Barcelona is home to a lot of stunning architecture, much of which is of a style not really found outside of the region.
Casa Bonet and Casa Amatller
Casa Bonet by Coquillat
One great example of its unique character is the Block of Discord on Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample district. This block has facades by four of the great Moderisme architects…yet each is perfectly unique.
It’s really hard to pick a favorite, though Casa Batlló is probably the most ostentatious and also the most famous.
You must answer these questions without looking anything up on the internet and without looking at your bookshelves!
I decided to make it a step harder and only answer with books that I actually own.
Name a book written by an author called Michael
Rogue Squadron by Michael Stackpole. I have at least half a dozen of his books; he’s one of my favorite Star Wars authors and his Talion: Revenant is a perfectly plotted fantasy. Rogue Squadron was one of the first Star Wars books I read and remains of my favorites to this day.
Name a book with a dragon on the cover
Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I still haven’t finished the last book in this series haha.
Name a book about a character called George
Emma by Jane Austen. The first character I thought of was George Weasley from the Harry Potter series, but I wanted to pick a book with a George as a main character. This was very difficult! Because George seems like a very British name, I went through all my Brit lit books in my head until I remembered that Mr. Knightley’s first name is George. I knew Austen had to have a George somewhere! He may not be the main character, but as the love interest I think the book is still “about” him.
Also, this image is not the edition I have; I have a hardcover with all her collected published works.
Name a book with an author with the surname of Smith
I came up with White Teeth by Zadie Smith, which is one of the 100 books from the Great American Read last year. But I’ve never read it, and I don’t own it. I scanned my shelves later and didn’t find any Smiths.
Name a book set in Australia
Playing Hearts by WR Gingell. The main character lives in Australia, though she also spends a lot of time in Wonderland. This is a cute novella from an indie Tasmanian author; I really recommend her full length novels as well, including Masque, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
Name a book with the name of a month in the title
I came up with Missing May by Cynthia Rylant, but I don’t think I own it, and I’m not sure I’ve even read it. All I can tell you is that it’s an award-winning children’s book. I also think “May” refers to the name of a person, not the month itself, but it technically fits.
There are so many I could pick from, but the first that came to mind was The Lord of the Rings, which actually consists of three books. (If we’re getting really picky, it’s six books in three volumes.) So to be specific, I’ll say The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien.
I think I did pretty well in this challenge! I only looked up the covers once I had written down my answers. I have a good memory and this was a fun test, though I struggled with a couple. I’m not going to tag anyone, but feel free to do this challenge yourself!
Gaudí’s designs for the Sagrada Família church in Barcelona, Spain incorporate themes of nature in many ways. The columns look like trees, so that it feels like you are standing in a forest while in the church’s nave. (They also remind me of celery stalks a bit.) It gives you the same feeling of peace as if you were really surrounded by trees, with the light filtering down to the forest floor.
Here are some brief reviews of what I’ve been reading so far this year.
Wayward Children series
The Wayward Children series consists of four novellas, starting with Every Heart a Doorway, which is set in a boarding school for young people who went through various magical doorways to other worlds and then came home again (shades of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland, but with less whimsy and more therapy.) The other novellas tell a bit more about the adventures of the various characters in the other worlds.
I tried reading the Hugo-winning Every Heart a Doorway a year ago and had trouble getting into it because I felt it was too dark. But it’s really not all that dark, considering that the plot revolves around murder and mutilation of corpses (also I was post-partum at the time and reading at odd hours of the night). It actually has a really nice ending with a theme of being true to yourself. It has a great cast of characters, including several LGBT+ characters, which really adds an extra dimension to the themes about self discovery and belonging. I’m reading through the rest of them now, and I’ve been enjoying picturing Jack, one of my favorite characters, as looking like Moonbyul of the K-pop group Mamamoo.
Elle Katharine White
This book is billed as Pride and Prejudice with dragons, and that is exactly what it delivers. In fact, it starts out as a beat-for-beat retelling of P&P (same characters, scenes, conversations, etc.), which was a bit boring, but as it continues it deviates further and gets more interesting. Its strength is its world building of dragons (and dragonriders) and other creatures.
I’m waiting for the sequel Dragonshadow on hold at the library now.
The Other Einstein
This was a book I wanted to like more than I did. On the surface, I was thrilled to read the story of a female scientist, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, the first wife of Albert Einstein. But I struggled with several aspects.
I am a bit uncomfortable with the use of recent historical figures as the focus of a fictional novel. I applaud the author’s intent to shine light on Mitza, but I personally would have chosen another way to do it. (This is the kind of thing that alternate history fantasy was made for.)
The book wants to treat Mitza like a Madam Curie figure, when in reality she failed her undergraduate final exams, never achieved a degree, and never worked professionally as a scientist. I say this not to disparage Mitza, who was clearly a brilliant woman (also dealt a bad hand by society), but to emphasize that the book is fiction. Though she undoubtedly collaborated with Einstein on his early works, there is precious little evidence that Mitza had a significant role in formulating the theory of relativity.
It makes for a good story, though. It very nearly reads like a tragedy, but the book injects some hope right at the end. There was nothing particularly beautiful about the prose, but it did have a good sense of drama.
I realized partway through that I would rather have just read the letters between Mitza and Einstein; the author helpfully provides the link to them here: https://einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu/. (You can in fact read all of Einstein’s papers and correspondence.)
Also, have you noticed a trend in historical fiction covers recently?
I was very excited to get my hands on this sequel to the supervillain revenge story Vicious, which I loved last year. However, I hit some roadblocks in that until recently, my library only had the audiobook, not the ebook, thanks to a targeted campaign by the publisher (my library did not happen to have a print copy either). I have been trying halfheartedly to get into audiobooks, and I did not think this one was great. The narrator sounded perpetually wistful, and I was not impressed with his female voices (though his accents were good). It is also not a linear story, so I didn’t like that I couldn’t just skim back a few pages to the chapter break to check where in the timeline I was.
The story itself however was nearly as good as the original, just maybe not quite as tight. It went in a different direction than I expected, and I enjoyed the journey. Victor and Eli’s roles are a bit switched in this one, plus there are some great new female characters including the powerfully ambitious mob wife Marcella Morgan and the mysterious June. The book once again has a satisfying ending but with enough threads left hanging that there could be another installment (yes, please!). So if you really like grey characters or stories that make you root for sociopaths, I highly recommend this series.
The places I love most are the ones that feel like home. Salamanca, Spain was home to me for a semester during my undergraduate studies. This is the view of the beautiful Plaza Mayor from one of the cafés there. We spent many hours there, drinking a caña or chocolate, studying, talking, and having our Spanish corrected (laughed at) by young waiters. I hope to someday see this beautiful city again; just looking at this picture takes me back there.