Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the prompt is Books on my Fall 2020 TBR. And it turns out that THREE of my favorite fantasy authors (two of whom release their books at excruciatingly long intervals) have new titles out this fall, so I had to join in! Plus, there are some other backlist books that I want to read before too many more months have passed.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

These are the three. After so many years of silence following Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and The Ladies of Grace Adieu, I cannot tell you how excited I am for a new book from Clarke. And MWT’s books in the Thief series are always worth waiting for. Naomi Novik is more prolific, but I’m interested to see that she seems to be trying something quite different with this new one.

Anyone else excited for these?


The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow

Here is a new name in fantasy who is already coming out with her second book. I did not read Harrow’s blockbuster The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but this one — combining witches with the suffragist movement — sounds even more intriguing. I’m putting it on my list and hoping I discover a new favorite.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

I liked the books by Isabel Allende I read earlier this year, so I was pleased when her latest was a book club pick for October. I hope it’s good for discussion.

Germania by Simon Winder

I’ve been reading Danubia, which is the second volume in this “personal history” of Germanic Europe — and it’s interesting enough that I want to go back to the first one. The author’s extremely chatty, slangy style is not for everyone, but I find it quite refreshing. I wouldn’t use it as a history text, but for personal enjoyment, why not?

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

I’m not sure why, except that I’ve never read anything by Asimov and not much SF in general, but I picked this as a title I wanted to read for the Genre Classic category of Back to the Classics. And Emma of Words and Peace said she would read it with me, so we have it slated for October. If anyone wants to join us, let me know.

How We Learn by Benedict Carey

I heard about this on a French language learning podcast I listen to. And I thought it would be good to know more about, well, how we learn, so I bought a copy. Which has sat on my shelf ever since. But when my brain is up to being expanded, I shall have a go at it.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

This just sounds so amazing and would be part of my Reading All Around the World project.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

I loved the two Sacks books I’ve read so far (Awakenings and An Anthropologist on Mars) so I was pumped to find a copy of this in the thrift store. I brought it home but I haven’t been in the mood to read it yet. Soon, I hope!



What’s on your fall TBR? Feel free to link your TTT in the comments!

Gems of 2018 and Year End Survey

Well, this has been a year. Due to the emotional roller-coaster of my personal life (now thankfully settled down), I did not get as much reading done as usual. But when I was able to muster up the time and energy to open them books were always there for me, with their messages of wisdom, meaning, and hope, widening my perspective, helping me learn and grow. I’m so grateful for them and for all of  you in the book blogging community, who reminded me of a greater world connected to the things I care most about.

Here are the books that stood out for me this year. Below, I answered some questions from the year-end survey hosted at The Perpetual Page Turner. (I omitted many of them — the full list is a quite extensive!) Please feel free to join in and link up with TPPT here, or share some of your own responses in the comments.

Also linked in Top Ten Tuesday at That Artsy Reader Girl

2018 Releases –
Fiction: Circe
Nonfiction:  A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry

Other books read in 2018 –

Historical Fiction: The Blood of the Martyrs
Multiple Time Periods: The Maze at Windermere
Books everyone should read: I Don’t Want to Talk About It
Science and Nature: Animals in Translation
Reread: The Earthsea books
Fantasy (among other genres): Jane, Unlimited
Fiction in Translation: Les Miserables
Children’s: It’s Like This, Cat, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe
Activism: The Art of Waging Peace
Spirituality: The Kingdom Within
Book Design: Uncle Silas
Classics: Invisible Man



Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

The Left Hand of Darkness – I was surprised at the lack of feminine experience in this “feminist” novel (shows how different things were back in 1969)

Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

Circe – at least a lot of people have said they want to read it!

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

The Populist Explosion

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Uncle Silas – it got silly at the end but still kept me compulsively reading.

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018?

Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2018?

I Don’t Want To Talk About It

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read? 

The Left Hand of Darkness

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2018?

Shortest – Octavio’s Journey, 95 pages

Longest – Les Miserables, 1330 pages

Book That Shocked You The Most

Invisible Man

Best Book You Read In 2018 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

The Art of Waging Peace – based on a Facebook comment

Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Nero’s Rome in The Blood of the Martyrs

Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Good Omens

New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2018?

What’s Nonfiction

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2018?

Seeing an event I created (Witch Week) get taken up by two other wonderful bloggers

Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Do you re-read? (56 comments)

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Walking with Our Children

One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2018 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2019?

Born a Crime

Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2019?

The Winter of the Witch (Sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower)

Top Ten Books I’ve Read in 2018 So Far

It’s been a while since I did Top Ten Tuesday, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. But seeing others’ posts about their top reading of the first half of the year made me want to join in. Here are my picks:

  • The Sixth Extinction explored our environmental disaster-in-process, scary but strangely heartening in that it reminded me of our human power for good as well as evil.
  • The Art of Waging Peace gave some useful tools for activating the good part.
  • The Ghost of Thomas Kempe was a beautifully written, deceptively simple child’s-eye meditation on time, memory, loss, and growing up.
  • Journey to the River Sea was another lovely children’s book, an adventure story set in the Amazon region.
  • The Maze at Windermere was a brilliant time-switching novel from one of my favorite college professors.
  • City of Gold took Old Testament stories and brought them to life by vividly imagining their narrators and time periods.
  • Animals in Translation gave fascinating insights into the brains of animals and humans, from the viewpoint of an autistic person.
  • The Shuttle was a fun romantic tale with an empowering message.
  • Invisible Man presented a powerful picture of racial injustice, brought to mythical proportions.
  • The Kingdom Within brought together a survey of Jesus’s teachings on “the kingdom” with the insights of depth psychology.


What have you loved so far this year?

Gems of 2017

I always love going back over my year’s reading, and remembering all the wonderful books I’ve discovered. This year seems to be a particularly rich crop … I had a hard time limiting my favorites to ten, or even twenty!

A few of these never got a review on the blog, but definitely belong in this list. The Julian Kestrel mysteries by Kate Ross (Cut to the Quick, Whom the Gods Love, A Broken Vessel, and The Devil in Music) were a delightful set of four Regency-era mysteries with marvelous characters and a great sense of the period. Sadly, the author died before she could pen any more.

And towards the end of the year I got into reading biographies and autobiographies of three amazingly talented women: My Life in France by Julia Child (with Alex Prud’homme); Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin; and Manderley Forever by Tatiana de Rosnay, a bio-novel about Daphne du Maurier. Their creative drive and determination in the face of obstacles were impressive, and inspiring to me.

What books stood out for you this year?

2017 Releases:
Fiction: The Bear and the Nightingale
Children’s: Bronze and Sunflower
Nonfiction: May Cause Love

Historical: Troy Chimneys, Scaramouche
Fantasy: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
Spirituality: Old and New Mysteries, The Book of Joy
Mystery: The Julian Kestrel mysteries
Romantic comedy: The Lark
Book everyone should read: Dark Money
Suspense: My Cousin Rachel
Fiction in Translation: Season of Migration to the North
Poetry (also in translation): Seasons of the Soul
Literary: The Gilded Chalet
Contemporary Fiction: Americanah
Classics: Excellent Women, East of Eden
Biography and Memoir: My Life in France; Manderley Forever; Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2017 (so far)

I haven’t been keeping up with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, but when I saw some lists on other blogs I could not resist this topic!

Here are some of my outstanding reads so far this year:

What’s on your list?

Gems of 2016

It’s always interesting to look back over the last twelve months and think about which books have really stayed with me. Here are some of my favorite reads from this year, to which I’ve awarded the Emerald City Book Review Gem. Check out Top Ten Tuesday for many more lists (I couldn’t stick to just ten, but they don’t mind).


2016 releases:
Adult fictionThe Summer Guest
Children’s fictionThe Evil Wizard Smallbone
NonfictionThe House by the Lake

Books everyone should read: Just Mercy; Being Mortal
Children’s/YA: Johnny Tremain; The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing
Fantasy: Wyrd Sisters
Memoir: My Family and Other Animals; Unearthed; Carry On
Historical: A Man of Genius
Classics: The Makioka Sisters
Graphics: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
New-to-me author: Frances Hardinge
Rediscovered author: Betty MacDonald
Small Press: Hidden View (Green Writers Press)

Top ten gift books from The Folio Society

Next week’s Top Ten Tuesday encourages us to make a holiday gift list — and if you’re looking for a really special gift for the booklovers in your life, The Folio Society has much to offer. In case you haven’t yet encountered this amazing repository of beautifully designed, illustrated, and bound books, have a look at their complete catalog here.

