Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb (Review)

Release date: November 1st, 2018
Author link: Goodreads - Website - Twitter
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 317 (Kindle edition)

Description (from Goodreads):

After the end of her marriage, Kate Granger has retreated to her parents’ home on Lake Superior to pull herself together—only to discover the body of a murdered woman washed into the shallows. Tucked in the folds of the woman’s curiously vintage gown is an infant, as cold and at peace as its mother. No one can identify the woman. Except for Kate. She’s seen her before. In her dreams…

One hundred years ago, a love story ended in tragedy, its mysteries left unsolved. It’s time for the lake to give up its secrets. As each mystery unravels, it pulls Kate deeper into the eddy of a haunting folktale that has been handed down in whispers over generations. Now, it’s Kate’s turn to listen.

As the drowned woman reaches out from the grave, Kate reaches back. They must come together, if only in dreams, to right the sinister wrongs of the past.

I am not sure if I have ever read a book quite like this before. Daughters of the Lake is a mix of a thriller/mystery and a paranormal novel. All in all, it ended up being quite different than I expected.

Daughters of the Lake was a total cover buy for me and I ended up purchasing  it without taking a glimpse on the synopsis. I also started to read it the moment I bought it, which is uncommon for me because I have a tendency to hoard on books I don't plan on reading right away.

I am happy I didn't give any attention to the synopsis or to reviews of this book because if I had known about the paranormal element (ghosts) I probably would not have picked this one up. By the time those elements make their first appearance I was already so deep into the story that I didn't find it justifiable to give up with this just because I don't like that kind of elements in stories in general.

Kate has separated from her husband, quit her job and moved back to her parent's house. Things are not going at all as she had planned and in addition to everything else she has been having extremely vivid dreams in which she feels like she is inhabiting the body of someone else. When the body of a woman is found from the beach next to her parent's house, detectives are baffled. No one seems to know who the woman is or where she has come from. No one other than Kate, who has seen the woman before...in her dreams.

As Kate travels to visit her cousin in the house that used to belong to her ancestors, Kate starts to find out more about her past and the woman from her dreams. Secrets are revealed, connections are made, crimes are solved. In many ways, Daughters of the Lake is a great multi generational story about women of a particular family, women with a shared destiny.

I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere of the novel and especially the chapters that focus on the events from the early 1900s caught my interest with their family secrets and tales. Kate is a fairly interesting character on her own, but for me the connections that she has with the women from the past were the real highlight of Daughters of the Lake.

One thing that constantly annoyed me was the casualness with which the people around Kate take her tales of ghosts and dreams and haunting. Maybe I am too skeptical for my own good, but seriously, if someone were to tell me that they are seeing ghosts and bodies of women they are dreaming of I would probably not be like "okay, cool, let's have a drink." I constantly kept wishing that people would question Kate, because that would have made her an unreliable narrator and thus the book would have likely been even more interesting than it was as it is.

+ multi-generational tale of women
+ gothic atmosphere and interesting description of locations, especially the house in which Kate's ancestors used to live in

- the way in which those around Kate accept her stories about ghosts etc. is not very believable


  If you liked Daughters of the Lake you might like:

What others have thought of Daughters of the Lake:

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 Reading Challenges: Helmet Reading Challenge & Reading Women Challenge

Although the idea of setting detailed reading plans for the upcoming year has never really worked for me, there are a couple of reading challenges I am planning to participate in. These challenges, The Helmet Reading Challenge and The Reading Women Challenge seem broad enough and thus allow me to read a variety of books from the fields of fiction and non-fiction.

The Helmet Reading challenge is quite popular in Finland and the 50 different challenges refer to some current themes like Brexit and global warming. Though the idea is to read 50 different books, it is completely okay (in my opinion at least) to count the same book towards multiple challenges if you feel like it.

Though most of the books I read in 2018 were written by women, I would like to gain some variety to the authors that I read books from by introducing myself to authors from different cultures, economic backgrounds, and so on. I believe the Reading Women Challenge will offer me encouragement to do just that. There are 24 four challenges (plus 2 bonus challenges) and it seems likely that I will include some books in both reading challenges introduced on this post.

The challenges I am most excited about from the Helmet Reading Challenge (full list available here):

9. A book recommended by someone under 18 years old

If I have blog followers under the age of 18, please recommend me some books! I think this particular challenge is great and it will be interesting to see what kind of books children/teens/young adults recommend. 

20. The book deals with a culture that you are not familiar with

I definitely want to read non-fiction for this. I think culture can be interpreted quite widely in this context, so there are a lot of options to go with.

24. Book chosen from a bookshelf with your eyes closed

I think I will have to do this at the library because I know my own bookshelves quite well and can thus "cheat" in the process of selecting the book. 

The challenges I am most excited about from the Reading Women Challenge (more information available here):

4. About or set in Appalachia

I don't know much about the Appalachian culture, so maybe I can read a book that fits into the culture challenge mentioned above as well. This list by Bustle introduces some books set in Appalachia that can be of assistance for this challenge. 

7. Featuring a woman in science

Since I work as a scientist at a university it would be interesting to read something with a university setting. There are also a number of non-fiction books that could be used for this challenge. Once again, Bustle has a good list to start with

16. Book by an Indigenous woman

I read Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot in 2018 and loved it, so the idea of reading more by an Indigenous female author is super exciting to me. If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments! Maybe I will finally read some Louise Erdrich?

Are you going to participate in any reading challenges in 2019? 
Let me know in the comments!
Don't forget that you can also chat with me on Twitter (@milkamilka) and Instagram (@avoraciousreader).

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Top 10 Books of 2018

It is that time of the year again... time to list my favorite books of the year.

This year, instead of doing the kind of massive wrap-up post that I’ve done in the previous years I decided to take the simple route and just share the best ten books I read in 2018. Please note that some of these books were not published in 2018.

Also, surprisingly there are quite a few titles by Finnish authors on this list. All of the Finnish books included are currently only available in Finnish, but I will add a note to the text if I know that an English translation is in the works.

The books are in no particular order!

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

My absolute favorite book of the year. Not only a brilliant true crime tale but also an account of obsession and a desire to find answers and a solution for all of those touched by the crimes of the Golden State Killer.

Engaging, intriguing, fast-paced and incredibly well written. McNamara truly was a master of her graft.

Michelle McNamara unfortunately passed away before this book was published.

Ehkä tänä kesänä kaikki muuttuu by Sisko Savonlahti

A refreshingly honest look into a life of a thirty something single woman living in Helsinki. Savonlahti writes about difficult topics with humor and identifying with the unnamed narrator was at times extremely easy (though being able to identify with the fictional people I read about is not a necessity, at times it can be a great addition to the reading experience).

A strong debut novel that makes me excited about what comes next.

I believe an English translation of this novel is currently in the works.

Sivuhenkilö by Saara Turunen

A late addition to my list that I read just before Christmas. Turunen’s novel deals a lot of the same themes as Savonlahti’s novel — being single, living in the city, struggling with the expectations society sets for us, and so on — and does it with similar brilliance and honesty.

Focuses a lot on the struggles of creating art and the relationship between art and commercialism. Additionally the novel approaches discussions related to gender in a way that definitely made me as a reader think about a lot of different things.

Rouva C by Minna Rytisalo

Interesting, touching, thrilling and detailed story about a famous Finnish writer, Minna Canth, and her journey especially into becoming a wife and a mother.

I really loved this one and how it sparked my interest for Minna Canth, her works and the time period during which she lived.

Extremely well written -- the way Rytisalo writes made it easy for me to transport myself to the time period during which Minna lived and to the settings from which she found herself from.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

One of my favorite Booktubers (ABookOlive) named this as one of her favorite books so I obviously had to check it out.

Thrilling, romantic, sad, exciting, intriguing, unputdownlable. This book was everything I wanted and so much more.

Also, this would make a BRILLIANT film.

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar

I read two books related to mountaineering this year -- Dead Mountain and Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. Though both were brilliant, I decided to only include Dead Mountain on this list because it intrigued me more, probably because it reads more like a true crime novel than Krakauer's book.

Dead Mountain is a thrilling page-turner about the mysterious disappearance of a Russian group of mountain climbers and a story of a man, Donnie Eichar, who becomes obsessed with finding the answers to the mystery.

If you have already read this one, I highly recommend checking out Bea Uusma's The Exhibition, my favorite book of 2017.

Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future by Svetlana Alexievich

This one was so heavy and difficult to get through at times, yet extremely important and one of the most touching, if not the most touching, book I have read within the past few years.

A collection of accounts and recollections by a number of people affected by the Chernobyl disasters, Chernobyl prayer feels extremely personal and heartbreaking. Alexievich, herself also affected by the disasters, has put together a well-rounded description of events and effects in a way that makes the reader definitely look at the disaster in a whole new light.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

I do not often read books like this one, which one could categorize under the genres of thriller and/or mystery, mostly because I often feel like books that fit under those genres are predictable and very generic.

If We Were Villains is neither. It fed my Shakespeare obsession, offered me a set of characters that I didn't really know what to feel about, and a mystery that kept me turning the pages until the very end.

This one has often been compared to Donna Tartt's The Secret History which is no wonder, because both books are brilliant and go beyond the generic thriller/mystery tropes in intriguing and challenging ways.

Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover's Educated is probably THE non-fiction book even those who don't normally read non-fiction managed to read, or hear about, in 2018. It won the Goodreads awards, was featured on New York Times' top 10 books of the year list, and gained acclaim from left and right.

It is no wonder, though, because Educated is absolutely fascinating.

Though Tara's education is the main focus of this novel, her family and their beliefs as well as her upbringing play a huge role as well. In a sense, Educated feels very timely considering the fact that the education system in the United States seems to be in sense of turmoil at the same time as the government and politics in the country are going through changes that not many expected before the 2016 election.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Though this book has been on my TBR for YEARS, I only managed to pick it up this year. Though I feel sad that I had not allowed myself a chance to introduce myself to this brilliance before, I feel that if I had read this, for example, during my late teens I probably would not have appreciated it as much as I did now.

The Secret History is thrilling, intriguing and fast-paced. The characters are intelligent and wonderfully pretentious -- they are horrible, yet you cannot stop reading about them.

Definitely worth all the hype!

What were your favorite books in 2018? 
Let me know in the comments!
Don't forget that you can also chat with me on Twitter (@milkamilka) and Instagram (@avoraciousreader).

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin (Review)

Release date: August 18th, 2018
Author links: Goodreads - Website - Twitter
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Pages: 304 pages (hardcover)

Description (from Goodreads):

Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she'll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn't count on is that her mother's obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy's mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom's diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

Inspired by my love for Dumplin' (both the book and the movie) I felt like picking up a young adult novel for the first time in a long while. Body positivity is a big deal for me so I am always a bit weary when it comes to books like this.

When Savannah's sister moves away from home Savannah is left at home with her weight-loss obsessed mother who has recently competed in a competition similar to The Biggest Loser. Savannah doesn't have the kind of body her mother would like her to have and she is constantly reminded of that -- her mother monitors her eating, gives "friendly" suggestions of what to eat and what not to eat, and even destroys a perfectly good batch of cookies because treats like that are not accepted by her.

Though Savannah is pressured by her mother to lose weight, this book does not focus on Savannah's diet or her struggles with her self-image. In fact, Savannah seems completely fine with how she is and looks and spends time worrying about her mother rather than herself.

Though, as mentioned, this novel is not about weight loss, it has such a prominent role in the novel that it could be triggering for some. Savannah's mother is toxic and reading about her antics made me angry. Yes, I the novel itself and myself as a reader tried to understand the mother and her thinking, but honestly, for most of the novel she is the WORST.

The relationship between Savannah and her mother is at the center of this To Be Honest and though Savannah's friendship and romantic life are discussed on the novel as well, the mother-daughter relationship takes over everything. Especially Savannah's friendship with a girl called Grace feels really undeveloped and in every sense Grace is truly Savannah's sidekick -- she has function in the story only when Savannah needs her.

The budding romance between Savannah and George is cute but I couldn't help but to feel annoyed at times when George so obviously shows he is interested and still Savannah keeps telling everyone that "there is no way he would like a fatty like me." I think this aspect annoyed me the most because I know I am exactly the same. At the other hand, George's signs of attraction were SO OBVIOUS that Savannah not seeing them didn't feel very realistic.

There is this side plot involving a school paper and a story about the high school athletic program that is not discussed enough to my liking -- honestly, the author could have added 100 extra pages to this novel to develop that story more.

Overall, the experience of reading about fat girls is always a refreshing, positive experience when it is executed in this manner.

+ Fat protagonist who is happy with herself and how she looks
+ Multi-dimensional mother-daughter relationship

- The plot line focused on the school paper is extremely interesting but the author does not spend enough time on it


If you liked To Be Honest you might like:
  • Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke (Cinderella retelling, a fat protagonist who struggles but not because of her weight, adorable romance)
  • Pretty Face by Mary Hogan (it has been AGES since I read this one, but I remember loving the story of a California girl traveling to Italy and realizing that curvy can also be beautiful)
  • Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (even thinking about this book and the brilliant movie made out of it kind of makes me want to sob from happiness and fat girl magic)

What others have thought of To Be Honest: 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Hello again. It has been a while.

Hello my friends! It truly has been a while since I have updated this blog. Though it is a pity, I won't be too hard on myself about this long period of inactivity since the last time I shared a post in March A LOT has happened.

I am not sure whether I updated you on my new job on February. Well, I am not doing that job anymore. I worked as a digital planner in a marketing/advertising agency for a while, but that job just wasn't a good fit for me. On the upside I got some good experience that will likely be beneficial for me at some point in the future.

I have been interested in the idea of continuing my studies to the doctoral level since my undergraduate degree, but I never expected that I would do it so quickly after getting my masters. Also, I never expected that I would do it on a field other than film/media studies. Well, I guess I was wrong since I can now say that I have been a doctoral student at a business school since September. Yes, me, a film/media buff and a bachelor and master of arts in a business school.

Everything has been so new and exciting and I love it. Learning new things, applying what I already know to a new field, and spending time with so many intelligent and interesting people has been an absolute dream come true and something I never expected to happen to me so soon after getting my masters.

I am working on a project that focuses on the branding of healthcare services. Getting a chance to familiarize myself with branding literature, brand management, and the healthcare marketing field has been much more interesting than I expected and I can't wait to see what kind of work I get to do in the future. I have a four year contract with the university so by the fall of 2022 I should be defending my doctoral thesis. Sounds both super scary and exciting.

I moved to my own place in April and I have absolutely loved it here. I live in a suburb about 8 kilometers from the city center. My parents like nearby and I have all the services needed close by. The university campus is about 5 kilometers away, but I have been working quite a bit from home as well since I feel like it is much easier for me to concentrate here.

I also welcomed a new family member to my home at the beginning of December (the dog pictured above). His name is Pasi and he is absolutely adorable. He will celebrate his 10th birthday on January, but since he is so healthy I am hoping that we will have many years to spend together.

As those who have been following this blog for years might remember, I am absolutely obsessed with Christmas. I have been posting Christmas movie reviews on this blog previously, but unfortunately I don't think I will have time and patience to do it this year. I have watched about 50 Christmas movies so far this year, so maybe some sort of recommendation post could be possible if that is something you are interested in.

Despite all of the new things in my life books have remained as a constant, dear part of my life. I have had this blog for such a long time and I have loved sharing my experiences about books here with you. Now feels like a great time to start again. I won't put too much pressure on myself, but I promise that I will try to post something new at least once a week. At one point in time I used to post EVERY SINGLE DAY and I admire myself for that, but right now that is just not an option.

I hope you have enjoyed this little update and look forward to seeing more posts by me. I hope you all doing fine and getting excited about the holiday season. Let me know in the comments how you are doing and what you have been reading recently.

