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

 

 

The Cowboy's Email Order Bride (The Cowboys of Chance Creek, #1) – Cora Seton

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Source: Goodreads

Autumn is a writer. A writer fighting the rising number of layoffs happening at City Pretty Magazine in Manhattan. Desperate for a story to wow her boss and save her job, she answers a video ad for a cowboy in need of a wife. She’ll get in, she’ll get out, and she’ll get her story.

Ethan is a rancher. He’s inherited the place from his parents and is desperate to keep it despite his sister’s attempts to sell it out from under him. His fiance’s left him, but with some help from his friends, he might just recover. That is if he can survive their latest practical joke.

I came across this book while testing out a new e-reading app.(Kobo) Once I figured it out, I felt the itch to browse the free books (because who doesn’t love free books?), and I came across this. The title sounded a bit cheesy, and even the author makes fun of it at the end, but it looked like a light read, which I needed to get out of the reading slump I was in at the time.

The story was actually quite good. Many romances feature one or the other half of the couple lying about something and it blowing up in their face, but in this case, both Ethan and Autumn have their secrets that they will have to overcome as a couple. It was heartening to see and feel them go through all the turmoil and eventually come out stronger.

Highly recommended to any fans of romances and/or cowboys. This story is one cute read that packs quite a punch of information. My only gripe is that the end wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

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Source: Goodreads

Greg Gaines is not a hero. Neither are Earl or Rachel, the other main characters. There are no heroes in this story, and that’s the way Greg likes it. Told from his point of view in a sort of personal essay that includes certain scenes written out like a screenplay, Greg tells the story of his senior year of high school, and the friend he never wanted. As Greg will tell you, this isn’t one of those sappy cry-your-eyes-out cancer stories. That doesn’t make it any less real.

This book has been on my radar since the film trailer started popping up, but my TBR list was pretty packed and I didn’t own a copy. In July, at a friend’s birthday party, I noticed she had a copy, and she was foolish enough to lend it to me. — I don’t lend books. They never come back, even from the people you trust. If it’s a really, truly good book, they will pass it on to another one of their friends and so on and so forth. — Luckily for my friend, I am a meticulous book nut who puts sticky notes on books that are not mine so they are sure to make it back to their original (or at least previous) owners. So, she lent me the book, and I read it while I was babysitting (no small feat).

I’m not usually a fan of 1st-person, but Greg managed to move between scenes seamlessly (maybe because it’s essay style, so he possibly re-wrote until it flowed like a paper?). The characters are all comically crazy. Parts of it were amusing, even. But everyone I had spoken to about the book had hyped it as hilarious, and maybe it’s not my brand of humor, but I wasn’t that impressed. To me, it was funnier in an “oh no, this poor kid, everything happens to him” kind of way that’s really more saddening than hilarious. But the writing itself and the formatting of the book were very good.

The ending was not predictable, which was refreshing. Greg, for all the complaining that he does throughout the book about this not being a story of self-acceptance and growth, sure does a whole lot of growing and changing. I still have yet to watch the film, but I imagine it will be pretty good, though the voice-over may get a bit boring.

I think if I had read this book in high school, it would have had a rather large impact on me. It may even have made me take stock of my life and possibly prevented some of the stupid things I did in college. But reading it now, I feel that much of the meaning is lost on me, having works like The Fault in Our Stars, A Walk to Remember, Eat, Pray, Love, The Paris Wife*, and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald** under my belt already. So, would I recommend it? Yes. Of course. But for me, personally, it wasn’t a stellar read.

HHC Rating: 3 Stars

* See my review of The Paris Wife

** See my review of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler

Source: Goodreads

Z: A Novel of Zelda Ftizgerald tells the story of Zelda Sayre, a rebellious southern belle who falls in love with army officer and soon to be famous writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. It chronicles their life together, the good, the bad and the downright ugly, in much the same way that Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife does for Hadley, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. In fact, Hadley makes a couple appearances in Z, as the events of their lives intertwine in more than a few ways.

I purchased this book within weeks of finishing The Paris Wife in 2014. I couldn’t wait to compare their stories and look at life in the 1920’s.  Then I became distracted by other things and a whole year went by with Z sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. When I finally picked it up I wasn’t excited anymore, but I felt that I should read it before I bought more books. The beginning of Z was rather confusing because I expected it to start with Zelda as a child or young woman and instead it began with a letter she was writing to Scott late in their marriage. In addition, I didn’t find Zelda very likable at the beginning. She came across haughty and spoiled with just a touch of naive rebelliousness. I worried that the book would be boring because I disliked her, and then I felt bad about disliking her, and it spiraled from there. I put the book down and didn’t pick it up again for 6 months, at which point I finally gave in and decided to finish it because I hate leaving things undone.

As the story progresses, Zelda matures, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Being in her mind throughout the story you can feel her growing and – thankfully – becoming for likable. As Zelda and Scott’s marriage deteriorates, Zelda gains unimaginable strength of character and becomes one of my favorite people. She is truly a Renaissance woman. She is a painter, a dancer, and a wonderful writer despite being pushed continually into using Scott’s name on her work. She single-handedly saves their family from ruin at the expense of her own sanity, and then she puts her life back together again. Zelda Fitzgerald becomes a true paragon of a strong woman, and I am thankful every day that Therese Ann Fowler chose to share this version of her with the world.

Living through the ups and downs and twists of a marriage that spans wars and depressions, fame and hospitalization, love and hatred, Zelda is the one holding together not just her own life, but Scott’s as well. Until the very end, she is his biggest supporter as well as his biggest critic, and he is only the better for it.

Probably the part that intrigued me the most was the summer everyone went to the beach because this period of time appeared in both Z and in  The Paris Wife, but from the different women’s points of view. Having read The Paris Wife, in which Zelda and Scott were very minor characters and hardly mentioned, it was fascinating to see Ernest and especially Hadley from Zelda’s point of view in Z. To Zelda, Hadley is a very important person, and someone she strives to understand and even somewhat emulate because of her strength during Ernest’s betrayal. The whole section just made me love these two women even more.

By the time I reached the conclusion of the book, I didn’t want it to be over. The beginning had been explained and I understood the point of starting at the end, since in many ways Zelda’s life came full circle. I would highly recommend Z to anyone who liked The Paris Wife, and to anyone and everyone who enjoys period pieces. In fact, I would recommend that every woman (or just every person, really) should read this book and The Paris Wife because they are just so educational and inspiring and strengthening that I think everyone could gain something from their pages.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars