BOOK REVIEW: The Bone Collector – by Jeffery Deaver

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Title: The Bone Collector
(Lincoln Rhyme Series #1)

Author: Jeffery Deaver
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller
First published: 1997
Finished reading: March 26th 2014
Pages: 427
Rating 4

“The human creature is so astonishing, but count on it before anything else to be just that-a creature. A laughing animal, a dangerous one, a clever one, a scared one, but always acting for a reason-a motive that will move the beast towards its desires.”

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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.

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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…

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The Bone Collector is without doubt a great read and definitely recommended if you like crime novels and want to learn a bit about New York history as well. The characters are interesting and its fast pace makes it hard to stop reading before the story is finished.

BOOK REVIEW: The Alchemist – by Paulo Coelho

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Title: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre: Classics, Fantasy, Philosophy
First published: 1988
Finished reading: March 18th 2014
Pages: 197
(Originally written in Portuguese: O Alquimista)
Rating 3,5

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey,stardust,swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”

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I’ve been wanting to read the 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!

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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.

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Although part of The Alchemist is too religious in a way, I do understand the overall message Paulo Coelho is trying to give. And while I may not agree with all of it, I still can relate to some parts like ‘following your dreams‘ and ‘listening to your heart’. I guess most people will be able to relate to some of the philosophical messages in The Alchemist, and it is without doubt and interesting read.

BOOK REVIEW: Before I Go To Sleep – by S.J. Watson

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Title: Before I Go To Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary, Psychology
First published: June 14th 2011
Finished reading: March 15th 2014
Pages: 372
(Read in Spanish: ‘No Confies En Nadie’)

Rating 4,5

“We’re constantly changing facts, rewriting history to make things easier, to make them fit in with our preferred version of events. We do it automatically. We invent memories. Without thinking. If we tell ourselves something happened often enough we start to believe it, and then we can actually remember it.”

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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. It is an interesting story about a woman who tries to get her memories and life back after suffering from amnesia, and it has a very strong message. I personally really enjoyed this novel and I would definitely recommend it!

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Christine wakes up every day 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…

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The story is written from Christine’s 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 really enjoyed the story and it’s a great first novel. I will be wanting to read more of S.J. Watson’s work for sure… And at least re-read the story in it’s original language.

BOOK REVIEW: The Pianist – by Władysław Szpilman

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Title: The Pianist
Author: Władysław Szpilman
Genre: Non Fiction, WWII, History, Memoir
First published: 1946
Finished reading: March 12th 2014
Pages: 224
(Originally written in Polish: Śmierć Miasta)

Rating 5

“And now I was lonelier, I supposed, than anyone else in the world. Even Defoe’s creation, Robinson Crusoe, the prototype of the ideal solitary, could hope to meet another human being. Crusoe cheered himself by thinking that such a thing could happen any day, and it kept him going. But if any of the people now around me came near I would need to run for it and hide in mortal terror. I had to be alone, entirely alone, if I wanted to live.”

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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. It gives you a great impression on how it was like for the Jews during the Second World War.

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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…

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The Pianist is a very strong read and without doubt recommended to those who are interested in the Second World War and Jewish memoirs. Szpilman‘s story is both heartbreaking and mindblowing, and one of my favorite reads this year. Don’t forget to watch the movie version directed by Roman Polanski if you haven’t; it is just as powerful as the novel!

BOOK REVIEW: The Great Gatsby – by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: April 10th 1925
Finished reading: March 7th 2014
Pages: 180
Rating 4

“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

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In this case I saw the movie much before even considering reading this novel. The extravagant world of Jay Gatsby during the twenties really came alive on the screen, and it made me wonder how the paper version would be. So I decided to find a copy, and I must say that I wasn’t disappointed at all. It’s not the typical novel and the exuberant world Gatsby moves around in might not be to your taste. But it is without doubt that the way F. Scott Fitzgerald is able to show us this world they live in is brilliant. The first part might not be that interesting for those who prefer action, but the second half makes up for it and The Great Gatsby has its share of drama and death.

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We get to know Jay Gatsby through Nick Carraway, his neighbor and narrator of this story. Gatsby finds out about the family ties between Nick and his long lost sweetheart Daisy, and asks his neighbor for help in reconquering his true love. Because, as in most drama storylines, Daisy had already married someone else. Jay Gatsby was poor back then and had gone to war… And she was tired of waiting for Gatsby to come back and afraid of losing the priviledged life she was enjoying until then.  Slowely and through Nick we come to know more about Daisy, Gatsby and their dreamlike world (and their secrets). Things become more intense when we find out that Tom, the husband of Daisy, has an affair, and then all the different parties meet. It is a big mix of three different love triangles, with Nick in the middle as the only spark of reason within all the chaos. Things escalate towards the end with terrible consequences… And two deaths as a result. It shows us that life is only temporary and that even the most extraordinary things come to an end.

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I must say I really enjoyed The Great Gatsby; it is almost a work of art and more similar to poetry than to normal prose. It might not be my normal taste of genre, but it is definitely worth reading.

BOOK REVIEW: The Mist – by Stephen King

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Title: The Mist
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction
First published: 1980
Finished reading: March 3rd 2014
Pages: 230

Rating 3

“Something in the fog!” he screamed, and Billy shrank against me-whether because of the man’s bloody nose or what he was saying, I don’t know. “Something in the fog took John Lee! Something-” He staggered back against a display of lawn food stacked by the window and sat down there.”Something in the fog took John Lee and I heard him screaming!”

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I’m not sure what to think of this one. Normally I enjoy his work, but I felt The Mist was too short, and too many important details were missing. I know Stephen King ment it to be short, but still… It wasn’t completely satisfying. Sure, the overall plot was interesting as well as the various creatures King incorporated into the story. I just wish he would have made it into a larger and more complete novel…

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The Mist is about how people of a small town react to a postapocalyptic crisis situation. One day, a big storm rages over the lake and brings with it a terrible mist. The storm ends suddenly, but the mist doesn’t go away. In fact it only seems to advance more… The people try to ignore the mist, and David leaves his wife at home while he goes to town with his son to shop for groceries. Then all hell breaks loose and the mist turns out to be murderous. A whole bunch of people are stuck inside the supermarket, trapped by the mist and no way of getting out alive…

There are two groups within the supermarket: those who want to find a way out, and those who believe the mist is a sign of Judgement Day. The second group grows larger by the day, especially after the ‘things’ in the mist start to claim victims… All kinds of creatures run loose out there, and more during the night than during the day. Various times small groups try to leave the supermarket, with more deaths as a consequence. But David is determined to save his son from both the creatures of the mist and the people inside the supermarket who now believe human sacrifice is the only answer… Together with a few others he wants to try and get to the car on the parking lot, hoping that inside they will be safe. But when they make it, where will they try to escape to?

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It’s short and definitely intriguing, so if you don’t mind that some important details are missing, you will enjoy it. Ignore the mentioning of numerous brand names and enjoy the creepy creatures that are luring within the mist… And be ready to wonder how the story ends after the open ending Stephen King leaves us with.