Hello, friends! How’s your summer reading going? I can’t believe that we’re almost done with June, but this has been a good book month for me.
I finally picked up a memoir that’s been on my shelves for like TWO YEARS and somehow I never got to it. Which is crazy, because it’s one I was dying to read.
Some of you may know I am a HUGE fan of Gilmore Girls, and by extension Lorelai Gilmore, and of course, by extension, Lauren Graham. I read her memoir, Talking As Fast As I Can, in one sitting on this relaxing Sunday. (I did take a couple of breaks to refill my coffee. Which seems entirely appropriate, considering.)
Hi friends! Yes, it’s been a while again… it’s been a busy season here with the highlight being my son’s high school graduation!
How’s your summer reading going? I still haven’t regained my pre-pandemic reading volume, but I’m picking up speed a bit. There are a lot of great books being released over the summer but I’m trying to get through some of my existing TBR stack before I buy any more. Well, before I buy *too* many more, anyway!
A reading habit that always brings me joy is to re-read an old favorite. There are just certain books that stick with you… maybe a beloved childhood book? Or the first book you read by a favorite author? Perhaps a series featuring some memorable characters?
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:
If you’ve been hanging out here 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 the books in the series so far (updated October 2021)… 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!