Best Books of 2015

‘Tis the season to pick and choose the best and most remarkable books read in 2015. I’ve seen many bloggers post their lists in the last few weeks, but I’ve been holding off because “it ain’t over until it’s over”. However, I’m now quite certain that I won’t be finishing Hanya Yanagihara’s 800+ paged A Little Life before the year turns into 2016, so it’s time to look back and reminisce.

Despite my good intentions to read bigger books in 2015 and thus read “less”, I read a total of 98 books – I’m already terrified for what will happen in 2016. As you can imagine, there were some duds in the almost 100 books, but luckily there were more than just few absolutely wonderful books that blew socks off my feet. These books definitely made an impact on me and I hope to revisit them again in the future. I’ve narrowed my “best of” list down to ten books, so I’ll try to limit myself to a brief synopsis as well as a link to the review (if published). Let’s get started!

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The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose was one of my first reads of 2015 and it has stuck with me the entire year. A mystery set in a monastery in the 14th century offers both excitement, historically accurate descriptions of monastery life and philosophy that runs deeper than just the plot. The religious, political and scientific debates in this book challenge not only the characters but also the modern reader. A masterpiece that I most heartily recommend to everyone.

 

The Red Line by Ilmari Kianto
Finnish classics tend to be rather bleak and depressing, and in that sense The Red Line is no exception. It follows the first universal vote in Finland (1908) and the frenzy surrounding the political camps. However, the bleakness is quickly forgotten as the intriguing plot, beautiful nature imagery and symbolism wrap this politically loaded book into a stunning package. It’s such a shame that this book has not been translated into English! It might not give the most sophisticated image of the Finns as a nation, but it is a damn good book.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Snow Child surprised me and dazzled me with its writing and character development. Set in the 1920 Alaska the story follows an older couple moving to the wilderness and building their life anew. Another book with stunning imagery of the nature, The Snow Child, however, focuses more on the family relationships and different types of love. It is a heartwarming tale told with such poetic and engaging writing that it did not matter that I read it in the spring – the bone-chilling coldness was inescapable.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Unlike in 2014, I read only a handful of plays in 2015. However, the quantity was replaced by sheer quality because of plays like Waiting for Godot. On the onset it is an odd one: nothing happens, twice. The simplicity of the setting, the slightly offbeat dialogue and the bare-bonedness of the presentation invite the reader/audience to interpret the text in so many ways. Waiting for Godot is definitely a play I would love to see live, because I feel that the physical nature of the roles would really enrich the experience  – and offer new interpretations.

Mr Darwin’s Gardener by Kristina Carlson
Funny thing how one book can lead you to another very good book. In the beginning of 2015, I received the great news that Peirene Press would be publishing the English translation of White Hunger. Looking through the publishers catalogue, I discovered they had also previously published another Finnish title: Mr Darwin’s Gardener. The book is set in the 19th century Kent following the collective consciousness of the villagers, their reactions to the Thomas Davies’ isolation after his wife’s death. The lyrical language and the thought-provoking passages blew me away, and I savoured the story from beginning to the end.

Just Kids by Patti Smith
The 1970s New York was a curious, wild and free environment that pulled in young creative people to gather and share their art. Patti Smith’s National Book Award winning memoir follows her first years as an artist and a poet, and depicts her relationship with her friend and lover famous photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The honesty and warmth with which Smith writes evokes wonder at the times and the people. It’s not just a name-dropping contest, it’s a honest portrayal of the struggles and small successes of a budding artist and an inspiration for all creatives.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
One of my goals for this year was to read a novel by Charles Dickens, and I couldn’t be happier with the one I chose to read. A Tale of Two Cities is a historical fiction novel set during the French Revolution following both the English and the French. It is possibly one of his most stunningly written novels, with enthralling sentences and memorable passages. Dickens is more often known for his characterisation, but this is novel in which the language runs the game. The depiction of the French Revolution is also a depiction of human cruelty, reminding the reader that no revolution comes without pain and injustice.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
The dystopian trend in literature seems to be passing, but it doesn’t change the fact that George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four still feels like a dead-on prediction of our society. The society devoid of freedoms such as freedom of speech and freedom of thought is cruel place to be, which is why the familiarity of Orwell’s fruit of imagination is so terrifying. Never one to shy away from political criticism, the book does not offer any kindnesses towards the Socialist movement. However, the struggles of Winston Smith connect to more than just one political party, raising questions about the innate nature of power struggles.

