‘Instante’ (‘Moment’) by Wislawa Szymborska

My rating: 3 stars

Instante (Moment) by Wislawa Szymborska was the book I chose to represent Poland at the ‘EU still 28’ reading project. I believe this was my first time reading a poetry collection which was not originally written in Portuguese but translated into it. So, I’m not entirely certain if my misgivings in relation to some of these poems are due to the translation or to Szymborska’s writing style.

Being faithful to the title of the collection, various poems seem to have been inspired by moments and snippets from people’s lives. These moments, conveyed through a rather direct style, are comprised of both casual daily life occurrences and highly significant events. For example, ‘Fotografia de 11 de Setembro’ (‘Photograph from September 11’) focuses on the moment when people started to jump from the towers of the World Trade Centre complex following the terrorist attack in 2001.

Time is another recurring element in this collection. ‘As Três Palavras Mais Estranhas’ (‘The Three Oddest Words’) uses the word ‘future’ to demonstrate how time is inescapably brief. After all, before we finish saying ‘future’, the first syllable is already in the past. Continue reading


‘The King’s General’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

The King’s General was the third book I read by Daphne du Maurier, following the magnificent Rebecca and the enigmatic My Cousin Rachel. So, I could not help but compare it with the other two while reading. It feels quite different, not being either as atmospheric or as mysterious. Both characteristics are still present, they are just not as prevalent as I had anticipated before starting to delve into the pages of this historical novel about pride, love, war, betrayal and acceptance.

In 1653, Honor Harris, the narrator of this story, muses about previous life events and decides to write about them so that people understand why she loved Richard Grenvile despite all his faults. As with the other books I’ve read by Daphne du Maurier, the first chapter is utterly intriguing, attention-grabbing, and deserves to be reread after finishing the novel.

Honor takes us 30 years back in time to the moment when her oldest brother Kit returned home to Lanrest newlywed to Gartred, a young woman from a really important family – the Grenviles. Honor was 10 years old back then, and until that occasion had assumed that people married for love. Continue reading

Reducing the Number of Books on My Wish List

One of the results of following so many great bloggers and BookTubers is that I keep adding new books to my wish list. I’ve recently created a Goodreads account (yes, it took me quite a while) and decided to only add books I own but haven’t read yet to my “want to read” shelf. Therefore, I’ll continue to take advantage of Amazon lists to keep up with all the books that caught my attention and that I want to read in the future, as I’ve been doing for years, regardless if I end up ordering the books from there or not.

The number of books on my wish list grew a bit out of control, though. So, I decided to take a closer look at it in order to assess if I still yearned to read all those books. After spending almost two hours scrolling through it and reading many blurbs, I realised that I didn’t even remember why I had added some of them to my wish list in the first place.

I had around 560 books on the list before going over it, and have to admit feeling relieved after removing 94 which I didn’t feel like reading any longer. Nevertheless, I’m listing them below so, if some of them are among your favourite books of all time, you can convince me to read them after all. Continue reading

Book Haul – January 2018

I decided to celebrate the arrival of 2018 by buying more books! And, more importantly, I badly needed three of them for my ‘EU still 28’ reading project. Two of the four books I recently acquired were written by authors I haven’t read before, while the other two are by an author whose work I’m already familiar with and that I tend to really enjoy.

The four newest additions to my shelves are:


The Life of Hunger by Amélie Nothomb

The Life of Hunger is the book I chose to read by a Belgian writer for the ‘EU still 28’ project. It’s a fictional memoir about the formative journeys of Nothomb’s youth, during which she suffered from acute anorexia. Continue reading

‘A Sibila’ by Agustina Bessa-Luís

My rating: 2 stars

I made the decision to read a book by Agustina Bessa-Luís some time ago while searching for Portuguese authors to add to my list of 100 Women Writers to Read in my Lifetime. The short articles I read portrayed her as a prodigious writer, and A Sibila was said to be her best book. However, after forcing myself to finish this novel, I really can’t understand the reason why she is so revered.

The first characters to be introduced to the readers are Germana and Bernardo Sanches. They are gazing at an old house, and, without paying much attention to what Bernardo is saying, Germa starts talking about Quina, whose real name was Joaquina Augusta. She was the second daughter of Maria da Encarnação and Francisco Teixeira, and is the main character in this novel.

Quina wasn’t beautiful and didn’t mind lying when she saw necessary. Generally speaking, she didn’t like other women. She scorned being part of a group of girls who had to be submissive and whose best hope was to marry. However, this topic is never fully developed. Her personality is, most of the times, straightforwardly enumerated by the narrator, no examples being given of specific actions or situations that would explain why she was being characterised in a certain way. Quina changes when a new person enters in her life later on in the book. At that moment, it feels like the story is finally going to become interesting, but it doesn’t. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – January 2018

January hasn’t been a particularly remarkable month generally speaking. It was a strange period during which I was both disappointed Christmas was over and eager for spring to finally come. Nevertheless, I have a few favourites to share with you concerning books, music and TV series.

