Monday, December 31, 2012

Best Reads of 2012

We've read a lot this year, despite the addition of three little readers, a masters degree, and a brand new house.  Here's some of our favorite books we read in 2012 (organized by genre, but in no particular order):

Adult Fiction







Adult Non-fiction

Cooking



The New Vegetarian Grill: 250 Flame-Kissed Recipes for Fresh, Inspired Meals

Young Adult Fiction

Divergent &  Insurgent - Veronica Roth





Children's Fiction



Also, here's a few books that we read and loved this year but haven't reviewed yet.  For now, I've linked them to GoodReads, but look for the reviews in 2013!

Son (The Giver, #4)

The Secret Keeper


Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)

That's all for now!  
I can't wait to see what wonderful books 
we blaze through in 2013!  

If you're looking for more great reading recommendations, 
check out our Best Reads of 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Publisher's Weekly: Best Books of 2012

Hi. 

I hope you had a fabulous Christmas and that someone gave you good books and a chance to read them. 
   
We are still all huddled up with family, enjoying the holidays, but here are a few bookish links

...just to keep you sated.


If those don't strike your fancy...take a look at their 



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Reading For Sanity



Wise Men Still Seek Him.
more wonderful artwork by Simon Dewey

We hope you have a wonderful Christmas!! 
-- from all of us at 
Reading For Sanity.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Night Before Christmas - Clement C. Moore & Mary Engelbreit

Summary:  Readers young and old are invited into the enchanting world of Mary Engelbreit in this sparkling edition of Clement C. Moore's classic poem. It is the night before Christmas, in a house so cozy and colorful, so filled with expectation, so dusted with Christmas magic that only this beloved illustrator could have created it. Shhh. A mouse is asleep in its snug den and children are dreaming as sugarplum fairies flutter around their bed. Then there's the jingle of bells. . . 


For this merry celebration of Christmas, Mary Engelbreit has filled every page with bewitching details, rich color, and memorable characters. These include a bevy of mischievous elves, an adorable mouse, and a lovable, bespectacled Santa. The images in Mary's joyous vision will bring discovery and delight to generations of readers.  (Summary and image from www.harpercollinschildrens.com)

My Revew:  Every Christmas Eve, our family puts on a Christmas program in front of a roaring fire.  First we open our Christmas jammies (well, the kids do), then we read the Christmas Story from Luke, while the girls act it out.  We sing songs.  We drink cocoa.  Then we settle down for one last story before bedtime.  This story.

For the last several years, I've read from a different version of this book -- one that I thought was boring, and more "artsy" than magical, but it was what we had.  Finally, last year I broke down and bought Mary Engelbriet's version.   I am so glad I did.  My children and I adore it!  The change in their demeanor while I read was hard to miss.  Before, they listened but didn't really engage in the story.  This time they sat close to the page and I could see their eyes sparkling with excitement as they took in the gorgeous detail and whimsical illustrations so characteristic of Englebreit's style.   Here's a few sample pages, so you can see what I mean:





Isn't it lovely!?  This is the version I will read to my grandchildren.  It helps even an old adult like me, feel the magic of Christmas.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Santa's smokes a pipe that I can only assume is filled with tobacco.  Seriously, someone needs to inform that jolly old elf about cancer.  

Sum it up:  My favorite version of an old classic.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What I'm Reading...

This list should really be titled, "What I'm Trying Desperately to Read With Little Success Because Having Four Kids is Surprisingly Time Consuming."  I thought that would be too long, so instead I'm just going to live in denial and pretend I'm in the process of reading these books and not just looking at them wistfully from across the room while I type with one hand and feed the baby with the other.  M'kay?  

