Quarterly Favourites – April to June 2021

Three months have passed since I last wrote about my favourites from what essentially are the things that I enjoy doing in my spare time. Nevertheless, I didn’t struggle too much to select just a few of them. I could have mentioned one or two more books, as I enjoyed almost all of the ones that I read from April to June, but I slightly cherished one of them more than the others.

Set in Northern Iceland in 1829, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is touching and poignant. Its ambience undoubtfully suits the story. Agnes, who is believably portrayed as someone who is misunderstood, was sentenced to death after being accused of killing two men, Nathan, who was her lover, and Pétur. She has to wait for the date of her execution at the house of one of the officers in the district. There she receives the visit of Assistant Reverend Thorvardur.

The TV series that I enjoyed the most during the second quarter of the year was, without a doubt, Mare of Easttown. This crime drama shines mostly thanks to the personal tribulations of the main character and her family. Kate Winslet does a fantastic job playing Mare, a detective that is investigating the murder of a young woman. Continue reading

Favourite Book Genres

Books come in a variety of genres. Some may be more popular than others, but that doesn’t necessarily influence the quality of the story nor the prose. Many genres even intertwine. I read books from various genres – literary fiction, fantasy, dystopian, historical fiction, mysteries, horror and adventure. I also enjoy reading classics, but they don’t constitute a genre, being overall just an assortment of books that have stood the test of time. Usually, I just stay away from Young Adult and cheesy romances.

Which book genres are my favourites, though? There are four that stand out from the rest.

 

Historical fiction

Books from the historical fiction genre, as the designation implies, are set in the past from the perspective of their authors. The characters and the plot may be fictional, but the author needs to conduct extensive research in order to achieve a realistic and historically accurate setting. Successful historical fiction novels make readers travel in time. Some of my recent favourite books in this genre are, for example, The Miniaturist and The Muse by Jessie Burton and The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal. Continue reading

Favourite Supporting Characters II

The most memorable characters tend to be the protagonists. However, books are far more engrossing when their supporting characters are as realistic, complex and engaging. Per definition, secondary characters are not the focus of the main storyline, but they are still essential for our enjoyment of a story.

Since writing my first post about my favourite supporting characters, around four years ago, I’ve discovered a few more who are as remarkable. Daphne du Maurier created three of them, which is unsurprising considering her talent.

 

Richard Grenville – The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier

Although Richard Grenville isn’t the protagonist of The King’s General, he is a critical character in the story. Honor Harris, the protagonist, explains why she fell in love with him. Their interactions, particularly at the beginning of the book, are amusing, charming and captivating. His actions are both kind and shameful. He is sarcastic, wild and careless with his finances. Continue reading

Quarterly Favourites – January to March 2021

During the last three years, I shared with you every single month my favourites from the books and blog posts I read, the TV series, films and YouTube videos I watched, and the music I listened to. However, since I was becoming bored of writing this kind of posts every month and new beloveds have been scarce, I decided to only start publishing a post about my favourites once every three months. The first instalment of my quarterly favourites will focus on the months from January to March.

Since the beginning of 2021, I’ve read five books and decided not to finish two. I loved rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a well-known dystopian novel that portrays a society in the grip of an authoritarian regime, which survives thanks to mass surveillance and a high level of gaslighting. The main character, Winston, works in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to rewrite information so it always serves the interests of the Party, whose face is the Big Brother. When he meets Julia, his life becomes even more in danger.

Other book I highly enjoyed reading was Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. The last instalment in The Farseer Trilogy continues to focus on Fitz, a royal bastard whom we first meet as a child. Although the pacing is not always perfect, this is an overall immersive and gripping read about the difference between duty and greed for power. The ending of the series is satisfying and exciting. Continue reading

Favourite Protagonists II

While some books shine thanks to their gripping plots, others enchant readers because of their convincing and memorable characters. They don’t need to have faultless personalities, but their traits and behaviours have to be plausible and feel genuine. A great, complex protagonist is always a plus in any novel. Since I wrote my first post about my favourite protagonists, almost four years ago, I’ve discovered other believable main characters that I soon won’t forget.

 

Mary Yellan – Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier created magnificent characters. The protagonist of Jamaica Inn, Mary Yellan, is just one of many. She is spirited, determined and curious. Although she is undoubtfully brave, in certain occasions she (understandably) succumbs to fear. It’s striking how she frequently muses on her behaviour towards other characters, particularly her aunt. Despite being well-intentioned, Mary is sometimes too severe with her.

 

Circe – Circe by Madeline Miller

Bullied and tormented by her siblings, Circe felt like an outcast since a young age. Madeline Miller clearly shows how the life experiences of the protagonist of this Ancient Greek myth retelling shaped her personality. After using her witchcraft powers, Circe is banished to a deserted island, becoming much more independent and less fearful. Her emotions are believable and palpable throughout. Continue reading

Favourite Book Covers VI

It has been almost two years since I last shared with you a few of my favourite book covers. Since then I added to my shelves various books that were not only worthy reads, but whose covers are also a feast for the eyes. All of them are paperback editions, which is unsurprising. I mostly only buy paperbacks, as they are cheaper, lighter, and I have a complicated relationship with dust jackets.

