Todd’s Review of The Psychology of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Edited by Robin Rosenberg, Ph.D. and Shannon O’Neill

If you’re like me, then the thought of psychological analysis makes you a little confused.  It’s not that I don’t understand the basic tenants of psychology (I did fairly well in psych 101 in college!), but the finer points of psychoanalysis make me glad that I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist.  I’m used to hard data, such as percent oxygen, protein yields, and absorbance values.  To observe one’s character and make a complete analysis just based on personality traits or familial history alone is pretty cool.  I just have no idea how it’s done.  Hence, my decision to tackle this interesting field segued well into reading The Psychology of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Edited by Robin Rosenberg (also a contributor) and Shannon O’Neill, The Psychology of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo compiles the analyses of many experts on the subjects of psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and various other subjects to study the inner workings of the characters within Steig Larsson’s amazing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. (You can read my joint reviews with Kim on Larsson’s books here, here, and here)  Chiefly, this focus on Lisbeth Salander, the main protagonist of the work, is a huge psychoanalytical undertaking.  Due to her troubled past and history of clashes with a society that attempts to subdue her, Lisbeth has trouble finding herself and finding peace.  The expert analysis begins with Lisbeth’s exterior, examining first why people alter their appearance, whether it be through dress, tattoos, piercings, or other modifications.  Then, the authors focused on Lisbeth, examining why her appearance is radically different than most “normal” individuals, encompassing images that are aimed at provoking others rather than trying to fit in.  After exploring Lisbeth’s appearance, the essays delve deeper into her personality, examining her past and focusing on those around her, both good and bad.  A good deal of work is put into analyzing the relationships that Lisbeth creates with those around her, especially Bloomkvist.  Finally, the work ends on a more positive note, outlining Salander’s achievements, and examining her as a sort of superhero.

Through reading this book I’ve found that there are a series of these works dedicated to analyzing the “psychology of … (insert popular book title here)”.  Although I think it’s an interesting idea, out of all the titles available I feel that this one has the most merit.  The subject material is ripe for psychoanalysis; just judging by appearance alone one can tell that Salander is different, and the types of people she has dealt with in her life are just as psychologically damaged and complex as she is.  A whole book could have been written for each major character, but I’m glad that the editors put most of the focus on Lisbeth, and after reading this work I definitely saw her in a new light.  I never considered her to be an exceptionally strong character (at least in the first book), and I viewed her more as a loaner who finally lets someone (Bloomkvist) in to her personal life.  However, after reading this book and finally elucidating the parts of Lisbeth’s childhood that made her the person she is in the first novel, it’s plain to see that she is an amazingly strong and resilient character who is several times smarter than the average individual.  I definitely have a new respect for her character, and in addition a new respect for Larsson’s work, in that he could create such an innovative and amazingly complex story that integrates all of these multi-layered characters.  In all, it’s definitely an educational read that would benefit those who are having a hard time understanding the motives behind the characters in the Millenium Trilogy.  Definitely give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

The Psychology of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo edited by Robin Rosenburg, Ph.D. and Shannon O’Neill
Smart Pop (2011)
Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN: 1936661349

Special thanks to Smart Pop books for my review copy!

SUCCESS!

It is with GREAT pleasure that I announce I’ve succeeded in completing my goal of reading 100 books this year!  I’m a bit behind on posting my reviews, but I promise you within the next week I’ll complete them and get on track for the new year! Since I’ve completed my goal of 100 for the year I’ve thought about increasing my goal for 2012 and am thinking of upping the goal to 110.  I’ll post my definite plans tomorrow in my kick-off post, similar to what I did last year.

2011 has been a pretty amazing year of reading for me.  Looking back I’ve read some fascinating memoirs, heartbreaking fiction, and  suspenseful mysteries among other things.  My top ten for the year with links to their reviews are as follows:

  1. Jane Eyre
  2. One Day
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  4. The Hunger Games
  5. Stardust
  6. The House At Riverton
  7. Lunch in Paris
  8. A Wife For Mr. Darcy
  9. Eat, Pray, Love
  10. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian/The Silent Governess

It was SO difficult to come up with a top ten for the year; I have to pat myself on the back for choosing such a wide array of excellent reads.  I do hope that you’ll tell me what you’ve enjoyed reading this year! There is no better recommendation to read a book than a recommendation from a fellow reader!

