A Magicless Mystery

When you pick up a book by J.K. Rowling, you expect to be hooked by great characters and interesting connections and plot twists. But reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym, left me incredibly disappointed. This was my first time reading one of Rowling’s adult books, and I’m thinking it might be my last.

The book follows down-on-his-luck private investigator, Cormoran Strike, as he investigates the alleged suicide of the famous supermodel, Lula Landry. Strike needs the job, as he has just broken up with his girlfriend, is living in his office, and can barely pay his temp secretary. Strike’s investigation takes him to lunch with wealthy socialites, to a designer’s photo-shoot, and out to a club with Landry’s supermodel friend. In the meantime, the murderer strikes again, urging Strike to uncover the truth before someone else gets hurt. Despite Strike’s personal problems and an interesting past, he manages to piece together the mystery.  

While little snippets of the story were enjoyable, like the author’s use of figurative language and Cormoran’s secretary who lives out her dream of being a private eye, the mystery was magicless – and yes, I realize that mysteries don’t have wizards and wands – that’s not the type of magic I’m talking about. What I mean is, all the things I love about Rowling’s writing in the Harry Potter series – her imaginativeness, her ability to link together small details and complex plots, her lovable characters – were completely lacking in this book. Any mystery writer could have written this book. I was looking for a smart, inventive take on the mystery genre, but there was no J.K. Rowling stamp of magic. It was gritty and real, but lacked reader appeal.

Have you ever felt let down by an author you really admired? What was the book?

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10 Posts I Wish Had More Views

When I started this blog in October of 2013, I was hesitant to make it public. I wasn’t really sure if I had anything to say, and I was nervous about people reading and perhaps even *gasp* commenting on what I wrote. What I soon found out though, was that the blogging community is pretty friendly and supportive. While my best viewership has occurred during NaBloPoMo the last two years, here are a few posts I’ve written that I wish had made more of an impression.

 

  • ALL OF MY CHAOS WALKING POSTS:
    • Casting Chaos Walking 
    • The Next Must Read Series
    • One of the Best (or Worst?) Literary VillainsPatrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series, which includes The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men, is simply incredible. I went into the books knowing nothing about the series and ravenously read through the three books (and three short ebooks). I was blown away by the concept, the characters (including a conniving, manipulative villain), the action, and the message. I’m not sure why this 2008 – 2010 series hasn’t gotten more hype. However, that may change soon now that there is a 2019 film version in the works.     

 

  • Finding Inspiration in the Finger Perhaps my title didn’t draw people in, but I think the novel Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles deserves some more attention. Has anyone ever “flipped you the bird?” How did it make you feel? Knowles explores how different characters react to “the finger.” Could a single gesture have an impact on the rest of their day? How about their whole outlook?

 

  • Entry #22 – Favorite Book Well, of course I want more people to check out this post! It’s all about my most favorite book. I was hoping to hear that someone else in the blogoshpere was a fan of this book too.

 

  • Voldemort Likes My HairCome on, that’s a funny title! This blog post details a strange dream I had while re-reading the Harry Potter series. I originally read the books back when they were published and had never re-read them. It was amazing to see how much I had forgotten about the books. Sure, the movies are great, but boy, does J.K. Rowling know how to write.

 

  • A Second Look at Allegiant I was one of the many readers who was disappointed with the third book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. After re-reading this book (after quite some time had passed), I didn’t dislike it quite so much… Maybe it will inspire other fans to take a second look at the book as well.

 

  • A Love Story for the Ages perhaps the title of this post turned some readers off, but Paullina Simon’s three book series following Alexander and Tatiana is epic and should be read. While everyone else was reading 50 Shades of Gray, I was reading The Bronze Horseman – a love story that starts at the beginning of WWII during the siege of Leningrad – which doesn’t sound sexy, but guess what? The book is definitely swoon-worthy.  

 

  • John Green? No thanks.For someone who really enjoys reading Young Adult literature, I should be a John Green fan. While I enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars (not super-fan status, but it was a solid four-star read), after reading three other of his books, I’m left wondering what all the fuss is about. The pretentious, unlikable characters means I have no need to read any more of his books.

 

  • Current Read: I’ll Give You the SunI’m hoping that the reason why this post didn’t get many reads was because everyone already read I’ll Give You the Sun and knew that it was fantastic!

 

Fellow bloggers: Do you have any posts that you wish had gotten more views? Feel free to post a link in the comment section.

Voldemort Likes My Hair

voldemortmyhairI’m in what feels like a theater, as there are rows of chairs where various people (and other magical beings) are seated, when suddenly, Voldemort enters the room. He floats up and down each row along with some sort of creature that can find missing people, searching for Harry Potter. It’s terrifying to be in the same room as him, but I can’t run away because that will draw his attention to me. And he mustn’t know that I’m Harry Potter in disguise! Yes, Harry Potter is disguised as me!

