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

 

 

Someone to Wed (Westcott, #3) – Mary Balogh

Westcott-Someone-To-Wed-Mary-Balogh
Source: Goodreads

 

The fallout from the death of the Earl of Riverdale continues in the third installment of the Westcott series. Alexander Westcott, the nephew of the late Earl, has struggled since his own father’s death to bring the family estate up to scratch. With the death of his uncle and the discovery of his half-cousin Anna, Alexander’s young cousin Harry is declared illegitimate, and the family title falls on Alexander’s already heavy shoulders. Not one to give up on the people who rely on him, Alexander resigns himself to attending the marriage market that is the London season in order to catch himself a rich wife to help defray the costs of fixing up two family estates.

Wren Heyden has been a recluse for almost as long as she can remember. Abused and abandoned, she found a loving home with her aunt and uncle in the country. With their passing, however, she is alone in the great house with the servants. All she has is her uncle’s glass company and the estate she grew up in – and lots and lots of money. But all she wants is marriage. At nearly thirty, she decides to buy herself a husband. After researching and meeting with all of the eligible bachelors in the neighborhood, she settles on Alexander. But he will only have her if she agrees to a ‘real’ courtship, which includes meeting his family, attending events, and going back to the one place she hoped to never set foot again: London.

 

I quite enjoyed this book. The conflict of Wren’s veils and her mostly closed-off nature with her wants and desires was fascinating. Alexander, by contrast, was less developed in this, his own book, than in the others. I almost forgot the story was taking place in the Westcott universe except that one or the other or the pair would bring up money and the earldom. This book was mostly about Wren, to be honest. Alexander felt like a vehicle through which we accessed the Westcott family – how Wren got to know them and became one of them, rather than how Alexander hit a home run on the curveball that was dealt him with the death of his uncle. I loved the peek into what Elizabeth, Abby, and Harry were up to, but I really needed more from Alexander. I felt like we only scratched the surface of him as a person.

 

***trigger warnings for child abuse in this one***

 

 

HHC Rating: 3.75 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Someone to Love
Book #2 – Someone to Hold
Book #4 – Someone to Care
Book #5 – Someone to Trust
Book #6 – TBA
Book #7 – TBA
Book #8 – TBA

 

Someone to Hold (Westcott, #2) – Mary Balogh

Westcott-Someone-To-Hold-Mary-Balogh

Source: Goodreads

Camille Westcott had everything – a title, a fiance, a loving family… but when her parents’ marriage is suddenly found to be bigamous, Camille loses everything. Her fiance forces her to call off the wedding. She is deemed a bastard and is no longer welcome in the polite society that only days before she had been sought after to indulge in. She is not even her father’s eldest child. Stunned and heartbroken, Camille flees to her grandmother’s home in Bath with her mother and her sister, where she shuts her self away from any society that might be willing to accept her. After months spent coming to terms with being a middle child of insignificant means, she finds that her frustration with her half-sister Anna haunts her every waking moment. Too scarred still to seek out Anna’s guidance, Camille does the next best thing. She signs up to take on her half-sister’s old job as the teacher at the orphanage where Anna grew up. Exploring her half-sister’s world, Camille is finally able to see life through Anna’s eyes, live in Anna’s shoes, and maybe, just maybe even find love in the places Anna never looked.

Joel Cunningham grew up an orphan. He’s always lived in the same place, teaching art alongside his best friend, Anna. When Anna suddenly finds out her true heritage and leaves for the big city, Joel is crushed. Reading her letters, he hopes for her return until her words turn to those of love for someone else. His daily existence becomes lonely and tiresome despite the children he loves and teaches. Still harboring a sore heart, Joel is outraged when Camille takes on the teaching position that was once Anna’s. The two troubled souls find that their mutual frustration with the ripple effect of Anna’s true parentage binds them together in strange ways, and after a night of unbridled feelings, the blossoming friendship between them turns into something else altogether, just to be thrown into chaos again when Joel receives a strange letter of his own.

I quite enjoyed this book. It was interesting to see how Anna flitted in and out of the narrative, sometimes in person, but mostly in the thoughts and hearts of Camille, Joel, and the other occupants of the orphanage. The character building was all there. In fact, the majority of the plot was internal struggles that Camille and Joel had to overcome in order to open their hearts to new opportunities. Watching them grow and mature and understand their new roles in the world was fascinating. That being said, so much of the plot was internal struggle that not a lot actually happened on the outside. Watching the more secondary characters be confused about the developing romance was real and true to the plot, which only made it better in my book.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Someone to Love
Book #3 – Someone to Wed
Book #4 – Someone to Care
Book #5 – Someone to Trust
Book #6 – TBA
Book #7 – TBA
Book #8 – TBA

Someone to Love (Westcott, #1) – Mary Balogh

Westscott-Someone-To-Love-Mary-Balogh

Source: Goodreads

 

Anna Snow has grown up in an orphanage in Bath, where she now teaches, supported by a mysterious benefactor for as long as she stays. A letter summoning her to London is not only surprising, for she knows no one outside of Bath, but life-shattering when the identity of her benefactor is revealed.

Avery Archer, the Duke of Netherby, is only Harry Westcott’s guardian because the boy’s father died a year too early. Avery wouldn’t even have taken charge of his nearly grown step-cousin, except that his own father promised to look after Harry in the event of the Earl of Riverdale’s death. With the Earl’s death fresh on everyone’s mind, it strikes Avery as odd that the late Earl’s wife is sending their solicitor on a fool’s errand to find Riverdale’s bastard daughter and tell her that her allowance will be cut off now that her father has died. He likes the plan even less when the solicitor instead drags the girl to London and announces that she is the sole heir to the Earl of Riverdale’s fortune and that Harry and his sisters are the real bastard children.

 

 

The premise of this series is just amazing. The role reversal is definitely unique and interesting to dive into. However, the execution could use some work. I dearly love many of Balogh’s books, but not only does the Westcott series start off with one too many side plots, but the characters all fall kind of flat. I’m hoping this is a single-book-problem like we had with Ben and Samantha in The Escape. Sometimes there’s just too much plot going on for proper character development. Granted, Balogh is just churning out new books in this series, but I would much prefer that the characters were more developed than to have a new book every six months.

 

I loved Anna, I loved Camille, I loved Elizabeth, and I loved Alexander. Avery I had trouble with because of his strange history and the side plot which goes with it that just didn’t work with the rest of the story. His public self and his private self just don’t mesh well together, and it made it impossible for me to really understand him and therefore support the main relationship. Overall, I felt the book put more character development into Camille and Elizabeth than anyone else. I have the second book from the library, so I will let you know if the characters get any better.

 

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Someone to Hold
Book #3 – Someone to Wed
Book #4 – Someone to Care
Book #5 – Someone to Trust
Book #6 – TBA
Book #7 – TBA
Book #8 – TBA

Sorcery and Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Cecelia and Kate, #1) – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Cecelia-and-Kate-Sorcery-and-Cecelia-or-The-Enchanted-Chocolate-Pot-Patricia-C-Wrede-and-Caroline-Stevermer
Source: Goodreads

 

Magic is in the air in Regency England. Cousins Kate and Cece find themselves separated for the London season, with Kate off to London and Cecelia stuck in the country. Known to their family as troublemakers, it is no surprise that the distance between them can’t prevent these two from getting into a scrape of epic proportions. And it all starts when a witch attempts to poison Kate at the Royal Society of Wizards induction ceremony.

 

I picked up the Kate and Cecelia series in middle school because Patricia C. Wrede was one of the co-authors and I had just finished and adored The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Little did I know that this series would blow me away as well! Wrede and Stevermer write back and forth in letter form in character. This was quite confusing at first, but once I got into the swing of things I forgot that it was presented in letters and simply became wrapped up in this world where magic exists alongside my favorite time period. The letter format eliminated the need for chapters, and also placed the reader in a forever-cliff-hanger so that I found myself reading quite past my bedtime because I needed to know what was going to happen next.

Kate and Cece are strong and independent female lead characters – MY FAVORITE – and the men whose problems they become entangled in are delightfully equal parts pride and chivalry.

This is one of those series that I just want everyone to read because it’s so innovative and unique. I can’t wait to dive into the second book, The Grand Tour.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book 2 – The Grand Tour
Book 3 – The Mislaid Magician
Book 4 – Magic Below Stairs

Reviews for other works by these authors:
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles
Book 1 – Dealing with Dragons
Book 2 – Searching for Dragons
Book 3 – Calling on Dragons
Book 4 – Talking to Dragons

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) – Marissa Meyer

Lunar-Chronicles-Cinder-Marissa-Meyer

Source: Goodreads

 

Cinder is just your average cyborg, living in New Beijing in an age where people like her are enslaved, and there is a plague sweeping the globe. Oh, and the queen of the moon wants to take over Earth. You know, normal stuff. So when the handsome Prince Kai visits Cinder’s mechanics booth at the weekly market with an android of national importance for her to fix, she naturally can’t say no. Everything that follows is nothing Cinder could have imagined, and her life suddenly has meaning beyond her wildest dreams.

We all know I love a good Cinderella retelling. I was excited when I first heard about this one, but after finding out it involved a war with the moon, a plague, and Cinderella being a cyborg, I was seriously worried it would collapse under the pressure of so many ideas in one book. I avoided it for years. Then I found the audiobook and decided to give it a go.

