Book review: The Fault of Our Stars, written by John Green

Not long ago I read The Fault of Our Stars by John Green. This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, but it took me ages to get around to actually read it.

In many ways I enjoyed reading the book. It’s heart warming and sad at the same time, and you know from the very beginning that this is a story that can’t have a happy ending. I mean, with a character that has terminal cancer, it can’t be more obvious, right?

The only thing I didn’t like so much, was how religious it was. When i heard that john Green actually is a chaplain by training, it made perfect sense. Not being a Christian myself, I think the editor of his book could have asked hime to tone down on the religious aspect, as that would have made this a better book, in my very personal opinion. There were also a couple of insidents in the book I found a bit too “far out” to be realistic, without saying to much in case of spoiling the book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

That being said, I have no problem understanding why this was a big hit with the young adult audience. The book has been translated into several languages, and is adapted into a film (I must admit I actually liked the film better than the book – that doesn’t happen very often!) The book carries a certain grines of reality but also some hope. And you have a sweet little romantic love story as well.

All-in-all the book ended up being an “average read” for me, but would have no problem recommending it for a younger audience. I guess I’m not in the targeted audience anyway…

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2016
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2016

Happy Midwinter!

It’s Midwinter. Yule. Christmas Eve. Whatever you want to call it. (I prefer Midwinter myself). Here in Norway the night of the 24 December is when we gather to celebrate with food and gifts. It’s our “big night” this time of year. And this year, for the first time I’m spending tonight alone. It has been my choise, and to be honest, I am happy about it. I will eat nice food, relax and just enjoy quality “me time”.

And since it’s this time of year, I will share this nice version of “Fairytale Of New York”, a beautiful song in itself. Here it’s done by Katzenjammer, Ben Caplan, and The Trondheim Soloists, which in my opinion makes it extra special.

Comfort Books

The Guardian recently had an article called “Guardian readers’ comfort library”, and after following some links, I came across the article “What’s your favourite comfort read?” As far as I understand, these are books you go back to and re-read over and over again. This made me think – what are my comfort books?

One book I re-read and never get tired of reading, is my favourite book Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I love the story about the London under London, I love the characters, and I love the atmosphere in the book. Gaiman with this book has made London into a new place for me. After reading this book, visiting London has never been the same.

There are, of course, also books from my childhood that I love re-reading. The main one might be A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. I grew up with reading it in Norwegian translation, but when I did a module in English literatur called 20th Century Children’t Literature at Cardiff University back in 1999, I read it in its original language (Englsih), and enjoyed it even more.

What are YOUR comfort books?

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
My comfort books.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

Recipe for Chickpea Curry

This recipe was originally posted on my Norwegian food blog, but after serving it to some Irish folks, I have been begged (read: asked nicely) to make a translation into English. I was inspired to make the recipe after eating a delicious chickpea curry at the hotel I was staying at during the EasterCon in Bradford in 2013. This recipe is totally dairy and gluten free, so it is suitable for most people, even vegans!

1 teaspoon crushed ginger
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cummin
1 onion
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil (e.g. rapeseed oil)
1 can (about 400-450 g) chickpeas
2 ripe tomatoes
1 can (about 400 ml) coconut milk

How to
Make a paste of the ginger, garlic, lime juice, chili powder, garam masala, cardamom and cummin in a bowl so that it is ready to be used. This is easily done by mixing it together in a mortar or small bowl.

Finely chop the onion in a food processor.
Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan.
Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes, until soft (not brown).
Finely chop the tomatoes in the food processor. It should look like a sauce.
Add the curry paste to the onions, stir well and sauté.
Add the tomato sauce, bring to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes.
Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil.
Drain the chickpead well, them add them to the rest, and cook until the coconut has reduced.
Season with salt and pepper.
Remember to stir the curry every now and then so it doesn’t burn.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
The curry goes well with brown rice…
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

Visiting Phoenix Park and Dublin Zoo

Tuesday 13 october 2015, corrigancj and I visited Phoenix Park and Dublin Zoo. Phoenix Park is the largest park in Europe, of 707 hectares. Dublin Zoo is located in the Phoenix Park, and is a 28 hectare park and home to some 400 animals.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
Flowers at the entrance of Phoenix Park.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

To get to the zoo, we had to walk through the park, which is a really nice walk. Even at autumn there are flowers around, as well as some evergreens. Many of the trees had started to change into their autumn colours, which made a beautiful frame. Phoenix Park is known for its fallow deer that roams about free, but unfortunately didn’t get to see any.

The Dublin Zoo has so many animals and is so large you can spend a lot of time there. We walked around for three hours, and even then we didn’t see all the animals. The zoo prides itself for being part of international breeding programmes for endangered species, and there are some rare animals to meet in the zoo.

One of the rare animals in the zoo is the okapi. At first glance it can look as if it’s related to the zebras, however, they’re related to the giraffe! The okapis are said to be shy, something that was easy to see in the zoo. They liked to almost hide among the trees.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
One of the okapis at Dublin Zoo.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

One of the cutest animals in the zoo, is the red panda. The red panda has become endangeres through human activity: Not only have they been hunted for their beautiful fur, but by cutting down their forest homes and the bamboo that forms the main part of their diet too. Dublin Zoo has managed to breed them, which is good.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
A red panda at Dublin Zoo.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

I really enjoyed Dublin Zoo, and there were many excellent things to see: the sleeping silverback gorilla, tigers, wolves, and many more. However, one of the highlights for me were the penguins. People who know me know that I love penguins, and in Dublin Zoo we got to see them up close. The penguins that are kept at Dublin Zoo, is the Humboldt’s penguins, a vulnerable spices. They are, like the red pandas, threatend by human activity.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
Humboldt’s penguin at Dublin Zoo.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

After hours of walking, we headed back to the centre of Dublin for dinner and to relax. We agreed it had ben a nice zoo visit.

Octocon 2015

9 – 11 October I attended Octocon, the National Irish Science Fiction Convention. It was helt in the Camden Court Hotel in Dublin, and stated Friday afternoon, and ended Sunday afternoon. Guests of Honour were Emma Newman and Maura McHugh, but there were several other guests as well.

The convention was kicked off with the opening ceremony, where chairperson Gareth Kavanagh wished us welcome and introduced the Guests of Honour. I had an opening after the opening ceremony, where corrigancj and I headed for dinner. My first panel wasn’t until 20, the Bodily Autonomy in YA panel, which I found very interesting.

There were actually several LGBTQIP+ themes panels for Octocon 2015, which I was very happy about, and I attended several of them. Though I attended several really good panels through the week end, my convention highlights were the Guest of Honour interview with Emma Newman, and the Tea and Jeopardy live show.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
Emma Newman at the Guest of Honour interview.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

The Guest of Honour interview with Emma Newman (who’s one of my favourite authors), was a warm and personal interview. I think Janet O’Sullivan did a great job, and there was tea and much laughter.

The Tea and Jeopardy live show was based on the Hugo Nominated Podcast of Emma Newman and Peter Newman. Being a fan of the podcast (I must admit I’m still a bit bummed it didn’t win the Hugo’s), I was thrilled to attend the show. I was offered cake by Latimer when entering the tea lair, but I politely declined. Author C.E. Murphy was Emma Newman’s guest for this episode, and it was muc fun. I laughed so much! I missed the chickens, though, but I totally understand they couldn’t be brought to Ireland…

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
Emma Newman and Latimer at the tea lair of Octocon 2015.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

The only problem I had with the convention, was the inside jokes at some panels (not all), that went right above my head. I am not familiar with everything Irish, and there were moments there were things I didn’t understand.

All-in-all I enjoyed my week end, and it was nice to meet up with some convention friends that I know from EasterCon and/or Twitter again. Will I come back to Octocon next year? Only time will show…

Dublin: 8 and 9 October 2015

I left home early Thusday morning, to catch the 8:30 flight to Oslo, where I would have a connecting flight to Dublin. After having run away from my coffee because I was booked into an earlier flight due to my original flight being cancelled, I had a centre seat at the flight making me feel a bit squeezed. I then had some time at ardermoen, before I continued to Dublin. The flight was good, having lots of room, up until some person thought it was a good idea to spray perfume inside the plane. Needless to say, I got an allergy attack, but was thankfully moved to the front. The rest of the flight was spent trying to get back to normal.

I was met by corriganjc at the airport, and after a long and tedious journey to the hotel, I checked in, and got to relax a bit before we headed for food. We had lovely pizza at an Italian restaurant called Little Caesars, which according to corriganjc has the best Italian pizza in Dublin.

When in Dublin, do as Dubliners: Visit the pub! The pub called Against the Grain had been reccomended to me on Twitter, and it being fairly close to the hotel, we went there after dinner. It was a very friendly pub, with a smiling and helpful staff. It had an excellent atmpsphere, and a wide range of good beer. I enjoyed the pub very much!

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
At Against the Grain.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

I woke up too early Friday morning, and after trying to go back to sleep, I gave up and got fed breakfast. I headed out for a walk after breakfast, and pretty much stumbled over a small park with some church ruins. It was very lovely. Turns out St Kevin’s Park is listed as an area of historical and archaeological importance by Duchas. So that was a fairly nice start of the day.

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
St Kevin’s Park and church ruins.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

I had a nice rest after my walk, and dozed a bit before corrigan arrived, and we headed to get coffee at the Bald Barista. To be honest, I found it a bit disappointing, so I was very happy when we had hot chocolate at Butler’s Chocolate Café later on. I had a yummy hot white chocolate, which came with a complimentary praline. Yummy!

We did a bit of walking after being full of hot drinks, and all of a sudden it was lunch time, and we ate at the vegetarian restaurant Cornucopia, which had some really lovely food. Well fed we headed to Dublin Barista School, which has the best coffee I’ve had in Dublin so far.

To get back to the hotel, we walked through St Stephen’s Green, which is a lovely park. After a rest and some reading, it was time to register and get badges for Octocon, which will be given a post of its own.

BookCrossing Convention: Oxford 2015

It has been a while since I attended the bookcrossing convention in Oxford. Having arrived on Wednesday, and the convention starting friday afternoon, I had time to go down to the city centre of Oxford before the convention actually started, to have a look around, as well as having lunch at the Eagle and Child.

The Eagle and Child was the pub the Inklings used to meet up, so of course I had to make a stop here. Though the ale was excellent, I didn’t care much for the sandwhich. It had some sort of raising like chutney and cheese, and I really didn’t like the chutney…

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
The Eagle and Child, Oxford.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

The convention took place Friday 10 – 12 April, and St Hilda’s College was the venue. This was also where several of us were staying, and even though the accomondation was pretty spartan, it was cheap and worked fine. If there was one thing I wasn’t too happy about, it was the Internet access – having two devices needing Internet, the system used didn’t handle this at all, which was quite frustrating.

The convention’s registration opened at 16:30 on Friday 10 April, and after receiving the goodiebag and out name tag, there was plenty of time before we headed to the buffet meal, which was pretty much afternoon tea. Very English! Being a vegetarian, the fruits were my favourites…

After having stuffed ourselves with food, we headed to the Jacquline Du Pre music building, where MissMarkey welcomed us all to the convention: It was now officially open!

At the convention there was a huge book buffet. I added some books myself, and had planned on not bringing many books home. Now, that didn’t ho as planned. I found out I was able to bring an extra suitcase on my flight home, without extra costs, so I ended up buying an extra suitcase, so that I could bring more books home. As if I needed more books…

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
People browsing the book buffet.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

Friday night I went out with a group of Scandinavians. We have our own forum group over at the bookcrossing website, and most of us have been active there for years. It was good to chat with the people I’ve “known” online for years!

I had a rather slow morning on Saturday, and headed down to the city centre again. This was when I bought the extra suitcase, as well as having tea and reading my book. I even stopped by the library. It would have felt wrong to visit Oxford and not stopping buy the city library.

After lunch one of the (for me) convention’s high lights took plave: Morris Men were dancing on the lawn at St Hilda’s. It was so much fun! The audience even got to participate at the end, and I was among the lucky ones who got to dance along. I loved it, and was sad to see it end so quickly…

Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015
The merry Morris Men at the lawn.
Photo: Hidden in a Book © 2015

After sitting (and dancing) in the sun, we headed inside to listen to Ann Granger speak. I must admit I haven’t read any of her books, but it was quite nice to listen to anyhow. And when she was done, they drew the raffle prizes, and then the next year’s Athen’s Convention was presented. The last scheduled event before we all headed out for a meal (I had Indian – yum) was the bid for the 2017 convention, and Oslo won! I’m very excited about a bookcrossing convention in my own country!

Even though Sunday was the last convention day, I left the college when we had to check out, and headed off. I had had a lovely time, but was tired after being social for such a long time (EasterCon + BC con = 10 days of socialising!)

See you all in Oslo in 2017!