Operation Superhuman Reader: February 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been seeing this book everywhere and finally decided to read it. It's popular for good reason: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a captivating and methodical crime thriller that holds your attention through the whole book. I especially liked how the mystery didn't feel contrived or obvious, but instead it's presented more slowly, increasing intrigue and building characters. I really got a feel for the characters in the book, and I felt treated like a smart reader. The mystery wasn't a jumble of childish, obvious clues, but instead consisted of subtle, developed clues that connected themselves more to the actual characters, and I liked that.

I read that the translated title in Swedish (the language in which the book was originally written) was Men Who Hate Women, and I find that more appropriate than its American re-title. I actually found the current title misleading, because I don't feel that that title character, Lisbeth, is the focal point; she's a critical character to the story, but I felt the story was more Blomkvist's than Lisbeth's.

This was a smart book with a compelling plot. I'll probably try out the next one.

Reader advisory: This book contains a fair amount of language, sex, and violence, though not so superfluous in my opinion. The violence is also specific to brutality against women, with one especially graphic scene.

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Peace Like a RiverPeace Like a River by Leif Enger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Told from the perspective of 11-year-old Reuben Land, Peace Like a River relates about a year of the Land family's life. I can't say that it's really about the family's search for their outlaw brother, because that story is more of a conduit through which Reuben and his sister, Swede, learn about miracles and God and family.

As a narrator, Reuben isn't entirely reliable, but that's part of his charm. You have to infer into the story to achieve a fuller grasp of the Lands' true situation. Through Reuben and his childhood fallibilities I learned about the complexities of love and loyalty, and through his father, I learned about sacrifice, parental love, humility, and power. By the end I wished that Reuben had found more conviction in himself and his beliefs, that he had changed more than he did, but he's an honest character, and that goes a long way with me.

Apart from the emotions present, the story itself is beautifully written. Enger has a way of writing that captures the spirit of the words. He combines words into arresting rhythms that touch you and fit together so perfectly you couldn't imagine them being written any other way.

I haven't read anything like this book before, and I'm still processing it. It was unexpectedly emotional for me, and I admire the way Enger draws you in emotionally without you really realizing it until the end. This book made me feel, and I love that.

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The Power Of OneThe Power Of One by Bryce Courtenay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book makes it onto my top-10 favorites. Easy. My grandma recommended this book to me years ago, and I decided to re-read it (and given my deplorable reading retention rate, it was almost like reading it for the first time). The Power of One is a true coming-of-age novel and masterfully brings together so many themes and emotions so that as the reader, you're affected in intellectual, social, and emotional ways.

Throughout Peekay's childhood and adolescence you see the power that hope, love, grief, and dreams can have on an individual. I gained a greater understanding of the social and political implications of South African apartheid and the true damage of hate. Conversely I saw the transcending power that love can have on individuals and even entire groups of people. I became caught up in the emotion of the story, becoming very dedicated to Peekay's boxing and his dream to become the welterweight champion of the world. I loved the relationship Peekay develops with Doc and the love he cultivates for learning. The story's emotions are very real, from the tragedy and grief Peekay experiences to his successes in school and boxing. I appreciated Peekay's desire to please himself and not just those around him. His need to define himself, while perhaps a little pigheaded, is where the power of one finds its roots.

One of my favorite quotes from the book: "The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated." That's what this book is about: coming to believe in yourself and acting on it.

I would recommend this book to anyone. It's a mature read, if only because it's thematic. This is a book that I will think about often and one that will stay with me.

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steve said...

I'll be curious about the girl with the dragon tattoo. I didn't read the book, but recently watched the movie and it makes me want to read it, except.... Yikes. It's a great film - but there are some seriously graphic bits that I had to fast forward. I wonder if the book has those bits, or if the director took license. And just to ruin the ending for everyone else...


steve said...

um, grammer? **I am curious about...


Mary said...

Have you read "The Last Miracle at Little No Horse" by Louise Erdrich? I haven't but my sister says it's great!! You have great book reviews!

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