One of the things I like best about Folio is that it stands for quality, but not snobbery; it can turn out an appropriately dressed edition of Terry Pratchett or Stephen King with the same aplomb as it does St. Augustine or Homer. Some may be aghast at these books rubbing shoulders with one another, but I think it’s terrific; there’s excellence of many kinds to be found in an eclectic reading list.

Here are some of my favorite recent releases:


Poetry of Emily Dickinson
This lovely, small volume is wrapped in a translucent dust jacket and illustrated with sensitive woodcuts by Jane Lydbury — perfect for poetry lovers.


The Nursery Rhyme Book
I grew up with Andrew Lang’s “rainbow” fairy tale books, which Folio recently produced most gorgeously, but had never heard of this companion collection. Folio has wisely retained the golden-age illustrations by L. Leslie Brooke, and added new color plates by Debra McFarlane. It would be a splendid gift for a new baby or christening.


This is the third time that Folio has essayed an edition of Jane Austen, but it’s the first time they’ve selected different illustrators for each volume, which gives a pleasing variety to the series (although some illustrators may appeal more to you than others). My personal favorite is the Balbusso sisters’ Pride and Prejudice, which I wrote about here; some find Deanna Stolfo’s pictures for Persuasion a little too close to caricature, but I still prefer them to those in the other edition I own.


The King Must Die
Mary Renault is a longtime favorite author and a perfect choice for the Folio treatment. The first in her “Theseus” duology of myth-inspired historical fiction is illustrated with striking paintings by Geoff Grandfield.

And some still available from earlier seasons:


The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Joan Aiken’s classic adventure is perfectly complemented by slyly humorous illustrations by Bill Bragg. Will Folio dare to take on the entire series (which I wrote about here, here, and here)?


The Little White Horse
Luminous pictures by Debra McFarlane adorn Elizabeth Goudge’s enchanting tale. I have to say that I would have absolutely adored the cover of this book as a young girl, with its shining silver unicorn on a deep purple ground.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
It’s been illustrated many times, but Sara Ogilve brings something fresh to the journey of Dorothy and her companions with her lively, whimsical artwork.


Folio’s first venture into Discworld was a smashing success, and there will be more to come (though it’s doubtful they will produce all 40+ volumes).


The Eagle of the Ninth
One of Rosemary Sutcliff’s most popular and acclaimed historical novels is nobly illustrated with detailed drawings by Roman Pisarev.


The Dark Is Rising series (minus one)
It’s too bad that the title volume of Susan Cooper’s fantasy series is out of print, but the other four are available at an amazing bargain price. For more about the complete series, see my earlier post.


The Blue Flower
Penelope Fitzgerald’s beautiful novel about the poet and visionary Novalis is complemented by colorful, expressionistic artwork by James Albon.

As you can see, I tend to gravitate toward the children’s books, but there’s much more to explore, including great works of religion, history, and science, golden age mysteries, and science fiction, as well as many classic and some modern novels.

In case you’re wondering, Folio has now done away with the “membership” model that required a commitment to buy four books in a twelve-month period. You can now buy just one book (though you’ll likely find it hard to stop there), and special offers are available to everyone through the year. Right now, shipping is capped at $10 for your first order, and selected sets are 15% off.

Enough temptation from me — do go and see what strikes your fancy, and let me know your own favorites.

Top Ten Books on my Fall Review List


I’m so fortunate to have several publishers who send me review copies on a regular basis, and I want to do them justice by at least cracking them open for review consideration. However, fall seems to be an especially busy time all around, both for the publishers and for me, so I’ve been getting terribly behind.

Here I can at least give a mention to some of the fall releases that are waiting on my shelves, and that I hope to get around to reading and possibly reviewing in the next few months. They all look marvelous — maybe some of them will spark your interest as well.

Necessity by Jo Walton (Tor)
Third in the series that started with The Just City. I can’t wait to see what Walton does with her neo-Platonists next.

