Books I Almost Loved

Very rarely do I rate books with five stars. For that to happen, a book has to be perfect in every regard in my opinion. I can’t even have a minor complaint. As I decided early on not to use half stars on my ratings, I always award four stars to books that weren’t flawless but that I almost loved. Only by reading the review can my high esteem for such books be fully perceived. The following eight books fall under that category.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

This retelling of an Ancient Greek myth resembles a fictional memoir. Circe, the daughter of Helios (the god of sun) and Perse (a nymph), was sentenced to exile as a punishment for using witchcraft against her own kind. Throughout the book, Madeline Miller delves into the meaning of love and the fear of losing a dear one. The prose is gripping and the characters feel truly real, thanks to a tangible portrayal of emotions, particularly those of Circe. However, the book loses a bit of its enchantment when Circe tells stories about Odysseus.

 

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

The first book in The Farseer Trilogy is not only a story of court intrigue and lust for power, but also a true interpretation of human emotions. When he was 6 years old, Fitz was left by his grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. Some years later, he started being trained as an assassin in secret. The detailed and absorbing writing style is one of the highlights of this fantasy book. Unfortunately, the last chapter is not as thorough and some events are just briefly mentioned. Continue reading

José Saramago: The Gifted and Uncompromising Portuguese Nobel

The Portuguese author José Saramago was a man of strong convictions. He didn’t shy away from bluntly expressing his views, often causing controversy. But his work and talent shined brighter than any outcry, ideological difference or political disagreement. He published his first novel, Terra do Pecado, in 1947, and until 1966 it remained his only book. Born on 16 November 1922 in the village of Azinhaga, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998, being the only Portuguese writer to have had that honour so far.

When he wasn’t yet two years old, his parents moved to Lisbon, where he grew up. For economic reasons, he had to do a vocational course at a secondary technical school, and his first job was as a car mechanic. It was in a public library that he continued to learn and to cultivate his love for reading. Later, he also worked as a translator and a journalist. He died on 18 June 2010 on the island of Lanzarote (Spain), and his ashes were laid to rest beneath an olive tree near the river Tagus in Lisbon.

He wrote novels, non-fiction, short stories, poetry and plays. His novels challenge genre boundaries, as they mix elements from magical realism, historical and literary fiction. Many are allegories about the human condition and delve into a variety of social and moral issues through stimulating and funny considerations. His characters and narrators lose themselves in their thoughts. Their asides replicate, in a way, how we communicate orally. Continue reading

Writing the Seasons with Books: Summer

I’m a true believer that books don’t have to be read at specific times of the year. As long as the story is immersive, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot outside and snowing in the book. So, instead of recommending books that are appropriate for each season, this year I’m writing the four seasons with books. For that purpose, I take a look at my shelves and select books with titles beginning with the letters of the name of the season that is just starting. After doing that for spring, the time has come to welcome summer!

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This novel focuses on five connected characters – an actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend and a young actress who is a member of the Travelling Symphony. The plot moves back and forth in time, before and after the spread of a deathly virus. Despite all the negative aspects that resulted from it, some cultural activities managed to subsist.

 

Uma Vida à Sua Frente (The Life Before Us) by Romain Gary

The only book that I’ve read by Romain Gary so far is narrated by Mohammed, a young boy who was being taken care of by Madame Rosa, a Jewish woman who was a former prostitute and Auschwitz survivor. It delves into their relationship and strong bond. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2017

When I started reflecting on my reading experience in 2017, the first word that sprang to mind to describe it was ‘inconsistent’. It wasn’t a particularly extraordinary year, but it was also far from bad. A couple of the books that I read I ended up loving, a few I quite liked, and others were satisfactory. However, I really didn’t like three books, having rated them with 2 stars, and also gave up on reading two books without even reaching 1/3 of their length, and thus can’t really make a fair assessment about them.

In terms of numbers, I’ve read 33 books so far, and will probably finish another one before the actual end of the year. I do know that this is a really small number for many people, but for me it’s a great one, since I’ve only managed to read 19 books in 2016, and not that many years ago I was probably not even reading more than one book a month.

My favourite books among the ones that I read this year, in reverse order, are: Continue reading

My 5 Star TBR Predictions Wrap Up

More or less four months ago, inspired by Mercedes at Mercys Bookish Musings on YouTube, I selected four books from my TBR pile which I then hoped would be five-star reads. I have now read all of them and regret to inform you that not even one has deserved a 5-star rating from me. I still liked them all, they were all 4-star reads, but none of them ended up meeting my high expectations for various reasons.

I can only wonder if I would have appreciated them more for what they are and wouldn’t have paid so much attention to what I perceived as faults, if my expectations had not been so high. It’s true that I don’t rate that many books with 5 stars, as I expect to completely love everything about them to do so, but sometimes expectations influence our way of thinking.

Although I rated all of the following books with 4 stars, I can easily rank them, because I liked some more than others. These are the four books that I expected to love from my most to my least favourite: Continue reading

‘Ensaio sobre a Cegueira’ (‘Blindness’) by José Saramago

My rating: 4 stars

Ensaio sobre a Cegueira, Blindness in the English translation, is an allegorical novel by the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago. It tells a tale about how people can become irrational when dealing with extreme situations, and how it’s thanks to those who continue to promote the need for some order that it’s possible to carry on living in community for a while. Throughout the novel, we are faced with the worst and best of humanity.

The story starts when a man, who is waiting inside his car for a traffic light to turn green, goes blind. But he doesn’t become surrounded by darkness, instead everything around him turns white, as if the world had become illuminated. A stranger takes him home, where his wife finds him sat near a broken jar. When the man explains to her that he is blind, she takes him to an ophthalmologist. She has to call a taxi, though, because the man who helped her husband took the opportunity to steal the car.

However, after taking the car, that man gets remorseful. Worried and afraid of being caught by the police, he can’t continue driving and stops the car. This is when he also starts seeing everything white. He is blind too. Continue reading

Books I Want to Read Before the End of 2017

There are only three months left in 2017 and there are still a few books I really want to read before the year comes to an end. These include fiction and non-fiction, novels and short stories. I’m expecting to love some of them, while others I have more doubts about. Nevertheless, I’m curious about what all of them have to offer.

 

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula is the book I have saved for Halloween. This is a horror story told through letters and diary entries. Count Dracula employs Jonathan Harker to advise him on a London home and, sometime after, alarming incidents start unfolding around England.

 

Ensaio sobre a Cegueira (Blindness) by José Saramago

I haven’t read a book by the Portuguese author and Noble Prize winner José Saramago in quite a while, but I plan to change that soon. Ensaio sobre a Cegueira, Blindness in the English translation, is a sort of allegory about how the population of a city goes blind and is confined to an asylum. Continue reading

My 5 Star TBR Predictions

I always expect to at least enjoy the books that I have on my to-be-read pile. But for some of the books which are awaiting to finally be read I have even higher expectations and assume that I will love them and, thus, award them a five-star rating. Inspired by Mercedes at Mercys Bookish Musings on YouTube, I decided to share the unread books I have on my shelves that I believe I will love.

I don’t rate many books with 5 stars, as I can’t fault them on anything in order to do so (you can read my post on why I rate books with 5 stars here). But when I do I rarely change my mind afterwards.

Whenever I’m debating whether to buy a certain book or not, a possible rating doesn’t usually spring to mind, that is something I only consider while or after reading it. So, I see this exercise as a new and exciting challenge. I’ve chosen four books among my unread ones that I plan to read before the end of the year. When I finally read all of them, I will write a wrap up post discussing my actual ratings. Continue reading

Book Haul – July 2017

I had promised myself not to buy any more books until I found a place to properly store my unread ones (right now they are perilously piled up on top of each other and the risk of them falling down is too real to be overlooked). However, it was my birthday this month and I needed to give myself a present. I could have bought only one book, but that wouldn’t be a proper gift. Five seemed like a good number!

 

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

After loving Rebecca, I became eager to read all the books by Daphne du Maurier. To read one every year seemed like a good goal. But when I realised that an adaptation of My Cousin Rachel had just been released, I decided to buy the book and read it this year before seeing the film.

From the blurb, this seems like quite a mysterious story, which involves a widow and her dead husband’s cousin. Continue reading