Most Disappointing Books of 2020

As much as I would love to enjoy all of the books that I pick up, that is sadly not the case. Although I liked the vast majority of the books that I read in 2020, some of them were definitely disappointing. Two of the three books mentioned below I didn’t even finish, seeing that I had no hope that they would grip me at any point. This is (obviously!) not an attack on any of the authors. I even liked all of the other books that I read in the past by one of them. It’s impossible for a book to impress all readers. Just because I didn’t cherish reading these books, it doesn’t mean that others won’t.

 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The main character of this novella, Edna Pontellier, is a married woman with two children who started to break with conventions after becoming infatuated with another man. Despite understanding the importance of this book as a work of early American feminism, I didn’t like it. The resolution is not satisfying and even seems to contradict the questions raised throughout. There aren’t also enough details, the characters are not fully fledged, and the writing style is for the most part dull.

 

Lillias Fraser by Hélia Correia

I was so eager to like Lillias Fraser by the Portuguese author Hélia Correia that I even tried to read it twice. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working for me, so I decided not to finish it for good after a second attempt. Partially set in Scotland in 1746, it has as main character Lillias, the daughter of Tom Fraser. Having had a vision of her father dying, she ran away during the battle of Culloden. She then managed to leave Scotland with the help of Anne MacIntosh. Continue reading

Authors I Discovered Thanks to the Bookish Community

Blogs and YouTube channels mainly focused on books are a fantastic resource for readers, if I can say so myself. Thanks to various bloggers and youtubers, I discovered some authors whom I had never heard of before and whose books I also haven’t seen displayed in bookshops in Portugal since then.

When I started thinking about authors that I learnt about thanks to the bookish community, six names immediately sprang to mind. But this is by no means an exhaustive list.

 

Daphne du Maurier

It may be a surprise to some of you to see Daphne du Maurier’s name on this list. But, being from Portugal, she was a complete unknown to me. It was thanks to either Lauren from Lauren and the Books or Simon from SavidgeReads on YouTube that I decided to read the magnificent Rebecca. Since then, I’ve also read Jamaica Inn, The King’s General, My Cousin Rachel, The House on the Strand and The Birds and Other Stories. Her work is, generally speaking, atmospheric, full of vivid characters and sprinkled with mystery. Continue reading

Low-rated Books I Enjoyed

No book will ever be universally loved. Reading is a very personal experience, after all, and what one person may find amazing, another will surely consider dreadful. Thus, there are obviously books that I liked but that have a relatively low average rating on Goodreads. The last time that I checked, the average rating of the four books listed below was lower than 3.4. Nevertheless, I either remember highly enjoying them or rated them with four starts.

 

Glister by John Burnside

This short novel, which has an average rating of 3.11, is a combination of social commentary, atmospheric mystery, magical realism and science fiction. Boys from the Innertown have been going missing for a while. The official explanation is that they left of their own free will. The only police officer in the town knows what really happened to one of the boys, though. Not all of the mysteries are solved by the end of the book, but the personal story of Leonard, one of the narrators, provides some answers.

 

Felizmente Há Luar! by Luís de Sttau Monteiro

Originally published in 1961, this is a Portuguese theatre play that I read a long time ago at school, If I’m not mistaken, when I was in Year 12. It has an average rating of 3.17. Although it’s based on a failed liberal rebellion that took place in 1817, it has a deeper meaning. The true purpose of the author was to delve into the political repression and the persecution that people endured during the fascist regime of the time, reason why it ended up being censured and forbidden. Light is used as a symbol of the victory against oppression. Continue reading

‘The Devil’s Footprints’ by John Burnside

My rating: 4 stars

Throughout The Devil’s Footprints by John Burnside, the past of the main character, Michael Gardiner, seeps into the present. Readers are presented with the memories of a man who is struggling to come to terms with various events from his life and whose mental health is compromised. This short novel doesn’t have a particularly fascinating and exciting plot. It shines thanks to the distinctive voice of its troubled narrator.

There’s a tale in Coldhaven, a fishing town in Scotland, about the devil roaming the streets on a winter night and leaving a trail of dark hoofprints. Michael, the narrator and main character, connects this tale with his own personal story. He recalls reading a piece of news a year before about a woman, Moira Birnie, who drugged her two young sons, drove them to a quiet road and torched the car with the three of them inside. She had started to believe that her husband, Tom Birnie, was the devil, and that the two young boys were the devil’s children. She didn’t kill her 14-year-old daughter, Hazel, though.

Before she got married, Moira had briefly been the narrator’s first girlfriend. But their connection extends to other elements of her family. Michael keeps a dark secret about his association with her deceased brother, which he recalls with unsettling normality. He also learnt that he and Hazel might have something in common – she could be a sleepwalker as he was for a while as a child. He clearly states that he had temporarily gone insane after learning about this possibility. Continue reading

Book Haul – September / October 2019

I was not expecting to buy as many books as I did during September and this month. However, after deciding not to finish four novels in the latest months, I was running out of books to read. I usually keep a relatively small number of unread books on my shelves. I tend to only buy new ones once I’ve finished a few of those that I already owned.