WOW. There was so much going on in this book. The war, plague, and cyborg aspects are only the tip of the iceberg here people. This book is beyond anything I’ve read in its sheer amount different topics, yet somehow they all fit together perfectly? How is that possible? It literally defies all expectations. ‘I am not a robot book’ it says. ‘Neither am I a war book, or a fairytale, or a plague story.‘ In fact, this book is everything. It’s like literary stone soup, and I loved every happy, miserable, hysterical second of it. I might have to listen to it again before I move on to the second book just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

This was a book I found myself thinking about constantly when I wasn’t listening to it. It’s the kind of story where you figure a few things out, and then the rest of the twists throw you off a cliff that only the next book can fix. Except each book follows different main characters and they’re all supposedly going to converge at some point. It’s a pretty cool concept, even if it is another thing to add to the pile of things going on already in this series. I get the feeling I am going to need flow charts and graphs to follow it all.

As far as the actual audiobook goes, I enjoyed the narrator almost always. Her pacing was good, the voice differences were good, and the pronunciations were clear. But the voice that was chosen for Cinder’s robot companion, Iko, still echoes painfully in my head.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Scarlet (Review Available 1/23)
Book #3 – Cress (Review Available (2/13)
Book #3.5 – Fairest (Review Available 3/6)
Book #4 – Winter (Review Available 3/27)

TV Review – The Vampire Diaries, Season #1

The-Vampire-Diaries-Season-1

Source: Wikipedia

 

Seventeen-year-old Elena Gilbert is still reeling from the loss of her parents in a car accident four months prior to the beginning of the show. She lives in the small town of Mystic Falls in Virginia with her younger brother Jeremy and their aunt and guardian, Jenna. The new school year starts and Elena and her two best friends, Bonnie and Caroline, meet the new boy at school, Stefan, who turns out to be a vampire. The storyline mostly follows Elena, Stefan, and Stefan’s mysterious older brother Damon, as well as a secret town council, made up the founding families, that somehow knows about vampires and seeks to rid Mystic Falls of them.

 

This television series is based on the book series of the same name written by L. J. Smith. I will readily admit I have not read them. Because everyone told me the writing was really terrible. Also, I had already seen the first season of the show at that point and knowing it wasn’t going to be as good made me just not want to go there and potentially ruin something beautiful. Because I consider what the writer has written to be cannon and any adaptations secondary, and I really want this TV show to be my cannon for this series.

This is a rewatch for me, but since I binged it the first time, I couldn’t remember where the first season ended and the second season began. This, my friends, is an excellent show and probably not appropriate for teenagers with the amount of illegal substances, underage drinking, and hooking up going on without anyone’s parents seeming to care overly much as long as they don’t see it personally. Not that that stopped me from watching it in 2009 when it premiered and I was a seventeen-year-old senior in high school. That said, Elena and pals are juniors, not seniors.

Being that this season takes place from 2009-2010, the music is super nostalgic for me. A lot of it is what I listened to during that time, and the tunes I didn’t recognize the first watch through I noticed now because they were songs I loved in college that hadn’t quite found me yet in high school. I also quite enjoyed the references to TwilightThe X-Files, and How I Met Your Mother, amongst others. The CW, like MTV, has a habit of picking attractive actors and actresses to fill their roles, though the CW doesn’t usually go over the top like MTV tends to. In this case, they played it right down the line and it worked out exceptionally well. While we had quite a few one-off characters, the season felt really full.

My favorite parts of the season might be the flashback scenes. Because we’re dealing with the eternally dead-yet-alive, the writers were able to jump into the past and show us bits of American history through the eyes of Stefan and Damon. I happen to know from experience that the flashbacks only get even better from here.

We got 22 45-minute episodes, and the first 6-7 mostly deal with getting to know the characters and setting up the layout of the town for the rest of the show. This was done really quite well. The remaining 15 episodes are composed of a mix of plots, furthering the basic character back story bits while also allowing room for a ‘big bad’. In this case, a bunch of scary vampires from the past show up and try to murder everyone. The season ends by wrapping up the season one big bad and hinting at the bad things to come in season two. If season one could be called “Let’s get to know everyone and hope not too many people close to our characters die”, then season two will probably end up being called “Feelings suck”.

 

Since this is season one, I won’t share any spoilers. Starting with season two, however, I’ll be referencing things from previous seasons, so don’t read them if you don’t want the plot spoiled!

 

And since this is of the utmost importance, I’m going to keep a tally of which team I’m on as far as ‘ships’ go in this series (Only the obvious one this time, though. No spoilers!):

The first time I watched this show, I was hardcore Team Stefan. Having watched other seasons I am now biased, obviously, but rewatching this season allowed me to see all the little manipulative things Stefan is doing while not actually realizing he is doing them. You would think that after 150+ years on this Earth he would know better, but, alas, he does not. So, this time around, I am wholeheartedly Team Damon. And I have no regrets.

 

Favorite Episode: Episode 19 – Miss Mystic Falls

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars