Only having heard that "this is NOT like Harry Potter" and "this is NOT a children's book" I ventured forth unbiased and with little expectation.
Not a children's book indeed! I'm sure there are scads of children out there who managed to procure this book without their parents' knowledge and are now left silently grappling with issues about which they, heretofore, were blissfully ignorant.
Child abuse, drug addiction, corruption, avarice, bullying, alcoholism, rape, did I mention child abuse, um....oh yes, and sex. Lots of it. Apparently, when asked if she realized that her book had been outsold by Fifty Shades of Grey, J.K. Rowling replied "Well.....there's sex in my book, too. Lots of it. Only no one really enjoys it."
The Casual Vacancy has many of the same fantastic elements as her previous series. She is a Master (Mistress?) at character and plot development. In my mind, she simply took a step to the left from her Harry characters, and focused her sharp attention on the "muggle" side of the street instead, but with all the same care and devotion.
A quarter of the way in I got frustrated because I couldn't keep all the characters straight and found the politics a bit tedious. Half way through, however, I was hooked. The story pokes, ambles, and then lopes along until suddenly you can't catch your breath as it climbs to its horrible and fantastic finish. I loved it.
The second discovery is that thanks to the ipad, and it's clever ability to increase the type size to oh.... 72 points.....so that I can read without glasses, I can now read AND run on the treadmill. This is a wonderful discovery as reading and running happen to be two of my favorite things. (Chocolate in my peanut butter! YUM!) Because I get so lost in the reading, the fact that I've just run several more miles comes as a fantastic surprise! A delightful win-win!