Love a Book, Judge the Next

Loving the first book that we read by an author is a fabulous experience, regardless if they are at the beginning of their writing career or if they already have various books published. The downside is that it can make us be much harsher when reading a second book by them. I think this happened to me a few times. I loved the first books that I read by certain authors so much that I ended up being much severe when judging my following reads by them.

 

Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

The first book that I read by Daphne du Maurier was the magnificent Rebecca, an enthralling, enigmatic and atmospheric novel, which is full of fleshed out characters. After marrying Maxim de Winter, the unnamed narrator moved with him to his family home, Manderley. She already felt inferior to his first wife, Rebecca, before, but living there only increased her insecurities and her sense of inaptitude.

After loving Rebecca, I was eager to continue exploring Du Maurier’s work. I soon picked up My Cousin Rachel. Philip, the narrator of the story, was raised by his older cousin Ambrose, who married Rachel while in Italy. Not long after his marriage, he died. Although Philip harboured suspicions about the role of his cousin Rachel in Ambrose’s death, he ended up falling in love with her. There’s a mysterious ambience throughout, as readers are skilfully led to have conflicting feelings about the characters. I was not fully convinced by how Philip fell so head over heels with Rachel, though. Despite being certain that I didn’t like it nowhere near as much as Rebecca, I feel like I was a bit too harsh on my review. Continue reading

Books Between a 3 and a 4-Star Rating

Deciding on the rating of a book can sometimes be difficult. I usually struggle when my opinions and feelings about a book change throughout the reading experience. Some books have great beginnings, while others become outstanding closer to the end. I decided early on not to give half-stars, since that would make me overthink (even more) the rating. Why only give a book 3.5 stars when it could maybe be a 3.75? That decision left me with another problem, though – how to rate books that I enjoyed for the most part, but that I also had more qualms about than I typically do for a four-star read.

There are at least five books that I struggled to decide whether to rate with four or three stars.

 

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

The second book in The Farseer Trilogy continues to tell the story of Fitz, who, being the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, is a member of the Farseer royal family. Court intrigue, battles and magic abound in this novel that I rated with four stars after some contemplation. For almost half of the book, the plot doesn’t seem to have a well-defined direction and the pacing is all over the place. However, the rest of the book is engaging and affecting. The characters gain a new life and shine as bright as in the first book in the trilogy, Assassin’s Apprentice. Continue reading

Nobel Prize in Literature Winners I’ve Read

The American poet Louise Glück has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in this bizarre 2020. I’ve never read her work, so I don’t have an opinion on how deserved the recognition is. There are other Nobel Prize Winners whose books I’ve read, though. Some I liked immensely, a couple I have almost no recollection of, and others I just didn’t enjoy at all. Literature is not objective after all and we all have opinions.

 

Svetlana Alexievich

The Belarusian author Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015 “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”, as the Swedish Academy put it. I’ve only read one book by her, so far. I had high hopes for Chernobyl Prayer, but my expectations weren’t met. This non-fiction book about the nuclear disaster that took place in 1986 in Ukraine and highly affected Belarus is a collection of testimonies, some of which are invaluable. Alexievich interviewed former workers of the power plant, doctors, scientists, soldiers and displaced people. Although it raises interesting questions, overall it lacks context and editing to make the testimonies more engaging.

 

Mario Vargas Llosa

In 2010, the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat”. Many years ago, I read the novel The Way to Paradise, which I don’t remember much about to be honest. I’m not even sure whether I enjoyed it or not anymore. It focuses on the painter Paul Gauguin and the feminist Flora Tristan, who was his grandmother. Continue reading

So Different and So Similar Pairs of Books

Two books can have significant elements in common and still tell different stories. Characters may face similar situations, but their individual choices take the plots in completely different directions. The themes of two novels may be similar, but the action, the characters and the writing style ensure that they are ultimately distinctive and readers are still experiencing a fresh story.

I’ve read (at least) four pairs of books that are both different and similar for various reasons.

 

História do Cerco de Lisboa (The History of the Siege of Lisbon) by José Saramago + The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

These two novels have in common being my least favourites, so far, by José Saramago and Daphne du Maurier, two authors I adore. This is not the reason why I chose them to be part of this post. Both of them are also set in two different time periods, which are connected by a man. The tribulations that the characters face, however, are completely different. Continue reading

TV Adaptations I Watched Before Reading the Books

I don’t always attempt to read the books before watching their adaptations. That is true for films and TV series alike. TV adaptations have, in fact, introduced me not only to books that I loved and cherished, but also to ones that I hope to enjoy in the future. Occasionally, I watch adaptations that don’t arouse my interest in reading the books for a variety of reasons (Outlander, Poldark and Normal People are some examples). This post is, however, about the TV adaptations of books that I’ve now already read or that I still want to read!

 

The Luminaries

I’ve watched The Luminaries this summer. Although I didn’t love it, since it has too few episodes to become familiar with the characters, it left me eager to read the book by Eleanor Catton, which I’m hoping to enjoy much more. It is set in New Zealand in the 19th century and focuses on Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines.

 

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Before reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, I watched the BBC adaptation in 2015. A year later, I decided to pick up the book, since the story had fascinated me. Set in the 19th century, it’s an alternate history and fantasy novel about the restoration of English magic. Two practical magicians, who have very distinctive personalities, are commissioned to help win the war against Napoleon. Continue reading

A Photographic Bookshelf Tour

Bookshelf tours are some of my favourite videos to watch on YouTube, since I like knowing how other readers organise their shelves and what books they keep on them. Until recently, I thought that this type of content wasn’t really appropriate for a blog. Last month, however, I discovered Meg’s blog, The Bookish Linguist, and on it I found a post where she shared photos of her bookshelves. I immediately decided to do something similar!

My shelves are not meticulously organised. I do have two basic rules that I always stick to, though. Not only do I keep unread books apart from the ones that I’ve already read, but I also always place read books by the same author next to each other. Moreover, I try to keep books from the same collection together, whenever this doesn’t go against my main rules. I also decided not to keep all the books that I’ve read. I always keep books that I’ve rated with either five or four stars. Occasionally, I also find a place for some three-star reads, especially when they are part of a collection or feature a specific noteworthy element.

I’ve already read almost all of the books that I own, as since last year I’ve been trying to only buy books as I read them. It helps me to never stop being interested in reading the books that I own. Continue reading

Huge Books on My Wish List

Since I’ve started setting myself a minimum number of books to read in each given year, I feel like I’ve been (unconsciously) avoiding picking up huge books. I only read around an hour per day on average, so it takes me several weeks to read a book longer than 800 pages. There are four massive books that I want to read soon, though! And by soon, I mean probably next year, since I will have to either maybe lower the number of books on my usual reading challenge or not to have one at all.

 

The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber

Set in Victorian London, it has as main character Sugar, a young woman trying to achieve a better life in any way she can. It is around 860 pages long. As the majority of the reviews that I read are quite positive, it has inexcusably been on my wish list for far too long.

 

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the fantasy series The Farseer Trilogy (the first one more than the second to be honest), whose main character and narrator is the royal bastard Fitz. Thus, I’m curious to read the third instalment, Assassin’s Quest. At the same time, however, I’m fearful, as I found Royal Assassin unnecessarily lengthy and its follow-up is even longer. Will it justify being around 840 pages long? Continue reading

The Inside and Out Book Tag

I’ve been meaning to write about some of my reading preferences for a long while, but I was struggling to turn my ideas into a coherent blog post. This week a solution presented itself when I discovered the Inside and Out Book Tag, thanks to Marina Sofia and Elisabeth van der Meer. Unfortunately, I don’t know who is the original creator of this tag. Though I don’t do tags often, my answers to the majority of the questions are just what I was interested in writing about.

 

  1. Inside flap / back of the book summaries: too much info? Or not enough?

It depends on the book. Some blurbs just give too much information away, while others fail to entice me into reading, since they don’t properly explain what the stories are about. I like a blurb that arouses my curiosity without spoilers. Some Portuguese editions, for example, have appalling “summaries”, as the only information they provide is a quote from the book and nothing else.

 

  1. New book: what form do you want it in? Be honest: audiobook, eBook, paperback or hardcover?

Paperback! It’s my favourite format by far. Very rarely do I buy hardbacks, because they are too heavy, usually more expensive, and I don’t like dust jackets. I only go for hardbacks in case I have been waiting for the release a book in a series for a couple of years, or when their covers’ design is far more appealing for some reason. I found the hardbacks of Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet eye-catching, since they only have a small dust jacket, for example. Audiobooks and eBooks are not for me, as I have a terrible listening attention span when I’m not taking notes of what is being said and I don’t like reading long-form writing on a screen. Continue reading

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