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on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
John Lincoln is not happy. He doesn't realize, but everyone else in his life does: his estranged wife, his boss, strangers on the subway, his coworkers, his friend (and he really only has one friend). He's been caustic and cynical for so long that he no longer realizes that not everyone greets the world with such an unpleasant, jaded attitude. He wants things in his life to change, but he's unwilling (afraid?) to put forth any effort toward changing them - but of course that's not how he sees it. In his mind, he's a victim of sorts.

The novel begins just as things seem to picking up for Lincoln. He's poised on the edge of change: his wife has left him, there are changes afoot at work, and he's on the cusp of publishing what could be his break through novel. However, nothing goes the way he intended it. In fact, for much of the book, it feels like nothing goes at all. The plot meandered along in an oddly compelling manner, but without much action. Lincoln is both despicable and unsympathetic, and yet I found myself still pulling for him.

By the end of the book, Lincoln's life has changed substantially - yet he's still the same person.

I'm oddly ambivalent on this book. It was a quick read for me, and I didn't want to put it down. Yet at the end, I felt extremely dissatisfied, and not in that way a good book can unnerve you and shake you up. I just wanted something MORE from it.
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on November 12, 2012
I started reading this book on night a flight from London to Boston. I read it all the way through, laughing out loud (annoying my seat mate who was trying to sleep), engrossed in the tale and the telling of it, only stopping to process how wonderfully written something was or to marvel at an insight so searing I had to gasp. Richard Babcock's latest novel is his best. I only wish this bumbling review was edited by John Lincoln - then the book's power would shine through.
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on January 9, 2013
I personally did not find the many lol moments some of the other reviews eluded to, rather I found yet another aimless male being rescued by the squared away female lead. Who must teach him how he really feels and what he really wants.
John's initial assessment of Amy's manuscript is a fairly accurate description of this work
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on February 7, 2013
Unless you pay $15 more for a Kindle Fire 4G, it comes with built-in advertisements called "special offers". This book was one of those special offers, which described it as humorous. The Amazon reader reviews confirmed that, so I bought it at the discount price of $2.99.

I didn't find the book humorous at all. Rather, I found it tedious, slow, and pointless. There are two main characters: John Lincoln, a book editor, and Amy O'Malley, an assistant editor encouraged by Lincoln to write a novel eventually called The Ultimate Position. Neither character is likeable, and their relationship is a mish-mash of nothing anyone could care about.

The writing is just so sophomoric: "I've never felt smarter, never felt more alive than when we were working on your book. I never felt more engaged." (Stop him! He's out of control!)" The parenthetical dialogue is the author's, not mine. Who writes like that?

This book was such a slogging disappointment that at about 57% of the way through, I stopped reading, went onto Amazon and paid the $15 to take away the special offers feature so I never had to be tempted by another of their enticing "special offers".

If you're entertained by trimming your toenails, this is the book for you. If you like books with witty conversation, engaging characters, and oh, I don't know, A POINT, then I suggest you pass this one by.

I can summarize with a line from toward the end of the book itself: "Like almost everything else in Lincoln's life, The Ultimate Position has turned out to be a sparrow fart." A sparrow fart, indeed.
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on February 28, 2013
I am a voracious reader of fiction. No matter how badly a book is written, I almost always finish it. Not this one! Being an egocentric jerk with literary pretentions writing about an egocentric jerk with literary pretentions doesn't qualify. Any character needs some attribute (besides shallowness) that the reader can identify with. And, no one's parents have ever understood their life choices - this plot point is simply worn out. So, to answer the book's question: "Are you happy now?" I respond: "Who cares?"
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VINE VOICEon December 11, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Are You Happy Now?" follows editor John Lincoln through a highly stressful year in his life that starts with a panic on the L of Chicago, and ends with us knowing all about what happened to John Lincoln, but unsure about where he's going next. The story is absorbing, but tends to be long-winded at times, which befits the author's background as an editor at The New Yorker, a publication that doesn't know how to tighten it's stories any better than a long-winded 3rd grader who is still learning the art of punctuation!

I enjoyed the novel, as I do most books about the world of books, but at times felt like the author was padding the pages in order to give a travelogue tour of Chicago. Nicely done, and interesting.
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on February 8, 2014
Strong characterization combine with a good story line to save this book from sinking into depressing introspection. Self centered protagonist seems to dominate the tone of this piece until the end. Worth reading if you do not have to pay too much.
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on January 28, 2013
I liked this story a lot. Partly because I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, like the author. He's an older guy and misses a few things when describing 20 and 30-somethings (like John's preference for vodka rather than beer, and how lightly sexual relations are regarded to a generation a lot more serious than many of us give credit for), but all in all I loved the story. My only major gripe is that the protagonist is a wuss. But you get a lot of that sort of thing in our post-feminist world. Still and all, the old verities win out: love, marriage, family and Midwestern values trump a high-profile, lucrative career in NYC, and that's worth cheering about.
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on February 3, 2013
The premise sounded interesting, and I thought the author had a gift for descriptive narrative. I also felt he over-used that gift. The long passages describing buildings, settings, and locations finally led me to put the book down, unfinished. I simply couldn't get engaged enough to continue.
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on February 10, 2013
Richard Babcock's clever and insightful prose shines an affectionate spotlight on the overlooked and less-than-flattering aspects of Chicago, a going-nowhere job, a seedy bar and a tufted grouse with titillating potential. The reader is quickly connected to the protagonist, John Lincoln, a small-time editor with big-city ambitions. If you're a writer, an editor or someone interested in the current state of publishing, you'll be interested in the author's amusing take on getting books to market. I was hooked on the story within the first few pages and, except for a couple author intrusions when Babcock flashed his descriptive prose at the expense of the story, never lost interest. I gave this novel four stars instead of five because Babcock's extraordinary character development with John dropped off precipitously with all the other characters. There was also a surprise plot event that had not been foreshadowed enough and therefore lacked some credibility. I felt tricked. Ironically John Lincoln talks disparagingly about authors using cheap surprises to move a plot forward and maybe he did the same thing as an inside joke. If he did that, I wish he'd given a hint to let the readers in on the joke. I loved the unexpected relationship John Lincoln built with the online author from India. It was brief but very revealing. I'd definitely recommend this if you are a writer or interested in the publishing industry.
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