Tag Archives: kate carlisle

Four BOOK HOOKS on Friday

Book Hooks

Four BOOK HOOKS on Friday
Book Hooks . . . also known as, the things that attract me to a book before I read the synopsis teaser.  There are so many books on the market, and even though you can narrow down your choices by interest and reading the backs of the books, the sheer number is still rather daunting.  As I have mentioned previously, I love to wander bookstores to see what might strike my fancy, and I started to think about what attracts me to pick up one book to peruse the back synopsis and not pick up another.  To use the old cliche, I guess I do check out books by their covers.  So, here are four things that I look at BEFORE I read what the book is about.  A shout-out to my youngest for coming up with the title BOOK HOOKS; thank you, peanut!

I almost always look first at the author of a book . . . of course it helps that most stores arrange their books alphabetically by author!!  Although, I noticed recently, that a local Barnes and Noble separated cozy mysteries from other mysteries.  Hmmm.  “Cozy” mysteries is somewhat of an ambiguous term and I don’t like that they are telling me what is cozy and what isn’t.  Rather annoys me; kind of like when they pushed the mysteries to the back of the store.  Kind of gets my goat . . . but I digress.

I have a list . . . of course I have a list . . . of about 50 favorite authors that I follow and read regularly. Sometimes I add new ones and sometimes I have to break up with them, but if I see a book by one of “my” authors, I am going to pick it up.  Now, I don’t always read every series by each of the authors, but I am more likely to try something new from an author I like.  I do this with movies too; I follow certain actors, regardless of the film itself.  Richard Armitage is in a movie . . . yup, I’m gonna see it.

Cover Art
I suppose this is the cliche at its finest, but if a book has a castle and a character in period clothing, I am going to pick it up!  I know that was how I found both of my two most favorite authors – Anna Lee Huber and C. S. Harris.  Huber’s first cover indicates a period mystery set in Scottish Highlands (uh, yeah!) and Harris’ cover shows a darker, more gothic environment.

I will admit that the cartoon-y, cutesy covers tend to turn me off though and some books covers just don’t give the right feel for the book.

I appreciate a good play on words and enjoy a creative title.  Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile series attracted me with the title Homicide in Hardcover, and I enjoyed the contradiction of Anne Cleeland’s Murder in Thrall.  A newer series by Loretta Ross (check out my review next week!) has Death in every title, but it is the name of main character.  Most of Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy mysteries are Irish phrases and song titles – In Like Flynn and Oh Danny Boy.

Because I tend to be a bit detailed oriented . . . you kind of figured that out, right . . . I really enjoy titles that have a pattern.  C. A. Belmond’s series all starts with “A Rather . . .,” as in A Rather Lovely Inheritance and A Rather Curious Engagement.  Juliet Blackwell’s witchcraft series titles all have clothing references in the title: A Toxic Trousseau and Hexes and Hemlines.  When I see a series of titles on the shelf that seem to follow a pattern, I will pick them up.  Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mystery series and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series appeal to my sense of organization.

Finally, I look at endorsements.  I figure that if an author that I enjoy likes the book, there is a reasonable chance that I might also enjoy it.  I will get especially excited when more than one of my favorite authors comments on the book!  Both Anna Lee Huber and Deanna Raybourn commented on the Simone St. James books and that was clincher for me to try her out.  I have often wondered though how an author is asked to comment on another author’s book; is there an insiders secret code?  Hmmm.  Might have to research that.  Finally, once I have found a possibility based on one of these four draws, I will then read the synopsis.

Of course the real challenge starts next; how do I choose which to purchase from the stack that I have assembled?!  Ah, the life of a reader!  How about you?  What attracts . . . or detracts . . . you from picking up a book?



I have to admit that I am Buzz Feed Quiz junkie.  You know, the ones that have you answer questions to determine which Disney Princess you are, which Hogwarts House you belong in, and which decade should you have lived in.  In order, Belle (no surprise there), Gryffindor (I wish I was that brave), and the 1950’s (pencil skirts and cocktail hour all the way!).  I recently saw one that “determined” your book interests based on travel preferences, and it got me thinking about settings.  I went through my list of all my favorite mystery writers . . . of course I have a list . . . and not too surprisingly, there was a lot of overlap of locations.  An honorable mention list must include New Orleans, Washington DC, and New York, but here are the four that made the final cut.

The United Kingdom
Big surprise there!  Obviously London – past and present – is number one of my list.  I have been an Anglophile forever, and although I have only had the opportunity to travel to the UK once, I love the juxtaposition between old and new, ancient and modern.  The history combined with all the cultural influences makes the setting full of literary opportunities.  With such a rich history, mysteries can be set in so many different time periods.  I love to read about the social customs and class mores that are indicative to each era.  Some of my favorite authors include maps of historical London and it is fascinating to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

I love to read about modern London in Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James New Scotland Yard adventures, Regency London through the eyes of C. S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr, and Victorian London’s Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch.

Of course, the great thing about the UK is that you can include Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.  My favorite mystery writer, Anna Lee Huber, sets her Georgian Lady Darby series in Scotland.  A modern day Wales is seen in Elizabeth Dunnett’s Penny Brannigan series and Rhys Bowen’s Evan Evans mysteries.

San Francisco
You have probably also noticed my love of San Francisco.  Ah, if money were no object . . . actually, it is an object, just one I don’t have a lot of!  Once again, it is a city with a lot of history and diversity.  With influences from the West and its role in the American Gold Rush and westward expansion history, there is a wealth of potential for conflict and personality.  The cultural and ethnic enclaves within the city are so vibrant that they are also individual and unique settings within the larger city.

I love Juliet Blackwell’s witchcraft series that is set in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco; the author does a great job at describing the tone and feel of this vibrant neighborhood.  Kate Carlisle is another favorite author of mine; her stories are set all around the heart of the city but she also travels up 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge to the wine country as well.  I just discovered Nancy Herriman’s novel of Old San Francisco set post Gold Rush and I look forward to more in that series.

New England
The crisp fall air.  The smell of apple pie.  The sound the pounding surf.  The sight of a dead body.  Don’t you love New England!!  Having lived in the Northeast, I quickly fell in love with the region and it truly does provide a wonderful backdrop to a great crime!  Seriously though, the history, the topography, and customs of decades old generations makes New England a great setting.

Quintessential New England towns provide the perfect setting for Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Russ VanAlstyne and Clare Fergusson contemporary mysteries that feature a small town cop and an Episcopalian priest, and for Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lovers mysteries set in coastal Connecticut.  Kaitlyn Dunnett channels a Scottish heritage in the fictitious Moosetookalook, Maine.

Ironically, France had never been a place I had a huge desire to visit, until I was introduced to two great mystery series sent in this beautiful and culturally rich country.  Wine, cheese, the French Alps, the French Riviera.  Seriously, what was I thinking?  Of course I would love to go there!!

Two writers that I really enjoy include Mark Pryor and M.L. Longworth.  Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston series is set mainly in Paris and I enjoy reading about both the famous and infamous stops that he visits within the city.  M.L. Longworth’s Verlaque and Bonnet series takes place in Aix-en-Provence, which is in southern France not too far from Marseille.  I really enjoy the contrast between the two geographically and culturally diverse areas.

Interesting . . . I have lived in two of these locations; perhaps it is time to move again?  As I wrote this, it got me thinking about specific places from novels that I have read that I would like to visit.  I think I see another blog post topic!  How about you?  What are your favorite book settings?


A is for Alibi Homicide in Hardcover Killer Hairsecondhand-spirits-200

Were you shocked when you saw that title?  Yes!!  I do read both American mysteries AND contemporary mysteries.  I like to mix things up a bit and be a little wild and crazy!  I have a number that I enjoy but here are four of my favorites.  The best thing about this list is that all of these authors are well-established, so if you enjoy the first book, there are many more in the series.

Crimes of Fashion by Ellen Byerrum
This series might be one of the most witty and charismatic books series I have ever read.  Lacey Smithsonian is a fashion writer for the Washington Eye; her clever and often cutting remarks about the sea of gray in Washington DC is very sharp and well-styled.  Her fashion reporting gets her embroiled in crimes that aren’t related to clothing choices.  What I really enjoy is how fashion serves as a plot device: a type of fabric that is poisonous when wet, an article of clothing used to smuggle heirlooms out of a war-torn country, or when the dress really does make the killer.

Lacey’s best friend and stylist Stella is larger than life and always adds a bit of humanity and humor to the storyline, her on-again, off-again boyfriend Vic Donovan provides more tension and conflict to Lacey’s life, and her mother and sister often pop in for surprise visits that create even more upheaval.  The humor is very well blended with thoughtful plotlines and a great deal of couture research.  The first two books in the series were made into TV movies and were actually quite good.

The Lacey Smithsonian books in order are:
Killer Hair
Designer Knockoff
Hostile Makeover
Raiders of the Lost Corset
Grave Appeal
Armed and Glamorous
Shot Through Velvet
Death on Heels
Veiled Revenge
Lethal Black Dress

Bibliophile Mysteries by Kate Carlisle
I know that I have reviewed the Kate Carlisle Bibliophile books before but I really enjoy them.  Brooklyn Wainwright is a book binder in San Francisco.  She repairs old and often priceless books and returns them to their past glory; however, the world of antique and rare books is very cutthroat and many of her restorations lead to murder.

This series manages to keep me engaged and each of the crimes is believable in the crime itself and Brooklyn’s involvement.  The stories have ranged from books that are smuggled into the country, supposedly lost books, and heirloom children’s books.  Of course, the fact that the story is based in books gripped me at the start, but Carlisle’s characters are who keep me coming back for more.  Brooklyn is worldly and yet naïve; her dreamy English security expect boyfriend Derek is well-developed and not a caricature; and Brookyn’s quirky Deadhead parents provide both humor and insight.

The Bibliophile series in order:
Homicide in Hardcover
If Books Could Kill
The Lies that Bind
Murder Under Cover
One Book in the Grave
Peril in Paperback
A Cookbook Conspiracy
The Book Stops Here
Ripped from the Pages
Books of a Feather (coming June 7, 2016)

Alphabet Mysteries by Sue Grafton
It can be hard to stick with an author over a long time and even more challenging for a writer to maintain a character and series, but Sue Grafton has done with her Alphabet Mysteries.  The stories are set in the 1980’s in Santa Teresa, California.  After a difficult childhood, Kinsey Millhone joined the police academy but quickly realized that she was better at being her own boss.  She gets her private investigator’s license and the rest is history.

Each of the stories in the series is unique, well-plotted, and engaging.  Although I will admit that I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, I always close the book at the last page feeling satisfied at a story well-written.  I have recommended these books to many people, and I have to stress that the series keeps getting better.  The first couple of books were good, but by about the fourth book, I was completely hooked.  Often characters will reappear after a few stories and the reader really feels as if he is getting a snapshot of Kinsey’s life.  I am quite enamored with Kinsey’s geriatric landlord Henry, and Rosie, who runs the restaurant down the road.  When each of the books end, there isn’t the burning need to “read the next one,” but I always enjoy when a new one comes out.  It is a great series to pick up, read a few, take a break, and come back to.

The author is most done with the alphabet and I will be sad when it is over.  The Kinsey Millhone books, in order, are:
A is for Alibis
B is for Burglar
C is for Corpse
D is for Deadbeat
E is for Evidence
F is for Fugitive
G is for Gumshoe
H is for Homicide
I is for Innocent
J is for Judgement
K is for Killer
L is for Lawless
M is for Malice
N is for Noose
O is for Outlaw
P is for Peril
Q is for Quarry
R is for Ricochet
S is for Silence
T is for Trespass
U is for Undertow
V is for Vengeance
W is for Wasted
No word yet on when Y will be released but she usually publishes a book a year.

Witchcraft mysteries by Juliet Blackwell
Lily Ivory is a witch; she lives in San Francisco and is the owner of Aunt Cora’s Attic, a vintage clothing store.  Literally run out of a small Texas town, Lily has finally found a place to call home.  With the aid of her familiar, a gargoyle/pot-bellied pig named Oscar, she lives a quiet life above her story.  Lily’s spell-casting training was never completed and as a result, she often attracts unwanted attention of the supernatural kind.  Aidan Rhodes, a powerful and domineering witch, and a man known only as Sailor, both vie for her attention and her talents.

I really enjoy the supernatural aspect of these stories and especially like how it compliments and expands the plotlines without over-powering or diminishing the story itself.  Lily is a very likable character and the author does a great job at making the reader want to root for her.

The Witchcraft series in order:
Secondhand Spirits
Cast-Off Coven
Hexes and Hemlines
In a Witch’s Wardrobe
Tarnished and Torn
A Vision in Velvet
Spellcasting in Silk
A Toxic Trousseau (coming July 5, 2016)


Crowned and Moldering

Crowned and Moldering

Title:  Crowned and Moldering (Fixer Upper 3)
Author:  Kate Carlisle
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-0-451-46921-2

Book Summary:
After wading through the town Planning Commission’s red tape and authenticity approval through the Historical Society, Shannon Hammer has finally gotten the go-ahead to start renovations on Lighthouse Cove, California’s, town namesake.  The historic lighthouse mansion has been abandoned and run-down for many years until former Navy SEAL and famous thriller writer, Mac Sullivan, purchased it with the intent to have it restored to its former glory.  Mac’s writing adventures, the bureaucratic delays, and Mac and Shannon’s own budding relationship have all caused interference to the start of the project, but the ink is barely dry on the approval forms when Shannon rushes to the site to begin renovation plans.  The mansion has great bones but needs both structural and cosmetic repairs, as well as the removal of mice.  As Shannon and her crew check the functionality of the dumbwaiter, the pulley breaks and it crashes to the basement.  Their racing hearts just begin to slow down from the near death experience when a new horror appears.  In the debris of the dumbwaiter that shattered in the crash are bones . . . human bones.

A medic alert bracelet is found on the remains and it is discovered that the bones belonged to Lily Brogan, sister of Shannon’s crew member Sean, who disappeared fifteen years ago.  Lily and Sean’s upbringing was less than idyllic with an abusive father and alcoholic mother.  At the time of her disappearance, the then-police-chief ruled that she had run away and little was done to search for her.  Sean never gave up on finding her and hired private detectives, as funds became available, to search for her over the last fifteen years.

Police Chief Eric Jensen replaced the old chief a few years prior; he has slowly earned the trust and respect of the town through his thorough and honest actions.  He is disgusted to learn how little had been done to protect Lily years prior and to discover the secrets of her disappearance, and he vows to find the answers for Sean and his family who now have to grieve for their sister a second time.  But the secrets of Lily’s life and disappearance have been buried for fifteen years and old grudges and guilts resurface with the discovery of her bones.  In addition to work stopping on the site for the murder investigation, Shannon also has to deal with an old high school acquaintance whose return to his hometown occurs coincidentally at the same time the bones are found. Cliff Hogarth didn’t take Shannon’s rejections years ago very well and now his new construction company’s encroachment on her crew and jobs threatens her livelihood.

Book Commentary:
I am a big fan of Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile mystery series.  I have to admit I was a bit reticent about her starting a new series with the Fixer Uppers; you know how you have loyalties to certain authors because of their characters?  I was afraid that if I didn’t like the new series, I would have to abandon the original.  Luckily, after three books in the Fixer Upper series, I am hooked.  She has done a great job at creating a new environment and new characters while still being true to her writing style.  When I read this series, it feels like a distant cousin to the Bibliophile series.  There are vague similarities but never do I feel that it tries to mimic or copy.

Crowned and Moldering, I think is the best so far in the Fixer Upper series.  The characters and settings are well-developed so that she really can devote her text to the development of the plot while incorporating characterization.  This story allows Shannon to revisit high school and some of her teachers.  I grew up in a small town and although I no longer live there, I really feel that community sense from this story.  She really embraces the gossip and old grudges and uniqueness that makes a small town come alive.

There is a fun love triangle between Shannon and Mac and Eric.  I am hopeful that Carlisle moves forward in creating a firm relationship between two of the characters.  I think because of the nature of each of their occupations – mystery thriller writer and police chief – the way crimes will develop in the series will have a lot to do with who Shannon gravitates toward.  Right now, Carlisle is hinting a bit toward one character but she is holding the cards still close.  It will be fun to watch as the dynamics develop.

Who might like this book:
I have a hard time categorizing this book.  There is definitely more depth and dimension than you usually find in a cozy mystery but it isn’t as multi-layered as some other contemporary authors.  I love the California setting and the home renovation aspect . . . I bet Shannon would never put books spine-in on a bookshelf!!  If you are looking for a fun, yet engaging read, check out this series.  I highly recommend Carlisle’s Bibliophile series as well.

The Fixer Upper series in order:
A High-End Finish
This Old Homicide
Crowned and Moldering

Ripped from the Pages (Bibliophile Mystery 9)

Title: Ripped from the Pages (Bibliophile Mystery 9)
Author: Kate Carlisle
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978-0-451-41600-1

Book Summary:
Book restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright has moved back to her hometown commune community of Dharma with her boyfriend, security expert Derek Stone, while their condo in San Francisco is being refurbished. Living in close proximity to her parents and siblings is great fun for Brooklyn but also puts her close to all the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies that that only her family can have. Luckily the commune winery had decide to excavate an area in the caves underneath to expand storage and tasting areas, which provides some entertainment and distraction to all the family bonding.

When the blasting dust settles, a secret room is discovered. It is filled with art, furniture, and treasures from a bygone era. Unfortunately, it also contains a body. As Derek, Brooklyn, and local detectives attempt to discover the body’s identify and origin of the room and its treasures, other interested parties also flock to the small California town. Treasure hunters and journalists join local families who fled France during the Nazi invasion; wanting insight into the history of the artifacts and to claim ownership of family heirlooms.

Tempers rise, innocent people are hurt, and others are not what they seem to be. The mystery of both the past and the present must be solved if peace is to return to Dharma.

Book Commentary:
I got hooked on the Bibliophile mysteries a long time ago and Kate Carlisle’s series is one of my favorites. I mean, her stories include books, wine, San Francisco, and a sexy former British intelligence agent; what more do you need! The previous books in the series usually revolve around a book that Brooklyn is restoring. I find the whole restoration process and how the physical make-up of the book can tell a completely different story than what is written on the pages fascinating. The restoration of the book in Ripped from the Pages takes a back seat in the plot to the history of artifacts smuggled out of France prior to the Nazi invasion. I admit I missed the book focus but the blending of history into the story really kept my interest.

Carlisle has created some great secondary characters, including Brooklyn’s family and Guru Bob; these reoccurring characters help the reader truly feel a part of the story and have a vested interest in their lives and experiences. Each time I start a new Bibliophile book, I feel like I am revisiting old friends.

Who might like this book:
I consider this book a bit more involved than a cozy mystery but still a fun, entertaining read. The weaving of World War II history and life in a commune with the techniques of bookbinding seems like an odd, mismatched combination, but it does work. Carlisle has a very diverse background herself and she seamless meshes unrelated facts and insight into an enjoyable, well-constructed story.

Although a new reader would understand the story, there is a lot of background of characters and situations that would be lost without starting the series at the beginning. I have especially enjoyed watching the characters grow and develop over the course of the series.

Here are the books in order:
Homicide in Hardcover
If Books Could Kill
The Lies That Bind
Murder Under Cover
Pages of Sin (e-book novella)
One Book in the Grave
Peril in Paperback
A Cookbook Conspiracy
The Book Stops Here