Even though I’ve branched out on my reading in the past couple of years, I find myself returning again and again to cozy mysteries. They’re fun, intriguing, and I love the cast of characters you generally meet throughout a series!
I took a peek around today to see what cozy titles are coming in the next few weeks, and there are some good ones! Read on to see what should be on your list…
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 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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Friends, if your house is anything like mine, it’s in full blown Christmas mode! Decorating, list-making, shopping… haven’t gotten to baking or gift wrapping yet, but those are coming. And while this is a super fun season, it gets kinda crazy!
So when you need a break, what do you do? Me? I sit down with a coffee or hot chocolate, and I read a Christmas-themed book. (Well, I tend to do that whether I need a break or not, but I digress.) I’ve done a few Book Notes posts with Christmas stories, like Christmas Cake Murder, Premeditated Peppermint, and one a while back called As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles. Today, I have a new one for you!
(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.)
In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon is the first in in the new Book Tea Shop Mystery series. The publisher description begins like this:
In the run-up to Christmas Eve, organizer of book-themed tea parties Callie Aspen and her lovable Boston terrier will have to conquer threefold trouble—a mysterious will, a missing heirloom and a dead body—to restore the festive spirit to their small town.
As the novel opens, we meet Callie, on the way to assist her Great Aunt Iphy (short for Iphigeneia) with a holiday tea party at the impressive and historical Haywood Hall. Callie is just home for the holidays, and the last thing she wanted was to see some certain familiar faces from her past. As preparations for the event take place, Callie is drawn into family drama, deeply hidden secrets, and… a shocking murder.
Along with Iphy, and handsome Deputy Falk, Callie must not only uncover clues to what transpired at the party, but also help a shattered family rediscover their Christmas spirit and love for one another.
This is a fantastic opener for the series. I love that it opens at Christmas time, and the seasonal release makes for a fun introduction to the little town of Heart’s Harbor, Maine.
Like many cozy mysteries, the book features a small village full of quirky characters. Here I’d say that Haywood Hall, the main setting for many scenes in this book, has also been made into a character all its own, focusing on its history, its secrets, and its stately elegance. Capping off the list of characters is a delightful little Boston Terrier named Daisy, who seems to greatly enjoy taking part in community life.
Another fun aspect of this story is Great Aunt Iphy’s shop: a vintage tea room called Book Tea, where every sweet concoction is literary themed or contains a bookish clue. (For instance, early in the book, a treat plate is referenced as having a connection to the Brother Cadfael mysteries.) The holiday tea at Haywood Hall is described as having Agatha Christie like elements to it, so the references to more classic mysteries add charm.
The wrap-up to the mystery doesn’t come all in one bite… as you read through, you’ll discover that many characters have their own secrets that they’re keeping, and there’s blame to go around. But as with any good “whodunit” book, there can only be one killer.
So, to recap…. darling dogs, classic book references, scrumptious chocolate treats, an intriguing mystery, and a picturesque snowy village at Christmas. I’m not sure what else you could look for in “sit down and relax” sort of book!
I look forward to reading more in this series… the second book is slated to release in summer 2019, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Callie and for Heart’s Harbor.
In Peppermint Peril is out now in hardcover or e-book. Many thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an advance reader copy of this title for review.
So, what about all of you? Reading any great Christmas-themed stories? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! I’ll be reviewing a couple more in the coming weeks… let me know what you think of the titles I’ve posted. Happy reading!
Turns out, I hadn’t… I’d read a *different* mystery series by Amanda Flower that was set in an Amish community! (If you’re interested – of course you are! – it was the Appleseed Creek series!) So naturally, I had to go back and start at the beginning of this one. Once I did, I was delighted to find a new series, and even more so when I discovered how sweet and quirky this one was!
Have you read books set in Amish country? If you haven’t, you’re missing out! There’s something about the simplicity and traditions of the Amish that make these books so enjoyable. And with Amish cozy mysteries in particular, the setting adds that much more to the community feel and strong bonds that already feature prominently in this genre.
The Amish Candy Shop mystery series starts with Assaulted Caramel. Here we meet Bailey King, who has come home from New York City to a small town called Harvest to visit her grandparents… who happen to be Amish. A series of events causes her to stay longer than she bargained for, and of course, she ends up knee deep in a mystery! The series continues with Lethal Licorice, also set in Harvest.
If you want to start from the beginning with Assaulted Caramel, and don’t want ANY spoilers about the next books, then stop here and use my links to go get these titles! Then come back and find out more about the latest book, Premeditated Peppermint!
Christmas is Bailey King’s favorite time of year. For her first Yuletide in Harvest, Ohio, the former big-city chocolatier is recreating a cherished holiday treat: peppermint combined with molten white chocolate. But her sugar high plummets when her former boyfriend walks into the candy shop she now runs with her Amish grandmother. New York celebrity chef Eric Sharp and his TV crew have arrived to film an authentic Amish Christmas. Bailey’s not about to let her beloved town—and Swissmen Sweets—be turned into a sound bite. Unfortunately, she gets more publicity than she bargained for when Eric’s executive producer is found strangled to death—and Eric’s the prime suspect.
With Bailey’s sheriff deputy boyfriend out to prove Eric’s guilt, her bad-boy ex tries to sweet-talk her into helping him clear his name . . . and rekindle their romance to boost ratings for his show. Now, between a surplus of suspects and a victim who wasn’t who she seemed, Bailey’s edging dangerously close to a killer who isn’t looking to bring joy to the world—or to Bailey—this deadly Noel…
Bailey, like many cozy mystery heroines, seems to find herself in a jam more often than not! And this guy, Eric, has brought her nothing but trouble. But she couldn’t have imagined just how much turmoil he was bringing when he wandered into Harvest. As she deals with his presence, the murder of his producer, and the hint of a new romance with a very handsome deputy, Bailey must also find time to care for her grandmother, and make Christmas candy for the festival and the shop!
I love the characters in this town… they are colorful, and flawed, and big hearted. Well, most of them anyway! Even the four legged characters are enjoyable! And it’s fun to see how Bailey is adjusting to life in a small community, and how she balances the delicate line between the English and the Amish. The author has managed to make the story funny but also suspenseful, and the result is a very enjoyable concoction!
Premeditated Peppermint is out now… read as a standalone or as part of the series, it’s a delightful addition to your stack of holiday cozy mystery titles! Highly recommended… happy reading, friends!
(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.)
And thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy of Premeditated Peppermint. I’m happy to provide my honest review of this title… all thoughts are my own.