Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In Which Trai Lists Ten Characters She'd Like to Be Best Friends With

Hi again, everyone! Bear with me over the next few weeks; it's finals season here at college and my reading is mainly sources I need for papers and such! This week's Top 10 Tuesday was too good to pass up: Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Be Best Friends With! Here's my list, in no particular order:

1) Jo March, Little Women: The March sisters were some of the first characters that really felt like friends and family to me! I wrote my college essay on how Jo and Louisa May Alcott inspired me when I read the book at 16. I was already a writer of dark, macabre tales, like Jo, and while I was never a tomboy, I'm not the first and not the last to wish I knew Jo! I loved reading about her adventures and laughing and crying at them. She's firmly at the top of my favorite characters in literature thus far.

2) Colonel Brandon, Sense and Sensibility: I decided to go the road less-traveled and put an Austen hero rather than a heroine! Colonel Brandon is my favorite of the Austen heroes and his backstory is certainly the most fascinating. He's seen battle, but he also has this incredibly tragic romantic backstory and an amazing capacity for love. I just find him a fascinating character and someone I'd love to talk to about his experiences.

3) Kitty Norville, the Kitty Norville series: Kitty usually makes all the lists I do for a reason! She's in her mid-twenties, or at least she was at the start of the series, and I've been reading the books since I was 14. Kitty was the youngest urban fantasy heroine I've read thus far, and I could really relate to her. She's an English major, like me; she's got a sarcastic sense of humor like mine and doesn't know when to shut up; and she's also grown into a really strong, confident character. I feel like I'd really love joking and just talking in general with Kitty!

4) Jacob Grace, God-Shaped Hole: I love the hero of this book. He's obscene at times and surprisingly emotional at others, and he's also a brilliant writer. I'd certainly be interested in what he had to say.

5) Cassandra Mortmain, I Capture The Castle: Cass and her family were the characters of the first book I really connected to after Little Women. I loved her one page and I hated her the next, and she was endearing despite her faults. She's a writer who's in the middle of a very mixed-up family and disappointed in love, and I'd love to be part of that.

6) Grigg Harris, The Jane Austen Book Club: Because nothing's more romantic than a scifi geek who reads Austen! I love his character in both the book and the movie. The book expounds on his fairly sad backstory, while the movie focuses more on the quirky aspects of his character. He'd be able to relate to both my inner scifi geek and my inner Austen fan!

7) Savannah Levine, The Otherworld series: I started this series at fourteen years old, when Savannah's character was 13 at her first appearance. Now, I'm 19 and she's in her twenties. I really grew up with her, and I always enjoy reading her appearances in Armstrong's books. In a series about adult women, Savannah was the one I could really relate to.

8) John Watson, the Sherlock Holmes series: I'd say Holmes, but given that his only friend is Watson, I figured Watson was the safer bet. Who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall during Holmes and Watson's adventures?

9) Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter series: Hermione was another one I could relate to as a kid. I was really bookish and maybe a little too smart for my own good, and I could relate to Hermione in the early books a whole lot! She also grew up into a mature, bright young woman, and I'd love to be friends with her.

10) Max Evans, the Roswell High series: I loved these books and the TV show as a young teen, and Max was the one who made me think that all lab partners would be opposite-sex attractive aliens. ;) Max is sweet and a good friend to his guy friends (Michael) and his female friends (Liz). The really great thing about him is the lengths he's willing to go for the people he cares about, like when he risks his life and being exposed as an alien to heal Liz after she gets shot. Max was always one of my favorites in the series.

Friday, November 26, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'The History of Love'

The Book: The History of Love

The Author: Nicole Krauss

How I Found It: The book itself and Nicole Krauss were mentioned a few times over on Jamie's blog, and I decided to check it out for myself!

The Review: In New York, two lonely people are living separate lives. The first, Leo Gursky, is a locksmith who escaped the SS during the Holocaust and is now living his life terrified of no one noticing his eventual death. He makes a point of being seen everywhere he goes, and his only companion is his friend Bruno. Leo is a writer who once loved a woman named Alma, and his memories of her haunt his days.

The second lonely person is Alma Singer, a fourteen-year-old girl named after a character in little-known Spanish novel called The History of Love. Alma is obsessed with learning how to survive in the wild, and with trying to stop her brother Bird's budding religious fanaticism from isolating him. Alma's mother, a widow, is a translator, and receives a letter from a man called Jacob Moritz, who asks her if she can translate The History of Love into English for him, naming a very high price. Her mother agrees, and Alma begins to wonder if Jacob Moritz is the man who can cure her mother's loneliness. Soon, she begins the search for her namesake, the Alma of The History of Love. Her search for Alma is interwoven with Leo's search for meaning, and interwoven with all of this is the surprising story of the original manuscript of The History of Love.

I love, love, love books about books. I mentioned this in my review of Jane Austen Ruined My Life. This isn't quite literary intrigue like that book or like Possession, my favorite of the genre, but it's a really involving story about a book that has changed lives. I cared about the characters, definitely, but in a way, I cared about the book more! Alma and Leo are our narrators, but there are also sections about The History of Love itself, and I enjoyed those passages the most.

This is one of the most beautifully written books I've read in a long time. Certain passages really struck me and I found myself really thinking about them. One of my favorites comes from the first section about Zvi Litvinoff, author of the titular book: "These things are lost to oblivion like so much about so many who are born and die without anyone taking the time to write it all down. That Litvinoff had a wife who was so devoted is, to be frank, the only reason anyone knows anything about him at all" (pg 70). The voices of all our narrators are clear and distinct, most especially Leo's, but I also loved the way Alma's chapters were done, with numbered headings expressing a thought that would then lead into a small vignette. I'm a sucker for multiple narrators, and the device worked very well here, since it was the thing weaving the separate storylines, all related to The History of Love together. Even the idea of "the history of love" had me intrigued before I even read the book! Krauss definitely has a way with evocative phrases.

I liked how nothing about this book ever really seemed conventional, or at least, not to me, it didn't. The history of the titular book is convoluted and interesting, and the lives of Leo and Alma are well-drawn and fascinating to read about. I got a real sense of Judaism (which I'm lucky enough to be a part of!) as I read it, but it never felt too overwhelming. I liked almost all of the characters and enjoyed spending time with them.

I suppose one could say that there isn't really too much of a plot here, besides Alma's quest to find her namesake, but I enjoyed the ride so much because it was written so well. One thing I did want towards the end was more resolution--I wouldn't have minded the book being longer, though I understand why it ended where it did. I found myself missing the characters and wanting to know what happened beyond the end. Even if the end seemed abrupt to me, I enjoyed every second of this book and am now eager to get my hands on Great House, Krauss' new book. I highly recommend this one to lovers of books about books and to people looking for well-written fiction.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'Rabbit Hole'

The Book: Rabbit Hole: A Play (Winner: 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama)

The Author: David Lindsay-Abaire

How I Found It: The forthcoming movie version with Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman (trailer here) caught my eye because, well, I love Aaron Eckhart!

The Review: Every time I read a play, a good play, I always think to myself that I should read more of them. And I most certainly believe that I should; this one took me just under an hour to read, and sometimes I just need something short! This was the perfect companion for a bus ride length-wise, although I should really learn that reading emotional works in the view of the public is perhaps not wise!

As I mentioned above, I first heard of this play when the news came out about Aaron Eckhart's presence in the film version. Having read this, I'm really excited to see what that will look like. It should be a pretty meaty role for Nicole Kidman, and seeing as she hand-picked Eckhart to play her husband, I'm confident he can do no wrong.

This play, 157 pages long, is simple but highly affecting. It is a glimpse into a few months in the lives of Becca and Howie Corbett, a couple grieving the loss of their four-year-old son, Danny, a few months before. Danny was killed when he chased the family dog into the street and was subsequently hit by a young driver, Jason. Howie has found solace by going to a support group for grieving parents and secretly watching video tapes of Danny. Becca, meanwhile, is doing all she can to pack away remnants of their son--donating his clothes, hiding away his books and toys, and resenting friends who haven't made the effort to keep in touch after the loss.

Howie is trying to reconnect with his wife, but Becca's brash relations begin to get in the way. Izzy, Becca's sister, has just announced that she's pregnant, and Nat, her mother, insists on comparing the loss of her own son, Becca's brother, to Becca's entirely different loss. As we witness all of the characters interacting and not interacting, speaking and choosing not to speak, we get a sense of their grief and conflicted feelings.

Of course, all of this is heavy material, but I felt that it was handled very well and that it never became too much or too maudlin. In an author's note after the play, Lindsay-Abaire stresses that there should be no histrionics, no added emotion. Becca and Howie only cry once apiece, and that's it--that's all that's needed, really. It does an excellent job of showing the different ways in which people grieve, and how that can become complicated, especially between two significant others. I'd love to see this performed onstage, let alone on film.

I really enjoyed the play's natural flow and how it really captured the way people just talk. I think it's the most realistic-sounding play I've read so far. Almost every scene consists of straight conversation, and Lindsay-Abaire captured those rhythms really well. There's no stilted dialogue, no awkward phrasing that sounds as though a speechwriter gave it a once-over--it sounds exactly like it would if you were eavesdropping on some neighbors. Given how much I love dialogue (see my previous review for an example of how I rip books to shreds when dialogue sounds off!), this play was like a present wrapped up in a nice bow.

I liked the dynamic between Becca and Howie the best. Becca can't understand what Howie gets out of the support group; Howie can't understand why Becca seems to be intent on erasing Danny, intentionally or unintentionally. Their conversations were, as they should be, the standout of the play and made for the most emotional scenes, the ones where I teared up. The play touches on whether a person can possibly not be "grieving enough," and on the resentment one person can feel when another's method of grieving is pushed on them. (Becca isn't religious and rails against the support group for this reason.) I found myself perfectly able to see both sides of their arguments, which is quite a feat. Becca and Howie's halting attempts at reconnecting were well done. The subplots of the supporting cast--Nat, Izzy, and Jason--all made for interesting scenes and added to the "slice of life" feel of the play.

I can understand why this one won the Pulitzer. Anyone who has grieved a loved one can get something out of this play and think, "I've been there." I know I did. There's no real resolution, but the play ends with a slightly hopeful note. In that way, the play mirrors life. Maybe Becca and Howie will never be able to get over their loss, but they can just push forward and hope for tomorrow. Even if I feel it ended at the right spot, I couldn't help but wish it was longer when I reached the end. I really did enjoy reading about these characters, and the material, as heavy as it was, really made me think about the nature of grief. Highly recommended to readers of drama and those with an interest in the subject matter or the film version.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'Miracle Baby'

** Spoilers herein, but not much more than can already be inferred from the title. **

The Book: Miracle Baby

The Author: Laura Bradford

How I Found It: I decided to do something different this year and read some Christmas-themed novels (mainly romances). Thus, there might be Christmas overload here the next few weeks and you'll all have to live with it. :) Found this one through eHarlequin.

The Review: Well, this is one of the first romances I've read that's just left me uncomfortable. I've got a lot of problems with it, and it just left me with a weird feeling. I'll explain those reasons further down. As I said before, spoiler warning on this one, but really, the title gives a hell of a lot away.

Maggie Monroe has fled to her uncle's Michigan inn in order to get away from her well-meaning but suffocating friends and family and to grieve the deaths of her husband and daughter alone. Ten months after their deaths, Maggie is still paralyzed by grief and isn't eating or sleeping.

She is met soon after her arrival by Rory O'Brien, the carpenter her uncle has hired to restore the inn to its former glory. Rory sees Maggie's grief and wants to try and help her, given that he also has a painful loss in his recent past. Maggie's uncle gives her, through Rory, the present of a "wishing ball," where a person can record their Christmas wishes and see if they come true in the next year. Maggie's wishes seem simple--to learn to knit, to remember her husband and daughter--but unobtainable to her. Rory begins to help her with them, giving her ways to achieve those wishes and future ones, and he finds himself attracted to the grieving widow. However, for every step they take, Maggie finds herself putting the brakes on any potential romance, afraid that any potential romance on her part would dishonro the memories of her husband and daughter. It's up to Rory and a few friends to get her to move past her grief and start a new life.

Okay. There's a lot that I felt was wrong with this book, but the general premise was one of them. I'll link here to a review of another book that was posted a few months ago over at Smart Bitches. That book also had a widowed person at its center, and Sarah (the reviewer) had a gripe with the fact that the heroine was pushing him to move on only five months after his wife's tragic death. Granted, Maggie in this book has been grieving for twice that, but I still felt that ten months was just taking far too many steps too fast, and it dampened my enjoyment of the book severely. I'll try and explain myself below.

I know the two schools of thought on this whole thing. On one hand, I've seen quite a few widowed people in my life, all of whom have waited at least a year or two before dating again. On the other, I've read plenty of Dear Abby columns where people have written in about the "appropriate" time frame for someone to start dating again after a death, and answers always vary. I've seen people say that after losing loved ones to long illnesses, the grieving is usually mostly done already, since there was a lot of time to cope with the death before it happened, but in the case of accidents or sudden deaths (as was the case with Maggie's husband and daughter here), it might take a little longer.

This was why I had issues with the premise--Maggie's husband and daughter were taken from her in a car crash, but ten months later, she is meeting and then sleeping with a man she's only met a week before. I'm not kidding. It's only been ten months, she's still grieving in a monumental way, and then she sleeps with a guy after knowing him for a week? Granted, she regrets it after, but... wow. The timeline really bugged me. There's also the fact that Maggie seems really fixated on grieving her daughter's loss, but that her husband only gets a few mentions. I didn't doubt that she loved them, but something just seemed off. I think her husband deserved a lot more mentions than he was getting.

I think that's one thing that might ring false with me about seasonal romance in general--the timeline is so limited that the romance developed far too fast. Normally, a romance novel covers at least a few months; this one covered maybe six to eight weeks and I just thought that the insta-attraction was very hard to buy, especially when Maggie was in such a fragile state. The idea of the story--Rory helping Maggie find hope again and to move into a more manageable state of grieving--was great in theory, but the execution left me wincing.

Moving on from my problems with the timeline, I just had other issues with this book. The dialogue was painfully corny at times and just didn't ring true to me. It sounded too polished, like quotation marks were put around sentences that would've worked better as description. I just couldn't see people speaking like they did in this novel; it didn't work for me. As I've said before in my reviews, dialogue is the driving force for me, in both the writing I do myself and in the novels I read. I've always been told I have an ear for writing dialogue, so when it sounds "off" in novels, it usually hampers my enjoyment.

I also enjoy novels that show us plenty about the main characters' lives. All the romances I've read so far have shown family, friends, neighbors of the mains. Here, we had a grand total of five characters that we see on-screen: Maggie, Rory, Delilah (owner of a diner in town), Virginia (a waitress at said diner), and Iris (owner of a gift shop). Of all those, we see Virginia and Iris in only one or two scenes, so the only ones we really see are Maggie, Rory, and Delilah. Off-screen, we have Maggie's uncle (whose name only gets mentioned once or twice!), and Maggie's thoughts about Jack and Natalie. I really would have preferred a larger cast of characters; basically, all of Maggie and Rory's relatives are either dead or estranged, and aside from being depressing, it left the novel somewhat repetitive. Maggie going to see Rory. Rory going to see Maggie. Rory going to Delilah's diner. Maggie going to Delilah's diner. Rory and Maggie going to Delilah's diner. And... that's it. It would have been great to have a subplot of some kind, or to have trimmed down the repeated visits to each other's places and added in some interactions with other townsfolk or something. I just started feeling claustrophobic after a while and wanted the characters to go see other people.

There's also the "miracle baby" of the title... something that doesn't come about until perhaps the last twenty pages. And Rory is incredibly happy about conceiving a child with a woman he's known for a little over a month. Their whole attraction just felt far too rushed and I really don't know if I bought it in the end. The baby felt like a copout in order to see that Maggie got her happy ending and found something to believe in, but it just left me with a feeling that they were really rushing into something they probably weren't ready for.

Overall, I felt that this book could have done with a restructuring of the plot and a better timeline. The attraction was somewhat messily done and felt too forced for me to believe in it. The idea behind the book was great as an idea, but on paper, it fell incredibly flat. Not recommended.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In Which Trai Lists Her Top Ten Villains, Criminals, and Degenerates

I decided to participate again in Top 10 Tuesday, simply because I just had to sit down and think about which villains have made my skin crawl! This was definitely a fun list and it'll be interesting to see what other choices people made beside the classic ones! A lot of these guys have fantastically creepy screen portrayals to match, too. Only one lady makes my list; she comes in at #10, but if you have any interest in reading the Fingerprints / Echoes books by Melinda Metz, I highly recommend you avert your eyes, as it's a huge spoiler.

** Spoilers ahoy! **

1) Nils Bjurman, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Yeah, this guy beat out the previous head honcho on my list (who's #2 here) by a lot. He takes advantage of Lisbeth in some really twisted ways and just thinking about him makes me mad! I was dying for him to get his just desserts, and luckily Lisbeth served up the hurt! (Played to creepy perfection by Peter Andersson.)

2) Paul Marshall, Atonement: Since 2007 until early this year, this guy reigned supreme in my mind. He's a rapist and he's just... nyuhhh he freaks me out so much. He is the only one that can turn a chocolate bar into the most menacing thing in the world. Watching a younger girl he has his eye on eat one, there's this creepy little paragraph: He crossed and uncrossed his legs. Then he took a deep breath. "Bite it," he said softly. "You've got to bite it." (In order to see this so spectacularly done right, check out Benedict Cumberbatch in the film version. I give that man as many thumbs up as possible because while the chocolate bar scene still gives me nightmares, he succeeded in winning my heart as Sherlock Holmes.)

3) Bob Ewell, To Kill a Mockingbird: This is my all-time favorite book, and Bob Ewell is pretty reprehensible. You have to really feel for Mayella, who's really only on trial because she has no other choice. He's a drunk, he beats his daughter, and then accuses Tom of rape just because Mayella tried to find some sort of affection. And then, to top it all off, he tries to kill Jem and Scout? Not cool, Bob Ewell, not cool.

4) Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter series: Where would any list of villains be without Voldemort? Anybody who tries to kill a baby is not cool in my book! Not to mention, you know, the hundreds upon hundreds of other people he massacred. Basically, all of the Death Eaters and Umbridge fit into this list, too!

5) The Capitol, The Hunger Games series: I still haven't read Mockingjay, so I don't know the worst of it, but, um, making kids fight to the death on live television? Making it mandatory for the families of those kids, and everyone else in the nation, to watch? And doing all this just to show your citizens that they'd better not question the government? Twisted's not even the word.

6) Roman, Kitty Norville series: One of my lesser-known choices, this guy comes from Carrie Vaughn's Kitty books, which I've reviewed here before. He's become more of a major player recently and has had his hands dipped in most, if not all, of the villainy stuff going on since Book 4. We still don't know all of his motivations, but he's got some seriously scary power and I'm really interested to see where his storyline will go.

7) Mr. Harvey, The Lovely Bones: If you want evidence of how creepy this guy is, look at the movie poster and tell me that does not give you nightmares. UGH. He rapes and dismembers Susie, and he's done it to other girls and women over the years, and he's just so severely creepy. (Check out Stanley Tucci in the movie version!)

8) Stanley, A Streetcar Named Desire: Most of the people on my list seem to be rapists... anyway. Abusive jackass who hits his pregnant wife and rapes his already mentally unstable sister-in-law after basically verbally torturing her. Stanley's just a fun guy, isn't he?

9) Sauron, The Lord of the Rings series: Where would my list be without this one? I read these books in elementary school and there's just something about the all-seeing eye and that ring and what it does to Gollum that's all wrapped up in the lovely notion of Sauron.

10) Yana, the Fingerprints / Echoes series: These books (by Melinda Metz) have recently been reissued under a different series title, hence me giving both. There's seven books in the series and you don't find out until the sixth that Yana has been the main villain all along, hence the massive spoiler warning. Believing that Rae's mother was responsible for the death of her own mother (I think; I'm fuzzy on the details as it's been six years), Yana poses as Rae's friend and does some pretty crazy things in order to scare her or try and kill her, including a pipe bomb, sending along her mom's ashes and a bone fragment, and using her powers of mental coercion to try and get Rae to cut herself to death with a knife. "I wonder how many cuts it will take for you to die? I bet thousands and thousands." Yana reforms once it's revealed Rae's mother didn't do anything, but still, she's just scary!

I'm interested to see what villains made the cut for you guys!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest: The Movie'

** Given that this is the third film in a trilogy, spoilers ahoy for the first two parts and for this film! **

My sincerest apologies for my lack of updates recently; schoolwork is again taking over my time and I haven't had as much time to read or update. I saw this last week, so this review is incredibly delayed. It is my hope (as it always is) to resume normal updating speed shortly.

And so a week has passed since I saw this and the Swedish side of the Millennium craze has officially passed in the States. I do feel quite a bit of sadness at seeing it go; now we must wait until December 2012 for the American remake starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, which is currently filming in Sweden. Until then, I shall live in my books and the DVDs of the original films, and should any interesting news come up about either the films or the mystery-shrouded fourth book, I might throw out a mention on here.

With that being said, this is of course the final film in the Millennium trilogy and it's been quite a ride to get there. We open with Lisbeth and her father Zalachenko being rushed to the hospital, both of them nearly dead. Zalachenko has been attacked with an axe by Lisbeth; Lisbeth has been shot in the head and buried alive by her half-brother, Niedermann, a blonde giant who can literally feel no pain. The day was saved by Mikael Blomkvist, Lisbeth's once-lover and partner in crime-solving, but their problems are far from over. Lisbeth faces a grueling recovery and then a trial that will determine if she is guilty for three murders and if she can finally be declared legally competent. Unable to truly help herself, it will take the combined efforts of Mikael, the Millennium staff, Mikael's lawyer sister Annika, and Lisbeth's hacker friends to try and bring her to a victory.

To start with, this film had a lot to do and a short space to do it in. It has to wrap up an ongoing story in two and a half hours, and it has to do so while managing a lot of characters and relationships. Overall, I felt that the books were a more rewarding and cohesive experience, simply because there was no way that the movies could do the fairly vast web of characters justice. Some subplots were omitted and some scenes were altered or deleted entirely. Out of all the adaptations, I found this one to be the least satisfying as an adaptation of the book, but it was still great as a movie and a satisfying conclusion to the films.

This film continued to do the things Played with Fire did that I felt improved upon the books. We see more of Millennium than we did in the first film (it was omitted over here), and Christer and Malin get a lot to do. Erika and Mikael as a couple get more screentime; their relationship is fairly important so I was glad it made the cut (again, the cut of the first film that was shown over here omitted this). Some of the subplots that got the axe were Mikael's relationship with Monica (no tears shed by me, as I never did feel that was necessary to the third book) and Erica's tenure at Aftonbladet and relationship with her husband. (I was a little sadder about this one; I'd really wanted to see her own storyline in here, but one part of it--the threatening messages--was twisted to fit this storyline. Her husband is omitted entirely.) This film cuts down on the book's many, many characters and makes the story more manageable.

The performances are still top-notch. Rapace has less physical things to do this time around, as Lisbeth is still rehabilitating for most of it. Instead, we see her dealing with her limited abilities and with the people around her who must help her. Primarily, we see her interact with Annika (Annika Hallin), and there's some sweet, flirty little scenes concerning her and Jonasson, her doctor, played by Aksel Morisse. It was interesting to see the other, calmer side of Lisbeth as played by Rapace, as she finds herself having to deal with people asking her questions she has never wanted to answer. Michael Nyqvist gets a lot to do as Blomkvist; he has his action scenes and then his in-command position at Millennium. I still really enjoyed the way he captured Mikael's devotion to Lisbeth and his hellbent nature when it comes to finding the truth. Teleborian, as the main villain this time 'round, was played to fantastically creepy perfection by Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl.

The supporting characters also turned in good performances. Lena Endre, as Erika, is yet again the normal, grounding force in Mikael's life, and her concern for him shows through nicely. I also liked that the film decided to show the conflict in their relationship that arises from Mikael's occasionally reckless actions; it was nice to see the other side of the coin. Annika Hallin's performance as Annika Giannini was occasionally hit or miss for me--I believed her as a lawyer full-stop, but when it came to her reacting to circumstances, some of her reactions felt overdone (i.e., when her bag gets stolen, when she tells Mikael about the shooting at the hospital, when she sees the tape of Lisbeth and Bjurman). Some humor is brought to the whole thing by Tomas Köhler as Plague, who is used as a stand-in for the whole Hacker Republic that was present in the books.

On the whole, the film does what it's supposed to do: it wraps up the story of Mikael and especially Lisbeth, and it gives the viewer closure. It condenses the book into something manageable and although the amount of names could get unwieldy (I'd read the books and yet couldn't remember until a few days after seeing the film who Bjorck was!), the story still manages to be cohesive and not overly hard to follow. The film cuts down on the talky aspects of the book by interspersing it with bits of action--i.e., Niedermann slowly making his way to a safe haven.

I enjoyed some of the screenplay's adaptational choices more than others. I really liked the little flirtation between Lisbeth and Jonasson; it added some levity and made me smile. As I said before, I liked the decision to show the tension in Mikael and Erika's relationship. I did miss some of the communication between Lisbeth and Mikael; there wasn't as much of that here as there could have been. But all of the book's relationships were preserved well, for the most part.

Then again, some of the things that were omitted really made me wish they'd been kept in, and that's why I will say that overall, I found the books better than the films. I really wish the film had stuck more closely to the book's ending, in particular. We see Lisbeth's confrontation with Niedermann; that's all intact. Where the movie strays from the book is Lisbeth's reconciliations with Miriam and then with Mikael, which really disappointed me. I don't even think Miriam got a mention, which is sad considering the effort Played with Fire made to show their relationship.

And then there was the thing that really, truly bugged me: the change to the final scene with Mikael and Lisbeth. The book ends on the beautifully symbolic gesture that gives real closure to the trilogy: Lisbeth letting Mikael into her apartment, symbolic of the fact that she'd let him into her life, cut him out, and is now letting him in again. Instead, here, she says thank you to Mikael when he comes to her apartment, and it basically ends with them saying "see you around." I had really wanted to see that final gesture on screen; it was what made the book feel really complete to me, and what made me feel it was really over. I read an interpretation that stated that the ending of the book was more ambiguous due to the potential of more books--there will be more adventures, hence why Lisbeth lets Mikael in--whereas the film trilogy itself is more finite, with no possibility for a continuation, which is why the reconciliation doesn't truly happen. I can see that point, but the fact that the one tiny little gesture wasn't concluded threw me more than it should have. I just wish the film had given us more closure to the Lisbeth/Mikael partnership than it did.

Overall, I enjoyed the film's valiant effort to preserve the final chapter of the trilogy in a manageable form. I did not receive all the closure I had hoped for, but I still got a film with great performances that provided a satisfying end to a phenomenal trilogy. The books do a better job at telling the overall story, but I recommend these films to any American Millennium fan who wants to see it all done right (I've shown them to three of my fellow book fans so far and all of them have loved them). Rapace and Nyqvist are basically the essential Lisbeth and Mikael, no matter who might take the roles in the future. I give a big thumbs up to this installment and the trilogy as a whole, and here's to Sally and Kalle, some of my favorite literary friends.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In Which Trai Reveals Ten Books That Made Her Cry

Hi, everyone! I have seen this meme all around the book-blogging world, but have never partcipated in it myself. However, I love talking about emotional experiences reading books, and this is one meme I just had to do. There might be spoilers ahoy!

Many, many books hit me on an emotional level, and there are quite a few that have not made this list. However, these are the ones that stick out in my mind.

1) Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro: This book and its beautifully heartbreaking movie adaptation had me crying buckets worth of tears. It's probably the hardest I've ever cried at a book and its ending is still with me months later. I became so invested in the struggles of Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth, and their story left me drained but constantly thinking of it. This is a beautiful, heartwrenching book.

2) The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger: I wouldn't want to spoil this book for anyone, but I will say that it is a gut-wrenching tragic love story and one I became incredibly attached to. It made me spend the day between my senior prom and high school graduation crying my eyes out! I raced through this book all the way to its conclusion and it has stuck in my mind as one of the most emotional books I have ever read.

3) God-Shaped Hole, Tiffanie deBartolo: Can you tell I'm just a huge sucker for tragic love stories? This is a little-known book that I truly loved. My friend turned me on to the author's other book, and I found this one and told her she just had to read it! deBartolo is an amazing author. There's a lot of emotional scenes in this book, as Trixie and Jacob, the leads, suffer through father issues as they struggle to build their relationship and leave Los Angeles when they feel it is weighing them down. This is a great love story that most definitely had me reaching for the tissues. I highly recommend this one and her other book, How to Kill a Rock Star.

4) Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult: My Sister's Keeper, of course, made me cry buckets, but in order to play the contrarian, I offer this one as its stand-in for one simple reason. There is a chapter in this book where the events of 9/11 are recounted partly through the eyes of the younger characters. I was only 10 when 9/11 happened, slightly younger than Peter and Josie were supposed to be in the chapter, and I had to put the book away during that chapter because it just hit this wellspring of memories. Picoult captured so clearly that feeling I had of being a kid who just couldn't understand why this was happening to the world and how people could do such a thing. It was a beautifully done scene that hit me really hard.

5) The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks: There's a lot of emotion in this book, as there is in nearly all of Sparks', but this one got me the worst. I was a sobbing mess by the end, but I was glad I read it. It's an affecting family drama wrapped up in a very sweet love story, and I really cared about the characters, as evidenced by the copious amount of tears I was shedding towards the end!

6) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson: If you've been following my blog for a while, you've seen by now that I truly adore this series; it's the best I've read in years. Dragon Tattoo really stays with me because of the impression it made. Lisbeth, our heroine, has been taken advantage of all her life, and there are two really graphic rape scenes in the novel. The second one left me shaking, hyperventilating, and nearly in tears. It's the most visceral reaction I've ever had to a book and I knew from then on that I loved it. As hard as the story was to read, it really hammered in for me the impact of violence against women all around the world and how much we need this to change.

7) Proof, David Auburn: I acted a scene from this in one of my classes and ordered the book straightaway, because the scene I had to do had me not faking the tears I was supposed to cry! This is a truly moving story of a bipolar mathematician's daughter and her fear that she may have inherited his illness. I just remember feeling so connected to Catherine's struggle and seeing her father deteriorate into illness during the flashback scenes was really heartbreaking. This is pretty much my favorite play.

8) The Laramie Project, Moises Kaufman: ... although it's closely rivaled by this one, which was a reading assignment my senior year of high school and a play I ended up acting in later that year. It's the very, very sad but moving story of Matthew Shepard's beating and death in 1998, and the effect it had on the town of Laramie, Wyoming. It's a tough story to read about, but it's got a lot to say about tolerance, homophobia, and compassion, all in the words of Laramie's citizens. This is one book I feel everyone should read.

9) Atonement, Ian McEwan: This is one of my favorite fictional love stories and favorite book-to-movie adaptations, and both of them make me cry! Besides the sad fact of its lovers never truly getting to be together, the details of the Dunkirk evacuation and life as a nurse in WWII really affected me and opened my eyes to a different time period.

10) Little Women, Louisa May Alcott: This is one of my all-time favorite books! I don't think I'm spoiling much by talking about it, as every back cover for it I've ever seen makes some reference to "tragedy" and "Beth." And it's not even that part that really gets me going! I have to choke back a sob every time I read the scene where Laurie comforts Jo during the first part, when she believes Beth's illness is all her fault. These characters feel so real to me and that's part of the reason I find their story so emotional.

What books have made YOU guys cry?? I hope you enjoyed my list! Have a nice day!