Why J.K. Rowling’s adult, totally not for children books are OK by me

Rowling

Jo has come a long way from the days of Harry Potter. It’s weird to think that one of the biggest children’s writers of our time is now catering to adults, but it’s happening, and it’s probably not going to stop.

When I read 2013’s suburbia novel The Casual Vacancy, which J.K. Rowling wrote several years after children’s book The Tales of Beedle the Bard (a spin-off from the Potter line), I was surprised at how literally the author seemed to construe the term “adult readership.” The book is good, and it mellows out a bit, but I felt like Rowling was trying to cram as much mature content into the opening as she possibly could. Name a dirty topic, and she was making it a character trait.

Now I’m in the middle of reading A Cuckoo’s Calling* (which, hey, is getting a sequel in June), a crime-detective mystery that she published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. After how much flack she got for the rather brash Casual Vacancy, it makes sense that the poor woman would choose to bury the Rowling name with the Harry Potter series and start anew.

Last year in July, Rowling went on record saying, “I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Can you blame her? Maybe it’s because of critics’ quotes like this one from Bloomberg: “Imagine Harry Potter with nothing but Muggles — mean, graceless people without a trace of magic. It would be a dull book indeed.”

The Casual Vacancy is not a perfect book. I think it’s terribly flawed in the beginning, like Rowling was trying too hard to leave Harry behind and rewrite everyone’s notion of her as this charming British lady who writes about wizards and magic and young adulthood. Remember, this is the same woman who killed off — OK wait, spoiler alert from 2007 — Hedwig for no reason other than to teach children that our friends die (seriously, read the quote at the front of the book). I thought the rest of Casual Vacancy was quite wonderful. It’s just not something you’d read to your kids.

It’s wrong of us to expect Rowling to keep writing children’s fiction just because of her earlier success. If she needs to ditch her name and adopt a pseudonym to get us to drop the incessant comparisons to Harry Potter and why The Casual Vacancy and A Cuckoo’s Calling aren’t Harry Potter, then more power to her.

She’s a writer. Let her write. If you don’t like it, go reread Sorcerer’s Stone — and shush.

*More on Cuckoo’s Calling from me soon.

Awesome book cover Friday: The Casual Vacancy

I really love the cover for the new paperback version of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy.

The Casual Vacancy paperback

What do you think? It’s so sleek and pristine, which is the public face but not the reality of the town of Pagford. The Casual Vacancy is Rowling’s “adult” book, and boy, is it ever. It’s all about hypocrites, gossip, relationships, and societal life. Read my review and check out the original cover here.

An ‘adult’ adult novel: a review of The Casual Vacancy

Their reward for enduring the awful experience was the right to tell people about it.

The Casual VacancyMany of us don’t bother with age labels when selecting a book. After all, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is filed under children’s books but engages all types. We like what we like.

While Harry Potter can suit anyone, Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is designed to target adults — readers who can handle large amounts of mature content. Rowling interprets a literal meaning from the term “adult novel,” writing as crudely as she can by tossing in a great cast of characters that allows her to broach as many issues as possible: adultery, molestation, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, bullying, sexual deviation, homosexuality, physical abuse, depression, racial prejudice, and so on. The list is a long one.

It’s almost like she set out to prove she’s more than a children’s author. She seems to say, “I can be nasty. I can be dirty. I’m not so fragile.”

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It’s Monday! What are you reading? #3

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy MLK Day! It’s Monday again, which means it’s time to share my latest endeavors. Even if you don’t participate regularly or don’t intend to, feel free to talk about what books you’re reading in the comments.

Penguin LostWhat I’ve been reading

I polished off The Jazz Cage by Ray Chen Smith (review here) and the Russian novel Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov. More on that this week! In short, it’s good and depressing at the same time — so one of “those” books.

I know there’s a sequel, so I’m going to have to read that because I flew through this one.

That makes two books so far for what’s looking like a very busy 2013. :)

What I’m reading now

Here I come, The Casual Vacancy! Yay! I’ve been looking forward to this one.

BoneshakerWhat I plan to read next

February is around the corner, which means I need to read a historical mystery for the Eclectic Reader Challenge. Not sure yet what I’m going to pick. Any suggestions?

I need to squeeze in The Fault in Our Stars next month, too. LONG OVERDUE. And I want to read Boneshaker since I came across that recently.

What are your reading plans? What books have you discovered lately? Any good recommendations — or words of caution? ;)

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #2

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s that time again, folks! Even if you don’t participate regularly or don’t intend to, feel free to talk about what books you’re reading in the comments.

I took a trip to Half-Price Books over the weekend and found Cherie Priest’s sci-fi novel Boneshaker. The girl at the register couldn’t stop raving over it, so here’s hoping it lives up to the hype.

What I’ve been reading

I finished and reviewed a book for Kirkus Indie (I can’t reveal the name of it because of confidentiality reasons, unfortunately), and that’s about it. This week has been crazy busy, and I’m way too addicted to my new iPad Mini. I need to settle down with a book this evening. :)

The numbers are in. How many books did you read in 2012? I read 46 total, surpassing my goal of 40. Some of them were for Kirkus, but 30 are viewable on my Goodreads page. In 2011, I read 16 fewer books. This year, I’m aiming for 55. Are you setting a goal?

What I’m reading now

The Jazz CageOh, yeah — The Jazz Cage by Ray Chen Smith! I almost forgot I had started that!

The story is a historical twist on the Civil War and Roaring Twenties, so while it’s not exactly the type of book I usually go for, it’s good so far. I still have a long way to go, though.

This is Smith’s second but first commercial book, and you can visit his website here.

What I plan to read next

Death and the PenguinUntil I receive another Kirkus book for review, and once I finish The Jazz Cage, I’ll be moving on to Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (my first pick for the Eclectic Reader challenge’s translated fiction requirement) and The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling for my book club meeting in February.

What are your reading plans? What books have you discovered lately? Any good recommendations — or words of caution? ;)

It’s Monday! What are you reading? #1

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday, folks! I’ve decided to join the weekly reading meme over at Book Journey. Even if you don’t participate regularly or don’t intend to, feel free to tell us about your recent activity in the comments.

Today’s New Year’s Eve, so I hope everybody has plans to drink and party (drinking and reading is also acceptable). :) Have fun and stay safe out there.

What I’ve been reading

The Underwater Welder smallMy sister got me The Underwater Welder for Christmas, which I’ve been excited to read. Jeff Lemire is an amazing writer and artist. I’ll have my review posted in a couple hours (11 a.m. EST) at this link.

I also finally got around to reading Where the Dead Fear to Tread by M.R. Gott (review here). The author asked me to read it awhile ago (sorry!), but I just kept putting it on the backburner. I’m making it my goal to complete a few outstanding requests before I move on to other books.

January 12 is my next book club date, so I’ll be bringing along Zombie Blondes by Brian James. You can expect my review to go up then.

What I’m reading now

I’m about to start a book for Kirkus Indie (my lips are sealed on that one), and I’m hoping to continue reading The Jazz Cage by Ray Chen Smith — another one of those books I agreed to review for my blog but have been procrastinating on. Whoops! Sorry. :( I’ll do better! I’m making it my priority right now.

So far, though, so good.

What I plan to read next

The Casual Vacancy smallI’m really excited to start reading The Casual Vacancy, my book club selection for February. Whooo! By the way, is that book expensive or what? I have all of J.K. Rowling’s major books in hardcover, so I wanted this one to complete my collection. But holy cow — $35? I picked mine up for $24, but still, that’s ridiculous. Good thing I had a gift card.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is also calling to me, so I’ll probably begin that soon, too.

What are your reading plans? What books have you discovered lately? Any good recommendations — or words of caution? ;)

The Casual Vacancy migrates to the small screen

J. K. Rowling

I still need to read J. K. Rowling’s new adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, but here’s some good news for those of you who are hopefully awaiting a follow-up of some kind.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced today that it’s turning the book into a TV series, and Rowling will be working “closely” on the project. Huffington Post is already nominating actors for the character roles.

