Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Prisoner of Heaven

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
278 pgs  (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series #3)

The Prisoner of Heaven is the third and latest book from Zafón featuring the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and it maintains the level of excellence Zafón delivered with the first two books--which is a notable achievement.

In this one, it's Fermin Romero de Torres, an enigmatic employee at Sempere and Sons Bookstore, who is the central character. The book begins with a visit to the bookstore by a mysterious man who leaves behind an unusual gift with a message for Fermin. That visit leads Fermin to finally reveal to Daniel Sempere the story of his mysterious past.

He recounts his imprisonment in 1939 during the war, where he meets David Martin (the central character in The Angel's Game) and his daring escape from that fortress of a prison. The impact that his time spent in prison and the men he deals with there had and continue to have on his life make up a fantastic tale that is reminiscent of two of my favorite books: The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables.

The books are not told in chronological order, And Zafón has said that it doesn't matter which order you end up reading them in. The first book, The Shadow of the Wind takes place after the events of the second book: The Angel's Game, and I agree that it really doesn't matter which of those two books you read first. But I'd definitely recommend reading both of those before this third one. It ties those two books together wonderfully and in ways that wouldn't be fully appreciated if read beforehand.

There is one more promised installment to this series and I can't wait for it to come out. With each additional book in the series, Zafón's brilliance becomes more evident. It's a beautiful story he's telling, and each book interweaves with the others in both surprising and rewarding ways.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Trouble in Mind

by Jeffery Deaver
479 pgs

I enjoy a good short story. I like the fact that I find myself thrown into a story mid-action, and in most cases, hanging on for a quick, and hopefully entertaining ride. Authors who are good at writing them have the ability to get you emotionally invested in the character quickly, without provide much, if any, of their life's backstory. Ray Bradbury and Stephen King are two of the best at writing them. I give Jeffery Deaver high marks as well. A typical book by Deaver is filled with misdirection and surprise twists in the plotline, and his short stories are no different--he just does it at an accelerated pace.

Trouble in Mind is the third collection of Deaver's short stories. And I think it contains some of his best so far. They're all worth the short time it takes to read them, but a couple of them are worth singling out: A Textbook Case is a Lincoln Rhyme story where the perpetrator uses the book Rhymes wrote himself to train detectives on how to find and analyze crime-scene evidence against Rhyme and his team and intentionally leaves as much planted evidence as he can. The Weapon is a very timely story involving a U.S. military interrogator who uses unethical techniques to extract information from his prisoners in order to protect his country from terrorist threats. Finally, Forever involves a string of suspicious suicides committed by elderly individuals and couples who showed no signs of depression beforehand, nor did they seem to have a reason to end their lives.

As a whole, Trouble in Mind is worth reading. Deaver branches out a little from his standard crime mystery format in some of the stories and pulls it off quite well. The stories quickly engage you and if you're not familiar with Deaver's writing, you'll soon realize that you can't assume while you're reading, that you know where the story is ultimately going to end up.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Friday, July 18, 2014

The River of Souls

by Robert McCammon
257 pgs  (Matthew Corbett series #5)

The River of Souls is book number five in McCammon's ongoing series that he says will ultimately include ten books. The series features Matthew Corbett who is a "problem solver" in colonial America at the turn of the 17th century and it's one of my favorite series currently being written.

This time around Matthew finds himself back in Charles Town on an unusual assignment from the Hudson Agency. The assignment is only a precursor though to a much more dangerous adventure Matthew finds himself involved in, when the young daughter of a wealthy plantation owner is discovered murdered by a slave who then flees up river in an apparent attempt to avoid hanging. After examining the body, Matthew doubts that it was in fact the slave who committed the murder and decides to join the group following the escaped slave into the ominous swampland up river, hoping to convince the group to return with him alive so that Matthew can prove his innocence and discover the identity of the true murderer.

It doesn't take long for Matthew and the entire group to realize that the swampland they're entering is filled with its own perils and that they're own survival is in jeopardy.

Every one of the books in this series has been great. This one is no exception. But it's by far the shortest of any of them and so I feel a lingering resentment towards McCammon because of it. If it was up to me, each of the books would be as long as Speaks the Nightbird, the first in the series was and I'd be able to enjoy them for a couple of weeks instead of just a couple of days. But regardless, I highly recommend the series and look forward to the next one.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tibetan Peach Pie

by Tom Robbins
362 pgs

When I first heard that a new Tom Robbins book was coming out, I was excited. When I learned that it was a memoir instead of a novel, I'll admit I was a little disappointed. Now that I've read it, I feel a little guilty for having had such doubts. His novels are the types of books that you need to experience in order to understand. It's impossible to have someone describe one of them to you and do it justice. Chances are it will sound more like an LSD-induced hallucination rather than a book. They're uncategorizable and categorically unique. Tibetan Peach Pie, even though it's not one of his novels, is no exception.

Robbins says in chapter one that Tibetan Peach Pie is not a memoir. But you know what they say about something that walks and quacks like a duck.... To his credit though, Robbins doesn't merely waste time describing his childhood and recounting funny stories from his past. Instead, each of the stories that he tells showcases his one-of-a-kind sense of imagination and curiosity that have been with him from a very early age and that have resulted in his truly imaginative life.

His curiosity has taken him all over the world. He visited Timbuktu, where he was cursed by an old crone and spent the better part of the next year suffering. He politely declined dining with the King of the Cannibals (the only time, according to him, that he turned down a culinary challenge). He was introduced to LSD many years ago and his books and his readers have reaped the benefits of its uninhibiting and mind-freeing effects ever since.

The book is worth reading, but probably only for those who've read and enjoyed his novels.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Thursday, July 3, 2014


by Daniel H. Wilson
362 pgs

Robogenesis is the sequel to Wilson's very entertaining book Robopocalypse, which detailed mankind's war against Archos 14, the artificial intelligence that brought about the robot uprising and decimated the human race. Robogenesis picks up immediately where its predecessor leaves off; mankind thinks they've destroyed Archos 14 and won the war (not a spoiler, since you find that out right at the very beginning of Robopocalypse). Unfortunately for the survivors of the war, however, their victory is short-lived, as Archos 14 had left behind many copies of its code.

Now the war moves into a new stage. It's no longer simply a war between robots and humans. Now, it's a war between different generations of robots. Mankind, and thousands of human-robot modified creatures left behind by Archos's experiments are simply trying to stay out of the crossfire and survive.

Robogenesis took me somewhat longer to get into than the first book did, and I think that's because the plot took awhile to surface. But the imagery of the world Wilson has created is fantastic and I was more than happy to wait for the story to unfold. It's clear from the first chapter, which gives an account of a man becoming the host to a robot parasite, which merges itself with the man's nervous system and takes over both his mental and physical functions, that Wilson's storytelling abilities have developed and progressed since the first book.

I'm hoping there's a third book coming.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