Life is beautiful…

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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…

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.

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.



Due to my new job as a teacher and a trip to Århus in Denmark I haven’t read or blogged as much as I wanted for the last couple of months. But I’m back now:) Recently I finished reading my first book by John Connolly. I think that normally he writes action novels, crime and thrillers but the one that I read was something else. It’s called The book of lost things and I would say that it is a children’s book for adults. By that I mean that it has everything that we loved about books as children but intended for adults and not kids.

The story is about David who is a young boy that goes into a crack of a wall because he hears the voice of his mother but finds himself trapped in another world. He needs to find a way out again and in the process he has to face all sorts of challenges and weird creatures.

The story was written beautifully and it was very fun to read. The descriptions of things, characters, creatures or landscape were detailed and added a lot to the story and made it more real even though it is a pretty wild fantasy. My only critici

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is that there were a few unfinished things in the story, like David’s mental illness that is almost only part of the beginning of the book but isn’t used at all in later chapters. For my part I always need explanation of everything to believe it and I felt that I needed more explanation regarding this world and why David got there. Was this all just a dream or what?

I recommend this book for teenagers and adults that can imagine that “it could happen”, even though it’s pretty out there. I give it 4.5 stars because over all it was wonderful!

 

What a disappointment! 600+pages of NOTHING. Then something happens and you start to get excited but oh wait… there is more NOTHING… AND what little that does happen is semi creepy… in a bad way! The plot… or lack there of… is really thin. And sometimes I was grossed out even by some images the plot presents. I really had to force myself to keep reading. The one thing I liked was how Stephenie Meyer wrote from other perspectives. It’s like the first book all over again, nothing happens. But at least in Twilight it was acceptable up to a point because the fantasy world had to be properly introduced. This is just sad… I am really not looking forward to seeing the film, I lost all interest. (But I probably will see it – it can’t be as bad as the book)

I am too annoyed to review this more. I’ve started reading the next book on my list “The book of lost things” and I can already see that it’s review will be a lot more positive one! 1 star

On December 30th I went to the theater (Þjóðleikhúsið) with two of my closest people (who also happen to be my most devoted readers). As an Icelandic teacher I was really excited to see this particular play Iceland’s Bell by Nobel winning author Halldór K. Laxness. I haven’t read quite as many of his novels as I should but this one I did read a few summers ago. Well… I almost read it all… it took a long time and I returned it to the library before I could finish but there wasn’t much left.

The story is set in the 18 century and is about the fairest Icelandic maiden and her love for a man who loves her back but they cannot be together because of the other love, or passion, in his life. He is obsessed with collecting every single old book or manuscript in Icelandic and travels around the country and the world to find them. The maiden marries a drunk and then a priest and the man marries a rich woman who can support him financially. The story of their lives weaves around an odd person, a poor farmer and a thief who these people never would have met under normal circumstances but never fails to serve as a comic relief.

Now, on to the play! It was AMAZING!!! The music was live and complemented the setting of the play perfectly. The use of the stage and props was well executed. The dialogue was relatively easy to follow but as I was sitting rather far from the stage I had to listen carefully to hear some of the actors. That was my only real criticism and I will try not to buy those seats again. Another thing though was that it was a bit long – but i’m not sure where they could have shortened it. The costumes – which are something i rarely notice – were fitting and I fell deeply in love with the costumes of the maiden. I now want a whole wardrobe based on the Icelandic national costume.

The actors did an amazing job! They were believable and in character the whole time and every single one of them added to the experience. I especially loved the performance of Ingvar E. Sigurðsson as the old farmer who spoke with an accent the entire play.

The book collector is based on a real Icelandic legend who saved many of our greatest manuscript. Some of them were lost in a fire in Copenhagen and this fire was of course also in the play. I literally had tears in my eyes in that scene thinking about what was lost in the real fire.

I was very satisfied and almost want to go see the play again! 5 stars without a doubt!

Happy New Year!