Writing the Seasons with Books: Spring

I don’t consider myself a seasonal reader, meaning that I don’t tend to read books in a way that agrees with the season we are in. I usually read more fantasy and adventure books than normal during summer. And Halloween is generally my favourite time of the year to read unsettling novels. However, I’m also known to read books set during the winter in the summer and gothic, creepy novels while the flowers are blooming with the arrival of spring. Thus, I won’t be recommending you books to read during this spring. Any book is a good one!

Instead, I’ve decided to take a look at my shelves and select six books with titles beginning with the letters of the word ‘spring’. This wasn’t as easy to achieve as I first thought. And I had to cheat slightly! But below are the books with which I’m writing ‘spring’.

 

Sonetos by Florbela Espanca    

Florbela Espanca was a Portuguese poet who lived during the early 20th century. Her sonnets generally delve into the topics of love and passion. But they also convey pessimism and suffering, complemented with a pinch of sensuality. Continue reading

‘Jerusalém’ by Gonçalo M. Tavares

My rating: 4 stars

What are the characteristics of insanity? While reading Jerusalém by the Portuguese author Gonçalo M. Tavares (a translation into English is available with the same title), that was the question that kept crossing my mind. The sane characters physically and emotionally hurt others on purpose, whilst some of the mentally ill looked for love and a more fulfilling life. Insanity and horror are the main subjects delved into in this short novel, which follows various characters whose paths crossed on specific occasions.

The story is told from several points of view in the third person and doesn’t follow a strict chronological order. Each chapter gradually presents the reader with more information that connects the characters introduced beforehand with one another. Ernst, Mylia, Theodor, Hanna and Hinnerk’s paths crossed at different points in time, and their lives were all interconnected, although they didn’t fully realise it.

Ernst Spengler was about to commit suicide by jumping from a window when his phone rang. Despite hesitating, he decided to pick it up. On the other side of the line was Mylia. She was seriously ill and in pain. Nevertheless, she had decided to leave the house during the night to look for an open church. She behaved in a strange way, but the author’s approach to convey her actions makes her thought process almost seem reasonable. The pain in the stomach kept getting worse. She only had time to phone Ernst before fainting. The extent of their relationship is only revealed further on into the book. Continue reading

Favourite Book Covers V

Four of the books that I bought during the last six months or so have astonishing covers. I didn’t buy them specifically for that reason. But in the case of some of the books featured in this post, it was the cover that appealed to me to begin with. I usually favour paperback editions, so they dominate my selections of favourite book covers. There is an exception to that rule this time, though. The hardback edition of Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson is so beautiful that I made sure to buy it, despite it being more expensive than the paperback.

Let’s take a closer look at the four book covers below!

 

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Cover design: Suzanne Dean

Publisher: Vintage Continue reading

Reactions to 1-Star Reviews of Books I Love

A few months ago, I watched a video on the YouTube channel Mercys Bookish Musings in which Mercedes read 1-star reviews of books that she loves. I found the idea so interesting that I decided to also have a look for negative reviews of some of my favourite books on Goodreads and write my reactions to a number of them.

I chose five books from different genres and selected a review for each one of them that pinpoints the reasons why the person basically hated it. I’ll now quickly explain why I respectfully disagree with such opinions. It’s normal to have dissimilar views on books, so it’s not my purpose to be offensive towards other readers.

 

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca was the first book that I read by Daphne du Maurier and remains my favourite after having read other three (Jamaica Inn, The King’s General and My Cousin Rachel). I was aware that not everyone is a fan of this novel, but I didn’t think I was going to find so strong negative views, such as the one below. Continue reading

‘The Penelopiad’ by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 stars

Being a retelling of an Ancient Greek Myth, The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood features various characters whose names are well-known. Penelope assumes the role of storyteller after her death and reminisces about the events of the Odyssey from her perspective. This novella lends itself to various interpretations. My main take on it is that it exposes how a patriarchal society puts women in conflict with each other. Some women are so used to live under the power and influence of male figures that they don’t even realise that they have been engulfed by it.

Penelope was the daughter of King Icarus of Sparta and a Naiad. Her father ordered her to be thrown into the see because of a prophecy. Luckily, a flock of ducks rescued her. From then on, her father became much more affectionate. Her cousin was the beautiful Helen of Troy, whom she describes as vain, ambitious and an attention-seeker. She is snarky in her descriptions of her behaviour, as Helen was of her appearance. At the age of 15, Penelope was married to Odysseus, after he cheated to win a race for her hand. He managed to convince her that they were friends and that he reciprocated her loving feelings.

Although she is remembered for her fidelity to Odysseus during the time he was away fighting in the Trojan War, Penelope doesn’t want other women to follow her example. She never contradicted her husband and nor asked questions. Her outlook on life has changed after death. She was never as blunt when she was alive. So, she has decided to reveal her version of events. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – February 2019

Although February is the shortest month of the year, I have more favourites to share today than I did regarding January. These include a book, two TV shows, a film, a song and a piece of entertainment news.

My favourite book from the ones that I read last month is The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar. It is most of all a character-focused novel which takes place in eighteenth-century London. Jonah Hancock is a merchant who has just lost a ship in exchange for a mermaid. In order to recover the money that his ship was worth, he accepts to exhibit the strange creature. One of the places where it can be seen is at Mrs Chappell’s nunnery. There he meets the beautiful courtesan Angelica. The plot is not particularly gripping, but the convincing group of characters and the detailed writing style kept me enthralled until the very end.

I didn’t watch many films in previous months. In February, I did! While I watched all of them last month for the first time, the vast majority weren’t recent releases. Surprisingly for me, I really enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon (the first one). It’s a computer-animated fantasy film that takes place in a Viking world where a teenager wants to become a dragon slayer. He ends up learning that acceptance is worth more than fear and violence. Continue reading

‘The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock’ by Imogen Hermes Gowar

My rating: 4 stars

A mermaid can be both alluring and destructive. In The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, Imogen Hermes Gowar presents the reader with a noteworthy and convincing cast of characters who inhabit London in the late eighteenth century and who, in the end, have to decide what is more important for them in order to achieve happiness. The various characters in this historical novel are brought together because of what is believed to be an authentic mermaid. They are from different walks of life, from the most respectable trades to the most expensive forms of prostitution.

Jonah Hancock is a 45-year-old merchant who has three ships travelling the world while he stays at his office. He has known sorrow. His wife Mary died when she was 33, and his son Henry didn’t survive birth. Many years have passed, but Mr Hancock is still haunted by his absence. He is struggling to come to terms with not having a son with whom to share his joy and fortune. His life is about to change, though.

On a September evening in 1785, he is at home with his niece Sukie waiting for word from one of his captains. Unusually, captain Jones himself knocks on his door. He has the most unexpected news. He has sold his ship to buy what appears to be a mermaid. Mr Hancock is appalled. Captain Jones tries to convince him that it was a great and marvellous investment, though, seeing that everyone will want to pay to see the mermaid with their own eyes. Continue reading

Book Haul – February 2019

I managed to wait until February to buy books for the first time in 2019! It was really difficult to resist the urge to get new books until the second month of the year, although I still had a few unread ones on my shelves. I bought a total of eight books, unintentionally almost all of them were written by women.

 

Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Soon after getting married, Elsie became a widow. She has no friends amongst the servants nor the villagers. Her only company seems to be her late husband’s awkward cousin, until she finds a locked room where there is a wooden figure which strongly resembles herself. I am eager to be frightened by this book!

 

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This historical novel immediately caught my interest at the time of its release last year, but I decided to wait for the paperback edition. I started reading it soon after it was delivered and am now more than halfway through. Although I am enjoying discovering more about the characters, I was expecting more in terms of plot. One of Jonah Hancock’s captains sells his ship in exchange for what appears to be a mermaid. At first, he is appalled by the loss of his ship. However, his captain convinces him that by exhibiting the mermaid he can make a big profit. It’s thanks to his mermaid that he meets the beautiful courtesan Angelica. Continue reading

‘Teoria Geral do Esquecimento’ (‘A General Theory of Oblivion’) by José Eduardo Agualusa

My rating: 2 stars

A woman shutting herself in her apartment on the eve of the independence of Angola in 1975 is an interesting premise for a book. Unfortunately, José Eduardo Agualusa didn’t manage to turn it into a compelling story in Teoria Geral do Esquecimento (A General Theory of Oblivion in the English translation). Despite having a strong beginning, the novel feels underdeveloped in terms of plot and too many characters are hardly more than names on a piece of paper.

Ludovica moved from Portugal to Angola with her sister Odete when she married an engineer called Orlando. Ludo had never wanted to be alone, thus her sister had never gone travelling. Knowing that Odete would never abandon her sister, who since a young age struggled to go outside, Orlando made clear that she could go with them. When the revolution happened in Portugal and Angola became one step closer to independence, Orlando didn’t want to leave Luanda. He soon changed his mind. However, he and his wife disappeared after attending a friend’s farewell party. Ludo only received a call asking for diamonds in exchange for her sister.

When a random boy tried to enter the house, Ludo picked up a gun and shot him almost without really wanting to. The moment they shared before he died made hate and fear almost go away. Afterwards, Ludo decided to build a wall to separate her apartment from the rest of the building. She was afraid of the outside world. Continue reading

‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My rating: 4 stars

Each short story in the collection The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie presents the reader with an attribute of Nigerian society by focusing on a specific person or family. It delves into a variety of themes, including corruption, people that live between Nigeria and the US (both physically and culturally), religious differences, violence, women always being expected to have children and arranged marriages.

Various enthralling stories are set in American soil. In ‘The Shivering’, two Nigerians forge a friendship, in spite of not always being truthful. Their dialogues and the development of their connection is engrossing. Two Nigerian women that moved to the US take centre stage in ‘On Monday of Last Week’ and ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’. They are both remarkable and complex characters.

Although many of the stories share a similar tone, another of the themes delved into is the existence of people from different backgrounds in a country. In ‘Cell One’, young people from middle-class families steal things from each other’s houses, but the blame falls on people from the poorer parts of town. The brother of the narrator was irresponsible and kept getting into trouble. Soon he was accused of being part of a university cult, which was similar to a gang. The story portrays the good and bad in people. The paths of two people from different social backgrounds also cross in ‘A Private Experience’. Chika is caught in a riot and is helped by a woman from a different faith. Continue reading