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review 2014-08-19 01:26
Finally, a Rainbow Rowell that Didn't Disappoint Me in the End
Attachments - Rainbow Rowell

This is the third Rainbow Rowell book I've read. I loved Eleanor and Park, but the ending was such a disappointment. I liked Fangirl quite a bit, but I found it kind of uneven, and again the ending let me down (though not as epically as E&P). Given that track record, I read Attachments with a certain degree of detachment, not wanting to fall in love with the story only to get burned again in the last chapters. As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Attachments is delightful from the first chapter to the last. 


That this book is as enjoyable as it is kind of amazing, given the premise. The protagonist, Lincoln, is about as beta as they come, and he could easily have come across as a Creeper rather than a Keeper. He's a 28 year old computer geek who lives with his mother and doesn't get out much, except for his weekly Dungeons and Dragons game. He's still mooning over the only serious relationship he ever had, a youthful infatuation that ended nine years ago. He works the graveyard shift at a local newspaper, monitoring employees' email and internet use for violations of company policy, and preparing for Y2K. (Oh, yeah, this book is set in the fall of 1999, on the cusp of the predicted apocalypse of technology which, of course, turned out to be a lot of sound and fury.) 


As part of his job, Lincoln reads the email conversations of two reporters, Beth and Jennifer, whose emails get flagged a lot because of their profanity and their frequency. (Employees are not supposed to use email for personal conversations.) LIncoln is charmed (as is the reader) by the women: the way they tease and support each other, the way they lift each other up in tough times, the way they are sometimes brutally honest with each other. He begins to develop feelings for one of the women, Beth, before he ever sees her. -And almost as soon as he realizes he's in love, he understands how hopeless it is, because reading her email without her knowing it is so very wrong, even if it is his job. 


The fact that Lincoln understands and is troubled by the creepy stalkerish aspects of his job is what saves him from coming across as creepy and stalkerish. (Also, the reader is as charmed by Beth's and Jennifer's emails as Lincoln is, and you don't want him to cut off access by revealing himself.) 


Interspersed with chapters devoted to Beth's and Jennifer's emails are chapters devoted to Lincoln. Over the course of the novel, he makes a number of small changes, not really realizing the import of each, until he ultimately overcomes the inertia that has bogged down his life since college: he eats dinner in the break room instead of alone at his desk, he reconnects with old friends, he connects with new friends, he joins a gym, he finds an apartment, he gets a haircut. Individually, each of these changes is insignificant, but by the end of the book, Lincoln has made enormous personal growth. The beauty of it, though, is that his self-improvement doesn't come at the cost of anything or anyone else. He doesn't kick his Dungeons and Dragons friends to the curb in the pursuit of a cooler crowd. He leaves his mother's house, but does so in such a way that she still feels needed and loved. Lincoln becomes a better guy, but he remains true to himself and his roots. 


He and Beth don't actually connect until 95% of the way through the book. The wait is excruciating, but it's the anticipation of something wonderful, like Christmas morning or a long-planned vacation, and when it comes, it's almost indescribably satisfying. (And yet, Rainbow Rowell does a pretty good job describing it:)


There are moments when you can't believe something wonderful is happening. And there are moments when your entire consciousness is filled with knowing absolutely that something wonderful is happening. Lincoln felt like he'd dunked his head into a sink full of Pop Rocks and turned on the water. 


(p. 311 of 327)



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review 2014-08-14 13:42
Very Satisfying Second Chance Romance (but beware of triggers!)
Beyond Addiction - Kit Rocha

I'm a little bit torn as to how to rate this fifth full-length novel in Kit Rocha's Beyond series, honestly. As I've said before, I love this series beyond all reason, especially since this sort of thing (a polyamorous, liquor-smuggling, cage-fighting, pole-dancing motorcycle gang living in a violent, post-apocalyptic dystopia) is not usually my cuppa. Beyond Addiction is a strong entry in an already strong series, and parts of it I loved, but I do have a few complaints.


But let's focus on the good stuff, first, hmmm?


Beyond Addiction is a second-chance romance between Finn and Trix. Both were originally from Sector 5 -- (This plot summary will assume some general familiarity with the Beyond universe. If you're not familiar, start with the first book, Beyond Shame, which just happens to be free at most e-book retailers right now.) -- whose main industry is making drugs for medical use in the city of Eden and more recreational (and addictive) use in the Sectors. As an enforcer for sector leader Mac Fleming, Finn spent a lot of years doing other people's dirty work. 


Years ago, Trix was a junkie dependent upon Finn for her next fix, and though they had a real emotional connection and plenty of sexual chemistry, neither could be sure what she needed from him most: his love or his ready access to dope. Desperate to get clean, Trix double-crossed Mac (and by extension, Finn) and escaped to Sector 4, where she got healthy and found a home and family with the O'Kanes.


At the start of Beyond Addiction, Mac Fleming's henchmen have kidnapped Trix, and Finn burns his bridges with Sector 5 in order to get her safely back to the people she loves, though he doesn't believe, with their history, that he'll ever be worthy to be counted as one of those people.


The Good Stuff:

The real "second chance" in this story is not Finn's relationship with Trix, but his relationship with the rest of the O'Kane clan. As a long-time enforcer for a rival sector leader, Finn has a lot to answer for with the O'Kanes, including his direct role in getting Trix and Jade (and probably others) hooked on drugs. Trix is more than willing to forgive his sins, but the other O'Kanes aren't as easily won over. Watching Finn own his past, make amends, and ultimately earn himself a place in the tight-knit O'Kane family was enormously satisfying. As I posted in a status update yesterday, previous Beyond books have talked about the sisterhood among the O'Kane women, but this book gave a new and very welcome insight into the brotherhood of O'Kane men.


This book is the fifth in a planned seven book series (not including the novellas that come out between novel releases), and we're far enough along now that the reader (me) has a better understanding of the complicated labyrinth of Sector politics and loyalties, and a better sense of the ultimate confrontation that the whole series is building toward. As a reader, it's as if I've been working for a long time on a huge, complicated jigsaw puzzle, and I've made enough progress now that the big picture is starting to come together... and there's a huge sense of satisfaction in that. 


My Complaints:

I know a lot of Beyond readers will disagree with me for saying so, since the sex is such a defining part of this series, but I've gotta say that, for me, the smexy parts are losing their charm. I skimmed past most of the sex in this book. It's just too similar to all the sex in all of the previous books, and in my opinion, it detracts from the individual couples' stories. Each book focuses on a couple (and in the case of Beyond Jealousy, a triad), and each relationship has its own unique history and conflict and resolution -- and yet, as different as each couple/relationship is, we're supposed to believe that sexually, everyone in Sector 4 has the exact same kinks? Mmm, not so much. Don't get me wrong: reading about Lex and Dallas sexing up Noelle in Beyond Shame was hot, but now that we've read about them sexing up Rachel, Trix, and God knows who all else, it's starting to feel Beyond Same, and that's not cool.


The other thing that really, really bothered me about this book was that it had not one but two child-in-peril subplots. I hate when authors do horrible things to kids just to move a plot along or twist a reader's sympathies, and this book did it twice.

First, Flash and Amira's baby, Hana, gets sick and Finn has to make a dangerous run to Sector 5 (where he is a wanted man) to steal the drugs that will save her life. Second, the new leader of Sector 5 brutally murders the old leader's wife and children, including babies, for no good reason (except to get the lone survivor to Sector 4 as sequel-bait).

(spoiler show)

Neither incident was integral to the plot, which was good in the sense that, as a mother and thus a reader particularly bothered by child-in-peril stories, I didn't have to linger on the horror -- but then again, since neither incident was integral to the plot, why the hell include those horrors at all?!


In conclusion, Beyond Addiction has a lot to recommend it, and fans of the series won't be disappointed -- but it also has a lot of triggers (violence, rape, child-in-peril) to trip up unwary readers, so buyer beware.

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review 2014-02-06 12:51
The Difference Between Intriguing and Fucked Up
In the Woods - Tana French

Toward the end of the book, the narrator goes out with a woman who tells him (by way of kiss-off), "I'm old enough to know the difference between intriguing and fucked up. You should date younger women. They can't always tell." 

The problem is that Tana French doesn't seem to recognize this difference: these characters are not as intriguing as she seems to think. The narrator, Adam Robert Ryan (Rob) is the sole survivor of the 1984 child disappearance and presumed murder that is one of two mysteries at the core of the plot, an experience which (understandably) has left him more "fucked up" than intriguing. He is also, all grown up, one of the lead detectives investigating a present-day child murder that took place in the same woods (the second mystery). His partner, Cassie Maddox, is something of a literary Mary-Sue: she is smarter, prettier, cooler, more talented -- in short, her only flaw is that she is apparently a magnet for maladjusted men (Rob included) and psychopaths. Over the course of the story, Rob makes one bad decision after another, solving the present day mystery almost by accident (some hundred or so pages after I figured out "whodunnit," incidentally), all the while overriding Cassie's infallible Mary-Sue instincts, to his predictable peril. 

All that said, for all of its disappointments in plotting and character development, Tana French writes sparkling, beautiful prose, and this book is worth reading just for that.

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