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The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson

“Despite her years of striving for anonymity, she had been transformed overnight into one of the most notorious and talked about individuals in Sweden” – Stieg Larsson in “The Girl Who Played With Fire”

From Krista’s Perspective:

I was relieved to find that all of the financial jargon had been left out of this second installment in the series which made it a much more enjoyable read for me.  Larsson tackling the very real issue of human trafficking and the revolting sex trade which dominates societies all over the world was done as tastefully as possible when it comes to such a sensitive issue.  Larsson is an extremely detail-oriented author but I believe this is done so that you become so fully immersed in the character you absolutely must keep turning the pages in order to find out what happens.

The journey into Lisbeth’s sordid past is one that keeps you interested throughout this book and many scenes made me go “Ahhh!” as it made more sense why she reacted the way she did in the first novel.  Lisbeth has a dark, abusive, horrid past that none of us would wish on our worst enemies and Larsson finally gets around to explaining “All The Evil” that made Lisbeth who she is.  He accurately captures the essence of “giving bad guys what they deserve” and you almost want to root for her as she is kicking ass and taking names.  His in-depth description of her tiny tattooed self taking on brutish giants gives you the perfect image of a girl seeking revenge and achieving that goal; for some of us it may inspire  jealousy that she can take on any problem and handle it herself with the utmost bravery.  Perhaps the majority of us would not respond with such violence but Larsson has written a female character that is strong, brave, independent, and motivated; all characteristics more women could adopt in today’s society.

The introduction of Armansky’s security team helping the police force with the investigation added a different dynamic to the book but it also introduced a lot of characters at one time; this means numerous people going in different directions and all investigating something different.  There is also the addition of multiple “thugs” and bad guys which adds to the surplus of new characters in the book.  There are some you will enjoy, some you despise, some you hope Lisbeth will take care of, and some you wish would get written out of the book by the next page.  Some of these characters are good, some are irritating, some are corrupt, and some are just blah.  The only consistent character throughout the book is Blomkvist who continues to be a diligent truth seeker but this time we see it as not only his journalistic urges to find the truth but rather it is due to his intense loyalty to his friendship with Lisbeth.

Overall it was another enjoyable book and I found myself reading it just as quickly as the first.  Each page keeps you guessing, questioning, speculating, and wondering.  You may find yourself unsure who to believe, which side to take, or just plain confused about who did what.  But Larsson has written this plot so intricately well that it all weaves together eventually and each page reveals more to keep your attention.  The ending is so spontaneous that you are disappointed it has concluded like that and if you are anything like me, you will start the third book right away.

From Lauren’s Perspective:

I guess I’ll start with the bad.  There were a few things I didn’t like about the sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  First of all, I felt as though there was a lot of unnecessary information that I felt could have been left out or condensed.  While I read this book as quickly as the first, dying to know the outcome, there were parts I skimmed over because they became drawn out and incredibly boring.  I think this is part of Larsson’s writing style.  He has a tendency to go into detail about every single aspect and every single character.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing overall, but given the political subject matter, it was very dull at times.

Also, I found some of the coincidences just a little too coincidental.  For instance, Lisbeth’s connection to Dag and Mia, then Dag and Mia’s connection to Bjurman.  It felt a little bit too contrived and not completely believable.  I understand the desire to throw Salander and Blomkvist into another chaotic adventure, the entire series depends on it, but the adventure felt a little too forced at times.

My only other complaint was that some of the supporting characters were immensely annoying.  I hated them with a deep and searing passion.  Generally, when it comes to novels, I would consider that a good thing.  The author obviously has the ability to write characters that cause you to emote, and emotion in any form is good.  My issue with these characters was simply that, up to this point, I had become accustomed to Salander handling anyone and everyone who stands opposes her in anyway.  Anyone who says a bad word against her gets what they deserve, and then some.  However, for Faste and Hedstrom, they are prejudiced and hateful throughout, but simply disappear into the background.  It felt as though their roles were entirely unnecessary.  Their only purpose seemed to be to get on my nerves and then disappear.  I’m holding out hope that they get what’s coming in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.

I know that seemed like a lot of complaints, but there was a lot about this novel I really enjoyed.  This sequel spent a lot of time digging into Salander’s personal history.  You get to learn about her entire life and it is very satisfying.  You are able to understand exactly what makes her the person she is, and because of all the injustices against her you feel the need to stand in her corner throughout.  Even more so than after the first novel, I still believe her to be one of the best written female characters in a long time.

The suspense in this book, just as in the first, kept me turning page after page at an alarming rate in a compulsion to discover its secrets.  Despite my complaints I would still more than recommend the book.   It was an incredibly enjoyable read.

Rating

Plot – 4 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form – 2 out of 5
Characters – 5 out of 5 for Salander – 2 0ut of 5 for the rest (I guess that averages out at 3.5)
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 4 0ut of 5

Overall Score – 13.5 out of 20

 

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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

“Salander never forgot an injustice, and was by nature, anything but forgiving”
Stieg Larsson from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

From Lauren’s Perspective:

A little late on the uptake, maybe, but in my defence, there are a lot of books out there and only so many hours in a day.  So, I finally read the first in the much hyped series and was thoroughly entertained.

I’m not sure how to go about critiquing a novel that has been translated from a different language since in its original form it may have sounded very different.  As far as style goes, I almost found that the words were secondary in this book, obviously important but I was paying more attention to the action and suspense.  So, for style, form and structure, it’s simple and effective and will keep you reading to the end.

I’ve always believed that authors should be separated into different categories.  There are authors who are storytellers, authors who are writers, and occasionally, authors that are both.  In the case of Larsson, he was an expert storyteller at the very least and it was his complex storyline that really makes this book worthwhile.

The only downside I could speak of with this book would be the drawn out financial speak surrounding Blomkvist’s trial against Wennerstrom.  Having no financial background I found myself rereading certain paragraphs in an attempt to better understand.  It didn’t work, I still had no idea what was going on for pages at a time.  Unless you understand this industry, these parts will be dry.  However, despite this fact, the book is more than worth the read.  It had been some time since I had gotten so into a book that I found myself actually thinking about it at times when I couldn’t read.  That, to me, is what reading is about.

And, although it’s been said a million times about this series, Lisbeth Salander is one of the most intriguing female characters I’ve read in a long, long time.

I’m just starting the second book of the series now, The Girl Who Played With Fire, I hear this one is the best of the series….

Also, this was the first book I read on my Kobo…more on that later.

Rating

Plot – 5 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form – 3 out of 5
Characters – 4 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 5 0ut of 5

Overall Score – 17 out of 20

From Krista’s Perspective:

I was the same as Lauren in that I was very behind on beginning Larsson’s trilogy as compared to the rest of the world but I was very leery of jumping aboard all the hype.  I find myself frequently disappointed with books that are “all the rage” for a brief moment in the spotlight and question how they had become so popular.  But this time I was pleasantly pleased for a few different reasons.

First of all, there were so many elements to the book that it kept you turning page after page, or in our case Kobo click after Kobo click!  The two main characters, Mikael and Lisbeth, each developed gradually within two entirely separate worlds until finally they were entwined in a constantly intriguing coexistence.  The numerous plots within this book included elements of financial corruption, mafia rumors, scandal, romance, and murder which were briefly accentuated with momentary glimpses of depravity, horror, and repulsive acts.

Secondly, I enjoyed how it was stylistically written.  The give and take between plots kept you attentively reading and the quick transitions between each plot drew the reader into the sense of urgency under which Mikael and Lisbeth were operating, both in their original separate plots and once they were brought together.  Also, the way Larsson wrote the book keeps the reader constantly guessing which I truly appreciated because I am not a fan of figuring out the plot within the first 100 pages.  There were numerous “secrets” between characters that not even the reader was privy to which only furthered my desire to keep my nose in my book; things promised to certain characters that were enticing enough to me to keep me interested page after page.

One negative thing I have to say about the book goes along with what Lauren had to say.  The long drawn out financial jargon combined with numerous pages of background and Vanger family history made some portions of the book much less interesting to read.  While that may be for some people I found it to be too much detail and excessive amounts of information.  Even though I can agree that it all further develops the characters and somewhat enhances the plot, I still could have done with a little less info.  I won’t risk spoiling any parts of the plot but my only warning would be to any parents who think their teen daughters may like it; there are two scenes that were almost too graphic and vulgar for my eyes.  I am not qualified in any way to make any suggestions but that will be my only warning!

All in all, I am quite ready to get started on the second installment in this trilogy and now feel inclined to go and see the movie in theatres.  I usually wait until I have read the book to go see the movie because I typically enjoy the books so much more!  There is much more to this novel than what the commercials for the movie allude to.  But I will warn those of you who read the first 50 pages then decide if you will finish out the book or not… I would strongly suggest you stick it out because I will let you know the beginning is a little dull.  I found myself really questioning why everyone was so amazed by this book in the beginning but then it blew my mind with its suspenseful twists.  I was pleasantly surprised by my true enjoyment of this novel and would recommend it strongly.

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