Happy weekend, readers!

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This post has really no function other than sharing this fun meme that my friend sent me. I’ve just finished Salo by Turkka Hautala (review coming soon!) and am hoping to delve into Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin this weekend. Hope you’ll have a great weekend and happy reading! x

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Words without Borders – Finnish Fiction

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If you’re interested in translated fiction and translations, you’ve probably heard of Words without Borders. Words without Borders is an society devoted to promoting cultural understanding through international literature. They support translators and translations, but they also publish an online magazine that focuses on translated fiction. And it just so happens, that their August issue’s theme is Finland. You heard it right, Finland.

The issue explores a variety of contemporary Finnish authors whose works have as of late been translated into English. Exerpts vary from historical fiction from Antti Tuuri and Sofi Oksanen to literary fiction writers such as Kari Hotakainen. Among the translators are Lola Rogers, who is the guest editor of this issue, as well as Owen F. Witesman, who recently translated As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka. So if you’re interested in broadening your horizons with translated fiction or discovering new authors round the globe, then I highly recommend that you check them out. You’ll find the August issue HERE.

Review: Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

PAPERBACK; 535 P.
PENGUIN, 1982/1891
SOURCE: PURCHASED

Thomas Hardy used to speak of Tess as if she were a real person, and once he wrote: ‘I have not been able to put on paper all that she is, or was, to me.’ It is true that in Tess he created on of the most striking and tragic of his heroines, whose sufferings cannot fail to grip the imagination long after the book is finished.

As a boy Thomas Hardy had been no stranger to poverty; and he unfolds his story of Tess, struggling to overcome the pitfalls that poverty and ignorance strew in her way, with peculiar intensity. In doing so, he mounts an assault on conventional Victorian society’s pharisaic morality, its unforgiving religion and rigid class system, and mourns the desecration by the machine of traditional agricultural life. With its sensitive depiction of the wronged Tess and powerful criticism of social convention, Tess of the D’Urbervilles is one of the most moving and poetic of Hardy’s novels.

Referred as Dickens of the fields, Thomas Hardy explores human nature as well as the county of Wessex in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. The main character of the book is the eponymous Tess Durbeyfield, whose father in the beginning of the book discovers that he is one of the direct descendants of the great, but now forgotten, d’Urbervilles. The Durbeyfields are peasants in a small village of Marlott, and the news instantly give rise to higher expectations for the eldest daughter, Tess. Once they hear that a gentleman named Alec d’Urberville has settled in a nearby village, the family sends Tess to do introductions with the family in hopes of securing a wealthy connection. Tess, an obedient and religious young girl agrees despite feeling that there is something amiss in the situation. Alec d’Urberville is charming and immediately taken in by Tess, but his intentions are not as pure as expected. After a tragic night Tess is set to return home as a fallen woman. The story of Tess of the D’Urbervilles follows her journey and how one misguided event affects the life of a young country girl.

This is the first Thomas Hardy book that I’ve read, and I was very impressed by the writing. If you enjoy Victorian literature but dislike Dickens, go check out Thomas Hardy. The descriptions of the Wessex countryside formed a great backdrop for the events of the story, and the characters – especially Tess – made me keeping turning page after page. I enjoyed the book so much that instead of reading it in one sitting, I took my time with it – savouring the story. The beauty of the writing is strongly contrasted by the topic of sexual hypocrisy in the Victorian society as well as the social inequality. Tess is an adorable character and so strong in her beliefs that it is heartbreaking to see her struggle in the winds of social pressure. Beside the fall of the main character, the book also features criticism toward the fall of the countryside at the time of industrial revolution.

For me, Tess of the D’Urbervilles was one of those books that you just love as a whole. The story has many interesting elements, such as discussions on religion, faith, strenght etc., but it is hard to pinpoint what exactly made me love this book. I must, however, admit that I did not enjoy the ending of the book as much as I enjoyed the rest of the book. Due to the atmosphere of Victorian England, Thomas Hardy had to rewrite Tess of the D’Urbervilles a few times before it was published, and even after publication he continued omitting passages and including more morally acceptable elements. My edition included a very specific notation of all the changes that Hardy made to the manuscript after its first publication, and it was interesting to see how the small changes affected the feeling of the story. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Tess of the D’Urberville very very much, and I recommend it to everyone who enjoys classics and poetic language.

4.5/5

Yet it was in that vale that her sorrow had taken shape and she did not love it as formerly. Beauty to her, as to all who have felt, lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized.

Review: Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Lux #1)

EBOOK; 294 P.
ENTANGLED TEEN, 2012/2011
SOURCE: PURCHASED

Starting over sucks.

When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring…. until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.

Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something…unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.

You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

If I don’t kill him first, that is.

When asked what genres I read, I tend to say I read classics and literary fiction with a hint of YA. And this is the hint. YA paranormal romance isn’t my go-to genre, but I’ve heard a ton of praise as well as critique about the Lux series. Thus when I discovered that the first book in the series was free on Kindle, I decided to give it a try. I downloaded the Kindle app for my phone a few months ago to help me with reading longer classics (Moby-Dick to be precise) that are hard to carry around. This, however, was the first time that I read a book completely on my phone.

The story of Obsidian is quite straightforward: a new girl moves to a small town, the girl meets her neighbours who are gorgeous twins. The twin girl becomes her instant best friend whereas the boy is a jerk – but a hot jerk. However, there seems something different with the twins – they are “out of this world”. The YA trope is quite old, and it reminded me very much of Twilight. And not in a positive sense. However, what made the main character more interesting was that she had a book blog that kept referenced time and again in the story. Although the reading aspect of the said book blog seemed a bit shallow, the concept definitely drew me in.

The problem for me was that I didn’t get drawn into the story of Obsidian. The writing made the book an entertaining and compelling read, but I kept reading it with a more analytical mindset. Even though I do have a thing for snarky characters and bantering, in the end the failures of the book weighted more than the few instances in which I laughed out loud. For example, the way the sister became instantly best friends with the main character and then suddenly disappeared from the picture, forcing the main character to spend more time with the hot boy that she hates. The air between two characters is filled with sexual tension from the get-go, but it’s one of those love/hate relationships. I appreciated the fact that the book distinguishes lust from like and love, and after reading this book, I wasn’t even surprised to find out that Armentrout writes romance under the name J. Lynn.

The ending of the book truly left room for sequels, but I doubt I’ll continue with the series. Nevertheless, if you are fan of the genre, this is definitely written better than Twilight (although with more violence, cussing, and sexual tension).

2/5

Beautiful face. Beautiful body. Horrible attitude. It was the holy trinity of hot boys.

Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

PAPERBACK; 432 P. 
TRANS. ERKKI JUKARAINEN
OTAVA, 2004/2003
SOURCE: PURCHASED

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashums. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

I began reading The Kite Runner without knowing anything about the plot. I have heard several people praise Hosseini’s books saying that he has given a voice to emigrants from Afghanistan as well as the jarring experiences that they’ve gone through. The Kite Runner begins with the story of two little boys who are the bestest of friends. They do everything together, share everything with each other as well as live in the same yard. The only difference is that Amir, the narrator of the book, is a son of a wealthy man, and Hassan is the son of the house servant. This complicates situations because Hassan is also a Hazara, which people see as a race beneath others. As the boys grow up this issue becomes a strain to their relationship and one evening Amir cannot but watch by as a group of boys physically violate his dearest friend.

Aside from the relationship between the two boys – and their fathers – another prominent element in the book is war. The tensions in Afghanistan explode and after first fighting the Soviet armies, the fight turns against fellow countrymen. Amir escapes Afghanistan with his father before the worst comes to worst, and they flee to the land of hope – The United States of America. However, both father and son have a hard time adapting to their new environment and position. The Kite Runner is a touching tale about family, love, and finding your own courage. It was a book that made me want to cry already in the beginning, and I loved how the book explored the main characters through several decades. My only wish is that the book had explored the childhood relationship of Amir and Hassan more.

I read the Finnish translation of the book, and notwithstanding a few mistakes, the writing was incredibly touching. The characters and their pain felt real, and at the same time I learnt much about Afghanistan culture and history. I don’t know how accurate the book is in terms of actual events, but it definitely intrigued me and made me want to learn more. I’d definitely recommend that you read this book if you’re interested in the culture of Middle East or want to read about the emigration experience. I truly hope to read more of Khaled Hosseini’s work in the future.

4/5

For you, a thousand times over.

July Reads and August Plans

July, dear July.

I know I complained that June had been cold. So it is quite ironic that the heat of July has been almost unbearable for someone like me who is not used to hot weather. However, it has given me good excuse to sit in the shadow of my balcony and read. I read 6 books in July, and I must say that I enjoyed all of them in different ways. The selection of books was again very varied, and despite some doubts on my part, I also managed to finish Moby-Dick ( only a couple weeks after the read-along ended). In addition to book reviews, I posted my May-July book haul as well as shared some of the blog inspiration in the Very Inspiring Blogger Award post.

Aside from reading for pleasure and blogging, I’ve been working in July and studying for a book exam in politics. Nevertheless, July has been a fun months with a few summer parties, weekend trips, swimming in the lake by the summer cottage, going to see The Fault in Our Stars with friends and heading for tea and ice cream afterwards.

Books read in July:

I blogged about most of the books I read in July (and I still do plan on reviewing As White As Snow), but I’ll quickly talk about the book that didn’t get its own review. I began the month by reading Pikku Pietarin Piha (eng. Little Peter’s Yard) which is a collection of causeries. The perspective in the book is mainly that of a young boy who spends his days in the courtyard shared by several families, and relates their lives. Peter has recently lost his mother and beside the events of the yard, the book also includes his dreams in which he talks to God about his mother, asking how she is doing “up there”. The humouristic tone of the book comes from the naïveness of the child, but there is also sadness in the conditions and struggles of the time period. This book was recently listed as one of the vital reads from the 1950s Finnish literature, and though I didn’t catch all the historical references, I enjoyed it very much. 3/5

Books on my August TBR:

  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
  • White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen (Finnish)
  • Salo by Turkka Hautala (Finnish)
  • Kiinalainen puutarha by Markus Nummi (Finnish)

I’ve actually already read The Kite Runner, but because I finished it on August 1st, I decided to include it in the August TBR. Both The Kite Runner and Tess of the d’Urbervilles were on my July TBR, so I’ve added them into my August TBR list. Although I feel a bit hesitant to pick up bigger books so soon after Moby-Dick, I want to read the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, Storm of Swords, this month. I have high expectations because many say it is their favourite of the series. I was originally planning on including only books from my own shelves in this month’s TBR, but then I discovered that a mobile library that has a stop really close to my home. So I took a glimpse inside and saw that they had The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – I had to get it. The book is set in WWII and tells the story of a young German boy who befriends a Jewish boy trapped in a concentration camp. I’ve heard it’s one of those books that makes you cry, so I’ll try to have tissues close by for that.

As you might have noticed, there are three Finnish titles on my TBR list. I’ve lately been reading more Finnish fiction which is great because the first six months of 2014 have been awful of that account – Tove Jansson notwithstanding. And I’m enjoying it. I mean, I love reading in English and in other languages, but Finnish is my mother tongue and thus there are some things that come across better in Finnish. However, none of the Finnish books in my TBR have been translated into English (UPDATE: White Hunger was translated into English in early 2015). From what I gather, Salo is supposed to be a narrative about a small Finnish community coming to terms with the changing society (similar to Pikku Pietarin Piha – just more modern time period). White Hunger was nominated for the Finnish national literature prize in 2012, and Kiinalainen puutarha (eng. The Chinese Garden) tells of a young girl and her uncle who are running from their home in Kashgar, China.

And that is all for my July Reads and August Plans. Please let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books or have suggestions on what I should read first. Happy reading! x