The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was all the rage when it came out in the US in 2008. Everyone I knew who read the novel at the time said, “It was amazing!” The funny thing is that I never really had any idea what the novel was about and didn’t really ask questions about it. The only think I knew was that there was a hacker in the book. So when I finally got around to listening to this story, I really didn’t know what to expect. My only expectation was some technology related plot and this only based off the description that “the girl with the dragon tattoo is a hacker.”

I must admit, I was surprised to finally figure out what this book actually is: “a locked room mystery” combined with a financial and social commentary of Swedish life. The other thing that surprised me was the writing style. Maybe it’s the fact that it was more than likely translated from Swedish into British English had some influence on the way it read, but to be honest I was surprised at how “old feeling” the narrative was. Ok, how do I explain “old feeling?” I don’t mean literary, because I’ve read some really good literary fiction that has kept my interest (reading) from page one to page end (To Kill a Mocking Bird, Brave New World). It’s more like how novels used to be written at the turn of the twentieth century.

So, have you ever read a novel where someone is just sitting there telling you the story the whole time? That’s kind of how this book can be. It literally is someone telling you some story or another 50% of the time (may only be a slight exaggeration). Luckily, the first chapter does hook you with the story’s primary goal “solving the disappearance/murder of the niece of Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of a very distinguished Swedish corporation. Ok. That’s cool. I want to know what happened. The initial hook is set. But then there’s an excruciatingly long intro to set up the story’s main character Mikael Blomkvist, who is a financial news journalist. Many chapters were used to set up this man’s downfall and redirect him to focus on what the reader really cares about: the disappearance/murder. Another considerable amount of time is used “telling” the reader about Lisbeth Salander (whom is a very fascinating and unique character if you’re not into reading vampire and other modern paranormal novels). Most of the time I feel like an observer in these two people’s lives instead of involved in them. Mikael’s character isn’t really all that interesting but the things he has to investigate is interesting, which is the real reason you follow his story. Lisbeth is interesting because you hope that the author will tell you how she became the way she is and who she got there. She has a pretty exciting sub-plot before she and Mikael’s cross paths, and that’s the only real action that happens until the later part of the novel.

The major action of the book doesn’t pick up until FINALLY Mikael and Lisbeth meet, which is 3/2 the way through the book I think. The action is exciting and by the time you get there, you really want something to happen and then you can’t put the book down because you want to see the ending.

By the way, the ending is very European if you know what I mean. 😉

I haven’t read many mysteries, so I can’t really have an opinion about how it compares to other contemporary mysteries. Maybe all mysteries are written like this? Maybe I read too much YA and SF/Fantasy to “really get it.” Or maybe this is just something different.

Over all if you can get over the lulls in action, it’s a very well composed story. The ideas a great and you get some insights into Swedish society. I mean, how often do you get that?

Now I’m ready to see the movies. Note that the Swedes have already made all 3 novels into movies, which you can stream on instant play on Netflix, but I think I’ll see the American version first. Looking forward to it.

Introducing: IDENTITY a Jention Chronicles Novel

I have many ideas for stories and it’s often difficult to choose which story to focus on. Most of the stories are either science fiction or fantasy.

The novel I’m currently working on is Identity.

I first came up with the initial short story for Identity in December 2006. A little girl named Maya wakes up in a hospital, doesn’t know where she is, and finds out at the end that she was made into a cyborg. I submitted it for a contest and got my first official rejection letter. I put the story on the back burner for a while.

I’ve spent many years writing scenes and learning about my main characters of the Jention Chronicles: Jade Sen, Sapphire Sen, Xanthe Paine, Raine Dominic, Yuma Destiny, and Kioshi Udo. They varied in age, but all teens in various stages of development and education. I think I came up with my scenes when I was in college. Early 2000 may have been the earliest Jade Sen came into my consciousness to start Jention Chronicles.

For several years I worked on a book I called Bryga Project, which featured my four main characters Jade Sen, Xanthe Paine, Raine Dominic, and Yuma Destiny. But had a hard time completing it due to major plot holes and character weaknesses. It was some time in 2008 that I had the epiphany that the cyborg girl Maya, from my short story, should be the character Xanthe who played a significant role in my Jention Chronicles universe. There was something that just clicked when I made that realization. I continued to work on that story, now that I knew who all my characters were, I had to answer more global questions such as

  • What is Jerico? (The elite military of Kinarra)
  • What is MOFF? (An underground resistance movement demanding equal freedoms for Kinarran Mainlanders and Colonists.)
  • What is their relationship?
  • How does their conflict create problems for ordinary citizens?

My pursuit of the answers to these questions motivated me to expand each of my character’s stories. What are their individual experiences that led them to come together in the story I was writing.

Xanthe’s story was so intriguing and forced me to answer many of the questions I needed to have answered that in November of 2010 I decided that I would novelize Identity. Since then I’ve been answering questions such as ones posed here in order to build the details I need for Identity and other stories within the Jention Chronicles universe.
It’s been a long journey and I believe that I’ve only scratched the surface of the potential that the Jention Chronicles can offer.

I realize that this post is probably misplaced because you may not know entirely what everything I’m talking about means, but it will be explained in time. This just happened to be what was on my mind right now.

Thanks for reading…

The Search for WondLA

The Search for WondLa (WondLa, #1)The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I never read Spiderwick by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, but I just finished Search for WandLA by Tony DiTerlizzi. I loved every moment of reading this novel, what a sweet and exciting story, I wish I had a child to read it to.

Eva Nine is a 12 year old girl who was raised by her robot caretaker MUTHR in an underground sanctuary. She has all the neat futuristic kinds of stuff you can think of from other SF stories, thinking robots, hologram movies & learning, talking computers, Space Food. But when an attack from an unknown creature forces Eva to leave her sanctuary, she realizes that she’s not as prepared for what awaits her as she thought. A whole different, alien world awaits her.

This is more than just a simple “coming of age” story, of Evan Nine who is curious, adventuresome, and just coming into her thoughts of being her own person. It’s much more. It’s a story about a girl who is pure of heart, who has the spirit of someone who wants to become part of the world around her instead of someone who wants to manipulate the world into something that will suit her. She wants to connect with family and friends, no matter what form they come to her in.

Mr. DiTerlizzi certainly has a creative imagination, his illustrations are stunning and show every bit the detail you read from the text. Eva Nine’s world was painted with precision and every moment you believe the world she was born into. Each time I saw the drawings they brought me to many of my favorite stories such as Star Wars, The Dark Crystal, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I mean seriously, who else has thought of giant bugs that take over the earth (besides those scary, old, B science fiction movies from the 40s and 50s)? Because of my over whelming thoughts of Nausicaa while reading this book, I totally guessed certain aspects of how this story was going to end. But I wanted to go through Eva’s journey anyway because, like Eva, I wanted to know if she was the only human left on the planet. If she’s not, where are all the humans that are left? If she is the only one, what happened to the rest of the humans?

I’m going to have to pick up book #2 A Hero for WondLA in order to find out.

Robopocalypse

RobopocalypseRobopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an unexpected story. At the beginning you get the feeling that this story has been composed of a series of short sorties strung together to tell a larger story. I think this approach to the telling the story was a good one. Most of the sorties are told in 1st person, which brings you right into the character’s feelings and into the action. The few 3rd person narratives work, but not as strongly as the 1st person narratives.

My main criticism of the piece are the parts where the narrator, who is compiling the stories together, gives commentary that “puts the pieces together” for the reader. There are many times where the narrator tells the reader this is why what you just read was important and how it connects to other parts of the book. Why couldn’t the reader just it out for themselves. For example, did we have to be told that Matilda Perez was going to be vital in the war against the machines? I think the reader would have figured that out on their own. I mean the reader assumes that everyone that is being spoken about is vital in some way to the story or that the vital piece of information that was discovered would be important to other people in the story, otherwise we wouldn’t be hearing about what happened and who it happened to right?

The story itself reminded me of i Robot (both the books and the movie), the Matrix (specifically the Animatrix episode called the Second Renaissance), and Eagle Eye. Many aspects of these stories helped paint pictures in my mind of the various things that happened in this novel. So even though the story is a piece all its own with its own originality, it was nice to have that imagery evoked while reading.

I liked that even though we know how everything ends by the end of the first chapter of the book, I was compelled to read on to fill in the gaps of the story. How did we get there and who did what. Because each section felt like it’s own short story you get a distinct rise and fall within each piece. It allowed the reader a moment to put the book down, but you become so involved with the various characters after the first section you just want to continue. The various perspectives in the story felt real, each had their own unique personality even the robot perspective felt real. I felt uplifted at the end of this story about the state of humanity and its relationship with robots. I commented the author for his imagination and writing skills.

Ender In Exile

Ender in Exile (Ender's Saga, #6)Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow!

I have to start out by saying, that this is not a stand alone novel. If you have never read any of the books about Ender Wiggin or Bean… uh… you really should go read Enders’s Game and Ender’s Shadow and all the other Shadow books. Even though there are sufficient info dumps incase you haven’t read any other of the Ender or Shadow books, I still think you’d be better off reading those first. The full impact of these novels would be lost without the background knowledge.

I have to admit that I’ve read Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow once in my life, but that I have listened to Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow so many times I’ve lost count. (I assure you, it’s been more than 10x each.) I’ve listened to all the books published until Shadow of a Giant, except Children of the Mind – I’m not sure why I haven’t gotten around to listening to that one yet, but what can I say.

It’s been a while since I’ve visited the extended Ender Universe and listening to this book was certainly a treat. Listening to Ender in Exile was like talking to an old friend I haven’t seen in years and I got to meet some new friends along the way.

Though I noted the inconsistencies in the telling of Ender’s story between the end of the war and leaving to govern the first human space colony, I was unfazed by it. It was funny to me that Card decided to put an explanation at the end to justify the inconsistencies. Being a writer myself, though currently unpublished, I understand the idea of putting ideas together at one time and then filling them in more vividly later. I mean come on Ender’s Game was written over twenty-five years ago and I’m sure that the decisions a writer makes don’t always span that far in advance, stories evolve and sometimes certain ideas are simply better than others. For example, I think this is the first story where going into “stasis” is brought up as an option during space travel. I could be wrong, it’s been an incredibly LONG time since I’ve read/listened to Speaker for the Dead and I know it wasn’t mentioned in any of the few short stories I’ve read. Anyway, that turned out to be a very nice story tool in this novel, not only for space travel, but for Graff’s part of the story.

In a way, reading Ender in Exile was like reading a series of 4 short stories that coalesced into a continuous long story. 1) Ender’s story after the war, before boarding the starship to a new planet was one story, which had it’s own emotional ebbs and flows. 2) The Alessandra and Dorabella story, which pretty much happened just before departure, and on board the starship as they few to their new colony on Shakespeare (talk about a fun name for a planet). Though there is intrigue between Ender and Admiral Morgan during this time and, for me, really interesting information about Shakespeare and its new inhabitants, the main conflict given most time revolves around the two woman. 3) The important story of Ender finding the egg of the new hive queen and finding a new meaning for his life is a nice expansion of what we already learned at the end of Ender’s Game. 4) All the other stories bring Ender to a culminating story where he faces one of his demons. The demon that constantly plagues him is his burden of killing two children and the entire race of buggers. His challenging demon appears to him in the form of a young man who has been trained to believe he is someone else’s child. Ender is confronted about his crimes and is challenged to reveal himself as a monster. Ender shows his audience that he has a choice to be a monster or be his true self. So as to not be a spoiler, that’s all I’ll say. I just found the ending to be quite powerful and only wish that I could be as smart, far sighted, and true to myself as the characters in these stories.

I love the human aspect of the Ender stories, there’s a part of me that always feels like Card is giving the reader some of his insights on life as I read through these books and I think it’s kind of fun. They are food for thought and it’s fun to think about. I believe that many of his observations about human nature are true in a healthy society. We’ll always have our crazies but in general we all want pretty simple things.

Pixar’s Brave

Brave

My rating: 4 out of 5

I walked out of this movie feeling warm and fuzzy. 🙂 I think many people expected there to be a distinguishable bad guy in this story, but there wasn’t. That’s what I liked most about the story. As with most of Pixar’s films, the graphics were amazing and you really did feel like you were in Scotland while watching the movie (my husband and I saw it in 3D, which I think was TOTALLY worth it – I don’t always think it’s worth the extra money to see movies in 3D).

The story is primarily a true mother/daughter story, not an evil witch and neglected step-daughter story. It was kind of like watching a Parent Trap or Freaky Friday rather than Snow White or Cinderella. Merida is the princess who wants to do as she pleases and “be free” and Elinor is the queen who wants her daughter to grow up to be a lady and find a good match that will help unite the Scottish kingdoms. There is obviously two separate goals here. Merida and Elinor miscommunicate all the time and their situation becomes more like a bully and bullied more than anything else. Add some mishap magic into the brew and Merida finds herself in a wish gone wrong. Merida and Elinor are forced to look at their relationship and their duties in entirely different lights and they work together to break the spell before it becomes irreversible. Sometimes your villains and allies are not black and white, but various shades of grey, especially when they are part of your family. Both characters feel love and betrayal within the story and grow to understand each other and what the other is trying to accomplish with their goals.

All the jokes in the story were slap stick and many where stereotypically cultural that fit at all the right times. I just found it rather strange that most of the jokes were delivered by the male characters in one way or another, while the drama was delivered by the two main female characters. It seemed to fit, but I found it odd.

But as I said, over all I walked out of Brave with good feelings and satisfied with all the drama and the jokes.

The Red Pyramid: The Kane Chronicles Book 1

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1)The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual, Rick Riordan has delivered a fun, action packed, and educational story. Now this is a fun way to learn about Egypt, Egyptian gods, and the pharaohs. The book is told from two points of view, brother and sister Carter and Sadie, who are wonderfully compelling characters and are modern teens through and through (technically Sadie is a pre-teen but she pretty much acts like a teen). The story is fast paced and has lulls where you learn important information at good spots in the story. The narrative is rich and you feel like you are in the world of the characters all the time.

No, you don’t have to be familiar with Percy Jackson to read this story, but you can appreciate the jokes about “other gods” if you have. Like in the Percy Jackson novels the descriptions used are contemporary and funny to ground the reader in today’s modern world while explaining ancient objects and concepts. Never thought of Egyptian skirts as kilts before reading this book. LOL. Or their “wands” as boomerangs, but hay that’s what they kind of look like.

This is a great way to learn a little bit about history while reading an exciting adventure story. I know that this wasn’t his first line of work, but I LOVE Mr Riordan’s YA novels.