Also, if you want to hear more from me, don't forget to follow me on Twitter @milkamilka and on Instagram at @avoraciousreader.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Exciting 2018 Releases: March

Exciting March 2018 releases

It is time to list some exciting March releases! Let me know in the comments if you are looking forward to reading any of these books or let me know if there are any awesome releases I am missing for my list.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (March 27th by Doubleday Books)

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (March 20th by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel (March 27th by Gallery Books)

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolf (March 6th by Delacorte Press)

Tangerine by Christine Mangan (March 20th by Ecco)

In Her Skin by Kim Savage (March 27th by FSG)

Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World by Mackenzi Lee and Petra Eriksson (illustrator) (March 6th by Abrams Image)

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton, introduction by Bryan Stevenson (March 27th by St. Martin's Press)

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (March 6th by Flatiron Books)

Let me know in the comments which March releases you are looking forward to reading! And don't forget to connect with me on Twitter @milkamilka and on Instagram @avoraciousreader

Monday, February 19, 2018

Educated by Tara Westover (Review)

Release date: February 20th, 2018
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 352

Description (from Goodreads):

An unforgettable memoir in the tradition of The Glass Castleabout a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

Educated by Tara Westover was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 and it definitely did not disappoint.

Tara Westover's memoir is filled with interesting family stories, heartbreak, resilience, strength, and much more. It is both touching and thought-provoking, personal yet universal. 

Tara Westover, Ph.D, was seventeen years old when she first set foot in a traditional classroom. Educated in an unconventional homeschooling system (unconventional in the sense that there really was no encouragement for her to study in the first place) Tara never really imagined her to be a person who would fit into a traditional school environment.

Her future felt very pre-determined for her -- marrying early, giving birth to children, assisting her mother with her midwife-business or her father with his many business endeavors. When one of Tara's brothers moves away from home to attend university against their parents' wishes, Tara begins to think that there might be a possibility for her to escape her pre-determined future as well.

It was so interesting, yet kind of terrifying, to read about Tara's childhood and the things that she has to witness living in a family that does not believe in government organized education or in the assistance of trained physicians and nurses. Seeing her mother suffer from brain injury and not getting help from the doctors or seeing her brother burned and scarred leaves a mark that she is probably never able to fully erase.

Tara's father is one of the most interesting "characters" to read about. The synopsis calls him survivalist, which I guess is true to an extent since he does prepare for the end of the world. I find it interesting, though, that the synopsis does not really mention the religious aspects of Tara's father believes at all.

Maybe the publisher thinks a mention of religion could drive some readers away. I personally had read about this book from elsewhere and knew about the religious content before picking this one up.

Tara's family attends church services at the local Mormon church but according to her father, they seem to be the only true believers in their community. His religious believes are the reason he doesn't want his children to go to a government-owned school or to a hospital. If an accident happens, according to him it was the wish of God.

I am not a religious person at all which is why I find it extremely difficult to understand Tara's father's reasoning. His decisions made me consider how I would act in situations the family finds itself in and though I did not relate to Tara's father in any way, I found it extremely intriguing to read about him.

His decisions and actions definitely have left a mark not only on himself but on all the members of his family as well. 

The violence Tara has to witness and personally go through in her home was angering and heartbreaking. The status of women in her community is horrible and painful to read about. Getting to witness how Tara's perception of herself and what she has gone through changes as she spends time away from home is extremely interesting and brilliantly executed.

The more time she spends away the more she starts to realize that what has happened to her since her childhood is not normal or deserved. It is the result of toxic masculinity and age-old gender stereotypes.

Tara's educational journey is so inspirational and highlights her personal strength. The way she is able to, slowly but surely, get acclimated to this whole new world for her is described brilliantly.

I constantly found myself rooting for her and wishing for all the best. Finding her areas of academic interest and questioning things she has been taught in her home takes time, but once she gets a chance to make her own mind it is proved that her ideas are original, brilliant and worth examining.

All of the academic research she mentions in the book sounds like something I would love to get my hands on. 

Westover is a strong writer and is able to piece her story together in a way that makes the reader want to keep turning the pages. Though I was not able to relate to her family background, her struggles at university and finding her way in the academic world were issues which made me think about my own university years.

While I believe those who can relate to Tara's family and educational background are in minority within the readership of this book, I believe her universal story about the struggles of growing up in an unconventional environment, finding her way on her own, and making decisions against her parents' wishes are issues many readers can identify with.

I highly recommend Educated to everyone and hope that this was only the beginning of Tara Westover's writing career.