Friday, 18 August 2017

Am I Normal Yet? - Holly Bourne

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Helsinki Young Adult Literature Convention - Hel-YA!

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

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

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

The event included five panels: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 4 August 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 3 August 2017

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Ruskeat Tytöt - Koko Hubara

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

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

Hello again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Caraval - Stephanie Garber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Rikki - Reija Glad

'Joskus äiti on niin kuin pieni ja Eeva sen äiti. Ja pieni äiti on ärsyttävä eikä halua pukea.'

'Sometimes mum is like small and Eeva its mum. And small mum is annoying and doesn't want to get dressed.'

Rikki ('Broken') is Reija Glad's first novel. It won third prize in a Robustos (the publisher who's published most of Siiri Enoranta's works and other stuff) miniature novel competition in 2015. I got this from the library's new stuff shelf and checked it out on Goodreads, where it has, as I write this, one rating of three stars, a golden middle road. I thought that was quite compelling - what does three mean to this one person? Also, the book is just shy of a hundred pages and I thought I could definitely give it another rating, maybe make the decision easier for someone else. Or something. Also, it sounded cool.

Anyway, this book is very unsettling at its heart. It's divided into short little chapters that each tell their own story of sorts. They're given creepy telltale names like 'Dad's Car', 'Bunny' and 'River'. The book itself is about a family, or more specifically the children of one, who grow up poor, with a mentally ill mother and an alcoholic, absent father. The book is from the point of view of one of the children, though the book never actually tells you which one. I do have my guess.

It's mostly written in short, meaningful sentences. The children witness things no child (or person) should and can't process them properly. Many things in this book are, indeed, broken. Their mother isn't able to take care of the kids because of her own problems, and the children in turn do their best but can't really lead normal and happy childhoods. The family is broken and their home town in Northern Finland seems fairly depressed at best.

This book was sort of disturbing in its desperation, but I like to think it also had tiny little whisps of hope, which are also alluded to in the back cover. I think I'll check out Glad's other works if she publishes more one day. (You can always dream, yes?) My only hope is that for a full length novel, the work would have more happiness as well. For a work of this length however, it worked quite well, even if it does feel like a bit too much sometimes. No one's supposed to live a life like this, though I think that was kind of the point too. I'd recommend this book and I quite enjoyed it, but I feel like it requires a specific sort of mindset so I'll just leave that up to you if you want to check it out. For me, it was absolutely worth the read. I hope more people check it out.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 26: A family story! Think the category is looking for a longer story but this was definitely about family so...

Friday, 14 July 2017

Eurooppalaiset unet - Emma Pulkkonen


Back with marathon number two book number two: another Finnish one, this time last year's Finlandia nominee (you might remember how Akvarelleja Engelin kaupungista was the winner, and I would be tempted to say rightfully so)

Eurooppalaiset unet ('European Dreams') felt, to me, like a café with a fancy exterior that tries to appeal to a more academically inclined crowd in the most expensive part of the city. When you step inside however, you come to realise that there's nothing that's really groundbreaking or worth your time in this faux-fancy establishment.

Now, the book isn't actually quite that bad. There's actual quality to it, just quality that somehow comes across as trying too hard and failing because of it.

The idea is that there's all these people (maybe eight or so, I lost count) around Europe who lead different lives with their own problems, but eventually most of their stories actually weave together to create a semblance of connection. Like, on the level that some character's brother's daughter is working with some other character 20 years later. And while I see that was supposed to be amazing to me, well... it felt more like that person could have been working with anyone else without it having any implications for their lives.

Also, it was, again, (check out Kissani Jugoslavia for more of this) a bit too artsy. Someone got this superpower of sorts (not much of a spoiler since it's on the back cover) which didn't make any sense to me and I never found out if it was real or not. It was odd in a story that otherwise felt real.

I really wanted to like this book. I thought that the idea was cool, but obviously I wanted some deeper connections than what this had. The stories themselves were quite good and even harrowing but my topmost feeling is disappointment and I can't really shake that. What with the EU and all (having 'European' in your title is bound to draw these comparisons), I wanted a book about how deeply we're all connected these days. This wasn't that book.

