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Nymphadora

Nymphadora's Attic

 

So I'm finally snuggled up, with my stomach almost as full as my heart. I've been enjoying my time in my hometown far too much, lately. It has been blissful to get together with my loved ones again and Christmas has been particularly eventful, with the usual excess of food and drinks. But now I've attained such a state of peaceful slumber, I wish you could partake on it. In my family, we do not exchange presents, but that does not dim the light of this season for us.

I know the "Best of the Year" "craze" has been going on from the beginning of December, but it wasn't until recently that I've realized 2015 will be the year for reading books that already rest on my shelves. I've accumulated quite a number of them and I've been reading far too slowly, so that will be one of my resolutions - to spend less money on them. I'll surely accompany that with some French reads in my Kobo Aura, and some borrowed ones too.

All in all, it's been a great literary year, I'm not going to finish anything else until the very end of it, but 55 books is a great number for me and I'm ready to embrace 2015 :)
Hope you all have lots of fun in the days to come and may we all have an amazing New Year * J.
 
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Classics Vs. Contemporary

It hasn’t been a month since I last read in a Portuguese online newspaper a chronicle defending that it’s worthless to read new books. The author states that in a human life, being an assiduous reader, we would only get to read 4000-5000 complete books. And as so, he would rely on the “test of time” to choose his reads, thus omiting new releases on his personal library. As we all know, classics have earned their title because their message has remained valid or, at least, questionable for (sometimes) centuries and so even the most rebellious teenager on the 21st century would benefit somehow from reading them. Funny enough, one of my most recent posts is about a list I am trying to follow while picking up new reads – the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die”. While it would be impossible for me to stick exclusively to that list, because my interests always cause me to drift away from that path, choosing that list implies that I trust someone else’s opinion on what should be read. Of course, that is a very personal choice, but I do think it is important to do so in order to avoid wasting my time, since I barely ever quit reading mid-way. There are many valid ways to value someone’s opinion or even get suggestions of books you never even heard about – through friends, if yours are the bookish type, through literary critics, Goodreads ratings (although that is a tricky one, ever since Amazon bought it, I must say) and, of course, fellow bloggers, IF their tastes are similar to yours, because I do find that the majority of bloggers are too much influenced by new releases (a.k.a. publishing companies) and therefore they become expert marketers. All the information is out there, you just need to pick through it.

The list I mentioned before includes both contemporary and classic reads, as well as works from very diverse origins, and it has been updated in 2012 and those are the main reasons I chose it. Also, I tested it. I calculated my average of ratings on the books I had already checked, and it was superior to 4/5, which has satisfied me.

While I do agree that classics are a major reference, I do feel like reading contemporary stuff makes me feel a part of something, like I contributed to the background scenery of that play. Also, readers can better understand different realities to their own, ethnical, racial, sexual, political, with a direct reflexion in their daily lives. I do think it is of the utmost importance to understand our own reality and the current tendencies in as a many ways as possible. Besides, refusing to try it, is quite limiting. I do think I could be fulfilled as a reader, through classics only, but I don’t like to think I could be missing another spectrum of colours entirely. Even if my favorite contemporary authors won’t make it to a Nobel prize or don’t survive the next decade, I have enjoyed them and to me they’re eternal. I do believe Literature should always be lived, albeit critically.

 

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Memória de Elefante

Memória de Elefante - António Lobo Antunes I knew I was in for a treat, but oh boy… Unfortunately there’s no translation into English, for now, but the title would be something like “Elephant’s Memory” (or not, I’m really not good at this). Lobo Antunes is a Portuguese psychiatrist and proliphic writer and I’m ashamed for never before having picked up any of his books. People have recommended me this one as a baptism, probably because it’s one of the shortest and it’s auto-bibliographical. You can tell immediately he’s such a freakishly good author, with such a deep and brutal insight that sometimes it hurt to read some passages. It’s mostly about a loss he suffered and the perspective it gave him (and gives anyone really) on his daily life and the way he lives it through memories. I won’t come back to this author soon enough, but I do need some recovery time.

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Une Journée Avec le Petit Prince

Une Journée Avec le Petit Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry This was a re-read, but this time… in French! Yes, I’m taking an intensive course in this language and need any help I can get. I chose this one for a start because it’s one of my favorite books ever and it was originally written in French (I tend to prefer originals than translations, for obvious reasons). It was already a bit of a challenge, although it is intended for children, but I do believe in baby steps and perseverance, I’m reliving my difficulties while reading in English for the first time. What can I say about this? It is a guide for friendships and human relationships in general and that’s why I think every one should read it at a tender age, even if, like me, it takes you several reads to perfectly understand every single sentence. I’ll carry these messages with me, through life.

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O Homem Duplicado

O Homem Duplicado - José Saramago Coming from (probably) the most celebrated Portuguese author, - winner of the Nobel prize for Literature - this was a bit of a set down. I do appreciate him as a writer ever since I had to read, for Secondary School, “Baltazar and Blimunda”. His writing is unique, albeit hard to merge into, and his social critique is perfectly conveyed through fiction (and fantasy) as well as bringing about philosophically and emotionally hard questions. However, I found myself dragging this particular work, because I felt it was more intended as a thriller, and although I also like this genre, I do not think it plays well with his descriptive writing, I felt it broke the narrative at times. Another aspect that fell short of what I expected was the similarities I found with “Despair” by Vladimir Nabokov. The main characters are very different but the main line of narrative was disturbingly similar and that was of course the major disappointment. Nevertheless, I do think Saramago has such a wide variety of novels that this won’t make me give up on his work quite yet.

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The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath As far as ratings go, this one was a hard one to give. Of course, I could dispute that I shouldn’t be giving them anyway, since different genres ought to be evaluated differently and you can’t establish proper criteria for a fair rating system, but let’s be honest - we live in a rating system. People perhaps shouldn’t ever be compared either, but our social and professional hierarchy impels us to do so all the time based on random criteria, every single day of our lives. But I digress… I do understand why Sylvia didn’t consider this as a “serious” work compared to her multiple poetry books. It is not exceptionally well-written, it’s not that innovative and it will always be haunted by the question – would it be a classic if its publication didn’t follow the author’s suicide? The awkwardly good thing about this book is that it doesn’t need to be preceded by tragedy for people to know it is real. People around the world (mostly women in their 20s, I’m sure) have perceived through this work how imperceptible it can be to be pulled to the irresistible void. And that and solely that, in itself, is a service to Humanity in the name of the fight against the stigmatization of mental illnesses.

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The Time Machine (Signet Classics)

The Time Machine - Greg Bear, H.G. Wells So, the Time Traveller, the Medicine Man and the Psychologist get around a table and so are unfolded the unbelievable voyages the first one has lived so far. H. G. Wells is really capable of taking you some place else (and we all need people who have that capacity every once in a while, right?) and serve you a full plate of relativity, entropy, critics to social darwinism and capitalism. And you know what’s more incredible about all of this? It makes it impossible to come across your mind that it was written in the 19th century. I finally concur that this is the legitimate father of science fiction.

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Frankenstein (Penguin Classics)

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley, Maurice Hindle If, like me, you’ve postponed reading this classic because you felt like there were enough adaptations to fill in the blanks of the story for you… please, don’t be so well deceived. It’s true that this is part of our collective western imagination, but nonetheless it’s a delightful read, in which you run through beautifully written letters that keep up with the suspense of the story, while they unravel bits of pieces of the plot. Don’t let pop culture tell you the story, go the distance and read the original penned by the (very talented) Mary Shelley. It’s not just a gorgeous writing though, in this age of development of genetic engineering and bio-terrorism, pausing to explore what makes us human, where do our responsabilities lie and how far do they reach and whether Nature should ou could be tampered with is recommended, if not crucial.

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Excalibur (The Warlord Chronicles, #3)

Excalibur (The Warlord Chronicles, #3) - Bernard Cornwell Before writing anything about the Warlord Chronicles (or the Arthur Books), I must clarify my background on the Arthurian legends. These theme isn’t completely alien to me - during my early teens (in which I’m surely stuck), I devoured anything I found about it, from films to books, and thus I came upon “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley and “The Elf Trilogy” by Jean-Louis Fetjaine. At least, these were the most remarkable works I recall from those times. Although I suffer from an unending curiosity, my attention-span doesn’t keep up with it, so I got really weary of those matters and started exploring other themes shortly afterwards. But I know exactly what quickened that gush of curiosity – the lack of historical basis. Don’t get me wrong, I thrive on fantasy, it’s been a long-road companion ever since I learned how to read, I couldn’t thank enough the varied authors of this genre that tickled my mind all the way long. But if you’re familiar with these works, you know they’re more fantasy than anything else, Jean-Louis Fetjaine even came up with a twist on “The Lord of the Rings” by J. R. R. Tolkien, to add a new flavour to this ever-so-debated mythology. To me, that was IT, by 11 years old I had already realized authors only “created” two variants – dwelve into fantastical or religious paths or adapt other people’s works in a way that ultimately made me nauseous. Some years afterwards (no, I’m not revealing my age), some people (you know who you are – thank you!) started recommending me these three books. Skeptical as ever, I started reading reviews about it and I couldn’t find an inch of “misty islands”, “fairies”, “spells” anywhere… that was odd, so… I had to read them!All the while, I felt a little like my old self, page-turning through battles and daydreaming about the English scenery. Cornwell’s smirky sense of humor is ever so adorable and I could only trust him to turn such a legend into a palpable character living a piece of our History. I can now say I found the books that satiated my thirst for a proper tale of Arturus Rex Quondam, Rexque Futurus (Arthur, our Once and Future King).

O Padrinho

O Padrinho - Mario Puzo, Mário V. Soares For someone who had never read anything mafia-related, right now I can’t say much more than – wow. Most of you have watched the films, the first one is considered the best one ever without nudity. I didn’t watch any of them on purpose, I enjoy the process of creating my own mental scenarios while reading too much to give that up.Mario Puzo paints this elaborate picture of the Sicilian mafia through the eyes of Michael Corleone, a returning Marine Corps hero who at first wants nothing to do with the elaborate crime family that his father has built.The reason that the Godfather is so good is the depth of Mario Puzo's characters. They aren't just evil criminals. They are real people. Puzo romanticizes the mafia life and that time period altogether. He also does something perfectly what other books have tried to do and miserably failed at. He parodies real life characters into his novel. Johnny Fontane the saloon singer is his fictional Sinatra and it is perfectly done.Highly recommend it to anyone who dares wonder about the underworld and looks for an elaborate and rich reading.

Love Is a Dog from Hell: Poems, 1974-1977

Love is a Dog from Hell - Charles Bukowski Perfect soundtrack to this reading - Tom Waits. And we all know not everyone admits his charm. Sure, he's miserable, he's rotten, and sometimes he can even make you sick, but he's talented and anyone who's ever been in the same emotional gutter can testify that.Bukowski is not only in touch with the most basic and (sometimes) disgusting human feelings, he explores them, plays with them, always with the bitter laugh that characterizes his writing. Brutally sincere in his somewhat misanthropic view of the world, this lost soul might not be properly appreciated by the more sensitive ones.

As Velas Ardem Até ao Fim

As Velas Ardem Até ao Fim - Sándor Márai, Mária Magdolna Demeter This was so intensely beautiful I had to finish it in only two sittings. The first sentences captured my heart immediately, Márai’s writing is delicate as gossamer but intense as a burning candle, descriptive but always so fluid. I’ll surely stick to this author.This particular novel is about the withering emotions between two good old friends, about the challenges and peculiarities of such a bond. It’s about the varied forms of love, of youth’s vengeance and old-aged sapience, of the razor blade feelings left by words unsaid, unshared intentions, the choking power of guilt.I’m left without words. Highly recommend it to any human being.

A Estranha Vida de Nobody Owens

A Estranha Vida de Nobody Owens - Neil Gaiman,  Fátima Andrade Three stars might not be a fair rating, so I've finally settled for four. After all, this is a children/young adult read (that Disney was inspired by to produced another dreamy film, yet to be released) and it should be regarded as so, but I found it hard (oddly enough) to read, it's been a really long time since I last read anything in this label I suppose. On the other hand, this is one of those books, as well as 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' which I have already reviewed here, that I'd love to read to a curious (perhaps slightly awkward) child.Most of you are aware that I'm a great admirer of Neil Gaiman's work, but I'd never read any of his books directed to younger readers and so, it was twice as interesting to get to this one. This is the story of a boy that is rescued from his parents' murderer by the sheepish inhabitants of a cemetery, where he lives a sheltered, magical life until he becomes school-aged. That's when his peculiar skills are put to the test and he discovers an even stranger (and much more riskier) world behind those gates. Once again, Gaiman recreates old myths (ghouls, ghosts, vampires, werewolves) and weaves them together into a humourous tale, that will surely appeal to small bookworms in the decades to come.

Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf "Oh, Mrs Dalloway... always giving parties to cover the silence"I've been meaning to read this book for a while. If you've watched "The Hours" film, you recall the references to this (wonderful) piece of literature. That's probably my most re-watched film, and I barely re-watch any. I've already reviewed here another one of Virginia's books and I always marvel at her sensitivity, her ability to swiftly change thoughts between characters and make it feel natural, her beautiful painting of such delicate matters, of deep feelings, suffered existences, much like her own. I can't say much about this one... except that it did live to its expectations, and Julianne Moore does a great job in acting as the main character. This is the story of a woman and her beloved friends and the (not so much expected) choices she made in life. But most of all, this is a story of how two diametrically different people, that have never met and shall never meet, can completely share a vision in life, as if they shared the same skin, of how 'unoriginal' and superficial we can all be.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - First of all, I greatly recommend this book to any type of personality. As Susan Cain explains, the introvert-extrovert axis is one of the few (if not the only) concepts every psychologist uses for personality analysis. And, for the most skeptical of you, it is obvious there is no "pure" introvert or "pure" extrovert, those cases would probably be pathological.According to my rating, I loved this book. It took a lot of research, more than I expected, but it validates problems I've had to deal with ever since I was born. I am a known introvert, but also more than that... a pseudo-extrovert, which is someone that spends a lot of energy on a daily basis acting like an extrovert. Now someone might think that it is dishonest of me to do such a thing but it is just a tool i've developed to lead the life I've chosen, to do the things I love (that take a lot of human contact) and interact with the people that matter most to me. Being an introvert comes with some guilt, right from when we were children, thanks to the extrovert ideal that reigns a little all over the globe (with the exception of asian and nordic cultures). While reading Cain's book, and learning more about sociology and myself (because I found myself nodding on every single page and saying 'That's precisely what I feel, but I've never thought about it this way!'), that stingy feeling was put off.When I talked about this book with some extrovert friends of mine, they all reacted the same way - 'You're kidding, right? There are far more introverts than extroverts!'. I'm not saying that isn't true... to you. That's your perception of the world, which tends to differ a lot from the one of introverts. Anyway, scientific knowledge cannot be based on such perceptions, it uses statistics and a great battery of previously validated tests, and they account for one third of the population being introverts, in North America and Europe.All in all, the message of this book - that I absolutely agree with- is pretty simple - there shouldn't be such an ideal modelling every activity in our society, since kindergarten lessons to employment interviews. Every type of personality should be cherished and its best traits nourished and explored. Like Carl Jung superbly put it - 'The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.'