Tag Archives: reading

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.

Hel-YA 1

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.

Hel-YA 2

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.

Hel-YA 5

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?

Mini Book Reviews: Latest Favourites #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!

we were liars

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!

maas and ee

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 a recent 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

Exploring Helsinki Book Fair 2016 pt. 2

The second part of my recap of the completely amazing Helsinki Book Fair 2016 is finally here! So, obviously I spent most of my time doing social media posts of Gummerus panels and authors (you can see our Insta here). However, I did manage to spend most of my money there also. After I had splurged on the Harry Potter books (see previous post) and the Ravenrings trilogy, I also was inspired to buy a steampunk anthology after I listened to a fascinating steampunk panel with Magdalena Hai, J.S. Meresmaa, and Anni Nupponen who were interviewed by Paula Havaste. I really like how such a niche genre as steampunk is becoming something even more special as it takes on Finnish culture and geography.


I also found so many beautiful and fun looking books. I think one of my favorite parts of the fair was just looking at the plethora of book covers! On occasion, I could’ve just bought the books based on their appearance. And yet they say ”don’t judge a book by its cover”! :P


I can’t imagine what the fair must be for those who have to stay in their booth for the entire time. I guess no one really has to do full days but I felt exhausted from just walking around and standing so much. Coffee was the only thing keeping me going on the last day. However, I did help with packing everything up and now I can say I’ve seen (almost) everything that goes into making a book fair happen: from planning the look of the booth to stacking the books (I did a book pyramid, hurrah) and packing everything away in the end. It’s an exhausting and huge part of the year but also an incredible adrenaline boost. And I had the best work mates to hang with whenever I had free time which was a plus!

Do you ever go to book fairs?

Exploring Helsinki Book Fair 2016 pt. 1

The Helsinki Book Fair was about a week ago and I was attending because of my publishing internship at Gummerus Publishers. I’ve been lucky enough to get a ticket almost every year due to some kind of related work but this was the first time I was there for all four days, from morning til evening.

The book fair is always really hectic but amazing. I love seeing all the new books and especially the offers! However, it can get a little claustrophobic after a while. I was in charge of social media during the fair so I spent my time shuttling between the various stages listening to Gummerus authors give fantastic (no, I’m not biased :P ) presentations and interviews.


I did manage to get some non-work related things done as well: I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Siri Pettersen, author of the Ravenrings trilogy, and listen to a panel where she talked about fantasy as well as her books. She even signed my trilogy!

Siri talked about how the same people who are bottle fed on fantasy will be the same ones who will be inspired to save the world and how fantasy creates heroes. She also mentioned thinking that all good stories are political. And goodness, she was hilarious! Also, I will totally from now on use her term for the lack of fantasy elements in a story: SDD = Severe Dragon Deficiency.


Jaana Kapari-Jatta, the Finnish translator of Harry Potter, also spoke at several interviews at the fair. She is such an inspiration, I really love how she has managed to translate not only the words but also the feeling and atmosphere of J.K. Rowling’s writing.


Obviously, I also bought a ton of books, some of which are here. So, I got some Harry Potter related books, because I love to relive all the little moments from the movies and books. I also bought Half Bad by Sally Green, which is actually published in Finland by Gummerus. I hadn’t read her books before despite having heard good things about them so I figured this is the perfect time to start. With Half Bad, I got another paperback (you got the second one cheaper): Kesytön. It’s a werewolf story and while I don’t have high hopes for it, it seemed like a good on-the-way-to-work reading.

Part 2 of the Helsinki Book Fair is coming soon!

Our Shared Shelf: First 4 Books

Our Shared Shelf, the feminist book club Emma Watson founded on Goodreads, is now well established and has a huge following as well as some very fascinating discussions on various aspects of womanhood. I was very eager to try and read all the books chosen for the club because I wanted to expand my horizons and discover books outside of my YA/fantasy-filled comfort zone.


January: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Our Shared Shelf started with Steinem’s My Life on the Road, which right away generated a mixed bag of opinions: some readers appreciated Steinem’s strong point of view while others thought her writing as abrasive and inconsiderate. My Life on the Road is Steinem’s memoir that collects stories and anecdotes from her travels, while discussing important figures such as Martin Luther King and Hillary Clinton. She is also very focused on activism and talks about many of her fellow activists. While her writing can be somewhat disorganized, the overall tone of the book will quickly engage the reader.

February: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I haven’t been so affected by a book in a long while like I was by The Color Purple. Walker’s novel has often been censured due to its themes of sexuality and violence. This of course tends to be the case with books that are in the position to make a real change in the prejudices of our society. The novel is structured as a diary (and later, letters) that is being written by a young African-American woman, Celie, in the 1930s. Celie shows true growth and strength of character as she learns to deal with racism, sexual assault, and an unhappy family life.

our shared shelf

March: All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks

Another book that divided opinions was All About Love: New Visions. bell hooks is widely regarded as a great thinker and feminist, which is why it was surprising that this particular work of hers was in fact slightly off-putting with its frequent, long-winded thoughts about religion. Furthermore, the book struck me as perhaps even too theoretical when talking about love and how one should find it and how it relates to e.g. abuse. However, it was still an interesting read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in theoretical discussions, existentialism, religion, or philosophy. And, of course, feminism!

April: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

How to Be a Woman is a hilarious, strange, and quirky piece of writing that might rub you the wrong way – or it might crack you up like no other! While I had trouble understanding some references (international reader here, hello), more often than not I found myself snorting with laughter while I read. Moran has strong opinions about all the different things women are ”supposed to” be like and she is utterly unapologetic about it. She is a great example of a woman who has found her path in life and at least appears to be totally comfortable in her skin.
Our Shared Shelf is reading along quickly and the May book has been plowed through as well. I will post a review of The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson and the newly announced June book (graphic novel) is Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (and a few more additions hopefully) at the end of the summer.