Saturday, 23 September 2017

A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

'When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.'


I was actually in a very, extremely fortunate position where I was able to read A Game of Thrones (the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series) this before watching the most popular TV show ever inspired by it. Because while this book was excellent, it was also very heavy, and I don't think I would've enjoyed it half as much if I had if I knew every death that was going to come before they did. And yes, a lot of people do die. And yes, they shook me pretty much every time. Even if you have watched the TV show, I still recommend the books, though. It's excellent writing.

Another thing I was in an extremely fortunate situation to do was meeting George R.R. Martin in Worldcon 75 in Helsinki this summer. For real! My hands were shaking for like an hour afterwards but I got an autograph and managed to string together like three comprehensible sentences in the process. Success! 

Future family heirloom etc.
Anyway, let's get down to business. I'm not actually interested in talking about this book in all that much length as I'm not that knowledgeable about everything, so take this more as my humble ramblings than some sophisticated High Fantasy Expect Analysis.

This book is from the point of view of nine different characters, and concerns three main plots that are intwined: The Wall, The Seven Kindgdoms, and that of the Dothraki. My favourite is probably the latter, but all of them are extremely good.

A lot of the characters in this book are very complex. There were many I disliked originally that later earned points and vice versa, and it helps that you get to see these people through their own eyes as well as someone else's. Actually, everything about this book and the world is very complex, but I don't suppose I need to tell anyone that. What can I actually say about this that hasn't already been said? In a work of a lesser quality it would probably feel crowded, but in this book I would definitely not have taken anyone out or put anyone else in.

This book was also quite dark. After I gave her a vague plot description, my mum (ever the humanitarian) asked me how I could read it, isn't it just too depressing? I'd say that in a work like this, while the balance is definitely on the darker side, it makes up for a lot when you get even a little spark of happiness. And I never felt actually depressed while reading this, because it had enough of those sparks to make it work. That being said, there's a lot of violence, sex and rape. Though I'd like to contest that the sex scenes in this are more tolerable than those in the show, because they're less graphic and often over very quick and not at all the focus of it.

Rape, though? I suppose it's a necessary evil rather than anything. It's never made to seem romantic or sexy, and it's clear that these people are doing awful things. It's hardly ever used as a plot device, which I also had to appreciate (few things are worse, to be honest). But yeah, I know some people don't like that, and I don't blame them. They didn't bother me though.

This book is full of really, really cool scenes and good quotes. Appreciated.

The language of this book is excellent. It's flowing and detailed, and no word seems to be there unnecessarily. Sometimes (oftentimes) I had to go back because I spaced out for just a few seconds but felt like I had missed something important. Sometimes that felt a little tedious, but the book was definitely worth the attention it demanded.

Also, did you want to hear about my favourite characters? No? Well, anyway, I loved Arya and Daenerys the most. And Bran. Can I just comment on how much it tells about the characters how they named their direwolves, by the way? Bran's is called Summer. Let that one sink in. Also, let's just say my favourite scenes had to do with Dany towards the end as well.

All in all, this book was so good and deserves all the love ever, but I do acknowledge that it's not for everyone. It really is a new staple to which I wish to hold any other high fantasy books I read after it, but at the same time I want us to talk about how it's really not always good to say 'this book is totally for fans of Game of Thrones!!' because...  well. You're just doing everyone a disservice there, mate.

For the Helmet 2017 Reading Challenge I put this in category 43: A book you have planned to read for a long time! Kinda obvious again, I assume.

I'll be reading the second part when I get around to it, but it's even longer than this one and I... think I need a moment to let this one settle in.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K. Rowling

'SCORPIUS: The world changes and we change with it. I am better off in this world. But the world is not better. And I don't want that.'

Note the super cute matching bookmark from Hel-Ya!


Oh boy. This is a book that's difficult for me to review, because I want to do it right and actually get quite deep into why I didn't like it, not just saying 'oh no it's new and it's not a novel so it sucks'. And am I the right person to talk about this? Probably not, because although I read all the books within the last year and some other stuff, there's so much more on Pottermore and this whole fandom that I'm not really into. The books are the canon to me, really. But I do read books and I wanted to give this one a proper review (outside of the whole Harry Potter curse) so here we are! Of course, I didn't see this in the theatre, in its intended form, so I can only really criticise what I read, not what it actually is.

Also, if you're super picky about your spoilers, maybe skip this one. I'll warn you before the actual spoilers, everything else is just the first 10%... but some people are really careful when it comes to Harry Potter so just in case!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth installation in the Harry Potter series. For real, that's what it says on the back cover. It's not a side adventure or an extra, but the eigth story, according to itself. And really, this is a terrible disservice to the story, isn't it? It's not a full-length novel, but a play, and it's not actually written fully by Rowling herself. I only put her down as the author because that's how it's on the cover, with letters the size of a cat, but it's quite clear she had little to do with this book.  So how could it probably be on the same level as the seven books before it? I think this book would have received much less hate if it was marketed differently, perhaps as a semi-canon what-if fanfiction. As it is, Rowling has stated that this is indeed canon.

Of course, there's also people who are going to say that this 'ruined their headcanon', and I can't really blame them. This book comes nine years after the series originally ended (I'll personally never forget how J.K. Rowling said in an interview that she doesn't want anyone continuing the story after that) with the words 'All is well.' And then it turns out all is not, in fact, well.

Anyway. Harry and Ginny's son Albus gets sorted into Slytherin, surprising everyone. He befriends Scorpius Malfoy and is pretty much shunned by his peers for not being worthy of the Potter name, as he's a Slytherin and not a very great wizard to boot. He decides to do something his father couldn't to prove, mostly to himself, that he too can be good. This is really all I can tell you without heavy spoilers.

Scorpius Malfoy is the best thing about this book. He almost made this worth the read just because of how great he was as a character. Albus was okay too, but he just acted so annoyingly most of the time, it was a bit difficult. The older generation, however, get little to nothing to do in this book, as do the other kids, Rose, James and Lily. I feel like they could have as well been cut out and I wouldn't have even noticed.

One of my least favourite things with this book was the fact that oftentimes, it made me feel uncomfortable. For real, sometimes the humour (I assume these scenes were meant to be funny?) made me vince, and I don't appreciate that in my books. Particularly when * (scroll down or CTRL+ F to find this under the spoilers). Seriously though, Harry Potter books have sometimes had the awkward joke or two, but this thing had far too many.

Before the spoilers, I'll let you know I gave this a 3/5. That's on the scale of normal works, of course - as a Harry Potter book I'd give this 1/5.

To the Spoiler-mobile! (???)

The worst thing this book does is getting the Time-Turners back. Oh yes, those are back. These are the Harry Potter way of time travel, in a universe where they honestly never really found their place. I hope you'll agree when I say that time travel is kind of monumental, and therefore it's really strange if the only 'normal' use for it in a series is so that one of the main trio could make all of her lectures. Of course, there's also the question of 'why didn't they save character X if they had a Time-Turner?' Because of this, all of them were destroyed in The Order of the Phoenix. Of course, in this book they find one that wasn't destroyed (surprise), only to find in the book's climax that there's one more, and this one is, like, golden and not riddled with any problems of the first one. Deus ex machina to the finest.

The plot with the Time-Turners is that Albus overhears Cedric Diggory's father asking Harry to go back and revive him and decides 'hey I'll go save that random guy because why not!' and so him, Scorpius and Delphi (gonna get back to her) travel through these multiverses trying to save him with the Time-Turner.

And really, you can't expect people to be happy when a badly written play comes along nine years after the much-loved story got its conclusion and goes back and changes things. People have had nine  years to imagine whatever they wanted to follow, because there wasn't meant to be any more. Rowling must have been paid a ludicrous amout of gallions to go through with this.

This book also portrays Harry as a bad father, which didn't really resonate with many people. He's absent in Albus' life and when he is there, he cannot really connect with him. This seemed strange to me, because the book portrays it as Albus having a complex by not being Harry Potter, but anyone who's read these books knows that Harry's life wasn't always all that rosy. So why don't they ever even attempt to have this conversation? It's just odd. Also, having grown up without a father but with many great father figures in his life, it's odd that Harry can't figure out a way to be that for Albus, who's actually a lot more like Harry than his other two kids, James and Lily. He even mentions that he didn't have a father figure himself. What do you mean, what about half of the male adult characters in the books...???

Also, the villain was, to me, incredibly lame. For real, I could have told you before this book came out that it will be alright so long as it doesn't try to imitate Voldemort as a villain. Of course, he was the most menacing villain in the series because he had seven book's worth of development. But he was killed, for real, he's done now. And what does this book do? Well, Delphi, who's Albus and Scorpius's accomplice in getting Cedric Diggory back, turns out to be Voldemort and Bellatrix's daughter [Voldemort's daughter are you kidding me] with a plan to revive Voldemort. Yeah, like I said, lame. It's clear that the new villain they should have given this wouldn't have been as interesting as Voldemort, but it still would have been better than this half-baked rehash. Delpi's motivation is also a quite flimsy and quickly developed 'I wanted to see my father' -complex.

Oh, and this is a minor thing, but the Trolley Witch, like, climbs on the roof of the Hogwarts Express and tries to prevent Albus and Scorpius leaving and apparently her pumpkin pastries are grenades and her hands transform into spikes and stuff... This bit was played for comedic effect, I think (?), but it didn't really work for me.

Overall, this book did pretty much all of the things I didn't want it to do. The only way it could've been worse if it rehashed the 'Voldemort trying kill Harry as a baby' -scene too.... Oh, wait, it did! Altogether, this book doesn't create or add much into the whole Harry Potter universe, and it was very lackluster. I really do hope there won't be any more after this.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 39: A book about aging. It's a bit of a reach maybe, but this book is about the new generation and we also see Albus grow a lot as he ages, so... that's what I'm going with.

* Particularly when Albus was Polyjuice Potion'ed into Ron and kissed Hermione (his aunt) 'firmly' and said that he wants to make another baby. Ew? Who thought I would want to read something like that? Let alone see it play on the stage?

Friday, 1 September 2017

Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

'9st 2, alcohol units 0 (v.g. Have discovered delicious new alcohol substitute drink called Smoothies - v. nice, fruity), cigarettes 0 (Smoothies removes need for cigarettes), Smoothies 22, calories 4265 (4135 of them Smoothies)'


Bridget Jones's Diary is a novel by Helen Fielding that is, in essence, one of the chick lit books that defined what chick lit is. It came out in 1996 (a lifetime ago) and was probably a very new and fresh work at the time. Unfortunately, I think it's safe to say that time has not treated it well.

Bridget Jones is a 30-something single trying to find love in London, struggling with her weight, alcohol consumption and smoking. The book comprises of her diary notes over a year, starting with her New Year's promises. She's determined to make a change in her life this year, like all of us.

The book is often fun, but perhaps even more often it felt kind of uncomfortable. Whether it was men stepping over Bridget like she was thin air or her complaining about her weight while consuming 10 units of alcohol every day, the book was often giving me a sense of 'I'm not sure if I'm actually rooting for this'.

Bridget's mum was also an actually horrible human being, yet the book never states that she'll get what's coming for her. The acknowledgement in the book even says 'to my mum, for not being like Bridget's', so clearly the author realises this. And yet the story itself doesn't. Bridget's mum doesn't care for anyone but herself and yet expects everyone to love her. Ew.

Bridget herself doesn't get a super amount of character development, but I suppose, being a very comical book, it's not really aiming for that either. And she does, well, get a little bit better about her weight and stuff, I suppose...

The weight thing is crazy and honestly kind of repulsive. Bridget's weight teeters on both sides of 9 stone (that's 57 kilograms for those of us who don't understand this), which is really not much. She's definitely not fat. And I still understand Bridget wanting to lose weight, since most people do, but even those around her keep commenting on how fat she is. Fat, at 57 kilograms? This is absolutely not a healthy message to give to anyone, especially not the people who might relate to Bridget but weigh 10, 20 kilograms more than her. I know the beauty standards are not healthy for men either, but it's dangerous how we constantly tell women they can only be beautiful when they are starving, their ribs showing (all the while still retaining D-cup breasts).

On the other hand, it must be said for this book that it kept me reading, like chick lit at its best should. I never considered stopping it just because it was somehow so catchy. Maybe I also kept hoping the end would be so good I'd forgive the rest. It wasn't; the end was very rushed and when all the things I had wanted to happen happened within three pages and then the book ended, it just wasn't the emotional payoff I had been expecting from this.

Mark Darcy was one of the only things I actually, honestly and wholeheartedly liked about this book. He was precious the whole way through, awkward but charming. Also, I suppose I must mention that I enjoyed how English this book was. It makes me feel at home, every time. But yeah, this was a 3/5, wouldn't read again and probably won't read the next ones. Watch the movies instead. This time, I think they're actually superior.

Also, I couldn't place this in the Helmet 2017 reading challenge? What's going on? Have I actually... started to reach the end...?

Monday, 28 August 2017

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - J.K. Rowling


Ministry of Magic Classification XX

The Diricawl originated in Mauritius. A plump-bodied, fluffy-feathered, flightless bird, the Diricawl is remarkable for its method of escaping danger. It can vanish in a puff of feathers and reappear elsewhere. The Phoenix shares this ability. Interestingly, muggles were once fully aware of the existence of the Diricawl, though they knew it by the name of 'dodo'. Unaware that the Diricawl could vanish at will, muggles believe they have hunted this species to extinction. As this seems to have raised muggle awareness of the dangers of slaying their fellow creatures indiscriminately, the International Confederation of Wizards has never deemed it appropriate that the muggles should be made aware of the continued existence of the Diricawl.'

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I can't emphasise enough that this book is essentially that textbook, and has little to nothing to do with the movie of the same name. Although it does have Eddie Redmayne narrating, who also plays Newt Scamander in the movie. That was a really nice touch. I felt like the foreword of this book actually gave him so much more personality than that whole book, so that's something. There's also cute little sound effects and the such, which I loved.

There's not that much I can actually say about this book. It lists the creatures in an alphabetical order, giving them a classification based on how easy they are to tame (starting at X) to how dangerous they can be to wizards (ending at XXXXX). There's also some description about each of them, and as I hope my chosen quote conveys, most of these are quite witty and fun. Newt also comes across as very passionate when it comes to his trade, which is always a pleasure to see.

On the other hand, there were some clear continuity errors, and things present in the books were glossed over or left unmentioned. It's also not clear if this is the full Hogwarts textbook, but either way, it felt quite flimsy. There wasn't enough knowledge (note that the quote above is all there is on the Diricawl) about the beasts and furthermore, there were not enough beasts. And of course, in a Harry Potter style, Great Britain and Ireland seems to have 90% of the world's indigenous beasts. Maybe it's that they have more knowledge of the creatures in this area, but since the book itself doesn't say this, it feels like a plothole than anything.

This book was a fun little creature, really. It wasn't a 5/5 work - I wanted a lot more detail about most of these fantastic beasts. It doesn't even remark on many notions that have been established in the books (i.e. an antidote for Basilisk venom), and that felt a bit weak. Regardless, Rowling's wit and humour shone through these words, and it was enjoyable for what it was.

This is slightly irrelevant but as this is a charity book for Comic Relief and Rowling's charity Lumos, I find it sort of outrageous that the Finnish edition 'Ihmeolennot ja niiden olinpaikat' (and the two other books, the Quidditch one and Beetle the Bard) is sold for just under 20€ by the publisher. It's a tiny book with barely a hundred pages, for 20€? I could swear that the the Finnish versions are a) not not going to the mostly to the charity or b) too expensive to actually help the charity since no one can actually afford them.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 47: A book that would cover two subjects from the challenge list! I'd been saving this category for a book I couldn't fit elsewhere and now that time has come. Scary stuff.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Am I Normal Yet? - Holly Bourne

'Because now people use the phrase OCD to describe minor personality quirks. "Oooh, I like my pens in a line, I'm so OCD."
"Oh my God, I was so nervous about that presentation, I literally had a panic attack."
"I'm so hormonal today. I just feel totally bipolar."


I'm back with a fitting post in the Hel-Ya! aftermath; young adult, of course!

Oh, and if you've somehow missed it, I made a book-focused instagram @skiesandfairytales which you can totally check out if you don't get enough of my day-to-day book ramblings in your life yet. It's pretty amazing, of course. Definitely recommend.

Anyway! New read; Holly Bourne's Am I Normal Yet? As you can see, I read the Finnish edition ('Am I Quite Normal?') published by Gummerus, and I felt it was a top-notch translation.

Even though I had heard many good things about this book, I was honestly a bit discouraged to the experience by the cover. I thought it hinted that the book was for readers younger than myself. Instead, this book ended up being one of the brightest YA reads yet this year. Whoops. Thankfully I won this in a Hel-Ya! raffle so I wanted to read it, if nothing else then to be polite.

This is the story of Evie, a 16 year old recovering from OCD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder and trying to make a life of being something else than the girl who went mental. She has made actual friends but is worried of telling them of her condition, because she fears they might not understand it. And then there's the strange world of dating, which is enough to make anyone lose their mind... not to mention the bad thoughts that will never leave her alone.

This book deals with really important things: Evie and her friends found the Spinster Club, in which they celebrate their friendship and talk about feminist topics. Evie's OCD is also handled very delicately; it's not romanticised or cool, and Evie is constantly struggling with it. Am I Normal Yet? also talks about many feminist theories and ideas, and the stigma on mental health, as well as how people talk about them casually, without quite realising the magnitude of actually having one. It's a really tasteful depiction of a very serious illness.

Evie and her friends also date all sorts of guys a girl might date in her teenage years: from extremely sleazy to maybe even too kind for their own good, and everything in between. It also stresses the importance of friends and how they can and should be there for you. I really like Evie, Amber and Lottie, and I'm thrilled that in the second and third book of the series, the other two get to be in the limelight.

I'm really excited to read the rest of these books. The second part: How Hard Can Love Be? was recently given a Finnish translation, so hopefully I can get a matching set of these. Then again, I can't promise I'll be able to wait for the third part to get a Finnish translation. I could hardly put this book down after I started it.

I want to give this a 5/5. I enjoyed reading it immensely, and I thought it dealt with very important topics. I have no complaints about it, really. I could mostly tell where the plot was headed, but I didn't even mind that. It was a really good read. 

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 20: A book about a disabled or a seriously ill person! Because Evie is certainly seriously ill and I think it's important to recognise that mental illnesses are a really serious thing.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Helsinki Young Adult Literature Convention - Hel-YA!

Here's my loot from today! *-* I'm very excited and probably confused a volunteer when we asked to take a poster home but two of them got a loving home with me (not only as a background for pictures):

I'm back! Actually I'm literally back, it being almost midnight and I'm just writing down some thoughts of Hel-Ya, from which myself and Daniel just returned from.

Anyway. Hel-Ya's idea was to have a convention for ya-books because for some reason (judging by the big crowd present, the reason isn't disinterest!) there hasn't been a convention for that yet in Finland. The setting, a restaurant called Lämpö ('Warmth') in Sörnäinen, Helsinki.

The event included five panels: 

'In the Beginning, There Was a Story: How Story Worlds Are Built' with Mintie Das, Emmi Itäranta, Salla Simukka, Johanna Valkama and Erika Vik. This was, as the name suggests, in English, and it was a ton of fun! The panelists were asked about the worldbuilding in their books, and all of them had different ways of making their stories happen, as well as whether it started with the characters or the story... Notes and whether or not they make them, where their characters come from, that sort of stuff. Also, Salla Simukka brought up how annoying it is that we talk about 'strong female characters', instead of, you know, just characters that are well-written. Really important.

'Tytöille, Pojille, Muille. Kuka kirjoittaa ja kenelle?' ('For Girls, For Boys, For Others. Who's Writing and for Whom?') with Antti Halme, Siri Kolu, Aki Parhamaa, Anders Vacklin and Elina Rouhiainen. This sparked some important debate about how female main characters can and should be relatable for boys as well, and vice versa. Even though the current Finnish YA literature is currently mostly written by females, it's not only for them.

'Kuinka minusta tuli (ya-)kirjailija' ('How I Became a (YA) Author') with Katri Alatalo, Juuli Niemi and Siri Kolu. This was very interesting since the authors again had different paths to their career, and I bet many people in the audience were hoping to follow in their footsteps. Also something I remember Siri Kolu saying: 'We always hear how many books get declined, but I think we should focus on the message that a couple of them do get through!' So don't get discouraged, you.

'Kysy kustantamoilta!' ('Ask the Publishers!'), represented by Kaiken Enterntainment, WSOY, Gummerus and Otava, covering pretty much all of the bigger Finnish publisher companies. I found this to be quite important, since the publishers make things happen but are rarely in the foreground themselves. (In Finnish we call this 'takapiru', or a background devil...) There was cool discussion about how cover art is chosen, how books are picked up for a translation, what to do if you've made big changes to your original (declined) novel... Also, don't put down your own work when sending it to the publisher! That does not make anyone excited about it.

'All the Feels: What Makes YA a Great Genre' by Mintie Das, Emmi Itäranta, Juuli Niemi, Elina Rouhiainen, Salla Simukka and Salla Juntunen. Really important discussions about, among other things, sex scenes in YA, LGBT representation and how gay sex is somehow considered 'more explicit'. The participants also mentioned what they'd like to see in the future for YA: even more diverse stories (from Mintie Das: "I don't want to be a black astronaut, I want to be the astronaut!"), different sexual identities and different stories for these people, diverse families... I suppose this is a neverending road, but we've gotten so far already.

'Unien kieltä: Fantasia tänään' ('The Language of Dreams: Fantasy Today') by Katri Alatalo, Sini Helminen, Elina Pitkäkangas, Erika Vik and Nea Ojala. Really cool stuff about why the authors ended up writing fantasy (for some to escape reality, for some to get closer to it), what makes fantasy a great genre (apologies for the pun), et cetera. 

There was also a Skype interview with Holly Bourne, who wrote The Spinster Club series (I'm reading 'Am I Normal Yet?' at the moment!). That was really cool but unfortunately suffered from some technical difficulties, her audio breaking up and making it near impossible to follow at times. Especially since she's such a big, international author (and really down to earth, based on what I could hear!), this was a real shame. Her tip for aspiring authors? Just write. I think that's a good one.

Also, there were greetings from authors abroad, such as Estelle Maskame of DIMILY, which was cool. One of them however was very impersonal and short, and I thought it wasn't maybe worth the effort... Shame.

Also, there was a casual publishing party for Elina Rouhiainen's book Muistojenlukija ('Reader of Memories') after all of this but I must admit we kind of drifted back home soon after the official end. Six hours of mostly non-stop happening kind of took a toll on both of us. I did buy the book and get it signed, though!

Speaking of signings, I got all the books pictured above signed (except for The Hate U Give, DIMILY and Et kävele yksin), as well as five I already owned. I'll probably be showing you the signatures as I review the books because I'm extremely proud of them. The authors were all so nice I just can't believe any of that actually happened!

A quick pros/cons/suggestions to wrap this up (because I'm sleepy!)

+ Great authors! I can't fully emphasise but these were the creme de la creme of Finnish ya authors and I was starstruck *-*
+ Free stuff! My friends know this is the way to my heart. Especially the pre-publish Finnish translation of The Hate U Give was an awesome gift to the first 100.
+ Well-organised...

- ...But it could have been better still. Holly Bourne's interview quality, the way it was (not) resolved, all the panels running a bit long, restaurant Heat getting VERY, well, Heaty.
- With the Flow Festival works, the location was incredibly difficult to find, even with a picture guide on Facebook.
- I don't think one of the author showed up for her given signing time, so maybe better information in both directions about that?

* Next time I'd love to have Finnish art makers/bookish craftspeople selling their stuff at the event! I'd love to support those local talents...
* More time between the panels could help, not only with the running too long thing, but also with the fact that it did get a bit tiring with the quickfire schelude.
* Better guidance to the area.
* Would have loved (for Daniel) to be able to buy some books in English as well!

In general, though, myself and Daniel both loved the event and I can't wait to go again (next year please please please happen again <3)! You can kind of expect me to be reading these books for the better part of the year about to come...

Friday, 4 August 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

''Can I get you a drink?' the man yelled, over the top of the next song. I wondered whether the DJ had ever considered introducing a five-minute break between records, to allow people to go to the bar or the lavatory in peace. Perhaps I should suggest that to him later.
'No, thank you,' I said. 'I don't want to accept a drink from you, because then I would be obliged to purchase one for you in return, and I'm simply not interested in spending two drinks' worth of time with you.'' 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is Gail Honeyman's debut work. It's a very heartfelt, funny and sad story about a young woman who's good at going through the movements of life, but less so at actually living. She's very sharp but hasn't been able to make friends, and an event from her childhood has caused her to have a strained relationship with her mother. She makes an acquintance in a colleague called Raymond, and things start to seem better for her when she meets someone she feels she could love. She changes her wardrobe and starts working on her social skills. Of course, changing your whole life is never really that easy.

There's a lot of real problems in this book. It talks a lot about loneliness and what it does to a person, how you can be lonely even when in a crowd,  and how difficult it can be to live when you're so used to just surviving your days. It talks about what it's like to not be in touch with your family or even other people in general. When your life passes you by but you don't know how to stop it. Eleanor feels deeply relatable even though I don't actually share most of her life experiences.

Eleanor is great as a character. As you can see from my chosen quote, she's very sharp and funny without even meaning to be, and her inner dialogue is such a pleasure to read. I loved it and I loved her. Raymond is also great, he's late when Eleanor is early, messy when she's clean... you get the idea. They make a wonderful duo, and the dynamic of their friendship is great. Also so many points for the fact that Eleanor's life isn't suddenly made so much better by her falling in love and all her problems disappearing. That's all too common in books like this, and it makes people think depression and whatnot other mental problems are gone just like that.

Even though I liked this, I can't shake the feeling this book should've been around 100 pages shorter (it stands at 385 or so as it is). I saw a really good discussion about this in a Facebook group a couple of days ago, actually. It was mentioned that it's important not to cut 'day to day' life from your book because it's equally as important as what's happening. I'd like to argue that a book doesn't feel too long (case in point: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or any of the others, really) if it's good enough. With this one though, sometimes I was dreadfully bored, in between the actual events. I think it could have been more concise.

I also saw the ending coming many miles away, though it had one twist I hadn't expected. About the twist (no spoilers though): some people say they didn't like it, but to me it really worked. Hm. To each their own, to each their own.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 16: A book which has got some award abroad. It was actually difficult finding a category for this, am I nearing the end yet?

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling

'"He must have known I'd want to leave you."
"No, he must have known you would always want to come back."'


What's life now? I don't know. I finished the Harry Potter series last week. This was the last one. And honestly, now that I've read them all, it feels like there might actually not be another series like this for a long time. A series that is this long and of this good of a quality, in which every part is tied to the others so skillfully. Everything comes together really neatly, and this is an excellent ending to the series. It's shaped the way we view young adult books, and it's done that for a reason. When The Hunger Games came out, it was 'for fans of Harry Potter' just based on the fact that it was a series for young people who enjoy quality. Now everything is for the fans of The Hunger Games.

I won't include spoilers in this post, but I think I'll make a compilation spoiler thoughts post for what I thought of all the books. Sometime this week maybe? Or next week. Something like that.

Anyway, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the seventh and the last book in the series. This is the book it all comes down to; horcruxes, hallows and The Battle of Hogwarts. Harry Potter must kill Lord Voldemort, for he is the only one who can. That makes it sound like there's only one or two things going on in this book, but there's actually a lot more to it.

For a series that was originally marketed for children, this last part is very dark. You've come to like and know these characters, so this war actually feels brutal and the outcome doesn't come without casualties. Some of them really made me sad. I'm sure everyone who's gone through this whole journey feels the pain and the sacrifice.

What can I say about this, really? I loved the first part (you know, the one that pretty much ends with my chosen quote), and the latter half, even though it was very awful, I enjoyed immensely as well. One of my favourite things in this book is also the way they use Expelliarmus. I thought that was incredibly smart and cool, and fitting of Harry's character. Also, like Half-Blood Prince, this book also gave more backstory to Snape and also Dumbledore. I enjoyed that.

What I didn't like in this book is the epilogue. It simply wasn't enough. For this series with hundreds of characters, this sort of ending just felt all too small. Also, the new characters introduced didn't get enough time to get my affections... And The Cursed Child came so much later, I feel like my point still stands. I know all of these characters got a lot of conclusion over on Pottermore, but it just doesn't feel as real to me since it wasn't in the actual book. It's kind of a shame, really. There's so much more to explore here and we get Fantastic Beasts instead?

Regardless, I can't give this book anything but 5/5, even if the ending was a bit disappointing. It's still one of the best series perhaps ever written, and this was the ending it deserved, even if the epilogue wasn't.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 21: A hero story or a book about a brave person!

Hey, by the way - I bought Caraval for the Kindle as well since it was on sale for £0.99. I already want to read it again, this time in English. Maybe before part two comes out?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Ruskeat Tytöt - Koko Hubara

'Minun tarinani ei ole se, kun ohikulkijat vetelevät minua silmäripsistä, kun ihmiset koskettelevat kyselemättä hiuksiani, ja kertovat minulle kuinka olen manteli ja maitokahvi ja mokkalatte ja vadelmasuklaa ja seepra ja panda ja hevonen ja apina ja kookospähkinä ja Oreo-keksi.'

'My story is not how passersby pull my eyelashes, when people touch my hair without asking and tell me how I'm an almond and coffee with milk and a mocha latte and raspberry chocolate and a zebra and a panda and a horse and a monkey and a coconut and an Oreo.' 

Hello again!

This is the first book I actually reserved from the local library. I queued for it for nearly two months and I was lucky to still get it while I'm here for the summer. That I will allow to speak volumes of how much I wanted to read it. I would have happily queued for this for two years, if I needed to.

I don't know where I should start in talking about this. There's so much I want to say, because everything in this book is important and the only way I'll get through it all is by writing the book again, here. I'll try my best to say what matters the most. Bear with me, please.

Let me just tell you up front that Ruskeat Tytöt ('Brown Girls') is a very personal work, one born out of necessity. The author wrote this book because there wasn't a work like it when she needed one in her life. She wrote it because there's not enough representation of people like her; girls who have lived in Finland her whole life but are the 'wrong' colour and therefore are treated like strangers.

This book talks about both racism and feminism, hence the two parts of the name. More accurately, it's about intersectional feminism; the idea that various aspects of our lives affect us at the same time. As in, the author's is both a girl and brown at all times, and both of these things make her often invisible in the media and affect how other people view her.

The author Koko Hubara is also the founder of Ruskeat Tytöt, the first Finnish 'from us to us' media for brown girls. There's some information about it in English here if you're interested. It matters because the representations given to us in the media are always coloured by whether or not the author understands the implications of race in their work. We white people don't always think about that, because we don't grow up constantly thinking about our own whiteness in a world where we perceive it to be the norm. I get that now, having read this book.

The book is divided into chapters about different subjects; the way girls are (and black girls aren't) portayed in media, 30 facts about Yemen, sexual violence is sexual violence, the way the collection of statistics in Finland makes brown girls seem nonexistent. They're all important things, and I think it's vital that we acknowledge them as problems and maybe even some as solutions. Therefore I'd like to suggest that reading this is almost as important even if you're not a Brown Girl. I say 'almost as' because to a Brown Girl this could be a lifeline, while to me it's something I want to make a change in. 

'Näen itseni näköisiä ihmisiä suomalaisessa mediassa yleensä vain silloin, kun aiheena ovat turvapaikanhakijat, islamisaatio, terrorismi, tyttöjen ympärileikkauset, raiskaukset ja muut suututtavat tragediat, samaan aikaan kun valkoisilla ihmisillä on nähtävänään ja kulutettavanaan esitystapoja enemmän kuin taivaalla on tähtiä.'

'I see people that look like me in Finnish media usually only when the topics are asylum seekers, islamisation, terrorism, the circumcision of girls, rapes and other tragedies to make you angry, meanwhile white people have ways of representation to use and to spend more than there are stars in the sky.'

I also want to tell you that the language of this book is amazing; it's beautiful and thoughtful and deeply touching. It's not amazing 'for a brown person' or anything like that (I feel like mentioning this is important just in case anyone thought anything different); it's absolutely gorgeous for any person and I wish I could formulate my thoughts half as well. It's one of the best-written books I'll read this year.

I decided, after thinking about it for a couple of days, to rate this 4/5. It's because it sometimes jars a bit, which isn't an experience Just because I didn't give this a full 5/5 doesn't mean that I don't think this is one of the most important books I will read this year. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't read it no matter who you are or where you are, regardless of the constraints of your colour or gender or preconceptions. Of course, the language can be a problem, but I'm sure Brown Girls feel these things no matter where they are. And us White Girls and Boys can always be better. Also, this is a book I'll buy for my own shelf without any qualms when I see it. I want to have a copy of it to give to my friends to read.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 42: A debut book!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Caraval - Stephanie Garber

'Do you always focus on what you're giving up, rather than what you'll be gaining? Some things are worth pursuit regardless of the cost.'

This book came out earlier this year and became a huge thing pretty much immediately and was translated to 25 languages quicker than a heartbeat. So naturally when I saw it at the library, it felt like I should and I would read it no matter what.

This book has two sisters, Scarlett and Donatella (or just Tella), leave their home island and their cruel father for a magical game called Caraval. Tella, the adventurous and excited one, believes this could be their way out, but Scarlett believes her arranged marriage to a stranger will get her and her sister away from their father.

Caraval is a game Scarlett has heard many stories of, and in which you can't trust anything you hear. It's hosted by a man called Legend, who supposedly plays each game wearing a different face. You can't trust anything you hear in Caraval, and Scarlett has to wonder if the sailor who brought her there has ulterior motives too. And then things go from bad to worse when Tella gets kidnapped and whoever finds her will win the game... and a wish.

Scarlett was fairly likeable to me, and even though I wanted to slap some sense into her a couple of times, she still felt relatable. Same goes for Tella, even though the two of them were fairly night and day as far as sisters go. The side characters were okay but most of them would have been better if they had gotten more time and development.

'She wrapped her arms around Scarlett like only a sister can. Fiercely like a kitten that has just gotten its claws and wants to rip the whole world to shreds so that everything would turn out alright.'

The plot was surprisingly interesting and full of twists, and it gave me many wow moments throughout the story. I was impressed with that, because I thought beforehand that the plot would be where this book was going to trip itself up; becoming a dull copy of every 
other story like this. Turns out that wasn't actually the problem.

My knee-jerk reaction was to give this a full five stars, but today I've given it another thought and am starting to get annoyed with the general lack of worldbuilding (how gorgeous this would have been in a properly built world) and the few cop-outs it goes through instead of properly defining its own rules. It's actually something to say about how interesting the plot was that I ended up giving it four stars. Quite excited for the sequel, too. I'd be so happy if it expanded on the world of this, but I bet it'll be all too easy to just stick to the same formula as this book, since it's been so popular. Apparently we no longer care for worldbuilding in our 'high fantasy' books. Some of the plot twists towards the end also felt unpolished and weak, as if the author could no longer be bothered to write them out in full.

Also, there's a really odd thing where Scarlett sees emotions and colours, and it felt... weird. It didn't really fit in the tone of the book, and it wasn't explained until it had already been happening for some time. It didn't really add anything to this book, in my opinion.

Regardless, I enjoyed Caraval a lot and I'll be reading this series probably until the bitter end. The second book, coming out in 2018, is still untitled. (I hope it comes out sooooonnnn!)

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 49: A new book of 2017!