Contemporary, Fiction, Horror, Thriller

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

A good friend loves Grady Hendrix’s books and so when I was looking to branch out and read a horror book on the beach, she told me I had to read We Sold Our Souls.

Synopsis

From the Back Cover:
Only a girl with a guitar can save us all. Every morning Kris Pulaski wakes up in hell. In the 1990s she was lead guitarist of Dürt Würk, a heavy-metal band on the brink of breakout success until lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom, leaving his bandmates to rot in obscurity.

Now Kris works as night manager of a Best Western; she’s tired, broke, and unhappy. Then one day everything changes – a shocking act of violence turns her life upside down , and she begins to suspect that Terry sabotaged more than just the band.

Kris hits the road, hoping to reunite Dürt Würk and confront the man who ruined her life. Her journey will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a celebrity rehab center to a satanic music festival. A furious power ballad about not giving up, We Sold Our Souls is an epic journey into the heart of a conspiracy-crazed, pill-popping, paranoid country that seems to have lost its very soul.

Review

We Sold Our Souls is what I’ve started calling pop-horror, pop culture inspired horror. It’s not monsters (well, not in the traditional sense), nor is it supernatural (again, not in the traditional horror sense), and it’s not really what I think of when I think of scare-you-sh*tless horror movies or novels. There’s some psychological suspense and other thriller aspects to it, but it is first and foremost rooted in the American ideal of the rock star and band-lore. Its US paperback is clearly styled off of Rolling Stone because that’s what Quirk Books wants you to be thinking about when you read it – juicy Rock ‘n’ Roll gossip.

My opinion on the books evolved significantly from when I started reading, finished reading, and then sat back and started thinking about how to review it. In the end, I wound up so displeased I returned it in exchanged for David Epstein‘s Sports Gene, back in my current “safe zone” of nonfiction. But I didn’t start off feeling that way. I started off excited – as Greater Philadelphia suburb resident, I was thrilled. I knew the places, the story started off strong, perfect day-at-the-beach type of read, interesting but not requiring much brain power.

As I got deeper into the story, parts of it just didn’t line up, which, definitely supposed to be a bit confusing and disorientating. The violence started to feel entirely gratuitous and not like a real threat any longer. The tension felt forced, but I was still invested in seeing how the story ended. I wanted to know if Kris and Terry had their face off. And when they did, it was great. Hellstock ’19 was crazy (especially reading this in July, a few months before it theoretically happens), though a few parts regarding sexual assault were glossed over which bothered me – I’m sick of throwaway storylines about assault where nothing is mentioned or resolved, almost like it didn’t happen.

And then the story ended. And it was not a satisfying ending. I do not need a happy ending, but a satisfying conclusion that fits with the tone of the rest of the book would be nice. Or a feeling like the world or people changed a bit would be good. But once I put it down and thought about it for a few days, I just kept thinking, what was the point? There’s multiple hours of my life I got tricked into giving up for a book that ultimately fell flat. I’m glad people love it, it’s just really not for me. I like to see some sort of character growth or world-change in my fiction books, especially since I read so few – I’d like it to feel meaningful.

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Available for purchase with free international shipping through Book Depository.

Fiction, Thriller

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I began reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo after the movie was announced (though before watching it) after one of my friends recommended it. Based on my knowledge of the friend who offered the recommendation, it was nothing as I expected.

Synopsis

It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden… and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

It’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to find the underlying cause of Harriet’s disappearance… and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacked possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age – and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it – who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a view of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism – and an unexpected connection between themselves.

Review

I don’t read mysteries or thrillers for fun. They freak me out and give me nightmares. I have a great deal of difficulty getting the villain out of my head. It’s even worse when they’re exceptionally well crafted and convincing, as is the case in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series.

I typically try to read a book before I see the adaptation and I really wanted to see the movie (my hang-ups with thrillers mentioned above don’t seem to apply to film) so figured that I should read the book first because there was a good chance I would miss some important detail throughout the course of the movie (which is probably why I love, but can rarely follow, Bond films – I’m never paying enough attention). However, to understand the world in which Vanger, Blomkvist and Lisbeth are living, I needed a crash course in Swedish elitist politics or I would miss something important.

Never had I done so much research before reading a work of fiction, but I knew going into the book that I had to familiarize myself with a society that differed from my own to understand the actions and behaviors of the characters, particularly the secondary ones. But what really drew me to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the girl herself, Lisbeth Salander.

Lisbeth is a ward of the state, an orphan with a traumatic background, declared mentally unstable which puts her finances, and therefore life, into the hands of a court appointed guardian – a rare kind man who unfortunately suffers a stroke at the start of the book. The man who replaces him, Nils Bjurman, is quite the opposite.

Lisbeth is highly aggressive towards those who abuse women and when Bjurman forces her into submissive and degrading positions to procure her pre-determined allowance. The revenge she takes on him is magnificently cruel and degrading, equal to the treatment he forced upon her. Lisbeth is fierce, and perhaps more than a little crazy, but her talents are unequaled in the art of hacking and manipulation. But her heart is pure, hidden though it may be, and she is capable of suffering heartbreak, despite her cold exterior and extremely introverted personality. Lisbeth is the heart and soul of the book and without her, the corporate espionage and possible murder plots mean little.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Mass Market Paperback • $9.99 • 9780307949486 • 644 pages • first published in English in September 2008, this edition published November 2011 by Vintage Books • average Goodreads rating 4.11 out of 5 stars • read in January 2011

Stieg Larsson’s Website

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Goodreads

Get a Copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo