Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

First of all I have to apologize beforehand to all parents and kids who has to battle autism, Asperger etc on a daily basis. I know for a fact that that is not easy.

But I just didn't like this book. I found it very annoying. It is about Christopher, he is 15 years old and he has Asperger's Syndrome. The book is supposed to be written by Christopher, and I found it very hard to read it and maintain a serious view on it. I almost gave up on it several times. I could not find any kind of interest in or sympathy with Christopher, his difficulties, his family or anything else in this book.

I realize that the author may have written this book in such an annoying way so that the reader is feeling the same (annoyance, despair, frustration) as parents who has a child like Christopher may feel.

I did not like this book at all. If any one can enlighten me on why this book was so hyped, please explain. I didn't get it at all.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Egyptology Weekend

This weekend it's about a bit of Egyptology and about showing a few pics from my recent trip to Egypt.

I left February 26. and returned March 12. First week was spent in Luxor with my sister, brother and nephew. Luxor is the ancient religious center in Egypt and many of the temples of Egypt are in and around Luxor on both the East and the West banks of the Nile.

This ismage is taken from the East bank of the Nile, showing the mountains of the Western bank. The ancient Egyptians believed that the sun "died" each evening when it went down in the West and then travelled through the night to be reborn the next morning in the East. Thus the Western side of the Nile came to be considered the side of the dead, where tombs were dug deep into the cliff sides and temples celebrating the memory of the dead kings were build.
Our first tour went to the Karnak Temple (see previous Egyptology Weekend) where this snapshot is from. The temple housed the divine family of Amun, Mut and Khonsu. The image depicts Khonsu, who was the son of the family. He is here shown with the sidelock of youth, the false beard of the gods and the deceased (Pharaoh's false beard is straight, the god's and the deceased's beards are "curled up" at the bottom). He wears a ureaus (a cobra-tiara so to speak) and the moon on his head and in his hands he holdes several royal and divine insignia symbolizing power, might, life, stability etc.

We also went to the Memorial Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. This queen, who ruled in the 1400's BC, put herself on the pharaonic throne instead of her family-member, crown prince Thutmosis III, who was only a child when the old king died. A queen substituting on the throne in ancient Egypt is if not a usual thing, then something which had been seen before and as such not unique at all. But the unique thing in the case of Queen Hatshepsut was that she began depicting herself as a pharao and as such taking the (100% male) role of a king. She acted as a male ruler (the pharaonic role/rule/reign is male and thus it is weird for a woman to take that role, the weird thing was not that she ruled Egypt) for about 20 years, during which the real king, Thutmosis III, probably became more and more agitated with her, as he was the real pharaoh, not Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut's reign was a peaceful one - and one of her largest claims to fame was her expedition to the Land of Punt (probably Somalia or Eritrea of today) for flowers, trees, perfumes, exotic animals and incense. She build a large Memorial Temple in the steep cliffs of the location called Deir el-Bahri today.

One day during our vacation, we flew from Luxor to Cairo, Egypt's immense capital city, "Mother of the World", the second largest city in the world. Just outside the city lies the Pyramids of Giza, which are the most famous pyramids of Egypt, even though there are about 90 more pyramids to visit in Egypt. The largest one, the pyramid of Kheops (or Chufu which he is often called in English) is the one in the back. It's about 138 meters high today, but it was originally 147 meters high. It has lost it's top, probably already in antiquity. The pyramid of Kheops is the sole remaining wonder of the ancient world of Seven Wonders. The pyramid in the middle, which looks taller, was build for king Khefren (or Chephren) and the smallest one was build for king Mycerinus. All pyramids are build as tombs for dead pharaohs. Later in the history of ancient Egypt, the pharaohs were laid to rest in tombs, cut into the cliffs in what is known today as Valley of the Kings. This valley is also in Luxor, but will be the subject of another Egyptology Weekend.

The image above is of the Luxor Temple. This temple lies in the middle of the modern town of Luxor, which was also the case of Ancient Egypt, except the town was called Waset back then (it was the later Greeks who named it Thebes and the even later Arabs who called it al-Uqsur/Luxor). The temple is floodlit at night which is a magnificent sight. In ancient Egypt, the temple was connected to the Karnak Temple through an alley flanked with Sfinx-figures and the temple was used when the gods of the Karnak Temple came visiting the Luxor Temple once a year at the special Opet-festival. Pharaoh also took part of the Opet-festivities and rituals in the Luxor Temple, in fact, he had a very important role, as it was him who, in the most secret part of the temple, re-newed his aquaintance with the gods and thus secured stability, wealth and true worldorder for Egypt for yet another year!
-Week two in Egypt was work aboard a Nile Cruise as a guide and tourleader. Perhaps more about that another time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by MizB at Should be Reading, where you can also check out other blogger's links to their Teaser Tuesdays-posts.

The rules are simple:

Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

Here is my teaser:

"It's poor Miss Annie next door. This morning she took a little fainting spell in the alley. Nerves, babe. She says you woke her up this morning playing on your banjo."

"That is a lute, not a banjo," Ignatius thundered. "Does she think that I am one of those perverse Mark Twain characters?"

The sentences are from p. 67 of A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, which I am currently reading.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's Monday. What are you reading this week?

J-Kaye from J. Kaye's Book Blog asks in this weekly what we are reading this week. Check the blog for more details and join in the fun yourself. A great way to get the reading-week going.

Books Completed Last Week

I'm not such an avid reader that I can finish stacks of books in a week. Sometimes I barely manage 10 pages, other times I read 2-3 books in a week. It all depends. The past week(s) however, I've been away and have finished 3 books:

Dinosaurens fjer (The Feather of the Dinosaur) by Sissel-Jo Gazan. This is a Danish scientific thriller slash chick lit which has become a huge bestseller in Denmark. I have reviewed it on my Danish blog, but since it has not been translated to English, I am not going to review it here. The plot revolves around Anna, who has just finished a controversial MA thesis in order to graduate as a biologist from University of Copenhagen. Suddenly dramatic stuff happens around her and it looks like some are hell bent on not having her go public with her thesis.

The Associate by John Grisham. You can read my review below.

This week I hope to finish

Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella. It has been a while since I sat down with a true chick lit novel, and I bought this one the other day when I flew home from Egypt. I needed something light for the flight and managed 100 pages. Haven't read since I got home, but will continue reading it this week. It is an okay read, but I am not overly impressed.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. This is a book I have been meaning to read for a long time. It's a classic and I have read about 100 pages. It's a bit weird, but I like the writing and the weirdness. Anyone else read this? What are your thoughts?

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. Have been trying to chew through this for ages. I am deeply sorry for all affected by Autism or Asperger's Syndrome in your families, but I cannot get into the swing of it with this book. I find Christopher super-annoying. But will finish!

What is up next?

I rarely decide what I want to read next until it is actually time, but if I manage to finish the above books, I am planning to continue with my Challenges Lists and am thinking of The Color Purple (which I have home from the library) or To Kill a Mockingbird (which I have on my shelf)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Associate by John Grisham

Haven't read a John Grisham legal thriller for ages, when I found this in a hotel in Egypt on my recent vacation. Decided to grab it for a quick read. It is about Kyle, who is about to graduate and become a lawyer. He wants to work bro bono for some years, paying back to society and all that, but before graduating, he is being called to a meeting with some suspicious types who want him to do their business. For various reasons, he ends up accepting their "offer", which really is no offer at all, and soon after his graduation he finds himself in an enormous firm in New York, being worked to death as a first year associate. He has the suspicious types following his every step, his apartment is wired and he is generally finding himself in a huge jam, of which he cannot see a way out. But Kyle is a ressourceful young man, and a smart one as well, and he begins his own investigations and plans to get rid of his shadows and their threat of ruining his career if he is not doing as told.

This legal thriller is fine enough for a beach- or poolside read, and I was well entertained and found the writing fine and with a good flow. But nothing more. Not much substance and written like its to become a movie, rather sooner than later. I used to like Grisham's earlier works, then he sort of got "James Patterson Syndrome" and begun whipping out one bad book after another. He has not reached the low of James Patterson yet, though, and I can recommend this book as an entertaining, fast read.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

What an amazing book. I've had it collecting dust on my book shelf for almost a year before I randomly picked it for next read and what a read! I cannot understand why I waited so long reading this modern, funny and tragic masterpiece, written in an up-beat tongue-in-cheek yet traditional style, which I adored from the beginning. There are some one-liners written in Spanish throughout the book, and while I don't speak or read a word Spanish, it wasn't a problem at all. It just added spice to the story. There are also a lot of references to modern American literature, films and other pop-culture phenomena, and while I got most of them, there were some I didn't get at all. But again, it wasn't a problem.

Yunior is the narrator of the story. The story about the Dominican-American nerd, geeky and grossly fat Oscar de Léon, living with his aggressive mother, drugged out uncle and pretty sister Lola in a ghetto in New Jersey. Yunior is the on again - off again boyfriend of Lola and he tells the story of this family, who believe that a fukú is looming over their family. A fukú is a Dominican curse and it does seem like Oscar and his family has been unlucky for most of their family's story.

The book is divided into several main chapters, dealing with the lives of Oscar, his mother and Lola. Yunior is very much a part of both Oscar's and Lola's life, so we also get to know him quite well, being both a by-stander and directly involved in things.

The main parts revolve around Oscar's childhood, his mother's childhood in Dominican Rebuplic/Santo Domingo, Lola's puberty/teen years, Oscar's and Yunior's college years and finally their vacation as adults in Santo Domingo.

It is a book about love, hate, coming of age, South American life under dictators and much more. The story is pretty straightforward and it evoked many different feelings in me. I loved Oscar and felt his pain when he, again and again, never had any luck with the ladies (as opposed to Yunior who lived his college years walking from bed to bed). I was mad with Oscar and Lola's mother, who loomed aggressively over their lives, being one of the most bitchy mothers I have encountered in literature, but at the same time I understood where she was coming from after having learned about her childhood.

The story has a flavor of magic realism, but the writing is a definite 21. century whereas Gabriel Garcia Marquez may feel a bit oldfashioned and Isabel Allende's books may feel a bit "female", this is very contemporary. So very highly recommendable and I wish I hadn't read it yet!

This is read as part of the Read Your Own Books Challenge.