2020 Mid-Year Resolutions’ Evaluation

Before revisiting the blog post that I wrote about my bookish resolutions for this year, I was certain that I wasn’t on the way to achieving the majority of them. That is not the case, thankfully. But I’ve still read fewer books than I was expecting to so far.

One of my resolutions for this year is to read at least 35 books. I was hoping to surpass that number or at least read more pages than last year. I’ve only read 12 books so far, though, which means that I’m significantly behind schedule. I should have read 16 or 17 books by now. There are still full six months left in 2020, and I’m hoping to spend more time reading than I have so far from now on.

I was also eager to finish three of the book series that I was reading. I’ve already completed two – The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan and As Areias do Imperador (Sands of the Emperor) by Mia Couto.  I’m currently reading Royal Assassin, the second book in the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb, but I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the last one until the end of the year (it’s massive!). Maybe I’ll read the last two books in The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante instead. Continue reading

Films I Watched Before Reading the Books

Many people favour reading the books before watching the film adaptations. I don’t have a strong preference. While sometimes I make sure to read the book beforehand, other times I just watch the film and then read (or not) the book afterwards. In fact, I discovered a couple of my favourite books thanks to their adaptations. There are at least four films that I watched before picking up the books.

 

Atonement

Directed by Joe Wright and released in 2007, Atonement was the film that introduced me to the work of Ian McEwan. I read the book (more precisely the Portuguese translation) shortly after watching the film at the cinema. Set in different time periods, the story starts in 1935, when Briony is rehearsing a play. She misunderstands the relationship between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie, leading her to want to atone for her actions.

 

Pride and Prejudice

I also watched the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen before reading the book. I know that not everyone is a fan of this film, directed by Joe Wright, but I love it and have watched it many times, since a friend recommended it to me more than a decade ago. The plot is well known. Mrs Bennet is eager to marry her five daughters. Elizabeth, the second eldest, is intelligent, playful, witty and believes that she is a great reader of characters, although she sometimes judges people without knowing all the facts. One of them is Mr Darcy, who struggles to overcome his pride. Continue reading

Books in Portuguese to Read this Year

Last year, UNESCO proclaimed the 5th of May as the World Portuguese Language Day. Although Portuguese is my mother tongue, I’ve recently been reading more books originally written in English than in Portuguese. There are some books written by lusophone authors that I definitely want to read until the end of the year, however. The list features writers from Portugal, Brazil and Angola.

 

Lillias Fraser by Hélia Correia

Hélia Correia won the Camões Prize (a literary career prize for authors who write in Portuguese) in 2015. Lillias Fraser is a historical fiction book about a Scottish girl who was part of a clan that lost the battle of Culloden against the English. She then ran away and moved to Portugal.

 

O Irmão Alemão (My German Brother) by Chico Buarque

The Brazilian author Chico Buarque is the latest winner of the Camões Prize. This book is a combination of fiction and reality. When he was 22 years old, Buarque discovered that he had a brother in Germany, so he decided to write a book about that. Continue reading

Books I Almost Loved

Very rarely do I rate books with five stars. For that to happen, a book has to be perfect in every regard in my opinion. I can’t even have a minor complaint. As I decided early on not to use half stars on my ratings, I always award four stars to books that weren’t flawless but that I almost loved. Only by reading the review can my high esteem for such books be fully perceived. The following eight books fall under that category.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

This retelling of an Ancient Greek myth resembles a fictional memoir. Circe, the daughter of Helios (the god of sun) and Perse (a nymph), was sentenced to exile as a punishment for using witchcraft against her own kind. Throughout the book, Madeline Miller delves into the meaning of love and the fear of losing a dear one. The prose is gripping and the characters feel truly real, thanks to a tangible portrayal of emotions, particularly those of Circe. However, the book loses a bit of its enchantment when Circe tells stories about Odysseus.

