Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sixth Grave on the Edge

Book 91 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones
Book 6 of the Charley Davidson series

Summary (via Goodreads)
Few things in life can come between a grim reaper and her coffee, but the sexy, sultry son of Satan is one of them. Now that Reyes Farrow has asked for her hand, Charley Davidson feels it's time to learn more about his past, but Reyes is reluctant to open up. When the official FBI file of his childhood abduction lands in her lap, Charley decides to go behind her mysterious beau’s back and conduct her own investigation. Because what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, another case has fallen into her lap—one with dangerous implications. Some very insistent men want Charley to hunt down a witness who is scheduled to testify against their boss, a major player in the local crime syndicate. If Charley doesn't come up with an address in 48 hours, the people closest to her will start to disappear. 
Add to that a desperate man in search of the soul he lost in a card game, a dogged mother determined to find the ghost of her son, and a beautiful, young Deaf boy haunted by his new ability to see the departed as clearly as he sees the living, and Charley has her hands full. The fact that Reyes has caught on to her latest venture only adds fuel to the inferno that he is. Good thing for Charley she's used to multi-tasking and always up for a challenge…especially when that challenge comes in the form of Reyes Farrow.

My Opinion
I'm still enjoying this series. Great dialogue and good amounts of humor (I especially like the little funnies from bumper stickers, t-shirt sayings, or status updates that start each chapter). I also love the little snippets of people's lives Charley gets as they cross through her - it's amazing how a life can be condensed to just a few sentences and still be so touching.

There was more sex than I remembered in previous books. It didn't bother me but will probably affect who I recommend the series to in the future.

The things relative to the series and not a particular book, like the prophecies and The Twelve and who needs to die, are going a little over my head at the moment but I'm still enjoying the ride and am sure it will all become clearer as the events unfold. The good thing about being clueless is I can't predict what will happen!

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I watched Captain Eckert in my rearview for a while. And as entertaining as that was, I needed to go see a good guy about a bad guy and figure out why Sleazy Car Guy thought I could help him find his ex, the woman who allegedly saw him commit murder. Sucked when that happened. Lunch would have to wait."

"I could only hope the ransackers got syphilis. I wondered if there was a hashtag for that."

Always, Ian

Book 90 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it. 

Always, Ian: The Discovered Journey of Ian Morrison Smith in WWII 
by Pat Smith Hopper

Summary (via Goodreads)
Pat Smith Hopper tells her father's story through his letters home. They are a gift to the family he treasured and the men and women with the character to fight for liberty. Letters home were signed - Always, Ian.
"Not a man cheered. But we were all joyous." From a fragment of a letter home, these few words described the feelings of a U.S. soldier at the breakout of the Allies into the last great Po Valley campaign of WWII in Italy. Ian Morrison Smith's letters home told little of the battles. They reflect the heart, loneliness and character of one soldier during this epic war of freedom. Ian's journey starts in Australia to upstate New York. He tells of his time in Italy and the Po River Valley Campaign, being stationed finally in desolated Hiroshima after the bomb.
Mrs. Hopper weaves the historical facts into her father's story, bringing them to life for the reader. Maps, timelines, photos, clippings from the time and narrative all combine to produce a unique telling of the story of World War II.

My Opinion
Wow, this book has been a part of my life for 3 months and it feels strange to be done with it. It's not a "devour in one sitting" book by any means; it's very thorough and I would happily read 3-5 letters each night before bed.

What a treasure for Ian's family to have this much history. He had a way with words and was a very good storyteller. He did a great job of distracting and staying upbeat, which the prologue said was intentional. He talked about the war and the difficulties but always in a way that made it seem like he wasn't in any danger when I'm sure that wasn't the case. He's also funny. While most letters were to his wife, the letters to his daughter Patty were very sweet. 

His curiosity (observes it's springtime but he sees no birds and mentions going to the library at his next opportunity to find out the reason) and observations made this different than any war journal I've read before. He includes lots of details on "non-war" things such as descriptions of the places he went and the food he ate. The amount of pictures he took, which I was thrilled to see included in the book, really added to the stories as well. He also reviews the movies he sees and books he reads. His list of the 3 cartoonists he expected to have a post-war career (Dave Breger, George Baker, and Bill Mauldin) was accurate but he didn't fare so well on the actresses. He thought Lauren Bacall "shot her complete repertoire in her first movie" and would end up as a character actress only, ha!

His references to the cigarette rations the military provided (14 packs every 2 weeks) and using cigarettes as currency (Italian children selling bags of peanuts for 5 cents or 3 cigarettes) was a reminder of how much times have changed.  

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I have been writing these letters after lunch each day in order to make the mails through the censor. If my pen doesn't make it my mind carries the thoughts to you. I have that snug warm assured feeling that we are both thinking of each other all the time and that our love binds us so close together though the distance may separate us. We've had so many coincidences in regards to mental telepathy that I know and feel at times your thoughts and strength."

"[Homeless orphans] is the price of war and one of the strongest reasons why the Peace to come shall enforce that this thing shall not happen again and that the perpetrators of this crime upon humanity shall indeed come to justice. No one can look at a child - no matter of what nationality - and see hunger and bewilderment and terror in its eyes without having his heart turn over."

"Sweetheart - I write of sights and sounds and you write of home. Our combination of trading experiences I know keeps us both intensely interested."

"We have seen so much of the weaknesses of a democracy; but now we see its strength. A country is far bigger than its leader. It and its people march on...Perhaps, Roosevelt's passing will fire all statesmen and military leaders to rise above petty considerations and redouble their efforts to attain the goals their ex-leader strove for. That is what we humble GI's desire and what we're fighting for." ~ reaction to President Roosevelt's death

"I'm very tired tonight and want to turn in but I cannot feel satisfied that my day is complete unless I take off 20 mins to have our nightly chat."

"Despite the inconveniences we undergo while in uniform there is so much we can enjoy and look upon reflectively...I want to come home to you enriched yet sobered by what I've seen and done and ready to live out our lives together to the full."


Book 89 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Crush: 26 Real-life Tales of First Love edited by Andrea N. Richesin

Summary (via Goodreads)
Twenty-six bestselling authors return to the teenage bedrooms, school hallways and college dorms of their youth to share passionate essays of love lost and found and lessons learned along the way. Whether heartbreaking or hilarious, their soul-baring honesty reminds us to keep reaching for true love wherever we can find it and for as long as it takes. Their intimate reflections will fascinate and move any reader who remembers her first love.

My Opinion
Aaahhhh, young love. This quick read was a great opportunity to reminisce on the successes and failures of that pivotal first crush.

Out of the 26 stories there were only 2 I didn't like, making it a hit for me.

My favorite story was Olfactory by Catherine Newman. My close second, and winner of 'the most interesting title', was Uncle Greg, a Giant Chicken, and the Murderous Pottery Wheel by Heather Swain.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I'm older now, so a kiss is great and fireworks sometimes go off and a kiss can take you all kinds of places you don't expect, but there's nothing like those first kisses, the ones where you feel you're going to fall into the other person, when you get dizzy and forget who you are." ~ from When It Was All Brand-New by Rebecca Walker

"I want to remember him as he was, even if that memory's vague, and perhaps wrong. Who he was to me matters so much more than who he actually was." ~ from Creative Writing by David Levithan


Book 88 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Summary (via Goodreads)
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble;it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.
Maybe that was always beside the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

My Opinion
I can see why everyone's talking about Rainbow Rowell. After reading Eleanor and Park and now Landline, I will definitely continue to seek out her books.

She is so good at writing dialogue, which drew me into the story. Even though the premise was a little weird, I was invested and wanted to know how it would end.

I liked, not loved, it because it seemed to take awhile to get to the plot, but overall I thought it was a strong, highly readable book.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Her mom had turned Georgie's childhood bedroom into the pug trophy room as soon as she graduated from high school - which was irritating because Georgie didn't actually move out of the house until she graduated from college."

"You don't know when you're twenty-three.
 You don't know what it really means to crawl into someone else's life and stay there. You can't see all the ways you're going to get tangled, how you're going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten - in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.
 She didn't know at twenty-three."

Not That Kind of Girl

Book 87 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Girl Tells You What She's "Learned" 
by Lena Dunham

Summary (via Goodreads)
From the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO's Girls comes a hilarious, wise, and fiercely candid collection of personal essays that establishes Lena Dunham as one of the most original young talents writing today.
In Not that Kind of Girl, Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one's way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and, most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.
Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not that Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. "I'm already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you," Dunham writes. "But if I can take what I've learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile."

My Opinion
I don't have HBO so I've never seen Girls. Prior to reading this book my only knowledge about Lena Dunham was that she's a strong woman, a good interview - entertaining, funny, thought-provoking -, and she seems to attract negative media attention.

Unfortunately, this book didn't live up to my expectations. It was okay but she wasn't the strong, engaging voice I expected based on her interviews.

She definitely puts it all out there and I absolutely won't judge her for that. She seems self-aware enough to know how exhausting it could be to be her friend or partner. 

One of my favorite things was her ode to NYC. One of my least favorite things was her 10 page list of nothing but the food on her diet, which seemed like overkill. Speaking of overkill, based on the hubbub I was expecting way more than 2 throwaway sentences in a 265 page book. Seriously, that's what everyone was so worked up about? 

Even though I didn't love this book, I continue to look forward to hearing her thoughts in interviews and I still want to watch Girls at some point.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman."

"What a snarky jerk. (Obviously, I later slept with him.)"

"I didn't drink in the essence of the classroom. I didn't take legible notes or dance all night. I thought I would marry my boyfriend and grow old and sick of him. I thought I would keep my friends, and we'd make different, new memories. None of that happened. Better things happened. Then why am I so sad?"


Book 86 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth

Summary (via Goodreads)
Two years before Beatrice Prior made her choice, the sixteen-year-old son of Abnegation’s faction leader did the same. Tobias’s transfer to Dauntless is a chance to begin again. Here, he will not be called the name his parents gave him. Here, he will not let fear turn him into a cowering child.
Newly christened “Four,” he discovers during initiation that he will succeed in Dauntless. Initiation is only the beginning, though; Four must claim his place in the Dauntless hierarchy. His decisions will affect future initiates as well as uncover secrets that could threaten his own future—and the future of the entire faction system.
Two years later, Four is poised to take action, but the course is still unclear. The first new initiate who jumps into the net might change all that. With her, the way to righting their world might become clear. With her, it might become possible to be Tobias once again.
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth comes a companion volume to the worldwide bestselling DIVERGENT series, told from the per-spective of the immensely popular character Tobias. The four pieces included here—THE TRANSFER, THE INITIATE, THE SON, and THE TRAITOR—plus three additional exclusive scenes, give readers an electrifying glimpse into the history and heart of Tobias, and set the stage for the epic saga of the DIVERGENT trilogy.

My Opinion
This was a very quick read; I read it in one sitting.

It wasn't necessary - I thought the trilogy was enough for the story - but I don't regret reading it. It was nice to briefly revisit the characters.

Quote from the Book
"I have a new name, which means I can be a new person. Someone who doesn't put up with cutting comments from Erudite know-it-alls. Someone who can cut back.
 Someone who's finally ready to fight.

Three Minus One

Book 85 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Three Minus One: Stories of Parents' Love & Loss 
edited by Sean Hanish & Brooke Warner

Summary (via the book jacket)
The loss of a child is unlike any other - and its impact is devastating. This collection of intimate, soul-baring stories, poems, and artwork by parents who have lost a child to stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death - inspired by the film Return to Zero - breaks the silence about this tragic, earth-shattering experience and offers a ray of hope to the many parents out there in search of answers, understanding, and healing.

My Opinion
The stories were primarily by parents but there were a few by other family members, such as grandparents, as well. I expected the sadness but was surprised by the hopefulness many stories ended with.

There was a pattern for the mothers of children lost in utero. Most had a sentence along the lines of "a good mom would know when it had happened", feeling guilty when they were shocked to discover no heartbeat and/or her baby had passed away between appointments. Hopefully by sharing their stories and seeing they're not alone in their feelings, they can find peace and take that weight off their heavy shoulders.

There is a documentary, Return to Zero, and a blog, The Return to Zero Project, that I plan to look at as well.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"For those of you who are afraid to turn the page - terrified of the horrors that you might find - I hope you will understand that at its very essence this is a book about love.
 Love for our children who we lost but for whom that love endures.
 Love in our hearts for the beautiful lives which were here with us for only a brief time but which left and indelible impression and a lifetime of memories.
 Love for those beautiful ones who are, and will forever be, our precious children.

"Being pregnant is like carrying the future inside you. This collection of cells spinning into life was not merely the tiny blurred body on the sonogram, it was all the things this baby might grow to be: the little blonde girl who looks like her sister; the toddler who stumbles forward on shaky legs; the kindergartner and the college student, the bride, the CEO. Imagination melds into reality the instant the pregnancy test reveals two pink lines." ~ from the story Called to Motherhood by Stacy Clark