Saturday, 31 December 2016

Gisellen kuolema - Siiri Enoranta

'Minulla ei ollut ketään. Tiesin että saisin jos haluisin, eikä se ollut kehuskelua vaan fakta. Saisin jonkun hyvän kiltin hellän joka hitaasti syövyttäisi minut kuoliaaksi.'

'I didn't have anyone. I knew I could get if I wanted, and it wasn't bragging but a fact. I could get someone good kind tender who would slowly corrode me dead.'

I've had this book sitting in my bookshelf for a while and as I really loved Nokkosvallankumous (which I'll probably review when I decide to go through my favourite books again) and quite liked Surunhauras, lasinterävä, I decided to finally read it while eating the first and last gingerbread of the year. The fireplace really is doing magic to my reading.

Gisellen kuolema (The Death of Giselle) is a story about Joel and Linnea, two siblings. It's the story of Linnea, a ballet dancer who will never dance ballet again, a broken dream with nothing left. This story is mostly told through Joel's eyes, Joel who's always been distant from her sister, who's always been in the shadow and the lesser one. Suddenly Linnea returns to their broken home, Linnea who was never supposed to return, and Joel is left to be the only one who can sort of connect with her. They both need each other to give something neither of them has left.

The book is raw and poetic and emotional, and it left me with a weird sense of sadness I don't quite get. There's drugs and sex and alcohol, but there's also earnest feelings and conversations and the longing to be a child again. It's often mentioned that this book is, yes, indeed incest, but it didn't feel like as central to the book as I thought it would. More so, I felt the broken family and the need for another person to understand you to be in the forefront. The pain of losing and the fear of never having anything to lose again. Everyone has their own problems and their own means of trying to navigate through life and Joel seems to find them all repulsive even though he's not any better. Their home is extremely broken even though at first it was so difficult to point out why. Maybe it's not really anything to grasp at, or maybe it's a bit of everything, but for this book it certainly felt fitting.

As a piece of literature I felt that this book was extremely well-written. The style is very artistic and liberal and the description very earthy and Finnish and suddenly urban and wild again. The dialogue is also very believable, mostly because of the dialect and because the characters don't seem to feel the need to talk just for the sake of exposition or saying something smart. Of course, it can be left up for debate whether or not a teenage boy would actually think of all these poetic things of someone's eyes being deep wells filled goldfish swimming around restlessly, but that's what first person point-of-view literature usually gives you. I forever wish for these books to get an English translation because I've not really read anything like these books before and I can imagine people would want to. I want everyone to read them. This is easily her least fantasy-like story, but I wouldn't say the others are any less realistic because of that.

Rating-vise I'll put this nicely between Nokkosvallankumous and Surunhauras, lasinterävä at 4/5. It's really worth reading, a cohesive, beautiful story in under 150 short pages. I could read it again despite the heartbreak it gave me, and I'm sure it would reward that second read by unravelling something within its pages I didn't understand before.

Happy New Year, by the way. I took a bit of an accidental head-start to reading Finnish things but I'll try and keep at it next year!

PS. I accidentally somehow ordered the two Siiri Enoranta's books I didn't yet have online halfway through writing this. So expect me to review those as soon as I feel like I've survived reading this one!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Kaksi ihmistä minuutissa - Inkeri Markkula

'Lepakot ovat minusta ihmeellisiä. Astrid, elämäni rakkaus, sytytti minussa palon niitä kohtaan. Astrid sytytti minussa lukuisia liekkejä, ja vaikka maailma hänen jälkeensä sammutti niistä useimmat, rakkaus lepakoihin jäi.'

'I find bats wonderful. Astrid, the love of my life, awakened in me a fire for them. Astrid lit in me multiple flames, and even though the world after her put out most of them, the love for bats remained.'

Mum got me this book for Christmas and as part of the 'read more Finnish stuff' thing and also because it was really good, I just gobbled it up in front of the fireplace over the course of a couple of days. Really pleasant stuff.

Kaksi ihmistä minuutissa (Two people a minute) is Inkeri Markkula's first novel. It's about many things. It's about malaria, death, love, misery, hopelessness, hope and loss. It's about Alina, a Finnish woman from the north who's lost her spouse and who can't have the life she was supposed to have with her daughter. She's also a researcher, cold facts and different types of malaria and nights spent at the laboratory. She's broken and a little bitter but at the same time she's so much more, and it's very easy to consider her to be a real person.

