Review: The Prisoner of Heaven

“I opened the book and looked for the page with the inscription the stranger had written out.

For Fermín Romero de Torres,
who came back from among the dead
and holds the key to the
future.
13

Then I heard the tinkle of the doorbell and when I looked up, the stranger was gone.

I dashed over to the door and peered out into the street. The visitor was limping away, merging with the silhouettes that moved through the veil of blue mist sweeping up Calle Santa Ana. I was about to call him, but I bit my tongue. The easiest thing would have been to let him go and have done with it, but my instinct and characteristic lack of prudence got the better of me.

This book is the third of what will be four novels that make up The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. They are beautifully written and expertly crafted in a way that they all relate to the same story, but can be read separately and in any order. Each book adds shocking details and perspectives to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books world.

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Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

Facts
563 pages
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Millennium Trilogy #3

Summary
This book follows The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (#1) and The Girl Who Played With Fire (#2) of the Millenium series.  It picks up where The Girl Who Played With Fire left off and Lisbeth Salander is in intensive care in the hospital with a bullet in her head following a confrontation with her father.  She faces trial for murder if she recovers and risks being sentenced to jail time or worse – a lifelong sentence to a psychiatric ward.  This book follows Salander as she fights for her life and innocence and as the people around her – Blomkvist, Armansky, and Holmgren – all team up to unravel the secrets surrounding the Zalachenko affair.  However, when they discover each new part of the mystery they put themselves and Lisbeth into more danger, as a secret group of government officials will do anything to keep their existence secret.

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Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire

Facts
630 pages
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Mystery
Series: Millennium Trilogy #2

Summary
This story is the sequel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which I reviewed here.   In this book, Blomkvist decides to use his magazine, the Millenium, not only to expose corrupt financial leaders, but this time to expose an extensive web of officials involved in a sex trafficking scandal.  However, right before the magazine planned to publish this controversial exposé, the two journalists working with the Millenium on the issue are found dead in their apartment.  The police arrive at the scene and find the murder weapon — with Lisbeth Salander’s fingerprints on it.  The police are initially confident of her guilt and issue a nationwide search for Lisbeth, but she uses her cunning resources to disappear into hiding.  Blomkvist refuses to believe Lisbeth might be guilty and tries to defend her innocence by doing some detective work of his own and searching for the real killer.  The story gets more complex the deeper Blomkvist digs and the book leaves off with a shocking cliffhanger.

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Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Facts

216 pages
Author: Douglas Adams
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Hitchhiker’s Guide Series #1

Summary taken from the back of the book

Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.  Together, this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by a galaxyful of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), Zaphod’s girlfriend, whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he’s bought over the years.  Where are these pens?  Why are we born?  Why do we die?  For all the answers, stick your thumb to the stars!

Overall Impression

Honestly, I’ve been trying to make myself do this book review for days but couldn’t bring myself to do it since I really wasn’t a fan of this book.  I copied the summary from the back since I couldn’t trust myself to do an unbiased one.  I was surprised by my reaction to this book since I have heard such great reviews of it in the past, but maybe my expectations were too high.  Also, I neglected to consider a few important facts.  1) I’m not a huge fan of science fiction 2) I don’t like completely random books.  This book really bothered me because the plot lacks direction.

Having said this, I did enjoy Adams’ witty remarks and creative ideas throughout the novel.  I think the clever puns are the cause of such high reviews for the book.  Adams writes well, but I don’t think simply having a funny book merits its reputation.  I also really enjoyed the character Marvin, despite the concept of a depressed robot being incredibly sad.  I didn’t find the other characters very likeable or special which definitely contributed to my dislike for the book.  The book is pleasant if you’re looking for a different and easy to read book, but I did not find it very captivating and had no motivation to continue reading.

I think the best and scariest message of Adams’ book is that anything we do on Earth is relatively insignificant, since we really have no idea what else is going on in the galaxy or what bigger plans we are a part of.

Rating
5/10

I feel like this is a very low rating for such a highly acclaimed book, but I really struggled getting through it and I want to keep my reviews honest, if nothing else.  For this book, think of my rating as being more personal rather than a recommendation or warning – since I think others might appreciate this more than I did.  It really was the randomness of the novel that got to me.

Trailer
The movie adaptation for this book came out in 2005.  The trailer is shown here.

Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Facts
368 pages
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Genre: Fiction

Summary
Oskar Schell is a 9 year-old boy who lost his father to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 two years before the story starts.  He finds a mysterious key hidden in an envelope inside a vase on the top of his father’s closet.  This book follows his journey all over New York City to discover the lock that matches this key and find out how it relates to his father.  Along his way he discovers a lot about new interesting people, his family, and himself.  This is a powerful story for its honest and compelling tone and narration by Oskar.  Foer flawlessly communicates what it feels like to grieve and to love.

Characters

Oskar Schell is a unique narrator.  He is naive and ignorant of many realities due to his age and yet he has a brilliant mind.  His way of perceiving the world is creative and fresh.  He constantly imagines new inventions and uses for things that I would never consider.  Oskar is extremely troubled due to his father’s death and seems to use this obsession with inventions and solving puzzles to ignore the issues in his life.

“In bed that night I invented a special drain that would be underneath every pillow in New York, and would connect to the reservoir. Whenever people cried themselves to sleep, the tears would all go to the same place, and in the morning the weather could report if the water level of the Reservoir of Tears had gone up or down, and you could know if New York was in heavy boots. And when something really terrible happened – like a nuclear bomb, or at least a biological weapons attack – an extremely loud siren would go off, telling everyone to get to Central Park to put sandbags around the reservoir.”

Oskar is very emotional and at times is openly hostile.  He sees a psychiatrist but doesn’t seem to be very receptive to treatment.  Since his father’s death he has obsessed over world disasters and incidences of gruesome deaths.  He cuts out magazine clippings and pictures of these horrific events and pastes them in a journal titled “Stuff That Happened To Me”.  Furthermore, Oskar wears only white and gives himself bruises when he is feeling down.  When he experiences negative emotions he says that his “boots feel heavier”.  Despite his troubles, Oskar is a very special child with numerous interests.  He frequently writes letters to scientists and other noteworthy figures that he admires.  He sometimes will send them his business card describing his many talents.  Oskar’s tale is sad, but also inspiring and offers us a fascinating perspective.

Oskar’s parents
Oskar treasured time with his father greatly.  Since his father is dead we only can meet him through few and brief positive memories that Oskar has of him.  Oskar’s father would tell him elaborate stories, spend time correcting the New York Times paper, and give Oskar puzzles to solve.  They engaged in stimulating conversation and Oskar’s father encouraged Oskar to really think about the world around him.  We only encounter Oskar’s mother after his father has died and they have a very strained relationship due their grief.  Oskar is bitter that his mother survived instead of his father and has trouble understanding why she is trying to move on with life two years following his dad’s death.

Oskar’s paternal grandparents
These were my favorite characters and the most interesting parts of the novel for me.  Oskar’s grandmother lives in the building next door and she is an instrumental character who provides support to Oskar during this difficult time.  However, she is also experiencing extreme grief since her son died.  We learn about Oskar’s grandfather through his grandma’s memories and through letters, since he left before Oskar’s dad was born.  His story is one of devastation and grief and at times is heartbreaking.  It is the most interesting part of the novel for me because of how the emotion is expressed.  Oskar’s grandfather stopped speaking following trauma, so all of his communication is through words written on a notepad.  At times his story is expressed through pictures and letters that he never sent.  We learn that the he had very complex reasons for leaving.  It was never an easy decision for him, but the impact of his departure upon Oskar’s grandmother was huge.  It is very interesting to see both sides of the story and learn more about their strange relationship that was dominated by rules and pretending to ignore past events.

Overall Impression

I really enjoyed Foer’s writing style.  It was honest, emotionally raw, and extremely touching.  However, this is not merely a book about grief.  Foer masterfully crafted the novel with elaborate characters and plot.  Furthermore, he used artistic styles to add to the literary element by enhancing the story and perspective with pictures and small segments of text.  He knows how to craft text to emphasize emotion and does so very well.  At times the narration takes on a stream-of-consciousness feeling to better allow us to understand the feelings and mindset of the characters.  The book flowed very well and made me keep reading until I finished it.  Finally, he ends the book with a flip-book which is a fitting end to an artistic literary novel.  I plan on reading Foer’s earlier novel that first gained attention, Everything Is Illuminated, to see how the books compare.

Rating
10/10
Translation: Go out and buy it already!
There certainly are critics of this book, but I loved it and highly recommend it to others.  It definitely isn’t your average book and I think you’ll enjoy it.

See another post I made as a reading update about this book for additional quotes and information.


Here is the trailer for the movie adaptation that will be coming out in December.  I’m interested to see how they convey the style and emotion of Foer’s book in a movie.  I’m hoping they will do the book justice, but I already have some concerns just from the trailer.  Why does Oskar not wear white clothing?  Also, they make the father-son relationship seem much more idealistic than Foer described.  They even added inspirational quotes from Oskar’s father which never appeared in the book.  Most importantly, where are Oskar’s grandparents?  I really, really hope they didn’t cut my favorite part of the book.  Either way, I’ll be seeing the movie in December and posting a review to let you now what I thought.

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Facts
590 pages
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Mystery
Series: Millennium Trilogy #1
Originally written in Swedish
The original title’s translation is Men Who Hate Women

Summary

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist and the publisher of the Millenium, a financial magazine.   After being convicted of libel against the billionaire Hans-Erik Wennerström, he is sentenced to 3 months jail time and he steps down as publisher of the magazine.  Before completing his jail time, Henrik Vanger, the former CEO of Vanger Enterprises, contacts Blomkvist with a proposition.  Vanger wants Blomkvist to write a biography of the Vanger family, while secretly investigating the a disappearance from decades ago.  Vanger is convinced that his 16  year old great-niece was murdered and that someone in his family was involved.  He is able to persuade Blomkvist to take this case by promising him valuable information to clear his name and condemn Wennerström Lisbeth Salander, who Vanger previously hired to do a background check on Blomkvist, ends up getting involved with the case to help Blomkvist research.  Lisbeth is a difficult young woman with a troubled past of crime.  She has multiple piercings and tattoos, giving her a rough appearance that enhances her tough personality.  However, despite all of her issues, she has a brilliant mind and is invaluable to the case.

Lisbeth Salander
Lisbeth is the girl with the dragon tattoo, so I was surprised that her part in this first book of the trilogy was relatively minor.  She makes infrequent appearances, but when she does appear she is very memorable.  Her character is unlikeable.  She is stubborn, disagreeable, unsociable, and mean.  But, she is also brilliant.  I never pitied her for the troubles she goes through, since her character is too tough to allow pity, but I was always amazed by her strength and a bit frightened by her commitment to revenge.  While she is not someone I would likely have as my friend, she makes for a very interesting character.  I think Stieg Larsson did well to ease her character into the book though, since she can be disconcerting at first.

When I first started reading it…
Eh.  It starts off pretty slow, which normally would be okay since I’m used to the introduction blah blah blah’s of books, and the long descriptions of tons of family members was alright since they explained it a few times until I got it.  However, it was the focus on financial details and business that was difficult for me.  I felt totally lost at first, but I think that this confusion was personal and not a fault of the book.  I now can appreciate what it means for my boyfriend to be an accounting major. Also, there are a few references that didn’t ‘click’ for me since the book was originally written for a Swedish audience.  After the first chapter or two the book’s pace picked up and became much easier to read.

Overall Thoughts
This book was different from other mystery/thrillers I have read, such as James Patterson, because it takes time to build the story.  While there were parts that kept me on the edge of my seat, this wasn’t until the end.  Stieg Larsson really took time to fully develop the characters while slowly expanding the plot, which I loved.  This book was not only great as a mystery, but also as literature. 

Warning!
This book does deal with some explicit content relating to sexual trauma.  I almost quit reading this book (which I very, very rarely do) after reading a particularly explicit scene.  If you are very sensitive to this topic then you should be aware of this before you start reading the book.  However, I do give the author credit for not allowing this dark topic to consume the book.  It was very well balanced with lighter situations and the majority of the plot did not concern this.  There was really only one instance that was extremely explicit and disturbing.  If you are sensitive to this however, you might want to just skim over that part when you get to it. 

Rating
8.5/10

Trailer

This movie hits theaters on December 21st.  It’s already on my calendar – can’t wait!