Book Haul – December 2020

A long time has passed since I wrote my previous book haul. I bought some books between then and now but never in bulk. As I was reading them almost immediately after buying them, I didn’t feel like sharing them with you on a post before reviewing them. This month, though, I decided to order seven books from the UK (before the Brexit transition period ends to avoid them potentially ending up in Customs next year) and they all arrived at the same time!

 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries is one of the four massive books that I plan to read during the first half of 2021. Set in the 19th century, it has as main character Walter Moody, who decided to try to make his fortune in the goldfields of New Zealand. He becomes involved in the mystery surrounding various unsolved crimes. Although I wasn’t impressed by the TV adaptation, I decided to give the novel by Eleanor Catton a whirl.

 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

It is decided! The first book that I’ll read next year is the colossal War and Peace! Now that I’ve finally bought it (in a stunning Vintage Classic Russians edition, which sadly arrived damaged), I can’t delay picking it up anymore. As Napoleon’s army marches on Russia, the lives of a group of young people change forever. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy it as much as Anna Karenina. Continue reading

Books Between a 3 and a 4-Star Rating

Deciding on the rating of a book can sometimes be difficult. I usually struggle when my opinions and feelings about a book change throughout the reading experience. Some books have great beginnings, while others become outstanding closer to the end. I decided early on not to give half-stars, since that would make me overthink (even more) the rating. Why only give a book 3.5 stars when it could maybe be a 3.75? That decision left me with another problem, though – how to rate books that I enjoyed for the most part, but that I also had more qualms about than I typically do for a four-star read.

There are at least five books that I struggled to decide whether to rate with four or three stars.

 

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

The second book in The Farseer Trilogy continues to tell the story of Fitz, who, being the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, is a member of the Farseer royal family. Court intrigue, battles and magic abound in this novel that I rated with four stars after some contemplation. For almost half of the book, the plot doesn’t seem to have a well-defined direction and the pacing is all over the place. However, the rest of the book is engaging and affecting. The characters gain a new life and shine as bright as in the first book in the trilogy, Assassin’s Apprentice. Continue reading

Huge Books on My Wish List

Since I’ve started setting myself a minimum number of books to read in each given year, I feel like I’ve been (unconsciously) avoiding picking up huge books. I only read around an hour per day on average, so it takes me several weeks to read a book longer than 800 pages. There are four massive books that I want to read soon, though! And by soon, I mean probably next year, since I will have to either maybe lower the number of books on my usual reading challenge or not to have one at all.

 

The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber

Set in Victorian London, it has as main character Sugar, a young woman trying to achieve a better life in any way she can. It is around 860 pages long. As the majority of the reviews that I read are quite positive, it has inexcusably been on my wish list for far too long.

 

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the fantasy series The Farseer Trilogy (the first one more than the second to be honest), whose main character and narrator is the royal bastard Fitz. Thus, I’m curious to read the third instalment, Assassin’s Quest. At the same time, however, I’m fearful, as I found Royal Assassin unnecessarily lengthy and its follow-up is even longer. Will it justify being around 840 pages long? Continue reading

‘Royal Assassin’ by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 stars

Long books can be just the perfect size. Either the stories within couldn’t possibly be told in fewer pages or the pacing is so exquisite that they never feel dull. Unfortunately, that is not the case with Royal Assassin, the second book in The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. In fact, it could have been an outstanding fantasy book had it been much shorter. For almost half of it, the pacing is lopsided and the plot doesn’t seem to have a defined, clear direction. The rest of the novel, however, is superb, enthralling and affecting.

Following the events of Assassin’s Apprentice and what Prince Regal had done to him, Fitz was left wondering whether he should return to Buckkeep or not. He also questioned what to do regarding Molly. Not being sure about which path to take, he told Burrich to return to Buckkeep while he continued to recover. Nevertheless, after learning through a vision that Siltbay, the town Molly was in, was being raided, he decided to return with Burrich after all.

Not only was he then reunited with Verity (one of the few people who knew what Regal had done) and Patience, but he was also surprised to discover that Molly was at the keep as well, working as a maid. She had gone to Siltbay to help some relatives with the harvest. After the town was raided, however, she returned to ask for his help. It was only then that she learnt that he was not the scriber’s boy but the bastard of Prince Chivalry. She felt betrayed. Continue reading

Books I Almost Loved

Very rarely do I rate books with five stars. For that to happen, a book has to be perfect in every regard in my opinion. I can’t even have a minor complaint. As I decided early on not to use half stars on my ratings, I always award four stars to books that weren’t flawless but that I almost loved. Only by reading the review can my high esteem for such books be fully perceived. The following eight books fall under that category.

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

This retelling of an Ancient Greek myth resembles a fictional memoir. Circe, the daughter of Helios (the god of sun) and Perse (a nymph), was sentenced to exile as a punishment for using witchcraft against her own kind. Throughout the book, Madeline Miller delves into the meaning of love and the fear of losing a dear one. The prose is gripping and the characters feel truly real, thanks to a tangible portrayal of emotions, particularly those of Circe. However, the book loses a bit of its enchantment when Circe tells stories about Odysseus.

 

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

The first book in The Farseer Trilogy is not only a story of court intrigue and lust for power, but also a true interpretation of human emotions. When he was 6 years old, Fitz was left by his grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in, because he was the bastard son of the Crown Prince, Chivalry. Some years later, he started being trained as an assassin in secret. The detailed and absorbing writing style is one of the highlights of this fantasy book. Unfortunately, the last chapter is not as thorough and some events are just briefly mentioned. Continue reading

Book Haul – March / April 2020

During strange times, there’s something calming about reading a book and get immersed in a fictional world, reason why I had to buy some books! This haul features classics, fantasy and historical fiction. I’ve already finished one of the books, and the others I expect to read soon.

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time more than ten years ago. It was the first book that I read by Jane Austen. Having now read all of her major novels once, I decided to reread it, but this time in English, as I had previously read the Portuguese translation. So, I bought a beautiful Vintage Classics edition.

 

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

In the second book in The Farseer trilogy, Robin Hobb continues to tell the story of Fitz, as he faces grave danger and is asked to make sacrifices for the good of the realm. I expect this instalment to continue to explore human emotions and to also be full of court intrigue. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2019

2019 was a complicated reading year. I read various praiseworthy novels, short story and poetry collections. In terms of genres, my reading was as varied, featuring classics, literary fiction, fantasy and myth retellings, for example. So far, I’ve read 34 books and will probably finish another one in the following days. However, I decided not to finish eight books, a number higher than ever before, if I’m not mistaken.

This was also the year when I chose to reread a book again after probably decades without doing so. Thus, I had to decide whether to include rereads in my favourite books of the year or not from now on. I decided against it. This post only includes books that I read for the first time during the year, irrespective of date of publication.

I don’t tend to rate books with five stars very often, because they need to be completely flawless for that to happen. This year I only rated one book with five stars, and it was the one that I reread – O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis) by José Saramago. The majority of the books that I rate with four stars are still great, though. Some of the five books that I selected as my favourites of 2019 are indeed almost perfect, in my opinion. In reverse order, they are: 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

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

‘Assassin’s Apprentice’ by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 stars

Fantasy novels aren’t merely a vessel to transport readers to a world full of magic. Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book in The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb, deals with very true-to-life topics. Not only is this a story about court intrigue and lust for power, but it also delves into human emotions in a believable way. Set in the Six Duchies, which are ruled by the Farseers, this is the first introduction to a meticulously imagined world that begs to be discovered and savoured.

When the narrator was six years old, he was left by his grandfather at the castle of the town where they lived in. He was the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, the Crown Prince, who, according to the old man, was aware that he had got his daughter pregnant. A guard took him to Prince Verity, who then ordered him to be fed and taken someplace where he could sleep until he decided what was to be done with him. For some weeks, he slept at the stables and was taken care of by Burrich, who at the time was his father’s man. He was later taken to Buckkeep without ever knowing Chivalry.

His existence complicated the line of succession. Prince Chivalry was married to Lady Patience, but they didn’t have a child together, as neither of her pregnancies had lasted the full term. He, thus, ended up abdicating the throne, and Verity assumed his place. At first, the political aspects of the book are just hinted at. The political machinations that took place among the royal family can be inferred from the conversations between the characters. They become more obvious as the story progresses. Continue reading