In terms of the challenges I signed up for this past year I completed the Historical Fiction Challenge and the Page to Screen Challenge with flying colors.  The Chunkster Challenge continues through January 31, 2012 so I still have a month to finish my last two “mega-chunkster” books.  My Austen challenges I did not do so well on.  I only completed 2 of the Jane Austen mystery novels, and completed 50% of the Sense and Sensibility Challenge.  I’m disappointed that I did so terribly on them, but I guess the light at the end of the tunnel is that I still completed my 100!  I’ve already begun to sign up for 2012 challenges, so make sure you head over to my challenge page to track my progress.

I hope that you will all enjoy the holiday today, checking back in tomorrow to join me on my journey of reading in 2012.

Happy New Year, and happy reading!

#91 A Review of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy Series #3)Kim and Todd here, back with another joint review for the third and final installment of The Millennium Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson.  Once again we were able to listen to this work in audiobook format, with the impeccable Simon Vance as narrator.  As good as the last two books were, both of us were eager to jump in and see how this epic storyline played out, especially since the US film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is due out in theaters tomorrow!

Opening on the heels of the second book in the trilogy, we follow Lisbeth as she is airlifted to the hospital after surviving a brutal attack at the hands of her father and half-brother that left her buried alive with a gunshot wound.  Ironically, her father is two rooms away from her own hospital room, recovering from an axe wound inflicted by Salander.  What follows is a tale of murder, attempted cover ups, and the quest to tell the truth, no matter the cost.  Salander and Blomkvist again find themselves facing the threat of death as they attempt to clear their names once and for all.

Todd:  As the axiom goes, save the best for last.  I definitely think that Larsson did this for the trilogy, as he ties multiple story lines together that have arced over the entire thing and brought them to a more than satisfactory conclusion.  I can’t think of a better or more shocking literary ending than the courtroom finale that Giannini presents to the judge in Salander’s hearing.  I think this made the book for me.  I truly felt that Salander had never deserved any of the mistreatment in her life, and to see her vindicated at the end was awesome and fantastic.

Kim:  I definitely agree that the court hearing is what does it for this novel.  Listening to the audio had me literally on the edge of my seat, as I couldn’t skip forward and cheat to see a few pages ahead!  I had to stay listening in real-time, which killed me.  I will say that the very ending of the novel was slightly dissatisfactory, but upon doing more research I found that when Larsson died, he left behind a fourth manuscript.  This lead me to believe that this novel was actually just setting up another novel.

Todd:  It’s too bad that Larsson didn’t live to see the completion of that fourth novel, or for that matter the widespread success of his work as a whole.  Part of me thinks that he really wouldn’t have been affected by it, as evidenced in his attitude in his novels: he seemed to always want to look out for those who can’t help themselves, and wasn’t much for any kind of self-serving recognition.  This is what I think makes this novel in particular shine.  I can just tell that he wanted to make Salander’s justice a warning to all individuals who harm women; that what they’re doing won’t go unnoticed, and that every one who participates in these sadistic acts will eventually receive their just punishment.

Kim:  Another thing that I think makes these novels so awesome is how un-extraordinary the hero and heroine are.  Blomkvist is just an ordinary guy that uses the skills he has to do good in the world.  He’s a reporter that has a knack for finding out the truth, and wants to see those who benefit from doing the wrong things tried and arrested for their crimes.  Salander, on the other hand, is a woman who has just been beat down her whole life, and has continually found a way, using her own intelligence and quick thinking, to punish them.  She reminds me of a computer hacking vigilante.  She uses technology as far as she can, and then by blunt force makes sure her message is understood.  As an aside Simon Vance is the best audio narrator ever!  I want to listen to everything he’s ever narrated!

Todd:  I definitely agree with you on Mr. Vance there, I would totally want him to be the voice on my answering machine, how cool would that be?  Anyway, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is a fantastic ending to an indescribable series.  If you haven’t already, pick this one up to close out what you already know to be a fantastic storyline that keeps getting better with every read.

Kim: 5 out of 5 Stars

Todd: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is my twenty-first completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge

Random House Audio Publishing (2010)
CD: 20hrs 30min
ISBN:  9780739384190

#64 A Review of The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

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Todd and I are back to review Stieg Larsson’s second novel in his critically acclaimed series, The Millennium Trilogy: The Girl Who Played With Fire.  We decided that to continue with the tradition started with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (check out the review here), we should listen to this novel as an audiobook.  Again we had the pleasure of listening to Simon Vance’s melodic voice as he impersonated all the characters and make us feel more involved with the storyline.  As expected, Larsson’s work definitely did not disappoint, as this novel was more harrowing and nail-biting as the first.

Mikael Blomkvist, now restored to his rightful position as editor of the magazine Millennium, is excited to publish an expose on sex trafficking by a young journalist named Dag Svensson.  Mia, Svensson’s girlfriend, recently finished writing a thesis for her doctoral program much along the lines of Dag’s work, as she outlines the plight of prostitution and the exploitation of women in Sweden for sexual purposes.  Together, they provide enough information for Millennium to publish a bombshell of an article, yet just a few weeks before going to press Mikael finds them dead in their apartment, shot by an unknown assassin.  Later, Mikael finds out that Lisbeth Salander, his love interest and partner from the first book, has been named the main suspect in the murders, as well as the murder of her state-appointed guardian.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, as Mikael must work tirelessly to prove his innocence in the affair as well as Lisbeth’s.  He must also undercover the real source of the killing, and work to stop this force from acting again before it’s too late.  Can he accomplish this in time?  What will become of Lisbeth?

Kim: I have to start out by saying that Larsson is a genius when it comes to weaving story-lines.  In both Tattoo and Fire he has a wide array of characters that ultimately all play an important role in the story.  Whether they’re there to help move another characters development along or play a role in the “crime plot” of the novel, he gives them each a time to share their story and for the reader to get to know them.  There aren’t many authors (at least in my opinion) that can do this well and keep the reader from being confused.  It’s even more difficult to achieve all of the above and STILL accomplish a shock ending.

Todd:  I definitely agree.  It was a bit overwhelming at first to be introduced to so many characters in this story.  It was almost as if you had to keep a family tree in your head to keep all their different relations to each other straight, but once this was accomplished, the multitude of background characters only added to the complexity and texture of Larsson’s work.  I know when most people think of this series they immediately think of Mikael and Lisbeth, especially since the commercials for the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo have exploded onto the scene recently, but really this series highlights how others perceive them, and how they must work to change preconceived notions of themselves in order to find the real killer.

Kim: Good point, Todd, about the preconceived notions.  In relation to this I enjoyed how Larsson essentially mocked the media and how ridiculous and false the stories in it can be.  When it’s found out that Lisbeth is the main suspect in the case, the media starts digging into her past and trying to find out as much as they can about her.  Suddenly her face is on every newspaper with headlines that she’s a lesbian and part of a Satanist cult, all because she is friends with an all girl rock group with a questionable name.  I like how Larsson uses things like this to make statements about the social and political climate of Sweden.  It’s the little details like this that give Larsson’s work texture and deeper meaning.

Todd: That’s true.  Larsson’s work existed to be more than just a story, he wanted it to be part of a greater commentary on the plight of women and the political obstacles that they and other working class people had to overcome to achieve any change in Sweden.  It’s no wonder than Larsson himself was a journalist, and worked as an editor of a magazine called Expo, which shares some similarities with Millennium.  I give Larsson a ton of credit for tackling these difficult issues and standing up against the status quo.  I can see a lot of him in Lisbeth, as she does whatever it takes to achieve her goals, and doesn’t let anything get in her way to stop her.  We could all use a little Lisbeth in our own lives!

Kim: Very true Todd.  Lisbeth is one of the most kick-ass lead characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  She tells it like she sees it, sticks up for herself and the ones she cares for, and makes sure that those who do wrong get their fair comeuppance.

Kim: 5 out of 5 Stars

Todd: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is my eighteenth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge
 
This is my eighth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge
 
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2009)
Paperback 752 pages
ISBN:  9780307476159

#45 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

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Kim and Todd here for a joint review of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo!  After hearing a lot of buzz about the novel, we decided to give it a try.  Seemingly everywhere we went, on a train, plane, or any form of public transportation, someone was reading this book.  Of course, after we started listening/reading it we couldn’t put it down either.  Yup, you read that right – listening and reading.  We were taking a road trip one day and, wanting to try something new, picked up the audio version of the novel.  We both got hooked and couldn’t wait for the other to be in the car to continue along with the story.  With that being said we both began swapping CD’s and the book back and forth to continue the story as fast as possible.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo begins with a lawsuit, specifically a libel suit against Mikael Blomkvist, writer and member of the board of directors of Milennium Magazine.  The magazine specializes in writing exposés of famous individuals, bringing their misdeeds to public attention.  Blomkvist loses the suit, which was brought on by an article he wrote alleging billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström of corruption and money laundering.  He is sentenced to a serve time in a minimum security facility for several months.  Before his scheduled jail time, he is contacted by a man named Henrik Vanger, who offers him a freelance assignment with the promise of a more than generous salary and information that he can use to build a stronger case against Wennerström.  Blomkvist accepts and moves to a small island where most of the Vanger family lives, working under the cover of writing the Vanger family history, but in reality is trying to solve the disappearance of Vanger’s niece Harriet roughly 40 years earlier.  Little does he know, Vanger already throughly inspected his background and personal life using the services of Lisbeth Salander, a computer and investigative expert.  Blomkvist eventually catches Salander hacking into his personal computer and decides to ask her to help him with his investigation.  Meanwhile, Salander’s difficult past is explained, culminating in a brutal scene of sexual assault against her by her legal guardian.  Will Lisbeth be able to overcome the horrors of her personal life so that she can help Blomkvist?  Will they be able to solve the kidnapping that happened almost half a century ago?  Will Blomkvist be able to escape the odd sense that Vanger is not all that he seems?

Kim: The first thing I have to say about this novel is that the writing and language used is just exquisite.  The fluidity of the prose is just perfection, which is surprising, considering that the book was translated from Swedish.  Honestly the only way I can describe the writing is like melted butter on hot lobster. (HAHA – for you lobster lovers out there, my metaphor makes perfect sense)  The imagery conveyed with this prose is at times very helpful in learing what the characters looked like and acted like, but at other times it was too graphic and disturbing.  The subject matter at times got very rough, and I must forewarn readers about a difficult rape scene to get through.  I find myself able to read/watch most anything, I’ve just become desensitized to things over the years, but this proved rough for even me.

 Todd: I think that Larsson crafted an amazing story, and it was so complex that it seemed at times that he had tons of information to get out in a short amount of time.  I think that the writing was on the shorter side sentence-wise, which makes sense due to the translation.  However, this didn’t detract from the overall feel at all.  I think if anything it helped during the scenes of intense action and mystery.  Larsson is great at building suspense, and made me nervous that something big was about to happen throughout the novel.  The addition of Salander is a great plot point in the book, as she adds a sense of vigilante-ism that is missing in Blomkvist.  She takes matters into her own hands, and extracts a certain vengeance that makes her character all the more badass.

Kim: Another point about this book that I really liked, was that it was an intelligent mystery.  It really required you to pay attention to what you were reading to pick up on the subtleties of the clues.  Blomkvist is definitely one of my favorite protagonist having read this now.  The way he goes about trying to solve this 40+ year mystery is astounding.  I wish my brain functioned like his does!

Todd: I definitely agree with Kim’s point about this being an intelligent mystery.  Not only do you get sporadic clues and delve deeper into the circumstances surrounding Harriet’s disappearance, but you also have to deal with increasing attacks on Blomkvist and Salander’s own well-being.  Someone very badly wants to keep Harriet’s disappearance a mystery, and when that plot point is finally revealed I almost fell out of my chair.  Larsson takes the typical mystery/suspense setup and really turns it on its head.  It is an amazing and complex read.

Kim: I felt smarter after reading it!  The weaving of Salander and Blomkvist’s stories together into one meshes really well. I do also have to say that Todd and I watched the Swedish version of the film and I’d highly recommend that also.  The film sticks close to the book, dropping some of the subplot out for time purposes, but the main bulk of the plot is intact.  I can’t recommend this book enough for those of you wanting to push your brain to a new limit.  Larsson’s writing will have you without a doubt transcending to a new literary level.

Kim: 5 out of 5 Stars

Todd: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is my fourteenth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge
 
This is my sixth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge
 
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2009)
Paperback 672 pages
ISBN:  9780307473479

New Year; New Challenges

January 1, 2011.  It’s the official beginning of my new challenge!!  I have 365 days to read 100 books.  I’m partaking in two reading challenges this year (that I’ve signed up for so far) so 11 of those books are the Jane Austen mystery series and 20 of them will be historical fiction novels. I’m excited that I’m mixing it up this year and doing some reading challenges as well.  I think it will help keep me motivated throughout the year. 

I’m really looking forward to some of the titles that I’ve decided to read this year.  I have a very eclectic group to read so far.  Some of the titles include:

  1. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  2. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (It’s the 200 year anniversary of the book this year!)
  3. Little Children by Tom Perrotta
  4. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
  5. V For Vendetta by Alan Moore
  6. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  7. You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs
  8. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  10. The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson
  11. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  12. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  13. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  14. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

I have a much bigger list than this, but I’m really looking forward to the specific books above!

So now that my new challenge has begun I would like to encourage you guys to do your own challenges.  You don’t have to read 100 books like I do, but you can do something similar to Todd and try for between 25 and 50.  You are always welcome to post on the blog thoughts about your own reading challenges or about specific books.

If you decide to do a challenge: Good Luck and Happy Reading!