Favourite Female Characters II

Almost six years ago, I wrote a post about my favourite female characters to celebrate International Women’s Day. Since then, I read various other books whose female characters I found as interesting as the ones I mentioned previously (or in some cases even more). Some of them shine because of their compelling personalities. Others may not have an immediately fascinating temperament, but they stand out thanks to their authenticity. Well-crafted characters can be captivating regardless of their traits.

The seven characters mentioned bellow are part of books from various genres, from fantasy to literary and historical fiction. Some I spent a long time with, as they are featured in series, others just a few days. They all have one thing in common, though. They lingered on in my mind. It is also not surprising that three of the characters were created by Daphne du Maurier, since her talent is well known.

 

Althea Vestrit – The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The younger daughter of Ephron Vestrit, Althea is one of the main characters in Ship of Magic, The Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny, the three books in The Liveship Traders Trilogy by the fantasy writer Robin Hobb. Her family has a liveship called Vivacia and her biggest dream is to be her captain one day. She is wilful and feels restricted by the sexist society she lives in. Although she occasionally makes rash decisions, she reflects on her mistakes. She has her own desires, but can adapt them as the situation around her changes. What she experiences throughout the series is deeply affecting. Continue reading

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‘The Snow Ball’ by Brigid Brophy

My rating: 4 stars

Taking place during a single night, the novella The Snow Ball by Brigid Brophy explores different relationships, some involving seduction and perchance love. The contrast between them is partially achieved thanks to the age difference between some of the characters. While Anna is struggling to deal with the inevitability of growing old, Ruth Blumenbaum is still an inexperienced young woman.

New Year’s Eve is a common time for celebration. Anna attends a masquerade ball at the house of her friend Anne. No sooner does the clock chime midnight than a man masked as Don Giovanni kisses her on the lips. Although she runs away from him at the time, afterwards she decides to find him again with Anne’s help. She isn’t successful in locating him. He is the one who finds her. Meanwhile, Ruth is writing a diary about the events she is witnessing at the ball.

The highlights of the book are the conversations between Anna and Don Giovanni. They are extremely gripping. It feels like they are either challenging or trying to impress one another by being witty. There are also many sensuous and funny moments that turn this simple story into a compelling novella, including jokes about Scandinavian names sounding like they are Latin and the jealousy older people feel of the young. Continue reading

Most Disappointing Books of 2022

One year I would love to say that I enjoyed all the books that I read, rendering writing a version of this post unnecessary. Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t the case in 2022. Although I only overall disliked one of the books that I completed and chose to read for enjoyment, I also decided not to finish other four, since I had no hope that they would still manage to grip me. This is a lower number than in the year before, however, which I’m pleased about. There were other books that I read in full that I wouldn’t recommend, but they were passable and not as disappointing as the five below.

 

Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

When I decided to read Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, I thought it would be a gripping, gloomy mystery. After all, 75-year-old Dame Lettie Colston was receiving anonymous calls from a man who only said “remember you must die”. Instead, it is a book whose main focus is old age and its hardships, fear of dying and the inevitability of death. These could have been interesting subjects to read about had they been explored in a story that wasn’t fragmented, tedious and with almost no character development.

 

Normal People by Sally Rooney

I debated whether to read Normal People for a long time. After reading many reviews and not being captivated by the adaptation, I was unsure if it was a book for me. I was convinced, however, that it was a book I would read until the end even if I ended up not enjoying it. That was not the case, though. I only read around 100 pages. Continue reading

Other Cultural Favourites of 2022

My blog is almost exclusively dedicated to books. However, other cultural forms have also taken centre stage on some occasions, be it when I wrote posts about my monthly favourites or, after the end of each year, when I revealed my other favourite stories (mostly TV and film) of the previous twelve months. Since I wanted to also start talking about music in my yearly favourites, I’ve rebranded the last type of posts as “other cultural favourites”.

This first instalment of my other cultural favourites includes a film, TV series and music albums only. In the future (I’m assuming I’ll continue to write this type of posts), they may also feature other categories, like exhibitions, theatre performances, etc., though. Bear in mind that the things I’m about to mention may not have been necessarily released last year. 2022 was the year I first watched or listened to them, nevertheless.

 

Divider for films

 

Suffragette

Last year, I had the intention of watching 100 new-to-me films. Did I? No! I think I only watched three or four… And none of them was released in 2022. I’m a bit behind with my movie watching. I loved Suffragette, though! Released in 2015 (yes, I’m that late!), it’s about the involvement of a young working mother in the movement to get the right to vote for women in the UK. The performances are just amazing! I spent most of the film enraged in a good way. Continue reading

‘Ship of Destiny’ by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 stars

When readers start immersing themselves in the fantasy world presented in The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb, they have more questions than answers. Fortunately, by the end of Ship of Destiny, the last instalment in the second series set in the Realm of the Elderlings, almost all of those queries have satisfying answers. Some of them can be predicted based on the information provided in the previous books, Ship of Magic and The Mad Ship, while others come as a surprise. Although the development of the plot is not perfectly paced and not all of the strands are equally gripping, most characters are outstandingly portrayed.

In the previous two books various complications arise in Bingtown, Jamaillia, the Rain Wilds and the Pirate Isles. The time has come for the characters to sort it all out. The people of Bingtown have a serious conflict in their midst. Will the Old Traders, New Traders, Tree Ships and slaves manage to forge peace and create a better society? Will Althea get Vivacia back? The origin of wizardwood continues to be explored too with suspicions being surely confirmed. Kennit’s past is further delved into and readers learn why he was so eager to own a liveship.

All the books in the series are told in the third person from various perspectives. In this instalment, they can be grouped into two main strands that gradually start converging. While one is set on land, the other takes place mostly on the high seas. They are not equally gripping, however. The one Althea and Brashen are involved in is not only more engaging, because of their defined goal, but also more affecting, thanks to the detail and care with which their actions are conveyed. Continue reading

2022 Bookish Resolutions’ Evaluation

Let’s get straight to the point. After having failed to achieve almost all of my goals for the blog and reading in general in 2021, the same happened this year. My resolutions weren’t even particularly challenging, but life just got in the way and I’ve only been reading for short periods of time each day. Will this affect the way I think about declarations of intentions in any way?

At the beginning of the year, I was convinced that I would be able to read 35 books. I was planning to read only short books during the summer after all. That didn’t happen, though. In fact, I’ve only read in their entirety 22 books for pure enjoyment so far and, although I may still finish another one tomorrow, I won’t get even close to my reading goal. At best I will have read fewer 12 books than I was expecting to. A number higher than in any other year.

My second resolution was to take part in more reading challenges and initiatives. I did participate in the four I was hoping to (Daphne du Maurier Reading Week, Reading Ireland Month, Women in Translation Month and 20 Books of Summer), having had varying degrees of success. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2022

At the beginning of the year, I was full of hopes and dreams. One of them was to read more than 30 books. That didn’t happen! So far, I’ve read for pure enjoyment 22 books in full. Before the year comes to an end, I may still finish the enormous Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb, which I’ve been reading for almost two months now, and probably have time to pick up another play by Shakespeare. I’m ready to reveal my favourite books of the year, though, since I don’t see either of them climbing to the top spots.

My reading experience in 2022 was varied and mostly positive, despite some let-downs. Not only did I read books from various genres – literary fiction, fantasy, classics, allegories, historical fiction, Ancient Greek myth retellings –, but they were also of many formats, including novels, novellas, short story and poetry collections, graphic novels and plays. Although I picked almost only books that were new to me, I also reread Os Maias (The Maias) by Eça de Queirós, having finished the project “rereading my old favourites”.

From the books that I read for the first time in 2022, irrespective of publication date, my favourites, in reverse order, are: Continue reading

Christmas Book Blogger Tag

Seeing that Christmas Day is just around the corner, I wanted to write another post related to the season. After six years of blogging, I was short of new ideas, though. My solution involved no creativity whatsoever, since I just googled Christmas-related tags. The Christmas Book Blogger Tag, created by Rachel from the blog Confessions of a Book Geek, which I had never heard of before, seemed interesting, so I decided to answer as many questions as I could.

 

What is your favourite Christmas scene in a book?

I don’t tend to read many books solely set during Christmas. I think I’ve only read a handful of them; thus, I’m picking one from a very limited sample. The Christmas scene that is the most vivid in my mind at the moment is the one in The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter, so I’m considering it my favourite for this tag, though the book is only partially set at this time of the year. The main character in this novel, Melanie, and her siblings have a very different Christmas than the one they were used to. After the death of their parents, they had to go live with their brutish uncle Philip, a toymaker in London.

 

Do you have any Christmas book traditions?

I wish I had an impressive answer to this question. But I, sadly, don’t. Maybe I should start one next year… Continue reading

Books to Read during Christmas

If you’re an enthusiastic reader of Christmas books, this post is probably not going to be particularly useful to you. You’re certainly already familiar with the most celebrated ones. However, if you, like me, only rarely read books set around this time of the year, I have four book recommendations that may turn you into a seasonal reader in the blink of an eye. From novels to short stories and novellas, these books will either get you into the Christmas spirit or make you think about those whose Christmas is not being as joyful as it used to be. You just need to get under your blanket and get cosy!

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Probably the most famous book about the season, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a short book that explores the true essence of this time of the year. The main character, Scrooge, is a bitter man. In order to teach him about compassion, the spirit of his former business partner, Marley, guides him through Christmas past, present and future.

 

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson’s book presents twelve short stories that are interspersed with recipes connected with a personal experience. They are all related to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Various of the stories feature magical and supernatural elements. While some are astoundingly atmospheric, others shine because of their believable characters. Continue reading

Unexpected Pairs of Books

Books can be of completely different genres, tell an incomparable story, feature characters with overall contrasting personalities and still have at least one element in common. The following three pairs of books are unexpected, because at first sight they couldn’t be more dissimilar. However, there’s one characteristic that unites the books in each pair. What can connect three classics or modern classics to three fantasy books? While you are about to discover the correlation between two of the pairs, regarding the other one you will have to read the books!

 

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin + Os Maias (The Maias) by Eça de Queirós

I cannot directly tell you what the connection between A Game of Thrones, a fantasy novel, and the Portuguese classic Os Maias (The Maias in the English translation) is, because it is a massive spoiler for one of these books. I’ll just give you a brief summary of their premises instead. At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Robert Baratheon is the king who sits on the Iron Throne. After the death of his Hand, he invites Lord Eddard Stark to assume the role.  However, since the lords of Westeros are playing dangerous power games, families want to keep secrets hidden, the exiled Targaryen’s want to retake their father’s throne and a legendary threat is lurking behind the Wall, peace may be at an end.

The classic by Eça de Queirós, as the title suggests, revolves around the misadventures of the Maia family. After the end in tragedy of the relationship between Pedro da Maia and Maria Monforte, Afonso da Maia becomes responsible for the upbringing of his grandson, Carlos, who later becomes besotted by Maria Eduarda. Besides being a family story, the book also shines a light on the vices of the higher classes and the cultural discussions of the 19th century. Continue reading