Authors I Want to Read Every Year – A Rethink

I don’t ever want reading to feel like a chore. When in 2017 I wrote a post about the authors that I wanted to read every year, I didn’t expect to constantly have to check it a couple of years down the line in order to make sure that I would have enough time to read books by those authors. The fact that I was almost forcing myself to find the time is certainly a sign that I am not truly eager to read books by them. A rethink is obviously needed!

My list of authors to read every year featured Margaret Atwood, Charles Dickens, John Burnside, Ian McEwan, Daphne du Maurier, José Saramago and Mia Couto. From these authors, there are only three that I feel I would have picked up books by this year if it were not for the list – Daphne du Maurier, José Saramago and Margaret Atwood. Unsurprisingly, these authors are some of my favourites of all time.

Why am I not as excited to read books by the other authors as I was before? I don’t have a definite, single answer. In the cases of Charles Dickens and John Burnside, it’s probably because I was disappointed with the latest books that I picked up by them. Mia Couto’s novels were starting to feel a bit samey to me, though I enjoyed them all. And I’ve always had a difficult reading relationship with Ian McEwan, having enjoyed some of his books and disliked others. Continue reading

Do I Want to Read My Goodreads Recommendations?

After watching Sophie’s video “If Goodreads was a dating App” on her YouTube channel, Portal in the Pages, I decided to take a look at my Goodreads recommendations. Did any of the books there appeal to me? Did I discover new books to add to my wish list? From the 40 books (I’m not going to list them all) that Goodreads thinks that, for some reason, I would like, I’m certain that I want to read merely four. I’m ambivalent about other two. These books were either already on my wish list, or I had at some point considered adding them to it. I sadly didn’t discover any new books that I may want to read in the future. Exploring my Goodreads recommendations ended up not being particularly useful.

Nevertheless, I still want to share with you the four books that I plan to read from that list, plus the two that I’m uncertain whether I want to read or not!

 

O Retorno (The Return) by Dulce Maria Cardoso

I’ve recently mentioned this book on a post about the contemporary Portuguese authors I want to read books by. It is set in 1975 after the independence of Angola. The main character, Rui, is a young boy who has recently arrived in Portugal. His family had to flee Angola and he is having a hard time settling in. Continue reading

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

‘O Último Voo do Flamingo’ (‘The Last Flight of the Flamingo’) by Mia Couto

My rating: 4 stars

Magical realism elements are ubiquitous in Mia Couto’s work. In O Último Voo do Flamingo (The Last Flight of the Flamingo in the English translation), the Mozambican author mixed local superstitions and folklore with social and political denunciations, while presenting various distinctive characters.

The narrator of this novel is a translator from Tizangara who at the time of the events was at the service of the village administrator. In the first years after the civil war, five of the UN Blue Helmets who were overseeing the peace process exploded. Their bodies weren’t torn to shreds. They just disappeared, their penises being the only body part that could be found. As an Italian man was to arrive to investigate what had happened to the soldiers, the administrator, Estêvão Jonas, called on the narrator to be his translator.

Although the narrator didn’t speak Italian, Jonas didn’t consider that to be a problem. He just needed to have a translator as all important people. Thankfully Massimo Risi had a basic grasp of the language. What he couldn’t understand was the people, their local customs and superstitions. The beliefs and behaviours of the inhabitants of the village were puzzling. He became particularly interested in Temporina, a woman with a young body and a much older face. He was eager to be successful on his mission, however. He was seeking a promotion after all. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – March 2020

I’ve been trying to avoid mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic on this blog, but I’ll have to do so this time, seeing that this month was awfully strange because of it. March seems to have lasted for ages. However, I don’t have many favourites to share with you. I haven’t read much in my spare time, sadly. I’ve spent too much time watching unremarkable films that just happened to be on TV instead.

