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Connected (Connections #1) - Kim Karr I haven't gotten my rock star fix in recent months so after seeing 4 and 5-star reviews from a number of Goodreaders I follow and learning that Kellan Kyle and Jake Wethers were mentioned, I decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, this book didn't work out for me.

Dahlia London lost her family to a tragic event when she was just a young teenager. Now in college, she's starting to feel less lonely. She's studying what she loves, is best friends with a crazy girl, and is happily in love with her childhood friend and now boyfriend, Ben. One Halloween night, she and her best friend, Aerie, decided to leave Ben's fraternity's party to check out a new band in the campus bar. Dahl catches the eye of this attractive guy and sparks fly. Soon enough they were drinking, flirting and chatting, instantly hitting it off. The chemistry was obviously there but Dahl had to remind herself that she had Ben and that this guy was dangerous to be with. Fortunately, the band calls this guy over to start their set and their flirting is interrupted. Dahl finds out that he is actually River Wilde, the singer of The Wilde Ones. Before they part, River asks her to stay and even kisses her, but Dahl, suddenly scared of her intense attraction to him, decided that she needs to get away. And so she left the bar, River never knowing her name. 

Fast forward to a few years later, Ben and Dahl are engaged and happily living in a cute house with white picket fences. Ben is now a pretty successful journalist, and Dahl is finally done with graduate school. However, their lives were abruptly interrupted when tragedy decided that it wasn't done messing with Dahl. And then by some twist of fate, she finds herself in a situation where she reconnects with River, whose band is now a rising figure in the music industry.

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Review/Rant/Crackpot theory portion. Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

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My reading experience with this book started out fairly typically. I wasn't a fan of insta-love (I've read very few books where the author managed to pull it off convincingly) but it was something I could live with. Ben seemed like a sketchy character to me from the get go, and even in his death I couldn't sympathize with Dahl's loss. I don't know, to me, the death of a loved one seemed like an overused tactic by authors to make the reader feel for the main character. I felt a bit emotionally manipulated but decided to let it go since I wanted River for Dahl and I wanted them to get together in a way that's devoid of cheating, or making Ben a complete douchebag in order for us to root for River. You get what I mean. 

Anyway, I'll get back to Ben later. The story progressed without any real conflict until the latter part of the book. In fact, I think I made it halfway feeling a bit disinterested from the lack of plot. Sure, the sex scenes were great and River seemed like a great guy but up to that point, the story was pretty uneventful. Xander harboring hatred for Dahl because he needed someone to blame for their sister's accident and subsequent change of direction in her life was completely baseless and stupid. Dahl is convinced that it was indirectly her fault. She concludes that she will never be accepted by River's family and so they can't be together. I was thinking then that if the author made that the reason for their parting then I was going to stop reading. Then, just as quickly and out of nowhere that conflict came, the resolution happened a few pages later. Just like that, Xander and Dahl are now friends. O-kaaay. So forget their little spat happened, what I derived from that scene at Smitten's were, 1.) Bell probably knew Ben, hence Dahl looking familiar to her, and 2.) Bell is most likely, the S'Belle that Ben was exchanging e-mails with and he's the guy she was supposed to meet in her place the night of the accident. Well, if that was the big secret then it's, quite honestly, predictable.

My other issue was the big twist towards the ending. While I did not see that coming, I do NOT understand the whys and the hows of it. Come on. If Caleb has managed to put  bodyguards on Dahl after the attack and install a state-of-the-art security system then why didn't he do that for Ben and Dahl in the first place? Fine. Maybe the danger that Ben and Dahl could have potentially faced is much bigger. But if the knowledge that Ben possessed was something that was of epic proportions then couldn't he have sought authorities? Military intelligence? Be on some kind of protection program or something? He covered crime investigations. I'm sure he knows the drill. This was, after all, supposedly Caleb's fault. Dahl's life was on the line and Ben decides to trust the very person who monumentally screwed up? Caleb would be the last person that I'd connive with! And if I faked my own death wouldn't I at least get a less visible job for anonymity? Even with the name change there is still the risk of being discovered. After all, he was the recipient of California's Journalist of the Year at one point.

In the end, the 'suits' from some government section was with him and he was finally free to go back. Maybe they were behind Caleb the whole time. I doubt that they'd go the fake-death route though. And IF they weren't and Ben just decided to seek them after all these years to finally get help (or it was the other way around and they outed him) then I would think that there are serious legal repercussions that can't possibly end in a good way for him. I don't know anymore. I think Ms. Carr just opened a can of worms with this one. 

You know what I think? I think Ben's involvement with Bell might have been the original major conflict that keeps Dahl and River apart and then the author decided that it wasn't strong enough. Hence, the Ben-is-alive twist. The prologue and the epilogue seemed completely disjointed from the rest of the book. I do hope that Ms. Carr is able to tie all the loose ends flawlessly in the next book because honestly, nothing makes sense to me right now. 

My other issue with this book was the use of songs to resonate with each chapter. Ms. Carr had said that she used them "to convey character feelings and emotions." Now I am a fan of music integration in books. I was excited to read the playlist in the beginning of the book but after a few chapters in, I grew tired of flipping back and forth between listening to music lyrics and reading. Plus, some of the songs she chose were too obvious in meaning, that I already figured out what was going to happen in the accompanying chapter. 

The last issue I'll address is the editing. I'm far from being a perfect writer or having perfect command of grammar and proper punctuation marks so I usually let editing lapses slide especially since I'm esentially reading these books for the story. However, I don't believe that authors of self-published books without the help of an editor should settle for mediocre proofreading. I thought it was pretty unfortunate that Ms. Carr botches the one song that she was given permission to reprint due to a careless typographical error (typing "comprise" instead of compromise"). 

I guess the main reason why I didn't give up on the book, or gave it 1 star, was because I was hopeful until the end. I love musician/rock star led books and I thought River was a pretty awesome guy. I'm glad he wasn't portrayed as a typical famous rock star with douchebag tendencies. I do think he knows far more than he lets on though. And while I couldn't really relate to Dahl, I didn't hate her. I pitied her, especially towards the end and knowing the turmoil she'll be in in the next book. I dunno... Maybe I'd have enjoyed this more if I wasn't on this self-pubbed-book-slump I've been feeling lately. Somehow, most of my reads seem to follow this formula: Girl meets boy. They fall in love. Some big secret is revealed. Secret causes fight/distrust/distance. The stars align. Conflict is resolved. The couple gets their HEA. Boom! Done! My problem with this formula is when the secret or conflict is unoriginal or just stupid. 

*sigh*

I will probably still read the second book because I am curious as to how this will play out. I foresee a love triangle and tons of angst.