The Transcendental Murder (Homer Kelly #1) by Jane Langton

The Transcendental Murder (Homer Helly #1) by Jane Langton
Publisher/Year: Mysterious Press, 1964
Format: E-book (Libby)
Pages: 358
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


In Concord, Massachusetts, the discovery of century-old love letters leads to murder–from “today’s best American mystery writer” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

The citizens of Concord, Massachusetts, never tire of their heritage. For decades, the intellectuals of this little hamlet have continued endless debates about Concord’s favorite sons: Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and their contemporaries. Concord’s latter-day transcendental scholars are a strange bunch, but none is more peculiar than Homer Kelly, an expert on Emerson and on homicide. An old-fashioned murder is about to put both skills to the test.

At a meeting of the town’s intellectuals, Ernest Goss produces a cache of saucy love letters written by the men and women of the transcendentalist sect. Although Homer chortles at the idea that Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson might have had a fling, Goss insists the letters are real. He never gets a chance to prove it. Soon after he is found killed by a musket ball. The past may not be dead, but Goss certainly is.

What I thought

I was absolutely charmed by this mystery! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this up, but I ended up immensely enjoying this. I loved the portrayal of Concord, and I adored this cast of characters. I actually feel a bit sad to be finished–that’s how fond I feel of this town & its quirky residents.

This book isn’t perfect, by any means. There are a couple of minor plot holes, and there were a few times when Mary would get lost in a daydream that felt out of place. Other than that, I probably would have given this 5 stars.

I just really enjoyed this. It was written in a way that’s perfect for slowing down & cozying up with a good story. The mystery kept me guessing, and I’m glad to report that I didn’t figure it out. And even though having a bit of knowledge about the Transcendentalists (think Thoreau, Emerson, Alcott, Dickinson) added to my enjoyment of this, I wouldn’t say it’s necessary.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and charmed by this. It’s a little dated, but that actually kind of added to the charm for me. I would love to continue reading this series!

Small Town Rumors by Carolyn Brown

Small Town Rumors by Carolyn Brown
Publisher/Year: Montlake Romance, 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 289
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Everyone is talking about Jennie Sue Baker and the mess she made of her life in New York. The former high school queen bee–and wealthy darling of Bloom, Texas–has returned home after all these years, riding on a common bus and bearing two bounced alimony checks. In a town that thrives on gossip, Jennie’s fall from grace has shamed her mother, set the town buzzing, and caused old, jealous enemies to whisper in delight. They say she’s taken a job as a housekeeper, gotten a garage apartment, and might be crushing on Rick Lawson, a simple farmer with modest dreams.

As romance starts to bud, Jennies relishes what it means to follow her heart, find real new friends, and finally be herself–regardless of all the lying town chatter. But fate has another twist in store. Rumor has it that Jennie now stands to lose what matters most…unless she can convince Rick of one true thing–and that’s love.

What I thought

Sometimes, you just need a sweet, comforting escape read. This was my first time reading Carolyn Brown, and while I wouldn’t call this book life-altering, now I know that I can turn to her when I’m in the mood for a Hallmark-movie read.

Small Town Rumors was a nice and simple read, something that would be perfect for porch sitting with a glass of sweet tea or lemonade. The writing might be a little simplistic, and the characters were a bit like one-dimensional caricatures, but y’know I did really enjoy this one. I’ve been a bit stressed lately, so it was nice to kick back and relax into something Mayberry-style. Stories like this one always make me wish I had grown up in a small town. The humor wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it did make me smile, especially the banter from Lettie and Nadine. I wasn’t sure how the romance would be, but it was of the closed-door variety. This was a cute, if not entirely believable, story, and just like a good Hallmark movie, it gave me all the warm-and-fuzzies. My favorite part about this book was probably all the bookish references. Between a small used bookstore, a small town library, and a male lead who drives a bookmobile and builds little free libraries (swoon), my bookish heart was content.

If you’re in the mood for something light and comforting and guaranteed to make you smile, Small Town Rumors is sure to fit the bill.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Publisher/Year: Orbit, 2019
Format: E-galley (Kindle)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Every story opens a door…

In a sprawling mansion filled with exotic treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. As each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, January discovers a story that might just be the key to unlocking the secrets of her past.

What I thought

Thank you to NetGalley & Orbit/Red Hook Books for the free e-galley of this book! This does not affect my opinion presented here in this review.

If you have ever searched the back of your closet to try to find your way to Narnia, or if you’ve ever found yourself leaning on the wall at the train station in a last ditch effort to make it to Hogwarts–THIS IS A BOOK YOU NEED TO READ. I could go on and on about how much I loved this book, but, simply put, my writing isn’t the writing you’re going to fall in love with–Harrow’s is. It’s eloquent and breathtaking and will leave you in awe as to how she so perfectly describes the smallest detail. This is the book for lovers of books, lovers of books-within-books, lovers of language and words, lovers of strong, relatable, imperfect characters, lovers of fiercely loyal dogs, lovers of true love, lovers of adventure, and lovers of the type of wanderlust that keeps you incessantly searching for the next doorway to change. Honestly, this is one of those rare few cases when you absolutely should judge a book by its cover because this book is just as (if not more so) beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Take my word for it and indulge your fairytale-loving, adventure-seeking inner child–read this book!

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
Publisher/Year: Graywolf Press, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 216
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


November, a dark, rainy Tuesday, late afternoon. This is my ideal time to be in a bookstore. The shortened light of the afternoon and the idleness and hush of the hour gather everything close, the shelves and the books and the few other customers who graze head-bent in the narrow aisles.

In The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Buzbee, a former bookseller and sales representative, celebrates the unique experience of the bookstore–the smell and touch of books, the joy of getting lost in the deep canyons of shelves, and the silent community of readers. He shares his passion for books, which began with ordering through the Weekly Reader in grade school. Woven throughout is a fascinating historical account of the bookseller trade–from the great Alexandria library with an estimated one million papyrus scrolls to Sylvia Beach’s famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Co., that led to the extraordinary effort to publish and sell James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Rich with anecdotes, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is the perfect choice for those who relish the enduring pleasures of spending an afternoon finding just the right book.

What I thought

Oh, my heart. I knew from the first page–hell, the first paragraph–that this was a book with which I could fall in love. I have always been an avid reader and an insatiable book hoarder. Obviously, I know I’m here among fellow book lovers (because why else would you be here?), but I have never felt so seen and so understood as I have while reading through the pages of this little book. Every once in a while, I come across a special book–one that requires me to own a copy so that I can occasionally take it down from my shelves and thumb through its pages with the utmost feeling of fondness. This is one of those books.

Buzbee has written such an interesting walk through a bookish life. His own personal journey has me feeling like I’ve found a kindred spirit, and now I know for sure–I have definitely missed my calling as a bookseller. And as a nerd for all things history, I so enjoyed the fascinating history behind books, booksellers, publishing, bookstores, and more.

The town I live in has one bookstore–a Barnes & Noble–which I love dearly. It is a place I frequently visit, whether I have a preset purpose or not. While Buzbee writes in defense of the indie bookstore, I appreciated that he took the time to point out the pros and cons of other types of bookstores, as well. Because the way I see it, I just love bookstores. When we travel, I make it a point to check out any and all indie bookstores I can find, and I make sure I purchase something at each one. I feel lucky because I’m able to do so, and it’s led me to some seriously great bookstores (Otto’s in Williamsport, PA; Main St. Books in Frostburg, MD; Pressed in Erie, PA; Books Galore in Erie, PA–to name a few recent favorites). I try to do my part, no matter how small. And I just really loved that Buzbee got that.

I could probably go on and on about this little book and why it means so much to me as a reader (don’t even get me started on my love for libraries–I’ll save that for another day). I’ll simply say that when I picked up this little hardcover and it fit so perfectly into my hands, I just knew I was in for a treat. So, reader friends, if you love books about books or books about reading, I hope you stumble upon this one. I cannot recommend it enough.