‘The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden’ by Jonas Jonasson

My rating: 3 stars

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden took me quite a while to finish, although it is not a particularly long book. Halfway through, reading it became more of a chore and, therefore, I only managed to go through a couple of pages each time. Jonas Jonasson’s chief aim must have been to satirise political ideas and historical events, the characters being just a means to an end. It’s obvious that the author used this story to criticise racism, the apartheid, social inequality and shadowy international relations in an attempted humorous way. The novel is rather funny in parts, but sometimes it tries too hard to be so.

One essential thing to know about this book is that it’s completely bonkers. The plot develops through two distinctive strands set in two different continents, but they end up converging in Sweden, following a series of implausible events. The first significant character to be introduced is Nombeko Mayeki, a latrine emptier in Soweto, South Africa. She had a hard life. Her mother died when she was 10 years old and she never knew her father. After a series of coincidences, she became the manager of latrine emptying at sector B.

Having been born in the early 1960s, she never went to school, as South African politicians back then saw no reason for black children to do so. However, she was really good at calculations and was eager to learn to read. She asked a fellow latrine emptier, Thabo, who had done a lot of travelling and had a secret stash of diamonds, to teach her. Since he ended up being murdered by two women from Mozambique, Nombeko took the opportunity to stay with the diamonds for herself and, after being fired, headed to Johannesburg. Her foray into the city was shorter than she had anticipated, though. Soon after her arrival, she was run over by a drunk driver – Mr van der Westhuizen. Continue reading

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Book Haul – June / July 2018

Ahead of my birthday (which is today!), I bought some books as a gift to myself. I have had almost all of them in my possession for a while now, as I ordered them online and they arrived much earlier than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, I decided to wait until today to reveal my new acquisitions to you. Some of them are representing certain countries at the ‘EU still 28’ reading project, others felt like the perfect books to delve into this summer, and a few were on discount and caught my attention.

Without further ado, these are the eight books that I bought recently:

 

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

This is the third book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series. After reading and enjoying the first two books (A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents) last year, I plan to read the Voyage of the Basilisk really soon. I am eager to be absorbed in another adventure of the famous dragon naturalist, Lady Trent. Continue reading

Recent Favourite Book Bloggers and BookTubers

Thankfully, there are a great number of people creating fantastic content online about books, although my bank account may not be as enthusiastic about this as I am. I’ve already mentioned some of them on two previous posts titled ‘Some of My Favourite Book Bloggers and BookTubers’ and ‘More Favourite Book Bloggers and BookTubers’. Today I introduce you to four other favourites of mine. This time I’m focusing on those that I’ve discovered more recently.

 

Book Bloggers:

Rachel – What Rachel Did

Rachel creates a variety of content about books, including reviews, tags and wrap-ups. But she also writes about her travels on a feature appropriately titled ‘Travel Tuesdays’. I really appreciate this mix of content, after all reading feels somewhat like travelling, as by doing so we discover new realities and worlds.

 

Jay – A Nook & A Storybook

I quite like Jay’s in-depth book reviews. I always feel like I know if I’m going to enjoy a book or not after reading them, since he usually mentions what he did and didn’t like about a specific book. Continue reading

Books I Struggled to Rate

Sometimes, as soon as I finish a book, I instantaneously know how many stars I’m going to award it. Other times, to choose one from only five numbers becomes a hugely challenging task. My main difficulty, so far, has been deciding whether some books were 3 or 4-star reads. There was also an instance when I was unsure whether a book deserved a 2 or a 3-star rating.  However, I’ve never had indecisions involving possible 5-star reads – those are just faultless books in my eyes, easy!

Since I’ve started this blog, the following books were the ones that I remember struggling the most to rate.

 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

In All the Light We Cannot See, readers are introduced to the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner, whose lives are deeply affected by the events of the Second World War. The overall story is quite inspiring, and I really appreciated the ending. However, I didn’t immediately connect with the characters, mainly because of the structure of the book, which felt too fragmented. I was unsure whether to rate it with 3 or 4 stars. I ended up going for a 4-star rating and now feel like it was the right choice. Continue reading

Discovering Fernando Pessoa around Lisbon

The life of Fernando Pessoa is imprinted in the city of Lisbon. While strolling around the Chiado and downtown neighbourhoods, we can find many traces of the poet’s usual daily life activities as well as some of the houses where he lived in. But the best place to start discovering more about Pessoa in Portugal’s capital is in the Campo de Ourique neighbourhood, where it’s located an institution whose main purpose is to disseminate the author’s work and biography.

Casa Fernando Pessoa opened, in 1993, in the building where the poet lived during the fifteen years preceding his death. He moved with his family to the number 16 at Rua Coelho da Rocha in 1920. Although he only lived in the apartment on the first floor right, the public institution occupies the entirety of the building. The main attractions of the house are a reconstruction of his bedroom, the multimedia room and the library specialising in world poetry.

On arrival at Casa Fernando Pessoa, whose white front is festooned with famous quotes by the poet, I was advised by one of the members of the friendly staff to start the visit on the top floor and walk my way down. There is set a multimedia room where visitors can learn more about the life and work of Pessoa. Have you never heard of his heteronyms? There you can find plenty of information about them. The various images of Pessoa on the walls convey that idea of an author who wrote under different personalities. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – June 2018

June is over and July is already here. So, it’s time for me to reveal my newest monthly favourites. This instalment features a book, a TV series, music and a cheeky food reference. I didn’t watch a single film last month, but my ‘too-watch’ list keeps on growing. For whatever reason, I now find films too long. Nonetheless, binge-watching TV series feels totally acceptable (although I haven’t done that in a while either).

Last month I read three books and, without a doubt, my favourite was Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch. Through different perspectives, we are told two intertwined stories, that of Mr. M, a renowned writer who used to be more successful that he currently is, and that of his somewhat creepy neighbour. It mixes a crime story with a reflection on writing and fiction. Despite having finished it at the beginning of June, I still sometimes recall the characters featured in this book.

My favourite TV series from last month is the same as in May – the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale. I particularly loved episode 10. It got me so emotional that I cried. The plot is developing relatively slowly, but that is allowing the viewer to know more about both the main and the secondary characters. Continue reading

‘A Confissão da Leoa’ (‘Confession of the Lioness’) by Mia Couto

My rating: 4 stars

Mia Couto is an author who, after reading only one book by, I became immensely interested in. A Confissão da Leoa, Confession of the Lioness in the English translation, was my second foray into his work and I was not disappointed, but neither was I astonished. Disguised in a tale about a lion hunt told from two different perspectives, this is essentially a book about the many tribulations faced by the women who live in a Mozambican village and its consequences.

The first perspective the reader is presented with is that of Mariamar. She lives in Kulumani with her parents. Her sister Silência has recently died in result of a lion attack, and her mother, Hanifa Assulua, is struggling to deal with that fact. The traditions revolving around a person’s death are repeatedly displayed and are a first taste of the various magical realism elements that can be found throughout the book. Superstition still plays an important part in people’s lives, and many decisions are made with them in mind.

News soon arrive that a couple of people from the capital are going to the village to solve the problems posed by the lions and among them is a hunter. Hanifa becomes really distressed with the prospect of his arrival, because she believes that he will take Mariamar to the city. For that reason, she intends to leave the house and kill him. In order to stop her, her husband, Genito Mpepe, throws her against a cabinet. Mariamar intervenes to defend her mother and says she was the one who has called the lions so the hunter would go to the village. Continue reading

2018 Mid-Year Resolutions’ Evaluation

We are now midway through 2018, hence it’s the perfect time to examine whether I’m fulfilling my bookish resolutions or not. In all honesty, I could only recollect two of the goals I had set myself, so I had to reread the blog post where I revealed them. One of the reasons why I couldn’t remember all of my resolutions was that I’ve been following the majority of them almost instinctively.

My prime resolution for 2018 was to read one book by an author from each of the still 28 EU member states. I called this reading project ‘EU still 28’. You can know more about it at its dedicated page. So far, I’ve read 12 out of the 28 books on my previously established list. I’m not halfway through yet, but since I’ve read a few books aside from this project, I’m confident that I can still complete it before the year comes to an end.

At the beginning of the year, I hoped to read 35 books in 2018. Thus far, I’ve read 18 and am almost finishing another. So, I’m pretty sure I’ll manage to comply with my reading challenge and may even surpass it. Continue reading

‘For Two Thousand Years’ by Mihail Sebastian

My rating: 3 stars

The structure chosen by an author to tell a specific story can result to be either beneficial or a hindrance. While reading For Two Thousand Years, I wished more than once that the Romanian author Mihail Sebastian hadn’t decided to write this novella as if it were a notebook, since many of the events and relationships presented were only briefly mentioned, despite them being interesting enough to be further delved into. My reading experience ended up being saved by the social and historical themes touched on, including anti-Semitism and Zionism.

The entirety of the book consists of journal entries written by a Jewish man, who at first is attending university in Bucharest. During the time between the two world wars, he starts to be ostracised because of his religion and ethnicity and seems to feel lost, being unsure about what he should be studying. As other students don’t want Jews to attend classes, there is fighting at the university. For that reason, the narrator decides to give up on some classes, while considering others worth of the punches. However, he wonders if he is fighting back as much as the other Jews.

Almost all notebook entries feel like scraps of information taken from a bigger story. Overall, they are not fully connected in order to create a coherent and gripping plot. That seems to have been done on purpose, though, to mimic a real notebook. But it didn’t make for a great reading experience in my opinion. The narrator himself admits that his notebook lacks parts of his life, mainly when it comes to his involvement with Marga Stern. It’s a shame that his relationships with friends and colleagues are not further delved into throughout the book, because he appears to be a really good reader of people. Continue reading

My 2-Year Experience as a Book Blogger

Last Sunday was my second-year blog anniversary! So, I decided to look back on my book blogging experience and share some thoughts about it. To be honest, when I first started blogging, I wasn’t 100% sure about what I was doing and had no real expectations. I had written content for websites before (just not about books) and had tried to start a travel blog some years previously (which was quite silly, seeing that unfortunately I don’t really travel that much), thus I knew my way around content management systems. But what was I going to write about?

At the time, I was watching loads of BookTube videos and had just started reading some book reviews. That made me want to discuss the books I was reading with other people. But, as my friends are not massive readers, I couldn’t really do that in real life on a regular basis. It was then that I decided to start this blog! Some months before I had read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and had some thoughts to share. So, my earliest post was a review of that book, when probably it would have been wiser to write an introductory post first.

Before writing that review, I came up with a kind of structure for the blog. I wrote an ‘about’ page and established a set of categories that I thought encompassed the types of posts I was planning to write – reviews, favourites and author spotlights. Soon I realised that I needed a new category which embodied features on a variety of subjects that didn’t fit in with the other ones. It was then born the ‘other bookish content’ category. After that, I also started doing book hauls and, more recently, have introduced a new category focusing on bookish places. Continue reading