Goodreads Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Note: this review was originally posted in Goodreads on August 25, 2011

Wow.

I start the review with that word not because I was impressed by this novel but because I’m shocked it became such a hit. Really, what does this novel contain that has attracted so many people to it? I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free.

Let me begin right now by admitting that I did enjoy it, at least at some points. As soon as the two main characters got together the whole “mystery” that was the focus of the story for a while switched into another gear and blasted off. But…

…but, well, the manuscript needed some serious editing. The structure of the story is a mess; on one hand you have the Harriet Vanger investigation which masks as the main plot. When that is solved and done you have Blomkvist’s vendetta against Wennerstrom, which should have been a nice epilogue but instead took a life of its own and hijacked the novel. Not that it came out of left field, since Larsson took great pains to set it up at the beginning to then abandon it completely for the duration of the Vanger mystery. My theory is that he had two story ideas and then just decided to merge them into one overcomplicated plot. Had he stuck with one it would have made for a bearable novel; two was just lousy and forced writing (reminds me of Spiderman 3 and the stupid decision to have three underdeveloped and badly written plots involving the three villains).

To make matters worse the way each plot is solved is absurd. Vanger’s seem at first like Blomkvist was pure genius (with the help of Salander, the english title’s proclaimed main character) until you give it a bit more thought and realise just how many convenient incredible coincidences were needed to crack the mystery. In Wennerstrom’s case, the plot required the mastermind of a worldwide network of crime and financial evil (one that spun an incredibly complicated web of companies and subcompanies to cover his tracks) to be so utterly stupid as to have all the necessary evidence against his empire stored in one place – his personal computer. I know I promised no spoilers but that was so ridiculous I had to bring it up. Even stupider is how this empire crumbles without any sort of retaliation whatsoever against Blomkvist, not even a “fuck you”. Yeah, that was another spoiler.

I won’t mention the whole “men hating women” theme that gives this novel its original swedish title, except to agree that it was brought more for shock value than for an actual statement. No, the statement here was political, against all those evil financial reporters that don’t do their jobs and the corporations that oink oink their way into greed to the ruin of many good people’s lives.

What I will mention to conclude this review is that, even though I liked Blomkvist as a character and hero, he was too much the James Bond around women for my taste. None could resist this sexual marvel, not even the cold hearted and rebellious girl with the dragon tattoo. I have the feeling this was really how Larsson himself fantasized of being.

I initially gave The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo three stars out of five, because even at the end I was convinced I must have made some sort of mistake and really liked it a bit more than I felt I did.

But nah, two stars is my judgment.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Scorpio Rising, by Monique Domovitch

I’ll be completely honest here: I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up for reading and reviewing. Judging by the title I figured it was some sort of spy novel, or any other sort of adventure driven piece.

Nope.

But the comedy of errors actually began when I started reading The Sting of the Scorpio and wondered why the hell the story seemed to begin right in the middle of a scene. It wasn’t until Chapter Three that I re-checked the Scorpio Rising tour e-mail (more details at the end of this review) and realized I was reading the sequel, which does begin right where Scorpio Rising ends.

Oh.

And I only had a day left to read and review an entire novel (I was already grotesquely behind schedule. Sue me.).

So I really didn’t have much time to actually enjoy the story, all the while reading a genre – Romance, as it turned out – that I’m not particularly fond of. Didn’t seem like the ideal set up, yet for all the hurdles, I actually enjoyed reading this book. In fact, what started as a lukewarm reading ended with a desire to pick the sequel immediately (not literally, it’s way past midnight and I’m sleepy).

Oh yeah, the story: Alexander Ivanov is a young Russian immigrant in New York with plenty of ambition and drive. His chosen path to glory is architecture, which is not a bad choice considering where he’s at. This kid reminded me a little bit of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character in (500) Days of Summer, which is also a romance story with an architect in the lead. Architecture is sexy, I guess. Anyway, we follow his rise (he’s the title Scorpio, as in the astrology sign) at the same time as Brigitte Dartois’ increasing stardom as a painter in Paris in the 1950’s. Doesn’t take much to infer that Alexander is our MAN, and Brigitte is our WOMAN, and destiny has marriage in store for our heroes.

While the premise and plot follow the usual formula, that doesn’t stop it from being a fun read. In fact, there were several soap operish moments that I bookmarked on the Kindle because I enjoyed them so much. You know, the kind where you go “YEAH, TAKE THAT, BITCH!”. My favorite was the following: Brigitte is (innocently) being lead on by a rich guy who pretends to care for her in order to eventually have sex with her. His even richer wife, the one that holds all the cards in fact, is suspicious and the guy tries to be careful since, well, she holds all the cards and without her he’s nothing. But there’s so much horniness he can hold on before bursting, so he tries to seduce Brigitte and fails massively, but not before threatening Brigitte with taking everything away from her: the apartment, the clothes, the money, etc. Brigitte doesn’t take the bullshit and leaves the apartment after the guy storms out, but he doesn’t realize this until a few weeks later, when he returns to find it empty. In one of those “only in the movies” moments, his wife is right there waiting for him.

“I hope the screwing that whore gave you,” she said, sounding victorious, “was worth the screwing I’m about to give you.”

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh, hohoho!!!!

That’s not the only “TAKE THAT, BITCH!” moment in the novel, but it was the most satisfying. That line is epic.

The novel has no shortage of the obligatory asshole/bitch characters that make life miserable for our heroes (note on Alex Ivanov: he’s not a sweet angel either, he does start as an asshole himself before getting to be more likable, but that positively added a realistic, well-rounded dimension to the character). My favorite bitch was Anne Turner. Anne is the typical sexy woman who feeds on rich men’s riches in exchange for some fuck time with her. The couple chapters where she is prominently displayed were a joy to read. I mean, the way that bitch laid out her plans to trap the richest guy in the story was worthy of the Mission: Impossible team, or at least Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The novel also ends up perfectly with a cliffhanger of hers: Just wait till I find that damned Alex Ivanov. MEAOW!!!

Another aspect I liked about this particular novel was the structure. Instead of having Romeo and Juliet meet early in the story, each has his/her own plot and only near the end do the plots intersect, they finally meet and *swoon* fall in love. Neither has any shortage of soap operish troubles along the way, of course.

In short, considering how Romance is not my thing, reading this was a guilty pleasure. One that I plan to repeat with the sequel. Stay tuned.

But first, a word from our sponsors:

Announcing the Scorpio Rising Social Media Whirlwind Tour!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Scorpio Rising eBook edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including 2 Kindle Fires, Amazon gift cards up to $100 in amount, 5 autographed copies of the book, and 5 autographed copies of its recently released sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 23rd, so you don’t miss out.

To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Scorpio Rising for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  4. BONUS:  If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!

…And I can win too!

Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

The Featured Events include:

Monday, Blogaganza on Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We’ll ask the writer 5 fun and random questions to get everyone talking. Leave a comment or question in response to the post, and you may win an autographed copy of Scorpio Rising or its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio. Don’t forget to enter for the other contest prizes while you’re over there!

Tuesday, Twitter sharing contest!A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters. But on Tuesday, it could win you $50. Send the following tweet across the twittersphere, and you just may win a $50 Amazon gift card. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs. The winner will be announced Wednesday morning. Here’s the tweet:  Looking for a read that’s full of love, drama, and betrayal? Scorpio Rising has been reduced to 99 cents! http://ow.ly/7zA2s #whirlwind

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs. Three chances to win! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Win a Kindle Fire! Two are up for grabs! Visit Monique’s website to leave a comment on any of her posts and sign-up for her author newsletter. One person will win for each method, so be sure to do both.

 

Remember, it’s all about the books!

About Scorpio Rising: Set in New York and Paris amid the glamorous and competitive worlds of art and real estate, Scorpio Rising takes the reader from the late 1940s to the 1960s through the tumultuous lives of its heroes. Alex Ivanov is the son of a Russian immigrant and part-time prostitute. He yearns to escape his sordid life and achieve fame and fortune. His dreams of becoming a world-class builder are met with countless obstacles, yet he perseveres in the hope of someday receiving the recognition he craves. Half a world away, Brigitte Dartois is an abused teenager who runs into the arms of a benefactor with an agenda all his own. When she finds out that her boss has an ulterior motive, she flees again, determined to earn her living through her art. This career brings her fame, but also the unwanted attention of her early abuser.  Monique Domovitch’s debut novel, Scorpio Rising, is a compelling tale filled with finely etched characters and a superb understanding of the power of ambition. Scorpio Rising promises to resonate with all who once had a dream. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About The Sting of The Scorpio:  In Scorpio Rising, Monique Domovitch presented a compelling tale filled with colorful characters and the manipulation of power, ambition, and greed. Now she gives us its spellbinding sequel, The Sting of the Scorpio, where Alexander Ivanov returns to New York with his new bride, Brigitte. The real estate industry is ripe with opportunity. Blessed with irresistible charm, ambition, and the single-minded obsession to succeed, Alex plots and manipulates his way to almost mystical success. Everything he touches turns to gold, but it’s never enough. When a hostile takeover bid leaves him struggling to save his beloved company, he suspects those closest to him of plotting his downfall. Brigitte, the beautiful redhead who abandoned her country and her career to become his wife, feels alone. In return, Alex has betrayed her time and again, each indiscretion cutting deeper into her soul. Brigitte’s son, David yearns to be an artist, but Alex’s plans leave no room for such frivolous goals. He grooms a reluctant David to become the heir apparent until a devastating tragedy attracts the attention of another young man. The Sting of the Scorpio is a rich tale of a man at the mercy of his own greed and a woman bound by her need for love.  Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:  Monique Domovitch began writing at the age of fifty-five. Two years later, she has two self-published novels—her Scorpio Series—and a three-book deal with Penguin, for books she has written under the name of Carol Ann Martin. Never seen without her laptop, Monique and her husband travel the world and divide the rest of their time between their homes in British Columbia and California. Monique loves to hear from readers! Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Movie Review: The Searchers

The opening shot in “The Searchers”

Once the beginning credits were over with and John Ford’s first shot of The Searchers came into full view, I went into “holy shit!” mode.

It was a simple shot, really. We begin inside a house and slowly move outside, following “Martha” as she goes out to greet the returning “Ethan Edwards” (John Wayne). It’s dark inside and what we initially see is a silhouette. Outside it’s bright enough, though, and as we go past the door Monument Valley, Arizona, is displayed in all its panoramic glory. It reminded me of the time earlier this year when I visited the Grand Canyon and was blown away by the 3D vistas (the depth of the canyon is so pronounced it felt like watching an IMAX movie in 3D). I had seen the Canyon lots of times in videos and pictures, but they didn’t do it justice, not by a long shot. It’s one of those places that you have to be there to truly appreciate it. That opening shot of The Searchers, however, came very close to that experience.

The storyline: it’s Texas, 1868. Ethan Edwards returns to his brother’s home after years of being away, first fighting in the Civil War (as a Confederate) and then… well, who the hell knows where he went those three other years, the thing is he’s back. The family is very happy to see him back, but he’s just like “meh”. Then tragedy strikes, as Comanche indians slaughter the entire family but for Edwards and “Martin Pawley” (Jeffrey Hunter), who were out searching for those Comanche, and “Debbie”, Ethan’s youngest niece who was kidnapped by the Indians (oh, shut it, I won’t be politically correct and write “Native Americans” every time). The rest of the movie is the search for Debbie, spanning several years until she’s 15. They eventually find her, of course, but what they find is not the Debbie they knew.

Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) and Ethan Edwards (John Wayne)

The Searchers is a classic, making basically all top ten Westerns lists, in some cases landing the #1 spot. I wasn’t impressed enough to make it my personal #1 Western, but it’s easily in my top ten, maybe top five. There are two reasons for that: John Wayne and John Ford.

Let’s start with Wayne. I’ll be the first to admit that, at this point in time, I haven’t seen that many John Wayne movies. I know him mostly by his reputation as the noble heroic cowboy that everyone looks forward to. His “Ethan Edwards” was anything but noble, though. He was a racist, mean motherfucker that couldn’t care less what you thought of him; for example, his nephew Martin was adopted (Martin was one eighth Cherokee), and Ethan never missed a chance to remind him both that they weren’t kin and that he had Indian blood. When Ethan’s driven – and the Comanche gave him plenty of drive – he wouldn’t stop until he got what he wanted. He had his own philosophy of life, one that wasn’t bound by incorruptible honor and gallantry, yet he does care, in his own fucked up way, about others. Wayne nailed this character through and through. I’m not surprised some consider this his finest performance, because it’s one of those that you cannot imagine being done in any other way by any other actor. Ironically, for such a great performance (and such a grand reputation for the movie as a Western and as a film in general), The Searchers received a grand total of zero Academy Award nominations.

Yeah, I guess the Oscars are overrated.

Then we have Ford. That opening shot alone made me understand why Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone (two of my favorite directors and two grand masters in their own right) had Ford in such high esteem and were so heavily influenced by him. What the film lacked in a strong plot more than made up for in direction, cinematography, and editing. Ford should have been nominated for an Oscar same as Wayne. The way he handled the shots made you feel like you were right there, galloping across the desert, surrounded by the Comanche, or attacking their tribe. It was brilliant, and made me wonder why most directors nowadays are so painfully… lazy. “Uncreative” would be another appropriate description, but that is mostly due to laziness and the obsessive attachment to formulaic shots and sequences. It’s like nowadays that majority of Hollywood directors are working on TV soap operas, while John Ford was working on actual Hollywood films. CGI is partly to blame, but not entirely; The Searchers looked much better than anything I have ever seen in the Western genre (Leone included), vastly – oh, oh so vastly – superior to George Lucas’ video game feel in Attack of the Clones, which had a similar red desert setting.

Speaking of George Lucas, there is a sequence in The Searchers that I’m pretty sure he… umm, borrowed for 1977’s Star Wars. As I briefly mentioned earlier, Ethan and Martin had joined a group of rangers to hunt down some Comanche that were known to be in the vicinities. Turns out the Comanche had lured the men out to attack their homes at will. They realize this and quickly return to their respective homes (well, except for Ethan, who was wise enough to allow his horse to rest before going back). What they come back to is a burnt house, and the burnt remains of the family. The sequence is very similar to the one where Luke meets Ben Kenobi and during their conversation realizes the stormtroopers would come looking for the droids at his home, where his uncle Owen and aunt Beru live. When he makes it back, all he finds are their burnt remains, with the house suffering a similar fate.

Not sure if Lucas meant that as a homage to John Ford or just decided to steal the fuck out of that sequence, but the fact that The Searchers is a major influence on so many filmmakers should come as no surprise. Ford and Wayne were at the top of their game here, and The Searchers is a movie that deserves to be seen, studied, and appreciated. It was only fitting – in fact, I was expecting it after that monumental opening – that the movie ended with a reverse shot of the first sequence, completing the circle as Ethan brings back Debbie, and then walks away.

Ethan Edwards walks away, and so does the movie.