Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mini-Reviews: A Straight Line to My Heart & First Grave to the Right


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...

16 comments:

  1. I like the cover for A Straight Line to my Heart, it's so simple and cute. The story itself sounds adorable, too. Will definitely be adding this to my wishlist.

    PS. Even your mini reviews are thoughtful and a pleasure to read!

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  2. Hah, by now I've sort of figured out that safe bets aren't safe at all when it comes to you. I'm sorry you didn't like Charley! I really hoped you would.
    I have to agree with you about A Straight Line. I never reviewed it, but I doubt I'll ever forget it either. It's simply too adorable.

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  3. Awww it sounds like I'd like A Straight Line but maybe not First Grave on the Right. So Reyes threatened her with rape but then later on, he's a romantic interest?! That's messed up. This is definitely no Mediator series. And the randomness of your mini-review pairings does not bother me at all! I actually like it!

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  4. I can never figure out what you are going to like or not. Charley is one of my favorite series because it is just funny and entertaining. That being said, I am not the biggest fan of Reyes. I still think she should date Garrett but this series does stay clear of the love triangle. I loved book one, but after reading the predecessors I can say that they get better because the plot tightens up where this one is a bit frenetic. However, if you do not like the humor, then there is no point in continuing because it is more of the same. I am sad this was not a good read for you.

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  5. "Intelligent novel"? Count me IN. I love those books that make you sit there, with a writing implement gripped tightly in your hand, your eyes savoring each and every word on the page slowly because you know there's going to be treasure, treasure, treasure everywhere. (The Lover's Dictionary and No & Me come to mind first.)

    You're not the only one who doesn't get First Grave on the Right's appeal. Last year when the author was getting a lot of time on bookish sites I downloaded the Kindle sample. I couldn't even finish that. The tone and writing style just wasn't for me.

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  6. I have heard of A Straight Line to My Heart and it sounds like a really sweet read. Still I didn't expected it to be so emotional. Now I must read it soon. I haven't heard of the second book but I might as well skip it. Great reviews :)

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  7. Oh my mini-review pairs are always completely random. It's usually just any old two books that I didn't want to or couldn't write full reviews for. I've never even thought about matching them up! O_O

    I'm glad you enjoyed Straight Line to My Heart, Keertana! I guess I'm not surprised, given that it's Aussie, and I really need to pick up my own copy soon. I was planning to read First Grave on the Right in a couple of weeks, though I think I might enjoy it a little more than you now I know what to expect. I guess I'm just after some quick entertainment, and it sounds like Charley is good enough for that.

    Lovely reviews!

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  8. Too bad on Charley Keertana! I've only read the first book, but I really enjoyed the humor and am looking forward to continuing the series. I don't think I loved it quite as much as all the people who recommended it to me, but I did like it overall.

    And no worries on the mini review pairings, mine never make any kind of logical sense either:)

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  9. Lol, I DID notice how completely random this pairing was, but as I tend to read completely randomly as well, I don't mind. I actually do like that even though the books aren't in the same genre, you posted two very different reactions. I have no gauge at this point for how I'll feel about First Grave on the Right since it's so vastly hit or miss with so many people. Honestly it's not a priority for me as far as that genre goes--there's too many other things I KNOW I'll love. I do love books where you end up highlighting everything, and also those where a lovely but simple cover hides a deceptively insightful book.

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  10. I think it's so funny that you call these mini reviews, K!

    I don't know anything about either of these books, so thank you for introducing me. I love that you said that the first one is intelligent and that the author has a quiet but magical way of writing that makes every day life sound extraordinary. I definitely want to experience that kind of prose.

    As for the second one, your review doesn't completely turn me off, but it doesn't make me want to automatically add it to my TBR list either. I'll definitely have to do more research to tell if it is for me.

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  11. I love how you call them "mini" reviews. Haha. Both of them are well written and now I know which one to avoid. Thanks Keertana.

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  12. I have A Straight Line to My Heart and need to read it soon. I've seen nothing but glowing reviews. I listened to the audiobook for First Grave on the Right on my commutes to and from work and it entertained me, had me laughing, but didn't knock my socks off. I'm listening to the second one now and it's the same. Don't know if I'll continue with the series. Great mini reviews, Keertana.

    And no, it didn't bother me to have this random pairing because I can switch gears pretty easily. :)

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  13. Heh, I like your final comment about pairing reviews! I often stop myself from posting a few together because I had different feelings about them all, but it doesn't bother me when reading them on other blogs :)

    So glad you liked A Straight Line... now I want to re-read it!

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  14. I LOVE that you are so into Aussie writers, K! And I love that, unlike me, you actually read a lot of them (did you order this one from Fishpond, btw?) because A Straight Line to My Heart has been on my Aussie TBR list for a while now. This definitely sounds like a Heather book based on your review. I think I may be needing to put that Fishpond order for This is Shyness in soon and add the Bill Condon to it as well:)

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  15. I actually kind of get what you're saying with First Grave on the Right. I did really enjoy it but Charley is one I need in short doses. I also found the romance very odd. However, I was able to look past all that and just have fun but I guess I get both sides of it for this one.

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