Reading “The Cuckoo’s Calling”

Holly: If you think that all Amanda and I do all day is read and blog about books, you are incorrect. We also spend a great deal of time gchatting/texting/facebooking about all the books to read and blog about. Seriously. Oh, and Amanda is also making me tweet. I still don’t know what to do there.

cuckooscallingAnyway, in one of these conversations, we talked about reading a book together, and discussing as we read. Amanda suggested The Cuckoo’s Calling, by J.K. Rowling’s alter-ego Robert Galbraith. It was an Amazon deal-of-the-day, which was obviously all the convincing I needed.

I had briefly seen the story about how this book was written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym*, but I hadn’t read any details about the book. I haven’t yet read The Casual Vacancy, so I wasn’t sure what to think about a non-Harry Potter Rowling book.

*Now that I just read that story in more detail, WTF? “It was frankly too good for a book by an unknown first-time author”? That may be the more depressing statement I’ve ever read.

30% In

Holly –

This feels very strange. I keep wondering how anyone figured out this was Rowling.** I’m looking for some giveaway, like for Robin to get on Platform 9 and ¾ at King’s Cross. No such luck.

There was a line about Strike’s beer: “The Cornish beer tasted of home, peace and long-gone security” which made me wonder about butterbeer and what that’s supposed to taste like. Is that the giveaway?! I checked: “Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.” (Prisoner of Azkaban) And now, I want a drink.

Anyway, I’m still not sure what to think. The story feels worn – down-on-his-luck detective working on a (seemingly) dead-end case with a beautiful secretary hanging on his every word. And it feels like it could have been set 40 years ago just as easily as today. Yet, I totally buy it, and I am invested in the characters, and I’m excited to see what happens next…even if I probably would not have picked up this book if I didn’t know that Robert Galbraith was actually JK Rowling.

**Google just told me that it’s because her lawyer spilled the beans. But apparently before the story was broken, the London Sunday Times did analyze the writing style with a software program. This is kind of an interesting story.

 Amanda – 

I of course had read every story I could see about this being a new Rowling book because: A) I am a huge nerd. B) I miss Harry Potter and even if I cannot have HP back I want more from Rowling’s mind.  I did try The Casual Vacancy, but I did not finish it.  I liked the style and thought it was well written, but honestly it was just too dark for me at the time.  I tried to read it during the holidays and it was just the wrong book.  I need to go back and try it again in the right mindset.  

Like Holly, I am also looking constantly for an indication this is J.K. Rowling writing, but I’m not really seeing it.  I have found myself checking a definition or two on my kindle-certainly not something you have to do in Harry Potter!  I do love a well written mystery so I was really excited with this was an amazon deal of the day.  

I liked Robin right away, though I suppose she’s a pretty stock character-pretty young thing from a small town following her boyfriend to the big city.  I was worried she was going have a run in with our murderer right after she was introduced.  I like Strike and I’m intrigued as hell about Charlotte, Strike’s newly exed ex-fiance. I hope we get more of Strike’s backstory as the book continues, he’s an interesting guy.  

We’ll check back another third of the way through!

In the meantime follow us on twitter-we’ll add a link when I figure it out. @GuninActOne and @Ampersandpaper

Click here for part 2 of our discussion:

Review: The Lady

the lady

Title: The Lady

Author: Judy Higgins

Reviewed by Holly

I would like to take a moment to marvel at technology. The reason I read this book is because I saw an announcement on a friend’s Facebook page that his mom had written a book, and after further clicking, it looked like a fun YA, historical fiction novel, and it had the credibility of being named a semifinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakout Novel Contest. I didn’t know there was such a contest, but it sounds legit, right? (And, if you look up the contest, it looks like kind of a cool way to discover new writers. Check it out). So anyway, my friend Steveo’s (shoutout to Holly’s Super Awesome Tennis League!) mom wrote this story, had a successful run in this Amazon contest with her manuscript, and was able to publish the book, which I learned about from Facebook and then bought with 1-click on read on my Kindle. I am pretty sure that, even just a few years ago, one or more of those steps would have been a lot more drawn out.

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

“When sixteen-year-old Quincy Bruce goes to live with her Aunt Addy, she has no idea that what happened thirteen years earlier in wartime London can destroy her future. Her parents have gone to Africa as missionaries, leaving Quincy with her free-spirited and lively aunt, a war widow, and the only person who supports Quincy’s ambition to become a musician. When another aunt accuses Addy of having been the inspiration for the adulterous woman in Nathan Waterstone’s infamous wartime novel, The Lady, Quincy vows to prove her wrong. As Quincy settles into her new life with Addy, she sets about unraveling the secrets of Addy’s life, and of Nathan’s, in an effort to discover the true identity of the Lady. When she makes a discovery of a different type, Quincy’s dreams of becoming a pianist come crashing down.”

Aunt Addy is beautiful, charming, rich, generous, and patient – and an independent woman in South Georgia in the 1950s. I loved her – and so does her niece, Quincy. I really liked the story of what Quincy learned under Aunt Addy’s tutelage (and some behind her back), and there’s enough plot twists to keep the story moving.

I had a couple details that I got hung up on. One, and this is in the synopsis and so obviously not a spoiler, is that Quincy goes to live with Aunt Addy because her parents are going to Africa as missionaries. The parents up and leaving behind their 16 year-old daughter is not the strongest plot point, even with further clarification later in the story. However, Quincy’s parents must be out of the picture for all the wonderful – and terrible – things to happen, and I’m not sure there was a better way to make that happen.

My second point of contention is Quincy’s age – she is 16, but I think she just as easily could have been read as 13 or 14. She is a young 16, and annoyingly naive at times. Here though, I have to be fair and think about the context – it is the 1950s in rural Georiga, and she is the daughter of a Baptist preacher, so perhaps her maturity level is spot-on. And, I get annoyed with the opposite end of the spectrum, when teenagers are overly self-aware (ahem, John Green) – I think I need to write a whole separate post about that. Anyway, the lines I highlighted as some of my favorite in this book are indicative of what Quincy learns throughout the story, as part of her whole transition into young adulthood.

Parting Words (my favorite lines):

Maybe you don’t know what you are because your parents aren’t here to tell you what to think…people believe what their parents tell them to believe. And parents believe what their parents told them to believe. It’s like lining up dominoes. You push the first one, and all the others fall over, one by one. Generation after generation believes what they’ve been told, and hardly anyone ever stops to question what’s really true.