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

Diviners-The-Diviners-Libba-Bray

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

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

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

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3) – J.K. Rowling

HPatPoA

Source: Goodreads

Harry has never liked living with the Dursleys, but after his latest accident, he’s not even sure they will take him back. As the thirteen-year-old wizard heads back to Hogwarts for his third year, dark shapes are looming nearer, and Harry might not even be safe in his school’s enchanted halls. On top of that, mysterious figures from Harry’s past turn up, bringing with them new information about the night Voldemort was defeated. Will Harry survive the year? and if he does, will he be living on the streets?

This third book in the Harry Potter series is almost universally acknowledged as the favorite. Until I re-read it, I had nearly forgotten why. If I love the second book for showing us more of the castle and the characters, I adore the third book for introducing us to more of the wizarding world as a culture. There is so much history in these pages. Besides the glimpse in the first book, this is the first time we learn anything about Harry’s parents and their time at Hogwarts. This is the first time we hear about magic in other cultures, and we get to meet more magical creatures thanks to Hagrid.

Of course, the characters haven’t stopped developing. Hermione, Ron, and Harry all grow in so many ways in this book. They learn some hard truths about the world and about friendship and trust. If you’re a fan of this series, you already know that about 100 of the 10,000 Harry Potter references people make daily come from this book. It is one of those books that stays with you years after reading it, and even after you’ve forgotten most of the details like I did, it never really leaves you.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the beginning of the turning point in the books, from juvenile fiction to young adult. It only gets darker from here, but the light Harry finds in this book serves as a guide towards his ultimate destiny. I’m giving this book 5 stars because I can’t find a single thing wrong with it. There aren’t even any slow parts to speak of. Highly recommended.

HHC Rating: 5 stars

Follow along on my journey to the 8th story, The Cursed Child, with the links below!

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Book #4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
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

Torn Hearts – M. E. Gordon

Source: Goodreads 

Chuck and Teddy Monroe have lived in the spotlight ever since they took over their parents business. Their little sister, however, has always avoided it. Elizabeth has her heart set on working at the Library of Congress. That’s why she’s going to college in DC after all, instead of back in New York. She craves the quiet happiness that only books can give her, and she has it until two men enter her life and turn it upside down. Soon Elizabeth’s heart is torn between them, a well-known playboy and a quiet photographer. The media are closing in fast and Elizabeth doesn’t know who to trust. There are some pretty big decisions to make, and no one can make them but her.

M. E. Gordon’s premiere work goes all out. Elizabeth is a delightful character, who embodies exactly how the average woman would react when faced with this situation. No stone is left unturned as Miss Monroe tries to figure out who she wants, and who she can’t live without. The character development is excellent. I felt like I had a good idea of who everyone was in Beth’s life before everything hit the fan, and that definitely helped me make sense of the chaos that was going on due to the dual suitors. As this is a romance, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the more ‘heated’ moments, and I think they were done wonderfully. Not too long and not too short, and they added to the storyline and the character building. The mystery element is done very well. After every twist, I thought I had it figured out when BAM! something new would crop up that would totally change my mind. When I finally reached the end, I was exhausted (in a good way!), and begging for more.

Based on how it ended, I really hope Gordon writes a sequel (or two, or three). The characters are so rich and layered that I can imagine each of them having their own story to tell, and I would love to read them. My rating is definitely a full five stars.

This book was just released at the end of August, and Gordon was nice enough to send me an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) so I could review it. I do not accept payment of any kind for any of my reviews. If you are an author and you’d love for me to read & review something, send me an e-mail at amanda-at-highlightsandhotchocolate-dot-com, or send me a tweet @Amanda_HHC and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars