A new month started this week. How did that happen? Where did September go?
In honor of the new month (which I'm going to be able to catch up on and believe at some point), I thought I would let you in on all the things I've been reading over the past month.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
A journalist is approached and asked to investigate a family mystery. As he gets farther and farther in, he discovers that this is not merely a family mystery important only to those who hired him, but that it is a huge mystery with far-reaching effects. He calls in help in the form of Lisbeth Salander a "researcher."
Ok, I know I'm late to this party. I just wasn't sure that this was really going to be my thing. I'd heard that it was super dark and super violent, and a lot of the time I don't seek that out in my pleasure-reading.
I liked it. It's a good mystery and really engaging. At first I wasn't sure about Lisbeth Salander, she's a really odd character, but I wound up really liking her. The book reminded me of Gone Girl with the dark subject matter and twists, but it was less crazy. When I got to the end, I really enjoyed it, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to read the other books in the trilogy. I wanted to know what happened to Lisbeth, but I'm satisfied with the book.
I recommend this only if you can handle extreme violence described graphically and a lot of profanity.
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Set a few years after the Titanic sank, Grace is sailing with her new husband back to New York when their ship sinks. She is thrown onto a lifeboat with 39 others and this is the story of their time at sea.
I enjoyed the style. Grace writes a diary/journal of events and her style is very simple and straightforward. The parts on the lifeboat were a little "Life of Pi"-ish. For example, in order to survive they catch fish and birds to eat, so it's the same event/experience as "Life of Pi," but without the beauty of the writing of "Life of Pi."
Grace is writing the journal after the fact while she sits in prison waiting for her trial. The parts about the trial were interesting, but made Grace seem a little mercenary and manipulative. So as a reader, I'm not sure she was really likable and I found myself frustrated with her.
At the end, it was a good book that had me asking many questions, but it isn't one I would read again.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
A retelling of Jane Eyre.
I don't fully understand the need for a retelling like this. It was the same story with a change in time (set in the 1950's) that wasn't obvious or big. She still doesn't deal with modern conveniences like phones and her life remains pretty much the same as it was. I don't mind retellings or reimaginings, but there needs to be some substantial difference -- like telling the story from a completely new perspective. Instead of working through Jane's eyes, go the route of "The Wide Sargasso Sea" and tell it from Bertha's view.
The other major issue with this retelling was the biggest change was to get rid of the wife/madwoman in the attic. While I can understand a young reader's frustration with that plotline (like being frustrated with the Lydia/Wickham plotline in Pride and Prejudice), it's vitally important! Without that, Jane (Gemma Hardy in this version) has no reason to run away from Mr. Rochester! (Ok, I don't usually use the exclamation points in these reviews, you should know there's something seriously wrong). It was a stupid change.
Final word: Did not like it. Do not recommend it.
The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser
A non-fiction account of the theft of paintings and other art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
Remember a couple months ago when I read The Art Forger? After I thought about that book for a while, I decided that as interesting as that fictional account was, and as much as I enjoyed the stories about the forgeries, what was even more fascinating there was the completely true story of the heist itself -- which remains unsolved to this day. It's amazing!
So I came across the title for this book, and immediately wanted to read it. And I was right. The true story is more fascinating than The Art Forger. So much is known and the author writes a great, entertaining account of the various characters who are suspects and those who just get sucked in.
It's honestly an hommage to the power of art, a look at the seedy underworld, and a journey through obsession. I highly recommend it.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
A lighthouse keeper and his wife live on a tiny island off of the coast of Australia where two oceans meet. One day a boat washes up that has a dead man and a live baby in it. The wife takes the baby and chooses to keep her without letting her husband tell anyone what they have found.
Just reading-wise, this was hard to get into. It is pretty stilted in its descriptions and has a lot of jumps. The paragraphs often are very short and bounce from one subject to a new one immediately.
I had a very difficult time feeling connected to the characters. I wanted to feel bad for them because they went through so much difficulty and I wanted to want them to be able to find a bit of happiness, but mostly I felt disconnected and didn't care. I think this was partly because of the style, and partly because the book is often told from Tom's perspective and he is completely disconnected, and partly because they were making really wonky choices.
I don't really recommend this.
Eighty Days by Mathew Goodman
The true story of two female journalists, Nelllie Bly and Elisabeth Bisland, who set out to circumnavigate the globe in less than 80 days. Bly begins first and sets her goal at 75 days and Bisland follows her (going west to Bly's east) and wants to beat her.
Fascinating story. It's amazing that these two very young women set out alone to travel around the world at that time period and did so in trains and ships and boats.
Unfortunately, it was a very boring telling of a fascinating tale. Goodman inserted so much information into this story that it was constantly completely off topic and really bogged down with unnecessary details. Also unfortunately, I got so annoyed with the women because they were such typical American travelers who expect everything around the world to be like American and to conform to them. They were in amazing places, but didn't take the opportunity to sightsee and appreciate the new cultures and the differences. I got really frustrated.
I don't recommend this.
The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Book 2 of the Millenium Series about Lisbeth Salander. A mystery is revealed when Salander is accused of a double murder.
I went to book club, and my friends have talked about reading this series, so I asked them if it was worth continuing. Joanna said that she liked the second and third books much better than the first. The first was good, but it was mostly set up and an introduction to the character of Lisbeth Salander and in the second and third books, she really gets to shine.
So I picked up the second book. And couldn't put it down. I was completely shocked by one development after another. Just when I thought I had a handle on things, something else happened that caused a major twist. Again, I will compare it to Gone Girl. It was a great book and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I recommend it, again, only with the warning that you need to be able to deal with extreme and gruesome violence and profanity.
4 years ago