November 11th, 2014

_Status Update_, Mari Carr, Second Chances, spoilers

Altho I will say, if you are reading a contemporary romance of this sort and worried about spoilers, I feel like you have comprehensively _missed the fucking point_ of a good contemporary romance. You _know the destination_ (they are going to get together); the point is the journey. A really good contemporary romance is actually better around the 7th or 8th reread.

Regardless. Spoilers.

A group of women in their late 30s/early 40s, some who have been married and/or had kids and some who have not, make New Year's Resolutions and it is one book per woman, but there are bits and pieces about the others scattered throughout thus rewarding reading the series but in no way mandating it. Good series construction. I Approve.

In this outing, Laura's twin kids are grown, graduated from college and launched on their respective careers. Speaking of which, Katie is said to be a kindergarten teacher at one point and yet begs off on seeing her mum on account of having papers to grade. Her mum thinks Katie is just being mean to her and that the excuse is sketchy, but I think that excuse is so far past sketchy that I suspect an editing lapse. Whatevs. She is a year or few out from being divorced from their dad, who was mean and unpleasant and depressed, altho he doesn't sound like he was outright abusive. Laura got pregnant with the twins at 19, so she didn't have the college experience and went straight from parents' house to living with the father and thus no solid grounding in her own developed adult self to return to when she is living on her own. Her resolution is to re-connect with her own self. Georgie (one of the other women) has a plan: makeover, dancing, go to a concert, maybe some weed. Laura is happy to play along, and runs across a junior high school/early high school friend, Bryan. Bryan married a little older and has a slightly younger daughter (still in college), Trina. His wife died a few years ago as a result of complications of poorly managed type 1 diabetes.

The main spanner in the works is Katie. Kevin is least in sight; when he does reappear (here would be a spoiler), he is very supportive of Laura's new life and wants her to be happy. Katie, however, is busy blaming Laura for how awful and miserable her father is, having apparently really never noticed that he was pretty awful and miserable and absent all along. Laura _had_ buffered that painful truth and with the buffer gone, denial springs in its place. Katie is kind of awful, but Laura goes way past Don't Diss the Ex to the Kids and is a complete doormat, allowing Katie's hurt and fears to almost derail her Laura's new life.

Obvs, Laura needs to tell Katie to either get over herself or go spend more time with Dear Old Dad until she grasps reality. In practice, by the time she is ready to do that, Katie (with some kicking from Kevin) has figured it out on her own. So that's all nicely wrapped up in a bow.

There are some really nice set pieces in this book. Tailgating at the Jimmy Buffet concert is probably the best, but trying to teach Laura how to dance is fairly hilarious also. The Rocky Horror Picture Show outing is so-so. I liked that they went; the details of how it worked were not that inspired, altho the missed phone calls, finding out Katie was at the ER because (hey, I did mention spoilers) dear old dad had heartburn was also kinda humorous.

In some ways, I liked Laura and Bryan a lot less than many other characters I've read in Mari Carr novels. I felt like both of them were ... pervasively unwise. They were by no means stupid, or risk taking, or mean spirited or of low morals or bad character or anything like that. I just felt like given their age, and their histories, they had had a lot of opportunity to be making better decisions than they were making and having better relationships than they had. OTOH, better late than never.

I wonder how the FB references will age? Right now, they are utterly perfect. But so many things wind up making contemporaries read like historicals, ten years later.

It is well written and enjoyable (despite that hiccup with the kindergarten teacher grading papers thing). There is explicit sex used to develop the relationship. Bryan's perspective on bondage is unique in my experience -- a little heavy handed (NOT literally, okay, maybe a little) but works well for his character and the nature of the relationship.

_Afternoon Delight_, Anne Calhoun, spoilers

Contemporary romance, I don't know that this is or is not part of a series. It reads just fine as a standalone novel.

Tim Connor is a paramedic and has been for a while; he is training a new guy ("probie" Casey). His family has been born and lived in New York for generations, within a very small area. In his 30s, he watched his grandparents die over a period of years, and he has managed the stress and sadness of that and his job by being very fast and very good at everything he does, to avoid feeling. The characterization is believable, but it is kinda hammered home hard -- shown and told, more than a few times. Big speed = not feeling theme.

Sarah Naylor is helping her friend Trish get a food truck business ("Symbowl") running. Trish used to be a highly compensated something or other; they both live in Trish's extremely nice digs and Trish's money got the food truck going, but it is Sarah's cooking experience that is making it work. Sarah is from San Francisco and took a couple years off from working at very high tone restaurants to nurse her aunt through a couple years dying of ovarian cancer.

So both Tim and Sarah have well developed personal armor and well developed strategies for connecting very quickly with other people and getting other people to trust them. Tim meets Sarah at the food truck a couple times and banter leads to challenges and challenges lead to a series of sexual encounters that (this really should not surprise anyone who reads Anne Calhoun) quickly lead to a deeply felt emotional connection that neither character was consciously expecting or looking for but both characters were desperately in need of. Both jobs are developed in enough detail to feel like they aren't just there to give Tim and Sarah answers to the question, "What do you do for a living". Sarah's interest in exploring New York and trying to figure out whether she can transplant from SF to NYC on other than a temporary basis is really well developed.

It's an enjoyable read, altho there are aspects to the Brooklyn hipster food truck thing in conjunction with Trish's obsessive social media strategy that make me wonder what it will be like to reread this in a decade. It certainly feels super timely _now_. The joke about the strange men that Sarah finds in the kitchen generally reading The Economist is really funny, especially the one reading the Post not getting invited back.

There were a couple bits I kind of went, "Really?" to: Tim's head injury and Sarah coming over; Tim pulling a soup recipe off of Sarah's blog and cooking it for her along with the brown bread from Mrs. Cohen. The head injury was quite severe. Tim's deprecation of it and going to work the next day struck me as not entirely realistic. The good-at-caring-for-the-injured-without-coddling is _so_ _freaking_ _overdone_. And I would have liked a little more evidence that Tim had any clue how to prepare food at all. Because I've been around young men (and not so young men) who have tried to cook from a recipe for the first time in their lives and it does not go that well.

But these are minor issues. If you like contemporary romance, and in particular if you like Calhoun, this is a good one.

Kindle Voyage review

I just read two novels on it (see previous reviews), so I now have a sense of how I feel about the origami case (meh) and the page turn buttons (a definitely improvement over the Paperwhite's lack thereof). Initially, I had a habit of hitting the back button whenever I put the reader down. I had to consciously hold it in a slightly different place to avoid that. Then I kept getting sucked into left/right expectations and paging forward repeatedly when I meant to go back. There is a period of adaptation, but it does not feel onerous, and the experience gives me hope that when I am adapted it will do what I want it to without me having to think about it, which is more than I can say about the Paperwhite with the whole footnote problem whenever trying to page forward in non-fiction.

I checked it against my existing (I think original) Paperwhite (I didn't see a compelling reason to get a later generation). In case, it is lighter by slightly more than an ounce. While the screen size appears to be identical, the overall dimensions are noticeably smaller.

Charges well. Holds a charge fine. Does what I expect it to. Has a crazy crisp screen. I mean, really amazingly crisp.

It's always hard to know whether a given upgrade is worth the money ahead of time, but I sure don't regret this upgrade one teeny tiny little bit. I am overjoyed.