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#BestsellerCode100: The Girl Who Kicked Wrap-Up Poll

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larson . The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

We are reading these books because they were picked by the computer algorithm in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers as the best of the bestsellers.  Do you agree with the computer that this book should be on the list?  Why or why not?

 What was your final opinion of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest?

Do you agree with the computer that this novel is one of the best of the bestsellers?

 

You can also join us on social media:

___________________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 93. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout (2008) – Discussion begins February 13, 2017.

Note: Olive Kitterage won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

#BookBeginnings Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Today we’re highlighting Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize Winner Olive Kitteridge for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-elizabeth-strout

Olive Kitteridge* by Elizabeth Strout (2008)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  A classic example of literary fiction, this novel reveals the life of school teacher Olive Kitteridge as she interacts with  her family and acquaintances in the small town of Crosby, Maine.

First Sentence:

For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy.

Discussion:

Interesting that the author chooses to introduce the main character’s husband before the main character.

Have you read Olive Kitteridge?

Do you like literary fiction?

 

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As you may know, we have been reading through the list of the 100 bestsellers picked by the computer algorithm as revealed in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers.

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 93. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout (2008) – Discussion begins February 13, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The Girl Who Kicked

For my writer’s review of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larson I’m going to take a different tack than I used for some of the other books. For this title, I’m going to discuss more about the author and how the book came about.

Note:  this post may contain a few spoilers.

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

As you may know, we have been reading through the list of the 100 bestsellers picked by the computer algorithm as revealed in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers. Book number 94 on the list, Hornet’s Nest is actually the third in the Millenium trilogy featuring flawed genius Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

Summary: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest starts where the second (The Girl Who Played with Fire ) left off, with Lisbeth headed to the hospital with a bullet in her head. She’s been accused of murders she didn’t commit. Will she survive long enough to be able to prove her innocence?

Writing Discussion:

The story behind the trilogy is almost as amazing as the books themselves. Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist who wrote the novels in the evening as a break from his day job.  He wrote three novels and then sold them to a publisher. A short time later, in 2004,  he passed away. The publishers put out the first book in Swedish in 2005. It was a huge hit. It was translated into English and became a worldwide bestseller.

Much of the criticism of the books relates to the writing. At the face of it, what Stieg Larsson does as a writer often flies in the face of the “rules.” For example, he writes largely from the omniscient viewpoint, when first-person and tight third-person point of views are more popular. Some of the dialogue exhibits “talking heads,”  which is when two people talk back and forth without action or even labels to identify who is speaking.

Example “Talking Head” Dialogue:

It’s about one of your patients, Lisbeth Salander. I need to visit her.”

“You’ll have to get permission from the prosecutor. She’s under arrest, and all visitors are prohibited. Any applications for visits must be referred in advance to Salander’s lawyer.”

“Yes, yes I know. I thought we could cut through all the red tape in this case…”

{{Pages 170-171. Continues for another 27 lines without a single dialogue tag.}}

He also spends a lot of time in the character’s heads, showing their thoughts.  And speaking of characters, like fellow journalist Joe Klein in Primary Colors, Larsson packs in many, many characters. At one point there were four different teams investigating the murders, each with more than a handful of people. The reader needs a game card to keep them all straight.

 

sweden-barn-writer

Photo of Swedish barn via Visualhunt.com

But Whose Words?

Alas, it is unfair to  criticize Stieg Larsson as a writer after reading the English translation because it might not reflect his original words. It turns out the translator, Steven T. Murray, was so unhappy with how the British publisher interfered with the translation that he insisted the books be published under a pseudonym, Reg Keeland. See more about why Murray chose a pseudonym in an article at Southwest Writers. Fascinating!

Conclusion:

Regardless of the writing or who is responsible for it, Stieg Larsson created characters who are spellbinding and he is a fabulous storyteller. Although some parts of the narrative are dark and disturbing, the ending is one of hope. In my opinion, this is the best book from the list we’ve read so far.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. The first book was originally published in Swedish as Män som hatar kvinnor or Men Who Hate Women. When it was translated, it became The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Given one of the themes in the books is the empowerment of women, what do you think Stieg Larsson would have thought of the name change?
  2. There have been a flurry of “Girl” books lately, such as Gone Girl and Girl on a Train.  Do you think the publishers are trying to cash in on the popularity of Stieg Larsson’s books?
  3. What do you think about writing axioms, such as the one to avoid “talking heads”? Are they important or are they meant to be broken?

Related:  If you enjoyed the books you might also enjoy this satire piece from The New Yorker, “The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut” by Nora Ephron.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 93. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout (2008) – Discussion begins February 13, 2017.

Note: Olive Kitterage won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

#BookBeginnings The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

Today we’re highlighting Stieg Larsson’s third book, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest,  for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-hornet's-nest

 

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Note: this post doesn’t reveal anything that isn’t on the dust jacket, but could be a potential spoiler for the second book in the trilogy.

As you may know, we have been reading through the list of the 100 bestsellers picked by the computer algorithm as revealed in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers. Book number 94 on the list, Hornet’s Nest is actually the third in a trilogy featuring flawed genius Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist. We decided we needed to read all three to understand why the third was chosen for the list. We talked about the beginning lines of the first two books last week.

Summary:  The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest starts where the second (The Girl Who Played with Fire ) left off, with Lisbeth headed to the hospital with a bullet in her head. She’s been accused of murders she didn’t commit. Will she survive long enough to be able to prove her innocence?

First Sentence:

Dr. Jonasson was woken by a nurse five minutes before the helicopter was expected to land.

Discussion:

Since I began participating in Book Beginnings, this is the first time I’ve had the urge to rewrite the sentence.  You see that passive voice? Why didn’t Stieg Larsson make it active? “A nurse woke Dr. Jonasson…” Was it so the first name the reader sees is Dr. Jonasson?

What do you think?

hornet's nest

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest by Steig Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, by Steig Larsson, is next on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  You can read Roberta’s kick-off description here.

This post contains spoilers.

Steig Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Stieg Larsson first introduces us to Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (check out my review at Musings, Mischief, and Mayhem), where Lisbeth and Mikael team up to solve the mysterious disappearance of 16-year-old girl more than forty years ago.  The Girl Who Played With Fire continues the saga, with Lisbeth eventually confronting her father, the terror of her childhood, with disastrous consequences.  In The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, Larsson pulls the various story lines from the preceding books together for a thrilling conclusion.

When I first saw this book on our list, I knew I would be reading all three books in the trilogy for a couple of reasons:

  1. I hate reading books out of order
  2. To compare the three books to figure out why only the third book showed up on our list

Each of the books in this trilogy became bestsellers, so why did the computer “kick out” this particular book as the best of the best and not the first two in the trilogy?

After reading all three books, I believe the answer is in the level of human interaction that Lisbeth achieves in this third book.  More than one character throughout the books made the observation that Lisbeth might be autistic.  She has extreme difficulties making and maintaining friendships and in sharing personal details about herself with others.  Partly this is a learned response – during her childhood, authorities repeatedly ignored her statements and requests.  Even worse, there was a government group that conspired to incarcerate her in a mental institution as a preteen in order to protect the identity of her father.  But even Lisbeth knows she’s different; she just doesn’t view friendships and social norms the same as others do.  She expends great energy, time, and expense in the first two books protecting her personal privacy to the point of anonymity.  Yes, that’s partly due to safety issues, but also because that’s how she prefers it.  Even those closest to her have learned they will never really know anything personal about her.

Personal Crisis → Growth?

In The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, though, Lisbeth undergoes a trial by fire that brings her to a personal crisis.  She must decide whether to take the advice of others, to rely upon others, to resolve her legal issues.  Without their help, it’s certain that she will end up incarcerated in a mental institution for the rest of her life.   Only with their help does she have a chance to be free.  And then when she achieves that legal freedom, Lisbeth goes through more personal conflict before she ultimately admits to herself that she has friends, that she needs friends, that she wants friends, and opens herself and her life up to them.

Larsson’s trilogy is Lisbeth Salander’s story, and it is in this third, and final, book that we see real character growth in her. Without this growth, even though the series wraps up nicely, we would not care as much for Lisbeth.  If she continued her solitary life, continued to ignore and block out of her life those who helped her, all she went through in the three books would have been pointless.  She might as well have allowed those conspiring against her to lock her back up.  Instead, Larsson allows Lisbeth to open the door to a potentially more fulfilling life.  And that, I believe, is reason enough for book three to make the 100 Books List.

What did you think of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  1. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest landing page
  2. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

 

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

_________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 93 on the list, Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout (2008) – Discussion begins February 13, 2017.  This books is classified as Literary Fiction.

