Title: A Straight Line to My Heart
Author: Bill Condon
Rating: 4 Stars
While I wish A Straight Line to My Heart was a little longer, it was perfect in its own way and utterly adorable. Seriously, don't let it's simplistic cover fool you - it's a novel that is deep in its subtlety, beautiful in its originality, and heart-wrenching in its happiness. I'm glad I took the time to savor this quick read - not to mention underline half the phrases in it! - and I know this is one I'll be thrusting upon others because it is just that good.
Although a small book, A Straight Line to My Heart packs a punch. It is a story of people; of reality; of life. It doesn't have too much of a plot, revolving around Tiffany working as a journalist intern over the summer and her relationship with her adoptive brother Bull, adoptive father Reggie, and best friend Kayla. Yet, despite the fact that it charts the events of a typical summer holiday, it is an unassuming little tale of growing up.
What I love the most about A Straight Line to My Heart is that it's such an intelligent novel. I couldn't help but go highlighter-crazy with phrases that made me both laugh out loud and mull over them for minutes. Tiffany's voice is fresh and realistic, wise and amusing, making you instantly fall in love with her tale. Even better, though, is the fact that so much of her life is focused on family, despite the fact that Tiffany isn't related by blood to those she considers to be her own. Each one of these characters truly come alive on the page; their problems and worries, dreams and aspirations, heart-aches and joint pains burying themselves deep inside you. Condon, proving to live up to the ideal that Australian authors really are better than everyone else out there, ensures that despite their likability, his characters remain realistic...authentic, really, to both their role in Tiffany's life and their role as humans too.
I just want to say for a minute that Condon's writing is different from most I've come across. It is a quiet, almost hidden kind of prose, one that is slow and soothing, lullaby-like but engaging. It is extremely thoughtful and combined with his writing style, the ordinary events of these extraordinary characters become momentous journeys. Whether it be the growing together and apart of the friendship, the meets-cute of the romance, or just the tender affection felt between family, each of these seems so much more special and realized in this tale. A Straight Line to My Heart is truly a tale I can't say much about because more than anything else, I feel so much for it. It is genuine, heart-breaking, and compelling and even if you're the most cold-hearted person in the world, this book will melt even your heart.
Title: First Grave to the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)
Author: Darynda Jones
Rating: 2 Stars/DNF
Usually, when I wind up disliking a book the masses have loved, I am the last person to be surprised. I do, after all, have a penchance for being the black sheep; a tendency, if you will, to rarely give out high ratings. With First Grave on the Right, though, I don't think anyone is more surprised than I am. Unfortunately, this novel is a clear cut case of 'it's not you, it's me.'
Quite honestly, I am still struggling to come to terms with the fact that I did not enjoy this book, or as much of this book as I read. Jones has written a hilarious, engaging, and perfectly fun paranormal romance and, against all odds, all I found myself doing was finding fault with it. I suppose, technically speaking though, this book is flawless. Charley Davidson, the protagonist of our tale, is intelligent, brave, and witty. With every word that flies out of her mouth, you can't help but love her and, to top that all off, she's the Grim Reaper, responsible for convincing ghosts to leave the waking world and pass through her into the light. Add to that mix a sexy guy who gives Charley erotic dreams and who may or may not be a ghost and we have on our hands a perfect novel.
Or so it would seem. In reality, I found that the famed humor of this series got old - quickly. Sure, Charley is snarky and her dialogue will ensure you don't fall asleep, but the conversation lacks depth. In fact, for a Private Investigator, Charley does less investigating and more ogling. Not only does she seemingly have facts handed to her because she can talk to ghosts, but she has no problem walking around talking to thin air and looking like a maniac. Granted, she doesn't do this in public all the time, but it seemed odd to me that only three-four people knew of her gift when she flaunted it everywhere like a madwoman. It simply screamed unrealistic and for some reason, I was unable to move on past that, imagining Charley talking to the air while other people stood staring at her in a room. Hmm...
Even more than that, though, is the fact that the romance in this novel is seriously...odd? It seems as if there's a bit of a love triangle at first with Charley utterly intent on finding the guy of her dreams, Reyes, while her co-worker is bent on dating her. Nevertheless, it's obvious from the beginning that there is only one man for Charley, but I never felt invested in this aspect of the story at all. For one, Reyes and Charley have only met once and that was years ago when Charley helped fend off a man who was beating him, only to have Reyes threaten her with rape if she didn't leave him soon afterward. Of course, Reyes was only looking out for his younger sister and his actions can be forgiven - I guess - but either than seeing him as a figment of Charley's dreams, a mist that followed her and make her knees weak, there didn't seem to be much to him.
Ultimately, though, this novel lost my interest, turned me off with its constant humor, and I wasn't exactly the biggest fan of Charley or the writing style, especially the manner in which the murder mystery in this case was tackled. A story of three lawyers all dying on the same night is fascinating, but throw in a ghost who discusses the hotness of Charley's co-workers with her and all seriousness is lost. I guess you need to really love humor and especially urban fantasy-lite to be a fan of this series and I guess I'm just one of those few people who doesn't. Regardless, I'd encourage readers who plan to read Darynda Jones to give this series a try. With such a huge fan base of lovers, there's clearly something wrong with me.
Reviewer's Note: Is it bothering anyone else that the pairing of my mini-reviews is completely random? Actually, there are no similarities whatsoever with A Straight Line to My Heart and First Grave on the Right. Sorry! I need to work on pairing my mini-reviews better...