Top positive review
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The thrill and danger of the Chicago Exchange is worthy of stepping into and bidding highly on
on December 7, 2012
Trade Secrets by Holly Rozner
Page Count: 370
Release Date: 18 October 2012
Source: Complimentary copy provided by JKS Communications in exchange for an honest and unbiased review as part of the Trade Secrets Virtual Book Tour
Prior to reading Trade Secrets, I didn't know a thing about the Exchange, but Rozner's dark, risky account has introduced me to a whole new fascinating, disturbing, and dangerous world.
The year is 1986 and Remy Masterman, a woman who believes she's seen enough of this world even though she's still in her fresh twenties, enters the Chicago Exchange with one mission: to discover the secret surrounding her father's sudden, obscure death--because she knows there is one. What she doesn't know is that the Exchange is enshrouded in sexism, savagery, and corruption, and it'll take more than her no-nonsense attitude and perseverance to see any progress. She refuses to use deceptive means because she's a classy woman--wholesome, kind, lovable--but in a market that can either make or break her, she's going to have to start using more than just her brains and beauty to get what she wants.
The infamous crash of 1987, known as Black Monday, sets back all of Remy's plans, but in return reveals some more intriguing ones from the corrupt offices of the Chicago market. I loved seeing this historical event fictionalized into a contemporary setting, then speculated upon. I'm a glutton for based-off-true-story fiction, and appreciated Rozner's insider perspective on the trade.
I felt the entire story, though, mostly the plot and all the characters, is too idealized, and not just in the "good" way. The main character is too good, the villain is too bad, and the ending just perfectly predictable. There are bumps in the road, but by the first half of the book, it's clear who will win and who will lose.
Character-wise, Sarna is probably the only one who has dimension, the only one who is admittedly shallow--a weakness all humans struggle with--and the only one whose complexity I really felt and really think is experienceable. She's sinfully deceptive and wicked smart, but she learns a few things upon entering the Exchange, which shapes her into a more genuine person. This rawness, honesty, and slow development make her the only dynamic character in the entire book. Off of that: Remy is too goody-good--there's nothing negative or even self-depreciating about her, ever--and that makes her dislikable. But she's a strong, self-assured woman who (although being perfectly gorgeous and intelligent and successful) has her own career and relationship struggles, like the best of us do. She's well-portrayed, just not very fleshy... not very human.
I think Rozner spent way too much time and detail on the wrong aspects. There are paragraphs describing just what the interior of a room looks like, or what someone's meal consists of, or what Sarna is wearing, which makes the book drag on profusely. 370 pages is moderate for a full-length novel, but it's excessive when it could have been written better in 270. I also don't think she was meant to write erotic scenes; she should stick to a strictly literary voice. Sensuality, she pulls off well, but the explicit scenes are just awkward. I felt like I was reading a teen fanfic or a porn script. Not erotic at all. Case in point:
"Joey's sticky semen floated inside of her."
"The money made [Joey] sooooooooo sexy."
Case closed. Trade Secrets could have done (and probably would have done better) without the sex, just leaving the sexy. When sex scenes become forced, the classy, crafty plot automatically turns foul. However, I did enjoy Sarna's sexual exploits... there are a few men she pursues throughout the book, and while her manipulation is utterly detestable, it's utterly thrilling at the same time.
Stylistically, Rozner's voice is smooth and reads chick-lit. Nothing phenomenal, but still easy on the eyes.
The ending is way too rushed! The climax is complicated and scintillating, and the falling action engaging, but the conclusion is too abrupt as if the author suddenly realized she had run out of her 370-page limit and squeezed in the entire resolution into two pages. I was left hanging with many of the characters, but wasn't at all impressed. There are two ways you can leave readers hanging: by indicating there will be a sequel to keep them coming for more, and by insufficiently urging things too quickly. Rozner did the latter; based on the conclusion that dispenses a "happy ending" but doesn't elaborate, I am in no way am I inclined to read a sequel (not that there even is one) yet I'm still left in the dark about many of the little plot holes. Leaves a sour taste in my mouth--all the suspense, all the drama... it was all for nothing. NOTHING!!!
Don't mind me, though. Really.
Love: As much as [Remy] needed a career and the feeling of success that came with it, she also needed people in her life. Making money can get a person only so far.
Only people can make you feel real.
Pros: Real, relatable emotions conveyed // Fascinating concept // Sharp commentary on the American Exchange // Penetrating insight on relationships and friendships // Sarna is a masterfully deceptive, dynamic character // Sensual // Easy read
Cons: Shallow, annoyingly idealized characters // Just so-so in style // Drags on a lot--370-page count unnecessary // Predictable // Awkward and misplaced erotic scenes // Hasty, unsatisfying ending with inadequate closure
Verdict: If you wouldn't be too psychologically distressed by a disgruntling ending, be sure to try Trade Secrets because the thrill and danger of the Chicago Exchange--a backdrop I've never encountered in literary fiction before--is worthy of stepping into, and bidding highly on.
7 hearts - Not without flaws, but overall enjoyable.