All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4)
Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)
Sphere
2018, 649p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott-once his assistant, now a partner in the agency-set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been-Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

I’ve only read the first Harry Potter book so really my experience with JK Rowling, who writes this adult crime/mystery series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, is purely the result of these Cormoran Strike books. I read the first one when it was published but only read books 2&3 this year, before I watched the BBC adaptation, Strike. That turned out to be a good decision because the wait for book 4 after the ending of 3 would’ve been torturous.

We get a brief description of what happened after the end of Career Of Evil and then we skip forward in time 12 months. Cormoran and Robin are partners in the agency now and Cormoran’s publicity from solving the Shacklewell Ripper case has led to a steady supply of work, so much so that Cormoran has had to hire a few more people to cover it. The resulting publicity does also mean that he’s quite recognisable now, which can be a hindrance to being out undercover so when Jasper Chiswell, the Minister for Culture expresses an interest in hiring the agency about someone blackmailing him, it’s Robin that is sent in undercover to work in Chiswell’s office. Robin can be smoothly unobtrusive, it’s far easier to disguise and change her appearance and she has people skills. It’s an added bonus that this case seems to cross over with the troubled man named Billy who confessed to Cormoran that he witnessed a murder as a child, but fled before Cormoran could get any details out of him. With Robin on Chiswell, Cormoran works on tracking down Billy, fearing for his safety and wellbeing, as well as wanting the rest of his story.

I love this series. The first three were all really solid reads for me but this one for some reason, is my favourite so far. I think it’s the combination of a really, really intricate mystery with a cast of many and the simmering tension between Cormoran and Robin as they attempt to negotiate this working relationship after what happened at the wedding. They almost fall over each other in an attempt not to step on each other’s toes, ask personal questions or perhaps cross an invisible line unwittingly which would change everything. Despite this avoidance of a million and one things, their thoughts are constantly tied to the other  and Robin’s paranoia that her job may vanish at any second if she even so much breathes a word of an inner struggle to Strike strongly motivates her choices to keep everything locked up inside and her personal life just adds to her stress and state of mind.

There’s no denying this book is long. It’s about 650p in large paperback form. It begins with a visit to Strike’s office from a young, mentally disturbed man named Billy who claims to have witnessed a murder as a child but then we don’t see Billy again for probably another 500p as it sinks into the investigation for Jasper Chiswell and his complicated, moneyed family, which is connected to Billy’s family (definitely not moneyed). Quite often large books annoy me because I can see huge chunks of irrelevancy that the editing process should’ve cut through but I honestly never once had that thought with this book. It took me a couple of days to read it and each time I had to put it down, I could not wait to be able to sit down and pick it back up again. There’s so much going on, in both Robin and Strike’s personal and professional lives. Some of it is signposted so well for the reader but it takes the characters longer to put the clues together.

Everything about this worked for me. It’s long, sure but it keeps busy, uncovering small clues that honestly, just ask more questions for a while and then something happens which changes the entire focus of the investigation and everyone has a role to play, no matter how minor a character they seem when first introduced. I actually felt like that Galbraith/Rowling did an amazing job planting some of the clues here to lead the reader in the right direction about several things but ultimately the way that Strike connects the dots is a thing of beauty, about everything. I liked that Robin sort of didn’t really know where he was going with everything and how he’d done it because although she’s got great instincts, she’s still learning and Strike is kind of a tactical wizard so far and it just felt more real instead of Robin looking at the clues Strike gave her and going oh yes, I see exactly what’s going on here.

This book leaves things in a very interesting place, where I’m not sure they’ve been before. I’m really looking forward to the next book, for both the mysteries that Cormoran and Robin investigate together and also their growing personal relationship. I think they established a more intimate connection here (and I don’t mean physically) and I’m keen to see where that goes. I hope it’s not another 3year wait for the next book and that they hurry up turning this one into new eps of the tv show.

9/10

Book #192 of 2018

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Mini Reviews {2}: What I’ve Been Reading Lately

A few months ago I did the first of these posts where I wrote brief reviews for books I’d read that I hadn’t gotten around to reviewing in full. Sometimes now every book suits a full review so I thought I’d do a few more, given my time is a bit stretched right now.

Undone By You (Chicago Rebels 2.5)
Kate Meader
Pocket Star
2018, 184p
Purchased personal copy

I’m not sure why this is 2.5 in this series rather than 3, maybe it’s a bit shorter than the others, I don’t know. Dante is the General Manager of Chicago Rebels, the NHL team that populates this book. He’s a former player and openly gay, the only openly gay managing executive in the league. Dante is incredibly passionate about his job and he’s also confident in himself and his choices, even though they’ve cost him. He’s attracted to one of his players, Cade “Alamo” Burnett but Cade is younger and definitely not out. They might be able to have one night, but this is definitely not for the long haul. For lots of reasons.

I really enjoyed this. The seeds were sown in previous books and I’m just really liking this series. I don’t read a lot of m/m romance and this is delightfully over the top but there’s also a lot of really serious stuff in there too, such as negotiating being openly gay in what is a very brutal, macho, aggressively heterosexual world. There are plenty of bigots within the league, those who make jokes about backs to the wall when Dante walks into the dressing room. Dante has already been through the painful process of ‘coming out’ both to his family and publicly but Cade hasn’t done either. Dante knows what he wants and it’s not to be hidden away, a shameful secret. But Cade has to make his own choices about how he plans to live his life and Dante doesn’t want to be the only reason why.

This was quite thought provoking as well as fun and a nice addition. I can’t wait for book 3.

7/10

Book #85 of 2018

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2)
Robert Galbraith
Mulholland Books
2014, 455p
Read from my local library

I read the first in this series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, quite a few years ago. I think I borrowed this one from my library and maybe even began it, because the beginning felt very familiar. But I definitely never finished it. However recently, my husband and I started watching C.B. Strike, the BBC adaptation of the Cormoran Strike books. I really like the adaptation – Tom Burke is fabulous (loved him in The Musketeers, which I watched and tweeted with Marg from Marg Reads and Jenna, aka Bookish Belle/BuzzFeed) and Holliday Grainger is great as Robin. We watched the episodes that dealt with the first book and then I went to the library to pick up 2&3 to read before we watched the episodes relating to those.

I greatly enjoyed the story in this one – Strike is hired to find a “famous” writer by his wife and discovers that the disappearance comes at a time where a manuscript he wrote has been shopped around by his agent that pretty much lambasts everyone he knows in deeply obvious and recognisable ways. All of a sudden it seems that there might be a lot of people with motives for making the writer disappear. Once again I didn’t guess the way things went, which was lots of fun. And I really appreciate the dynamic between Strike and Robin.

8/10

Book #88 of 2018

 Career Of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3)
Robert Galbraith
Mulholland Books
2015, 492p
Read from my local library

The third Cormoran Strike book and the latest one currently published. I didn’t realise until I read this that it’s been over 3 years since J.K. Rowling published one of these. I think the first 3 came out in 3 consecutive years. Recently I read on twitter she’s apparently just finished book 4, so hopefully that’ll be out late this year or early next and then the TV adaptation can get to working on the next instalment.

This is both the one I found to be the most interesting, plot wise but yet it also felt really long and like it took quite a while to read, which is weird. Robin is sent a severed leg and when Strike is asked if he can think of someone who might do this, he comes up with 3 names and decides to investigate himself. There’s also a lot going on with Robin and her fiancé which dominates the book and a few things are finally revealed. A lot of people out there don’t want Strike and Robin to be anything other than professional colleagues, with Strike teaching her the ways of private investigation and I can understand that. Quite often delving into romance can ruin things – however I loathe Matthew, Robin’s fiancé and he needs to go away. I am into the “do they, don’t they” between Strike and Robin and there are a lot of really emotional interactions in this book, especially when Strike loses it at her for something she does regarding a case. And then there’s the ending. Ugh. I feel for people who read this three years ago and have been waiting to find out what the heck happens. But mostly, Matt you are a huge tosser. Be gone.

8/10

Book #90 of 2018

At The Stroke Of Midnight (Naughty Princess Club #1)
Tara Sivec
Swerve
2018, 261p
Purchased personal copy

I actually requested the second book on NetGalley and read that recently and although it wasn’t really necessary to go back and read the first, I enjoyed the second so much I decided to. They’re quick and really fun. Cynthia, Isabelle and Ariel (aka Cindy, Belle and Ariel…..) are in need of money for various reasons and after a miscommunication decide that stripping and performing at parties might be their best option. And so the Naughty Princess Club is born.

These books are just really funny and not to be taken seriously. What I really like about them is how they find men who don’t want to change them and aren’t bothered by what they do for a living because it’s just that – a job. In this one the chemistry between Cindy and PJ is loads of fun and takes them both by surprise. PJ is somewhat dismissive of Cindy, a housewife and mother of a teenager and that’s all the motivation she needs. There’s a lot of emphasis on the women finding their sexual groove and confidence, as well as letting go of worrying what people think of them and that whole keeping up with the Joneses mentality. I really liked the first 2 and can’t wait for the last one.

9/10

Book #93 of 2018

Beauty And The Geek (Gone Geek #1)
Sidney Bristol
Inked Press
2016, 233p
Freebie via iBooks

This one was just ok – Steven Kipper is a professor and Tamara Roh works in the gaming industry. They’ve been talking (and quite a lot more) online for quite a while without ever seeing each other’s faces. Until something Steven does means that Tamara has to seek him out in person to settle a misunderstanding. The chemistry from online translates effortlessly into real life but the road is not entirely smooth.

There were things I liked about this – their jobs were interesting. Tamara is apparently, “really hot” and also Asian so she gets a lot of “hot token Asian in gaming” comments and attitudes. Men mostly seem to want her for a trophy, not because they appreciate her. She’s very intelligent as well and getting to know Steven without him seeing her face gives her a kind of validation that he’s not just into her because she fulfils a fantasy. Steven also has a physical imperfection that many people have found repulsive and so it’s freeing for him as well to get to know a woman without them seeing his face.

The conflict was a bit lacklustre for me but I enjoyed the gaming world setting. I don’t think I’ll go on with the series though.

6/10

Book #94 of 2018

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The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

Cuckoo's CallingThe Cuckoo’s Calling
Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for JK Rowling)
Mulholland Books
2013, 455p
Read from my local library

Cormoran Strike lost his leg in Afghanistan and is now barely making ends meet working as a private investigator in London. He’s just split up with his long term girlfriend, the beautiful Charlotte and although that’s happened before, it seems that this time, it’s for good. Cormoran is now living in his dingy office, dodging his creditors and hoping that a client will walk through the door. He also forgot to cancel his agreement with Temporary Solutions, the company who provide him with a temp office worker and they’ve just sent someone new named Robin.

Then John Bristow arrives. The older brother of a school friend of Cormoran’s he had when he was very young, John wants Cormoran to take on the case investigating the death of his sister Lula Landry, a supermodel. A few months earlier, Lula fell to her death from the balcony of her luxurious apartment and it was ruled suicide by the investigating police, the coroner and an inquest. However John refuses to accept this – although Lula had her problems, he is absolutely adamant that she was not in so bad a frame of mind that she would commit suicide.

Although reluctant to take the case, desperation forces Strike to take it (and more importantly, Bristow’s money). He is plunged into an entirely different world of supermodels, famous designers, movie stars and directors, rappers and lurking everywhere, the paparazzi. The more Strike digs into this case, the more he begins to find that interests him. He’s beginning to think that there might’ve been a huge mistake somewhere in this after all. And even though he knows he can’t afford Robin as a permanent secretary, she proves herself more than capable for the job. If Strike breaks this, he might just get himself out of trouble.

As I’ve mentioned often, I haven’t read the Harry Potter novels. They came out at precisely the wrong time for me, when I was reading adult fiction and not particularly interested in kids books that contained wizards. I haven’t read The Casual Vacancy either but when I heard about this novel, for the first time I thought that JK Rowling had written something that I really wanted to read. I found the pseudonym unsurprising – especially after a lot of mixed opinions about The Casual Vacancy. I also found it unsurprising that the truth came out relatively quickly.

I love characters like Cormoran Strike even though they’re kind of common, with a few varying differences, in crime novels. They’re always damaged in some way – Strike is the son of a famous musician and a groupie with an unusual upbringing and who lost a leg at the knee in Afghanistan when he was military police. He’s basically hit almost as low as he can go at the beginning of the book. His volatile relationship with the beautiful and wealthy Charlotte has finally broken down irreparably and Strike can barely make ends meet with his detective business. He’s living in his office, avoiding phone calls when Robin walks into his life as his new temp after he forgot to cancel his agreement with the company she works for.

Robin is highly organised – the perfect secretary actually. She’s just gotten engaged to her perfect accountant boyfriend Matthew and he’s urging her to get a permanent job, one where she can draw a good salary. She and Strike are utterly different but slowly the two of them begin to construct a working relationship. Robin has always had a little fantasy of working in this sort of role and even though she could command a higher salary elsewhere she can’t deny that this work excites her.

I found the mystery and Strike’s way of investigating it rather interesting but ultimately it was Strike himself and the fledgling working relationship he begins to establish with Robin that interested me more. He’s rather matter-of-fact about his injury – what wounds him more is his relationship with Charlotte and the fact that it’s finally over. The two of them were total opposites, totally unsuited and have come together and been wrenched apart more than once. The best glimpse into his character came at a moment when he was drunk, his guard fully down. He was laid bare to Robin when prior to that the two of them had very carefully orchestrated a distant cordiality. I found that this book was easy to devour and it kept me guessing. As each clue unfolded I kept changing my mind about what I thought had happened. It kept me guessing about several things and I really liked that.

However, that’s not to say that the book is without flaws – there are some. It feels overly long. There are a couple of sections where it does seem to drag a bit, or goes off on a tangent that isn’t strictly necessary. And the reveal of the killer is done in a very long winded way where Strike explains to the killer exactly what he did and how and why. That’s kind of fine for this first installment but if Rowling plans to write more about Strike (and I think she does) then it’s going to need to be different. It’s my least favourite way for culprits to be revealed: the long explanation for the point of the reader, everything neatly listed almost in bullet points.

Ultimately though, I was pretty impressed with this book. It was a really enjoyable read and featured a character I want to know more about. I like the undercurrents between him and Robin as well and think it could play out very well over future books

8/10

Book #243 of 2013

 

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