The Cuckoo’s Calling

book-review-2

I don’t generally listen to audiobooks. I haven’t enjoyed them since I was a kid listening to A Series of Unfortunate Events and Artemis Fowl. I often find it difficult to focus on the story, too distracted by the slow pace, my hang-ups with the narrator’s voice and inflections interfering with the plot.

Circumstances forced my hand, so I listened to samples of more than a dozen audiobooks before settling in to listen to the entirety of The Cuckoo’s Calling. I thought a mystery would be easiest for me to follow and exciting enough to keep me listening.

It’s nigh impossible to separate my opinion of the text itself from the narration so I will not attempt to do so.

Cuckoo's Calling

I enjoy a good mystery and thriller, being particularly fond of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad. I found the pacing of The Cuckoo’s Calling to be quite slow, the narrative taking the reader step-by-step through the investigative process and into Robin and Strike’s personal lives. While the story was interesting enough I did wish it would give me more of one and less of the other as the focus seemed unnecessarily divided.

I did enjoy the characterizations of Robin, Strike and the supporting cast. The narrator’s efforts to do the voices for all characters was appreciated, if unequal at times. I will confess for the entire book I believed that Strike’s first name was ‘Cormorant’ like the bird rather than ‘Cormoran’. Auditory perception really makes a huge difference to the way you experience a story. I’ll never know if I would have viewed characters differently were it not for the inflections of the narrator’s voice. Would I have been able to guess the outcome of the investigation? Would I have found characters more or less sympathetic?

As it was, I didn’t guess the outcome until the plot was rounding its final corner. By then I was so relieved to be through so many hours of narration I would have accepted any ending. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book.

While I found Cormoran Strike to be quite off-putting at times, he was a thorough private eye. He found and interviewed people I wouldn’t have considered and was willing to re-evaluate his stance on people when necessary. I liked Robin, though I found her passive-aggressive attitude both frustrating and funny. I’m interested to see the evolution of their personalities and working relationship as the series continues.

I think the most unrealistic thing about the book for me was people just agreeing to cooperate and speak with Strike at all. He’s not a police officer, just a private citizen who could be lying to them for all they know. Nobody ever asks for any identification nor do they call the man who paid for the inquiry to verify his identity. I thought it was absolutely bizarre and it certainly got me thinking on tangents when I should have been paying attention to the plot.

I found it frustrating that Strike would go over the same information with the same people at times. While a legitimate investigative tactic, it can make for a tiring chapter. I wished that Strike’s thought process was more available to the reader so that his investigative process would be shown less.

I did like that the story touched on the paparazzi and the way that celebrities in certain countries are hounded. It’s interesting to wonder if that subject was chosen because of the author’s own experience with them. Certainly not a topic I expected but I was glad it was brought up by quite a few characters.

While I will be reading the next book in the series, the format is still in question. Regardless, I hope that I warm to Strike and become sharp enough to deduce the ending with more than a chapter to spare.

Have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling? Do you listen to (and enjoy) audiobooks? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Update

It’s been more than a year since my last post.

I guess you could say I lost track of things – too distracted by day to day life to pick up a book and analyse its contents. I’ve missed it more than I thought, and I want to try to get back into a routine. I hope to post not only reviews, but also short fiction and opinion pieces in the future as well. While I can’t necessarily promise the quality of the writing, I can promise that it will be written and revised with enthusiasm.

I’m currently concussed and not weathering it as well as I would like. At my clinic assessment my doctor told me to do the things I love and not let it hold me back (within limits). It definitely got me thinking about my lack of motivation and the writing I’ve neglected for far too long.

So here I am, back for good. At least, that’s the hope. You can look forward to some audiobook reviews in the near future. If you’re still here, thanks for sticking around!

Everless

book-review-2

Though I haven’t posted in a while, I’ve still been reading. Sort of. I’ve squashed some reading time into transit rides and before bed. It’s not the best but it’s all I can fit in just now.

I’m woefully behind on my NetGalley reviews, and my library e-book holds come and go before I can download them. Still, I’ve returned to bring you one of many reviews to come.

everless

I had super low expectations going into this book. If we’re being honest, I think we can acknowledge that YA has been shifty on quality of late. The cover of Everless is less than impressive, as is the tagline ‘Time is a prison, she is the key.’

I mean… really?

But the content. Wow.

The concept of time being quite literally money is one that I’ve never seen before. That’s the thing that piqued my interest despite the cover and tagline. That concept was so well-executed that I didn’t spend any of the book confused over it. The mechanics of everyday life and the clear divide between the aristocracy and the working population are easily understood and believable once you’ve accepted the premise of Sempera. While the circumstances surrounding ‘blood-iron’ and time being bound to blood/money are vague and unexplained, it was clearly a plot device.

Which brings me to the plot. It seems simple enough at the outset. Girl needs money. Girl returns to place of childhood trauma. Things spiral as new truths are uncovered.

I didn’t want to put this book down. Secrets were revealed at just the right pace and frequency to keep me going and Jules was a likeable protagonist. She’s just trying to get by at the beginning of the novel, which I’m sure many of us can empathise with.

When I began reading I was expecting this to be predictable as heck but as I read further it became clear that that wasn’t the case. So then I thought to myself – ‘maybe the author tried to be clever and do the opposite of what readers would expect’.

I was wrong about that too. I’m grateful that Sara Holland wrote a plot and characters twisty enough to be unpredictable.

Seeing Sempera through the lens of Jules was interesting. Her opinion of her world and it’s occupants definitely coloured mine as a reader, but Holland is such an expressive writer that that isn’t all you see. There is plenty of room to see past Jules’ prejudices and realise that she holds them in the first place. We don’t learn a lot about any side characters, but it seems purposeful rather than lazy and I wasn’t bothered by it.

Bonus points for this book: women supporting women, no true love triangle, no overt or overtly annoying romance, great characters, cool world concept, and an interesting villain.

The more I read, the better it got. I was breathless by the last chapter. I will certainly be reading the next book.

What did you think of Everless? Read any shifty or non-shifty YA lately? Let me know in the comments below!

Mini-Reviews

book-review-2

It’s been a while, folks! It’s true that things have gotten a bit away from me this year. Still, I have been reading despite being busy with other things, and I’m back to share my thoughts on some titles.

You know when you’re looking forward to reading something and then begin it and realise rather quickly that it isn’t what you thought it would be? Yeah, that was The End We Start From in a nutshell.

end we start from

I received an e-arc of this earlier this year and it took me a while to start it. When I finally did, I wasn’t as wowed as I expected to be. The cover is undeniably beautiful but the content wasn’t to my liking. I was expecting a book centered more around a dystopian society or a world-shattering event. The book is narrated by a woman navigating her way through what appears to be society-altering flooding. It’s quite fragmented, taking place over a large period of time. Despite that, I really wouldn’t shelve this as science fiction or dystopian.

The book focuses a lot on the protagonist’s sense of new motherhood. The story meanders and there isn’t really a plot. This wasn’t my favourite read, but if you’re looking for something sparse and contemplative to read during the winter this may be for you.

Next up: Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend.

hot pterodactyl

That’s right, this is a real book. I was egged into reading this by a co-worker after she told me that Bearllionnaire was a thing. (Review of that to come in the new year, fear not.) Thinking it might be the exact kind of weird and hilarious read I would enjoy, I caved to the peer pressure and went for it.

Sadly, it was not good. Not the kind of not good that you can enjoy and read because it’s still fun, but just the didn’t finish kind. The protagonist was unlikeable, and while that isn’t usually a deal-breaker for me, if I’m 50 pages in and still haven’t had very many scenes with the aforementioned Pterodactlyl Boyfriend, I call foul on the whole thing.

Next, Ask Baba Yaga.

ask baba yaga

I’ve been dipping in and out of this gem since I picked it up a few months ago. I read a couple pages before bed every night and I’m super sad for the impending end of the book. Formatted as an advice column, regular mortals seek answers to every day problems from the well-known oracle/witch Baba Yaga. Beautifully formatted with thick, glossy pages and intricate illustrations, I highly recommend this.

While Baba Yaga’s advice is obviously strange, sometimes violent, and often cryptic, it reads well and is always rather solid stuff. Just great on all fronts. If you like weird, you’ll love this.

Another good read was The Witch Boy.

witch boy

I read this back in spooky season, on the recommendation of a co-worker (not the same as above). Bless her heart she knows me well, I did indeed love this. The story revolves around a boy born into a magical family where boys become shapeshifters and girls become witches. His entire life however, he’s felt no pull to shapeshift, only a desire to learn the spells taught to his female kin.

This graphic novel was wonderfully illustrated, and the story, while straightforward was really lovely and absolutely something I would recommend, especially to younger readers. I’m sad that this is a standalone and I hope the author revisits this ‘verse in her future work.

That’s all for now. Have you read these titles? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Books to Read Sans Synopsis

book-review-3

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey @ Ginger Reads Lainey. You can check out the group’s Goodreads page for this month’s topics!

This week’s theme is books that it’s best to go into blindly. Those few titles you want to recommend without spoiling anything, and just end up describing as vaguely as possible. “No trust me, don’t google it – just read it! You’ll love it, I swear.” These books are usually fantastic if you can read them unspoiled, but even their own back covers can sometimes mar the story within. (How do publishers let that happen?)

Here are five books that I think you should read without a synopsis. Either they spoil the content a little too much or they misrepresent the story enough to make you unhappy with it. Just trust me.

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

everything i never told you

Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier

girl with a pearl earring

Cathy’s Book, by Jordan Wiseman

cathy's book

Genesis, by Bernard Beckett

genesis-cover

Deathless, By Catherynne M. Valente

deathless

There you have it! Some of these are genre fiction, and some are not. I’ll not be telling you which is which, because that would spoil the whole point of this post. Have you read any of my choices? Do they coincide with the books you would recommend someone read without a synopsis?

