Murder is Binding: a booktown mystery Review

Summary murder is bindin

Lorna Barrett’s cozy, Murder is Binding, starts off her Booktown Mysteries with a bang!  Or is it a stab?

To bring in some much needed revenue, the town of Stoneham, New Hampshire, has opened its doors to booksellers inviting them to set up shop.

Tricia Miles took up that invitation, leaving her life in Manhattan for the small town to live out her dream of owning her own mystery bookstore.

Soon Tricia’s bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, is open for business and Tricia is met with all of Stoneham’s friendly citizens.  Well mostly friendly.  All except Doris Gleeson, the owner of the cookbook store right next to Tricia’s.

She’s the grouchiest person in town, and she certainly doesn’t seem to like Tricia. Her antagonism becomes a real problem after Tricia finds Doris stabbed to death with a kitchen knife in her own store, and her rare and valuable cookbook stolen.

Before she can blink Tricia has all the town’s suspicions on her, and a sheriff breathing down her neck.  And if that weren’t bad enough,Tricia’s older and overbearing sister has come for a surprise visit.

With the sheriff and most of the town set against her, Tricia will have to figure out this mystery herself if she wants to clear her name.  Tricia’s read mystery books all her life, but she never thought she’d find herself in one.

Now Tricia must dust off her sleuthing skills and take a page from the mystery masters to catch a killer who is interested in more than just books.

Thoughts on Murder is Binding

This is the cozy for book lovers everywhere who feel as though there just aren’t enough bookstores anymore.  Murder is Binding transports you to Stoneham where bookstores line the streets, and the peace is only broken by the occasional murder.

Tricia Miles is our spunky amateur sleuth, and her role is made even better by the fact that she owns a mystery bookstore and that the sheriff really is out to get her.

Tricia is a great cozy heroine.  Not only does she feel the need to figure out the murder herself, her love of mysteries since childhood gives her a dose of confidence.  How hard can solving a real murder be with all the reading she’s done?

Obviously her thinking gets her into some very funny situations, especially as she butts head with the local sheriff, who it seems has never actually worked on a murder case…

Huh.  Maybe Tricia does have a bit of a leg up.  Though that leads her into some dangerous situations.

But Tricia gets help from her two loyal employees; Ginny a twenty-something young woman who used to work for Doris Gleeson, and Mr. Everett, the elderly gentlemen who loves mysteries just as much as Tricia.

Tricia’s older sister, Angelica, is another colorful character who adds in some extra trouble for Tricia, as the two have never really gotten along.  But she is also surprisingly helpful in solving the case.

The sisters’ relationship adds emotional depth to the story that is very relatable.  Who doesn’t have family problems and that one relative they love, but from a distance?

Romance is not a huge factor here.  Tricia has just gotten a divorce, and is much more interested in her bookstore.  However, there is a local politician across the street making advances and an annoying newspaper man.

How that ends…well I’ll let you read and find out!  The answer might surprise you.

The mystery itself is quite puzzling, and there was a huge twist in the end I didn’t see coming!

The clues lead Tricia into several different mysteries that all come together to form a complete picture of Doris’s murder.  The whodunit won’t surprise you nearly as much as the howdunit.

Murder is Binding remains the funny light read expected of a cozy, while still giving you a mystery with enough tricks and turns to keep you guessing at the murderer until the end.

With this debut, the Booktown Mysteries are shaping up to be a great cozy mystery series.  I know I can’t wait till the next one!

Other Details

My Recommendation: It’s a cozy so it’s in the adult mystery section.  This one though I think even young teens (around fourteen and up) could read.  It doesn’t really have much in the way of sexual innuendo like some other cozies.

Author: Lorna Barrett (also known as, L.L. Bartlett and Lorraine Bartlett)

Genre(s): mystery, cozy murder mystery

Pages: 281

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime Mystery

First Released: 2008

Learn More

To learn more about the cozy murder mystery sub-genre check out my post

Why cozy murder mysteries are awesome

Fun Fact!

Stoneham, New Hampshire, the fictional booktown, is based on the real life booktown, Hay-on-Wye in Wales!

Homicide in Hardcover: a bibliophile mystery Review

Summary homicide in hardcover

Kate Carlisle’s cozy mystery Homicide in Hardcover brings together the mysteries of murder and bookbinding.

