Only a Kiss (The Survivors' Club, #6) – Mary Balogh

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via Goodreads

Imogen, Lady Barclay, is adjusting slowly to living alone with her elderly female family members and their horde of stray animals. She is hoping to move into the dowager house as soon as the roof gets fixed, and is looking forward to starting a garden.

Percival Hayes, the Earl of Hardford and the new Lord Barclay, realizes that he will have to visit his estate in Cornwall eventually, but he never expects to find so many people and animals living there. Setting up an estate takes a lot more work than Percy realized, and before he can begin to decide what to do, things begin happening. Mysterious things that nobody will explain to him, and it is soon up to Percy and Imogen to solve the mystery of what or who is trying to run them off the estate.

I recently checked this out of my library so I could refresh my memory before writing this review, and also because my mom hadn’t read it yet. Wouldn’t you know it, but she lost the book. We haven’t lost a library book since I was maybe 6 or 8, so this is really quite frustrating. Not to mention that I hadn’t gotten around to writing this review yet, so now I have to go by memory.

This book has a lot of elements. Multiple houses and family members, not to mention an entire town full of people. This book easily wins the award for ‘biggest cast’ of the series. Also, there are a million stray animals and PIRATES. This book is not just a romance, but also a full-on mystery novel. It was very cool.The chemistry between Imogen and Percy was quite good. I tend to think of Imogen as a young and slightly more roughed up but less strict Professor McGonagall (from

The chemistry between Imogen and Percy was quite good. I tend to think of Imogen as a young and slightly more roughed up yet less strict Professor McGonagall (from Harry Potter). She’s delightful in a serious kind of way that just really makes her endearing and spunky at the same time.

Percy, for a character we are just meeting, is extremely well developed, and there were times when I felt we almost knew him better than Imogen. Not to mention that Percy is the only male lead who is not a member of the Survivors’ Club, which, thankfully, doesn’t seem to phase him that much.

Overall, I would recommend it, especially if you’ve been loving the series so far! As with all of Balogh’s books, this series just gets better and better.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Proposal
Book #2 – The Arrangement
Book #3 – The Escape
Book #4 – Only Enchanting
Book #5 – Only A Promise
Book #7 – Only Beloved

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5) – J.K. Rowling

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Source: Goodreads

Frustrated and lonely, Harry is stuck at number four, Privet Drive, for yet another summer. Making matters worse is the lack of news from the wizarding community. The Ministry of Magic and The Daily Prophet are refusing to allow the truth to be printed, the magical world is completely in the dark. Worst of all, Harry faces potential expulsion even before the school year begins. With the Dark Lord back on the loose and a scary new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher watching their every move, it might just be time for the students of Hogwarts to take their futures into their own hands.

This fifth story in the Harry Potter series is a tough one to get through. At 870 pages, it’s the longest book, and the first 100-150 pages move as slow as molasses. Even worse, just about every character (except Hermione, who accomplished this feat in book four without much fuss) hits puberty. Harry becomes whiny, Ron sulks a lot, and Ginny starts dating. Of course, all of the adults continue to treat them like children and hoard information from them, with naturally disastrous consequences.

On the bright side, this book introduces what I like to call the silver trio. Much like Harry, Ron, and Hermione are often referred to as the golden trio, Ginny, Neville, and Luna quickly spring to mind as a second grouping, which I like to call the silver trio. Ginny finally becomes a real person in this book, as does Neville and many of the other secondary characters. Luna  Lovegood, aside from a brief mention of her family near the start of the fourth book, is really introduced here.  Luna, in a way that only Luna could possibly do, quickly becomes near-central to the main storyline. It always surprises me how seamlessly J.K. Rowling weaves Luna into the story, with her odd habits and strong opinions. Luna, so shamelessly herself, is easily one of my favorite characters of the books, and we don’t even meet her until more than halfway through the series!

While it is widely acknowledged that this book is really too long to be its best, it is difficult to find things that could be cut out. The only possibilities would be the cleaning scenes and the emotional roller coaster that is Harry’s thoughts in this book. However since these things really make up most of the story and establish multiple relationships that are important later on, they really have to be left in.

The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is a nightmare. I actually had a teacher in highschool who closely resembled her in not just looks, and we subsequently warned anyone who would listen about “Umbridge”. I actually had an underclassman insist that I was wrong for an entire year because they were convinced another teacher should have the title. The next year they had a class with the real “Umbridge” and promptly apologized for doubting me. I am aggressively not sorry we gave her that nickname.

