Favourite Book Covers VII

It has been more than a year since I last shared with you my favourite book covers, but my love for gorgeous books (inside and out) hasn’t decreased a bit. Although paperback editions are still my all-time favourites, I also have a soft spot for colourful naked hardbacks. They are still a bit too heavy, but them not having an annoying dustjacket is a huge plus. Non-removable “stickers”, on the other hand, is an idiotic trend that publishers should refrain from following. They didn’t fully prevent me from loving some of the covers below, but they would look much better without them.

My latest favourite book covers just seem to have one thing in common – the colour blue is present in many different tones (one so dark that it could be black)!

 

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

Cover design: Angie Lewin

Publisher: Virago Press

Collection: Virago Modern Classics Designer Collection Continue reading

Authors I Wish I Had Added to My List of 100 Women Writers to Read in My Lifetime

Back in 2016, the year I started blogging, I curated a list of 100 women writers that I wanted to read during my lifetime inspired by Jean from Jean Bookishthoughts. At the time, I was reading far more books by men than by women and was eager to change that. I’m pleased to inform that I’m now reading significantly more books by women! And I’m not even forcing myself to tick names off that list (I still haven’t read the vast majority of them). I’ve been reading and cherishing books by authors that aren’t on the list, thanks mostly to other bookish content creators introducing me to great female writers.

When I decided to pursue that long-term reading project, Jean’s own list was my starting point. I just included some other authors that I had already read and a couple of Portuguese writers. While I didn’t enjoy the books that I read by every single one of the authors on the list, I’ve read books by other talented women that I now wish were part of it. International Women’s Day seemed like the perfect time to mention them!

 

Maria Judite de Carvalho

When I curated my list of 100 women writers to read in my lifetime, I hadn’t heard of the Portuguese author Maria Judite de Carvalho, who was born in 1921 and died in 1998. Her work only came on my radar around three years ago. I’ve recently read Os Armários Vazios, Empty Wardrobes in the English translation. It’s a novella with an unreliable narrator that tells the story of how three women let their lives be influenced by men. Another book I’m interested in by her is Tanta Gente, Mariana. Continue reading

Books by Irish Authors – What I’ve Read So Far

Ireland is an island booming with talent. When it comes to books, I haven’t been admiring it properly, though, since I’ve only read six books by Irish authors, two of them by the same writer. Having such a short sample to pick from, it wouldn’t be fair to choose favourites for my first post during Reading Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy throughout March. Instead, I’m sharing a summary of my experience reading books by Irish authors.

 

The Glorious Heresies and The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney

The first book I read by Lisa McInerney, The Glorious Heresies, follows five characters: Ryan, Maureen, Jimmy, Tony and Georgie. Their paths cross when Maureen accidentally kills a man. Throughout the book, various topics, including religiosity, prostitution, dysfunctional families and drug dealing, are engagingly explored. The characters also feel genuine.

The Blood Miracles, on the other hand, is not as impressive. Despite Ryan being the sole protagonist, his feelings are not as poignant and thoughtful as in the previous novel. Too much focus is placed on drug trafficking and nightclubs. Continue reading

Authors I’m Apprehensive about Reading a Second Book by

Sometimes relishing reading a book by an author new to us is not enough to leave us excited about picking up a second one. Some of the reasons why that may happen are that the author’s other books may not sound as something we will enjoy as much, they may be from a completely different genre, or they may not be as universally loved as the one we’ve already read.

There are three authors whom I’m apprehensive about reading a second book by. Two of those authors I don’t even have other books by on my wish list. The other one I do, but I’ve been hesitant about finally reading one of them for a couple of years.

 

Maggie O’Farrell

Last year I read and utterly adored Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. It’s a fictional story about the death of the son of William Shakespeare, who is not even once mentioned by his name. Grief oozes from the pages, as the characters’ emotions, namely those of Agnes, are intense and tangible. I haven’t since added any other of O’Farrell’s books to my wish list, though. Why? I have a little voice in my head telling me that all of her other books are a far cry from Hamnet, both in terms of genre and writing style, and that I probably won’t enjoy them, which may well not be the case. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2021

2021 hasn’t been the year during which I read the highest number of books by no stretch of the imagination, but I surely read some good ones. Picking up some massive books throughout the year didn’t help, particularly because I ended up not finishing three of them, so they didn’t count for my read books. So far, I’ve read in their entirety 22 books. Until the end of the year, I’m still hoping to finish the humongous The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb and to read another two much shorter books. None of these are likely to be good candidates for my favourite books of the year, though.

Throughout 2021, I read books from various genres and of several formats. Novels, novellas, short story and poetry collections were all part of my reading choices. They can be categorised as historical fiction, fantasy, dystopian and literary fiction. The majority of the books that I read were new to me, but I also reread two books. Livro by José Luís Peixoto I certainly enjoyed, although not as much as I remember doing the first time, and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell remains one of my favourite books of all time.

