BOOK REVIEW: No Country For Old Men – by Cormac McCarthy

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Title: No Country For Old Men
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Thriller, Crime, Western
First published: July 19th 2005
Finished reading: April 1st 2014
Pages: 309
Rating 1,5

“You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday dont count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else. You might think you could run away and change your name and I dont know what all. Start over. And then one mornin you wake up and look at the ceilin and guess who’s layin there?”

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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.

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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?

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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 would only recommend this one to my potential enemies.

BOOK REVIEW: The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak

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Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, WWII
First published: 2005
Finished reading: January 23rd 2014
Pages: 552

Rating 3

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

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I remember reading this book already a few years ago and absolutely loving it. And when I saw the trailer of the movie version, I couldn’t remember the exact details of the book, so I decided to re-read. I’m not sure exactly why, but to be honest I wasn’t as convinced as the first time I read it… True, this book is original. You won’t see any similiar writing styles every day. Still, in a way it annoyed me. Seeing the world through the eyes of Death is interesting, but I felt it sometimes interrupted the story and gave away spoilers. Also, the use of German words with direct translations didn’t seem to add a different level to the story. It just slowed down the reading pace. And lastly, was it really necessary to use that many swear words? After one too many Saukerl and Saumensch I would almost forget the real names of the characters.

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Narrated by Death, this book tells the story of a young German girl Liesel and other inhabitants of the Himmel Street, Molching. It is set in 1939-1943, right in the middle of the Second World War, and through the eyes of the characters we can see the influence of and the horrors induced by The Fuhrer. Liesel is an orphan and lives with her foster parents Hans and Rosa. Everything goes normal until they decide to hide a Jew: Max. In Nazi Germany, that’s about the most dangerous thing you can do. The German girl loves books, and already during the beginning of the book becomes a book thief. Throughout the story she steals a couple more, with the help of her friend Rudy. The life in Nazi Molching becomes darker, and various characters die or are set to war. Liesel keeps reading and it is the books that save her life in the end… While others are not so lucky.

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I have to admit the story itself is interesting and makes up for most of the annoyances mentioned before. It makes for a nice read if you are interested in the Second World War or enjoy reading experimental books like this one.

Death Of A Bore – by M.C. Beaton

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Title: Death Of A Bore
(Hamish Macbeth Series #21)
Author: M.C. Beaton
First published: February 23rd 2005
Finished reading: August 20th 2013
Pages: 242

Set in a small Scottish village, M.C. Beaton tells the story about yet another murder case for constable Hamish Macbeth. This time a minor writer, John Heppel, manages to upset half the village and one night they find him murdered in his house. While others think someone within the village did it, Macbeth seems to have different ideas. He tries to focuss on the crew of the TV company, and the chase starts…

An ok but no too inspiring novel in my opinion. The setting is nice and the use of Scottish dialect is interesting for me as a philologist, but the storyline is full of cliches. Entertaining but definitely not challenging.

BOOK REVIEW: The Lincoln Lawyer – by Michael Connelly

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Title: The Lincoln Lawyer
(Mickey Haller Series #1)
Author: Michael Connelly
Genre: Mystery, Legal Thriller, Crime
First published: October 3rd 2005
Finished reading: May 26th 2013
Pages: 505

Rating 3

“She always asked the irrelevant question. It didn’t matter in terms of the strategy of the case whether the defendant “did it” or not. What mattered was the evidence against him — the proof — and if and how it could be neutralized. My job was to bury the proof, to color the proof a shade of gray. Gray was the color of reasonable doubt.”

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While The Lincoln Lawyer is not the next literary masterpiece, it is still quite an entertaining read. The main character is Mickey Haller, a criminal defense lawyer who prefers his clients guilty and rich, the so-called ‘franchise’ clients. The client being innocent doesn’t make him that much money, and he couldn’t forgive himself if he would lose a case of an innocent either… So all in all Mickey Haller is not the typical lawyer who pretends to be just; he admits almost openly he is doing it mostly for the money. Although he does have a conscience and he is afraid he wouldn’t recognize innocence when he finally finds it… This novel by Michael Connelly is perfect for a few hours of easy reading, although I’m not sure if I would continue this series at some point myself.

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Mickey Haller has just catched a big franchise client accused of beating and attempting to rape a woman named Louis Roulet. Haller knows his client is guilty, but he needs the money and with the help of the Roulet’s status and ability to lie it’s not too difficult to claim innocence. But Mickey has a new problem: he finds evidence that another of his clients currently in jail is actually innocent. But he won’t be able to get him out without damaging his current Roulet case…

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For a legal thriller The Lincoln Lawyer is quite easy to read and the courtroom parts are not boring at all. The plot is actually quite interesting and the main character is actually quite human. Haller might not be the perfect attorney, but the flaws make him easier to sympathize with. All in all not a bad read if you don’t mind the use of some colorful language…

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – By Stieg Larsson

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Title: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
(Millennium Series #1)
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Suspense, Mystery, Fiction
First published: August 2005
Finished reading: March 15th 2013
Pages: 538
(Originally written in Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor)

Rating 4

“I’ve had many enemies over the years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never engage in a fight you’re sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide your time and strike back when you’re in a position of strength—even if you no longer need to strike back.”

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has become increasingly popular over the last few years, especially when they decided to make two movie versions of the book. The first one in Swedish was a lot better than the Hollywood version though; somehow the main characters (like Daniel Craig interpreting Mikael Blomkvist) weren’t as believable. Plus, I really enjoy how the Swedish language sounds and I even learned a few words over the years… The book was actually a re-read, and I enjoyed it as much as the first time. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is full of action. Although it is at some times almost too disturbing, I was sucked into the story and it was hard to stop reading. Lisbeth Salander is definitely a woman with balls and I admire all her quirky and crazy ways, even though I sometimes don’t agree with her actions. This book is a great read and it definitey won’t bore you!

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Mikael Blomkvist is a financial journalist with an important problem. When he makes some serious accusations of lawbreaking by a big name in the Swedish Industry, they sue him and Mikael loses the case. Just as he doesn’t know what to do next, a legend in the Swedish Industry contacts him with the message that he has the information he needs to prove his was right all along. We then get introduced to a mystery involving the disappearance of the daughter of the famous Hendrik Vanger some forty years ago.  Hendrik Vanger hires him to investigate the disappearance and promises Mikael to give the information he needs, but only after a full year of research. The body of Harriet Vanger was never found, but Hendrik strongly believes someone within his family killed the poor girl… And he asks Mikael to investigate under the pretext he is writing Hendrik’s memoir.

Mikael moves to the island where the Vanger clan have lived for ages, and a computer hacker called Lisbeth Salander is also hired to investigate. Lisbeth is not the typical woman and quite an outcast with her piercings, interesting choice of clothing and many tattoos. She is mostly misunderstood and in fact a genius, even though she has some problems expressing herself as she is autistic. Together, Mikael and Lisbeth are able to find a link between Harriet’s disappearance and some murders that took place forty years ago, and they realize they are in danger. When they reveal more and more of the dark family secrets, someone is trying to stop them from uncovering the truth… With dangerous consequences.

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an entertaining read and a fast pace that will make you want to continue reading until you finish it. Stieg Larsson was without doubt a talented writer and it’s a shame he passed away so soon. I have read the whole trilogy previously and rereading it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The Swedish movie version is recommendable as well!

BOOK REVIEW: The Broken Shore – by Peter Temple

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Title: The Broken Shore
(Broken Shore #1)

Author: Peter Temple
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: 2005
Finished reading: January 26th 2013
Pages: 345
Rating 3,5qqq

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The mystery/thriller genre is one of my favorites, so I’m always on the lookout for new books belonging to the genre. When I saw a copy of The Broken Shore on the hostel shelves, I knew I had to pick it up. The promise of a proper crime story set in the middle of Australia convinced me straight away, and I think the setting is what I ended up liking most of this novel by Peter Temple. I like it when local knowledge shows in a story, although I do have to admit that the amount of Australian slang used in the story did slow down the pace considerably. There is a glossary in the back, but still it might complicate reading the story for those who are not familiar with the words. That said, I also admire the author for having used the Aussie words, since it makes the story more authentic. The plot itself is quite interesting and touches some interesting themes like corruption and racial prejudice. It’s an entertaining enough read, even though I can’t say it was one of my favorites.

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Homicide detective Joe Cashin has fled the ctiy after being broken by his last case. He returns to his hometown to recover from the past and let his wounds heal, but this recovery is interrupted by the murder of a wealthy older man and prominent member of the local community: Charles Bourgoyne. Three young men form the Aboriginal community are suspected of having commited the crime. Cashin is asked to help in the case, and he personally isn’t so sure the three youngsters did it. Corruption and prejudice seem to play a big role in the case and when one of the young Aboriginal men dies after a chase, all hell breaks loose. The local police is accused of discrimination by the Aboriginal community, clouding the actual murder investigation even further. What really happened to Charles Bourgoyne?

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The Broken Shore is an interesting enough crime novel for those who like the genre, although it’s not the best out there. The Australian setting and slang make the story feel authentic on one hand, but it does make it difficult to read for those who are not familiar with the dialect. The plot itself is not that special, although the involvement of the Aboriginal community did give it an extra touch. All in all a solid enough read if you don’t mind the frequent use of Aussie words.