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.

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Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #35: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Could I have to expand my so-called Holy Trinity to a Holy Quadrinity? Rainbow Rowell, that name of hers be damned, is sure making a case for it. I’ll withhold my final verdict until her third book, Fangirl, comes out, but her chances of reaching that same rarified company as King, Adams, and Vonnegut are looking good.

Again, Rowell hit me right in the feels, so much so that I was actually compelled to type “right in the feels,” a phrase I had avoided prior to now. Again, Rowell made me care so deeply about her characters and their happiness that I couldn’t, or at least didn’t want to, envision an ending which denied them that same happiness.

This isn’t a story of love at first sight. Park can barely stand to allow Eleanor to sit next to him at first. But, from there, things progress bit by bit until the two know nothing but their love for one another. It all could be easily construed as cloying instead of sweet, but Rowell balances it out with a fair share of darkness.

Think of Eleanor & Park as a strong cup of coffee with enough sugar and cream mixed in to make it look as white as Eleanor herself. Except, in this case, you can still taste the underlying bitterness of the coffee through it all, and yet you don’t mind because it makes everything that much sweeter.

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

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

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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 #29: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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This is going to be one of those times where the review of the book is slighter than it should be, but dangit, sometimes you read a book that makes you feel feelings that it might take you several months of prolonged writing to properly parse out. I just don’t have that kind of time to spend on this review, not if I want to make that damn double Cannonball.

I fell head over heels in love with Rainbow Rowell’s debut novel, Attachments, back in February, and even though her second novel is a horse of a different color, her lovely words, her ability to create lovable, relatable, yet flawed characters, and, quite frankly, her gift at capturing moments of heightened emotion, both small and large, remains the same (if not improved).

Eleanor & Park is the story of two teenagers in 1986. New girl Eleanor sits next to Park on the bus, and in between reading comics over his shoulder and sharing headphones with one another, they fall in love. Eleanor is an outlier, a big girl with a shock of red curly hair, who wears strange, mismatched clothes and has an extremely troubled family life. Park, due to his longevity in the neighborhood, is actually pretty high on the social acceptance scale, but has always felt like an outsider anyway because of his Korean heritage and his interest in less traditionally masculine things. There isn’t much plot movement, per se, but there sure as hell is a lot of emotional movement. Rowell is an expert at examining the nuances of interpersonal relationships, at taking the moments a lot of authors just gloss over and punching you in the feelings with them. There’s this scene where Eleanor and Park hold hands for the first time that just took my breath away, and it was such a simple moment, but Rowell just kills it. The only thing about Eleanor & Park is that it’s dark in places that I wish it wasn’t, not because it’s not well-written or I didn’t like the story, but because it illuminates certain things about life that I’d prefer to forget exist. This isn’t a happily ever after sort of story, but it is a damn good one.

If you want a really, really good review of this book, go here. Otherwise, just take my word for it and read this book.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #32: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

The year is 1986. Park doesn’t fit in amongst the other kids in high school or in his own family. While both he and his brother are half Korean, you wouldn’t know it to look at his already taller younger brother. Park listens to Joy Division, The Smiths and The Cure, and reads comic books reverently. He feels like he can never quite measure up to the expectations of his very manly father. He’s not exactly popular, but he’s not a complete outcast either.

Not like the new girl, Eleanor, who is chubby, with bright red hair, and dresses in strange combinations of goodwill clothes. Quickly gaining nicknames like “Bozo” and “Big Red”, it’s clear that Eleanor won’t be winning any popularity contests, and Park isn’t thrilled when she ends up sitting next to him on the school bus, and keeps showing up in his honours’ classes. Slowly, but surely, a friendship blossoms, as Eleanor starts reading Park’s comic books over his shoulder. Soon Park is silently lending her comics, and this leads to conversations, and further topics of conversations and mix tapes and soon, Park and Eleanor live for the moments when they see each other again on the bus or in class.

More on my blog

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.