At the end of last year, I watched the first season of The Crown and surprisingly quite enjoyed it. This month I watched the second season, but unfortunately ended up not liking it as much. However, there was one episode that stood out from the rest: Dear Mrs Kennedy. Immediately after watching it, I proceeded to search for information about the events mentioned to know whether the meeting between Elizabeth and Jackie Kennedy was true or fiction.

I haven’t read that many books this month. In fact, so far, I’ve only finished one, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, and am currently forcing myself to get to the end of Sibila by Agustina Bessa-Luís, mainly because she is one of the authors featured in my list of 100 women writers to read in my lifetime. All things considered, Alias Grace deserves a place among my favourites from this month. This is a novel about Grace Marks and the role she played in the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. While reading it, I felt like a detective looking for clues that would make sense of the events surrounding the crimes. Continue reading

José Saramago’s Work in Exhibition at ‘Casa dos Bicos’

Not far from the river Tagus bank in Lisbon, at Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, there is a hundred-year-old olive tree underneath which José Saramago’s ashes are buried. But that is not the only spot you can visit in case you’re interested in the work of the renowned Portuguese writer. Nearby, the José Saramago Foundation houses a permanent exhibition named The Seed and the Fruits focusing on his life and work.

The José Saramago Foundation is a private cultural institution which has been headquartered at ‘Casa dos Bicos’ since 2012. The name of the house stems from its original façade decorated in diamond-shape protrusions which resemble beaks (‘bicos’ in Portuguese). It was built in the early 16th century and survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which destroyed great part of the city.

The walls of the first floor, which houses the permanent exhibition, are festooned not only with the various books written by José Saramago and their translations into many languages, but also with photographs in which he is in the company of other authors, artists and politicians. Inside the many display cases, there are edited manuscripts, personal organisers and notebooks, which he used to take notes while writing. It’s also possible to listen to Saramago reading excerpts from some of his books, including O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ) and O Memorial do Convento (Baltasar & Blimunda), to watch his Nobel Prize in Literature speech and to see the respective medal. Continue reading

‘Alias Grace’ by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 stars

While reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood I felt almost like a detective searching for clues that could shed some light on the role of the main character, Grace Marks, in the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper. This book is based on a true story, and I became rather intrigued by it while reading the fairly mysterious first chapter.

The narration of the book starts in 1851, when Grace is 24 years old. She has been in jail for eight years, since she was found guilty together with James McDermott of the two murders. While James was hanged, she is serving a life sentence at a penitentiary in Canada. They both worked at Thomas Kinnear’s house, Grace as a serving maid and James as a stable hand.

One day in 1859 she is at the parlour of the Governor’s wife, where she spends some time helping with the chores, when a doctor arrives with the aim of measuring her head. However, as he approaches, she starts screaming and is afterwards taken to solitary confinement. While there, she receives a visit from another doctor, Simon Jordan, who wants to hear everything she has to say, since he focuses on the “diseases of the mind and brain, and the nerves”. Continue reading

Dragons in Books

Many books in the fantasy genre feature dragons as real animals and not as mythical creatures no one has ever seen. They are serpentine beings who spew fire, and have both reptilian and avian traits. Despite sharing these characteristics, the role they play in a specific story vary according to the world created by each author. In some books dragons can speak or have riders, while in others they are subject to scientific studies. I’ve read a few books which include dragons, all having different parts to play.

When we think about the Harry Potter series the first word that comes to mind is wizards. But the books in this beloved series also feature dragons, although they are not one of the major elements of the world created by J.K. Rowling. They were used as an obstacle to be overcome in the first task of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for example. Dragons, in the world of the Harry Potter series, are generally considered impossible to either train or domesticate. They are seen as dangerous, since they can kill wizards. Nonetheless, there are people trained to work with them.

Dragons assume a more relevant and totally different role in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan. This is a fantasy and adventure series where the protagonist, Lady Trent, recalls how she became a famous and respected dragon naturalist. So far, I’ve only read the first two books – A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents. However, it is obvious from the very beginning that in this series dragons are not portrayed as magical or mythological creatures, but real wild animals who roam free in various parts of the world and are scientifically studied. Continue reading

Most Owned and Read Authors – Update

At the beginning of last year, I published a post on my most owned and read authors and decided to write a similar one every year to see how that list changed over time. The most predominant writers among my read books are more or less the same this time around, and the slight changes which occurred are mainly due to my decision of taking some of the books from my childhood and teenage years out of my shelves, since I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be reading them ever again.

So, I now believe that writing a post like this every year is a bit excessive, since no substantial changes are bound to occur in such a period of time, unless I get rid of more books, which is unlikely in the near future. I’m now keener on only writing an updated version of my most owned and read authors when I can distinguish significant changes on the list below beforehand.

The current list features four of the same authors as the first one and there is only one new addition. Continue reading