 

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

The first book in The Farseer Trilogy is not only a story of court intrigue and lust for power, but also a true interpretation of human emotions. When he was 6 years old, Fitz was left by his grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. Some years later, he started being trained as an assassin in secret. The detailed and absorbing writing style is one of the highlights of this fantasy book. Unfortunately, the last chapter is not as thorough and some events are just briefly mentioned. Continue reading

Banned Books that I Read

Throughout the centuries and around the world, governments banned books for political, ideological and religious reasons, curbing freedom and creativity. After a quick search online, I discovered that at least seven of the books that I remember reading were banned in some countries at specific points in time.

 

1984 by George Orwell

This dystopian novel was banned in the Soviet Union, since Stalin considered it to be a satire of his leadership. It is set in a time of permanent war, government surveillance and public manipulation. There is only one party that is personified in the Big Brother. In this context, Winston, a rewriter of historical events, has an affair with Julia, who opposes the party.

 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Banned in South Africa during the Apartheid, this classic delves into how a creator deals with the destructive actions of his creation, while making interesting observations on discrimination and economic inequality. Readers follow what happens after Victor Frankenstein manages to animate lifeless matter and the creature born of that experiment doesn’t meet his expectations. Continue reading

Authors I Discovered Thanks to the Bookish Community

Blogs and YouTube channels mainly focused on books are a fantastic resource for readers, if I can say so myself. Thanks to various bloggers and youtubers, I discovered some authors whom I had never heard of before and whose books I also haven’t seen displayed in bookshops in Portugal since then.

When I started thinking about authors that I learnt about thanks to the bookish community, six names immediately sprang to mind. But this is by no means an exhaustive list.

 

Daphne du Maurier

It may be a surprise to some of you to see Daphne du Maurier’s name on this list. But, being from Portugal, she was a complete unknown to me. It was thanks to either Lauren from Lauren and the Books or Simon from SavidgeReads on YouTube that I decided to read the magnificent Rebecca. Since then, I’ve also read Jamaica Inn, The King’s General, My Cousin Rachel, The House on the Strand and The Birds and Other Stories. Her work is, generally speaking, atmospheric, full of vivid characters and sprinkled with mystery. Continue reading

Read in Translation, Want to Read the Original

As those of you who have been following my blog for a while probably already know, my first language is Portuguese. The first fiction book that I read in its entirety in English was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, because I didn’t want to wait for the translation. It was only after 2010, however, that I started reading the original versions of English books more recurrently. Nowadays, I don’t read the translations of books originally written in English anymore. Not only is it a great way to practise my English reading skills, but ordering books from the UK is also cheaper than to buy them in Portugal.

There are three books by English authors that I read the translation into Portuguese, but that I’m eager to read the original version of.

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I read the Portuguese translation of Pride and Prejudice, titled Orgulho e Preconceito, more or less 13 years ago. The heroine of the novel is Elizabeth Bennet. Her mother is eager to marry all of her five daughters. Elizabeth is playful, intelligent and witty, but she also makes quick judgements about people. One of them is Mr Darcy. The misunderstandings between the two of them are also a consequence of his prideful nature and of the importance he gives to social status. The believable characters are accompanied by great moments of satire. Continue reading

High-rated Books I Didn’t Like

If there are books with a low rating on Goodreads that I liked, there are also high-rated ones that I didn’t enjoy. The last time that I checked, the four books listed on this post had an average rating of more than four stars, but I either didn’t finish them or rated them with two stars. No book can ever please everyone!

 

Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich

This non-fiction book was nothing but disappointing. Although it has an average rating of 4.43 on Goodreads, I couldn’t rate it with more than 2 stars. It’s a collection of testimonies about the nuclear disaster in Ukraine in 1986, which also strongly affected Belarus. The author interviewed displaced people, soldiers, doctors, scientists and people who returned to a village that had been evacuated. It raises interesting questions, but they’re never fully explored. The statements are not edited, analysed nor contextualised with further information.

 

The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov

When I decided to read this book, I wasn’t entirely sure about what to expect. I hadn’t heard much about it beforehand. I can now only describe it as a compilation of snippets from the narrator’s past, the life of this family and Bulgarian history, which the author tried to connect with the myth of the Minotaur. I rated it with 2 stars, as it is excessively rambling and mentions a myriad of themes that only rarely are interesting. Many people seem to like it, though, as it has an average rating of 4.09. Continue reading

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

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