#2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.
 I really don't know what to say about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I can't break it down into a "what's good" and "what's bad" style review, because it's really just this mess inside my brain right now.

I expected this book to be a sort of dark thriller, but I did not expect it to be as gritty and violent as it was. The murders themselves were grotesque; though they weren't focused on/described in a way that was meant to give the book a long-standing gore appeal. They were simply stated as they would be in a newspaper, or police report: the details were important. The same was with the "sex scenes". There were quite a few of them, but not one went into great detail... it did not focus on the sex, simply stated that it was had.

The hardest thing for me to swallow in this book overall was simply the way women were treated. So many of the core, central female characters were subjected to rape in one way or the other. Like the consensual sex scenes, the rape scenes are not described in detail (save for one that has a bit of detail, but not too much)... but they are rather unsettling, and tend to get under your skin. A number of women in this book are subjected time and time again to sexual assault, as a result of someone of authority abusing their power. It bothered me just how sick some of these individuals are.

Initially, I was a bit perturbed about the fact that these events were not real, that they had come from Larsson's mind. It's one thing to read an event like the ones in the book like they had actually happened, it's a complete other to know someone created a character for the soul purpose of going through something that disturbing. But then I stumbled across this little gem:
Larsson, who was disgusted by sexual violence, witnessed the gang rape of a young girl when he was 15. He never forgave himself for failing to help the girl, whose name was Lisbeth – like the young heroine of his books, herself a rape victim, which inspired the theme of sexual violence against women in his books.
 This is a bit understandable. If the books were written - on some level - to raise awareness against sexual violence (something that is far more common than it should be in modern day society), then they'll sit a bit easier. And I do believe that's what he was trying to convey... at the beginning of each portion, there is a small quote, stating what percentage of women endure certain kinds of sexual assault from men each day, how many don't report it, etc. etc. And as a book written to raise awareness against sexual assault, it does a great job. I have never been a fan of rape, but after reading this, I feel I hate it even more than I did before.

It also does a great job as a murder mystery/thriller. The writing is good, the suspense is there, and the characters are solid. The research Salander and Blomkvist do is laid out so plainly that I couldn't help but take my own notes, and the last half of the book became a race to see who could figure things out first: Me or them. And it is a solvable mystery; the clues are there, you just have to find them.

Overall, it is a well written, yet greatly unsettling novel. I think I enjoyed it, but I was also disgusted, skeeved out, and flat out repulsed at times. And a little frightened (it's hard to look at the murders/murderer and ignore the fact that people like that do exist in this world)... but if you can stomach it, it's worth the ride. The pacing is slow at first, but picks up soon enough. If you can wade through the initial sludge that is the Blomkvist vs. Wennerstrom lawsuit, you'll be greatly rewarded.

FINAL WORD: Read at your own risk. Not for anyone under 18, or those with weak stomachs.

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PRIEST (2011; Paul Bettany, Karl Urban)

I'm not sure, but I don't think I've written up my preview post for the movie PRIEST yet... odd, considering it 1. has Karl Urban, 2. has Paul Bettany, 3. has Christopher Plummer, and 4. is the only movie I want to see in 2011.

It was supposed to be out around August of last year... but it kept getting pushed back further and further, and now it looks like it's pretty set on a May 13th release. Finally. Because I really want to see this movie.

The movie is loosely based on a graphic novel series by the same name. There are certain traits taken from the GNs to the movie - like the villain, the main character, etc. - but the overall concept is vastly different. Which is fine... the appeal of the GNs for me was the fact that they read like a western. They involved vampires and other creatures and warrior priests, but all in all, the PRIEST series was a western, in the style of 3:10 to Yuma, Tombstone, etc. Everything I've been hearing says they've carried that over to the film.

If you haven't heard of PRIEST, and don't get a whole lot from the trailer, the idea is basically this:

Paul Bettany is a warrior priest who rebels from the faith when he is forbidden by the higher ups to track down his niece (who was kidnapped when the supposedly extinct vampires attacked her family). Together with a female priest who is sent to kill him and a sheriff (?) sworn to help him, they uncover a deadly secret: Black Hat (a fellow priest turned God of Vampires in the first war) has helped the vampires replenish their ranks, and they're now stronger than ever.

Words do not express how excited I am... no joke. I just... I can't wait. I can't. I love the GNs and I love every actor in this movie. May cannot come fast enough!

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#1. The Help by Katheryn Stockett

The novel is told from the perspective of three characters: Aibileen Clark, a middle-aged African-American maid who has spent her life raising white children and has recently lost her only son; Minny Jackson, an African-American maid who has often offended her employers despite her family's struggles with money and her desperate need for jobs; and Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a young white woman who has recently moved back home after graduating college to find out her childhood maid has mysteriously disappeared. These three stories intertwine to explain how life in Jackson, Mississippi revolves around "the help"; yet they are always kept at a certain distance because of racial lines.

I started off my 11 in 2011 with Katheryn Stockett's The Help, and it was simultaneously the worst and best decision.


It's a bit more difficult to break books into categories of what's good and what's bad because they strike me as far more complex than movies, especially if you get a good one. And The Help is absolutely a good one. Mrs. Stockett does a fantastic job of ripping you out of your comfortable post millenia bubble and thrusting you into the Jackson, Mississippi of the 60's. What's more is, she writes each of the three characters so well, it feels like you're reading actual memoirs, as opposed to a work of fiction.

The book speaks to your emotions. It's frustrating to keep quiet as you read about the way Aibileen and the other ladies are treated, how Ms. Skeeter is treated once her "secret" is out. In the back of your mind, you are constantly whispering this is so, so wrong. 

The relationships between characters are also very real. Some make you so angry you could spit, others make you cry with laughter, still others make you weep at how selfless they are... and some just plain rip your heart out. Each man, woman, and child is so real that you can almost touch them... but at the end of the day, you're glad you're only reading about it. Furthermore, they are so easy to relate to, despite the fact that they were living out their lives 40 years before today; before I'm living out mine. They had flaws, fears, critical parents, snotty brothers, peer pressure, unruly children, friends, enemies, flawed marriages, broken hearts... and while it made you connect and thus emmerse yourself in the story, it also makes you realize that all the racism was ridiculous. We aren't that different at all.

I also love that, after reading all of that, you find out that Mrs. Stockett herself grew up with a maid, and that she wrote this partly because she realized she never thanked her own help as a child. It makes everything ring a little sweeter.


There isn't a whole lot. Some of the situations can make you quite angry, but honestly, the "worst" thing about it is, once you read it, it's difficult to find another book to follow it with. It is just so good and well written that anything you read will be lacking, simply because it's not this.

I've found it very difficult to get into my second book for my 11 in 2011 challenge...


I recommend The Help to anyone and everyone, regardless of whether or not you like to read. It is a quick read - you will not be able to put it down - but also engaging and thought provoking. It will open your eyes to a lot of things, and at the very least, make you thank the stars we were born today, and not back then... that we are living in a time where people who treat others like lesser beings are the ones frowned upon, not the other way around. And it is a beautiful window to a time when black women were good enough to raise your children, but not to sit and eat with you.

If you haven't read this, pick up your copy today! Also, be sure to check out the movie, due in theaters this coming August. 

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The 11 in 2011 Challenge

2011 is here! And while there is absolutely no reason why this should be a special year (apart from the epic 11/11/11 event), I felt like doing something challenging... and seeing as I have a new Kindle, it made sense to make that something involve books.

Last year, I let reading fall by the wayside... until, of course, I started writing. And for some reason that should be painfully obvious, the more I write, the more I long to read. And the more I read, the more I long to write. So the more I started brainstorming and plotting and developing characters, the more I wanted to read. And I began to knock back book after book. But December 31st, my reading list looked like this:

Under the Dome by Stephen King (x2)
On Writing by Stephen King
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
You’ll be Sor-ree! by Sid Phillips
Helmet for my Pillow by Robert Leckie
With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge
Just After Sunset by Stephen King
Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King
Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
The First Evil by R.L. Stine
The Second Evil by R.L. Stine
The Third Evil by R.L. Stine
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Running Man by Stephen King
1984 by George Orwell

And those are just the ones I can remember. This list, along with the list of books I was looking forward to reading, was fairly dominated by Stephen King. Which is fine... he's my favorite author, the biggest reason why I want to be a writer, and he's good at what he does. His books are all fairly amazing.

But there are also some fantastic books out there, by fantastic authors that aren't Stephen King (I know, shocker), and I decided that I would take part in a new challenge this year. The challenge has two parts.

PART I: Read 11 books this year (2011) by authors other than Stephen King. 

I'm also going to try very hard to not pick the same author twice... so, seeing as Coraline by Neil Gaiman is on the list, I'll try not to count Good Omens if I get around to finishing it. Stuff like that. And it's proven far more difficult than I thought. Half the books I initially picked are by Stephen King... again, not bad... but I want to expand my literary tastes. And, if I want to become a more competent writer, I need to experience other writing styles to help develop and tune my own.

PART II: Read books that either A. have a movie adaptation already out or B. have a movie adaptation that will be out by this year. 

I'm not sure why this intrigued me as much as it did, seeing as it narrows the list of books significantly... but I felt it would be exciting to read a book, review it, then see the movie and review that. I think I'm up to about 6 or 7 books with movie adaptations, with only 2 that I've actually seen, and 1 that has a remake coming out (hopefully) this year.

So that's the challenge! I've already started, having read my first book and started on my second. Keep your eyes peeled for updates! :D

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Novels are like bread

No really, they are.

It is nearing the end of January now and I am still working on The 11th Hour... which is to be expected. My ETC was the end of January... problem is, I don't think I'm all that close to finishing.

And the main problem is, the story is getting stale. Not that the writing is getting bad or the idea is losing its luster, but just that I can't bring these characters to life like I could before.

It's really disheartening... but it's also giving me a kick in the pants to just finish the first draft. FINISH IT! Partly because I want to get this done, so I can edit it and move on towards getting it published, and also because I've had an idea for another story, and I would like to explore that.

But I'm also at a point in the story that is very difficult to write, and it's hard to push forward knowing that 90% of what you've written is going to get cut in the second draft. But I think it's almost done. I think I'm close to the end, and that's reassuring.

I'm not sure... I just don't think I was entirely prepared to push through the post-NaNo slump. It's definitely been a learning experience.

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Obligatory and Witty Blog Post Title Here

I always wonder what to write for the New Year. In 2008, I wrote a beefy post about what I had been through that year, how it changed me, and how much a grew. In 2009, I wrote nothing because my hard drive decided to give up the ghost... but that's just as well because I don't think 2009 was really that eventful of a year. And now here I am, in possession of a sleek new laptop (the other one just couldn't make it, even with the new hard drive) and mourning the loss of my sleek new iPhone 4.

But 2010 was a good year, and I feel like, if I write a post about everything that it gave me in detail, it could take forever! 2010 gave me Community. It gave me Justified and Rubicon and a WW2 miniseries. It gave me a cat and a fish and another year with my dog. It gave me Chelsy and Leanne and Caroline and Kenny and so many others. It gave me P Company. It gave me Peathgate... oh what memories. It gave me a driver's license, and a car... sort of. It gave me my first tax induced freak out, and my first water damaged phone. Most importantly, it gave me my first sister.

2010 took me to Oregon and Washington and Montana and (back to) Texas. It made me write a novel (that I'm still writing ha... haha... ha) and once again got me back into reading.

It gave me Inception and Tangled and RED and a good number of enjoyable movies. It allowed me to rediscover television shows and books and movies I adored when I was a kid. It was a time of reflection.

It put me in a familial situation I didn't ever think I'd be in... and it got us through it. And it extended my family.

By far, the most precious memories I have of 2010 (with the exception of my brother's wedding) are those I got to share with my children. And, while I'm not really looking forward to the fall of 2011, I can't wait for the year to start; to be able to share more memories with my kiddos. They are such a large part of my life, it's hard to think about them growing up and going on to preschool or - God forbid - Kindergarten. I went to Montana with them, and I cried my eyes out on the way home from Texas because I missed them. And through my relationships with them, I've gained even more relationships with their families.

I will always be thankful that I was given the chance to spend time with them, to watch them grow and develop their little personalities, to see their little smiles and hear their laughter and help them to stop crying.

So, I figured to mark this passing of time, I'd share with you the video I made of them. Some of you may have already seen it, some of you may not. But it's a collection of memories that I hold very dear to my heart, and I feel like it's the perfect way to say goodbye to 2010, and hello to 2011.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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