faintingviolet’s #CBR5 review #25: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

https://cannonballread5.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/attachments-rainbow-rowell.jpg

If you are a regular follower of reviews on the Cannonball blog you know that there are a group of dedicated Rainbow Rowell’s fans who are spreading the gospel of this author. I am happy to report that I now include myself in the group, although I may not be as rabid as some.

The story revolves around three characters, but I’d say the protagonist is Lincoln. Lincoln is 28, a multiple degree holder with a broken heart which remained unhealed more than 7 years after his first great love, and he is finding adulthood difficult to transition to. His journey into his adult self begins when he becomes employed at the local newspaper as their technology security person leading up to Y2K.

Lincoln’s main job is to check the security program which catches inappropriate emails. This is where we are introduced to the two other main characters, Jennifer and Beth. Best friends Jennifer, a copy editor, and Beth, an entertainment writer, treat their work email as a personal chat service (which I am EXTREMELY guilty of). Lincoln has to read the flagged emails and decide if the writers need to be sent a warning, he becomes so enthralled with Beth and Jennifer’s correspondence he never sends those warnings, and in fact becomes emotionally involved in their lives.

Much has been said about the creepy aspect of Lincoln’s job and how as a narrative device it could turn the reader off. I personally wasn’t, but that may be because I was thoroughly warned. Much of the action in the second two thirds of the book revolves around the steps Lincoln takes in his continuing journey into true independence and adulthood; meanwhile chronicling his growing attraction to the woman he is discovering Beth to be from her writings to Jennifer.

I actually started reading this novel during my summer malaise, and took about 6 weeks off between the first 100 pages and the rest of the book. This did shade my understanding of the book (for example I got very confused when Beth is describing her Cute Boy, I didn’t realize initially it was Lincoln), and my appreciation thereof, so my 4 star rating may turn into a 5 upon rereading. But for now Ms. Rowell has created an intriguing novel that is as engrossing as it is difficult to explain.

But what really sold me on this book was the characterization. I could not help but fall in love with each of our leads as they navigated their various life struggles. I don’t know the last time I read such honest character reactions to the various foibles and flaws demonstrated by Jennifer, Beth, and Lincoln. By the time we get to the end of the novel and everyone has finally made the choices they needed to make to more fully live their lives, you can’t help but be glad that you were along for the ride.

Advertisements

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 41: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

UnknownAt this point, I really don’t know what I can say about Rainbow Rowell that I haven’t already said. Or preached, I guess, would be a better term. If you haven’t read Eleanor & Park, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t read Attachments, well, I’m not sure I want to know you anymore.

And now, here we have Fangirl. And again, come on. Go out and get these books. Read them right now. Use your Amazon Prime account or run to the library. You won’t be sorry.

Fangirl is about identical twin sisters Cather (Cath) and Wren. They are freshman at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and have very different feelings about it. Wren is excited — she wants to meet guys and party and drink and live it up. Cath is a bit more of a homebody (that’s really saying it lightly) and isn’t really very enthused about doing anything but sitting in her dorm room and writing. She doesn’t even find out where the cafeteria is until a few weeks into school when her roommate (the wonderful Reagan) drags her forcibly, realizing that Cath has been living on jars of peanut butter and boxes of protein bars.

Cath is a gifted writer, and almost all of her time and energy go into writing Simon Snow (think Harry Potter, but a magician, NOT a wizard) fanfiction. Cath is one of the most popular fanfic writers out there, and her speciality is writing slash fiction about Simon and his vampire roommate, Baz. Not exactly your typical college activity.

Cath meets a few friends — she has a major crush on her writing partner, Nick, and she becomes friendly (against her will) with Reagan. But more than anyone else, she bonds with Reagan’s boyfriend, the simply adorable Levi.

Reading about Levi made me want to go outside for a walk in the sun (or in the snow, or whatever) and drink Gingerbread Lattes from Starbucks. He made me want to read The Outsiders and go to museums. Levi is the kind of guy you want to know in real life, and his “joie de vivre” leaps off the page with his every word and movement.  Rainbow Rowell has a real gift for writing sympathetic male characters (Park, Lincoln) that are better than most men you’ll ever meet in your life.

Of course, not everything in Cath & Wren’s lives is centered on college. Their dad is home, alone, which isn’t a good thing. He’s a bit manic (the word bipolar is never actually used, but I’m guessing that’s the situation) and doesn’t always remember to eat, or sleep, or even go home from work without his girls to remind him. And their mom? Out of the picture for the most part. She left the girls on 9/11, never to return. But she decides to check back in with them all these years later, not as a mom, but more as a “friend”. This doesn’t really go over too well, if you can imagine.

