Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lula's Best Reading Year Ever!

Woo-hoo. 97 books read this year. Messy house and all. But who am I kidding? It would've been messy anyway, so why not enjoy myself a little. So instead of cleaning, cooking, bathing...I took much remembered trips back in time to Germany during WWII, the court of Henry the VIII, colonial New England, and pioneer Arizona. I went to Hogwarts and knitting clubs, high school with werewolves and time jumping hot guys, and a smoldering vampire viking named Eric. I discovered one of my all time favorite authors. It's been a great year for reading at least.

Some stats
Non-fiction: 16
Romances: 35
Classics: 12
Teen fiction: 16
Poetry: 1
Graphic novels: 3
Female authors: 61
Male authors: 36
What about you? How about posting some stats people.
(Holy cow! I beat Tanja this year?? That can't be right.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The inside of this book jacket (along with mention of it's eleven book awards with names like the Dagger) included a brief description of the contents as follows:

"A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue."

I've always loved the word amalgam. It's just fun to say. Amalgam. A mixture of equal parts. How you get that out of amalgam I have no idea. So I asked myself the question, is this popular book by Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, who unfortunately died of a heart attack right after delivering the manuscripts of the three books in this series, a fine-tuned mixture of mystery, saga, love, and intrigue?

It is, at its heart, a family saga with the main point being - What happened to 16-year old Harriet Vanger who vanished without a trace forty years ago? Her grandfather, Henrik Vanger, has hired a down on his luck journalist and magazine editor, Mikael Blomkvist, to dig up the skeletons in his family tree and find out what happened to her. But, Blomkvist has his own set of problems: his girlfriend is married to another man (must be a Swedish thing), he's been forced out of his current job and is therefore running out of money, and he's about to start a three month prison sentence after being convicted of slander against a dirty corporate industrialist that took him to court over a story he wrote. (Yes, pant, pant. Just like the book...)

Blomkvist takes the job for Vanger because he needs to get away, and, of course, the money won't hurt. For help, he recruits a computer hacker with a dragon tattoo on her neck, a girl named Lisbeth Salander, who is by far the most interesting character in this series of books. Think of a tinier, craftier Laura Croft with an even worse attitude and she's your gal.

Next then, mixed thoroughly throughout is plenty of mystery and intrigue, some of which is in the form of tons of backdrop on the world of finance (the first 100 pages or so bored me to tears), then throw in some magazine and journalist type lingo, some Nazi backstory, and lastly the occasional political statement that jolted me from the story when I started to doze off. There's also a whole lot of violence. Really terrible violence. I've heard the original title in Swedish was Men Who Hate Women. After reading this book, I believe that was entirely appropriate.

And love? I would never think of this as a love story. Not. At. All. For instance, our main character's girlfriend's husband has no problem that she and Blomkvist still "see" each other on a regular basis.


Really there's just a whole lot of sleeping around by pretty much everyone, married or no. It's like a magical, casual sex fairy land where condoms aren't even necessary and no one worried about diseases. Again, maybe that's a Swedish thing.

Aside from what I've just mentioned, when taken as a whole, I will admit this was an interesting book. It improved as it went along until, aside from bathroom breaks, I had a hard time putting it down. It was well-written and moved at a great pace. All the characters are well-defined, complex and super meaty. Larsson had no problem weaving together the story lines, and I didn't even have too hard a time keeping track of all the Swedish names, like Gregor, Gottfried, Gerda, we're talking umlaut central here. You just have to somehow get through all the violence against women and casual sex.

Good luck!

So now I feel all Swedishized! Meatballs recipe anyone?
3.5 stars.

Be sure to check out Cym Lowell's Kindle giveaway!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Vampire Reunion

Too funny Stephanie!

For all you vampire lovers, see here.
And, speaking of vampires, where's my review of the recently seen----
New Moon - The Twilight Saga?
It doesn't exist because I want to keep my friends.
(Whom I had a most excellent time with by the way.)

I only have my evil man twin's review -
Bella was hot! And boy can she act!
(In The Panic Room)
The end.

Masterpiece Classic Begins Again December 20th!

It looks to be a great new season on Masterpiece Classic this coming year, starting with something to make that long Christmas break go by a little faster! An encore presentation of Cranford starting December 20th! I loved this movie when they aired it the first time, and am really looking forward to being involved in the lives of these crazy ladies again.

This year I want to read the books again as well, starting with this blurry covered one. Along with the yellowing pages and mysteriously stained lines, hopefully the writing with be legible at least. I'm a sucker for a good yarn.

Set your timers and tape this one, those of you who still own a V-C-R that is, because it's excellent!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Intimations of Austen by Jane Greensmith

Intimations. For the longest time I thought that said Imitations of Austen, which means to copy actions, appearance, etc., but the word, Intimations, well, it just sounds more English doesn't it? I almost travel back in time as it rolls off my tongue like liquid butter dripping off a hot muffin when I say it.



I'll admit, gulp - I had to look that one up. I suspected it held a similar meaning to its root, intimate, which means marked by close acquaintance or familiarity and that would perfectly describe how I believe the author feels about Jane Austen, but the word choice of intimation, I was happy to discover, brings Greensmith's ardor into even sharper focus.

Intimations of Austen by Jane Greensmith - A collection of short stories inspired by the words of Jane Austen. A hint, a glimmer. An inkling of Austen even. A whisper on a sun-drenched afternoon. These would've been perfect to read in summer, but winter it turns out was just as good. Better to drink it in with a hot, steaming beverage.

These stories are perfect for anyone who likes Austen even a tiny little bit. Perfect for anyone who has read these classics over and over again and wondered, what happened after the last word. Or even better, what happened before the first one! What made Frederick Wentworth return to Kellynch Hall in the first place? What if Elizabeth Bennet (holy cow gasp!) had married Col. Fitzwilliam instead of Mr. Darcy? What was going through Mr. Darcy's mind as he wrote that letter to Elizabeth after she'd rejected him? And the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet? Greensmith even tackled that one with a conclusion that brought a smile to my face.

Altogether a delight. And most importantly, she did not rehash the novels, a common complaint that drives me nuts with Austen fan fiction. All were very original and well written. But the highest praise I can give? After reading these, I had to watch and wanted to read Northanger Abbey and Persuasion again with a fervor.

So to that I say, a job well done then Greensmith.
4 stars

A special thanks to the author for sending me this book because my library had no copy. I'll pass it on to anyone who wants it.

CymLowell Also, be sure to check out Cym Lowell's Kindle giveaway on his Book Review Wednesdays! He always gives away the best stuff!