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

Monthly Favourites – December 2020

On the first day of 2021 (Happy New Year!), I look back on my favourites from the last month of 2020! Today I’m sharing with you a book, a set of YouTube videos, a blog post and a Christmas dessert.

I finished three books in December and enjoyed all of them. But my favourite was História da Menina Perdida (The Story of the Lost Child in the English translation) by Elena Ferrante. The last book in The Neapolitan Novels continues to focus on Elena and Lila’s convoluted friendship, while also delving into the complex relationship between mothers and daughters and the Neapolitan society of the time. Thanks to its conversational writing style, it is for the most part highly engaging. Although on some days I didn’t feel like picking it up, when I did, I could read it for long periods of time, something I struggled to do last year.

Throughout December, I watched even more YouTube videos than usual, mainly because of Vlogmas (this is when YouTubers post videos almost every day on the run-up to Christmas). I don’t have one specific video as a favourite, having liked various of the videos created by Lauren and the Books and Lauren Wade. Continue reading

‘História da Menina Perdida’ (‘The Story of the Lost Child’) by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 4 stars

The first three books in The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante – My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (about which there are spoilers ahead) – cast light on Elena and Lila’s convoluted and fascinating friendship. The last instalment in the series, História da Menina Perdida (The Story of the Lost Child in the English translation), is no exception in that respect. However, it also heavily focuses on the complex relationship between mothers and daughters, all while painting a clear picture of the Neapolitan society of the time.

In this forth instalment, the story resumes the moment after Elena left her husband, Pietro Airota, and went with Nino Sarratore to Montpellier, where he had to attend a congress. While there, she phoned Pietro, whom informed her that the two girls didn’t want her to be their mother anymore. That hurt Elena. Nevertheless, when she returned to Florence, her daughters welcomed her with enthusiasm. Their reaction wasn’t as cheerful when, after a while, she told them that she needed to go to Naples.

Elena’s life was in turmoil. Her little book was going to be published in France, she wanted to separate from her husband, and also needed to decide on a place to live with her daughters. The last thing that she wanted was to meet up with Lila again. While she was in Naples, though, Lila insisted on talking with her and Nino. They met at a café and then went to the Solara’s shoe store, where awaiting Elena were the friends from her old neighbourhood. Elena came to believe that Lila didn’t exert as much power over her as she used to when they were younger, although she feared that Nino could still be interested in her. Continue reading

‘História de Quem Vai e de Quem Fica’ (‘Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay’) by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 4 stars

Elena and Lila’s friendship is at the forefront of the first two books in the Neapolitan Novels, My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name (about which there will be spoilers), despite both also featuring various social considerations. In História de Quem Vai e de Quem Fica (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay in the English translation), on the other hand, Elena Ferrante chose to focus mainly on Elena’s personal tribulations and on various political issues. Nevertheless, for the most part, it is still as engaging as the previous novels.

The book starts with Elena remembering the last time that she saw Lila before her disappearance. She hopes that Lila will somehow discover that she is writing their story and will reappear, since she has forbidden Elena to ever write about her. She then turns her attention to the last event from the previous book, more than 40 years beforehand. After encountering Nino Sarratore at the presentation of her book, they went out for dinner with other two companions. She started doubting her capabilities again. She didn’t know enough about the topics that they were discussing – the political situation in Greece, the prominence of the students’ movement throughout Europe – which led her to feel inadequate.

Although she was not particularly attached to Naples anymore, she returned there for a while to stay with her family. She spent her time gathering information about what was happening around the world, while dealing with both the positive and the negative reviews of her book. People from the neighbourhood were only interested in asking her about the spicy parts, which vexed her. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2019

2019 was a complicated reading year. I read various praiseworthy novels, short story and poetry collections. In terms of genres, my reading was as varied, featuring classics, literary fiction, fantasy and myth retellings, for example. So far, I’ve read 34 books and will probably finish another one in the following days. However, I decided not to finish eight books, a number higher than ever before, if I’m not mistaken.

This was also the year when I chose to reread a book again after probably decades without doing so. Thus, I had to decide whether to include rereads in my favourite books of the year or not from now on. I decided against it. This post only includes books that I read for the first time during the year, irrespective of date of publication.

I don’t tend to rate books with five stars very often, because they need to be completely flawless for that to happen. This year I only rated one book with five stars, and it was the one that I reread – O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis) by José Saramago. The majority of the books that I rate with four stars are still great, though. Some of the five books that I selected as my favourites of 2019 are indeed almost perfect, in my opinion. In reverse order, they are: Continue reading

Book Series – What I’m Reading

Reading book series is a great way to become fully immersed in a fictional world. I’m currently sinking my teeth into five book series and, until I finish at least one of them, I don’t plan to start a new one. Whenever I complete a book series, the plan is to replace it with another one of those on my wish list. I’m only mentioning on this post the series that I’m not caught up on (reason why the list below doesn’t feature A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin) and that I want to finish.