What is unbelievably hysterical about me reading BORN TO RUN is that I hate to run.  I also suck at it.  And I look funny while hating it and sucking at it.  A few months ago I thought, perhaps, I was being a baby so I tried it.  I hurt both my knees within a week and ended up hardly being able to walk.  There is a reason I read books, people.  So I thought I'd try this one for a little vicarious running and possibly get motivated to injure myself further.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall -

An epic adventure that began with one simple question:  Why does my foot hurt?

Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundred of miles without rest or injury.

In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets.  In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America's best ultra-runners against the tribe.  McDougall's incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.





The front of A TALE DARK & GRIMM says, "Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome."  Hmm...intriguing.  My aunt gave this book to my daughter as a birthday present; I thought I'd read it first, especially since a friend of mine loved it but said her older boy thought it was too graphic and scary.  I've read the prologue and absolutely love the narrator's "voice" so hopefully I'll enjoy it. 

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Reader, beware.  But if you dare... 

Follow Hansel and Gretel as they run away from their own story and into eight other scary fairy tales.

They'll encounter witches and warlocks, hunters with deadly aim, and bakers with ovens that are just right for baking children...

It may be frightening, but unlike those other fairy tales you know, these are true.













A friend with very similar taste recommend THE LOOKING GLASS series as a retelling, or rather an "accurate" telling of Alice in Wonderland.  So far, the first book looks promising...

The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars, #1)The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

The Myth:  Alice Liddel was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carroll in his famous storybook.

The Truth:  Wonderland is real.  Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss's parents.  To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears.  But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated.  Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author, to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life.  Yet he gets the story all wrong.  Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.




Okay, I'm actually reading this version of Rapuzel...to my kids.  It seems that is the only kind of reading I get done lately.  Oh well, it's important.  Blah blah blah.  This book really is cute though and gives a his and hers perspective to a classic fairy tale.

Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair (Twice Upon a Time, #1)Twice Upon a Time: Rapunzel : The One with All the Hair by Wendy Mass
The girl's stuck in a tower.
The boy's stuck in a castle.
There are two sides to every story...

Rapunzel is having the ultimate bad day.  She's been stolen from home by an evil witch, locked in an incredibly high tower, and doesn't even have a decent brush for her hair.

Prince Benjamin is in a pretty uncomfortable situation himself.  His father wants him to be more kingly, his mother wants him to never leave her sight, and his cousin wants to get him into as much trouble as possible.  Plus, there's the little matter of prearranged marriages...

Both Rapunzel and Prince Benjamin are trapped -- in very different ways.  IT's only when their paths cross that things really start to change.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas - Jane O'Conner

Summary:  What could be fancier than Christmas?

Presents with elegant wrapping, festive decorations, Christmas cookies with sprinkles--and who could forget the tree?  After all, there is no such thing as too much tinsel.  Ooh la la!  This year, Nancy is especially excited about decorating the Christmas tree.  She bought a brand-new sparkly tree topper with her own money and has been waiting for Christmas to come.  But when things don't turn out the way Nancy planned, will Christmas still be splendiferous?

In this merriest of stories from bestselling duo Jane O'Conner and Robin Preiss Glasser, Nancy proves once again that a little fancying up can go a long, festive way!  (Summary from book jacket cover.  Image from http://www.musesofmegret.com/)

My Review:  I initially shied away from Fancy Nancy books because of the implications I feared her influence on my daughters could cause--all based on the title and cover.  I have three girls; the last thing I want is three high maintenance girls. By chance, a seasoned mother/grandmother of six children and more grandchildren than I can count asked me if I'd read Fancy Nancy and what I thought of them.  She handed me her copy of Spleniferous Christmas and my prejudices slipped away.  I have come to appreciate Fancy Nancy, her expectations, her dreams, and quirky little slant on the world.

Probably my favorite aspect to the Fancy Nancy books, and this book is no different, is her use of multi-syllabic words: she uses big words and then explains what they mean.  Each books loads children up with new words they can try with kid-friendly definitions immediately following the word.  Each word is in context with an illustration to match.  It's perfect for introducing new vocabulary, specifically focused to the topic you're reading about.  I LOVE this!

Another aspect that I didn't see myself relating to, but have come to appreciate, is Nancy's dreaming.  She never dreams small.  She dreams BIG.  And for my daughters I do hope they dream big.  I know Fancy Nancy seems a little vain, but it's more about idealism than vanity overall.  Plus, at least for my girls while they're young, over the top with accessories and fanciness is all about make-believe and play.  I do not want to squelch this creativity. 

While I do think the story-lines can be trite, they are very relate-able for small children whose worlds hinge on the small things, the memories, the moments that build the greater whole.  Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas epitomizes this experience particularly for Christmas.  And I loved every page.

Rating: 5 Stars--rock star for teaching vocabulary

Sum it up: A girly vocabulary trip with a Christmas slant.

Monday, December 17, 2012

GoodReads Choice Awards 2012

If you haven't been to GoodReads, you are missing out.  It's a wonderful website for finding book recommendations, connecting with people who like books, and authors who write books and...well, you get the idea.  Every year they give out Choice Awards voted on by people who love to read -- YOU, the reader!  I might not agree with a few of the winners -- ahem...casualvacancyandfiftyshadesofgray -- but you might find a few new books to while away the hours.  I've linked the books we have reviewed, in case you are interested in reading them.

Here are the 2012 winners and their nominees in the following categories:

Top Winners in All Categories

ADULT
Fiction 
Mystery & Thriller
Historical Fiction
Fantasy
Paranormal Fantasy
Science Fiction
Romance  (Our reviews: Edenbrooke)
Horror
Memoir & Autobiography (Our reviews: Wild, Heaven is Here)
History & Biography
Nonfiction
Food & Cookbooks (Our reviews: The Pioneer Woman Cooks, French Kids Eat Everything, and The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
Humor
Graphic Novels & Comics
Poetry
GoodReads Authors  (Our reviews:  Insurgent, Cinder, Pandemonium, and Legend)

YOUNG ADULT & CHILDREN
Young Adult Fiction (Our reviews: Out of Sight, Out of Time, and Code Name Verity)
Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (Our reviews: Insurgent, Cinder, Pandemonium, The Selection, Legend, and Hallowed.)
Middle Grade & Children's Books
Picture Books

ARCHIVES
Best Books of 2011  (Our reviews: Divergent, Where She Went)
Best Books of 2010 (Our reviews: Mockingjay, Room, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, and Torment)
Best Books of 2009 (Our reviews: Catching Fire, The Help, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days)

Enjoy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Sisters Grimm Series - Michael Buckley


Summary: For Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, life has not been a fairy tale. After the mysterious disappearance of their parents, the sisters are sent to live with their grandmother--a woman they believed was dead! Granny Relda reveals that the girls have two famous ancestors, the Brothers Grimm, whose classic book of fairy tales is actually a collection of case files of magical mischief. Now the girls must take on the family responsibility of being fairy tale detectives.

Review:  I picked this series up in a post-Fablehaven funk.  I wanted something fun, light-hearted, and something I could possibly read to my kids in a few years.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Sisters Grimm series.  It was refreshing and fun to read about how your favorite fairy tale characters would interact today.  Snow White teaches self-defense classes.  Prince Charming is the Mayor.  Even better, Shakespeare’s Puck is indispensible to the story, both as a protagonist and as the prankster we love him for being.  However, in true fairy tale form, nothing is as it seems, and even these characters have secrets.

I was expecting this series to be quick, brainless, light on heart and mystery, and was a little shocked following the series down some pretty dark paths.   Once the overall story started to intensify, it got dark fast, and didn’t really lighten up until the very last book.  It’s certainly not a series I’d read to my kids now, but it’s one I’d read with them when they are ten or eleven.

Rating:  Three stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  There was more fairy tale violence than I would be comfortable having my younger readers exposed to, and one case of domestic violence is mentioned.  

Sum it Up: Fun fairy tale series for older kids - ten and up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I dreamed a dream...of, among other things, a very hairy Hugh Jackman

image

If you have been living under a rock the last year or so, then you'll be thrilled to hear that Victor Hugo's classic novel of the French Revolution, Les Miserables, has been adapted for the screen and will be hitting theaters on Christmas Day.  If you're like me, you've been following every scrap of news for a while and are beyond excited to see it.  After all, nothing says Merry Christmas like Hugh Jackman as Val Jean.  Am I right?

Whether you've read the book or not, I highly recommend seeing this movie in theaters.  Read the book before, after, or not at all!  I think it will still be worth it.  If you're not yet convinced, watch this preview and the following featurette.  Both had me in tears!

FEATURETTE

Not enough for you?  Me either.  Watch clips of Who am I, At the End of the Day (language), On My Own, A Heart Full of Love, and Val Jean's release.

If these videos are any indication, Anne Hathaway is going to get an Oscar.
(Psssst.  It's 12/12/12.  Pretty cool, huh!? That kind of repetition won't happen again till January 1st, 2101)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand


Also reviewed by Heather.

Summary: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit. 

Review:  Lauren Hillenbrand has truly delivered a masterpiece.  She breathed a spirit into what so easily could have been another POW retelling that elevated it to an entirely other plane.  What Zamperini and his friends went through was horrific, but what I appreciated, and what has stuck with me, is that Hillenbrand continued the story through the darkness Zamperini suffered when he came home and shed light on the difficulties these POWs faced reentering the real world.  To be honest, reading about his struggles postwar was in some ways harder than reading about what he had to endure in the Japanese interrogation camps, but Zamperini was lucky.  Through the encouragement of his wife, he was reminded of a promise he made while trying to survive on a life raft – that if his life were spared, he’d serve God for the rest of it.  It was so heartening to read of his change of heart once that reawakening took place, and of the forgiveness he readily offered his captors when given the chance years later.

This was a very hard book to get my hands on (although it was published nearly two years ago, I had to wait for months to get it, and I’m rushing back to the library to return it, since there’s still quite a list of people waiting for it!), and I can completely understand why.  It’s nearly impossible to not fall in love with Louie, Phil, and the friends he makes on his journey.  His transformation from rebel child to Olympian, his refusal to be cowed, and the change of heart that saved his marriage, his postwar life, and allowed him to return to Japan on numerous occasions will stick with me very much like Corrie ten Boom.

Rating: Four and a half stars.

For the Sensitive Reader:  Detailed accounts of prisoner brutality and some strong language (the POWs certainly came up with some colorful nicknames).  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Oceanswept - Lara Hays

Summary:  The sway of playful palm trees and never-ending sunshine seem like a fantasy compared to the smog and filth of 18th century London. Thrilled for a new life in the exotic West Indies, privileged seventeen-year-old Tessa Monroe eagerly embracesher father’s reassignment to the fledgling Caribbean colony of St. Kitts where she can stake her claim as an up-and-coming socialite.

But that dream unravels when a hurricane downs their ship on the passage from England, leaving Tessa as the sole survivor. Rescued by a passing ship, Tessa’s grief soon turns to terror as sherealizes she isn’t a passenger—she’s a captive.


With a future of slavery in the offing, Tessa joins forces with Nicholas Holladay, a charismatic sailor ready to break free from a life of piracy. Mutiny is in the air. Tessa and Nicholas will either win their freedom or earn a spot at the gallows.

______________________

Mini-Review:  I’m not a fan of e-books, as a general rule, but when I heard about this novel, I jumped at the chance to read it because…well…pirates are my weakness.  Especially if those pirates are anything like Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom.  But I digress…

Oceanswept is a charming tale of romance, ransom, and swashbuckling adventure on the high seas.  Nicholas was far more gentlemanly than I imagined he would be, but he grew on me and I appreciated his single-minded devotion to Tessa.  Her tendency to over think their relationship was aggravating but expected, and I liked that she had a fair amount of fight in her and didn't let her captors push her around.  Fans of the clean romance genre will probably devour this novel in just a few sittings.   I didn’t read it as fast as I would have liked, but I think that had more to do with the rowdy little scalawags ransacking my house than anything else.  It is definitely a great way to escape for an afternoon or two -- you just might have to lock your kids in the brig.  

My Rating: 3.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Some pirate violence, namely one mild attempted rape.

Sum it up:  If you liked Edenbrooke you'll like Oceanswept -- a fun story and great deal for (e) readers!

Interested?  Go here to read an excerpt.  Or here to buy the book at 50% off COUPON CODE ZJ92X ends 12/23).  Or here for full price ($2.99).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Smitten Kitchen Winner...

Congratulations to Lindsay Burnett
winner of 
THE SMITTEN KITCHEN COOKBOOK 
by Deb Perelman

You are going to love it!!
Now, check your email.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On This Day...

I don't know how long you've been reading this blog, but Reading for Sanity has been book blogging since 2008. Did you know that?! I don't have anything new for you today (my reading time is severely limited right now) but I thought it might be fun to see what other RFS reviews have popped up on December 5th.  Click on the cover images if you'd like to read these "vintage" reviews.

On this day in 2008, Heather reviewed:


(click the cover image to read our review)

On this day in 2009 Kari reviewed:

Front cover: Twilight Tours: The Illustrated Guide to the REAL Forks

On this day in 2010, Heather reviewed:



On this day in 2011, Mindy reviewed:

Nomansland

Monday, December 3, 2012

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President - Candice Millard


Summary: James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back.

But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what hap­pened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in tur­moil. The unhinged assassin’s half-delivered strike shattered the fragile national mood of a country so recently fractured by civil war, and left the wounded president as the object of a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power—over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. A team of physicians administered shockingly archaic treatments, to disastrous effect. As his condition worsened, Garfield received help: Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, worked around the clock to invent a new device capable of finding the bullet.

Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic will stand alongside The Devil in the White City and The Professor and the Madman as a classic of narrative history.

My Review:  Wow.  Wow!  To start, you know what?  The GOP has nothing to worry about.  Millard has painted such a complete picture of Garfield’s political career, and as a political geek, it was fascinating.  I must admit, Garfield was always a footnote in my mind.  I vaguely recalled that he was assassinated, but I don’t remember much more of his time in office.  Again, it was truly a fascinating time in history.  Nominated to the presidency against his wishes, he won by a landslide and incurred the wrath of one of the most powerful men in Washington, oddly, one of his own party.  Potential cabinet members were kidnapped and threatened in order to stack the cabinet against the favor of the President.  There were rumors (wholly unfounded) linking the Vice President and his cronies to the assassination, and bone-chilling descriptions from the assassin himself, who truly believed that by assassinating the president, he was assuring himself a spot in the new President’s cabinet.  Yes, the man was cracked.

Millard makes the chilling case that it was the ineptitude of his physicians (the “chief” of these was actually self-appointed and refused to leave the case) that ultimately caused the death of the President, months after the initial attack.  Were the events to have unfolded merely ten years in the future, he would have probably been back at work in a matter of weeks.  It was truly astounding to read of Alexander Graham Bell’s involvement in the attempts to save the President’s life, how the events of the World’s Fair a few years prior could have altered history, had American doctors embraced these assumingly-theoretical “germs” that Dr. Joseph Lister kept going on about, and how misled the medical community was at the time. 

My Rating: Easily four stars.

Sum it Up:  A fascinating analysis of the assassination of President James A. Garfield.

For the Sensitive Reader:  There is quite a fair amount of medical discussion, and some pretty graphic descriptions of the sepsis that ravaged the President’s body.

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