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  • Jeff Somers 8:36 pm on 2015/08/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , the girl with the dragon tattoo   

    5 Reasons We Can’t Wait to Read The Girl in the Spider’s Web 

    When Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo appeared on bookshelves in 2005, shortly after he passed away from a heart attack, it was a sensation—first in his native Sweden (under the original title Men Who Hate Women) and then worldwide. The book and its sequels, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, were fresh, gritty tales that depicted the world as poisonous and rotten, yet still worth fighting for. And they introduced one of modern literature’s great characters in Lisbeth Salander: expert hacker, rape survivor, and justice warrior.

    Larsson’s estate has decided to continue the franchise, now taken over by bestselling author David Lagercrantz. The new book, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, has been written in utmost secrecy. Lagercrantz reportedly worked on a computer without an internet connection and delivered the manuscript as a hard copy, by hand, to his publisher. Here’s why we can’t wait to read this new novel—which is now available for purchase.

    Because of Lisbeth Salander
    Let’s face it: great characters often outlive their creators. Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Jason Bourne—the literary world is awash in characters being kept alive, reinvented, and brought to new audiences years and even decades after their original creator has passed on. Lisbeth Salander is in that league. She’s one of the most complex, most interesting, and most entertaining characters ever created. She’s scary and capable of violence. She has a moral code she adheres to no matter what. She’s brave and willing to sacrifice herself for her friends and for the cause of justice. She’s smart. And she’s the farthest thing imaginable from a damsel in distress. It’s safe to say the world needs more of her, and it needs it sooner rather than later.

    Because of Michael Blomkvist
    The focus on Salander shouldn’t make us forget the other half of this team: journalist Michael Blomkvist. He’s smart, funny, and messy, with an acerbic view of the world and a melancholy approach to mysteries—not to mention a fluid sexuality and willingness to explore the darkest parts of himself—that make him a welcome and able partner for Salander in every way. The two were painted just differently enough to make their relationship crackle, and a new book offers the possibility that they might partner up on a more permanent basis.

    The Worldview
    Larsson created a singular worldview and universe in his trilogy, a world in which money and brand names had corrupted everything around them, yes, but also a world in which it was still possible for a few dedicated people to win the day, at least briefly, solely through their own efforts. The Sweden that Larsson created—and that Lagercrantz will hopefully maintain—is dirty and unfair, but also fascinating, especially when Salander’s hacker underground rubs up against Blomkvist’s liberal intelligentsia.

    The Story
    Let’s not forget that these books are crackerjack mysteries and thrillers as well as character studies. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the best Locked Room mysteries ever written, and the subsequent novels delved into the mystery of Salander’s family and backstory in ways both satisfying and surprising—even shocking. The world of the Millennium Series is genetically coded for thrilling mystery stories, and the tidbits released by the publisher are tantalizing: Blomkvist is once again contacted by someone with a mind-blowing story to tell about his breakthrough research into a frightening form of artificial intelligence—someone who’s working with Lisbeth Salander, who is pitted against the NSA itself and running afoul of a secretive group of blackhat hackers known as the Spiders. While these details are skimpy, they paint a picture of the ideal Salander/Blomkvist team-up.

    David Lagercrantz
    American readers may not be terribly familiar with Swedish journalist and author Lagercrantz, but he’s a very successful writer whose journalistic background matches up well with Larsson’s. Lagercrantz is a bit of a wild man, once claiming he invented all the quotes in the famous autobiography he ghostwrote, I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic. That book was wildly successful, so Lagercrantz can do whatever he wants in his career. The fact that this impish, mischievous writer chose to work on these books says he’s passionate about the characters and the legacy—and it’s always good news when a writer this talented takes on a franchise.

  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2015/03/13 Permalink
    Tags: altered carbon, believe the hype, bonfire of the vanities, , , , , , the girl with the dragon tattoo,   

    5 Books that Lived Up to the Hype 

    What’s the most common element in the universe? If you paid attention in school, you might answer hydrogen, but you’d be wrong. The most common element in the universe is hype, and it’s something we will never run out of. Millions of years after mankind goes extinct, an alien species visiting the dead planet Earth will still find plenty of hype swilling about the atmosphere, championing hot new singles you’ve just got to hear, movies everyone’s going to be talking about, and books that are sure to change literature forever.

    Sometimes, of course, hype is justified. Sometimes a much-hyped book turns out to be just as good as the hype promised. The following are five novels that came wrapped in copious amounts of hype—which was totally warranted.

    The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe
    It’s easy to forget the hype surrounding this novel, which appeared in early draft form as a serial in Rolling Stone magazine in 1984 before being heavily revised and published in 1987. Wolfe was already a superstar, of course, but he was known primarily as an essayist and nonfiction writer prior to Bonfire (which was his first novel), and the serial stunt sent the hype machine into overdrive. The novel lived up to the hype, though, creating a vividly imagined story that truly did capture the New York City that existed in the 1980s as it traced the interwoven stories of “master of the universe” bond salesman Sherman McCoy, his mistress, a washed-up tabloid reporter, and dozens of other wonderfully observed characters in a shining, crumbling city.

    The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
    Not only did The Corrections win the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction and stand as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (among other awards), it was famously chosen for Oprah’s Book Club back when Oprah, and her book club, dominated the pop culture zeitgeist in a way our kids will never truly understand. Franzen’s, er, less than gracious response to this dubious honor made the book even more famous than it otherwise would have been, and for a while every conversation over cocktails at least briefly touched on it. And it continues to deserve our attention, as its study of the Lambert family’s mistakes, triumphs, joys, and miseries is infused with a hypnotic dread that makes it the sort of novel you want to reread every few years to see if age has made you wise enough to catch something new.

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
    By the time The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was published in the United States, it had already taken Europe by storm, so to say that 2008 greeted its English translation with a lot of hype would be an understatement. The story of Larsson’s untimely death, coupled with the grisly and supposedly “shocking” aspects of the novel, made thriller and mystery fans salivate to read it, and for a while it was the book everyone wanted to know if you’d read yet. And it lived up to it all, being well-crafted, very Swedish, and, yes, kind of shocking—but also incredibly entertaining, and filled with masterful twists and turns that justified the tidal wave of hype that preceded it.

    The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
    When Gone Girl exploded onto the scene, the search for the “next Gone Girl” began in earnest. A few months ago, the drumbeat for The Girl on the Train being that next great thriller with an unreliable narrator and awesome, insane twists began. And you know what? It nails it. The Girl on the Train is a worthy successor to Gone Girl’s crown. The story of three women linked in unexpected ways—one of whom is a literally unreliable alcoholic narrator—keeps the twists coming while it ratchets the tension up in expert increments, touching on some of the same themes as Gone Girl—love, marriage, and loyaltybut in different ways.

    Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan
    The “cyberpunk” genre isn’t as well-defined or deeply populated as some other categories, and as a result, whenever a new novel is announced promising that combination of believable tech wizardry and body horror that defines the genre, people tend to get excited and throw around a lot of superlatives. But any doubts about Altered Carbon are waved away within the first few pages, as Morgan’s sharp writing, imaginative concepts, and gritty, realistic feel combine to make this one of the best recent science-fiction books—and one that lived up to every great review and eager recommendation preceding its arrival in your hands.

    What book hooked you with unbelievable hype—then turned out to be just as good as you were told?

  • Maurie Backman 7:00 pm on 2014/08/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , the girl with the dragon tattoo, , , thomas harris,   

    6 Great Books to Read on a Dark and Stormy Night 

    The ShiningYou’re home alone, the wind is howling, and a steady rain is beating down heavily against your window. You put on your most comfortable pair of pajamas, pour yourself a mug of hot chocolate, and prepare to cozy up on your couch with a fuzzy blanket. Now all you need is the perfect book to let this dark, stormy night take hold of your mind, and we’ve got several suggestions.

    While you don’t necessarily need ominous weather to enjoy these great works, there’s just something about flashing lightning, crashing thunder, and the heavy pitter-patter of pouring rain that creates the perfect backdrop. For an even more intense experience, we suggest reading one of these books by candlelight. You can always turn the lights back on if you find yourself getting a little too spooked for comfort…

    The Shining, by Stephen King
    There’s a reason Joey from Friends had to stash this novel in the freezer halfway through. If you’re going to get drawn into the world of a haunted, isolated hotel, you might as well do it on a night that lends some realism to the already spooky setting. We won’t spoil the plot, but let’s just say supernatural forces abound to create a tale that’ll rattle you to your very core—especially against a stormy background of your own.

    The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, by Edgar Allan Poe
    This collection features some of Poe’s most thrilling, suspenseful works, from the terrifying “The Pit and the Pendulum” to the fear-inducing “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Pick and choose your favorites and prepare to get swept away by the satisfyingly scary settings Poe creates. Throw in a little real-world thunder and lightning, and it won’t be long before you’re tempted to hide under your own covers until morning.

    Dracula, by Bram Stoker
    Nothing complements a Gothic Transylvanian setting like a pounding storm, ideally one that intensifies as you keep reading. Pummeling rains and wailing winds can only make this chilling novel better, especially if you’re reading it for the first time.

    The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris
    Forget about the movie version. If you’re looking for a character that will truly mess with your head in the most thrilling of ways, Hannibal Lecter most certainly fits the bill. This novel screams psychological thriller, and against the backdrop of an already eerie night, you’ll be hard-pressed not to consider going to sleep with the lights on.

    Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews
    Now here’s a story that will captivate you in the creepiest of ways, especially when the dreary, isolated nature of the attic is echoed by a real-life raging storm. Reading this novel in an eerie setting of your own will elevate it in a manner that’s as thrilling as it is disturbing.

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson
    The first novel in Steig Larsson’s trilogy introduces us to the ever-fascinating and complex characters of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, who team up to solve a mystery with a twist so disturbing it’ll leave even the most jaded of readers reeling. The intricate storyline and cold, icy, remote island setting make this masterpiece the perfect stormy night read.

    What books do you recommend for a dark and stormy night?

  • Rebecca Jane Stokes 5:30 pm on 2014/06/27 Permalink
    Tags: book titles, , , , , , , , , , , , , , the girl with the dragon tattoo,   

    Honest Book Titles 


    Someone excellent at penning clichés once wrote this: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” I would argue that this person had only a limited understanding of books and the saucy trappings that hold them together; in my opinion, very often all you need to judge a book is its cover. After all, everything you need to know is there! The art tends to hint at the story inside, and the title, well, the title is the key to unlocking the story you’re holding in your hands. At least, it should be. Except that unfortunately, sometimes a title can be vague—or, worse still, just plain deceptive. Think about how much easier it would be if some of the more confusing titles just spelled it all out for us. For your edification, here are 8 books and their “honest” titles:

    1. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

    Honest Title: British People Who Confuse Sexual Attraction With Rudeness

    2. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

    Honest Title: Cancer Is The Worst

    3. It, by Stephen King

    Honest Title: The Only Thing Scarier Than a Clown Is a Demon Clown

    4. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

    Honest Title: Trains Are Not Playing Around, You Guys

    5. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

    Honest Title: Women Be Straight Trippin’

    6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson

    Honest Title: Sexual Violence, Snow &  Some Ads For Pricey Electronics

    7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis

    Honest Title: Four Children and their Imaginations Partake In a Massive Religious Allegory

    8. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

    Honest Title: Bigamy & Time Travel in Scotland

    What other honest book titles should there be?

  • Ginni Chen 5:00 pm on 2014/06/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , ignatius reilly, , jay gatsby, jean valjean, , lisbeth salander, , miss havisham, , , , , , the girl with the dragon tattoo, ,   

    If Famous Literary Characters Had Online Dating Profiles 

    9780802130204_p0_v1_s600It seems like all my friends are looking for love online these days. Whether they’re searching for the One or just the One Right Now, they all know that perfecting their online dating profile is a big deal. Your profile has to be honest about who you are, but not too honest. It has to make you seem quirky, memorable, and unique, but not too weird. It has to sell, but only to the right people. It’s the difference between an outright online rejection and a life-changing date with your soulmate. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a single piece of writing.

    So to take some of that pressure off, let’s see how some of our favorite fictional characters would fare at online dating in this day and age:

    Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
    Profile Photo: Profile of his face looking out over the water, a greenish glow in the distance
    Location: 22 miles from NYC
    About Jay: I’m a go-getter, a self-made man. I work hard, play hard, party even harder. I like to throw big parties, the bigger the better, the more the merrier. I may have nice clothes, nice cars, and 99 bottles of Dom, but deep down I’m just a sensitive, small-town guy. I’m a dreamer, I don’t drink, and I treat girls right. I’ve been burned by love before, though, so let’s take it slow.

    Ignatius Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole)
    Profile Photo: Scowling at camera near a hot dog stand, traces of mustard on chin
    Location: New Orleans
    About Ignatius: If you’re reading this, then you’ve fallen for the mockery I’m making of this depraved modern mating ritual. Send forth a welcoming missive and I’ll grace your feeble mind with the musings of my godlike one. I’ll read aloud my lengthy indictment of our debased times and tantalize your pyloric valve with an impeccable cheese dip. Must love dogs, food, movies, Batman, and Boethius. Must deplore mainstream society and the prevalent tasteless culture.

    Miss Havisham (Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens)
    Profile Photo: Sitting in an armchair in a wedding dress
    Location: Satis House, England
    About Miss Havisham: My adopted daughter Estella told me it was time to “get back in the game,” so here I am. Seeking an honest, reliable, and independently wealthy man who won’t swindle me. I’m a homebody and I don’t go out ever, so you’ll have to come visit me in my manse. There’s plenty of cake here, though.

    The Cat in the Hat (The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss)
    Profile Photo: Hat, bowtie, balancing lots of items while riding a unicycle
    Location: Seussville
    About The Cat:
    I’m the Cat in the Hat and I speak in rhyme
    Let’s go on a date and have a good time.
    I’m great with kids and I’m always fun
    Just hoping that you might be The One.

    Emma Bovary (Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert)
    Profile Photo: A montage of various duck-face selfies
    Location: Rouen, France
    About Emma: I love shopping, dancing, going to the opera, gossiping, and having fun. Haute couture and romance novels are my faves. Hate being poor and bored. Love meeting new people and I especially LOVE falling in love. I’m married, but it sucks and I’m looking for romance and excitement elsewhere. If you’re the Prince Charming I’m looking for, message me. Also, please be rich. xoxoxox.

    Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson)
    Profile Photo: None
    Location: Stockholm, or anywhere in the world
    About Lisbeth: I know your address. I know where you went to school. I know everything about you and everything you do. I’m a hacker extraordinaire with a dark side, an even darker childhood history, and a vigilante sense of justice. I have a soft spot, though, and I’d like to share that with someone special, guy or girl. If you exploit my soft spot, be afraid. Be very afraid…

    Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
    Profile Photo: Laughing with sisters and holding a book
    Location: Meryton, England
    About Elizabeth: Mama has beseeched me to venture online to better acquaint myself with eligible, well-appointed bachelors. Her mind ever points towards marriage opportunities, whereas mine delights in the ridiculousness of this online dating endeavor. Dear Suitors, I am a good walker.

    Jean Valjean (Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo)
    Profile Photo: Charcoal sketch by Émile Bayard
    Location: Paris, France
    About Jean: Who am I? Who am I? Can I pretend I’m not the man I was before? Some see me as an ex-convict who broke parole, but I’m truly a good guy who just took a few wrong turns. I am now a successful business owner, an adoptive father, and a humanitarian. I’m well read, God-fearing, and boy can I sing!

    What other literary characters would you like to see with online dating profiles?

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