Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison

image from LibraryThing
This was an interesting and fun read. The story is about Tanya a young girl who has an ability she wishes she didnt, she can see and talk to fairies and other little creatures. But the fairies she interacts with are vicious and vindictive, torturing her at night. Because of her odd behavior her mother decides to get rid of her for awhile and sends her to the overgrown home of her grandmother. She hates this home because of the creepy caretaker Warwick and his nasty son Fabian, and because no one wants her there, that is abundantly clear. The home is on the edge of Hangmans woods, a space she and Fabian are strictly forbidden to explore. The story continues in a mildly predictable fashion.

But, the part that really interests me about this story is how often descriptions and spells turn up in a variety of books. This happened over and over here. I was reminded of the Chestnut King. The fairies are much the same, and they both talk about the Seelie Court.

Anyway, I read this in an afternoon and would recommend it for those just getting started in fantasy worlds.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

image from LibraryThing
This is the first Dessen I've read, and I really liked it! McLean Sweet is a master at remaking herself. Her mom and dad divorced in a messy and public ordeal- affair with a basketball coach at the favorite college. McLean's dad took a job remaking failing restaurants and she decided to join him. Four schools and four personalities later she is a pro at traveling light, no strings, no ties, no reason to say goodbye.

But, this time it was different. This time she allowed people to see the real her and she got sick of her mother pretending everything was the way it used to be, but mostly she made friends.

I believed in McLean and Gus her dad, and the kids she collected. It felt real and honest. I wanted her to notice Dave for who he was, and cheered when she reached out to the fringe sitter Deb.

Reading this as a mom whose daughter is in college across the country, and who sometimes feels each and every mile stretching between us made me feel for Katie, McLean's mom. I could understand her longing and her hovering. But, not enough to overlook the frustrations on the other end of the phone-smothering is smothering! I recognize it from both sides!

This is a great story - one I would recommend

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

book cover from LibraryThing
I was ready for an adult book after so many YA titles and this one didn't disappoint me! I loved it!  yes - it's full of cliches and stereotypes - but I found that comforting and enjoyable!

The story follows three sisters all migrating back to their family home for different reasons - but there to help their mother as she faces breast cancer.  Well, they claim they are there for their mother.  But...

Rose (Rosalind) is the oldest and a math professor at a nearby college. She is the classic oldest - in charge of her own life and every other person around her.  She lives at home with mom and dad ( a professor of Shakespeare at another college) and picks up the slack as mom gets distracted and dad lives in the the literary world of his beloved Shakespeare.  She is engaged and her beau has taken a year visiting professorship in England.  Duties and responsibilities are keeping Rose grounded at home.

Then there is Bean (Bianca) who has fled home to the bright lights of New York, only to slink home broke and disgraced. Bean knows how to use her body to get what she wants - she is manipulative and selfish and focused.  She also is deeply in hate with herself and trapped in her destructive ways.

Lastly, there is the baby Cordy (Cordelia).  She has been on a several year tour of the US - following bands and homeless and living the life of the sixties hippies decades too late.  She is drawn home by an un-expected pregnancy.  And steps in not explaining or making excuses.

Mom and dad are slight characters - they are important to the story - but they aren't the story.

Rather it is the sisters and the way the move between what their stereotype says and way they want to be. This is a feel good family book - all works out the way it's supposed to... that was exactly the kind of story I was looking for!

I have two sisters and kept wondering if we fit in the same molds.
I don't think so... but I liked wondering.

Read it.

The Summons by John Grisham

cover image by LibraryThing
We have a tradition in our family  - when we go on a road trip I choose a book to read aloud to my husband. It makes the time go quickly and doesn't bother my daughters watching movies in the back seat. This year our trip took us on a 12 hour road trip to Colorado and The Summons was perfect for that. It had just enough details to keep our attention but not bury us and not too many characters.  We have read many Grisham's over the years and some how we missed this one.

In the opening scenes retired Mississippi Judge Atlee summons his two sons to a meeting.  He is then found dead by his son Ray, the law professor from up north in Virginia.  While waiting for his delinquent brother Forrest to show up at the house Ray stumbles on boxes of cash in an old bookshelf - lots of cash - three million dollars of cash.

And with that Ray's organized world disintegrates.  How can his straight laced, law abiding, pig headed father have so much cash and never mention it?  And what in the world was he supposed to do with it? If he turns it over to the police it will disappear to the inheritance taxes.
If he shares it with his brother Forrest will probably kill himself with drugs and alcohol.
If he hides it how will he be able to use it?
And who is that person rattling the windows on his father's deserted house - do they know about the money???

Ray begins a cross-country odyssey carrying the money from hotel room to trunk to storage unit and back again all the while trying to solve the mystery of his father and the cash and who is following him.

All of Grisham's books make you care about the character - but most also have a perfect moral compass. This one doesn't quite.  The money is not Ray's - right?  So what would you do?

And at the end I was happily surprised.

This was a great page mile-eating page-turner!!

The Roar and The Whisper by Emma Clayton

Cover image by LibraryThing
I really liked The Roar and was anxious to read the sequel The Whisper. Anxious enough to buy it online and read it on my iPad while at a conference out of state.  But, I was very disappointed!

Let me start back at the beginning again.

The Roar is the story of a horrible world future.  In this world an animal plague was turned loose and pets attacked and killed their owners. In order to keep humanity safe - an enormous wall was built encircling the globe just a little south of England.  All humanity was secured behind the wall and all life outside the wall was destroyed - a vast wasteland.

A very odd thing happened after this event - no children were born for years and the first offspring were born with strange appendages and mutant traits.  Life continues in this horrible concrete pen until the children are 12.  And then...

cover image by LibraryThing
The head of the Youth Development Organization, Mal Gorman, has a new idea - a way to take over the entire remaining world. He must figure out a way to control this children and mold them into his very own army.  The first step is to kidnap Ellie and figure out her special talent of moving things with only her eyes. Ellie disappears and her twin brother Mika is left alone, the only one who believes she is alive.

He continues to believe in her even as weird things begin to happen to him - like a strange dog that appears first in his dreams and then by his side, a feeling that he is connected to Ellie and finally his uncanny ability to fly the new space ships in the local game room.  Those space ships are not only a game - instead they are all part of Gorman's master plan.

That sets the stage...a pair of twins, a kidnapping, a secret and a mad man.  It seems like a perfect plot. And honestly throughout The Roar I agreed.  I rooted for the kids and their friends as the evil plot unfolded.

Then I started reading The Whisper.

Honestly - I felt like I was reading a rough draft about a book rather than the actual book. The conversation was stilted and the plot quite predictable.  I was sorely disappointed.

The story does resolve itself - but by the end I just wanted it to be over.
Too bad!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Enchantress by Michael Scott

cover image from LibraryThing
This is the final installment in Nicholas and Pernelle Flamel's adventure to save the world with the help of Sophie and Josh Newman.

And I have to say - I really liked it.
It is a hard thing to finish off a series you have built over years.  I have read final installments that left me frustrated and empty and wanting more.

This wasn't that way.  There was just enough detail to keep me until the end. But, in the spirit of the series - I really don't understand it all.  I LOVE that!

I also love the old enemies became allies to fight a bigger enemy.  That some of the characters didn't make it - and some did.


My only complaint is that it's really hard to pick up a series a year after you have read the others.  All the new readers are at a huge advantage - they can read these back to back. I know I lost details and understandings because I just didn't remember all the past details.

100 Cupboards Series by H. D. Wilson

image by BAS
Another interesting series...and I am a sucker for good series! The first book-100 Cupboards was an Iowa Children's Choice Book for 2011. It was recommended to me by my sister, Theresa.

The story circles around Henry York - a young boy raised by very over-protective parents who have just been kidnapped. Henry is on his way to Henry, Kansas to be with his relatives.. That is where everything begins.

Henry notices a spot in his attic bedroom where the plaster seems to be pulling away from the wall, so he picks at it a little and discovers a cupboard with a yellow glow inside.  When he gets really close he notices movement and...a postman???

That is where the discovery begins.  After several nights of chipping away the plaster covering there are 99 cupboards - each locked up tight...and now what is he supposed to do?

As he is trying to figure it out his cousin Henrietta also finds the cupboards. She isn't quite as hesitant and is drawn to a dark and creepy cupboard way down on the floor level. When Henry isn't looking she decides to check it out a little more carefully and what she unleashes is an ancient and entrapped evil.

It takes Henry, his uncle Frank and his long entrapped father two more books to set evil back in its place
And lets see - what else is in those cupboards?

  • a mailbox that delivers letters from an organization of fairies who are not happy with Henry
  • Baden Hill  - a peaceful island with an ancient tree and a huge stone slab that draws Henry and fills him with peace
  • an empty shell of a ballroom haunted by ghosts frozen in time on the night of an ancient betrayal
  • an ocean going slave ship slowly rowing across a long lost sea
  • a very odd cupboard that seems to bring you back to the place you started.

But, what was this place?  Where and when were these places?  And who were Henry's guides - who were his real parents?  Was she really related to Uncle Frank and Henrietta?  And why was Henry drawn to Baden Hill - to the breeze, to the tree, to a skeleton of a huge dog.

The books are about a boy seeking his past while he finds his place in the present.  I really like Henry. I liked that he got sick at times of stress, that he loved his adoptive parents even when he knew that just didn't quite feel right.  He made friends with Fat Frank the fairy and even tried to save the ever annoying Richard.

But my favorite part his power source - in this alternate world his family drew power from sources of nature and linked in to the power and energy of the natural force.  Henry's was a dandelion. This little unnoticed weed was capable of regenerating and conquering the mightiest oak and aspen.  Through the dandelion and it's power Henry found his identity and his strength.  What a great symbol for our kids who sometimes feel as ignored as a dandelion!

Highly Recommended!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Death Cure by James Dashner

image from LibraryThing
This is the third book in the Maze series.  There are so many variables that go in to how you feel about a book. I am trying to sort through my variables right now.  Hey - that sounds a little like WICKED and the trials and all that Thomas lived through in these books!

Anyway - there is a very fine line with books in a series. As a reader devouring book after book it is tremendously annoying when the first few chapters are spent summing up the past book.  But, if you are a reader who is savoring the books as they are written there are often months or even years between installments and details fade.  So, although I remember the big items - I can't remember names or feelings.  Instead it's more like returning memories - bits and pieces that don't always fit squarely together. (Poor Thomas again!!!)

The Death Cure is a book that suffered for me due to my foggy recollection.  I loved The Maze Runner and flew through The Scorch Trials and then waited.  So - as I started reading Cure I had a really hard time. It took me a while to remember why I didn't like Teresa or how I really felt about Brenda.  I never did figure out why Gully had such a messed up face.  And the lack of those details made this hard for me to completely buy in to.  The whole situation is built on lies and perceptions and misinformation and when the reader has a hard time remembering...

So, this is another in a line of 'the future world is a horrible place' books and the final solution is a teenager named Thomas.  I like Thomas.  He has what it takes to be empathetic and impulsive and brave and he is a complete package.  I also liked to hate Rat Man. He is the perfect creepy, manipulative character that you have no choice but to want to punch and since he is the face of WICKED - it's easy to hate them as well.

But, what a world!!! A man made virus has been released on the population following devastating solar flares. WICKED is an organization testing munnies (immune subjects) to attempt to find a cure. But - it's all a secret and the virus is spreading to even the creators of the trials.  There are memory wipes, cannibalizing, virus-sticken victims and lots of running!!

So, Mr. Dashner - your trilogy has made me wonder about my own abilities in times of trial. Thomas made many decisions based on the facts he understood at the moment. And he had the decency to lament and be tormented by those decisions when the entire story came to him. He paid the price for his zeal and his single mindedness.  He also worked for an unexpected solution - willing to make the final sacrifice - but was even that manipulated???

I would highly recommend these - but all in order - not spread out over time!

One more thought - could there be a supplement in the back of books in a series summarizing the previous installments of the story for those who need it and easily ignored for those who don't?  Books add short teasers of new novels - this could be a short synopsis... just a thought :)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

cover image from LibraryThing
I am a bit ashamed to admit that I have never read this book.

Whew - now the secret is out.

I have guiltily created a whole list of books that librarians and educators regularly talk about that I haven't read. It is honestly a bit embarrassing - and one of my most guarded secrets!!

Well, I decided it's time to start reading some of these oft mentioned books so I can do more than stupidly nod when someone mentions them in conversation.

Lord of the Flies is the first book that I tackled.  And I really liked it!!!  I understand both why it appeals to teachers and the readers.  It has everything a great YA book needs - kids, a new world and no adults!!!

There were shades of Hatchet here.  I wondered if Gary Paulsen flashed to this at any point...hmmmm....

But, what appealed to me the very most was the constant interior battle.  Each of the boys had to decide over and over again whether to give in to their secrets or to hang on to what they had been taught. The cost was terrible - but it's an epic battle. One that teens come face to face with more than we realize, I think.

So  - my first secret stash of novels was a hit...will the next also be a hit??? Stay tuned!

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

cover image by LibraryThing
The world of the Eleventh Plague is a long way from my comfortable office and this blog.  Life has become something completely different.  China and the United States went to war over some hikers in the wrong place at the wrong time. We bombed China and they retaliated with a virus that wiped out the population of the US and maybe Canada and Mexico.  As the cover shows, the United States is now a rusting hulk of what we were.

But, families still exist.  There is still a need for warmth, food, shelter and...

This is the world that Steve lives in - has always lived in.  He was born after P11 (the Eleventh Plague) hit. His life is that of a salvager roaming the Eastern part of US with his grandfather and father.  As the book begins, they are burying Grandpa.  Although Grandpa is dead, his voice and his presence looms large over Steve and his dad.  Grandpa believed that the only way to survive was to stay away from everyone, believe no one and keep moving.  Steve has only known this philosophy. There is no warm fuzzy connection with others - the only way someone would help you is for a price.

Then Steve and his dad have a run in with a pair of slavers and everything that Steve has ever known is turned on it's head. When his dad is injured in a fall and is befriended by Marcus and Jackson and taken to Settler's Landing - the voice of grandpa is challenged by real friendship.  Steve sees the inside of a house for the first time, learns what a school is and what others are willing to give up for a friend.

Although this book is another in the long line of "the world is a horrible place and only teenagers get it" genre. I really liked this one. It felt a bit different. The problems were all personal - there was not a secret agenda or a mysterious technical problem to solve. Instead - it was all about a young boy and the baggage created by a past image of the world and the issues of facing new experiences.  There is a little love interest - a bully - some explosions and death.  I liked it!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Heist Society by Ally Carter

cover image by LibraryThing
Not my favorite.

This book moves along like a movie script - scene by scene.  That works in a movie as you watch the characters and you learn about them by seeing them interact and grow.  I don't think it works as well as a book.  I constantly felt like I was missing something.  There were back stories and forshadowing and it was really hard to keep it all on target.

The basic story is about Katarina Bishop, a regular old boarding student.  Yet - as the story begins she is in the process of getting expelled from school for putting the headmaster's car on top of the fountain in the middle of campus.

But she didn't do it.

The school is her attempt at leaving her crime family and becoming a normal teenager.  And it quickly ends as she is framed for a great prank that her friend Hale actually carried out to get her out of school and back with her family.

Turns out her art heisting dad is being accused of a crime he didn't commit by a madman who will stop at nothing to get his paintings back.

Then the madman contacts Ally and makes a deal with her to let her get the paintings back to save her dad.


A ruthless criminal known around the world by his reputation of killing and mayhem is willing to make a deal with a 15 year old girl.


Oh yeah and she just happens to have a millionaire for a best friend/boy friend.

See the problems?

This may be a hit with the middle school crowd - but I really didn't like it.  Too predictable and too movie like and too...well just too much!

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

cover image by LibraryThing
I loved the earlier books in this series  - Graceling and Fire and this is the final book.

It begins after the end of Graceling - after the evil King Leck is killed and his little daughter Bitterblue is ready to rule the kingdom of Monsea.  The reader was left with a happy feeling -all is well.

But as Bitterblue begins you begin to realize that life did not move along as happily as we readers expected.  Instead, Bitterblue is the too busy princess trapped behind a mountain of paperwork as her kingdom slowly disintegrates around her without her even knowing it is happening.

And she is bored enough to try something a bit drastic, so she begins to sneak out of the castle at night, disguised as a common spy.

And she makes friends.

And she grows up.

What she discovers is a whole bunch of secrets and facades and a coverup that just doesn't end.

The book is about her discovering why things aren't as they seem and what she can do about it.  Sound a little bit like growing up???

I read the other two books several years ago - and in typical Beth fashion I just devoured them and can't remember most of the details.  So, it made it a little harder to completely understand all of this book. On the other hand it was more in line with the story  - since this was to have taken place 10 years after the end of Graceling.

A couple of my favorite parts...

I really liked Bitterblue. After the mind control of her graced father - she was a breath of fresh air.  But, I liked the memories of her mother even more. She was a woman doomed from the very beginning - yet filled with secrets.  In a great twist...Bitterblue discovers a code embroidered into the sheets and pillowcases her mother incessantly labored over. A code that was a diary telling of the atrocities of her husband and her inability to defend them.

My very favorite part though was Bitterblue's penchant for math. As her father worked to take over her mind her mother would remind her to practice difficult math problems in her mind. This practice calmed her and focused her and allowed her to defend herself from her father's devious attempts. It made me wonder if that might be helpful for some of us when our emotions and fears begin to take over.  To occupy your mind with the logics and patterned rules of math could calm and focus in a very interesting way...something to think about.

Finally - to continue to control the people of Monsea, the royal advisors have taken away learning from the subjects. Printing books and teaching one another to read is forbidden and an offense that means imprisonment.  Talk about oppression.  In our freedom we take that for granted - but the book plays out what happens when the people don't know.  Very interesting.  It is one of the threads that Bitterblue discovers - and most kids won't really get.  But, adds so much!

I would recommend this book.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

I really enjoyed this quiet story of tragedy, love and hope.
cover image from LibraryThing

Julia Forrester and her sister are stellar opposites. Julia has lost her son and husband in a horrible car accident and her sister, Alicia, has a house filled with family.  Julia is reeling from the loss and so paralyzed with grief that almost a year has slipped by.  As the spring comes to England it's time to get off the couch and see what is left of her life.

Alicia hovers nearby attempting to smooth out the life of her younger sister just as she always has.  And that brings them to the estate sale of the house where the girls' grandparents lived.  It's a crumbling old home that has been in the Crawford family for generations. And, just as Julia's life has fallen in ruins -so has the house.

But through chance meetings at the sale and in the subsequent days after - Julie begins to notice life.

This is a book of twists and turns. Each time I thought I knew what was next - I was mistaken. There are family secrets for generations which are laid bare due to time and circumstance. And Julia's biggest surprise shreds her fragile psyche, but gives her the strength to move on.

This is a great story. It mixes jolly old England with WWII, orchids, sister rivalry and a good old love story.  Highly recommended!

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

cover image from LibraryThing
I have been accused of liking books where nothing happens - where the characters are the story and that's about it.  

Well...this is another one of those stories... and I LOVED IT!!!

Henry Skrimshander. What kind of a character do you think he is?  Henry sounds a little nerdy, a little demure, a little bit in the background. But Skrimshander makes you stop and take notice. It's not a name you skim over.

Does that describe Henry?  Maybe. Henry is a baseball fanatic.  More than that though - Henry is the perfect baseball machine. He lives and breathes fielding and really nothing else. His goal in life is to be a shortstop. It may not even matter where that shortstop is -although the Cardinals are his ultimate favorite. That is due to a book Henry has mad his own story - The Art of Fielding by Aparicio Rodriguez, the best shortstop to ever play for the Cardinals.  

Henry is discovered by an ox of a catcher - Mike Schwarz who hails from a small liberal arts college - Westish - nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Mike is the kind of contagious do-gooder who mothers everyone into being more of a person than they would be on their own. And his true love is Westish.  

There is also the president of the college, his messed up daughter who runs away from her husband and returns to live with her daddy, and Henry's very eccentric roommate.

But - mostly there is Henry. A kid who does everything right. A kid who makes his skills something most player only dream of. 

and then...he starts to think about it.

I have to tell you that reading about his baubles and brain freezes reminded me of my own swimming lessons way back in jr. high. I had taken swimming lessons for years and really loved to swim.  I could jump of the diving board and dive into the deep end with out pausing. Then one day,  I vividly remember standing on the end of the diving board absolutely frozen in fear.  It was impossible for me to jump off. I just couldn't do it again. and you know I never did. I haven't dived off an edge since. 

What in the world happens?  How can you have seasons of error free games and then not be able to toss an easy out at first base???  That is Henry's dilemma.  I have a feeling we can all relate to that!

One more thing before this review is finished. I read this book on my nook. So convenient and light weight and so disappointing.  I have discovered that books for me are a kind of commododity. As I read I am thinking about who I can recommend them to  - who I can share them with. This was no different. But, if it's on my nook it's only on my nook. I can't hand it to my baseball fanatic brother-in-law or my Cardinal fanatic nephews. I can't pick it up off my bookshelves and remember the spring vacation when I read it.  Books are more than the story for me...the physical book holds such appeal.  It's making me reconsider ebooks.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

cover image from LibraryThing
What an interesting book!  From the first pages you enter an unexpected world of magic and intrigue, magicians and the unknown.  In fact, the entire book keeps you just a little off center, just a little lost and confused - as if you are wandering around in the dark, and I think that is entirely Morgenstern's intention.

I really loved this book.  I love the quirky and unexpected and this is it.

The book is based on a gentleman's agreement - a bet between two ageless men to see whose protege reigns supreme.

As one of the men slowly disappears the other remains motionless in the process of time. But, their young pupils do not remain frozen. Instead, they slowly move out from under their older teachers to become something completely different.

The competition takes place in and around an incredible circus. The kind that runs only at night - on an unknown schedule - simply appearing and disappearing at seemingly at will.  At the core of the circus are two incredible magicians - each attempting to out do the other with tents of splendor all the while locked in an impossible contest that they aren't really even aware of.

So - this reminded me of an old movie - "Something Wicked This Way Comes."  The story of a circus and some  of the things going on behind the curtains. That is just how this book is. There are so many layers - so many slight of hands that a naive reader like me just doens't see.  But, that doesn't keep me from being mesmerized and returning again and again.

One Day by David Nicholls

cover image from LibraryThing
Ond of my favorite actresses is Anne Hathaway.  So, how could I pass of this book fair book. There was Anne snuggled up and looking happy.

This book took me a long time to really get into. I felt like it was way to predictable.  Brainy and semi-boring Emma has a short fling with gad-about-town Dexter.  There are moments that they could each follow to create a real romance - but college circumstances keep that from happening.  As the years pass Emma becomes more entrenched in her causes and significant friendships and Dexter looses  his grip on reality as he becomes rich and famous as a spokesperson for nothing.

Let's see what will happen - there will be an awakening and both will realize at the same moment that they are perfect for each other - fall madly in love and life will be perfect.

I kept waiting for that to happen. I mean duh!!!

But it didn't quite happen. Instead the years rolled by and Emma become famous - as a writer and Dexter faded into nothingness as drugs and stupidity took their toll.  Predictable.

And then it happened.  But it wasn't what we all thought.  It was more and it was less.

The end of the book redeemed itself.  But, I have to admit I would not have stuck with it without Anne as Emma.  I knew Anne was more than Emma's dreariness.  But, that was because of my belief in other Anne's not becasue of the book.

So - it's hard to recommend this.  I liked it - but the story has been done way to many times!!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

cover image from LibraryThing
Let me tell you things come together in unexpected ways sometimes.  This is one of the books that I downloaded onto my Nook to read on our Mexican vacation.  What a great beach read it was!

This is the story of an unexpected journeys
       - from the cold of Minnesota to the wilds of Brazil
       - from the known sterile world of a pharmaceutical lab to the completely unpredictable world of 70 year old pregnant Brazilian women who gnaw on trees.
       -from the ordered life of Marina Singh failed gynecologist and clandestine lover of the company CEO to Dr. Annick Swenson the Amazonian queen of research

So - as I sat on the beach on my own journey I read about Marina and Dr. Swenson.  Marina, afraid of rocking the boat in so many ways and Swenson who not only will drive the boat, she will command anyone who touches the boat and perhaps burn them at the stake if they cause any problems. There could not be two more dissimilar characters.
As the paths of these two women intertwine - both in Marina's schooling and later at the research facility and finally in Brazil they take on one another's qualities...much to their dismay.

The story begins with a letter from Brazil announcing the death of Marina's research partner who has gone to Brazil to find out why it is taking Dr. Swenson so long to create a fertility drug from a tribe of women who still bear children in their 70s.   Marina is charged to go to Brazil to find Anders body and return it to his wife as well as check on the research.

As you would expect things don't go as they are expected to...there are cannibals, a hippie couple who hold unexpected information, a deaf child named Easter, and a jungle so full of insects that...well it gave me the creeps.

As Marina makes her way to the tribe - she is greeted with natives holding torches in the so happened that I read that part the day that we took an hour boat ride to a darkened island where the torches on the beach welcomed us...there were no critters, but it was an interesting moment.

I enjoyed the way this story spun itself slowly out.  There were so many hidden treasures and half truths that worked their way into the tale.  This was a good one.

Girl Who Played with Fire and Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest By Stieg Larsson

Both these were page turners - in completely different ways.

cover image by LibraryThing
Lisbeth is the center of a police investigation in the Girl who Played with Fire.  It is an investigation into a double homicide and the gun has her fingerprints all over it.  As the police and the press search for a mentally unstable, lesbian, demon worshiper - Lisbeth quietly begins her own search for the killer. A search that pushes her friends to the limit - did she really kill these people, how well do they know Lisbeth, how far would she go?

How did she get involved???  The truth is a bit surprising - a series of unfortunate events you might even call it.  But - by then Lisbeth is deeply embroiled in the search for her own beginnings that she has to see it through.

This is one of those books that I hesitated to begin.  I really liked Lisbeth at the end of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I felt sorry for her and the way she was victimized and I didn't want the harassment to continue. So, I put off reading this second book.  I didn't want her at the mercy of her Advocate again.  Well...
Once I started reading her situation was much worse and much better than I had imagined.  I mean really - how could I feel like Lisbeth was a victim?  Her resilience is clear.  But in this book she begins to understand that her decisions have effects on her friends. In fact, it is in this book that she really decides she has friends at all.

cover image from LibraryThing
As The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest begins life for Lisbeth has been reduced to a hospital bed. This wonder woman is in terrible physical shape after being shot and buried alive. she is caught.

Then things take a mighty unexpected turn.  This is the installment that is all about strategy and planning and behind the scenes work.  The first two books were raw physical power.  This one is raw brain power... well sort of.

Lisbeth is charged with a series of crimes. Nothing impossible, just difficult.  But, the real maneuvering is in the government. A division of the secret police so secret that they have operated outside the law most of Lisbeth's life.  And they have now reconvened to take her down.

This is the book where Lisbeth really understands that she is not alone. She is probably her most vulnerable and her strongest in this one.  And I have to say it was my favorite. i really like all the finagling and rangling and planning.  I like the way Lisbeth evolves into a different character.  Maybe it's growing up - but I think it's much more because for the first time she is really not alone. REALLY not alone and we all know it.

These are amazing stories and many threads are still hanging.  What a story Stieg Larsson had to tell!!!