Monthly Favourites – March 2020

I’ve been trying to avoid mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic on this blog, but I’ll have to do so this time, seeing that this month was awfully strange because of it. March seems to have lasted for ages. However, I don’t have many favourites to share with you. I haven’t read much in my spare time, sadly. I’ve spent too much time watching unremarkable films that just happened to be on TV instead.

From the few books that I’ve read, my favourite was O Bebedor de Horizontes by the Mozambican author Mia Couto. It is the last instalment in the trilogy Sands of the Emperor and focuses on what happened to the characters in the aftermath of the Portuguese offensive against Ngungunyane, the emperor of the State of Gaza. Although Imani is still the main character, it’s given more relevance to some historical figures. As in the first book, Woman of the Ashes, it delves into racism and colonialism.

Seeing that all gigs in Portugal have been cancelled, a group of artists decided to give short, one-person concerts live on Instagram. I watched a couple of them and particularly liked the one by David Fonseca. I’ve seen him live a few times, but it still warmed my heart when he sang ‘Borrow’. He then uploaded the performance on YouTube. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – February 2020

March has already begun, but this post is still about February. During the shortest month of the year, I spent some of my free time reading books, watching TV series, listening to music and perusing through amazing blogs. And the time has come to share with you my favourites!

My favourite book from the ones that I read in February was Ensaio sobre a Lucidez (Seeing in the English translation) by José Saramago. It is an allegory that explores the complexities of democracy through an engaging prose. In the capital of an unnamed country, 83% of voters decided to vote blank in the local elections. As a result, the government isolated the city, whilst trying to uncover a reason behind the “epidemic” of the blank vote. While many of the characters are purely symbols, others feel like real human beings.

I had been waiting for the release of the second season of My Brilliant Friend for a while. Not only wasn’t I disappointed, I also enjoyed it more than the first one. As in the books by Elena Ferrante (I’ve only read the first two so far), the story of the friendship between Elena and Lila is gripping. The acting is also flawless. The only aspect that I’m not a huge fan of is the voice-over narration, which, nevertheless, annoyed me far less than in the first season. It helps the adaptation to be faithful to the books, but it’s something that I don’t tend to like on TV. 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

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

Monthly Favourites – December 2019

I pondered not to write a post about my favourites from December, as I only have one book to share with you. I watched a few films and started watching a couple of TV series on Netflix, but they were all a huge disappointment.

The most impressive book that I read this month was A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Set in London and Paris during the eighteenth century, before and right after the French Revolution, it is an engaging but demanding novel to get immersed in. Lucie Manette discovers that her father is not dead. With the help of Mr Jarvis Lorry, she takes him from Paris to England. During the journey, they meet Charles Darnay, who years later falls in love with Lucie. Their love story develops almost on the background, as social upheaval takes over France and has consequences on the lives of the characters. Overall, this is a thought-provoking book about how people who fought against tyranny can become tyrants themselves.

Next year, my monthly favourites will probably be slightly different, causing this lack of favourites not happen. But I’ll expand on that on my bookish resolutions for 2020. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2019

2019 was a complicated reading year. I read various praiseworthy novels, short story and poetry collections. In terms of genres, my reading was as varied, featuring classics, literary fiction, fantasy and myth retellings, for example. So far, I’ve read 34 books and will probably finish another one in the following days. However, I decided not to finish eight books, a number higher than ever before, if I’m not mistaken.

This was also the year when I chose to reread a book again after probably decades without doing so. Thus, I had to decide whether to include rereads in my favourite books of the year or not from now on. I decided against it. This post only includes books that I read for the first time during the year, irrespective of date of publication.

I don’t tend to rate books with five stars very often, because they need to be completely flawless for that to happen. This year I only rated one book with five stars, and it was the one that I reread – O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis) by José Saramago. The majority of the books that I rate with four stars are still great, though. Some of the five books that I selected as my favourites of 2019 are indeed almost perfect, in my opinion. In reverse order, they are: Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – November 2019

This instalment of my monthly favourites is, unfortunately, as short as the one from October. I finished reading four books in November and enjoyed three of them. But I didn’t dedicate much time to my other interests.

My favourite book from the ones that I read last month is Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It’s an enthralling gothic novel about obsession and revenge. Although many of the characters are despicable, they are fully believable. One of them is Heathcliff. He spent good part of his life trying to take vengeance on those whom he believed had wronged him in the past. When he was a homeless boy, Mr Earnshaw found him on the streets of Liverpool and decided that he was going to live with him and his children at Wuthering Heights. He was from the beginning looked down on by Hindley, while growing very close to Catherine.

The only TV series that I watched in November was the third season of The Crown. Despite the acting being really good, I didn’t like it as much as previous seasons, for reasons that I can’t pinpoint for sure… Nevertheless, I loved and was heartbroken by episode 3, which is about a disaster in the Welsh town of Aberfan. Continue reading

Favourite Books by My Most-Owned Authors

In past years, I wrote a blog post listing all the books that I had on my shelves by my most-owned and read authors. The plan was to publish such a post every year, in order to evaluate if there were any changes. As the differences weren’t that significant from one year to the next, I discarded the idea of doing it annually.

My shelves look slightly different now, since I’ve unhauled not only many books from my childhood, but also more recent ones that I didn’t enjoy that much. However, instead of just listing the titles of the books that I read by my most-owned authors, this time I decided to reveal my favourite book by each of the most prevalent writers on my shelves. The list below features seven authors. Four of them I read and own six books by, the others more than that.

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

I read and own eight books by J.K. Rowling. A number that increases to nine when adding the work that she wrote under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. My favourite is still Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In the third book in the series, Harry, Hermione and Ron investigate Sirius Black, whom they believe is an ally of Voldemort. It also explores Harry’s family history. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – October 2019

October was not a particularly fruitful month when it comes to favourites. I liked all of the books that I read in their entirety, but I DNFed two books in a row at the beginning of the month. I also didn’t watch many TV series or films. So, this instalment will certainly be much shorter than usual.

I finished reading three books last month – A Espada e a Azagaia by Mia Couto, The Devil’s Footprints by John Burnside and Mar Novo by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Although I enjoyed the three of them almost equally, I decided to choose as my favourite the poetry collection Mar Novo, mainly because I relished analysing some of the poems featured in it more thoroughly, something I hadn’t done in a while. Various poems in this collection have pessimistic undertones and allude to a world of darkness. The sea is used as a symbol for freedom.

More or less two weeks ago, I watched the fifth season of Peaky Blinders. I was not impressed by the first episodes, as they don’t seem to have a clear focus, but adored the last two (5 and 6). This season is set in the 1930s, and the Shelby family becomes embroiled in the rise of Nazism in the UK. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – September 2019

September has come to an end, so it’s time for another instalment of my monthly favourites! These introductions are getting a bit repetitive… One can only hope that one day I’ll have an amazing idea for the paragraph that precedes the revelation of my favourite books, TV series, music or films of the month. Today is not that day yet!

Last month, I finished reading three books – Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan and The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (which I haven’t reviewed yet). I enjoyed all of them, but there was one that stood out from the rest: Assassin’s Apprentice. It’s a fantasy story of court intrigue and lust for power that also manages to amazingly depict human emotions.

Set in the Six Duchies, which are ruled by the Farseers, it has as main character the young Fitz. When he was six years old, he was left by his maternal grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. The king decided that he was to be trained both as an assassin and in the traditional magic of the family – the Skill. Fitz’s state of mind is wonderfully portrayed. Continue reading