Sunday Salon: Books Read in January, 2014

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction:
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. Post-apocalyptic romance that takes Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion as its inspiration.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Well-written but disappointing in its worldview.
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Deserving of the Newbery Medal it just won for Best American children’s book.
Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. A “problem novel” about a teenage boy who is dealing with abusive parents and depression (or perhaps bipolar disorder?). Engaging, but something about his YA novel bothered me. Cybils nominee in the category of YA fiction.

Adult Fiction:
The Circle by Dave Eggers. Eerily reflective of now and the possible future in regard to social media, in particular.
Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. A riot of a historical adventure story with loads of wordplay.
Uneasy Money by P.G. Wodehouse. A silly romp with characters who could be Bertie and Jeeves, but aren’t.

Nonfiction:
House-Dreams by Hugh Howard. How a writer and self-taught builder/contractor/home designer built a home for his family—mostly by himself with a little bit of hired help.
Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre. World War II true espionage story about a criminal turned British double agent.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.

Did Not Finish (DNF):
Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian. Too much, you guessed it, (teen) sex and violence. In addition the characters, all of them, are extremely unsympathetic, and the dad’s 180 degree change of behavior was unbelievable. Add in nasty language and nasty behavior. I gave it a good 100 pages, and I can’t guarantee that it doesn’t get better, but I decided to DNF this YA Fiction Cybils nominee and hope that it doesn’t win.

Sunday Salon: Books Read in October, 2013

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction:
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool.
Listening for Lucca by Suzanne LaFleur.
The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore by Kate Maddison.
The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George. (YA)
A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. (YA)

Adult Fiction:
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

Nonfiction:
Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler. I couldn’t review this one; it was too, too sad. It’s the reverse conversion story of a young man from a loving, but very conservative, Christian family who converts to become an atheist homosexual, full of grace for his messed-up parents. I’ll just piggy-back onto what Janie B. Cheaney said in World magazine.
Andrew Jenks: My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker by Andrew Jenks.
Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple.
Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy. Well, I read half of it anyway.
Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays, edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe.
Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves, edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally.
Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies & Bystanders by Stephanie Meyer.

Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty by Tonya Bolden.
Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Life in a Concentration Camp by Helga Weiss.
Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America by Joan Wehlen Morrison.
Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin.
The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler’s List by Leon Leyson.
Your Food Is Fooling You: How Your Brain Is Hijacked by Sugar, Fat, and Salt by David A. Kessler
C.S. Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath.
Saving a Life: How We Found Courage When Death Rescued our Son by Charles and Janet Morris.

Sunday Salon: Coming this Fall to a Bookstore Near You

These are some of the books set for publication in fall 2013 that I would really, really like to read:

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde. 09/03/2013 The Chronicles of Kazam, Book Two, sequel to The Last Dragonslayer.

Silence: A Christian History by Diarmaid MacCulloch. 09/12/2013

United We Spy by Ally Carter. 09/17/2013

The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography by Alan Jacobs. 09/30/2013

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. 10/01/2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth. 10/22/2013

Sycamore Row by John Grisham: Grisham’s latest is a sequel to A Time to Kill, his first book. 10/22/2013

We Are Water by Wally Lamb. 10/29/2013. I just finished Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed, and although I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, I found it quite absorbing and insightful.

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. Read about three generations of women from Shanghai, a remote Chinese village and San Francisco. 11/05/2013

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith. 11/05/2013

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. 12/24/2013

And the one I’ve already read, thanks to Net Galley, due out September 10th, is Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, a companion novel to Wein’s Code Name Verity. I can tell now that Rose Under Fire is an excellent read. Look for my review in September.

Sunday Salon: Books Read in July, 2013

I’m a little late here, but I didn’t keep a list last month. So I had to go back and “round up” my memory of what I read, the books on my Kindle, the ones I returned to the library, and the ones I didn’t return, and the reviews I completed, to make up this list of July books.

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction:
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr, reviewed at Semicolon.
Being Henry David by Cal Armistead, reviewed at Semicolon.
Double Crossed by Ally Carter and Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter, both reviewed at Semicolon.
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. ARC. My review will be published here at Semicolon in September, but I can say now that I thought it was just as good as the first “companion book” to this one, Code Name Verity.

Adult Fiction:
Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly, reviewed at Semicolon.
No Dark Valley by Jamie Langston Turner, reviewed at Semicolon.
Heirs and Spares by JL. Spohr. I had mixed feelings about this ARC of a debut novel set in a fictional kingdom in (Elizabethan) 1569. Review coming soon.

Nonfiction:
Running the Books by Avi Steinberg, reviewed at Semicolon.
Joni and Ken by Kena and Joni Eareckson Tada, reviewed at Semicolon.
Seeing Through the Fog by Ed Dobson, reviewed at Semicolon.
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright, reviewed at Semicolon.
Jesus in the Present Tense by Warren Wiersbe. I’m studying the “I AM” statements of Jesus in the book of John (I AM The Good Shepherd, IAM the Light of the World, etc.) for a women’s retreat that our church will sponsor next spring. I’m helping to write some of the Bible study material for the retreat. I think this book by Wiersbe will be the backbone of the study, along with the book of John itself, of course.

