Book Review

My Favorite Cozy Mysteries

I love reading and write cozy mysteries. There’s something so charming about their idyllic settings, and often they have a lot of humor and a dash of romance as well. There are puzzles to be solved, but they’re not going to keep you awake at night. Cozies are probably my very favorite type of mystery, so I wanted to share a list of my favorites:

 

Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton

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Agatha Raisin is a retired PR Maven who moves to the English countryside for a peaceful life. Once there, she gets entangled in local gossip and ends up solving murder after murder. Agatha is a prickly but endearing character, and these short books are so fun. The setting of the Cotswolds is also fantastic.

 

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

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When I discovered this series, I just couldn’t stop reading them, and now I anxiously await each new book. Georgie, the main character, is a distant relative to the monarchy of England. She discovers a passion for detecting and often helps her royal relatives when they get caught up in murder plots. These books are really fun, and the historical setting is very engrossing.

 

Jaine Austen Mysteries by Laura Levine

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This is another funny cozy series. In this one, Jaine Austen (named for the acclaimed Classic author) works as a freelance writer and often stumbles upon murders as she does her writing jobs. This series has a whole cast of funny characters, including her cat Prozac. Jaine’s humorous exploits and her unlucky-in-love storylines make this a really interesting and relatable series.

 

Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries by Ellery Adams 

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This cozy series has a splash of magic, which is extra fun. These books follow baker and witch Ella Mae LaFaye as she navigates the world of magic and her own baking business. I was so impressed by the world building in this series, and the magical moments really enhanced the story. There are five books in this series, and I really hope another one comes out soon!

 

Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett

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This last series stars Tricia Miles who owns a mystery book store in a small New England Town filled with niche bookstores. I adore the setting for this series, and I love that there are so many characters that grow from book to book. The mysteries are also a bit more complicated than some other cozy series.

 

Do you have a favorite cozy series? If so, be sure to let me know in the comment section! I’d love to check it out.

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Hate U Give

I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This is a teen fiction novel that has just exploded in popularity due to its excellent writing and timely theme. In this book, a 16-year-old girl Starr is in a car with her friend Khalil, who is stopped by a cop and shot and killed during the event. The title comes from Tupac lyrics and reference the racial tensions currently happening in this country.

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I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s powerful and painful and something that we all need to read. My experiences in life have been a lot different than the narrators, and that’s exactly why I needed to read this book. Fiction has this amazing power to build empathy and understanding for cultures different than your own.

On a technical level, this book is so well-writing. It’s engaging and flows at a rapid pace. Even though it’s marketed as a teen book, it will definitely appeal to a much wider audience than that. Starr is an engaging protagonist who struggles with her feelings. She is caught in two different worlds – the rough part of town where she lives and the prep school that her parents pay for her to go to in a different neighborhood. When this tragic event happens, her two lives intersect and she has a bit of an identity struggle.

The theme is also something that is very timely. If you’ve watched the news over the past year, chances are you’ve heard several stories about unwarranted police brutality against young African American males. This book handles this topic very respectfully. It doesn’t come across as preachy, but it does shed light on the larger ramifications of this phenomenon.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to pretty much everyone, especially those who haven’t had to directly experience anything like this. I think that this book is going to really help continue the conversation of fixing racial discrimination in this country. You should definitely read this one!

Personal, Update

Big Update! The MFA is Finished!

I have a great life update that I’m so excited to share – My MFA in Writing Fiction from Lindenwood University is now complete!

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My thesis, a collection of 8 short stories about motherhood (mostly fear of motherhood haha) was approved, and I finished my degree with a 4.0 GPA. The experience was so great. I learned so much, especially discipline. If I can get a master’s degree while working a full-time job, I know that I can write a novel while working full-time too!

I’m leaving Lindenwood with so many exciting ideas. I have two novels outlined that I’m going to start ASAP. I’m shopping around my short story collection, and I’m intrigued by the possibility of looking for an adjunct professor job too.

Anyway, I’ve mentioned school on this blog before, so I just wanted to update everyone and let you know that it’s now all over! 🙂

XOX

Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: The Days of Abandonment

I know this makes me sound like a major nerd, but I actually have a favorite publishing company: Europa Editions. Europa publishes tons of international books that have been translated into English. I’ve found so many gems from this publishing company, but recently I read one that I just had to share: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante.

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Elena Ferrante is an Italian author who is most known for being notoriously private. Her true identity has never been revealed, although there is plenty of speculation online as to who she might be. She is known most for her four-book Neapolitan series. The Days of Abandonment is one of her earlier works, but I thought it was an absolutely fantastic exploration of a crumbling relationship.

The Days of Abandonment follows a woman who is blindsided by her husband as he leaves her. In this short book (it’s only 188 pages), you can track her grief – from denial to emptiness to acceptance. This is one of the most emotionally raw books I’ve ever read, but it worked. I could see some complain that it is overly sentimental, but I disagree. I think that Ferrante has depicted the genuine emotion that comes from this situation. This is a hyper-realistic story that really touches on the psyche of the abandoned. Here, you can see how the whole family has to deal with this unexpected change. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for carefully crafted domestic literary fiction.

Book Review

Last-Minute Gift Guide for Book Lovers

Happy Christmas Eve!! I hope everyone has wonderful holiday plans with family and friends, but if you’re still looking for a last minute gift for a book lover in your life, here’s a guide for an awesome book in several popular genres:

For the Mystery Lover: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

This re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes is a fantastic read that’s sure to appeal to fans of Holmes and all types of traditional mysteries.

For for History Lover: The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

This book shows the devastating aftermath of World War II by following the lives of three widows who have been forever changed by the war.

For the Romance Lover: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

When ordinary Louisa Clarke becomes the caretaker of a paraplegic man, she discovers how stagnant her life has become and finally learns the power of true love.

For the Fantasy Lover: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

In this book, a truly magical circus becomes the stage for a competition to see which magician has learned to be the very best, but even the players don’t know what’s really at stake.

For the Science Fiction Lover: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Video games and reality collide in this coming-of-age book about a virtual reality scavenger hunt with real-world implications for its players.

For the Horror Lover: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Is nature or nurture to blame in this tale about the aftermath of a school shooting and the mother who has to come to grips with what her son has done.

For the Contemporary Fiction Lover: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

When their inheritance is threatened, the Plumb siblings must come to terms with their financial and personal mistakes and decide how to change their own fate.

For the Nonfiction Lover: In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

This book chronicles human strength and resiliency while exploring the aftermath of the sinking of the USS Jeannette.

I hope this list can help you pick a gift for a loved one or even inspire you to pick something up for yourself. Have a very Merry Christmas!

-XO

Tiffany

Personal, Update

MFA Update and 5 Writing Tips

I just finished my sixth quarter at Lindenwood University. For those of you who don’t know, I’m working on an MFA in writing fiction. I can’t believe I only have two quarters left! If everything goes according to plan, I will be finished in March 2018.

Overall, my experiencing in the MFA program has been very positive. I think that I’ve grown so much as a writer, so I wanted to share some things with aspiring writers. Here are my five top tips for writers:

  1. Discipline is so important. It doesn’t matter that you have millions of great ideas if you never get them down on paper. It is a great idea to come up with a writing routine so that you get in the habit of writing every single day.
  2. Editing is crucial. No one’s first draft is perfect. Yes, publishers provide editors if they decide to take on your project, but it’s important to do your best so that you can even get to that point. Make sure you’ve done all you can to make your project the best before you send it out.
  3. Feedback is so helpful. You can’t objectively analyze your own writing. You just can’t. It’s so important to have a beta reader you can trust that will provide you with honest feedback of what isn’t working in your project.
  4. Rejection is unavoidable. Whether your peers hate your story in workshop or several publishers say no to you, every writer will face rejection at some point. In fact, rejection is going to happen a lot more than acceptance. If you want to be a successful writer, you’ve got to develop a thick skin. Don’t let rejection get you down. Let it inspire you to become a better writer.
  5. Conventions exist for a reason. Sure, rules can be broken, but most publishers won’t take a chance on something too experimental. There’s a reason that children’s books are shorter than adult books – children don’t have a long attention span. There’s a reason that most novels aren’t written in second person – it’s hard to sustain for longer projects. Have you noticed that most horror movies are exactly 90 minutes long? It’s difficult to create suspense and have escalating tension for much longer than that. Learn why the conventions exist in each genre before trying to break the rules.

I hope that these suggestions can be helpful to anyone reading this blog who is considering becoming a writer or sending things out to publishers. Writing can be discouraging – only about 4% of writers can live off what they make from their writing – but it’s also very rewarding to see your name in print. Honestly, I think that the process of writing is so enjoyable that it makes up for all the rejection and poor pay. Still, if you want to pursue writing, make sure you’re doing it because you love it and not because you think it will make you rich.

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: The Girl With All the Gifts 

It’s nearly autumn! That means we’re getting closer and closer to Halloween: my second favorite holiday. I’ve already decorated my apartment and purchased both of my Halloween costumes! Since I’m already in the holiday spirit, I’ve decided to review a horror novel for this week. So, today we’ll be discussing The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey.

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As far as horror goes, this one is more suspenseful than scary. It deals with the aftermath of an apocalyptic event that has caused much of earth’s population to either die or become zombies. There are still some humans left, and they are desperately researching the zombies, trying to learn more and find a way to immunize against this plague. As a disclaimer, I really hate zombies and typically don’t find them interesting, but I wanted to challenge myself to read this book and I’m very glad I did. I won’t go into too much detail about the origins of these particular zombies, but I will say that I found the explanation to be a really interesting take on the zombie genre.

Overall, this is a study on what it truly means to be human. There are two types of zombies here: the mindless ones who destroy without thought and the hungry ones who can speak and learn and rationalize who and what they are. I found this to be much more interesting than the traditional type of zombie. Of course, as the human characters are thrown into the mix, the label of monster becomes relative. Who is the true monster here? What defines a person? These are concepts brought up in this novel that are very interesting to ponder.

I would definitely recommend this book to horror fans who don’t need a ton of action or gore to stay interested. This one is definitely more character focused, so it might appeal to non-horror fans as well. It was a slower paced book, but it still felt like a fast read because I was so engrossed in this world. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I’d definitely be happy to pick up another.