Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Light We Lost - Jill Santopolo

'We've known each other for almost half our lives. I've seen you smiling, confident, blissfully happy. I've seen you broken, wounded, lost. But I've never seen you like this. You taught me to look for beauty. In darkness, in destruction, you always found light. I don't know what beauty I'll find here, what light. But I'll try. I'll do it for you. Because I know you would do it for me.
There was so much beauty in our life together.'


I picked this book up because it's been pretty popular since its release last year. After I started it, I could certainly tell why; it's very addictive, interesting and compelling. I found myself ranting to Daniel about the latest events just like it was a friend of mine making these decisions and not just a character in a book.

The main idea is that the main characters, Lucy and Gabe, meet on the day of 9/11 in New York and immediately fall in love.  However, life pulls them in different directions, Gabe to Middle East and Lucy to make a TV show and finally, to Darren. He's a perfectly decent guy, and he makes Lucy happy. Just not quite as happy as Gabe, with whom she crosses paths every now and again...

This book is written as Lucy speaking/writing/thinking their life together to Gabe, which certainly gives it a different feeling from just a traditionally written love story. It felt like this book was a story that could only be told by her, and more specifically, I felt like I was part of the story too.

The setting of this book wasn't the most interesting thing to me, but 9/11 quickly takes a backseat and the story becomes about people seemingly not directly affected by it making decisions because of this big disaster that happened in the home.

Both Lucy and Gabe make lots of decisions in this story that I don't agree with. It annoyed me for a while, but it also made them feel more like real people with actual lives. Characters that are trustworthy and respectable role models are important, but so are characters who are not. We make mistakes and bad decisions.

I've got quite a lot of thoughts about the plot points and especially the ending of this book, but I'm not going to spoil it for you. As a whole it was quite a special and interesting take on this kind of a story, and I'd like to read more of Santopolo's works in the future,

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Josir Jalatvan eriskummallinen elämä - Siiri Enoranta

'Ja joskus vielä ostaisin Miholle oman ilmalaivan ja tusinan täysiverisiä hevosia ja lakritsitehtaan ja kaikkien Aurosian hylättyjen rautatieasemien valtavat kellot.'

'And one day yet I would buy Miho his own airship and a dozen purebreed horses and a liquorice factory and the huge clocks of all of Aurosia's abandoned railway stations.'


You can also find my reviews on Gisellen kuolema and Surunhauras, lasinterävä by the author on my blog!

As I may have mentioned previously, Siiri Enoranta is one of my favourite authors, and her Nokkosvallankumous is one of my favourite books. Therefore I'm obviously always on board when she releases a new book. Mum bought me this one in Helsinki at the end of my Christmas break, and I finally finished it [in March, whoops update speed]!

Josir Jalatvan eriskummallinen elämä ('The Bizarre Life of Josir Jalatva', if I were to translate it myself, although you could also replace 'bizarre' with 'queer' and you'd describe this book pretty well) sees Josir, the son of the owner of the famous Circus Maximissimi, fall in love with Micholei, who's a clocksmith in the making. Their life of parties, drugs and hedonism is soon interrupted by a vasar, a person with powers supposedly bestowed upon them by God, cursing Miho to switch bodies every now and again. Because the only way to undo such a curse is to get the same vasar to undo it, they put together a circus and travel the continent of Aurosia to fix things.

Along the journey people are picked up to join the circus, cities are visited, shows are had, and there's quite a few adventures of different kinds. The characters are the highlight of this story, but sometimes it felt like there were simply too many for all of them to stay relevant and separate in my mind.

I love the circus, honestly. I've gone just about every year for most of my life. So this book called out to me immediately when it was first announced. However, the circus and the travels kind of take a back seat in the story, and the main focus is on questions of self, gender and body. It was interesting, but I felt like often the same revelations were announced multiple times, dressed up slightly differently. I think I wanted a different book based on the same premise and would have liked this one more if it was dressed up differently.

On the other hand, Enoranta's writing style is incredible, and I love her run-on sentences and the storytelling that's borderlining stream of consciousness. There's also chapters from the point of view from many different characters, and they all have a very distinctive voice. It's a beautifully written story that explores many questions that the contemporary world wants answered every single day, but the plot of it left me hoping for a bit more.

PS. The raspberry pastry on the cover of this book looks so tasty and I want one now, although bad things happen because of it in the book and I'm not sure if it's worth the risk.

PPS. Enoranta's new book has just come out so stay tuned while I hunt down a copy somewhere!

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella

'So I buy it. The most perfect little cardigan in the world. People will call me the Girl in the Gray Cardigan. I'll be able to live in it. Really, it's an investment.'


I've had this book on my shelf for a long time, and I read half of it once upon a time, but now I picked it up on BookBeat as an audiobook. Hooray!

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (hereafter just Dreamworld) is the first book in the very popular Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. The main character, Rebecca Bloomwood or just Becky, is a shopaholic - she loves shopping all too much, and she can't even actually afford it. She works for Successful Saving magazine, even though she doesn't really understand any of the financy things she works with. The rest of the story is really just about her mishaps, fighting evil Visa bills and trying to Save Less or Earn More.

Becky is a great character. She's like that impossible friend who always screws things up but whom you love regardless. Her internal monologue is very funny, and she never becomes unlikeable even when she's doing the exact things she should not be doing. I want to shake her, but I still could never dislike her.

Naturally, for me Becky's work in a financial magazine was really exciting. Even though this book is the epitome of chick lit, you could really tell Kinsella has a background in working as a financial journalist herself. These things were never dumbed down for the reader, even when Becky herself couldn't fully grasp them. I fully believe chick lit doesn't need to be dumb and ditzy just because it's meant to be fun and feminine, and I'm glad this book did exactly that. There's also a plot with a love interest, but that was never the whole overarching plot of the story.

Overall this book was better than I would have thought and I'm really glad I gave it a read. It wasn't quite 5/5 but regardless worth a read (though I'll admit it is defnitely not for everyone). Props also for the reader of the Finnish audiobook, Elsa Saisio. She was absolutely excellent and I believe she was actually Becky Blomwood. One big gripe I did have with this book is that it was clearly written with a sequel in mind; no matter what Becky grows through in this book, in the end she isn't allowed much character growth; instead she just remains the same person she was when the book started so that the sequel could keep the silly ditzy shopaholic she was in this one.

Also, as a side note; there's really something comforting for me about reading British books in Finnish. It's a bit hard to explain, but it makes me feel like maybe I'm not the only person ever to be living between these two countries. It makes me feel at home.

PS. These reviews are of books I read earlier in spring - missing between this one and the previous is The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, because I honestly have nothing to say about that book. It was okay. Not my favourite by a mile.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Kaikki anteeksi - Laura Manninen


Kaikki anteeksi ('Everything Forgiven', free translation) is the debut work of Laura Manninen. It's based in part on her own experiences and is the story of Laura, who falls in love with a man called Mikko. At first he seems perfect but as their relationship develops, everything also starts to go wrong...

It's a book about domestic violence, and while it's by no means the first such work, it is a very important topic. This book is also excellent in the way you can see the evolution of the abusive relationship; at first it seems fine, but later on both Laura and the reader start to see the warning signs. It's a well-drafted story and a very touching book about survival in such a situation.

Both of the main characters were left feeling a little under-developed; the reader doesn't know that much about Mikko because Laura doesn't know much about him either, but Laura herself is also left a little flat, mostly defined through the abuse even though she claims to be a strong and independent person. The book also suffered in my mind because of the very beautiful language; it really 'worked' through most of the book but in some of the parts describing the abuse it felt odd and jarring and only worked to break the immersion. Mikko may be just about to hit Laura, and yet she starts musing about what it is for a woman to be a mother?

The plot was fairly predictable after having read some similar stories before, but books like this are more about the experience anyway. The ending however was a little bit too abrupt and left me wanting a little more, maybe about what happened after. I understand that may not have been the story the author wanted to tell, but I was a little disappointed anyway. 

All in all, I gave this 4/5. It was a very strong debut novel about an important subject, and while the stylistic choices strange and the ending weak, it was still very good. I will be looking to any of Manninen's future works. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Rikinkeltainen taivas - Kjell Westö

'What's happened in the book?' Daniel asked me many times while I was reading this.
'Nothing much,' I responded, every time.

I downloaded BookBeat on my phone mostly so that I could listen to more Finnish books (looking at you, Audible) and this was the first book I picked up, mostly because it's one of my mum's recent favourites and also rather popular otherwise.

Rikinkeltainen taivas ('Sulfur-Yellow Sky', free translation) is Helsinki-based author Kjell Westö's seventh novel. Like his previous works, the original text is in Swedish ('Den svavelgula himlen') but I read the Finnish translation. The book is set in Helsinki and spans from the 1960s to the present day. It's the story of the Narrator (he never gets a name, how cool is that? Fight Club feelings.) meeting the wealthy Alex and Stella Rabell and their lives both together and apart. And honestly, that's all that really happens in this book - the rest of it is just life.

It's a little weird, granted. There's no real drama arc or really anything else. However, Westö writes these characters so real and genuine, I found myself really enjoying the real life of someone who doesn't even exist. This is because you rarely get a real person you don't even know telling you about their life this honestly.

I didn't give this a full 5/5 because... well. I hear a lot of people say this wasn't Westö's best work and I feel like he can probably do a little better still, and I want to leave some space for that. Maybe he could do all this, but also have something happen in it?

I hope one day I'll be able to read Westö's works in Swedish (don't laugh at me for this, mum!). Sometimes in this book people specifically speak Swedish and sometimes Finnish, and that just doesn't really translate.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

A Darker Shade of Magic - V.E Schwab

''Do you trust anything?' he countered, rubbing his wrist. 'Or anyone, for that matter?'
The queen considered him, her pale lips curling at the edges. 'The bodies in my floor all trusted someone. Now I walk on them to tea.''

Hello again!

Daniel got me this book in London last December!! I wanted it because it looked and sounded exciting, and it definitely turned out to be that way too. And it's also set in London, sort of.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a pretty complex book, so bear with me. The main character, Kell, is one of the last Antari. The Antari have magic powers that allow them to travel between Londons: White, Red, Grey and Black. White London is a powerhungry country torn by civil war, while Red is Kell's homeland, where magic still thrives. Grey is 'our' London, without magic, and Black London has been destroyed by magic. When Kell makes a foul trade and meets pickpocket Delilah Bard in Grey London, they have to fix things and save all of the Londons from dark magic.

This book was a little heavy to get into because of all the lore and how the story spends a lot of time at the beginning establishing all of it. When I did get into it, it was a very innovative and unique take on this kind of a magic fantasy story. I don't know if the beginning could have been handled somehow a little better, since later on I regretted not paying enough attention to the little details that were thrown at me early on.

Lila Bard was a great character, and probably one of the most relatable female characters I've ever read of. She was both strong and weak and proud but also honest, and it was easy to imagine I would do the same things, if I were in her shoes. She's also the kind of female main I'd write in my story too.

Kell himself was also a well-written and quite balanced character. The 'one of the last magical beings' -thing could easily get a little overpowered, but he didn't feel that way to me. He doesn't flaunt his specialness around. A side mention also to Kell's brother Rhy's, the heir to the throne of the Red London - he was just such a precious character and I want good things to happen to him.

The thing I'll mark this down for is the heavy beginning, and also the fact that I didn't necessarily fall in love with this book as heavily as I could have. Also, there was a plot twist I think I foresaw that didn't happen yet - that's going to bother me until I read the sequel. I will read the sequel, though, so that's saying a lot!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Every Day - David Levithan

'It's one thing to fall in love. It's another to feel someone else fall in love with you, and to feel a responsibility toward that love.'


Every Day by David Levithan is the story of A, who has spent their whole life living in a different body, a different life every day. A has gotten very good at changing and not getting attached, until one day he's in the body of Justin and meets his girlfriend Rhiannon. Soon A starts wanting to be with Rhiannon, not just a day, but every day.

This book is one of those books that you can't think too much on or it all falls apart. Like, why does all of this happen? Why is the jump contained geographically and through A's age (they are 16, so will only jump to people who are the same age)? If you want to enjoy the book for what it is, you kind of just have to roll with what it is.

Through the jumps, Levithan takes the opportunity to tell many little stories with topics such as suicide, being transgender, illegal immigrants, religion and the like. Some of these were pretty cool while others were a bit half-hearted, more there for the sake of talking about it than actually needing to talk about it. In the end, only maybe one or two of them were actually relevant to anything else in A's life, which was a bit of a shame. To be a book with so many characters but only two of them mean anything, it's kind of poor.

Rhiannon is very likeable, and I could see what A would see to make them fall in love, but on the other hand A does fall head over heels for her very suddenly and a little bit for no reason, something Rhiannon calls them out on. That being said, their relationship hardly seemed functional to me. Rhiannon doesn't feel like she can be with someone when she can't be sure who and where the other person will be the next day. A wants Rhiannon to see behind the body and love A for who they are. But really? There isn't much 'A' to speak of, because they've never had a life of their own. And yes, that's cruel and unfair, but it was a little difficult for me to relate to A because of this. They felt a bit like they had given up, and Rhiannon becomes their whole life in a way that was a little annoying.

The writing of this book was rather good, and I felt like it described the different lives and people quite well. Even though I didn't necessarily relate to A, I still felt for their struggle to just exist. There's some honestly heartfelt moments throughout the story.

This book was maybe more like a 3.5 for me, but I rounded it up because I quite liked the ending. I was wondering how it was all going to tie together in the end and I thought it may have been going one way, but what happened was much better than what I had imagined. I will definitely check out Levithan's other works too.

Oh, and there's a sequel from Rhiannon's point of view, which I'll probably pick up sooner or later since she was pretty likeable and I could've lived with some more of her. There's also another sequel coming up, but I don't fully understand what it's about? Well, anyway. Hear from you soon!

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

'But I'm tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.'


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (I'll just call it 'Simon vs.' after this, I think) has the titular Simon in an online relationship with 'Blue'. When Simon comes out as gay to the world without his own decision, he has to figure out what is that he wants to do next.

As far as the characters go, Blue was my favourite. Simon I liked also. But the others - the sisters, parents, friends... They all stayed quite distant to me throughout the journey, even though they seemed like nice people and their interactions with Simon definitely brought something to his character.

I don't think this book needs to be a gay story (even though it definitely is, a rather good one too), because it's definitely something feel most people can relate to. Referring to the quote I picked to start this review with, Simon is bothered by how he feels like he's constantly changing, and such is the case especially when you're growing up and constantly growing out of yourself from yesterday. Hence I'd like to contest almost everyone has at some point struggled with the hassle of 'coming out', which is one of the stronger aspects of this book.

Unfortunately, Simon vs. is another one of those very American young adult books that are starting to wear me out. It's probably very relatable to people who live there and do things Simon does every day, but to me it felt alien and kind of killed some of the immersiveness. Is that a problem that has to do with me, or the book? This time, I'm going to say it's the book.

Here's the reason: I feel like in another culture, this bombardment of information would possibly be done in a more thoughtful way. For an example, when I read 'The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane', there wasn't much pre-existing knowledge of Chinese culture required of me. But Simon vs. is constantly speaking about Poptarts and bleachers and Reese's - things I know in passing from all the times I'm assumed to know them in American pop culture, but also things I'm never fully explained. I never gain a confidence that I fully understand what they mean. Maybe it means that the book assumes it's written primarily for an American - a fair assumption, to be fair - but it's just a bit of a shame.

On the bright side, Simon vs. is set in Atlanta, Georgia, just like Gone With the Wind. It's mainly so exciting because I would never have recognised is as the same place if it wasn't named. as such It's weird what can happen in 130 years or so.

I will definitely read Albertalli's books in the future as well (this autumn, there will be a collaboration effort between her and Adam Silvera, which sounds so exciting!). Even though this one wasn't my favourite, I still found it quite enjoyable.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell

'I'm tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do. I'm tired of acting like I don't eat more than a bird, and walking when I want to run and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired. I'm tired of saying, 'How wonderful you are!' to fool men who haven't got one-half of the sense I've got, and I'm tired of pretending I don't know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they're doing it.'


Now that all my 2017 books are reviewed, here's the first book I read in 2018, from my Christmas break spent in Finland. I think I can safely say it's also the best book I will read this year. What a
terrible idea to get a jackpot on the first book!
I had the absolute pleasure to read mum's beautiful copies
from the 1970s!!
Anyway, the spoiler is that I really liked this book. My mum's been telling me to read it for a while now and I can only speculate why I haven't read it before. Well, to be honest, I think I know why. 
You see, Gone With the Wind clearly has a reputation of some sort. I've heard it being called one of the greatest love stories of all time and all that, and I think it's really downplaying the importance of this masterpiece. It is a love story, sure, and it is a great one. But it's also a story about war and misfortune and death and misery and unfairness and inequality and racism and patriarchy and a million of things that I find should be mentioned before it's just branded a romantic book for women.  Heck, Margaret Mitchell herself stated that the primary theme of this book is 'survival'. That's not really anything we should outright label as a women's silly little pastime.

The books had these lovely pictures from
the movie!!
'Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it's no worse than it is.'

Scarlett O'Hara is without a doubt one of the best-written characters I've met in any book. She's self-centered, spoiled and shallow in the beginning and she's still all of these things in the end, but the growth of her character is so well-written and believable. She's stubborn and she refuses to give up when her world turns to ash around her, unlike most of the other characters who just cling to the past. She's the most beautiful girl and she knows it, but she's also so sincere in just wanting to live her life having fun that she's hard to not like. She's also much more intelligent than she's allowed to be for a woman in her time, which I really enjoyed as well.

'After all, tomorrow is another day.'

All of the other characters are so good as well. There's Scarlett's crush Ashley, attractive and artistic and incredibly unsuited for Scarlett and probably so attractive to her because of it. The Tara household also has a black caretaker called Mammy, who's incredibly difficult not to like. Scarlett's sister-in-law Melanie is basically the kindest person ever and everything else Scarlett doesn't even
want to be but she still thinks the world of Scarlett, and Rhett Butler is a charming scoundrel who doesn't care to even try and gain the approval of the Southern nobles. He's also the only one not to fall for Scarlett's charm, and the two of these are the main romance of the book. I must say that it was impossible for me to not smile every time Rhett was around, because his character was so enjoyable to have around and such a great fit for Scarlett, insofar as anyone could be.
Melanie on the left and Rhett and Ashley on the right

Scarlett and Rhett's relationship is probably so memorable and iconic because it's not the standard love at first sight -kind. These two characters challenge each other and dance around each other constantly, and never quite settle into a comfortable relationship. In a way, even the aspect of this book that you should be able to take comfort in is a constant battle.

'No, my dear, I'm not in love with you, no more than you are with me, and if I were, you would be the last person I'd ever tell. God help the man who ever really loves you. You'd break his heart, my darling, cruel, destructive little cat who is so careless and confident she doesn't even trouble to sheathe her claws.'

The historical setting of this book is the American Civil War. What I knew about the war beforehand could be summed up in the following two points: 1) the South wanted to keep slaves and 2) the South lost. And while that's kind of the gist of it, this book made me understand how it was much more complicated and many-sided. Margaret Mitchell was from Atlanta, Georgia herself, and much of the historical aspects are based in her own experiences and the stories she heard. You could probably argue that the story takes sides, but to me it felt rather sincere about what it was trying to get across. This war is not part of my heritage, but I cared and weeped for the characters going through the hardships regardless, because it all felt so real.

So yes, 5/5, I loved it, I want to go back in time to not having read it but I also don't want to not have read it. Please read it and talk to me about it.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

2017 in Books


Happy 2018!! (I don't know when I'll get used to that, if ever)

So this post is a little bit overdue maybe, so I'll just get right to it. I read more books in 2017 than any year before it, so it's only fair I do some statistics / recap of them et cetera.

In total, I read 56 books. According to Goodreads, that's about 18,606 pages but I'll take that with a pinch of salt since I might have logged in some different editions and so on.

Out of those books,
17 were Finnish (30.3%)
20 were in Finnish (35.7%)
36 were in English (64.3%)
18 were British (32.1%)
32 were written by women (57.1%)
24 were written by men (42.9%).

11 were on the Kindle (19.6%)
10 were audiobooks (one was a podcast!) (17.8%)
35 were traditional books. (58.9%)

7 had main LGBT relationships (I excluded token gays from this because bleh) (12.5%)
4 were from outside North America, UK and Finland (7.1%) (This is something I'd really like to improve in 2018, I'm rather tired of all the US-centric literature especially)

I rated 15 books 5/5 (probably the easiest way to see them is here)
and only one book 1/5 (it was Charisma by Jeanne Ryan).

I also participated in, and completed, the Helmet 2017 reading challenge, which was 50 books in different categories such as 'animal on the cover', 'a book about faith or religion' and 'a book where nobody dies'. It was a lot of fun and had me picking up a lot of books I probably wouldn't have read otherwise, so it was a very good experience.

I also completed my Goodreads Reading Goal, which was set at 30 books. That was mostly due to the former reading challenge, of course. While both of these challenges were really fun and, well, challenging, they did make me pick up a lot of books that were short and probably ignore a lot of great ones. Because of this, I decided not to take on any reading challenges this year. It's kind of nice, for a change.

I also personally wanted to read more Finnish books, which was questionably successful(?) because living in the UK, it's kind of difficult to get my hands on as many of them as I'd like. Still, 17 isn't too shabby. I'll definitely continue with my challenge in the future too!

So that's that for 2017! Hopefully this year I'll have more specific stats for you, I'll try to make them as I go this time.