Torn (Connections, #2) - Kim Karr Initial reaction: Well, at least I gave it a good go. Suffice to say this is the end of the series for me. I can't with much of what happened in this. The writing is a little more structured and organized, but the story is just unbelievable and inauthentic in so many ways.Full review:As a reader, sometimes you have the ability to change your mind about the things you read if curiosity beckons enough and you think the experience may improve as a series goes on. I have a rule of 2-3 on some books in a series if the first doesn't strike me as much as I would like (unless some aspect about the book completely turns me off.) I thought about this when I saw it as a galley, and figured "Maybe, just maybe it might improve. I won't know unless I try." I can say one positive thing about picking up "Torn" - the second in the "Connections" series from Kim Karr - the writing was a little better in this installation than the first book. It was easier to tell who was speaking, it was easier to follow some of the emotional tensions and plot details compared to the first book. But the plot was ridiculous - it was emotionally manipulative and trite. It didn't feel all that authentic or real at all. I guess coming off the heels of the last book where it felt like the plot "jumped the shark" - I shouldn't have been surprised, but I really wanted to see if this book could present the plot in a way that had some promise. I think in retrospect it actually could've worked well and recovered, but there were too many factors that worked against it.Might as well rip off the band-aid on this to start: Ben's back. He was proposed as dead in the last book. Suffice to say, River and Dahlia are not happy. Dahlia's devastated all over again because she's eloped with River and thinks she can move on with her life, even after a violent attack which she recovers from towards the beginning of the book. But when Ben returns, to say that a can of worms is opened doesn't even scratch the surface.I could understand Dahlia being upset, angry, even emotionally numb from the revelations handed down, but the reactions here were so shallow and really made the characters feel like caricatures than real people reacting to some seriously messed up circumstances (which, to be fair - I could see it happening. I really could, but not the way the book makes it out to be - it was melodramatic in the worst possible way).Another issue: too many music references here. They overwhelmed the narrative and made it far more heavy than it should've been for the read. I understand crafting atmosphere, and given River's profession, I realized the connection. But usually too many pop culture references aren't evocative of the kind of emotion one thinks by mere mention in a written work, it doesn't work the same way as in a movie. They do have to serve a purpose and it can be hard to give the kind of intimacy if the songs are tossed around as casually as they were in this book, and for sheer number. It wasn't that I didn't know the music references here - far from it. I've listened to (and like) quite many of the artists here, and I'm totally a fan of book soundtracks. But it was too much. Too much. If even the author had taken the number of songs down to ten *total* in the mention of the work - it probably wouldn't have made the narrative as weighted down as it was.But back to the characters: they're hard to like. Ben's journals make him seem nothing more than a selfish jerk who wants to reclaim everything he lost in his life at the drop of a hat. River and Dhalia, admittedly, have pretty darned good reason to be mad at him for barging in the way he does. I don't understand how Ben couldn't have been more sensitive to how emotionally jarring the reunion would be, that when a person moves on, they move on. Dahlia believed he was dead, as did his family. He recognizes this verbally, but his actions seem to portray otherwise.And of course, River and Ben go at each other's throats to defend their "girl" and no one thinks to tell Dahlia until after the fact. *facepalms*The sex scenes were sporadic, awkward in their insertions, and NOT sexy. Vivid, perhaps, but not conveying intimacy very well. I would say they were more formulaic and put in the moment as a tension builder, rather than having any kind of payoff or release.Some of the turns of events in the story did surprise me for their respective nature, but the path getting there didn't feel like it came together very well at all. I think the emotional gravity of some of the reveals and resulting actions (including the death of a familiar character), were shortchanged as a result.In all things, I do hope the series quality improves as it goes along, but - yeah, suffice to say this needed a lot more work done before hitting primetime, and it just didn't work for what it was aiming for, imho.Overall score: 1/5 stars.Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Penguin Group.