This is the dream I had the other night as I was finishing up the final book in the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Apparently I’ve been spending too much time in the wizarding world this summer as I re-read the series! It has managed to creep into my dreams. The dream didn’t end there either – instead, it got even weirder…

I try to stay calm – which is difficult when the snake-like face of Voldemort is nearby – but I’m confident that my disguise will keep me safe. How could he think a 30 year old woman would be Harry Potter? Unfortunately, Voldemort stops when he gets to me and starts running his long, thin, grey fingers through my hair. He brings a handful of my hair to his creepy, slit-shaped nostrils and inhales. He is surprisingly gentle with my hair. He says something like, “You have good hair.” While I’m relieved – and weirded out – by this turn of events, I’m still on edge because I’m still Harry Potter in disguise! What if he takes me just because he likes my hair? Then he’ll really have Harry!

Then my alarm went off and that’s where the dream ended. What did we learn from this? Either that Voldemort may have some weird hair fetish, or that you shouldn’t stay up until all hours of the night reading, even if it is Harry Potter!

I had been wanting to re-read the series for a long time, but always thought it was too much to take on. I have the hardcover versions of most of the books and they are huge and intimidating. Also, there are so many other books to read, so why would I read a seven book series again? And perhaps the scariest thought, what if they weren’t as good as they were the first time around? Pushing these worries aside, I jumped into the series (ebook version this time) and enjoyed every minute of it.

First, I’m pleased to report that the books were still just as magical and wonderful as I remembered. It amazes me every time I start thinking about how J.K. Rowling put together these books. How did she make everything fit together so well? How did she create such a believable and incredible world? How did she craft characters that we would care about for years? For real. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Hagrid, Luna, Neville, Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore, all the Weasley’s, Lupin, Sirius, Snape. I don’t think there is a cast of characters that I love more. Second, the books were not that big of an undertaking. I read all seven books (plus five other novels while I waited for the books to become available through the Overdrive app) in less than three months. The books read quickly, perhaps because they are technically children’s books, but also because they are so wonderful that you want to find out what happens next.

If you’ve never read the Harry Potter series (*gasp* how is that possible?!), or you’ve been wanting to re-read them but you just haven’t found the time, I encourage you to pick up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and get reading. You won’t be disappointed.

Current Read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

imageThis week, I’m re-reading a book I read almost 16 years ago: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s J.K. Rowling’s’ first book in the Harry Potter series, and a game changer in the world of literature. I’d like to re-read the entire series, but we’ll see how that goes!

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last eighteen years, here’s what Goodreads has to say about the book:

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the “Harry Potter” series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.

The first time I read this book, I was skeptical. Why would I be interested in a book about a boy magician? Why would that interest me? It was a different reading experience because I didn’t have any movies to shape my perceptions of the characters or world, and I didn’t know how to pronounce the name “Hermione.” Needless to say, it’s very different to read this book a second time around. I not only know how the book ends, but I know how the series ends, and I can’t help but to see Daniel Radcliffe as Harry.

This time around, I’m struck by how flawlessly Rowling created her wizarding world. Everything is so well thought out, yet there is never an info dump. Everything a reader needs to know is seamlessly integrated into the text. We learn about this amazing world right along with Harry. Around 300 pages long, the book is well-crafted, but easy to read and understand. It is not as dark and sinister as the movies make it out to be, but I think the danger and intrigue increases as the series goes on and the books become longer and more complex.

However, the ending of the book is sort of silly if you start to think about it too much. CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD! Let’s be real here. Voldemort is a powerful dark wizard, and while he might not have much physical strength in this book, he does have power over his followers, like Professor Quirrell. If he’d wanted Harry dead, he could have done it. Apparently, Quirrell can’t kill Harry in the final scene because it’s too painful to touch him…but why didn’t he use his wand?! He should know plenty of curses – after all, he teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts! Quirrell attempts to knock Harry from his broom during a quidditch match, but that’s the ONLY attempt on his life all school year. I guess Voldemort didn’t realize what a hinderance Harry would be to his comeback. Also, why didn’t Quirrell wait to go get the stone until after the students had left the school? They would have been gone in just a few days, and then there wouldn’t have been any interference. Oh well, this is the suspension of disbelief we as readers must endure at times. For Harry and J.K Rowling, I guess I’ll let it slide!

Have you re-read the Harry Potter series? What did you notice the second time around?

Entry #12 – Didn’t want to read…but loved it:

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Entry #12 – Didn’t want to read…but loved it:  Everyone said this book was great but you weren’t interested, or perhaps it was a gift, or a free book—despite your lack of interest at the beginning, it turned out surprisingly well.

Back in the day, I was hesitant to read J.K. Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  “Who cares about wizards?” I thought, “And magic?  I don’t read stuff like that!”  But one night I found myself without a book to read and found Harry sitting on a shelf in my little sister’s room, unread.  It was a paperback version of the book, so I’m figuring it was the year 1999 or possibly 2000, which means I was thirteen years old.  I gave the book a shot.  And duh-dun-nuh-na!—surprise, surprise—I loved it!  Suddenly, I cared about wizards and magic!  I was hooked and read each and every book when it came out; eagerly anticipating what adventures would be next for Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the rest of the gang.  They were some of the biggest books I had ever read and there was a sense of pride in finishing them.  I don’t know how Rowling created this wizarding world that seems so vivid and believable.  She captured a generation of readers, and I’m glad to say that I was a part of it. 

What are some books that you were cautious to try, but ended up loving?  Anything you’d recommend?