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February in Finland 2016

February in Finland

This month I’d like to get back to my Finnish heritage and read some novels from Finland that have been languishing on my TBR pile for too long. There are four novels I plan to start with:

Two Crime Novels

The Hummingbird by Kati Heikkapelto

The Healer by Antti Tuomainen (I have already read his fabulous second novel Dark as My Heart)

Two Literary Novellas from the Peirene Press

White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen

The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg

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I have about 5 other books on my shelf but I will start with these.

Finnish novels are usually overshadowed by the Scandi neighbours but it seems there is a small but steady stream now being translated into English.

If you happen to read a Finnish book this month or have done in the past, please leave your link or any comment below.  English and Suomi welcome :-)

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January 2016 Reading Round Up

 

January was a busy month for me on my blog. I read a total of eight novels* which is a great start to the year. The previous two Januaries I had read a combined total of one novel but this was mostly due to guests staying on after Christmas.
*Some of these novels were short but I am currently working my way through A Brief History of Seven Killings so it all evens out in the end!

For the first time in a long while there were two book reviews that I kept going back and editing as I found it hard to articulate exactly what I wanted to say (The Fine Colour of Rust) and I missed too much of the author’s intention by rushing to get my review published (The Natural Way of Things).

The Natural Way of Things was by far my most popular review this month and I gave away a copy of The Fine Colour of Rust in the Australia Day Book Hop Giveaway.

Reading Challenges

I read three books for my Australian Women Writers Challenge and one overlapped with my Women’s Classic Club Event (Tirra Lirra by the River). I also read two for the Japanese Literature Challenge 9 which takes a break this month until later in the year.

Unfortunately I failed to join in the Wharton Review or Vintage SF Challenge but was supporting them both in spirit and in the sidebar!

Picks of the Month

So, which two books do I highly recommend you rush out and buy? Eva Dolan’s brilliant third Zigic and Ferreira crime instalment After You Die, and Kenneth Cook’s outback thriller Fear is the Rider.

 

Coming Up

In February I am planning to read some Finnish novels in my February in Finland (personal but all welcome) event. I hope to finish A Brief History of Seven Killings and keep working through the 19 Ian Rankin novels I haven’t yet read!

 

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Japanese Literature Challenge 9 Round Up

 

Today the Japanese Literature Challenge 9 draws to a close. Thank you Dolce Bellezza for hosting!

I planned to read eight books this year but only read seven. I did start and abandon an eigth – Mari Asakasa’s Vibrator. It was only short but I found the narrator’s world to be too disaffected and alienated for my liking. However, I can see why it won prizes in Japan.

My favourite reads this year were:

Audition by Ryu Murakami – absolutely fantastic! Hilarious and oh-so-wrong at the same time! Read it!

Last Winter We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura – Very dark but also surprising.

Now You’re One of Us by Asa Nonami – Oh so very odd. Highly memorable.

To see the whole list click here.

I really enjoy this challenge and this year I got sidetracked from my reading list by stumbling over a few titles I hadn’t heard of before. Next year I hope to follow my original plan and work through the back catalogues of authors I have previously discovered in this challenge – Ryu Murakami, Banana Yoshimoto, Yoko Ogawa and Keigo Higashino.

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Don’t Expect Quirky: Strange Weather in Tokyo

strange weatherStrange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake. A tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.

This was a pleasant* story but it didn’t really do it for me. Not only did I find it a bit slow, I felt I had read something vaguely similar before, namely Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor which was originally published four years earlier than this novel and I felt it to be the superior of the two. The general story of a friendship between an older man and not quite so young anymore woman seems to be particular to Japanese literature so I don’t think Kawakami necessarily borrowed the idea. I just didn’t want to take the journey a second time this year.

This novel also presents a also a perfect case study for not judging a book by its cover. The cover implies a somewhat quirky and offbeat tale yet it is rather conventional with characters older than you would presume (not that I have a problem with their ages!). I personally don’t think the title fits the story, yet the other English title, The Briefcase, doesn’t seem a perfect suggestion either.

I’ve been wanting to read this for a while and am glad I finally got around to it. Despite being well written it has left me a little underwhelmed but I can see why it would be both a good winner for the International Mann Booker Prize and a good** taster for Japanese fiction.

*I was almost going to call it a nice story yet it wasn’t quite that bland.

**Now I am using good a lot.

 

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A Wild Ride: Fear is the Rider

fear is the rider  Fear is the Rider by Kenneth Cook

What better way to celebrate Australia Day this week than to read and review an outback thriller!

A young man driving from Sydney to Adelaide for work decides to take a short detour into the desert. He turns his hatchback on to a notoriously dangerous track that bisects uninhabited stone-covered flats. 
He’s not far along the road when a distraught young woman stumbles from the scrub and flags him down. A journalist from Sydney, she has just escaped the clutches of an inexplicable, terrifying creature.
Now this desert-dwelling creature has her jeep. Her axe. And her scent…

First Impressions: Oh, I am hooked! You are straight out there on the Obiri Track and I knew my Sunday afternoon had been hijacked!

Highlights: Oh my, what an adrenalin rush! I never would have imagined detail about gear changes and road surfaces would have me enthralled. The only reason I didn’t read this in one sitting is because I had to take little breaks whenever the tension briefly subsided in order to calm my heart!

If I was an editor: There is absolutely nothing to critique about the pacing! I will only say that I would have liked a bit more depth to the myth of the man/monster that was chasing them, and, as for the other solitary characters stumbled across in the frantic chase, I’d have liked them to be a little more interesting and not so cardboard cut out. However, both of these wishes would alter the story and it is fair dinkum brilliant in its current form.

Overall: Kim at Reading Matters summed it up perfectly: Wolf Creek meets Mad Max. I suspect I will be launching straight into Cook’s other novels.

*Kim felt the ending was somewhat unbelievable. I think I was too traumatised by this point to notice.

Thank you to Text Publishing for a copy of the ARC.
UK Reviewers – this will archive on Netgalley on the 27th. I’ve never given out such a warning before so take my recommendation seriously if you want an adrenalin raising outback chase!

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Australia Day Book Giveaway

2016AustraliaDay-bloghop

 

***Competition Closed***

Winner (thanks to a random number generator) is Annie Pink Shoes. Thanks for entering!

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Happy Australia Day!

I have a copy of The Fine Colour of Rust by P.A O’Reilly to give away internationally. Why this book? Living expat in London I read a lot of Australian novels but this is one of the few that really made me miss Australia. It is funny and heart warming and better than your regular chick lit.

Here is the blurb:
Loretta Boskovic never dreamed she would end up a single mother with two kids in a dusty Australian country town. She never imagined she’d have to campaign to save the local primary school. She certainly had no idea her best friend would turn out to be the crusty old junk man. All in all, she’s starting to wonder if she took a wrong turn somewhere. If only she could drop the kids at the orphanage and start over . . .

You can read my review here.

The Fine Color of RustThe Fine Colour of Rust

What I loved about this novel was how the author captured the essence of the Australian way of life – the heat, the dry landscape, and the importance of picking up coloured cardboard on the way home from school for a project.

To win: leave a comment below saying what you would expect to see in a novel that would make you think it was quintessentially Australian.

Entries close midnight AEDT on 27 January and the winner will be chosen randomly through a lucky dip!

Thank you to Book’d Out for hosting this blog hop giveaway. Click here to join in the other giveaways.

 

 

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Timeless: Tirra Lirra by the River

Tirra Lirra by the RiverTirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson

I first read this novel many years ago for a class in my first year of university. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it but then having barely left Brisbane at this point in my life, it’s no wonder. So, how would I respond to it this time around?

Nora Porteous, a witty, ambitious woman from Brisbane, returns to her childhood home at age seventy. Her life has taken her from a failed marriage in Sydney to freedom in London; she forged a modest career as a seamstress and lived with two dear friends through the happiest years of her adult life. A book about the sweetness of escape, and the mix of pain and acceptance that comes with returning home.

First Impressions: A ‘coming home’ story that seamlessly moves back and forward in time without me even noticing. Clever, compact writing.

Highlights: The story has three settings – Brisbane, Sydney and London and Anderson is so precise with her observations of each location. Brisbane and Sydney could each perhaps be any city or town in Australia, Brisbane for its narrow view of the world and the feeling that with a sensible marriage mapping out your life and so forth ‘isn’t that enough?‘, and Sydney for its endless cut copy suburbs. The weight of it all on Nora’s shoulders! Suffocating and restrictive, how can she breathe? I can’t comment on Sydney’s artsy scene but certainly it has the reputation of being a bit faster than Brisbane in that regard.
But London. I’m from Brisbane and have lived in London for over eight years now and despite the decades passing Anderson is precise with her description of London. Three things really stood out for me. First, Nora moved house a few times in the early years – just a few streets over – and no longer kept in touch with friends from her old address. So true! What is it about Londoners that makes this so true? Second, although I have met Aussies in every remote part of the UK I have travelled to, there is a strong feeling amongst Aussie expats that if you’re going to move across the world, there’s no way you’re not going to live in London. Somethings never change! Third, that rhetoric everyone who has been in London over 2 years has, that they’re definitely going home, sooner rather than later… Have I been transported backwards or forwards in a time capsule perhaps?

If I was an editor: There’s nothing I would change about the story but I would like more extra features. There’s an essay from Anna Funder at the end but perhaps others could contribute essays? Reading group questions? Historical and geographical essays? I am sure my uni lecturer spoke at length about Nora being named after Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House so maybe an essay on this. Interestingly, Nora is also the name of the main character of Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip, also published around the same time – surely there’s an academic who can write more about this! And the similarities with Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker
(If we are thinking about A Doll’s House, then the poverty Anderson’s Nora is kept in during her stay with her mother in law is heart wrenching, may I add).

Overall: A timeless Australian classic that needs a proper re-release. My heart couldn’t avoid shadowing Nora’s emotions.