Other Favourite Stories of 2018

Reading is my favourite pastime, but it’s not the only one. I love a good story irrespective of it being told through the written word or on a screen. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I usually mention the TV series and films that I enjoyed greatly on my monthly favourites. From the ones that I watched for the first time in 2018, I selected those which I liked the most.

 

The Shape of Water

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this film tells the story of Elisa, a mute cleaning lady who fell in love with an amphibian creature that was being kept in a government’s laboratory in the 60’s. Sally Hawkins is fantastic in it. She completely convinced me that it was possible to fall in love with such a peculiar (and somewhat attractive) being. I was thrilled when it won the Oscar for best picture.

 

Dark – Season 1

I believe this was the first German TV series that I’ve ever watched. It is set in a fictional town where a nuclear plant is located. After the disappearance of two children, we are shown how the past and the present of four families are connected. It’s highly addictive and puzzling. I can’t wait for the next season! Continue reading

Most Disappointing Books of 2018

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we liked all the books that we read? Unfortunately, that is not the case. A book will end up being disappointing sooner or later, either because it was not what we had expected or it didn’t live up to its initial promise. In 2018, I rated three books with 2 stars and didn’t finish other two. For the first time, I’m also mentioning the books that I didn’t read until the end on my most disappointing books of the year, since that is a genuine sign of lack of enjoyment.

 

Panorama by Dusan Sarotar

The narrator of Panorama is a writer from Slovenia who travelled around Europe and spoke with immigrants from various countries of origin. Sadly, it is unnecessarily confusing, and I found it almost impossible to retain information. The characters are forgettable and the writing style excruciating.

 

A Sibila by Agustina Bessa-Luís

This book by the Portuguese writer Agustina Bessa-Luís revolves around Quina, whose characteristics are enumerated by the narrator but never truly shown in practice. The characters are not well developed and the writing style feels forced. To make things worse, nothing particularly remarkable happens plot-wise. Continue reading

Bookish Resolutions for 2019

I want 2019 to be a more relaxed reading year compared with 2018, which means I won’t be following any strict reading lists or embracing short-time reading projects. Nonetheless, there are still a few goals that I want to achieve regarding my reading habits and the way in which I create content for this blog and the social media (not exclusively) associated with it.

First, I want to read at least 35 books. This is the same number I had in mind for 2018, when I ended up reading 39 books. So, I could have challenged myself and aim for 40 books this time. However, I want to have a margin for reading longer books if I so wish.

I don’t remember the last time I reread a book, and until recently I always thought about rereading almost as a ‘waste of time’. I would be revisiting stories I already knew, when I could be discovering new ones. However, lately I’ve been feeling the urge to reread certain books. First, it was the books that I knew I had enjoyed when I first read them, but that I remembered nothing about. That desire faded away without me ever rereading a single one. Now, I’m feeling a strong yearn to reread some of the books that I constantly mention as being favourites of mine, although I’ve read them quite a few years ago, before I started rating books and blogging. For that reason, I want to reread at least one of those books this year. Continue reading

2018 Bookish Resolutions’ Evaluation

I had six bookish resolutions for 2018. And I can proudly announce that I’ve managed to fulfil the majority of them! In fact, I’ve only failed to accomplish one of my goals, despite not having done as well as I was expecting to regarding another one.

My main ambition last year was to read one book by an author from each of the still 28 EU member states. I called this project ‘EU still 28’ and completed it before the end of December. I read some truly good books and discovered several authors whose work I want to continue delving into. I don’t regret doing it at all! However, I have to concede that having a relatively long list of books set to read during one year was too restricting, and it was really difficult to find books that immediately appealed to me to represent some countries. Thus, I ended up reading a couple of books that I would have never picked up otherwise and that I didn’t like that much.

I had hoped to read 35 books during 2018. I surpassed that number, having read a total of 39 books! A small number for many of you, but one that I’m really proud of. I also started reading two books that I ended up not finishing, so they don’t count for this purpose. Continue reading

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

My rating: 4 stars

Food and Christmas are indissolubly connected in my mind. Thus, I found the concept behind Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days wholly suitable for the season. Jeanette Winterson introduces this collection of short stories interspersed with recipes with quite an informative reflection on the origins of Christmas, a celebration that borrows elements from various pagan festivities. Reality and fiction are present throughout the entirety of the book. While the stories feature many magical and supernatural elements (snowmen that come to life, fairies, ghosts), the recipes have a real personal story attached to them. Learning about events from Jeanette Winterson’s life made me want to read many more of her books.

Christmas is the main setting of the stories, just one of them takes place during New Year’s Eve. As so often happens with short story collections, some stand out from the others. ‘Dark Christmas’ is characterised by the eerie feeling of being in a house where not everything feels as it should be. ‘A Christmas in New York’, about a thirty-year-old man who learns to appreciate Christmas, is another of my favourites because I could visualise every single action and location. The most atmospheric story is ‘The Second-best Bed’, which revolves around a woman who goes to her friend’s house for Christmas and has to deal with some strange events. I also adored ‘The Glow-Heart’, a story about losing a loved one and dealing with grief.

“Love isn’t a prison. You can’t be imprisoned inside your love for me.”

Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – December 2018

December is inescapably the month of Christmas celebrations, and my favourites reflect that to an extent. Not only have I read six books (the biggest number in a month last year), two of them revolving around Christmas, but I’ve also listened to some unusual music to me, eaten too many sweets and got some new clothing items.

My favourite book from the ones I read last month is Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson. It’s a collection of short stories accompanied by recipes related to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It features many magical and supernatural elements. Some stories stand out because they are extremely atmospheric. Others have incredibly fleshed out characters. I didn’t like all stories equally, but a few were highly gripping. I’ll post a more detailed review soon.

Music-wise, during the first half of last month there was a song I kept listening to over and over again – ‘Santa’s Coming for Us’ by Sia. I don’t tend to like Christmas songs, so the fact that I enjoy this song so much is surprising even for me. My excitement for Christmas diminished as the date approached, but I still listened to this song (which I discovered for the first time in 2017) a few times after that happened. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2018

My reading experience in 2018 was overall dominated by the ‘EU still 28’ project, which consisted in reading one book by an author from each of the still 28 EU member states. I have completed that challenge and, so far, have also managed to read in their entirety ten other books. I’m still reading Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson. But it wouldn’t be one of my favourite books this year even if I had finished it already, although I’m enjoying it. Thus, I’m ready to reveal which books stood out to me the most in 2018.

Despite not having rated any of the books that I picked up this year with 5 stars, I still read truly good ones. They just weren’t perfect in my eyes. I cannot lie, though, this was not the best reading year in terms of the enjoyment I got from the books that I chose. I gave three books 2 stars and didn’t finish other two.

I’ve rated many books with 4 stars, though. From those I’ve selected the five I liked the most and that were really close to deserve the coveted 5 stars. In reverse order, my favourite books from the ones that I read in 2018 are: Continue reading

‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens

My rating: 4 stars

Charles Dickens is an author whose books I frequently add to my wish list. A Christmas Carol is one of his most famous works and served as inspiration for a variety of films. It spreads the message that money is not the most important element for a life filled with happiness. Celebrating Christmas with family and friends is much more significant. Scrooge was a bitter man, but he was given the opportunity to discover the true meaning of Christmas and learn about compassion.

Scrooge despised Christmas. He was an old miser, whose former business partner, Marley, had died seven years before the beginning of the story. Nevertheless, he was to receive his visit once more. When Marley’s ghost appeared in his house, Scrooge didn’t want to believe his own eyes. The ghost was able to stand still, but his hair still moved like it was being blown by wind. He wore a chain, representing all the mistakes he had committed during his lifetime. He warned Scrooge that he would be visited by three spirits that would give him the chance to avoid Marley’s fate.

The spirits’ mission was to guide Scrooge through Christmas past, present and future, so he could learn some lessons on life. The festive spirit is present throughout the book, and it was interesting to know what various families did during Christmas day. However, the section on Christmas present went on for a bit too long, as some of the details didn’t grab my attention. Continue reading

‘The Murderess’ by Alexandros Papadiamantis

My rating: 4 stars

The Murderess, a novella by the Greek author Alexandros Papadiamantis, is a story of a woman’s descent into darkness, which delves into how being born a female was considered by some to be almost a curse and a huge expense to the families. Hadoula, also known as Jannis Frankissa, had various children, three of them were women. But it was the birth of her granddaughter that awoke vile feelings in her. The consequences of these are narrated in a fast-paced manner.

At the beginning of the book, Hadoula was keeping vigil by the cradle of her sick new-born granddaughter, while remembering her past, particularly the time around her marriage and the subsequent years. She was around 60 years old and lived with two of her daughters, one of them was deemed too old to remain unmarried. Her two eldest sons had gone abroad to America and another one was in prison.

Hadoula worked as a healer and picked up herbs. She was a resentful woman who had to face many difficulties throughout her life. In order to overcome them, she had not always resorted to the most respectful methods. She had stolen money from her parents, for example. But she believed that everything her family had was thanks to her, since she had been the one who had managed the money her late husband had earned. Continue reading

‘The Physics of Sorrow’ by Georgi Gospodinov

My rating: 2 stars

The beginning and the ending of The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov have at least one thing in common – they are both exceedingly bewildering. While reading, I kept wondering what could possibly be the purpose of this book. Unfortunately, I still haven’t come up with an answer for that question, and I’m not sure I ever will. It compiles snippets of moments from the narrator’s past, the life of his family and Bulgarian history. These short expositions are supposed to be in some way connected with the myth of the Minotaur, but that association is not always straightforward.

While the prologue suggests that there may be various narrators, there is in fact only one. When he was younger he could go inside the minds of people from his family and, thus, see and relive what happened in the past. This is conveyed in a confusing way, which left me many times unsure about what was happening. Once he went inside his grandfather’s mind and saw him in a tent learning about the myth of the Minotaur, a creature who has the head of a bull and the body of a human.

The narrator was really inquisitive as a boy, which could have been a problem, since he grew up under the communist regime in a poor household. He was particularly interested in the myth of the Minotaur. Although there is even a defence of this mythological creature mid-way through the book, from the narrator’s explanations I couldn’t fully understand the intricacies of the myth. He associates it with abandoned children. Continue reading