5

Waiting It Out: Paperbacks

I have been waiting all year for the 5th book in the Buckshaw Chronicles to come out in paperback. I started buying the books in paperback and they are so good looking sitting side by side in the same format, that I’m doomed to have to wait it out each time a new volume is released. The fifth book, Speaking from Among the Bones did the paperback thing on Tuesday.

I went on Tuesday to collect a copy for myself. But I couldn’t find it anywhere and since I was on a time crunch, I figured I’d just come back the next day (one of the perks/curses of working near a bookstore – I can always come back the next day). Wednesday found me back in the bookstore searching and searching and searching, circling around the store with zero luck until I happened upon a store employee who took pity on me and helped me out. They did have paperbacks of the book but they were still in the box in the back! 

She went back and minutes later came out with her arms full of brand new, never-been-touched, fresh-out-the-box copies of Speaking from Among the Bones paperbacks. And then I got to choose one.

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Book nerd glory.

Since the season of giving is upon us and some of us really do wait for paperback versions of our favourite books to come out, I thought I would run down a couple of my personal paperback favourites that have just been released.

The Dinner by Herman Koch. I actually already own this in the hardcover format but I see that it has just come out in paperback and that’s excellent news for my book club as this is our next selection. Two brothers and their wives go out for dinner one summer night in Amsterdam to discuss their teenaged sons’ recent activities. Tension runs just below the surface of the meal at a fancy restaurant until the whole thing blows up. I can’t wait to read this again and then get to talk about it. It is twisted and uncomfortable and oh so current.

One of the best books I read this year (and possibly that I’ve ever read), Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. This book is massive and if paperback had been available earlier this year, I might have gone for it. Would have saved myself some neck pain. This book is incredible. Whether you have children or not, this book forces you to take a closer look at what it means to be human. Often it is a tough book to read, I personally had a really hard time with the chapter about children conceived in rape, but I think it’s an incredibly important one.

J.K. Rowling’s fans were heavily divided on The Casual Vacancy but if you were waiting for the paperback version before you got in on the debate, wait no more. I really liked this book – it was different from Harry Potter but that was the whole point. Rowling proved that she is a gifted storyteller no matter the genre and the end? The end was one of the most spectacular endings I’ve ever experienced.

Finally, if you’re on the Buckshaw Chronicles wagon and adore Flavia de Luce (and if you’ve read any of the books, you do), the 6th book (The Dead in their Vaulted Arches) is released (in hardcover, boo) in January. So next fall I will be all over that paperback!

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12

JK Rowling and Robert Galbraith

By now we all know that JK Rowling wrote a secret book under the name Robert Galbraith. My fiancé (can I use that word without sounding like a total tool?) read out the news to me from his twitter and I immediately dragged him to the bookstore to find it. We were greeted by a 2-book sized hole on the shelf where the 2 copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling had sat until that morning when store employees were greeted with a line of people who had read the news earlier than me.

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After looking into things a little bit, I realized that I was in for at least a 10-day wait while the publisher set up another print run. But here’s where I got sneaky. I could have ordered it in store from Chapters, or even online via Chapters. I chose bookdepository.com, the UK-based online book retailer. Not only did I get it sooner than the rest of the Lower Mainland, it was also discounted.

Suckers!

In all seriousness, I could not have acted a bigger dork when I picked that book up from the post office.

I believe that I disclosed this when I posted about The Casual Vacancy, but I love JK Rowling. She’s my literary idol. I’m not totally sure how objective I am able to be when it comes to her writing. I really enjoyed The Casual Vacancy! The ending! So many feelings. Obviously, it was not Harry Potter, but I think that was kind of the point.

Anyway. As Robert Galbraith, Rowling had the chance to be judged purely on her (superior) writing talents. And from what I’ve read, reviews were generally positive. However, without the name, the book didn’t sell. Conundrum. (How smug would you be if you were one of the few that had read it when you thought it was just some unknown author?) Then the lawyers talked and we were treated to a surprise Rowling book. The author herself is, understandably, rather piqued about the whole thing. I’m sure she enjoyed the freedom to write without Harry Potter dogging her. I’m not sure we’d have a chance at a second Cormoran Strike (there she goes with those fabulous names again) novel if Rowling hadn’t been unveiled though.

And that. Would be a shame.

So Cormoran Strike is an Afghan war vet who is missing one leg and has started his own private detective business. It’s not going well. His girlfriend has just run out on him, he has no place to live and he can barely afford to pay the temp, Robin, that has shown up for a week’s work.

Then the brother of a dead supermodel shows up asking Strike to look into the mystery surrounding her apparent suicide and things start to look up. The brother agrees to pay double the normal rates and it turns out Robin the temp is not only an admin superstar but she has always secretly dreamed of being a private detective. Given the chance, they’d probably make a formidable team.

We all know that I love crime fiction and this one is excellent example of its genre. Not as twisted or sick as some of the Scandinavians (they are messed up) but it definitely kept me guessing. Rowling really has a knack for creating brilliant characters and she does the same in The Cuckoo’s Calling – even peripheral characters like Robin’s fiancé and Strike’s sister Lucy have backstories and personalities that jump out at you.

I think we’re all just going to have to face the fact that JK Rowling is just a very talented writer, no matter the genre.

4

The Casual Vacancy

The day I got this book felt like one of the days that a new Harry Potter book came out; my sole purpose on Thursday was to get my hands on The Casual Vacancy and then spend my day reading it.

It doesn’t take long to realize that this isn’t Harry Potter. Before any one had the chance to read the book, all the talk about it was that it was full of drugs and sex and swearing! As if, as the holiest of holies, the author of Harry Potter isn’t ever allowed to swear. Well J.K. Rowling definitely thumbed her nose at that idea didn’t she?

The Casual Vacancy is the story of the tiny town of Pagford after the death of council member, Barry Fairbrother, leaves a vacancy on the council. Before he died, Barry was fighting for the rights of the Fields, the low-income part of Pagford that the town has been thinking about cutting loose. That way they don’t have to pay for the needs of the estate, including running the addiction clinic.

That’s the story in a nutshell. But there’s obviously a lot more to it. Rowling is as adept as ever at creating a world that you immerse yourself in, characters that you relate to and despise. And while there were some familiar elements to The Casual Vacancy (the book opens with the news of Barry Fairbrother’s death kind of like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone opens with the news of the Boy Who Lived for example), overall I would say that it completely stands on its own.

On the outside, Pagford looks like this idyllic place to live. Kind of like the town in Hot Fuzz, before all the people start dying. But once you scratch the surface of Pagford, you become familiar with all of the feuds and the gossip, the drugs and alcohol, the class warfare that ultimately has the power to destroy everything.

Many parts of it were shocking. Probably because for all these years, Rowling has been associated with magic. How is she so familiar with cutting and heroin use and porn? It doesn’t seem like anyone is happy in the village – not in their marriages, friendships or their jobs. Everyone is just trying to get through their days the best way they know how. It felt like a brutally honest microcosm of modern life in a pretty English village.

I was swept up in the story. Once I got to a certain point (and could keep all the characters straight! There are so many!) I couldn’t stop – I had become invested in the outcome. My boyfriend asked me if I was just determined to like it because I worship Rowling, but that’s not it. It’s one of those stories where everyone is connected to each other, a literary Love Actually. But without a warm and fuzzy and perfect ending.

The ending was probably my favourite part. It was so perfect. So neat but completely devastating. Not to give too much away.

All in all I would say that the anticipation was worth it. I wasn’t disappointed. Its such a clear departure from Hogwarts and Muggles that there’s no reason to compare them, allowing The Casual Vacancy to stand on its own merit.

0

Coming Soon

Even though it’s likely to be a while before I can rationalize buying a new book (the library has become my new best friend), I still like to know what’s coming out so that I can add things to my list. I’m obsessive about my list (confession: I have a book journal). This morning I saw that one of my favourite authors, Marian Keyes, has a new book coming out. Which made me curious about who else is about to release a new title.

So I did a little research. We’re heading into the Fall so you know some good ones are going to be released shortly. Here is a (by no means complete) list of some of the books I will be looking out for (and lusting after):

First up: Marian Keyes’ The Mystery of Mercy Close. Those of you that have read any of the books featuring the Walsh sisters will be thrilled to hear that this newest book features Helen Walsh. Helen! The baby! The one that’s always up to no good finally gets her own book! If you want to reacquaint yourself with any of the other Walsh sisters, check out (in no particular order): Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, Angels, or Anybody Out There. In the meantime, Keyes is releasing an e-book: Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family. The Mystery of Mercy Close is set to be released by Penguin Canada on October 30 2012.

Ken Follett is set to release his second book in the Century Trilogy in September 2012. For us Canadians, the date is September 18th. Mark it down. Winter of the World will pick up the stories of the five interrelated families – in Russia, America, Germany, Wales and Britain – that we encountered in Fall of Giants. Ken Follett is a master story teller of epic tales and I cannot wait for Winter of the World to come out. Incidentally, if you were a fan of The Pillars of the Earth miniseries, the sequel series, World Without End will start airing on Showtime September 4th.

Nearly three years ago, Gretchen Rubin showed us small practical ways that we could increase our personal happiness. She’s at it again, this time tackling bigger issues when it comes to the relationships with those closest to you. Happier At Home still focuses on small practical ways to increase happiness, but in terms of bigger issues like raising happy children, maintaining a loving relationship with one’s spouse and how one can prevent a smart phone from taking over. I loved The Happiness Project and I’m looking forward to September 4th when Happier At Home will be available in stores.

Obviously I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of JK Rowing’s adult novel, The Casual Vacancy. In case you’d forgotten, it’s due to be released on September 29th.

Finally, in case you’re jonesing for a new title to run out and get right now, Philippa Gregory has released The Kingmaker’s Daughter, her first sister novel since The Other Boleyn Girl. Although I have been underwhelmed by some of her more recent releases (The Red Queen, Lady of the Rivers and The White Queen all come to mind), when I see her name, I can’t help myself. The ‘Kingmaker,’ Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick was always such a shady character and whenever sisters and marriage and thrones are involved, well, Gregory tends to be at her best.

What new book are you most looking forward to?

4

The Countdown Is On

I am beyond excited about the upcoming release of JK Rowling’s adult book, The Casual Vacancy. And I think that Little, Brown and Company must know this because they are teasing the hell out of me with their marketing campaign.

First there was the BIG news that not only was Rowling busy writing a new book, but it would be for adults! Although I personally don’t believe that there was anything that childish about the later Harry Potter books, I was terribly excited. I adore JK Rowling. She came into my life at that pivotal developmental age, the crossroads of “lifelong reader and lover of books” and “reader of magazines and cereal boxes.” When I was 14 she came to Vancouver to do a reading and I went and convulsed in screaming hysterics along with the rest of the (much younger) audience.

She was my idol.

I think she still is in many ways. She’s smart. And funny. And brilliant and wonderful and all good things. And now? She’s got a new book coming out. For adults. For me!

So first there was the announcement of an upcoming book. Then the title! And a short description of what the book would be about (village elections! Mysterious, sudden death! A neighbourhood at war with itself!) and now? The cover.

It’s red!

The book doesn’t come out until the end of September (the 27th to be exact) but at least now we will know exactly what to look for when we rush into the store on our lunch break to pick a copy up.

Amirite?!