Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I ripped through this novel like a knife through tissue paper. it was so good. Better than good. It was a delight.

The book takes in 1999 and early 2000.  Lincoln works for the newspaper in Omaha in the IT department. Most of what he does is monitor the webfence, a program designed to monitor internally for the inappropriate use of email. Everyone at the paper now has email and the higher ups are worried people will abuse it. Mostly what Lincoln does is he checks the folder, sends out warnings, and then does whatever he wants for the rest of his shift.
Beth is a reporter for the newspaper who inappropriately uses her email. Well, she uses it for personal messages and not just for business. Most of the time she emails her friend and coworker Jennifer.  Lincoln sees the messages but decides not to say anything. And, then he just keeps reading them and reading them.
When I figured out the premise of the book, that Lincoln basically falls in love with this woman by snooping on her emails I thought, “Oh. That is so gross.”  Because it is. But, everything we know about Beth we know from her emails that Lincoln reads. That is the only way she’s in the story. And, she’s easy to like. Beth is smart and she is funny and she really cares about her friend Jennifer. Thankfully, the creepiness of snooping through someone’s email is actually discussed in the book. There are moral compass characters (who play d&d!) There are comic relief characters (Justin, Lincoln’s friend, is fantastic. As is Lincoln’s mother. And, Lincoln’s lunch buddy Delores.).
The subplots about Jennifer’s marriage and complex relationship with having children was wonderful and something that I would like to see more of in literature and media. The decision to have children is really huge and shouldn’t be taken lightly and so to have it discussed at all (and to have a woman’s doubts about having children discussed) was amazing.

And, the subplot about Beth’s partner Chris was infuriating. If someone is “just too much” for you. Break up with them.  Don’t try to make them feel bad about it. Ugh. What a jackass.

This book had everything and I’m so happy that it was part of my pop culture homework assignment!

I got to meet Rainbow Rowell 

In a perfect set of coincidences, I am visiting my parents in Cedar Rapids, IA. Rainbow Rowell is speaking in Cedar Rapids, IA. Oh and the library’s ebook of Attachments became available. So, I read the first three chapters before heading out.  To start, I wasn’t sure if she would read or give a talk or answer questions.  Rowell did mostly questions and answers and she started by answering a question that she gets a lot: how did you become a novelist.

I knew immediately that I was going to like her because she had on a dress with trees on it (I found out at the signing it was from eShakti) and a large cat face necklace. Normally, I am loath to be the kind of person who judges people by what they’re wearing but plus-size women who have cultivated a sense of style (especially ones that are my age or older and remember a time when all plus-size clothing was hideous) are always cool even if I don’t like them.

Rainbow Rowell chatting with the room

So, Rowell started out by telling us about her life before her books were published as a journalist who for awhile had a gig covering Western Iowa for an Omaha paper. It was great to hear her tales of the hijinx that we get up to in the middle of the nation. (We had a Pork Queen who was a vegetarian.  If that’s not funny to you, you’re either not from here or you’re not from here and you guessed wrong as to what a Pork Queen is.)

Then she took questions from the audience. She gave advice to young authors. She talked about her favorite fandoms (Sherlock). She talked her X- men-Mary Sue-self-insert fan fic she wrote as a teen.  I laughed so much I was so excited to continue reading Attachments.

After Rowell’s talk she signed books. There was a long line and it was great that she signed so many books. I don’t usually fangirl (especially not over an author whose books I’ve not finished) but I stood in that really long line to tell her how much I enjoyed her talk, get my book signed and to get my picture taken.
Yup, I’m that kind of nerd.

Rainbow Rowell and Kate being a total Fangirl.

Update: Mime Order

The Mime Order

So, I have finished The Mime Order. And, everything, everything, everything in this post is going to be full of spoilers for both The Mime Order and the first book in the series The Bone Season.

If you have read the books, please join us for discussion and wild speculation in the comments! Some of my thoughts about the book after the cut.

Continue reading

Review: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven

This was a really different tale than I typically read. Set in what is a fantasy-version of Medieval China, it follows the lives of a number different people who have a huge impact on the course of the empire. The tale starts with Shen Dai who is spending his official mourning period following the death of his father at the site of his father’s worst memory, a battle field at the edge of the empire which was so devastating that many of the slain weren’t even able to be buried. He spends the mourning period burying as many of the dead as he can. This ends up having tremendous consequences for him because he is honored for his work with a gift of 200 of the strongest and most beautiful horses. This is cause for some alarm. He’ll probably be killed for these horses. So, he has to figure out how to navigate the world he’s been out of for two years without getting killed.

Meanwhile, his lover in the capitol has been taken as a concubine by a rival. That rival has moved up in the Palace ranks and is a hugely influential adviser to the king and his brother is that rival’s most trusted adviser. Additionally, his sister has been raised to a princess and has been sent to marry a border tribe leader to cement a treaty.

And, that’s not even half of it. The story follows the lives of Shen Dai, the rival, his brother, his sister, the concubine, an assassin, the heir to the throne, army leaders, border leaders and outcasts and the Emperor’s favorite wife. All of these threads weave in and out of each other in a personal tale about a crisis within the whole empire.

This was an immensely fun listen and I am happy to have read it. Although, it is full of an incredible amount of detail so I ended up listening to some parts of it more than once. (As it turns out, when it snows heavily during your evening commute, you have a lot of time for listening and re-listening to audio books.) If you’re looking for a break from teen romance, I recommend this!

Dear Stackologist: You seem to know about love and reincarnation

Dear Stackologist,

I read your column and you seem to have some idea of how to deal with love and reincarnation. I have a love and reincarnation problem. Um, the world might end because of my one true love and me. I know, sorry everyone. I really love him, he’s great. Our friends are great. But, in order to save the world I have to be careful and keep a low profile. This has meant that I’ve had to stay away from my family and I really miss them. Do you have any advice for how to keep in touch with your family without blowing your cover?

Love Gives You Wings

Dear Wings,

Pre-paid cell phone? Hotmail account you and your parents both have a password to that you save messages to the drafts folder in? I don’t know, I’m a blogger not a spy, Jim. I am happy that you are trying to reach out and keep in touch with your family, though. And, I’m happy that you really love your guy and that he is great. I do worry for you, though. Separating someone from their support structure, the people who know and love them is also a tactic used by abusers. Please do find a way to reach out to your family and keep in touch with them. Please be careful with yourself while you’re saving the world.

-The Stackologist

Dear Stackologist,

I recently spent some time in prison. It’s complicated. As I’m sure you’re aware, the government is corrupt and has been targeting minority populations for oppression, marginalization and extermination. Before I was, uhm, released from prison, my keeper and I had a chance to get to know each other and come to trust each other. I see him as a strong ally in my fight against a corrupt government. I also maybe see him as a bit more. (I think he feels the same way, too.) However, I’m afraid to admit to my feelings because I think my friends will see our relationship as nothing more than Stockholm Syndrome. I just don’t know how to approach this topic with them.

Prison Tat

Dear Prison Tat,

Life is complicated, isn’t it? I think it’s great that you were able to find an ally (and maybe more!) in such a horrifying situation. I also think it is wonderful that you have kept strong ties with your friends. I think you have to ask yourself some hard questions but it sounds like your head is in the right place and I feel like you’ll come to the right decision for you. First, are you afraid that your friends will think you have Stockholm Syndrome because part of you also might feel that way? Really examine your feelings and their origins. If you think you might be coming to identify with your captors then I think you may want to consider a cooling off period without you ally with benefits. If you aren’t, and your feelings, like the world around you, are complicated but coming from a good place, then you should consider being honest with your friends and frankly discussing your feelings. Discussing your feelings with people who care for you will let them know you still trust and value their opinion. It may also help you gain new perspective on your situation. Most of all, it will help to reinforce your support system and if you’re about to take on a corrupt government, you’re going to need that. Finally, we here at Stacks Exceed Life Expectancy have always found that the traditional view on Valentine’s Day, where you focus on romantic love, is misguided. Saint Valentine was martyred for marrying people who was told not to marry. He stood up for what he believed in and fought the power. Today is a day for bold and revolutionary acts. So, today, we here at Stacks Exceed Life Expectancy stand up with you against your corrupt government and say:

Vive la Révolution!

The Stackologist

Dear Stackologist: Life is Full of Tough Choices

Dear Stackologist,

I am married. I thought I would be happy to be married to my husband.  He is exactly the type of man I should be married to as we come from the same background and status but he isn’t my true love.  That belongs to my father’s ward.  He would be unsuitable to marry, I know but we are kindred spirits.  We used to run all over the moors together.  I think what makes me the most unhappy is that my love has ran off with my husband’s sister and married her.  I think I was much happier when he was mine and mine alone.  Am I wrong to be so down?  I just might die if I can’t have him.

Lonely on the Moors.

Dear Moors,

First of all, I feel like you got married for the wrong reasons.  While it might be important to please your family, this is your life and not theirs so if you are not happy with your husband then maybe it’s time for a divorce.  Chances are, if you are not happy neither is he.  As for your other issue, I’m not sure you really love him but want to possess him.  That’s not exactly healthy.  If he has gotten married, you should respect his decision but again I do worry about his reasons for marriage too but that’s for another letter.  Also I’m a little worried about you saying you will die without him.  No man is worth dying for.  Life is full disappointments and you must learn to live with them.  Nor can you expect someone to stay single just because you want them too.  You moved on, you have to allow that they will move on, too.



Dear Stackologist,

I really like this guy but we sort of met under unusual situation.  He’s funny, and charming and also an addict.  He traded in doing drugs and alcohol for another vice, so to speak, but he still partakes in self destructive behavior.  I couldn’t take it. I could not stay and watch him destroy himself. So, I left. I moved to California with my Mom.  I have my own problems to deal with like my brother’s death and my parent marital problems (they’re divorcing).  I don’t need to his on top of that.  I thought I was getting over him when one day he showed up at my job.  Now all the feelings I had for him are back but I’m not sure I can trust him. He says he is no longer doing what he was doing but I just don’t know.  I’m not sure I can let him back into my life.

Ugh. I can’t believe I’m one of those letter-writing girls

Dear Letter-Writer,

I think it’s brave that you saw that you were in a bad situation and you took yourself out of it.  It’s not easy, especially when it involves someone that you care about. It sounds like you are going through a difficult time right now and by taking him out of the equation you are on the right path.  I think this is one of those cases where the only person that can truly help them is them.  It’s obviously difficult now that he is back in your life.  You want to believe he is better and maybe he is but more importantly, how are you?  Who is supporting you? Who is helping you cope with your brother’s death and your parents’ separation?  I think you need to deal with you first before him.  If he cares for you, then he will wait for to get yourself back together.


Dear Stackologist: Love Advice for the Young and Literary

During this week ending in Valentine’s Day, we here at Stacks Exceed Life Expectancy will be offering our advice to any heroines or heroes who see fit to send us a missive.

Dear Stackologist,

My fiance and I have reached a sticky spot in our relationship. We’re going to be married before the end of summer and we’ve never…you know. Whenever we talk about it, he tells me that he doesn’t think we’re ready, that he’s worried about the state of my soul and he’s also really worried that he’ll hurt me. (He’s very strong!) I see his reasoning, I guess. If he’s worried about my soul, I should just let it go. But, I’m ready to move on to the next stage of our relationship and it is frustrating! help! I’m not sure what to do!


Dear Vamps4Eva,

A relationship is about give and take. Sometimes, you don’t get exactly what you want but that’s okay because your partner is happy and there will come a time when you’re happy but they didn’t get exactly what they wanted. If you are happy enough with the compromise, then you can go ahead and continue on with the relationship as is. If you aren’t happy with the compromise, you should tell your partner how you feel. You should use I-statements (“I feel this…”)

My bigger concern is this: He is very strong and concerned that he’ll hurt you and he is telling you what to do with your body. You are in charge of your body. No one else is. And, I recommend being wary of anyone trying to warn you off because “they might hurt you”. This is a move often made by abusers to put themselves in a position of power over someone. They warn you off, you keep on, and then when something bad happens instead of dealing with the bad, getting angry, leaving, a victim will blame themselves for not listening to the original warning and stay and possibly get hurt more. I recommend talking to someone, a family member, a friend and making sure that you really are safe.

Finally, I know this is a hard to think about, pending nuptials and everything, but sometimes relationships fail because you and your partner want different things. Sometimes those things can be part of your physical relationship. It is a huge bummer but it is better that you realize it before the wedding than after. Think really hard about if this relationship is really what you want and really meets your needs, physical and emotional. Relationships are about compromise, but you can’t compromise on your needs.

-The Stackologist

Dear Stackologist,

I recently met this dude and he’s super hot and we get along really well together and I think I’m falling in love. Maybe for the second time? I discovered recently that in my past life he was indirectly responsible for my death. I also just discovered that he was directly responsible for a recent wave of genocide against my people.

But, I know he’s been abused by his father and he may have started the genocide as revenge for my death. I’m so torn. How do I reconcile my anger with him and my love for him?

Blue from head to toe

Dearest, Blue,

Wow. I am so sorry, well, sorry doesn’t even cover it, to hear about the genocide against your people. That is a serious trauma and I recommend that you seek some counseling for that. And, if sounds like your dude might also be suffering from some trauma related to your death. I recommend that he also seek some counseling. It sounds like what you need is to have a serious discussion (or series of discussions) about his involvement in the genocide and possibly your death. And, you need to decide what you are willing to forgive and what you’re willing to live with. Sometimes, things don’t work out not because of how we feel but because of bigger concerns. But, sometimes they do.

-The Stackologist