Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

It's not often that I read books just to see what the fuss is about... and I suppose technically that's not the reason I read this one.  My husband read the book to see what the fuss was about, and then put it on my 'to read' pile, which I dutifully did.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a mystery thriller that is set in Sweden.  If you're anything like me this means you will spend most of the book wondering how the character names and places are actually supposed to be pronounced.  But it's quite interesting to read something set in a different country from time to time.

The plot revolves around a struggling magazine and a mystery that one of its editors is hired to solve.  Henrik Vagner hires Mikael Blomkvist (see what I mean about the pronunciation?) to investigate the disappearance of his great niece decades before.  Vagner is convinced the girl was murdered by a family member, and so begins the real mystery.  Along the way are several side plots and a large cast of characters.

Lisbeth Salander (the girl with the dragon tattoo) plays a fairly minor role for a fair chunk of the book, which confused me a little as I was reading.  It was also annoying as I found it easy to remember details about her whereas some of the Vagner family and magazine workers got muddled in my head.  Although there were a large number of characters only a few had more than a superficial personality given to them, and I have to admit that I wasn't all that impressed with the character development generally.

I enjoyed reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and was interested in the solution to the mystery.  Reading the last section was great for tying up lose ends, but by that stage I wanted to finish so it seemed to drag a little.  Although I read large parts of the story at a time and found the plot interesting I didn't really grow attached to the characters, and as such didn't feel like I was leaving anything behind when it ended.

The acid test is always reading more books by the same author.  In this case I probably will read the other two books in the Millennium trilogy, but it won't be a big priority for me just yet.  I feel bad for sounding so negative, but it may just be that I've fallen in love with so many books lately that one that I merely enjoyed just seemed a let down.  Guess you'll have to read it yourself to judge!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Last of the Wilds - Trudi Canavan

Confused.  That is the only word that can possibly describe how I felt reading the first hundred-odd pages of Last of the Wilds.  Not through fault of the book though.  This is the second book in the Age of the Five series.  Emphasis on second.  It's pretty clear from this blog that I didn't read the first part this year.  What's not clear is that I'm not even sure whether it was 2011 I read it or 2010...

So my memory of what happened previously was pretty sketchy.  I slowly pieced together in my mind the key points of what had happened, helped by the fact that major events were recollected by characters as part of the storyline.  By a third of the way through the book I was well and truly immersed in the story and didn't feel my head hurting every time an event got mentioned or the focus switched to a different character.

Last of the Wilds is based in the world of the Circlians and the Pentadrians, two religions who went to war because both wanted to prove the others were wrong.  Both groups of people feature in their own plotlines and developments as do the Siyee, a race that can fly, and the Elai, who live in and under the water.  Add to that a few Dreamweavers, a cult considered to be heathens by both religious groups, and you have an idea of all the information I had to pull from the back of my memory.

The characters development is key in this book.  The discoveries that they make about themselves and the people they love or once loved are the defining moments far more than any event could be.  And as character development is my big thing you can probably guess that I loved it.

I also loved how everything was turned on its head - several times.  In Priestess of the White, right and wrong are as clear as.. well black and white.  But here the lines get a bit more smudged.  Seeing the world from the point of view of all the different groups gives an entirely different perspective, and I spent a good deal of time reading it trying to work out whose side I would be on.

I would definitely recommend this to any fantasy lovers, particularly if they enjoy any of Trudi Canavan's other books.  Of course I'd recommend reading Priestess of the White first though!  Strangely I seem to recall that I didn't think all that much of the first book when I read it.  It was soon after I had finished the Black Magician trilogy, and I kept drawing connections with that.  But Last of the Wilds won me over when I let myself fall into its world and enjoy looking around.

Now I just need to buy the third book... and try to read it a little sooner!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella

In case you didn't guess by the author, if you're allergic to chick lit then this probably won't interest you that much!  Personally I am a believer that you never know if you'll like a type of book until you try it, so would be disappointed if someone never even gave it a chance.

Twenties Girl is about Lara Lington, a girl who is struggling to have anything really go right in her life.  Then she goes to her great aunt Sadie's funeral and everything changes as Sadie's ghost appears and starts talking to her.  Which changes things somewhat.

Ok, I'll admit, I often find chick lit just a bit too cringeworthy, and sometimes struggle to read chapters properly because of it.  But with this book there was no struggle.  Instead of wanting to hide with embarrassment I was laughing out loud at the situations and the amazing dialogue between characters.  In fact I was laughing so much reading it at home that I felt self conscious reading in my lunch break in case I laughed too loud at work!

The characters are great and their development through the story is even better.  The relationship between Lara and Sadie is particularly special, and a reminder that the advice you need can come from the strangest of places (granted, not normally this strange).  There are also several moments that are great examples of needing to just go with the flow and stop worrying, which if I'm honest is a lesson I could use learning.

This is a book that I would absolutely recommend to anyone wanting to relax and enjoy themselves.  The way a book makes you feel is such a big part of the reading experience, and the range of emotions I had reading this definitely made it for me.  I don't generally think about what my favourite book is, because I have such a varied taste, but after finishing reading the brilliant ending of Twenties Girl the word favourite did enter my head several times.

It's also given me the desire to learn to dance Charleston.  Isn't it great when a book changes how you feel...