The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy
One of my challenges for this year was to read more poetry, and I set myself a goal of four collections. I did just that, and two of the collections even made it to this list. The Bees is collection of poetry by the Poetry Laureate Carol Ann Duffy – a name I recognised but always mixed up with Joyce Carol Oates (don’t ask me why). Duffy’s poetry is exquisite in its simplicity and emotion. The recurring theme of bees knits the entire collection together and the poetry book itself is a piece of art. The Bees was both sad and happy, joyous and jealous, and I loved every single of this rollercoaster. More, please!

Aniara by Harry Martinson
Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem started off as a joke. I jokily asked my friend who is a big science fiction buff to recommend me something and he immediately presented me with The Nobel Prize winning Aniara. I expected to simply enjoy the book, but it surprised me in so many levels, that I almost forgot I was reading epic poetry. The story follows a regular space flight that is thrown off course by a meteor and subsequently loses the chance of ever getting back to the destination planet. A large colony lost in space and with no hope of rescue turns into a study of humanity explored with painfully beautiful writing. Heart-wrenching.

Honorable mentions: There were simply too many good books that I didn’t make the cut – some almost equally wonderful. These books are also ones that I can heartily recommend and I hope you’ll love as much as I did. Honorable mentions go to To Kill a Mockingbird, Saga vol. 1, We Should All Be Feminist, The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Station Eleven, Villimpi Pohjola (Northern Overexposure) comic series, The Sandman vol 1–3, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream & Hamlet & King Lear.

Happy New Year! May the odds be in your favour and the your 2016 bookish. x

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Review: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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EBOOK; 563 P.
ECCO, 2014
SOURCE: PURCHASED

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

The Miniaturist was on everyone’s lips last year. It was the Waterstones’ Book of the Year and almost every book blogger under the sun read it – most of them also giving positive reviews. For me the year 2015 has been a real feast of historical fiction which means that a novel set in the 17th century Amsterdam with abundance of historically accurate details seemed like a right book to be read during the Christmas holidays. Moreover, I’ve been curious as to why this book, which has been called an international success, has not yet reached the shores of Finland. Usually these types of bestsellers appear in translation within year or so, but I haven’t yet heard that any of the Finnish publishers would have grabbed The Miniaturist. Perhaps it is “too Dutch”?

The story follows the 18-year-old Petronella (Nella for short) who has been married off to a wealthy Amsterdam merchant almost twice her age. Nella’s rosy notions of married life crash with the harsh reality as she finds herself stranded in her town house, accompanied only by her husband’s spinsterly sister, a gossiping maid named Cornelia and the mysterious dark-skinned manservant Otto. Instead of freedom and power, Nella feels trapped in her new home whose inhabitants seem to carry more that just a few chose secrets. Her husband appears to almost avoid his home, the sister is bundle of contradictions, and there’re steps and whispers in the corridors at night. The mystery of her new family is, however, heightened by the constant arrival of unsolicited parcels from the miniaturist Nella has commissioned to furnish her miniature house – these pieces are both surprisingly accurate and hauntingly foretelling.

Due to all the hype and positive reviews, I had high expectations going into this novel and, to be honest, they were not fully met. The narrative style of The Miniaturist is quite elusive, not so much navigating the murky waters of the mysterious household as simply giving a sense of the environment. Jessie Burton is a master in writing descriptions and many have praised her expertise in pulling the reader into the story. If you enjoy sensory writing, this is the book for you. I, unfortunately, never felt truly dazzled by the story’s magic. I could appreciate the writing, but in general I prefer well-structured and complex plots over fantastical writing. The plot of The Miniaturist is still a fascinating one, and once I got into the story, it was a very entertaining read with plenty of twists and turns. Overall, the book is a strong debut novel and I look forward to reading more of Burton’s work in the future. I would recommend the book to historical fiction lovers as well as readers who enjoy the Gothic side of mystery. However, if you don’t enjoy open-ended stories, you might want to give this one a miss.

3.5/5

Amsterdam: Where the pendulum swings from God to a guilder.

Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

PAPERBACK; 368 P.
PENGUIN BOOKS, 2013/1949
SOURCE: PURCHASED

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

George Orwell became one of my favourite authors of last year as I read and absolutely loved Animal Farm. Sharing my love of Orwell, I quickly received several recommendations to read 1984 – the book that notoriously launched the concept of Big Brother. Despite my interest in reading more Orwell, it took me some time get around reading 1984. I bought my copy – the cleverly designed Penguin paperback – in January, read the first 50 pages in March before putting the book down, and eventually picked it up five months later. The book is not a particularly chunky or dull one, but in order to fully enjoy it’s complexity, it definitely requires time and concentration – neither of which I had back in March.

The story of 1984 centers around a young-ish man, Winston Smith, who works in the Ministry of Truth revising the history records to match the current ideology. The political system in power is called English Socialism – IngSoc in Newspeak– and it’s run by the omnious, never-seen-but-always-present Big Brother. The society at large controls every action of the lives of its members from exercising to family planning, focusing on eliminating all actions that go against the current regime. Even expressing wrong kinds of thoughts is considered a crime. Winston just is a plain cog in the system, but he nevertheless feels nerved by the constant controlling. His nightmares consist of distant memories, but he doesn’t understand how things came to be as they are.

1984 is utterly brilliant, cynical, astonishing and truly mind-boggling. If you have the energy to let your imagination run wild with the concepts that Orwell presents in this book, the end results are both rewarding and frightening. Orwell’s dystopia is poignant even today, which is quite a feat considering how much the world has changed since 1940s. I am in awe of George Orwell for creating such a meticulous but yet completely comprehensible system of government, and the way with which he constructed this novel. It is a classic for a reason. Although the novel’s central themes are censorship and restricting individuality, my favourite part of the novel were the passages from “The Book” – but maybe that’s just the Political Studies student in me. As a language student, the linguistic aspect of the story was also fascinating; how controlling the language that we use can also shift how we think and act. Also, to which point can you simplify language?

The story of 1984 is not among the most action-packed ones, but the slow build-up truly packs a punch in the end. It’s a thought-provoking noveI like no other. I think I can now confidently say that Orwell is one of my favourite authors of all time. However, I must admit that I still prefer Animal Farm over 1984. I highly recommended 1984 to all citizens of the planet Earth, especially those who enjoy dystopian literature.

5/5

War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.

November Reads and December Plans

Hello December and Oh-my-God-where-has-the-year-gone!

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The most talked issue lately has been the passing of the year and it seems that either my friends and I are all under the misconception that the year is 14 months long or just growing busier and busier every year. Sigh. It’s also so dark outside in Finland that I sometimes start thinking about going to sleep already at four o’clock in the afternoon – no kidding. Hibernation should be a thing. I’ve not yet caught the holiday spirit, but I think it’ll come along nicely after all my deadlines are over. Fingers crossed.

The month of November was pretty decent in the reading front. I read 5 books in the month and have now read a total of 88 books this year. I took me about two weeks to finish Frankenstein–a bit of a struggle, I have to admit–and after that I mostly went for short books. The books that I read in November are quite an eclectic mix: I’ve got romance, classic, contemporary women’s fiction, modern classic with post-colonial vibes, and a historical literary fiction all in one month. Some I enjoyed more than the others, but unfortunately none of them truly stood out. However, I’ve read so many absolutely wonderful novels this year, that I’m already hesitant whether I’ll be able to narrow it down to top 10 at the end of the month.

Books I read in November:

  • A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Iiris Lempivaaran raskas ja levoton sydän by Riikka Pulkkinen
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  • The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg

Once I do get back into the swing of writing reviews, I’ll try to write reviews for all of these. To summarize my feelings for each books: I was positively surprised by the writing in A Rogue by Any Other Name; frustrated and intrigued by Frankenstein; cheering for the feminism in Iiris Lempivaaran raskas ja levoton sydän (eng. The heavy and restless heart of Iiris Lempivaara); fascinated and repelled with display of colonialism in Wide Sargasso Sea, and slightly puzzled with The Brothers. 

I’m currently in the middle of reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón which, despite the very engaging and weaving writing style, I am not head-over-heels in love with. I can see why people love it so much, and there’s still about 200 more pages for the story to grow even more interesting, but at the moment it’s only at the ‘very enjoyable’ point of the scale.

Books I plan on reading in December:

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (currently-reading)
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth George
  • The Winter Book by Tove Jansson
  • The Blue Room by Hanne Orstavik
  • Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • The Sandman, vol. 2–4 by Neil Gaiman

Although it’s the end of the year, I still have a massive list of books that I’d want to tick off as “read in 2015”. Nevertheless, I’m trying not to put too much stress on my end of the year TBR. Yes, it would be nice to reach 100 books or to complete all of my reading goals, but it’s just not going to happen. I’ll also be travelling a lot in December due to Christmas visits, so I’ve tried to come up with a combination that will stop me from lugging a stone of books in my rucksack. From the list, I’ve three as ebooks and the rest are either paperback or library books that are due back before the holidays begin.

Last year I did a thing where I went through all of the book hauls I had done that year and tried to read as many of the unread books as I could. This year, however, my book acquisition habit has gone through the roof. I quickly counted that this year’s list would probably contain around 30 titles, which means I’d feel disheartened already at the start of the month. Hence, I think I shall keep the idea and move it for January 2016 (maybe also February). It shall be my first bookish resolution of the new year. Estella from Estella’s Revenge is doing something similar with the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge, so if you’re experiencing the same issue and want some more support and concrete rules, you should check it out!

That’s all for this wrap-up post. I hope you’re all having a wonderful December and I look forward to hearing about your reading plans for the rest of the year. Happy reading! x

Helsinki Book Fair 2015: book talks, queens & zen

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The Helsinki Book Fair took place from Thursday the 22nd to Sunday the 25th of October, and I attended the event on Saturday and quickly on Sunday. The HBF is an annual book fair held in the Messukeskus Convention Centre that brings together readers, authors, booksellers and publishers. This year over 80,000 visitors gathered at the Convention Centre to celebrate books. Aside from promoting Finnish literature and reading in general, each year also features a guest of honour country. This year the guest of honour was Russia, which meant that a number of Russian authors – and their translators – held talks or took part in panel discussions at the event. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to catch up with any of these, so I cannot give you an up-to-date report on the contemporary Russian literature scene. I clearly need to up my blogging game. This was my third time attending the book fair, to which I was kindly sent a blogger’s pass by the fair organizers.

This year my calendar was too full to spend the entire book fair weekend in Helsinki, which meant I only got to experience the hustle and bustle of the Convention Centre for one and a half days. Still, it is wonderful how the time spent walking from stall to stall, chatting with friends and catching up with people you haven’t seen in a while can be so uplifting and fulfilling. Time flew by as I focused on taking in and participating in the book fair experience. I listened with rapt attention as one of my favourite Finnish authors recalled the books she enjoyed as a child; I leapt for joy when I found the Finnish edition of The Rabbit Back Literature Society underneath a big pile of second-hand books; and I admired together with my friend the details of the cover poster of the new illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

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Literally #book.

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Although I sometimes feel that I know more about what’s going on in the literary scene outside of Finland than within, it was hard not to spot the two “queens of literature” of this year’s Helsinki Book Fair: Katja Kettu and Sofi Oksanen. Katja Kettu is a contemporary Finnish female author whose books have captured the hearts of the public and projected their darkest secrets into the pages of her novels. Her bestseller Kätilö (eng. The Midwife) was recently made into a film and the rights for English translation have been sold to AmazonCrossing – expected publication date sometime in early 2016. Her latest novel came out weeks before the book fair and the reviews have all been extremely positive. Kettu is definitely high on my author TBR!

Sofi Oksanen, of Purge and When the Doves Disappeared fame, is already a household name in Finland and her latest novel, Norma, was possibly the most anticipated release of this year. Norma centres around the eponymous Norma Ross, a young woman with luscious and constantly growing hair that holds magical powers. The novel is said to intertwine reality with magical realism, crime, and sexual politics. From what I’ve heard of this novel, it sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to read it!

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Although events such as the Helsinki Book Fair focus mainly on promoting new books, my favourite parts of the fair are the second-hand book shops and the panel discussions. I adore going through piles and shelves filled with old books, looking for new titles that I haven’t yet read or titles that I’ve read through library and would like to get my own copy. I guess it’s the joy of discovery that makes second-hand book shopping so addicting; you never know what you’ll find. This year three of my four purchases were second-hand.

Aside from books and reading, I think it’s also fun to listen in on discussions. I sat in on a few panel discussions, ranging from the multitude of Finnish idioms to investigative journalism, but my favourite of this year’s HBF was the panel discussion on e-reading and ebooks. The  panel consisted of both online innovators, literary critics and editors plus the presenter of Fabula, a new ebook service that launched in Finland this autumn. In short, Fabula is the Finnish version of Oyster and the concept is already in use in Estonia and Latvia. The panel questions were constructed around the topic of reading versus online media, and all of the panelists had their own insights to give. The main question of the panel discussion, i.e. Will the subscription model help to boost the industry and lure in new readers?, was left unanswered, but the panelist all presented valid arguments and shared their ideas of ebooks. There were so many interesting points to this discussion, that I’ll probably write a separate post about it!

All in all, I had a wonderful time at the Helsinki Book Fair. In the midst of the craziness that is Master’s, the weekend served as the best type of relaxation. I’m holding fast to my opinion from last yearShould there ever be a heaven for book lovers, it might be a book fair of sorts.

Books that I brought home from HBF 2015:

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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I haven’t read any Joyce, but I’ve heard this is a good place to start with him. The cover of this Oxford Classics edition is brilliant.

Kadonnut Pariisi by Markus Nummi. Markus Nummi is the author of Kiinalainen puutarha (eng. The Chinese Garden) which I read (and loved) earlier this autumn. The cover of this one is a bit … quirky, but the premise, that is, Paris has disappeared from the surface of the Earth, is exciting.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (the Finnish edition). I got this from the library earlier this year and loved it so much that I needed to get my own copy. So glad to add this to my collection!

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Valomerkki by JP Ahonen. It’s the fifth volume in the Villimpi Pohjola (Northern Overexposure) comic series that I love and adore. I’ve blogged about the series in here, here and here. This one came out in August and I’m glad to finally own all of the volumes published so far ❤IMG_20151122_170428

October Reads and November Plans

Hi guys!

Well, this is awkward. I had all these great plans about my blogoversary (Dawn of books is now 2 years old!), blogging about this year’s Helsinki Book Fair and attending lots of author and blogger events. Also, I thought I could magically catch up with my male to female ratio within one month. It’s now safe to say that none of these things happened. I haven’t written or published a single post in the entire month and, looking back, I’m genuinely surprised I even had time to read any books. I finished 8 books in October, most of them in crazy reading bouts on weekends or during long train rides, but overall my life has lately been sorrowfully un-bookish. I was going to rant about exactly how un-bookish my life currently is, but then I realised that I’m reading exactly as many books as per usual. Sure, there are fewer moments when I could be reading, but now when I get that moment, I make use of it in order to read as much as I possibly can. At the moment, my time is pretty much divided between working, studying and writing my Master’s Thesis, but it doesn’t mean I’ll completely stop reading (or blogging).

To look on the bright side side of life, October did see some cool bookish events. I saw Aki Ollikainen (the author of White Hunger) speak about his books and his writing process. I haven’t yet read his latest, but I’m looking forward to it. The event was surprisingly low-key and fun, because the author invited the audience to ask questions, which presented some very interesting conversations. I also got to attend the annual Helsinki Book Fair on Saturday 24th and shortly on Sunday 25th, saw authors talk about their favourite books, listened to a fascinating panel on ebooks, and overspent on books. I bought five books during the first day; at first there was just one and then suddenly I was standing at the register holding my fifth purchase! I’ll try to write a post about my Book Fair weekend and the books that I bought in November soon-ish, so there should at least be one post coming up in this month!

Books read in October:

  • Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem by Harry Martinson
  • Juoppohullun päiväkirja by Juha Vuorinen
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
  • Saga, vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples
  • Valomerkki (Northern Overexposure #5) by JP Ahonen
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

The one book in the list that I won’t be reviewing separately is Juoppohullun päiväkirja (eng. The Diary of a Drunkard/Sot) by Juha Vuorinen. To summarise my review: this book just wasn’t for me. Not one bit. The potential DNF-point came already within the first 30 pages, because there is no point in this novel – except to laugh at an alcoholic young man and his fellow drunks getting into all sorts of scrapes whilst intoxicated. It’s screwball humour mixed with toilet humour; not my cup of tea. The book is an interesting publishing phenomenon – having sold as much as it has and being first published online – but it most definitely isn’t a title I’d include in the Finnish “100 Books You Must Read”.1.5/5 stars

My current to-be-reviewed pile is at 21 books, so once I get the time, I’ll have to come up with a strategy to overcome my constantly growing pile of unreviewed books. However, if you’re interested in reading my immediate reactions to the books I’m reading, I suggest you check out my Goodreads feed. I tend to write quick summaries after finishing the book, so that I won’t forget them before typing up the review post. And now that my blogging hiatus/whatever is on, I need those to refresh my memory.

Books I’ll try to pick up in November:

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (currently reading)
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  • Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Following the theme of Halloween, I started reading Frankenstein on the last day of October. I’ve heard interesting things about this classic Gothic horror novel, and it sounds very intriguing. It’s an epistolary novel, so the last few days I’ve read about one or two letters a night before my brain has shut down. Not to say it’s drowsy or anything, but I’m looking forward to the weekend to dive into the story. Moreover, Frankenstein fits perfectly in my plans to read more female writers! Also on my November TBR is Everything I Never Told You which I recently purchased for my Kindle. According to some reviews, it’s been one of the more challenging and diverse YA titles of late, so I’m interested to see how it plays out.

Next up are two books from my October library haul: Wide Sargasso Sea and Signature of All Things. My number one goal on this library haul was to get books by female authors, so I picked both short and long titles to suit different reading moods. Wide Sargasso Sea is a modern classic that tells the story of Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre. Based on the first sentence alone, I’m sure the book will be a new experience. When I reviewed the fantastic Mr Darwin’s Gardener, Naomi of Consumed by Ink recommended Elizabeth Gilbert’s Signature of All Things as a book with similar themes. I’ve read Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love – which I wasn’t a fan of – but because the reviews on Signature of All Things have been more than positive, I’m giving Gilbert another go.

Lastly, I have Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind. This doesn’t fall into the category of “books by women authors”, but I’ve been looking forward to this book for so long that I couldn’t resist it any longer. In fact, I think the bookish themes and mysteries of this book will fit perfectly the dark and gloomy season ahead. It’s a book that will be enjoyed with big cups of tea (and maybe some fresh-from-the-oven treats). This month I’ve refrained from adding Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wilderfell Hall for the fifth month running to my TBR. I’m still interested in the book, but since it seems I’m never getting round to reading it, I’ll lay it aside for a while and get back to it maybe next month or in the beginning of next year. I can’t believe next year is less than two months away! As always, the TBR list is highly prone to change and the end result will very much depend on how much time I can set aside for reading.

I hope you all had a wonderful October and that November will treat you well. Happy reading! x

September Reads and October Plans

October’s here, which means it’s time for candles, big cups of tea, and bookish events! Autumn has never been my favourite season, but with so many exciting things planned ahead, I think October might turn out to be a fun month. However, let’s first look back at what I read in September.

September was a strange month because despite a busy schedule I still read 10 books. In the beginning of the month, I wrapped up my Summer Readings and also hauled a big pile of classics from the library. Nevertheless, this time I didn’t reach for the chunkier classics but chose books that were generally under 200 pages. Hence why I finished so many books. In September I also took part in a fun nationwide campaign where people gathered in public to form a “reading queue” and read their book for about 15 minutes. The event aimed to make reading a more visible activity and social activity. I’m glad I participated since I had some very interesting bookish conversations with the other participants!

Books read in September: 

  • Kiinalainen puutarha by Markus Nummi (Finnish)
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Pomes All Sizes by Jack Kerouac
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Matkalle: Kirjaviennin uusi aika by Markku Kaskela & Jukka Koskelainen (Finnish)
  • The Black Tongue by Marko Hautala
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Kolmen metrin pino. Sivuja kääntäjän työpöydältä by Thomas Warburton (Finnish)

In September I read two Finnish books that had more of an informational value than purely entertainment: Matkalle (On a journey) and Kolmen metrin pino (A three metre pile). Both are also titles that have not been translated into English, so I will only give a quick review of them here instead of writing full length posts.

Firstly, Matkalle is a non-fiction book about literature exchange business in Finland and it consists of interviews and small pieces written by different professionals. For some time now, I’ve wanted to know more about the process of selling and buying translation rights and the entire process behind translated books. I’m actually planning on doing my thesis on the role of translator in this process, so I read this book partly for research and partly for general interest. It’s a nice introduction to the different roles of authors, agents, foreign rights officers and support organisations, but overall, I think the book lacked a solid conclusion. 3.5/5 stars

The second book, Kolmen metrin pino is a small memoir of a literary translator Thomas Warburton. The name of the translator was unfamiliar to me before I picked up this book, mainly because Warburton is a Swedish translator and originally also wrote his memoir in Swedish. However, what makes him interesting is the fact that Warburton has translated many Finnish classics that are considered to be very difficult and also in his 50 years of translation also tackled classics such as Joyce’s Ulysses and Sterne’s Tristram Sandy. Warburton keeps the focus of his memoir primarily on his career and marks time through the book that he was translating. For someone interested in literary translation, the book offers insights as well as some good tips for what to consider when starting out. 4/5 stars

Autumn often puts me in the mood to read classics, which is wonderful because I love classics! However, the downside of reading many classics is that they are mostly written by men and this pushes against my female to male ratio challenge. Out of the ten books that I read in September, only one was by a female author and, what’s more, my nightstand is also filled with mostly books by male authors. So to reach that 50/50 balance by the end of the year, I really need to get some more female authors on my reading list – might need to do a special women-only library haul in October since my most recent book haul also consists mostly of male authors!

Books on my October TBR:

  • Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem by Harry Martinson (currently reading)
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Lithium-6 by Risto Isomäki
  • The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare
  • The Tenant of Wilderfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Having said that, I’m not fully giving up on reading male authors either. There are so many exciting books that it would be a shame to ignore them simply because I want to win at some silly self-imposed challenge. For example, I’m currently reading Aniara: An Epic Science Fiction Poem by the Nobel Prize winning Harry Martinson, and it’s bloody brilliant. Like mind-blowingly good. I also want to read Risto Isomäki’s (author of The Sands of Sarasvati) book Lithium-6, because the English translation is coming out in the beginning of October. In addition, I have The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg, a Shakespearean drama set in 1809 Finland (published by the lovely Peirene Press), as well as Shakespeare’s King Lear on loan from the library.

In order to balance my male-heavy TBR for October, I went through my unread books and picked up three that I think I would love to read this month. First is The Tenant of Wilderfell Hall by Anne Brontë, which I’ve been meaning to get to since July. Nevertheless, I think autumn evenings might be the perfect atmosphere to enjoy this story. Next I have Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, which I’m finally going to read. I bought an ebook copy of this very loved book in early August and I’ve been itching to start it. And finally, because October is also the month of Halloween, I have Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Having read another scary classic, Dracula, during the summer, I think it’s finally time to also tick this one off the TBR 274. I’ve also heard some wonderful things about the structure of the novel, so I look forward to reading and experiencing it myself.

As is the fate of TBRs, this one might also change as the month progresses. In the end, it all depends on how much time I’ll be able to devote to reading. For the end of this post, I’d like to thank everyone who has been commenting and liking my post during the past few weeks. I’m sorry that I have been late in answering you comments, but I hope to improve on that in October. Happy reading! x

July–September Book Haul

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New books equal new adventures. During the past summer I read a lot of books (30 to be precise) and, consequently, also acquired a ton of new books. A total of nineteen books is definitely more than I had planned for, but as fellow bloggers and avid readers, you probably recognise the telling signs of a book junkie. Nevertheless, it’s hard to feel truly guilty about the new and exciting stories that now habit my shelves. Here are the new tenants of my bookshelves, moved in between June and September.

IMG_7778Firstly, I’m extremely happy to finally possess a copy of perhaps my favourite book, Animal Farm by George Orwell. The lovely kainzow from Eye of Lynx was so kind to gift me this stunning Folio Society edition. I’ve only seen pictures of these editions and they all look wonderful, but now that I also have the chance to hold one in my hands, I can vouch that they are truly crafted with love. All of the Folio Society editions are illustrated by a different artist, and what better combination that George Orwell and Quentin Blake! This, ladies and gentlemen, is true love.

Aside from writing Animal Farm, George Orwell was also a brilliant essayist, and one of his most known essays is Politics and the English Language. Having read that last year, I was left with a longing to explore more of his essays. Hence when I saw this handy Penguin edition of George Orwell’s Essays in Shakespeare & Sons in Berlin, I knew it would be coming home with me. During my four day trip to Berlin, I did actually visit Shakespeare & Sons twice, because from the moment I stepped into the shop, it became one of my favourite bookshops. I could easily spend hours upon hours just browsing through their collection, then order coffee and lose myself in my choice of a book. And each visit to the shop naturally had to be christened with a new purchase; the second time around I brought home a copy of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’ve heard great things about The Road and my boyfriend remembered that the film adaptation was very good, so I’m curious to see the secrets that this book holds.

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Contrary to my two book purchases in Berlin, the third book I bought during that trip was in German. I’ve been meaning to read more Kafka and thus when presented a chance, I decided to challenge myself to read Kafka’s The Trial in German. My German friends told me they had to study the novel in school from these school print editions, so I naturally went and bought one in the same edition. I’ve only read Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, but I’ve heard some rumours about The Trial and its absurdity. I will report back on how my language skills faired with this one.

The next three books I purchased all within one day. Firstly, there was a big bookshop sale that had a lot of interesting titles sold for the price of a big cup of coffee. I picked up two books from that sale: Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Down the Rabbit Hole is translated from Spanish and it follows the Mexican drug cartel through the eyes of a small boy. Jean from Jean BookishThoughts recommended this a long time ago, and because I can’t remember when was the last time I read some Spanish literature, I decided to give this a go. The other title, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, is a big blogger favourite and I’ve seen this book receive lots of love from some of the bloggers I follow. Anthony Marra’s newest novel is coming out in October (I believe), so I’m really looking forward to discovering Marra’s writing style.

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After the book shop sale, I went to visit my favourite second hand bookshop, Arkadia International Bookshop, where I came across Simon Rich’s Ant Farm and Other Desperate Situations. Simon Rich is an American humorist who launched to fame with this particular collection when he was still an undergraduate. Rich is to date the youngest person to have been hired by Saturday Night Live and has also worked for Pixar. I heard about Rich through Veronica from Ron Lit and having later read a couple of short stories and columns written by him, I was excited to find his debut collection at the shop.

At the end of August, I realised that I had gone from reading four Tove Jansson novels and a biography in one year (aka. my Tove100 project) to reading none – and that was depressing. Perhaps it was the slow onset of autumn, but I began to desperately crave for Jansson’s writing. So I did what I usually do and picked up a library copy of The Winter Book. However, about three days later I was visiting my local bookshop and they were selling a boxset of four Tove Jansson novels for five euros – an offer which I most definitely could not pass. The boxset includes Sculptor’s Daughter and The Summer Book (both of which I read last year) but also two new-to-me novels: The True Deceiver and The Winter Book. It should come as no surprise that I returned the book to the library in record time. Moreover, I adore these colourful cover illustrations!IMG_7780

IMG_7800The Winter Book was not, however, the only acquisition somehow foreseen by a library haul. I picked up a copy of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne during my latest library haul thinking that I should probably try to read this classic during the autumn time. Then the next day I came across a wild copy of the same book when I was running past the Free Little Library shelf at my university campus. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I picked it up out of curiosity, and only remembered later that I already had a library copy at home. My book collection is slowly reaching the point in which I soon begin to buy second copies of books because I forget that I already own one. Help!

And then there were the ebooks. Compared to the amount of physical books I’ve hauled in during these three months, my ebook selection has stayed relatively within the limits of normal. In fact, four of the seven ebooks were review copies, one I’ve been highly anticipating, one was a spur of the moment purchase and one… well, let’s just say that I’m still trying to get into this author’s work.kesäkirjat15

First off are Half Bad by Sally Green and A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan. Both were provided me for review through Netgalley and you can find my reviews of them through the links. I’m generally more of a backlist reader, but I do sometimes get curious about the up-and-coming titles. In the case of Half Bad, the book has been out for a while now, but it is still making the rounds in translation. Overall, I enjoyed Half Bad, although not as much as I had hoped for, and was very pleasantly surprised by A Window Opens.

Evelina by Frances Burney is yet another recommendation from the lovely Veronica from Ron Lit – she blurbed it as “one of the books that influenced Jane Austen”. That alone makes the book interesting in my eyes, but considering that it is 18th century literature (something that I’m completely unfamiliar with) and with a fascinating premise – uncultured country girl colliding with the rules of high society. I hope Evelina turns out to be as wonderful as it sounds!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel took the blogosphere by storm last year (or was it the year before that?). The story of post-apocalyptic world with touring theatre group performing Shakespeare and the infamous “Survival is insufficient” quote pulled me in, but due to many circumstances, it took me until August to actually purchase a copy. I am aware that my expectation for this novel are soon about to hit the roof, so I should just get to reading this instead of thinking about it!

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Many adore everything that Neil Gaiman writes (it’s almost like the legend of Midas touch). However, Ocean at the End of the Lane seems to be one of the few books that divides Gaiman fans. I’ve so far read three books by him and, with the exception of The Sandman, I’ve mostly found them to be ‘okay’, but not earth-shattering by any means. Thus I’m interested to see how this book compares to the other books that I’ve read by him.

Lastly I picked up two books for the upcoming dark and chilly autumn evenings. Both The Black Tongue by Marko Hautala and Lithium-6 by Risto Isomäki are upcoming titles that have been translated from Finnish.Both translations are published by AmazonCrossing and I’ve received them from the publisher (via Netgalley) for review. The Black Tongue (pub. September 22nd) is promised to be a dark psychological thriller about an urban legend of a hatchet granny, and it has received raving reviews from other Finnish book bloggers. Horror isn’t one of my go-to genres, so I hope that The Black Tongue will enrich my reading experiences. Lithium-6 (pub. October 6th) on the other hand is a science fiction mystery featuring nuclear terrorism from the same author who wrote one of my favourite books of last year, Risto Isomäki. I was super impressed by The Sands of Sarasvati, so I cannot wait to read this one!

I think my shelves are now fully stocked for the upcoming months, and my bank account could definitely use a bit of a break from book shopping. My goal is to hold off from book buying until the end of October when I’ll be attending the Helsinki Book Fair 2016!