Personal stories aside, this book, although seriously massive and slow except for the last 100 pages, was pretty great. The character development is so on point it’s almost painful (because puberty). Everyone becomes so much more complex in this book and it’s wonderful. Definitely recommend.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Check out my other reviews in the Harry Potter series and follow along on my journey to The Cursed Child!

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Book #3 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Book #4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #6 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book #7 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Book #8 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Fantastic Beasts #1 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

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 Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) – Brittany Cavallaro

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via Goodreads

This book is a retelling of Sherlock Holmes, except that in this universe both Sherlock Holmes and his author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are real, and the storyline follows descendants of Holmes and Watson thrown together seemingly by fate at a prestigious school in Connecticut and then framed for murder. Although Charlotte Holmes is the titular sleuth, the main POV is that of Watson, who besides being recruited for a sport at which he is terrible, finds himself shipped across an ocean in an effort by his mother for him to get to know his estranged father and step family.

I saw a book trailer for A Study in Charlotte sometime ago and assumed it was a movie. You can find it here. When I realized it was a novel, I immediately added it to my TBR and eagerly awaited it’s release. Not only did the cover speak to me in a decidedly Nancy Drew kind of way, but the characters seemed interesting and I am a person who always loves a good Sherlock Holmes story.

The novel was gritty and twisting, and in true Sherlock form, much was left unexplained until the big reveal at the end of the book. Although this frustrated me as I read, it was obvious that Cavallaro was attempting to make it recognizable as the formula of all the Holmes stories. Because a lot of details were saved for the reveal and the story was told from Watson’s inexperienced point of view, I had no idea what was going to happen until it did. In this age of technology and surveillance equipment, it seemed odd to me that it took them so long to put all the pieces together, especially when Charlotte had a lot of experience in mystery solving pre-storyline and much of the framework for the case comes from the original Sherlock stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which both Holmes and Watson have read to death. However, the turn of events was original enough to be interesting.

I was feeling rather meh about the quick wrap-up, I’ll be honest. The epilogue, however, provided us with a brief Charlotte POV, which finally had me looking forward to a potential sequel or series and the idea of getting to know Holmes and Watson better as characters as they mature together. I think the storyline could have been a little stronger, but I think the characters will develop themselves further throughout the series, which I believe is going to be a trilogy.

This book is definitely on the upper end of YA. It takes all the dark parts of the Holmes family and fits them onto a teenage girl: Depression, unrequited love,  alcoholism and drug addiction, sociopathic genius, and ever-rising stakes. Add in a rape and a murder and you’ve got enough material to make Charlotte Holmes a tortured creature. Yet she manages to rise above everything that’s happened to her and those around her and focus unwaveringly on the mystery at hand. Author Brittany Cavallaro had a lot of work to do to rein in a character like that, and I think she did a pretty great job.

HHC Rating: 3.5 stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – The Last of August

Canary – Duane Swierczynski

Source: Goodreads

Canary introduces the reader to Serafina ‘Sarie’ Holland, a college student living in Philadelphia with her father and brother, and Benjamin Wildey (pronounced will-dee), a police officer who comes from a long line of officers who have worked their hardest to clean up Philadelphia’s streets. After Sarie winds up in trouble for helping out a cute boy, she is forced to become a Confidential Informant for Officer Wildey, reporting on the drug world of South Philly. The book follows her progress as she worms her way into the drug world, only to realize she has always been a part of it. Philadelphia will never be the same.

I won’t lie; I picked up this book simply because of the catchy title and the colorful cover. It turns out that Duane Swiercsynski is a fantastic writer, and for the most part very thorough. This book is written from so many different points of view I nearly lost track. However, he managed to really get into every character so that after a sentence or so you knew who’s point of view you were reading from. Very well written and organized. I loved how human the characters were. They were swayed by emotion, but still intelligent and curious.

My only gripe is the ending. I knew things were wrapping up quickly, but I never would have guessed the direction they went in. The ultimate villain wasn’t developed as much as they could have been and felt like they were pulled out of thin air just for sake of using the character, while some of the minor villains were never explained at all. There was so much going on at the end in addition to Sarie’s confusion over who the actual enemy was, that I was left perplexed as to how we ended up where we did. If you exclude the unexplained ending and lack of showing some of the big scenes that would have helped develop some of the late-edition characters than I would give this book 5 stars. But ultimately the ending was so confusing that I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without some sort of warning label attached.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars