Estonia’s Summer Gem: Pärnu

Pärnu is a lovely little town on the coast of Estonia. We visited Pärnu with a group of friends this summer because one of our friends threw a birthday party there. Though we had never been there before, as soon as we saw the town we fell in love with the quaint houses, lush parks, and the gorgeous beach.

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We took a boat from Helsinki to Tallinn and drove from there to Pärnu. Though the drive is only a few hours, we decided to make a little detour to Rummu Quarry, which is an old Soviet prison. Now tourists go there to swim and dive. And can you blame them? Look at the amazing turquoise water in these photo!

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There are curious sand formations surrounding the prison, and the water glistens all around. It was a little tricky finding a spot where you could enter the area but a GPS is you friend in this case. Also, we ran into so many others along the way that if you can’t figure out where to go, someone else will. The area is nowadays slightly off-limits because there is a guard but you can swing by and go take a quick look at the place at least. I wouldn’t recommend a longer outing though. Before the area was privatized it was used quite freely for beach outings and swimming.

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Pärnu is filled with huge parks, especially near the Old Town. There are also beautiful churches (that might wake you up on a Sunday morning). We even found some street art reminiscent of Berlin! The city is best explored on foot, I think, because it’s filled with gorgeous old, wooden houses and some interesting new architecture.

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It’s easy to find good food in Pärnu. And it’s usually quite affordable! Steffani pizza place is a must try – we were recommended the place by several people before our visit. There’s one in Old Town (apparently it is slightly better) but also one right by the beach if you fancy a lunch between swimming. If pizza isn’t your thing, then the roads that lead from the Old Town to the beach are lined with restaurants that you can choose from. My personal favorite was Villa Wesset, a hotel restaurant that had THE BEST FOOD AND DRINKS (I recommend the Asian style beef soup and the creamy chicken pasta).

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We found a nice Irish bar called Sweet Rosie with cheap, strong mojitos (winning combo!), when we were looking for a place to have a drink after a late dinner in the center of Old Town. There was a karaoke place, too, so if that’s your jam then head to Hommiku street (where we actually had a room at the Hommiku hostel). There are also lots of small beach bars, where you can get cheap ciders and beer to quench your thirst during the long hours of sunbathing. And for the night time, the Sunset Club by the beach is an easy option.

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After a wonderfully hot and sunny weekend at Pärnu, we headed back to Tallinn and the boat to Helsinki. We took Viking FSTR cruise both ways and used our own cars for the ride between Tallinn and Pärnu.

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Have you been to Pärnu (or Estonia in general)?

Hel-YA!: First Finnish YA Book Festival

Hel-YA!: Helsinki Young Adult Literary Convention is a brand new literature event that was organized by Kaiken Entertainment, Gummerus Publishers, Otava, Tammi and WSOY for the first time a little over a week ago in Suvilahti, Helsinki. While there are literature events in Finland, such as book fairs and Helsinki Lit, no event focuses on young adult literature, which around the world is a huge market. This has, however, now been corrected by the emergence of Hel-YA!. Here is a quick rundown of the panels at Hel-YA! festival and on the things the various authors had to say.

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In the Beginning, There Was a Story: How Story Worlds Are Built
Mintie Das, Emmi Itäranta, Salla Simukka, Johanna Valkama, Erika Vik

In this first panel of the day, many of the authors revealed how the story comes to them: some have their new character whisper into their ear while some see an image that becomes the story.
Mintie Das said that she wants to bring out women’s stories that have traditionally been hidden (hence her Storm Sisters books about female pirates). She creates her story world through these kickass characters. She also described her planning process as similar to that of a detective with a huge board filled with clues.
Salla Simukka was quick to comment to a question about strong female characters that she doesn’t like it when people use that term because no one talks about a “strong male characters”. Distinctions like that shouldn’t exist.
Meanwhile, Erika Vik writes specific messages into her Twinsuns novels, which deal with the fear of unknown, prejudice, and responsibility of media. She is also very visual in her creative process because she is a graphic designer.
Johanna Valkama, on the other hand, has a very nature-oriented approach, which definitely shows in her books about Iron Age Finland.

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For Girls, for Boys, for Others: Who Writes and for Whom?
Antti Halme, Siri Kolu, Aki Parhamaa, Anders Vacklin, Elina Rouhiainen

Siri Kolu said that she didn’t want to write anyone into invisibility. After a few years of writing the novel, she really noticed how privileged she is. She was very vocal during the panel about everyone’s right to be able to read about themselves in literature, no matter whether you’re gay, asexual, black, white, boy, girl.
Elina Rouhiainen mentioned during this panel that she has grown with her books and become more confident about stepping into other peoples’ skin. She also personally considers teenage girls fascinating, which is why she writes about them.

Skype interview with Holly Bourne

The author of the funny and uplifting Spinster series, Holly Bourne, did a special Skype appearance and was interviewed by Mintie. Bourne explained that she wanted to celebrate friendship in the series, because friendships are extremely important and usually long lasting in that age. They are more defining for teen years than romantic dalliances.
She really wanted the message in the first book of the series, Am I Normal Yet?, to be: “It’s not your fault this happened to you, so don’t beat yourself up.” The novel in question deals with mental illness and is a humorous but truthful and honest story of Evie, who suffers from OCD.
Bourne also recommended for any budding authors to read the Goodreads reviews for your favorite books if you are bummed out about reviews for your own. And her final advice to writers was “JUST WRITE!”

Hel-YA 3

Do You Want to be an Author?
Pt 1: How I Became a YA author

Katri Alatalo, Juuli Niemi, Siri Kolu

Kolu basically told everyone who wants to be a writer that they just have to become one. Simple as that.
Juuli Niemi also admitted that she thought the phone call she got from the publisher was from a telemarketer.

Pt 2: Ask from Publishers
Laura Andersson (Kaiken Entertainment), Paula Halkola (WSOY), Marjo Lemponen (Otava), Salla Pulli (Gummerus)

  • If you’re interested in making covers or illustrations, send a portfolio.
  • If you have made big changes in form or plot of your novel since last sending it to publishers, you can send it again after some months have passed.
  • You don’t need a specific education to enter the publishing world, though naturally Finnish language and literature studies help.
  • It’s good to send your script to several publishers because what doesn’t work for one, might work for another.

Hel-YA 4

All the Feels: What Makes YA a Great Genre?
Mintie Das, Emmi Itäranta, Elina Rouhiainen, Juuli Niemi, Salla Simukka

This panel started with real talk about sex. Mintie mentioned she wants it to be gritty and real because when you’re young you have all kinds of sexual experiences and not all of them are all rainbows and sunshine. Rouhiainen finds them easy to write, while Emmi Itäranta doesn’t include them in her books at all. Simukka, on the other hand, feels a responsibility to go past the kiss when writing queer romance because so often queer sexual experiences are left out and not represented at all.

Language of Dreams: Fantasy Today
Katri Alatalo, Sini Helminen, Elina Pitkäkangas, Erika Vik

This panel was about fantasy in general and the authors came to the conclusion that Finnish fantasy is fairly modest in nature. Katri Alatalo also mentioned how she views herself more through her genre, fantasy, rather than the age of the readers. This elicited comments on how in fantasy the readership is often large, varying from quite young readers to adults.

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In addition to Finnish authors, there were also video greetings from Estelle Maskame and Cassandra Clare.

Were you at Hel-YA? Have you been to any YA festivals elsewhere?

Reading Recap: 4 Books I Love #1

Yay, a new post series! I read so much that I figured I should share my favorite books with you, too! I will share four of my favorites in each post and give a short plot exposition and my personal opinion on them. If you are fluent in Finnish you can also check out The YA Diaries book blog that I write for with a bunch of other bookworms!

reading books

E. Lockhart: We Were Liars

This novel deals with self-acceptance, difficult familial relationships, morality and the consequences of thoughtlessness and mistakes. Most of the events take place on a private island of a wealthy, seemingly perfect Sinclair family, who meet there every summer. However, one particular summer is different from the rest. Now, after a two year break, Cadence, Johnny, Gat and Mirren return to the island, and their secrets as well as the mystery of Cadence’s recent memory loss are unveiled.

This book I spotted originally on social media and I got it without knowing too much about it. In the beginning I had a bit of a tough time getting into the story but once I did I was completely immersed. I don’t necessarily even like the plot that much but rather the atmosphere and style of the novel.

Sarah J. Maas: Throne of Glass -series

This high fantasy series follows Celaena Sardothien, an 18-year-old assassin in Adarlan, a land ruled by a ruthless king. After being imprisoned for a year Celaena enters a competition to become the king’s champion and, thus, earning her freedom after a four year contract. She bonds with Chaol, the captain of the guard, and finds an unexpected ally in the crown prince Dorian. However, there is something evil lurking in the castle and soon everyone is in danger. Celaena has a bigger destiny than she can even begin to guess, and the whole kingdom is at stake!

I could go on and on about this series (I couldn’t even narrow it down to one favorite book in the series) but I will try to keep it brief. I love kickass heroines who need no saving and are super sassy. And the world and different creatures in the series are really well fleshed out. It’s truly an epic fantasy (my fav kind!). I think you can definitely tell that Maas started writing very young and the first book is NOT my favorite but the series and characters develop really quickly and during the second book I was already in love. The romance plots don’t overwhelm the other parts of the novels and you just can’t help but root for the young, beautiful assassin!

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Susan Ee: Angelfall

Angels of the apocalypse are destroying the human world as we know it. Street gangs, crime, fear, violence… it’s rough trying to just survive from day to day. 17-year-old Penryn is trying to do just that but when her little sister is taken by the angels she has to take action. In this case, that means aligning herself with another angel. Raffe is a warrior angel who has been attacked by his own kind – Penryn helps him in exchange for him leading her to the stronghold of the angels who have her sister. Penryn will risk everything to save her family… but can she trust her enemy?

Angelfall I discovered on Amazon while browsing for books, and I was intrigued by the premise. I think Supernatural has sparked my interest in angels and the lore around them, so I ended up buying the book and, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. While there is a fairly obvious love story going on, the angels are interesting and I like that they are the dangerous enemy, instead of some more obvious monsters. This was a very quick read and I definitely recommend it to fantasy readers, who are looking for a little break from vampires, werewolves, and witches.

Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes

The Martial Empire rules over its lands with an iron fist. Whoever resists meets a swift death. Laia is a slave girl, one of the Scholars under the Empire’s control. Elias is a soldier but also a prisoner of his surroundings. When Laia’s brother is arrested for conspiring against the Empire, she has to risk her life and trust strangers in a world that rewards trust with suffering. When Laia and Elias’s paths cross, neither knows how far the consequences will stretch.

MY NEW FAVORITE! Okay, not super new since I’ve already read the sequel as well. But new-ish favorite nonetheless. I love desert fantasy and the new kind of setting for fantasy stories. It’s nice to have a different set of lore that the author pulls inspiration from.

Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? Also, gimme reading tips if you have any…I’m always on the lookout for more books :D

Fairy Tale Fashion: Disney’s Belle and Peter Pan

I still can’t get over how amazing Beauty and the Beast live action movie was, so I wanted to make a few Disney inspired outfits to keep the major nostalgia feels going a little bit longer. Belle and Peter Pan are two of my all-time favorites out of the classic Disney flicks. Belle with her bookworm tendencies is such a relatable character and Peter Pan has whimsy that is completely irresistible.

Disney: Beauty and the Beast

 

Belle is all about that French countryside feel. Simple dresses, light colors, and summery florals work perfectly for a Belle inspired look. Naturally, she is most known for her yellow ball gown and the blue apron dress, which makes it easy to channel her style just based on the color scheme. And how perfect is yellow now that summer is FINALLY here?!

Disney: Peter Pan

 

Peter Pan brings to mind earthy colors and comfortable clothes. Pan’s whimsical nature can show through fun accessories like bohemian jewelry and colorful bags. If Belle is a summery character, Pan embodies fall colors and fabrics perfectly.

Which were your favorite Disney films growing up? And did you like the new Beauty and the Beast?

Spring OOTD: Channeling Yellow Sunshine

Spring is finally here (and hopefully to stay) so I decided to brighten up my wardrobe with some summery pants. I’m a sucker for fun sale items, so when I found these cute yellow, slightly flowy, pants and the simple print top, I had to get them. This OOTD was all about comfy textures combined with fun elements like the print dog and the bright colored pants and shoes.

yellow ootd

  • Pants and T-shirt from H&M
  • Vest from Seppälä
  • Shoes from Aleksi 13

spring ootd

What changes have you made with your wardrobe now that summer approaches?

Exploring the House of Minalima in London

House of Minalima is a wonderful little building near the Palace Theatre, London, where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play is on at the moment. It is the brainchild of Miraphora (Mina) and Eduardo (Lima) who were the graphic designers for the Harry Potter movies (and now Fantastic Beasts). The building is an exhibition as well as a shop, where you can buy pretty much anything that is on display. The artwork includes issues of Quibbler, wanted posters of Death Eaters, Marauder’s Map, and much much more! All the classic props that you saw in the movies are there to look at…for FREE!

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I guess I don’t need to tell you that I jumped at the chance to go see the House of Minalima when I visited London for the Cursed Child play with my friend. The building looks adorable already from the outside and the windows are filled with floating candles and different posters.

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The house is divided into the shop on the ground floor, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them on the first floor, and finally the Harry Potter exhibition on the second and third floor.

One of my favorite things was the fireplace that had tons of Hogwarts acceptance letters shooting out of it. I was really tempted to grab one but I guess McGonagall would notice right away that I was too old to attend Hogwarts and that I had stolen someone else’s letter…

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The Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes section is magnificent: the colors are popping and in your face, which just makes you feel like you’re right there in their joke shop. I also loved the floors of the building, which have the Marauders’ Map printed on them.

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I definitely recommend to anyone who might be going to London, that you also go see the House of Minalima! And get souvenirs too! ;) I bought two sets of cards (one set with Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes designs and one with school books and other classic designs), which I just love love love.

Have you been to House of Minalima? What are your favorite props from the movies?

London: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I will try to keep this spoiler free for those who haven’t read/seen Harry Potter and the Cursed Child yet.

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As I said in my previous post, I went to see Harry Potter and Cursed Child in London with a longtime friend of mine who is also a huge Potterhead. I had read the play as soon as it came out so I knew the plot while my friend didn’t. I was really curious to see how the technical stuff would work on stage – I didn’t wanna see any fake-looking magic! – but I was equally curious to find out whether I would care for the characters the same way as in the original books.

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SURPRISE – the magic was incredible! We were both left wondering how on earth they managed to perform some of the tricks. Nothing looked out of place or lame, everything was expertly choreographed and made to look as real as possible. There were even two impressive dance scenes that looked fantabulous from the balcony!

The characters were often funny – surprisingly it was Draco who had me giggling more than once. Ron was perhaps the most similar to his predecessor from the new cast. I kept comparing the “new” Hermione, Ron, and Harry to the originals and wondering if the older characters were enough like their younger selves and, while all did a good job of it, Ron was most like himself.

The plot holes and problems one might have with the script itself are far easier to ignore when watching the story unravel on stage. The focus is on the characters, the movement, the visuals…and some of the awkward lines end up feeling less so.

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After the play ended, we quickly ran to the other side of the theater to wait for the actors to pour out and got our programs signed by most of them. In the pictures above you can see Noma Dumezweni (Hermione) and Anthony Boyle (Scorpius), who both were fabulous. Everyone was really lovely considering they had just finished a really long day!

All in all, I’d definitely recommend the play to any hardcore Harry Potter fan (as long as you’re not too nitpicky about time travel plot lines). However, if you’re not a massive fan, the length of the play can make it quite an intense experience. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the performance though and think that, as long as you recognize that this is separate entity from the original series, you can get a lot of kicks out of it!

Have you seen/read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? What did you think?

Jetting Off to London to Start the Year

This post (and a few drafts that I have waiting) has been a long time coming and I blame my very persistent flu. However, I couldn’t NOT show you guys how amazing the short trip to London I did in the beginning of the year was!

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This trip had been planned by me and a childhood friend of mine for a long long LONG time. Almost two years. And the reason was: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! While we got tickets to see the Cursed Child play, the date was a long way away. But at least that meant we had something to look forward to. It’s been the longest time I’ve waited for something but it was completely worth it.

I’ve been to London many times (as has my friend), so we agreed on not even trying to do all the tourist attractions. Instead, we focused on eating good food, enjoying the winter-y atmosphere, and walking about town without a care. It was perfection! These were my last days before my new job (yes, I will blog about that at some point!!) started so I made the most of my freedom.

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Covent Garden (pictured above) was still covered in Christmas lights and even boasted a huge Christmas tree. The area is very picturesque but Christmas decorations just enhance that feeling. I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Covent Garden around Christmas time! Also, be sure to check out the adorable Moomin shop there!

Our hostel YHA St. Pancras (student budget travel so no hotel) was right next to King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations, which was perfect for several reasons: very easy access to the underground and, thus, to basically every other area in town; almost in the center of London; food places and cafes nearby; AND the Harry Potter store at Platform 9 3/4.

During the trip we also checked out the House of Minalima, which will be its own post soon. And the play will naturally get its own magnificent post as well<3 Have you been to London? Or seen the Harry Potter play? If you have I’d love to hear your thoughts :)

Visiting the Bone Church of Kutna Hora

Have you ever seen a chapel that’s filled with human bones? Everything is bone: the chandelier, the candle holders, everything… Well, that’s the Kutna Hora bone church for you! The little medieval town of Kutna Hora is located a short drive away from Prague. We did a lovely day trip there on our vacation in Prague, just before Christmas.

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The town is really nice and atmospheric. We managed to see the sunset there since the sun sets so early during the winter. There are some cute restaurants, though not many, around town. The main attractions are the bone chapel (offically called Sedlec Ossuary), St. Barbara’s Church, and the Italian court, which was a palace modeled after Italian architecture.

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The day trip was a great break from walking around in the same area of Prague and it allowed us to see some of the countryside as well. It was fairly cheap and we even got a discount by attending a free walking tour hosted by the same company the day before. You can also get a student discount from a lot of the tours, which is something to keep in mind!

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I only wish we would’ve had a bit more time there because we had to rush to eat quickly before heading back to Prague.

Have you been to an ossuary before? (I hadn’t but it was definitely interesting learning about its history!) Would you be creeped out? :P

Traveling to Prague during Christmas Season

Who doesn’t want to travel somewhere nice and warm during the winter? Wait…what did you say? Prague isn’t warm? Oh well, it didn’t bother us one bit. I went to Prague with the boyfriend just before Christmas for some well-deserved R&R and loved every minute of it. The Christmas markets, frosty air, and smell of crepes and mulled wine in the air. It was a perfect city vacation. Winter in Europe tends to mean dark dark dark all day long but it didn’t matter since there were brightly lit Christmas trees and decorations everywhere.

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Our hotel was about half an hour walking distance from the center of the Old Town in Prague 1 (Prague is divided into districts with numbers…how very Hunger Games!) and we walked every day to that part of the town along the river Vltava. I don’t think I’ve ever walked that much – in fact, we didn’t take the public transport anywhere and even the taxi only to the airport. We did use a bus service once but it was included into a day trip out of town so it doesn’t count…

Prague is so handy for seeing all the major sights by walking, especially because many of the sights are statues, bridges, and buildings that you can see by merely standing outside. Also, the architecture in general was absolutely amazing: pastel buildings and ornamental designs.

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We saw all the classic sights, such as the Charles Bridge, Powder tower, Prague castle, the Lennon Wall, the astronomical clock, and Dancing House. The Charles Bridge is one of the most known sights and it’s lined with magnificent statues. The bridge goes across the river, the Old Town being on the other side and Prague castle and the Lesser Town (one of the oldest districts in Prague) on the other. The Lesser Town also boasts the colorful Lennon Wall (pictured below), near the bridge entrance.

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Many of Prague’s sights are in or around the Old Town Square, including the astronomical clock and the Powder tower (used to store gun powder back in the olden days). During Christmas time the square is taken over by a massive, festive Christmas market where you can eat all day from different booths and save a ton of money. Or that’s what we did at least. The food was incredibly cheap (in general, Prague is cheap) and it was great getting to taste different local treats at the market while browsing for souvenirs. I also heartily recommend the Kafka bookshop for literature lovers (situated on one side of the square)!

It was incredible just getting out of town and on holiday, but Prague was definitely worth the praise we’d heard from a lot of our friends. It’s very affordable, gorgeous, and people are really friendly. What’s not to like?

We did one trip out of Prague during our stay: we visited a little medieval town called Kutna Horá, which boasts one of the most famous bone chapels in the world as well as a lovely cathedral. You can check it out in my next post!

Have you been to Prague?