Read Harder 2018: Underground Mysteries

This month's challenge was to read a book of genre fiction in translation as well as a book with a cover you hate. Lucky for me, one of my favorite authors, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, has a new book out. He is a master of Gothic mysteries for both adults and teens. His books are creepy, involve underground libraries of forgotten books, and characters who aren't entirely good or evil but usually an unexpected mix of both. And he writes long books.  The Labyrinth of the Spirits clocks in at about 800 pages—and I won't guess at how much it weighs, but it's a solid book. I loved knowing that even if I read for an evening, I still had about three books' worth left in the story. I'm not even going to try to explain except to say it's set in post-Civil War Spain, and that this is the fourth in a connected series, but it's okay if you don't remember the previous books (although now I want to go back and reread them - the first is The Shadow of the Wind). There are many twists and turns, small world connections and the improbability of magical realism. My hope is that now that I see from the blurb that he lives in Los Angeles we'll be able to get him for the next book festival.

As another library staffer wrote, a lot of times people do choose the books they read by their cover. If that was the case, I would have missed out on a fabulous book by Siobhan Dowd, The London Eye Mystery. I recently enjoyed the book A Monster Calls and I learned that the author of that book took over writing for the original author who had died before finishing the story.  Patrick Ness was so effusive in his praise for Siobhan Dowd I figured it was worth checking out what she had written and I started with the mystery above. The book came out in 2007 and not only is the cover art dated, but it just looks unappealing altogether. This is essentially a mystery of a missing cousin, and the person who does end up putting things together is Ted, whose brain uses a different operating system, as his father likes to tell him. It is British so there is a certain amount of stiff upper lip kind of thing given that a teenager is missing. The cover is a very stylized view of the London Eye (think huge ferris wheel overlooking London). To me it feels blocky. I can't tell what is going on with the design and it adds nothing to the story. Loved the book, hated the cover.