reading experience is going to be tremendously fun.

But let me say right up front that while these are Blogger awards so I am allowed to talk about what books I like — please be aware that I am only one member of the judging panel, and I will write reviews before I’ve talked with any of the other judges. So only my opinion is expressed. On top of that, this is the first book I’ve read for the Cybils this year, so I can’t even compare it with the competition yet. I hope the competition will be tough! So I will simply express that I loved this book — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a Finalist.

That said, I did love this book! The premise is exceptionally fun. It’s alternate history, during a very turbulent time in England’s history — with shapeshifting thrown in.

Here’s how the authors begin the prologue:

You may think you know the story. It goes like this: once upon a time, there was a sixteen-year-old girl named Jane Grey, who was forced to marry a complete stranger (Lord Guildford or Gilford or Gifford-something-or-other), and shortly thereafter found herself ruler of a country. She was queen for nine days. Then she quite literally lost her head.

Yes, it’s a tragedy, if you consider the disengagement of one’s head from one’s body tragic. (We are merely narrators, and would hate to make assumptions as to what the reader would find tragic.)

We have a different tale to tell.

Pay attention. We’ve tweaked minor details. We’ve completely rearranged major details. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent (or not-so-innocent, or simply because we thought a name was terrible and we liked another name better). And we’ve added a touch of magic to keep things interesting. So really anything could happen.

This is how we think Jane’s story should have gone.

Instead of Edward dying of Consumption (or The Affliction), he’s dying because he’s being poisoned by his closest advisor. The part I like best though is that instead of conflict between Protestants and Catholics, there’s conflict between Verities and E?ians (“eth-ee-uhns”).

“The E?ians were blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with the ability to switch between a human form and an animal one.” That form is fixed for any individual E?ian. King Henry VIII took a lion form and had a bad habit of eating people who brought him bad news.

But my favorite thing about this book is the character of Jane Grey. More than anything, she loves to read. Because of this, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of many different subjects. And she’s not conventional.

At the start of the book, as part of a plot to take over the throne of England, King Edward’s advisor, Lord Dudley, tells Edward he’s dying. They need to marry off Edward’s cousin Jane quickly so that she can produce an heir before he does.

So, in a few days, Jane is to be married to Lord Dudley’s son Gifford — and nobody bothers to tell Jane ahead of time that during the day, every day, Gifford is a horse.

We’ve got plots and counterplots and people changing into animals at inopportune moments. But there’s also romance and a whole lot of humor. If the sensibilities of the people involved seem a bit modern — well, the narrators make that fun.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that Jane does become Queen of England for nine days. But that’s about all that matches the history we know. What does happen is an entertaining adventure and tremendous fun.

The story is told from three perspectives — Jane, Gifford, and Edward. So I’m not sure if the three authors each took one perspective — they do sound pretty much alike. Though that’s fair because the voice is always that of the narrators. The narrators give things a modern twist throughout, with plenty of humor and perspective dashed across it all.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

48 Hour Book Challenge Finish Line

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Yay! In a half-hour I’m going to finish my 48-Hour Book Challenge!

And when that’s done, I’m going to bed!

So — I’m going to jump the gun a little and write my Finish Line post now.

When I finish writing this, I will read until 10:50 pm. But that’s not enough time to finish another book.

Given that information, here are my stats:

Yes! I set a new record for time spent reading and reviewing during the 48-Hour Book Challenge. (I knew that living alone was good for something — I confess I even skipped taking a shower this morning. The more time to spend reading.)

My total was 31 hours and 40 minutes spent reading, reviewing and networking in the last 48 hours. (Okay, since no one else was doing the challenge, “networking” was hanging out on Facebook every now and then as a break. Take that off my totals if you don’t like it! But I think it counts.)
That was broken down as:
23 hours reading
45 minutes listening to audiobooks
1 hour 45 minutes “networking”
6 hours 10 minutes blogging/reviewing

I read 2095 pages, and finished 8 books, only 4 of which I began during the challenge. I read parts of 18 different books. (I read bits of lots of books as part of my quiet times in the morning.) I wrote reviews of all 8 books that I finished.

The books I finished were:
Spontaneous, by Aaron Starmer
The Name of God Is Mercy, by Pope Francis
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave (audiobook)
Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake
Let Your Voice Be Heard, by Anita Silvey
Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Ghost, by Jason Reynolds
The Rose and the Dagger, by Renée Ahdieh

And I started the time with a vestibular migraine — and am finishing it without one!

And I just had a lovely two days off. I’m going to have to find more ways to put more reading into my life the next three months. Not only is it important for judging the Cybils — It’s a lovely way to spend my time.

I am not sure when I’ll get the reviews posted. I’m afraid that’s a lower priority than getting the books read, but I will try!

48-Hour Book Challenge Starting Line

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

cybils-logo-2016-web-smAnd I’m off!

Tonight I’m starting my own personal 48-Hour Book Challenge at 10:50 pm!

I’m modeling it after the Challenges that Mother Reader did every year for 10 years, borrowing her rules and format.

The idea: In a period of 48 hours, spend as much time as I can reading and reviewing.

Networking is also allowed, and I will allow spending time posting reviews. But I want to maximize reading time.

The occasion: I’m a first-round judge for the 2016 Cybils Awards, in the category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction, so I want to get off to a good start! I have Thursday and Friday off this week because I worked six days last week — and I’m going to spend them reading!

And I’m so excited!

But first, it’s traditional for me to post my 48-Hour Book Challenge Theme Song:

And now, to READ!!!

It’s Cybils Time!

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016


I’m a first round Cybils judge!

The Cybils are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards. This year I’m serving as a first-round panelist in the category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction.

What this means is that I’m going to need to do a LOT of reading in the next three months.

More than 100 books will likely get nominated in my category, and we hope to have at least two panelists read each book. All panelists will read books that are serious contenders for the shortlist.

So I need to read!

(And I do love it when I get to say that! Instead of feeling guilty for taking time to read, I should feel guilty when I don’t!)

The bad side is that I’m going to get even further behind on posting reviews. I currently have 66 reviews written that I haven’t posted yet. So I’m going to try to get about one per day posted most days — but that will not catch me up.

And Sonderling Sunday is going to be a much more rare feature.

So — if my posts get a little less frequent — It’s because I’m reading!

And — this coming Thursday and Friday, I’m going to hold my own personal 48-Hour Book Challenge!

By something of a fluke, I have those days off. So I’m going to brush off the spreadsheets I used for Mother Reader‘s past years’ 48-Hour Book Challenges and use her rules.

The point is to see how many hours out of a chosen consecutive 48 hours I can spend reading. I’m allowed one audiobook, and can count hours spent reviewing or posting my reviews. And I’m allowed to spend time networking — posting about my challenge. I’m going to see if I can hit a personal best. Can I top 30 hours and 30 minutes? (Do I even want to?) For that matter, can I pass 18 hours spent reading? (I might want to go easier on the non-reading activities.)

So — I’m going to get behind on posting reviews, but it will be worth it!

And you can participate! Anyone who has read a good children’s or young adult book published between October 16, 2015 and October 15, 2016 — nominate it for a Cybils Award!

Give me more great books to read!

Review of The King and the Sea, by Heinz Janisch and Wolf Erlbruch

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

king_and_the_sea_largeThe King and the Sea

21 Extremely Short Stories

by Heinz Janisch
illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch
translated by Sally-Ann Spencer

Originally published in Germany in 2008 as Der König und das Meer.
Gecko Press, 2015. 48 pages.

There’s something Zen about this book. The stories remind me of the child-like logic found in Winnie-the-Pooh.

As the title indicates, this book consists of 21 extremely short stories. All of them feature the king. A few feature the sea as well. Each story takes up one double-page spread with a very simple cut-paper illustration.

I think you’ll get the idea of the book if I quote a couple of the stories:

The King and the Sea

“I am the king!” said the king.
The sea answered with a whoosh.
“Hmm.” The king cocked his head thoughtfully.
“I see,” he murmured.
And he stood there quietly, listening to the waves.

The King and the Shadow

“Why do you have to follow me around?” asked the king.
“To stop you from coming up with stupid ideas,” said the shadow.
“And to remind you there are two sides to every story.”
“So there are,” murmured the king, staring at the long dark shadow cast by his small gold crown.

The King and the Ghost

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” said the king.
“I don’t believe in kings,” said the ghost.
“Then one of us must be mistaken,” said the king.
“So it seems,” said the ghost, spiriting himself away.

The King and the Bee

“Buzz off,” said the king, shooing the bee from his flower.
“Don’t you know I’m the king?”
“And I’m the queen,” said the bee, stinging the king’s nose.

That gives you the idea. There’s something peaceful about reading these stories, which are silly, yet wise.

I don’t envision using these with a big group – they don’t provoke a big bang. However, these are perfect for one child – or one adult reading to one child – for a cozy, meditative reading experience. I can’t help but love the king.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?