Favourite Female Characters II

Almost six years ago, I wrote a post about my favourite female characters to celebrate International Women’s Day. Since then, I read various other books whose female characters I found as interesting as the ones I mentioned previously (or in some cases even more). Some of them shine because of their compelling personalities. Others may not have an immediately fascinating temperament, but they stand out thanks to their authenticity. Well-crafted characters can be captivating regardless of their traits.

The seven characters mentioned bellow are part of books from various genres, from fantasy to literary and historical fiction. Some I spent a long time with, as they are featured in series, others just a few days. They all have one thing in common, though. They lingered on in my mind. It is also not surprising that three of the characters were created by Daphne du Maurier, since her talent is well known.

 

Althea Vestrit – The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The younger daughter of Ephron Vestrit, Althea is one of the main characters in Ship of Magic, The Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny, the three books in The Liveship Traders Trilogy by the fantasy writer Robin Hobb. Her family has a liveship called Vivacia and her biggest dream is to be her captain one day. She is wilful and feels restricted by the sexist society she lives in. Although she occasionally makes rash decisions, she reflects on her mistakes. She has her own desires, but can adapt them as the situation around her changes. What she experiences throughout the series is deeply affecting. Continue reading

Advertisement

‘Ship of Destiny’ by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 stars

When readers start immersing themselves in the fantasy world presented in The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb, they have more questions than answers. Fortunately, by the end of Ship of Destiny, the last instalment in the second series set in the Realm of the Elderlings, almost all of those queries have satisfying answers. Some of them can be predicted based on the information provided in the previous books, Ship of Magic and The Mad Ship, while others come as a surprise. Although the development of the plot is not perfectly paced and not all of the strands are equally gripping, most characters are outstandingly portrayed.

In the previous two books various complications arise in Bingtown, Jamaillia, the Rain Wilds and the Pirate Isles. The time has come for the characters to sort it all out. The people of Bingtown have a serious conflict in their midst. Will the Old Traders, New Traders, Tree Ships and slaves manage to forge peace and create a better society? Will Althea get Vivacia back? The origin of wizardwood continues to be explored too with suspicions being surely confirmed. Kennit’s past is further delved into and readers learn why he was so eager to own a liveship.

All the books in the series are told in the third person from various perspectives. In this instalment, they can be grouped into two main strands that gradually start converging. While one is set on land, the other takes place mostly on the high seas. They are not equally gripping, however. The one Althea and Brashen are involved in is not only more engaging, because of their defined goal, but also more affecting, thanks to the detail and care with which their actions are conveyed. Continue reading

Unexpected Pairs of Books

Books can be of completely different genres, tell an incomparable story, feature characters with overall contrasting personalities and still have at least one element in common. The following three pairs of books are unexpected, because at first sight they couldn’t be more dissimilar. However, there’s one characteristic that unites the books in each pair. What can connect three classics or modern classics to three fantasy books? While you are about to discover the correlation between two of the pairs, regarding the other one you will have to read the books!

 

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin + Os Maias (The Maias) by Eça de Queirós

I cannot directly tell you what the connection between A Game of Thrones, a fantasy novel, and the Portuguese classic Os Maias (The Maias in the English translation) is, because it is a massive spoiler for one of these books. I’ll just give you a brief summary of their premises instead. At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Robert Baratheon is the king who sits on the Iron Throne. After the death of his Hand, he invites Lord Eddard Stark to assume the role.  However, since the lords of Westeros are playing dangerous power games, families want to keep secrets hidden, the exiled Targaryen’s want to retake their father’s throne and a legendary threat is lurking behind the Wall, peace may be at an end.

The classic by Eça de Queirós, as the title suggests, revolves around the misadventures of the Maia family. After the end in tragedy of the relationship between Pedro da Maia and Maria Monforte, Afonso da Maia becomes responsible for the upbringing of his grandson, Carlos, who later becomes besotted by Maria Eduarda. Besides being a family story, the book also shines a light on the vices of the higher classes and the cultural discussions of the 19th century. Continue reading

Books Told from Different Perspectives

Narrators are an essential part of all novels, novellas and short story collections. They can either be one of the characters or mere fictional observers that take no part in the action. Some books even have more than one narrator, the story being told from different perspectives or points of view. Those perspectives can be conveyed in a variety of ways – via a first-person narrator; an omniscient narrator, who knowns everything about all of the characters; or a third-person narrator who adopts the point of view of a specific character.

I’m always drawn to books that feature chapters narrated from different perspectives, presenting a compelling mix of voices. From the ones that I’ve read and enjoyed, despite not all being favourites of mine, there are seven that immediately sprang to mind.

 

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

At the beginning of the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, Robert Baratheon is the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms and sits on the Iron Throne. After the death of his Hand, he invites his old friend Lord Eddard Stark to assume the suddenly vacant role. Peace is fragile, though, since the lords of Westeros are playing dangerous games and the exiled Targaryens want to take back their father’s throne. The intricate characters and the enthralling plot turn this book into a compelling mix of fantasy and political machinations. It is told in the third person from the perspectives of various characters: Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen and six members of the Stark family – Ned, Catelyn, Bran, Sansa, Arya and Jon Snow. Continue reading

Mid-Year Freak Out Tag

The mid of the year is just around the corner, so this is the perfect time to start reflecting on our reading year. I’ve recently watched Lauren from the YouTube channel Lauren and the Books doing the Mid-year Freak Out Tag and decided to answer the questions as well, although, if everything goes according to plan, I’ll read more books in the second half of the year than in the first and, therefore, the best may well be still to come.

 

  1. Best book you have read so far this year

One by One in the Darkness by Deirdre Madden is probably the best book I’ve read this year so far. Through a story of a grieving family, it paints a picture of the Northern Irish society during the Troubles. As the book goes back and forth in time, the fascinating characters come to life.

 

  1. Best sequel you’ve read so far this year

I’ve only read one sequel so far – The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb. It is the second book in The Liveship Traders Trilogy, which is set in a world where the figureheads of ships become alive, because they are made of wood with magical properties. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from ‘Our Wives under the Sea’ to ‘Hotel Iris’

It’s the beginning of the month, which means that it’s time for another chain of books. Six Degrees of Separation is a bookish meme created by Kate from Books are My Favourite and Best. Every month Kate chooses one book to start the chain and we just have to select other six, each connected in some way with the previous one.

For April the first book is Our Wives under the Sea by Julia Armfield, which I haven’t read yet, though I enjoyed her collection of short stories Salt Slow. In her debut novel, Miri is happy that her wife, Leah, has returned home from a deep-sea mission. Leah is struggling, however, as that mission has not ended well.

The title of Julia Armfield’s novel reminds me of the short story collection Diving Belles by Lucy Wood. The main character in the first tale, which is memorably atmospheric, goes under the sea on a diving belle to see her husband. The sea is, in fact, a recurring element in many of the stories featured in this collection. Continue reading

The Book Design Tag

When a book I’m interested in is published wrapped up in a beautiful cover, I cannot hide my excitement! I know that what truly matters is the text inside. However, an appealing cover, gorgeously designed, is always a more than welcome extra. As soon as I watched the Book Design Tag on Lil’s Vintage World YouTube channel, I knew that I had to answer the questions myself. How could I miss another opportunity to share and showcase some of the most stunning books that I have on my shelves?

 

  1. A book you bought primarily (or completely) because of the cover

I bought The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton solely because I fell in love with its gorgeous cover that tries to replicate a cabinet house. When I finally read it, I loved it so much that the first post I wrote for this blog was a review about it, although I had finished it a couple of months previously.

 

  1. A book you want to buy that has a beautiful cover

There are so many stunning books on my wish list that it isn’t easy to pick just one. So, I decided to mention the last beautiful book I added to the list of those I want to buy at some point in time – The Haunting Season. It is a collection of ghost stories written by various authors for this particular purpose. Continue reading

‘The Mad Ship’ by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 stars

Set in a world where the figureheads of ships become alive, wood has magical properties and pirates have great aspirations, The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb, the second instalment in The Liveship Traders Trilogy, continues to explore the characters presented in the first book, Ship of Magic (which I won’t be spoiling), while also introducing new ones. As the plot progresses, not only do we learn more about the characters, but we also start to uncover the connection between some of the fantastical elements in the story. However, the more we learn, the more curious we become about the intricacies of their correlation.

As the book starts, many of the familiar characters are dealing with complicated situations. Althea continues to try to prove herself worthy of captaining a liveship. Her interactions with Ophelia, the sassiest of liveships, are riveting. While Wintrow tries to find a way to help his family, Vivacia’s loyalty seems to be increasingly more divided, thanks to what she has been subjected to. Paragon is still being shunned by his family. And the sea serpents continue their quest to find the One Who Remembers, in order to being able to recall who they truly are.

It’s not only the more personal lives of the characters that are in turmoil, though. The Old Traders of Bingtown are not pleased with the way they are being treated by the current Satrap of Jamaillia nor with the new fees imposed on them. The conflict between them introduces two new characters to the story – the Satrap himself, who is a spoilt, irresponsible young man, and one of his advisors, Serilla. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2021

2021 hasn’t been the year during which I read the highest number of books by no stretch of the imagination, but I surely read some good ones. Picking up some massive books throughout the year didn’t help, particularly because I ended up not finishing three of them, so they didn’t count for my read books. So far, I’ve read in their entirety 22 books. Until the end of the year, I’m still hoping to finish the humongous The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb and to read another two much shorter books. None of these are likely to be good candidates for my favourite books of the year, though.

Throughout 2021, I read books from various genres and of several formats. Novels, novellas, short story and poetry collections were all part of my reading choices. They can be categorised as historical fiction, fantasy, dystopian and literary fiction. The majority of the books that I read were new to me, but I also reread two books. Livro by José Luís Peixoto I certainly enjoyed, although not as much as I remember doing the first time, and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell remains one of my favourite books of all time.

Only taking into consideration the books that I read for the first time in 2021, however, my favourites, in reverse order, are: Continue reading

Books I Want to Read Until the End of 2021

There are only three full months left in 2021, and I’m falling behind in my reading challenge. In order to complete it, I will have to finish the eight books that I’m truly eager to read until the year is over. The list features both novels, short story collections and poetry. Some authors are new to me, while others are old acquaintances. Some books are massive, others are tiny. In terms of genres, they are as diverse.

 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I’ve only recently started reading The Luminaries and don’t have a strong opinion about it yet. As I don’t think I’ll DNF it, though, it is one of the books I want to finish until the end of the year. Set in 1866, it follows Walter Moody as he arrives in New Zealand to try his luck at the goldfields and to search for his father, who disappeared from Scotland. At the Crown Hotel, he encounters a group of twelve people who are discussing a series of crimes.

 

Não Se Pode Morar nos Olhos de um Gato by Ana Margarida de Carvalho

Set at the end of the 19th century, this novel by the Portuguese author Ana Margarida de Carvalho has been on my wish list for years. The time has come to finally read it. After the abolition of slavery, a boat illegally carrying slaves sinks near the coast of Brazil, but a group of people manages to survive. They are the main focus of this book, which seems to be most of all a character study. Continue reading