Antique Hunter's Guide to Murder Blog Post

Book Review: The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder

Welcome to this book review of The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder by C.L. Miller. This cozy mystery is perfect for those who love antiques and cozy mysteries.

Quick Summary:

“Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder” by C.L. Miller is a cozy mystery novel. It follows Freya Lockwood, an antique hunter with a knack for finding rare and valuable items. She’s a little rusty in her antiquing skills since she’s just getting back into the game after the mysterious death of her former partner Arthur Crockleford. Solving the mystery of what happened to Arthur leads to a web of secrets, lies, and more murders.

As Freya delves deeper into the mystery, she must use her keen eye for detail, her knowledge of antiques and the antique hunting business. Along the way, she meets interesting characters – almost everyone isn’t they seem to be. She also faces unexpected dangers as she delves deeper into the darker world of antique hunting. The book has a charming setting in Copthorn Manor.

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Who Would Enjoy This Cozy Mystery?

“Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder” by C.L. Miller is ideal for readers who enjoy:

1. Cozy Mysteries: This book offers fun, low-violence mysteries focused on puzzles. Readers who enjoy gentle whodunits will like it.

2. Antiques and Collecting: Those who like antiques, treasure hunting, and history will find the setting and plot appealing.

3. Amateur Sleuths: Readers who like stories about amateur detectives will connect with the protagonist.

 solves crimes through wit and observation.

4. Character-Driven Stories: The book has quirky, memorable characters. They add depth and charm. This makes it a great choice for those who enjoy character-rich stories.

5. Humorous Mysteries: The mix of suspense and humor makes the book enjoyable to read. It’s for those who like mysteries with a touch of comedy.

This book is perfect for anyone looking for a fun mystery. It’s easy to read and intriguing.

Characters in Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder:

1. Freya Lockwood: The protagonist is an antique hunter. She has a sharp eye for valuable items and a knack for solving mysteries.

2. Aunt Carole: Anne’s best friend is her partner in antique hunting. She is known for her bubbly and supportive nature.

3. Arthur Crockleford: The antique dealer is charming and knowledgeable. He often gives Anne valuable insights and help.

4. Franklin Smith – Executor of Arthur’s Estate

5. Harry – Boy that works at the antique shop and Arthur’s assistant

6. Lord Metcalf – Business dealings with Arthur, owner of the house, father of Amy and Giles.

7. Giles Metcalf – Lord Metcalf’s son and brother to Amy.

8. Amy Metcalf – Gile’s sister and Lord Metcalf’s daughter.

9. Clare – Housekeeper with a secret

10. Bella – In a relationship with Giles Metcalf

11. Phil – The gardener with a secret

12. Jade – Daughter, eighteen years old and she’s away for university. Calls her mom a few times in the novel. She doesn’t add anything to the story.

13. James – Extremely annoying ex-husband. There’s a whole subplot about Freya being kicked out of her home and it being sold by James because her daughter has moved out. James calls numerous times to yell at her about the house having offers. As a reader, I felt it distracted too much from the storyline. James’ character was extremely annoying and as a reader, I felt the story didn’t need him.

I love that these characters (most of them) bring depth and intrigue to the mystery. There’s always more to each character that unfolds and things aren’t always as they seem. The reader should approach each character with the question, are they really who they say they are?

About James and Jade…

With the exception of the majority of the characters, there were only 2 that shouldn’t have been included. Let’s be real, James and Jade were unnecessary in the story. I won’t knock points here. The other 11 characters were fabulous.

The Story’s Main Prop

“For your first clue – a bird in the box is more important than two in the hand. All my love, Arthur.” 

Martin Brothers bird Antique Hunters Guide to murder book review
Image of the Martin Brothers bird from the Guardian article.

The question: What Antique would you kill for? Is on the cover of the novel. It may shock you that the author C.L. Miller chose a Martin Brothers Bird – figuratively speaking, of course.

Martin Brothers Bird is at the center of this antique cozy mystery. I love this bird. Is it ugly? Yes. Is it creepy and unsettling? Yes, and yes. For this mystery, I think this was the perfect choice. I love its strangeness and uniqueness. I’m glad the author didn’t go with jewelry or a painting. That’s too commonplace in films and media.

A creepy-bird-jar stands out against all the other antiques. When the reader finds every quality of the Metcalf family to be unsettling and this bird at the center of the mystery, it’s a prop fit for the setting.

“An image pushed its way into my mind. The only ugly stoneware bird Arthur would care about would be a Martin Brothers one, and there had been a Martin Brothers bird decades ago in Cairo.” Miller, C.L.. The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder: A Novel (Antique Hunter’s Series Book 1) (p. 42). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.

Antique Hunters Guide to Murder Martin Brothers bird
Google Search for Martin Brothers Bird

“People often misjudge the value of the Martin Brothers birds, dismissing them as grandma’s dark, creepy clay bird pots.” Miller, C.L.. The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder: A Novel (Antique Hunter’s Series Book 1) (p. 42). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.

What I Enjoyed About the Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder:

Bias alert: I enjoy visiting antique shops. I’ve been visiting antique shops with my relatives for most of my life. I have fond memories of discussing brass from India with my grandmother. Sometimes we would stay until 2 a.m. discussing antiques. I mention this to disclose my bias in reviewing this book.

as Arthur would say, “We buy an antique because we love it, love its history, its story. We want it in our home, so to hell with what the fashionistas think.” Miller, C.L.. The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder: A Novel (Antique Hunter’s Series Book 1) (p. 281). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.

