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

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

Daphne du Maurier: A Queen of Atmospheric Novels

Daphne du Maurier may have been born in London in 1907, but it’s Cornwall, where she lived for most of her life and died in 1989, the main setting of several of her books. Boasting a craggy coast, inspiring coves, sandy beaches and clifftops filled with flowers, the region fits perfectly with her atmospheric stories. It’s not difficult to fall in love with her writing style. Vivid characters, a gripping prose and a sprinkle of mystery turn her novels into enthralling reads, even if they are not always perfect. She published her first novel, The Loving Spirit, in 1931. This is not the book she is best known for, though.

Rebecca is probably her most famous novel and, without a doubt, my favourite so far. After marrying Maxim de Winter, the unnamed narrator moved with him to his family home, the iconic Manderley. Being an insecure young woman, she already felt inferior to his deceased first wife, Rebecca. Living in Manderley only amplified her doubts and apprehensions. While she didn’t know how to deal with the staff nor was she familiar with her husband’s routines, Rebecca seemed to have been perfect. And Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper, was always there to remind her of that.

Accusations of plagiarism were raised regarding the book. Carolina Nabuco, a Brazilian author, believed that Daphne du Maurier had plagiarised her novel A Sucessora, although it had only been published in Portuguese at the time. She considered that the initial storyline of both novels was very similar, but she never sued Du Maurier, who claimed that she had never heard of Nabuco’s book before. The American Edwina Levin MacDonald went as far as filing suit in 1941. The complaint was dismissed, however. Continue reading

‘The House on the Strand’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

If proof was needed of Daphne du Maurier’s capability to successfully combine different genres in a single book, The House on the Stand could attest to that. It is a mix of sci-fi and historical fiction that overall is used to tell a story about drug abuse and its consequences. As occasionally happens with novels which feature more than one strand, it isn’t gripping in its entirety, but the narrator’s struggle to face his addiction to a past that he never lived in rings true and is noteworthy.

The narrator, Richard (Dick) Young, travelled in time after trying a new secret drug created by his long-time friend Magnus, a Professor at the London University, whom had convinced him to stay at his house in Cornwall during the holidays. While he was in the past, his eyesight, hearing and sense of smell were heightened. He only lacked his sense of touch. As Magnus had informed him, he wasn’t aware of his body touching the ground or objects. He could walk and sit but couldn’t feel it. He had also been warned not to touch living beings from the past, because the link would break. This is all gradually explained by Dick while he recalls walking around in the past.

When he returned to the present, he felt nauseous. He craved a beverage, but Magnus had warned him not to drink alcohol immediately afterwards. Soon after, his friend called to know if he had tried the drug. They concluded that they had both gone to the lane to Tywardreath in the 14th century. 600 years separated the past from the present. Magnus had tried the drug beforehand and had also seen a horseman, who a prior called Roger, a girl and a monk. Their experiences were connected with a medieval priory which had once been part of Tywardreath. Continue reading

Book Haul – April 2019

I hadn’t planned to buy any books this month, but the desire to take part in the Daphne du Maurier reading week in May had me looking for new ones to add to my already overflowing small shelves. Could have I just bought one book? Yes! Did I? Of course not! This is a somewhat diverse haul, featuring a couple of different genres – classics, fantasy and literary fiction.

 

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier is one of the authors that I want to read at least one book by every year. I read Jamaica Inn in January and wasn’t planning to read any other of her books in the following months. But then I discovered that Ali is dedicating a week (13 to 19 May) to du Maurier and decided to join in. For that purpose, I chose The House on the Strand. The main character, Dick Young, drinks a potion provided to him by a chemical researcher that allows him to time travel. He ends up in fourteenth-century Cornwall where he witnesses murder and adultery.

 

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

In the latest years, I’ve been reading the fantasy book series The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan. In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth instalment and reveals how Lady Trent gained her position in the Scirling Royal Army. All the other books were a mix of adventure with feminism and anthropological elements. I expect the same from this one. Continue reading