by Rainbow Rowell
First sentence: “There was a boy in her room.”
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Content: There’s quite a few f-bombs, and some insinuations of sex. Plus a lot of underage (and overage) drinking. Also, it’s about college freshmen, a subject which I’m not sure younger readers want to read about. It’s rightly in the teen section (grades 9 and up) of the bookstore.

Cath and Wren are twins. Wren is the outgoing one, the pretty one, the fun one. And Cath stays home and writes Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) fanfiction. She’s really good at it: her stories get thousands of hits, and are widely talked about on the fanfiction sites.

But none of that is going to matter now that they’re freshmen at the University of Nebraska. Cath wanted to go the safe route by rooming with Wren. But, for Wren, that wasn’t an option. So Cath is forced to branch out. Experience things. Actually have a life.

In many ways, this is a love story to those who write fanfiction. Yes, Cath is an introvert, and no she doesn’t want to engage in what most people call “living”, but in no way does Rowel make Cath seem pathetic. She puts her in contrast to Wren, who spends weekends (and some weeknight) partying until we hours (the “normal” college experience) and lets us choose on our own. Perhaps some readers will see Cath as pathetic and without a life, but I never did. (Perhaps, too, that’s because I’m an introvert and I have a nerdy family who actually read — and write — fanfiction.)

It’s also a traditional love story. Cath’s roommate, Reagan, has a boy, Levi, kicking around. Cath thinks they’re dating, but eventually realizes that it’s really her Levi is interested in. And it’s their romance that made the book for me. Levi is so danged good and it was a pleasure watching the good guy get the girl. (So often it’s the “bad” one.) I loved the banter, I loved the push and pull, and I loved watching Levi draw Cath out of her shell, while simultaneously wholly accepting her for who she is.

The ending was a bit pat, I thought, and all the drama with her parents (dad’s a bit on the manic side; mom walked out on The 9/11, and Cath is understandably resistant to her attempts to reconnect) was a bit over-the-top. And while I appreciated that Rowell was reaching out to those who immerse themselves in a fandom, including pages and pages of Cath’s fanfiction was a little boring for me.

Even with the quibbles, though, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

Audiobook: Sense & Sensibility

by Jane Austen
Read by: Wanda McCaddon
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Content: Aside from Willoughby being a bit of a cad (!), there really isn’t anything improper in this one. The main obstacles are with the length and the language and the pacing.

The last time I read this one, five years ago, I ended up liking it. At least more than I did the first time I read it. Well, call me fickle, but I’m back on the “not so much” side of things. Perhaps it was the reader of this audiobook — she had a slightly grating voice; or perhaps it was that I was trying to listen to this driving back from Austin and it kept putting me to sleep. Either way, I was underwhelmed by this Austen novel.

This time, while I was amused at parts, and even laughed aloud once or twice, mostly I just kept thinking how poorly Austen plotted. It took too long to get started, it took too long to get events rolling, and it went on long after it could have ended. None of which is a crime; there are many adult books that suffer from the same issues. But I found myself irritated with it this time around. I wanted the story to be tighter, more streamlined. And while I enjoyed Austen’s trademark wit, I wanted more of it and less, well, austerity.

It’s not a bad book; it’s just not one of my favorite Austen books. I wouldn’t recommend listening to it, however. That was just a bad experience.