Spring Book Recommendations

Many readers love using the seasons of the year as a form of inspiration when choosing the books that they are going to pick up next. I’m not a seasonal reader myself. However, I can see the appeal of reading books that are in some way connected with or take place during a current season. For that reason, this year I decided to recommend books that I feel suit certain seasons as they are starting.

Since Spring has just officially begun this week in the northern hemisphere, I have five recommendations that just scream “Spring” to me, because they are either set during this time of the year or are related to new beginnings in one way or another.


The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The plot of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim is simple, but it will leave any reader in the mood to enjoy Spring. A group of women rents a small medieval castle in Italy to escape their normal lives during the month of April. Although they all have different reasons to want to spend some time away, their pleasant holidays will make all of them look at their lives from a different angle. The prose is deliciously, but subtly, ironic. There is a casual humorous tone throughout that is an enjoyable complement to the evocative descriptions of the characters’ surroundings. Continue reading


‘A Viagem do Elefante’ (‘The Elephant’s Journey’) by José Saramago

My rating: 4 stars

Inspired by a real historical occurrence, A Viagem do Elefante by José Saramago (The Elephant’s Journey in the translation into English by Margaret Jull Costa) doesn’t have the most exciting and intricate of plots. It is still an engaging book, however. Some of its best assets are the many philosophical and social considerations about various topics, including hierarchical power, human behaviour, religious beliefs, and how fiction is written, which are all included in long, but harmonious, paragraphs.

Set in the 16th century, the book starts the moment King João III of Portugal tells his wife, Catarina from Austria, that he is not pleased with the gift they gave to her cousin, the Archduke Maximilian, for his marriage four years before. Seeing that he happens to be in Spain, the king wants to offer him something else. They agree that Salomão, their elephant from India, is the perfect gift.

The king then chooses a group of people to escort Salomão to Valladolid where the Archduke is staying for a while. Among them is Subhro, the elephant driver. Throughout their journey from Lisbon to the Spanish border, Subhro and the military commander, who is not a cruel man but wants his rank to be respected, have various conversations. One of them is about Christianity and Hinduism, which leads to a priest wanting to bless the elephant. It’s a funny moment, as he just uses water from a nearby well. Continue reading

Favourite Books Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I’m sharing with you my favourite books from the ones that I read and were shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction since the beginning of the award. Its aim is to “change the world through books by women”. A lot of change is needed indeed as, for example, young women and girls are being poisoned in Iranian schools, rape is being used as a weapon of war in Ukraine, the practice of female genital mutilation continues, and the majority of poor people in the world are women.

Although the longlist for this year’s edition was announced yesterday, I’m focusing on previous shortlists instead, because I don’t tend to read many brand-new releases and, thus, don’t have anything particularly interesting to say about the books featured in it.


Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

In 2020, Maggie O’Farrell’s novel Hamnet did not only made it to the shortlist, but also won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Set in the 16th century, it delves into grief, parenthood and love through a fictional story about the death of the son of William Shakespeare, whose name is never mentioned. Despite this being the tale of a family, the focus is mainly on Agnes, his wife. The emotions conveyed feel incredibly real, which makes the book touching and affecting. Plus, the musicality of the prose and the detail with which the actions of the characters are described make for an enthralling reading experience. Continue reading

Books I Almost Loved II

If you have been following my blog for a while, you have probably already realised that very rarely do I rate a book with five stars. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like the vast majority of the books that I read. I do! I would, in fact, recommend all of the books that I give four stars to. However, only when a book is pitch perfect to me (that is when I wouldn’t change a single thing about it) do I award it a rating of five stars.

For that reason, there are books that I rated with four stars but that I was really close to adoring. Only a small detail prevented me from doing so. Almost three years after first writing a post about the books that I almost loved, I thought this was the perfect time to list the ones that were very close to be five-star reads since then.


The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Mostly told from the perspective of Briseis, who recalls her memories from the Trojan war, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker also presents the points of view of Achilles and Patroclus in the third person. This allows to set out a contrast between two ways of grieving. While the women who were enslaved had to grieve discreetly, men could openly seek revenge. The believable and complex characters together with the evocative and haunting descriptions turn this retelling of Homer’s Iliad into an engrossing story that shines on its own. The only reservation I had while reading is that the occasional use of too modern vocabulary can feel slightly grating, even if only momentarily. Continue reading

‘Hag-Seed’ by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 stars

When penning a book inspired by the work of William Shakespeare, authors can choose to just write a story with similar features or directly reference his work. Margaret Atwood opted for a mix of the two in Hag-Seed. Based on The Tempest, it is the story of a father who is struggling to deal with the death of his daughter, while seeking revenge from the people who wronged him. The impact of the emotions conveyed is undeniable. Nonetheless, it could have been even greater had the pacing been more consistent.

The story starts in March 2013. At Fletcher Correctional, a group of inmates is staging a performance of The Tempest. As the play is suddenly interrupted by the sound of shots being fired, readers’ interest and curiosity immediately peaks. We are then taken back in time at first to two months before and then even earlier. Through a third person narration from the perspective of Felix, we learn how he blames himself for not having realised that Tony plotted to assume his place as artistic director of Makeshiweg Festival twelve years before. When that happened, he was working on a production of The Tempest, while dealing with the grief of having lost his daughter, Miranda, to meningitis. His wife had died soon after giving birth to her. He harbours a strong resentment and is struggling financially.

After losing his job at the theatre company, he decided to move to a shanty he found at a hillside dwelling while driving aimlessly. He spent his days first renovating the place, then going to the library, and finally looking at the clouds, until he decided that he needed a purpose in life, which was to stage his version of The Tempest and to get revenge. He wasn’t sure how to achieve this, though. Continue reading

Favourite Female Characters II

Almost six years ago, I wrote a post about my favourite female characters to celebrate International Women’s Day. Since then, I read various other books whose female characters I found as interesting as the ones I mentioned previously (or in some cases even more). Some of them shine because of their compelling personalities. Others may not have an immediately fascinating temperament, but they stand out thanks to their authenticity. Well-crafted characters can be captivating regardless of their traits.

The seven characters mentioned bellow are part of books from various genres, from fantasy to literary and historical fiction. Some I spent a long time with, as they are featured in series, others just a few days. They all have one thing in common, though. They lingered on in my mind. It is also not surprising that three of the characters were created by Daphne du Maurier, since her talent is well known.


Althea Vestrit – The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The younger daughter of Ephron Vestrit, Althea is one of the main characters in Ship of Magic, The Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny, the three books in The Liveship Traders Trilogy by the fantasy writer Robin Hobb. Her family has a liveship called Vivacia and her biggest dream is to be her captain one day. She is wilful and feels restricted by the sexist society she lives in. Although she occasionally makes rash decisions, she reflects on her mistakes. She has her own desires, but can adapt them as the situation around her changes. What she experiences throughout the series is deeply affecting. Continue reading

‘The Snow Ball’ by Brigid Brophy

My rating: 4 stars

Taking place during a single night, the novella The Snow Ball by Brigid Brophy explores different relationships, some involving seduction and perchance love. The contrast between them is partially achieved thanks to the age difference between some of the characters. While Anna is struggling to deal with the inevitability of growing old, Ruth Blumenbaum is still an inexperienced young woman.

New Year’s Eve is a common time for celebration. Anna attends a masquerade ball at the house of her friend Anne. No sooner does the clock chime midnight than a man masked as Don Giovanni kisses her on the lips. Although she runs away from him at the time, afterwards she decides to find him again with Anne’s help. She isn’t successful in locating him. He is the one who finds her. Meanwhile, Ruth is writing a diary about the events she is witnessing at the ball.

The highlights of the book are the conversations between Anna and Don Giovanni. They are extremely gripping. It feels like they are either challenging or trying to impress one another by being witty. There are also many sensuous and funny moments that turn this simple story into a compelling novella, including jokes about Scandinavian names sounding like they are Latin and the jealousy older people feel of the young. Continue reading

Most Disappointing Books of 2022

One year I would love to say that I enjoyed all the books that I read, rendering writing a version of this post unnecessary. Unsurprisingly, that wasn’t the case in 2022. Although I only overall disliked one of the books that I completed and chose to read for enjoyment, I also decided not to finish other four, since I had no hope that they would still manage to grip me. This is a lower number than in the year before, however, which I’m pleased about. There were other books that I read in full that I wouldn’t recommend, but they were passable and not as disappointing as the five below.


Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

When I decided to read Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, I thought it would be a gripping, gloomy mystery. After all, 75-year-old Dame Lettie Colston was receiving anonymous calls from a man who only said “remember you must die”. Instead, it is a book whose main focus is old age and its hardships, fear of dying and the inevitability of death. These could have been interesting subjects to read about had they been explored in a story that wasn’t fragmented, tedious and with almost no character development.


Normal People by Sally Rooney

I debated whether to read Normal People for a long time. After reading many reviews and not being captivated by the adaptation, I was unsure if it was a book for me. I was convinced, however, that it was a book I would read until the end even if I ended up not enjoying it. That was not the case, though. I only read around 100 pages. Continue reading

‘Ship of Destiny’ by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 stars

When readers start immersing themselves in the fantasy world presented in The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb, they have more questions than answers. Fortunately, by the end of Ship of Destiny, the last instalment in the second series set in the Realm of the Elderlings, almost all of those queries have satisfying answers. Some of them can be predicted based on the information provided in the previous books, Ship of Magic and The Mad Ship, while others come as a surprise. Although the development of the plot is not perfectly paced and not all of the strands are equally gripping, most characters are outstandingly portrayed.

In the previous two books various complications arise in Bingtown, Jamaillia, the Rain Wilds and the Pirate Isles. The time has come for the characters to sort it all out. The people of Bingtown have a serious conflict in their midst. Will the Old Traders, New Traders, Tree Ships and slaves manage to forge peace and create a better society? Will Althea get Vivacia back? The origin of wizardwood continues to be explored too with suspicions being surely confirmed. Kennit’s past is further delved into and readers learn why he was so eager to own a liveship.

All the books in the series are told in the third person from various perspectives. In this instalment, they can be grouped into two main strands that gradually start converging. While one is set on land, the other takes place mostly on the high seas. They are not equally gripping, however. The one Althea and Brashen are involved in is not only more engaging, because of their defined goal, but also more affecting, thanks to the detail and care with which their actions are conveyed. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2022

At the beginning of the year, I was full of hopes and dreams. One of them was to read more than 30 books. That didn’t happen! So far, I’ve read for pure enjoyment 22 books in full. Before the year comes to an end, I may still finish the enormous Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb, which I’ve been reading for almost two months now, and probably have time to pick up another play by Shakespeare. I’m ready to reveal my favourite books of the year, though, since I don’t see either of them climbing to the top spots.

My reading experience in 2022 was varied and mostly positive, despite some let-downs. Not only did I read books from various genres – literary fiction, fantasy, classics, allegories, historical fiction, Ancient Greek myth retellings –, but they were also of many formats, including novels, novellas, short story and poetry collections, graphic novels and plays. Although I picked almost only books that were new to me, I also reread Os Maias (The Maias) by Eça de Queirós, having finished the project “rereading my old favourites”.

From the books that I read for the first time in 2022, irrespective of publication date, my favourites, in reverse order, are: Continue reading