[added 7/2013]The fact that almost every 4 or 5 star review is full of guidelines on how to approach this book ("don't compare it to Harry Potter," "don't expect a plot or likable characters or magic" etc., etc.) is evidence enough to show that it doesn't stand on its own merits. If it was any good, everyone wouldn't feel compelled to make excuses for it.[/]Is this really what the brilliant mind behind Harry Potter comes up with? Petty small town politics, gossip and soap opera-like romance? What a disappointment. There are moments of brilliance in the writing, but it doesn't make up for the almost complete lack of humor, poignancy or even a single likable character. The Casual Vacancy is unnecessarily foul, overly pessimistic and just not worth the time it takes to read.I wish Rowling would have been more ambitious. The plot could have been more expansive--bigger than a couple small towns. She could have chosen to do something more literary, The Casual Vacancy more than a few times feels closer to the genre of books by authors who release new titles every 3 months. She also could have chosen to simply be more creative instead of trying to be another Franzen or Duncan (both good in their own spheres, but this is J.K. Rowling we're talking about!). We know she's got it in her. Instead, this book feels like it is trying so hard to be for adults that it just ends up being boring. It's also a shame so many kids who grew up reading Harry Potter will be bombarded with an onslaught of profanity and vulgarity when they now, as young adults, see what their favorite author is up to.On a more pedantic note, I had both the audio and digital versions and found several discrepancies between them, entire paragraphs, for example, missing in the digital version that are present in the audio version. Odd. You'd think that a book this big and anticipated would be perfectly presented.