Monday, 28 September 2015

Review: Fazer Crunchy Caramel and Sea Salt

The caramel + sea salt combination seems to be very popular right now – a while ago, I reviewed Lindt’s Excellence Caramel and Sea Salt; I’ve seen some other chocolates and even ice cream with the same combo, and then my DH picked up some caramel & sea salt chocolate bars from Fazer on his trip to the grocery store.

I am not complaining. On the contrary. I may have mentioned (about a dozen times) that I love caramel. I especially love it with chocolate (and ice cream!). And the addition of sea salt... well, it took me a while to being to appreciate the sweet and salty combination, but now that I do... yes, I’m a fan. A big fan.

And so I’ve greeted this new trend with enthusiasm and had very high expectations about the new Fazer product.

These are small bars (37g) of milk chocolate. The color scheme of the wrapping is traditional Fazer: dark blue with gold (classy!) and a smallish illustration. The bar is made up of five pieces, not particularly big but oooh so satisfyingly thick.

The scent is sweet – well, it’s milk chocolate and caramel, of course it’s sweet. But not in a cloying, sugary way... it’s a delicious, warm, alluring scent.

The milk chocolate is of Fazer quality, one of my very favourites. It’s silky smooth, both in texture and in taste. The caramel pieces come in small crunchy bits that give the chocolate a lovely sweet, deep burnt sugar flavour. I couldn’t find any actual salt granules in there anywhere, so the salt is not too strong and far from overwhelming, yet it is definitely there and provides a nice contrast to the otherwise sweet flavours. Most of the sea salt chocolates I’ve tried so far have either too little or too much salt or the salt is unevenly distributed. This is not the case here, or at least I found the amount of salt just right for my taste.

And was it what I expected? Yes! I’m addicted (I bought some more today...). I can definitely call this a new favourite. I just wish this came in bigger doses, because a tiny bar is just not enough of something this tasty!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Review: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

This particular book was somewhat difficult to review, but since it was very kindly requested of me, I promised to write something. :)

It’s no surprise that I loved Joanne Harris’ “Chocolat”, and I’ll have to say I’ve enjoyed all the other books by her that I’ve read. Since my interests include Viking Age and, to some extent, Norse mythology, I was very keen to read Harris’ “The Gospel of Loki”.

I gather there’s been some controversy over how Loki has been portrayed here and whether the tale is faithful to the known sources of Norse mythology. Frankly, I didn’t care. So shoot me. This is a retelling, and told from one person’s (I mean god’s) point of view, and thus I would expect it to differ from the known versions. And, like any other myth/holy book/gospel... or, well, with any book at all... you can interpret it in countless different ways. So I’m not going to go into that.

The book is best characterised as a modern re-imagining of (some of) the Norse myths – the key word being modern. That goes for the style and the language in particular. This seemed rather odd at first, but then, the narrator is Loki, the trickster god (need I go into the reliable/unreliable narrator here? I didn’t think so) and he’s obviously managed to keep up with the way language has evolved rather than remaining stuck in archaic vernacular. The use of modern expressions and clever word play makes the book a light and humorous read and gives Loki a witty, snarky voice. Your Humble Narr... erm, reviewer found his repetitive use of certain expressions a little tiresome – but then, we all have our idiosyncratic expressions, so perhaps that just makes him more human (is he supposed to be that, though?)

A glance at reviews tells me that readers’ perceptions of Loki differ wildly. He’s seen as a demon, as a whiny adolescent, a bad boy, a rebel and whatnot. I saw him (or rather, he made me see himself) as an underdog, a misunderstood scapegoat whose malice (partly anyway) sprang from being treated unjustly. Interesting. I bet this is all Loki’s plan: he uses his story and his silver tongue to seduce us, make us take his side... and he is truly a shape shifter, a master of disguise; people who have read his story can’t even agree on who he is or what he is (his True Aspect). For a named thing is a tamed thing...

For one thing, this was certainly not a boring read (I didn’t quite laugh aloud but I did smile on several occasions) and I suspect even readers not into Norse mythology would find this entertaining. Not to mention all those Loki fans. ;) I could have asked for a little more depth, a little more drama and detail, but that might not have suited the fast-paced story or the chatty, wry voice of Loki.

At the beginning of each chapter, there is a short quote from “Lokabrenna”. Many of these start with “Never trust...” and once you’ve finished the book, you’ve learned your lesson: never trust anyone. And Loki is the trickster, remember? Never trust anyone, but especially... never trust Loki!

That is what made writing this review so hard: every time I thought of something to criticise, it somehow turned out to be something that was probably Loki’s plan all along (which, considering his fame as a cunning trickster, is just brilliant). For example: Loki himself is an interesting character; the rest of the cast, however, remain rather flat or appear to be little else but brainless brutes. Then again, this is Loki’s story, perhaps that is how he sees the other gods. Wait... this is Loki’s story! Perhaps that is how he wants us to see the other gods! That trickster...

Well, there is one thing where I trust Loki completely, and that is when he says: “Most problems can be solved through cake”. (Or chocolate, obviously. ;) )

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Raiders of a book sale

Yesterday, our local library hosted a book sale. We always go there (as I may have mentioned), looking for bargains, especially source books in history. Not many of those available this time, but here's what we found:

The Pratchett is for my DH and the Coopers are for my daughter.

My DH found me this. I don’t know if it can be regarded as a reliable source of information, but it certainly looks like fun!

As soon as my daughter (who stayed with her grandpa while we raided the book sale) saw the Viking album, she grabbed it in her greedy paws and asked, “What’s this? Is it yours, mum?”
Me (smiling smugly because brainwashing inducing interest in history was always our goal): “It is indeed… but I can read you bits of it.”

And finally, this lovely old book:

It’s titled “Suomen kansan satuja ja tarinoita” (Finnish folk tales and myths) from 1920 (the first edition came out in 1852). Folk tales alone make it something that should be in our collection... but wait, there’s more! It is not in a perfect condition, unfortunately, but it's just so pretty

...and besides being printed in this old font... also uses some archaic words and expressions, which, for a language geek (or a word wrestler), makes it absolutely fascinating! (What? I should get a life? Why do you say that?) And it is almost 100 years old – not exactly a collector’s item… correction: for a poor book lover, it is a collector's item. :)

Thursday, 17 September 2015


All right, I don’t think I’ve ever posted an actual selfie anywhere, but shelfies... :D In one of my recent posts, I mentioned that our bookshelves are unhappy with the amount of books we buy. It’s a miracle that they haven’t simply collapsed by now... Here’s a picture of the three bookcases in our living room:

We also have three more (of a different kind) in the study, mainly reserved for reference books (history, mythology etc.). However, these shelves also accommodate other things (!) such as DVD and blu-ray disks; swords, daggers, arrows and leather vambraces; reprints of old maps, rum bottles... My daughter also has her own bookcase, and we have books stored in the closet and in various cupboards. In the main shelves, we’ve had to pile books on top of one another or in two rows:

We have no particular system for organising our books, except that we try to keep books in the same series together and books by the same author close to each other. Still, the shelves could do with some organising – it sometimes bugs me that not all the reference books are in the same place but divided between the study and the living room – but... yeah, that would demand time and space and abilities to get organised, and these days I seem to have very little of those.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Review: Fazer Winter Edition: Almonds and Cranberries with Christmas Spices in Milk Chocolate

I remember last year, when Fazer launched their winter edition chocolate in early September (well, it's chocolate, of course I remember!). That was the dark chocolate, apple & caramel one, and I'm thrilled to see it's available this year too! Anyway, as it happens, another new winter edition chocolate from Fazer came out this September. Yes, that seems rather early... but I'm certainly not going to complain: it's a new chocolate flavour and a perfect excuse  reason to buy some chocolate. ;)

The wrapping is rather Christmassy, what with the snow flakes and red cranberries and all, but that's hardly a bad thing. Very suitable for "winter edition" chocolate, I would say. Inside we have a nice 200 g tabled divided into the usual pieces of a typical Fazer tablet. The scent is sweet and a little spicy - it's a very warm scent, which is just perfect for those long, dark winter evenings.

This one is milk chocolate and the quality I've come to expect from Fazer - in fact, one of my favourite milk chocolates ever; silky, smooth, and not at all sugary. The chocolate contains almond pieces, dried cranberries and "Christmas spices". The almond pieces are crunchy and go very well with the chocolate. The tart cranberries provide a lively, delicious contrast to the sweet milk chocolate. I wish there'd been more of them! A closer inspection of the list of ingredients reveals that the "Christmas spices" include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg - that's quite a list! However, though you can definitely taste the spices here, their aromas aren't overwhelming. They give the chocolate a flavour reminiscent of mulled/spiced wine... which is just perfect for winter edition chocolate!

From experience gained during a couple of tasting sessions, I can say that this is a delicious treat on darkening autumn evenings, and I'd bet it will also work in winter. If I were to organise a small pre-Yule party ("pikkujoulut" in Finnish), I would definitely serve this!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Treasure Hunting, or, Reading quirks, Part 8

Well, this is not so much a reading quirk as just a quirk, but it is related to books, so...

Last weekend, my DH and I celebrated our 15th engagement anniversary (the actual day is September 9, but it was just more convenient to celebrate during the weekend). And what did we do? Our favourite thing: we drove to the capital to visit our favourite bookstore and our favourite Indian restaurant! I know. It doesn’t get much geekier than that. Except maybe those times we’ve visited The National Museum and their history collection instead of the bookstore...

And we were really, really lucky, for in the bookstore we found several huge discount tables packed with paperbacks... and the prices were crazy, like one or two Euros! After inspecting the history section, we pretty much forgot everything else and started browsing the discount tables. At some point, my DH remarked that we’d been at it for about an hour and it seemed impossible – I’d have said it had been maybe ten minutes. By that time, I had an armful of books, but I was able to show an admirable amount of self-restraint and bought only two. My DH also bought two books (but they both seem rather tempting to me too...), so in the end we bought four books for only eight Euros! Over the delicious Indian meal, we could hardly stop congratulating each other, we were so pleased with the bargain.

If you’ve connected with me in Facebook, you’ve already seen this... but it seemed to me that an illustration was needed.

I’m not much of a shopper (which probably explains why I have clothes that are over 20 years old... how soon can I call them vintage? :P), but books are another matter entirely. Buying books is always fun... and finding bargain books is a real thrill! The same thing happens every time our local library organises a book sale. We go there like we’re hunting for treasure – you never know what you might find! And when we discover something interesting, it makes us ridiculously happy. Our bookshelves don’t agree though...