A Dark and Stormy Murder (Writer’s Apprentice Mysteries, #1) – Julia Buckley

Writers-Apprentice-Mysteries-A-Dark-And-Stormy-Murder-Julia-Buckley
Source: Goodreads

Struggling writer Lena London is handed the opportunity of a lifetime when her best friend sets her up with a job as the assistant and ghostwriter to her favorite author of all time, Camilla Graham. As an added bonus, Lena gets to live in Camilla’s beautiful Gothic home overlooking the quiet town of Blue Lake, Indiana.

No town stays quiet for long, however, when you write mysteries and have an alleged murderer for a next door neighbor. Before long, a body appears on the lake shore near Camilla’s home and the ladies become embroiled in solving the case before the wrong person ends up behind bars.

 

 

Full disclosure, this story takes place in the autumn, which just makes the scenery that much more wonderful. The rich mix of scenery, characters, and plot make this a delightful read that sucks you in from the first chapter.

Lena is lovely and has just the right amount of admiration for her esteemed new boss. I identify with Lena. She loves books. She has a degree in writing. She is in her middle twenties and trying to find her place in the world amid the ever shifting relationships between parents, friends, bosses, and significant others.  I just wish I had a few good looking romantic options in my life – because a cozy mystery wouldn’t be a cozy mystery without a dash of romance, am I right?

A Dark and Stormy Murder has plenty of layers. There is the book that Lena and Camilla are writing, the mystery of Sam West’s missing wife, the body on the beach, the various budding relationships between characters, and Lena’s attempts to settle into her new hometown. I love everything about this book, and I can’t wait to read more in the Writer’s Apprentice Mysteries series!

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

 

Other Books In This Series:
Book #2 – Murder in Dark Blue (Review coming in September!)
Book #3 – A Dark and Twisting Path
Book #4 – Death Waits in the Dark

 

 

Getting Rid of Bradley – Jennifer Crusie

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Source: Goodreads

 

Lucy Savage dreams of having her little house all to herself, hanging out with her dogs after she’s done teaching physics for the day at the local high school. There’s just one problem: Bradley. When her cheating husband stands her up in divorce court, she’s beyond getting over him, she just wants to get rid of him.
Enter Officer Zack Warren, who is investigating Bradley for embezzlement. When someone shoots at Lucy and blows up her car, he assigns himself to be her 24-hour security team and moves into her quiet, peaceful house (minus the three dogs and attack cat). Unsure about whether or not to trust the long-haired, leather-jacket-wearing, supposed good-guy in her kitchen, Lucy is only sure of two things. Her life is not safe outside the house, and her heart may not be safe inside it.

 

This book really made the rounds this summer. My sister’s friend brought it to read while we were all on vacation together in June. She finished it quickly and then my sister picked it up. I got it from my sister, and after reading it in a day I immediately passed it on to our mother. Needless to say, we all loved it. Originally published in 1994, the mostly pre-cell-phone era allowed for even greater shenanigans than would be possible today. Crusie’s characters (including the animals!) are full and interesting, quirky in their own ways. The plot is woven thickly, and I could never quite figure out what would happen next.

I can’t explain much more about the plot without going into spoilers, but Getting Rid of Bradley is part mystery, part romance, and all fun. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to wrap up their summer reading with a danger and romance filled feel-good story.

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

Wicked Charms (Lizzy & Diesel, #3) – Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

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Source: Goodreads

Lizzy and Diesel’s third adventure takes to the high seas in search of the Avaritia Stone, the SALIGIA stone of greed. Besides boats and pirates and buried treasure, Lizzy is on the hunt for a publisher. Will she find everything she’s looking for?

After the second installment, I was very dubious going into this story, but the pirate theme had me pretty excited. There is so much historic potential in this series! However, I have a constant worry that she’s trying to build a love triangle by making Wulf more likable, the problem being that nobody likes him. Now, on top of all that, I’m worried about the series in general.Why has she brought in a co-author? Will Phoef Sutton be continuing on with the series? and HOW EXACTLY are you supposed to pronounce his name? Is it like loaf? or pho-eff? or is the pho like fuh?

Apparently, all of these are wrong according to Wikipedia, which says that it’s a nickname for Christopher, pronounced feef. How does that make sense? Also, you would think that the former executive producer of Cheers would be able to imbue the story with a bit more Boston/New England history, wouldn’t you? You would be wrong.

Some of my favorite things about Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series are the tidbits of New Jersey history that creep into the story. Since this series in based in Boston/Salem, and there is SO MUCH HISTORY TO WORK WITH THERE, why isn’t more of it included? We get maybe 3 pages of history per book and it’s always told in a super-quick and non-important seeming way. They are literally hunting stones that have been passed down through history, and they can’t spend more than 3/300 pages telling us about that history? Maybe some readers didn’t even notice, but it is quite possibly the most frustrating things about these books for a history lover like myself. Even the secret tunnels are rushed over, and they are SO IMPORTANT TO EVERYTHING.

The storyline itself felt extremely rushed, and the characters didn’t develop at all, except for Hatchett, who has suddenly gotten a lot nicer. Carl the monkey, thankfully, has gone back to his bird-flipping ways. But really, not a whole lot happens in this book. There are a whole bunch of new characters that may or may not be continuing on in the series, and it just all seemed like it was over in a day or two. I feel like in the other books it took them weeks to find everything. I’m just feeling really disappointed, okay? Not sure if I even want to give the next book a try or just give up on the series.

HHC Rating: 1.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Wicked Appetite
Book #2 – Wicked Business

Wicked Business (Lizzy & Diesel, #2) – Janet Evanovich

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via Goodreads

Baking queen and magical item detector Lizzy Tucker is back on the case of the missing SALIGIA stones with her pals Deisel, Carl, and Cat 7143. This time, they’re searching for the Luxuria stone, the stone of lust, before it falls into the hands of one of the quickly multiplying number of bad guys and helps bring about hell on earth.

The sequel to Janet Evanovich’s Wicked Appetite Wicked Business takes place in and around Boston in October, seemingly making it a great fall read. I was so looking forward to Lizzy and Deisel’s next adventure, however, this story left me with mixed feelings and a lot of questions.

After the first book introduced the chemistry between Lizzy and Deisel and we were told they couldn’t act on it without one or both of them losing their powers, I, as a reader, assumed the stone of lust would probably be the last stone they would locate. Until then, we would enjoy the building of their relationship. When they find the stone, something would happen and the consequences of that would mean one of them would have to save the world alone. All of this would, of course, happen while avoiding Wulf, who was established in the first book as a very creepy and evil dude whom we should definitely fear.

All of this, of course, was proven wrong by this second book’s very existence. First of all, they’re searching for the luxuria (lust) stone now? Not in another five books? Second of all, they basically act on their feelings and there are no consequences? Third, every character in this book seems a little thin, if not straight up wimpy. Lizzy is afraid of everything, Deisel isn’t even half of his usual suave self from the first book and his guest appearances in the Stephanie Plum holiday stories, and Wulf basically became a crybaby? Even the monkey isn’t as rude to everyone. Fourth, going back to the Wulf problem, he’s been waiting to ruin Lizzy, yet in this book he meets a girl and now we’re supposed to feel bad about everything that’s happening to/around him?

Fifth and finally, this book punches a bunch of holes in the series. If the luxuria stone is “broken” can Wulf even bring about hell on earth? Aren’t we safe from that now that the stone can’t be used for nefarious means? Does this mean the entire mission is over already? If the luxuria stone can be “broken”, can they all be? And if they can, is it possible they could be “fixed”? And of course, if Wulf is no longer the ultimate evil character, what is his role now in the series? Mildly annoying kind of bad guy? Or are we headed for a dreaded and surely very awkward love triangle? (PLEASE NO.)

This book just left me with too many questions. Overall the story was light and fun when I expected it to be a little more dangerous and, especially since they were searching for the stone of lust, sexy. Evanovich knows how to do sexy, and if you’ve ever read the Stephanie Plum series, you know this. Which is why I’m at such a loss with this book. I’m going to have to read the third book to see where she’s taking the story, but right now things don’t look too hot for Lizzy and Deisel. I probably wouldn’t recommend reading this one unless the third one turns out to be better; because this one definitely suffers from a second book slump at the very least.

HHC Rating: 2.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Wicked Appetite
Book #3 – Wicked Charms

Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel, #1) – Janet Evanovich

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via Goodreads

Lizzy’s special talent is cupcakes. She can make anything well (with the exception of gravy), but her cupcakes are something magical. Literally. Or at least that’s what the big blond stranger standing on her doorstep keeps telling her. He also insists that it isn’t her only talent. Lizzy is a finder, one of only two in the known world, and Diesel needs her help to find and contain the SALIGIA stones before someone uses them to bring about Hell on Earth. Oh yeah, and magic is real, there’s a vampire-looking guy stalking her, some guy dressed in tights trying to maim her, a cat named Cat, and a very rude monkey named Carl. Together, Lizzy, Diesel, Cat, and Carl might just save the world. Maybe. If Lizzy doesn’t die or lose her magical powers first.

I’ve been a fan of Janet Evanovich’s work for a few years now, ever since someone convinced me to read the Stephanie Plum series set in Trenton and the surrounding parts of New Jersey, my home state. The Lizzy and Diesel series takes place in the same universe, with the addition of magic. In fact, Diesel even makes a few appearances in Stephanie’s life in the holiday novellas!

Wicked Appetite is set in the Boston metropolitan area. Lizzy has just inherited a house in Marblehead from her great aunt and started working at a bakery in Salem. Everything is hunky-dory until Grimwolfe Grimoire and Diesel (no last name) pop into her life and shake things up. Suddenly her life is in danger, spells are being cast, and people are acting very weird. The book moves pretty quickly, and Evanovich’s dialogue is always snappy and entertaining. Evanovich is a master at making the reader feel at home in her books. Her descriptions are so realistic that I often imagine being able to drive to Massachusettes and, using only this book, find every location at which something takes place within its pages.

Wicked Appetite is a great introduction to the series, in which each book describes the search for a SALIGIA stone, an ancient artifact said to contain great powers and represent one of the seven deadly sins: Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, and Sloth. Or, more precisely, Superbia, Avaritia, Luxuria, Invidia, Gula, Ira, and Acedia: SALIGIA. I would recommend Wicked Appetite to anyone excited to learn about a new city, looking for a little spontaneous romance in their life, or who enjoys witty banter. Wicked Appetite is right up your alley. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 12 or so, due to some adult themes.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Wicked Business
Book #3 – Wicked Charms

A Good Man Gone (Mercy Watts Mysteries, #1) – A.W. Hartoin


Source: Goodreads 

Mercy Watts is a part-time nurse. She works through an agency that places her in hospitals around St. Louis, Missouri, that are short staffed or overloaded with patients. But when she’s not at work, she’s often getting sucked into odd jobs for her dad, a highly decorated and now retired St. Louis PD detective. Mercy couldn’t care less about her dad’s new PI service until her parents go on vacation and her dad’s former partner dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s left to Mercy to uncover the truth before it’s too late.

A Good Man Gone is the first book in the Mercy Watts Mysteries series. It follows Mercy around her life as she tries to use the investigative skills she’s picked up from watching her father work over the years to track down killers. Unlike most cozy mysteries, this series boasts a fairly large cast. Besides Mercy and her parents, there are her dad’s three friends (two now since one is the victim), her mother’s best friend, Mercy’s Aunt, her two godmothers, her boyfriend, and her ‘cousin’ (by marriage, not by blood) Chuck, who’s basically the son her father never had. In addition to these 11 ‘regulars’, you also meet various other police detectives and people around St. Louis that Mercy deals with during her investigations.

The story takes place in the Midwest, and unlike most cozy mysteries, actually, includes quite a bit of out-of-town travel. The characters are all complex and quirky in their own ways and it lends well to the storyline. There’s more than just murder and romance going on in this series, and that really makes me interested in continuing reading it despite the rather confusing cover and somewhat slow beginning. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes their mysteries with a side of colorful characters.

HHC Rating: 4.5 stars