The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) – Libba Bray

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Source: Goodreads

 

Evangeline O’Neill has special powers. She can see important moments in a person’s life just by holding something that belongs to them. This talent, of course, is not accepted in Zenith, Ohio. After a particularly bad evening of illegal drinking, the seventeen-year-old is shipped off to New York City to live with her bachelor uncle, William Fitzgerald, who runs The Museum of Creepy Crawlies, and his mysterious assistant, Jericho. Evie reunites with her childhood friend and the daughter of revolutionists, Mabel, as well as some new friends including Theta, a showgirl, and her brother Henry, a piano player, a thief named Sam, and a numbers runner named Memphis who might just be magical himself. Life can’t be the berries forever though, and before long Evie is called upon to use her powers to help stop a murderer before he raises the antichrist and wipes out all of man kind. Just another summer in 1920s New York, right?

 

I’ve heard about this book on and off since it came out in 2012, and I finally picked it up from the library in August of 2017. Definitely not disappointing! While the writing is easy to follow (except for the 20s slang, which I had to look up) and the chapters are short, the gruesomeness and maturity of the plot and characters’ thoughts definitely put this book squarely in the Young Adult category. If the reading level were a little higher I might even put it in adult, even though over half of the characters are ages 17-19.

If you can’t stand gore in your books, don’t read this. About half of the murders are detailed, and all of the bodies are described once they are discovered. If I was close to stopping my reading more the night and I knew a murder chapter was imminent, I would stop before it so I didn’t have it running around my brain all night long. Not that it really helped, because I still knew it was coming, so my brain usually decided to try and guess how it would go down *facepalm*. In that regard, I’m glad I’ve finished the book. At the same time, I’m sad to let the world go for a while until I get the next book. Bray’s version of 1920s New York City positively shines. I found myself wishing I could visit for the weekend (sans murders) to visit the theatres and clubs she describes in such vibrant detail. The buildings and the city are just as much characters as the human (and not so human) population.

If I were a cry-in-the-corner type of person, my horror-hating-soul would be doing that, because I don’t like being terrified of what’s coming, but I’m a bloody Gryffindor, and we don’t show fear, so I just marched on and kept reading. Overall, I think the horror aspects were very well balanced with the daily life in the 1920s and the mystery parts, which made me quite enjoy myself despite the demons lurking in the shadows.

Definitely pick this up if you have any interest in America’s supernatural history (I’m personally hoping one of the books in this quartet focuses on the witch trials), or if you adore 1920s period fiction, or if you liked Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, because this book is pos-i-tute-ly for you. Also, this cover is magic. I love it.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Lair of Dreams
Book #3 – Before The Devil Breaks You
Book #4 – Untitled – TBD

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

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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

Getting-Rid-Of-Bradley-Jennifer-Crusie

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

Triple Threat (Lois Lane, #3) – Gwenda Bond

Lois-Lane-Triple-Threat-Gwenda-Bond

Source: Goodreads

 

Lois Lane is living the life of a normal teenager for the first time ever. She has the best friends, an amazing job, good grades, and a soon-to-be-in-real-life boyfriend. Before she gets too comfortable in her perfectly normal life, however, Lois becomes the target of a mad scientist and a group of mutant teenagers determined to turn her to the dark side, and as if that wasn’t enough, she is called upon to protect the mysterious flying man from a bunch of snoopy feds that includes her father. Will Lois save the day, protect the vulnerable, and get the guy? Check out Triple Threat to find out.

 

I’ve been highly anticipating this book since I finished the second one last month, and hallelujah! it arrived early (Thank you, Amazon, for the mix-up. God Bless You). The third and potentially final book in Gwenda Bond’s Lois Lane series does not disappoint.

The writing continues to be excellent. Bond knows her characters inside and out, and they remain pretty true to themselves historically as well. The romantic aspect was very well incorporated, weaving seamlessly with the mysteries at hand and complementing all of the other parts of the story rather than impeding or disrupting the plot. The new characters introduced in this installment were reliably well developed and interesting to read about, able to lend their own hijinks to the narrative.

I will admit that I was a bit confused with who the actual triple threat was because for each of the last books the title has had something to do with the plot. The summary on the dust jacket says something about ‘a trio of mutant teens’, but there are actually four teens? So it wasn’t until the end that I figured out who the group of three was supposed to be, but at least there was a group of three. Otherwise, I would be one very annoyed reader right now.

Overall I really enjoyed how Bond wrapped up the trilogy. Nearly everything got tied up nicely, and the strands left hanging allow for a sequel series or to bridge the gap to other Superman/Lois-centric works. I would definitely recommend Triple Threat as well as the entire Lois Lane series Gwenda Bond has written to anyone who enjoys a good kick-butt heroine with a dash of romantic tension (in books 2-3 mostly).

 

Highlights and Hot Chocolate Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes, #2) – Brittany Cavallaro

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Source: Goodreads

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes attempt to spend their Christmas holiday visiting their families in England, relaxing after their near murders in A Study in Charlotte, but the great game has other plans for them. Holmes’ uncle suddenly goes missing, and Charlotte and Jamie are left to pick up the pieces of his undercover investigation. In Germany. Working with and against the Moriartys. It’s a test of their relationship, which is complicated enough, to begin with, and could spell the end for our dynamic duo.

I felt conflicted going into this story, in large part because I thought the first book was rather dark, and I wasn’t looking forward to a series that was going to make me depressed. However, I am delighted to say that The Last of August wasn’t nearly so deep or mysterious as its predecessor.

That being said, I still had issues with it. As with the first book, the reveal waits until the very end. The difference being that in this one the reveal made absolutely no sense, even to Charlotte. It was obvious something was wrong throughout the book, but not one of the characters was able to see the twists coming. I found the fact that no one had the full story and continued to make stupid mistakes rather ridiculous. Charlotte and her family are Holmeses for goodness sake. We spent the entire first book being told how good Charlotte is at what she does, and how bad Jamie is at it all. This book flipped everything on its head. Charlotte wanted to be invisible rather than at the forefront of everything, Jamie became significantly more outgoing, and yet somehow everything still ended in disaster. I’m at a loss to understand where the third book is going to take our now seriously uncoordinated duo.

HHC Rating: 3.25 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – A Study in Charlotte

A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cossé (T: French-English by Alison Anderson)

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Source: Goodreads

The Good Novel has been open just over a year in Paris when three of its secret selection committee members are attacked. Now it is up to Ivan, Franchesca, and officer Heffner to unravel the mystery of who is behind the obvious sabotage attempts before someone ends up dead or the store is forced to close. Told from the view of a mysterious narrator who is determined to write the history of the shop and its founders, A Novel Bookstore will carry its readers away just as the stories available at The Good Novel do its customers.

Part mystery, part romance, all literary, A Novel Bookstore astounded me at every turn. Much of the mystery is left in the dark as the narrator can only share what he/she knows, but with each character introduced the intrigue grows and the reader becomes more involved in the story. At 416 pages, this novel is fairly hefty but definitely worth the read. The translation is impeccable. Only one word was mistranslated, and I think it more likely that it was translated correctly and misspelled/autocorrected to the wrong word. While it is, on occasion, hard to understand whether Ivan or Francesa is speaking during their tête-à-têtes due to quotation mark use, the difficulty is only mildly annoying as it typically doesn’t matter for you to know exactly which of them is speaking.

I enjoyed every page immensely, from the bits about book selling to the selection committee, to the backgrounds of the committee people and Ivan and Francesca’s lives. Whether everything was interesting to me because of my love for all things literary as well as historical, or the way the narrator weaves the history of the store, I was mesmerized by every detail. Most of all, from about a third or halfway through the story, I became obsessed with the idea of the narrator. To write, as an author, from a character’s point of view as if they are the author, fascinated me, and then the fact that we do not find out until the final pages who this mysterious narrator is was just too much. I couldn’t put the book down all week, reading a paragraph here and there anytime I had a moment to myself. It is easy to digest, while at the same time it leaves you wanting so much more. The Jane Austen quote, “If a book is well written I always find it too short.” definitely applies in this case.

I do not know if there will be a sequel to Cossé’s work, especially given the way things ended, but if there ever is another work like it or involving The Good Novel and its colorful cast of characters, I will be there on release day to buy it.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Curse of the Arctic Star (Nancy Drew Diaries, #1) – Carolyn Keene

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Source: Goodreads

In this exciting beginning to a new mystery series, college student and part-time sleuth Nancy Drew is called upon to help an old friend, Becca Wright, the Assitant Cruise Director on board the fancy new ship Arctic Star. Someone has been sending threatening E-mails to Becca and the ship’s headlining act, causing the first superstar aboard Superstar Cruises to quit at the last minute. Now it’s up to Nancy to discover who’s trying to sabotage the ship’s maiden voyage and put a stop to the mysterious accidents plaguing the passengers before someone gets hurt, and Superstar Cruises is shut down. Permanently.

***

A new Nancy Drew? Yes, please! I was a huge fan of the series growing up because my mother and aunt collect them, but it’s been a while since I picked one up. Simon and Schuster’s modernized version of the world’s most famous female detective (yes, even more well known than television’s Veronica Mars!) is spunky and smart, still relying on her wits over technology. It was refreshing to read a mystery where no one whipped out their cell phone and Googled someone to confirm their suspicions.

Although Nancy and her friends Bess and George, as well as Nancy’s boyfriend Ned and Bess’ boyfriend Alan, are all said to be college students, the books are written for 8-12 year-olds and the characters all read like high school seniors instead of college sophomores. The books are short and sweet, but there was a decided lack of actual clues, and what clues there were Nancy seemed to conveniently forget just as she started puzzling over them. Despite this particular frustration, the character writing was quite good, and I enjoyed getting to know the new Nancy, Bess, and George.

Although book one has just been released in hardback, the series started printing in paperback in 2013. Book #15: The Professor and the Puzzle, is due out August 8th, 2017. Overall, I enjoyed the story and will probably pick up the next one when I swing by my library. Hopefully, the clues get more clue-like as the series goes.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars