Book Review: Once Upon a Spine by Kate Carlisle

June 22, 2018 Book Reviews 0

Book Review: Once Upon a Spine by Kate Carlisle

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Once Upon a Spine by Kate Carlisle
Genres: Cozy, Mystery
Published by Berkley Prime Crime on June 6, 2017
Pages: 270
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Eaves of Destruction, A Wrench in the Works

Eleventh in the Bibliophile [cozy] Mystery series and revolving around Brooklyn Wainwright and her fiancé Derek Stone based in San Francisco.

My Take

I’d been looking forward to reading this, hey, it’s a cozy mystery about rare books…what’s not to love? The odd thing is that I liked the characters, mostly, the neighborhood was a treat, and, hey, books, but the writing was so stiff.

That Brooklyn sounds like an artist, and I very much enjoyed reading about her plans for the matchbook-playing cards-accordion book concept as well as her floating cards concept. But did Carlisle really have to give me every minute step of the process? Nor is it the only instance of too much detail…”with a shot of protein powder”, anyone?

Maybe it was Carlisle’s first person protagonist point-of-view from Brooklyn’s perspective, as it was so annoying how often Brooklyn is whining on about “poor her, and her magnetic attraction to murder, especially murder that involves books, boo-hoo”. Oy. It was really annoying that all Brooklyn could think of was “if she’d only gone straight on to the Beanery, she’d never have found the injured men”. Well. How christian of her. If only…and it might have taken hours before anyone came along.

I can understand Brooklyn’s obsession with the Alice in Wonderland first edition. Eddie is quite patient with her wanting to touch and sniff it, *more laughter*

Derek sounds a treat, although I had my doubts at the start. I do wish I’d paid attention to this being the eleventh book in the series; I hate jumping into the middle. Although Carlisle does give a rather tedious blow-by-blow of practically every other case Brooklyn has solved. Okay, that’s not fair. I didn’t get all the details; it only felt like I did. Basically, thinly disguised info dumps. It was not appreciated. I have to wonder if my feeling that Brooklyn’s relationship with the police inspector is at all realistic isn’t due to my leaping into the middle as well…

All Brooklyn’s worries about both sets of parents meeting each other? Oh, lol, it was too funny and too perfect. An absolutely lovely time was had by all, with both sides having so much in common.

It’s a tale of greed and jealousy accelerated by a couple of players making the rounds. One doesn’t care who is hurt while the other is simply having a good time. Surprisingly, it’s the jealousy that hits worse than the greed with the brothers-in-law having their own long-term battle. I gotta say, I thought Eddie’s and Terrence’s bickering was pretty lame. It certainly makes me wonder how they’ve lasted this long together.

As for the inspector. Excuse me? I couldn’t believe how casual she was about Brooklyn’s shoes, the breaking-and-entering, confiscating rare books, what the hell?

Oh, boy, that ending where the “exposure” of the criminal occurs was almost Keystone Kops in its silliness. All those rare editions being handed out as party favors?? How is petty vandalism supposed to scare someone into selling? What was the deal with the 1865 copy of Alice that Terrence had stolen from him?

Yeahhh, I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of this series.

The Story

The rellies are coming! The rellies are coming! And Brooklyn is terrified, hoping she makes a good impression on her future in-laws. She knows how stiff the British can be. And her mother is not normal!

It doesn’t help when Brooklyn stumbles over a crime scene with two injured people while rumors of the landlady selling the building to developers begin to spread.

The Characters

Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder specializing in rare-book restorations who was raised in a hippie commune. She is not renowned for her cooking. Charlie is their girl kitty. Becky is Brooklyn’s mom and has one of those witchy Wiccan-Pagan-Astral-Travel personalities while her dad, Jim, runs the local winery for the commune in Dharma. Ramlar X is Mom’s astral-traveling spirit guide.

Commander Derek Stone runs an international private security company and is Brooklyn’s fiancé. Seems he’d been in the British military and had been a spy as well. Pretty young for all that, but it does give him such a cozy relationship with the police. Corinne is Derek’s assistant. Margaret “Meg” (she’s a psychic) and John Stone are Derek’s amazing parents. Meg can’t wait to hear about all the bodies! Jasper and Ophelia are the Stones’ cats at home. Dalton (he and Savannah have been sneaking about) and Dylan are Derek’s brothers. Dylan, unfortunately, wants to marry Cruella, er, I mean, Camilla.

The Courtyard is…

…a three-story Victorian-era building that formed a large courtyard square with four shops on each side. Bonnie Carson inherited it, after her husband, Jack, died. She’s having a grand time making her way through all the men in the area.

Brothers Bookshop carries…
…new and used books and is run by two men who had married two sisters and then divorced them within weeks of each other. Eddie Cox has a passion for old books while Terrence Payton prefers the new. Furbie is the bookshop cat.

Charles Dodgson, a.k.a., Lewis Carroll, wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. John Tenniel did the illustrations. George Bayntun of London bound one of the books. The 1865 edition is known as the “Suppressed Alice or the “Sixty-five Alice.

The Rabbit Hole is…
…a local produce market and juice bar run by Will Rabbit, Bonnie’s nephew.

Sweetie Pies is…
…a fabulous pie shop that makes both sweet and savory pies. Colin works behind the counter.

Kitty owns the hat shop. Joey Falco inherited the shoe repair shop from his father, the original Joe the Cobbler. Thai to Remember is one of the local restaurants while Pietro’s is good for great pizza and run by Pete. There’s also a lingerie store, the Beanery is a coffee shop, and there’s a yoga studio.

SFPD
Inspector Janice Lee is with Homicide and became friends with Brooklyn when she kept finding bodies. Her partner is Inspector Nate Jaglom who has a son in college. Claymore and Peterson are the police officers on scene.

Alex is a friend of Brooklyn’s with a fifth-degree black belt in two or three different martial art disciplines and teaches workout classes. Vinnie and Suzie are neighbors with baby Lily. They’re sculptors who specialize in burl wood. Bay Area Book Arts (BABA) has an annual festival. Carl Brundidge is Brooklyn’s lawyer insisting on a prenup agreement. Abraham Karastovsky had been Brooklyn’s mentor, murdered almost three years ago. Stan is a developer with Sequoia. Dr Wan is an acupuncturist.

Dharma in Sonoma County is…

…the commune where Brooklyn grew up. Austin is Brooklyn’s brother, and he’s recently married Brooklyn’s oldest friend, Robin. He and Jackson (another brother) run the winery with their dad. Savannah is her chef sister with an acclaimed vegetarian restaurant in town. Her sister China owns Warped, a popular yarn and knitting shop. Suzette runs a local bakery and sets up a mini-wedding-cake tasting. Guru Bob, a.k.a., Robson Benedict, is the leader of the commune.

The Cover and Title

The cover is sweet with a close-up of the bookshop window in a white Victorian-styled front window with a pale blue door, hanging baskets of pink flowers “frame” the wrought iron table Furbie is sitting on between the bud vase and the white teapot with three cups and saucers…the fourth cup having crashed to the Courtyard floor. Sitting on the folding wrought iron chair is one of the Alice in Wonderland books bound in the scarlet Moroccan leather. An info blurb is at the very top in burgundy with the author’s name directly below that in a purple. The series information is in white script on a red peak-edged flag on the left. The title is also in white in a serif font at the bottom.

The title is Once Upon a Spine, and I have no idea how it relates to this story. It makes sense that it’s about a bibliophile, but I’d’ve thought “once upon a title page” made more sense since that appeared to be Brooklyn’s focus. Or maybe Carlisle is referring to courage??

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