Friday, March 30, 2012

Book review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It seems like a few of you are reading this right now, so I thought it would be a good time to post my review! Let me know what you think if you've read this or once you've finished! Also, I'll post my review for the other books next week. :) Happy reading!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there's no turning back. This debut thriller--the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson--is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.
--Dave Callanan

I have been having trouble trying to verbalize, or even figure out, my feelings about this book.

First of all, I disagree with the review above in that this book was not a page-turner for me from the beginning. I started it and didn't even get through the first 30 pages before returning it to the library. The first 30 pages are incredibly boring. But the book had gotten SO much hype, and my best friend and boyfriend had both read and loved it, so I tried again with the audio book.

I ended up really enjoying the book. It gets way more exciting and there is quite a bit of action, suspense, and mystery toward the end.

Things I liked:
     Lisbeth Salander is a very interesting protagonist and I enjoyed looking inside her head. Her chapters/sections were probably my favorite. She's a BAMF.
     The different kinds of relationships in this book. Mikael is hired by a very dysfunctional family, in which many cousins, brothers, mothers, members hate each other and alliances are everywhere. Mikael also has an open relationship with a married woman and has relationships with other women throughout the book. All of this was very interesting in that it was completely normal for the characters--it was a fly on the wall sort of thing, a train wreck you can't look away from.
     This won't be something everyone experiences, but I looooved the person who read for the audiobook. He did the women's voices and everything, and he has a lovely British accent.
     The mystery Blomkvist is hired to solve. It seems like such a dead end that you get sucked in and start really caring for Blomkvist and hoping for his success.

Things I didn't like:
     There were more boring chunks, even after I pushed through the first 30 pages, where I just wanted to get back to the action.
     There is a lot a lot a lot of stuff shoved into this one book. Blomkvist's professional struggles, mentioned in the summary above, are merely a frame and explanation for why he would ever agree to try to solve the mystery, but they still take up hundreds of pages at the beginning and end. Then there's the mystery, Blomkvist's many relationships, Salander's many relationships... As I progressed in the book, and as I've continued to the next book, I realized it is all necessary. But there sure is a lot going on in this book.
     The page-turning action I was promised doesn't start until the last third or fourth of the book. The suspense does build up to that point, but come oooooon. Everyone made such a big deal out of how they couldn't put it down, but you have to read a lot before you care that much.

I also feel obligated to warn anyone who hasn't yet heard--there is a rape scene. It's rather graphic. I feel like its effect was diluted for me since I was listening to it, rather than reading it, and could kind of just zone out a bit. But you should know ahead of time, I think.

As I mentioned, I did continue on with the second book, and I liked it a lot more. So I think the first book is worth a read--because I ended up liking it, and because I enjoyed the rest of the series.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: Hate List

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets. 

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Hate List is definitely on a heavy topic. Valerie is returning to school after her boyfriend Nick killed and injured many fellow students in a school shooting, precipitated by a hate list they had written together.

There's a lot I enjoyed in this book. I love Valerie's therapist and a couple of the other characters--the girl she saved, her little brother, a woman she meets by chance. They're all wonderful.

It also puts into great perspective that your actions, even small ones, can have a great influence on those around you.

I liked that it showed the human side of Nick. This is really what Valerie struggles with and it took her a whole book to figure it out, so I'm not sure I can sum it up but--everyone, even those who do terrible things, start the same. We're all human and we make mistakes and we hurt and we love. And the awful things people do come from fear and hate and loss and... yeah.

Hate List basically shows a school year in Valerie's life, with flashbacks to the year before, when the shooting happened, and the summer before. Because the scope is pretty wide, we see a lot of Valerie's life--her struggles with her classmates, her parents, her therapist, her brother, herself. So it's very realistic in that way.

But it also means that we never get very close to all the characters I loved. Hate List is very intrinsic, very much in Valerie's head instead of action based. Everyone else is at a distance to allow all Valerie's thoughts and struggles take center stage.

I gave it four stars on Goodreads. I don't think I'll read it again, but it did make me cry and was worth the read.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book review: The Future of Us

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.

Much like Shatter Me, I heard about the concept of this book and loved it. I personally don't have Facebook, but I've had it in the past and loved the idea of two teenagers finding their future through their future Facebook profiles.

Also like Shatter Me, though, I was a bit disappointed. I feel like the authors failed to live up to their awesome idea.

Josh and Emma both use Facebook primarily to figure out their romantic relationships. Because this is the focus of the book, both main characters seem a bit self-absorbed and shallow. The most interesting (but spoiler-y) plot lines, which could lead to both the characters and the readers thinking deeper thoughts, are almost ignored and are shoved to the side as sub plots or mere mentions in the main story.

Things I enjoyed about the book: It was very easy and enjoyable to read. Though the characters weren't all I'd hoped, I didn't actively dislike them. I zoomed through the book in about two days. It might be a perfect vacation book.

I also really enjoyed that it was set in the nineties. I grew up in the nineties. I watched Seinfeld, like Emma's parents, and remember getting AOL discs in the mail. So that part was really fun for me.

I ended up giving it three stars on Goodreads. I liked it, but I probably won't read it again.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Book Review: How They Met, and Other Stories

How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here, along with other reviews.

Here are 18 stories, all about love, all kinds of love. From the aching for the one you pine for, to standing up and speaking up for the one you love, to pure joy and happiness, these love stories run the gamut of that emotion that at some point has turned every one of us inside out and upside down.

What is love? With this original story collection, David Levithan proves that love is a many splendored thing, a varied, complicated, addictive, wonderful thing.

I love David Levithan. I'd read many of his books before picking this one up and it didn't disappoint me.

How They Met, and Other Stories is a book of short stories. This always has its pros and cons. When you love a certain story or specific characters, you never get them for more than twenty pages, which sucks. But if a story isn't for you, hey--maybe the next one will be! My friend read it shortly after I did and, though different stories were her favorites, we both enjoyed it immensely.

Every story in How They Met is about--you guessed it--how a couple met, but sometimes more about what happened after than the actual meeting. The types of relationships vary--two boys, two girls, a boy and a girl--one story even focuses on a boy and his mom. Some of the stories were so perfect I wanted to copy them and hang them in my room. This is a perfect, sweet little book. It would be a great gift to a boyfriend/girlfriend who is a reader since it's pretty romantic-y.


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