BOOK REVIEW: I Heard That Song Before – by Mary Higgins Clark

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Title: I Heard That Song Before
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 3rd 2007
Finished reading: February 28th 2014
Pages: 384
Rating 2,5

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Mary Higgins Clark isn’t one of my preferred authors even though she is writing novels belonging to the thriller genre I very much enjoy in general. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this one, but since I wasn’t in the mood to read something heavy, I started this novel anyway. I Heard That Song Before was ok. It had a nice plot twist in the end, but for me too much emphasis was put on the relationship between Kay and Peter, without elaborating the beginning of this very sudden romance. I understand both are key characters, but still it slowed down the story considerately. And the most important part, the explaining of the sudden romance, was too short and made the rest of the story less believable. All in all after reading I Heard That Song Before I’m still not a Mary Higgins Clark fan.

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The story is about a very wealthy family, the Carringtons, whose estate has suffered from various tragic events, all related to the young heir Peter Carrington. When he was around twenty the girl he was dating, Susan Althorp, suddenly disappeared, and he was the ‘person of interest’ in the case. Also, the landscaper and father of Kay Lansing disappeared a few weeks later and rumors said he commited suicide. A few years later Carrington’s then seven months pregnant wife Grace fell into the pool and drowned… And again all eyes are on Peter. They never found sufficient evidence to prove anything, but during twenty years that followed the disappearance of Susan the authorities never left Peter alone.

Then the dying mother of Susan asks a private investigation to re-open the case so she can find some closure on the disappearance of her daughter before she passes away. Meanwhile, the daughter of the landscaper, Kay Lansing, falls hopelessly in love with Peter Carrington and they rush into a marriage after only five weeks. Soon after the honeymoon new evidence relating to the old cases shows up, and Susans body is discovered at the Carrington estate. Peter gets accused of the murder and they take him away. Kay believes in his innocence and tries to find out the truth, along with the same private investigator Susans mother hired. And they find out the Carrington family has been hiding various dark secrets as well as they have been protecting each other… Peter might not be guilty afterall, and his wife Kay may be in danger.

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Mary Higgins Clark managed to put in a nice plot twist in the end, which made it worthwhile finishing the novel. I guess I have to admit that for me this novel was nothing special, but I suppose it is good enough for a rainy or cold weekend without anything to do.

BOOK REVIEW: Insurgent – by Veronica Roth

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Title: Insurgent
(Divergent #2)

Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Fantasy
First published: May 1st 2012
Finished reading: February 26th 2014
Pages: 525
Rating 2

“People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them.”

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I wasn’t too sure about reading the second part of the Divergent series, but curiosity took over and I decided to get my hands on a copy of Insurgent. Unfortunately, the story didn’t get better than the first novel. No, it got a lot worse… To be honest, I was rather disappointed by lack of action throughout the story combined with the focus on the relationship between Tris (Beatrice) and Four (Tobias). I wasn’t expecting feeling those things after having read Divergent, and I must say I didn’t like it at all. Insurgent isn’t about the problems between the five factions anymore, it is more about the complicated relationship between Tris and Four and about the exaggerated fears Tris faces on a daily basis. And that was exactly what I didn’t sign up for: a romance novel. Such a shame since the series really had a lot of potential.

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In Insurgent things become more tense and Tris and the other Divergents have to rely more and more on their special skills. Everybody suffers from the war and the factionless become more powerful every day. The Erudite still maintain the power and try to control the population by improving their simulation serums. But they need a guinea pig to test if they work on Divergents, and here Tris ‘the suddenly selfless’ shows up to save they day. Later she betrays her boyfriend and the rest of the Dauntless by working together with his father Marcus in trying to recover valuable information from the Erudite. I must say I honestly don’t understand she did that without even knowing for sure Marcus wasn’t lying…  And we are not even talking about the ending.

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 Maybe I my expectations were set too high. Maybe I should have opened myself to Roth‘s new way of writing. But I just couldn’t get myself to like Insurgent I might still read the third and final part, but I doubt it will be any time soon.

BOOK REVIEW: Divergent – by Veronica Roth

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Title: Divergent
(Divergent #1)

Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Fantasy
First published: April 25th 2011
Finished: February 20th 2014
Pages: 487
Rating 3,5

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

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Described as being a mixture between Brave New World and The Hunger Games, I knew this first novel out of a trilogy would be interesting. I must admit I enjoyed it. But still, I couldn’t stop thinking of the many similarities with the Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games trilogy. Even the main heroines are too similar to be a coincidence. Both Tris and Katniss have the same characteristics and act alike. It seems like Veronica Roth copied the basic ideas of Collins and changed the story setting to create a ‘new’ bestseller. I understand her wanting to recreate the previous successful formula, but still I would have liked something more innovating. And although I liked Divergent, I must admit I prefer The Hunger Games. Go Katniss!

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Divergent is set in a world which is separated in five different factions, each with their own characteristics. We have Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peacefulness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (braveness) and Erudite (intelligence). Our heroine Beatrice Prior, later to be called Tris, is born into the Abnegation faction, but feels she doesn’t belong there. There is something special about her, something dangerous: she is Divergent. She actually has traits of three different factions and could belong to any of those three. People who are Divergent are seen as a threat to the delicate balance of the five factions and Tris is forced to keep her true identity secret.

At sixteen, every teenager has to do a test and then choose their faction. Tris chooses to leave her family and join the Dauntless faction. With the other iniciates she struggles to complete the difficult Dauntless training, where not all iniciates are intended to survive the training stage. She manages to adapt quite well, but is in constant danger of exposing her true identity. One of the trainers, Four (or Tobias), tries to help her and they fall in love…  Just as the training programme ends, all hell breaks loose and the Abnegation faction is attacked. The Erudite brainwash the Dauntless with a special serum so they attack, but the serum doesn’t work on Divergents. Together with a few others Tris escapes and the try to stop the simulation the serum causes… With serious consequences.

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This one makes a nice read if you don’t mind reading a lesser version of The Hunger Games and enjoy young adult novels. It is easy to read, and although sometimes a bit tacky and unbelievable, in overall enjoyable.

BOOK REVIEW: Schindler’s List – by Thomas Keneally

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Title: Schindler’s List
Author: Thomas Keneally
Genre: History, Non Fiction, WWII, Classics
First published: October 18th 1982
Finished reading: February 14th 2014
Pages: 400
(Original title: ‘Schindler’s Ark’)
Rating 4

“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

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Schindler’s List is to be considered a classic and definitely worth reading, especially if you are interested in the history of the Second World War. I already read this novel before in high school, and I’ve seen the movie as well. But since it has been a while, I decided to read it again. I must admit that the movie moved me more than the book, which seemed a bit ‘dry’ at certain points. But still the story of Oskar Schindler and his Schindlerjuden will surely both shock and amaze you.

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The novel tells us the story of how Oskar Schindler was able to save over one thousand Jews of a horrible death during the Second World War. It is a true story, which makes it that much more impressive. Schindler is a German industrialist who decided to start a factory with mostly Jewish workers, and thereby saving them of being send to Nazi death camps like Auschwitz. He encounters all kind of problems on the way and various people try to stop him, but the charmant Schindler is able to convince them all of the importance of his factory. It’s a story of heroes, tragedies, violence, hope. Families ripped apart by the Holocaust, others brought together again against all odds… And Schindler was there to protect his Schindlerjuden until the very end.

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Schindler’s List is an impressive story of how one person can make a difference in so many lives in such a difficult situation. About a man who decided to go against the rules of the Nazi’s and do what he thought was just. A definite must read if you ask me!

BOOK REVIEW: To Kill A Mockingbird – by Harper Lee

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Title: To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction, YA
First published: July 11th 1960
Finished reading: February 10th 2014
Pages: 287
Rating 4,5

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

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I know that many people consider To Kill A Mockingbird to be a classic, so I thought it was about time to read it. The novel is set in Maycomb Alabama during the Depression, and tells us the story of the Finches and what happens in their town. Harper Lee shows us a variety of significant themes important during the Depression and in Southern United States in her novel including racism and social classes. Every family in Maycomb has its own history and class, and are to behave according to that class… Scout for example is a rather boyish girl who doesn’t like dresses, but her aunt is trying to force her to behave more lady-like anyway. In Atticus we see the struggle for justice and change… Although the man accused of rape, Tom, doesn’t get free, Atticus still continues to fight for what he thinks is right. To Kill A Mockingbird is a powerful novel with beautiful prose that will definitely leave its mark. Recommended!

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Atticus Finch lives in a small town in the Southern United States of the 1930s, a place where race and class are still important factors to determine your social status. He is a lawyer that decides to defend a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. In the eyes of the white population the man is already guilty, but Atticus wants to defend him anyway. He is struggling to find justice, but most of the town is full of prejudice or prefers to look away. His two children will soon find out the hard way what it’s like to live in the South during the Great Depression… And what the consequences are of race and class problematics.

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To Kill A Mockingbird is a powerful story and definitely worth reading. We can see the two young Finch children growing up and trying to understand what happens in their world. The whole story is told through the eyes of the young Scout, which is an interesting point-of-view… The novel also questions both racism and shows us the discrimination, inequality and injustice affecting the colored inhabitants of Maycomb. If you like historical fiction and are interesting in this subject, make sure you read this classic!

BOOK REVIEW: Along Came A Spider – by James Patterson

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Title: Along Came A Spider
(Alex Cross Series #1)

Author: James Patterson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 1993
Finished reading: February 4th 2014
Pages: 435
Rating 3

“It’s a common enough psych term,” I told him. “All of us shrinks talk about VFC when we get together. Very fucking crazy, Gerry.”

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Ok, so I said to myself I wouldn’t read another Patterson for a while. But I guess I just couldn’t resist in the end… I was looking for some easy reading before chewing on some classics, and there is nothing better than a novel written by James Patterson. I chose  to read the first of the Alex Cross series, partly because I couldn’t remember reading it before. It didn’t wow me, but it did the job: easy entertaining and a brain now ready for some real literature.

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In this first of a long row of books in this series, the world is introduced to African-American Detective Alex Cross. He is trying to get over the violent death of his wife (although nothing is explained about how that happened), and lives with Nana Mama and his two children. Then the world is shocked by the kidnapping of two children with famous parents. The kidnapper is Gary Soneji, the math teacher at their school, and soon a man hunt starts… But Gary is a true psychopath and a serial killer and hard to catch. And things are not as they seem… It is a real challenge for Cross and his parter Sampson to catch the kidnapper, who is leaving a trail of deaths behind him. And it becomes even complicated when he starts an affair with Jezzie Flanagan, who was in charge of the two Secret Service agents employed to protect the two children…

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Not a bad read, I guess it serves its purpose. As long as you don’t expect the next Nobel prize for literature and don’t mind the sometimes tacky references to the whole racism theme, you won’t have problems with this novel.

BOOK REVIEW: Carrie – by Stephen King

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Title: Carrie
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Paranormal
First published: April 5th 1974
Finished reading: February 1st 2014
Pages: 253
Rating 3,5

“Sorry is the Kool-Aid of human emotions. It’s what you say when you spill a cup of coffee or throw a gutter ball when you’re bowling with the girls in the league. True sorrow is as rare as true love.”

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The other day I finally got my hands on a few Stephen King novels…  And without knowing I chose Carrie, his first novel, as the first one on my list. Having read work of Stephen King in the past, I recognized Carrie as still being somewhat raw, unpolished. But without doubt this novel is shocking. More than just a horror story, it can also be called rather tragic. I almost felt sorry for Carrie and her unfortunate life. Stephen King was able to really make the characters come alive in this first published novel… He mixed parts of newspaper reports, scientific reports and personal journals with various point of views to make us believe the world he created is real.

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Carrie tells us the story of an unfortunate teenage girl named Carrie that has telekinetic powers. Set in Chamberlain, the poor girl suffers from bullying both at school and at home. Her mother is to be considered nearly crazy and over religious, and it appears she doesn’t let her daughter even breathe freely . At high school the teenagers are simply cruel, and it is a miracle she didn’t completely loose it before. The famous shower scene, where Carrie at the age of sixteen gets her first period, is appalling. It’s incredible someone can treat such a hopeless girl that way. You can see it coming that at some point the ‘bomb’ inside Carrie will explode, especially after she refinds and strenghtens her telekinetic powers. A disaster waiting to happen in Chamberlain…

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The most important scene, the prom night, comes surprisingly early in the book. When they were setting up the buckets of blood above the thrones I was just hoping something would happen to prevent disaster. But there was no escape, and Carrie suffers her ultimate and last humiliation. The rest of the book explains what happened in the aftermath. And I must say I felt sad inside when they finally found Carrie, even though she set half the town on fire and killed hundreds. Don’t read if you don’t like blood. Otherwise, a must read for both Stephen King fans and horror lovers.