I loved pretty much every minute of this book. Thank you, fellow Cannonballers, for spreading the word about Rainbow Rowell and getting her on my radar.

My only complaint about this book? That I finished it, and there aren’t any more books by Rainbow Rowell to read right now. Her next one doesn’t come out until 2014.

 You can read more of my reviews (of Rainbow’s books and others) on my blog.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #66: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I heard about this novel due to various reviews over at the Cannonball 5 site. I probably would have never even heard of this otherwise although I did recently notice that her other novel, Eleanor and Park was on an end cap display. The novel is set in late 1999, and focuses on three different characters. Of those three, I would describe Lincoln as the main character since half of the chapters are from his perspective. I gained insight into all three, but knew more details about what exactly was going through Lincoln’s head. The book alternates between chapters from Lincoln’s perspective, and an email exchange between Jennifer and Beth. All three work at a newspaper in Nebraska, Jennifer as a copy editor, Beth in the entertainment section, and Lincoln is the IT guy. Since this is 1999, the company is worried about Y2K. The time frame also means that the company can still get away with being fairly technology-phobic, having only recently been convinced that things like the internet are around to stay. Part of Lincoln’s job is to monitor email usage and flagged messages which may appear due to a variety of flagged words or even frequency of emails. It is as a result of this work duty that Lincoln first gets to know Jennifer and Beth.

Read the rest here.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 23: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Unknown-2Rainbow Rowell. Make a note of the name.

In the past few weeks, I’ve read her two novels (I recently raved about the divine Attachments), and both have left me wanting more. MORE. MORE!

Like Attachments, Eleanor & Park takes place in Nebraska. While Attachments took place mainly in 1999, this book takes place in 1986, the era of the Smiths and the Cure and all of that other wonderful music I listened to in high school (I’m guessing Rainbow and I are around the same age).

Eleanor is a new student at Park’s school, and she sticks out like a sore thumb. Bigger than the other girls (convinced she’s fat, but I’m not so sure), with bright red unruly hair, and a fashion sense designed to take notice away from her torn and old thrift store clothes (and her thrift store clothes aren’t because she thinks they are cool, its all her family can afford). She’s got a tough life at home: 5 kids in one bedroom, a drunk and violent stepfather, and a mother that is afraid to step up for her daughter. Eleanor was kicked out of the house last year, and is only just returning to her family, just to find that its worse than when she was there before.

The scenes in her house really, really bummed me out.

Meanwhile, Park is her new seat-mate on the school bus. Half-Korean and totally punk rock, Park initially has no idea what to make of Eleanor. But slowly and surely, he finds that they have much in common.

They start sharing comics (their bonding over The Watchmen was truly a beautiful thing), and Park makes her tapes of music that he thinks she’ll like. Smiths, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen. And Joy Division.

I loved the part of the book where they just talked about why they love Love Will Tear Us Apart. Heartbreaking and amazing.

Their relationship slowly builds until they can’t stand being apart. The need they have for each other overtakes everything else in their lives, and its lovely to read along and see their relationship progress.

But, because the book starts out at the end, we know that things aren’t going to end well for these two.

I wish I could have stayed in the middle of this book for much longer. The beginning was great, and the ending was depressing. But the middle was simply perfect.

Favorite scene: It killed me when Park’s mom got tipsy on wine coolers and gave him an Avon Lady gift to give Eleanor for Christmas. The talk they had about her previous life and how it might be similar to Eleanor’s brought me to tears.

Thank you Rainbow Rowell. I can’t wait to read what you write next (Fangirl, out in September).

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 19: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Unknown-2I haven’t given out many 5-star reviews during my tenure as a CBR participant. To me, 5-star means a book that I’m completely in awe of. One that I’m so jealous that someone else wrote. I wish I was Rainbow Rowell, and that these characters she invented were mine. I wish this book had never ended. I would have read it forever.

And come on. The reviews from narfna and Travis_J_Smith say it all. This book is perfection.

Attachments is a love story. But its also about best friends. And finding yourself. And parents letting go. And growing up.

And its super funny. And sometimes sad.

Lincoln, the perennial college student, finds a job as an IT tech on the night shift at a small Nebraska newspaper. Part of his job is to follow up on emails that have been “red flagged” with inappropriate content, and to send warnings to the people involved in the email discussion. Which is fine, until he starts reading email conversations between best friends Jennifer and Beth.

Lincoln gets swept up into their lives, and falls in love with Beth.

Before he ever even knows what she looks like.

And when Beth emails that she has a crush on the handsome, mystery IT guy, I was practically cheering when I realized it was Lincoln.

I loved that this book was about Y2K, the most useless problem ever invented. I worked on a Y2K task force in 1999, and I remember thinking what a complete and utter waste of time it was.

I loved that this book had best friends in it that were funny and honest. They weren’t afraid to critique each other about potential mistakes they were making in their lives. And they both loved Colin Firth.

And I know it was a bit creepy the way that Lincoln was virtually stalking Beth, but c’mon. He was just so cute about it. And it was pretty much his job to read her email, so there’s that.

Thanks to everyone who has been recommending Rainbow Rowell this year. I can’t wait to read Eleanor & Park next.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #32: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

attachments

Wanting to pull myself out of the rut I’d stumbled into, one which consisted of me more or less refusing to venture outside the small subset of authors I’d latched onto for one reason or another, I browsed the other Cannonball Readers’ reviews in search of any that stuck out. Of all the ones I flitted through, it was narfna’s review of Attachmentsthat stuck out. Was it the name of the author, Rainbow Rowell, which I sincerely hope is her parents’ doing, not a decided upon pseudonym, as the latter is the greater of the two evils by the tiniest of margins? Or was it the cover, sparse yet at the same time appealingly simplistic? narfna’s assessment of the book helped matters too, but doesn’t that go without saying?

I guess, all things considered, there was no one factor that led me to read Attachments. In life, we sometimes find ourselves drawn to something or someone for reasons that, at least at the time, seem inexplicable and this is surely one of them. While I can point to this or that as contributing towards my decision, what we had here was a case of me going with my gut, riding the wave of some indescribable feeling. I hadn’t taken such a tactic often with regards to books, using it more to dictate my television- and movie-watching habits than anything else, yet I hoped my success would carry over.

It did, and to bring into perspective how much, I’ll tell you one thing that should practically say it all. Attachments is the only book besidesThe Salmon of Doubt to make me get all watery-eyed. No tears fell in either case, but I fear that would’ve changed if I hadn’t been barreling through Attachments and Rowell’s words had had the chance to properly linger. I should also mention that, were Adams not dead and were it not his last, The Salmon of Doubt would’ve had no effect on me whatsoever, whereas it was Rowell’s writing in Attachments that wrecked me so thoroughly.

Lincoln, the main character, could be my doppleganger in some alternate universe; his ill-fated relationship with Sam drudged up memories of one of my own, as I saw shades of us in them, and his handling of the situation he comes into by accident is, I regret to say, not far off from what I would invariably do. Like him, I was smitten with Beth and Jennifer from the first email. Reading their correspondence , I was reminded of a story of my own. Difference is, Rowell fully realizes what I could only touch upon. Theirs is, to me, the perfect friendship. Though they may bicker on occasion, it’s because they know their friendship can withstand it.

I never went so far as to fall for one of them, like Lincoln does, but he and I both wanted little more than to put a face to the words, to meet these women whose emails were so routinely flagged, thus ending up under Lincoln’s (not so) watchful eye. I wanted him to introduce himself before he got in too deep. That possibility was quickly abandoned thanks to his reluctance to give up borderline stalking them, be it via their emails or, on an occasion or two, in person.

Now, I imagine many of you keyed in on the word “stalking” in the sentence above and it sent your alarm bells ringing. Normally, I would be abandoning ship right along with you. Keep in mind, though, that I qualified it with “borderline.” Lincoln doesn’t ever devolve into an Edward Cullen, watching Beth sleep. What he does do could be looked at as skeevy in its own right, yes. Except Lincoln is presented so sympathetically by Rowell that I found his actions forgivable, if not a tad understandable, seeing as I already told you that I, on some level, identify with him. Heck, the worse he got, and the more hopeless his situation became by extension, the more I felt sorry for him.

If Beth were to reject him in the end, it would’ve been inarguably justified. Still, I rooted for him to overcome the obstacles he’d knowingly placed between them. Because I think we can all relate to letting our emotions get the better of us, especially with regards to relationships. I know I’ve sabotaged myself on countless occasions and watched as I did, unable to stop myself. If Lincoln can succeed, though, I thought maybe there’s hope for me yet. To find out whether or not he does, however, you’ll just have to read the book.

I can’t guarantee you’ll take to it like narfna and I did. As she put it: “This is probably not a book many other readers will give five stars to.” Even with that in mind, though, I recommend it without reservation. I’m under-read compared to a lot of you here, but if asked to rank all the books I’ve read, Attachments would come in at number four, just below Flowers for Algernon, the entire The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, which I consider one long book, and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. So if I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly, I don’t know what in the hell else I can.

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #6: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

attachments-rainbow-rowellFalling in love with a book is exactly like falling in love with a person. In both cases, most of the time you just can’t help yourself, and what happens during the falling is almost entirely out of your control. This is an especially appropriate metaphor to be making when talking about Rainbow Rowell’s delightful little book, Attachments, which is about a man falling in love in a very inappropriate way. This is what I wrote on Goodreads approximately one minute and thirty-one seconds after finishing the last page at 2 AM on Saturday night:

“FUCKING HELL, MAN. Why is this so . . . GUH . . . and it’s the middle of the night and I’M SO ALONE.”

I believe that sentence and my five star rating should speak for itself, but I would like to elaborate anyway because when you fall in love with something you want to tell everybody about it as loudly and in as many ways as possible.

Attachments takes place in 1999, just before the turn of the millennium and all the madness of Y2K (remember Y2K? It was like practice for the Mayan apocalypse!). Twenty-eight year old perpetual student Lincoln is fresh off his latest graduate degree and is stuck in a rut in basically every area of his life: he lives with his mother, he has no foreseeable career objectives (he can’t even figure out what it is that he might be good at), he has no social life to speak of excepting Saturday night games of D&D with his lifelong friends, and he hasn’t even attempted a romantic relationship since his heart was smashed into pieces eight years before by the girl he thought he’d be with forever.

As the novel opens, Lincoln has just taken a job in a Nebraska newspaper’s IT department where he is in charge of the newly developed email security program that monitors employee’s email accounts for inappropriate usage. It’s a bit of a creepy job reading other people’s emails and sending them warnings, not to mention tedious and boring, but it’s at least a job. He spends most of his time reading books and doing other non work-related activities. That is, until he accidentally becomes wrapped up in the correspondence of two employees, film critic Beth and copyeditor Jennifer, who are smart and funny and who little by little begin treating their work email accounts as a personal chat service. After about the fourth or fifth flagged conversation, Lincoln realizes it’s too late to send them a warning and with not a little guilt begins looking forward to each flagged email, especially when it becomes clear to him that not only is he developing feelings for Beth, but she has a little crush on him as well. The only problem is, if he wants to be with her, how can he do so knowing that he’s just spent a ridiculous amount of time violating her personal privacy?

The novel is a mix between Lincoln’s 3rd person POV and a delightful modern epistolary confection consisting of Jennifer and Beth’s increasingly personal emails to one another. Jennifer and Beth are immediately very likeable. Their conversations with one another are funny and warm and occasionally sort of surprisingly heart-rending. That they were so likeable is key, because the novel wouldn’t have worked if we as readers were not able to overcome the basic creepiness of Lincoln’s actions. We want Lincoln to keep reading about Jennifer and Beth because WE want to keep reading about Jennifer and Beth. His actions as Rowell writes them, while a bit icky, are also completely understandable. There’s also the fact that Lincoln himself is a delightful character, and I quickly found myself wishing he was real because, seriously, I have been looking for him all my life. But it’s not only that he’s likable. His struggles as an aimless and confused young adult unsure of what he wanted to do with himself was one I could relate to in very specific ways. The sharp wit of Rowell’s dialogue and prose doesn’t hurt, either. This was also the perfect time period to set this book. The transition from tradition to technology at the newspaper echoes Lincoln’s own stumbling transition to adulthood.

This is probably not a book many other readers will give five stars to, but it hit all of my personal buttons in all the right ways. Like, to the point where I was all, Rainbow Rowell, either get out of my head or be my best friend. But even if you don’t fall crazy in love and over-identify with it like I did, it’s still worth checking out as the perfect example of this kind of romancey, character-driven novel. It’s well-written, funny, has great characters, and is overall a super-fun read. If you like good romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally and Love, Actually, just imagine that this is like a book version of that and you’ll have a pretty good idea. I am now eagerly anticipating the two (!) books Rainbow Rowell is publishing later this year.