Monthly Favourites – April 2019

I’m generally able to be brief and concise when the time comes to reveal my monthly favourites. But I don’t believe that will be the case today. Although I read a couple of good books, my reading month wasn’t exceptional by any means. I’m even on the verge of a reading slump. However, I have many opinions to share about my favourite TV show of this month. I’m going leave that to the very end, because (also unusually) spoilers will abound then!

Seeing that this is overall a book blog, I’ll start by mentioning my favourite book from the ones that I read in April – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Ursula Todd, the main character, wasn’t born only once. She had various opportunities to live. So, the reader is presented with various possible stories about her life, because even a small change in a previous event can make a difference. Ursula’s lives are not all equally gripping. Nevertheless, this novel is full of vivid scenes and heart-breaking moments. It also paints a picture of the first half of the 20th century in Europe.

Music-wise, I loved listening to ‘Gold’ by Band of Skulls, my favourite song from their latest album Love Is All You Love. But I also listened on repeat to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Jenny of Oldstones’ by Florence + The Machine, a song they recorded for Game of Thrones. Continue reading

‘Life After Life’ by Kate Atkinson

My rating: 4 stars

Occasionally, incidents that can be perceived as inconsequential, such as a stolen kiss, can have a huge impact on someone’s life. Their future effects may compel people to adjust their hopes and dreams. What if we could change those events? Ursula Todd, the main character in Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, was born and died various times. She had the opportunity to live her life over and over again. Sometimes little changes in her or others’ actions completely transformed her personality and her future. Readers are presented with various possible stories in which Ursula takes centre stage and that also serve to paint a picture of the first half of the 20th century in Europe.

Ursula was born on 11 February 1910. She would have died with her chord around her neck if Dr Fellowes hadn’t arrived on the exact moment to save her. Her mother was called Sylvie, and she was her third child. Sylvie had met her husband, Hugh, when she was 17 years old. Her father was a gambler and, when he died, she and her mother had to deal with the creditors. Hugh, who was becoming much respected in the world of banking, saved her from poverty. Ursula managed to survive until her fifth summer, when she died drowned in the sea.

That wasn’t the first time she perished, though. The first chapter of the book recalls the moment when Ursula tried to kill Hitler in November 1930. She died in the process. Next, she didn’t survive her birth. The chord was wrapped around her neck and Dr Fellowes arrived too late to save her. Continue reading

Book Haul – February 2019

I managed to wait until February to buy books for the first time in 2019! It was really difficult to resist the urge to get new books until the second month of the year, although I still had a few unread ones on my shelves. I bought a total of eight books, unintentionally almost all of them were written by women.

 

Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Soon after getting married, Elsie became a widow. She has no friends amongst the servants nor the villagers. Her only company seems to be her late husband’s awkward cousin, until she finds a locked room where there is a wooden figure which strongly resembles herself. I am eager to be frightened by this book!

 

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This historical novel immediately caught my interest at the time of its release last year, but I decided to wait for the paperback edition. I started reading it soon after it was delivered and am now more than halfway through. Although I am enjoying discovering more about the characters, I was expecting more in terms of plot. One of Jonah Hancock’s captains sells his ship in exchange for what appears to be a mermaid. At first, he is appalled by the loss of his ship. However, his captain convinces him that by exhibiting the mermaid he can make a big profit. It’s thanks to his mermaid that he meets the beautiful courtesan Angelica. Continue reading

Unexpected Surprising Books

Occasionally, when we start reading a book, we’re already expecting to be surprised by some event, outcome or revelation. We may not know what that surprise will be, but we know it’s coming, possibly because there may be some mystery awaiting to be solved. The books mentioned below have the particularity of featuring surprises that I was not expecting at all for various reasons. I could have chosen a few more, but these were the first that sprang to mind.

 

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The first reason why I was surprised by Jessie Burton’s debut novel was that I knew close to nothing about the plot before buying it. I just had fell in love with the cover. However, after reading the first chapters, the main mystery seemed to be the identity of the miniaturist who sends Nella small replicas of people and objects from her daily life that she didn’t order. So, it was with great astonishment that I realised that many other and more interesting surprises had been awaiting me.

 

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Through a non-linear narrative, A God in Ruins introduces the reader to the life of Teddy Todd. Despite desiring to be a poet when he was younger, he ends up becoming a bomber pilot during the Second World War. I got immersed in his life and became quite interested in his relationship with his family. The revelation near the end of the book saddened me and took me completely by surprise. Continue reading

Favourite Books with a Historical Backdrop

Whenever I’m book shopping, one of the many things that catches my attention is the time period in which a story is set in. I tend to like books which either the entirety or only part of the action takes place at the time of an important historical event. These are books whose fictional characters and events end up being embroiled in a real historical episode in one way or another, and that can be labelled as historical fiction or not.

I categorise as historical fiction the books that not only are set in the past, but which were written by authors who were born after the time period in which their novel unfolds. In these cases, authors don’t have a first-hand experience of the period they depicted in their novels. Books with a historical backdrop, on the other hand, can be written by authors who lived during the time period the story is set in or not. But, and more importantly for this distinction, besides depicting the manners and other details about a particular time period, these books feature an important real historical event. So, for me, a novel with a historical backdrop is not necessarily historical fiction.

After explaining how I describe books with a historical backdrop, I can now reveal which ones are my favourites. Continue reading

Authors I Want to Read More Books By

To read a book by an author new to us can sometimes be a daunting experience, as we are usually not certain about what to expect. It can either be a fantastic new discovery or a great disappointment. In the latest years, I’ve been lucky to discover new authors whose work I want to continue to delve into. These are some of the authors I’ve only read one book by, but want to read more for various and different reasons.

 

Kate Atkinson

At the end of last year, I read A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson and it was one of my favourite books of 2016. This is a good enough reason to want to read more of her books, but there is another. Some of the same characters are also featured in Life After Life, leaving me quite curious about this particular book.

 

John Burnside

The Dumb House by John Burnside was also one of my favourite books of last year. I loved the exquisite writing style. Thus, I already have quite a few books by him on my wish list. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2016

2016 is coming to an end. So, this is the perfect time to reveal my favourite books that I read during the year. I have only rated two of these books with five stars, since, apparently, I expect a five-star read to fulfil a lot of requirements. But some of the books mentioned below are quite high four-star reads (in a way I regret having decided not to give half-star ratings) and, thus, deserve recognition.

I chose as my favourites five books from the nineteen that I read in 2016. In comparison with other bloggers, I don’t read that many books per year, but some of them were quite long and I also don’t listen to audiobooks, since it’s hard for me to focus on what I’m only listening to for a long period of time. Of the nineteen books that I read, one was non-fiction, three can be considered children’s books, and three were poetry collections.

In reverse order, these are the best books that I read in 2016: Continue reading

‘A God in Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson

My rating: 4 stars

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson is an assortment of war records (which are based on true events), family dynamics, recollections on life and death, and a proof of the power of fiction. At first, I was unsure if I was going to finish the book or not, but surprisingly both the structure of the novel and its mix of ideas end up working quite well. It features some of the characters of another of Kate Atkinson’s novels, Life after Life, which I haven’t read yet, but it is not a sequel and it says on the back that it stands on its own.

The life of Teddy Todd, a bomber pilot during the Second World War who had wanted to be a poet, is the backbone of the story being told. Throughout the novel, readers get to know some of the events featuring Teddy’s family members: his mother (Sylvie), his father (Hugh), his siblings, his aunt, his wife (Nancy), his daughter (Viola) and his grandchildren.

The story is not told chronologically. Time periods keep changing not only between chapters, but also within the same chapter. Every chapter is set in a specific year or date, but they don’t follow a sequential order. There are also plenty of flashbacks and flash-forwards within each chapter. Thus, it is difficult for the reader to know for certain which is the novel’s present time of narration. Continue reading

Books I Want to Read Before the End of 2016

I don’t usually establish to-be-read lists. However, now that we are in the last quarter of the year, there are some books that I really want to read before 2016 comes to an end. The list features books written by contemporary authors, some classics and Portuguese poetry.

The Dumb House by John Burnside is a book that I have been wanting to read for quite a while. The story focuses on a narrator that uses his own children as subjects of an experiment to recreate the Dumb House of Persian myth. I expect this novel to be quite dark and disturbing.

To continue my endeavour to read more books by female authors, I also want to read A God in Ruins. I don’t know much about this novel by Kate Atkinson, besides it being set around the time of the Second World War, which is usually a theme I am interested in reading about.

Continue reading