The Cuckoo’s Calling

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I’m an avid Harry Potter fan, so when J.K. Rowling came out with her first post-Harry Potter book The Casual Vacancy, I was tempted to read it.  I never got around to it though, luckily, because I later heard that it was a complete flop. 

The Cuckoo’s Calling (Rowling’s next try at post-Harry Potter writing), however, was a wonderful and well-written mystery book that reinvigorated my love for Rowling’s writing.

Sure, it wasn’t perfect. It probably could have been condensed into a shorter book- the detail sometimes dragged on. But, I didn’t realize until after I’d set the book down for the night that the plot had not progressed as far as it maybe should have 100 pages later. Somehow, Rowling manages to keep the story engaging as she carefully set up the many details and nuances of the story.

The Cuckoo’s Calling features Cormoran Strike, an ex-military officer turned private detective, who is struggling to pay rent and living out of his office after a blowup breakup. Together, with his new assistant Robin, they investigate the suicide of a famous young woman. On the payroll of the woman’s brother, they try to determine if the suicide could have been a murder.

Why I picked it up: I love J.K. Rowling and saw it on the bestseller’s table in the bookstore. After eyeing it for a week or two, I decided to just go ahead and get it. 

Why I finished it: Despite the leisurely pace that the plot moved along at, the book really was relatively absorbing and I finished it in just a couple of days. Also, the ending is such a surprise that you’ll be happy you did. 

Who I’d recommend it to: I would definitely recommend this book to those who like mysteries that aren’t to grim, fiction, and those who like J. K. Rowling (who is, by the way, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith for this book).

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3-D Printing and Storybooks Colliding

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Last year, McKinsey Global Institute named what they predict will be the 12 most disruptive technologies that will “transform life, business, and the global economy” by 2025 (Business Insider article). 3-D printing was included on that list. What’s fascinating is that 3-D printing and books are being used together to allow visually-impaired children to experience the magic of illustrated storybooks. 

I’ve always taken for granted the illustrations in children’s books that play such a huge role in developing a love of reading at a young age. Those laugh out loud moments at an absurd picture that even little ones can understand and the role that those pictures playing in developing language are incredibly important. 

A recent blog post by 101 Books caught my eye, titled “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…But What if You Couldn’t See It?” This post discusses the Tactile Picture Books Project that is creating versions of children’s books like Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon with 3-D images in place of typical illustrations. 

This work is designed to allow kids with visual-impairments to feel the pictures and get the full experience of picture books. I haven’t actually heard much about other life-changing uses of 3-D printers, but tactile books seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

The ultimate goal of the group of researchers who started this project is to enable parents to take pictures of pages from books and send them to a 3-D printer, ending up with a tactile books for their kids. As 3-D printers continue to improve, and the price of them continues to drop, I hope this vision becomes a reality. 

This article goes into more detail on the project if you are interested!

Black Ice

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I read this book as an Advance Readers Copy sent to the bookstore I worked at over the summer. I had read Hush, Hush a few years ago (another book by Becca Fitzpatrick) and remember feeling pretty neutral towards it- not bad, not great.  

This book was similar to Hush, Hush in that it is a relatively dark, young adult novel that left me not sure whether I had really enjoyed it or not. 

The plot itself is interesting- Britt, a teenage girl, is trapped on a mountain and kidnapped by two young men that need her help to escape during a raging storm. One of the men, from the start, is obviously bad, but the other Britt is not sure about. My main issue was with this part of the storyline. It got to be a bit predictable and cliche, although I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

Woven into the story of the journey down the mountain is the mystery about the murders that took place in the area. Here there are definitely some unexpected twists. From the beginning, Fitzpatrick has readers wondering about how the murders are connected to the kidnappers, and this is where I was forced to re-evaluate my guesses a few times throughout the course of the book. 

Overall, Black Ice isn’t an amazing book, but it’s not a waste of time either. It’s the type of book you know from reading the back cover whether you’ll enjoy it or not. 

Why I picked it up: The plot seemed interesting enough and I recognized the author’s name.

Why I finished it: While not fantastic, it drew me in enough that I needed to know how it all turned out.

Who I’d recommend it to: It is definitely aimed at teens, particularly those that enjoy a thriller book infused with some romance.

This book comes out on October 7th, 2014. 

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

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“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.” -Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken

I know I’m behind the curve on reading this. After all Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, has been on the New York Times Bestseller’s list for more than three years. Even though it’s now out in paperback, it is still a hardcover nonfiction bestseller (as well as #1 on the paperback nonfiction bestseller’s list).

But still, as possibly my favorite book that I’ve ever read and from experience working in a bookstore and encountering people that have also missed the memo that this book is unforgettable and undeniably amazing, I think it deserves a review.

Unbroken is a book that could be two books, three books, or even four books. Louis Zamperini lived (he unforutnately passed away recently) a life that goes from troublesome boy to internationally-known runner to prisoner of war and survivor to inspirational speaker. It is incredible what he endured- so incredible that if this book had been fiction, you probably would’ve laughed at the implausibility.

Even more astonishing is the thread of hope and unrelenting determination that exists throughout the book and the ultimate message of forgiveness that Zamperini lives by in the aftermath of his hardships.

It is a combination of both Zamperini’s story and Hillenbrand’s ability to write that makes this book such a hit. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, the book sets up readers to constantly be shocked and moved as Zamperini’s powerful story is revealed in details carefully researched by Hillenbrand.

There is so much packed into each page that it is the type of book that would typically take me a while to get though, but Unbroken is so riveting that it is hard to put down.

Why I picked It up: Everyone kept telling me it was a must-read.

Why I finished it: Because they were all right.

Who I’d recommend it to: Everyone from middle school on up should read Unbroken.

Also, Unbroken is released at movie theaters December 25th, 2014. I highly recommend reading the book before then. Watch the Unbroken Trailer here.

The Day The Crayons Quit

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A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
-C.S. Lewis

Thumbs up for sure. This hilarious picture book by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers offers a good read for both kids and the adults that are reading it to them. The books has a clever concept- each crayon sends a letter to Duncan, a little boy that loves to color, explaining their grievances to him. These range from the gray crayon being worked to hard to fill in giant elephants and hippos to the orange and yellow crayons fighting over which one is actually the color of the sun. I don’t have any little siblings or cousins, but I was tempted to buy it anyway. Well worth a read.

Why I picked it up: I worked in a bookstore this past summer, and a coworker recommended I read it when I had a spare moment in the children’s annex.

Why I finished it: It is a fast, easy read for adults obviously, and I couldn’t wait to hear each new entertaining complaint the next crayon would present to Duncan.

I’d recommend it to: Kids under eight and adults who never lost their love for funny, sweet children’s books.