Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Want to Be for 24 Hours!

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

This week I’ve been challenged to think of characters that I’d switch places with for 24 hours:

1. Marianne Engel from The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson – she is the epitome of feminine confidence.  Beautiful, exotic and can remember her past lives.  In love with the same man for 700 years!  She is a also a master storyteller – yes, she is schizophrenic, but who cares?  The rest of her is uber cool.  For 24 hours…when she’s sculpting like crazy.

2. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – me and half the female population on earth.  For my 24 hours I choose to go traipsing around the English countryside where Elizabeth manages to snatch up the guy with the biggest estate and income.

3. Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Can I spend 12 hours in Italy eating, then 12 hours in Indonesia swimming off the weight I’ve gained at a spectacular beach?

4. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – because she’s brilliant, she can do anything and I’d love to go to Hogwartz for a day.

5. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins I don’t know that I’d survive the hunger games as well as Katniss does, but I could go for all the pre-games primping.

6. Emma Woodhouse from Emma by Jane Austen – more problems of the upper class…love, matchmaking, gossip and rumour.  I’d like to be the immature version of Emma for 24 hours – spoiled, the center of attention, every whim, satisfied.

7. Ria Lynch or Marilyn Vine from Tara Road by Maeve Binchy I like the idea of switching homes & lives with someone for the summer and in the process, learn more about your own happiness.

8. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – just because I’d love to hack into computer systems all over the world for 24 hours.

9. Tina Fey from Bossypants by Tina Fey – because I’d love to be as funny as she is for 24 hours.

Can’t think of a tenth….lots of movie characters I’d love to be…Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman for instance, but can’t think of another character from a book…

Who would you switch places with for 24 hours?


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.

courtesy of

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.

So. Much. Violence. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I knew what I was getting myself into when I started reading Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since, those of you who read my blog know, it was the movie that inspired my reading of this book.  I knew that I would be reading about plenty of violence against women after having seen so much of it on screen.  I wasn’t prepared for the effect it would have on me to see the words so precisely placed on the page – horrific words that once strung together produced a most disturbing and terrifying picture in my head.  (yes, that picture was mostly of Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara solving the mystery of the serial killer – but it was extremely disturbing nonetheless).

The book presents a crisply clinical observation of violence against women in Sweden – something I didn’t know was such an insidious part of that society.  Part 2 of the novel, Consequence Analysis, opens with a statistical epigraph: “Forty-six percent of women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man.”  I was positively floored when I read the statistic.  This novel does not hold any punches – it places a very serious and real issue, that affects everyone, everywhere, in the spotlight.  The novel made me uncomfortable, made me feel fear, disgust, rage and deep sorrow for the fictional victims of a very disturbed fictional serial killer.  Or, as Lisbeth Salander, Larsson’s protagonist describes him, a serial hater of women.

I have never read such a novel.  I normally steer clear of plots that involve So. Much. Violence.  In fact, had I known the plot beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have watched the film.  This reminded me of something I had read on a blog I follow, 101 Books (check it out – fantastic blog).  In December, Robert was reading Lolita and he questioned what our limits were in terms of reading material…he felt he had reached his in reading about a pedophile.  I have to admit, I was feeling the same way through many of the graphic scenes and descriptions in Larsson’s book.  I was unnerved at the extent of the violence against women Larsson created; I was more unnerved when I read his epigraphs and realized that this is not his creation, nor a reflection of his sick mind (though I admittedly know very little about Larsson).  It is a mirror of what goes on every day in some women’s lives.  Being ignorant of it does not mean it does not exist.

Larsson’s victims are vindicated by Lisbeth Salander (a victim herself).  She is a crusador for women who have been or were victimized- not that she would ever openly say she is a crusador.  Not even close.  She would snarl and stomp off angrily that someone has tried to label her.  The characters in this novel are so well developed.  Even the minor characters possess a richness that allows the reader to understand them, their views and the reasons behind their decision-making – repulsive, or not.  At times, I felt character descriptions were a bit tedious – there were characters I did not care for, nor did I feel the need to understand their past in order to place them into the plot.  But, I grew to appreciate Larsson’s attention to detail.

Regardless of the layered detail, Lisbeth Salander remains an enigma.  There is much description about her, her lifestyle, her abilities and intelligence.  Yet, she remains inaccesible.  There is still that part of her that is difficult to understand, to connect with – but, I believe that is part of her allure.

I have to admit, the novel did drag on for a bit at the end.  It had what felt like three different resolutions…I kept asking myself when is this going to end? (oh yeah, I forgot that happened in the movie too).

It did end.  And, it ended well.  So much so that I’ve already started The Girl Who Played With Fire (finally!) and I had to pry it out of my fingers so I could write this review.

Ultimately, I’m happy to have completed the novel and not jumped straight into the second book in the trilogy.  It has prepared me for Larsson’s writing style – which I am now thoroughly enjoying.  It was an entertaining read – swift (mostly) and eye-opening.  I would definitely recommend it.

The Problem with Watching the Movie First

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson has yet to really hook me.  I am ten chapters in and I keep waiting for something to happen.  I like the straightforward, simple writing (keeping in mind that this is a translation).  I haven’t read any Nordic writers – with the exception of Henrik Ibsen, whose plays also demonstrate a simple, direct writing style that exposes social ironies.  I wouldn’t call Larson’s use of voice ironic; he is straightfoward – a journalist just like Mikael Blomkvist.  The story reads in a journalistic fashion.  A bunch of really interesting facts about the Vangers, about Salander, about Swedish bureaucracy that I read and read and read to get to the end so I can start reading book two of the series The Girl Who Played with Fire which is the story I am actually interested in.

I am diligently reading because I enjoyed the movie so much that I am itching to know what happens next in Lisbeth Salander’s life.  But, since I am a true book nerd, I am compelled to read the books, in order, instead of waiting for the next movie.

I convince myself that it’s really neat to come across moments in the novel that didn’t make it to the screen and ponder directorial choices.  I tell myself that it’s great to know more about the characters and see them become three-dimensional in the novel.  It doesn’t work.  I’ve got the movie moving through my head as I read – I can’t make up my own Sweden because my imagination is saturated with Fincher’s vision of the novel.  Oh well, fortunately, I don’t mind Fincher’s vision – certain shots showed off winter’s beauty and actually made it look appealing.  This is from someone who unabashedly hibernates through the cold Canadian winter – winter activities? Only if sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine counts!

So, my main problem isn’t the book at all.  It’s that I watched the movie first.  It is an age-old argument: do you read the book first, or watch the movie.  I’ve done both, and in either order, the book always ends up being better.  However, in the past when I watched the movie first (say, Harry Potter), reading the book was enriched by the film.

In this case, I can’t seem to get through all the set up in the earlier chapters to get to the good stuff later on.  I’m hesitant to say, that maybe, for the first time ever, I enjoyed the movie more than the book.  I can’t be completely certain of this until I finish it – but, right now, it seems to be the case.

I hope I change my mind by the end of the novel.