JK Rowling

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith

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The Cuckoo's Calling Robert Galbraith

I use Grammarly for English proofreading because they’re not going to win their fight over there.

Cormoran Strike is a military vet turned private detective who has had a recent string of bad luck – between crippling financial trouble and parting with his fiance, his world is in an emotional upheaval.  After a temporary secretary, Robin, bowls into his life and he is given the high profile case of solving the assumed-suicide of a young model, Strike’s life gets even more complicated.

I am ashamed to say that I had only heard of this book after it was leaked that J. K. Rowling wrote it.  Because she was so disappointed that the sales were going to skyrocket based on her name and not the novel’s own merit, I decided to give it some time before I read it.  Honestly though, this book or potential crime series would have taken off without her pseudonym being revealed.  Strike, like so many Harry Potter characters, is a well-drawn, three-dimensional protagonist who continuously draws you in and captures your attention.  Robin, who might have been a stereotypical secretary and assistant, steals the show as the mystery-solving assistant who just won’t leave Strike’s side.  She finds herself instantly drawn to the gruff man and to his chosen career, but she struggles internally with the expectations her new fiance has for her and her career prospects.

Perhaps what I loved most about The Cuckoo’s Calling was that while it contains so many of the same tropes you would expect in British crime fiction, Galbraith/Rowling manages to write it in her same magical way.  There is a quality to her writing that is nearly fantastical, even when she is talking about the mundane, that lifts the words right off the page.  While I am not sure she achieved this same quality in The Casual Vacancy (a book I gave a miss), she nails it in The Cuckoo’s Calling.  Her writing is simple and accessible, but the story never feels boring or tired.

The Cuckoo’s Calling moves at a rapid pace, keeping you plugged into the case and the strange relationships that filled up the dead model’s life.  While the central mystery is intriguing, the real magic of The Cuckoo’s Calling lies in the draw of Strike and Robin’s platonic friendship and chemistry, along with their individual lives.  While I have yet to hear of an announced sequel, I would gladly read more Cormoran Strike novels.

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Being Cliche and Judging Books by their Covers

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I, like many other Potter fans, was very excited to hear that J. K. Rowling was releasing her new adult book.   When the cover image was unveiled a few weeks ago, I was underwhelmed.  Look below:

Fairly blah colors (almost grating), plain visual image and a dated font for the title.  When you compare the cover to what her books used to look like (see below), it’s really hard to get excited.

Sure, different genre, different type of book, and adult to boot.  Perhaps the designers were trying to distance us from the book series we all grew up loving.  But what it made me think of was simply a cheap 70’s paperback.

The weird thing is that this bland style is becoming common in adult books.  If you look at the top 200 2012 publications on Goodreads, you come up with 2 adult books that look roughly the same to Rowling’s blah cover:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While not visually appealing, both of these book covers at least have a better color scheme.  I am not sure what started this trend, but I don’t like it.  When most readers pick out a new book to read, if they do not have a recommendation from friends, many of us will not get past the title and cover without something to grab our attention.

If you want to have a simple but intriguing cover, take a page out of Alif the Unseen.

Plain color scheme, but the texture of the green background draws your eye and gives you a bit of hint towards the story.  It was actually this interesting cover that got me to put it in my audiobook cue.

Another of my most recent audiobook listens is Some Kind of Fairy Tale.  An adult book, but it proves that you can still use a beautiful cover to bring your audience in.  With its fantasy elements, the cover matches its book’s themes and lends clues to the plot inside:

Let’s be honest – publishers know that we all look at book covers.  Just take a look at this (disgusting) Twilight-style cover for Pride and Prejudice I found at a Books a Million a couple weeks ago:

While this disgusts me in so many ways, it is a way to get Twihards to read a much better book and transition them into a higher class of literature.  But the fact that we have to pander to young women readers to read Jane Austen through a Bella and Edward, black/white/red cover makes me cry inside.

What about you?  Do you find yourself picking up a certain book because of what is on the cover, or are you able to transcend the images? (If you say yes, you’re probably lying!)