Tag Archives: j. k. rowling

When Authors Are Torturers

Every book lover knows that authors are the source of both our greatest joy and our greatest pain. I’m talking about the often excruciating wait that comes between books from our favorite writers. On a rational level, we want them to take as long as needed to produce a quality novel, but on an irrational level, we’re desperate for our next fix. There are several authors whose disrupted publication schedule is keeping me in suspense at the moment, so here’s a rundown.

J.K. Rowling, as Robert Galbraith, was publishing the Cormoran Strike mysteries like clockwork. 2013, 2014, and 2015 each brought an installment. But 2016…nothing. There’s still no publication date for the fourth book, which means we probably won’t see it until fall at the earliest. I realize that she’s been busy, y’know, writing movie scripts and collaborating on plays. But I need more Cormoran and Robin in my life! The Guardian reports that she’s working on two books: the next Cormoran Strike mystery and a novel under her own name. Here’s hoping for the mystery in the latter part of 2017 and the novel in 2018.

Fall 2015 040

Meeting Rainbow at NerdCon 2015 when Carry On was freshly released

Rainbow Rowell spoiled us by being impressively prolific in her early years of publication. I believe she was already working on Fangirl (or possibly done with it) by the time Eleanor & Park was published, which resulted in two books in 2013. Then she gave us one book a year until 2016. I know she wrote a screenplay for Eleanor & Park, a movie that didn’t get made, and she signed a deal to write two graphic novels. I’ve been so anxious for the first graphic novel collaboration with Faith Erin Hicks. I imagine that the art side is extremely time consuming, but this announcement was made three years ago. Three years!

My last torturer is Maureen Johnson. Maureen has had some serious health shenanigans in the last few years, so I can’t really begrudge her the delay in her publishing schedule. And yet…the last Shades of London book came out two years ago. I miss my favorite irreverent ghost squad! I reread The Name of the Star recently, which was delightful, but it also made me impatient for the fourth book. She also has a new mystery series scheduled to launch this year called Truly Devious. That could almost make up for Shades of London. (Almost.)


Also at NerdCon 2015, Maureen Johnson leading a Q&A with the Vlogbrothers

In all seriousness, I love these women and will happily read their books whenever they’re released. 2016 was just a dry year for a lot of my favorite authors. In literature we play the long game, so there’s always something to anticipate.



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Best of 2015: Book Edition, Part 1

With a little help from my friends at the library, I was able to read so many awesome new releases this year. If you like young adult or literary mysteries, there’s probably something on one of these lists for you. Here are my best books read in 2015, numbers 10 through 6!

10. The Shadow Cabinet, by Maureen Johnson

The Shadow Cabinet

The Shades of London series is a sneaky favorite of mine. I tend to forget about it, but when the third book came out this year, I was all over the library waitlist. (It didn’t hurt that the second book ended on a torturous cliffhanger.) The moody London atmosphere combined with Maureen Johnson’s irreverent humor make this series unique, and The Shadow Cabinet is the most exciting installment yet.

9. Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything

Sarah Dessen, my first love in YA, came out with a wonderful offering this year. Saint Anything follows Sydney’s struggles to get out of her older brother’s shadow—a brother who is now in prison for a drunk driving accident. As Dessen protagonists are apt to do, she finds a dynamic group of friends to help her. Since Sarah is a master of characterization, it’s not a bad pattern. Bonus points for a creeper character who truly made me cringe. (You can read my full review here.)

8. Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On

Rainbow Rowell’s first fantasy novel is already cause for excitement. Her first fantasy novel that’s also a clever critique of Chosen One narratives—that’s even better. The story is full of complicated friendships and uneasy alliances. As always, Rainbow has a knack for putting her characters in exactly the situation you want to see them in. I’m also seriously envious of the art throughout the book, from the cover art to the section break illustrations to the beautiful map of Watford School of Magicks. (You can read my full review here.)

7. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

Yes Please is one part personal anecdotes and one part sage advice. I love the design of the book with its color photographs and reproductions of various mementos. My favorite chapter is about performing on Saturday Night Live while pregnant with her first child. It’s just the right combination of behind-the-scenes details and broader commentary on the female experience. I set down Yes Please feeling motivated to “do the thing.” (You can read my full review here.)

6. Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil

I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to have new J. K. Rowling in my life, pseudonym or no. It stands to reason that she can write a good mystery, but I didn’t expect to fall so completely in love with her detective characters. Career of Evil is my favorite book of the series because it reveals more details of Cormoran and Robin’s pasts. I was in serious denial for days after finishing this book because I didn’t want it to be over. (You can read my full review here.)

Tomorrow is the grand finale: my top 5 books of 2015!


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Cormoran Strike(s) Again

Career of Evil

Of the four titles mentioned in An Abundance of Books for Fall, I’ve now read three. The Hennepin County Library system came through for me big time. In particular, I didn’t expect to see Career of Evil, the latest installment in the Cormoran Strike series, until sometime in 2016. Such is the power of J. K. Rowling, even under a pseudonym. I was pleasantly surprised when it only took a month for my name to come up on the waitlist. Time to be reunited with my favorite private detective and his intrepid business partner. (If you need background on the series, I wrote this post after reading the first two books.)

I went into Career of Evil with some reservations because I liked the second book less than the first. My issue was the amount of gore. I’ve grown to love a good psychological thriller, but grotesque details can be off-putting in large doses. The nature of the crime in The Silkworm helped dictate its tone, so I was hopeful that Career of Evil would take a different route.

Okay, so the story kicks off with Cormoran and Robin being sent a severed leg. Not exactly the stuff of bedtime stories, but I don’t go into a mystery novel expecting rainbows and unicorns. What makes this case particularly interesting is that it’s personal. Cormoran names three men from his past whom he considers capable of sending the leg. As he and Robin investigate these men, we also find out more about Cormoran himself. The unraveling of the two main characters is the true genius of the series, in my humble but strongly held opinion.

One of my favorite sections of the book is when Cormoran and Robin hit the road to investigate a few leads. (As titles go, Cormoran and Robin Hit the Road! would set a very different tone.) Rowling—or I should say, Robert Galbraith—has a detailed grasp of London, but it was fun to see her expand her descriptive prowess to new environs. She must have a master list of pub names somewhere because wherever our beloved detectives may roam, they always seem to end up down the pub. Cormoran is so thoroughly British, and I love it.

At this point in the year, I’ve already given serious thought to my end-of-year lists. I try to be very honest about my yearly favorites, but I give extra consideration before including two books by the same author, especially from the same series. Between book one and book three, Cormoran Strike has given me a dilemma, albeit a very low-stakes one.


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An Abundance of Books for Fall

Fall always seems to be a great time for new book releases. And while I certainly wouldn’t wish away the rest of the summer, I’m starting to get excited for new books from many of my favorite authors.

The Heart Goes Last on September 29!

The Heart Goes Last

Margaret Atwood most recently wowed the literary world with her MaddAddam trilogy. The Heart Goes Last has a different dystopian setting, but one can assume it touches on some classic Atwood themes. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I suppose? I’m excited by the fact that The Heart Goes Last seems to have a greater focus on relationships. In exchange for a comfortable home the rest of the year, a married couple agrees to spend every other month in prison. Then they both become obsessed with the couple that occupies their home on alternate months. Best case scenario, this book could occupy an interesting space between the MaddAddam trilogy and The Blind Assassin.

Carry On on October 6!

Carry On

Does this require any explanation? It’s Rainbow Rowell! Carry On is an offshoot of the fictional fantasy series that’s the obsession of Cath in Fangirl. A fictional world from within another work of fiction becomes a real life book. Yes, it’s all very meta in the best possible way. Carry On promises all the romance and emotion of her previous books but with the addition of magic. Since Rainbow professes to be primarily a fantasy reader in her own life, I trust her to explore a new genre. Not to mention this cover is so unexpected and BEAUTIFUL. I will be dancing all the way to the bookstore on October 6.

Career of Evil on October 20!

Career of Evil

I recently declared myself a fan of the Cormoran Strike mystery novels. Since I was almost two years late to the party, the third novel is already coming out this fall. I can’t wait to be reunited with Cormoran and Robin, and the plot summary promises that this mystery will require delving further in Cormoran’s past. As I mentioned in the previous post, I already have the first two books in paperback, so I will try to resist buying the hardcover. The library wait list is the answer for now. Obviously I’m not going to wait another year for the paperback release. Bless the prolific talents of Ms. J. K. Rowling.

Tower of Thorns on November 3!

Tower of Thorns

My love for Juliet Marillier is documented on the blog, but I haven’t talked about this relatively new series. I read Dreamer’s Pool, the first Blackthorn and Grim novel, back in January. In typical Marillier fashion, Blackthorn is a healer, but she’s of humbler origins than the Sevenwaters protagonists. Not unlike a good detective series, Blackthorn and her friend Grim help unravel a mysterious and probably supernatural happening while Blackthorn deals with her personal demons. The prose is as lovely as I expect from Marillier’s adult novels. I can’t wait to hold this hefty hardcover in my hands.

As much as I would love to purchase every single one of these books, I will be utilizing library requests in some cases. I’m a little behind on my reading goal for the year, which is often the case around this time, so these new releases should make it easier to catch up. Did I miss anything exciting?

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Gettin’ Mysterious with J. K. Rowling

The Cuckoo's Calling

I was working at Barnes & Noble when debut mystery author Robert Galbraith was revealed to be none other than J. K. Rowling. We had two or three copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling in the store, which were purchased or put on hold almost immediately. For the rest of the day I fielded calls about whether the book was in stock. Despite a lukewarm reception for The Casual Vacancy, it was clear that the name J. K. Rowling still held considerable weight in the publishing world. As it should, in my opinion!

I must have been leery though because I didn’t read The Cuckoo’s Calling until my trip to Florida this winter. Although the description of Cormoran Strike as a soldier turned private detective didn’t capture my imagination, I was instantly hooked when I met his character on the page. He’s a physically imposing man who lost a leg in action, and he begins the novel in dire financial straits. A formidable person facing serious obstacles might just be the recipe for a compelling main character. In Rowling’s hands I find myself as interested in Cormoran and his assistant Robin as I am in the mystery plot.

The Silkworm

In hindsight it seems obvious that J. K. Rowling would be a skilled mystery writer. There’s a mystery at the heart of each Harry Potter book, and she’s proven herself to be a master of plotting and details. The Cormoran Strike novels also give her an opportunity to delve into the world of celebrity that she has experienced firsthand. The Cuckoo’s Calling focuses on the death of a supermodel, while The Silkworm investigates the disappearance of an eccentric writer. Perhaps most intriguing of all, Cormoran himself is the product of his free-spirited mother’s affair with a rock star. He has no desire to capitalize on his famous father, but occasionally high-profile cases thrust him into the spotlight.

I have now read both Cormoran Strike novels, and overall I preferred The Cuckoo’s Calling, which matches the sentiments heard around the bookstore. Cormoran and Robin encounter a large cast of characters while investigating each case, and surprisingly the fashion world seems more tolerable than serious literary circles. However, when Rowling talks about the jealousies and power dynamics of the publishing world, we can assume she knows what she’s talking about. Much of my enjoyment of the first book probably comes from Cormoran and Robin trying to understand each other. The Silkworm is also more gruesome, which makes for a less comfortable read.

The mystery will change from book to book, but the most important factor is that the reader cares about Cormoran and Robin. The third book is scheduled for an October 20 release, and there’s no doubt that I will read it. Whether or not I have the patience to wait for the paperback and continue my set is another matter.


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J. K. Rowling Debunks the Jane Austen Theory

Before reading one word of The Casual Vacancy, I had my theory in place. J. K. Rowling’s first adult novel was described as a look at the social and political mechanisms of a modern-day English village. As a longtime Rowling fan(atic), I know that she — like any novelist worth her salt — is a huge admirer of Jane Austen, often listing Emma as one of her favorite books. My theory was simple:  The Casual Vacancy would be Rowling’s modernized version of an Austen novel.

Instead of falling into the trap of expecting Harry Potter, I fell into the equally absurd trap of expecting Jane Austen. The Casual Vacancy starts with a death, which sets the novel’s action in motion. Sense and Sensibility, anyone? The third person narration dips into the minds of a wide range of characters, a style found in Victorian novels such as Middlemarch by George Eliot. After that, my theory completely falls apart.

There are no easy heroes and villains in the town of Pagford. Outside the magical confines of Hogwarts, J. K. Rowling presents a bleak worldview. The townspeople are full of grievances and grudges, and even the characters who aren’t outright villains can display incredible cruelty. Barry Fairbrother’s death has left an open seat on the parish council, and two factions squabble over what should become of an impoverished government housing project. Caught in this web are several teenage characters with no means for escape.

The Casual Vacancy is devastating to read, made all the more so by Rowling’s continued narrative power. I could say many things about this novel, but never that it is poorly written. The characters are vivid in all their hatreds and heartaches. She draws out each social connection with an intricacy worthy of the novelists she admires. The reader understands both sides to almost every relationship, making it all the more affecting. Much like in the real world, there are no easy solutions, and a gain for one person comes at the expense of another.

I admire J. K. Rowling for taking on social injustice with no apologies. The Casual Vacancy won’t make its readers feel uplifted, but it will hopefully make them think. For a writer who was guaranteed a large audience, she has taken a brave stance. I would advise anyone planning to read this book to learn from my mistakes. Don’t expect Harry Potter, obviously, but don’t expect Jane Austen either. This book is something else entirely.


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