20 Books of Summer + BONTS Bingo

Summer’s here! Yes, it’s finally time to put on that sunscreen and dust the picnic quilt. For me summer is synonymous with ice scream, bright summer nights, swimming in the lake and, of course, summer reading. Last summer I participated in both the Books on the Nightstand Summer Bingo as well as 20 Books of Summer, and read far far more than I expected. I had so much fun planning my TBR and trying to come up with books for different bingo categories that I knew I had to do it again this summer. Moreover, thanks to the challenges I discovered some absolutely wonderful books that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have taken time to read. I’m not deluding myself in thinking I could improve upon last year’s success, but because I’m crazy for lists and reading challenges (and because I’m kinda failing my other resolutions for the year), I want to try my best.

20 Books of Summer is hosted by Cathy from 746 Books, and the aim of the reading challenge is to set yourself a summer TBR – and stick to it! You can go with either 10, 15 or 20 books, or as many as you think you can manage during the summer months. Last year I completed 17 out of 20 books, so I’m setting the goal again to 20 books. My list of books consists of both library books and of books I’ve been meaning to read or have owned for a long time. In addition, I’ve included the two books that I didn’t get round to reading last year: A Tenant of Wilderfell Hall & A Storm of Swords. One of my summer reading traditions is also to try and tackle a big classics – last year it was The Egyptian and the year before that Moby Dick – and this summer I’m tackling Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, which I’ve already started reading.

Introducing my very ambitious, realistic-only-in-an-alternative-universe 20 Books of Summer TBR:
20BooksofSummer2016

  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  • ISO by Pekka Hiltunen ✓
  • Room by Emma Donoghue ✓
  • Brave New World by Aldos Huxley
  • Sonja O. kävi täällä by Anja Kauranen ✓
  • Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos (currently-reading)
  • Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • When I Forgot by Elina Hirvonen ✓
  • Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
  • Pollomuhku ja Posityyhtynen by Jaana Kapari-Jatta ✓
  • Musta satu by Aki Ollikainen ✓
  • Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (currently-reading)
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr ✓
  • Silent House by Orhan Pamuk ✓
  • Manillaköysi by Veijo Meri ✓
  • Essays by George Orwell
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (currently-reading)

I picked up books for the challenge based on what I was interested in reading right now as well as books that I’ve been putting off because of subject matter or the length of the book. I own way too many “I’ll read this some day” books, which is why I’m using this challenge as test to see if I really want to read those books or if I should just give them away – yes, I’m looking at you A Song of Ice and Fire box set. But in order not to bury myself under a pile of heavy books, I’ve also included some rather short books, that I can easily carry with me to the beach. A few non-fiction books and a collection of essays will be perfect for travels and for the cold rainy days I can armchair travel to Italy, France, Istanbul or Westeros.

Book on the Nightstand is one of my favourite literary podcasts – gutted to hear that it’s ending this summer – and they host an annual summer reading bingo that runs from May 28th to September 1st. The bingo charts are generated from a large variety of categories HERE (note: refreshing the page will automatically create a new bingo card), and the BONTS Goodreads group offers plenty of solid recommendations for books in different categories. I’m rather pleased with the card that I got and have already spent a wee while dreaming about the books I will read. However, if you have any recommendations as to books with main characters over the age of 50 or 60, I’d love to hear them (I can only think of Etta, Otto, Russel and James or Elisabeth is Missing).

My BONTS Summer Bingo Card:
BONTS Summer 2016 Bingo

I’ve intentionally matched some of the bingo squares with the 20 Books of Summer TBR – such as Barnaby Rudge for “Obscure novel by a famous author” or Is that a Fish in Your Ear for “Has been on your TBR for longer than two years” or Silent House for “Any book by a Nobel Prize winner” – in order to motivate myself to actually read the books I say I would love to read. However, I’m well aware that I have two books over 1,000 pages on the list (A Storm of Swords and 1Q84), so it’s quite possible that I will only get to one of them. I’ve also left some room to fill in books that are not on my TBR, because I am essentially a mood reader and will want to veer from my TBR every once in a while.

So, I guess now that that’s all set, I’ll just have to get started on the actual reading. I’ll try my best to review books as soon as I finish them, but if that doesn’t happen, there’ll at least be a wrap-up post coming in September. What are you reading this summer? x

Summer Reading in Review: BONTS Bingo, 20 Books of Summer and Extras

Summer is finally at an end, which means that it’s time to pack away summer clothes, bring in the sweaters and return to university. And saying goodbye to summer also means it’s time to wrap up my summer reads in preparation for the new season. This past summer has been very prolific for me in terms of reading, and it took me few recounts to verify that I really read 30 books during the three summer months. One explanation this is that I set myself two rather ambitious reading challenges in the beginning of June: Books on the Nightstand Summer Bingo and the 20 Books of Summer list. Choosing books for these challenges motivated me to read things I otherwise might not have picked so readily, and I was also happy to finally read some titles that had been sitting on my shelves for quite some time. In the end, I got 21 squares and 4 ‘Bingo!’s in my BONTS bingo chart and read 17 out of 20 from the 20 book challenge – the only books I didn’t get to were A Storm of Swords, The Tenant of Wilderfell Hall and Hägring 38. However, all three are ones that I can see myself reading during the autumn months.

Because I read so much, I am still quite a bit behind with my reviews – I hear it’s a common problem among the 20 Books of Summer participants. I do plan on writing full reviews for most of these books, but for the purpose of this wrap-up post, I’ll share my quick thoughts on each individual book here. Make sure you have something to drink, because this ride will be a long one!

June 2015

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Set in another country – Riveting and super fascinating read about the 21st immigration experience, on carrying both the past and present with you. Set partly in Dominican Repulic.

Mr Darwin’s Gardener by Kristina Carlson
BONTS Free square – Hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking novel set in a Kentish village in 1800s. One of the most beautiful writing I’ve read in a while.

Just Kids by Patti Smith 
Set in a place you want to visit & 1/20 –Patti Smith’s memoir about New York in the late 60s and early 70s is truly as good as everyone says it is. It inspires you to create things and to work for your own art.

The Beggar and the Hare by Tuomas Kyrö
Has an animal in the title & 2/20 – “Hare-raisingly” funny romp across Finland with a sort of roadtrip slapstick plot. Also very clever satire on modern Finnish society.

Saving wishes by G.J. Walker Smith
Extra – Recommended by a friend. YA contemporary with insta-love. Lots of eye-rolling.

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
About a disease & 3/20– Haunting story about growing up in a stiflingly religious environment. Strangely luring writing style and anonymity that gets under your skin.

Tähtikirkas, lumivalkea (Snow White, Star Bright) by Joel Haahtela
4/20 – Interesting novel about a young man driven away from his home country and making a new life for himself in the cusp of 20th century.

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Ambitious summer reading plans is the way I roll.

The Sandman, vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman
That “everyone” but you has read – My latest dip into the works of Neil Gaiman proved to be very successful and I very much enjoyed the twists that Gaiman and co. have put to the legends and myths.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
5/20– A modern classic dealing with mental health and anxiety of a young aspiring female writer. Very poignant and harrowing read.

July 2015

Dracula by Bram Stoker (illustrated by Becky Cloonan)
Written for adults, but with illustrations & 6/20– Surprisingly accessible and exciting gothic classic about Count Dracula. The illustrations fit the book well and made it truly an object of beauty.

Ich bin kein Berliner. Ein reiseführer für faule Touristen by Wladimir Kaminer
Nonfiction – Read in preparation for my second trip to Berlin. A collection of tidbits and experiences that Soviet-born Kaminer has had through his years of working as a broadcaster in Berlin. Funny and surprisingly easy to read!

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
About books, bookstores or publishing & 7/20– A cult classic that makes fun of all the fairy tale and fantasy tropes. Partly about writing the book and being a writer. Didn’t enjoy it as much as the film.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Popular Science & 8/20– Interesting look at introversion and extroversion, their biological and psychological sides as well as how culture plays a part in forming ourselves. Well research and accessibly written. A must read for introverts.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Science fiction & 9/20 – YA science fiction and fantasy novel retelling of Cinderella. Loved everything aside from the retelling part and was hooked enough to want to continue with the series.

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Travel reads à la Berlin. (The colourful one is my calendar.)

Half Bad by Sally Green
Extra – YA fantasy novel that came highly recommended. Interesting premise and some promising points, but overall a bit of a let down.

Dikter och aforismer by Edith Södergran
Poetry collection – My first foray into the world of poetry was perhaps a bit over-ambitious as I chose to read a complete collection of a poet and in a foreign language (Swedish). It took me months to get through this entire collection, but there were some moving pieces that I’ll never forget. I think I enjoyed the later collections in this bind-up more than the earlier ones.

Blog by the book: blogiopas by Miki Toikkanen & Noora Kananen
By an author who shares your first name – A Finnish non-fiction book about blogging. My expectations going in weren’t high, but I quickly realised that despite the effort that the writers had put to this book, it read quite poorly. The writing needed editing and the claims had no factual backing. Came close to DNF’ing.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Published before 1900 & 10/20 – I don’t know why I haven’t read Dickens’ possibly most well-known novel before because it is a beautiful, beautiful treat of literature. I adored this from start to finish; the language is swoon-worthy. Published in 1859.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of a Pie by Alan Bradley
11/20 – Again, I had heard nothing but great things about the Flavia de Luce series and really wanted to enjoy it. However, I just didn’t find the story and the characters believable and that bothered me a lot. Perhaps a bit too quaint for me?

August 2015

Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell
A classic that you should have read in school & 12/20 – The first time that I tried to read this, I couldn’t get into it because life was too hectic. And I’m glad I put it down then, because this book really requires you to let go of everything else and immerse yourself in this dystopian world and its functions. Excellent book and one that I didn’t expect to love as much as I do.

Books on the Nightstand - Summer Bingo Card

Colour coding: red for June, purple for July and mustard for August

Arvin kieliopas (Arvi’s Language Guide) by Arvi Lind
Extra – I picked this up on a whim at the library after having talked about it with a friend. A short collection of column from the newscaster Arvi Lind that don’t really focus on how language works, but more on how you should pronounce certain words and some cases where people’s grammar tends to slip. I expected more and better.

The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
Longer than 500 pages & 13/20 – My big and daunting classic book challenge of the summer (last year it was Moby Dick), The Eqyptian is a surprisingly easy to read. Intriguing intertextuality and research shines in this historical fiction novel set in the 1300 BC Egypt. 779 pages.

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
A novella & 14/20 – My second Evelyn Waugh, and I loved it more than the first one! Waugh fears nor spares no one in his satirical look at British expats in Hollywood in the 1950s and the absurdity of funeral arrangements. Stretching the definition of a novella with its 127 pages, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken, right?

The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy
That you chose because of the cover – I checked out a bunch of poetry collection from the library after finishing Edith Södergran’s work, and this was luckily one of them. Absolutely stunning pieces that I kept reading over and over again. Became one of my favourites for the year.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
15/20 – Next book in the Cormoran Strike series proved to be as good as the first one, but I’m still not really sold on the concept. I will probably continue reading the series, but will be checking them out from the library instead of buying. The publishing industry gave an interesting premise to the mystery.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Reread something – I bought a boxset of Jansson’s short story collections and wanted to re-experience the quaint vignettes of The Summer Book. Rereading the collection was very strange but very familiar at the same time.

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The best mornings are ones with a good book, a nice view and a cuppa.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
Was turned into a movie or TV show & 16/20 – Beautiful and sad story about war, young love, misunderstandings and terrible mistakes. McEwan’s writing carries the feel and sense of the pre-war Britain and the desperation of the approaching tragedy wonderfully, and though slow at places, Atonement was a pleasure to read. Movie adaptation (2007) starring Keira Knightley – with that green dress.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
Extra – A hearty story of a part-time working mother-of-three switching to a full-time position to plan a e-reading lounges and having to rediscover her work-family balance. Slightly different from what I usually read, but I enjoyed reading a book that was both bookish and all about the importance of family.

Rakkaus on ruma sana – valikoidut lauluteksti (Love is an ugly word – collection of song lyrics) by Ismo Alanko
Extra – A collection of song lyrics from 1980s to the 21st century. Reading the lyrics instead of listening to them being sung was a curious experience, and Alanko’s lyrics tell strange tales. Entertaining, but I’d exchange it for a live concert in a heart beat.

Kiinalainen puutarha (The Chinese Garden) by Markus Nummi 
About a religion with which you are unfamiliar & 17/20 – A charming but terrifying story of cultural collisions, love and terror in Kashgar, China. Set in the 1930s, it’s a bildungsroman of a young muslim boy growing up in the midst of Christian missionaries from Sweden.

– – –

Phew, this wrap-up post ended up a lot longer than I anticipated! Nevertheless, I am grateful for all the three book-filled summer months and so glad to have been able to discover so many new favourites. Because this post is already too long, I’ll be sharing my September TBR in a separate post tomorrow. If you’re interested to know what will be on my nightstand for the upcoming weeks, keep your eyes open for that! x

June Reads and 20 Books of Summer

Happy summer, readers!

June marked the beginning of my summer, expect that nobody seemed to have told Mother Earth that it was time to crank up those temperatures. Oh well, the dreary and rainy days definitely gave me enough encouragement to read and the month was filled with many amazing books. Oh man, the books. Lately I had been reading a lot of OK-but-not-really-amazing-nor-mindblowing books and, aside from a few glimmers of brilliance, I felt a bit underwhelmed with my reading. I guess it was all down to picking the right book – and especially the beginning of June introduced MANY that were beyond amazing.

In total, I read 11 books in June (with the exception of Dracula which I finished this morning) and signed up for two reading challenges: Books on the Nightstand Summer Bingo and 20 Books of Summer (see below). 11 books is a lot to me, and I do not expect to achieve that again – mainly because July will be a busier month and I have some real chunksters on my TBR. In July I will take a break from my dear local library and focus on tackling the books on my shelves. I have formed a bad habit of taking out too many books from the library and then prioritizing them over my own books, which is why I feel that I should probably take a little break and show some love to my personal collection. And as I’m once again heading to Berlin, I expect a slight (hopefully very small) growth in the collection.

Books read in June:

I do plan on writing full reviews for most of these books, but Saving Wishes by G.J. Walker-Smith isn’t one of them. Mainly because it really wasn’t my cup of tea and I don’t have much to say about it – or should I say, I have more problems with this book than positives. The story follows a young 17-year-old girl in an Australian small town who wants to get away as soon as possible. She and her best friend have been planning on this trip for a long time when a handsome visitor enters the town. The book is a first in the series, and with all its instalove and woe-is-me-life-is-unfair, I can see some people really enjoying it. Unfortunately I am not one of them. For me it was more of an exercise in eye-rolling. If it hadn’t been my dear friend pushing me to read it, I probably would have stopped after the first two chapters. It is by far not the worst of its genre, but the story needs more work and the writing more showing, not telling. For what it’s worth, it was a quick read for a 300+ paged book. 2/5

TBR for July & August: 20 books of summer

This summer Cathy from 764 Books is hosting a reading challenge called 20 Books of Summer in which the challenge is to pick 20 books that you hope to read during the summer months. Since I am already doing the BONTS Summer Bingo challenge, I decided to pick books that would also fit to the bingo squares as well as books that have been on my TBR for some time now. The end result can be seen below. Since I posted this picture on the 10th of June, I’ve already read 6 of the 20 books, but I don’t think I’ll be able to read all of the rest in July alone. So I think it’s more appropriate to call this my combined July & August TBR. The only thing missing from the picture and the list is the complete collection of poetry and aforisms by Edith Södergran which I’ve been reading since March (I think). With poetry I feel that it serves the experience to take your time and read only a few pages at a time. I could easily rush through the rest of the collection, but I probably wouldn’t remember anything of what I was reading after a while.

20booksofsummer2015

20 Books of Summer 2015 (from bottom to top):

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (illustrations by Becky Cloonan) ✓
  • The Egyptian by Mika Waltari ✓
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith ✓
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath ✓
  • A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride ✓
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan ✓
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens ✓
  • Hägring 38 by Kjell Westö
  • Kiinalainen puutarha by Markus Nummi ✓
  • The Beggar and the Hare by Tuomas Kyrö ✓
  • Tähtikirkas, lumivalkea by Joel Haahtela ✓
  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell ✓
  • The Tenant of Wilderfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  • The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh ✓
  • Quiet by Susan Cain (on Kindle) ✓
  • Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (on Kindle) ✓
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman (on Kindle) ✓
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (on Kindle) ✓
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (on Kindle) ✓

A lot of reviews and a progress report on my 2015 reading challenges are waiting to be written, so this shall be all for now. Happy reading and lots of sunny days wherever you are!