Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Reviews!

In addition to writing about our Nashville escapades, I also write reviews for books I'm reading. If anyone is interested in reading any of my takes on novels of various genres, then check out my Goodreads feed (also in the sidebar of my main page). And to give you a sense of what kinds of reviews I write, I've included my most recent review below, on The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling's pseudonym). Enjoy!

The Cuckoo's Calling
by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
3/5 stars

I wanted to love this book, to give it five stars and call it the next great detective series, one that I might follow until it's eventual denouement. I wanted to feel gripped, to be on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, and come out the other end exhausted by the tale of heroism and valor. Unfortunately, I can't say any of those things. All I can say is that it is a good book, with a good story and good characters. However, there are only a few things about the novel that deserve the descriptor of "great."

First, let me get the gripes out of the way. Of course, this is a detective novel. It follows Cormoran Strike, an ex-army private detective with a failed relationship with a manipulative (we think) woman whom he still loves; a prosthetic leg that remains shamefully hidden as much as possible; celebrities for parents, both of whom cast ill-reputable shadows over his life; and a dying business that seems to be the only stabilizing element in his life. Enter a new gig, following up on the death-declared-suicide of a supermodel; and a new temporary assistant, Robin Ellacott, who just so happens to harbor a secret, lifelong desire to be a detective. 

There are a lot of elements in that little recap, and it probably felt a bit overwhelming. Well, that's how this novel addresses the plethora of issues that faces our hero: sometimes they're all just a bit too much. The role of his parents - his father as the living legend of a rock star, and his mother as the groupie that succumbed to inevitable suicide - seems to simply act as a party trick that allows him entrance into the world of supermodels and high-status lawyers that he finds himself in thanks to his new job. The same goes for his military past: it's talked about briefly, and once or twice it's thrown into his face as a traumatic flashback. But for the most part, it acts as a convenient vehicle for him to discover the truth near the very last bit of the novel. Finally, there's Robin, who is the perfect person to help Strike, taking initiative upon herself to dig deeply into tasks in order to assist in the case, sometimes going further than Strike requests. All of these elements work very coincidentally, and they all seem to demand more time to develop. 

However, this time is devoted more towards dialogue and interrogation than anything else. And that's my main gripe about the novel: While the dialogue is crisp, uses unique dialects well, and offers great characterization, there's just a bit too much of it. I understand that that's probably what really happens in an investigation, a lot of talking and note-taking. And perhaps that's how most detective novels are - I don't read much from the genre, honestly. However, I expected more action, and further personal and emotional falls for the protagonist. 

Still, I did like the book. The main characters (namely Strike and Robin) were believable, realistic, and authentic, and the supporting characters were all very unique and mostly fully formed. There were some static characters that were pretty flat, but I'm sure that's a staple of the genre, so that isn't necessarily a bad thing. And the actual plot is very well constructed. Everything ties together pretty well at the end, and the final reveal was pretty shocking. However, I didn't quite find what I was looking for, and there will have to be some real convincing done by reviews of her next book in the series to get me to read it. As it is, I would recommend it, but only for readers who want a "realistic" investigation and who aren't expecting the next James Bond.

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