Guest Chick: Marilyn Levinson

The Chicks are so pleased to host prolific, acclaimed and all-around-awesome author Marilyn Levinson, a.k.a. Allison Brook, to the coop today. CHECKED OUT FOR MURDER, the latest in her Haunted Library series, was released to fantastic reviews. Read on as she reviews, well, reviews.

Some Thoughts About Reviews

Two weeks ago, CHECKED OUT FOR MURDER, the fourth book in my Haunted Library series, was released. I was swamped with promotion in the form of Facebook parties, a virtual book tour, author’s chats, and blog visits. I’m happy to say that my book has received many wonderful reviews. Most mentioned loving my characters, that the identity of the murderer was a total surprise, and several said they enjoyed the book even though they hadn’t read the previous books in the series. I loved being told I’d succeeded in writing a book that so many were enjoying.

Then there were the other kind of reviews. Few in number but impossible to forget. I tell myself that not everyone is going to like my books. For one thing, some people don’t like reading mysteries. Or mysteries that include a ghost. After all, I don’t like every mystery that’s published so why should anyone else.

Except sometimes a reader has complaints about a book of mine that don’t make sense. One reader took me to task to say the Clover Ridge Library, with its wide variety of programs and events, isn’t realistic. “No library offers that many programs.” Wrong, dear reader. My real library offers a similar variety of programs and events. Another reader complained that I spend too much time talking about the meals that Carrie, my sleuth, eats out with her boyfriend or BFF. But isn’t food a popular cozy topic?

Why does my sleuth get involved in murder investigations when it might put her in danger? Why does she get upset if her boyfriend’s out of town too much? A few don’t like the way Carrie relates to a parent in a particular situation. After exchanging emails with a few readers, I realized that sometimes my characters’ behavior strikes a chord.

Reminding me that when it came to family relationships, readers may respond to a situation because of their own history.

The thing about reviews is there’s not much we can do about the ones we feel are unfair and/or downright inaccurate. We’re advised never to respond to unfavorable reviews. In fact, one successful writer friend advises, never to read them. And let’s not forget the trolls who use reviews to vent their vitriol, making someone’s poor book its punching bag.

Once when I was feeling frustrated about a few less than stellar reviews I decided to check out the ratings of a few very popular novelists whose work I read and admire. Their reviews were in the thousands, and sure enough there were a few twos and ones. I read a few of those ones and twos reviews. “Contrived.” “I’m disappointed.” Reminding me once again that not everyone likes every book.

As a dear friend and popular children’s book author once told me we all have different tastes, which is why there are so many flavors of ice cream.

Dear readers, do you read reviews? Are their certain reviewers you follow? Please share!

About Marilyn/Allison

 A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. Her books have received many accolades. As Allison Brook she writes the Haunted Library series. DEATH OVERDUE, the first in the series, was an Agatha nominee for Best Contemporary Novel in 2018. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series and the Twin Lakes series. Marilyn lives on Long Island, where many of her books take place.



Daphne Marriott strolls into Clover Ridge and informs librarian Carrie Singleton that she’s a psychic. But had she foreseen what fate awaited her, Daphne would have steered clear of the quaint Connecticut town. Evelyn, the library ghost, tells Carrie that there’s more to Daphne than she lets on. 

The mysterious woman grew up in Clover Ridge with her no-good dad, who apparently met his end at the hands of Daphne’s brother, Billy. Still, Daphne proves a welcome distraction when Carrie’s overbearing mother hits town. Mom’s much younger husband, Tom, is in a movie that’s lensing locally, and she’s there to keep an eye on him: Tom’s costar, sultry Ilana Reingold, is also his ex-fiancée, and there’s no denying the chemistry is still there. Soon after mingling with the moviemakers at a meet-and-greet, Daphne is found dead. 

Carrie and Evelyn investigate, assisted by bushy-tailed library cat Smoky Joe. But the suspect list could overflow the library shelves. Has Billy killed another relative? Is their long-missing mother involved? Or Daphne’s mean ex-husband? Carrie’s sure she knows who committed the crime, but can she bind together the clues before the culprit Dewey-decimates the town?


