Book Series I’ve Recently Finished

Starting a book series can be a daunting experience, particularly when it is longer than three books and they are massive. When a series doesn’t have a clear direction, a well thought out beginning, middle and end, it can feel like the author is only still writing it because it was originally successful. It becomes a chore to read book after book just to get to the end of a story that we lost interest in mid-way through. However, some book series, in spite of our original reservations, prove to be a delightful journey to a new world or an immersive exploration of realistic characters.

I’ve recently finished four book series that were, overall, a joy to read. They are all very different from one another, despite two of them falling into the fantasy genre.

 

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb wrote five fantasy series set in the Realm of the Elderlings. The Farseer Trilogy is the first one. Set mainly in the Six Duchies, a kingdom ruled by the Farseers, it has as narrator and main character the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, Fitz, who is for the most part a convincing character and not an unflawed hero. He was both trained as an assassin and in the traditional magic of the family – the Skill. He also soon realised that he could establish a close bond with animals. Though for a while he didn’t know what that meant, he had the power of the beast blood – the Wit. This is a story that delves into court intrigue, lust for power, the difference between duty and self-indulgence, while also believably exploring various human emotions. Continue reading

Why I Write Negative Book Reviews

Reading a book is a subjective experience. More often than not, it’s possible for readers to interpret the personalities of the characters, the descriptions and even the overall message of the book in different ways. When we pick up a book, we also have unique expectations, which tend to mirror what we enjoy in a story. For all of these and many other reasons, it’s impossible for a book to be universally loved. Some bloggers choose to only write reviews about the books that they enjoyed. I, on the other hand, don’t have any qualms about writing negative reviews.

I’m sure that it is distressing for an author to read a negative review about a book that is the result of months, if not years, of intense work. I don’t write reviews for the authors of the books, however. I envisage the audience of my blog (that is to say, the small number of lovely people who read my musings) to consist of other readers who want to not only know more about certain books, but also share opinions on them. Thus, I don’t tag the authors of the books on my reviews. I only imagine doing so if a book is a 5-star read, as these are the only faultless books to me.

I rate the vast majority of the books that I enjoyed and think are worthy of reading with four stars, though. For that reason, in most of my reviews, I mention at least one small element that I thought was not perfectly accomplished. As long as the book is not a 5-star read, I always remark on what I liked and didn’t like about it. But other readers may not have a problem with what I didn’t like about a book. For example, books that mostly consist of snippets, save for rare exceptions, don’t tend to work for me. If this is something that other readers enjoy, they may still decide to pick up a book I didn’t like after reading my review. Continue reading

Paperback Releases I’m Excited About

Paperbacks should be far more appreciated! They are light and compact, fitting perfectly in our bags, which allows us, devoted readers, to take them everywhere. Very rarely do I buy the hardback editions of books, despite them being published at least a year earlier than paperbacks in the UK (publishing practices in Portugal are entirely different in this regard).

At the moment, there are seven books that I’m excited to read in paperback, although I probably won’t be able to get to them all this year.

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I have sky-high expectations for this novel, as it has not only been highly praised by many reviewers, but it has also won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. In 1596, a little girl, who lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, is taken ill with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, tries to find someone to help them, since they are alone at home. Agnes, their mother, is in a garden where she plants medicinal herbs, and their father, who happens to be Shakespeare, is working in London. They still have no idea that Hamnet will not live long. It will be released in paperback on the 1st of April. Continue reading

Last Ten Books Tag

A week ago, I saw the Last Ten Books Tag on Marina Sofia’s blog (I couldn’t unearth who the original creator was) and decided to give it a go, although I don’t tend to do tags very often. I always struggle to come up with answers for numerous of the questions asked on tags for some reason, so forgive me if my replies are not particularly remarkable and insightful.

 

Last book I gave up on

This one is easy! I gave up on War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy early on in January after reading less than ten chapters. In 1805, Anna Pavlovna organised a soirée where various characters discussed not only their lives, but also Napoleon and his political and military movements. I just couldn’t memorise whom any of the characters were or their connections with one another. For that reason, I lost all interest in this massive novel, which I had been meaning to read for years.

 

Last book I reread

After deciding not to finish War and Peace, I figured that it was a good idea to read an old favourite. I reread Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and loved it as much as the first time around. The dystopian society it portrays is well known for its telescreens and being ruled by the Party, whose face is the Big Brother. Winston, the main character, works in the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites past information. His life gets progressively more complicated as he becomes involved with Julia. Continue reading

My Penguin English Library Collection II

It’s so satisfying to look at the colourful and stripy spines of the Penguin English Library classics lined on my shelves that I’m always eager to add more copies to my collection. I obviously have to be interested in the story as well. I don’t buy them solely for the covers and overall design by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Since I revealed the classics that I had in these editions almost four years ago, I bought a few more. I have now sixteen in total. Most of my latest acquisitions were written by Charles Dickens, but there are other authors amongst the seven books mentioned in this post.

 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Despite being full of unpleasant characters, Wuthering Heights is a gripping and convincing novel, which explores obsession and revenge in a believable way. Mr Earnshaw found Heathcliff on the streets of Liverpool when he was just a boy and took him to Wuthering Heights to live with him and his children. While he was looked down on by Hindley, he grew very close to Catherine. His unhealthy fascination with her led him to seek revenge. Continue reading

3-Star Books I Kept Because of a Specific Feature

A few years ago, I decided against keeping on my shelves all of the books that I read. First, I gave away almost all of the books that I read when I was a child and a teenager. I only kept the ones that I assumed I would still enjoy if I ever read them again as an adult. Then I decided to only keep the books that I enjoyed or loved, that is to say the ones that I rated with either four or five stars, plus some special three-star reads.

You may be wondering what makes a three-star book special. It has to fall within at least one of a couple of categories: having been almost a 4-star read, which was the case of Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors and The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis; being part of a collection, such as the Penguin English Library, or of a book series which I enjoy in general; or featuring a specific element that stood out to me because of how well it was crafted. I also used to keep 3-star books by authors whose work I overall cherish, but I only do so now when they fit into one of the previous categories.

The eight books below stood out from other 3-star reads because they feature a character that I loved, an interesting structure, an intriguing narrator, a tangible array of feelings or one strand of many that I highly enjoyed. Continue reading

Most Disappointing Books of 2020

As much as I would love to enjoy all of the books that I pick up, that is sadly not the case. Although I liked the vast majority of the books that I read in 2020, some of them were definitely disappointing. Two of the three books mentioned below I didn’t even finish, seeing that I had no hope that they would grip me at any point. This is (obviously!) not an attack on any of the authors. I even liked all of the other books that I read in the past by one of them. It’s impossible for a book to impress all readers. Just because I didn’t cherish reading these books, it doesn’t mean that others won’t.

 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The main character of this novella, Edna Pontellier, is a married woman with two children who started to break with conventions after becoming infatuated with another man. Despite understanding the importance of this book as a work of early American feminism, I didn’t like it. The resolution is not satisfying and even seems to contradict the questions raised throughout. There aren’t also enough details, the characters are not fully fledged, and the writing style is for the most part dull.

 

Lillias Fraser by Hélia Correia

I was so eager to like Lillias Fraser by the Portuguese author Hélia Correia that I even tried to read it twice. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working for me, so I decided not to finish it for good after a second attempt. Partially set in Scotland in 1746, it has as main character Lillias, the daughter of Tom Fraser. Having had a vision of her father dying, she ran away during the battle of Culloden. She then managed to leave Scotland with the help of Anne MacIntosh. Continue reading

Bookish Resolutions for 2021

2021 has only just started, but it already provided scenes and occurrences worthy of a nightmare. One way to make everything seem better is to focus on books and the joy they bring. During this year, I want to fulfil some reading goals as always. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, though, so my bookish resolutions for 2021 are deliberately not particularly challenging.

I intend to read at least 25 books. This is a significantly lower number than in previous years, mainly because I’m planning to read some huge books (longer than 800 pages) and I’ll obviously take much longer to finish them in comparison with medium-sized ones. If I read more pages than last year, I’ll be more than happy.

My second resolution is to read at least eight books by Lusophone authors. Lately, I’ve been mainly reading books originally written in English or translated into English, not only because they are cheaper than books published in Portugal, but also because of all your amazing recommendations. In 2020, I only read four books written by Lusophone authors, which is disconcerting, since Portuguese is my mother tongue. There are three books, for example, that I wanted to read last year but didn’t manage to and that I definitely want to pick up this year – A Maçã no Escuro (The Apple in the Dark) by Clarice Lispector, O Irmão Alemão (My German Brother) by Chico Buarque and O Quase Fim do Mundo by Pepetela. Continue reading

2020 Bookish Resolutions’ Evaluation

When 2020 was still a promising year, that is to say in its first weeks, I set myself a few goals regarding my reading and the content I wanted to publish on this blog. The time has now come to evaluate whether I fulfilled them or not.

I wanted to read at least 35 books, having even the aspiration to read more pages than the year before. I failed to achieve my reading goal, though. Not only did I just finish 30 books, I also read fewer pages than in 2019. I blame the pandemic for this. Throughout the majority of the year, I struggled to read for long periods of time, even when I was enjoying the books.

Another of my reading resolutions was to finish three of the book series that I was reading. And I did! I completed The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan, As Areias do Imperador (Sands of the Emperor) by Mia Couto, and The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. They are incredibly distinct in terms of genres and writing styles, but I relished reading all of them. Continue reading

Books to Gift Reluctant Readers This Christmas

Readers love sharing their passion for books with other people. But what if your loved ones, be they friends or family members, are not massive readers? Can you still gift them books for Christmas? If they truly hate reading, the answer is probably no. However, if they are just not overly enthusiastic about the act of sitting down and read for a while, there is probably still a chance that they may not loathe receiving a book as a gift. Possibly, that book may even make them pick up other books in the future.

This post is not a list of specific books that I recommend to reluctant readers. Although I mention a couple of titles (the majority of which I haven’t read myself) as examples, I’ve just mainly decided to share with you some ideas about the types of books that unenthusiastic readers may be more willing to pick up, depending on their interests.

 

Companion books for TV series and films

Those who are huge fans of certain TV series or films may like knowing more about their production. Luckily for them, there are various books that focus on the behind the scenes of various shows and blockbusters. If they like Game of Thrones, for example, there are various books about the making of the show – Game of Thrones: The Costumes by Michele Clapton with Gina McIntyre, The Art of Game of Thrones – The Official Book of Design from Season 1 to Season 8 by Deborah Riley with Jody Revenson, or Game of Thrones: A Guide to Westeros and Beyond by Miles McNutt. I don’t own any of these books, but they look stunning! There are also various such books about the Harry Potter films, for instance. Continue reading