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:




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.


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:


Or just check out your local bookstore!


Snow-Walker Review

Summary snow-walker

In the land of the Jarlshold things were often cold, but ever since Gudrun, the Snow-walker, arrived from the edge of the world things have become freezing.

A soldier of Jarlshold married her after she bewitched him with her beauty, but it is her sorcery that she uses to control the people of the Jarlshold.  Before long Gudrun has convinced her new husband to steal the throne away from the rightful ruler and become the Jarl himself.  But it is Gudrun who has power here. The people of the Jarlshold live in fear.  Gudrun seems to have no weaknesses…or does she?

A young girl named Jessa and her cousin Thorkil are banished by Gudrun after their fathers are killed in an attempt to put the rightful ruler back on the throne. They are sent to Thrasirhall a ruin in the very far north where it is said another was banished years ago.  Gudrun’s son Kari.  Not much is known about Gudrun’s son, but many speak of him in whispers.  Is he like his mother?  Is he truly a monster?

Jessa and Thorkil had no choice but to find out, but when they arrive at Thrasirhall a surprise awaits them.  Kari turns out to be different than anyone thought.  With time running out for the Jarlshold and Gudrun closing in Jessa must rely on someone she never imagined to help save her home.  Kari is far more important than anyone thought he was.  In fact he may be the key to saving the Jarlshold from the Snow-walker.

Thoughts on Snow-Walker

So here’s the thing when I first got this book I didn’t realize that it was actually an omnibus version of a three book series.  I still didn’t realize that the list on the contents page, The Snow-walker’s Son, The Empty Hand, and The Soul Thieves, were not just the parts of the book until I started reading.

You can purchase all three books of the Snow-walker series separately, but I did not.  Since I read them together I am going to review them together.

I loved this book.  I just had to start there.  It drew me in from the very beginning, and I just had to keep reading.  I finished reading The Snow-walker’s Son in one sitting and then started right in on the next one.

Personally I was glad I had the entire series in one book.  Sometimes omnibus editions don’t work out, but this story slipped seamlessly from one book to the next.

Even though the book jacket’s summary only pertains in specifics to the first book, the overall theme of our heroes fighting Gudrun continues throughout the entire three volume set.  As you’ll see, even though they get her out of the Jarlshold Gudrun is not one to disappear quietly into the night.

It’s a fantasy story of a grand adventure across a frozen land, spanning several years over the entire volume.  The fantasy elements are used well and actually make sense.

A land full of snow white people with incredible powers who live in a land so far north that people in the Jarlshold believe it to be the edge of the world is the main source of magic in the story as it is Gudrun’s birthplace.

The overall setting of the Jarlshold struck me as a Viking empire (which is awesome!) in a time when Vikings would have been in control of the world (their world anyway).  Basically for this story think Vikings in an alternate reality where magic and all their supernatural beliefs are real.

I must say though I did love the many unique (sometimes quirky) characters, Thorkil and I never really hit it off.  Which turned out to be a good thing as even though he plays a slightly big part in the first book, he is literally never seen again (except very briefly in a dream).

The other merry band of rebels supporting the rightful Jarl continue to go on adventures to save the Jarlshold from Gudrun as getting her out of the seat of power was only the beginning.

I love Kari!  Really I cannot say that enough.  Watching him grow and get out of Thrasirhall is amazing.  When he’s learning to control his powers and then gets scared that he is actually just like his mother I just wanted to hug him.

His relationship with Brochael is so sweet and protective.  You can tell a strong father-son like bond exists between the two.

Jessa was a fierce heroine, and certainly not the type of girl to sit at home.  She was the first person (besides Brochael) to accept Kari and help him (for which I love her).

It is a good thing Jessa is  such a brave and loyal friend because Kari needed as many of those as he could get.  When your mother is basically the embodiment of all evil and you are the only one who can stop her, help from friends is very welcome.

From getting Gudrun unseated from power at the Jarlshold, fighting off a monster made of her magic, and finally traveling to the land of Gudrun’s birth for a final confrontation Snow-walker is an adventure you will feel a part of and never want to end.

Other Details

My Recommendation: This book can be found in the young adult section and while I do feel parts of it might be too scary for young children, by middle school age it should be fine.  And of course it’s a great read even for people slightly older than middle school age.  You know like ages twelve to one hundred.

Author: Catherine Fisher

Genre(s): fantasy, adventure

Pages: 507 (in omnibus edition)

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (in US)

First Released: 2004 (in US)


Why it’s ok to grieve for the loss of a character in a book

Character Death and Grieving sherlock holmes dead

I see it all the time in myself and in others who really love the books their reading.  A favorite character of yours dies and you grieve, and then people judge you in some way because in their words, “it’s just a book.”

Now if the book is non-fiction and someone dies then people may be more accepting of your grief but eventually they say something along the lines of, “well it’s sad but you didn’t know them.”

The thing that these people don’t get is that you did know them.  And the fictional characters you knew them too.  The book opened up their lives and stories to you, and there you got to know them.  Whether they are real or not when a character you love dies it’s a very sad experience, and as with any loss it’s ok to grieve.

Now I’m not saying you should wallow in your room for weeks on end, but it’s ok to feel a sense of loss when a character dies.  Who cares if they were in a book that was fictional?  During the time you spent with them while reading they were as real as anything.  They are for me anyway.  I’m still upset that (SPOILER) Fred died in the last Harry Potter book!

Characters Come to Life

When you read a book the author draws you into their world, into the lives of the characters.  Their job is to make you fall in love with their characters.  To care about their lives and what happens to them.

If you are not emotionally invested in the characters on the page than what’s the point?  If you start reading a book and half way through you still don’t care one way or the other what happens to the characters why keep reading it?

The plot and setting are important parts of a story, but it’s the characters that bring the story to life.  That give those places and times meaning.  If the characters are bland and boring and people you wouldn’t even look twice at the book falls apart at the seams (pardon the pun).  If the author has not written a story with characters that you can be emotionally invested in then they’ve failed at their job.

Most authors do not fail at their job so of course you feel emotionally invested in the lives of these characters.  You celebrate their joy with them.  You feel their sadness when they are hurt.  You yell at them, “No you’re not supposed to be with him you’re supposed to be with the other guy!” when they make a fumble in romance.  You shake your head at them when they do something stupid.

With all these emotions that you feel for them they become real people to you. Why wouldn’t you feel a sense of loss and grieve when the characters that have become real for you die?

My books have always been very special to me.  They were some of my closest friends growing up and still are now.  The characters in them became people I cared about, and really I never saw anything wrong with that.  I still don’t.

Yes I know they’re not real, that’s really not the point.  When I had a bad day it was nice to open a book and escape into a world nothing like my own reality for a little while.  And the characters in them invited me into their lives and took me on their adventures.

Even when I wasn’t having a bad day it was fun to do that.  That’s what books are for.  To take you out of yourself for a little while.  To join a band of characters that at least during your time between the covers are as real as you are.

So for anyone who still feels embarrassed that they feel grief over the death of a character, don’t.  It’s perfectly natural to feel that loss.  For anyone who tells you “it’s just a book” know that they are not a true book lover like you.

Why it Really is Ok

If you still feel awkward about it here’s something to ease your mind:

Back when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was writing his Sherlock Holmes stories he got tired of writing about Holmes so he decided to do what a lot of authors do when they get bored with a character: he killed him off.  The response to that was immediate and surprising.

Apparently Sherlock Holmes had become so popular and so much a part of people’s lives in London that when news of his death came in people were so grief-stricken they mourned him literally.  All over London people hung black wreaths on their doors (a symbol for mourning), they dressed in black, a memorial service was held and a lot of people actually showed up!

They behaved as if the character Sherlock Holmes was a real guy, and quite a few people thought he was.  There is an actual 221B Baker Street address in London. The real residents who lived their got condolence cards.

The mourning and outrage was so absolute that Doyle brought Holmes back to life.  Now the real residents of 221B Baker Street went back to their normal letters: job offers for Mr. Holmes.

There was a pole done in recent years that asked young people of today if they thought Sherlock Holmes was a real person.  Eighty percent of them said yes he was.  I tell you this so that you can take comfort in the fact that no matter how much you grieve for a characters’ death you will never be the craziest person out there.

So long as you stay away from sending condolence cards to a fictional character’s address, mourning the loss of a beloved character is normal and perfectly acceptable.  You loved them, now their gone, and you’re sad.  It’s that simple.

Wellington Square Bookshop

Welcome to Wellington! wellington

Located at 549 Wellington Square in Exton Pennsylvania, the Wellington Square Bookshop contains within its walls books for every taste imaginable.  Right from your first step in the door a cozy atmosphere welcomes you bringing to mind bookstores of old.

With its smell of wood coming from the carefully carved shelves and its wheelie ladders placed around the store reaching up to the higher shelves it brought to mind a bookstore found in fairy tales.  A place where some magical secret lies hidden in the stacks.

