Book 65: The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike #1) – Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)

Galbraith, Robert (J. K. Rowling - The Cuckoo's CallingI don’t know why I waited so long to read this book. If I guessed it’s probably the same reason I out off reading The Casual Vacancy, that I didn’t want Rowling to disappoint. And in this instance she didn’t!

With The Casual Vacancy Rowling faced a lot of justified criticism in that the book did nothing and went nowhere. And although I disagreed with the numerous critics, I can see why and how readers would think this. Personally, I preferred the quiet and slow reveal of the story line and the intimacy of all of the characters and the small-town feel. With The Cuckoo’s Calling Rowling answers all of this and more. She provides a fast-paced and gripping thriller with adult characters whom the reader can identify with. As I went into this book, this was my chief concern, whether or not Rowling could write a book solely featuring identifiable and sympathetic/empathetic adult characters.

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Book 57: The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë – Syrie James

James, Syrie - The Secret Diaries of Charlotte BrontëAfter thoroughly enjoying The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, it will come as no surprise that I enjoyed this book as well! It also doesn’t hurt that I always forget how much I love the Brontës when I’m not reading about them and then as soon as I start reading about them I quickly fall back in love with them. I’m super excited that I’ve got Wuthering Heights to re-read again this year!

The only other Brontë fan-fiction I’ve read was Becoming Jane Eyre in February of last year. I remember enjoying it and of course there were overlaps with this book, as this book covers a lot broader swath of time than the last. This book covers a long period of time and through flashbacks even includes a lot of the Brontës’ youth. It is noteworthy, although not shocking at all, that there are many similarities in writing style and stories in the two books. We know a lot more about the Brontë siblings than we know about say Austen or the more reclusive female writers.

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Book 42: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows - The Gurensey Literary and Potato Peel SocietyI didn’t want this book to end and that’s really all I want to write for this review, but I’ll harp on for a good while I’m sure. I’m sad that it’s over but happy that I read it. The ending made me both smile for the cuteness of it, but also made me sad it was finished! I wanted to know so much more about the characters and the stories and everything! There was just so much left unanswered, but not really because we’re left on the precipice of the amazing post-World War future. I bought a copy of this back in April of 2012, so it counts as a bonus book for my Mount TBR challenge.

Two things stood out for me in this book and those are the multitude of unique voices for the numerous characters and their point of views and the fact this was a World War II novel without the war taking the role of protagonist or overshadowing everything else.

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Book 41: Ten White Geese – Gerbrand Bakker

Bakker, Gerbrand - Ten White GeeseThis was an astoundingly beautiful novel and the more I think on and reflect about it, the more I probably should bump it up to five stars on Goodreads rather than just four, but as I think those are mostly arbitrary I doubt I will do it. The ending, although, beautiful, was just a bit lackluster to me. This some how marred the overall beauty of the novel, even though the only thing it really did wrong was not give me the satisfying ending that I wanted.

For once, I’m going to say something great about a  Goodreads review. Shocking, I know. When I went to mark this book off my list and to see how others rated it after I gave my rating, I happened to check out the first few reviews and the first review nailed my thoughts on this book with his first sentence:

The Detour (or Ten White Geese as it is published in the US) is an extremely difficult book to review; instead, it is one that the reader must experience directly, yielding to its ebbs and flows, its offerings and its closures.”

The rest of his short review is also fantastic, so you should go check it out here.

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Book 38: Willoughby’s Return – Jane Odiwe

Odiwe, Jane - Willoughby's ReturnAs with Dancing with Mr. Darcy I picked up a copy of this novel when Border’s Books closed down in September of 2011 and as such counts as a bonus book for my 2013 Mount TBR Reading challenge. And I have to say I’m glad I picked up a copy. Of all the Austen fan-fiction novels I’ve read so far Odiwe’s book has had the closest language and wit to the originals. It wasn’t as good as the originals, as I don’t think anything can be, but it was definitely the closest in style which was very nice.

Willoughby’s Return takes place roughly five years after the end of Sense and Sensibility and even though Sense and Sensibility isn’t one of my favorite Austen’s that didn’t stop this from being one of the better written and thought out sequels. All our favorite characters from Elinor and Marianne, Colonel Brandon, Edward Ferrars and the idiotic Steele sisters. Many other minor characters make appearances too which was nice.

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Book 36: Dancing with Mr. Darcy – Sarah Waters (ed.)

Waters, Sarah (ed.) - Dancing with Mr. DarcyThis book, a collection of short stories, disappointed me. There were definitely a few gems, but overall it left me uninspired and left wanting. Part of this disappointment stems from my the often tenuous connection to Austen in many of the stories. I mean one story’s inspiration came from the horseshoe door hinge at Chawton house, which yes connects to Austen but in such a minuscule way I could even figure out the connection until I read the ‘authors inspiration’ blurb. The other part of the disappointment is pretty obvious and I discuss in further depth below. And as an aside, I’m not sure if it’s the generation of writers who are writing Austen ‘fan-fiction’ as I call it, but there are quite a few of them which throw in a Star Wars reference at some point, including one of the short stories in this collection. (This is seriously merging two of my favorite things in the world and it still stands that if anyone can find a single guy who likes Austen and Star Wars I want them to either marry me or be my best friend depending on their interests…)

I picked Dancing with Mr. Darcy up in September 2011 at one of the numerous Borders closing down sales along with six other Austen inspired novels/books and as such it qualifies for my 2013 Mount TBR challenge. You will probably see quite a bit of Austen fan-fiction and lighter books over the next few months as I’m trying to clear off my shelves and reign in my to-be-read pile.

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Book 28: Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell

Orwell, George - Down and Out in Paris and LondonI chose this novel because it has an awesome name. I had a vague idea of what the book was about, but didn’t have any particular views going into the book and didn’t realize it was nonfiction (or mostly so apparently) until after I finished reading and verified it because I wasn’t quite sure.. I knew it was an ‘adventure’ of sorts and thus I stuck it into my Back to the Classics challenge as a Classic Adventure and it conveniently qualifies also for my Mount TBR and my longer term The Classics Club Challenge.

It only took about two days to read the book and what I primarily noticed was that people are really interested in Orwell. I had multiple people ask me what I was reading on the T. I assume this is because Orwell’s name is in pretty large letters across the cover and that portion stuck out of my back pocket. It was a bit strange, but it was nice to talk to strangers. I feel like most people have only read Animal Farm or 1984 like me, but those who have read most (or all) of Orwell say that this one is his best work and it’s interesting as it’s his first ‘full length’ work.

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