Twitter: @MarilynLevinson; @AllisonBrookML


33 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Marilyn Levinson

  1. I don’t read reviews of my own books except by accident on occasion when I’m looking up something else. And I’ve pretty much stopped reading reviews for books I want to read too, after having run across some with spoilers. Reviews are so subjective they don’t really help me to decide whether to read a book or not anyway. Congrats on your latest!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Do not pay too much attention to the bad reviews. Like you said, you can’t please everyone. That being said, I can’t wait to dive into this series! I love the library! I frequent 2. One is quite large and new, and my knitting group meets there, well, at least until COVID. They have a LOT of programs for all ages and interests. The other is a tiny very old building that gives you that wonderful dusty book smell when you walk in. The perfect place for a ghost. My mystery buffs book club meets there. The Haunted Library Series is next on my reading list, from reading the synopsis, I can identify with everything you describe right down to Evelyn. (that is my middle name).
    Congratulations on your latest book!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I still remember the thrill of getting my first libary card. My mom was a big reader and we belonged to a tiny library housed in an old, historic building. So I will be diving into your series next. It’s true that you can’t please everyone, and shouldn’t try. I don’t like everything I write, either.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Reviews. Ugh. I try not to read them, but sometimes get sucked in. My favorite bad review? The one star I got from a local Santa Cruzian who claimed I had no right to write about Santa Cruz since I lived in New York. (Of course, I’ve lived in Santa Cruz since 1974–which it clearly states in my bio.) Huh?

    Congrats on the new release, Marilyn–it sounds terrific! And thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I don’t read reviews as much as I should as a reviewer. 🙂 I do try to remember that they are one person’s opinion. That’s very clear to me when I read a book I found slow and see all the glowing reviews of the book.

    And yes, I’ve shaken my head at some of the reviews I’ve seen on line. Clearly, some people don’t get it.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Love the positive attitude, Marilyn! And you are so right re: not being able to please all the folks all the time. Great analogy with the ice cream! Thanks so much for visiting us today on Chicks—I’m sure a lot of us will be checking out Checked Out for Murder!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Marilyn, thanks so much for guesting! This is a great analysis of how reviews can affect us. I read reviews my readers send me but I don’t generally seek them out online. If there ten great ones and one “meh” or “no thanks,” that negative review is the one that will stick with me. But you know what? Sometimes they have a point that bears consideration. Critique is important. Objective critique – not subjective. I have learned from the occasional bad review I read, and upped my game. Still, I always approach with caution.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I read reviews because, WELL, I write reviews. ( ) I like to see what others have said about a book AFTER I read it and write my review. I try to be fair and objective because I know all readers are different. If I do not “like’ a book, rather than saying that, I say why, for example “the plot moved too slowly”, or “there were too many grammar errors” (my biggest pet peeve), or even “I could not keep track to all the people and all the things happening at once.”
    What would you like a review to contain – not just “oh it was great” or “I give it five stars” but what comments do you find gratifying and/or meaningful. After all, even a person who gives the book a one star review bought it!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. An excellent question. I would like specifics.

    As I’ve stated, most of my reviews are favorable and many mention the same reasons for liking my books. I appreciate these specifics because they let me know that for these readers I’ve succeeded in my goal: to write an entertaining, thoughtful mystery. Mentioned are: likable characters, good pacing, various twists and turns, not guessing the murderer, and the book could be read as a stand-alone, but I’m going to read the others in the series that come before.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for being on the Chicks today, Marilyn, and congrats on your latest release!

    I tend to read trade reviews, but I don’t really hunt down readers’ reviews. It’s difficult to please everybody, and I find that negative reviews really throw off my writing. I do, though, look at the average rating on sites like Goodreads and Amazon.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great topic, Marilyn! I don’t read reviews of my books. I get very nervous as a new series debuts so a friend of mine saves my ego and my sanity by reading them for me. Then she tells me all the good stuff and anything that might be considered “constructive.” But after the first book comes out and the reviews are mostly good, I don’t care anymore, reminding myself that reviews are for readers, not the writer.

    Congrats on your great launch!

    Liked by 1 person

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