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Archive for August, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Author: Stieg Larsson

Published: 2008

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 4 of 5

Much has been written about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, especially now that it is available in paperback and the follow-up book, The Girl Who Played with Fire has been released.  I’ll keep my synopsis short and sweet:  This book follows Mikael Blomkvist, a magazine editor, and Lisbeth Salander, a rough-around-the-edges private investigator, as they dig into a decades-old missing woman mystery and a corporate fraud scheme.

My mother-in-law first mentioned this book to me months ago.  I added the title to my list and then promptly forgot about it.  Soon though, I started seeing the book everywhere – in blog posts, on bestseller lists, in articles anticipating Fire‘s release.  I bumped it to the top of my list and waited in a (long) line to get a copy from my library.

I now understand the buzz.  This book was pure page-turning entertainment – I felt physical pain whenever I had to set it down to do annoying things like eat, shower, and go to work.  Fortunately, it was also a fast read, so I was able to speed through it and return to normal life fairly quickly.

Set in Sweden, Dragon Tattoo introduced me to an area of the world I’ve never visited before in books.  One of my dearest friends grew up in Sweden and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the country (particularly the interesting food) while comparing it to the things she has shared about her childhood.  This book was certainly not a travelogue, but the occasional descriptions of the countryside and the small towns in which it was set made me want to make Sweden my next vacation destination.

In fact, this book was an absolute thriller, with some mystery thrown in for good measure.  I didn’t know much about the book when I started reading (having scrupulously avoided reviews to avoid spoilers), but the translated Swedish title should have tipped me off:  Men Who Hate Women.  Normally, I don’t do well with books containing lots of violence or brutality, especially against women.  To be honest, there were parts that were difficult for me to read (or even skim) due to the graphic descriptions.  But I was so gripped by the plot that I was able to push through those sections and still enjoy the book.

If you haven’t read this one yet, I would definitely recommend it with one caveat:  Please start it early in a weekend.  I’d hate for you to have to use a sick day at work so you can stay home to finish it!  Myself, I’m looking forward to reading Fire.  While I’m waiting in my second library line to get it (139 people long!), I’ll keep myself occupied by deciding where to put the Dragon Tattoo tattoo that I won from Books on the Nightstand!

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:

1 More Chapter – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

All About {n} – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Book Lady’s Blog – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Books on the Nightstand – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — what are you waiting for?

Literary License –The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (a review)

The Literate Housewife Review – #186 ~ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Old Musty Books – Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

S. Krishna’s Books – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie

Published: 2007

Genre: Young Adult

Rating: 4 of 5

After some prompting from a teacher, Arnold Spirit, Jr. decides to leave his reservation’s high school and enroll in the neighboring community’s all-white high school.  All he really wanted was a better education, but what he gets is a sense of living in two worlds while belonging to none.  His fellow Native Americans, including his best and only friend, view his transfer as a rejection and betrayal.  His new white classmates are racist and largely ignore him.  Through it all, Junior illustrates his account of the school year with hilarious cartoons and a candid narrative.

When I read Rebecca’s review of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian on her blog, The Book Lady’s Blog, I immediately added it to my ever-growing list.  It sounded edgy, interesting, and unlike anything I’ve read recently.  I wasn’t disappointed!

Despite the misleadingly long title, Sherman Alexie’s writing is tight, concise, and perfectly balanced in youthfulness and emotion.  As a narrator, Junior was funny and endearing.  I laughed aloud multiple times, particularly at his wry, self-deprecating asides.  This book really did read like the journal of an intelligent teenager who is just trying to figure out where he fits in the world.

It feels almost strange to write about how funny I found this book given how sad it was.  Several members of Junior’s family are serious alcoholics and their resulting poverty is heartrending.  There are times when Junior is forced to walk and hitchhike the twenty-some miles to and from school because his family doesn’t have money for gas.  During the darkest part of the book, several terrible tragedies hit Junior’s family.  Racism – by both the whites and the Native Americans – controls many of the characters and Junior bears the brunt of much hate.

There is no sugarcoating in this book.  It is painfully honest and has even managed to land itself on some banned books lists (check out Rebecca’s post for the excerpt that is primarily responsible for this honor).  But the good-natured attitude and wry commentary that accompanies all the bluntness makes it an insightful and worthwhile read.

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:

The Book Lady’s Blog – Book Chat: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Fizzy Thoughts – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Jessecreation’s Weblog – STD Conferences and YA Lit

New York Times – Off the Rez

Underage Reading – Book vs. Book: Battle of the kids battling racist humiliation and not quite winning

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