She meets Lotte, a German doctor who's been working in Thailand for longer than what most people can manage. Lotte wants her to come there and help. Alina takes the offer to leave her broken home but says she'll be back, to see her daughter in three months' time. Lotte is almost more real than Alina, for she too has felt loss, but she's also lived in the village for so long and felt compassion and joy and love. Where Alina is samples and lab coats, Lotte is human beings and emotions.

There's also Kian, a boy who grows too fast even though he grows just like he should. He's young but intelligent and like Lotte, I too wanted to guard him from the cruelty of life. There's Kian little sister Po, who's too young to understand but of course not too young for malaria. It's cruel in how real it is, and I'd love to pretend these things are fiction when they're not. The setting, mostly Thailand, was also very alive and felt real. I wanted to visit even though sometimes I certainly didn't want to.

Malaria is cruel. I've heard this said as a concept, but it never touches you when it's numbers (two people a minute) and not actual people. These people were so well-crafted, they were actual to me. This book, more than any statistic I've ever heard, made me think about it. It raises questions like how do you explain that rich people never have to suffer from this, but it doesn't preach or underline. The author is also a biologist and while she doesn't specialise in malaria (she likes bats though), it provided the book with a certain sense of authenticity. I don't know if she'll continue writing but if she does, I'll certainly continue reading.

The book is split into chapters and the chapters are distinguished from each other by years. The current one is 2012, but it also often goes to 2008, 2003 and even 1994. These chapters are sprinkled in between the present moment like little treats, and they're woven into the story so carefully that I never really felt like I was reading a flashback. It provided the characters with backstory that was much appreciated, and I took them with pleasure.

The shortfall of this book is that it's poetic. It's poetic and beautiful and raw, but sometimes it leaves a little too much to be guessed. I wanted a few more answers and a few less questions, especially towards the end when I was starting to realise there wasn't much more space for hints. The ending also left me a little cold, because I did not know what was going on and not in a pretty, poetic way. Rather, in a "I'll never see this person again and this is the last thing they tell me?" sort of way. There's so many questions, and the last chapter of the book basically focused on the few things I actually didn't care about.

Altogether, Kaksi ihmistä minuutissa was very good. As a first work especially, it was extremely well made. It wasn't perfect, but for a couple of days I lived it. I bothered my boyfriend with my thoughts and ranted and quoted and suffered and enjoyed. I'd recommend it even with its few faults. Not sure if mum will like it but I'll try to convince her anyway.

'Metsä huokaa, me hengitämme sen huokaukset. Ajattelen, että malarialla on kovin kaunis koti.'

'The forest sighs, we breathe its sighs. I think about how malaria has a very beautiful home.'

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Every Exquisite Thing - Matthew Quick

I took so many pictures of this book
In better lighting
But this is where I finished reading it
Near 2AM on Christmas night.
'And I thought about my parents being maps who lead me to places I didn't want to go -- and it made a shocking amount of sense, using the word maps to describe parents. It almost made you feel like you could fold Mom and Dad up and lock them away in the glove compartment of your car and just joyride for the rest of your life maybe.'

Every Exquisite Thing is Matthew Quick's newest young adult novel that came out last summer. Since I really liked The Silver Linings Playbook and since I've been casually piling up the rest of his novels in my book shelf, I convinced my boyfriend to buy this one for me. ♥ And I finally finished it now that I'm back home for the holidays, hooray!

So. Nanette O'Hare, 18, has always done what's expected of her. She's never acted up, and she plays in her high school football (soccer as the Americans in the book insist on calling it) team and she's really good at it. She doesn't even like it.

Then she reads a book given to her by a teacher she really likes, a long ago out-of-print novel called The Bubblegum Reaper that ends up transforming her whole life like a parasite. She befriends the reclusive author of her new favourite story and he in turn introduces her to Alex; another troubled young soul that got something real out of the novel. Together, they want to solve the mystery of the novel, but also the mysteries of themselves. Also, they talk about books and poetry and life. There's also a lot of side stuff definitely worth getting into, but I won't describe that because finding out is part of the fun.

I never liked Alex much as a character. He was probably okay and really not badly written but just not my cup of tea in the slightest. He was too violent and too off the handle. He was also broken and really needed help and it should have probably made me sympathise but it didn't. Nanette I liked. She knew she wasn't the same as other people in her football team, but she never thought it made her somehow superior to the others, and that was really cool. I really liked the way Nanette's parents were written. At first they were a bit absent but when they realised Nanette needed them, they were very attentive and really did their best to help. I don't think we get enough of parents acting like parents should in ya novels these days.

When it comes down to style, this book is easy to read. The chapters are short and interesting and provided enough variety to keep me interested, much like how I remember finishing The Silver Linings Playbook three years ago in a hotel room in Vienna because I could not put it down and I had to know more and everything right now. The style of this book wasn't too heavy or too light, and it flowed nicely. The Bubblegum Reaper itself is also a very interesting story and I enjoyed that. It's pretty cool when you have a book in a book that's made to sound so good that you want it to be real. There's also some cool poetry within the pages of Every Exquisite Thing and sometimes I felt like I was studying more than one piece of art at the same time.

Like I said when I read Sorta Like A Rockstar by the same author, I was a bit annoyed by how American this book was. Less so than the previous example, thankfully. That one had USA coming out of my ears by the time I was 2/3 of the way through. But like, I suppose I lost some degree of enjoyment I would have had if this book wasn't set in Generic American High School That's Like Every Other American High School Ever #67548392045. I'm bored. I know why people complain about high school stories so much. I love reading about youth but the high school, it's all the same. Also!! Unlike Sorta Like A Rockstar, this one doesn't have an eye roll-causing ending. Awesome!

By the by, my mum always says about some movies I like that they're affectionate songs about the freedom and the insanity of being young. I feel like this book is one of those too. It celebrates how no one seems to know where they're supposed to be and how that's okay. It celebrates the recklessness and the insanity of losing yourself, only to find something new. At some point it felt almost hopeless, like the book was never going to amount to anything but endless depression, but that's part of it too. That's life, that's youth. You don't have to know where you're going just yet.

I suppose it is most likely Mr. Quick will never write another novel I'll love quite as much as The Silver Linings Playbook (though I do think it would help if he wrote more for adults and less for the me of right now), but I'm surprisingly okay with that. All in all, this one was a solid, thought-provoking read that I'll be delighted to give a 4/5.

Also, Merry Christmas!
I really really want to read more Finnish stuff in the upcoming year since it's a hundred years for this fine country, so wish me luck!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Did I Mention I Need You? - Estelle Maskame

'He studies the new Converse closely, and he finally decides on a spot along the rubber. He concentrates on what he’s writing, and when he’s done, he takes a step back and watches me, waiting to see my reaction. However, when I glance down, it’s not lyrics that I see. It’s three words, scrawled messily in his handwriting. Three words, and they’re in Spanish: No te rindas.'

This is the second book in the DIMILY trilogy and I wish I had spent this time somehow... better. The premise is this; Eighteen-year old Eden is in love with her stepbrother Tyler. She goes to spend most of the summer with him in New York, a year after the last time they saw each other. Eden's started dating Tyler's best friend, Dean, in hopes of forgetting her forbidden attraction towards what is kind of like a family member.

This book, the series as a whole, is kind of like a drug. I know it's not good for me or good as a whole either, it doesn't leave me satisfied but for a while, it kinda feels good. It's easy to read since nothing much ever happens and you could easily skip pages upon pages of Eden describing her outfit and the Times Square, and I can't say I didn't just skim through some of it. The plot is fairly thin through most of the book, including some very painfully constructed, fake tension scenes, third wheels that came and went, and friendships that weren't really worth much in the end (Didn't I say Eden and Rachel didn't seem like good friends? I rest my case.). There's a ton of manufactured drama that always ends up having little to no effect on anything.

I wish we had seen how Eden's life was when she wasn't with Tyler. We've just skipped a whole year of her apparently falling in love with Dean and apparently being friends with Rachel and also, moving to a new city. I believe her old best friend, the one who was kinda important in the first book, just disappears in the process? But none of that is apparently of any interest because Tyler is what we care about.

It's a downfall of this series that to me at least, it reads a lot like fanfiction (this is probably because it was published on Wattpad first). What I'm saying is that it reads like something by a young author (which it is) published on a site where romance with a lot of manufactured tension and cliffhangers left and right is candy, regardless of whether the story follows through with that tension or just falls flat and starts building up for the next big twist. I think it would probably be more enjoyable if read with that slow pace of waiting for the next update to be published, rather than wafting through all the twists at once like I've been doing.

On the bright side, Tyler's been having some growth while in New York. He's overall more likeable and a little more mature, but still with that bad boy vibe that evidently makes him attractive in Eden's eyes. There's also his roommate from Boston, Snake, who's the restless rootless happy-go-lucky roommate. Then there's Emily, Miss Perfect Brit to make Eden jealous for no rational reason. I guess Eden is just so in love...

Also, I mentioned that Tyler and Dean are best friends, yes? Well, this doesn't seem to be worth anything at all when Eden cheats on her boyfriend over and over and over again. Which she feels bad about but continues to anyway because she's in love and that supposedly makes it okay. It doesn't. You don't cheat on a person you supposedly care about multiple times with their best friend and just proceed thinking that you're still a good person. Eden and Tyler really suck for doing this and no amount of 'omg I'm a horrible person'-thinking (which there is a lot of, granted) will fix them in my eyes. Dean is a good guy - everyone in the book acknowledges this - but I'll never forgive him if he somehow forgives these two. No one needs friends like this in their life. Urgh.

Anyway, I'm gonna see this series to the bitter end at some point in time, so be looking forward to that. Meanwhile, I can't really see a reason to recommend this to anyone.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Martian - Book vs. Movie

I came, I conquered, I finally belatedly watched The Martian! I've been ill so it seemed like a good time. Also, exams are coming and who wants to study?

Mars is the prettiest part about this film (especially since the
CGI isn't all that amazing)
The Martian (directed by Ridley Scott) stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a botanist whom his crew on the Ares III mission accidentally leaves on Mars, thinking that he's dead after he's hit by a dust storm. He now has to survive hundreds of sols alone in a Hab only meant to last for 31 and make his way home with no means to contact any other human beings. We also see NASA and stuff every now and then.

It's a pity to say, but the pacing of the movie felt way off. Where's all the hard work that goes into escaping a planet? Yeah, I know, it's not as interesting as the stuff that was included. But what about all the stuff that is just happily left unexplained? There's dozens of times in the movie that we skips twenty sols or so - fair enough, they were probably less important - but then we see Watney do some random stuff that probably has something to do with the Great Escape, without much explanation what he's actually doing or why. I was lost a lot of time even though I had read the book (almost a year ago, granted), so I can't imagine what it's like to watch him tape some stuff or rip the Hab apart when you really don't know why he decided to do just that. Especially since in the book, it all makes so much sense! Reading the actual book, I feel like I can understand his every motive and I appreciate that.

Mark Watney is a solve it all -kind of a guy. He knows lots of stuff about machinery and elements and all that, and he's motivated to actually make it out alive. My favourite part about Watney in the book is that he's incredibly optimistic at the face of anything and everything. It's even mentioned that it's the reason he was put on Ares III to begin with - he gets along with people and lightens the atmosphere. In the movie though, it's obvious that Hollywood decided it's better if we see Matt Damon frown constantly and mope around whenever he's not doing anything (and even when he is).

Spoilers aside, the movie also ends somewhat later than the book, a fact I did not enjoy. I mean, when they had to cut all that important stuff out, why did they decide this was worth being added? Priorities, off, if you ask me (not that you did, really).

That being said, the movie deals with the main media of the book rather well. The book is written almost completely in journal entries Mark types on a computer - instead the movie shows him making a video log. That works quite well and I appreciate it because I was worried it would kind of suck on the silver screen.

Altogether, I heavily recommend reading the book if you're interested in pretty realistic adventures on Mars. But if some pretty well filmed space mishaps are more your thing, find a copy of this movie. It's not badly made (though it's not as good, either). Thank you @Alex for convincing me to read/watch this!

Fun fact of the day (I really hope someone somewhere finds this at least half as interesting as I do): Most of the movie is filmed in a Jordanian desert and Jordan thought it was so cool they even used it to promote tourism. That's pretty darn cute. "Literally out of this world." Maybe one day I'll go to Mars then.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling

'"I'm not going to be murdered," Harry said out loud.

'That's the spirit, dear,' said his mirror sleepily.'
Progress! Another Harry Potter down! Just looking at Goblet of Fire's audiobook length (21 and a half hours!!) makes me wonder how long the next one will take. Challenge accepted though! I'm going home for Christmas break so I guess I'll listen to it while driving around. I hope it'll have a lot of stuff not included in the movie.

Prisoner of Azkaban has Harry Potter return to Hogwarts, only to hear that yet again, someone's out to kill him. Surprise! This time it's Sirius Black, a serial killer who has recently escaped the super-safe prison that is Azkaban. Another, more pressing worry are the guards of said prison, the Dementors. They're creepy little creatures that suck all the happiness out of you, and they make Harry feel ill for obvious reasons - he has a lot of horrifying memories to be left alone with.

The best part about these books, when put into a competition against the movies, is that these things happen in the midst of the characters' daily lives. Harry doesn't go from one very important plot point to another - he goes to classes and plays Quidditch and sees his friends and studies and all that. The plot points that are important are weaved into all of this other stuff that's also going on, because life is important as it is and not just when someone's existence is being threatened by some mysterious creatures.

Anyway, I never liked the movie much. I didn't like the plot points it chose to emphasise, I didn't enjoy the pacing, I stopped rewatching it after a couple of tries and never tried again. The book though, the book was very good and somehow the plot was so much better than I remembered. Also, I really liked Lupin's character. I really liked Buckbeak. I liked the changes this book brought to the formula that has already been quite solidly established. I liked the darker tones as well.

I still don't feel like giving this a full score of 5/5 just because this still isn't the kind of a book that would make me a huge fan of the series and that would be like the best book ever. I don't know why and what I'm looking for in this series, but it's so loved I just want it to be just as amazing as people keep telling me. Ehh.

On a mostly kinda halfway related note, I finally went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which I wish to propose we rename Fantastic Beasts (They Are Everywhere). It was pretty good but not amazing - and honestly, I don't know why we need to keep reviving this universe if not for money. Well, maybe I'm just jaded and not excited enough. Fantastic Beasts was quite nice though. I'd like it so much more if it was a book first, though... But I get that that's a whole lot of effort to write.

Oh, by the by, my Patronus is a Fox, according to the Pottermore quiz. I can live with that. I said that I like rocks.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A Street Cat Named Bob - Book vs. Movie

The movie looks pretty gorgeous sometimes
I actually went to see this last week and I thought I'd put this in the same post where I reviewed the book... but then I realised I actually had quite a lot to say so maybe it's better if I put it in a post of its own.

If you read my review of the book, you'll already know that I a) enjoyed it and b) feared that the movie adaptation would be too much of a feel good flick without the actual depth and darkness of the book - living on the streets, battling addiction et cetera. Turns out I was worried about all the wrong things.
The premise is the same; James Bowen (played by Luke Treadaway, of whom I'd admittedly never heard of before but who's British, of the right age and does a good job) is living on the streets and meets a cat named Bob (played by the actual Bob and around six other cats, all of whom named in the credits. I only remember Oliver but it was cute!). Since he now has Bob, James decides that it's time for him to kick addiction and get himself off the streets. It's a feel good idea, but I don't think it translated right to the big screen. Or rather, I would've done it very differently - less Hollywood (or whatever the UK equivalent is) and more loyalty to the source material.

The darker the movie got, the more I felt like it wasn't actually trying to tell a story as much as it was trying to jerk some emotions out of me. Additionally, they've added some scenes not in the book that just made me feel so uncomfortable in the wrong ways. There's a scene where James goes to visit his father, breaks a vase, takes down the Christmas tree and has Bob run around a house with someone severely allergic to cats. I get artistic license and all but this wasn't in the book, therefore I assume it's not factual, therefore I wish they didn't make me suffer through it. Also, James is written to be a complete idiot. thicker than bark in this version. It's part of Book-James' character that he's very knowledgeable about cats. Movie-James needs to be told that a male cat should be neutered and that vets aren't free and he doesn't even understand the simplest hints that his father doesn't want him around. I was insulted about this because the book lead me to believe that James was actually pretty sharp and instead we get this mess.

Left to right: James Bowen, Bob, Luke Treadaway
and the worst part about this movie (nothing against her
personally though)
I think however that the worst part about this movie was Betty, Jame's Bowen's girlfriend(?) who was played by Ruta Gedmintas, Luke Treadaway's actual girlfriend. You see, I remember Belle from the book as a very likeable person. She's on the streets like James, they've dated at some point but it didn't work out, she takes care of Bob when James leaves to visit his mum in Australia. She's kind-hearted but mostly not very much there, because this is simply not her story. What do we get instead, in the movie? We get Betty, hippie vegan artsy hipster with pink hair who goes to pickets against animal cruelty and thinks she's smarter than James and better than him because she's not battling with addiction like he is. She even gets upset at him for... what? Trying to get his life back on track? Worse yet, she's always, constantly and endlessly on show. The story portrayed in the movie is almost as much about her and James' relationship as much as it's about Bob??? The book never mentioned a Betty but Belle has mysteriously disappeared for the movie, so I'll go ahead and assume this is how she was replaced. Sure, the two characters have chemistry but if any story didn't need a boring, extremely cliché mass-produced love angle, it's surely this one. It's a book about how a man's life was saved by a cat!! Also, Betty names Bob and it made me salty. In the book, it goes like this:

'By now I’d given him a name: Bob. I got the idea while watching a DVD of one of my old favourite TV series, Twin Peaks. There was a character in that called Killer Bob. He was actually schizophrenic, a kind of Jekyll and Hyde character. Part of the time he would be a normal, sane guy, the next he would be kind of crazy and out of control. The tom was a bit like that. When he was happy and content you couldn’t have wished to see a calmer, kinder cat. But when the mood took him he could be an absolute maniac, charging around the flat. I was talking to my friend Belle one night when it dawned on me. ‘He’s a bit like Killer Bob in Twin Peaks,’ I said, drawing a blank look from her. But it didn’t matter. Bob it was.'

In the movie, it goes something like this:

Betty: *in an off-handed manner* Oh, he told me his name's Bob.
James: What?

Because as a hippie vegan hipster, she talks to animals. It's later written off as a joke but it still felt somehow very annoying. I mean, if I was a vegan hipster, I'd be annoyed at these stereotypes. As a moviegoer and book-reader, I'm just annoyed at what an easy out they feel like. Belle was a side-character. Betty is a walking, talking, cliché annoyance that just doesn't go away.

You guys did your best, really.
All in all, this movie doesn't receive very high recommendations from me, but if you're a avid cat lover and somehow can't read the book, if you can laugh at incredibly stereotypical hippy vegans and if you don't want a movie that can be clearly put in a category, maybe I can tell you to go see this messy attempt of producing an interesting story in a new media. It was not worthy of the book, though.

Hopefully next time when I write about a book vs. a movie, it'll finally finally finally be about The Martian! It's certainly been a long time in waiting. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling

A patch of scarlet swam past, and Harry heard a soft clatter of claws beside him.
"Fawkes," said Harry thickly, "You were brilliant, Fawkes."

This was always my favourite of the movies. I love the Chamber of Secrets and I love the monster dwelling there and I love Fawkes (I was quite when I got to the part of the quote), and yet this one also has all the things I hate the most. I was always uncomfortable with Harry's broken arm and the Polyjuice potion and tried to busy myself with other things while these things were happening. Urgh.

I don't know anyone who doesn't have a general idea about these books but you're so fortunate if it's all ahead of you still! So, this one has Harry trying to get back to Hogwarts, only to be stopped by elf Dobby, who's worried about terrible things happening to Harry in Hogwarts if he goes back. In Hogwarts, someone's opened the Chamber of Secrets, and no one even knows what that means, except that it's sure to be trouble.

I do like this book, really. I just wish it had more of the things I liked and less of the things I didn't like. I enjoyed Tom Riddle (fun fact: in the Finnish edition his name is Tom Lomen Valedro for, well, you can imagine why if you've read the book) so much and I loved being in the Chamber of Secrets and I wanted more time for these things. I suppose it's not as pronounced in the movie since it had to cut a lot of stuff out, but darn I felt like the daily life took a bit too much emphasis here. It's not a bad thing in general - it's actually what really sets the books apart from the movies - but... Chamber of Secrets... the heir of Slytherin, give me more... There's some nice things about the daily life, too, of course. Whenever we go into more detail about the more minor characters, it feels like a new kind of candy I didn't know existed but now want more of. It's great.

We were in Slytherin at the Sittning, if you were interested! It was a lot of fun!
I still don't feel like this was an amazing read, though. Maybe I've seen the movie too many times and grown disenchanted, but I'm still waiting for a Harry Potter book to blow me away. I thought I'd get more of my favourite things when I read this book but that didn't happen and I'm pretty salty about that. I guess you can't have everything. I'm really glad to be finally reading these books though - I feel a little less uncultured and they keep me company while walking around sometimes.

I already started Prisoner of Azkaban yesterday, right after finishing this one. I'm pretty excited since it's always been my least favourite of the movies and thus I've not watched it until boredom, haha. Besides, the first part with the Dursleys has been interesting so far.

Monday, 31 October 2016

A Street Cat Named Bob - James Bowen

'I invited Bob to jump on my lap, which he did in the blink of an eye. A moment or two later, the conductor appeared. She was a cheerful West Indian lady and smiled at Bob, then me. ‘Is he yours?’ she said, stroking him. ‘I guess he must be,’ I said.'

Confession of the day: I love cats. Cats are amazing and wonderful and I'd be at a loss if something happened to one of our two little fluff balls back in Finland. Cats all the way. So of course, I've been meaning to read perhaps the most famous book written about a cat for the longest time.

A Street Cat Named Bob is about Londoner busker James and his cat Bob, whom he meets on the streets. They become inseparable and set out against the world together. This book is about their first few years together - James starting out as a recovering drug addict busking in the streets for money, Bob as a weak shadow of a cat.

The book isn't sugar-coated; James clearly has no qualms about expressing just how rough life on the streets can be. I was surprised about this, since I was probably more prepared to read about the cat rather than the man. It was welcome, though - I don't suppose one ever knows too much about the hardships other people are forced to go through. I liked learning more about their lives and hearing the whole story.

I suppose for this book, though, it's true what they say about life being stranger than fiction. It gave me lots of happy fluffy feelings and made me really feel like I was connecting with James and Bob (it would be weird to call them 'characters', right?), and I'd say that's a sign of a good job well done.

The writing style is pretty much what you'd expect from an author who's not really an author; it's more of a man telling his story. It's in his own words so I didn't mind that, but it's not to be expected that a book like this would be a masterpiece in a literary sense. It's not very complicated in writing and suffers from some repetition, but it's not an experience-breaking thing, so I'll give this a sound 4/5. I do recommend it if you like cats and find an interest in stuff like this!

I'll be sure to check out The World According to Bob the next time I need my daily dose of cats, since it's kind of like a direct continuation of this book. I'm also so excited about the upcoming movie, by the way! In most scenes, Bob plays himself!! How cool is that? I already convinced my boyfriend to come watch it with me, I'm that excited! Keep you updated on my thoughts afterwards! (I'll be disappointed if it's not dark enough; I have a bad feeling it'll be a bit too much of a feel-good family film.)

'I’d even been approached by an American lady, an agent, who asked me whether I’d thought about writing a book about me and Bob. As if!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Did I Mention I Love You? - Estelle Maskame

‘And so last night I fell asleep with my mind split in two. One half was drowning in guilt, but the other was floating, recklessly in love with the idea of Tyler and the secrets that are hidden within the depth of his being. Because, somehow, I’ve managed to become one of them.’

I originally picked up Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame because a friend of mine was gushing online how much she loves these books. And since the whole trilogy happened to be around four pounds for the Kindle, well…

The coolest thing about these books is that the author is from Peterhead, Scotland, where I paid a visit last spring. It’s one of those sleepy fisher villages in Aberdeenshire. Has good fish and chips. The second coolest thing about the author – and the order of these two things is very negotiable, really – is that she wrote these books at like, sixteen. I mean, she’s 19 now and the books have sold millions and that’s just pretty amazing.

The story is about Eden, a 16-year old who goes to spend her summer vacation in Santa Monica, California (and let me tell you how much more I would have loved this if it were, say, Edinburgh, Scotland) with her father, who has been out of touch with her for years. She makes friends (none of whom I like, more on that later), meets her new family members (most of whom are filler) and her new stepbrother, Tyler. Tyler is a problematic, rude teenager with more issues than anything else. And naturally, Eden falls in love.

I have to admit that the book starts rather slow. It’s a lot of build-up and introduction and up until the halfway point, I was still waiting for the book to begin, having to make time to actually read it instead of being sucked into the world in any way. That’s why I’d like to give this a 3.5 rather than an actual 4, but I’m being nice and rounding up. Around the last third the story really did pick up and capture my interest, but is it really fair that I have to wait two thirds to be interested?

Eden as a main character is quite relatable. She’s a teenager with teenager problems and interests and all that. She’s annoying at times with those problems, but in the heart of the book, she’s a teenager. Her friends, Rachael, Tiffany and Meghan, plus some girl back at home, Amelia maybe? – are backstory-less, personalityless filler. They’re there so that we know that Eden has friends, that she’s popular and not all that pathetic. They don’t even match her personality, and yet I’m led to believe that Eden and Rachel are actually best friends now. What.

Adventures in Peterhead last spring!
The problem with Maskame’s age is clear – she’s very good at portraying the life of a sixteen-year old, but not necessarily capable of dealing with these things with all that much maturity. The book has a strong sense of high-school romance that’s supposedly going to last your entire life. I’m not saying that none of them do, but… I’m not sure if Eden and Tyler could be the kind of couple to overcome everything.

I’ll be reading the rest of the books, certainly. Not only because I went and bought them all or because it's Scottish, but also because I do want to know how the story continues from here. Hopefully the second book, Did I Mention I Need You? will waste far less time on introduction and something will actually happen in it. This book was a bit of a guilty pleasure read and certainly not an amazing peace of cult literature, but I kind of enjoyed it for what it was.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling

'Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. Love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves it's own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.'

It feels a little weird to be reviewing something other people have read so many times and loved for so many years, while I've never actually read these books before. I feel unfit to say anything, considering how deeply I'm not actually in the lore or anything. I've watched these movies a couple of times years ago and I liked them without any passion or deeper thoughts to it. Who am I to talk about something this big?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a tale about Harry Potter, a boy who learns on his eleventh birthday that he's a wizard and entitled to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These he meets Ron and Hermione, who are to become his best friends.

I enjoyed the story a lot - one of the main things about Harry is that he didn't grow up with much, so he never comes across as mean or rude or anything like that. I had to like Harry, because he was just such a good person. Hermione however came across much more likeable than I ever realised before, mostly because she's so relatable. If I got the chance to study magic, especially coming from a non-magical family, I too would take the opportunity and make the most out of it for sure. Ron's made to be smarter than what the movies ever gave him credit for, as well. Snape's very well established as a villain and everyone else is super well fit to do just what they were written for.

Another very good reason to finally read this
book - it's our sittning theme of this year! 
My favourite thing about the book however is the writing. The description is enough and not boring - it sets the atmosphere so well and makes it seems almost magical (pun fully intended). The daily life is described enough but also has plenty of action sprinkled in between. It's also very, very English, which I find amusing, not to mention I can probably finally appreciate it to its full extent (you know who you are, yes, thank you). I also read it (?) as an audio book read by Stephen Fry, who's obviously amazing for the job. He portrays emotions and voices and situations so well, I wouldn't trade anything even if held at a gunpoint. Also, he's English and reads everything very poshly, and that's amusing as well.

If this book was everything there was, however, I wouldn't find it worth the worldwide phenomenon it is. It's a good book, a great book even, but I'm hoping for the world to only grow wings and improve on the very solid foundation provided here.  This was a singular adventure where a lot was spent on establishing the series, so maybe in the future we can get straight to it - not to mention how the books just get thicker and thicker and thicker. I'll certainly. continue listening to the audiobooks on my way to uni (I may have accidentally already bought half of them? Whoops.) and I am excited to see them all grow and the adventures they'll go on.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Made You Up - Francesca Zappia

“If nothing’s real, then what does it matter?” he said. “You live here. Doesn’t that make it real enough?”

I saw this book, I wanted to read this book, I left Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame at 53% so that I could read this book right about now. I'll go back to the former one day though - the author is from Peterhead so I feel like I should.

Anyway, Made You Up is about Alex, starting her senior year in high school, schizophrenic. She has an awfully difficult time telling apart her delusions and reality, and thus makes an unreliable narrator. I really love those. Anyway, she wants to graduate really bad and go to college and not be sent to a mental hospital, so she tries to keep all of this in check.

She makes friends, she tries to live a normal life, falls in love, all that. This part of the book was kind of interesting but at the same time I wanted more emphasis on the disease itself. Alex's friends are nice and interesting, Alex herself feels like a real person, it's all good...

...Except that the way schizophrenia is portrayed in this book is pretty much the most unrealistic thing ever. Alex portrays only the positive symptoms (named so because they add to normal behaviour, not because they're a good thing) and few to none of the negative ones. It's a special snowflake YA version of an actually serious illness, and that's just not okay.

Sadly, I liked it. My knee-jerk reaction was to give this book a 3.5,/5 and be happy with it, round it up and carefully recommend. But the more I think about it - how inaccurate are you allowed to be without it being dangerously awful? I mean, this amount of misrepresentation should be a crime (kind of like the Leave campaign for Brexit... forever salty.) and how can you give a book like that a good score, no matter what it accomplished (not much, really). So I went back and put it down to three, then two. Now I'll say it's just a half rounded up. The half simply comes from the likeable characters and the one good plot twist that I liked. The rest is just lack of research culminated into a pretty bad book. Charlie especially was so likeable, the little sister I never had. I want to give five stars to Charlie alone and none to the rest of the book.

'“C’m’ere, Charlie.” I spread my arms. Charlie hesitated, then ran across the room and climbed into my lap. I wrapped my arms and the blanket around her. She saved me from trying to figure out how much I should tell her. “I don’t like it when your head breaks.” I knew she was old enough and smart enough to know that my head didn’t actually break, but she’d been calling it that for so long it didn’t matter anymore. I think it made her feel better to think of it like something broken that could be fixed.'

Another problem I had with the book were the side plots; all of them were weird and unrealistic and disconnected; I just didn't feel like they added much to the story. There's this thing about the scoreboard at the high school that was mentioned again and again and again and Alex didn't understand it and neither did I. There is, however, a very good central theme about a lobster tank (red lobsters, to be more precise), and it's a shame it's wasted on a pretty bad book.

The writing isn't that bad, it's just the research that's lacking. And by extension, it's also lacking the care to write a good book. What a pity, really. You shouldn't write about these things without any background knowledge / research or at least asking someone a lot smarter than you. I wish this book had never been published or alternatively, that Alex was just portrayed a different kind of weird. Some fantasy special snowflake weird, whatever. What I read was just plain disrespectful. And I really wanted this to be good, too.