Favourite Books I Read in 2020

In theory, the fiasco that was 2020 afforded us far more free time for reading. Nevertheless, I managed to read not only fewer books, but also fewer pages than in the previous year. The only reason for that is that I found it difficult to focus on whichever book I was reading for long periods of time, having had to shorten each reading session significantly. On the bright side, I enjoyed the vast majority of the books that I have read.

So far, I have read 29 books in their entirety and will certainly finish the one I’m currently reading before the end of the year. Almost all of the books that I decided to pick up were novels and novellas, but I also read a couple of short story and poetry collections (I didn’t review all of them, though). My reading was also varied in terms of genres: literary fiction, classics, fantasy, myth retellings, historical fiction… Two of the books that I read were not new to me. After reading their translations into Portuguese years ago, I decided to finally read Atonement by Ian McEwan and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen in the original. I loved them as much as I did the first time.

However, only taking into consideration the books that I’ve read for the first time in 2020, irrespective of date of publication, my favourites, in reverse order, are: Continue reading

So Different and So Similar Pairs of Books

Two books can have significant elements in common and still tell different stories. Characters may face similar situations, but their individual choices take the plots in completely different directions. The themes of two novels may be similar, but the action, the characters and the writing style ensure that they are ultimately distinctive and readers are still experiencing a fresh story.

I’ve read (at least) four pairs of books that are both different and similar for various reasons.

 

História do Cerco de Lisboa (The History of the Siege of Lisbon) by José Saramago + The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

These two novels have in common being my least favourites, so far, by José Saramago and Daphne du Maurier, two authors I adore. This is not the reason why I chose them to be part of this post. Both of them are also set in two different time periods, which are connected by a man. The tribulations that the characters face, however, are completely different. 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

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

‘The Doll Factory’ by Elizabeth Macneal

My rating: 4 stars

Characters are an essential part of a compelling book. Although the ones featured in The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal feel slightly artificial at first, they become fully fledged and engrossing as the story progresses. Together with an absorbing plot and a vivid writing style, they help turn this debut novel about freedom, independence and the difference between love and obsession into a gripping read, which also portrays a hypocritical and judgemental society.

The year is 1850, and the location is London. Twin sisters Iris and Rose work at Mrs Salter’s Doll Emporium. Iris’s job is to paint the dolls. What she really wants to do in life, though, is to paint proper pictures, instead of china eyes and cheeks. She longs to become an artist. Despite both her family and the society in general seeing it as immoral, she is secretly trying to paint a picture of herself.

By chance, Iris meets Silas at the place where the Great Exhibition is to be held. He collects curiosities and dedicates himself to taxidermy. The way in which he performs his task is described in a chilling tone. Almost instantly, Silas becomes obsessed with Iris. She reminds him of Flick, a close friend he had when he was 15 years old. There’s a convincing eeriness surrounding him. 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