Monthly Favourites – February 2020

March has already begun, but this post is still about February. During the shortest month of the year, I spent some of my free time reading books, watching TV series, listening to music and perusing through amazing blogs. And the time has come to share with you my favourites!

My favourite book from the ones that I read in February was Ensaio sobre a Lucidez (Seeing in the English translation) by José Saramago. It is an allegory that explores the complexities of democracy through an engaging prose. In the capital of an unnamed country, 83% of voters decided to vote blank in the local elections. As a result, the government isolated the city, whilst trying to uncover a reason behind the “epidemic” of the blank vote. While many of the characters are purely symbols, others feel like real human beings.

I had been waiting for the release of the second season of My Brilliant Friend for a while. Not only wasn’t I disappointed, I also enjoyed it more than the first one. As in the books by Elena Ferrante (I’ve only read the first two so far), the story of the friendship between Elena and Lila is gripping. The acting is also flawless. The only aspect that I’m not a huge fan of is the voice-over narration, which, nevertheless, annoyed me far less than in the first season. It helps the adaptation to be faithful to the books, but it’s something that I don’t tend to like on TV. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – January 2020

January has come to an end, so it’s time for the first edition of my monthly favourites of 2020! As I’ve mentioned in my bookish resolutions for this year, from now on these overviews will also start including my favourite blog posts and YouTube videos from each month. This month, they are accompanied by a book, a TV series and a film.

The book I enjoyed the most was The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. It’s an enthralling mystery and family drama that explores the difficulties faced by women in the 20th century. Laura Chase, Iris’s sister, drove a car off a bridge ten days after the end of the Second World War. What was the real reason behind Laura’s fate? The answer is confirmed at the end of this great novel, which consists of a first-person narration by Iris, various news pieces and a short book written by Laura. Although it is occasionally too slow paced, I highly recommend it.

I also spent a great couple of hours watching Dracula on Netflix (I believe it was originally created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat for the BBC). It’s one of those series that I’ll certainly re-watch many times to discover new details. Claes Bang is perfect as Count Dracula. The first episode is terrifying, and the second is strangely compelling, considering that it’s set in such a confined space. The third episode has a completely different feeling from the others. It reminded me of Sherlock at times, not only because it’s set in modern-day England, but also because the interactions between Dracula and Van Helsing resembled those of Moriarty and Sherlock. Despite being my least favourite of the episodes, I still highly enjoyed it. I liked how it tries to come up with an answer to why Dracula fears certain objects. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – December 2019

I pondered not to write a post about my favourites from December, as I only have one book to share with you. I watched a few films and started watching a couple of TV series on Netflix, but they were all a huge disappointment.

The most impressive book that I read this month was A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Set in London and Paris during the eighteenth century, before and right after the French Revolution, it is an engaging but demanding novel to get immersed in. Lucie Manette discovers that her father is not dead. With the help of Mr Jarvis Lorry, she takes him from Paris to England. During the journey, they meet Charles Darnay, who years later falls in love with Lucie. Their love story develops almost on the background, as social upheaval takes over France and has consequences on the lives of the characters. Overall, this is a thought-provoking book about how people who fought against tyranny can become tyrants themselves.

Next year, my monthly favourites will probably be slightly different, causing this lack of favourites not happen. But I’ll expand on that on my bookish resolutions for 2020. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – November 2019

This instalment of my monthly favourites is, unfortunately, as short as the one from October. I finished reading four books in November and enjoyed three of them. But I didn’t dedicate much time to my other interests.

My favourite book from the ones that I read last month is Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It’s an enthralling gothic novel about obsession and revenge. Although many of the characters are despicable, they are fully believable. One of them is Heathcliff. He spent good part of his life trying to take vengeance on those whom he believed had wronged him in the past. When he was a homeless boy, Mr Earnshaw found him on the streets of Liverpool and decided that he was going to live with him and his children at Wuthering Heights. He was from the beginning looked down on by Hindley, while growing very close to Catherine.

The only TV series that I watched in November was the third season of The Crown. Despite the acting being really good, I didn’t like it as much as previous seasons, for reasons that I can’t pinpoint for sure… Nevertheless, I loved and was heartbroken by episode 3, which is about a disaster in the Welsh town of Aberfan. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – October 2019

October was not a particularly fruitful month when it comes to favourites. I liked all of the books that I read in their entirety, but I DNFed two books in a row at the beginning of the month. I also didn’t watch many TV series or films. So, this instalment will certainly be much shorter than usual.

I finished reading three books last month – A Espada e a Azagaia by Mia Couto, The Devil’s Footprints by John Burnside and Mar Novo by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Although I enjoyed the three of them almost equally, I decided to choose as my favourite the poetry collection Mar Novo, mainly because I relished analysing some of the poems featured in it more thoroughly, something I hadn’t done in a while. Various poems in this collection have pessimistic undertones and allude to a world of darkness. The sea is used as a symbol for freedom.

