Monday, December 07, 2009

Books! Books! Books!

First up today is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a novel by Stieg Larsson. (It says exactly that on the super ugly cover of the book, so I'm kind of being snarky.) I read this book because I was told to by people on the Internet. I would link to those people, but as I search through the archives where I think I saw it, I can't find it. (So, if you see that someone in Minneapolis was looking at your archives for an unusual amount of time, hi! that was me.)

I bought this book and the clerk checking me out at Barnes and Noble was all pumped for me to read. "But it takes a while to get into it," she warned in a sort of frightening way.

A while is an understatement. This clerk at B&N has rarely steered me wrong before. This book IS good, but it takes 200 pages to get there (it's a dense book clocking in at 590 pages). In the end and in retrospect, I don't see what an editor could have cut out, but you have to have dedication to get through to the good part. Plus the book is similar to a lot of what I call "those Russian novels" in that you spend the first 100 pages just trying to figure out some of the Swedish names and colloquialisms. A good read, but you're really going to have to slog through the mire on this one.

Then we have The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti. It sucked me at the bookstore with this blurb on the back:

"An American Dickensian tale with touches of Harry Potterish whimsy..." The New York Times

What the fuck, NYT? Craptastic, that's what this book is. I don't get it. I found myself mostly confused by the setting. What year is it? Is it this world? It seems like this world except for the dead walking giant and the dwarf that lives in the chimney. The premise sounds so promising: orphan missing a hand, mysterious stranger takes him from the monks, con artists, a mousetrap factory!! The writing is good. Some sentences I just wanted to savor, to read and reread, to learn how to construct a sentence with more complexity than the declarative ones I use repeatedly in my own writing.

But the plot? The setting? The underdeveloped characters? Lead to me say that this book is a failure of execution.

This morning I finished Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. I don't really understanding co writing fiction, so I'd be interested in learning more about their writing process. This book is structured so that just about every other chapter takes you back in time to the main character's adolescence and young adulthood while winding back to the present in the other chapters. I have a feeling one of the authors wrote the past chapters and one wrote the present chapters because the chapters written in the past were way more successful and moving. A brief plot summary: long lost jerky love finds girl in the present and hijinks ensue. A fun, light read, although the writing and language is inconsistent at times.

But I saved the best for last. Bestest Friend introduced me to Sarah Dessen's young adult books while we were in Chicago this past summer. I have since devoured the vast majority of the Dessen oeuvre (missing only ones I have on order at our public library). I briefly mentioned dreamland here before as a meh kind of book and while I still agree that book is meh, my flame of love shines deeply for Just Listen. This book? It's the book I brought with me on my recent trip for that awfully sad funeral. It's the book that's by my bedside when I need comfort after waking up in the middle of the night. It's my go to book right now.

That's right. It's young adult fiction. It's a book about a girl growing up. She faces challenges - acquaintance rape, a sister who is sick, and a super bitchy former best friend. But there's this boy. And, frankly, if Owen were a real life boy, I would fight tooth and nail to have him be my boyfriend (blech, forget the detail of how I'm married). I love this book. I love this book. I'm a teeny tiny embarrassed how much I love it, but I can't contain my excitement for it any longer.

(Also good Dessen reads: Along for the Ride and Lock and Key. They deal with very different teen "issues" - divorce and parental neglect/desertion respectively - but I found them both compelling reads. Maybe I am just a sucker for maudlin, over dramatic teen angst. Who cares? I love you, Sarah Dessen!!)

Someday soon I'll write about the Charlaine Harris Aurora Teagarden books. I bet you can hardly wait!!


  1. I adored The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the next one in the series. I'm so glad I stuck with it!!!

  2. I just picked up the Aurora Teagarden series. I've been desperate for something fluffy but not too fluffy. I don't have a good descriptor for my picky ways.


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