When I first read Rainbow Rowell's Attachments, I was sure it was going to be one of those books that I loved, but never got to follow up. I'm sure so...moreWhen I first read Rainbow Rowell's Attachments, I was sure it was going to be one of those books that I loved, but never got to follow up. I'm sure some of you understand what I'm talking about. I thought to myself, I really love Rainbow Rowell for this book, but what are the odds she'll hit another homerun for me?
How wrong I was.
Fangirl is, in a word, amazing. Lyrical, poignant, funny, engaging, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and connected. I just felt so much sympathy for every single character even though some of them I had very little in common with. They were fleshed-out and endearing, and not once did I ever get fed up with any of them, even when they were making dumb decisions. They were like real people to me in the best way fictional characters can be; I knew they weren't real, but kept wishing they were so I could be friends with them. Cath and Wren both broke my heart with their insecurities and their determination to live despite those insecurities. Levi was a swoony little slice of awesome, and Reagan was hilarious. I feel like an ass trying to put into words how good this damn book is because it's really hard for me at times to praise things. I just sit around with a dumbstruck look on my face, thinking Awesome over and over again. My brother once told me that it's impossible to say why you like something, but almost hilariously easy to say why you don't. This is definitely true for me, as I have very little problem pointing out why something is below my standards. This book far surpasses those expectations, however, so all I can say is; read it. If you don't like it at least a little bit, I have no clue what could possibly be wrong with you.(less)
If you've experienced that first love - that heart-wringing, soul-squeezing, crush-the-air-out-of-your-lungs-whenever-you're-apart first love - thi...more
If you've experienced that first love - that heart-wringing, soul-squeezing, crush-the-air-out-of-your-lungs-whenever-you're-apart first love - this book will bitch slap your feels all to hell.
I love it. I love its warmth and its vibrancy, its heartache and its pain, its humor, its meanness, the ugliness, the beauty, the crying, the laughter, the sarcasm. I love Eleanor and I love Park, and I love that there's still a tiny chance for them...and for everyone whose first love was torn away. Even if you never see that person again, they change you in ways that no one else will ever understand. They will always, always hold that little piece of your heart that no one else will ever be able to touch.
I love you, Rainbow Rowell, for giving me this. Thank you.(less)
Is it because this is a book with a lot of naughty language?
No, that's not it. I cuss like a fucking dock worker.
Because it's a book with a lot of sex?
Hmm. No. I like sex.
Because it's a book with a lot of sex between an 18-year-old girl and her 32-year-old teacher?
No, that was actually kind of hot.
I'm shocked because this is a New Adult Romance...and it was good! I liked it!
This is no small feat, especially considering I tend to be rather difficult to please when it comes to romance, particularly when that romance is coupled with a lot of emoriffic teen angst.
I was given a free e-ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review, and I was completely prepared to shred it. I've not had good luck in the NA department in the past, and even though I thought the synopsis sounded interesting, I'm well aware of how misleading synopses can be. In the case of this story, the synopsis is indeed misleading, but not in the way you'd think; the synopsis does not even come close to doing Ms. Raeder's writing justice. Lyrical prose happens to be a weakness of mine, and from the outset, I was drawn in by the unexpectedly beautiful images the prose inspired:
"It was the kind of greenhouse August heat that feels positively Jurassic. Everything was melting a little: the liquid black sky, the silver gel-penned stars, the neon lights bleeding color everywhere."
"At the end of summer everything swelled with life, almost grotesque, bloated and overripe. The sky was so full and pregnant you could poke a hole in it and douse the world with paint."
"The city thrummed around me, a live passionate thing full of hearts and hands and desires, and all of it seemed to concentrate here in a collective defiance of gravity."
"Autumn spread its golden disease through the woods, Midas trailing his fingers over the treetops. Dying things became extraordinarily beautiful at the very end."
The story begins at a carnival, and the writing transports you there with aplomb. I've read many books where descriptions fell flat, where it felt like my eyes were being sexually assaulted by adjectives, but not a single one of them did anything to conjure pictures in my mind. That was not the case here. While I enjoyed getting to know the characters, so often these days writers think they can just introduce their approximations of interesting characters and a drama-fueled plot and expect people to enjoy it. Prose is far more important than people give it credit for, and it is this underestimation that causes a lot of books to be flat, uninteresting, and forgettable.
