Sunday, 29 January 2017

Heartless - Marissa Meyer

'She fidgeted with a yellow ribbon. 'With this hat, it seems possible. Why' - her eyes brightened - 'this morning, I even had a fantasy that I'd single-handedly balanced the budget for the Royal treasury, and all of Hearts saw me as a hero.''
Hi!

I bought this book as a preorder because I was so excited about the blurb. It took me 2.5 months to waft through, so it might not come as a surprise that I didn't really completely enjoy it.

Heartless is written by Marissa Meyer, who's mostly famous for her Lunar Chronicles -series, which are reimaginations of classic fairy tales. (Which I've not read and after this one, never might) Heartless is different in that it's the origin story of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, so it's kind of like a supervillain's origin story. No, exactly like one.

Catherine Pinkerton is, at the heart of things, a very likeable character. She is the daughter of the Marchioness and has somehow caught the attention of the King of Hearts, who wants to marry her. This couldn't be farther away from Cath's wishes, as she just wants to open a bakery with her servant/best friend, Mary Ann. She also meets a court jester (called Jest, haha wow such creativity) who manages to steal her heart almost instantly. She can't just marry the King, whom she doesn't even love, can she?

What did work for me in this book is that it was generally well-written. The description was good and the dialogue okay. I liked most of the characters, and especially Cath herself and Mary Ann were very likeable. On the other hand, while I initially swooned over Jest much like Cath did, I soon found that as a character, he was boring, cardboardy, chivalrous, too good to be interesting in any level. This is really a bad omen in a book were much of the centre is taken by how much I'm supposed to like him and want him and Cath to be together. I must admit I would've never been sad if Cath had just gotten over him and started that bakery with Mary Ann.

The main issue I had, however, was the plot. It is difficult to write something where everyone knows the ending - hello, she's the Red Queen, of course she marries the King of Hearts - but it can be done well. Just look at Romeo and Juliet and all those other "hey guess what, at the end everyone dies" -type of books. It can work, but it needs to be done in a good way, if you hear me? What Heartless tried is this 'did she or did she not' -game where plot twist after another has you trying to figure out whether she did marry the King or not. Instead, the focus really should be on how that happened.

With all these plot twists that didn't feel too interesting, the story also moves at an agonisingly slow pace. Sometimes I could swear it doesn't know which story it wants to tell and thus ends up picking up a cherry on top of each cake, one at a time.

In the background, there's all this "women aren't suited for the man's world of business" and "you shouldn't sell your dowry because that's your only worth" -stuff going on and it was actually a quite interesting portrayal of the Victorian times when that was the focus (not often). There were also some interesting slight undertones of study of determinism, which was quite cool. All the characters eventually got their own fates and no matter how no one wants it, fate is fate.

Anyway, 2/5, wouldn't recommend but a ton of people seem to love this so maybe I'm the one who's wrong.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this book in category 14: A book you’d choose by its summary on the book cover.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Animal Farm - George Orwell

'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.'

Hey.

I got this book from my brother for Christmas and decided to start it on my birthday. It was very good, incredibly creepy, very harrowing. I'm a bit at loss as to what I can, should or could say about it without utterly spoiling the experience from anyone who has yet to have the immense pleasure of reading it.

So, the Manor Farm is owned by a Mr. Jones. He has the animals working long hours, takes the spoils and drinks. The animals, after a seed of revolution is planted, decide to take control and turn the farm in Animal Farm. This revolution, fuelled by noble ideas and nobler values, brings them all equality, the Seven Commandments and harmony, but this does not last for long.

This novel is, safe to say, an allegory and a satire for Soviet Communism. It's mostly harrowing because it feels so real; the animals are very well fleshed out as characters from the beginning and I can experience everything with them. They're all so distinctive from each other, I never had any trouble figuring out who was who and who did what where. I could also imagine it really happening; it's not fictional in a way that would mean all the events could not take place exactly as they did in the book.

My edition had 95 long short terrifying exciting pages and in them, there's a full arc of drama and then some. I can tell in hindsight and even at the time when the most important things happened, but the story never gave me a restful moment when I thought I could relax without anything crucial going on in the book.

I loved the cat as a character most of all. She was not very prominent, and was described as much a cat as anything, and for her character I could not figure out any Soviet relation. What a charming mystery this was. Maybe I'm not thinking hard enough. Or maybe sometimes, a cat is just a cat.

I'll give this a full 5/5 because I certainly couldn't wouldn't shouldn't change anything and because it was an impressive, important read. I'd recommend it to anyone so long as in your current mindset you're not too put off by thinking of these things. I really don't know how to properly praise this work. There's so many allegories and thoughts I don't know how someone thinks of writing something like this, and I don't have any doubts as to why this thing is considered a classic. At the same time, however, it doesn't require any prior knowledge or understanding about these subjects to be appreciated.

Also, for the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this book in category 41: There's an animal on a book's cover!

Helmet 2017 Reading Challenge

Hello again!

I decided, out of general interest, to participate in the Helmet 2017 reading challenge. (Helmet means pearls, for those interested!) It's arranged by the Helmet libraries of Finland, and you can find the challenge in English here.

The idea is to be inspired by some/all of the fifty categories and read books from them. I copy-pasted the categories here, along with the books I thought I might read for each of them. Subject to change when I read something out of the list or just change my mind & I'll link the reviews here too when I get around to reading them!

1. A book’s name is beautiful
2. A book discussed in reading blogs - Senlin Ascends, Josiah Bancroft
3. Finnish classics - Tuntematon sotilas, Väinö Linna 
4. A book inspiring wellness and wellbeing - We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
5. A book about travelling in the wild - The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
6. A book with many storytellers - Carry On, Rainbow Rowell
7. A book written under a pen name
8. A book about Finnish history - Akvarelleja Engelin kaupungista, Jukka Viikilä
9. A book inspired by some work of art - The Story of Kullervo, J.R.R. Tolkien
10. A book with a beautiful cover - Charisma, Jeanne Ryan
11. A book written by an acknowledged professional - Shadowmagic, John Lenahan
12. A book about politics and politicians
13. ”Your story” book
14. A book you’d choose by its summary on the book cover - Heartless, Marissa Meyer
15. A book about a hobby
16. A book which has got some award abroad - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
17. A book cover colors are blue and white - Eurooppalaiset unet, Emma Pulkkonen
18. There are no less than four words in a book’s name - The Reason You're Alive, Matthew Quick
19. A “one day story” book - Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
20. A book about a disabled or seriously ill person
21. A hero story or a book about a brave person - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling
22. A book with illustrations
23. A translated book - The Danish Girl, David Ebershoff
24. A book about solving a crime - I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh
25. A book where nobody dies - Pollomuhku ja posityyhtynen, Jaana Kapari-Jatta
26. A family story - Rikki, Reija Glad
27. A book about a place where you live (or where you come from) - Metsäjätti, Miika Nousiainen
28. You have read only one book by this author before - Totta, Riikka Pulkkinen
29. A book’s main character can do something which you would like to learn - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K Rowling
30. There is a word ”feel/feeling” in a book’s name
31. Fantasy book - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
32. A book that has inspired a work of art - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
33. A book about India - A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
34. A book about the times when you were not born yet - A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle
35. There is a proper noun in a book’s name - The World According to Bob - James Bowen
36. A biography or memoir - Geisha of Gion, Mineko Iwasaki
37. A book by an author who has written more than 20 books - The Lady in the Van, Alan Bennett
38. There is a wedding in a book - Kissani Jugoslavia, Pajtim Statovci
39. A book about aging
40. A book by a writer who comes from a different (from yours) culture - In Order To Live, Yeonmi Park
41. There is an animal on a book’s cover - Animal Farm, George Orwell
42. A debut book - Ruskeat Tytöt, Koko Hubara
43. A book that you have planned to read for a long time The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien
44. A book about faith or religion
45. A book about a Finnish woman - Paras mahdollinen maailma, Riikka Pulkkinen
46. A book by a writer from Oceania - The Bone Sparrow, Zana Fraillou
47. A book that would cover two subjects from the challenge list
48. A book about something which you know only a little bit - Yhden lapsen kansa, Mari Manninen
49. A new book of 2017 - Caraval, Stephanie Garber
50. A book recommended by a librarian
Anyhow, I can't think of any good finishing words for this so I'll just leave it to be. Have a good day, you!

Friday, 6 January 2017

The City of Woven Streets - Emmi Itäranta

'Hyvästit oli sanottu moneen kertaan, mutta aina haudattu toisiin sanoihin, eikä niitä lopulta ollut sanottu kertaakaan. Niin me tulemme tänne yhä uudelleen jäähyväiset askeliamme painaen. Ne ovat ikuisesti myöhässä ja poissa paikoiltaan: mennyt hetki, jota emme tunnistaneet silloin, kun se oli ulottuvilla, ja jonka aavetta emme siksi koskaan lakkaa kantamasta mukanamme.'

'Goodbyes had been said many times, but always buried in other words, and in the end they weren't said even once. So we come here over and over again with farewells weighing our steps. They are eternally late and out of place: the past moment that we didn't recognise when it was within reach, and the ghost of which we will therefore never stop carrying with us.'

I have a nice hardback of this but how
many fireplace pictures can one have
in a row? Also, how pretty is that
cover?
Hey! Happy new year! I finally read a Finnish book in what is really 2017 and not eagerly all too early. It's my birthday tomorrow so it's nice that I'll get to start a new book for the occasion. 😃

I got this book from my mum last Christmas and finally got around to it (I must admit I rarely get around to reading anything as far as I'm concerned...). It's a Finnish book but it's also English, curiously. What I mean is that this book was written in Finnish and English at the same time, side by side by the author.

The City of Woven Streets is one of those books with an intricately built world that don't manage to utilise it as well as one would wish, but still make tremendously good stories. The world of this one is quite literally a city of woven streets, as the main character, Eliana, is a young weaver from the House of Webs. She lives on a small island plagued by floods where people are separated by skill and those who dream are put away. One day, a girl with her tongue got off is brought to her, with Eliana's name tattooed on her palm with invisible ink. What's up with that, that's the question. At the same time, an illness thought to have been conquered starts to plague the island. And dreams, also.

As I said, the world is more intricate than what the story might deserve. The island is very interesting, but Eliana's obviously limited view of it doesn't provide enough insight to make much use of this fact. She lives in a very secluded environment and through the length of the whole book only sees the streets maybe once or twice. She has a brother in a different house but he doesn't provide much information about his way of living either, the one or two times we see him. Maybe if this book could have had another main character with a world view different from Eliana's, it would have helped to utilise the environment better. Or even a sequel, because the end was rushed and heavy on description, leaving quite a bit to be desired. There's also some threads of plot points that are visited very very very briefly and never returned to, which further made me want more.

Eliana as a character was a little bland. I didn't get much out of her personality and I couldn't tell you all too much about her. Whatever backstory there was is written much too poetically to provide much information. Maybe everyone in this world lacks individualism and this is just a token of that, but as a main character, I didn't really warm up to her. This is not to say she doesn't go through some heavy personal growth, though. That was really nice.

The language of this book is really, really pretty and technically speaking the book is very well made. After the initial hook of the mute girl and the tattoo, it was also pretty easy to get into, though some of the pages upon pages of description didn't keep me fully interested.

All in all, I'd give this a 3.5 stars and recommend it. If you like poetic books with well-built worlds, you'll like this. If a great story is everything to you however, I would maybe not advise you to read this book.