Mid-Year Resolutions’ Evaluation

It feels like 2017 just started some weeks ago, but we’re already halfway through the year. So, this felt like a good time to evaluate if I am on track to achieve the goals I set for the year regarding both my reading and the blog.

One of the goals I established was to try to read graphic novels again. I was never much of fan, not even as a child, but some of the illustrations have been catching my eye recently. So far, I’ve only read one, The Black Project by Gareth Brookes, and there were both things that I liked and disliked about it. I plan to read The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg this summer.

Other genre I also don’t read that much is non-fiction, at least since I’ve finished my master’s degree. So, I was hoping to read more non-fiction books this year. I haven’t done so yet, but I plan to read a couple in November. I currently have The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria by Janine di Giovanni and The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell on my TBR pile. Continue reading

Mixed-Media Books

When I hear the word ‘book’, a picture of a sequence of letters springs to mind. However, I’ve read a few books in recent years that make use of additional mediums to help convey the message of the story. Those can be called mixed-media books, since visual elements accompany the more traditional text. These extra elements can be either relevant documents, changes in the design of the page or the text, or a piece of artwork.

One of the types of mixed-media books has traditional text as the main medium, but also includes letters, emails, webpages, social network status, conversations on online forums or interviews. These can either be used to show what the characters are reading or as direct information to the reader. Throughout the decades many books have featured letters, for example, although graphic elements were not always used to visually set them apart. So, those novels don’t really look like mixed-media books.

However, such elements are quite noticeable in other novels. The Power by Naomi Alderman not only features letters at the beginning and the end, but also presents the reader with archival documents and an extract of a chat on an online forum, in order to tell the story of what women were able to do with supreme power. Excerpts of an interview with the main character, Kirsten Raymonde, are an important element in Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Through them the reader gets more information about what happened when the Georgian flu spread worldwide. Continue reading

More Bookish Facts About Me

I’ve been blogging about books for a year now and, in order to celebrate, I decided to reveal more bookish facts about me, after having done so for the first time last year.

  • I don’t listen to audiobooks, as my listening attention span is limited. I can only really focus on what I’m listening if I’m taking notes at the same time, something I don’t want to do while discovering and getting immersed into a fictional story.
  • I don’t like reading books in a digital form, since I already spend a huge part of my day in front of screen. So, I don’t have a NetGalley account and don’t plan on getting one.
  • I still haven’t created a Goodreads account, but will do so in the near future.
  • I love paperback books with French flaps.
  • I love reading poetry, but don’t feel confident enough to review it.
  • I don’t have an answer to who my favourite author is.
  • When I love a cover of a book, I tend not to carry it around, because I’m afraid of damaging it.
  • I’m fearful of rereading books that I loved.
  • I sometimes force myself to finish books I’m not really enjoying, since I hope they can get better and the ending may surprise me.
  • I feel like I’m reading much more since starting the blog.

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen: A Socially Conscious Poet

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen is the Portuguese author that has been part of my life for the longest time. She wrote poetry, essays and short stories, both for adults, younger readers and children. The first time I read one of her stories I was 10 or 11 years old and I will continue to read her poems for years to come. But her role in Portuguese society was larger than ‘just’ being a phenomenal writer. She also played a part against the dictatorial regime in the 60’s and the beginning of the 70’s.

Her poetry reveals her strong civic involvement. Some of the poems featured in her collection O Nome das Coisas focus on the colonial war, the dictatorship, but also the Carnation Revolution, which took place in 1974, its outcome and the meaning of freedom. Other poems were inspired by the life and work of Fernando Pessoa, probably the most renowned Portuguese poet abroad.

The only other complete collection of poems I read by Sophia was Poesia, which has various references to the sea, the night and the moonlight. However, I’ve read and studied many other of her poems while in school. Her poetry revolves mainly around three themes. One of them is nature, which is always perceived in a positive way. It’s by having contact with nature that mankind can achieve total plenitude. It also serves as a symbol for many abstract concepts, such as freedom. Continue reading

A Discussion on Book Ratings

Rating books can be a challenging undertaking. First, we have to decide on which rating system to use and whether to give half stars or not, for example. Then comes what it may be the most complicated part: to rate specific books, mainly ones that we may have contradictory feelings about. Although I always know when a book is a 5-star read, I sometimes struggle to decide whether to rate a book with 3 or 4 stars.

But how important is it to rate books really? In my personal opinion, I see the rating as a complement to the review. By itself the rating doesn’t say much, besides being an attempt to summarise via a number my views on a given book. One of the decisions I made when I started this blog was not to give half stars, although in my head I know when a book is on the verge of the given rating and I try to convey that sentiment in the review. So, to better understand why I decided in favour of a 3 or a 4 star, for instance, it’s important to read the review (which I always try to keep spoiler-free).

The rating system I use is loosely based on the Portuguese school grading from year 5 to year 9, when 5, 4 and 3 are pass marks and 1 and 2 are fail marks. Thus, when I rate a book with 5 stars it means that I loved it. I completely enjoyed reading it and there is nothing I would change about it. I’ve previously written a more detailed post about my views on what makes a book a 5-star read, so I won’t go into details. When I just liked a book, I rate it with 4 stars. This means I consider it a good book overall, although I would change some small things or would have liked if some elements had been more developed. A 3-star book is merely satisfactory. While reading it, I identified both good and bad elements more or less in the same measure, and I usually understand why some people may like it much more than I did. Continue reading

‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman

My rating: 3 stars

The premise of The Power by Naomi Alderman is truly thought-provoking: what would happen if women discovered they had supreme power? From the epigraph, it makes the reader aware of how too much power can corrupt, leading us to think if it wouldn’t be better to live in a society characterised by equality instead. However, it lacks character development and some of the events are mentioned in a too fast succession without enough background, what I missed in order to better understand the actions and feelings of the characters.

This is a work of speculative fiction that presents to the reader the manuscript of an historical novel written by Neil Armon, who is asking fellow author Naomi for her insight. It’s through his writings that the reader is introduced to the story of how girls started to electrocute people with their hands all over the world. The way in which the effects of the electric shocks are described are quite visual and detailed.

The story is told from four main points of view at first (more are added afterwards), and features drawings and documents, giving the impression of an historical report. Roxy, a 14-year-old girl at the beginning of the story, is one of the first women to use the power, the lightening shock expelled through the hands, when some men invade her house and kill her mother. Soon other girls start doing the same around the globe. It’s the young women who then awake the power in the older ones. This fact raises the question if it is in the hands of young women to do something that will lead to the empowerment of all women. Continue reading

Favourite Protagonists

Since the beginning of the year I’ve been revealing some of my favourite characters in books (characters I love to hate, favourite female characters and favourite supporting characters). Today I introduce you to some of my favourite protagonists. These are leading characters who stood out for me among the various I discovered throughout the years and that I keep remembering for several reasons. The books they feature in are not necessarily my favourite books of all time (although some of them may be), as when I like almost all of the characters, it’s difficult for one of them to stand out from the rest.

 

Mrs de Winter – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The unnamed narrator of the first book I read by Daphne du Maurier is quite an insecure young woman at the beginning, but that didn’t stop me from really liking her as a protagonist. The main reason why is her feelings being quite relatable, taking into consideration the situation she was facing. By the end of the novel I felt like I really knew her and missed hearing about her feelings and worries. Continue reading

Book Haul – May 2017

Last month I said that I usually try to keep the number of unread books on my shelves to a minimum. But… I ended up buying a few more books this month and am still wondering where I’m going to put them, as my shelves are full. Apparently, I’m struggling to keep my book buying urges under control!

I bought seven books this month, including fiction, non-fiction, classics and a graphic novel.

 

The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria by Janine di Giovanni

Typically, I don’t tend to read non-fiction books, but I decided to do so this year. I bought The Morning They Came for Us because it focuses on an issue I’m quite interested in, the war in Syria, but that I don’t feel I know enough about in order to fully understand what is happening. Continue reading

‘Contos Exemplares’ by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

My rating: 4 stars

The collection of short stories Contos Exemplares (Exemplary Tales in the English translation) was published for the first time in the 60’s and that is quite noticeable in various of the seven tales. Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, a renowned Portuguese poet, wrote these stories mainly focusing on poverty, suffering, and what would need to be changed in order to achieve a fairer society.

In the first short story in this collection, ‘O Jantar do Bispo’, we are introduced to the owner of a great property. He wants to get rid of the new priest of the parish, who speaks about the misery of the poor, as they work all day for meagre wages. In order to achieve his purpose, he is counting on the bishop to support him. Through a compelling prose, this story touches on the issues of poverty, worker’s rights, freedom, democracy and the hypocrisy of some members of the Catholic Church.

Poverty and suffering are, in fact, recurring themes in this collection. They are clearly present in ‘O Homem’ but also in ‘Os Três Reis do Oriente’, a story about the Three Wise Men taking place before the birth of Jesus. They are trying to seek the truth and looking for a better God, who would not only protect the rich but the oppressed. There are also mentions to poetry, what is fitting since some sentences have quite a lyrical sound. Continue reading

Favourite Bookmarks

In the recent years I’ve been collecting bookmarks, although I only read one book at a time and, thus, having only one would be enough. Some of them I have been offered or got for free, but others I bought. I really can’t resist a beautiful bookmark and already have half a box full of them.

I particularly like the ones with tassels. I have four of those, three big and one small. I usually use them when I’m reading longer books, as they enable me to always be visually aware of how much I still have left to read. I first bought the one with the owls and found it so handy that I ended up buying three more.

The other two bookmarks you can see on the photos below were given to me. One at a tourism event and the other at a bookshop. I never say no to a new bookmark and am always looking for new beautiful ones. And, although I try to avoid to buy them, since there are so many being given for free, whenever I see a stunning one at a store I find it hard to resist the temptation.

Continue reading