Why is this series so popular? Having just finished the first one, I don't see it.
There are two stories going on in this book: the Harriet Vanger mystWhy is this series so popular? Having just finished the first one, I don't see it.
There are two stories going on in this book: the Harriet Vanger mystery and Mikael Blomkvist's personal feud with financier (and gangster) Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. And while the two stories do converge (in a way), I felt like the connection was forced. By the time I reached the epilogue, I couldn't wait for the book to be over.
While I liked the character of Blomkvist alright, I didn't like Salander (the girl with the dragon tattoo) at all. I found her to be too bristly and unlikable. Yes, she's had a hard life, but her ability to smoothly manipulate and blackmail people is not endearing. I felt as if I was supposed to like her because of these traits, and I didn't.
Another problem I had with the book was the storyline. Disgraced investigative journalist (Blomkvist) is hired by an eccentric old man to solve the mystery of his missing niece. Prickly investigator (Salander) is hired by the same old man to investigate Blomkvist, then is later hired by Blomkvist to help him with his story.
Frankly, I found neither subplot to be very interesting. The solution to the Harriet Vanger mystery was far-fetched and unsatisfying. The solution to the "Wennerstrom Affair" was equally exasperating and boring. Yes, Salander is clever. Yes, Blomkvist is canny. But no, this does not make either of them interesting. And there is too much extraneous backstory about Salander, in my opinion. She's troubled. I get it. Move on.
One minor thing. The fact that Blomkvist seems to jump into bed with every female who looks at him twice is irritating. I'm not against sex in a novel, but only if it's necessary. It felt like Larsson just randomly decided, "Hmm. Mikael needs to get laid here. Who's the nearest female?"
All in all, I'm underwhelmed. I've read worse, but I've read so, so much better. I doubt I'll read the rest of the trilogy....more
A friend of mine recommended this series to me and loaned me her copy of this book, the first in Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series. The blurb on the baA friend of mine recommended this series to me and loaned me her copy of this book, the first in Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series. The blurb on the back sounded decent, if not my exact cup of tea, so I gave it a try.
I won't be reading the rest of the series.
The writing itself isn't bad and Barr's obvious knowledge about the life and experiences of a park ranger is obvious. But I found the plot boring and predictable, the supporting characters colorless and one-dimensional, and the ending rather irritating. Also, much too much emphasis was placed on the scenery, which, for such a short novel, came at the expense of the story.
Anna isn't likable. I found her grating with very few soft edges. Her animal advocacy is admirable, but her other personal qualities are lacking. I didn't feel for her. I didn't care what happened to her. And if I can't feel any connection to the protagonist, I can't enjoy the book.
This book was saved from a one-star rating simply because it was short enough to keep me from feeling like I wasted several hours of my life (like I did when I trudged through Clan of the Cave Bear.)...more
**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed this book. It didn't hurt that it had one of the most beautiful opening paragraphs I can ever remember reading and**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed this book. It didn't hurt that it had one of the most beautiful opening paragraphs I can ever remember reading and some of the loveliest, most descriptive prose I've encountered in a long time. In fact, I was so enamored with the quality of the writing that I forgot to be irritated with the fact that it was written in first person, which is normally something I dislike.
The mystery itself begins interestingly enough: a little girl is found murdered, her body laid out on a sacrificial altar at an archaeological dig in Ireland. Turns out, she's the daughter of a local man who's currently protesting the construction of a major highway that's supposed to cut right through their town, Knocknaree, and the dig site. So the pool of potential suspects is fairly wide.
The twist, as it turns out, is the fact that one of the lead detectives, Rob Ryan, grew up in Knocknaree and was involved in the town's biggest mystery when he was 12 years old: the disappearance of his two childhood friends in the woods next to the town. They have never been found in twenty years and Rob (or Adam, as he was called as a child) can't remember a thing about it. Of course, working on a child murder in the same town where his friends went missing is uncomfortable, and the more time he spends in the town, the more he begins to remember of that last day when he was 12.
The plot, overall, is pretty tightly woven, in my opinion. The author does a good job introducing her characters and various suspects and motives. At one point, you think her father did it, at another, you think it's one of his enemies. And at the same time, she manages to mete out details of her main characters, making them feel more like real, fleshed out people, especially when their dirty little secrets are revealed.
The two biggest weaknesses in the book are: (1) the destruction of the partnership between Rob and his partner, Cassie and (2) the resolution of the murder case. In the first one, French goes through a lot of trouble to establish Rob and Cassie's relationship and to prove that men and women can truly be 'just friends,' then ruins it by having them sleep together. This, of course, destroys the partnership, mostly due to Rob's insecuritites. This disappointed me, since up until then, their interaction had been fun and sparkling. As for the second one, all I can say is, really? I won't reveal who the bad guy is, but suffice it to say, I wanted to roll my eyes. The motive was also a little weak as well.
I had been told by a couple of people that the ending (not so much the solution to the case, but what happens after) was anti-climactic. I disagree. I think it's realistic. Despite the fact that throughout the book, we see glimpses into Rob's memory regarding the day his friends vanished and we're rooting for a resolution, it doesn't happen. Turns out, there's no connection between the cases and the mystery is destined to remain unsolved. Unsatisfying in a way, sure, but refreshing, too, since so many times in real life, we never get the answers we're looking for.
All in all, a great first novel by Tana French....more
**spoiler alert** This latest in the Inspector Lynley series was a real treat. After what, to me, felt like forever since the last installment, Carele**spoiler alert** This latest in the Inspector Lynley series was a real treat. After what, to me, felt like forever since the last installment, Careless in Red, I was really looking forward to this one.
When we last saw Tommy Lynley, he was still reeling from his wife's murder, taking a long walk along the coast to try to work through his grief. At the beginning of this book, we discover that he's back in London, laying low in his home as he tries to decide where to go from here. He still mourns Helen immensely, but he's not quite as fragile as he was, and glimpses of the old Tommy can be seen. He's not quite as shattered, and we get the feeling that he'll be okay.
However, despite the fact that he's back, he's really rather a supporting character in the book. The main character is the new Acting Detective Superintendent, Isabelle Ardery. Ambitious and hard-edged, she comes into the Met looking to gain the job permanently and immediately alienates most of the detectives under her command. She realizes that their loyalty lies with Lynley and, hoping that his endorsement will help her become a permanent fixture, she seeks him out, convincing him to return to the Met to work on the latest case: the murder of a young woman in a cemetery. Of course, we also find out that Isabelle harbors a potentially career-damaging secret, which Tommy eventually susses out and, disappointingly, keeps to himself. (I never really warmed to Ardery in 689 pages.)
The plot of this novel is one of Elizabeth George's best, in my opinion. At first it seems like two stories in one, but anyone who knows George's work knows that eventually, the two seemingly divergent storylines will merge. In this case, the two stories involve the brutal murder of a toddler by three young boys twenty years before and the recent murder of a young woman named Jemima Hastings.
George manages to juggle both a complex plot and myriad characters with her usual aplomb. Her supporting characters are fleshed out and real, and despite the fact that for the first time in 15 Inspector Lynley novels I was able to figure out "whodunit" before the big reveal (I also guessed how the two storylines fit together), I found the whole thing riveting. Once again, George has proven why she is at the top of her genre.
The other familiar characters also get their time in the sun. George deftly manages to include a plausible reason for the appearance of Simon and Deborah St. James, Tommy's closest friends. As for his former partner, Barbara Havers, she struggles to adjust to life under the authority of Isabelle Ardery, who in no uncertain terms tells Barbara she needs to improve her image if she wants to continue at the Met, leading to a couple comical scenes involving a deep discussion about fashion and a frenzied shopping spree with her eight-year-old neighbor, Hadiyyah.
The book ends with both Tommy and Barbara at a personal crossroads: Tommy having just started an affair with his superior officer and Barbara discovering that her neighbor's absentee wife has finally returned, throwing a spanner in their budding friendship.
If I have a beef with the novel - with any of George's novels - it's the way she seems to go out of her way to include at least one annoying American in each book, even in passing. As an American author, it strikes me as odd that she would constantly pick on Americans in her book. In this installment, it's a group of American tourists who accidentally hit one of the wild ponies with their car. But this is a small annoyance and in no way affects my overall enjoyment.
**spoiler alert** About halfway through this book, around the 500 page mark, I was ready to give it 4 stars, maybe even 5. Compelling and intricate, i**spoiler alert** About halfway through this book, around the 500 page mark, I was ready to give it 4 stars, maybe even 5. Compelling and intricate, it was full of details that the history lover in me simply relished. However, by the time I reached the end, my ardor had cooled. The ending (the last 100 pages or so) was extremely disappointing. Frankly, even all the details that I had enjoyed earlier had begun to grow tedious long before that.
I don't generally seek out vampire books. I started reading the Twilight series out of morbid curiosity, but couldn't stomach it anymore after New Moon and quit reading. I've never read Anne Rice or Laurell K. Hamilton, either. But I had been eyeing The Historian for a while and finally broke down and bought it at an airport bookstore during a layover. It's a vampire book, yes, but it's more than that. It's a story of family history and loyalty and good versus evil. It also reads like a guidebook to Eastern Europe in places, which for me, was a plus. (Now I have no idea if any of the places in the novel are real or not, but Kostova certainly did an excellent job of making them feel real regardless.)
The novel is told basically through a series of letters from different characters - primarily the narrator's father and the father's mentor, Professor Rossi. The mystery begins when the narrator (whose name is never revealed) discovers a mysterious book and some old letters in her father's study. When she confronts him about them, he reluctantly begins telling her the story behind how the items came into his possession. It's obvious he's reluctant to share the details, but he metes the story out gradually over time, revealing an incredible tale involving Vlad the Impaler (Dracula). When her father suddenly vanishes, the narrator decides to go looking for him. She finds a set of letters in his bedroom addressed to her that tell a long and detailed story about his search for Dracula before she was even born.
What follows is a long and winding tale about the search for Dracula's tomb, which takes the protagonists all across Eastern Europe - Turkey, Hungary, Bulgaria - and into ancient archives and monasteries, across mountains and rivers, and into the heart of superstition and love. The amount of work and imagination that went into creating such a plot is astounding; Kostova deserves a lot of credit for accomplishing such a feat. In fact, the basic premise - finding the answers to a profound historical mystery by searching for clues in obscure manuscripts and other sources - is very similar to The DaVinci Code, only done better. But what Elizabeth Kostova gained in intricacy, she lost in overkill. After a while, the story began getting bogged down in the details: the cultural practices of the villagers, the description of holy relics, the meals the protagonists ate, not to mention a superfluous side story involving the narrator's first crush.
By the time the climax occurred, I had lost interest in the outcome. On top of that, the payoff was incredibly disappointing. I would even call it lame when compared to the massive buildup Kostova spent the previous 800 pages creating. SUMMARY: Dracula is alive. (Not surprising.) And he really, really likes books. (Um, what?) So he keeps trying to "recruit" eminent scholars to catalogue his archive. (...) Yes, basically that's the gist. Dracula is an undead bibliophile with a job opening.
The very end was cheesy, too. Basically, the narrator's mother, whom she thought was dead, wasn't dead after all. She'd simply been searching for Dracula so that she could kill him and make the world a safer place and make herself more worthy of her daughter. Oh, and by the way, she and the narrator are descendants of good ol' Vlad.
Another nitpick? There is no way in hell that someone could remember such minute details and conversations verbatim so long after the fact. (Paul's letters to his daughter contain miraculously detailed accounts of documents, conversations, and surroundings.)
Great premise, intriguing buildup, and an ending flatter than Kansas....more