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Review: Of Bees and Mist

Of Bees and Mist Cover

Of Bees and Mist
By Erick Setiawan
Simon & Schuster
August 2009

 The blurb from the publisher:

Of Bees and Mist is the tale of Meridia — raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, she spends her childhood feeling neglected and invisible. Every evening her father vanishes inside a blue mist without so much as an explanation, and her mother spends her days venomously beheading cauliflowers in the kitchen. At sixteen, desperate to escape, Meridia marries a tender-hearted young man and moves into his seemingly warm and charming family home. Little does she suspect that his parents are harboring secrets of their own.

There is a grave hidden in the garden. There are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other. And there is Eva, the formidable matriarch whose grievances swarm the air like an army of bees. In this haunting story, Setiawan takes Meridia on a tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak as she struggles to keep her young family together and discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as the shocking truths about her husband’s family.

The Short of It:

Of Bees and Mist is at once magical and adventurous in the telling. Sometimes enchanting, sometimes a bit spooky. An impressive debut for Erick Setiawan.

The Rest of It:

Of Bees and Mist falls into the ‘magic-realist’ fiction category and I have to say, that I don’t think that I have ever read a book quite like this one. Meridia falls in love with Daniel and moves into his family’s home. There she encounters Eva, the mother-in-law from hell. Eva is so wicked and vile that when she goes to work on you, bees fly out of her mouth to attack you. Needless to say, her words sting quite a bit. Elias, her husband is good at heart, but has a terrible time living with his wife and fights are a daily occurrence. At first, Meridia tries her  best to get along with her mother-in-law, but all that ends when she has her own child and sees Eva for who she really is. This of course causes all sorts of problems between Meridia and her husband, Daniel.

Reading this book was like taking a trip to the circus. Not the circus you and I know today, but a circus from years past. The colorful tents, the jugglers, the musicians, the smell of circus food wafting in the air. This book had a FEELING to it. Every time I picked it up I felt as if I was taken back in time to this magical place. I really enjoyed it.

The only criticism I have is that the Meridia/Eva battle seemed to go on a tad too long and it sort of overshadowed the interactions between some of the other characters. Overall, I was charmed by this book and wonder what Erick Setiawan is working on next.

Source: Thanks to Kathleen Carter over at Goldberg McDuffie Communications for sending me this review copy.

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By Stieg Larsson
Pub. Date: June 2009
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Format: Paperback
Series: Millennium Trilogy Series

The blurb from the publisher:

An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pieced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

The Short of It:

Not your regular murder mystery. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  is complex and rich and psychologically challenging. A page-turner but not the kind you skim through. This one you want to savor.

The Rest of It:

I am the last person on the planet to read this, so what hasn’t been said? Well, Lisbeth Salander is probably one of the strongest female protagonists I’ve seen in print in a long, long time. She is dark and moody and has been abused in more ways than one, yet she is strong and determined and always manages to gain the upper hand. Her counterpart, Mikael Blomkvist is also a very interesting character. He’s unassuming yet there’s something about him that draws the women to him. He’s essentially a good guy, easy going and honest but as I was reading, I wanted to know what made him tick and I’m not sure that came through for me.

As a mystery, I found it to be quite satisfying. I never felt that the story was too obvious or that Larsson was pandering to the masses when he wrote it. It’s a sophisticated story told in a sophisticated way. What did surprise me was the prevalence of domestic violence throughout the novel. Apparently, Sweden has a very high rate of domestic violence. The statistics are mentioned throughout the novel and there is plenty of violence against women in general. Although some of the violence is graphic in its depiction, I never felt as if it was gratuitous in nature, if that makes sense.

In the end, I was left wanting more so it’s a good thing that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book of the Millennium Series. I am reading The Girl Who Played with Fire now and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is available in the UK and can be purchased online

Domestic Violence Awareness

Lisa over at Lit and Life reminded me that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Since this book deals with domestic  violence, I thought I’d support the cause by posting this button.

Source: Purchased