Books rare, new, and more…

There is a well stocked children’s and teens’ section off to the right as you walk in the front door where some of the newest releases are dispersed with old favorites.

Following the signs to the back of the store you find the adult book section broken up into more categories than you can imagine.  The books are broken up into sections reminiscent of an old library even having numbers next to the section title.  920’s are Biography for example.  There is also Drama, Poetry, History, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Mystery, and many more categories to explore and browse.

Even more interesting are this bookstore’s special secrets.  They specialize in rare books and signed first editions.  A glass case greets you as you walk through the door showcasing some of the oldest books in their collection some of which date back to the early 1900’s.

Signed first edition books can be found throughout the store.  Along with the rare and new a browser can come across many older titles that may be a bit harder to find in other bookstores.

Aside from the great selection of books the Wellington Square Bookshop also houses many decorative items and unique gifts any book lover would adore. Numerous wooden and marble bookends crafted into many fantastic shapes line the store.  I’ve personally got my eye on a pair of marble book ends shaped like unicorns, but there are so many it’s hard to decide!

If all this wasn’t enough they also have a very modern cafe where you can get any number of tea and coffee drinks along with a huge selection of delectable sweets that would make anyone give up their plans for a diet!

This bookstore was started in 2006, and in 2014 was named the winner of the Philly Hot List for best bookstore in the Philadelphia Area.  It has become a great place to shop, snack, and talk books with fellow book lovers in the community.

Their staff are friendly and helpful and clearly brim with excitement over books. They are there to help you find what you’re looking for among the stacks if you know, and are more than willing to make recommendations if you just can’t figure out the right book to get.

Book Clubs and Other Fun Things

The bookshop supports many on going activities and clubs.  I can personally say that their adult book club is enjoyable and really makes you think outside your proverbial box and read things you would honestly probably pass over.

It really can be a laugh riot when you get going, and there are always plenty of treats on hand!  Not only that but authors have been known to drop by the book club and discuss with us the book we just read and they wrote.  After reading the Unremarried Widow, the author Artis Henderson popped into book club via Skype.  How many book clubs do that?

Wellington also has a young adult book club for teens, as well as writing groups, author signings, and numerous other special events for adults and children.

If you’re lucky you might even stop by on a day when new ARC’s (Avid Reader Copies) come in.  These are books that have not been officially released in stores yet by the publisher, and are given to certain places in advance.  Since these books are not officially for sale yet you can get them for free!  If you get lucky you just might find something.

So if you are in the area stop in and have a look around, and if you’re just passing through stop in anyway.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.  Once you come in you’ll never be able to get enough.

At Wellington Square Bookshop you come for the glorious selection of rare, used, and new books and stay for the friendly cozy atmosphere and helpful and enthusiastic staff.  Not to mention the goodies at the cafe!

Learn More

If you’d like to learn more about Wellington Square Bookshop check out their website:



Iceland Review

Summary iceland

In Betsy Tobin’s sweeping saga the ancient world of Iceland comes to life as myth meets reality, the bonds of family are tested by forbidden love, and gods come to earth as Iceland’s legendary volcano is about to blow.

The year is 1000 A.D. and Iceland is still a land with ancient traditions dating to the Vikings with rituals and beliefs that clash with those of the encroaching missionaries of Christianity.

Freya, a goddess of Asgard, has come to Earth in search of a necklace that may aid her in altering the course of history from the disaster she has heard prophesied.  She finds it in the land of the underground world of dwarfs where to obtain it she will have to make a deal with the four brothers who crafted it.

Meanwhile a young girl named Fulla is promised to man she hardly knows only to realize she is in love with a young man from a farm that neighbors her family’s.  A family that has been in a feud with her family for generations.

The bonds of love and faith are tested as the magic of the gods runs throughout Iceland as a clash between the ancient beliefs and Christianity grows closer.  A clash that could uproot all the ways of the Icelandic people, that is if the ever looming danger of the volcano does not uproot it first.

Thoughts on Iceland

When I first picked up this book I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I just knew that I had a fascination with Iceland and a story that takes place back in the year 1000 always sounds good.  I am so glad that I found this book.  From its majestic view of Iceland to its look at the people of this land on the midst of a religious revolution with a little godly influence thrown in this book is one wild ride.

The overall story of Freya is actually based on a real myth from Iceland about how the goddess Freya met up with four dwarf brothers to broker a deal for their golden necklace.   Betsy Tobin’s tale adds more danger and magic to this myth which made for an exciting and crazy adventure for all the characters.  As whenever gods get involved in human affairs things are sure to get turned upside down.

Romance also is a big factor in this novel.  Fulla and Vili are basically the Icelandic Romeo and Juliet as they fight to be together despite their families’ feuding history.  The other great romance in this novel is that between Freya and Dvalin, one of the dwarf brothers who crafted the necklace. Honestly I enjoyed their relationship more than Fulla and Vili’s.  Neither one of them could stand the other at first and yet they couldn’t stop talking to each other.  It was funny and sweet seeing them play hard ball with each other but with an underlying tenderness.

The stories of Freya, Dvalin, Fulla, and Vili all intertwine throughout the novel. All come to a head when the final push for Christianity to take over Iceland is made and the disaster Freya was warned of sweeps across the land as the sleeping volcano awakes.

Other Details

My Recommendation: I would say this book is definitely for teens and up.  Personally I read it in college and was enthralled, so even if you’re past the teenage years this is still a book that would be well enjoyed.  I would say this is probably not a book for young children though.  Wait until they’re a little older before showing them this.

Author: Betsy Tobin

Genre(s): Fantasy, romance

Pages: 354

Publisher: Plume, The Penguin Group

First Released: September, 2009 (in US)

Why Science-Fiction and Fantasy are Not the Same Genre

Defining Science-Fiction and Fantasy scifi-fantasy

Science-Fiction and Fantasy are both two great genres.  However, they are not the exact same genre as many book listings would have you believe.

Often in bookstores you will find a science-fiction/fantasy section which holds books that fall under both of these categories.  There are also bookstores that simply mark a science-fiction section and then proceed to dump both science-fiction and fantasy under it confusing the issue more.

Now don’t get me wrong there can be quite a bit of overlap between the two genres, and there are parts of them that are similar.  For instance the fact that they both are fictional and thus are stories about things that have not occurred.  Despite certain similarities, though, science-fiction and fantasy have certain key differences.

There are many different ways of defining these two genres, and debates have been raging about what makes a book science-fiction or fantasy for a long time.  Here is a basic definition of each genre:

  • Science-Fiction: a story that, although has not happened, has a possibility of happening based on current real scientific facts.  These stories often take place in the future and/or show a certain phenomenon that is now possible such as time travel.
  • Fantasy: a story that is completely invented and could not (most likely) ever actually occur.  These stories usually have some element of magic to them such as supernatural creatures, people with some kind of supernatural ability, and/or take place in a completely made up world.

Separating the Two

Fantasy books are places where fantastical creatures are real, and people find out they have great supernatural powers and have to save the world.  It’s the land where the totally impossible is possible. Think things like Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Science-fiction on the other hand, and I cannot stress this enough, is a story about something that could actually happen.  Sure you hear “time travel” in a book’s summary and you automatically think, “that could never happen.”  The truth is it could, just not with what we currently have at our disposal.

The possibility is there.  That’s where science-fiction comes in.  As Ray Bradbury, who has written some awesome science-fiction such as Fahrenheit 451, stated “science-fiction is a sociological look at the future.”

Some parts of science-fiction that were written previously are actually starting to show up in current science.  It is currently possible to genetically modify a body before it’s born.  Most of this research is to help prevent birth defects and diseases, but the possibility now exists to choose genes for things like personality and physical appearance.

This eerily mirrors a character in Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Shadow who was part of an experiment which genetically modified babies in the womb giving them super intelligence.   This may be only one part of the story, but it does show how science-fiction stories, while not real, have the possibility of at least somewhat becoming a reality where as fantasy stories do not.

Science Fantasy?

There are some stories where the realms of science-fiction and fantasy overlap so much it’s hard to tell which genre the story belongs in.  One of the biggest examples of this is Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels.

Although they have dragons, leading many to think of them as fantasy, they are based on and use a lot of science within them.  Anne McCaffrey herself saw them more as science-fiction as she always took great care to craft the science into her dragons.

There are those who put books like this into the newer genre of science fantasy, but explaining that would take a whole other post!  So for now just know that while it is possible for science-fiction and fantasy to overlap on occasion there are still certain key things about each genre which separate it from the other.

Why I feel I need to Tell You This

The other day I saw Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief labeled as science-fiction.  Granted this was the movie not the book, but seriously?  In what world is Percy Jackson science-fiction?  How is a story about demigods, and Greek gods, and magical this, and supernatural that anything other than fantasy?  When I saw that my pet peeve about science-fiction and fantasy always getting mixed up rose to the surface, and I just had to help spread the word.

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