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.