Under the tutelage of her friend and mentor Abraham Karastovsky, Brooklyn Wainwright has studied the fine art of bookbinding since the age of eight.  Now a master of her craft and living in San Francisco, Brooklyn’s career is on a high note as her reputation as a highly skilled bookbinder circulates through the world of antique book collectors.

With everything going so well Brooklyn is looking forward to the Covington Library’s new exhibit, featuring her mentor’s latest book restoration.  However, the day of celebration takes a frightful turn.

No sooner has Brooklyn congratulates Abraham she finds him stabbed in one of the Covington’s workrooms.  Just before his final breath Abraham bequeaths the priceless copy of Goethe’s Faust that he still clutches to Brooklyn with a mysterious clue.

Before she even has time to process Abraham’s death she finds herself accused of his murder courtesy of annoying (and attractive) British security officer Derek Stone.  Brooklyn starts to wonder if the rumors about the Faust being cursed are true as things start to spiral out of control.  Along with being named prime suspect in her friend’s death, Brooklyn’s apartment gets ransacked, someone might be following her, and there seem to be more mysteries in Abraham’s life than just his death.

Though she much prefers finding the best ways to save a book than tracking down a murderer, she realizes it’s up to her to put the pieces of her mentor’s life together in order to clear her name and catch the killer before she becomes the next victim.

Thoughts on Homicide in Hardcover

I picked up this book for the look at bookbinding and stayed for that everything else.  This is a wonderful start to a new series that is still ongoing.  You get introduced to San Francisco, bookbinding, and Brooklyn Wainwright and her entourage.  A group of spunky characters you won’t want to say goodbye to.  Fortunately it’s a series so you don’t have to!

Kate Carlisle’s heroine Brooklyn is the guiding voice throughout the story.  Funny, talented, and constantly hungry you cheer her on as she works to catch a killer with her own personal skills that the police just don’t have.  After all if a murder circulates around a rare, priceless, supposedly cursed antique book who better to solve the case then a bookbinder?

Brooklyn has a lot on her plate though.  Aside from trying to track down a ruthless killer who seems to now be targeting in on her while being under suspicion for the murder herself, Brooklyn must face off with Derek Stone.  Both legally and personally.

As far as romance goes this was definitely one of the odder ways to start a relationship.  Being accused of murdering your friend by the guy.  Nevertheless Brooklyn can’t get her mind off him and throughout the book it’s hilarious how they keep running into each other in the most awkward of places.  They get very good at breaking and entering teamwork!

Thanks to the first person perspective, you get an inside look into Brooklyn’s emotions and thought process.  Her bookbinding, romance, and solving a murder of a friend all come into much sharper focus when you know what she’s thinking all the time.  Not to mention all her own funny thoughts!

The mystery was compelling throughout the entire story, and I kid you not I could not for the life of me figure it out.  Even when I thought I figured out who the killer was the big reveal showed me to be very  incorrect.

I guarantee you won’t see the who coming, and the why… I mean that was even more amazing.  Every tiny piece of the mystery was so well thought out, and going back after knowing the ending I could see how each detail even those that seemed insignificant at the time all fit together to form one complete and sinister picture.

I really enjoyed the use of bookbinding as the theme of this cozy.  It was well researched and let me walk away with a new knowledge of the craft and an excitement to learn more.

It’s a cozy with a learning curve as Carlisle breaks from murder with a tutorial in bookbinding basics as we observe Brooklyn work all of which is described and explained using actual bookbinding jargon.

Set against the backdrop of San Francisco, it’s a funny and thrilling ride as you follow Brooklyn as she works to solve the mystery and learn a thing or two about bookbinding along the way.  The Bibliophile Mysteries is a cozy murder mystery series that will keep you coming back for more!

Other Details

My Recommendation: This book is for adults, but really once their old enough to wander throughout all the sections of the bookstore alone kids would enjoy it too.  What better way to get teenagers interested in reading than a compelling mystery with information on how books are made, restored, and conserved?

Author: Kate Carlisle

Genre(s): mystery, cozy

Pages: 289

Publisher: Obsidian

First Released: 2009

If you want to know more about cozy murder mystery check out my post, “Why cozy murder mysteries are awesome” here:

http://thebooks.theblogpress.com/2015/04/21/why-cozy-murder-mysteries-are-awesome/

 

 

Why cozy murder mysteries are awesome

Cozy Murder Mystery cozy murder mysteries

The genre of mystery has always intrigued those with its puzzles, deduction, and looks into the human psyche to see how anyone could commit such a heinous act as murder.  Through the documented police procedural mysteries the reader gets a look at the seriousness of such a horrible crime, and often feels an amount of terror as the killer gets closer to being brought to justice.

That does make a good story, but some of us get a little freaked out by the upfront gruesome details of such a mystery or just need a break from it.  That is where the cozy murder mystery comes in.

The cozy mystery has taken on a life of its own filling the mystery section of bookstores and libraries everywhere.  It has almost become a sub-genre of mystery.

I know some people look at those little paperbacks and think they’re slightly far-fetched, I mean typically in a cozy the police officers involved in solving the murder don’t seem to be able to do it nearly as well as the average citizen.  Or that they don’t really hold a candle to a real mystery.  But I say they’re wrong! Cozy murder mysteries are awesome!

The Amateur Sleuth

Cozies are the home of the amateur sleuths, they feature a civilian as their protagonist not a police officer so if you don’t particularly like mysteries where police procedural is gone into in depth, or just need a break from it, this is the perfect read for you!

Now the basic police procedures are shown, but since the main character investigating is not a police officer they don’t go into that much depth because they don’t know it.  It makes the story very amusing to read as you watch the main character fumble around through their investigation.

Investigating Can be Funny

That brings up another point about why cozies are awesome: they are funny.  I know it’s murder, and murder is not supposed to be funny, but somehow the cozy makes it seem so.

The murder itself is not funny, but what happens after as our amateur sleuth tries to piece everything together while usually butting heads constantly with the proper authorities, is hilarious!  Cozies are mysteries and comedies all in one.

Themes

Another thing about cozies is that they always have a theme.  And there is literally a theme for whatever interest you might have.  Like gardening?  There’s a cozy for that.  Sewing?  They’ve got cozies for sewing, knitting, and crocheting (different ones).

You a book fan (probably since you’re reading this) you are totally covered.  They’ve got cozies about bookstores, bookbinding, book clubs, publishing houses, rare book researchers, and many more.

There are cozies featuring vintage clothing, food (muffins, cupcakes, chocolate, seriously this theme alone could fill an entire mystery section), antique shops, witches, antique shops with witches, libraries, animals solving crimes, magical animals solving crimes, theatre, this list goes on and on.

If I listed all the themes we could be here forever.   Just trust me browse through your local bookstore’s mystery section and you will find a cozy with a theme featuring your exact interest (there is a cozy featuring a snow-globe shop, trust me they have everything).

They’re Good

Another reason cozies are awesome is because they’re good.  They may not be hard core police procedurals with gruesome details, but they are hard core mysteries.

There are complex clues, engaging characters to sort them out, and often a twist at the end you didn’t see coming.  And they are well researched so that their facts are accurate.

The intricacies of a murder investigation may not be gone into as deep from the actual police point of view, but that doesn’t mean it’s not even looked at, or that what is put down is not accurate.  The police are just more in the background of a cozy so that the amateur sleuth can be featured.

Also, whatever theme they are using the author will have to do extensive research on that as well to make it believable.  It’s hard enough to write a convincing mystery, and cozy authors have to do that as well as write a convincing theme that ties in with the murder.  How does a chocolatier get involved in a murder anyway? (Read Kathy Aarons’s cozy Death is Like a Box of Chocolates to find out!)

Vacation Read

Cozies are also the perfect beach read.  I don’t know about you but I love reading on the beach, but it’s hard to find the right book for that kind of reading.

When you’re at the beach you’re already relaxed and reading something too dense or serious just isn’t something your brain is interested in.  But you also want to read something that is exciting and will actually keep you interested despite your brain entering catatonic beach mode.

Cozies are the perfect solution to this quandary as they are entertaining and make you think just enough with their mystery to keep you guessing, but are funny, light, and usually not too long so as to keep your beach mode brain happy.

This is true of any vacation destination not just a beach one so don’t worry if you can’t get to a beach that often!  Any vacation spot is even better with a cozy by your side.

Cozy Mania

Some cozies are actually becoming so popular that they have moved from paperbacks into hardcover (rare in the book world) which just adds evidence to my claim that the cozy murder mystery is awesome and that they are becoming their own section of mystery.

I am not saying the hard-boiled detective novels are not awesome as well, but I am saying cozies are right up there with them.  Just try one once and you’ll see.  And when you love it, and you will, you’ll be excited to know that cozies pretty much always come in series form.

Cozy murder mysteries: funny, hobby-oriented murder.  What more could you ask for?

Learn More

If you want to see a list of cozy mysteries or just want to know more there are plenty of places on the web to look here’s a site I like:

http://cozy-mysteries-unlimited.com/

Or just check out your local bookstore!

 

The Mostly True Story of Jack Review

Summary mostly true story of jack

It’s fantasy meets real life in Kelly Barnhill’s debut children’s novel The Mostly True Story of Jack.  When Jack’s parents get divorced and send him to spend the summer with an aunt and uncle he’s never heard of in the town of Hazelwood, Iowa, Jack figures it’ll be boring and the same as everywhere else where no one pays any notice to him.  No one ever has before; his own parents didn’t even pay him much attention not even having any pictures of him in the house.  But in Hazelwood that is all about to change.

Jack is astonished to realize people actually do notice him here.  His mysterious aunt and uncle have pictures of him all over their house and Jack makes friends for the first time in his life.  But not all is as it seems in Hazelwood, and Jack realizes that being noticed can be dangerous.  Especially when you are noticed by the mayor of the town and he is planning your immediate demise.

Jack soon discovers that Hazelwood is hiding a dark secret.  A secret it seems that Jack may be the key to unlocking.  Jack has no idea how he could possibly be related to anything going on in Hazelwood, or why all of a sudden everyone seems to notice him.  But Jack soon realizes he’ll have to figure out those answers if he wants to survive.

Jack and his new friends delve into the mysterious past of Hazelwood to discover exactly what it hides, and why Jack is so important to this town.  Through all the mystery and magic surrounding the town one thing is very clear, someone or something in Hazelwood has been waiting for Jack for a long time…

Thoughts on The Mostly True Story of Jack

When I first saw this book I thought the title was intriguing.  What did the author mean by mostly true?  After I started reading it I couldn’t put it down.  This is one of those books that you are constantly searching for but never find until you’re not looking.  A book you find at random when you are just browsing through the shelves of a bookstore not looking for anything in particular until it jumps out at you.  This book draws you in from the first page and actually makes you salivate for more.

From the very beginning I had to know who Jack was.  Why was his story mostly true?  Then I absolutely had to find out what was going on in Hazelwood, and how Jack who had felt he was invisible (and maybe was) fit into all this.

Jack I felt was a very solid main character.  He’s the kind of kid who is unobtrusive and feels lonely and neglected so you instantly feel emotionally attached him, but you can also tell that there is something about him resting just below the surface that could make him a hero even if he doesn’t want to be.  In many ways this is a coming of age story with some magic thrown in.  Jack who had always felt invisible is now noticed by everyone, and must make decisions that would be hard for an adult let alone a child.

The story had a fairy tale quality to it that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was truer to the original form of fairy tales with its darker undertones and magic affecting the lives of people not always for the better.  This tied in with the element of Green Man mythology made Hazelwood the perfect setting for a fairy tale adventure.

A whole new take was given to the Green Man figure which I thought was excellently done.  Adding that piece of magic to the secrets of Hazelwood really brought the story together, especially with Jack’s final showdown.  I won’t give too much away about that here though.  I’d hate to spoil the surprise!

This book was a whirlwind of fantasy, fairy tale, mystery, and reality all thrown together to create a story that you’ll want to read again and again.  Through it all Jack is the guiding light you follow.  From his days of feeling lonely and invisible, to making friends and getting maybe a little too noticed.  You follow him through the maze of Hazelwood as he discovers just who he is, figures out the secret of Hazelwood, and what he’ll have to sacrifice in order to save the people he cares for and ultimately find what he’s always been looking for: a place where he belongs.

Other Details

My Recommendation: I know that this book is listed for ages 8-12, but I personally think it’s more for the older range of that.  Younger children might not grasp certain parts of it, and there are parts that I can see might be too scary or upsetting for a young child.  This book is good for children around eleven and up as well as adults who feel a need for a little magic and adventure in their lives.  It is especially good for children and adults to read together.

Author: Kelly Barnhill

Genre(s):  Fantasy, mystery, adventure

Pages: 323

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company a division of Hachette Book Group Inc.

First Released: August 2011