Katariina Vuori & Veera Vuori: Flower Food

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Fairies eat flowers, but you can do it too! Surprisingly many common flowers are edible, and not only edible but delicious. Flower Food presents 104 edible flowers, which you can use to spice up your salads, pasta sauces and drinks. Flowers are beautiful, and so is this book. It breaths the summer and all the fragrances lingering in the garden on a sunny afternoon.

Kukkaisruokaa

Author: Katariina Vuori & Veera Vuori
Publisher: Like 2016
Category: Non-Fiction
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 5/5

People have probably eaten flowers as long as our history goes. There have been periods when they’ve been more popular and now we seem to have entered an era of flower food again. All top-notch restaurants have edible flowers on their plates, even edible moss.

Flower Food

The recipes in the book are clever, but easy to follow through and look amazing. If there is a book, that one needs to really feel in her hands, this is it. Just browsing through the pages makes you happy and longing for the next flowery meal.

Flower Food also reminded me about the importance of the visual effect in food. We don’t eat just because of the taste, but also because the food looks desirable. Flower Food gives an image of a light and joyful way of treating the taste buds – so different from some previous guidebooks on the subject.

Flower sandwiches

I’m happy reminiscing the summer days with this book, dreaming about the next summer and the delights my garden will provide me with.

Susan

Photos taken of the book pages.

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Minna Ovaskainen & Viljami Ovaskainen: Pets – the Big Pet Book

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If it was up to me, I’d have a house full of animals. And quite full it is already. That doesn’t stop me from dreaming about new pets. Pets is a beautiful and profound guidebook to drool over fantastic photos of animals and in the process learn all the ins and outs of the common household pets and even some less common ones. I was very happy to find chinchillas, iguanas, alpacas and ducks all presented in the same book along with dozens of other animals big and small.

Lemmikit - suuri lemmikki- ja kotieläinkirja

Author: Minna Ovaskainen & Viljami Ovaskainen
Publisher: readme.fi 2017
Category: Non-Fiction
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 4/5

One thing is absolutely essential in a book like this and that’s obviously the illustration. Pets handles this with flying colours. The photos are excellent, beautiful and informative. Viljami Ovaskainen has made the layout of the book and has done it perfectly. These kinds of guidebooks are often the works of large international publishing houses, translations sold all over the world. This book has been authored (and even designed) by two Finnish writers. Quite a feat and an excellent result!

The vast photo material has been collected from numerous sources and no doubt has taken at least the same amount of time as the writing process itself. Illustrations and the amount of work they require are often overlooked in a book, but they certainly shouldn’t be. This book is elegant and attractive and presents each one of the species to its best.

Minna and Viljami Ovaskainen live in the countryside in the Eastern Finland. Viljami Ovaskainen works as a freelance graphic designer and has written and designed several guidebooks on nature subjects before. This background is evident in the Pets.

Anyone who loves animals would love this book – to find necessary information or just to enjoy the photos.

Susan

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Niccolo Machiavelli: The Prince

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There are probably not too many people, at least under the influence of the Western culture, who wouldn’t have heard of Machiavelli or Machiavellianism. The latter has come to signify unscrupulous politicians just as Niccolo Machiavelli describes them in his book the Prince. He is often criticized of endorsing immoral behaviour, and even of teaching tyrants how to remain in power. It is possible that tyrants may learn lessons from the Prince, but I wouldn’t say Machiavelli endorses excessive cruelty in his book.

Niccolo Machiavelli: the Prince

Author: Niccolo Machiavelli
Publisher: WSOY 1997
Category: Non-Fiction
Original language: Italian
Rating: 4/5

Helmet Reading Challenge 2017, number 34: A book about the times when you were not born yet.

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote the Prince for Lorenzo de’ Medici and in fact it is an incredibly long job application and cv put together, because Machiavelli hoped that de’ Medici could provide him with a job. It certainly wasn’t easy to find a good position in the 16th century, if anything can be concluded from the effort Niccolo Machiavelli was putting in.

The Prince is essentially a guidebook for any leader, who wishes to conquer a country, remain in power and make his reign succeed. Machiavelli doesn’t go around bushes as he explains how to behave and conduct oneself or what kind of deals to make to reach one’s goals. As he walks the reader through the successes and failures, good practices and pitfalls of being a result oriented prince, he may appear unscrupulous. But he doesn’t suggest immoral politics or actions per se. I see it more like a perfectly tailored job application.

Machiavelli urges the Prince to select the best possible employees – smart and loyal – and to encourage trade, entrepreneurship and improvements in his country. He tells the Prince how to secure his position in the lead. Quite understandable in his time, when Italy was the stage of constant warfare between different city states and Rome, led by the pope,  and trying to bring large parts of Italy under his possession. Every prince was no doubt mostly concerned of the secret of remaining in power.

Machiavelli’s the Prince is fascinating reading, because it brings alive a time so far back in the history. Although many things have changed since then, it is uncanny how some things seem to never change. Machiavelli describes e.g. how for the Turkish sultan, it is imperial to remain in good terms with the army, because the safety and power of Turkey is in the hands of the army. Machiavelli also tells that the situation is similar in Egypt, except that there the leader is selected by election.

Susan

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Maria Lang: Siden, Sammet/Silk, Velvet

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Maria Lang was a Swedish detective novel queen already before anyone had heard about the Nordic Noir. She wrote over 40 novels, usually one a year. Her main detective character in the later stories was Christer Wijk, a police investigator. Silk, Velvet is a story situated in Stockholm, in the 1950/60s. The story reels around a fashion atelier in Kungsholmen, its employees and customers.

Maria Lang Siden Sammet

Author: Maria Lang
Publisher: P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag 1975
Category: Detective fiction
Original language: Swedish
Rating: 4/5

Helmet Reading Challenge 2017, number 37: A book by an author who has written more than 20 books.

Lang’s books are Agatha Christie style mysteries, right down my alley in other words. I reread this book when we were visiting Stockholm this summer, staying in a hotel in Kungsholmen. It was a time leap to an earlier era in a city that has changed a lot since fifties and is changing all the time. It is also one of my old hometowns, so the familiar streets and places in the book brought an extra shiver for the reading experience.

In Silk, Velvet a rich and nasty customer, Veronica Thoren faces her end in the sewer’s atelier. As Christer Wijk sets about to investigate, he soon realizes everybody seem to be connected in one way or other to this irritating person and would have plenty of reasons to murder her. But who took the scissors and stabbed her?

Lang has created a delicious cast of characters in a very 50’s spirit. It is still in a way the age of innocence, but the human nature is the same – regardless of the era. Reader collects clues together with the detective and gets to put her little gray cells to work.

Netflix has a 6 part series on Maria Lang detective stories. These films feature Puck and Eje, my favourite amateur detective couple. This series has an excellent period feeling of the 50′ and 60′ Sweden.

Susan

You can also buy the Crimes of Passion with Puck & Eje in DVD:

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Kristina Carlson: Mister Darwin’s Gardener

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Despite the name, this book is more about the God than the garden. Kristina Carlson has fantasized the village of Mr Darwin and its inhabitants and their various perspectives on religion in the end of 1870s, when Mr Darwin’s writings on evolution were already well known. A prominent position is given to Mr Darwin’s gardener, who’s had more than his share of the bad luck in life and perhaps for this reason, is not very highly regarded in his village.

Kristina Carlson: Herra Darwinin puutarhuri

Author: Kristina Carlson
Publisher: Otava 2009
Category: Fiction
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 3/5

Helmet Reading Challenge 2017, number 43: A book that you have planned to read for a long time.

I came across this book in the Helmet Literature Challenge Facebook group and the title got me intrigued. I just had to read it, no matter what the actual content. There was absolutely no rational reason for this, so it must be that the title just was exactly right for me. Whoever invented it, made a good job!

The novel is mostly a collection of thoughts – of Thomas Davies, the gardener, and of the people of the village. These thoughts are foremost gloomy. The structure makes it at times very difficult to follow whose thoughts are at hand. However, it was very difficult to put down this book. It kept me in its hold. Right from the beginning the story seems to build up to something sinister, a twist, in the end… but that never materializes.

Carlson is a very skilled writer in her own style. The sentences are often long and missing punctuation, as they are the flow of thought of the characters. But they also feel quite authentic. It doesn’t really matter if one is not able to follow who’s thinking. In the end, it is not important. What is important is the big picture, the petty, narrow-minded pattern of thought that seems to prevail in the village.

Kristina Carlson is an acclaimed Finnish author. She knows her craft. Thus, it is even more concerning that she joins in this book the plentiful crowd of contemporary Finnish authors, whose stories are basically infinite dwelling in misery. The villagers in Mr Darwin’s Gardener have no single happy or even friendly thought. Perhaps that’s why the aftertaste of the novel is bland. Without ups, the downs don’t feel like anything. Is happiness considered too “light”, naive or downright commercial to be included in serious literature? When was the last time a humorous novel won one of the better literature awards?

Susan

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