Let me know in the comments below!

Summer Catch-Up

book-review-2

After disappearing for a summer far too packed with work, I’ve returned with more reviews! I thought I’d kick things off with some mini reviews of what I’ve been reading in my absence. While being less prolific than usual, my choices have run the gamut from non-fiction to comic books and I’m happy I’ve kept to my goal of stepping outside my YA comfort zone.

milk and honey

I’ve never been much of a poetry reader, but I greatly enjoyed this collection. While I wouldn’t categorize Kaur’s work as traditional poetry, it resonated deeply with me. I felt a kinship with many of the experiences she alluded to, and I’ll certainly be revisiting it when I’m in a pensive mood or I need a good cry in the bath.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

A book with this title was too intriguing to pass up, and it turned out to be a quick and easy read. While enjoyable enough, I found the essays to be a mixed bag. My favourites in the collection were those speaking of Serena Williams, Nicki Minaj, and Hillary Clinton. Still, even in my favourites there was a lot of repetition of ideas and regurgitation of source information. The author spent more time quoting other sources than she did forming her own ideas.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Centered around a teenage Diana, this novel was supremely enjoyable. While not a part of any current DC canon it was a great story with lots of fun and feeling! Diana was a greatly sympathetic character, but she was also a very believable teenage girl. The friendship she forges with Alia was really moving – and their distinct personalities and lives complemented each other. The supporting cast of characters was well developed and Bardugo sets an adventurous pace that makes it easy to read through without stopping. I can’t wait to read more of the DC Icons series and of Bardugo’s work as well!

 The First Bad Man

This book was recommended to me by a friend, and it was utterly bizarre. I found all the characters unlikable and strange. Everyone is clearly dealing with their own issues. The protagonist is clearly suffering from a mental illness, and an unusual one at that. It was interesting to see the world from her perspective. I spent a lot of the novel being frustrated with her, and yet I still wanted to know how the story would turn out. Still, it isn’t something I would re-read.

 That’s all for now, but I’ll be posting more regular content from here on out. What have you been reading this summer?

Books for Hufflepuffs

book-review-3

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey @ Ginger Reads Lainey. You can check out the group’s Goodreads page for this month’s topics!

Hufflepuff.png

This week’s topic is books that represent your Hogwarts house – for me, that’s Hufflepuff. Though I admittedly look awful in yellow, I’m a proud badger! The listed choices for this week are in no particular order.

watership-down

Watership Down
As a kid I couldn’t get enough of this harrowing tale of friendship and survival. As an adult, I try to re-read it once every few years. This book shook me to my core the first time I read it. The rabbits keep on keeping on, despite all odds. What’s more Hufflepuff than that?

AsterixAsterix

That’s right, this is on the list. I grew up reading these (je suis franco-ontarienne) and love them to this day. These BD’s about a small village’s refusal of the Roman occupation is still laugh out loud funny – especially all those name puns. Asterix and Obelix have an exceptional friendship, and the resistance of their village to being conquered is earmarked by stubbornness and good humour that is characteristic of Hufflepuffs. Plus, they love a good feast!

sookie stackhouse.png

The Southern Vampire Mysteries

I loved these books. I sped through them faster than you’d believe (and no, I haven’t seen the show). They’re on the list because Sookie is for sure a Hufflepuff. She’s just trying to live her life and all this bizarre stuff is happening around her. What does she do? Takes it in stride, ’cause that’s life. Also, she’s a romantic who really does not react well to betrayal. Why? Because she’s a hella loyal badger.

maresi-cover

Maresi

A simple story told in a fairy-tale style, I really enjoyed this book. The first in a series, it follows the burgeoning friendship of two girls, Maresi and Jai. They live in the Red Abbey, a haven for females as it is forbidden for men to set food on the island. It’s a story of loyalty, community, magic, and sacrifice. Hufflepuffs can be brave, clever, and sneaky when they have to but the driving factors are always loyalty and friendship. This story has that in spades. redwall.jpg

Redwall Series

Literally all of these books capture what it means to be a Hufflepuff. The peaceful beasts of Redwall abbey extend aid to all those who ask, and live quiet lives of plenty. They live as a community with shared values and goals, and when threatened they’ll take up arms to defend their lives, though they mostly abhor violence. In far away Salamandastron there live warrior badgers who are capable of entering berserker rages and decimating throngs of vermin foes – but who live as benevolent overseers of the hares of the long patrol unless absolutely necessary. That is about as Hufflepuff as anything could ever be. Also, there are feasts. Because again, we’re ‘Puffs.

That’s all for T5W this week! Have you checked out any of the books on my list? Do you have other suggestions for Hufflepuff reads, or for books that suit your Hogwarts House? Let me know in the comments below!