Something I don't often comment on are book covers. I try to leave them out of the discussion because, as a photographer, I know that images are widely subjective. Every image evokes different feelings in different people, much the same as writing. With that in mind, I will say that I've not seen a good many book covers which I felt matched and/or represented the writing therein. This one, however, does. The unmistakably fierce femininity, the wild abandon of the hair, that wispy quality, and the eye-catching color, all help to portray the undeniably youthful yet powerful themes within the story. As I was writing this, it occurred to me that Ms. Raeder wields words much the same way an artist wields colors. How, I thought to myself, did the art designer capture the essence of Ms. Raeder's writing so well? It was not surprising, then, to discover Ms. Raeder designed the cover herself.
I suppose I should get on with it, huh?
The story itself is actually pretty unique, though the individual parts that make up the story are not. We have a young woman who's been abused and neglected, who's had to grow up pretty quickly, who feels the absence of her father (and acknowledges it). Pair her with a man who's not quite as grown up as others perhaps feel he should be, who also comes from a broken home, who carries his own demons and can't seem to quiet them, and you've got a recipe for one of the more interesting love stories I've read in a while.
Written by an obvious cinephile, Unteachable immerses the reader in a near-cinematic experience as Maise narrates her life as if it's a movie. There are montages, fast-forwards, flashbacks, references to cast, scene, action, etc., and several film references. Maise dreams of going to film school, Evan teaches film theory, and they quickly learn to communicate through the use of that shared interest.
Maise and Evan are different in a lot of ways, yet so alike that it was hard to imagine them not being together. They each deal with emotional upheaval in perhaps not-so-healthy ways, and this draws them to each other. Maise muses that she's not ignorant of the fact that what draws her and Evan together is a shared darkness, a pain that only those who've suffered can see lurking behind the eyes of those likely afflicted.
"There are moments, when you're getting to know someone, when you realize something deep and buried in you is deep and buried in them, too. It feels like meeting a stranger you've known your whole life."
What made this book so nice to read was that neither character dwelt on this sadness unnecessarily. The reader is not subjected to lengthy fits of melancholia, but is instead treated to the burgeoning effects love and understanding have on each character in turn. Maise slowly disentangles herself from the cynicism and fear that have kept her repressed, and Evan begins to heal as he's gifted the love of a young woman who adores him while also not allowing him to run roughshod over her. Indeed, the power balance was quite masterfully done, with Maise and Evan alternately taking the reigns of their relationship and trying to steer the other in the right direction. The give and take of these two characters was refreshing, and I loved that they both cared, but also made mistakes. It's those mistakes that I loved the most, because even though I wanted to scream at the two of them to be more careful, their actions were completely consistent with who they were; hurt, lonely, reckless, and desperately trying to figure things out. They both crave some comfort, some semblance of solace, and they find it in each other even when circumstances conspire to keep them separate and alone. They don't make the best decisions, but they make the only decisions they know how to make. They are not perfect, and I love them for that.
I know a lot of people might be skeezed out by the age difference between Maise and Evan, but having read a lot of stories based in the 18th and 19th centuries, an 18-year-old woman with a 32-year-old man does not in the least bother me. The fact that Evan is Maise's teacher could be a black mark merely due to the aforementioned power imbalance, but like I said, the power within their relationship shifts continually, just as it should in any relationship. Evan teaches Maise, but Maise also teaches Evan, and they both come out better for it in the end.
I loved this book for a lot of reasons. I loved the prose (of course) and the setting and the pace. I loved the story arcs and the humor. I loved Maise's irreverent, sarcastic view of the world, I loved Evan's sweet but conflicted nature, I loved how the two of them managed to build a relationship under stressful circumstances, but were still willing to try and make it work despite all the obvious obstacles. I'm a firm believer in soaking up happiness wherever you can find it, and having read this book, I'm convinced Ms. Raeder feels the same. Life is too short to worry about the what ifs. I want to live in a world where people love with a bit more reckless abandon, without the constraints of a society hellbent on making emotions rational.
"And that made my heart ache, too - the thought of how much happiness lay scattered across the universe, unrealized, in fragments, waiting for the right twist of fate to bring it together."
I'll admit that about halfway through this wonderful story, I became quite concerned about the ending, wondering how Ms. Raeder was going to balance the romance with the rather rational doubts about the fate of the relationship. I saw the possibility of two endings; the unutterably heartbreaking separation or the sickeningly cheesy declarations of love and devotion. Imagine my surprise, then, when the ending was neither. No, I'm not going to give it away. You'll have to read it for yourself. I certainly wasn't disappointed, and I hope you won't be, either.
"You can call it love, or you can call it freefall. They're pretty much the same thing."(less)
I don't even know what to write about it except it was marvelous. The twist at the end was phenomenal. It had been...moreI really wish this one wasn't over.
I don't even know what to write about it except it was marvelous. The twist at the end was phenomenal. It had been nagging me that perhaps Julia had it all wrong, and I ended up being right.
(view spoiler)[I thought several times that Iain might be Richard, and I kept hoping so because I liked him more than I liked Geoff. To find out it was Iain after all was so unbelievably fulfilling. (hide spoiler)]
Honestly, this book has left me somewhat speechless. I do wish there had been a bit more with our final two, however. The ending seemed abrupt. Astoundingly romantic, but abrupt.
Well, this book made weepy and contemplative, sad and happy. I love books that do that, you know?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The five stars I've given this book reflects the high I'm still coming down from after having finished it. I think I might be in love with Susanna Kea...moreThe five stars I've given this book reflects the high I'm still coming down from after having finished it. I think I might be in love with Susanna Kearsley. I read The Rose Garden earlier this year, and being a huge fan of time travel, devoured that shit like it was going out of style. Granted, it took me a little while to get into it because I found the pacing in the beginning to be kind of slow, but after getting over that bump in the road, there was no turning back.
The Winter Sea was a whole different beast for me. This one grabbed onto my imagination much sooner and I found I really couldn't put it down. I read until I could no longer keep my eyes open, allowed myself four and a half hours of sleep, then woke and picked it right back up to finish it. I then experienced something I don't experience often; as anxious as I was to get to the end and find out what happened, I kept putting it down and waiting. It sounds insane, but I wasn't looking forward to the ending. Not because I feared it would be bad, but because I didn't want it to end at all. I wanted to just keep reading about Sophia and John and Carrie and Graham, and when it was finally over, I wanted to cry. There, again, was another complicated mess, as the ending left me feeling both happy and sad.
The way Kearsley weaves her tales together is absolutely captivating to me, and I will forever be jealous of her ability to craft a compelling tale. I don't want to give anything away in this review, so I will just say that it was refreshing to see a hero from the past being selfish and claiming the woman he loves (who also loves him) instead of trying to "spare" her by keeping away. That path always leads to trouble in a story, so I've come to recognize it as a lazy and tired device.
I might be a bit biased regarding this book considering my own genealogy traces back to several prominent Scottish families, but even those who have no Scottish in them at all should be able to appreciate the compelling, history-rich atmospheres Kearsley is capable of creating. The character voices are real and rich with emotion, the intrigue is well done, and Kearsley put in so many historical facts that this wonderful fiction also acts as a sort of history lesson. Let's face it, the conflicts between England and Scotland (especially those regarding the Stuart kings) are not easy to navigate, but Kearsley managed it with aplomb, giving life to these too-oft faceless historical figures so that it became a real story, not just dry facts from a history book. She will forever have my gratitude for helping to make sense of it all.
If you like romance, I think you'll like this book. If you like history, I think you'll like this book. If you're into political intrigue, there might be something here for you. If you're a genealogist, this will speak to you. If you're a genealogist with ties to Scotland, you'll definitely like this. And if, like me, you're all of the above? Sit back, enjoy, and be prepared to want to read it again as soon as you're finished.(less)
I'm going to be vulgarly blunt, I fucking love Ellen O'Connell. Love her. Admittedly, these books might be...moreOh, why did I finish this so quickly?! Why?!
I'm going to be vulgarly blunt, I fucking love Ellen O'Connell. Love her. Admittedly, these books might be just a teensy bit melodramatic, but these stories are some of the most engaging I've read in a very long time. I didn't think I'd like this one more than I liked her other two books. Ha! I think the only reason I might like Dancing on Coals more is because I absolutely adored Katherine Grant in that book. Don't get me wrong, Anne Wells is no shrinking violet, but she comes into her power. Katherine seemed to have been born with it, so my sympathy and connection with her were nearly instantaneous, while Anne took me a little while longer to warm up to. That being said, Anne is one tough chick. She manages to stand up for what she wants despite the obstacles, and when things take a violent and bloody turn, she ignores her own wounds and emotional trauma to tend to Cord and his farm. While her sudden tempers could be a bit off-putting at times, the majority of the time they were a cause of great amusement to me as I read about her going toe-to-toe with absolutely anyone who began talking out of their ass. Like the other two O'Connell heroines, I would be proud to call someone like Anne Wells my friend.
As for Cord Bennett....
Yowzers. If ever there were a literary man capable of making me swoon (and probably conveniently lose my knickers in the process), it's Cord Bennett. Dark, handsome, hard-working, determined, and flawed while also being capable of great tenderness. Cord hides his emotions behind a mask of indifference, but the reader is made aware relatively early that Cord is far from indifferent about anything. Jaded, maybe, not indifferent. His sudden heroic outbursts are capable of reducing me to a cheering, giggling mess (the few times he goes up against Anne's brother are priceless).
Now, something that might bother some readers are the peripheral characters. Some are just plain amazing (the Sheriff, for instance), but others (like Cord's brothers) are just plain infuriating. Pompous, assuming jackasses. The thing I found interesting, however, was that while they were deriding their brother for what they believed to be a cold, calculating, malicious heart, they were the ones imagining the worst of a situation without giving anyone the benefit of the doubt. I don't know if this was Ms. O'Connell's intent, but it certainly makes you think twice about those who protest violently against evil and those who are merely trying to live their lives in peace. Anne's father is a vile stain, so be prepared to hate him a lot.
Proper communication is a must for me, and I felt that there were times when Anne and Cord could have done a better job of it (both with each other and with others), but the way Ms. O'Connell crafted the dialogue, the stilted conversations are actually pretty realistic. There are times when someone should have just come out and said something, but given the character's hangups, their reluctance was understandable. It definitely isn't one of those stories where the characters aren't communicating merely because the author can't think of a better way to drag out the story.
Given that I've been skimming over this book again and again, and am afraid to pick up another book too soon lest it wipe Ms. O'Connell's stories from my mind too quickly, I've decided that this book touched me enough to warrant me giving it five stars despite any of the problems I might have with it. I don't give romances five stars too often.
Sadly, I've now run out of available Ellen O'Connell material. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take my Kindle, curl up in a sock drawer, and sleep (secretly read) for days.(less)
I read O'Connell's second novel, Sing My Name yesterday, and then immediately purchased and devoured...moreSure enough, Ellen O'Connell is winning me over.
I read O'Connell's second novel, Sing My Name yesterday, and then immediately purchased and devoured Dancing on Coals. I never would have believed I could like this one as much as I did. I've never been a big fan of the whole Native American studly hero thing, but Gaetan? Gaetan is just one badass Apache. Knowing that he would eventually turn into the hero, I had no problem imagining his soft side even as he was treating Katherine like some kind of poorly trained mutt. His behavior in the first half of the book was, I thought, pretty accurate for a Native American considering the overall Native American view on women at the time, and Gaetan's distrust and hatred of white people. I've seen complaints that his feelings for Katherine seem abrupt, and I can agree to an extent, but it really fit in well with his attitude overall. His regard for Katherine comes on slowly and builds in his own mind until he makes a decision. And Gaetan is, if nothing else, one decisive dude.
As for Katherine Grant, she is probably in the top five as far as my favorite female protagonists. She's resourceful, witty, and intelligent, not easily intimidated, and tenacious as all hell. Gaetan calls her fierce. Did I mention Gaetan is very perceptive?
At one point in the story, Katherine is debating whether or not to free Gaetan from a band of Rurales that has them both in custody, and the reader is treated to Katherine's justification of her decision to do so;
"If Gaetan repaid her by killing her, not only would she escape Hierra, she would die with the satisfaction of knowing she had loosed a madman in the Mexican camp."
My first thought after reading that (and the only written note in my Kindle) - "I love this broad."
