Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #6)

Redd Becker Book Review

Darynda Jones writes cross-genre novels that highlight romance, by Darynda Jonesmystery and the occult. Her writing style captures her protagonist’s sharp, irreverent personality and keeps you in Charley’s mind set. Jones breaks the traditional literary approach, but she punches her story up with fun similes, creative descriptions and unexpected subplots that take the reader on tangents into the world of angels, Lucifer’s children and the afterlife.

The protagonist, Charley, sees ghosts. She inherited the role of ‘grim reaper’ which gives her the power to help souls transition, but additional powers, hinted-at, lurk beneath the surface. With a compassionate perspective and defiant approach, Charley blunders forward resolving crisis for the living and dead alike.

To spice the story up romantically, the devil’s son, Reyes, entangles Charley in his sexy-hot tentacles which creates tension, titillation and intrigue.

For me, a muddled middle of subplots left me wondering. By the end I was left wondering. Many of the subplots don’t resolve cleanly and the ending opened as many doors as it closed. Regardless, plenty more books in the series carry Charley’s tale forward.

Darynda Jones Writes with Wit

Darynda Jones’ fresh writing (as writing coach, Margie Lawson, would say) entertains and keeps the reader captivated. Her characters verge on the hilarious; such as a corpse with a hard-on who rides shot-gun in her car.

A review on the first three Charley Davidson novels at FictionVixen provides the foundation for the series, although it contains spoilers.

Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #6)Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6) by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #6
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 20th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 326
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.

salt to the sea by Ruth Sepetys

Redd Becker Book Review

The brutality of war from the civilian refugee perspective comes to life in Ruth Sepetys’ historical fiction novel salt to sea, the story of refugees evacuating Germany during WWII.

by Ruth SepetysRussia’s invasion of Germany comes alive through four refugee’s perspectives. While they flee, the atrocities behind their struggles and the secrets they carry haunt them. Joanne struggles to protect her travel companions, while nursing everyone she can. Alfred, a german soldier stationed on a ship, writes letters in his head. His love back home destined not to receives them.  Emilia, a fifteen year old polish girl who lost her family, fights the demons trapped in her mind. And Floria, a German civilian who saved Emilia’s life, distrusts everyone, especially himself, as he runs from the country he once honored.

Written in first person point-of-view, Sepetys’ story focuses on  individual refugee’s perceptions and internal struggles.  Short dialogue sequences capture interactions between them.

It’s clear a lot of research went into Sepetys’ plot, but she manages to create a story that touches the cord of humanity so deeply that the historical components of the story support the characters, rather than the other way around. It would do us well, however, to remember this harrowing piece of history lost in common knowledge.

Ruth Sepetys Writes for Writers

Beyond the integration of history in Sepetys’ story she offers much to learn for any writer. She uses every means she can to develop character. Note the sparse language used to create settings and establish emotions, while still driving the story forward.

Instead of each chapter telling what that person did, Sepetys often choses to develop characters through others’ observations. An example from Emilia’s chapter follows. “The shoe poet woke early, rapping our feet with his walking stick.”

Another example from Joanne’s perspective: “I had woke in the middle of the night and imagined I saw the German standing above me in the dark. When I blinked he was gone and I realized it was a dream.” or was it?

The climax wraps around the converted cruise ship Wilhelmina Gustoff. For pictures and a history of the Cruise Liner Wilhelm Gustloff check out feldgrau.com

salt to the sea by Ruth SepetysSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Adventure, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 393
Goodreads

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
Yet not all promises can be kept.
Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

 

 

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, a Cinderella story

Redd Becker Book Review

Ella Enchanted retells the fairytale of Cinderella, but Levine adds several twists. At birth a fairy castes the ‘gift of obedience’ on Ella, thus burdening her with the drive to do as sElla Enchanted, a Cinderella storyhe is told by anyone who orders her. Ogres and a boarding school, where Ella meets her future step-sisters, spice up the tale further.

I found the first part of Levine’s rendition of Cinderella captivating. Toward the end of the book the magic of the read waned. The ball,  pumpkin coach, dancing and losing the glass slipper scenes, although well told, held no mystery or intriguing caveats to amuse me, like the first parts of the book did. For that reason I wouldn’t have considered it a Newberry Honor Book Finalist, but it was.

