It’s All About Books

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It’s all about books.. Well at least books have an important role of my life. They form a way to escape reality; for me to enter a different world. A place where everything is possible, only limited by the imagination of its writer. Like someone famous once said: ‘Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body‘.

I’ve been reading ever since I was three years old, devouring books by dozens at my hometown library. Then the idea came up to start keeping track of the books I’ve read. So here this humble page with random books I’ve been reading since November 2012… With more to come.

Any tips and/or comments are welcome. :)

Dead Run – by Erica Spindler

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Title: Dead Run
Author: Erica Spindler
Finished: 14/04/2014
Pages: 466

It all starts when Liz decides to move to Key West to find out what happened to her sister Rachel. Rachel, the local pastor of Key West, had disappeared mysteriously, but not before warning her sister that she uncovered something and that she was in trouble… Everybody seems to believe that Rachel just ran off, but Liz knows something happened to her sister. Soon after she arrives at Key West, people began showing up dead… The women brutally murdered and showing signs of a ritualistic murder similar to the style of the “New Testament” serial killer now on death row. Together with an ex-cop Rick, who is still friends with the local police, they try to reveal the truth, but nobody seems to believe them… At a point even Rick doesn’t believe the conspiracy theories Liz believes in anymore and she is left alone to uncover some hidious secrets.There is something evil on the loose, and will there be somebody to stop it?

I must say the final chapters made me change my opinion about this thriller by Erica Spindler. Although I still find Dead Run rather cliche for various reasons and the relationship between characters like Liz and Rick too obvious and on the verge of boring, I must say the end surprised me. Spindler was able to use various twists in her story, and I wouldn’t have guessed the identity of the killer until the very last. I normally detest stories with too many cliches, but in this case I will forgive the writer because of the plot twists. It is easy to read and would serve perfectly on a rainy night with a cup of hot chocolate… Or on vacation for that matter.

A Feast For Crows – by George R.R. Martin

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Title: A Feast For Crows (A Song Of Ice And Fire Series #4)
Author: George R.R. Martin
Finished: 12/04/2014
Pages: 978

Here I am staring at the last page of this fourth book in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series. Before I started reading, I had promised myself this would be the last one of the series, since I find them increasingly less interesting and confusing, partly because of the amount of characters George R.R. Martin introduces in the series. The fact that he cut the story in half made me wonder if I should read the fifth book after all. In a A Feast For Crows, Martin only tells the story from the point of view of a select group of characters, leaving out important names as Tyrion, Jon Snow, Daenerys and Stannis. The only way to know the whole story is read the fifth one too, unless I want to wait for the tv series reach this part of the story… For now, I would say no to book number five, but I’m sure somewhere in the future my curiosity will win. Until then, I will content myself watching the fourth season of the tv series…

It is hard to summarize a book with so many different storylines, but in short you can conclude the war between the multiple kings is taking its toll. Many people died or are dying, including some of our main characters. The threat of the Others and Daenerys and her dragons are being pushed to the background. Instead, we follow mainly the women of Westeros: Queen Cersei, the princess of Dorn, Sansa or Alyssa, Arya or Cat, Brienne… Book number four is mostly focused on the adventures and effects of the war on their lives. Parts of the story are missing, and others are touching the border of too much repetition. Seriously, how many times we have to read Brienne is looking for a  highborn maid of three-and-ten, with a fair face and auburn hair?

I feel I’m slowly distancing myself from this series. Although I now know this is only the first part of what he ment as one book, I’m not sure if I can bring it up to read the second half. I don’t mind the amount of pages, but I’m not up for another week and something of almost forced reading in order to finish it. For now, I won’t be touching another Martin, but who knows, maybe in a few months… 

No Country For Old Men – by Cormac McCarthy

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Title: No Country For Old Men
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Finished: 01/04/2014
Pages: 309

I must be honest and say I wasn’t planning on finishing No Country For Old Men. I actually started reading this one a few months ago, but couldn’t grow into the book and left it. The lack of punctuation, Southern dialect and too many point of views without any explanation who the characters are… It all made me just want to bury the book under a pìle of dust to be never found again. But the fact they made a very succesful movie out of it and a lot of people seem to enjoy the story made me pick it up again. I would be lying if I said I liked it, but I admit the story became a little better later on. Although now finished it, I would never touch this one again.

The three main characters of this book are Llewelyn Moss, Anton Chigurh and Ed Tom Bell. In the beginning we don’t know who the story is really about, and it’s quite confusing. Would it be Llewelyn Moss, who found a bunch of dead Mexicans in the desert with a briefcase full of cash with them? Or is it Anton Chigurh, who is trying to get the cash back at all costs, revealing himself as a coldblooded serial killer? But no, it is Ed Tom Bell, the sheriff, who we follow in the end. Being a war veteran, he has some issues of his own, but he seems to know what he is doing. There are a lot of deaths showing up in his jurisdiction though lately, and he is trying to find out who is guilty. Both Bell and Chigurh are trying to find Moss, and Moss has even more people hunting him…The money he found was drugs-related and those people aren’t the ones you want to play with. Moss isn’t able to hide forever, but Chigurh seems a mastermind in disappearing. Will Bell ever find him?

I guess I only finished No Country For Old Men because I literally forced myself to read it until the end. I didn’t enjoy it, and the language he used annoyed me right until the very end. It might be that he impersonated the Southern dialect perfectly, but even as a philologist I just couldn’t enjoy the story. The lack of punctuation and spelling just got on my nerves. Part of the problem was that I felt almost confused about what the story really was about and even who was talking at certain points. So all in all I wouldn’t recommend this one.

The Bone Collector – by Jeffery Deaver

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Title: The Bone Collector (Lincoln Rhyme Series #1)
Author: Jeffery Deaver
Finished: 26/03/2014
Pages: 427

I must admit I decided to read this book mostly because of the movie. Although it has been some years since I last saw it, I still could recall I enjoyed it, so I decided to give the book a go. And I must say I wasn’t disappointed. I will have to see the movie again though, just to see what similarities exist between the two… The main characters of the movie doesn’t seem to fit with the way Jeffery Deaver describes them.

The Bone Collector is the first out of a series about a criminologist named Lincoln Rhyme. His life was changed terribly after an accident on the job which left him paralyzed from the neck down. After not having worked for three years and even thinking about committing suicide, his knowledge is suddenly needed again when a terrible serial killer appears in New York. The killer, also called unsub 823, leaves clues at the scenes of the victims for the cops to guess where the next body will be… And it is their job to try and find the location on time to save the victims.

Lincoln Rhyme asks for the help of Amelia Sachs, the first officer on scene at the first murder. Although she isn’t a CSI, he makes her process the scenes and quickly she becomes his eyes and ears. Rhyme uses his knowledge of the city to understand the clues, and they are able to save various victims on time. And they are closing in on the killer too, so unsub 823 steps up his game and starts attacking the cops. And next comes the unexpected end where we find out who the killer really is… Great read, recommended if you like crime novels and want to learn a bit about New York history too.

The Alchemist – by Paulo Coelho

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Title: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
Finished: 18/03/2014
Pages: 197
(Originally written in Portuguese: O Alquimista)

I’ve been wanting to read work of Paulo Coelho for while now, and I finally decided to read one of his most famous novels The Alchemist. It was a shame I couldn’t find a version in Portuguese, but for now the English translation will have to do. I must be honest to say I didn’t know what the story was about before I started reading. (Which I call rather ignorant, but hey, I can’t be knowing every book can I?) So I was both surprised, awed and irritated by the deeper meaning of the story. It might be contradictory, but in a way the message of the story was a bit too religious for me. Still, the part of following your dreams and listening to your heart I can really relate to. It is a relatively short novel and if you haven’t read it, I suggest you do… Who knows, it might inspire you!

The Alchemist is about a young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago who had the same dream twice. Both a gypsy and a man who calls himself king confirm that his dream was a vision, and convince him that he should follow his dream. There is a treasure waiting for him somewhere, and to find it he should cross the sea to Africa. The supposedly king tells him he will find the treasure near the Pyramids in Egypt, and he should follow his heart and read the omens send to him in order to get to his destination. Various obstacles cross his way, but they only help him grow and learn more about himself. Even love cannot stop him from his goal, and he opens his eyes to the Soul of the World… Until he finally understands.

Before I Go To Sleep – by S.J. Watson

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Title: Before I Go To Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson
Finished: 15/03/2014
Pages: 372
(Read in Spanish: No Confies En Nadie)

Memories makes us into what we are. It forms our identity, and without memories life just wouldn’t make sense… We would be lost. Unfortunately, in Before I Go To Sleep that is just what happens to our main character Christine. After having suffered from some kind of brain trauma, every day her world just resets. She wakes up thinking she is at least 25 years younger than she really is, and doesn’t recognize the room she woke up in nor the man that is supposed to be her husband. We see the world through her eyes… And as Christine started to get some help from a doctor named Ed Nash, she slowly begins to remember pieces of her lost memories.

But not all memories are happy… She discovers that her husband Ben is lying to her about a quite few things. He lies about her having a son, Adam, about her best friend Claire having moved away to New Zealand, about her having a car accident… And other things too. Thanks to the diary Dr. Nash encourages Christine to write, she starts to remember more and more, and becomes confused. She no longer knows who to trust and what to believe. And most importantly, whether to believe the man that says is her husband or not. Slowly we discover the truth together with Christine. We learn her brain trauma wasn’t caused by a car accident like Ben told her. She was attacked at a hotel and found half-strangled all those years ago. But it doesn’t matter how hard she tries to remember who did it, the face of the assaulter remains blurry. And then we read the shocking end, where we learn the truth about Adam and Ben doesn’t seem who we think he is…

Interesting story about a woman who tries to get her memories and life back after suffering from amnesia. The story is written from her perspective, and therefore we don’t know the truth until the very end. Slowly we find out more and more about her past, and Ben becomes more suspicious every day. Still he seems to love her, and then the shocking end… I personally enjoyed the story and it’s a great first novel. I will be wanting to read more from S.J. Watson for sure… And at least re-read the story in it’s original language.

The Pianist – by Władysław Szpilman

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Title: The Pianist
Author: Władysław Szpilman
Finished: 12/03/2014
Pages: 224
(Originally written in Polish: Śmierć Miasta)

How to rate a book that contains such a tragic and above all true story of a man who survived the Holocaust against all odds? A story about a Jewish pianist who unsuccesfully tried to save his family, resisted the Nazi’s and managed to stay alive under impossible conditions during the Second World War… It is incredible how a human being is capable of dealing with such an amount of physical and mental torture, and I have great respect for both Wladyslaw Szpilman and all other victims of the Holocaust. What makes his story even more special is that it was written right after the war in 1946, while other works appeared only many years after. Not long after Szpilman published his story, the Polish government tried to ‘hide’ the evidence of the terrible facts and his story wasn’t republished until the nineties. If you haven’t read The Pianist yet, I suggest you do, and don’t forget to watch the movie version directed by Roman Polanski. It gives you a great impression on how it was like for the Jews during the Second World War.

Wladyslaw Szpilman is a gifted pianist who plays for the Polish radio and he is known by many. He is also a Jew and forced to live in the ghetto with his family when the Germans take over Warsaw. Szpilman shows us the deteriorating situation within the ghetto. The people are living under the mercy of the German soldiers, who appear not to have any of that mercy left and kill people at random. The situation becomes more violent every day and soon transports to supposedly work camps are to be taken place. But in fact they are transports to the infamous gas chambers, and Szpilman wasn’t able to save his family from that same horrendous fate.

Being a populair pianist he was able to save himself though. He escaped and with the help of various faithful friends he hid successfully from the Germans. He had to change his hiding place various times, and it seemed that his intuition saved his life more than once. Being on the border of death, Szpilman actually tried to commit suicide once with the reason that he prefered taking strong sleeping pills over falling into the hands of the Germans. But fortunately for him the pills weren’t strong enough to kill him, even though his body was weak from the lack of food and the terrible situation he was in for so long already. He managed to escape yet again and found another place to hide. In that last hiding place is where two unlikely people met, a person who would save Szpilman’s life for a last time before the war was over. A German officer named Wilm Hosenfeld discovered him at the house Szpilman was hiding, but decided to save his life and even provided him with food and prevented him freezing to death.

Pieces of Wilm’s journal are included into the memoir of the pianist, and show us a different angle of the German officers. Hosenfeld doesn’t approve with the situation at all, but isn’t able to do anything about it by himself. He did save various Jews from their terrible fate though, and Szpilman was one of them. Unfortunately the Soviets caught Hosenfeld towards the end of the war and still imprisoned he died a few years later. Szpilman tried to get him free, but was never able to locate the man that helped him survive…