Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Prisoner of Heaven

By: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Rating: 3 Stars

Who Should Read This: Anyone who has read The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game will enjoy this book that brings both of the previous books in the series together. This is also a book for anyone who is interested in historical fiction and mystery novels.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Barcelona,1957. It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have much to celebrate. They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermín Romero de Torres is about to be wed. But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city's dark past. His appearance plunges Fermín and Daniel into a dangerous adventure that will take them back to the 1940's and the dark early days of Franco's dictatorship. The terrifying events of that time launch them on a journey fraught with jealousy, suspicion, vengeance, and lies, a search for the truth that will put into peril everything they love and ultimately transform their lives.

My Thoughts:
This book felt a little rushed. It is the third installment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. The last two books I read in this series painted a beautiful picture of the story and had so much history and background to them. Some reviews said that if you hadn't read the first two books in the installment you would still be able to appreciate and enjoy this book, but I would definitely recommend reading the authors first two books before diving into this one. I think through the appreciation of the first two books he wrote, the reader will have a better understanding of the multiple stories being intertwined here.

With that being said, I did really like the way that the author was able to intertwine the last two books into this one. I always have a hard time when I finish a book that I absolutely love, and with this third book I felt like I was again reunited with the characters that I admire and appreciate. Fermin is still absolutely hilarious in an inappropriate, 'I can't believe he said that!' way. He does open up to Daniel as well, and really shows his vulnerability. Fermin's past is dark and dangerous and constantly catching up with him. When a stranger shows up at the bookstore one day, he ultimately starts a chain of events that leads to Fermin having to confide to Daniel his time in prison. From this conversation both Daniel and Fermin have to decide between right and wrong and vengeance versus forgiveness.

I think that the areas in which the book was lacking was its descriptiveness and the rushed feeling. One of the reasons I love this author so much is his skill in painting a picture of the characters surroundings and of Barcelona. He depicts it as this mysterious and Gothic place and in my mind it is absolutely beautiful. Perhaps it seemed as if there wasn't as much of this in the novel due to the fact that he sets up a picture of Barcelona in the first two books, so maybe I just missed that aspect. Secondly, I felt like we were racing to the finish line. I found myself trying to remember things from the past books that were important for this one, and felt like the book was slightly chunky due to the author racing to come to a good place to end the book.

I don't want to deter anyone from reading this book, because I truly love this author, I just really want to emphasis that anyone thinking of reading this should definitely start with his first book in the series, The Shadow of the Wind. I think that anyone who does will have a much better appreciation for this book as well. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, 
they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. So, this week's  topic is Top Ten Favorite Characters in Fiction!
Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird: I read this book in school, and then again as an adult. The soft spoken, even tempered Atticus gets me every time. He always seems to know what’s going on, and I remember being in awe as a kid when I realized he talked to his kids like they were adults. Even when he gets spit in the face he walks away with class. 

Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice: Favorite book of all time, favorite character of all time. Her independence, honesty, and classy demeanor are not flawless, but true to her character. She can admit when she is wrong (although it takes awhile sometimes), yet will not stand for nonsense. Elizabeth, in a word, amazing!

Fermin in Shadow of the Wind: This man made me laugh in a book that showed darkness and mystery. His positive attitude and willingness to help those he loved the most with anything and everything reminded me of what it means to be a true friend. 

Katniss in The Hunger Games: Total badass. She knows how to use a bow and arrow, survives through the games, and has two guys wrapped around her finger…need I say more?

Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones: Stark is the epitome of honor! He is fair, wise, and non-dramatic. Those who serve him are faithful to him to the end and that says a lot about a person in a book filled with backstabbing, greed, and adultery.

Juliet in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society: I loved Juliet’s curiousness. Her love and acceptance of others is contagious. She sets off on this journey for one reason and ends up completely finding herself. At the end of the book I literally wanted to just pack up and go off on a new adventure.

Robert Langdon in anything by Dan Brown: He is so smart and can solve any clue. If I had his brain and use of cracking puzzles I feel like my life would be so much interesting. 

Alma in The History of Love: This teenager is inspiring. She is in search for a new love for her mother, and is so determined to make it happen. Her naivety and determination sets her apart for other teenagers who would never go the lengths Alma did to assure her mother’s happiness.

Anna in My Sister’s Keeper: This girl is a truly amazing character. I can’t even begin to imagine going through what she did. Anna is brought into the world to save her sister, and continues to fight for her even when everyone else doesn’t understand her reasons.

Skeeter in The Help: Haven’t we all felt like Skeeter? Like sometimes people didn’t understand us or our beliefs? She completely goes out on a limb for something she truly believes in and shocks the world with the truth. And she did it all with an “I don’t care what others think” attitude. Love her!

I could have literally gone on and on for this week’s Top Ten! It was so hard to limit myself, but it was fun to sit down and really break it down to these ten great characters.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, 
they post a different topic, and you get to create your own top ten list. So, this week's  topic is Top Ten Romances in Books!

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice: Anything that asks me to name the top “whatever” in anything involving romance will probably, for the most part, include this book. This love story is the epitome of all romance novels. I would almost feel like the list was missing something, like it was incomplete, if it wasn’t included.

Leo Gursky and his wife in The History of Love: This was one of my favorites of all time. Leo makes the ultimate sacrifice for the woman he loves. It was unbearable and unbelievably humbling when the story unraveled. 

Noah and Allie from The Notebook: This couple is kind of the Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy of modern times in my opinion. Women are shocked when other women have not seen this movie or read the book. I had read it before the movie came out which I think had helped me because I cried throughout the book so when I got to the movie I was prepared for the love that moved mountains.

Anne and Frederick in Persuasion: This romance taught me forgiveness and patience. I should preface by saying I have no idea how Anne was so patient at times. If I were her I would have probably thrown myself at Frederick when he returned, which would only have resulted in shame of my family and him probably casting me aside. 

Rachel and Dex in Something Borrowed: I know, I know, I probably should be ashamed of myself for this one. It involves infidelity, stabbing friends in the back, and all around lying. I can’t help it though; I was rooting for these two throughout the entire book! Thank goodness the author made Darcy soooo hard to like, or I would have felt even worse for hoping they would end up together. 

Emma and Dexter in One Day: Even though I wanted to throw this book when I finished it (only one other book has ever made me want to do this) I really connected with the romance between Emma and Dexter. This might sound cheesy of me, but I felt that their love was so raw. It was realistic and showed how people make mistakes. Yet through it all, they came back to each other and always loved the other no matter what. 

Holly and Gerry in PS. I Love You: Okay, this book tore me up! A dead husband sending his wife letters and gifts after he has died? Telling her how much he loves her and planning all these surprises for her for when he is gone? Ummmm, hello, this man is amazing! I cried throughout the entire book. I was so glad to finally finish so that I would stop crying.

Henry and Clare in the Time Traveler’s Wife: These two really fought hard for their love. Every time Henry is thrown into time travel, Clare patiently waits for him to come back to her. Not only do they fall in love, but their love crosses generations since Henry visits Clare at different points in her life. It is beautiful, simple, and true. 

Celia and Marco in The Night Circus: Some may find this a very weird choice, but I love the chemistry between these two. Even though the both of them are battling it out and trying to prove to the other they are the better illusionist, they can’t help but be drawn to each other. 

Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: Such a tragic romance. One everyone knows, and even if you aren’t a fan of Shakespeare or even the story in and of itself, I don’t know how anyone can literally not hope every time they see it or read it that just once she doesn’t drink the “poison.”  

Well, that's it! What are your top ten favorite romances?!?!?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Baker's Daughter

By: Sarah McCoy
Rating: 5 stars

Who Should Read This Book: This book jumps back and forth from present Texas and World War II in Germany. It is a story of resilience, bravery, and finding one's self. Anyone who is interested in historical fiction revolving around World War II, and what it meant from the eyes of a baker's daughter from Germany, will truly be captured by this book.

My Thoughts:
This novel  captured me by the fifth page. I have always been interested in World War II and what it meant to everyone that lived during that time. How did it affect them? What were they exposed to? How did they get through it all? I truly believe that we must pay attention to our past so as not to repeat it in our future. This may have at times failed in certain circumstances, but being aware is a much better step in the right direction than choosing ignorance. This book follows three characters. Their is Elsie Schmidt who is the baker's daughter growing up in war torn Germany during the second World War. Reba Adams, who is a journalist/lost soul in El Paso, Texas in the year 2008 trying to figure out what it is she wants in life. Then there is Riki Chavez, a border patrol officer and Reba's fiance. Riki struggles with his job and the consequences that it has on the lives of the illegal immigrants he deports back across the borders. All three of these characters are vastly different in who they are and where they came from, but they deal with some of the same struggles, just at different points of their life and oceans away from each other. 

Elsie was definitely my favorite character. She is a teenager during World War II, and although she knows that she is supposed to do anything for the Reich, and be proud to do it, she just can't seem to find the honor in it. After being saved in the beginning of the book by a small Jewish boy at a party, Elsie finds him standing at her back door later on in the evening asking for the same thing in return. She knows that she should just turn him away, that it is a matter of life and death for her family if she is caught hiding him, but she can't turn him away. She refuses to be the one that sends him to his death. From there a story unravels involving betrayal, bravery, secrecy, and the most undying love anyone can imagine. Fast forward to El Paso in 2008 and we find Elsie again, the owner of her own baker shop and helping Reba Adams find herself through Elsie's daughter, Jane, and the comfort of the two ladies friendship. Reba is a lost soul, engaged to Riki (who in turn is lost himself) and the both of them realize that they need to figure out who they are and what they want before they can truly commit to each other. Neither is being honest with themselves or the other, and so the decision they have to make is whether to start telling the truth or walking away from each other for good. 

It may not seem that the two stories can really relate to each other, but I promise they do. I stayed up late into the night trying to figure out what happened to Elsie and the Jewish boy during the war, how she got to the US, and if Reba and Riki were going to finally come clean. This story pulls at your heart strings, and most people can relate to the characters. How many of us at one point in our lives have felt confused, afraid, and lost? The author does a wonderful job in creating characters that cannot only show the reader that love comes in all forms, but sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can change another person's life forever. I have absolutely no complaints about this book. There were some things (that I can't specify so I don't ruin it  for those who haven't read it yet) that I was wondering why the author took it on that specific path, but by the end I understood. Some things in life are better off left unsaid. The story also jumps back and forth between the two time periods. The thing that I love about these types of books is they leave you wondering what happens next, so it is much harder to put the book down because you want to get back to where the other storyline has left off. By the end of the book I felt as if I knew the characters and was so sad for it to be over. I found myself sitting there for a second after closing the book and imagining to myself what became of the characters later on in their lives. To me, that is the mark of a great book, one that keeps you wanting more.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Guilty By Reason of Insanity

By: Dorothy Otnow Lewis, Jonathan H. Pincus

Rating: 4 stars

Who Should Read This Book: Anyone who has always wanted to explore the mind of a killer. It sounds morbid, and it is, but this book delves deeply into what makes people want to kill and how they got to be this way. For those with an interest in psychology and development, this book will keep you very intrigued.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
A psychiatrist and internationally recognized expert on violence, Lewis has spent the last quarter of a century studying the minds of killers. Among the notorious murderers she has examined are Ted Bundy, Arthur Shawcross, and Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon. Here she shares her groundbreaking discoveries--and the chilling encounters that led to them.

My Thoughts:
I want to preface this review by saying that this book was very disturbing at various points. At one point I had to literally walk away from it and read another book because I was starting to have weird dreams from the different personal histories of the serial killers. With that being said though, this was a very interesting book. I am very interested in how the mind works and what makes people do the things they do, and this book really covered this. Dorothy Lewis did not set out to be a psychiatrist that made a living out of examining serial killers on death row, it was one of those situations she fell into and was shocked by what she found. Throughout the book she gives firsthand accounts of her interviews and how she adapted to her environment. She worked thoroughly with Dr. Pincus, as well, on many cases. He is a neurologist which works well with what Dr. Lewis does because they work together showing both the physical signs of illness from his examinations and the mental signs by her examinations.I actually saw a lecture delivered by Dr. Pincus at my work, and he had discussed how Dr. Lewis had gotten him in to the career of examining serial killers. After his lecture I was so interested I went on Goodreads and found this book.

Through reading this book I realized that things are not black and white when dealing with serial killers. Most come from years and years and years of horrific, terrifying abuse. I in no way condone any killing, but when learning about the physical, emotional, and mental abuse some of these people went through it started me thinking about at what point does a person just snap? Dr. Lewis also explores this question. I admire this woman who bravely sat in a room all alone with Ted Bundy, who handled herself well in interviews with multiple personality disorder patients, and who stood up for individuals up against the death penalty even when she was receiving death threats on a daily basis. This book was eye-opening for me, and although I know I could never do what she does, I give bravado to Dr. Lewis. I think one of my favorite parts in this book was when Dr. Lewis was talking to one of her patients, and she inquired as to why they liked her so much and requested her to come see them days before they were to be executed. The prisoner said it was because everyone they talked to always asked to hear the story of how they had killed their victims, and Dr. Lewis was the only one who asked not how, but why.

The reason I gave this book 4 starts instead of 5 was due to the fact that near the end I felt that situations started to get repetitive. Maybe it was just because I was so disturbed that so many situations like the ones in this book actually happen to people, but in any sense I felt that she could have started to wrap it up a little sooner than she did. Furthermore, the writing was a little choppy at points and there were times she would reference things from the past and I was slightly confused by some of this. Overall though, I highly recommend this book if you are able to digest the criteria behind the writing of it.