Sunday Salon: Books Read in June, 2013

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction:
Orleans by Sherri Smith.
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen.
The Dragon’s Apprentice by James A. Owen. Book 5 in The Chronicles of the Geographica Imaginarium. I need to read Book 6, The Dragons of Winter, and be ready for Book 7, The First Dragon, due out in November.

Adult Fiction:
Doc by Mary Doria Russell.
The Rosemary Tree by Elizabeth Goudge.
To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander.
Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley.
Though Mountains Fall by Dale Cramer.

Nonfiction:
There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene.
The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan.
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life by Rod Dreher.
Twelve Little Cakes by Dominika Dery. Recommended by Kerry at Shelf Elf.
Tea with Hezbollah: Sitting at the Enemies Table Our Journey Through the Middle East by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis.
The Last Train: A Holocaust Story by Rona Arato.
Beautiful Nate: A Memoir of a Family’s Love, a Life Lost, and Heaven’s Promises by Dennis Mansfield. This memoir by a Christian father about his prodigal son is probably my favorite book from this month, but I’m having trouble writing about it because I identify so strongly with the father, Mr. Mansfield. Read this book if you have a prodigal or know a family dealing with young adult children who choose sin over the love of Jesus. But be ready for some hard truths as well as encouragement as you read

Sunday Salon: Books Read in March, 2013

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction:
There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones.
The Drowned Vault by N.D. Wilson. Sequel to The Dragon’s Tooth in the Ashtown Burials series.
Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker.
Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally. Ten drama/romance. Here’s my review at Breakpoint: Youth Reads.
The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy. I read an ARC of this hilarious sequel to The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. This second book is even more fun than the first. Look for my review closer to the publication date in late April.

Adult Fiction:
No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer.
Reinventing Rachel by Allison Strobel.

Nonfiction:
The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Dicks Built a Dynasty by Willie and Korie Robertson, with Mark Schlabach.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan.
Mozart and the Whale: An Asperger’s Love Story by Jerry and Mary Newport, with Johnny Dodd.

Storybound by Marissa Burt

First of all, Cliffhanger Warning! This book may be hazardous to your reading satisfaction since it ends with those three dread words: “to be continued.”

Nevertheless, I recommend Storybound for those who enjoy, well, a good story. This one has all the archetypes: the lonely orphan girl, Una, the Hero, Peter, his friend and companion, Sam the Cat, the lady Snow, the evil Tale Master and the Red Enchantress. Una has been Written In to Story, a magic land of book characters without any books of its own to read. The Tale Masters keep all of the books locked away for the protection of Story from the Muses who broke their oath long ago brought havoc upon the land. Una doesn’t know why she’s been Written In or by whom, but she must find out before evil overtakes Story.

The story (or Story) definitely has Christian symbolism and undertones. (“We are only servants. And our charge is to wait for the King’s return,” says one of the most powerful defenders of goodness.) However, the lessons about good and evil are never blatant or preachy or overwhelming to the story. Mostly, it’s just a tale about the power and importance of stories and about the Hero Quest of one young girl and her companions as they find themselves and save the world from destruction.

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Other voices:
Pages Unbound: “Heroes plot in the night, villains prove kindhearted, and the enemy sometimes turns out to be a friend. The sense of mystery pervading the work will keep readers turning pages long after they should have gone to bed. The only problem with the work is that the sequel is not yet available.”

Books and Quilts: “I was totally immersed in this story. I could hardly put it down. How could there be a world where students trained to become the beloved characters as well as the evil villains in the books I read. Wow.”

Interview with Marissa Burt at Cynsations.

Interview with Marissa Burt at The Book Cellar: “Shy, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild is suddenly transported by a mysterious book into the Land of Story, where characters from books train to be cast into a Tale of their own, and Una attends the Perrault Academy while trying to discover who has Written her In and why.”

Sunday Salon: Cybils Nominations

Here are a few books that have not yet been nominated for the Cybils Awards, blogger-given awards for young adult and children’s literature in eleven different categories. If you’ve read any of these and would like to nominate any one or more, you can do so at the Cybils website through October 15th.

Easy Readers/Short Chapter books
The Princess Twins and the Tea Party by Mona Hodgson April, 2012 (978-0310727118)
Big Bad Sheep by Bettina Wegenast. March, 2012. (978-0802854094)

YA Fantasy and Science Fiction
Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore. May, 2012. (978-1401686352)
Teen Librarian’s Toolbox wishlist for YA Sci-Fi and Fantasy.

Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction
Sword Mountain by Nancy Yi Fan. July, 2012 (978-0061651083) Semicolon review here.
The Last Martin by Jonathan Friesen. April, 2012. (978-0310723202)
Aldo’s Fantastical Movie Palace by Jonathan Friesen. August, 2012. (978-0310721109)
Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist. March, 2012. (978-1442429260)
The Secret Diary of Sarah Chamberlain by Sarah Norkus. July, 2012. (978-0899577708)
More Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction eligible books from Charlotte’s Library.
Yet another list of not-yet-nominated Science Fiction and Fantasy from Charlotte’s Library.