Rowling told U.S.A. Today that she didn’t consider The Casual Vacancy “a very filmable book,” saying, “I think it’s a very novelly novel in that a lot of what goes on happens internally. You need to understand what’s going on inside people’s heads. So even though a lot happens in the novel, part of the appeal of it for me is that so much of it happens in people’s interior life, and film isn’t necessarily the best medium to portray that.”

Television would certainly allot the characters more individual screen time. What do you think? A show could potentially attract a completely different audience than the people who religiously read Harry Potter — a market that The Casual Vacancy seemed to have trouble reaching due to Rowling’s 180-turn in genre.

[Photo credit: Debra Hurford Brown]

Fifty Shades of Grey is bad news for the bedroom — and cars, apparently

Fifty ShadesIf your nose is in a book these days, there’s a good chance it’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which has sold 32 million copies in the U.S. Either that, or you’re reading Twilight, which inspired E. L. James’ novel and its sequels.

We can talk bedroom dos and don’ts until the handcuffs come off, but what about cars?

Yeah, my reaction exactly: What in the name of sparkly vampires and bondage does Fifty Shades have to do with automobiles?

According to Haynes Publishing, which largely prints sought-after car manuals, just about everything. The firm is complaining that retailers are rejecting its books in favor of hotter titles.

“There is little doubt that…retail purchasing budgets were tight and that much of those available budgets went towards the phenomenally successful Fifty Shades series,” the company said in a statement, as reported on The Telegraph.

“Our books, in the most part, appeal to automobile and motorcycle enthusiasts. They are probably oriented to a male audience, and I am not sure that Fifty Shades is the kind of thing they would enjoy, but that phenomenon is impacting general publishing budget,” said Haynes’s chief executive officer, Eric Oakley.

“Many bookshops have spent so much money on these titles that their resources [for buying other books] has been stretched to the limit.”

I’m not sure I can sympathize — especially when Haynes is acting like it deserves special treatment. If the company is correct, than wouldn’t sales of fellow competing books be suffering, as well? Popular is popular — there’s not much anyone can do about that. Haynes’s statement sounds like old-fashioned whining to me.

Of course, it isn’t fair that one series of books can hog the spotlight, but the reality is, that fame won’t forever. The true battle is remaining relevant and interesting despite the constant surge of new and flashy competition. Just look at J. K. Rowling’s just-released The Casual Vacancy, which sold 375,000 copies in its first six days — an underwhelming number when you consider the predictions: more than 2.6 million on day one, which would exceed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That didn’t exactly happen, but The Casual Vacancy still bumped Fifty Shades of Grey from the top spot on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list, which it held for 21 weeks.

But then again, maybe Haynes has a right to complain. Its sales have fallen 9 percent recently, which could be a result of popular contenders…or maybe they’re just convenient scapegoats.

What do you think?

From J. K. Rowling’s imagination comes Wonderbook: Book of Spells

Whew.

I. Am. Exhausted.

I’m all typed out.

I’ve been so busy helping to cover E3 (that’s the Electronic Entertainment Expo going on this week) for GameZone that I haven’t had time for much else. But I wanted to share some sort of update.

One of the announcements made at the show was for Wonderbook: Book of Spells — a new video game/interactive book coming for PlayStation 3 that incorporates augmented reality technology, PlayStation Move products, and most interestingly, the stories of J. K. Rowling.

The Book of Spells referred to in the title is written by fictional character Miranda Goshawk of the Harry Potter novels.

Wonderbook: Book of Spells is the closest a Muggle can come to a real spellbook,” said Rowling. “I’ve loved working with Sony’s creative team to bring my spells, and some of the history behind them, to life. This is an extraordinary device that offers a reading experience like no other.”

It looks perfect for kids, and that’s obviously the market they’re targeting with the ad/trailer. But it’s also certain to intrigue any fan of the author.

What do you think? Is this something you’d check out, even if you don’t normally venture into video game territory? Wonderbook will cost $40 and come packaged with the aforementioned book and game disc.

Rowling is currently penning her next full-length work, The Casual Vacancy, marketed for adults and projected to release this fall, as early as September.