Looking through my past posts, I realized it has been over a year since I’ve published a Book Notes review! Since I just finished reading a heartwarming novel that I really enjoyed, there’s no time like the present to offer up a new one!
The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay is a women’s fiction novel that I was fortunate enough to get from Net Galley last spring… and somehow I hadn’t read it until now! Here’s a description:
Books. Love. Friendship. Second chances. All can be found at the Printed Letter Bookshop in the small, charming town of Winsome.
One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.
While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls.
When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.
This was a very enjoyable story for me. As we followed the women through each of their struggles and changes, it was easy to see myself and people I knew in each of them. Having a teenager at home and facing an approaching empty nest and all the changes that brings to life, I found myself identifying with Claire a great deal, though I found the other characters relatable as well.
Reay gave us well written characters and a charming setting. The right balance was struck between wrapping things up at the end of the story, and still leaving a few threads of possibility open to be tugged.
The book is somewhat faith based from a Christian perspective, but it’s not heavy handed. I enjoyed the way faith and prayer were lightly woven in, particularly in one spot where a character has something of a spiritual awakening.
I’m always easily drawn into books about books, and this one was no exception. The Printed Letter Bookshop was a place that you could easily envision yourself getting lost in for an afternoon. Titles and lists of other books are scattered through the text like little Easter eggs, too, so it’s fun to make mental notes of a future read or remember one that you’ve enjoyed in the past.
Overall, this was heartwarming and relatable. As I said, I have my Net Galley copy but I think I’ll buy a paperback as well… this is one book that I could see myself re-reading in future years. If you enjoy a story about books, about women’s friendships, or about overcoming life’s valleys and reinventing yourself, this one’s for you!
Also, if you read this, take note: Katherine Reay’s newest novel, Of Literature and Lattes, releases later this month and returns us to the community of Winsome! I can’t wait for this title to follow up with these characters and meet new ones. You can pre-order it now:
If you’ve been hanging out here at The Biblio Blonde for a while, you may recall that I’m a big cozy mystery fan. There’s just something about the way a charming setting, quirky characters, and a puzzle to be solved all come together for a very entertaining story!
I’ve recently read the first several books in a new series, the Magical Bookshop Mysteries by Amanda Flower. Today I want to share a bit about the series as a whole, but focus on the third and latest installment, Murders and Metaphors! After the review, keep reading for a special treat to learn more about this great author!
(I’ll have to give a few things away about Violet and the other characters that we learn in the first two books… but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum!)
The Magical Bookshop Mystery series features Violet Waverly, a graduate student who, in the first book, is called back to her hometown of Cascade Springs, New York by her grandmother. While Violet had been avoiding this quaint little town after a terrible incident in her past, she’s drawn back in by a colorful cast of characters: Grandma Daisy; members of a writing group (including a handsome police chief!); the mayor of their little town, who also happens to be her high school sweetheart; and a crow, a cat, and a bookstore.
Did I include the crow, cat, and bookstore in a list of characters? Why yes, I did. Because they *really* are characters in every sense of the word! Faulkner the crow showed up at the bookshop one day and never left… which doesn’t seem that unusual, until the bird starts hurling literary quotes. Emerson, a tuxedo cat, is an escape artist who sometimes seems to know Violet better than she knows herself.
And the bookshop? Well, it turns out Charming Books, where “the book chooses you” as the slogan goes, has a mind of its own. Not only does the perfect book often pop out of the shelves and into an unsuspecting customer’s hands, but the shop leaves copies of books around for Violet, and even opens to certain pages she needs to read. You see, Violet has become the shop’s caretaker, a role passed down over the years through a long line of Waverly women. But you’ll want to pick up the books (start with Crime and Poetry) to discover how all this came to be!
Now that we’ve established some background, let’s move on to Murders and Metaphors!
In this story, it’s January, and the festivities of ice wine season are in full swing in Cascade Springs. A big festival is taking place at Morton Vineyards (owned by the family of Nathan Morton, that mayor/ex boyfriend), but based on Violet’s history with the whole Morton clan, she wants nothing to do with it. Grandma Daisy, of course, has other plans, and lets Violet know that she’s committed BOTH of them to host a book signing at the festival for celebrity wine expert Belinda Perkins. (Thanks, Grandma!)
Belinda isn’t the most pleasant guest, and it turns out she has some history with Cascade Springs: she grew up there, and Lacey, a friend of Violet’s, is one of her sisters. After a big falling out many years in the past, Lacey turns up at the festival to try to make amends. It doesn’t go well, and Belinda storms off… only for Violet to later find her dead among the grape vines on the property.
Because of their very public scene, Lacey becomes a suspect. To help her friend, Violet is once again on the case, and this time, Charming Books points her to Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women. Violet has to figure out who killed Belinda, and how the March sisters can help her find the answers.
This series has quickly become a favorite of mine. The concept of a book store infused with magic and its own quirky “essence” is just delightful, and I really enjoy the charm and coziness of the town. Violet is a great character with a well developed backstory… the way her history is woven in with the present day village is really interesting.
And Grandma Daisy? She’s a hoot. After reading this series, the Stephanie Plum books, and the Braxton Campus mysteries, I’ve decided that all books are greatly enhanced by a quirky grandmother!
I didn’t see the reveal of the killer coming in this one, though it provided a satisfying conclusion to the mystery. With each book in this series, I appreciate that the case is wrapped up and there are no huge cliffhangers, but that there also remain unanswered questions about situations in Violet’s life, allowing threads to be carried from book to book. Some series can easily be read as standalone mysteries… enough plot points are woven through this series that I would recommend starting with the first book and reading in order. But trust me, you’ll want to do that so you don’t miss anything!
Murders and Metaphors earns five fabulous stars from me… I can’t wait to read more in this series!
Here are all three books in the series so far… add these to your list:
In addition to posting this review, I reached out to the author of this series, Amanda Flower, to see if she had time to answer a few questions for her readers… fortunately, she did! Amanda is a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author! Let’s see what she has to say about the Magical Bookshop series and her other writing.
It sounds like you started writing at an early age! When did you decide to write a novel?
I decided that I wanted to be a writer when I was eleven-years-old and read a story I’d written in my class and they laughed. I knew then I wanted to write stories to make people smile and laugh. From the beginning, I wanted to write mystery novels. They were my favorite works to read from a young age too.
What is something you’d like us to know about Violet, the main character in this series?
Violet is complicated. She actually had a very sad past. She lost two people that she loved when she was a teenager, but despite tragedy in her own life, she hasn’t lost her sense of humor or her drive to make something of herself. I think it’s easier for her to step into the role of sleuth because she know what it’s like to lose someone and she wants to help others because of that.
Each of your Magical Bookshop mysteries has a well-known published work the bookstore uses to give Violet clues. How did you choose these for each story, and what are some other titles that you think would be fun to use in a future installment?
The first writer I chose for the clues in CRIME AND POETRY was Emily Dickinson because I love her work, and after that it made sense to choose contemporaries to Dickinson, so I ended up doing 19th century American authors. So far I have used the work of Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott, and Walt Whitman.
In the first Magical Bookshop mystery, Violet inherits a small tuxedo cat named Emerson. I’ve seen pictures of your kitties on social media… tell us about your babies!
Aww! Thank you! I am definitely a cat lover. I have two tuxedos myself, so it was a natural fit to make Emerson one too. Emerson is based on my traditional black and white tuxie, Mr. Tumnus, AKA Tummy. My second tuxie is a gray and white and his name is Reepicheep, AKA Cheeps. They are my feline editors. You can follow them on Instagram.
Several of your other series are set in or around Amish communities. How did you become interested in Amish culture and how did you learn about it?
Now, I write fulltime, but I worked for as a librarian for fifteen years. My first librarian job was in Ohio’s Amish country, so I was around and interacted with the Amish every day. It gave me a unique experience that is perfect for writing.
Can you give us any hints about what’s next for Violet, Grandma Daisy, and Charming Books? Or tell us about any other series you’re currently writing?
The next book featuring these characters is called SPOKE AND WORD. Grandma Daisy plans a bike race in the village of Cascade Springs, but one of the riders dies during the race! Violet is on the case again to help her grandmother, and the shop uses the poetry of Walt Whitman to solve the crime. The book will release late 2019.
In additional to this series, I’m writing many more in the Amish Candy Shop Mysteries. They next book in that series is CRIMINALLY COCOA, a novella, and TOXIC TOFFEE will be the next novel released in July.
Many thanks to Amanda for sharing more insight into her books… I’ve read at least three of her series, and have really enjoyed each one. If you’re a cozy mystery fan, you need to put some (or all!) of them on your list!
Author James J. Cudney (Jay, as his friends know him) is a well traveled, well read guy from New York City. In addition to being a genealogist and an avid reader and book reviewer, he has been writing a series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries.
In this series, we meet Kellan, a single dad who comes home for his father’s retirement party as he prepares to leave a long career at Braxton College. But, as usually happens in a cozy series, things don’t go according to plan, and Kellan gets swept into a precarious situation!
This cover reveal was actually fun timing for me, as I’m just starting to read book one of this series! I always recommend starting at the beginning, so first pick up Academic Curveball, then move on to Broken Heart Attack. (Both are available in either Kindle e-book or paperback.)
And finally… we come to the latest installment, set to be released in late March. May I present: Flower Power Trip!
See, I told you… a hint of spring along with a fabulous new title!! Here’s a little more info about the new book:
At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume.
Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College?
As Kellan helps school president Ursula bury a secret from her past and discover the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his family. Everything seems to trace back to the Stoddards: a new family who recently moved in.
Between the murder, a special flower exhibit and strange postcards arriving each week, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. But unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to be exposed – and when it is, Kellan won’t know what hit him.
You can pre-order this title today… grab the first two while you’re at it, and you’ll be all set when Flower Power Trip releases on March 30th! (That’s the e-book version… a paperback of the title will be available at a later date!)
Thanks for stopping by to check out the cover reveal. I hope you have some great books picked out and you’re ready to relax this weekend! Happy Friday… and happy reading!
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It’s a fun way to keep up with what everyone is reading. To join me, read my answers, then answer the same questions about your reading in the comments below, as well as in the comments on Sam’s WWW Wednesday post! Simply use these three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you plan to read next?
Presenting… WWW Wednesday!
(This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Please see my policies for further information.)
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started a new cozy mystery called Wine and Punishment by bestselling (but new-to-me) author Sarah Fox. I was able to request this book through Net Galley and look forward to digging into it! Here’s a summary:
Book lover Sadie Coleman knows that in life, as in fiction, the right setting can make a world of difference. The small town of Shady Creek, Vermont, seems like the perfect place to start over after losing her Boston job to a merger and her relationship to her ex’s gambling addiction. She’s bought and redecorated the old grist mill pub, transforming the Inkwell into a cozy spot where tourists and regulars alike can enjoy a pint or a literary-themed cocktail, or join one of several book clubs.
Little by little, Sadie is adjusting to the rhythms of her new home. Fall in Shady Creek is bookmarked by the much-anticipated Autumn Festival, complete with a pumpkin catapult competition and pie bake-off. Unfortunately, the season also brings an unwelcome visitor — Sadie’s ex, Eric, who’s angling for a second chance…
Before Sadie can tell Eric to leave, he’s found dead near the Inkwell. When the local antique shop catches fire on the same night, it’s clear the town is harboring at least one unsavory character. Now, with her Aunt Gilda, her friend Shontelle, and the pub’s patrons all in the mix, Sadie must uncover the truth . . . before a killer declares last call.
I’m also still finishing the reading lists in Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson, that I featured in my last WWW Wednesday post!
What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished a lovely holiday read called The Christmas Company by Alys Murray. Not only did I feature this in my last WWW Wednesday, I also just posted a review of this, along with an author interview… see it here!
Megan Turner is in love with the past. As a tour guide at a beautiful historic mansion, she tells visitors about its original owner, Charles Whitley. An inventor and businessman in the early 1900s, he rose from poverty to wealth…only to disappear without a trace.
Charles was always intrigued by the future. He just never expected to go there. But when he repairs a mysterious clock he bought on his travels, he’s transported to the twenty-first century, with his home decorated for Christmas and overrun by strangers.
Charles is determined to find a way back to his own era, especially when he learns about what happened after he left. But as Megan introduces him to the wonders of smartphones, pizza, and modern holiday traditions, they both feel a once-in-a-lifetime connection. Could it be that, somewhere in time, they belong together?
I’m also planning to start Anne Bogel’s I’d Rather Be Reading. This one has been on my list for a couple of months… I think I’ve been waiting to be able to savor it! Here’s a bit more about it:
For so many people, reading isn’t just a hobby or a way to pass the time–it’s a lifestyle. Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can’t imagine life without them.
I’d Rather Be Reading is the perfect literary companion for everyone who feels that way. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today. Known as a reading tastemaker through her popular podcast What Should I Read Next?, Bogel invites book lovers into a community of like-minded people to discover new ways to approach literature, learn fascinating new things about books and publishing, and reflect on the role reading plays in their lives.
The perfect gift for the bibliophile in everyone’s life, I’d Rather Be Reading will command an honored place on the overstuffed bookshelves of any book lover.
So, that’s what I am, have been, and will be reading! How about you? What great books have been on your list lately? Let me know in the comments, or post your own WWW Wednesday list! Happy reading!
December on my blog will bring lots of fun content… I’m participating in #Blogmas which is a big deal in the blogging world, as well as Bookending Winter through Bookend Events. Look for gift guides, Christmas book recommendations, holiday favorites, and more!