#BestsellerCode100: Number 94 The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

This post does not contain spoilers.

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This title is the third in a trilogy featuring flawed genius Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist. In the second book, we learned more about her background. The Girl Who Kicked starts were the second left off, with Lisbeth in the hospital with a bullet in her head. She’s been accused of murders she didn’t commit. Will she be able to recover and prove her innocence?

Have you read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts upcoming in the next two weeks (links will be added):

  1. Book beginnings post discussing the beginning sentences of the first two books in the trilogy
  2. Book beginnings, a discussion of the first line of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
  3. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  4. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  5. After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey about whether this book is one of the best of the bestsellers.

Have you written about The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 93. Olive Kitterage by Elizabeth Strout (2008) – Discussion begins February 13, 2017.

Note:  Olive Kitterage won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

#BestsellerCode100: Darcie Chan’s The Mill River Recluse Wrap-Up Poll

Time to wrap up the discussion of our latest novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan. The conversation started here.

Note: Post does not contain spoilers.

The Mill River Recluse: A Novel* by Darcie Chan

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

We are reading these books because they were picked by the computer algorithm in The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers as the best of the bestsellers.  Do you agree with the computer that this book should be on the list?  Why or why not?

 What was your final opinion of The Mill River Recluse?

 

Do you agree with the computer that this novel is one of the best of the bestsellers?

 

Join us on social media:

______________________________________________________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 94 on the list, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson (Originally published in 2007) -Discussion begins January 30, 2017.

#BookBeginnings Comparing Two Books by Stieg Larsson

Today let’s compare the beginning lines of two books by Stieg Larsson for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. After you’ve published, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-stieg-larsson

We start reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest next week for The Bestseller Code 100 challenge, which means the computer algorithm picked the third book of a trilogy as the best. Karen and I decided we should read the books in order, so we will be reading three books this time.  Wish us luck!

Book 1:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo*

(*Amazon Affiliate links)

Summary: This is the first book in the trilogy. Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and prodigy Lisbeth Salander team up to investigate the disappearance of a woman forty years before.

First sentence of the Prologue:

It happened every year, was almost a ritual.

First sentence of Chapter 1:

The trial was irretrievably over; everything that could be said had been said, but he had never doubted that he would lose.

 

 

Book 2:

The Girl Who Played with Fire* by Steig Larsson

(*Amazon Affiliate links)

Summary: In the second book in the trilogy, Mikael Blomkvist tries to clear Lisbeth’s Salander’s name after she is implicated in a murder.

First Sentence of the Prologue:

She lay on her back fastened by leather straps to a narrow bed with a steel frame.

First sentence of Chapter 1:

Lizbeth Salander pulled her sunglasses down to the tip of her nose and squinted from beneath the brim of her sun hat.

Discussion:

Looking at all the first lines, I was struck how different they are from one another.

Between the two books, it looks like the first chapter has shifted focus from Mikael Blomkvist (the reporter) to Lizbeth Salander.

What do you think of the first sentences of the prologues versus the first sentence of chapters? Should the first sentence of a prologue “hook” for the reader or should it be the first chapter, because some readers skip the prologue?

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What are we reading next for the Bestseller Code 100 Challenge?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 94 on the list, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson (Third in a series, originally published in 2007) -Discussion begins January 30, 2017.

#BestsellerCode100: A Writer’s Review of The Mill River Recluse

Today we have a review/analysis of The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

The Mill River Recluse: A Novel* by Darcie Chan

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Mary McAllister is a widow who lives in a white marble mansion on a hill outside of the town of Mill River, Vermont. Past circumstances have left her with severe social anxiety — among other issues — and she has been a recluse for many years. Father Michael O’Brien is her only friend and confidante. As the story progresses, we learn why Mary is trapped in her own house, and what other secrets are being kept in this seemingly quiet community.

If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to visit Karen’s review of this book first. She makes some good points.

 

Photo of a house in Vermont by Mariamichelle via Visualhunt.com

Path to Publishing

The story behind the book is just as heartwarming as the book itself.

The Mill River Recluse is Darcie Chan’s debut novel. She explains her experiences writing and publishing it in “A Letter for the Author” in the back matter.  Many authors will be able to relate to her trials, if not her successes.

After finishing the manuscript for her first novel by writing evenings after work for two and a half years, she found an agent who tried to sell it to traditional publishers. As with many, many first novels, no one was interested and so she put it away in a drawer. (Writers call these first novels “trunk” novels – the ones that sit in a trunk somewhere.)

After several years, Darcie Chan decided to publish her novel as an e-book. She expected only to sell a few hundred copies to her friends, but she set up her social media platform and waited. In a short period of time a major website that promotes e-books reviewed it and her sales took off. Before long  she hit the New York Times Bestseller list. Eventually, Ballatine Books published it in paper form. The rest is history.

Where It Breaks the Rules

Not only did The Mill River Recluse break the rules of publishing, but it also breaks many of the so-called rules for writing.

Genre:

First of all, it doesn’t fit neatly into any one genre. For example,  as Karen pointed out, it has been identified as a psychological thriller, but it really lacks the hard-driving pace and level of conflict of a thriller. It has the softer pace of a mystery, although it doesn’t fit all the requirements of a traditional mystery, either. It has some romantic elements, but they aren’t extensive enough to qualify it as a romance or even romantic suspense. It’s not clear where it fits.

Have you read the book? What genre(s) do you think describe(s) it?

Character Arc:

Another so-called writing rule Darcie Chan breaks is that the characters, particularly the main character, should grow and change throughout the book (called a character arc.) Mary’s major change, which occurs right before she dies, is she lets her daughter Daisy into her life. It isn’t clear, however, this was truly a change. She might have taken in Daisy at any point if she had recognized her earlier.

The fact Mary doesn’t grow substantially is probably due to how Darcie Chan tells the story. The beginning of the book starts with Mary’s death and the rest of Mary’s life is revealed through a series of flashbacks interwoven with scenes from the present. The flashback plot structure can make it difficult to develop a traditional character arc.

On the other hand, Father O’Brien does change at the end, when he donates all his pilfered silver spoons to a charity.

The Ending:

Many genre novels exhibit some form of rising conflict and then resolution/denouement. Again, Chan doesn’t follow the norms. The end is not the resolution of a big conflict, but rather nicely wrapped up gathering of loose ends. The biggest conflict that directly involves the protagonist — between Mary and her husband — occurs at the middle of the book. The second most dramatic conflict centers on minor characters, and has no impact on the protagonist.

Character Development

A few other things stuck out for me about the characters, as well. First, Darcie Chan introduced most of her characters within the first few pages of the book, yet it was all done smoothly and naturally. I can tell you from experience, that is not an easy thing to carry off.

Secondly, Claudia (the teacher) is strongly developed for a secondary character. Her struggles to lose weight and keep it off felt realistic, immediate, and relatable. For example, who couldn’t relate to her hunger and anticipation for a few carrot sticks after class? She was also at the center of the second dramatic climax and that secondary plotline threatened to overtake Mary’s primary one. Given she had such a big role, I wonder if she will appear in a future book?

What did you think of Claudia as a character?

Conclusion:

Darcie Chan’s debut novel The Mill River Recluse took a less-traveled path to becoming a bestseller. Much of her story breaks with writing tradition, as well. Just goes to show that authors don’t have to follow the pack to pen a bestseller.

 

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Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 94 on the list, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson (Third in a series, originally published in 2007) -Discussion begins January 30, 2017.

#BookBeginnings Rough Day by Shelley Coriell

Today we’re reading a collection of short stories, Rough Day by Shelley Coriell for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. Then add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-shelley-coriell
Rough Day: Detective Lottie King Mystery Short Stories*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Author Shelley Coriell introduced Detective Lottie King as a minor character in the first book of her Apostles series, The Broken (reviewed here).  Lottie was so popular, Shelley decided to write more about her. By the way, Shelley is a bit of a foodie and she includes some Lottie-inspired recipes in this volume, as well.

The stories range from Lottie working with her granddaughter’s Girl Power group to solve a locked room mystery, to helping a twelve-year-old boy find his missing grandfather.

First Sentence:

Forty years ago Lottie King buried a Smith and Wesson 9mm under a peach sapling in her back yard.

Discussion:

Given that Lottie is a police detective, we have to wonder what’s going on here. What else has the author told us about Lottie in a subtle way?

I started this book last year, but other obligations got in the way and I never finished it. How many books do you read at once? Do you think collections of short stories are easier to put aside than novels?

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