So, I acquired nine new books!

 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Set in Paris and in London, it was described by Dickens as his best story. A French aristocrat and a dissolute English lawyer face chaos and fall in love with the same woman. I’m expecting it to delve into a variety of social issues that characterised the 19th century. Continue reading

Favourite Books of the Last Five Years

Before I created this blog, almost three years ago, I started rating the books that I read on a spreadsheet in 2014. I’m not sure why I decided to do it, but it was also around that time that I started watching videos about books on YouTube. Today I want to share with you my favourite books since then, which means of the last five years.

I haven’t selected a book per year. The books below are, instead, my favourites from the whole period in no particular order.

 

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

King Robert Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne and invites Lord Eddard Stark to be his Hand. But the fragile peace is in peril. Not only are the Lords of Westeros playing dangerous power games, but the exiled Targaryens also want to retake their father’s throne. The first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series is written from various points of view and is full of political machinations. The plot is enthralling and the characters are complex and multifaceted. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – November 2018

It’s once again time to reveal my monthly favourites. I didn’t manage to do half of the things that I had planned for November. However, I still got to read four books (some I liked much more than others), watch a couple of TV shows and listen to some great music.

My favourite book from the ones that I finished last month is Glister by John Burnside. It isn’t an easy book to describe, seeing that it’s a mix of social commentary, atmospheric mystery, magical realism and science fiction. Boys have been going missing from the Innertown for some time. The official line is that they left of their own free will. The only police officer in the town knows the fate of one of the boys, though. The personal story of Leonard, one of the narrators, sheds some light on what has been happening, but it also raises questions that don’t have a clear answer.

The 11th season of Doctor Who continues to deserve a place on my monthly favourites. Although some episodes were just average, I quite enjoyed ‘Demons of the Punjab’ and ‘The Witchfinders’. It was a great opportunity to learn about the history of Pakistan and the partition of India, and it was interesting to see the Doctor realise that people now don’t immediately trust her, because she is a woman. Generally-speaking, I’m liking this season much more than the last one, but I’m missing an overall mystery connecting the episodes, which seem to just be single adventures. Continue reading

‘Glister’ by John Burnside

My rating: 4 stars

Readers who always require a book to have a clear and definitive ending are probably not the target audience of Glister by John Burnside. It offers a thought-provoking combination of social commentary and atmospheric mystery, supplemented with a pinch of science fiction and magical realism. Through different points of view, we are told a story full of acts of cruelty and gory descriptions, while being reminded that destitution can destroy a community, in this case one that is also dealing with the disappearance of various young boys.

The first boy to disappear from the Innertown was Mark Wilkinson. He went to the poison wood with a couple of friends looking for the devil. When he went alone further into the woods, never to return, his friends were too scared to go look for him and just ran instead. Later on, Morrison, the only policeman in the town, found the boy suspended from a tree. His hands were bound, and it looked like he had been victim of some kind of sacrifice. He didn’t know what to do. He hadn’t become a policeman to solve murder cases. So, he called Brian Smith, who had helped him get the job, and his men got rid of the body.

Smith convinced Morrison to conceal the boy’s death. But in the following years, other boys went missing. Regarding those cases, Morrison doesn’t know what happened and is unaware of whether they are dead or alive. Deep down he is ashamed of himself, despite people not knowing that he didn’t tell the truth about Mark. The official line is that all of the boys left the Innertown of their own free will, looking for a better life somewhere else. While some people believe this story, others are suspicious. Some think that the boys were murdered and then buried in the ruins of the old chemical plant. Continue reading

Book Haul – September / October 2018

We are less than three months away from the end of the year, and I still have quite a few books left to read in order to complete my ‘EU still 28’ reading project. Last month, I realised that I needed to buy some more of the books on my predetermined list. I obviously also took the opportunity to order a couple of other ones in preparation for winter, although I’m not normally a seasonal reader. Every excuse is a good one when it comes to justify buying books, though!

Below are the nine newest additions to my shelves:

 

Tula by Jurgis Kuncinas

Written by the Lithuanian author Jurgis Kuncinas, Tula takes place in a poor neighbourhood in Vilnius. The narrator dwells on the fringes of society and meets other various curious inhabitants of the same area. I don’t know much more about this book, which I believe also involves a love story. Continue reading

Favourite Short Books

Medium-size books are usually at the top of my preferences. I love to fully immerse myself in the characters’ world and find that easier when a story lasts for longer than just a couple of hundred pages. Nevertheless, shorter books can also be utterly compelling and stimulating. I consider a book to be short when it is less than 250 pages long.

If you are looking for some quick reads (albeit not necessarily easy ones), you may want to try some of my favourites. I decided not to include short story and poetry collections in the list below, seeing that they overwhelmingly fall into the less than 250 pages category.

 

The Dumb House by John Burnside

The Dumb House is short but not sweet. It is a twisted story revolving around Luke, who has performed a cruel experiment on his own children. We know this from the outset, and the following pages are an account of how he got to that point and why. While reading, I was in awe of the writing style. Continue reading