Kickin’ Butt with Blomkvist & Salander

4 09 2010

Note: These are in the wrong order. They go Dragon Tattoo, Played with Fire, Hornet's Nest.

 

I had heard a lot of hype about Stieg Larrson‘s books The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire (also known as the Millenium Trilogy with the newest book called The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) and thought maybe it was one of those “Oh, it’s so good!” where it’s really “Oh, it’s so predictable!” like other books that are super hyped nowadays.  I bought a Kindle copy of Dragon Tattoo when it was on super sale (Swagbucks was paying for it–For more info on Swagbucks and getting money for searching the web, email me!) and started it last week.  It was slow going at first.  I was trying to read it in 5 minute chunks while I was at work and I couldn’t get into it.  I finally decided that I needed to sit down and really get in to it.  Once I got past all of the random Swedish names, places, finance district information, miscellaneous stuff about Sweden, etc. it was REALLY good.  I was pleasantly surprised. 

I blasted through Dragon Tattoo in 2 days by spending a whole night on the couch with my Kindle and staying up WAY past my 8am bedtime (I was sort of compelled to start Played With Fire at 4am).  I finished that two days later (another sleepless night and day at work on absolutely no sleep, good idea, right?) and I had Hornet’s Nest queued up on the Kindle to start almost immediately.  I few through Hornet’s Nest in the matter of about 16 hours between a “babysitting” a patient shift at work and a sleepless morning after work.  I HAD to finish the story!

Major Characters and Plot Basics:

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist and publisher of Millenium magazine, convicted of libel in Dragon Tattoo and spends a year trying to solve a mystery in exchange on information to avenge his libel conviction.  In Played with Fire he’s working on publishing a book when some things go wrong and Lisbeth is wanted by the police but nowhere to be found.  He spends Hornet’s Nest trying to solve the mystery of Lisbeth’s life and another great conspiracy.  Throughout the books he’s romantically linked to several women including his co-partner at Millenium Erika Berger and Lisbeth Salander among others.   

Lisbeth Salander is in her early 20s working as a freelance private investigator for a large security firm.  She’s different, to say the least.  She’s reserved, silent, and VERY good at what she does.  Through all of the books her researching skills are a great asset.  She and Mikael have a relationship and become friends of a sort while she is helping him with his mystery in Dragon Tattoo.  In Played With Fire she is linked to a few murders and we see more into her psyche and history through events unfolding as she’s avoiding the police.   Eventually she spends most of Hornet’s Nest recovering from events that unfolded in Played With Fire and trying to prove her innocence and regain her life.  

Erika Berger has a long history with Blomkvist as friends and they both describe the other as an “occasional lover”.  Erika is strong, independent, and kicking butt and taking names in the journalism world.  She’s usually the calm one and the voice of reason throughout the trilogy.  She’s often the glue holding Millenium, and occasionally Mikael, together. 

There are a bunch of lesser characters and they do stuff too.  The important part is that Blomkvist and Salander get rough with some bad dudes and learn a lot about themselves and others.  Of course they save the day in the end, but there is an endless inner monologue going while you read of “He did it… no she did it!… now what? How can that be?… Tell me who did it before I go insane!… She’s WHAT?!?!?!?”  and some more exclamations in a similar vein.  Until everything is resolved in the end, you’re pretty much clueless.  It’s awesome.

General Impressions:

Salander totally has some issues, but I found myself loving her even when I didn’t understand her.  When you find out in the end what “All the Evil” is, you can realize who she is and why she is.  It’s awful and amazing all in the same minute.   Mikael annoyed me occasionally because every time someone showed any interest in him he just slept with them.  I mean, he’s a total man-whore when it comes to that.  At other times though he’s the perfect gentleman and an amazing journalist/detective.  I wish that maybe his love life played less of a role in everything.  It really didn’t need to be there.  Erika was a cool character, and we really don’t see much of her until the third book.  Now, I don’t know if maybe that’s because Larsson wanted to expand her more in the later books that he didn’t get to.  I hope that’s the case, because she’s pretty much a minor character, sitting in the background and keeping things together. 

The storyline occasionally gets bogged down in random Swedish places, events, politics, and financial/business matters.  However, once you power through the story is quite fast paced and full of excitement and mystery.  Parts of the series fly by and I found myself turning pages quickly and staying up, fighting sleep, in order to get through ‘one more chapter’ or ‘just until I know what happens to…’ which led to several nights at work functioning on only a few hours of sleep.

I’m pretty critical of books, and the only think I hate about this series is that it’s over!  I guess I should be glad that they were even published as Larsson had finished them before death but never published them himself.  He supposedly wrote them for fun and had part of a fourth novel written and notes for others.  Purportedly he had envisioned a ten novel series.  Alas, and sadly, those will never come to pass as he died in 2004 of a heart attack.  Who knows, perhaps someone will ask his family and take on the fourth book.  I might be able to get on board with that. 

Conclusion: 

Grab a paperback or e-book copy of Dragon Tattoo!  It’s worth a few bucks to read and see if you can get into it.  I’m a little disappointed that I put it off so long.  Maybe next time something is hyped I’ll have to get on board sooner. 

Also worth mentioning:  Though there are Swedish/German movie versions of Dragon Tattoo, Played with Fire, and Hornet’s Nest; there are plans to make an English movie of Dragon Tattoo.  So far they have a few of the roles filled and it looks promising.  It’ll be worth a rental at least, right?

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Avonlea Days

28 08 2010

In June I had a childhood flashback and read the whole Anne of Green Gables set.  Most of the books were free for Kindle, so it was cheap summer reading.  I’m so sad now that I missed this as a child.  I would have loved it then as I loved it now.  Anne Shirley and I would have been friends just as much as Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, Nan-Bert-Freddie-and-Flossie, and Elizabeth & Jessica Wakefield were. Through the Avonlea books we follow Anne Shirley’s calamitous childhood and somewhat picturesque adulthood covering 42 years of her life. 

  • Anne of Green Gables is about 11-year-old orphan Anne Shirley being adopted (somewhat mistakenly) by Marilla and her brother Mathew to ‘help on the farm’.  Anne is immediately transferred from a tragic childhood to a wonderful world of farms, friends, and mischief.  She constantly tries the patience of Marilla and the other adults in the area but never ceases to amaze them at the same time.  Anne comes to love life in Avonlea and excels in school.  She and several of her friends attend Queen’s Academy and become licensed teachers.  Anne gives up a prize to go on to university after family circumstances change and takes a teaching position near home.  Gilbert (an old childhood nemesis turned friend) gives up the Avonlea school in order for Anne to be even closer and thus cements and even stronger bond between them. 
  • Anne of Avonlea follows Anne from ages 16 through 18 and her trials and tribulations as a teacher at her own local school.  It also introduced twins Dora and Davy which Anne has a part with raising.   Anne and Gilbert continue studies at home in order to stay fresh and continue with college the next year. 
  • Anne of the Island covers ages 18 through 22 and Anne’s stay at Redmon College to get her college degree.  Gilbert and many of their friends from Queen’s Academy are there to provide many an anecdote.  We also meet Anne’s first love interest Roy Gardner.  She finds after a while that she cannot marry him though and returns alone to Green Gables with a degree and find Gilbert home and deathly sick.  She finds she loves him more than she knew and praying for his safe recovery.  He does, and after a brief courtship Gilbert proposes and Anne accepts. 
  • Anne of Windy Poplars (also published as Anne of Windy Willows) covers ages 22 through 25 and written as a series of letters, journal entries, and stories between Anne and Gilbert.  Anne is staying at an old house called Windy Poplars with two widows, their housekeeper, and a cat while she works as principal of a high school and meets challenges from colleagues, students, and parents alike.  In true Anne fashion she finds a way to make everyone love her in the end.  At the book’s conclusion Anne is headed back to Green Gables to marry Gilbert. 
  • Anne’s House of Dreams has Anne aged 25 through 27 and married to Gilbert.  They move to a small fishing village where Gilbert will be a doctor.  They have their little house of dreams, new neighbors the Ford’s and Ms. Cornelia Bryant who are all colorful characters, and a few tragedies.  It sets the stage for the rest of the series as Anne and Gilbert are adults and encountering adult life. 
  • Anne of Ingleside is about Anne’s life aged 34 through 40 in their new (and final) house of Ingleside.  The book is full of stories of Anne and Gilbert’s five children (with one more born during the book) and the seemingly never-ending visit of Gilbert’s detestable Aunt Mary Maria Blythe.  Towards the end of the book we see Anne worried that her husband doesn’t love her anymore, and of course it’s all ok in the end and quite a bit heartwarming.
  • Rainbow Valley shows Anne at 41 but is mostly about her children and the new minister and his three children.  We meet the Meredith children running wild and trying to behave with no one to teach them how to.  There are quite a few great stories about the children punishing themselves for misdeeds and their father completely oblivious until the end when he feels guilty and tries to find a solution by way of a new mother for the children.
  • Rilla of Ingleside 49-53 and told mostly from the point of view of Anne’s daughter Rilla.  It has a completely different feel as it centers around the men and boys going off to war (World War I).  Rilla is taken from a silly girl of 14 to a mature woman of 18 through the course of losing her brother’s and friends one by one to the ‘call of the piper’ and by her own choices about things she encounters.  Her secret crush and good friend Kenneth Ford (son of the Ford’s from House of Dreams) is injured and returns home during which time they court before he returns to war once healing and leaving Rilla in a state of emotional turmoil.  The book ends with all returning, but never to normal and key people are missing and everything has been changed by the war. 

My impressions of the series as a whole are of a great girl turning into a woman and having all of her dreams come true interspersed with personal tragedy.  My favorite books were the first and the last.  Seeing Anne at the beginning in my head was just so fun.  You can’t help but laugh when she mistakenly gets her friend drunk by opening the wrong bottle in the pantry for lunch, or dying her hair green when a traveling salesman sells her something while Marilla is away.  She’s precocious and precious.  Then there’s Rilla, who is the baby of the family and a very immature 14.  She has to grow up quite quickly as her world is turned upside down by World War I.  Her brothers and friends leave her to fight in the war, her older sisters leave for college, and Rilla is left all alone at Ingleside.  She rises to challenges of starting a Youth Aid group and raising an abandoned baby.  Both these acts, and many others, shape her into a mature young woman by the end of the novel. 

Truly, I’d love to go back in time and live in Avonlea.  A world without the stress of today.  I mean, seriously, there’d be no worrying about how much you have to catch up on Facebook.  It wouldn’t matter if you forgot your cell phone (in fact, you wouldn’t even have a home phone!).  Anyone who wanted you would find you in person, send a message through a friend, or send a letter by post.  Leisure activities included knitting, crocheting, sewing, reading, and visiting with friends.  Cooking and baking were all from scratch with ingredients you or someone near you produced yourselves.  Sure there’s no running water, air conditioning, electricity, etc; but the focus of life was on family, community, and God.  There’s something to be said for that. 

Ok, ok.  I’m a little off topic.  So sue me.  Read the books if you haven’t already (and possibly even if you have already).  They’re good, wholesome entertainment. 

Don’t forget to sign up for a free copy of Love, Charleston here on The 20 Something Bibliophile!  Drawing will be the 1st of September! Click Here To Enter!





The Wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter

4 08 2010

 

I have successfully completed the whole Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling since my last post.  I also re-read the Twilight series in preparation for Eclipse to hit theaters, finished the Anne of Green Gables series, read though most of the Philippa Gregory Tudor novels, and downloaded about 150 other books to the Kindle, most being part of a series.  I suppose I’m on a series kick. 

On to business:

I found the entire Harry Potter series to be fantastic.  I had no idea what I was missing from the books by simply watching the movies.  The characters are different and better.  Dumbledore is so much more funny in the book, Mr Weasely is a little more good-natured absent-minded-professor/spare fatherly figure, Mrs. Weasely is the same as the movies but at the same time MORE, and Snape is even more terrifying in print.  Overall the first three books and movies match up.  There are minor things changed and omitted.  Book four (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) is where things start to change more than I think they should have.  The Tri-Wizard Tournament (and the new characters that are introduced) are vastly changed not just in an obvious way but in the feel of them.  (I know, that’s a little abstract, but it is so hard to explain without giving away a BUNCH of stuff.) Going on from book four the changes and omissions completely change the feel for the rest of the series.  I have NO IDEA how they are going to make a movie (or two movies) to do the book justice, or even figure out where to split the movie. 

A few points of serious contention with me (without spoiling anything too much):

  • The Half-Blood Prince was a HUGE issue in the book and they barely touched on it in the movie.
  • Harry and Jenny’s relationship-enough said.
  • Why aren’t the house elves in any of the movies other than Chamber of Secrets?
  • Quiddich World Cup, Victor Crum, Alastair Moody.
  • Why didn’t they explain Master’s Mooney, Padfoot, Wormtail, and Prongs better?  I only knew what they were talking about after reading the books. 
  • What happened to Victor, Fleur, Bill Weasely, etc?  They just disappear in the movies!

So much more that I can’t get in to.  Read the books!  They’re so awesome.  I wish there were more.  I want to know what else happens!





Epic series crashes to an end…

14 05 2010

So I finished the Sword of Truth series yesterday.  (I still have a prequel I can go back and read, but I’m going to take a break and tackle Harry Potter.)  I find myself flummoxed that such an epic story can end so abruptly.  SO many characters and details developed through the 11 books and in the matter of a few brief pages, the journey through Richard’s life and the lives of those around him is all neatly packaged and they all lived happily ever after. 

I mean, what happens to Jagang’s army?  Do Richard and Kahlan ever start a family?  What about Tom and Jennsen? A Mord-Sith and a general in the D’Haran army, how does that work out? Does Scarlet get better?  Seriously… so much was left at just barely having a resolution. 

I was completely entranced by this series, but now I want more.  I may get my wish.  Rumors (that might be verified by now) are that there will be a ‘new’ series of adventures of Richard and Kahlan.  It’s not more of the Sword of Truth series, but a new series branching off.  Fun times.  I hope we get to see what happens.  If not I may write and request the last three months of my life back. 

Through the series I found myself cheering on Kahlan, hating but loving Nicci, rooting for Cara, and hoping that Richard saved the day in time.  I became invested in the characters.  That is something that doesn’t always happen.  I also was impressed by all of the detail that allowed me to see the places and events as they came in the story.  I occasionally wished for some pictures of things they were talking about, but mostly only because I wanted to know if my mind envisioned them correctly.

Now that I’m done reading the series, I may look into finding/renting the tv series The Seeker that is based on the books.  I’ve heard that it’s good, but not terribly accurate.  I may be disappointed. 

Off to search, purchase, and load Harry Potter onto the Kindle in preparation for work this weekend.  I’ll let you know what I think soon.





Recent news!

4 05 2010

So, perhaps I haven’t posted all that frequently recently.  I’ve been a little busy with work, dealing with strep (again), and looking for a new apartment.  The good news is, I’m healthy (ish) and have found a new apartment that Penguin (the boyfriend), Ruby (the beagador), and I move into June 1st.  YAY!  I’ve also been doing plenty of reading, mostly in part to my sister’s very generous gift.

Introducing, my newest book!

Or more accurately, my newest potential 3,000+ books. 

 

Yes, my lovely little sister Megs bought me a Kindle.  It’s supposed to be a consolation prize to finding out that she, her husband, and my new niece (who I’ve never seen though she’s nearly 7-months-old) can’t afford to fly down from Alaska anytime soon.  I’m disappointed about not seeing them; but the Kindle has taken some of the sting out of it. 

Truthfully, I didn’t expect this.  Megs conspired with my roommate to find out which book reader I wanted.  I have looked at them all, played with them all, and obsessed over them all.  I wanted a Kindle.  So one showed up (on a particularly crappy day no less) and changed my world.  No longer do I have to lug around a giant purse with 3 novels in it.  I can simply throw my Kindle in my much  smaller purse and go with many many novels at my fingertips.

I immediately charged, registered, and loaded my Kindle with many of the free classics (that I haven’t been reading) and then downloaded the rest of the Sword of Truth series (which is really addictive… book 10 of 11 and I’m losing sleep reading “just one more chapter/30-minutes”).  Downloads are quick and easy.  I used my computer for most of them, but did make myself search and download one from the Kindle so I knew that I could if the need ever arose. 

I’m in love with this piece of technology. 

Get one! Your life will never be the same.