Fiction Picture Books
Under the Baobab Tree by Julie Stiegmeyer. April, 2012. (978-0310725619)
The Herd Boy by Niki Daly. October, 2012. (978-0802854179)
Mary’s Song by Lee Bennett Hopkins. NOMINATED. June, 2012. (978-0802853974)
Minette’s Feast by Susannah Reich, illustrated by Amy Bates. Abrams, 2012. NOMINATED. Reviewed at Redeemed Reader.
Perogies and Gyoza: Fiction Picture Books to Nominate.

Middle Grade Fiction
Weight of a Flame by Simonetta Carr. November, 2011. (978-1596381582)

Non-Fiction Picture Books
The Very Long Life of Alice’s Playhouse by Andrea White.
Monet Paints a Day by Jullie Dannenberg. July, 2012. (978-1580892407)
Eric Liddell: Are You Ready? by Catherine Mackenzie. July, 2012. (978-1845507909)
Write On, Mercy! The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren by Gretchen Woelfle, illustrated by Alexandra Walner. Calkins Creek, 2012. Reviewed at Redeemed Reader.
Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose by Tina Nichols Coury, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. NOMINATED. Dial, 2012. Reviewed at Redeemed Reader.

Non-Fiction Middle Grade and Young Adult
Lady Jane Grey by Simonetta Carr. NOMINATED. July, 2012. (978-1601781901)

Young Adult Fiction
Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan. NOMINATED. May, 2012. (9781595547934) Semicolon review here.
Hand of Vengeance by Douglas Bond. August, 2012. (978-1596382152)
The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson. November, 2011. (978-0310727613)

Random Musings of a Bibliophile: Books Not Yet Nominated
Jean Little Library: Nomination Suggestions for Cybil 2012.
Hope Is the Word: Cybils Wishlist.

I plan to nominate some of these if no one else does, but I obviously can’t nominate all of them since the rule is one nomination per person per category. So go ahead and nominate these if they’re favorites of yours.

Sunday Salon: Books Read in September, 2012

Children’s Fiction:
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart. This one is a must for Mysterious Benedict fans, but others should start with The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It was just as good as everyone else says it is. A definite Newbery contender.
Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway.
Laugh With the Moon by Shana Burg. Semicolon review here.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. Semicolon review here.
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. Semicolon review here.
Sword Mountain by Nancy Yi Fan. Semicolon review here.
The Traveling Restaurant: Jasper’s Voyage in Three Parts by Barbara Else. Not my cuppa, this one felt cobbled together and just not quite there. Maybe if I had read it as a book instead of on my Kindle, I would have liked it better. Does anyone else find it more difficult to get absorbed in some kinds of books on an e-reader as as opposed to the hard copy version?

Young Adult Fiction:
The Fault in our Stars by John Green. Review coming soon.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. My review at Breakpoint’s Youth Reads.
Between the Lines by Jodi Piccoult and Samantha van Leer.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis.
A Million Suns by Beth Revis. Good science fiction, but there are few discontinuities and plot questions.
Circus Galacticus by Deva Fagan. The plot felt jumpy in this science fiction story about an Earth girl who joins an inter-galactic circus, and the emotional bonding was rushed. Immediately, the main character knows all about the universe and bonds to other freaks like herself. It just didn’t wrk for me.
The Dragon’s Tooth by N.D. Wilson. Too much action and it moved way too fast for me. I think there was a sub-text that I just didn’t get, and I think Mr. Wilson is too smart for my Very Little Brain.

Adult Fiction:
The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead.
The Silver Hand by Stephen Lawhead.
The Endless Knot by Stephen Lawhead. I absolutely loved these books in the Song of Albion Trilogy, first published back in 1993 and recently republished by THomas Nelson. I got them on sale at Mardel, and the three books were worth every penny.
Canada by Richard Ford. I read most of this highly acclaimed novel about a boy whose normal, everyday parents turn themselves into bank robbers, but I lost interest in the second half of the book, the part that actually takes place in Canada.

Nonfiction:
The Blood of Heroes by James Donovan. Semicolon review here.
A Personal Country by A.C. Greene. A memoir about West Texas and its culture and people that I didn’t quite finish.

Sunday Salon: Books Read in August, 2012

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction:
Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught.
Going Underground by Susan Vaught.
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi. Semicolon review here.

Our Read-aloud Books in Progress:
Galveston’s Summer of the Storm by Julie Lake. Z-baby is studying Texas history this year, and this is the perfect time of year, hurricane season, for this story of a girl caught in Galveston’s deadliest hurricane ever. Semicolon review here.
First Man to Cross America: the Story of Cabeza de Vaca by Ronald Syme. Not exciting, but informative.
The Shining Company by Rosemary Sutcliff. Betsy-Bee and I are listening to this book to accompany her medieval history studies as we drive back and forth to dance each day. So far it’s rather boy-intensive, lots of hunting and boy-type friendship bonding.

Adult Fiction:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Nonfiction:
The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Semicolon review here.
Catherine the Great by Robert Massie.

I liked what I read this month, but I can’t say that any of these books really got me excited. Maybe in September.