Posts tagged ‘Carlos Ruiz Zafón’

A bit of spit and polish and these will do nicely

I read three books fairly close together.  None of the three are really entirely notable enough to have a review on their own but each book had its own charm.

1. Prisoner of Heaven, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Published in 2012 –
This is another book in Zafon’s “Shadow of the Wind” series and while you do not need to read the other two books I would highly suggest it.  First and foremost the other two are much better and second it just makes this book more interesting already knowing the characters.  And as I have said over and over again (sorry) reading “Shadow of the Wind” is a must, it is just that good.

I was a little disappointed with “Prisoner of Heaven” – this could just be that measuring up to the first books is a tall order.  But regardless, it was still fun.

2. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, Published in 2012 – Set in the 1960s, Pasquel runs a hotel in a remote town, Porto Vergogna, in Italy. He seldom has guests and feels trapped because he is stuck running the hotel that was his parents’ dream not his.  This all changes when one day a beautiful American actress straight off the set of the film disaster “Cleopatra” shows up at Pasquel’s hotel.  The actress had a small part in the film but had to leave the set suddenly and was sent to the remote town by the producer.

The novel bounces back and forth between the incidents that changed both Pasquel and the actress’ lives in the 60s and the present.  The characters are quirky and lovable.  The story is really cute, not deep or amazing, but charming enough.

3. The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown, published in 2011- Out of these three books this one was my favorite.  The three sisters grew up in the small college town of Barnwell, Ohio. Their father was a Shakespearean professor, often using cryptic quotes from Shakespeare’s plays in conversation while their mother stayed at home to raise them, but was often absent-mindedly distracted and disorganized.

When the girls are all adults their mother is diagnosed with cancer and all three find themselves back at home in Barnwell, Ohio struggling, in one way or another, with their life choices.  Rosalind, who always lived near Barnwell, thinks of herself as the lynchpin of the family. She is torn between her fiance who has moved to London and her desire to be needed by her family.  Bianca, who immediately left the nest and moved to New York, has found herself in a severe financial crisis and in the quiet of Barnwell she is stuck examining her poor choices.  Cordelia has spent years wandering and has now found out that she is pregnant and in desparate need of some stability.

Of course the three must sort through their lives not being exactly what they planned while coming to terms with the restrictions that their relationship with each other creates. There is also the effortless love and support that their relationship as sisters allows.  “Your story is the story of your sisters. And it is past time, I think, for you to stop telling that story, and tell the story of yourself. Stop defining yourself in terms of them.” 

All three of these books will do if you are looking for a fun read but maybe not if you are trying to find the next Pulitzer. But then hey, not everything can win the Pulitzer right?

August 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm Leave a comment

V.C. Andrews has got nothing on young fiction writers these days

“The Prince of the Mist” by  Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Published in 2010 (in English)

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs, Published in 2011

 

In 6th grade, I remember sneaking “Flowers in the Attic” up to my room, carefully walking up the stairs, hoping not to get caught. I knew if my parents found out what I was reading I would be in trouble (incest and severe child abuse are not necessarily what you hope your 13-year-old daughter is reading about). But I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I had finished it.  I kind of felt the same way about “The Prince of Mist” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”

Both books are written for young adults, so I have been slinking around kind of reading them on the sly – ready to say something ridiculous like “I just got done reading the collective works of Tolstoy” if anyone asks what I am reading.  Reading young adult fiction can be really fun but like any guilty pleasure I am, for some weird reason, always ready to defend myself. I also knew, once I started both of these books, that I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I finished them.  So while I didn’t have to read these books under my covers with a flashlight, in a way that was what I was doing.

“The Prince of Mist” is set during WWII (which seems to be the case with a lot of books I have been reading lately). A family moves from the city to a small seaside town.  The oldest son, Max, knows something is wrong with this town when they get off the train and he notices that the train station clock is running backwards.  The family quickly finds out the previous owners of their house abandoned it when their son drowned.  They also find out that something is terribly wrong with the house and their surroundings.  There is just enough to make this story work – an evil cat, a spooky clown statue and a brave kid who saves the day. I think my 6th grade self would have loved this book.  My adult self  thinks this would have been better as a short story because towards the end my attention began to wander.

I think everyone has read “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” but for those who haven’t it is really a good book.  It is not what I expected but it has that storyline that we all connect with. The ordinary kid who has no friends and who thinks he is a loser only to find out that indeed he is special and then amazing things happen to him.  There have been a thousand reviews written about this book so I will leave it at that (see below for links to other reviews of this book).  It is by no means the best book you will ever read but it is a great escape and a quick read.  Don’t let the fact that the author’s name is Ransom get in your way either.

I have no idea how V.C. Andrews holds up compared to these books. But from what I remember, I think I would rather read these books several times over before ever again having to wonder if Christopher will marry his sister and get out of the attic –  and wow was that a bad movie.

Now what did I do with that Tolstoy collection I was just reading…

October 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm 6 comments

Autumn should always have a good ghost story

It has been getting colder and that means autumn and that means all kinds of great things – cider, spiked cider, sweaters, blankets, fireplaces, and Halloween.   I always have books that I read and then wish I could read again and have that “first scary read” experience.  So in the interest of promoting all things spooky and autumn, I thought I would put together a list of some of my favorite fall reads:

1. “Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters – this is a ghost story set in the 1940s in an old English manor.  It is wonderful and fun and scary.  I will warn you though, the end was not what I had expected (Hollywood has ruined me) but it was perfect for the book.

2. “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins – this was written in the 1850s. Collins was a contemporary of Dickens and is credited with writing the first novels with the detective character which may have inspired other to follow suit and thus was born Sherlock Holmes.  But this novel has a ghostly woman dressed in white appearing at night, a murder plot, a handsome rescuer and everything a Victorian suspense story needs. This is also thought to be the first Western novel to use different characters to narrate the story (just a little nerdy fact for you).

3. “The Straw Men” by Michael Marshall – so this is not an amazing piece of literature by any stretch and the sequel is awful. But this book is damn fun.  Here is the description from Amazon: “Ward Hopkins, attempting to make sense of the accident that killed his parents, discovers a note and videotape that lead him to believe their lives (and deaths) were not as they appeared. Meanwhile, the abduction of 14-year-old Sarah Becker renews the search for a serial killer who scalps his victims, embroiders their names into sweaters using their hair and then delivers the clothing to the victims parents. As Ward and his CIA buddy slowly unravel the mystery surrounding Wards parents, FBI agent Nina Baynam and former LAPD homicide detective John Zandt search for the elusive killer. Their paths cross when a series of connections is made between the victims and a bizarre cult known as The Straw Men.” Sounds spooky, huh?

4. “The Executor” by Jesse Kellerman – This book reminded me of  “A Tell Tale Heart” which I believe we all had to read in Junior High.  Joseph finds himself over-educated, unemployed and homeless so he answers an ad to be a “conversationalist” with an elderly woman who lives in a creepy house all alone.  Eventually she asks him to move in with her and then it all goes terribly wrong.  This book is worth reading for the description of the library in the house in and of itself which is a room I plan on owning someday without the creepiness.

5. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier –  set in the 1930s, a young woman finds herself married to Maxim de Winter, a rich Englishman. But unfortunately for her, she is the second Mrs. de Winter. Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, seems to haunt every aspect of their lives.  Rebecca was more beautiful, more accomplished and more something that you just can’t put your finger on.  As with all of Daphne’s novels there is a great twist at the end.  Mrs. Danvers, the creepy, spidery housekeeper is one of best characters ever written.  If you want to skip the book and see the film it was directed by a guy named Hitchcock and it is equally as good.

Other good ones:  obviously”The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James; “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters; “Case Histories” by Kate Atkinson; “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafron (I know, I know I already blogged about this book); “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr.

Enjoy the fall.

        

September 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm 3 comments


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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