Monthly Favourites – December 2020

On the first day of 2021 (Happy New Year!), I look back on my favourites from the last month of 2020! Today I’m sharing with you a book, a set of YouTube videos, a blog post and a Christmas dessert.

I finished three books in December and enjoyed all of them. But my favourite was História da Menina Perdida (The Story of the Lost Child in the English translation) by Elena Ferrante. The last book in The Neapolitan Novels continues to focus on Elena and Lila’s convoluted friendship, while also delving into the complex relationship between mothers and daughters and the Neapolitan society of the time. Thanks to its conversational writing style, it is for the most part highly engaging. Although on some days I didn’t feel like picking it up, when I did, I could read it for long periods of time, something I struggled to do last year.

Throughout December, I watched even more YouTube videos than usual, mainly because of Vlogmas (this is when YouTubers post videos almost every day on the run-up to Christmas). I don’t have one specific video as a favourite, having liked various of the videos created by Lauren and the Books and Lauren Wade. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – November 2020

As it has been mostly the case this year, this instalment of my monthly favourites is very brief. I finished three books in November and, surprisingly, DNFed another (after liking all the books that I had read by John Burnside, I wasn’t expecting to give up on Ashland & Vine). However, I only truly liked one of them, the others were just satisfactory at best. I also started watching a couple of TV series, but only completed one of them.

My favourite book from the ones that I read last month is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. To be honest, I read the majority of this epistolary novel during October but only finished it at the beginning of November. Gilbert Markham writes a letter to a friend telling him the story of how he met a young widowed woman, Mrs Helen Graham, how he became in love with her, and how she let him know about the mistreatment she suffered from her husband. Although it doesn’t have a perfect pacing, this novel by the youngest of the Brontë sisters features various fleshed out characters. As we learn more about Helen Graham’s past, her initial behaviour becomes understandable.

I’m sure that you have all already heard of (or watched) The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, but I have to join in the praise. It is an adaptation of the book with the same title by Walter Tevis, which I haven’t read, that focuses on the life of Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy who struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. I’d never thought that a TV series about chess could be so compelling, only one of the episodes is a bit boring. I have no idea how to play chess and was gripped nevertheless. The performances are terrific, and whoever chose the main character’s wardrobe deserves an award! Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – October 2020

Favourites were scarce in October, which is unsurprising this year. I have watched a couple of TV series, but they didn’t blow me away, and the new adaptation of Rebecca was extremely infuriating. This post is about my favourites, though. This edition features a book, a documentary and a blog post.

Although I only finished two books last month, one of them was amazing. It was a pleasure to rediscover Atonement by Ian McEwan more than a decade after first reading it in translation. When Briony saw her sister Cecilia and Robbie near the fountain at their house’s garden, her imagination was propelled. Her misunderstanding of their relationship had devastating consequences. This is a highly compelling novel. The structure perfectly fits the plot and a great variety of emotions are outstandingly conveyed.

As someone who often uses social media, I am interested in how it affects society. The Social Dilemma, a documentary with drama elements available on Netflix, explores how social media platforms are deliberately causing users to become addicted, in order to increase revenue from ads, how they have serious effects on mental health, and how they are increasing polarisation in politics, creating an “us vs them” mentality. The interviews with people from within the industry are enlightening, and the fictional story presented verges on the horror. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – September 2020

I’m starting to dread writing my monthly favourites and there’s only one reason for that. I’ve no idea how to introduce these posts anymore without sounding like a broken record. Well, what can I say? This instalment is short and sweet, as it consists only of a book, a film and a song.

If you’ve read my review of The Confession by Jessie Burton, you may be surprised to know that it is my favourite book from the ones that I read in September. I enjoyed reading it, but I sounded disappointed in my review, since I couldn’t help comparing it to Burton’s previous novels, which I adored. Her third book for adults is a story about motherhood which promises to reveal what happened to Rose’s mother, Elise Morceau, who disappeared before her first birthday. In order to discover what happened, Rose decides to go look for Constance Holden, the last person to see her. Although it features a mystery, this is mainly a character-focused novel. The characters get progressively more interesting and the story more engaging.

Near the end of the month, I highly enjoyed watching Enola Holmes on Netflix. The main character of this film, played by Millie Bobby Brown, is the teenage sister of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Their mother leaves one night without explanation and Enola, who had a very special education, decides to go search for her in London. It’s both funny and endearing. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – August 2020

Another month has come to an end (since April it seems that time is flying by exceedingly fast). So, today I’m sharing with you my favourites from August! They include a book, a TV show, a music album and a blog post.

