ARC Review & Author Interview: The Best Mistake Mystery

Hi everyone!😄

I have been given the privilege to have been able to read a digital ARC of this book via Netgalley as well as interview the author, Sylvia McNicoll. Thank you so much to Sylvia, Dundurn Press, and publicist Jaclyn Hodsdon for giving me this chance! I am very excited as this will be my first time ever hosting an author interview on my blog! So, without further ado, let’s get to it!😄

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Title: The Best Mistake Mystery

Author: Sylvia McNicoll

Genre & Age Group: Contemporary, realistic fiction, mystery, middle grade

Goodreads Synopsis:

Some people count their blessings, but dogwalker Stephen Nobel counts mistakes.

Dogwalker extraordinaire Stephen Nobel can get a little anxious, but his habit of counting the mistakes he and everyone else makes calms him. His need to analyze gets kicked into hyperdrive after two crazy events happen in one day at school: the bomb squad blows up a backpack and someone smashes a car into the building.

To make things worse, that someone thinks Stephen can identify them. Stephen receives a threatening text. If he goes to the police, his favourite dogs, Ping and Pong, will get hurt. The pressure mounts when his new best friend, Renée, begs for Stephen’s help. Her brother has been charged with the crimes and she wants to clear his name.

Is it a mistake to give in to dognappers? How can he possibly save everybody? To find out, Stephen will have to count on all of his new friends.

Source: Thanks so much to Dundurn for providing me with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley!

How I Found Out About It: Netgalley

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The Best Mistake Mystery was quite a cute, thought-provoking middle grade story, and I really enjoyed my time reading it! Weighing in at around 155 pages, it was a pretty fast read, so I was able to whip it up in a jiffy.

What got me to request this book was the intriguing mystery aspect (oh, AND THE DOGS!!❤️). I love a good mystery story, and I adore dogs, so how on earth could I turn down reading a book with the two of them meshed together?😜

For a brief summary, this book is about seventh grader Stephen, who is a dog walker. He can sometimes tend to get a little rowdy or anxious, so he counts his mistakes, as it gives him ease. One day, his school receives a bomb threat, as well gets a car jammed right into it, so he feels the need to solve the mystery of ‘who-dun-it.’ The person whom he suspects seems to be suspecting him as well, for being, well, a suspector😂. After receiving a threatening text message from them, Stephen would like to take it to the police, but there are dog-walking risks surrounding that- would he be willing to sacrifice that to make things right?

I absolutely adored the characters of this story, especially Stephen! I found that he was so innocent and true to his age, and overall, just a really nice guy. He was very wise, as well, and always seemed to think hard before acting, which many kids his age seem to miss, as they tend to act on impulse, instead of analyzing the potential risks of doing something. I think Stephen should definitely take on a career as a detective when he’s older, as in this story, he proved that he would ACE it!✌️

Renee, I found to be a bit unmemorable. I felt bad for her for the fact that her brother was suspected of the crimes, I really did. It’s just that her character unfortunately didn’t stick out very much to me.

The mystery in this story wasn’t too predictable, and it kept me on the edge of my seat guessing, which is a plus! The secrets of many mystery books I read are sometimes quite predictable, but definitely not this one.

All in all, this was a pretty good book, and I absolutely don’t regret reading it! Anyone looking for an unpredictable mystery, DOGS🐶, and an awesome protagonist should mark March 28th on their calendars, because you will not want to miss The Best Mistake Mystery!

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About the author:

Sylvia McNicoll

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Here is some background information about her, which was directly taken from her Goodreads page:

Born in Ajax, Sylvia McNicoll (pseudonym Genna Dare ) grew up in Montreal, Quebec where she received her BA in English with a minor in Economics from Concordia University. She began her writing career with adult short stories and household tips that were published in women’s magazines, and moved on to freelance articles for Burlington local newspapers. Her friend and published author, Gisela Sherman, convinced her to take a children’s writing course by Paul Kropp at Sheridan College. It was under his guidance that she wrote her first book “Blueberries and Whipped Cream” as a class project. Nine published books later she returned to Sheridan College to teach creative writing for a decade. She also edited “Today’s Parent Toronto” for eight years.
Among her award winning published works are:

Project disaster, illustrated by Brian Boyd (Scholastic Canada, 1990) – Winner of Our Choice, 1990-91

The big race! Illustrated by Susan Gardos (Scholastic Canada, 1996) – winner of Our Choice, 1996-97

Jump Start, illustrated by Janet Wilson (Collier Macmillan Canada, 1989) – winner of Our Choice, 1989-90

Bringing Up Beauty (Maxwell Macmillan Canada, 1994) – winner of Our choice, 1995-96; Silver Birch Award, 1996; Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award, 1997

Caught in a Lie (Scholastic Canada, 2000) – winner of Explora-Toy award, 2001

The Interview:

K.K.: What inspired you to write The Best Mistake Mystery?

S.M.: My Jackapoo Mortie and I walk Brant Hills neighborhood at least three times a day, part of my writing process really. You write a scene and you walk to think about the next one.  We get to know a lot of people especially dog people this way and often observe some very strange behaviour.

Drives me crazy when I find bagged dog poop left behind on paths and in parks. Mortie barked at something  in a tree once, and we discovered it was a dog poop bag! Outraged I took the bag down but then proceeded to mistakenly deposit it in the new tall blue recycling bin in the park instead of the identical black garbage one beside it. The bin is too tall to be able to reach in and retrieve anything either.

I was so annoyed that I had to talk myself into feeling better about spoiling the recycling that way by analyzing and ranking the mistake. Was it the worst one I would make that day or week? That year, in my lifetime?  Then I thought about a character who would walk dogs and observe a lot of odd things going on in his own neighborhood. Also someone who might be as hard on himself and obsess about errors. Stephen Noble was born.

K.K.: How long did it take you to write?

S.M.: It’s so hard to assign an exact time for a novel because I’m always doing several things at once, rewriting or working on edits of another book, writing articles for magazines, submitting an upcoming project in a grant proposal, teaching, touring and mentoring.  With this kind of juggling, it took a year to write The Best Mistake Mystery.

K.K.: Are you planning on making this a whole series? If so, what can readers expect?

S.M.: So far I’m planning a three book series and if readers love the characters as much as I do, I will happily write more. Coming in September of 2017 will be The Artsy Mistake Mystery where various outdoor installations such as the Stream of Dream fish at the local school and a neighbor’s garden gnome go missing. Fingers point both at Stephen Nobel and at Renée Kobai’s graffiti artist brother and the pressure mounts to find the true criminal. Who knew how much art was valued by its owners! In January 2018 The Snake Mistake Mystery will see Stephen and Renée together again with our favourite canine pair Ping, the Jack Russell and Pong, the rescue grey hound, track down a missing ball python as well as a home burglar all in order to save the family dog walking business.

K.K.: Which character from The Best Mistake Mystery do you find is the most like you?

S.M.: You learn so much about yourself when you write a series like this. Of course I thought I was Stephen, the anxious mistake counter, at first but realize as I write about Renée that just like her I tend to try to sparkle harder when other people glower or when life hands me lemons, if that makes any sense.

K.K.: What are some of your all-time favourite books? 

S.M.: I like mysteries; I learned to read novels at the age of eight when I encountered some Nancy Drew books on a family holiday in Connecticut. After that I enjoyed the Little House on the Prairie series and all animal stories like Black Beauty and Old Yeller.

I definitely like the idea of engaging with characters long term in that series relationship read. I love Louise Penny’s mysteries following the wonderful Inspector Gamache set in the Eastern township of Quebec. I grew up in Montreal. Also I can never pass a Linwood Barclay novel by—he used to live in my town and his earlier mysteries are hilarious (now they’re less humorous and more thriller.)The Crime Writers Association asked me to judge for the Arthur Ellis Crime Novel of the Year in 2014 and that kickstarted my itch to write a mystery.

K.K.: What were some obstacles you faced along the way of writing The Best Mistake Mystery, if any?

S.M.: The main obstacle was switching my writing audience and genre from YA paranormal to middle grade mystery and having the faith I would find a publisher to take my new direction on. I’m sure aspiring writers will commiserate with the idea of the little devil sitting in the corner of your mind sniping “Who cares about that _______(fill in the blank with sentence, character, problem etc.) no one’s ever going to read this. You have to have a strong sense of inner worth to shut that negative voice down. Luckily the editor at Dundurn Press saw my vision for the story and liked it enough to commission the three book series. Dundurn Press is the perfect publisher for The Great Mistake Series as they have produced wonderful mysteries with strong settings for a long time.

K.K.: Is there any advice you’d like to share for aspiring writers?

S.M.: You should write for the love of the process, that feeling of diving into a story and entering a strange hypnotic zen. After that you must release your inadequacies and take joy and pride in rewriting. When the manuscript goes off into the world, you need to immediately begin a new project. Never sit and wait for answers or applause. When your story gets published, remember to always return to your love of the process when the Internet chatter or lack there of gets you down. Learn to develop an inner measurement of your creative worth.

Thanks so much for answering my questions, Sylvia! I am definitely very excited to continue on with the series, especially since I now have more of a background as to where the story comes from!☺️

So tell me, are you interested in reading this book, or have you read it and want to share your opinion? Have you ever hosted any authors on your blog? And do you agree with anything Sylvia said? Let me know in the comments below!

Au revoir!💜

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