The Prisoner of Heaven

This is the third book in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s series of books that revolves around the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  The first two in the series being The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game.  It’s not a typical series because you can really read the books in any order, they’re all separate stories, but they’re set in the same time and have many of the same characters.  At least that’s Zafon’s intent.  And while the first two books easily fell into that style of story, I don’t think you would appreciate this book as much without having read the first two.  But I’ll get into that more later, on with the review.

Book StatsThe Prisoner of Heaven

278 pages

Drama

Characters

This book is centered on two of the characters from The Shadow of the Wind, which isn’t a bad thing, because the main arc of the story is telling us about Fermin Romero de Torres and his life story.  I loved Fermin in The Shadow of the Wind, I actually thought that one of that book’s few weaknesses is that Fermin was the most interesting character in the book despite being a side character.  All of the characters in the book feel like real people, and that’s easily the strongest thing about the book.

Setting

Barcelona in the late 1950’s, with flashbacks to the 1940’s.

Plot

The plot of this book is interesting, but it’s also the weakest part of the book.  Basically, it’s a long flashback to talk about Fermin’s past, as well as a way to try and tie the first two books in the series together more.  I enjoyed the plot, but without having read the first two books it wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining.

Enjoyment

I had a good time reading this book, but didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first two.  Zafon’s characters are the strength of the story, and the translator once again did a fantastic job, you’d never know that this was originally written in Spanish.  The biggest problem with this book is that it’s almost entirely filler to connect the first two books in the series.  It did a lot to set up some ideas that will be explored in the fourth book, but it really feels like this book is just treading water for most of the pages.  I still enjoyed it, and I’ll still check out his next book, but I wasn’t blown away by this one.

Overall Grade

Less of another book in the series, and more backstory to try and combine the two other books into one story, but it’s still a fairly quick and entertaining read.

7/10

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The Catcher in the Rye

What’s this?  Two book reviews in less than an hour?  No, I didn’t learn to speed read, I actually read The Things They Carried last weekend and I read The Catcher in the Rye yesterday.  I’ve just been lazy in getting around to writing up the review for O’Brien’s book, and I’m writing my review for Salinger’s book now.

Book StatsThe Catcher in the Rye

214 pages

Drama, Classic

Setting

The book is set in and around New York in the mid 1900’s.  I don’t know exactly when, and to be honest the exact year doesn’t matter for the book.

Characters

There’s really only one character who matters in the book, and of course that’s Holden Caulfield.  He’s in many ways a typical teenage boy who is facing a future that he isn’t ready for and in some ways doesn’t want to deal with.  He’s cynical, brash, and doesn’t much care what many other people really think.  But he does show some signs of being a much better person, and in finishing the book you really feel like there’s going to be hope for him once he grows up.

Plot

The plot to this book is almost non-existant, we basically follow Holden as he goes through a a fairly rough weekend and follow his thoughts.

Enjoyment

One of the first things that you have to talk about when talking about this book is the fact that while it’s widely considered to be one of the best books written in the English language, it’s also one of the most widely banned books in the United States.  And after finally reading the book, I kind of wonder what the big deal is.

To be fair, I do lean towards being fairly liberal in most matters, and I have no problem with people pushing the limits of what most people consider to be acceptable.  Even with that, I think you can tell that some of the people who complain about the book probably never read the book, or if they did they never got past the surface level.  To begin with, Holden swears constantly (just like many teens today), thinks and talks about sex constantly (just like many teens today), drinks while being underage (just like many teens today), and doesn’t care about school or his future (just like many teens today).

So yeah, as far as being an obedient child and teenager, he’s an awful person.  But the book also shows just how horrible his life really is as he’s going through the weekend in the book.  You could easily argue that this book does a better job than many others that I’ve read of showing you how having an excessive number of bad habits can ruin your life.

Another thing to talk about with this book is that while it’s frequently banned, it’s also one of the most frequently taught books in public schools.  I never read this book in high school, and while I enjoyed reading it now, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as much had I read it in high school.  The biggest selling point of the book for me was the character voice, and I don’t think that I would have appreciated a book with a strong character but a bare bones plot in high school.  Either way, I’m glad that I read the book.

Overall Grade

An interesting book driven by a great character.

7/10