Mar 142012
 

Author: Steig Larsson

Pages: 644 Paperback

Publisher: Vintage Crime- Black Lizard

Release Date: 2008 English 2005 Swedish

Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery, Revenge

Characters:

Mikael Bloomkvist-Disgraced journalist for the magazine Millennium.  He lost a libel case and must serve some time in prison.

Lisabeth Salander- Freelance surveillance agent and genius hacker, but also has mental issues that do not allow her to associate with people on a normal level.  She has a very strong sense of getting revenge vs going to the police for help.

Henrik Vanger- Rich elderly corporate industrialist.  He hires Mikael to solve the disappearence of his niece Harriet in 1966.

Martin Vanger- Taken over running Vanger Corporation from his uncle Henrik.  He is Harriet’s brother.

Dirch Frode- Henrik’s lawyer and friend.

Synopsis: In SwedenMikael Bloomkvist is a writer for the  political magazine, Millennium. He gets clued into a juicy story of corruption, but after publication his sources dry up and will not back him up.  He is sued for libel, loses, and is forced to temporarily resign from Millennium.   A wealthy elderly man,Henrik Vanger, offers him a job to solve the disappearance of his niece Harriet  the tiny island of  Hedeby in 1966.  Mikael must live on the island while he investigates and at the same time,pretends to be writing a biography of Henrik Vanger.   In exchange for working on the case,  Mikael will receive payment, but more importantly will get information that will help him get revenge against the man that sued him for libel.

Mikael makes strong headway on the case, but eventually finds that there is too much evidence for one person to go though.  To speed up the process, he enlists the help of Lisabeth Salander, a brilliant yet socially stunted surveillance expert and hacker.  Lisabeth had previously been paid to do research on Mikael to see if he was up to the task of finding Harriet and to see what rewards would entice him.

With Lisabeth’s help, Mikael is able to get close to cracking the case.  Only one thing can stop them, at least one person wants the past to stay hidden and are willing to do anything to hide previous crimes!

Analysis: Despite being translated from the original Swedish, this novel seems to flow very well and is easy to understand.  This is a great change of pace because a reader can often quickly tell that a novel has been translate due to unusual sentence structure.

I am also impressed with the creation of the character Lisabeth.  She is a strangely tough and  yet vulnerable character.  Her vulnerability gets her into some bad situations with unscrupulous men which leads to some very dark situations.  She is unwilling to contact the police and this leads to her taking matters into her own hands.  She has a different moral code than others and this leads to some interesting solutions.

Pro:

  • Lisabeth is one of the most unique characters I have seen in a novel.
  • I was genuinely in suspense for almost the whole book.

 Con:

  • The book did drag just a little bit after the climax.
  • Mikael’s easy relationship with a certain female character, not Lisabeth, was a little confusing.

Conclusion: As with most mystery novels, I always try to guess what the ending will be.  I can safely say that I was way off on this one and I love it when that happens!  I have avoided the film versions so far, and now I think I want to continue to avoid the English version because I hear that it differs from the novel in some important aspects.

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 4
Plot 3
Imagery 3
Read Again? 4
Average 3.5
Mar 132012
 

Author: Suzanne Collins

Pages: 391

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: September 2009

Genre: Teen Dystopian Future, Science Fiction

Characters: 

Katniss Everdeen- District 12 winner of the 74th Hunger Games, and master of hunting and archery.

Peeta Mellark- Other District 12 winner of the 74th Hunger Games, painter and is in love with Katniss, but it is unrequited.

Gale Hawthrone- Friend of Katniss, also a hunter and may have feelings for her.

Haymitch Abernathy- Mentor of Katniss and Peeta but has had a drinking problem since he won the 50th Hunger Games.

President Snow- Despotic and Psychotic ruler of Panem, fears that Katniss is becoming a symbol for a rebellion

Finnick Odair- Ten years earlier had won the Hunger Games for District 4.  He is very handsome and vain and uses a trident for his weapon.

Beetee- Tribute from District 3 and is a technological genius.

Johanna Mason- District 7 tribute and is sarcastic and dangerous.

Synopsis: Katniss’ hard won victory in the 74th Hunger Games by forcing the Capitol to change the rules has made other districts realize that the Capitol is not all powerful.  Some Districts are even revolting against the Capitol.  When the time comes for the 75th Hunger Games the Capitol calls for a Quarter Quell which means that previous winners of the games must fight against other winners of the games. Since this means that Katniss must fight Peeta,  she vows that she will keep Peeta alive no matter what.  Other contestants have different plans and Katniss must deal with new and strange allies and her feelings for Peeta.

Analysis: Once I finished reading The Hunger Games, I went right out the book store and picked up Catching Fire.  I was excited to find out how Suzanne Collins would continue the story.  My biggest concern was how she would get Katniss back into the area.  I was worried that it would be a repeat of the first book where she took her sister’s place.  How wrong I was!  I loved the introduction of a Quarter Quell where old winners must fight each other. Also, the political intrigue that was briefly touched upon in the previous book takes a greater role in this book.  Due to this, the world of Panem is greatly expanded in the readers mind and it is no longer one dimensional.

Pro: 

  • Hints that other Hunger Games were not won with brute strength or weapon skill but people like Beetee,who won with his intellect.
  • Implication that the game itself is a key to revolt by selecting those that can fight, make loyal friends,  and work together.  Then concentrating them in one arena, causing a perfect storm that ignites the rebellion.

Con:

  • President Snow is a one dimensional villain and his actions only serve to make the resistance stronger.  It should have been obvious to just let Katniss fade away and not egg her on.
  • At times Katniss seems to be less of an active participant and is just carried along with everything.

Conclusion:  Despite the story dragging a bit at times, the payoff in the end was worth the wait!


Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 4
Plot 3
Imagery 2
Read Again? 4
Average 3.25
Mar 122012
 

Director: Tom Hooper

Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hr 58 minutes

Release Date: 12/24/10

Genre:  Historical Drama

Cast: King George VI (Colin Firth), Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), Queena Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter),  King Edward VIII  (Guy Pearce) ,Mrs Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), King George V (Michael Gambon)

Synopsis: From an early age the man that eventually becomes King George VI (Geoffrey Rush), had a bad stammer.  If he was a common person, he could have just stayed in the background and not been noticed.  As he got older,  Prince Albert (One of George VI’s many aliases), was forced to make speeches on the radio and in public, and since his stutter was so bad, it often led to embarrassment.  His wife,  Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter),  decides to find him some help.  Eventually, she is able to track down a promising Australian therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

Logue doe not have a real degree in speech therapy or any other formal training.  He uses techniques that he devised and his innate knowledge of the human mind to help King George VI overcome his stammer.  King George VI goes on to lead the nation after the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), and inspire the people of England during World War II.

Analysis: Due to the many awards this film had gathered, including the Academy Award for Best Picture , I was interested in seeing it.  Now that I have, I wish that I had taken the opportunity to watch it in the theaters because a small screen does not do it justice.  The sets, and actual filming locations are spectacular and the acting is top notch.

Pro:

  • Lionel Logue’s interaction with his sons is very gripping and he seems like a really good father.
  • Written in such a way that I cared about all of the characters, even King Edward VIII and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Great seeing Lionel’s house get better and more fancy over time as he worked with the king.

Con:

  • Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall),  looked like a chubby Richard Nixon, but the acting was good.
  • I would have liked to hear more details about how the speech was received by the general people at the end.

Conclusion: At first I was worried that the film would be a boring period piece, but it kept me interested.  In fact, I was totally absorbed by it.  It was filled with great characters and interaction.  Unlike other historical dramas, the historical characters were treated like someone real and not just something out of a textbook.

 

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 5
Story 4
Special Effects 4
Would Watch Again? 4
Average 4.25