Life is beautiful…

Hello everyone, for the last two days I have been sick – so naturally I read. For quite some time now I’ve been subscribed to a book club called Handtöskuserían (e. handbagseries). The idea is to provide books that modern women would have in their handbags so they are new or new-ish books by non-Icelandic female authors. Isn’t it fabulous to be a part of something like that? Well, I think so…

The language of flowers

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time to read the books that I get so more often than not they wind up unread in the bookshelves. Last week (I think) I received the newest addition. The language of flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Instead of putting it straight to the shelf I put it on my nightstand. So… while I waited for my body to get the best of this fever I… well I played Tetris on my computer… but when I got bored of that I grabbed the book and started reading… and I read… and I read… and I read… until I had finished the whole book. It was so charming. I can’t remember a novel that captivated me as much as this one did. I can’t wait to read it again because I know that this is one of the books I’ll see differently each time I read it.

The story is about Victoria, an orphan who just turned 18 years old so she’s being thrown out of “the system”. Every other chapter is about her new life where she tries to live on her own but in between are chapters about her childhood that slowly give the reader more information about the way Victoria functions. While she lived with one of her foster-parents, Elizabeth, she learned to speak the language of flowers. That is… she got to know flowers and the message behind them. The language of flowers was a popular  way of communication in the Victorian era, kind of like a secret code. In the future I’ll definitely keep adding to the fascinating knowledge of flowers I accumulated whilst reading the book. If I am ever unsure what a flower means – I can just look it up in the handy list on the last pages of the book.

Normally I try to point out in my posts exactly what I liked in the novel I am reviewing but it’s hard to know where to start with this one… I just loved everything about it. From the beautifully written and detailed descriptions of everything to the characters I got to understand so well. From the cover (of the Icelandic translation) and the beautiful font used for chapter numbers to the feeling I got from touching the pages of my paperback copies. From the way the book had me in tears at a certain point to the way that I got annoyed with Victoria at a certain point… but the one thing I think I liked the most was the timelessness of the story.

I know that I haven’t done the book justice and probably never could but  I want to say that it is simply beautiful so just read it, you’ll see what I mean. To end this on a reference to the book, if I had to describe it with a flower I would probably pick a Trillium (Skógarlilja) which, according to the book, means “humble beauty”. Just look at it…

Trillium

I recommend this novel for all the romantics out there and just… everyone who can read:) I give it 5 stars and I’m off… to google Vanessa Diffenbaugh and see if she has written anything else for me:)

That’s it for now…

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The Cherry Orchard

As you can see in my previous posts I just love going to the theatre. A theatrical experience almost never fails to thrill me. Last season I went to see 14 plays! But this year, my boyfriend pointed out that I didn’t have time for as many so I only have 5 shows planned for this season. I find it likely that I’ll be able to squeeze some more in my tight schedule… fingers crossed.

A few weeks ago I saw the first play of the season. The play was The Cherry Orchard in Borgarleikhúsið theatre. The play is written by Anton Chekhov, a Russian playwright. The play is really a tragedy but it is performed in a comical way. I know that might sound confusing but there really is no better way of putting it – the plot is tragic while there is a lot of life in the play. The story is about a family that is losing its estate and the old and beautiful cherry orchard that is on it, due to debt and squandering of money. It starts with the return of Madame Lyubov to her home, but she has been abroad for several years. Lyubov is a sad woman that has survived a great loss in her life. Although she is about to lose her home she thinks of herself as rich and loves spending money on beautiful things for herself and her daughters, expensive wine and she also gives money (she doesn’t have) to those in need. Time and time again, mr. Lopakhin tries to help her help herself but she doesn’t listen to him. She is not a bad person, she just doesn’t realize how bad things are or realizes but doesn’t care. Other memorable main characters are her daughters Varya and Anya who have subplotted love-affairs or lack of love affairs. Also the old, and slightly crazy, servant of Madame Lyubov’s brother and the disaster prone clerk, who is never far away. I read somewhere that the characters are all symbolization of different forces in the rise of the middle-class in Europe and while that is an interesting view, I know nothing about the situation in Russia in the beginning of the 20th century so I just enjoyed the story as it was presented for me.

So, what made this experience great? The music in the show played a big part for me. There were three musicians that appeared on stage, the characters did not hear them but in at least one scene they could sence them. The musicians carried their instruments around, accordians, drums and even large bass instruments. The music was kind of… well Russian I guess… and really added a lot to the play. I loved the way the cherry orchard itself sounded when the “wind” blew through them. I did not particularly notice the lighting inside the house but outside it had a pink/purple glow that underlined the beuty of the orchard. The setting and props were beautiful, I especially liked the use of the hall. One thing I found weird was that the room where a most part of the play took part was the old nursery… they even held parties in there… so that’s a bit odd. One thing that I have to mention was the curtains. Instead of the normal velvety curtains of the theatre there were beautiful purple chiffon ones with different sorts of white crocheted lace doilies. They must have taken hours to finish and I heard that the producers asked women to make them and get tickets instead. That is awesome!

Overall a fun show that leaves you with something to think about – I can’t imagine that a single soul left the theatre untouched by the final scene… tsk tsk….  I’d recommend The Cherry Orchard for all adults who are not afraid to try something else than comedy in the theatre. I give it 4 stars.

Thank you for reading this post! I’m currently reading a great novel in which I learn a lot of life and flowers… stay tuned:)

Manden der ikke var morder

Manden der ikke var morder

In November I didn’t have a lot of time to read… or do anything for that matter. I participated in NaNoWriMo where people from around the globe attempt to write a 50.000 word novel in 30 days. How did I do? Well – since you asked – I WON. I am proud to announce that I am a NaNoWriMo winner 2010 and 2011. It wasn’t easy and I had to give up a lot of my interests for this challenge but hopefully sometime, if I keep on practicing, I’ll be able to get one of my novels published.

However, now it is December… a month FILLED with time to read and oh so many new and exciting books by all my favourite authors. In Iceland the two months before Christmas are a heaven for book-lovers since almost every author tries to publish their books on this time of year. There is one newsletter/brochure that is delivered to all homes in Iceland Bókatíðindi which holds information about all these books. For me, when Bókatíðindi arrives… marks the beginning of Christmas. So expect a lot of posts in the following weeks.

I just finished a book that I got for Christmas last year. I know! In Icelandic it’s called Maðurinn sem var ekki morðingi. It’s a Swedish novel by authors Hjorth & Rosenfeldt, and in Swedish it is calles Manden der ikke var morder. I didn’t find an English title for the book but discovered that there was a TV show made after it under the name Det fördolda or Dark Secrets in English. The novel was a debut for the authors who have worked in many years in television. On the cover of the book it claims to be the biggest “bomb” after Stieg Larsson. I thought to myself that this would certainly be a bit of an overstatement and it turned out to be true in my opinion. Stieg Larsson’s are a large shoes to fill.

The story begins with the disappearance of a 16 year old boy who shortly after that is found dead. To investigate the crime the local police calls in a team of experts who try to find clues about what went on. Some of the characters are rather interesting, especially Sebastian Bergman, a depressed crime psychologist who joins in on the investigation for personal reasons but turns out to help a lot more than he wanted to. I thought the novel had some symptoms of a “First novel” for example the authors are trying really hard to bring in a subplot where Bergman is trying to find his long lost lovechild and it doesn’t really flow in the story. In the end it all comes together though so it’s not all bad but it is a bit awkward. Also some of the subplots aren’t finished. The reason for this might be that the novel is supposed to be the first novel in a series so maybe the authors are trying to make a connection to a later novel in the series.

The style of the novel is rather interesting. The use of language was great and the voice of the characters were believable. But the switching between perspectives was  a bit confusing. When I learned that the authors had worked in television I knew why. Sometimes I found it hard to know in which characters mind I was. I was maybe reading Sebastian’s thoughts and turned a page and all of the sudden, without a warning or a break of any kind, I was in the murderers head. In a movie or a TV show this wouldn’t be a problem because I would see/hear who was speaking (maybe to himself) but in the novel it sometimes got confusing.

The best part of the book was the ending. It got exciting and didn’t fail to surprise me and I closed the book happily, satisfied with a job well done, finishing another book. Although I cannot agree that the novel was as good as Larsson’s novels, it was a fun read and I would recommend it to everyone that loves crime novels and especially those who love Nordic crime novels. I give it 3.5 stars.

My next post will be on a play I saw a couple of weeks ago – stay tuned 🙂

Hi kids.
This summer I read a fantastic chick lit about… a GHOST. It was Twenties girl by Sophie Kinsella. I always wanted to blog about it but procrastination bit me in the… yeah…
Earlier this evening, I was thinking about ghost-stories that I’ve read and remembered another one, Heart-shaped Box, by Joe Hill. These two novels are as different as black and white but both of them are so very great that they deserve to be written about and recommended. So… I deceided to do a special Halloween post of these two ghost stories. Let’s start with the latter.

The heart-shaped box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped box by Joe Hill is the only novel that I remember to have had me really really scared – like “watching horror film” kind of scared. It is about Judas Coyne who was a singer a metal band but is getting older. He collects dark and weird things and when he gets an offer to buy a ghost online he can’t refuse. The story was dark and mysterious, the plot was well thought out and the characters were believable. I remember forcing myself to take breaks from reading because my heart was pounding. I was also starting to hear all kinds of weird sounds from around the house and my imagination was going overboard. So I wathced a Friends episode or two to cool down and than I continued reading. While I read my only concern was that the ending would let me down but mr. Hill didn’t fail on that either.

The story of why I bought this book is rather coincidental. I was visiting some relatives in Edinburgh, Scotland and I had seen this book advertised on billboards and bus stops everywhere. As I needed something to read on the flight home to Iceland I went to WHSmith. I was actually going to buy the latest Shopaholic novel (which is funny because they are written by the same author as the other novel I’m blogging about, Twenties girl) but there was a 2 for 1 offer so of course I grabbed the onther book I “knew” in the store (and also because of the Nirvana song). I didn’t read the book for 2-3 years until one dark night, when it fell out of my bookcase and landed open on the floor. When I picked it up, a note fell out of it that said “You are dead!”

… Whoops… where was I… yes the second novel (:

Twenties Girl

The other ghost novel was completely different. It was, like I said earlier, Twenties girl by Sophie Kinsella. I got that one from the library and thought it was just another chick lit. I love the author but didn’t expect a lot from this one. But I was in for a great surprise. The story is about Lara who goes to her aunt’s funeral. The aunt has some unfinished business to attend to before she leaves this world and asks Lara to help her.

The plot was extremely well executed and had I great twist that really added depth to the story. But it were the characters that really made the story for me. They were colorful and funny and so full of life that they almost jumped from the pages. Especially the ghost, although technically she was dead. Kinsella describes the ghost-aunt and her twenties appearance so beautifully that I wanted to go right away and buy a flapper dress and paint a beauty mark on my upper lip. But the best part was how funny the story was. The way that characters dealt with situations and the conversations that they had made me laugh out loud for many pages at a time. My boyfriend actually came to check what was so funny. No other book has made me laugh so hard. But it also made me tear up. It really affected me in a way I did’nt expect when I started the mindless chick lit I thought it would be.

What these ghost-stories had that made them so special to me, was that they rekindled the flame inside me that will one day become a bonfire. They inspired me to become a better writer.

Hello everyone, it’s been a while!

I took a little break from the site this summer while I was working on my M.Ed. thesis. Now it’s almost done so I can start enjoying life again:) A lot of people ask me why this blog is in English (they find it weird, especially since I teach Icelandic). Just in case you are wondering, there are two main reasons. 1: because this way I have a much larger “audience” and 2: to improve my English. This has actually already started paying off. Last May/June I went to the States (Boston and New York) with my colleagues and I was really satisfied with the way I had improved my English beforehand. So I’ll keep it up and hopefully I’ll have a lot of fun things to blog about 🙂

That being said, this blog will not be one of those. I bought a great handbook the other day and got a free novel with it. It looked really promising but as soon as I started reading, I knew it would be a let down. And it was – in the end I had to power through it.

Paper Butterfly

The novel is called Paper Butterfly and the author is Diane Wei Liang. It says on the cover that it’s an action story from exotic world. Well, I didn’t see any action and I didn’t find the exotic part exciting.

The story is about a private detective, Mai Wang, who gets a case on her desk where a female pop star has gone missing. Mai tries to discover the story of that pop star and learns of a beautiful love affair between her and a guy when they were younger. The story spins around an historical event, the student protest in China in the year 1989. Okay, I actually liked that one, as I learned a little something while I read. The same thing applies with the framework of the novel. Another thing that was good were the descriptions in the story, the author often uses beautiful words.

Perhaps it was due to the translation but the story did not flow very easily. As a result, it took a longer time than necessary to read. It bothered me to have the Chinese words constantly in the text. Sometimes it was like I fell out of rythm in the story and it took some time to get back in again. I want to blame it on the cultural differences but the main problem with this story was that it just didn’t hook me – I wanted it to be a great novel but instead it was a great disappointment.

I recommend this book to anyone who feel like they have read everything but I can only give it 1 star.

That’s it for now…

Nei ráðherra í Borgarleikhúsinu

A week ago I once more went to the theater, this time to see a farce that I had little expectations for. It’s called Out of order (Nei ráðherra!) and is written by Ray Cooney. A few of years ago I saw another play by him, Funny money (Viltu finna milljón) and I really liked that one so I thought Out of order would be great as well. Before it’s premiere it had been hyped up so I was excited to see it but I noticed that the hype was over quickly when people started to see the play. Normally I enjoy farces – they are maybe not the deepest or most meaningful plays around but they usually make you laugh and also the script is well written and the plot well thought out.

My boyfriend and I didn’t particularly like this one though. It’s about a minister in  a government who finds a dead guy in the window of the hotelroom where he is planning to engage in adultery. Normally a farce is built up the same way. Situations and characters are presented, something happens that needs some covering up and as the lies get more and more complicated the caracters get more and more desperate. My main criticism for Out of order is that the audience barely get to know the situation and the characters before the lies start. Only 5-10 minutes into the play the main character and some of the supporting characters get so neurotic that they are shouting out their lines as they run around the stage in panic.  The audience (me) was not ready for this type of frenzy so early on in the play.

The actors were okay and the characters had some funny quirks but it just felt like they were trying too hard. There really isn’t much to say about the lighting or use of sound. The stage was set up as a hotel suite and outside of it was a replica of two buildings in Reykjavik to show where the hotel was placed. The best use of the stage in my opinion was a window to the balcony that was constantly shutting down with a BANG. The best thing about the play was the Icelandic translation. The text was funny and the localization of it was well executed.

Maybe I’m too young to get this play or maybe I’m finally getting some class when it comes to theatre –  in any case I didn’t like this one very much. It gets 2 stars and I can’t really recommend it in itself. It’s always a fun night though to go to the theater.

I went to the theatre a few days ago. There… I did it! I finished the sentence without having to tell you which day. That’s perfect. If I don’t think about it at all it won’t get stuck on my mind. Stop looking at me like that… Oh alright I’ll say it: “FRIDAY!” Are you happy now? You all know what I’m talking about though, don’t you? That awful song just won’t leave me alone. And the worst part is that the song get’s more and more bearable each day:)

Anyhow… this post is not about Rebecca Black but about one of the best theatre experience I have ever had. I really don’t want to use the word “play” or “musical” because this one is so much more than that. It was originally a German children’s book, written by Heinrich Hoffman in the year 1845 (Der Struwwelpeter) and it contained rhymed stories and some really frightening pictures that showed children what happened to them if they were bad. In 1998 it was made into a “musical” where Tiger Lillies made the soundtrack. As soon as you buy your tickets you know that you are in for something unique as you get to know that you will be standing throughout the show.  

Strýhærði Pétur í Borgarleikhúsinu

I really don’t know if I will be able to do the experience justice… This was definetely the most awesome thing I have done this year! For me what stood out were the details in the production – everywhere you looked there was something new to see. The music was absolutely great. I have listened to the songs in English and the lyrics are great but the Icelandic translations were so perfectly written and perfectly in tune with everything else that I almost didn’t know what to do with myself (Lyrics are kind of my thing and more often than not I walk out of a show feeling certain that I would have done a better job than the translator). The actors were hilarious as their characters (specially the children). I remember thinking a couple of weeks ago that I was getting tired of seeing the same actors in so many productions but I take it back. We get to see the actors take on many roles and I noticed how talented Icelandic actors really have to be. Everything else in the play – the costumes, light and use of space had great design that really went well with the show.

I really have just one criticism. I was kind of looking forward to being more a part of the show since I was already on my feet. It would have been great to have the show a bit more interactive. Still I am telling everyone I know to go and see it and I am positive that I will go again! I give it 5 stars and would give it more if I could. Although it’s based on a childrens book it is definetely not for children so I recommend it for adults and teenagers.