Review: Murders and Metaphors (Book #3: A Magical Bookshop Mystery Series) by Amanda Flower

Friday, April 26thJanuary means ice wine season in the Niagara Falls region, but the festivities leave Charming Books owner Violet Waverly cold, still reeling from a past heartbreak. A past heartbreak who will be present at the annual midnight grape-harvest festival, and no magic in the world or incantation powerful enough could get Violet to attend. But Grandma Daisy, an omniscient force all on her own, informs Violet that she’s already arranged for the mystical Charming Books to host celebrity sommelier Belinda Perkins’s book signing at the party. Little do either Waverly women know, the ice wine festival will turn colder still when Violet finds Belinda in the middle of the frozen vineyard—with a grape harvest knife protruding from her chest.

Belinda grew up in Cascade Springs, but she left town years ago after a huge falling-out with her three sisters. One of those sisters, Violet’s high school friend Lacey Dupont, attends the book signing in the hope of making amends with her sister, but Belinda and Lacey end up disrupting the signing with a very public shouting match and Lacey quickly becomes the prime suspect in the sommelier’s murder.

Violet is sure Lacey is innocent, and to keep her friend out of prison, Violet asks for guidance from her magical bookshop. The shop’s ethereal essence points her to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, but what have the four March sisters to do with the four Perkins sisters? If she can’t figure it out, Violet, herself, may turn as cold as ice. Violet, Grandma Daisy, Emerson the tuxedo cat, and resident crow Faulkner are back on the case in Murders and Metaphors, USA Today bestselling author Amanda Flower’s enchanting third Magical Bookshop mystery.

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Source: NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books          Rating: 4½/5 stars

“I was really going to have to rethink my life, since my own grandmother took it for granted that ‘crime investigation’ was a part of it.”

Lord have mercy!  Cascade Springs is full up on murders, murderers, and people willing to openly and loudly blame Violet Waverly for all the awful.  Thankfully, in this instance one of the blamers isn’t the local sheriff . . . . .

After knowing her Grandma Daisy for her entire life, one would think Violet Waverly would used to her schemes, plots, and plans.  This time, Grandma Daisy has signed the bookstore up to host a book signing at none other than the Morton Winery.  There are few places on earth Violet would rather be than the Morton Winery, but duty and Grandma Daisy are calling.  For much of the night, Violet plays nicely with the Morton’s and just when she begins to relax and consider everything will go off without a hitch, Violet’s normally adorably sweet friend Lacey faces off in a loud and ugly argument with the author.  Mrs. Morton promptly blames the scene on Violet ☹

As with everyone else at the signing, Violet has no idea what prompted her normally kind and soft-spoken friend to engage in such an ugly and very public display.  As Violet quickly discovers, the fight was prompted by a deep hurt that has split Lacey’s family completely apart.  The pain of her friend pains Violet, but what hurts even more is accusations being flung at Lacey, most importantly that she has killed her sister!  Yes, once again, thanks to the shenanigans of Emerson the cat, Violet has stumbled upon (literally!) yet another dead body and murder investigation. 

Naturally, everyone, including Lacey, Grandma Daisy, and the bookstore expect Violet to stick her nose right into the middle of the murder and uncover the truth of the matter.  As always, the bookstore has something to say on the subject and this time, the words come in the form of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.  Violet is intimately familiar with Alcott’s writing and fully appreciates the connection to family, but that seems to be all the magic of the bookstore is willing to offer up.  With frustratingly little help, Violet dives in with both feet with the hope she can do more good than harm.

In betwixt and between her investigating, Violet continues her duties as the Caretaker (she’s getting better!), settles into her new adjunct teaching position, and continues to struggle with her feelings for a certain sexy sheriff who suspects Violet is keeping something BIG from him.  What’s more, the sheriff is absolutely adamant Violet stays out of the investigation before she stumbles into true danger.  Um, with Violet that is always far easier said than done 😊

The Bottom Line: There is no doubt about it, the Magical Bookshop Mystery series is at the top of my favorite cozy mystery series list!  With each book, I am seeing the kind of character development and evolution I expect to see, I am falling head over heels in love with Emerson, Faulkner, and Cascade Springs, I adore the twisty turnings of the plots, and the light romance is just perfect for the genre.  There really is a sort of magic (no pun intended, this time!) to these books and Violet, with her feisty personality, totally awesome Grandma Daisy, two beasts, and a bookstore with an agenda made up entirely of helping, is simply a perfect recipe for an excellent read.  I am ready for more and wish for a long life to this series.