I think I'll go read O'Connell's first book now, and then cry that there aren't any more.(less)
Finally! Twenty days and seventeen books into 2012 and I've finally, finally found something I can honestly say I loved. I knew it was going to be goo...moreFinally! Twenty days and seventeen books into 2012 and I've finally, finally found something I can honestly say I loved. I knew it was going to be good from the very first chapter (which I promptly read to my mother while we both laughed). Giving it five stars might be a bit much, but I can't help it. This was funny, engaging, sweet, and, more importantly, smart. None of the characters were perfect, but they were written so realistically that their flaws added to their appeal. It felt like reading about real people, not the cliche's of people one normally gets in a piece of modern fiction.
The premise is pretty basic; Lincoln is a shy and socially awkward individual who never quite got over the heartbreak caused by his high school sweetheart. Having recently moved back to his hometown (and back into his overindulgent mother's house), he gets an IT security job at the local paper. His job involves reading through flagged email and sending out warnings to anyone in the office who breaks company rules regarding internet use. When he starts getting flagged emails between Beth and Jennifer, he knows he should send them a warning and move on, but he can't seem to bring himself to do it. Before he knows it, he's read so many of their conversations that he feels like a total creep, but he still can't bring himself to stop. It's when he begins to fall for Beth, however, that Lincoln's torture truly begins.
Told from a third-person perspective with Lincoln at center stage, we only get to know Beth and Jennifer through their emails to each other. While this is often a difficult method for an author to use to truly portray a character (especially since people only project a certain amount of themselves to others, especially through emails), Rainbow Rowell managed to really make it work. I felt like I really got to know Beth and Jennifer through their emails, and for the first time in too long, I can actually understand why the male protagonist fell in love with the female. Beth and Jennifer are genuinely good people, devoted friends, and beautifully flawed individuals. We see Jennifer's fears about becoming a mother are caused by her rocky relationship with her own mother. We see Beth's ignorance regarding the myriad of ways love can manifest and exist. We see Lincoln's insecurities unfold as he attempts to struggle out from beneath his mother's apron and live his own life. While the underlying theme is romance, the story also focuses on family, friends, and personal growth.
I know this makes Attachments sound paralyzingly dull, so you'll just have to trust me when I say it's really quite funny. It's probably the funniest book I've read in the last few years. I understand it's probably not for everyone. The pop culture quotes and nerdly references to things like Dungeons & Dragons and The Lord of the Rings might put some readers off, but they were right up my alley. I read the entire book in one sitting, neither needing nor wanting a break. I can't wait to read more from Rainbow Rowell.(less)
If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would probably be...wondrous. This story made me want to smile, frown, laugh, and curl up into a...moreIf I had to describe this book in one word, that word would probably be...wondrous. This story made me want to smile, frown, laugh, and curl up into a ball and cry. Try to imagine someone taking Carnivale, Somewhere in Time, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Prestige and mashing them all together into a poetic, stunning piece of fiction with a beautifully melancholic, bittersweet ending. It made me crave magical autumn nights spent in a circus that defies the conventional laws of the universe, and somehow made me nostalgic for something I've never actually experienced. The imagery alone deserves the highest praise, and it is complemented by a powerfully poignant tale of love and grief, desire and loss, the magic that is all around us, even if we can't see it. It's not a fast-paced tale, it is meandering, subtle, and completely amazing. This is the kind of story that stays with you well after you've finished reading, a story that makes you gaze into the distance and sigh every time you realize Le Cirque de Reves hasn't materialized in your town overnight.
For some reason, this book reminds me of autumn, my favorite season (perhaps due to the aforementioned similarity to Something Wicked This Way Comes), and I think perhaps it will become a yearly read for me, when I inevitably begin to feel that pull to see orange, smell pumpkin, and hear the dry rustling of dead leaves as they dance down the street.
My favorite part:
"They stand entwined but not touching, their heads tilted toward each other. Lips frozen in the moment before (or after) the kiss. Though you watch them for some time they do not move. No stirring of fingertips or eyelashes. No indication that they are even breathing. "They cannot be real," someone nearby remarks. Many patrons only glance at them before moving on, but the longer you watch, the more you can detect the subtlest of motions. The change in the curve of a hand as it hovers near an arm. The shifting angle of a perfectly balanced leg. Each of them always gravitating toward the other. Yet still they do not touch."