Let’s get a good look at my five new favourite covers!

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Cover design: Leanne Shapton

Publisher: Vintage

Collection: Vintage Classics Austen Continue reading

Other Favourite Stories of 2020

I feel that in 2020 I spent more time watching TV series and films than reading books thanks to the pandemic. That doesn’t mean that I have a higher number of other favourite stories (those that I watched on a screen) to share with you than in previous years, though. The majority of the films that I watched were not particularly remarkable and many ended up just being background noise while I absentmindedly scrolled through social media feeds. There are four TV series, however, that I’ve highly enjoyed and wholeheartedly recommend.

 

Dark – Season 3

For sure one of the best TV shows I’ve ever watched on Netflix, Dark is a German science fiction thriller about time travel and various families dealing with loss, grief and love. It can be quite complex, so viewers have to pay careful attention, which it’s not much to ask, seeing that the series is engaging and compelling. In season 3, all strands are convincingly linked together in a way that I didn’t see coming. I’ll definitely re-watch the entire series sometime in the future.

 

Dracula

A new adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula was the first TV series I watched in 2020 on Netflix (it was originally created for the BBC, though). Claes Bang is flawless as Count Dracula. The first and second episodes are exquisite, terrifying and compelling. The third episode feels very different from the others, primarily because it’s set in modern-day England, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I liked how the creators of the show tried to present a reason for Dracula being afraid of certain objects. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – December 2020

On the first day of 2021 (Happy New Year!), I look back on my favourites from the last month of 2020! Today I’m sharing with you a book, a set of YouTube videos, a blog post and a Christmas dessert.

I finished three books in December and enjoyed all of them. But my favourite was História da Menina Perdida (The Story of the Lost Child in the English translation) by Elena Ferrante. The last book in The Neapolitan Novels continues to focus on Elena and Lila’s convoluted friendship, while also delving into the complex relationship between mothers and daughters and the Neapolitan society of the time. Thanks to its conversational writing style, it is for the most part highly engaging. Although on some days I didn’t feel like picking it up, when I did, I could read it for long periods of time, something I struggled to do last year.

Throughout December, I watched even more YouTube videos than usual, mainly because of Vlogmas (this is when YouTubers post videos almost every day on the run-up to Christmas). I don’t have one specific video as a favourite, having liked various of the videos created by Lauren and the Books and Lauren Wade. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2020

In theory, the fiasco that was 2020 afforded us far more free time for reading. Nevertheless, I managed to read not only fewer books, but also fewer pages than in the previous year. The only reason for that is that I found it difficult to focus on whichever book I was reading for long periods of time, having had to shorten each reading session significantly. On the bright side, I enjoyed the vast majority of the books that I have read.

So far, I have read 29 books in their entirety and will certainly finish the one I’m currently reading before the end of the year. Almost all of the books that I decided to pick up were novels and novellas, but I also read a couple of short story and poetry collections (I didn’t review all of them, though). My reading was also varied in terms of genres: literary fiction, classics, fantasy, myth retellings, historical fiction… Two of the books that I read were not new to me. After reading their translations into Portuguese years ago, I decided to finally read Atonement by Ian McEwan and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen in the original. I loved them as much as I did the first time.

However, only taking into consideration the books that I’ve read for the first time in 2020, irrespective of date of publication, my favourites, in reverse order, are: Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – November 2020

As it has been mostly the case this year, this instalment of my monthly favourites is very brief. I finished three books in November and, surprisingly, DNFed another (after liking all the books that I had read by John Burnside, I wasn’t expecting to give up on Ashland & Vine). However, I only truly liked one of them, the others were just satisfactory at best. I also started watching a couple of TV series, but only completed one of them.

My favourite book from the ones that I read last month is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. To be honest, I read the majority of this epistolary novel during October but only finished it at the beginning of November. Gilbert Markham writes a letter to a friend telling him the story of how he met a young widowed woman, Mrs Helen Graham, how he became in love with her, and how she let him know about the mistreatment she suffered from her husband. Although it doesn’t have a perfect pacing, this novel by the youngest of the Brontë sisters features various fleshed out characters. As we learn more about Helen Graham’s past, her initial behaviour becomes understandable.

I’m sure that you have all already heard of (or watched) The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, but I have to join in the praise. It is an adaptation of the book with the same title by Walter Tevis, which I haven’t read, that focuses on the life of Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy who struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. I’d never thought that a TV series about chess could be so compelling, only one of the episodes is a bit boring. I have no idea how to play chess and was gripped nevertheless. The performances are terrific, and whoever chose the main character’s wardrobe deserves an award! Continue reading