The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis (Thomas Dunne Books)
A past-and-present narrative shaped by the Armenian genocide, this looks like a fascinating historical read.

frenchrhapsodyFrench Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain (Gallic Books)
I enjoyed Laurain’s The President’s Hat, and look forward to more elegant French entertainment.

A Footman for the Peacock by Rachel Ferguson (Dean Street Press)
One of the debut books for the new Furrowed Middlebrow imprint, which brings back lost classics from the middle of the last century.

A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell (Dean Street Press)
Another Furrowed Middlebrow book, this WWII memoir gets high praise from Kate Atkinson. ‘Nuff said.

Wonder Women by Sam Maggs (Quirk Books)
YA nonfiction about some of the female “innovators, inventors and trailblazers who changed history.” One of my favorite subjects.

weepingashThe Weeping Ash by Joan Aiken (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
I loved reading through Aiken’s Wolves chronicles last year; now some of her adult romances are being republished, and I’m eager to read them too.

The Gilded Chalet by Padraig Rooney (Nicholas Brealey Publishing)
Subtitled “Off-piste in Literary Switzerland.” I’m up for any book that will take me to Switzerland.

Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems (Folio Society)
A stunning new illustrated edition of Dickinson’s poetry. Definitely one one for the gift list, whether to give or receive.

Persuasion by Jane Austen (Folio Society)
Folio continues their current series of Austen editions with this, her last and many say her greatest love story.

Are you also interested in any of these? What books are on your list this season?

Top Ten Villains (that aren’t)


This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic invites us to identify our favorite villains. Bad they may be, but one has to admit that without them to cause trouble, most stories would not even begin — so we need to be grateful for them too.

The kind of villain I prefer, though, is not the pitch-black Dark Lord type of unrelenting evil, which is one-sided and ultimately dull. I much prefer it when seeming villains transform into something more complex, or when we’re invited to see the other side of their story, or even when one-sided goodness turns bad. Here are some of my favorites — please share yours!


Wizard Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Howl has a horrible reputation in the fairy-tale village of Market Chipping, along with his wicked-looking fire demon, but it turns out that they themselves are really the ones in danger.

The Lady in Green in The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
In this Elizabethan version of the Tam Lin legend, the Lady is the leader of the uncanny folk under the hill, and earns a grudging respect from those who fall into her hands.

Orual in Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
The jealous sister from the myth of Cupid and Psyche gets to tell her own side of the story, and thus see herself truly — not an easy task for any mortal.

Lord Vetinari, by Julie Dillon, via DeviantArt (used by permission)

Lord Vetinari in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Vetinari proves that it is possible to be so bad you’re good, with his twistedly effective rule of the city of Ankh-Morporkh.

Bastian Balthasar Bux in The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
And Bastian proves that it’s possible to be so good you’re bad, as his well-intentioned reign over the land of Fantastica almost ends in disaster.

Medraut in The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein
That’s Mordred to you, the evil bastard who brought down King Arthur. In a refreshingly original take on the much-retold legend, Wein makes us see him in a different light.

The Queen of Attolia in the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
Another ruler who has to make some very hard choices — and choosing to love can be the most difficult of all.

Pa Twite in the Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken
Pa is a puzzle: how can he do such dreadful things, even to his own children, and yet make such beautiful music? Aiken gives a few hints, but sadly puts an abrupt end to his career before we can really understand him.

M. Coque de Noir in The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
The alchemical marriage of sun and moon, gold and silver, brings redemption even to the wicked smugglers and their leader in this enchanting tale.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone in the book by Delia Sherman
This one is brand new, and already a favorite. Who wants to move to Maine and live in a magical bookshop? Me! A (possibly) evil wizard lurking around and turning people into spiders and rats would merely be an occupational hazard.

Top ten back to school books

MaidaSchoolThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme from The Broke and the Bookish is “Back to School,” so I’ve come up with a list of ten of my favorite books that are set in schools, both realistic and fantastical.

This list focuses on children’s and YA novels; I could do a whole different list of books set in colleges and universities, or of adult memoirs of childhood, and maybe I will soon.

With those exclusions in mind, here are my picks. What would yours be?

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Maida’s Little School by Inez Haynes Irwin

There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Louis Sachar

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey

Heaven To Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery