Thursday, 12 October 2017

Love & Gelato - Jenna Evans Welch

'"You know, people come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay, it's for the same two things."'
"What?"
"Love and gelato."'



Hello!

I picked this up from the library maybe 1.5 weeks ago? I don't know, it had been on my tbr list and honestly, the Aberdeen Central Library doesn't have as great of a range as back home so I just take what I can.

Really though, I have a love for summer books. You know, books about sunrises and grass and adventures and ice cream in which life seems a lot less complex than normally. So this looking a whole lot like a summer book, I gravitated towards it. Fair warning, I convinced Daniel to make both pizza and pasta with me while I was reading this, so it's definitely a dangerous piece of literature. They were both very good dishes though, so it definitely helped me get in the Florence mood and all that.

Anyway, Love & Gelato is set in Italy, where 16-year old Lina has to go meet a father she's never known after her mum passed away. She's still grieving and it's difficult to be so far from home in the States without anyone she knows. It was, however, her mother's dying wish that she gets to know her father, and Lina has her mother's journal so they can experience Florence together. She also makes friends, including the kind Ren who lives in a gingerbread house essentially next door and all of his friends.

Something I enjoyed about this book was how little emphasis there was on the romance aspect. Sure, that is a thing, but moreover it's a book about family and grief and blood ties and moving on. It was a very refreshing read because of that.

The description of location in this book was kind of breathtaking. It made me want to visit Florence so bad, to carry this with me and walk in Lina and Ren's footsteps. That is a sign that the description is well-written, in my opinion; when you can see it in your mind so clearly you can't help wanting to see it for real.

By setting, this book reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss; American girl has to go to a lovely European city for the time of her life, yet is unwilling and feels sorry for herself. However, unlike Anna, Lina had a very real reason to be upset and not want to be there, so this book takes the cake by comparison. On the other hand, Anna was maybe more enjoyable as a read, maybe because of being more laid back and silly. Make of that what you will.

I'll give this a 4/5 because it was different and well-written, especially the description of places, but it wasn't a life-changing experience by any means. Actually, now that I finished it a couple of days ago, I can't really remember what happened in it. Also, I'll read almost any young adult books if they seem decent and are not set in the US.

With this, I finally get to tick off category 30 from the Helmet 2017 reading challenge: There's a word 'feel/feeling in a book's name'! I never thought it would be so difficult to find one of those!

Also, the next book by Welch, Love & Luck, is coming out next year. That one will be set in Ireland and I'll be happy to give it a read once it's out!

Next up will be It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne 'cause I'm nearly finished reading that! Reasons to be excited! :)

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Doctor Who: Shada - Gareth Roberts

'Chris reflected that a horrific place like this, with all the odds so grotesquely stacked against him, was where the Doctor magnificently belonged.'

Hello!


(I read this book because J made me but the timing of this post is pretty rad, check out the teaser for the complete, feature length version they're (finally) making based of the actual episode here. I might post about it when it's out because it's really quite cool!)

 I love Doctor Who but I hadn't read any of the novels before. Shada, though, was a unaired serial of the 17th series of Doctor Who with a script by Douglas Adams. That's pretty exciting, right?

Shada follows the Fourth Doctor and Romana to Cambridge, where a fellow Time Lord, Professor Chronotis, has found a home for himself. Upon leaving Gallifrey, he took with him something that proves to be dangerous. There's also a couple of grad students, Clare and Chris, cutely in love with each other but not able to admit it.

'But where was Chris? Why wasn't he there with her, starting off on this amazing journey? 'Aha!' the Doctor was saying, but she didn't want his 'Aha!' — she wanted Chris's 'Aha!' And where was Chris?' 

Because it's Doctor Who, there's also monster of the week - Skagra, who wants to take over the world with the use of Professor Chronotis's little souvenir. He's a cool villain and I definitely felt the urgency in stopping him.

I listened to this as an audiobook, with the sound effects and all, which was excellent. It was read by Lalla Ward, who plays Romana, and included David Brierley as K-9. What's not to love about that? The world needs more a) female narration b) female everything actually and c) K-9.

'At the woman's side, somehow looking equally concerned, was a metal box about three feet by two feet with 'K-9' emblazoned on its side in what somebody had obviously thought was a futuristic typeface. From the front of the box sprouted what was clearly meant to be a head, with a glowing red screen for eyes, a snout with a nozzle at the end and two miniature radar dishes in place of ears. It sort of looked, a bit, like a dog. It even had an antenna for a tail and, for a campy finishing touch, a tartan collar.'

You've probably figured this out by now, but this book definitely assumes that you know your Doctor Who. It doesn't really give you any general rundown of the background or any of that, but just plunges you in the deep end. Nothing wrong about that of course, but just something to keep in mind. I think no one assumes you pick up one of these and use it as your stepping stone into the wider universe, but the other way around.

All the characters are excellent, which isn't exactly surprising. It's hard to pick a favourite but my top three would be Skagra's ship that was tweaked to shower him with compliments, Clare and Romana. Girl power! Also, I feel like the Doctor was actually the weakest character here. He came across as a bit annoyed all the time (Which may have to do with Lalla Ward having been married to Tom Baker at one point, J tells me).

The writing is also excellent, very fun and smart and kind of tongue-in-cheek. There's a lot of both dialogue and description but it all kind of fits together.

All in all, Shada is an excellent Doctor Who story. It's weird and fantastical and fun and pretty much what you're meant to get. The dialogue and characters are more than enough to make up for the fact that the plot itself may not have been the most innovative out there. If I had to change something, I'd cut out around a hundred pages of nothing really happening, though I understand that could be detrimental to the experience. Still, sometimes I zoned out while listening to this, and I want to mark it down for that.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I could not find a spot for this. This is getting so tricky!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Reason You're Alive - Matthew Quick

'That morning I'd been worried I might be scalped, and here I was among the warmest people I will probably ever meet, no matter how long I live.'


Hello!

Daniel got me this book as a gift! It's seemingly becoming a tradition, as he got me Every Exquisite Thing last year. I'm very happy about that, naturally. And since you can't actually see it from a picture, I have to tell you that the letters are imprinted on the dustjacket and the cover is really nice to the touch and I love running my fingers across it. Points for that!

(clears throat) Anyway, you might know by now that The Silver Linings Playbook is my favourite book and I'm fully on board to read everything Matthew Quick writes in the future and the past, so as soon as this book was announced, I was excited! (I've also reviewed Sorta Like a Rockstar on this blog!)

David Granger is a 68-year old Vietnam War veteran who's recently had a brain tumour removed. He's trying to find closure with the war and the awful things he did and trying to live a life without his wife, whom he lost three decades ago. This book is a story he writes for someone else to read, a story about his life.

David is on paper a person I can't imagine liking. He's very politically incorrect, a republican and against gun control. He is, however, very funny and likeable and I found myself really fond of him by the end of the book. This book was very honest and heartfelt, and most of it really did come from David's character. I think there is something to be said there about how we should give people another chance beyond that first impression and not just judge them based on how we think they should be. Hm.

I also enjoyed all of the side characters - David's liberal art-dealer son Hank, granddaughter Ella, Gay Timmy and Gay Johnny, his genetically Vietnamese-American best friend Sue and Clayton Fire Bear. They all had their own stories and lives and it was refreshing to see them through David's politically incorrect eyes.

Unfortunately, I'm quite convinced American readers will enjoy this book more than I did or ever could. This book is about as American as they get, and I just don't have the cultural heritage to understand this in the way someone else could. There's baseball and Republican politics and history of oppression and the Vietnam War itself, all topics I don't really have a personal connection to. And these are just the first examples that came to my mind.

I suppose it would be stupid to ask for Matthew Quick to write something that wasn't so inherently American, especially when it's something that provides a lot of charm for his works, but it's just a shame to realise. Quite possibly this is also the reason I feel like giving it 4/5 instead of 5/5 - my own shortcomings. There was also something about the ending that, even though it made me extremely happy, just worked out a little too conveniently.


All in all though, this book was short and heartfelt and upbeat and that is essentially what I love Matthew Quick's works for. It has a lot of themes I've come to recognise as his, and I think this will be my second favourite work of his so far. I cannot wait for his next book!

Also, at mum if you're reading this, I think you'd like this one! I'll bring it with me for Christmas! :)

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I'll put this in category 1: A book's name is beautiful. Funny story, I've actually been saving category 18: There are no less than four words in a book's name for this, but now that I read this... I understand the meaning behind the name and I don't think I'll read anything so beautifully named this year.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi - Sandhya Menon

'"Hello, future wife," he said, his voice bubbling with glee. "I can't wait to get started on the rest of our lives!"'


Hello!

Needless to say, I was super excited to read When Dimple Met Rishi. Why? Not only is there an iced coffee on the cover (important but ends up being mistreated in the actual story), but it is an Indian-American young adult book about Indian-American teenagers battling with issues that come from the melding of these two different cultures. In short-hand; it's not super-American and stereotypically boring like most YA novels! How great is that?

It's also worth noting that in this book, the female main character has a passion for coding! It would be great if I didn't need to award medals for 'girls wanting to do ''''men's'''' jobs in young adult books' but you would be surprised with how rarely that happens. Ew.

Anyway, When Dimple Met Rishi stars Dimple, weirdly-named quirky Indian girl living in America, pressured by her mum to find an Ideal Indian Husband but wanting to do web design and not get married. The other half is Rishi, a traditional Indian teenager who's also living in America but more fond of stability and making his parents proud. They meet at Insomnia Con, a course of sorts for aspiring web designers and the sorts, where Rishi thought they were going to get together and Dimple has never heard of him before. Plot ensues. Also, for some reason, this technology course includes a talent show, winning which helps you win the whole thing? Please explain your logic, book.

As said, I had high hopes for this. But alas, India and web design both take a back seat as Dimple complains constantly about: rich people just because they're rich, perfectly well-meaning parents caring about her, a nice guy being nice and wanting to be strong and independent and not in a relationship. She also takes every opportunity to emphasise that she is definitely 'Not Like Every Other Girl'® because she doesn't wear make-up or love shopping for clothes et cetera. Not only that, but her friend Celia, who does enjoy these things, is described as being less of a decent person because of it? (Feminism PSA: It's okay if you like these things or if you don't, as long as you don't put other people down for thinking differently!)

 Meanwhile Rishi is so ridiculously, over-the-top nice that it just made me doubt if he wasn't secretly trying to be annoying. You know? Like, I may have liked him more if he had some actual character flaws beyond just being painfully nice and extremely polite or whatever.

Talk about over-the-top, this book actually reads a lot like fanfiction, in that it has great representation but big parts of the plot are just too nice and too convenient and no way no one actually does that in real life (looking at you, Rishi). And I love good fanfiction. The book also tries to convince you that it's different from other such works, while being exactly, completely like them.... yeah. Also, what is essentially the main conflict (*insofar as this book has one) is resolved around half-way through. What happens after that, you ask? Nothing, really. Nothing.

Essentially gonna give this a 2/5 just because Indian representation and a couple of cute moments, but I can't really recommend this to anyone with a good conscience.

For the Helmet 2017 Reading Challenge I put this in category 33: A book about India. Yeah, I know, I'm reaching again but hey, Indian characters, Indian author... roll with it.

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.'

Hello!


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!

Hello!

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)'



Hello!

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


'Diricawl

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."
NO YOU'RE FUCKING NOT.
"Oh my God, I was so nervous about that presentation, I literally had a panic attack."
NO YOU FUCKING DIDN'T.
"I'm so hormonal today. I just feel totally bipolar."
SHUT UP, YOU IGNORANT BUMFACE."'


Hello!

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!

Heyo!
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...