Format: Audiobook

June 2, 2016

Review | Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Review | Attachments by Rainbow RowellAttachments by Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Dutton, April 2011
Pages: 323
Format: Audiobook
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"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "
Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.
Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.
When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.
By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.
What would he say . . . ?

When Lincoln signs up to be an internet security officer at the local newspaper, he expects to protect the paper from hackers, malicious attacks and prepare for Y2K (remember that?). Instead, he finds himself manning the webfence folder and sending out warnings to employees who use company emails to send each other dirty jokes. Not exactly what he had in mind. But when Beth, the movie critic, and Jennifer, a copyeditor, end up in his review folder, Lincoln can’t bring himself to turn them in. Instead, he finds himself drawn into their world, something that forces him to reconsider his own life.

On the premise, Attachments sounds downright weird. The IT guy reading personal email conversations between two friends who think they’re spilling their secrets and gossiping only with each other? How on earth can this be a love story?

I had the same thoughts when my mom told me how much she loved this story, but after picking up the audiobook from the library, I fell in love with this unlikely romance. Why? It’s pretty simple. Rowell‘s characters are simply amazing.

We all know someone like Lincoln, a person so destroyed by their first love that they still carry the scars. In his late twenties, Lincoln has earned two master’s degrees, lives with his mom, and plays Dungeons and Dragons on the weekends. While there’s nothing wrong with those things, the abject sadness about his life permeates his character. He’s unhappy, but doesn’t know how to fix it (despite his sister’s constant criticism).

I loved how Rowell made this a story essentially about Lincoln. From the first moment he sets foot in that dingy IT office, Attachments is Lincoln’s journey from an awkward, nerdy computer guy at odds with himself to a more confident, nerdy computer guy who is comfortable in his own skin. He’s the underdog, the hero, the little bit of each of us that still hurts from that first love.

Rowell’s exploration of the repercussions of first love fascinated me. Both Beth and Lincoln are scarred from their first loves, yet neither are aware of the extent of those scars. Beth’s longtime boyfriend Chris is more obsessed with his music and occasionally mentally checks out of their relationship while Lincoln unknowingly compares every woman he meets to the 18 year old version of Sam, his high school sweetheart. It’s a reminder that while the sting of first love may never quite go away, it’s okay to let it go.

But Rowell doesn’t stop with first love. She explores (and occasionally pushes) the boundaries of familial love, love between friends, relationships with coworkers, and, most importantly, loving yourself. Attachments isn’t just a story about an unlikely romance between the IT guy and the movie critic. It’s a story about the attachments in our lives.

4 Stars

Posted June 2, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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March 3, 2016

Review | Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Review | Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsMatch Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Series: Chicago Stars, #6
Publisher: Avon, January 1970
Pages: 388
Format: Audiobook, Paperback

You met quarterback Kevin Tucker in Nobody's Baby but Mine. Now get ready to meet his shark of an agent, Heath Champion, and Annabelle Granger, the girl least likely to succeed.
Annabelle's endured dead-end jobs, a broken engagement . . . even her hair's a mess! But that's going to change now that she's taken over her late grandmother's matchmaking business. All Annabelle has to do is land the Windy City's hottest bachelor as her client, and she'll be the most sought-after matchmaker in town.
Why does the wealthy, driven, and gorgeous sports agent Heath Champion need a matchmaker, especially a red-haired screw-up like Annabelle Granger? True, she's entertaining, and she does have a certain quirky appeal. But Heath is searching for the ultimate symbol of success -- the perfect wife. And to make an extraordinary match, he needs an extraordinary matchmaker, right?
Soon everyone in Chicago has a stake in the outcome, and a very big question: When the determined matchmaker promised she'd do anything to keep her star client happy . . . did she mean anything? If Annabelle isn't careful, she just might find herself going heart-to-heart with the toughest negotiator in town.

Remember the last time you read a book that left you breathless? Left you with the need to flip back to the front and start all over again? I’ve read Phillips’ Match Me If You Can entirely too many times, and each time, I have the urge to start all over again and dive back into Annabelle and Heath’s story.

All Annabelle wants to do is carry on her grandmother’s matchmaking business, but to get a foothold in Chicago’s matchmaking world, she needs to land a big client: Heath Champion. Heath is the top sports agent in the country, a self-made man’s man who is looking for a wife to finally earn the perfect life he’s always dreamed about. He usually only hires the best of the best, but there’s something about Annabelle’s hairbrained scheme that pulls him in.

I loved how their relationship developed in Match Me – instead of an immediate, hot romance, it’s a slow friendship, finding a kindred soul inside another. Due to the nature of their relationship (falling in love with your client won’t do to begin with, but especially not when you’re a matchmaker), both ignore their feelings and send the tension of the book skyrocketing.

Match Me made me laugh. I found myself looking forward to my commute every day when I got to listen to Heath and Annabelle battle it out, or Annabelle try to convince the neighborhood bum, Mouse, to come out from under Sherman (her car. Yes, I’m serious). There’s a lightheartedness to the narrative that lifted my spirits.

The depth of each character – not only Heath and Annabelle – was extraordinary. Phillips developed out the side plot of Portia (Annabelle’s competition in the matchmaking business) and Bodie (Heath’s go-to guy) to create an oddly sweet contrasting story. Even other characters from the Chicago Stars series, making brief appearances, played a role in the plot.

It’s the focus on happily-ever-after that keeps me coming back to this story time after time. It’s sweet, endearing, funny, and wistful, a.k.a. the ultimate romance.

5 Stars

Posted March 3, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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December 3, 2015

Review | Serena by Ron Rash

Review | Serena by Ron RashSerena by Ron Rash
Publisher: Ecco, October 2008
Pages: 371
Format: Audiobook
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The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.
Rash's masterful balance of violence and beauty yields a riveting novel that, at its core, tells of love both honored and betrayed.

I picked the hardcover copy of Serena up out of the library twice in the past year, but never managed to get past the first fifty pages. M and I headed out of town to a wedding after Thanksgiving, so I thought it would be the perfect time to try the audiobook. Some stories are just better out loud, and third time’s the charm, right?

We got through the first CD and pulled into a trucker rest stop to buy another audiobook (snagged J.D. Robb’s Obsession in Death). 
What happened?
To start, I couldn’t get into the actor’s storytelling. His female characters sounded off, and as Serena plays a large role in the story, I couldn’t get into it. Granted, it’s hard for a deep-voiced guy to pull off a high-pitched female, but it was just too much. 
We found ourselves talking over the story instead of being hooked on the plot. The first chapters had us: the first scenes in the train station and Serena’s introduction to the town were as gripping (and gruesome) as I remember, but after they arrived at the camp, our minds started to wander. The hook wasn’t there. 
I don’t mind unlikable characters – in fact, I rather like them (hah). There’s a pull towards people we’re not supposed to like, but their complexity and ability to do all the things we sometimes wish we could say or do endears them to us. I rather liked Serena in the first few passages: she’s cold, hard, and perfect for Pemberton. It was Rachel that irritated me. 
She was handed the short end of the stick, no doubt. With all the drama that happens in the first CD/chapters alone, she should be a heroine, a idol of determination and self-sufficiency. Instead, I found myself caring more about her horse, Dan, and the cow she intended to sell off than her.
That was the moment we decided it was over.
People love this book (just check out the GoodReads reviews), but it didn’t click with me. I was forcing myself to read or listen to it. That’s not a book match for me.

Posted December 3, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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