Top Ten Books I’ve Read Since I Started Blogging!

(a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish)

This week we have been asked to list the top ten books we’ve read during the lifespan of our blogs.  My blog will be 1 soon!  Here are the top ten books I’ve read this past year:

1. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson – great story.  great characters. powerful storytelling. a beautiful read.

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – SO much fun! A girl who kicks ass and has two cute boys vying for her attention?  What’s not to love?

3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin – oh what women have gone through…

4.  The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan – an absolute fun, fun time!

5.  The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson – cool.  intriguing story.

6.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I didn’t write a review or my thoughts on this one…but it is a long-time favourite that I love to re-read every so often

7. The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp PhD. – because I’ve become the toddler-ese Queen (toddler-ese is toddler language)!  Yes, this language still works with a very upset pre-schooler.  This book helped me to communicate with my son – it is remarkable to see his eyes light up when he feels understood and validated.

8. Splat the Cat books by Rob Scotton – have you read Splat the Cat?  Your toddler/preschooler will love Splat.  He is funny and whimsical.  The stories are highly creative (yet, simple) and the art is brilliant.  Please read Splat the Cat to a child near you.

Share yours with me in the comments below or at The Broke and the Bookish through the above link.

If I Lived My Life Like Lisbeth Salander

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I have had so much fun reading the first two books of the Millenium Trilogy partly because I love its protagonist.  Lisbeth Salander is one awesome character.  Even though this series is something completely out of my realm of reading, it has definitely captured my attention.  I will read more tech-geek-violent-mystery-anti-government-journalistic novels.  And, that is because of the coolest character I’ve come across in a long time.  The more I think about her, the more I realize that life might be easier to handle if I took a few pages out of her ibook.  (Well, except for her computer hacking skills that is – maybe).

  1. Don’t get mad, get even: she never, ever forgets her wrong-doers and returns every offence ten-fold.  Too many times we allow others to walk all over us, so if I lived my life like Lisbeth Salander I would always stand up for myself…maybe without the can of mace.
  2. Remember everything: she might have a photographic memory on her side, but for those of us who have trouble remembering our pin numbers, passwords and what that last thing on the grocery list that we forgot at home was – we must remember that multi-tasking decreases focus.  A true warrior is one that remains focused, in the moment, on the task at hand (my husband read that somewhere and I just love its message).  So if I lived my life like Lisbeth Salander I would cease all multi-tasking and pay attention to what I’m doing!  (As I write this, my blackberry is within reach, a stack of essays is staring at me making me feel guilty for not marking and the next book for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 is on my lap.)
  3. Never feel guilty:  Salander always knows why she takes a course of action and does not feel guilt about any of it.  Why should I feel guilty about not marking essays?  If I lived my life like Lisbeth Salander, I would never feel guilty about not marking (I highly doubt my students think about me the moment they are outside of my class room)…in fact I would never feel guilty about anything again – except when I haven’t spent enough time with my son, or my husband, or wasn’t able to make it to the gym or coffee with my friends…
  4. Reason and logic over emotion:  sometimes thinking through something and not feeling through it makes sense.  (I feel like going on a tour of Europe this summer, I think I cannot afford it).  If I lived my life like Lisbeth Salander I would be logical and be able to do math.  Since I suck at math and can never aspire to Salander’s mathematical genius – I can aspire to be more logical and use a calculator for math.
  5. Complete confidence:  knowing that what I feel, what I want, what I need is valid.  Period.  If I lived my life like Lisbeth Salander I wouldn’t care about what I could learn from a fictional character.
  6. Always have a plan:  Lisbeth goes into every situation after having assessed the risk and consequences involved – with measures to take in the event of something going wrong.  She is always in control because she is proactive and anticipates situations.  In my career as a teacher – it is critical to stay one step ahead of my students…it is a cornerstone of classroom management.  So, in the classroom I am like Lisbeth Salander – except, that is a rather frightening thought.
  7. Allow others to help (if they must): that’s a tough one for someone who is a bit of a control-freak (did I just admit that?)  Life is easier when you can utter the word h-e-l-p. If I lived my life like Lisbeth Salander I would find myself in life-threatening situations where a fearless journalist comes to my rescue…or vice-versa…I just need to meet a fearless journalist bent on exposing corporate and governmental corruption…and become the object of a major government conspiracy.

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Even though Salander is mentally unstable she is one cool woman with attitude.  She can teach us regular women who are not fighting criminals or hacking into computer systems across the country, and instead are trying to cook healthy dinners, play cars/dolls with our children, stay in shape for ourselves, remain somewhat visible in our careers and be awesome in the eyes of our husbands, that kicking ass is all about the attitude.  And that is something I think we can all have plenty of.

So. Many. Layers. The Girl Who Played With Fire

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I devoured this book.  Okay – the second half of the book.  I was feeling a little duped at the beginning.  Not much really happened – and I was surprised when it didn’t pick up exactly where The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo left off.  (As does the third book of the trilogy).  But, I refused to put it down because it started with Lisbeth Salander and she truly intrigued me.

So, I trudged along, knowing that at some point, unbeknownst to me, I would be hooked.

Larsson’s original cast of characters was joined by a whole new crew that were well developed – at times, as I felt with the first novel, too well.  I was actually pretty impressed with Larsson’s ability to juggle so many characters with so many plot lines that were virtually all part of the main plot – without giving anything away prematurely.

Salander and Blomkvist were back – and it was awesome to follow their story again, even though they weren’t actually working together.  Salander disappears for several chapters from the novel (as she does within the novel – there is a massive hunt for her when she is accused of committing a triple murder) – a very clever move by the writer.  And, in the meantime, more mystery about her character is created, more layers to be unpeeled are provided – and this was where I was hooked.

I wanted to know more.  So, I read voraciously (which really means a few pages a day between being mommy to a three year-old and English teacher to IB students who are nearing their final exams – all while trying to live my own life, but I digress).

The mystery that surrounds Salander was finally unveiled – but it was a frustratingly, and deliciously slow process.  Every word and every conversation answered a question and created three more.  It was wonderful.  Finally learning about “All the Evil”, about the truth of her upbringing and parents, about the involvement of the Swedish government in her life was well worth the many interrupted conversations and cryptic messages she kept sending Blomkvist to keep him busy.

What was even more wonderful was to see Salander in action.  Her ability with computers is both fascinating (she can literally, run the world) and eerie (because we know that there are people out there who can do what she does).  I literally laughed aloud when she single-handedly brought down two large, brawny motorcyle gang members.  I felt her confidence surge as she battled for her life when she confronted two extremely dangerous and powerful men.

Once again, Larsson’s book is imbued with commentary about the kind of violence women experience – systemic violence that can only be stopped when women like Salander fearlessly stand up to abusers and men like Blomkvist are ready to expose perpetrators, letting abusers know that this is not tolerable in a civilised society.

Yes, it is repeated throughout the novel that Salander is not mentally well, that she is extremely violent and that she is not normal – but, it doesn’t seem to matter because she only harms those who have seriously harmed others or have physically threatened her and she is just so good at kicking ass.

If you enjoy a good thriller, with a variety of well-developed characters and strong protagonists, a novel that does not shy away from criticising politicians, lawyers, the police, the media and that has lots of action (and violence) – this is the novel for you.  A great read that will not disappoint and that will instantly have you looking for book three of the Millenium Trilogy.