Aside from this novel being about antiques, I do have other good things to say about the novel. It is a thrilling page turner. The pace was consistent throughout, with no dull moments. The characters and settings are intriguing. In the story, the antique shop and the manor estate serve as the two main settings. There are mentions of Istanbul and Cairo which remind me of Agatha Christie’s most memorable mystery settings.

What I Didn’t Enjoy About the Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder:

Parts of this book were repetitive. Each time the author hinted at the protagonist’s antiquing past, they would drop a few hints in each chapter. Then, details unfolded. Some readers may enjoy the suspense building up. Consistently being reminded, though, was not my cup of tea.The first half of the book promises action to the reader. The protagonist has a dangerous history dealing with antiques. It justifies her skilled ability in Krav Maga, a deadly Israeli martial art. This information about the character was intriguing and suspenseful enough. It did not need as many reminders as were in a few chapters. Although there are suspenseful moment such as being locked in a vault and being held at gunpoint, there is no Krav Maga action sequence.

I would have enjoyed more facts about antiques, but that’s not a negative point against the novel. I’m just a geek for antiques.

Cozy Mystery Rating:

Characters: 5 Stars

  • Characters have intriguing pasts 
  • The character’s parts unfold along with the mystery 
  • Characters are enjoyable 

Setting 5 Stars 

  • Crockleford Antiques Shop
  • Copthorn Manor Estate Valuation with the Murder Suspect 
  • Foreign Destinations: Cairo & Istanbul  

Plot 4 Stars 

  • Some points were a little repetitive
  • This book is a page turner
  • Thrilling

Pacing 4 Stars

  • Mysterious histories of characters help the pacing 
  • Chapters 28 – 52 were great but some chapters from about 12 – 27 felt stretched out
  • The end of the book offers action and captivating antique information, but patience is required.

Overall Rating: 4.5

Are you on Good Reads? Let’s be Good Reads friends! If you enjoyed this list, be sure to check out my profile for more cozy mystery recommendations and reviews.

Best,

Anita

Cozy Mystery Summerween Books

Summerween 2024 Cozy Mystery Books

These are my cozy mystery choices for Summerween 2024. What is Summerween? Different social media platforms and blogs have different rules for what Summerween is. However, a simple explanation is that Summerween is it’s a read-a-thon challenge where you read spooky books in July.

Think of Christmas in July but with Halloween themed books instead. I will be doing a Christmas in July blog post and video for my YouTube channel, so stay tuned!

On this book list, I chose cozy mysteries that were spooky enough to fit any Halloween reading list. I excluded the many thousands of cozy mysteries that were set during Halloween. Many other lists online only feature the thriller or horror genres. This list if for the cozy mystery lovers!

Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente

The first book for my Summerween 2024 cozy mystery books list.

The inspiration for Ten Dead Comedians comes from Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”. This book is considered to be, ” a modern show-business satire.” In the story, nine comedians of varied fame are summoned to the island retreat of legendary Hollywood funnyman Dustin Walker.

The book descriptions states,

“The group includes a former late-night TV host, a washed-up improv instructor, a ridiculously wealthy “blue collar” comic, and a past-her-prime Vegas icon. All nine arrive via boat to find that every building on the island is completely deserted. Marooned without cell phone service or wifi signals, they soon find themselves being murdered one by one. But who is doing the killing, and why?”

I’m intrigued by the plot and setting. Despite having a 3.19 rating on Goodreads, readers seem to have mixed opinions about this book. The spooky island setting, catchy title, and intriguing book cover make this book first on my list. It also promises to be funny.

The description also mentions,

“Ten Dead Comedians is a marvel of literary ventriloquism, with hilarious comic monologues in the voice of every suspect. It’s also an ingeniously plotted puzzler with a twist you’ll never see coming!”

I hope this book will be as fascinating as its description.

Cozy Mystery Summerween Books

Knit of the Living Dead by Peggy Ehrhart

I love this book’s description,

“When a spooky celebration in Arborville, New Jersey conjures real scares, can Pamela and the Knit and Nibble Club sink their teeth into a bone-chilling mystery that just won’t rest in peace?”

This book is set at a Halloween parade where a woman dressed as Little Bo Peep suddenly gave a shriek of horror. The protagonists find the nursery rhyme character dead. Strands of yarn are all over the scene.

“Pamela and her best friend, Bettina, are set on pinning down who wanted the woman gone forever, but it’ll take every trick they can muster to catch the culprit without becoming the next poor souls to join Little Bo Peep’s dark, endless sleep.”

This is a Halloween-themed cozy. It has knitting tips and recipes included in the book.

Ghosts, Lore and a House by the Short by Nellie H. Steele

I am very excited to read this cozy mystery this summer. It gets a lot right just from the books cover, title, and description. For me, it checks off a lot of boxes for being a Summerween cozy mystery. Ghosts, Lore & House by the Shore is set in a small, seaside town. The novel is set around a spooky manor. The place is said to be haunted by the deceased mistress of a seaside captain that owned it propertly long ago.

Cassie is newly widowed. She and her mother move into their new home, Whispering Manor. It’s an old property with legends of ghosts and pirate treasure. Cassie discovers the journal that belonged to a woman who died there. In their home, the mother uncovers a more recent tragedy. The description states,

“They begin to wonder if the stories may be fact instead of fiction. When the strange occurrences turn dangerous, Lily and Cassie will have to investigate to save their home and possibly even their very lives!”

The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait by Cleo Coyle

This book has a lot going for it. A Rhode Island bookshop has paintings of vintage book covers. One is of a haunted or cursed painting of a crazy lady. Mysterious tragedies surround it. They hire a retired private investigator to find out what’s really going on.

A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley

Lena London is an aspiring suspense novelist. She lands a job working as the assistant to her favorite author. She even gets to live rent-free in her lakefront Victorian home in the quaint town of Blue Lake, Indiana. When attending a writers’ event, Writer’s Apprentice, she lands in the middle of a real crime. She finds a body.

Here’s a quote from the book’s description:

“Now Lena must take a page out of one of Camilla’s books to hunt down clues in a real crime that seems to be connected to the novelist’s mysterious estate—before the killer writes them both out of the story for good…”

The Haunting of Blackwood Manor

by Vincent Valentian

This is book 88 in the series. I’m not 100% certain that this book is a cozy mystery. Goodreads has classified it as a horror novel, even though it originates from a mystery series. Other sources do tag this novel as a cozy mystery.

Based on my reading of the description, it’s possible that it’s a cozy mystery. It’s set in a tight-knit community. It’s in a spooky manor. I’m uncertain whether the protagonists need to solve a mystery or if their new home is just mysterious. Do secrets about the old property unravel on their own? Or must the main characters unravel them?

Cozy Mystery Summerween Books
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Thank you for checking out my list for Cozy Mystery Summerween Books. I hope you enjoyed the spooky aesthetic of the covers and darker themes.

Are you on Good Reads? See my review here and follow me on Good Reads for more cozy mystery reviews. Are you looking for more summer cozy mysteries? Check out these new releases for July 2024.

Best,

Anita

 

4th of July Cozy Mysteries

Fourth of July Cozy Mysteries 2024

Are you looking for some patriotic sleuthing? Here are some Fourth of July-themed cozy mysteries for 2024.

How should we celebrate this Fourth of July? Some may celebrate by grilling hot dogs, hosting cookouts, and watching fireworks. I prefer to take a cozier approach. How about solving murders by the pool under the red, white, and blue glowing fireworks? If cozy-sleuthing sounds like a better alternative, I’ve got five book suggestions if you’d like to join me in having a cozy American holiday.

Fourth of July Forgery by Tonya Kappes

This book is the sixth book in the Holiday Cozy Mystery Series by Toyna Kappes. On Goodreads it has a good rating at 4.37 with 481 ratings and reviews.

The book, Fourth of July Forgery, promises to be a thrilling mystery with a final twist. The book description states, “As the Fourth of July festivities kick off in the quaint town of Holiday Junction, a body washed up on the beach, murdered in cold blood.”

The sleuth in this novel is a journalist named Violet Rhinehammer. She sets out to find the next big story and learning about the victim. Quote,

“As the investigation begins, Violet finds herself unraveling a web of deceit and uncovering dark secrets hidden behind the town’s idyllic facade. With suspects as numerous as fireworks in the sky, Violet must navigate a dangerous path to uncover the truth, all while celebrating the most American of holidays.”

The sleuth must find the murderer before the party ends. If the mystery is not solved, the murderer will strike again, killing another innocent person.

Dead, White, and Blue by Carolyn Hart

This book is a part of the Death on Demand series by Carolyn G. Hart. It is book #23 in the series. It has a 3.75 rating on Goodreads and has 1,156 ratings as of this blog post. This book was first published in the late spring of 2013. This book has a very cozy setting. Set on an island in the summer, there’s a mystery bookstore called, “Death on Demand” where tourists shop.

There are two mysterious disappearances that take place right before the Fourth of July. I love this quote from the book’s description on Goodreads,

“The residents of Broward’s Rock grow uneasy when a second islander mysteriously disappears. Annie and her husband, Max, know something dangerous is brewing. They soon find themselves following a twisted trail marked by blackmail, betrayal, and adultery, winding from the corridors of the island’s lovely inn to a pier lashed by pelting rain, to a gathering on the terrace of a country club where a trap is set for a calculating killer…”

Star Spangled Murder by Leslie Meier

This book is a part of A Lucy Stone Mystery series. It is book #11 out of 30 in the series. It has a 3.9 rating on Goodreads.

In this series the slueth is a reporter named Lucy Stone and these books are set in the fictional seaside village of Tinker’s Cove, Maine.

Here is a quote from the book description on Goodreads,

“Tinker’s Cove is full of suspects, but none with so personal a motive as the Stones. Their feud with Mrs. Pratt has put them at risk of losing their freedom this Independence Day–unless Lucy can start things off with a bang by catching a red, white and blue killer. . .”

A Catered Fourth of July (A Mystery With Recipes) by Isis Crawford

This book is #10 in the cozy mystery series, A Mystery with Recipes by Isis Crawford. It has a 3.52 rating on Good reads and was first published on 2014. This book is set in Longley, New York on the Fourth of July. Sisters Bernie and Libby are catering during a reenactment of a historic battle. After the muskets are fired during the reenactment, one death looks a little too realistic. This setting is my favorite on this list.

Here is a quote from the description on Goodreads,

“Bernie and Libby have their plates overloaded with suspects, and will need to work very fast to clear Marvin’s name. The simmering killer is still out there, armed and taking shots, and unless the sisters quickly get to the bottom of this patriotic pre-meditation. . .their goose may be cooked!”

Jealousy Filled Donuts (A Deputy Donut Mystery) by Ginger Bolton

I’ve saved the best book description for last. This is the book I am most excited to read on Fourth of July 2024. The first 52 minutes of the audiobook is available on YouTube thanks to Google Play Book’s channels’ audiobook previews. This book is book #3 from A Deputy Donut Mystery series by Ginger Bolton. It has a 4.09 rating on Goodreads. It was first published in 2019.

This story is set during Fourth of July picnic. The main characters, ametuer slueths, and owners of teh Deputy Donut Cafe are put into a ‘sticky’ stituation involving a mysterious and messy murder.

Here’s a quote from the book’s description on Goodreads,

“So when Fallingbrook needs donuts for their Fourth of July picnic, Emily’s shop gets deputized. But a twisted killer has found another use for Emily’s treats. At the picnic, a firecracker is hidden in a stack of raspberry-filled donuts and aimed at the unwitting queen of the festivities. When it explodes, she is killed. Having her jelly donuts involved puts Emily in a sticky situation, and when a shady shutterbug tries to frame her with incriminating photos, she finds herself in quite a jam.”

Hope you enjoyed this Fourth of July Cozy Mysteries 2024 recommendation list.

Are you on Good Reads? See my review here and follow me on Good Reads for more cozy mystery reviews. Are you looking for more summer cozy mysteries? Check out these new releases for July 2024.

Best,

Anita

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July 2024 New Cozy Mysteries Blog Post

July 2024 New Cozy Mystery Releases

Here are the new cozy mystery releases for the month of July 2024.

Are you looking for a cozy summer read? I’m more than excited to see what’s in store for this summer. I am currently binging the Shady Hollow Mysteries series. On this list, I am highlighting the books that I am most excited about this summer. I’ve included books of different themes on this list. They range from historical fiction to woodland creatures to Chinese noodles. And finally, more traditional summer-themed cozies. Who doesn’t love solving a murder on the beach? I know I can’t wait to sit on the sand and read a cozy mystery.

Death on the Tiber by Tindsey Davis

July 23, 2024

This is the twelfth book in the Flavia Albia Series.

This is a quote from the book’s description:

“In first century Rome, a murder victim found in the Tiber leads to a brutal gang war and Flavia Albia to a confrontation with her long-hated nemesis, with all that she loves in the balance.”

Summers End by Juneau Black

Jul 09, 2024

This is book five in the Shady Hollow Series. I just finished the third Shady Hollow Mystery, Mirror Lake. I am hooked on this series. I’ll be publishing a full book review very soon!

Here is a quote from the description:

“It’s late August in Shady Hollow, and intrepid reporter Vera Vixen agrees to chaperone the school’s annual field trip to Summers End, an ancient tomb… But when the group enters the tomb one morning, they find a corpse that is distinctly more. . . modern than expected.”

Peking Duck and Cover: A Noodle Shop Mystery

July 23, 2024

Who wants to join me in late July for noodles and a book review? I have to say, I’ve never read a noodle-themed cozy mystery, and I’m excited for this book.

Here a quote from the book’s description:

“Lana Lee and friends return for a fiery Chinese New Year celebration that rattles their quaint community. After all, an Asia Village party wouldn’t be complete without an explosive finale.”

Murder on the Devil’s Pond by Ayla Rose

Jul 09, 2024

This book is a part of the A Hummingbird Hollow B&B Mystery.

Quote from the book’s description:

“A quaint Vermont inn offers idyllic peace–until a body is found on the property–in this charming series debut, perfect for fans of Ellen Byron and Ellery Adams.”

 

Summer Vibes by Daisy Landish

July 9, 2024

This is a summer, cozy mystery with a magical twist. Surely an interesting read to bring along on a beach trip for readers who like summer, mysteries, and magic.

Quote from the book’s description:

“As the Summer Solstice approaches, Harper Nightshade senses a disquieting energy in the air of Moonhaven. The town’s festive spirits are dampened when a midsummer party ends in a shocking disappearance.”

Magnolia Bay Mystery A Masked Murder by Fiana Grace

July 12, 2024

This is one of my favorite book covers on this list. It gives a spooky, coastal vibe and I am all here for it.

Here is a quote from the book’s description:

“When murder occurs at Magnolia Bay’s masquerade ball, Autumn Ray finds herself following the trail of a masked murderer who has turned the celebration into a sinister labyrinth. Can she unmask the killer before the final dance?”

Puzzle Me A Murder by Roz Noonan

July 23, 2024

This book is a puzzle themed cozy mystery. It is part of the Alice Pepper Lonely Hearts and Puzzle Club Mystery series.

Here is a quote from the book’s description:

“Empathetic to a fault, librarian Alice Pepper always had a natural talent for figuring out people and puzzles in the small Oregon town of West Hazel. But as a mystery permeates the quiet Pacific Northwestern community, murder is a challenge she’s not prepared to solve . . .”

Are you on Good Reads? If you enjoyed this list be sure to check out my profile for more cozy mystery recommendations and reviews.

Best,

Anita

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Mirror Lake Book Review (940 x 731 px) Correct Size (1300 x 731 px)

Book Review: Mirror Lake A Shady Hollow Mystery by Juneau Black

Short Fiction Novel summary and Cozy Mystery book review for Mirror Lake A Shady Hollow Mystery by Juneau Black

Quick Summary:

Brambly Hedge meets Agatha Christie in this cozy mystery with woodland creatures for characters. This cozy mystery series features no human characters, and I love it.

Juneau Black’s “Mirror Lake,” a Shady Hollow Mystery, takes place at Mirror Lake in the fictional town of Shady Hollow. The story’s mystery is about Mirror Lake. The fictional lake is a backdrop setting, with calm and reflective waters.

Vera remembered the day she walked to the shore of Mirror Lake and saw a rat fishing from the pier. She recalled how he’d waved to her with his upside-down reflection mimicking the move. “It was a wild idea—a secret twin who managed to erase his existence until his moment of revenge. But consider the facts: Dorothy insisted her husband was dead, and yet we all saw a figure who looked exactly like Edward. It was either magic or twins. And I don’t believe in magic! It’s impossible.” Black, Juneau. Mirror Lake (A Shady Hollow Mystery) (p. 190). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Shady Hollow’s setting suggests a small, close-knit community. Secrets and histories intertwine, adding layers to the unfolding story.

Who Should Read Mirror Lake:

If you’re interested in a cozy that has woodland creatures instead of people. The entire time it reminded me of the children’s book series: Brambly Hedge. I found it to be a nostalgic and charming setting. It was like woodland-themed children’s books with a cozy mystery twist. You solve the mystery with the small-town reporter, fox, and sleuth, Vera Vixen.

What I Enjoyed About Mirror Lake:

I liked several aspects of Mirror Lake. My favorites were the many mysteries woven into one mystery. The main mystery is about a mouse named Edward. Dorothy believes that someone killed her actual husband. She thinks the man who looks identical to Edward is an imposter.

Let’s Talk About The Book’s Cover Real Quick

It’s okay to judge a book by its cover – sometimes. The cover of this book is charming and aesthetic. It doesn’t oversell the book’s contents. The cover is a stunning work of art and perfectly complements the story’s settings.

What I Didn’t Like About Mirror Lake:

Beware romance novel fans! This critique of Mirror Lake may be upsetting to some readers.

The characters Orville and Vera are dating, but the chemistry between them is dull. This is a cozy mystery, not a romance, but I figured it may be worth noting. I’m not a fan of romance novels. But, even I found the chemistry between the main protagonist and her supporting character was too professional.

We see Vera’s interest in her relationship. But her boyfriend Orville was too busy with his job to show any interest in their relationship. This is important to mention for several reasons. The main protagonist, Vera, is working throughout the book to support Orville in his campaign, keep her job as a reporter, and maintain her relationship. She is also solving the murder, which should be top priority for the police force, but of course, this is a mystery, so the sleuth is always more capable. On top of all that, she is also traveling and turning down another character’s advances. That’s a lot for the main protagonist to juggle while her partner doesn’t seem to reciprocate her feelings.

My Ratings for the Book:

Characters – 10/10

  • Story follows an investigative journalist, a fox named Vera Vixen.

  • All the characters are woodland creatures.

  • Characters were a bit cliché, but very enjoyable to read.

Settings – 7/10

  • There’s a bookstore called Nevermore Books.

  • It’s set in a small town.

  • Lost -3 points: Settings weren’t descriptive in most parts of the story. The beginning of the novel is very cozy and descriptive but some parts just jumped over the setting. However, not being too descriptive did help the pacing of the story.

Plot – 8/10

  • The main mystery of the novel is engaging.

  • There are smaller mysteries tied to the main mystery.

  • The ending is satisfying. Just when you thought the story is over there was still a little more action to cover.

Pacing 10/10

  • Fantastic pacing – there’s never a dull moment.

  • The main protagonist and sleuth is always on the move.

  • There are only two slower paces in the book. Both work to make Mirror Lake seem tranquil.

Overall Rating: 8.75 out of 10

Are you on Good Reads? See my review here and follow me on Good Reads for more cozy mystery reviews. If you enjoyed this book review be check out my blog for more.

Best,

Anita

Image of R.L. Stine next to text R.L. Stines Writing Process

R.L. Stine’s Writing Process Explained

In this article, I’ve outlined R.L. Stine’s writing process in detail.R.L. Stine shared how he deals with writer’s block, outlining plots, and how to write suspense.

The quotes in this article come directly from NaNoWriMo’s interview with R.L. Stine. I have edited the quotes slightly in order to make sense for those reading this article – only in a grammatical sense.

Stine’s new book on writing children’s horror fiction,There’s Something Strange About My Brain, is now available for pre-order. When it comes out I will likely write a book review article.

With my journey to becoming a fiction writer. I’m studying how some authors structure their writing routines and processes. Today, I researched R.L. Stine. In middle school, I memorized the entire Fear Street shelf in my school library. In those days, I was a quirky kid sneaking away from the lunch time cliques to go the library and read Fear Street. On the bus especially during band events I always carried a Fear Street book with me. I don’t think I explored other genres until high school.

Surprisingly, I never finished a single Goosebump book in elementary school. I’d only read enough to pass the A.R. tests (accelerated reader program for elementary students). This isn’t a critique on Goosebumps, I was just a lazy kid at that age and I wanted the A.R. points. Little off topic on this article, I know. However, I wanted to share what my experience as like reading R.L. Stine as a child.

These days I have no interest in writing children’s fiction or young adult fiction. However, I am interested in the fiction writing process in general and given the success of R.L. Stine, it was a given that I would take note on his writing process on this article.

The Importance of a Daily Writing Routine

Here is an outline of R.L. Stine’s writing routine:

  • Writes 6 Days/ Week
  • Sits at 10 every morning picking up where he left off
  • Writes 200 words a day (approximately 10 pages)
  • Before writing R.L. Stine outlines his novels. He writes a 20-page outline for a 120 page manuscript.

“I have a little game that I play with myself. When I hit 2000, if it says 2000 on the computer, I stop there. No matter where I am in the middle of a sentence or anything, I stop at 2000 words. That’s it for the day. I get up and walk the dog.

I usually write six days a week. By stopping in the middle of something, it’s easier to pick up the next day. If I finished something, I’d start fresh the next day,” R.L. Stine.

Just the idea of stopping a day’s writing routine mid-sentence is sure to give any perfectionist writer a migraine. Yet, I have to admit I love this idea. In practice it probably fuels the next days writing session with a simple task to get started and keep the writing flow going. Just finish the sentence and the day’s writing has been initiated.

Preparation for Writing

How Outlining and Character Bios Can Prevent Writer’s Block

“I outline every book before I write it. People always ask me about writer’s block, but I’ve never had it. I don’t have time for it. I have a lot of books to write. The more preparation you do before you write, the less likely you are to have writer’s block. A lot of kids think you sit down and start to write a book. I’ve never done that,” Stine.

Some writers are plotters and other are pancers. Pancers are the ones who just start writing and let the story unfold itself. R.L. Stine is not a pancer. He is definitely a plotter. Some writers may not be comfortable committing to an outline as they may feel limited while writing.

Stine, however, sees his outlining as a strength rather than a weakness. He seeing outlines as a way to avoid writer’s block. If you’re a pancer who struggles frequently with writer’s block then it may be a good idea to try drawing a basic outline for your book.

“I make a character cheat sheet before I start to write. It has the characters’ personality and what they look like. I also make a chapter-by-chapter outline with dialogue. In Goosebumps, each chapter ends with a cliffhanger. I make sure to plan the ending early, so I can keep the reader guessing. Everyone hates to outline. Kids don’t want to hear about it.”

Not all writers write bios for their characters. Mosley, who I have been frequently referencing in this article does not create character bios for his characters. He prefers to discover them as the reader discovers them through their dialogue and actions on the page. This way may come more natural for some writers who explore character development by the way their character interact with the fictional world they’ve created.

On the other hand, crafted character bios means you already know how characters are going to interact with their world. Each method of writing has its own strengths and weaknesses. Just chose which works best for you.

This is a contrast with R.L. Stine’s method of writing. Where other writers may see character cheat sheets as a limiting practice, R.L. stine once again uses preparation methods as a way to prevent problems from occurring in this writing.

“When I sit down to write, I’ve done all the hard work. I’ve done all the thinking. I have a 20-page outline. A goosebumps manuscript is 120 pages.

Everyone hates to outline. But I can’t work without it. When I sit down and people say, “Well, you’re so prolific, how do you do it?” When I sit down to write, I’ve done all the hard work. I’ve done all the thinking. And I have a 20-page outline.

A Goosebumps manuscript is 120 pages, and I have a 20-page outline. I have everything that’s going to happen in the book. I figured it all out. I’ve done all the thinking. Then I can relax and enjoy writing it, and have fun with it. Yeah, thank you so so much for that answer. Everybody’s excited to hear that you were a planner.”

How Outline Can Prevent Plot Problems

Interviewer: We talk about that all the time. In NaNoWriMo, there’s planners and pantsers. Popular belief credits Stephen King for being a pantser. He sits down and goes at it.

R.L. Stine: Well, I had a friend back in the 90s. There was a teen horror writer. I was doing Teen Horror Fear Street, and her name was Richie Tankersley Cusick. She told me, “You know, I don’t want to know what happens to my characters when they turn the corner. I want them to surprise me with what happens to them.” I thought, “Well, fine. Good luck with that.” And, comes with that, I mean, she had all kinds of plotting problems. She always had plotting problems. But that’s the way she liked to work.

Plotting problems are a common issue for pancers. This is not me passing judgement on pancers. If that’s your writing style that’s your style – own it. You should just know that this does come with it’s own sets of issues.

In Walter Mosley’s books on writing, he discussing how he has to constantly rewrite his book in order to fix plot problems in the first drafts of the novels. Yes, I really mean drafts as in plural . If you want to learn how to be a pancer I highly recommend Walter Mosley’s books This Year You Write Your Novel and The Elements of Fiction. Just be prepared for a lot of rewriting because this is a common issue when you do not outline your novel.

Have a Great Editor: R.L. Stine’s Process for New Ideas

Interviewer: How do you make each story distinct from one another? It’s impossible.

“The challenge is to avoid repeating yourself. I come up with my books to create various scares, teases, and chapter endings. To come up, not to keep repeating myself, that’s the hard part. And it helps to have good editor. Susan Laurie has been the Goosebumps editor almost since the beginning.”

As a fledgling writer I know one aspect of writing that can be intimidating to working with an editor. I recently started writing as a guest blogger for an organization. This is my first time working with an editor. My first guest post was a nerve-wracking experience. I didn’t even want to click, “submit” after I was done with my work. Once I got my draft back with the corrections I felt so relieved. The editor was gracious and understanding of my inexperience as a new writer. Her input was invaluable not just to me as someone developing the craft of writing but to the readers. The readers are expecting and deserve high quality content. Editors are invaluable in the writing world.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the original video that inspired this article:

 

I transcribed the quotes from this video and outlined R.L. Stine’s writing process. I did this mostly for my own reference and I figured it will help out other aspiring fiction writers. I’ll likely keep sharing my book reviews, notes from courses, videos, and writing conferences.

If you’re an aspiring writer, be sure to check some of my other articles on the writing process. I’m doing deep diving explaining the writing process of successful authors. In my two recent articles I feature Walter Mosley’s two books on writing fiction. I reviewed This Year You Write Your Novel as well as Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley.

image of book cover of This Year You Write Your Novel and a woman

Book Review: This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley is a book on fiction novel writing. It’s aimed at inspiring writers looking to complete their novel within a span of a year.

In my last article I reviewed Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley. It is the second book in Walter Mosley’s two writing novels. As I am currently on own my writing journey. I have decided to share with you which books are helping me develop my creative writing abilities.

Book Cover This Year You Write Your Novel
Book Cover This Year You Write Your Novel – Image from Amazon

Summary

This Year You Write Your Novel is for aspiring fiction writers. The author does not make any promises he can’t keep – such as:

  • You’ll write a bestseller
  • You’ll become rich
  • You’ll be a famous author

Instead, he gives it to you straight. You’ll have all the tools you need to know in order to write a book. If you work hard and consistently and stick to the project, you may even write a good book. As an aspiring fiction writer myself, this is the perfect start. In the next section I’ll mention all the elements of fiction that you’ll learn in the book.

What You’ll Learn

Here are the elements of fiction outline in This Year You Write Your Novel:

  • Narrative Voice
    • First person
    • Third Person
    • Omniscient Narrator
  • Showing and Telling
    • Active and metaphorical
    • Events, active characters, vivid images, real dialogue
  • Crafting a pedestrian style of writing
  • Metaphor and Simile
  • Character and Character development
  • Central event/ plot
  • On character
    • Character transitions
    • traits, attributes
    • conflict
  • Poetry – “the fount of all writing,” as Mosley refers to it.
  • How to begin
  • How to overcome the midlands of the novel
  • Research
  • Dialogue
  • Music, Genre, Advice for Writers

What I loved

The format and length of this book. If you want to get started on writing your novel as soon as possible this book is great. It gives you all the resources you’ll need to get started as soon as possible. In other words, you’ll gain an understanding of each element that composes a novel.

The length of this novel is incredible short. You can probably complete this book in one sitting even if you’re a busy person. On audible you can find the audiobook. It’s less than 3 hours at 1X speed listening. Walter Mosley’s two books on writing combined make up less than six hours of listening time.

My next favorite component of this book is how Mosley weaves his fiction writing with the nonfiction instruction. When discussing an element of fiction writing such as character or dialogue the other weaves his own fiction writing examples so that the reader gets a taste of how good creative writing should sound.

What I didn’t enjoy

Mosley is a very talented writer. He weaves his narrative fiction into the text to demonstrated how he crafts his stories. Yet, the subject matters he writes about in these examples are not G rated. I must note here that I have never read any of his fiction novels.  I have only read his two nonfiction books on the topic of writing fiction.

I can imagine that the subjects he writes about in his novels are not family-friendly. That’s completely fine. It’s just not my taste of fiction – that’s all.

I have an issue with recommending this book to friends and relatives interested in writing a novel. In order for me to give this book as a recommendation to someone I have to include an asterisk statement.

This book has help me understand what is fiction made of and it’s helped me to structure my fiction writing. This book has been a source of invaluable insight. Since reading it, I feel more capable of beginning my fiction writing journey.

However…

The authors views are not my own. This book is not for anyone unwilling to read touchy subjects or anything above G rated content. I could not tell someone to skip the parts where the author shows his fiction. The examples assist the reader in understanding how fiction is crafted.

The author’s sample fiction writing throughout the book deals with heavy subjects. Still, I can say that this book has been foundational and formative for my work going forward. I recommend it for anyone wanting to get into fiction writing.

If you enjoyed this summary of be sure to check out Elements of Fiction by the same author. It’s the second installment in this short series.

Best,

Ana

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Main Image Elements of Fiction Book Cover Artistic

Book Review: Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley

This is a review on the book: Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley. This is book is aimed at aspiring fiction writers. As I am on this journey myself, I will be including articles on books for writers on my blog.

The book, Elements of Fiction is a follow up to Walter Mosley’s first writing nonfiction work, This Year You Write Your Novel. If you haven’t read that’s fine.

Quick Recap of This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

I didn’t read the book until after I completed this book. In the introduction of Elements of Fiction, Mosley notes what was covered in his first book and gives a quick recap. “Some years ago I published a monograph entitled This Year You Write Your Novel. It was meant to show the layman what the structure of a novel might be in its simplest form and also where content comes from and where it belongs,” Introduction to Elements of Fiction.

Book Cover This Year You Write Your Novel
Book Cover This Year You Write Your Novel – Image from Amazon

Lessons from the book, This Year:

  • Write Every Day
  • Decide on Point of View
  • Understand Metaphor and Simile
  • Plot and Story
  • Character and Character Development
  • Importance of Language
  • Poetry
  • Writing and rewriting

Although, I would encourage you read This Year You Write Your Novel, it is not necessary for understanding the contents in Mosley’s second book. After I completed this book, I went back and read This Year. It was fine.

So What Are The Elements of Fiction?

In the words of Walter Mosley, they are:

“These elements are, among other things: character and character development, plot and story, Voice and narrative, context and description, content and the blank page and, of course, intentional structure versus vast troves of unconscious material.”

The Elements:

  • Character & Character Development
  • Plot and Story
  • Voice and narrative
  • Context and description
  • Content and the blank page
  • Intentional structure

The Structure of This Book:

This book is very compact. It is rich with instructional guide and fiction narrative sample weave through the each of the lessons. Mosley’s writing talent are on full display as he shows you how to create your own narrative work.

The book is a very short read. The audiobook is less than 3 hours long. However, don’t let the length of the book fool you. It is rich in best writing advice you’ll find anywhere.

