Last week, I decided to finished reading the rest of the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

I found the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an engaging read — it took a while to get into the story but absolutely compelling when it hit the groove. I admit I was a bit apprehensive about the rest of the series, because I kept hearing opposite opinions about it. One side emphatically insisted the series gets better in books 2 and 3, the other side insisted, with equal gusto, that the first book was the best of the bunch.

I liked the first book enough that I thought I’d miss out if the next two books did turn out to be better, so I went ahead and got myself the next two books in the series. There were no more trade paperbacks available anywhere (my TGWTDT s a trade paperback) so I settled on the UK mass market paperbacks, which looked like they had better paper and binding than the first, and they’ve held up pretty well through the first reading — spine creasing not so pronounced — although now they’re crying out for me to “upgrade” them. I hope bookstores would restock the trade paperbacks; I don’t know how long I can resist getting the nice hardcover set tempting me from the bookstore window!

(Don’t worry, I’m keeping this spoiler-free)

I started The Girl who Played with Fire on Saturday, while I was getting my hair done at the salon, went home, had dinner, then started reading again until I finished the book on Sunday afternoon. Then I started The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest on Sunday night, and read on until the wee hours of Tuesday. Let me just say that I have not devoured any series as voraciously since The Hunger Games and Catching Fire last year.

I have to agree with the side that says the books get better after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (haha, and not just because my best friend is on that side!) I found that the first book was merely an appetizer to the main course!

In The Girl who Played with Fire, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist have parted ways — Salander has been jetsetting around the world while Blomkvist is  once again at the helm of the Milennium magazine, back in the limelight after the events in TGWTDT. Dag Svensson, a freelance journalist ,approaches Blomkvist with an investigative story on sex trafficking, and Blomkvist plans an elaborate expose into this underground industry.

Before the story is completed, however, Svensson and his girlfriend Mia Johansson, are found dead in their apartment in Stockholm. The Stockholm police get on the case, and the prime suspect is Lisbeth Salander.The whole country is on alert for news on Salander’s whereabouts, and her history as a ward of the state is dredged up. Blomkvist does not believe Salander could have murdered his friends and is at a loss, until he realizes he has one way to contact her…

The paths of the two characters cross once more, and they stumble into a complex web of intrigue that surrounds Salander’s identity.

For a transition book, I still found this book quite a page turner. We see the more human side of Lisbeth Salander in this book, and it was quite amusing to read about her doing mundane activities like shopping (and lots of it — what a shopaholic, haha!), leisurely reading (albeit it’s a doorstopper of a math book and she attempts to solve Fermat’s Theorem), getting drinks at the bar, fussing about her looks, and steeling herself from a potential heartbreak. We also find out more about her mysterious past (shocking revelations), her troubled childhood and how she becomes a ward of the state, and we begin to understand how she develops her tough-girl exterior.

Meanwhile, Blomkvist alternates between thick as a brick and Practical Pig (the consummate do-gooder), but he manages to pull through for Salander, even when she resists him.

The story moves outside of the closed-door mystery of the first book, into the underworld of the sex trafficking industry, and sets the stage for the web of conspiracy surrounding Sweden’s state security police in the third book.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest continues the cliffhanger from the previous book, and Lisbeth Salander is charged with attempted murder. Recovering from a gunshot wound, Salander is under maximum security in a hospital, with no means to prove her innocence. Blomkvist must rally the effort from outside to prevent the forces determined to lock Salander up for good, and Salander must come to terms with her past, and confront her deeply ingrained mistrust towards authority and her reluctance towards friendship.

Of all three books, I think I liked the third book the best because thick as it was, I literally couldn’t put it down, and few books have had that effect on me (I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow!).  I actually tried to go to sleep in the middle of reading this, because it was a weeknight and I had work the following day, but my mind was working overtime! There is very little physical contact between Blomkvist and Salander in this book (as with the previous), but shuttling back and forth between the two characters (and the secondary characters too) kept me on my toes. Plus, I was reeling from all the implications of the scenarios presented in this book. I knew I couldn’t sleep until I finished it, so I read to the very last page, and the sky was turning pink by the time I was done!

I lost a lot of sleep reading the Millennium trilogy, and felt deeply satisfied after finally finishing the series — no small feat for 3 books nearly 2000 pages combined! Lisbeth Salander is my hero(ine)!

Oh, and I also recently got to watch the Swedish movie adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in English subtitles, and I must say it’s very well adapted, in a way that hardcore fans would approve, and in a way that viewers who haven’t read the book would understand completely. Michael Nyqvist is far from how I pictured Blomkvist, but Noomi Rapace (that’s her in the top photo too!) makes an outstanding Lisbeth Salander! And if you want to find out how the characters’ names are pronounced in Swedish, go watch the films before Hollywood takes over.

I hope to watch the next two films (yes, the Swedish film trilogy is finished) by next week, will tell you more about that later. Meanwhile, I’m adding the Millennium trilogy to my best books for 2010.

***

P.S. Check out what Mia Thermopolis has to say about Lisbeth Salander! Hilarious!

***

The Girl who Played with Fire, UK mass market paperback, 4/5 stars

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, UK mass market paperback 5/5 stars

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Swedish film adaptation, 5/5 stars

Books 98 and 99 for 2010

Books #2 and #3 for the Chunkster Challenge –  649 pages and 746 pages. Three more chunksters to go!

[amazonify]::omakase::300:250[/amazonify]