I don't have much else to say. I feel like this book didn't have much to say to me either.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 17: A book cover colours are blue and white!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Pollomuhku ja posityyhtynen - Jaana Kapari-Jatta

'Suomentaja ei käännäkään sanoja vaan ajatuksia.'

'A Finnish translator doesn't, after all, translate words but thoughts.'


Pollomuhku ja posityyhtynen ('Bubotuber and Pigwidgeon') was my reading marathon number two book number one - a book by the Finnish translator of Harry Potter on her perhaps biggest and probably most influential work to date; translating this beloved series from beginning to end (including The Cursed Child and other stuff like that too).

This book answers most of the questions the translator often gets asked: how do you translate all those names, how does the fame of the series feel, does she miss them now that it's fin(n)ished... And it's really quite interesting. Even though I've always comprehended that someone does indeed translate all of these books, I've never fully realised just how much work goes into it. I'll be sure to appreciate it more in the future and maybe even read more translated works.

It's clear from the way Kapari-Jatta talks about her work that she has a strong passion for it. The only book I've actually read with her translation (since I've happily read Harry Potters in English) is Holes by Louis Sachar. I would say that's a good translation as well. Pollomuhku talks very in depth (sometimes too much so) about the creative process of the translator as she attempts to understand the mind of the author and the complexities of the world they have created. She also really thought deep and hard about how to translate all those imaginary words while preserving their spirit. This is especially important since these books started out as children's books and you can't reasonably expect every Finnish child to know enough English to make the connections.

Another thing I thought was cool: translating hints. If you've read these books before, you'll probably know that J.K. Rowling adds a ton of hints in her books about what will happen in the future instalments. The translator talks about how the hints need to be of the same quality as originally - not more or less clear. It's another thing I've mostly taken for granted, translating these things skillfully, but they do take a lot of thought, especially in Rowling's case.

I might even have given this a five but sometimes it just trailed off a bit too much and repeated the same things many times. For a (by default Finnish skills are required) Harry Potter fan interested in languages I would recommend this without hesitation regardless!

Also something to appreciate: this cover was made by Mika Launis, who also made all the Finnish Harry Potter covers! I really like his work and I think these two people definitely made the Finnish editions of Harry Potter what they are.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in a category I've been dreading filling because it's so niche.... 25: A book where nobody dies! Yay!!!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Reading Marathon #2 (updating)


Reading marathon #2 of the summer is here today (8th of July) and as promised, I convinced Daniel to take part with me!

We started at 8PM today and will finish at 8PM tomorrow and I'll be updating our feels here a couple of times during the marathon!


Right now I'm reading Pollomuhku ja posityyhtynen (a book on how the Harry Potters were translated into Finnish) by Jaana Kapari-Jatta and Daniel's reading The Story of Kullervo by J.R.R. Tolkien. I'll probably finish that and then wrap up for today. [Daniel] After getting not so far into Kullervo I decided to return to the beginning as the dialect went over my head; second time round and the book is captivating me due to its poetic passages.


That's my book and the first 114 pages finished! Maybe good to wrap up for today? Daniel is still battling with the complicated names and stuff in Kullervo.


Started Eurooppalaiset unet ('European Dreams') by Emma Pulkkonen and read the first 50 pages. Kind of heavy to get into and jumps around a lot but I do enjoy it. [Daniel] Enjoying Kullervo hugely! As a Tolkien fan I expected I'd like it but its enjoyably poetic in the telling of the tale. Still rather heavy with sonnet-like passages.


Done 110 pages of this thing. I kind of really want to finish it today. There was a bit about a Somali refugee girl that was almost too difficult to read. Hope we never get back to that again. [Daniel] Finished the actual story part of the Kullervo and it was pretty amazing, definitely going to read Kalevala when I master Finnish! Currently reading the essays regarding the Kalevala by Tolkien and the forewords to the book.


Finished my book (179 pages) and feel wholly confused. What is life. It was a bit too weird for me, which is a real shame. Maybe would have benefited from being read one story at a time but I don't really think a great book should suffer from being read 'wrong'. Think I'll start a bit of Caraval by Stephanie Garber with the remaining time. [Daniel] Still reading the essays and notes associated with Kullervo. I'm developing a new sense to Tolkien and also a greater understanding of Kalevala and how it influenced his further works.


Pollomuhku ja posityyhtynen (114 pages, partly)
Eurooppalaiset unet (179 pages, complete)
Caraval (64 pages, partly)
Total of 357 pages

The Story of Kullervo (158 pages, partly)
Total of 158 pages

Not too shabby with 515 pages between us! Definitely happy I now have 2/3 of the library books I loaned for this actually read and Caraval too seemed rather exciting.

I nearly read the book! I only have the foreword to finish off. For my first marathon I am very happy as this was indeed a very heavy book
to read with lots of dialect, notes, sources and references. Despite the heaviness this was a poetic and beautiful book. I hope to finish two books for our next marathon!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

'Some people ask: 'Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?' Because that would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.'

I picked this up, sat at the dinner table and read it. Granted, it's a TED Talk turned into an essay and in Finnish just shy of 50 pages, but I would've gladly read 50 more or even 150. The reason We Should All Be Feminists has been on my radar is that earlier this year, a copy of it was given to every 9th grader in Finland. I read the Finnish edition they were given ('Meidän kaikkien pitäisi olla feministejä'), and I think they're in good hands. This book works incredibly well as a conversation starter as well due to its short length and current message.

This essay is very personal. Adichie talks about her own experiences and doesn't make them into some sort of a universal truth that everyone should agree on, but also raises many sharp points about why, indeed, We Should All Be Feminists. She's from Nigeria and lives partly in the US herself, but even though our cultures are vastly different, her experiences still resonate with what I feel. I'm sure anyone who's a woman or doesn't hate women would agree.

I don't expect that giving this book to kids miraculously turns them into a full generation of acceptance and love, but I think if even one of them finds this book an eye-opener, it has done its work. It's a good size with reasonable sized text, and at least I found it a page-turner. If only they opened it.

I took a look yesterday into how that was taken in Finland, and some of it was pretty appalling. Middle-aged men calling out on Twitter how, direct quote: "Political propaganda is being forced upon our youth."  Really. If you think that equality of genders is dangerous propaganda, you should go back to the 1500s where you clearly belong. Also, it was very clear that no one who criticised this book had ever even touched it. It's horrible how just saying 'I'm a feminist' gets this sort of a reaction from people, and that's something Adichie talks about as well: how the word itself has become incredibly loaded and makes people imagine that you hate men, among many other things. 

If these people actually read the book, they would know feminism is not the opposite of misogynism, but the actual plea for equality of genders. And they might disagree with some of the things in this book, but at least they would know what they were talking about. Of course, if people were willing to educate themselves and admit to being wrong, this would be all too easy.

You can find the TED Talk here in its entirety and if you've not read this or watched it, well, I definitely recommend it. I wish everyone would, and then maybe we would have a slightly better world. 

'My own definition is a feminist is a man or a woman who says, yes, there's a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better. All of us, women and men, must do better.'

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 4: A book inspiring wellness and wellbeing.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Akvarelleja Engelin kaupungista - Jukka Viikilä

'Onko arkkitehtia, joka kieltäytyisi kokonaisen kaupungin rakentamisesta, vaikka se nousisikin näin pimeään, kylmään ja syrjäiseen paikkaan?'

'Is there an architect who would refuse to build a whole city, even if it rose in such a dark, cold and isolated place as this?'

And also: how do you write about a book so intelligent and intellectual that you feel like you haven't lived long enough to match it?

I don't think there's many capital cities that have so prominently been designed by one architect, but this is only one of the many things that makes Akvarelleja Engelin kaupungista ("Aquarelles from Engel's City") so interesting. There's also the fact that the city Carl Ludvig Engel designed essentially didn't exist before his work commenced, for the little village had been burnt badly eight years before and was only made the capital four years prior to his arrival.

The reason this book was in my radar is very simple: it won the coveted Finlandia prize for fiction last year. That's like a Booker or Pulitzer prize for Finnish people. Honestly, I've never happened to read a winner before, but they're pretty highly valued books regardless. I was also interested in this because one of his buildings (the one in the picture) is about six kilometres my home (in an area where practically nothing exists, what are the chances of that?) I happened to come across this very luckily at my local library (not the big and fancy one), and I knew I just had to take the time to read it within the two week quick loan time.

Akvarelleja Engelin kaupungista is written like a night diary by the architect during his years in Helsinki, spanning from 1816, when he arrived, to 1840, when he passed away. Engel wasn't in love with Helsinki, by any means. He found it cold, uncultured and revulsive, even, and was always convinced that he would move back to Berlin once his job was done. Regardless, the work he did on the city shaped a lot of how it looks today.

The book is incredibly poetic. The thoughts expressed are very beautiful but they never feel fake or pretentious. I found it exquisite. This is obviously because while this is Viikilä's first novel, he's previously released two poetry compilations. What's also apparent is that lots and lots of work have gone into this. It's steeped in history and notes actual things that happened and how Engel might have reacted to them. The buildings he made also pop up in real time and allow Viikilä to imagine how the architect might have believed it.

There's a lot I could tell you about the architect based on this book, and I think that's really cool. I must applaud the work of the author, and I'm happy to do so. Viikilä's primary source of information on the architect (of whom not much personal information exists, allowing for a book like this) were letters he wrote to his three closest friends.

I loved this book. I imagine not everyone would, because it is pretty poetic and cultural, but for me it was definitely a hit, and I don't think I would change anything even if I could. I think I'll work on finding a hardback copy of my very own. This is the sort of book that deserves to exist as a hardback, you see. If the author decides to write another novel, I'll be excited to read it.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 8: A book about Finnish history!

'Tämän olen oppinut suomalaisista: heille kaunein kukka on peruna.'

'This I have learnt of the Finns: to them the most beautiful flower is a potato.'

Friday, 30 June 2017

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling

'Nobody's ever asked me to a party before, as a friend. Is that why you dyed your eyebrow, for the party? Should I do mine too?' (Luna Lovegood being a precious creampuff)

My previous Harry Potter reviews are here if you need them or like, want to look at them or something.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth installment of the beloved franchise. Some things are expected at this point: quality writing and plot developments et cetera. This book is very dark when compared to the earlier ones, and it's definitely something I welcomed with open arms. Even though Harry may well be 'the chosen one', he still carries numerous scars from what has happened in the previous books. It doesn't come without a cost, one could say.

This might just be my favourite Harry Potter book. I'd say it has something to do with not having seen the movie, and while that's probably a big part of it... The events of this book were really interesting to me. It gives more depth to Dumbledore and Snape, and most interestingly, Tom Riddle. I loved to learn about Tom so much, I was clearly looking forward to those lessons more than Harry was. Tom Riddle: The Early Years is definitely yet another prequel I would much rather take over Fantastic Beasts... just saying. I also enjoyed the Half-Blood Prince bit, and I was not expecting it to turn out the way it did. That actually goes for many things in this book, as there were not many 

My favourite thing about Rowling's writing is the fact that the books have a lot of detail seemingly scattered around over the whole length of the book but it all makes sense by the time you finish the book. Like 'hey, remember this tidbit 400 pages ago? Surprise, it's back!' It's amazing and I can't even imagine being able to write something that intelligent. I feel like a clutz in a small, tightly packed second-hand bookstore in comparison to the beauty of this thing.

What is there one can really say about these books, at this point? I enjoyed this immensely, and it was a real pleasure to read. I'm at a loss of anything else I can say. Sorry about that. I started Deathly Hallows as well, and I'm already mourning finishing it. These books really are good.

Tonks is my favourite character. She's so cute and happy. She might die now that I've admitted this.

For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 31: A fantasy book!

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!

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?'


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.'


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!