Friday, July 30, 2010

The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Remember when I said I hoped that the beginning of this book moved a bit faster than the first one? Well, this second book in the Stieg Larsson trilogy started off at breakneck pace and never stopped. There are few books for me that are "can't put them down" quality, but this one was it.

Now that journalist Blomkvist is happily basking in the afterglow of taking down financial gangster Wennerstrom, and Salander has successfully gotten her feminist revenge by stealing all Wennerstrom's money by hacking his accounts, life can go on blissfully, right? But Salander feels let down when she sees Blomkvist with long-time, part-time lover Erika Berger and flees the country with her millions in order to forget him and find a new life. Then Mother Nature intervenes, and Salander is blown home to Sweden from her island hide-away by a hurricane. When she returns, she fnds Blomkvist and his Millenium cronies knee-deep in a sex ring scandal that she has a mysterious connection to. When the two reporters who have uncovered the scandal are murdered along with Salander's greasy "guardian," Salander is the accused and has to use her hacking and hiding skills to keep from being arrested. The police have a bunch of physical evidence against her, and her shaky record portrays her as a psycho with questionable morals. Did she do it? Will her true friends Armansky and Blomkvist fight for her or turn her in? You'll have to read to find out.

When you start this one, make sure you have some large blocks of time on your hands, because you won't be able to quit. So, pull up a lawn chair in the shade, grab a cool drink and your sunglasses, and enjoy this great thriller of the summer!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This is the first book in a trilogy by Swedish author Larsson, who died in 2004, before the books were even published. They've created a huge sensation in the media, so I thought I'd see what all the fuss is about. You can read about the author at

When I started the book, things were very hectic around here, and I really didn't have much time to get into it.  I got a little bogged down in the financial espionage details in the beginning, but once I got to the midway mark, I was totally engrossed.

The main character is Mikael Blomkvist, a publisher and journalist who has recently been found guilty of libel after exposing a huge financial "gangster." While Blomkvist knows his story is true and documented, he doesn't fight the court's decision and wishes to step down from the magazine he publishes called Millenium. As he licks his wounds and prepares mentally for his jail time, he is presented with an interesting offer from Henrik Vanger, an elderly CEO of a huge company who also knows all about the gangster Blomkvist tried to bring down. He offers Blomkvist a deal: he'll get him some more evidence against the financier, if Blomkvist will write his biography and solve the "murder" of his niece who disappeared without a trace many years before. With some trepidation, Blomkvist agrees to the deal and begins digging up dirt on all the Vangers.  During his investigation, it becomes apparent that he needs help, which comes in the form of an odd, social outcast Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Salander is a computer hacker extraordinaire, and her "skills" become invaluable to Blomkvist. Besides all this detailed mystery solving, the author lets us into the fascinating personal lives of the Vangers, Blomkvist, and most interestingly, Salander. The characters are always what drive a story for me as a reader, and Larsson's are fascinating indeed. How did Vanger's niece simply disappear one day without a trace? What are the Vanger's hiding and why? Why is Salander so strange and untouchable, and will Blomkvist be able to crack the case and Salander's facade at the same time?

These questions are for you (and me as I continue with the series)to read and find out. Summer is a great time for thrillers, so pick one up and let me know what you think!!!

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

I rarely reread a book. I find it a royal waste of time because I always think, if a book is good, I'll remember it anyway, and there's no need. There are so many other good books to read. Right? Well, I know for a fact that I'm not alone in rereading the Twilight saga. I've talked to people, teens and adults alike, who have read them all three, maybe four or five times. And while I don't think I'll do that, I completely enjoyed Eclipse for the second time right before we saw the movie on opening day, as I could look at all those beautiful details to see if they did them "right" in the movie.

For those of you who are Twilight newbies, this story begins by reestablishing the unusual and enduring love between Edward, a vampire, and Bella, a more than ordinary high school girl. Graduation approaches for them both (of course Edward "matriculates a lot" as he puts it). Bella fights with Edward about becoming a vampire, something she wants so that she can be with Edward forever and not age. What interrupts their innocent plans is a strange killing spree in nearby Seattle, which we come to find is being caused by an army of "newborn" or newly changed vampires. After much speculation by Edward's vampire family,the Cullens, it becomes evident that Bella is their target. Her protection and affection for werewolf friend, Jacob Black, becomes a prominent part of the story now, as Bella must struggle, as all teens do, with her needs, wants, and feelings for both of these guys. They both love her in their own way, as she also loves them. Will the army get close to Bella? Which "monster" will she choose to spend her life with? You'll have to read to find out.

There is so much beautiful detail and raw emotion in Eclipse that it truly is hard to put down. I also love all the social groups that can be analyzed and compared to the real world. The animal eating, compassionate, and loyal Cullens are mesmerizing, and you end up feeling like a part of them, knowing all of their back stories and powers by the end. The werewolves and their "pack society" are also fascinating because of their leadership principles and the fact that they read each others thoughts. But the one thing that pulls me the most about these books, is that as wild, crazy, magical, and fictional as all these characters are, all of their lives, their powers, and everything about them and their world seems explainable and therefore "real" when you are reading it. You'll be wondering about some little detail about them as you read, and then before long, Meyer explains it all to you as if it's just a part of history, some perfectly logical detail that we just didn't know before that part of the plot when it was necessary for us to know. Amazing.

So, if you have been living in the bat cave and haven't read these books yet, start with Twilight and get going. You won't regret it. As for the movie, I loved it too. The "tent" scene was good, although perhaps too short, and the "compromise scene" was sexy without being too overt for the younger audience members. I'm sure you can still go see it in theaters now (with all the fans who are now going for the 5th and 6th times!)