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Review: Prose and Cons (Book #2: A Magical Bookshop Mystery Series) by Amanda Flower

Thursday, April 25thOctober in Cascade Springs means tourists are pouring in for the annual Food and Wine Festival, and Daisy hopes to draw those crowds to the store. She asks Violet and the local writing group, the Red Inkers, to give a reading of the works of Edgar Allan Poe on the shop’s front porch to entertain the revelers. Everyone eagerly agrees.
 
Yet their enthusiasm is soon extinguished when Violet discovers one of the writers dead in the shop moments before the event. After the shop magically tells Violet she’ll need to rely on Poe’s works to solve the murder, she enlists the help of her trusty tuxedo cat, Emerson, and the shop’s crow, Faulkner. But they must act fast before someone else’s heart beats nevermore…

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Source: Purchase          Rating: 4½/5 stars

“I wished Grandma Daisy were with me.  My grandmother should be with me committing a felony.  That’s what family was all about, wasn’t it?”

In a town the size and temperament of Cascade Springs there really shouldn’t be as much menace and mayhem as there is, but as you can see above, there are at least a few felonies still occurring and Violet Waverly would really appreciate some help!  In this instance, Daisy sure could use some help figuring out who killed the least liked person in all of Cascade Springs.

Wait, what? 

Indeed, Violet has got to figure out who whacked Cascade Springs most disliked human if only to prove her friend, and the sweetest human on earth, Sadie, didn’t do the deed.  Unfortunately, literally every piece of evidence both physical and circumstantial point right at sweet Sadie.  To make matters far, far worse the bookstore isn’t being very forthcoming with the clues to help Violet put the pieces together and the true killer behind bars.  The only thing the bookstore will tell her is that the answer can be found in the grim works of Edgar Allan Poe.  Oh, and Faulkner keeps yelling “Nevermore!” just to drive the point home.

As Violet begins digging and diving into the life of the victim, she finds evidence to completely support her status as the most reviled human in the village and evidence of a secret life that blows the whole case wide open and causes everyone to see her in an entirely different light.  For some, that light is a whole new shade of hatred and for others, a level of love and adoration that is generally reserved for super heroes.  To say Violet (and everyone else) is confused doesn’t even come close.  The only bright side, the whole secret life business has given Violet a whole host of people with motive to kill.

As before, Violet must balance her sleuthing with a plethora of other activities including serving as the new Caretaker to the bookstore, finishing her dissertation, corralling her naughty little cat, Emerson, and juggling the attention of two clearly interested men.  Thankfully, Emerson and his inexplicable tendency to lead Violet to exactly where she needs to be, when she needs to be there and the prodding magic of the bookstore keeps Violet on track, keeps her priorities in order, and keeps her just a step ahead of the law. That last bit is especially helpful when she is committing a felony or two.

The Bottom Line: What a fun and crazy ride this one turned out to be!  First and foremost, Violet has committed herself to life in Cascade Springs and she has committed herself to be the Caretaker.  Next up is the commitment of Faulkner and Emerson to Violet and her sleuthing ways.  These two beasties have to be my favorite characters and they bring so much to this series and certainly always help Violet and Grandma Daisy.  Finally, I am always glad to have an author surprise me and this time through, I was surprised by the identity of the big bad and I am thrilled to know that can still happen 😊 In truth, I am quite smitten with this series, it’s ridiculously awesome characters, clever plots, inclusion of animals, and the tie in to truly excellent literature.  I look forward to a long and continuously fresh and exciting run of this series.

