Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson

I know the translation could be better on this one--okay, a lot better--but the story is amazingly good. I'll admit it--I was surprised. Thrillers and mysteries always seemed cheap to me...easy bestsellers, played out plots, cheap thrills. How judgmental can you get, right? All my talk about genres and their idiocy, about how important it is to read a book without it's marketing category in mind, eschewing generalizations for the sake of good books. Yikes. I was wrong. I love thrillers. I love mysteries. And there's a reason books are bestsellers, right? And the more I think about it, I think the rough translation is actually kind of endearing--making the sometimes sordid tale of evil doings in Sweden quite readable. What am I saying? Really readable. Eminently readable. And what's even better about this book is that there's a SEQUEL. And it's just as good. Same translator but much cleaner, more edited. And guess what? There's going to be a THIRD one.
Just read it. When's the last time you read a Swedish thriller? Here's your chance.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane

As a matter of course, I always skip over introductions, prefaces, forewords, and epigraphs, and hunker down into whatever I'm reading. Sometimes I do it merely to make the book shorter and thus more approachable; other times I do it because I'm afraid that the front matter will ruin the story for me, will make me interpret it a certain way, or even know major plot twists before they actually occur.  In the case of The Girl Who Threw Butterflies, I did the same thing. I skipped right over the table of contents (same deal--the chapters headings will be dead giveaways, I thought to myself) and the three epigraphs (I did pause long enough to count them, but then I thought, as always, on to the story!), and jumped right into the book. But once I finished this incredibly moving, supremely visual (almost intoxicatingly so), and mesmerizing young adult novel, I flipped back to the epigraphs and read them again. How beautiful they were! How I wished that I read them before I started the book! What clues they give to this delicate discussion of loss, grief, sport, and love. It was alas, too late. But not, thankfully, for the second, third, and fourth readings.  And now I know--I've learned my lesson. Like Molly, who learns to let go, maybe next time, next book, I'll let go too. For your next great read, this is one that I can't recommend highly enough. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time by Moira Hodgson

I have to admit, I picked this book up first for its cover, second for its publishing imprint (Nan A. Talese, one of my favorites), and third for it's awesome subtitle: My Adventures in Life and Food. I thought to myself, "I want to have adventures in life and food!" And then I did what I always do with books (well, not always, but sometimes), which is to think, "I want to be Moira Hodgson!" or Laura Ingalls Wilder or Katherine Mansfield...you get the picture. And actually, she does have an awesome story, as well as an awesome life. So there you go. It's a great book, really, and it even has a picture insert (I have a love of picture inserts that's a remnant of reading chapters only to get to the picture at the end of the chapter). It's really a love story of Moira and her family, and of Moira with food--and perhaps that's why it's so readable and likable, and why it doesn't bother me when she stops telling stories so much and starts talking about people I should know about. Because really, at the heart of her story isn't who she knows and who she's met and who she's cooked dinner for and eaten dinner with, but who she is in her family, the most fundamental aspect of our lives. And that's why I like this book. Because I'm not sure that Moira knew that until she wrote it. And that's pretty beautiful.

Heart of a Shepherd by Roseanne Parry

What an amazing book! It's short, sweet, and perfectly to the point. And what a point. I began reading this on my lunch break at work as a last resort, seeing that it was about a boy whose dad's in Iraq. I thought it wouldn't appeal to me at all--what could I have in common with a little boy on a ranch out West, with a father in the army, a Quaker grandpa, and a Catholic grandma?  It turns out that not only do we have some things in common, but I wish we had MORE in common. In fact, I wish I knew him like the author knows him, and could see what he looks like, what he'll become, and how he'll see the world. And I hope, I truly hope, that some of his pure spirituality rubbed off on me. Check it out.