Monday, 26 June 2017

The Story of Kullervo - J.R.R. Tolkien

'For the paths led ever deeper
Deeper deeper into darkness
Deeper deeper into sorrow
Into woe and into horror.'

The Story of Kullervo is, in his own words, J.R.R Tolkien's first wandering into writing an epic. It was written when he was a 22-year old Oxford undergraduate. Makes one wonder, what am I doing with my life, right? And although it was written in 1915, it was forgotten for a hundred years and only came out in book form in 2015. It was also his first time writing prose instead of what he had been doing prior to this – poetry.

The reason this is so interesting from a Finn's point of view is that it's based on a story from our national epic, Kalevala. While Tolkien's knowledge on it is obviously and sadly vastly superior to mine, I don't think anyone has managed to escape primary education without being somewhat familiar with it. The stories that I believe are most well known from it are the stories of Aino, and indeed Kullervo. Both are quite tragic and depressing. The stories themselves are compiled by Elias Lönnrot in between 1828 and 1835 from Finnish (pagan) myths. 

Tolkien didn't approve of the English translation of Kalevala, however. He tried to read it in Finnish and took out a dictionary from the library - and failed miserably. A receipt still exists from the library giving him a fine for not returning that dictionary in time, by the way. So we're doing okay, too. I could tell you a lot of stuff about Kalevala and its inception and its poetic metre, for it's very exciting and interesting and there's a lot to talk about, but back to Kullervo.

Kullervo is hauled as Tolkien's most tragic hero - the book sleeve knows to tell me this. And the story is certainly a tragedy, though I won't talk about that in detail in case you'd like to go into it and be surprised. It's a tragedy written in prose mixed with poetry, imitating the runos of Kalevala. The Story of Kullervo is only 40 or so pages of this book, followed by fairly helpful notes from the editor and an essay by Tolkien on Kalevala itself.

The writing here is good, but it's not what I expect to be Tolkien's best (I'm not familiar with Middle-Earth at all and that's just awful; I'm actually only attempting to fix that this year), and it's a very rough work. It's clearly a labour of love though, and the passion for the source material is evident in the (un-)finished book.

Sadly, it's difficult to give this a higher rating than a 4/5. I liked unconditionally what I got, but it doesn't change the fact that The Story of Kullervo was never finished. I don't mean to say that it's merely unpolished (which it is), but that the ending, the latter part of the story, cuts off and is written as a synopsis. 'This is what would happen next if I wrote it.' I want you to read this book as well, if only because it made me want to pick up Kalevala again for the first time since I was rid of it in school, but I can't fully recommend something that you're almost bound to be a little disappointed with.

There's definitely something deeply compelling about Kalevala. I don't know if you knew this, but I love the Donald Duck comics. Out of those, Don Rosa, who may well be one of three best-known artists, has written The Quest for Kalevala among his other Donald Duck works. Seriously. I definitely recommend reading that if you're interested, he drew a beautiful, realistic version of Helsinki and very cool Iku-Turso and stuff. (I really want you to read it but if you can't be bothered to right now, just look at that amazing Iku-Turso art here!!!) His other works are really cool too. ...Why am I rambling about Kalevala again?

I'll convince/let Daniel read this library copy when he's visiting so he can tell you his more Tolkien-infused and less Kalevala-centered thoughts!

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 9: A book inspired by some work of art!

Senlin Ascends: a wonderful journey of wits, wisdom, intelligence and wonder

'Newcomers may expect the ringdoms of the Tower to be like the layers of a cake where each layer is much like the last. But this is not the case. Not at all. Each ringdom is unique and bewildering. The ringdoms of the Tower share only two things in common: the shape of their outermost walls, which are roughly circular, and the price of beer, which is outrageous. The rest is novel.'
- Everyman's Guide to the Tower of Babel, I.X

[Another one from Daniel, mine is here if you somehow missed it!]

Embarking on a long-journey is fascinating. A compendium of new sights, people, food and climate becomes the reality of envisagement. A recent spontaneous journey lead myself and Tuuli though Aberdeen and Glasgow down to Belgium. Throughout the journey I gazed out of the window, allured by the many passing towns of Belgium meanwhile Tuuli obsessed over a specific book; the book of which I am reviewing today.

Much like our trip to Brussels, Senlin Ascends accompanies Senlin and his wife, Marya on an adventure to the tower of Babel. The tower is located in the fictional land of Ur and is a dream location for Senlin and is therefore a perfect place for their honeymoon. The tower is a pinnacle of society, housing technology beyond both the ordinary and academic mind and a heaven for greater existence. Senlin's innervation quickly deteriorates once he steps off the train, shadowed in the opulence that is the tower. Navigating through the bustling streets, bombarded by merchants, tower-dwellers and fellow tourists Senlin is abruptly separated from Marya. The only hope is a previous agreement they made, which was to meet at the top of the tower if they got separated; this begins his grand ascension of the tower.

This pulchritudinous book is imaged in our regular reading spot. It is quite an irregularly sized book but the design of the cover reflects the mystery shroud in the books content (I will divulge more into this later). The next book in the trilogy, Arm of the Sphinx, also has an mystical design which looks very nice.

The detail in this book is immense, every item is delicately crafted to bring the tower to life. I have an vibrant image in my head of the tower and of the people. They are not entirely comparable to anything that is real but hints of realism is placed eloquently in parts of the book which allows everything to seem plausible. I enjoyed going to new places in this book and meeting new characters as the descriptions where very well thought out.

Up to yet, every character, including the bad ones are complex and fine-tuned and play along constructively with the book. Each individual you meet is involved with the plot and, while existing as catalysts they make you scavenge you mind to try and figure what their end game is. Everything is not as it seems.

We get a first hand sight into he tower from Senlins viewpoint and we develop with him as he unravels (or tries) the secrets of the tower. Many of the other characters seem to know the secrets of the tower (seem...ha) and their development is greatly satisfying to watch; it was very pleasurable to join individuals finding their own paths in the tower.

Senlins nickname in the book is ostrich? (Tell me if this is correct?) He is developed as an individual who isn't the most handsome or strongest and only has intelligent. People from his town do not think he deserves his wife. We are told this story but we see how much care he does have for Marya and how he develops to care for her even more which she is missing (which could be indefinitely). The two of them do not seem to match but they work perfectly well together anyway. I usually hate love aspects of books and movies but this actually interested me. (Regrettably I do liken myself to Senlins sometimes)

I never felt bored reading this and there was something new on every page which made me want to go back to it. The words flow without interruption and even though some of the grammar is complex it was very easy to read. The pacing was excellent and evidently the author is exceptionally skilled by adding hints of deception, delight and darkness into the same pages.

Continuing from darkness, the tower is quickly painted and thickened in a coat of darkness and seriousness but light is seen in every chapter. Dark and light do not always mix but Senlin is always optimistic and wants to see the best in people, the book goes much deeper than you could possibly expect.

The wonder of the tower and its workings reminds me of a slightly darker industrial revolution age. Things do not seem fair and everything is mechanical and clunky but it works.

My only criticism is a character we meet during the latter half of the book. This individual seems to possess powers that are not explained and therefore seem unrealistic and do not fit with the style of the book. This is very minor as it goes into no significant detail about this individual, I am entirely certain we will learn more about him in the next book.

I really enjoyed this and would highly recommend you to read it. Using Tuuli's ever reliable system, I will give this 4.5 out of 5. I can't wait to read the next one in July!!!

(I have tried very hard not to spoil any characters, there is a lot more in this book, tons of little details which are just so satisfying and which also are used to set out the book. I'm not going to spoil any here, you should definitely read it)

Saturday, 24 June 2017

I Let You Go - Clare Mckintosh

Bless the perfect weather
that let me read outside in the sun!
Hello!!!

As you might be aware, I went to Helsinki some time back when Clare Mackintosh was being interviewed and signing in Akateeminen kirjakauppa! It was really cool because she seemed really nice and down to earth, and she made this book sound really interesting. So I hope you'll forgive me for talking about that a lot because it's not very often I get to meet a big author!! I was super excited to read this so I started it the next day and finished it within 24 hours for the 1st Reading Marathon of this summer!

I Let You Go is Clare Mackintosh's debut novel. It's a psychological thriller that centers around the hit-and-run of a five-year boy and its investigation. There's also Jenna, who, having lost her son, leaves to Wales to start over and to try and live with the grief. There's many important themes to the book; the loss of a child, abusive relationships and the question: how could someone live with themselves after killing a small child child?

She was kind of dressed like a crime author which I
thought was really cool too, haha
The chapters are mostly from the point of view of Ray, a police officer working on the case, and Jenna. Ray has his own problems; his marriage is suffering from his long hours and his teenage son is acting up in school. On top of that, the hit-and-run case and getting justice for the dead boy doesn't really seem to be getting anywhere. Jenna, on the other hand, has her own difficulties trying to forget what happened. She finds it difficult to connect with people, because her son was her whole world. There's also parts from the point of view from the point of view from an abusive partner, which I found very eerie. The relationship evolved in these parts and despite how horrible they were, it was also incredibly captivating to read.
She was so nice and actually asked
about my studies too! She said it was a
very sensible degree! :D


All of the characters in this book felt (surprisingly) very likeable to me. Their struggles felt very real, but they were all working through them instead of just giving up.

Mackintosh worked as police officer in Oxford herself, but she quit so that she could be a better mum. When she was being interviewed, she mentioned that she maybe related to Ray most. She also said that a lot of crime novels, which she reads a ton of, have unlimited resources and quick solutions. For her, this book also felt like a way of dealing with the frustrations of working in the field.

Here's something about the translation that's not very important but that I found very interesting regardless: it talks about things like 'Co-op, the grocery store' and 'Labour, the political party', which amused me greatly since I'm used to living in the UK and taking these things as granted. So it was pretty cool to see it from a more of an outsider view with this Finnish translation. On the other hand, the translation wasn't flawless; it references the Finnish upper secondary finals as if that was the same as A-levels, and it's definitely not. Sometimes it also talked about miles per hour and then about kilometres per hour... then again, so do the British, I suppose. And really, this is all very small stuff.

Anyway, I gave this 5/5 because I just enjoyed it and I have nothing to complain about much. Even though I know the hook now that I've read it, I still want to read it again. I liked the characters and I loved how some of the plotlines were resolved so delicately I almost missed it.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 24: A book about solving a crime!

I bought the second book too, though it's not been liked as much as this, generally. And my copy is in Swedish. Regardless, I'll try and read it... within this year, hopefully! I Let You Go definitely left me craving for more.

PS. I centered this post - does that look better? I kind of think it does.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Danish Girl - David Ebershoff

'What if your name was, say, Lili?'

 Heyo!

My nail polish went so well with this book
- does that mean I need to do a new one
now that I've finished it?
[I translated an English quote from Finnish back to English for you, so it's probably not perfect, but I didn't find one I loved on Goodreads so it'll have to do.]

Anyway, hi again! 

I picked this book up from the local library, and more specifically, an easy summer reading shelf. And while I don't necessarily agree on this being very light, I worked through it quite quickly and decided it could be my Pride Month book. I've reviewed some books with gay relationships before but I'd rather not label them as such unless it's on the back cover and obvious, you know? Because I'd prefer people go into them seeing them as books about people rather than books about gays. This isn't about sexuality, but rather the story of a transgender woman. That's on the back cover, and it's kind of the whole point of the book, so... I think it's okay to classify this as an LGBT book from the get-go.

This book is the story of Lili Elbe, who was born as a man named Einar Wegener in 1882 and was married to Greta Wegener. When I say it's a story, I feel like it's a very accurate word choice. The people were real and most of the biggest events described were that too, but naturally the author had a lot of artistic license while working with the book. He mentions that The Danish Girl is not their life story, and if you want to know more about Lili, she has a biography that was released after her death. Maybe I too will read that one day.

The book has chapters from both Lili (at the beginning, they are Einar's) and Greta's point of view. They are painters living in Copenhagen, Denmark, and their lives change one day when Greta asks her husband to model in place of their mutual (female) friend's feet for a painting. Slowly, Einar realises what he actually wants from life, and from there we follow the birth and life of Lili Elbe.

This is where I started this book, quite a way
away from where I finished it.
Oddly enough, this book is marketed as an amazing/unusual/passionate love story but I would only call it unusual and definitely not really a love story. Greta is there for Lili because she wants to be a good wife above all, but Lili does not give her much love in return, in my opinion. Because of this, their epic love story didn't really work for me, and I didn't find myself too fond of Lili either, especially towards the end. Obviously she has the right to be herself, but I wanted her to thank Greta or acknowledge her at least. To me, this was the story of Lili and Lili alone. Nothing wrong with that per se, but the marketing felt a little misleading in hindsight. Had I wanted an epic love story, I would have been pretty disappointed by this.

Sometimes I have difficulties finding just one nice photo
of a book but this one has gone on so many adventures with
me? I feel a bond with this and it's a library book, too!
There is a lot of detail in this work, which is quite cool considering the author mostly made it up in order to bring the story to life. I'd say he definitely succeeded in it! Considering he's an American and probably hasn't spent years in Copenhagen or Paris, either. I haven't spent a ton of time in either of these places either, but it felt real to me.

On the topic of America, one of the biggest changes he made to this book as opposed to the true story is changing Greta into an American and calling him Greta. You see, the actual person was called Gerda, and like her husband, she too was Danish. Ebershoff changed her name and made her Southern Californian like himself. This was done to, quote unquote, 'please the American audience'. The heck.  Though I suppose that for what it's worth, the scenes set in Pasadena felt very real, so one might say that maybe Ebershoff knew what he was doing.

It still didn't feel worth a 5/5 for me for some reason. It might be the ending that leaves things open or maybe just the fact that some of the event didn't really feel necessary for me.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 23: A translated book!


Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Study in Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle

'"It's quite exciting," said Sherlock Holmes, with a yawn.'

Hello!

So, I started this while making Daniel that birthday cake, and I finished this while driving back and forth making deliveries for mum. Don't you just love the convenience of audiobooks? I certainly do. It makes me feel so happy that I can put some otherwise 'useless' time into something good by listening to a book while I'm at it.

Anyway, A Study in Scarlet (after finishing it I searched for A Study in Pink and was wondering why only the BBC episode came up...) is the first Sherlock Holmes story, and a very exciting one based on just that fact. The first meeting of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is very important, and it was really cool to see it happen for myself. I've never read these books before, but I have watched the BBC show and some of the older series, as well as one of the movies. I even watched an episode of Elementary a couple of days ago. So I had preassumptions, I suppose.

The two main characters are great and very well fleshed out, and I found myself immediately liking both of them. There's a lot of information about Sherlock especially, but it never feels like too much or like it's just being told me so that I would know.

This book is very clearly divided into two parts: the first one has Watson and Sherlock meeting and them starting to investigate Watson's first case with the consulting detective. It's very fun and exciting and all-around a really good introduction for these characters. It had me smiling pretty much all the way through.

The other half is the background of the killer, and it's... incredibly odd? It has Mormons in the Utah and all sorts of other stuff that felt very odd, and I would have never guessed I was reading a Sherlock Holmes book if I jumped in there, because for a couple of listening hours, it felt nothing like it. It also puts Mormons in a very bad light, and apparently Doyle apologised for this later. But in short, it was weird. I enjoyed it though, because despite the oddness, it was interesting to read, and I had no idea whatsoever what was coming up next or why I was even reading it. However, I can see how this part could divide options, since it's not necessarily what I signed up for when reading a Sherlock Holmes book. I also was not smiling all the way through.

A Study in Scarlet actually didn't feel as dated as I thought it would. And before you tell me how bad that sounds, well. This story came out in 1887, and it's been rehashed incredibly often ever since. So I thought this would feel old, but it definitely didn't. It was actually the cutest thing how they had a taxi driver... who drove a horse-drawn carriage! Gosh, that made me pretty happy.

There's also a clever thing with someone writing 'rache' on a wall, which means [something] in the book, but in the new BBC adaptation Sherlock refers to this by saying: "Don't be stupid, it doesn't mean [something]!" - and it's actually the opposite thing. Hope that explanation made sense, but my point is that it was very cute.

I kind of feel like I should be talking more about this - it's the first Sherlock Holmes book! - but I don't really know what else to say. I gave this a 4/5 since it feels like a great start more than a masterpiece by its own right. Maybe by the time I reach the last book, I'll have more to say?

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 34. A book about the times when you were not born yet!

Reading Marathon #1 - 17th June

Heyo!

I felt so blessed after managing to take this picture!!! ;o;
That's I Let You Go by the way, amazing stuff!
Mum commented that the book cover has a butterfly like
this one too!!
So, the first reading marathon of the summer took place today, though I took a head start yesterday evening and finished this evening so that I could go to town after with mum and not think about all the books I'm not reading! So that was 6PM to 6PM exactly. :) If you missed the earlier post where I talked about it, basically the idea is to give yourself 24 hours, some of which at least within the day (that was 17th of June for this one), and just read as much as you can!

How did it go, then? Well, today the weather was absolutely gorgeous so I spent the whole morning and afternoon reading outside - first moving as the sun did and then trying to stay in the shade as it got too hot to be in the sun!

I started with I Let You Go (my hardback copy is in Finnish, mind you), which I got signed by the author when she was in Helsinki on Thursday! It was absolutely amazing and I'll be gushing much more about that when I review the book, which will happen... soon, I hope. I actually have three books read but not reviewed at the moment, which is an incredibly strange feeling. It's like I'm actually doing something, wow.

Anyway, I started that, got to the big plot twist! and then went to sleep. I don't know how I even managed to sleep after that. Then I continued - outside, how wonderful it really was - in the morning, and after finishing that, I started The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, the first Flavia de Luce book. I managed to read 90 pages of that before my 24 hours were up. Altogether, that was 503 pages! It's quite a decent amount, I think. Obviously it feels pretty great to have finished a whole book within the marathon, and I Let You Go didn't really feel like an easy book because of all the emotions running high in it. It was incredibly good, though!

I'll try and link the reviews for these two books here when I get around to writing them! I totally hopefully will! Edit: I Let You Go is up!

I hope summer's great for you too! Hope you're doing amazing things that make you happy, whatever that might be!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Whoops + Reading Marathon #1 on 17th June

Hello!

So yesterday I went to the library and then to the book store and somehow all these books jumped at me? On my defense, the book store had a sale, which, considering Finnish book prices, is pretty much my only chance to actually buy books.

Anyway, I bought a ton of books I've been eyeing and got some from the library that seemed interesting. I already started The Danish Girl yesterday and it's been very good so far.

Others I picked up from the library:
- The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin (she also wrote the Earthsea Cycle if you, like myself, didn't know) which came highly recommended from Alex.
- Island by Aldous Huxley since Brave New World was really quite decent.
- Ihmisiä suviyössä ('People in the Summer's Night') by Frans Emil Sillanpää, who is to date the only Finnish Nobel Literature prize winner. Surely you can see why I've been meaning to read this.

Also picked up from the bookstore:
- Wool by Huck Howey because apparently depressing dystopias are a thing I need more of in my life.
- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, since I've been meaning to read Flavia de Luce and because the Finnish translation of the name is genius? I don't know how to make this linguistic thing work but in Finnish it's 'A Pie's Taste Sweet' and due to the non-existing word order rules it sounds so good. Mum already took this from my pile to read herself.
- "Et kuitenkaan usko..." ("You won't believe this either way...")  by Ville Haapasalo. He's definitely the most famous Finnish person... in Russia. More about this when/if I ever read it.
- House of Cards by Michael Dobbs because obviously.
- The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli because well, Marilyn Monroe's life is really interesting, I hope you'll agree.

Why did I list all of this stuff for you? So that you can judge me if I don't read any of these in the nearby future, naturally.

Reading Marathon #1 on 17th June

So anyway, this summer has three Blogistania reading marathons, on 17th June, 8th July and 19th August. I'll try and convince Daniel to do the second one with me as well. The idea is to take 24 hours, some of which on the actual date, and read as much as you can during that time. It's being organised by Hannan kirjokansi but obviously that's all in Finnish.

My plan for this one is to start it on Friday evening and finish on Saturday evening, and I'll let you know in intervals and then after how much I actually get done, so I'll be posting about that on Friday, hopefully. I'll try and entertain mostly the books aforementioned ^ and maybe I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh because she's coming to Helsinki on Thursday and I was thinking of going to take a look at that. Wish me luck on reading! I took part in 2014 as well and read 528 pages, mostly The Picture on Dorian Gray and then one of the House of Night novels. Now that I think back to it, that's actually quite a good amount? I'll try and match it regardless, just for fun. It's good to have goals in life.

Anyway, have a good day, you. Hope summer's treating you well.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan

''(Thirty-nine steps)' was the phrase; and at its last time of use it ran — '(Thirty-nine steps, I counted them — high tide 10.17 p.m.)'.'

Heyo!

I started this the other day because, well, it's for the Kindle (think I got it for free, even), Scottish, short and a classic so I thought that was enough of a reason.

Surprisingly enough, the top ratings that popped up on Goodreads were all quite negative. I won't let that sway me from my opinion, though, because I quite enjoyed this little story. It follows Richard Hannay, who has recently returned to Great Britain from South Africa and is already dreadfully bored with London and life in general. This all ends when he meets a man who tells him of an assassination about to take place and how it needs to be stopped for the good of the world. When this gentleman is then killed in Hannay's quarters, which leads to him trying to prevent the crime by himself. He heads to Scotland and continues to run from his pursues.

It's a pioneer of many things; a spy and a man-on-the-run story in one. While it's not an amazing one (though at least it was less problematic than Casino Royale), it's an enjoyable read regardless, at least if you choose to only be in for the ride and not too bothered by the things that seem incredibly improbable and the such. It's also interesting because it was written in 1915 and set in 1914, so the political climate surrounding both is very tense. Like, there are German spies in London, and I suppose at the time that would have been a thing. Very interesting stuff. The French, however, are portrayed as helpful allies, which is very... queer for a British book. It almost felt ill-fitting, but I suppose a British author, and indeed the era, would know better than me.

One of my favourite things about this is the Scottish countryside it's very happy to explore. I mean, some of the places I could actually recognise, and the rest I could imagine quite easily. On this level, the book really felt like a love song to its setting. I also enjoyed all the people he came across, for they were very interesting and the scenes with new people were quite fun. Indeed, Hannay never travels too long on his own before something happens to offer a change of pace, so I never found myself bored with this book.

Like I said, many of the things that happen are very improbable, almost to James Bond levels. It's a thing I'd recommend you're on board for if you decide to read this — save yourself some annoyance. Additionally, the book is lacking that something that would, for me, raise it to a 5/5. It's not quite great, that's all. Maybe The Great Gatsby just spoiled me into thinking that even in under 200 pages, you should accomplish greatness.

I do understand those low Goodreads reviews as well; this book can be a little bit hit-and-miss, especially if you're expecting something else. Because of this, I have a few reservations about recommending it to just anyone. Personally, I'd rate this maybe a 3.5/5 rounded up. The lost half a star is because the ending was a bit anti-climatic but I don't feel it warrants a loss of a full star so I rounded it up. Just know that it's not a full 4/5.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 5: A book about travelling in the wild. This is because it has a lot of travelling in the Scottish Highlands and the such. Cool stuff. Pretty places.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

''A gramme in time saves nine,' said Lenina, producing a bright treasure of sleep-taught wisdom. 
Bernard pushed away the proffered glass impatiently.
'Now don't lose your temper,' she said, 'Remember, one cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments.'
'Oh, for Ford's sake, be quiet!' he shouted.
Lenina shrugged her shoulders. 'A gramme is always better than a damn,' she concluded with dignity, and drank the sundae herself.'

Heyo!

So, this is one of the books that are all the rage right now because of the current political situation... yeah. Daniel bought it for me in Edinburgh and I had wanted this specific edition because it came with 3D glasses! And a 3D cover! It's very cool stuff, trust me.

This book was written in 1932, which is easy to forget because of how futuristic it
is. Sure it sometimes goes into talking about radios as if they're the biggest invention ever (aww) and all the such, but the ideas it presents are fresh and creepy and could easily be an imaginable future. Kind of.

Anyway, the world presented in this book is quite complex and finding out more about it was one of my bigger pleasures while reading it, therefore I won't go into too much depth describing it. In short though, people are put into castes from embryos, the lesser ones deprived of oxygen and so on. These people are then conditioned to act in the best interest of the society and to take the world order as it is. They are consumers that buy into Fordism and agree that eveyone owns everyone else and if you want someone - well, you just have them. They also take a drug called soma to take a holiday from the world whenever they are not fully happy.

Cool 3D glasses are cool!
The plot of this book isn't very cohesive or even functioning at all times, but I was willing to forgive that and 4/5 anyway. This is because it's obvious to me that Huxley never set out to write a story as much as he wanted to create a dystopian society. The accomplishments of his imagination are clear, and the writing is very intriquing - at least if you can stop looking for the plot too hard. My favourite scene has characters of different backgrounds arguing about this world order, because it was quite exciting to see how one would go about defending this world order.

The characters also fall equally flat and are definitely not ones you would remember too far into the future. This is what I took a star away from the book for, but it didn't ruin it for me. Bernard Marx is kind of the main character, an Alpha-Plus constantly getting in trouble for acting unconventionally and who is in love with Lenina. Lenina is my favourite character, for she is the best window into this society. She's quick to take soma whenever something is wrong and doesn't understand it whenever someone is acting differently from what she's used to. She's so painfully happy with this world order, and that's very creepy. There's also the World Controller, who's very interesting in his... controlling, and John, whom many people seemed to like but I didn't. I won't go into any more depth about anyone since I don't want to spoil anything for you.

I suppose my verdict is clear: I see why this book is considered so important, so interesting. It's not perfect, but it is very good. It has had an important part in defining this sort of a genre and also, it's very creepy. I would have never thought anything about the 1930's could inspire something so contemporary. I suppose humans never really change, do they? Also, I found the ending of this book very satisfying, so that worked to cement my decision.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this into category 12: A book about politics and politicians! I suppose this counts as politics. It sure felt political quite a lot of the time.

I'll probably pick up Brave New World Revisited sometime soon. If you're not familiar with it, it's nonfiction and written 25 years later in which the author discusses whether or not society has moved closer to Brave New World in that time. I didn't know how much I needed it in my life before finding out about its existence. So, you can look forward to that!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The World According to Bob - James Bowen

'Someone had come up with the rather bright idea of having a paw-shaped stamp so that Bob could also 'sign' each book.'

Heyo!

You might or might not remember when I read A Street Cat Named Bob and really liked it. Well, anyway, because of that I decided that reading the sequel would be smashing. It kind of wasn't. I read this book on our trip to Isle of Skye last week and on the bright side, it was a very easy read and fun to continue every time.

The first book has James meet Bob and the two of them slowly change each other's lives for the better. This being the sequel, I only had one wish: for it to continue from where the previous one ended. It kind of does this, telling random events until ending in March 2012 when A Street Cat Named Bob makes it to the stores. However, these are short stories more than anything, and at times they're not in a chronological order and repeat some things. Additionally, sometimes he comments something like 'it was just like a youtube video', but it's just never as funny when you try to describe it, is it? Because of this, sometimes Bob's cute little shenanigans just didn't do it for me.

Most of all, my problem with this book was that it lacked the heart of the first one. It felt less sincere, in a way, because it was clear that James was observing Bob's fun mannerisms and writing them down as fun little tidbits with no real aim or a story to go through. Could I really judge a book based on a man's life for lacking a story, however? Not really. But that's the reason why I would have preferred this to be a more chronological story without all the disorienting jumps back and forth; I believe it would have made this more grounded.

The book comes with cute illustrations
at chapter breaks that relate to the
chapters! Amazing!
The World According to Bob is feel-good book, perhaps even more so than the first one. James and Bob are in a better place even though they're still selling The Big Issue on the streets, and I'm very happy about that. James' drug-induced past was a harrowing read at best and horrible at worst, and I don't mind that this book has less of returning to that. And I also understand that this had to be written while the craze from the first one was still running high, but in its heart, it was a bit of a disappointment. I'm sorry I don't have more to say about this, really, but there wasn't much that stuck with me. The quote I picked I picked because I was reaching the end with nothing to really say about it.

I'll read the Christmas book for sure as well (but that better be at Christmas!) - while this wasn't what I wanted, I still liked it. And if James and Bob ever write anything else, I'll read that too. I'll give this like... 3 and a half out of 5.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 35: There's a proper noun in a book's name!