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Review: Crime and Poetry (Book #1: A Magical Bookshop Mystery Series) by Amanda Flower

Wednesday, April 24thRushing home to sit by her ailing grandmother’s bedside, Violet Waverly is shocked to find Grandma Daisy the picture of perfect health. Violet doesn’t need to read between the lines: her grandma wants Violet back home and working in her magical store, Charming Books. It’s where the perfect book tends to fly off the shelf and pick you…

Violet has every intention to hightail it back to Chicago, but then a dead man is discovered clutching a volume of Emily Dickinson’s poems from Grandma Daisy’s shop. The victim is Benedict Raisin, who recently put Grandma Daisy in his will, making her a prime suspect. Now, with the help of a tuxedo cat named Emerson, Violet will have to find a killer to keep Grandma from getting booked for good…

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Source: Purchase          Rating: 4½/5 stars

Oh, Lord y’all!!  I just found a cozy mystery series that speaks to so many of my bookish loves: cozy mystery, animals, a bookstore, a bit of the paranormal, and lovely, quirky characters.  Here’s the skinny on this fun read:

Violet Waverly never, ever, ever meant to return to her hometown.  After a life-altering event during her senior year, Violet escaped and hasn’t returned in more than a decade.  That is, until her beloved grandmother, Daisy Waverly calls with devastating news that brings Violet across the country as quickly as her little car and tolerance for no sleep can get her there.  As it turns out, Grandma Daisy may have been exaggerating her situation just a bit, but her goal is accomplished with Violet back home and now the real work can begin.

But first, there’s the small matter of the murder of Grandma Daisy’s boyfriend . . . .

Violet’s return to her hometown is a mixed bag of emotions.  On the one hand, it is always great to see her grandmother and the bookstore that brought her so much pleasure growing up.  On the other hand, she’s crazy worried about her grandmother and the bombshell she’s dropped on Violet and then there are the looks and gossip that inevitably swirl in a small town.  Grandma Daisy is a strong suspect in the murder of her boyfriend and Violet just can’t sit around and allow her grandmother to be railroaded as she was so many years ago.

With no intention of staying in town, Violet doesn’t worry much about stepping on toes as she begins to poke around into the death of Grandma Daisy’s boyfriend.  What Violet finds is a background, a sort of past life that has seemingly come back in the form of murder.  As she begins to put the pieces together, Violet gets some help from the most unlikely of sources, the books in her grandmother’s bookstore.  Remember that bombshell I mentioned??  As Violet digs deeper, she puts herself in danger but is committed to her course and once she realizes the books are working for her, though in a very cryptic way, she can crack the case which puts her in absolute danger!

The Bottom Line: I am so pleased with this series and can’t wait to read the next two books!!  From start to finish I was sucked into this book, this small quirky little town, and especially the bookstore.  What a wonderful twist the paranormal elements bring to this series with the intuitive little kitty, the very talkative and snarky bird, the insistent books with their cryptic clues, and the specialness of the tree.  When you add in Violet, a dogged, determined, and incredibly intelligent young woman with a feisty granny who WILL have her way, you have something of a recipe for book magic!  I have such a good feeling about this series and sincerely hope it continues to deliver on this promise found in this first book.

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Mini-Review: The Memory House by Rachel Hauck

40589790In the spring of 1953, Everleigh Applegate is happily married and newly pregnant. But a tornado sweeps through Waco, Texas, taking her hopes of a bright future with it. Seven years later, widowed and childless, she is living with her mother and older than her years. It is not until she runs into an old high school friend, Don Callahan, that a small spark of hope for what life could be is rekindled. However, a secret Everleigh has kept threatens their happiness and future.

Beck Holiday is a tough, angry, New York City cop. Her father’s death on 9/11 took not just her father’s life but many of her memories as well. She learns that she’s inherited a house from an Everleigh Callahan—whom Beck apparently knows but cannot remember—in north Florida, and her suspension from work because of her anger issues leaves her with time to make the trip to figure out why. Upon her arrival, she meets Bruno Endicott, who clearly remembers her. Beck must work to regain her memory, face her anger, and open her heart to love.

Connected through a beautiful house in ways they will both come to understand, both women must find the courage to face the truth about themselves and their past in order to truly love and be loved in return.

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Source: NetGalley and Thomas Nelson Publishing          Rating: 4/5 stars

The Bottom Line: I’ve read several Rachel Hauck books and had I not done so, I likely would have given up on this read way too soon.  The beginning of The Memory House is a bit of a rough ride but riding it out is well worth the lumps and bumps.  As The Memory House unfolds, it alternates between the present and Beck Holiday’s life and the past and Everleigh Applegate’s life and legacy.  By all standards, I found Everleigh’s story to be the most interesting of the two and as her past wove into Beck’s present, Beck became a far more interesting and likeable character.  Everleigh’s kindness, her generosity, her foresight, made her the perfect person, even posthumously, to help Beck sort out the mess that is both her past and her present.  Ultimately, The Memory House is exactly what I have come to expect and appreciate from Rachel Hauck, a story about love, friendship, faith, listening to your heart, and accepting God’s presence in your life.  This positive outlook, triumph over adversity, and emphasis on faith is exactly why I love Hauck’s books and keep coming back to them again and again.

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Mini-Review: The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman

36632342Tom Hope doesn’t think he’s much of a farmer, but he’s doing his best. He can’t have been much of a husband to Trudy, either, judging by her sudden departure. It’s only when she returns, pregnant to someone else, that he discovers his surprising talent as a father. So when Trudy finds Jesus and takes little Peter away with her to join the holy rollers, Tom’s heart breaks all over again.

Enter Hannah Babel, quixotic smalltown bookseller: the second Jew—and the most vivid person—Tom has ever met. He dares to believe they could make each other happy.

But it is 1968: twenty-four years since Hannah and her own little boy arrived at Auschwitz. Tom Hope is taking on a batttle with heartbreak he can barely even begin to imagine.

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Source: NetGalley and Text Publishing          Rating: 2½/5 stars

The Bottom Line: As my star rating suggests, I only liked half of this book and that half was any part which involved only Tom Hope.  Tom Hope is one of the most sympathetic characters I have read in a very long time and I liked him from the moment he was introduced.  Through no fault of his own, Tom has experienced a great deal of bad in his relatively young life.  Consequently, Tom has become a rather solitary figure preferring to spend his time on his farm among the woollies rather than in the company of humans.  That is, until he meets Hannah Babel, and this is where my enjoyment of this novel ends.  Please believe me when I say, I wanted to like Hannah and certainly had a great deal of sympathy for her situation (especially the past!), but her general attitude and refusal to confront and deal with her problems caused her to come across as selfish and self-centered which caused a great deal of unnecessary pain for Tom Hope. Outside of my intense dislike of Hannah, I have no other complaints regarding this book.  In fact, outside of that one issue, I rather enjoyed Tom’s story, the setting (both the farm and the bookshop), and the issues that continually arose in Tom Hope’s life.  Outside of that single character, I found the plot and writing to be quite good.  As for a recommendation, I suspect I am in the minority where Hannah is concerned and since I liked all other aspects of the read, I am going to go ahead and recommend this book to readers.

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Review and Excerpt Tour: Tombstones (Book #3: Beekman Hills Series) by KC Enders

 

43815361No strings. No mess. No complications.  It was supposed to be just a month of fun.

KATE BEARD: Kindergarten teacher. Tequila connoisseur. Expert in finding Mr. WRONG.  Ever since Kate discovered the man she thought she’d marry macking on his boyfriend, she has had nothing but bad luck in love.  What she needs is a fresh start. When MURPHY and his damn LAW drop the perfect man right in front of her, it’s just her luck that he’s only there temporarily.

WYATT JACKSON: Captain, Special Forces.  Confirmed bachelor.  In the running for uncle of the year.  One month stateside to enjoy top-shelf tequila, lose himself in a gorgeous woman, and to try and forget the desert.  What he needed was a reset. What he got, was a sassy southern woman hellbent on bringing him to his knees.   Neither thought they’d find forever between tragedy and tombstones.

 

Excerpt from Tombstones (Book #3: Beekman Hills Series):

 

I startle Martha laying a hand on her back as she’s gunning for my class table. “Little Mr. Triplett needs a write-up to the office, Miss Beard. In fact, I was just about to take him down there and get things back in order here,” she huffs at me. Martha is the elementary school equivalent of the SWAT. She runs a tight ship, and nobody messes with that.

“Yeah, Jake’s had a rough morning, but let’s give him a hot minute and just see if he can pull himself out of whatever this is. What’s he been doing?” I ask glancing over my shoulder toward the table reserved for my students.

Hot damn.

That is most definitely not one of my kindergartners.

Making a show of fanning myself, I tease, “Miss Martha, you sure you don’t just want to go over there and flirt with that fine specimen of man sitting next to Jake?” Because holy fuck is he ever?

Martha pauses and looks at the tall man folded awkwardly into the bench and table combo that perfectly fits our smallest students. “Miss Beard,” she says exasperatedly. “I’m old enough to be his mother.” She flutters her hand at her throat, clutching at the neck of the candy cane printed turtleneck that complements her black sweater vest, presents and bows appliqued festively down the front.

“Doesn’t mean you can’t look.” I hit her with a wink and lean in conspiratorially. “You calling dibs on him? Or can I go see what has Jake all riled up?”

“Dear Lord, you’re just terrible,” she mutters.

The man sitting smack dab in the middle of the bench is obviously a source of great interest to my kids. Jake alternates between sitting so close to the man a piece of tissue paper would feel squished, and standing, holding court with his tall, muscly friend. Probably his dad. He did mention that his father was home earlier. He’s got all the tell-tale patience of a father visiting his excited kiddo at school. Helping each child open whatever container or snack bag they hand him. Chatting with each of them in turn.

Chloe Triplett is a very lucky woman if that man is warming her bed at night—when he’s in town, anyway. His broad shoulders test the tensile strength of the fabric of his plaid shirt, molding almost poetically around a muscular back, tapering in that perfect V to a well-formed ass. God forgive me for lusting after my student’s father-please and thank you. I pray silently.

Closely cropped dark brown hair fades into maybe two-day scruff that peppers a strong jawline. Plump lips hitch up when the question of the moment is interrupted by Amelia telling him he’s got pretty eyes. His shoulders shake ever so slightly as he rumbles out a “thank you, and so do you.” Be still my heart.

Copyright @ 2019 KC Ender

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About the author and where to find her:

Karin is a New York Girl living in a Midwest world. A connoisseur of great words, fine bourbon, and strong coffee, she’s married to the love of her life who is also her best friend. The mother of two grown men, she is proud to say that they can cook and clean up after themselves, and always open doors for the ladies (you’re welcome, world). Even though her boys no longer live at home, the big dogs she’s rescued have taken up their empty space.

 

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Spotlight and Sweepstakes: Twist Tied by Heather Guimond

If you’ve ever been left twisted in knots by your last book boyfriend…
Clarisse:
Author Wyatt Chase is one kinky mo-fo, and I know kinky. 
I’ve spent years devouring steamy stories that have left me fit to be tied, and as the assistant to his top rival, I’ve rubbed elbows with some of the dirtiest minds around. 
To make my life imitate his art, I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.
Wyatt:
My readers think they know me from my stories, but I just have an imagination more fertile than a box of Miracle-Gro. When Clarisse Flores blindsides me with an unexpected proposition, I hesitate. She wants the Marquis de Sade, not some kinky fraud. Nevermind the fact she’s hell on wheels. Taming her should be a job for a professional, but one look into her hazel eyes and I’m willing to try.
What happens when a bossy, smart-mouthed, independent woman is determined to submit to a man who can barely tie his own necktie? 
Something is bound to unravel…

Heather Guimond is a Los Angeles native, a fact she’s abnormally proud of. When she’s not trying to write something that will make people laugh or rip their hearts out (or both!) she’s either reading or doing her best to crack the whip on her three home-schooled teenagers. She loves all things witty and wise-cracking, as well most varieties of smart-assery. Other favorites include French roast coffee in copious amounts and the dirtiest Dirty Martinis she can find. More than anything, she hopes she writes books that stick with the reader long after the pages have been read.
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