Still, Ella Enchanted is fun and Gail Carson Levine writes many popular teen books with female heroines.

A Cinderella Tale

As well as originating in multiple cultures this classic fairytale boasts a history of 1000 years in some form. Interesting Literature wrote an article of fun facts about it. And Refinery 9 wrote ‘Nine Stories You Might Not Know about Cinderella’.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, a Cinderella storyElla Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Published by Scholastic Books on September 1st 1998
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 232
Goodreads

Also see: Alternate Cover Editions for this ISBN [ACE]
ACE #1

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you'll ever read.
Gail Carson Levine's examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor.

The Clearing by Heather Davis, True Love is Timeless

Redd Becker Book Reviews

The Clearing by Heather DavisRead Heather Davis’s love story for Valentine’s Day

Heather Davis enjoys writing romances with a paranormal twist. In The Clearing she creates intrigue when her heroine, Amy, discovers that a meadow near her aunt’s trailer is a portal back in time to 1944.

Amy meets Henry near the clearing. The timing is perfect.  Amy, who lives in our present time, moved to a new high school where her family hopes she makes friends, but her past still stings too much to reach out. Henry, however, has grown tired of the time-loop his family is trapped within during WWII.

The teens find solace in each other, but they realize it can’t go on forever. Both Amy and Henry fear repercussions from remaining in the other’s time period. Amy never expected to find friendship in Henry, but the pangs of love and isolation compel her to return to the clearing to find him. As each teen grapples with their emotional and physical isolation, Davis probes the effects of love on their lives and the pressures that arise from it.

The Clearing is written in 1st person through Amy’s eyes and 3rd person close through Henry’s eyes. Besides romance across the ages, Davis explores facets of family and friendship. While Amy builds a relationship with her aunt and negotiates living in a small town, Henry’s family prepares to return to 1944.

The last chapter of The Clearing provides an appropriate and interesting twist that left me satisfied as a reader.

Accolades for Heather Davis

Heather Davis’s paranormal  romances have gained recognision. HAUNT ME won the Golden Heart award for Best Young Adult Romance Manuscript in 2006, the year after that Davis’s novel Amber Hickenbottom made the finals list for the same award. Davis has a book trailer for The Clearing on Youtube.

Cozy Mystery List blog has a list of Valentine’s Day mysteries you may enjoy and Michelle Krys, author of the young adult paranormal romance Hexed, has a list of Valentine’s Day romance novels on her web site.

The Clearing by Heather Davis, True Love is TimelessThe Clearing by Heather Davis
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on April 12th 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Time Travel, Young Adult
Pages: 228
Goodreads

In this bittersweet romance, two teens living decades apart form a bond that will change their lives forever.
Amy is drawn to the misty, mysterious clearing behind her Aunt Mae’s place because it looks like the perfect place to hide from life. A place to block out the pain of her last relationship, to avoid the kids in her new town, to stop dwelling on what her future holds after high school.
Then, she meets a boy lurking in the mist—Henry. Henry is different from any other guy Amy has ever known. And after several meetings in the clearing, she’s starting to fall for him.
But Amy is stunned when she finds out just how different Henry really is. Because on his side of the clearing, it’s still 1944. By some miracle, Henry and his family are stuck in the past, staving off the tragedy that will strike them in the future. Amy’s crossing over to Henry’s side brings him more happiness than he’s ever known—but her presence also threatens to destroy his safe existence.
In The Clearing, author Heather Davis crafts a tender and poignant tale about falling in love, finding strength, and having the courage to make your own destiny—a perfect book to slip into and hide away for awhile.

The Goose Girl, a retelling by Shannon Hale

Redd Becker Book Review

Goose GirlGoose Girl retells the fairy tale of a princess done wrong, who struggles to regain her rightful place on the throne. Her mother, the queen, exiles her daughter to another country in an arranged marriage. This remains one of my least favored plot lines, but this retelling enchanted me.

Hale tells the story in a style I refer to as literary light. Her use of language to create the princess’s world demonstrates empathy with all facets of the story. Scrumptious descriptions of landscapes, ancient cities, village life, woodlands, palaces and markets fill every scene, but the descriptions don’t over power the story or characters.

At a time when movies, TV shows and novels maximize action, conflict, fear and dark imagery, Goose Girl provided relief. Struggles were clear, but not harsh. They entertained without causing angst.

Goose Girl as Fairy Tale and Fantasy

Technically Goose Girl fits the fantasy genre, because the princess possesses the ability to talk to animals and manipulate the wind.  Hale so adeptly integrates these qualities that the magic appears naturally human in the characters.

Subplots lace the main story line and Hale takes care to develop them. Many of her characters grow and change, as they encounter new circumstances. A fun band of helpers who tend animals for the palace gather around the princess.

Wikipedia provides a nice synopsis of the original German fairy tale.

Hale’s rendition of Goose Girl gained much recognition including: A New York Public Library ‘100 Titles for Reading and Sharing’ Book; A Josette Frank Award Winner; A Texas Lone Star Reading List Book; A Utah State Book Award Winner (YA); and A Utah Speculative Fiction Award Winner.

The Goose Girl, a retelling by  Shannon HaleThe Goose Girl (The Books of Bayern, #1) by Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern #1
on January 1st 1970
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 383
Goodreads

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt's guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her.
Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.

 

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

Redd Becker Book Review

Anatomy of a Misfit byAnatomy of a Misfit centers around the life of the third most popular girl in high school. The story is a written in first person, as she struggles with the social environment around her position of entitlement. Her main adversary is the most popular girl who inflicts terror on her minion. As expected, conflicts with multiple boyfriends, one being the most popular guy and the other the artsy dysfunctional type, predominate. 

Portes claims, in the acknowledgements at the end of the book, the story reflects her life in high school. This is sad, because the characters appear stereotypical and contrite. The focus of a high schooler in this protagonist’s situation, reaching for meaning in life, wreaks of politically correct content.

Am I being harsh? Perhaps, but it’s time as a society we provide more culturally rich environments for our children. All children. This story sadly reflects the norm of an elite few individuals in every high school. The inhumanity of these entitled few impacts everyone around them more than this book justifies. Let’s pay attention to what we want our high schools to become, rather than dwell on the simpering of the entitle’s search for peace in a school environment she willingly built.

A Movie for Anatomy of a Misfit

The book moved along quickly through scenes with lots of dialogue. Somehow not surprising, it has been optioned for a movie in 2014. J. Mills Goodloe is writing the screen page for Paramount. As of this review it is still ‘in progress’.

For some contrasting views check out The Guardian‘s review and LoseTimeReading.

Anatomy of a Misfit  by Andrea PortesAnatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes
Published by Harper Children’s on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Goodreads

This emotional, hilarious, devastating, and ultimately triumphant YA debut, based on actual events, recounts one girl’s rejection of her high school’s hierarchy—and her discovery of her true self in the face of tragedy.
Fall’s buzzed-about, in-house favorite.
Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?
Anatomy of a Misfit is Mean Girls meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Anika’s hilariously deadpan delivery will appeal to readers for its honesty and depth. The so-sad-it’s-funny high school setting will pull readers in, but when the story’s dark foreboding gradually takes over, the devastating penultimate tragedy hits like a punch to the gut. Readers will ride the highs and lows alongside funny, flawed Anika — from laughter to tears, and everything in between.

The Memory Key by Liana Liu

Redd Becker Book Reviews


The Memory Key explores a future where memory chips implanted in everyone, including children circumvents alzheimer’s disease, but the mind begins to rely on the device. Things go wrong when the company that makes memory keys designs them to manipulate people. When Lora’s key malfunctions and she begins to have crisp memory recall she begins to investigate her mother. Lora realizes her mother, a scientist with the company who made memory key, was murdered by them.

A Memory Key Sounds Enticing

Liu writes a fast-paced action mystery. As with much scifi questions of technological interventions on humans predominates. Implants to ward off challenges of our organic body sounds appealing, but be wary of big business and relying on technology. Some scenes appeared too convenient such as: her mother working for the memory key company, her best friend’s brother becomes a love interest who works for the same company, and her alternate boyfriend works for the old folks home where Lora finds her mother still alive.

For those who enjoy writing: Scenes move fast and are entertaining. The quality of writing works well for the format. The style reflects what YA specialist often asks for in YA books, but for me has become too standard in the genre.

Many find The Memory Key wonder. Take a look a more reviews at YA Books Central.

Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult