Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- Stieg Larsson --------------------- 4 Stars

It was with much anticipation and excitement that I was able to finally read (the classic?...too early?) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Like the recently reviewed Hunger Games, you would have to be living under a rock for the past few years to not hear about these two books.  Written by the late Swedish author Steig Larsson, this book became an absolute huge best seller and major motion picture, but was it any good?  Short answer, yeah, it's really good.

Going into reading this book I had some awfully high expectations and was expecting a page turner; I was not disappointed.  The book is really exciting from start to finish.  It's got a couple of great characters and the book is mostly a classic mystery novel that includes this one guy and the girl with the tattoo trying to solve a very old murder.  The highlights of the book are definitely the fast action scenes, easy to follow plot, and fun dialogue.  I was a bit surprised how small the role of the the girl with tattoo is, considering she is the name of the title of the book, she was certainly most important character #2. 

So, with all this great stuff, why did this only garner 4 stars?  Well, it was going to be 4.5 stars until the last 50 pages.  Frankly, I wish the book would have ended earlier.  There was a very definite climax and exciting set of chapters about the finality to the mystery.  Had the book ended there, it was a for sure 4.5 stars; but it kept going.  While the last 50 pages were good and tied up some less than interesting loose ends, this extended denouement (take that English teachers) turned me off to the end of the novel and cost this book at least a .5 star.  In general, the book also is a bit choppy and you certainly should not be looking forward to reading this book because of Larsson's excellent writing style.  As I said earlier, you should be reading this book for great plot, great action, and cool creation of the girl with the tattoo character.  ((Note: there is a halfhearted attempt to make you think about whether criminals are born that way or society makes them that way.  I think the girl with the tattoo is the only one that is questioning the whole nature vs. nurture debate but it's in there and kind of a lame attempt of making 'more' of the themes of this book.) (Side note to note: there is a lot of violence and some pretty nasty stuff brought up in this book, beware)).

Overall, I would certainly recommend this book.  As I make my review mostly on entertainment value, this book is very exciting, a fun ready, and hard to put down.  I really found that I would keep reading even after I had planned to stop because it was so addicting.  Do be aware that it is a bit choppy, is placed exclusively in Sweden (and has a few cultural items that were lost on me), and sort of mulls on for a while at the end.  Nonetheless, it's a great read and completely worth the time.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Emipre Fallls -- Richard Russo ---------------- 2.5 Stars

Like many things in life, the more you take part in something or try something, the better you get at understanding your own likes and dislikes.  Whether it's t.v., music, art, food... the more you try something, the easier it is to decide what style of something you do and don't like.  This is also quite true with books (not sure why this took me so long to realize).  In the last few years as my numbers of books read has increased, I am beginning to get a much better feel for what I personally enjoy reading the most.  In general, any non-fiction on a topic I like will work.  Fiction is more difficult.  I have decided, however, I am a big fan of action/something happening.  This is, perhaps, the biggest reason I struggled with Richard Russo's Empire Falls.

Empire Falls has incredible reviews, has one the Pulitzer, and pretty much everyone I know loves it; so how is it possible I disliked it?  Well, like many things, it's just a mater of taste.  The book is well written, nicely told, has great characters, solid questions about how to live one's life...all the things I normally like in a book.  BUT, nothing really ever happens.  I mean, somethings do, and some exciting stuff happens in pages 450-480, but for the most part, there ain't much going on besides just telling about people's every day lives.  Which, is cool and all, but I don't really like reading books to read about every day life... I see that all around me. Something amazing, spectacular, different, needs to happen.  In this case the 'amazing', tended to be things like, someone gets a divorce or people are mad at one another.  Overall, I just couldn't get into the novel as nothing was ever happening.

While I bash it for the most part, I definitely can see why people like it and why it was made an HBO miniseries (which I'd like to see and perhaps, if seen being acted out, might improve it for me).  But again, it's taste.  It's not you, it's me.  If you are interested in reading it, quick synopsis: story of Miles, who owns a small restaurant in small town Maine.  The story is about his family, parents, daughter, and their relationship with others including rich patrician types in the small city.  I would say, that's all you need to know and a bunch of stuff happens but that's just not true.  Very little happens but it's told well and you get into the characters.

For the most part, I usually do not recommend any books with less than 3 stars but as I said earlier, this book is adored by many and people's tastes are all different.  If you do like it though, you are going to have to explain to me how a book where nothing happens is entertaining to read.  Thanks.