 

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

This is the first trilogy in a larger fantasy series set in the Realm of the Elderlings. So far, I’ve only read the first book, Assassin’s Apprentice, which is set in the Six Duchies, a land ruled by the Farseers. Fitz, the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, is trained as an assassin and in the traditional magic of the Farseer family – the Skill. Not only is this book full of court intrigue, it also delves into various human emotions.

After finishing this trilogy, I’ll certainly read the other series set in the same world. Although I considered the possibility of reading all the series featuring Fitz first and only afterwards picking up the remaining ones, I’m now more inclined to read them in order of publication. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – May 2019

Another month, another instalment of my monthly favourites! Today, you can expect a long exposition about my favourite TV show. But, fear not, before that I’ll reveal my favourite book and songs from May. I don’t want to bore you to death if you’re not even remotely interested in the show in question.

May was a complex reading month. I read the final pages of a book that I didn’t like and read in their entirety another three. Regarding the latter, I had conflicting feelings about A Cidade de Ulisses (City of Ulysses) by Teolinda Gersão and liked both The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante and The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. After some contemplation, I think my favourite was The Story of a New Name. It is the second book in the Neapolitan novels and continues to follow the lives of the friends Elena and Lila. I wholeheartedly recommend this compelling story about female friendship, which is full of conflicting emotions. It also features reflections on class, equality and social mobility.

Music-wise, I loved two new songs by The Black Keys, ‘Eagle Birds’ and ‘Lo/Hi’. Rock songs that we can dance to are some of my favourites, and these are just great for that. I’m really excited to listen to the new album in full. Continue reading

‘História do Novo Nome’ (‘The Story of a New Name’) by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 4 stars

Elena Ferrante’s ability to write a compelling story about female friendship is impressive. In História do Novo Nome (The Story of a New Name in the English translation), words flow so effortlessly that even the most common events in the characters’ lives are gripping. As in the first and previous instalment of the Neapolitan novels, My Brilliant Friend, which I’ll be spoiling, there are various reflections on class, equality and how even through education it’s difficult to achieve social mobility.

The narrator and main character, Elena, recalls that in the spring of 1966 her friend Lila asked her to keep a box containing eight notebooks, making her promise never to read them. She was afraid her husband would discover them. Elena read them, though. What she learnt is used to give more information about the events she didn’t witness and to summarise what happened to Lila in the first book – the story she wrote as a child; how she wasn’t allowed to continue studying after primary school; her father not liking the designs of her shoes; and her displeasure when Marcello Solara arrived at her wedding party wearing the shoes that she had designed and that her husband, Stefano Carracci, had bought.

The relationship between Elena and Lila was not the best at the time. The following November, Elena threw the box into a river. Her curiosity was making Lila’s life invading hers, and she couldn’t deal with that anymore. She then starts recalling what she experienced immediately after her friend’s wedding. She felt that she should live her life in the same way as Lila – to accept life in the neighbourhood, marry Antonio, abandon school and stop trying to achieve a better life. The following weeks she wandered around Naples instead of attending classes but told no one. Continue reading

Book Haul – April 2019

I hadn’t planned to buy any books this month, but the desire to take part in the Daphne du Maurier reading week in May had me looking for new ones to add to my already overflowing small shelves. Could have I just bought one book? Yes! Did I? Of course not! This is a somewhat diverse haul, featuring a couple of different genres – classics, fantasy and literary fiction.

 

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier is one of the authors that I want to read at least one book by every year. I read Jamaica Inn in January and wasn’t planning to read any other of her books in the following months. But then I discovered that Ali is dedicating a week (13 to 19 May) to du Maurier and decided to join in. For that purpose, I chose The House on the Strand. The main character, Dick Young, drinks a potion provided to him by a chemical researcher that allows him to time travel. He ends up in fourteenth-century Cornwall where he witnesses murder and adultery.

 

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the latest years, I’ve been reading the fantasy book series The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan. In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth instalment and reveals how Lady Trent gained her position in the Scirling Royal Army. All the other books were a mix of adventure with feminism and anthropological elements. I expect the same from this one. Continue reading

‘EU Still 28’ Authors to Continue Reading

Throughout 2018 I read one book by an author from each of the present-day 28 EU members states. I called this project ‘EU still 28’. Some of the books that I read were written by authors whose work I was already familiar with. Others, on the other hand, were penned by writers whom I had never read a book by before.

My first time reading certain authors left me eager to know more about their work. Taking into consideration not only my enjoyment of the books that I read but also my interest in the other ones that are currently available in a language that I can read fluently (Portuguese and English), in the future I will certainly read more books by the eight authors listed below.

 

Robert Seethaler

To represent Austria, I read The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler. Having as main character Franz Huchel, it’s a story about sexual awakening set at the time of the rise of Nazism. I now want to read A Whole Life, which is about the return of a soldier to his village in the Alps after the Second World War. Continue reading