Join me at the Castle!

Happy New Year! It’s sure to be another challenging one, but as long as we are still able to share our reading lives, there will be something to be glad about.

As the Emerald City Book Review comes to a close, please join me at my other blog, Entering the Enchanted Castle, where my giveaway celebrating seven years of ECBR is still open for one more week.

And to stay in touch, please be sure to follow me over at the Castle, using WordPress, email, Bloglovin’, Feedly, or your method of choice. I look forward to connecting with you.

Gems of 2020

January 2020 feels like it took place more than a year ago, but by the calendar of ordinary time, it’s just been twelve months. And thus it’s time to choose my “Gems of 2020,” which will be my last list of favorites here at the Emerald City Book Review. For my reading and blogging plans for next year, join me on January 1 over at Entering the Enchanted Castle.

In reading terms, I did not manage to read as many books as usual, but many of them were excellent. I was thrilled that Susanna Clarke finally released another book and that it was one of my favorites of the year. I journeyed through Maya Angelou’s seven memoirs, sharing in her life of pain and joy, and through other people’s lives including a brilliant, disturbing memoir of postpartum psychosis, and a fictionalized account of the last woman to be executed in Iceland.

I learned from scientists about neurological differences and the world of bacteria, unseen and misunderstood realms that lie all around us in plain sight. I also learned from the voices of people with so-called disabilities; I was humbled by their persistence and courage, and motivated to use my own senses more fully.

There were lighter reads marketed for younger readers that also brought important moral and spiritual issues to ponder, and romantic comedies that lifted my mood and reminded me that life and love are still worth striving for.

These books, and many others, kept me going through this dark and disturbing year. What have been your own favorites? What do you recommend?

 

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2020 Releases
Fiction: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Nonfiction: Inferno by Catherine Cho

More favorites I read in 2020:

Historical Fiction: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Memoir Series: Maya Angelou’s memoirs
Book Everyone Should Read: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Science: I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong
Suspsense: The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier
Romance: Jill the Reckless by P.G. Wodehouse
Spirituality: The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
Sensory Differences: An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks; The World I Live In by Helen Keller; Eavesdropping by Stephen Kuusisto
Reread (and read-along): The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Series Finish: Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Around the World: The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Classics: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Linked in the Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Month in Review: November 2020

This year I was very happy to participate in Nonfiction November, having read a lot of great nonfiction and eager to share with other readers. It was a wonderful event!

I did not get a lot of new reading done. Besides finishing and reviewing Danubia for Nonfiction November, I was mostly reading through the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, because I wanted to refresh my memory before enjoying the final volume, Return of the Thief (which I’m nearly done with now). What a pleasure it has been to watch this series evolve over the years. Bravo to MWT for bringing it to a worthy close.

This month I gave up on my French reading club book, L’énigme de chambre 622 by Joel Dicker. It was not interesting enough to hold my attention, especially in a foreign language. And far too long! We’re moving on to another book, La femme au carnet rouge by Antoine Laurain, and I’m looking forward to that.

What were your highs and lows this month?

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Reviews

 

Other Books Read

  • The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, A Conspiracy of Kings and Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner

Other Features and Events

On my other blog

  • On the eve of November (Halloween), I posted a reflection on the Masks we all wear.
  • Another significant date came a few days later: I posted about 9/11 and 11/9.

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Month in Review: October 2020

This month I went on vacation for two weeks to Crete (see here for pictures on my other blog). It was a most welcome and relaxing break, during which I got into rereading Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. It started with Gaudy Night, which I’ve been wanting to reread for some time, but then I realized I had to started with the first two Harriet Vane books, and then I couldn’t stop. It was perfect vacation reading, after all.

I could not get on at all with Foundation by Isaac Asimov, though. It’s the start of another series, and some say the later books are better, but I’m not interested in pursuing them. This one was too silly and too boring. Classic science fiction sometimes does have that effect on me.

What books or series have you been captured by this month?

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Reviews

  • In search of something light, I hit on Unmarriageable, an update of Pride and Prejudice to modern Pakistan.

 

Other Books Read

  • The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt, translated by Laura Watkinson
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, Clouds of Witness, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, The Nine Tailors, and Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers
  • Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L.Trump

 

Other Features and Events

 

On my other blog

 

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Month in Review: September 2020

September was World Kid Lit Month, a new-to-me event that translates diverse, global and translated children’s books. I joined in by reading The Beast Player, by Japanese author Nahoko Uehashi (translated by Cathy Hirano). The imaginary but Japanese-flavored fantasy world about a divided kingdom within which magical beasts live in an uneasy relationship with humans brought up some interesting questions about how we relate to the natural world, and to each other. The sudden, unresolved ending came as a bit of a shock after the more progressive buildup, but a sequel has just come out so I’ll have to read that to find out more about how the story continues.

Have you read any translated children’s lit this month? What do you recommend?

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Reviews

 

Other Books Read

  • Something Light by Margery Sharp
  • The Ogre of Oglefort by Eva Ibbotson
  • Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal – Around the World (Pakistan)
  • Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym
  • The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
  • The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

 

Other Features and Events

 

On my other blog

 

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Month in Review: August 2020

This month, I planned a Robertson Davies Reading Weekend to take place around the author’s birthdate of August 28. It was a lovely long weekend of reading and discussing his wonderful books with fellow aficionados, and I hope it introduced him to some new readers. You can find all the details in the wrap-up post.

Otherwise, I feel as though this month has been somehow extra long and took me on some amazing journeys near and far (in the pages of a book, that is). It was a good time to look back over my Around the World reading project and remember all of the fascinating places that I’ve visited.

Where has your reading taken you this month?

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Reviews

Other Books Read

  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – Back to the Classics, Review to come
  • Inferno by Catherine Cho – Review to come
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – Around the World
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – for an upcoming Witch Week discussion post
  • Magic Flutes and A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson
  • Swedenborg by Gary Lachman

Other Features and Events

  • I gave an update on my Around the World reading project, with stops in Ireland, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, West Africa, Bhutan, Iceland, Korea, Japan, Ghana, and Chile.

On my other blog

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Month in Review: July 2020

The weird year that is 2020 continues into its second half. I made some announcements about future plans and my other blog (see below), and launched on my month-long Summer in Other Languages challenge of reading only in French. I only finished three books, but I count that as a win! Thanks to Emma of Words and Peace for organizing an online French book club, which was a really fun way to augment my reading and get some extra writing and discussion practice.

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Reviews

Other Books Read

  • For the Benefit of Those Who See by Rosemary Mahoney
  • Complètement Cramé by Gilles Legardinier – Summer in Other Languages
  • Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – Reread, Summer in Other Languages, Back to the Classics
  • Toucher la vie by Thich Nhat Hanh – Summer in Other Languages

Other Features and Events

On my other blog

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction

ECBR: The Next Chapter

We have arrived at the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year of  The Emerald City Book Review — which came into the world on January 1, 2014. It seems a good time to take stock, look at how far I’ve come, and think about next steps.

The past six and a half years have been a time of great change and crisis for me, a real process of learning to “read” — in the larger sense of trying to decipher experiences and put them into a meaningful context. I could not imagine having gone through all that without the support of a reading community, a group of people to whom this meaning-making activity matters. And working on this blog, with all the connections I found thereby, provided that for me in abundance.

I have learned so much about myself, about the world, about marvelous books, and about wonderful humans around the globe who are holding their candles in the darkness, expressing their individuality in manifold ways — with joy and frustration and courage and humor and outrage and compassion and grief and love. I am more grateful for this than I can ever say.

There is no way I would want to lose those connections, and so I definitely want to stay a part of this blogging world. But at the moment I’m trying to run two blogs, and it’s too much. So, with the feeling that this particular journey has brought me to its intended destination, I have decided to bring it to a close, and move all my blogging activity over to Entering the Enchanted Castle, as of January 1, 2021.

I will definitely still be doing plenty of “book blog” things, like reviews, discussion posts, projects and challenges, and monthly wrap-ups, because I love them and because I think the bookish community is the best. But I’ll also include some personal posts, share some of my writing, and sometimes talk about some other interests (as I’ve already been doing  on the other blog).

I also plan  to launch a new venture, Enchanted English  — a place where I can offer language lessons and literary services online. I have tons of ideas that I’m working on, and I hope you don’t mind if I share them with you when they are ready.

In the meantime, don’t worry; this blog is not going away any time soon. I’ll still be here as usual till the end of the year. But after that, if you haven’t already, I hope you will follow me at enterenchanted.com. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Month in Review: June 2020

This month, while mostly still staying home and finishing my CELTA English-teaching course, the world of languages was much on my mind; I finished a book in French (don’t be too impressed, it took me several months), I decided to start an other-language challenge, and I read Gaston Dorren’s Lingo, a fun and informative tour of “Europe in Sixty Languages.” Recommended if you’d like some easy-to-understand facts about languages without having to actually learn them.

Where have you gone in your reading this month?

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Reviews

  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had some interesting features, but in the end for me was too repetitive and one-sided.
  • I Contain Multitudes was a must-read about the world of microbes that is all around and within us.
  • Shadowplay is a witty pastiche of a novel centered around the author Bram Stoker and his theatrical colleagues– brilliant for theatre lovers as well as Dracula fans.

Other Books Read

  • Chime by Franny Billingsley – Reread
  • Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey – Reread
  • Home and Home Work by Julie Andrews – Review to come
  • Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner – Review to come
  • Et Puis, Paulette by Barbara Constantine – Summer in Other Languages
  • Lingo by Gaston Dorren

Other Features and Events

On my other blog

  • I moved Entering the Enchanted Castle from WordPress.com to self-hosted; fingers crossed that everything is working properly. Changes are coming soon, and I will have  exciting news to share!

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Month in Review: May 2020

I’m back from my blog break — returning at one of those times when it seems a bit strange and self-indulgent to just talk about books. But I still think that reading is one of the things that holds us together in this broken world, and an act of courage and conscience. We readers are the people who try to make sense of things, to find order in the chaos, and though it seems at times a hopeless task, it’s a deeply human one. May we read our way toward a more human future.

So I share my reading month here: divided between comforting rereads, children’s books, some new releases, and backlist books that meet my current challenges. From a reading point of view, it was a good month.

Some more positive news: my CELTA training to teach English to adults is nearly done, and it’s been a great experience. I’m thinking about next steps, and may have some exciting news to share with you.

How is your reading life, and life in general? How are you coping?

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Books Read

  • Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
  • Haben by Haben Girna
  • Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild – Reread
  • Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor – Around the World (Ireland)
  • The Thief Knot by Kate Milford
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh – Reread, Back to the Classics
  • The Three Years by Emil Bock – Reread
  • Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block – Phoenix Award
  • The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge – Reread
  • Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye – Phoenix Award, Around the World (Palestine/Israel)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos – Back to the Classics
  • The Pearl of the Soul of the World by Meredith Ann Pierce – Reread

On my other blog, Entering the Enchanted Castle

 

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction