Operation Superhuman Reader: March and April 2011

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2)The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an okay follow-up to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. One of the things I really liked about the first book was the subtle mystery and build-up, and The Girl Who Played with Fire lacked that. Also, I like Blomkvist's character markedly more than Salander's, and while the first book seemed more Blomkvist's story, the second definitely belonged to Salander. Honestly, Salander just creeps me out a bit. While her back story is given in this book and that explains much of her personality, her inability to trust can be maddening, especially when it comes to Blomkvist.

I found the events in the last chapter to be highly improbable, but perhaps that improbable drama is what made this book an exciting read. While I'll admit to this book falling short of the expectations Dragon Tattoo established for me, this second installment is compelling. And I already started the third one. Obviously.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium, #3)The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't impressed with the second Millennium book and didn't have the highest hopes for this third installment. To me Blomkvist has always been the most interesting character, while Salander, though a victim, is very weird and unrelateable. Add that to the fact that Larsson's writing isn't anything incredible (it is, at times, rather cliche and contrived). And yet, despite all my initial misgivings, I actually missed my train stop on the way home from work one day because I was so involved in the book. So really, a lot must be said for the quality of a good story.

Hornet's Nest circles back to the tenor of the first book in its methodical approach to storytelling and mystery solving. I loved the key role Millennium magazine played in this book, and I also enjoyed Berger's subplot at SMP. All of the dramatic loose ends raised in the second book came together nicely in this finale. Salander receives redress for her injustices and is also held more accountable for her own actions. I appreciated the redemption she was given for her bizarre and often maddening personality. I liked how the book let me see the situation from all angles, from the good guys' perspective and the bad guys'.

While I could be elitist and say all I want about Larsson's overuse of the word discreet and his sometimes exhausting descriptions of what computer and phone every character uses, in the end, something good has to be said for a book that makes me miss my train stop.

So Brave, Young and HandsomeSo Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really, it's a 3 1/2, but to be optimistic I chose to round up to the four-star option. This book isn't as good as Enger's Peace Like a River. The prose was superb, but the story was lackluster. About one-hit-wonder author Monte Beckett and his unlikely friendship with former train robber Glendon Hale, the story reads with a western timber. For a large portion of the book I was frustrated with Beckett's pliable character. He's a one-time bestselling author who tries unsuccessfully to repeat his achievement and who then goes off on a adventure with a former criminal to help him find his abandoned wife. I was often frustrated by Beckett's weakness and seeming inability to change.

I was surprisingly proven wrong in my assumptions about Beckett, however. This whole time I was expecting an outward change in Beckett, a change in his actions and personality. Really, though, this story is more about a man who comes to accept himself for who he already is. So many stories are about dramatic outward change, and I appreciated a story about more subtle, inward acceptance.

Murder on the Orient ExpressMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd never read an Agatha Christie novel before and didn't know what to expect. Reading this I felt like I was watching a murder mystery dinner. I appreciated the straightforward crime and the frank and logical way of finding the solution. Some of Poirot's conclusions (which were always correct) seemed a bit of a long-shot for a guess, but I suppose that's part of what adds to the delight of down-to-earth mystery novels.

The reader could follow the mystery well, and aside from the impossibly correct guesses Poirot makes, the reader can feel comfortable making her own guesses about the case.

I suspected the ending and was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. This is a solid and straightforward mystery that doesn't manipulate or deceive. I think I'll go back to Christie for a refreshing read now and again.

The Other Side of the BridgeThe Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this book. The Other Side of the Bridge combines two coming-of-age stories in a simple yet beautiful tale of love and goodness. (I found it reminiscent of East of Eden, another favorite.) I loved the message that you don't always need to go far to find what you need, that often you can be happy right where you are. That's what this story is: a story about acceptance and happiness and love. I'd recommend this to anyone.

1 comment:

michelle said...

I stayed away from the Stieg Larsson books because of some of the reviews I read about violence, etc. When I read your reviews, I wonder if I'm missing out.

I quite like Leif Enger.

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