Low-rated Books I Enjoyed

No book will ever be universally loved. Reading is a very personal experience, after all, and what one person may find amazing, another will surely consider dreadful. Thus, there are obviously books that I liked but that have a relatively low average rating on Goodreads. The last time that I checked, the average rating of the four books listed below was lower than 3.4. Nevertheless, I either remember highly enjoying them or rated them with four starts.

 

Glister by John Burnside

This short novel, which has an average rating of 3.11, is a combination of social commentary, atmospheric mystery, magical realism and science fiction. Boys from the Innertown have been going missing for a while. The official explanation is that they left of their own free will. The only police officer in the town knows what really happened to one of the boys, though. Not all of the mysteries are solved by the end of the book, but the personal story of Leonard, one of the narrators, provides some answers.

 

Felizmente Há Luar! by Luís de Sttau Monteiro

Originally published in 1961, this is a Portuguese theatre play that I read a long time ago at school, If I’m not mistaken, when I was in Year 12. It has an average rating of 3.17. Although it’s based on a failed liberal rebellion that took place in 1817, it has a deeper meaning. The true purpose of the author was to delve into the political repression and the persecution that people endured during the fascist regime of the time, reason why it ended up being censured and forbidden. Light is used as a symbol of the victory against oppression. Continue reading

‘Frankenstein in Baghdad’ by Ahmed Saadawi

My rating: 3 stars

The idea behind Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi is certainly ingenious. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein, it portrays the religious diversity of Baghdad, the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its consequences through a tale about the appearance of a terrifying creature. However, the book feels too much like a patchwork of various events and characters, which makes sense considering the theme of the story but doesn’t turn it into a fully engaging read.

After the death of his friend Nahem, who was victim of a car bomb, Hadi became aggressive. For a while he threw stones at the police. He started drinking during the day and didn’t wash his clothes. But he also liked telling stories. Sometime afterwards, he started collecting body parts from those who had died at explosions, since he wanted the victims to be properly buried. He stitched them together, forming a corpse that represented people from diverse backgrounds. He called the corpse Whatsisname. One day the corpse disappeared from his house, though.

Elishva, a Christian woman, gave life to the corpse by calling him Daniel. She lived alone with her cat in a big house, as her two daughters had moved to Australia. Although there was a grave with the name of her son, Daniel, in the cemetery, she believed that he was still alive. Elishva has an interesting backstory and her struggle to deal with the death of her son is moving. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – January 2020

January has come to an end, so it’s time for the first edition of my monthly favourites of 2020! As I’ve mentioned in my bookish resolutions for this year, from now on these overviews will also start including my favourite blog posts and YouTube videos from each month. This month, they are accompanied by a book, a TV series and a film.

The book I enjoyed the most was The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. It’s an enthralling mystery and family drama that explores the difficulties faced by women in the 20th century. Laura Chase, Iris’s sister, drove a car off a bridge ten days after the end of the Second World War. What was the real reason behind Laura’s fate? The answer is confirmed at the end of this great novel, which consists of a first-person narration by Iris, various news pieces and a short book written by Laura. Although it is occasionally too slow paced, I highly recommend it.

I also spent a great couple of hours watching Dracula on Netflix (I believe it was originally created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat for the BBC). It’s one of those series that I’ll certainly re-watch many times to discover new details. Claes Bang is perfect as Count Dracula. The first episode is terrifying, and the second is strangely compelling, considering that it’s set in such a confined space. The third episode has a completely different feeling from the others. It reminded me of Sherlock at times, not only because it’s set in modern-day England, but also because the interactions between Dracula and Van Helsing resembled those of Moriarty and Sherlock. Despite being my least favourite of the episodes, I still highly enjoyed it. I liked how it tries to come up with an answer to why Dracula fears certain objects. Continue reading

Beautiful Covers, Disappointing Books

I’ve published a few posts about my favourite book covers since starting this blog. I did so by only taking into consideration the allure of the cover. Many times, I hadn’t even read the books in question. When I finally did, some ended up being particularly disappointing, reason why I decided not to keep them on my shelves. I don’t keep all of the books that I read, as I don’t have the space nor the desire to do so any longer.

So, four books with beautiful covers no longer have a place on my shelves:

 

Homens Imprudentemente Poéticos by Valter Hugo Mãe

I mentioned this book by the Portuguese writer Valter Hugo Mãe on the second instalment of my favourite book covers. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it and rated it with two stars. It is about two Japanese neighbours, Itaro and Saburo, who are in open conflict. Not only did I not find the plot gripping, I also disliked the writing style. It is too pretentious and completely overpowers the story. Continue reading

Book Haul – January 2020

My first book haul of 2020 consists mainly of books that I either have been wanting to read for a couple of years or that are the last instalments of certain series. There is no common theme or genre between the five of them. As I plan to read them all in the following months, you won’t have to wait long to know my opinions about them.

 

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

The last book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series focuses on Isabella’s most famous adventure, which is partially set in the tallest peak in the world. It will surely share some similarities with the other books in the series. I’m expecting it to continue to delve into social and scientific problems, while painting an anthropological picture of the world it’s set in.

 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The main character in this short book refuses to be subdued by married life. When it was first published in 1899, The Awakening was considered to be sordid and immoral. I’m not expecting to find it so in the 21st century. But I’m eager to discover what shocked people so much back then. Continue reading

‘The Blind Assassin’ by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 stars

An engaging mix of mystery and family drama, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood tells the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura, and how their lives were shaped by social expectations, patriarchal attitudes and historical events. The novel, which covers many decades, consists of various parts that slowly complement each other and help answer the question that is raised at the very beginning – what was the real motive behind Laura’s fate?

Laura Chase, the sister of the narrator, drove a car off a bridge ten days after the end of the Second World War. Two witnesses saw her turn the car deliberately. However, when giving Iris the news, the police officer was respectful enough to say that it could have been an accident. And, according to a news piece from 1945, after an inquest, it was indeed surprisingly considered to be an accident, since apparently Laura suffered from severe headaches, which affected her vision.

The novel contains within it a first-person narration by Iris, various news pieces and a short book written by Laura. Many decades later, Iris, who regrets not having done everything that she could for Laura, is writing an account of what happened and sharing her recollections about past events. Her ancestors owned various factories, mainly of buttons. Her mother died when she was nine years old and Laura was six. After that, they grew very close. The family was also affected by what was happening around the world. The First World War, the Great Depression and their social and political repercussions left their mark. Continue reading

Most Disappointing Books of 2019

Every year there are books that I hope to at least mildly enjoy but that end up being disappointing for a variety of reasons. 2019 was sadly full of those books. And they were not disappointing in the sense that I only didn’t love them as much as I was expecting to. I truly didn’t like them. Some I read in their entirety and rated with two stars, while others I decided not to finish, as I had no hope to start enjoying them at any point.

First, there were three books that I read until the very end but that I didn’t like.

 

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin

Two women, Hester and Rebekah, who are developing feelings for one another, try to discover why people are disappearing around London in 1831. The premise sounded promising. However, there is no aura of mystery throughout the book, in part because the descriptions are soulless. The plot is unjustifiably meandering. Some events are completely unnecessary for the clarification of what is supposed to be the main mystery. And there is also too much telling and not enough showing. I only kept reading because I was mildly curious to know the reason behind the disappearances. Continue reading

Other Favourite Stories of 2019

Books are undoubtedly the protagonists of this blog. However, I also consume stories, be they fictional or not, through other forms of media. So, I like to annually compile and share with you my other favourite stories, which are usually TV series and films. From the ones that I watched for the first time in 2019, I have four favourites.

 

Game of Thrones – Season 8

The last season of Game of Thrones was surely divisive. I’m part of the seeming minority (or maybe of the less vocal majority) who liked it immensely. I’ve discussed the reasons behind my enjoyment in significant detail on my monthly favourites of April and May, so I’m going to avoid spoilers and be brief this time.

Season 8 is visually stunning, atmospheric and emotive. Not only did I cry, but I also laughed. The acting is outstanding, the camera work is fantastic, and the score is perfect. I don’t think that I’ve mentioned it before, but I loved the final montage. The actions of the characters, in my opinion, result fully from their personalities and are a consequence of their life experiences. Although there is one occurrence that, at first, feels slightly anticlimactic, everything makes sense. I would have liked it to be one or two episodes longer (I think I’ve used the term ‘a couple of’ before). They were not necessarily needed for a fitting telling of the story, but I selfishly wanted more interactions between the characters. Their state of mind would have been even clearer. Continue reading

Bookish Resolutions for 2020

My resolutions or goals for 2020 concerning reading and the content that I create for this blog are mostly a continuation of or an improvement on what I’ve been doing for a while. I deliberately decided not to challenge myself too much and made sure to avoid setting goals that I could lose interest in. Only one of my resolutions is wholly new and may have a small impact on my book buying habits.

Regarding the number of books that I want to read, I’m keeping my goal at 35. However, I’m hoping to either surpass that number or read more pages than last year by selecting the books that I want to read more carefully. One of the reasons why I finished fewer books in 2019 than in 2018 was that I spent too much time forcing myself to read books that I ended up deciding not to finish, because I was either not enjoying them or they were not what I had expected.

I also want to finish three of the book series that I’m currently reading. Two of them will certainly be The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan and As Areias do Imperador (Sands of the Emperor) by Mia Couto, since I only have one book left to read from each. The other will probably either be The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb or The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. Continue reading

2019 Bookish Resolutions’ Evaluation

At the beginning of 2019, I set some goals for the year ahead regarding my reading, this blog and the social media that I use (not exclusively) for bookish purposes. The time has now come to evaluate whether I have met them or not.

I read in their entirety 35 books, the exact number that I had set as my minimum for the year. Although I read four fewer books than in the previous year, I read around 1300 more pages, according to Goodreads. And this is without counting with the eight books that I didn’t finish for various reasons.

Another of my resolutions was to reread at least one of my old favourite books. I reread O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis) by José Saramago and loved it as much as the first time. Despite it not being an old favourite, I also reread Hamlet by William Shakespeare at the end of December, after buying a new edition. I am still not a huge ‘rereader’, but I don’t feel like I’m ‘wasting my time’ anymore, even though there are still a large number of books that I’m eager to read for the first time. Continue reading