More or less two weeks ago, I watched the fifth season of Peaky Blinders. I was not impressed by the first episodes, as they don’t seem to have a clear focus, but adored the last two (5 and 6). This season is set in the 1930s, and the Shelby family becomes embroiled in the rise of Nazism in the UK. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – September 2019

September has come to an end, so it’s time for another instalment of my monthly favourites! These introductions are getting a bit repetitive… One can only hope that one day I’ll have an amazing idea for the paragraph that precedes the revelation of my favourite books, TV series, music or films of the month. Today is not that day yet!

Last month, I finished reading three books – Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan and The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (which I haven’t reviewed yet). I enjoyed all of them, but there was one that stood out from the rest: Assassin’s Apprentice. It’s a fantasy story of court intrigue and lust for power that also manages to amazingly depict human emotions.

Set in the Six Duchies, which are ruled by the Farseers, it has as main character the young Fitz. When he was six years old, he was left by his maternal grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. The king decided that he was to be trained both as an assassin and in the traditional magic of the family – the Skill. Fitz’s state of mind is wonderfully portrayed. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – August 2019

This instalment of my monthly favourites is probably one of the shortest ever. There are two main reasons for that. First, I didn’t truly enjoy any of the books that I read in their entirety. And, second, I think I’m suffering from TV series hangover, if there is such a thing, because, after watching a great one, I didn’t feel like watching anything else this month, including films.

As I didn’t particularly like the two books that I managed to finish in August, I decided to mention as my favourite one that I’m not even mid-way through – Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. When the main character and narrator, Fitz, was six years old, his maternal grandfather left him at the castle of the town he lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. After some years, he started being trained in secret as an assassin. I’m enjoying Fitz’s character development and the detailed writing, as it allows me to easily visualise the scenes.

My true favourite this month, however, is the second season of Dark. If you haven’t watched it on Netflix yet, you should do so immediately. It’s fantastic! I’ve been trying to convince almost everyone that I know to watch it. It is a German science fiction thriller that is highly intriguing and at times moving. It is set in the fictional town of Winden, where there is a nuclear power plant and where a couple of young people go missing. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – July 2019

The July instalment of my monthly favourites may be a bit later than usual, but I do have a few sources of joy to share with you. These include two books (they are both worthy of a mention), two specific episodes of two very different TV series, a documentary and music from a band that I hadn’t listened to in ages.

Last month, for the first time in probably two decades, I finished rereading a book. O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis in the English translation) is one of the books that I wanted to reread, since I remembered it as an old favourite. And I’m so glad that I loved it as much as the first time! It is a fantastic example of intertextuality, as Ricardo Reis, one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms, is turned into a real person. After 16 years living in Brazil, he returns to Portugal at the end of 1935. In Lisbon, he interacts mainly with three people: Lídia, a chambermaid at the hotel he is staying in; Marcenda, a young woman whose left hand is paralysed; and his deceased friend Fernando Pessoa. Although not much happens in terms of plot, this is still an engrossing and mesmerising work of literature, which also delves into the fascist regime in Portugal.

Another book that I also highly enjoyed reading in July was Circe by Madeline Miller, a retelling of an Ancient Greek myth. Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of sun, and the nymph Perse. She was sentenced to exile on a deserted island for using witchcraft against her own kind. Her emotions throughout the novel, which reads much like a fictional memoir, are palpable. It focuses on what she learnt during her life and explores the meaning of love and the fear of losing someone. The prose is almost always gripping. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – June 2019

June has come and gone, so it’s time to share with you my monthly favourites! This instalment features a book, a TV miniseries, a film and a song, and I promise to be much more concise than in previous months.

I haven’t read many books in June, but they were all enjoyable. The one that stood out the most was In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan. It’s the fourth book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series and focuses on how Isabella became a dragon naturalist at the Scirlind army. Her work took her to Akhia to try to breed dragons. The entire series mixes anthropological, scientific and social components. Although it’s fantasy, it is written as a memoir, and the most intimate moments between the characters are marvellous.

I started a few TV shows this month, but I stopped watching the majority of them after just a couple of episodes. The most gripping one, which I completed in a few days, was Chernobyl. It’s a miniseries about the nuclear disaster that happened in Ukraine in 1986. The first episode is terrifying! I wish I hadn’t watched it before going to bed. I later discovered that the writers took some liberties with the scientific aspects of what happened, but it was still a good TV drama. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – May 2019

Another month, another instalment of my monthly favourites! Today, you can expect a long exposition about my favourite TV show. But, fear not, before that I’ll reveal my favourite book and songs from May. I don’t want to bore you to death if you’re not even remotely interested in the show in question.

May was a complex reading month. I read the final pages of a book that I didn’t like and read in their entirety another three. Regarding the latter, I had conflicting feelings about A Cidade de Ulisses (City of Ulysses) by Teolinda Gersão and liked both The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante and The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. After some contemplation, I think my favourite was The Story of a New Name. It is the second book in the Neapolitan novels and continues to follow the lives of the friends Elena and Lila. I wholeheartedly recommend this compelling story about female friendship, which is full of conflicting emotions. It also features reflections on class, equality and social mobility.

Music-wise, I loved two new songs by The Black Keys, ‘Eagle Birds’ and ‘Lo/Hi’. Rock songs that we can dance to are some of my favourites, and these are just great for that. I’m really excited to listen to the new album in full. Continue reading