After a long while, I finally rated a book with five stars again. The Vegetarian by Han Kang is a disconcerting, affecting and extraordinary exploration of abuse, mental health issues, rebellion against social conventions and desire. Yeong-hye had always been a dutiful wife until the day that she decided to become a vegetarian after having a disturbing dream. We never read her version of events, though. The story is told from three other perspectives – her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister. It is through their angles that we become aware of what she had to endure throughout her life and what influenced her actions.

On a much lighter note, I enjoyed watching the TV series The Great on HBO Portugal (I don’t know where you can watch it in other countries). Staring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, it’s a gripping comedy-drama based on the rise of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Don’t expect it to be historically accurate! From the very beginning, it lets viewers know that that is not the aim at all. In fact, it’s occasionally obviously outlandish. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – July 2020

August is already underway, but I still have to share with you my favourites from last month. I haven’t forgotten! They include a book, a film, a blog post and a music album.

My favourite book from the four that I finished in July is The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. It is an engrossing retelling of the Iliad that, despite being told mainly from the point of view of Briseis, who became a bed-slave during the Trojan war, also presents the perspectives of Achilles and Patroclus at some occasions. As the story is told from different viewpoints, it successfully sets a contrast between how women who became slaves had to grieve quietly, while men were free to do so openly. It features believable, intricate characters and evocative descriptions.

Throughout last month, I mainly watched TV series, but none blew me away. I enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon 2, the only film that I watched, far more. Taking place a few years after the first film, this computer-animated fantasy film is both sad and comforting. Vikings and dragons live in harmony until their lives are disturbed by Drago. I also cherished learning more about Hiccup’s family. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – June 2020

June is coming to an end, thus it’s time for another instalment of my monthly favourites. I’m about to share with you the book, TV show, blog post and YouTube video that I enjoyed the most during the last thirty days.

I have only finished one book this month. The reason why is that I’ve been reading Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb for at least three weeks now and still haven’t finished it. It would have been terrible if I hadn’t enjoyed the only novel that I read in its entirety. But unsurprisingly I loved rereading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and remembering why it’s one of my favourite classics. It was wonderful to get reacquainted with a story that is full of interesting characters, brilliant dialogues and that is written in an engaging and witty style. Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s interactions are often amusing.

The third (and last) season of Dark became available on Netflix during the weekend and is also one of my favourites from June. It is a German science fiction thriller that features time travel and various families trying to deal with loss, grief and love. As with previous seasons, it requires full attention from viewers. I highly enjoyed it! All parts were linked together effectively and engagingly. Some aspects, however, could have been further explored, such as the state of mind of some characters in certain instances. I also have the feeling that some revelations happened too hastily, but that sensation may be a consequence of me binge-watching the episodes in a space of three days and not a fault of the series itself. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – May 2020

This edition of my monthly favourites is significantly shorter than the latest ones. It consists only of a book and a song. May obviously wasn’t a fruitful month, although I highly enjoyed taking part in the Daphne du Maurier reading week and in two of the Lauren and the Books’ cosy reading nights.

My favourite book from the ones that I completed in May was The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier. Two men, one English and the other French, meet at a station buffet in France. What is unusual is that they look exactly the same. They have some drinks together and, in the following day, the French Jean de Gué disappears taking with him the narrator’s clothes and wallet. When Jean’s driver arrives, he fully believes that the narrator is his employer. As the resemblance is so irrefutable, the narrator ends up assuming Jean’s place. I enjoyed discovering progressively more about the past of the characters, who are presented for the first time not only to the readers, but also the narrator. This is a compelling novel, full of convincing dialogues and written in an absorbing style.

Music-wise, I kept listening to one of HAIM’s newest songs, ‘Don’t Wanna’. I’m looking forward to listening to the new album in its entirety when it’s released. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – April 2020

April seems to have flown by considering everything that is going on. Although I’m still reading even more slowly than usual, I have quite a good book to share with you today, together with a film, a post by a fellow blogger and a couple of YouTube videos.

My favourite book from the ones that I read during the month that has just ended is The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal. Set in 1850, it has as main character Iris. She strongly desires to become a painter, even if her aspiration is not considered appropriate by her family. Her life changes in various ways when she meets Silas, a taxidermist, and Louis, a painter who wants her to be his model. This is a story about desire for independence, freedom and the difference between love and obsession. Not only is the plot gripping, but there’s also a great creation of ambiences. Despite the characters feeling slightly artificial at first, they become fully fledged.

Every other April, the film Capitães de Abril (April Captains), first released in 2000, is broadcast on Portuguese TV. I had partially watched it in various occasions, but this was the first time that I watched it from the very beginning until the end. It is not the best film ever made, but I highly enjoyed it. Directed by Maria de Medeiros, it is about the Carnation Revolution, which put an end to the dictatorship in Portugal in 1974. It’s a mix of real and fictional characters and events. The main focus is on Salgueiro Maia, played by Stefano Accorsi, who was one of the captains that led the military forces. 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