From the few books that I’ve read, my favourite was O Bebedor de Horizontes by the Mozambican author Mia Couto. It is the last instalment in the trilogy Sands of the Emperor and focuses on what happened to the characters in the aftermath of the Portuguese offensive against Ngungunyane, the emperor of the State of Gaza. Although Imani is still the main character, it’s given more relevance to some historical figures. As in the first book, Woman of the Ashes, it delves into racism and colonialism.

Seeing that all gigs in Portugal have been cancelled, a group of artists decided to give short, one-person concerts live on Instagram. I watched a couple of them and particularly liked the one by David Fonseca. I’ve seen him live a few times, but it still warmed my heart when he sang ‘Borrow’. He then uploaded the performance on YouTube. Continue reading

‘O Bebedor de Horizontes’ by Mia Couto

My rating: 4 stars

O Bebedor de Horizontes is the last instalment of the trilogy As Areias do Imperador (Sands of the Emperor) by the Mozambican author Mia Couto. One of the main differences between this book and the previous two, Mulheres de Cinza (Woman of the Ashes in the English translation) and A Espada e a Azagaia, is that it gives more prominence to some historical figures, although Imani continues to be the main character. The novel is at its best, in fact, when it focuses on her more personal experiences.

Set in 1895 and 1896, mainly in Mozambique, it explores the aftermath of the Portuguese offensive against Ngungunyane, the emperor of the State of Gaza. The narration in the first person by Imani, a young woman from the Vachopi tribe, is complemented by a variety of letters sent to her not only by Germano, but also by other characters, such as Bianca. We learn that within the Portuguese military there’s a conflict between Mouzinho de Albuquerque and Álvaro Andrea. Germano believes Andrea to be a much better person overall. But it’s Imani who has to deal with both of them.

The style of the prose changes slightly depending on what is being conveyed. When Imani is reporting on what other characters did, the writing style is more straightforward, less embellished. On the other hand, when she is being more introspective or recalling her own experiences, words come together more graciously and metaphors abound. Continue reading

Book Haul – January 2020

My first book haul of 2020 consists mainly of books that I either have been wanting to read for a couple of years or that are the last instalments of certain series. There is no common theme or genre between the five of them. As I plan to read them all in the following months, you won’t have to wait long to know my opinions about them.

 

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

The last book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series focuses on Isabella’s most famous adventure, which is partially set in the tallest peak in the world. It will surely share some similarities with the other books in the series. I’m expecting it to continue to delve into social and scientific problems, while painting an anthropological picture of the world it’s set in.

 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The main character in this short book refuses to be subdued by married life. When it was first published in 1899, The Awakening was considered to be sordid and immoral. I’m not expecting to find it so in the 21st century. But I’m eager to discover what shocked people so much back then. Continue reading

‘A Espada e a Azagaia’ by Mia Couto

My rating: 4 stars

Being the second book in the trilogy As Areias do Imperador (Sands of the Emperor), A Espada e a Azagaia continues to delve into similar topics to those put forward in Mulheres de Cinza (Woman of the Ashes in the English translation). It explores not only how characters dealt with one another within the constraints of colonialism, but also how they faced their own personal tribulations, desires and doubts. Overall, it paints a believable social and psychological portray of various inhabitants of Mozambique.

At the end of the first book (about which there will be spoilers ahead), Imani, a young African woman from the VaChopi tribe, fired a weapon at the Portuguese Sergeant Germano de Melo, hurting his hands, in order to save her brother Mwanatu. So, this novel, which is set in 1895, starts with Imani taking him to the only hospital in the Gaza region. With them were her father, her brother and the Italian Bianca Vanzini.

On their way to the hospital, they stopped at a church. The priest there, Rudolfo, had seen so much violence that he neither performed masses anymore nor believed that praying was useful. An African woman who lived there insisted on doing a ritual that according to her would turn Germano into a fish, so he could return to the sea. Throughout the book there are, in fact, various depictions of African rituals and superstition. 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

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