Other Favourite Stories of 2020

I feel that in 2020 I spent more time watching TV series and films than reading books thanks to the pandemic. That doesn’t mean that I have a higher number of other favourite stories (those that I watched on a screen) to share with you than in previous years, though. The majority of the films that I watched were not particularly remarkable and many ended up just being background noise while I absentmindedly scrolled through social media feeds. There are four TV series, however, that I’ve highly enjoyed and wholeheartedly recommend.

 

Dark – Season 3

For sure one of the best TV shows I’ve ever watched on Netflix, Dark is a German science fiction thriller about time travel and various families dealing with loss, grief and love. It can be quite complex, so viewers have to pay careful attention, which it’s not much to ask, seeing that the series is engaging and compelling. In season 3, all strands are convincingly linked together in a way that I didn’t see coming. I’ll definitely re-watch the entire series sometime in the future.

 

Dracula

A new adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula was the first TV series I watched in 2020 on Netflix (it was originally created for the BBC, though). Claes Bang is flawless as Count Dracula. The first and second episodes are exquisite, terrifying and compelling. The third episode feels very different from the others, primarily because it’s set in modern-day England, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I liked how the creators of the show tried to present a reason for Dracula being afraid of certain objects. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – November 2020

As it has been mostly the case this year, this instalment of my monthly favourites is very brief. I finished three books in November and, surprisingly, DNFed another (after liking all the books that I had read by John Burnside, I wasn’t expecting to give up on Ashland & Vine). However, I only truly liked one of them, the others were just satisfactory at best. I also started watching a couple of TV series, but only completed one of them.

My favourite book from the ones that I read last month is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. To be honest, I read the majority of this epistolary novel during October but only finished it at the beginning of November. Gilbert Markham writes a letter to a friend telling him the story of how he met a young widowed woman, Mrs Helen Graham, how he became in love with her, and how she let him know about the mistreatment she suffered from her husband. Although it doesn’t have a perfect pacing, this novel by the youngest of the Brontë sisters features various fleshed out characters. As we learn more about Helen Graham’s past, her initial behaviour becomes understandable.

I’m sure that you have all already heard of (or watched) The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, but I have to join in the praise. It is an adaptation of the book with the same title by Walter Tevis, which I haven’t read, that focuses on the life of Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy who struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. I’d never thought that a TV series about chess could be so compelling, only one of the episodes is a bit boring. I have no idea how to play chess and was gripped nevertheless. The performances are terrific, and whoever chose the main character’s wardrobe deserves an award! Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – October 2020

Favourites were scarce in October, which is unsurprising this year. I have watched a couple of TV series, but they didn’t blow me away, and the new adaptation of Rebecca was extremely infuriating. This post is about my favourites, though. This edition features a book, a documentary and a blog post.

Although I only finished two books last month, one of them was amazing. It was a pleasure to rediscover Atonement by Ian McEwan more than a decade after first reading it in translation. When Briony saw her sister Cecilia and Robbie near the fountain at their house’s garden, her imagination was propelled. Her misunderstanding of their relationship had devastating consequences. This is a highly compelling novel. The structure perfectly fits the plot and a great variety of emotions are outstandingly conveyed.

As someone who often uses social media, I am interested in how it affects society. The Social Dilemma, a documentary with drama elements available on Netflix, explores how social media platforms are deliberately causing users to become addicted, in order to increase revenue from ads, how they have serious effects on mental health, and how they are increasing polarisation in politics, creating an “us vs them” mentality. The interviews with people from within the industry are enlightening, and the fictional story presented verges on the horror. Continue reading

TV Adaptations I Watched Before Reading the Books

I don’t always attempt to read the books before watching their adaptations. That is true for films and TV series alike. TV adaptations have, in fact, introduced me not only to books that I loved and cherished, but also to ones that I hope to enjoy in the future. Occasionally, I watch adaptations that don’t arouse my interest in reading the books for a variety of reasons (Outlander, Poldark and Normal People are some examples). This post is, however, about the TV adaptations of books that I’ve now already read or that I still want to read!

 

The Luminaries

I’ve watched The Luminaries this summer. Although I didn’t love it, since it has too few episodes to become familiar with the characters, it left me eager to read the book by Eleanor Catton, which I’m hoping to enjoy much more. It is set in New Zealand in the 19th century and focuses on Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines.

 

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Before reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, I watched the BBC adaptation in 2015. A year later, I decided to pick up the book, since the story had fascinated me. Set in the 19th century, it’s an alternate history and fantasy novel about the restoration of English magic. Two practical magicians, who have very distinctive personalities, are commissioned to help win the war against Napoleon. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – August 2020

Another month has come to an end (since April it seems that time is flying by exceedingly fast). So, today I’m sharing with you my favourites from August! They include a book, a TV show, a music album and a blog post.

After a long while, I finally rated a book with five stars again. The Vegetarian by Han Kang is a disconcerting, affecting and extraordinary exploration of abuse, mental health issues, rebellion against social conventions and desire. Yeong-hye had always been a dutiful wife until the day that she decided to become a vegetarian after having a disturbing dream. We never read her version of events, though. The story is told from three other perspectives – her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister. It is through their angles that we become aware of what she had to endure throughout her life and what influenced her actions.

On a much lighter note, I enjoyed watching the TV series The Great on HBO Portugal (I don’t know where you can watch it in other countries). Staring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, it’s a gripping comedy-drama based on the rise of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Don’t expect it to be historically accurate! From the very beginning, it lets viewers know that that is not the aim at all. In fact, it’s occasionally obviously outlandish. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – June 2020

June is coming to an end, thus it’s time for another instalment of my monthly favourites. I’m about to share with you the book, TV show, blog post and YouTube video that I enjoyed the most during the last thirty days.

I have only finished one book this month. The reason why is that I’ve been reading Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb for at least three weeks now and still haven’t finished it. It would have been terrible if I hadn’t enjoyed the only novel that I read in its entirety. But unsurprisingly I loved rereading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and remembering why it’s one of my favourite classics. It was wonderful to get reacquainted with a story that is full of interesting characters, brilliant dialogues and that is written in an engaging and witty style. Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s interactions are often amusing.

The third (and last) season of Dark became available on Netflix during the weekend and is also one of my favourites from June. It is a German science fiction thriller that features time travel and various families trying to deal with loss, grief and love. As with previous seasons, it requires full attention from viewers. I highly enjoyed it! All parts were linked together effectively and engagingly. Some aspects, however, could have been further explored, such as the state of mind of some characters in certain instances. I also have the feeling that some revelations happened too hastily, but that sensation may be a consequence of me binge-watching the episodes in a space of three days and not a fault of the series itself. Continue reading

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

Other Favourite Stories of 2019

Books are undoubtedly the protagonists of this blog. However, I also consume stories, be they fictional or not, through other forms of media. So, I like to annually compile and share with you my other favourite stories, which are usually TV series and films. From the ones that I watched for the first time in 2019, I have four favourites.

 

Game of Thrones – Season 8

The last season of Game of Thrones was surely divisive. I’m part of the seeming minority (or maybe of the less vocal majority) who liked it immensely. I’ve discussed the reasons behind my enjoyment in significant detail on my monthly favourites of April and May, so I’m going to avoid spoilers and be brief this time.

Season 8 is visually stunning, atmospheric and emotive. Not only did I cry, but I also laughed. The acting is outstanding, the camera work is fantastic, and the score is perfect. I don’t think that I’ve mentioned it before, but I loved the final montage. The actions of the characters, in my opinion, result fully from their personalities and are a consequence of their life experiences. Although there is one occurrence that, at first, feels slightly anticlimactic, everything makes sense. I would have liked it to be one or two episodes longer (I think I’ve used the term ‘a couple of’ before). They were not necessarily needed for a fitting telling of the story, but I selfishly wanted more interactions between the characters. Their state of mind would have been even clearer. 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