Only taking into consideration the books that I read for the first time in 2021, however, my favourites, in reverse order, are: Continue reading

Pairs of Books to Gift this Christmas

Are your dear friends and family members eager to receive books this Christmas? One of the options that will make them love you even more is to present them with two books that share some similarities, so they can compare and contrast. Some of the books I’m about to recommend are on the surface obviously very much alike. However, they are not carbon copy of one another. Not only do their authors have disparate writing styles, but the details of the plot also end up making them unique in many ways.

 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Both Burial Rites and Alias Grace are fictional books inspired by real-life occurrences – two women are considered guilty of murdering two people each. But did they? In Burial Rites, Hannah Kent presents the touching and poignant story of Agnes, whom was sentenced to death after being considered guilty of killing her lover, Nathan, and Pétur in Iceland in the 19th century. While awaiting the day of her execution at the house of one of the officers in the district, she is visited by Assistant Reverend Thorvardur and tells him her version of events.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood focuses on the role that Grace Marks played in the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery. While in prison, she receives the visit of doctor Simon Jordan and recalls various moments from her life until then. Grace’s inner thoughts and reminiscences are strikingly turn into words. Continue reading

Quarterly Favourites – July to September 2021

During the last three months, I’ve only finished reading four books. It’s the consequence of having spent an entire month reading Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb and not of having watched many films or TV series. With just a few books read, little fiction watched and almost no new music listened to, it wasn’t difficult to pick up just a couple of favourites.

The best book I read during the last three months was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Set in the 16th century, it’s a poignant, touching and believable fictional story about the death of the son of a famous playwright, William Shakespeare, who is never mentioned by his name. O’Farrell masterfully explores the themes of grief, parenthood, family life and love. The emotions of the characters are palpable and intense, particularly those of Agnes. Despite actions being described in utmost detail, the novel never gets boring, partly because the musicality of the prose is astounding.

Last month, I watched for the first time a TV series (mostly) in Icelandic, and I was pleasantly surprised. Katla, which you can watch on Netflix, is a mystery-drama about the appearance of people covered in ash in the town of Vík a year after the eruption of the subglacial volcano Katla. The inhabitants and visitors of the almost empty town are forced to come to terms with their past. Continue reading

Women’s Prize for Fiction Winners – Books I Read and Want to Read

Susanna Clarke has been chosen as the winner of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction with Piranesi, a book I haven’t read yet but that I definitely want to. I don’t tend to pay much attention to literary prizes, to be honest. However, the enthusiasm that so many readers show for the Women’s Prize usually makes me at least want to know who has won and what the book in question is about.

Having taken a quick look at the prize’s website, I discovered that I’ve read three of the previous winners and am interested in reading not only Piranesi, but also other four in the future. None of the books ended up on my wish list because they were the winners of this particular prize. It was either the premise or the general work of the authors that first appealed to me.

 

Winners I Read

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

A fictional story about the events surrounding the death of the son of a famous playwright, William Shakespeare, Hamnet was a worthy winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. The feelings of the characters are tangible and duly intense. Agnes’s suffering in particular is poignantly portrayed. Set mainly around 1596, this book about grief, parenthood, love and family life also has some chapters set in previous decades, which allows readers to learn more about the characters and better understand their actions. Continue reading

Exploration of Motherhood in Books

Depicting mothers has always been a challenge that authors were willing to accept throughout history, particularly in adult fiction. They can be portrayed as the “ideal” mums, the ones that get everything right and do no wrong, but more often than not the most interesting mothers are those who are struggling in some way, that have conflicting feelings towards motherhood, that are afraid of failing, or that try incredibly hard to protect their offspring, occasionally to no avail.

In the latest years, I read some books that made me ponder on the importance that motherhood plays in stories. The mothers in Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, Circe by Madeline Miller, The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, The Muse and The Confession by Jessie Burton are all dissimilar. Nevertheless, they have a huge relevance in the plot of the novels they are a part of, even when they are not the main characters.

If you have not read the novels I mentioned previously, I warn you that I’ll allude to some occurrences that may be considered spoilers. Continue reading

‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell

My rating: 5 stars

A story about grief, parenthood, love and family life, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is a convincing, albeit fictional, tale about the events surrounding the death of the son of a famous playwright, William Shakespeare, who is never mentioned by his name. The feelings of the characters are so palpable and intense that we can almost experience them ourselves. Although this is the story of an entire family, it is mostly Agnes who is in the spotlight. Her suffering is profoundly portrayed.

The book starts with a historical note to let readers know that this is the story of a couple who lived in Stratford in the 1580s. They had three children – Susanna, plus the twins Hamnet and Judith. We know from the outset that this is to be a sad tale. Hamnet died in 1596, when he was eleven years old. Some years later, his father wrote a play called Hamlet.

Sometime before his death, Hamnet is desperately looking for his mother, grandmother or any other member of the household, as his sister Judith is feeling unwell. He can’t find anyone. Agnes is at a garden where she grows medicinal herbs. She was called there because something was wrong with the bees. His older sister and his grandmother are in town, and his father is in London. Eventually, he finds someone in the house. Unfortunately, it is his grandfather, a disgraced glover, who is drunk and ends up throwing a cup at his face. Continue reading