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

charlotte-holmes-the-last-of-august-brittany-cavallaro

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)

a-novel-bookstore-laurence-cosse-translated-by-alison-anderson

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

nancy-drew-the-arctic-star-carolyn-keene

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

Stone Heart – Luanne Rice

stone-heart-luanne-rice

Source: Goodreads

Maria Dark is returning to Connecticut for the first time in 15 years, ready to start over surrounded by her family at their little house between Bell Stream and the big old brick women’s prison. Not everything is as wonderful as she dreams, however, and soon everyone’s secrets begin to make life in the sleepy seaside town of Hatauquitit complicated, and even downright dangerous.

I picked this book up in August 2016 while I was babysitting in Boston. I was running out of things to read because I hadn’t anticipated just how much a 4-month-old can sleep when I came upon this book in one of those Little Free Libraries. I was intrigued by the title, cover, and location of the story, and brought it home with me. It didn’t hurt that Maria is a “nomad archaeologist” and I just thought that sounded extra cool.

The story starts off innocently enough, but about a third of the way in, it starts hinting at a darker core. I’m not usually one for dark or scary stories, but I was in too deep to back out of this one by that point. The inconsistencies in characters stories fascinated me even as it brought Maria closer to the truth. With some care questioning and superb intuition, Maria unravels the secrets being kept and finds a way to keep a calm and collected head on her shoulders as they all deal with the aftermath.

Honestly, this book kind of blew my mind. I finished it at one o’clock in the morning and immediately pulled out my phone to message one of my communications professors who also teaches women’s studies and like dark stories among other cool things, and told her she needed to read it immediately. It has so many twists and turns! It’s rare for me to be unable to guess the plot of a story or where it’s going/will end up, but this stumped me again and again until the very, very last second. Amazing. I’m only taking a half-star off, and that’s because it tricked me into reading something much darker than I usually like.

HHC Rating:  4.5 Stars

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

Only-A-Kiss-Mary-Balogh.jpg

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

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

Wicked-Business-Janet-Evanovich.jpg

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

Wicked-Appetite-Janet-Evanovich.jpg

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