Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reading...The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)I don't read mysteries as much as I used to, but I do love a classic detective novel. Martha Grimes' Richard Jury books, for example. Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt. Jaqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs. Although I've only read one or two by these authors, I've enjoyed Robert Parker's Spenser, Craig Johnson's walt Longmire, and Susan Wittig Allbert's China Bayles (although, I guess technically that's a cross between a cozy and detective...but I digress). So, when I say The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a., J.K. Rowling), is a classic detective novel, for me, that's a good thing. And, being that it's J.K. Rowling, it's no surprise that it hits all the right notes:
1. Descriptive setting. London, oh how I love you. Sunny, rainy, hot, cold. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the main character's day-to-day world, and that of the glitzy world of supermodels and designers and celebreties that he was drawn into during the investigation.
2. Well-drawn characters. This was a great first-book-in-a-series because the story was complete and whole, but with characters you want to get to know more. At first glance, Cormoran Strike is almost a little cliched: he's got a past (ex-Army) a wound (amputated leg) a busted up, long-term relationship, and he's the bastard son of a famous rock star. But I thought Rowling infused him with enough life to take him just out of cliche'd private eye zone. He also has a pretty new secretary, but one who stands out for her determination, brains, and enthusiasm for learning the detective trade. Bonus for giving the victim as much life as any of the other characters, maybe more. At the beginning of the book, she's a nameless tabloid darling, but at the end, she's a real girl, with a story and a sad ending.
3. Excellent pacing. This isn't an adreniline rush, but it doesn't drag either. It's measured and methodical, every detail revealed at the right time.

Bottom line: a solid choice for fans of detective fiction

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Reading...a little romance

Promoted: To Wife and MotherI was perusing some review blogs the other day, and came across a review for a Harlequin romance on the fantastic Misadventures of Super Librarian (Wendy is a great source for romance reviews, because she reviews all kinds of can find something to fit your mood and taste). I periodically find myself in the mood for something quick and light and fun, and Promoted: to Wife and Mother by Jessica Hart sounded like it would fit the bill -- plus, it was super cheap for Kindle. (just an aside...if I had not read the recommendation of this book, the title alone would have kept me from reading it. Harlequin titles can be so cheesy! And it's a shame, because that cheesy title hides a pretty great story).

So, Promoted: to Wife and Mother tells the story of two individuals in their 40s who each have a lot of responsibility (her: an ailing mother, him: three teenage children) and a little bit of baggage (she had a heartbreaking experience loving a single father who constantly put her on the back burner, and he is a widower). They each fight their attraction, but ultimately can't resist (because this is a romance novel after all!). What I really enjoyed about this book is that it's a satisfyingly realistic romance -- these two have some obstacles to overcome in order to make a relationship work, and they fully acknowledge that, but eventually realize that it's worth it to be together. There's no sunshine-rainbows-kittens-daisy-filled-meadows happily ever after. But there's a this-will-be-hard-and-beautiful-at-the-same-time happily ever after. Which, in my opinion, is so much more satisfying.

Bottom line: if you want a quick yet satisfying love story, pick up this unfortunately titled gem!

(another note on the title: it kind of implies that the heroine is in a secretary kind of role, but she's actually a very professionally powerful woman, and a department head in the company. Yes, the hero is her boss, but it's more of a peer-to-peer kind of professional relationship, which is also super refreshing)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Reading...The Book Thief

The Book ThiefCount this among the books that I'm reading a little later than a lot of people, but with the movie coming out, it inspired me to finally pick up this book that had been recommended to me by countless people.

And I have to say, this book is definitely worth reading.

The Book Thief is essentially Death's observations of an abandoned girl, her new family, and their small German town during World War II. It's a book about compassion, conviction, love in its many forms, and the transforming power of words. It's heartbreaking and hopeful.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas break reading

Imaginary Girls

 Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception (Books of Faerie, #1)I had most of Christmas week off this year, and I took advantage of that time to do some shorter-book reading. Imaginary Girls is a book I've had sitting on my shelf for a while -- an ARC I got from work -- and finally picked up. It was an atmospheric, slightly creepy, slightly disturbing head-trip kind of book. I liked it, but didn't love it. I kept waiting for a little bit more...more resolution or explanation maybe. But I also fully realize that may be more me than the book, becuase it was definitely well-written, just not for me.

The second book I read over break was Lament by Maggie Stiefvater. I'm a big fan of Steifvater's books, but had never read her first-published series. Lament is a fairy book in the traditional fairies-are-beautiful-and-amoral-and-certainly-never-to-be-trusted way. Even though it's set in Virginia, it feels like a Celtic story, and I really dug that. In addition to the "homicidal fairies," this book is a love story, with an intense, love-at-first-sight kind of romance. Not my favorite kind of romance, but I enjoyed the story and characters enough to not mind so much. It's easy to see how Steifvater's craft has just gotten better over the years, but even if this book is a bit rougher than her most recent work, it's still got that great story-telling quality that I enjoy about her books.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Welcome, New Year!

2013 was a good year -- a year of lots of change, excitement, and a little sadness too, but a good year. It included deliberate, quality time spent with family and friends, savoring little moments and memories, a move across the country and the ensuing new jobs and other newness that comes with a move. It included life-changing news (yeah, that's code for "we're having a baby"), and regular, everyday moments.

I like patterns and life rythms, so naturally I like celebrating a new year (I also like to celebrate change any ol' time of year...oh, and school culture still makes me feel like fall is another "new year"). Usually, while I have some idea of what's ahead, I try to approach each new year knowing that there's no way to plan for or expect every part of what's coming up in life. But never is that more true than 2014 (you did see that code-for-having-baby comment, right?). All I can say for sure, is that I hope to approach 2014 with intention, and with my eyes wide open, ready to catch opportunities and savor moments.

Here's to a new year full of life, challenge, hope, and a lot of good stories along the way!