All posts by Heather

Heather

About Heather

Literacy and Readers’ Advisory Librarian – jargon to you? Let me put it this way: I connect people with the endless space of imagination and creation through reading and writing. Does my job sound more interesting now? Happy Reading!

A Long Way Down By Nick Hornby


Hornby is so good at illustrating our life’s unspeakable pain with acerbic humour. A Long Way Down is not actually about committing suicide. It is about how life can open up another chapter if we don’t die. On another new year’s eve, it makes me ponder how many people out there need a heart-to-heart conversation, and how we can start this conversation … I wish everyone a prosperous 2017. I also hope that we all can take a moment to care for the people around us.

Escape the Ordinary – Famous Detectives

Image of Escape the Ordinary Adult Summer Reading Club

 “Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.”

Cover Image of Career of Evil

Cormoran Strike was introduced by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame) in 2013 in the detective novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling”. As we have come to expect from Galbraith/Rowling this is a complicated mystery peopled with unique characters a suspenseful plot and a subtle dry humour.

The story opens with Robin accepting an unusual package from a motorcycle courier. Much to her horror this turns out to be the severed leg of a young girl accompanied by lyrics from a song by the rock group Blue Oyster Cult. There is a sub text that this perpetrator is targeting Robin to get to Strike. The combination of the limb (Strike is an amputee) and the lyric, which Strike’s mother, the rock groupie, sported as a tattoo, point to someone with a deep personal grudge against him who is capable of the most heinous crimes.  Unfortunately, the list of these individuals is quite long but Strike manages to cut it down to three. Three sadistic men whom Strike has had dealings with and who he now must track down before someone else is harmed. Doing unpaid detective work the insolvent detective travels to many picturesque locations in the United Kingdom in search of his man.

As with the previous Cormoran Strike novels and really with everything J.K. Rowling has written, not only do we get compelling plots but extremely strong and fascinating characterizations. In Career of Evil we learn more of Strike and Robin’s back stories. In Strike’s case we already knew of his famous rock star father and drug addicted groupie mother; here we learn about his stepfather a failed musician, and a sociopath, who was tried and acquitted of the murder of Strike’s mother, though Strike is not convinced he was innocent.  It is Robin’s story however that is most revealing and helps to explain her engagement to Matthew and her interest in detective work. We also get a sense through these characters’ eyes, even though they don’t admit it to themselves, how much attraction there is between Robin and her boss and what a disaster it will be if she goes through with her wedding plans and marries the shallow and manipulative Matthew.

Though this story is darker than the previous ones in the series and has quite a lot of gruesome even excessive detail, I enjoyed Rowling’s style, her ability to create both sympathetic and repellant characters, her evocative descriptions of Strike’s spare London office, of Robin’s parents’ cozy home and of the twilight streets of London.  Cormoran Strike with his physical limitations and emotional baggage is not your average fictional detective but a compellingly written character with a sharp moral compass whom many readers are looking forward to reading more about.

Questions

  •  There is a delicate balance in mystery and detective fiction between giving the reader clues to solve the mystery and in keeping them guessing. Do you think Galbraith/Rowling achieves this balance in Career of Evil? Were you able to figure out the culprit before the ending?
  • The author seems to deliberately paint the character Matthew as totally unworthy of his fiancé Robin. Does what we learn about Robin’s past in this novel help explain their relationship? Does it seem realistic that though they break up temporarily Robin goes back to him?
  •  It has been said of the Harry Potter books that though they appear to be about magic the real themes are good versus evil, loyalty, friendship and love. Can the same thing be said about the Cormoran Strike books?

Escape the Ordinary – Great GTA Authors

Image of Escape the Ordinary Adult Summer Reading Club

A new feminist blog becomes an overnight sensation when a wildly popular talk show host stumbles upon it, tweets about it, and promotes it on her show. But, who, exactly, is the Eve behind the blog Eve of Equality? This pleasurable and smart story offers a timely commentary on a subject that is flooding our headlines, newsfeeds, Twitter streams, and conversations.

Book Cover of Poles Apart

To be honest, I have never thought that feminism issues still widely exist. Today, we have many successful women world leaders. Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, US president candidate Hillary Clinton, and previous British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are just a few to be named. However, the synopsis of Poles Apart drew me to the topic, and I didn’t regret that I had spent my precious summer outdoor time reading this book. One of Fallis’ strengths is his ability to make serious loaded subjects into delightful gentle reads without compromising the overall impact. Poles Apart has offered me new perspectives on feminism. After I read the book, I now think that feminism issues do still exist, but it’s just in a much subtler way. The novel demands me to rethink some touchy social topics, such as legalizing prostitution. It also confronts my feeling on choices such as a man versus a woman staying home full-time to take care of children and household duties.

I did read some critical reviews that commented the novel was not as suspenseful and realistic as it should be. I understand where these comments are coming from, but I also want to say that Fallis is clearly not writing a thriller. I guess the best thing about fiction is the author is free to depict a world that he thinks we should have instead of the stressful reality that we are currently in. There is nothing wrong to offer some fantasy and hope. I agree it would be nicer if the novel had a climax with more tension, but I think the plot did offer some interesting drama and twists, for example, the dance pole that intruded into Everett’s apartment and the little romantic story between Everett and Megan. I think Beverly’s relationship with her son is especially thought provoking and revealing the reason behind has made the plot quite engaging. I believe this part also serves to prompt the audience to think deeper after hearing the optimistic story about Everett’s mother – I often hear women’s struggles about balancing between taking care of their families and having successful careers, but I don’t hear many of these stories from men.  I am sure men also have regrets on such choices, but people’s perception on what women should choose and sacrifice seem to quite different than what they expect from men.

I must also say that Fallis is very good at creating endearing characters who have faults. Everett is lovely but his random crush on Shawna is just hilarious. Everett’s parents are a bit too stereotype to me, but I do love these strong-minded but funny people …

Check out more titles from our Great GTA Authors. You won’t be disappointed! Also check out a CBC reading list from Terry Fallis on the books that made him a feminist.

                                                                                                                                                                                        

Discussion questions:

  • What is feminism to you? Are there any personal experiences that you would like to share with us?
  • Fallis offered many details in his writing, for example, how Everett blogged and how Everett’s father got trained to recover from stroke. What do you think about these nuances?
  • Everett was lucky enough to have great friends like Lewis and Shawna from the XY club. What if he actually encountered some real organized crime people? What would you think the storyline might have been changed to?