Summer is usually my down time from reading. Throughout the school year, I read a lot of books outside of my course curriculum in order to stay sane, and then summer is dedicated to binge-watching an entire series in a day.
But this summer I've been incredibly fortunate to stumble across some really excellent reads, and I thought I'd post some overdue mini-reviews and recommendations for some fantastic books to read this fall.
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
In case you don't own a TV or a computer or a phone or ever check Facebook or Twitter or the internet ever, I have a surprise for you: J.K. Rowling released a book under a pseudonym this year!
You can only imagine how elated I was when I heard the news. I mean, she gave us The Casual Vacancy not even a year ago, and now another book!? I was in reading heaven.
I have a lot of good news about The Cuckoo's Calling. First: for those who were underwhelmed - or wholeheartedly disliked - The Casual Vacancy, this book is nothing like it. The Cuckoo's Calling is a classic "who done it?" story. We're presented with a mystery at the very beginning, and the protagonist - none other than the incredibly named Cormoran Strike, a private investigator who's down on his luck - sets out to solve the murder. It's a classic plot structure accompanied by a great story that truly keeps the suspense until the very end.
Second: In true J.K. Rowling fashion, the writing is incredible. As always, she provides a great deal of detail and commentary on small, seemingly insignificant people and events, but it's what makes her writing so fantastic. It's a joy to read about the way Strike's secretary types or how she adjusts her engagement ring, because it says something about her character.
Which leads me to point number three: the characters in The Cuckoo's Calling are fantastic. Rowling's meticulous attention to detail ensures that secondary and even tertiary characters are three dimensional. She is able to not only create a world within a book, but also a sense that the world within it is much larger than what fits between the pages. It's a smashing read and I think you should read it. If you already have, then read it again.
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
My favourite thing about A Spot of Bother is not the characters, or the story, or the setting. No, what I think is so charming and endearing about this book is how incredibly British it is.
In telling the story of George Hall, a retired man in his mid-fifties who is slowly losing his mind, Haddon has managed to capture the essence of a culture - the culture of a family, the culture of masculinity, the culture of a country.
George is, and has been, happily married to Jean for many years. Unfortunately, he doesn't know that she has been having a wild affair with his ex-coworker for many months. When his daughter Katie announces she is getting married (for the second time) to a man no one really approves of, his gay son Jamie loses the love of his life, and George finds a spot of eczema on his leg that he's convinced is cancer, every element of his peaceful existence starts to unravel.
A Spot of Bother is funny. It's sad and it's real and it's hopeful. And it's a pretty great read.
Every Day by David Levithan
While I'm actually not really a huge fan of David Levithan's work (I find him trite and overrated and a mediocre writer), Every Day has got to be the most interesting and original concept I've read since The Hunger Games.
The protagonist of this book is a soul. Yep. A soul. The soul wakes up in the body of someone new every day and must adjust to the new body, surroundings, routines, and calendars of the person's day. The soul has done this for sixteen years without struggle, until one day it meets Rhiannon and falls madly in love. The soul then struggles to find her, contact her, and see her every day in every new body.
This story is fascinating, and Levithan navigates the hiccups this sort of complex plot brings with grace and ease. The story never feels forced or strained, and he manages to make this outrageous plot plausible. It's definitely the best young adult book I have read this year, and is so interesting that anyone and everyone should check it out.
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
I'm late to the The Things They Carried party. It was first published in 1990 and has been on lots of "best books" lists in the years hence. I picked up my copy on a whim at a yard sale, having a vague recollection of hearing about it once, and I'm so glad I did!
The Things They Carried is a semi-memoir of O'Brien's experience in the Vietnam war. Except it isn't, really. But it sort of is. The war is the setting of the novel, and his memories are the filler, except he uses these as a way of exploring narrative. He examines how we tell stories, and how events are misremembered and reimagined and rewritten every time we tell them. He explores trauma and recollection and how we fuse pieces of narrative together to tell a story that explains our pain.
It's intense, and it's sad, and it's interesting, and it's one of the best books I've ever read.
Well, there we go! If you read any of these books, or have read any of them, please share your thoughts on them with me! I love a good chat about a novel. As always, you can check out my Goodreads for other books I've read and rated.
Current book: Lullabies For Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
Current TV series: The IT Crowd series 1
Current nail colour: "Watermelon" - Barry M Gelly Nail Effects