The book structure is straight forward. Each chapter builds on the previous chapter as well as defining the character of each writing element that makes up a work of fiction.

What I Didn’t Enjoy About This Book:

Let me preface this section of my review with two points. I am not familiar with Walter Mosley’s works of fiction. Secondly, I am aware that Mosley is a very talented writer.

Ok, now my negative critique. Mosley, in my opinion, will touch on the subjects of sex, politics, and violence when conveying samples of how fiction should be written.

I could see this upsetting readers. Mosley, does mention that he does this because it’s the motivation behind writing the story, for driving character motivation, and for telling a story with common ground between the writer and the readers.

Although, I did feel unsettled or off-put reading some of these sections, I want to reiterate that Mosley is a brilliant writer and I enjoyed getting a sample of his craft.

How Elements of Fiction differs from This Year You Write Your Novel:

This Year, covers the structure of what makes a novel. It also provides practical advice for novice or aspiring fiction writers.

Elements of Fiction, takes a closer look at each specific element of writing that goes into crafting a work of fiction.

For the most part I focus on reviewing and summarizing classic novels. This year I decided to broaden my blog niche and discuss books on writing as well. This is because I am currently on a writing journey. I’m hoping to write a fiction book. I will soon be reviewing This Year You Write Your Novel by the same author.

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Blessings, 

Ana 

 

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3 Christmas Books to Read This Advent

With Christmas right around the corner. Here are 3 book recommendations to read this Advent season.

#1 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 

“Marley’s Ghost”, original illustration by John Leech from the 1843 edition

Before someone scream that this book is too cliche and predictable. I would beg to differ.

It may be overdone in our culture. I’ve written about how many movies, TV series, podcast ect., have been produced on this classic novel. However, it’s always a shock to me when I hear someone say they’ve never read the original source material.

Is this book overrated?

Yes and no.

Yes, because it is being overproduced in every form of cultural media available. At the same time…

No, because it’s a period piece that’s short, witty, and a genuinely good story of metania. So, this Advent season instead of consuming any modern adaptation, go straight to the source material.

It’s the shortest and most approachable Dickens novel.

According to publication the Guardian:  

“A Christmas Carol was Dickens’s most powerful influence on the cult of Christmas because the very experience of reading it concentrated time. The whole book might take two hours or rather less to read. A one-reading experience lends the narrative an intensity that is the special property of a novella.”

#2 The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries Edited by Otto Penzler

 

Is it cheating to list a book I haven’t read? Absolutely. This is on my current reading list for this Advent. I’ll be updating this blog post soon with more a more detailed review. However, I didn’t feel I could possibly keep this gem off my list. I’ve only just recently heard of this book and it inspired me to put together this blog post. As I mentioned, I’ll update this portion of my post soon.

Why? For 3 Reasons:

  • Iconic Authors
  • Cozy, Christmas/ Seasonal Reading
  • Vintage Cover

The authors included in this book are: Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sara Paretsky, Peter Lovesey, Ellis Peters, O. Henry, Ellery Queen, Isaac Asimov, and many more.

#3 When Christmas Comes (Cameron Winter Mysteries Book 1 of 3) by Andrew Klavan

 

This was my Christmas reading last year. There are three books in the mystery series. I’m conflicted if I should call this a cozy.

Why cozy? It takes place in the winter. In the first few chapters it read like a Hallmark movie – that’s how I imagined the scenes in my mind.

Why definitely not a cozy?

After the first initial chapters it gradually becomes a thriller. Perhaps, it’s the way I was interpreting the story. I was at first expecting a cozy seasonal winter mystery and I was in a shock when it turned out differently. I am planning to revisit it and write out a better review. There are also two more books in the series. I’ll definitely be exploring those two books as well.

I enjoyed this book. Even if it did subvert my expectations.

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5 Short Novels to Read in 2024

With the new year right around the corner, many people like myself have reading resolutions. We want to read more books next year along with other productivity goals. This is a good thing. It’s one aspect of our culture I think does more good than harm.

Some people may be put off by previous personal shortcomings and feel a sense of dread or disappointment. If this is you, relax.

Half the battle to better self improvement is recognizing which areas of our lives could be better and what we need to do about it.

I can’t help you with your fitness resolutions or your daily routine. However, I am happy to help you read more books in 2024. 

Here is a list of 5 short novels to get your new year started on the right track:

#1 The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

According to Reading Length:

“The average reader will spend 2 hours and 54 minutes reading this book at 250 WPM (words per minute).”

 

#2 The Call of the Wild by Jack London

“The average reader will spend 3 hours and 12 minutes reading this book at 250 WPM (words per minute).”- Reading Length

 

#3 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

 

“The average reader will spend 1 hour and 47 minutes reading this book at 250 WPM (words per minute).” – Reading Length 

#4 Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

“The average reader will spend 3 hours and 36 minutes reading this book at 250 WPM (words per minute).” – Reading Length

 

#5 The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

 

This is one of my top five favorite books that I’ve ever read. I picked it up at a used bookstore. I marvelled at it’s short length. I was just coming out of a reading stump. I felt unable to read do to some personal developments in my life. I remember reading this book in a single sitting.

Furthermore, it not only destroyed my reading stump but also helped me to love good literature again. I’ll definitely be revisiting this novel in a review post later on. This single book was the main reason for this listicle in the first place.

It was my experience that a short book helped me find joy in reading again. The accomplishment of completing a book helps send positive feedback to one’s mind and a cycle of good habits begin.

According to Reading Length, “The average reader will spend 2 hours and 8 minutes reading this book at 250 WPM (words per minute).”