Celebrating MLK Day With ‘The Sword and the Shield’

Happy MLK Day!!! After all that the horrors and atrocities we witnessed at our nation’s capital, I’m hoping more people—especially the lily white folks such as myself—will take this day to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and this hard-won civil rights victory. And what better time than now for us all to be cognizant of the past and present struggles for racial equality? If our latest dark chapter in American history didn’t hit home, let me paint a couple of scenes that highlight glaring hypocrisy and double standards in law enforcement.

Exhibit A: Masses of Black protestors marching in the streets holding signs with images of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and many others Black Americans murdered by cops. They’re shouting with their fists held high, demanding justice and equality amidst clouds of pepper spray and an armada of police. Red faced, angry talking heads on Fox News are labeling them as “looters” and “crybabies.” Millions of Americans nod their heads to this rhetoric and pledge their allegiance to Trump and his promise to “Make America Great Again,” whilst  people fighting for Black lives get shoved in police cruisers, mowed down by angry drivers and shot with rubber bullets.

Exhibit B: Thousands of enraged, entitled white people storm our nation’s capital with weapons, Confederate flags, American flags (that incidentally double as weapons), zip-ties and, Molotov cocktails and pepper spray. Their cause? To hijack the democratic process and overturn the election. Basically, they’re throwing a big hissy fit because their demagogue didn’t win. They storm the front gates–beating down the few policemen who got in their way- and break into what should be a highly secure building. Why? Because they can.  Hell, some even stopped to take selfies with the police who were helpful enough to move some of those pesky barricades. They had a grand ol’ time of it running amok in the Senate Chamber and trashing offices  All of Trump’s stormtroopers except for one managed to avoid death-by-cop.  In fact, they filed out of there like a crowd of people casually exiting a movie theater, taking selfies all the way. Such fun!

Now imagine if these rioters were all Black people. I’ll just leave that right there since there’s no need to spell it out.

That said, our nation continues to be rife with systematic racism and discrimination. True, we did have a Black president, but we are far, far, far away from living in a just society. If anything positive could be taken away from our recent turn of events, it’s the heightened awareness that Black lives STILL don’t matter to millions of white people in this country. After our latest presidential election, the divide is very clear.

So I asked a bunch of college students (I work in higher ed) to tell me how white people can be better allies. They all agreed that the first step is to read up–and that means credible, researched sources, not memes, y’all! Next, you have to sit down and listen to all the viewpoints—even from your crazy MAGA hat-wearing uncle. Really listen and think carefully before responding. Another tip, don’t just post a black square on social media and call it a day. Sorry, that’s just lazy.

“The Sword and the Shield” is an excellent source for building your knowledge base on the lives of our great civil rights visionaries, Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. I’m sure you can easily translate the sword and shield metaphors, yet this book tells a different story that shows a lot of gray area around MLK’s peaceful, non-violence stance and Malcolm’s radical Black Power ideology.  As you read further into it, you’ll see they were anything but one-dimensional, despite what you read in textbooks.

I dog-eared the heck out of this book and narrowed down a few take-aways to share with you all as we all celebrate this great man’s birthday. You can also go to UT’s book blog to read my Q&A with the author!

Both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. recognized how deeply institutionalized racism threatened the hopes, dreams and lives of Blacks living in America. They each brilliantly diagnosed flaws within the American democracy, yet they embraced different strategies for Black liberation at this point—with King maintaining faith in legal and political solutions to combat racial injustice and Malcolm relying on the growing strength, political sophistication and worldliness of the Black community as the true measure of power.

King’s visit to Ghana and Europe, where he marveled at the resilience of ordinary Africans and paused to consider the vastness of a rapidly crumbling British empire, found him firmly in the camp of Black internationalism, a political ideology shared by Malcolm X. Malcolm’s thirst for radical Black dignity and King’s quest for Black citizenship most comfortably met on the world stage.

On the tenth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s death, King published an editorial arguing humanity faced a choice between “non-violence” and “non-existence.” He was confident in the ability of Christianity’s love ethic to spur social transformation across whole societies, regions, nation-states, and, eventually the entire world. He would begin by confronting Southern racial mores that viewed Black subjugation as the divine right of whites, who blissfully attended segregated churches, wept at Billy Graham’s religious crusades and prayed to God to maintain a way of life based on Black misery.

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. would never meet in a formal debate; however, both of them were acutely aware of one another. More than that, they were building—both consciously and unconsciously—a public persona that served in response to each other.

King believed that racial justice required more than new laws. The birth of a new American age required the transformation of hearts and minds, a quest that king now embarked on to teach to the president, the attorney general and the entire nation the depth and breadth of an unfolding “social revolution” that he endeavored to remain at the center of.

If King sought to persuade the highest bastions of white power of the worthiness of Black citizenship, Malcolm remained convinced that Black people needed to recognize the strength of their own humanity before they could rightfully expect others to do so.

I could add more, but I’ll stop right here so you can download this book or—gasp!—purchase an old school hardback and dog-ear your own favorite passages. The hardback is gorgeous, so go ahead and splurge! At that, I’ll leave you with these words that perfectly encapsulate the largely unknown truths about Dr. King.

King would not recognize himself in the uncomplicated, largely timid figure that much of the nation and the world celebrate today. The Radical King who gathered an army of the poor to descend upon the nation’s capital in defiance of critics, is airbrushed from history. The risk-taking King who defied a sitting president to protest war, is missing from our popular memory. The revolutionary King who marched shoulder-to-shoulder with garbage workers, locked arms with Black Power militants, and lived in Chicago ghettos in an effort to stimulate social change, is forgotten. The King who proclaimed that America’s greatness remained “the right to protest for right,” has all but vanished, replaced by generic platitudes about freedom and justice.

I’m sad the march isn’t happening today, but we can all look back at my favorite MLK Day oratory speech contest winner circa 2016. This little guy is fierce and on point!

Furbidden Fatality by Deborah Blake

Furbidden Fatality book In true cozy mystery fashion, this story follows a single, unlucky-in-love gal who is at a crossroads in her young, 30-something life. Now for the twist! She just won the lotto and has millions of dolla dolla bills to spare! When an adorable homeless kitten crosses her path, she discovers a rundown animal rescue in the midst of closing down furever—oh no! So of course she has to buy it and save all the homeless doggies and kitties that have nowhere else to go—not even the city pound, which is underfunded and over capacity. This is sadly the case in the real world, and I speak from 12 years of experience as a seasoned dog rescue volunteer who got chewed up and spit out by the F****D-up system. I’ll stop right here before I get up on my soapbox. Trust me, you don’t want that!

The mystery: This is a fun little whodunnit involving nefarious vandals, shady townsfolk and one sadistic animal control officer who seems to have it in for one particular dog (a pit bull, of course). Kari’s efforts to spruce up the rescue gets thwarted when she stumbles across his dead body on her property—making her suspect No. 1! Why was he shoveling a hole in her dog yard? Who’s smashing her windows and leaving misspelled threats on her doorstep? Why is the police department so pitifully useless? Well you’ll have to read the book to find out!

What I liked: The protagonist Kari Stuart is living my dream of running my very own animal rescue/sanctuary, providing a safe place for all the sweet doggies that get turned away from the so-called “No Kill” (aka Slow Kill) rescues. Might I just add that the term “No Kill” is a misnomer because these shelters are indeed killing dogs. It’s a numbers game and no dog is safe—especially at the most beloved shelters (*cough* Austin Pets Alive *cough*) where dirty, dirty politics are at work. A dog’s chances hinge upon their level of popularity with politically-savvy volunteers and the “dog behaviorists,” whom by the way have zero dog-training certification credentials and just use a one-size-fits-all method of punishment-based methods—including shock collars that they like to call “remote collars.”

Oops…did I just get on my soapbox a bit? Sorry y’all! Ok, back to the book. So Kari is a girl after my own heart, and I appreciate her willingness to eschew a luxurious life in Tuscany with her riches to answer the call of duty—hoorah! I especially love her cute little black kitty sidekick who magically knows how to warn her when danger is near.

What didn’t work: Kari is clearly a passionate cat lover, but I didn’t really sense much of a connection with dogs. I’m not sure how much research was put into the making of this book, but I think it would have behooved the author to watch an entire season of Pit Bulls and Parolees. If anyone can embody the passion—the spirituality even—that goes into a dog rescue operation, it’s Tia Torres and her two daughters. I think this may have been more believable if Kari was running a cat rescue, but dogs…not so much. I really hope this develops further in the next book, and I have faith that it will because I’m rooting for Kari!

This review is in honor of Brindle, Goldman and Dennis (aka Denny Bear). All three died at the shelter this year. 

Overall: This is a fun little mystery that is sure to please animal lovers—especially us crazy cat ladies! I applaud the author for bringing more attention to our nation’s overburdened and underfunded animal centers. It seems like you’d have to be a lotto winner in order to start a new rescue facility in a society that places very little priority on animal welfare. Sorry—had to throw in one last soapbox zinger.

Shoutout to NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Book and a Movie Night! Turn of the Screw Vs Haunting of Bly Manor

Turn of the Screw Book I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a few episodes to realize the Haunting of Bly Manor was a loose reimagining of Henry James’ seminal classic, “The Turn of the Screw.” It’s pretty how long it took me to put it all together–the disoriented nanny, the two haunted children, the apparition in the tower–before I finally sat up and yelled at my husband, “Holy crap! It’s the Turn of the Screw!”  What can I say? I’m a little slow up on the uptake these days.

Naturally, I had to download the audiobook narrated by the lovely Emma Thompson to revisit this uncanny tale. In retrospect, it would have been a better idea to read the hardback instead of following a dramatized narration because the writing is DENSE, and it’s easy to get lost in the ambiguity of, well, everything.

In a word, this book can best described as ambiguous. Nothing is straight forward; it’s all just hints and euphemisms. My best advice is to read this very slowly and in small doses because the flowery writing is crazy-making! Also, it would be fun to turn this into a drinking game and take a shot every time the word “prodigious” appears in the governesses’ long, convoluted ramblings about innocence and corruption. Henry James clearly loved that word.

Did the Netflix series do the book justice? Hmm…yes and no. The show beautifully captured the isolated Bly Manor homestead and the overall sense of isolation and doom. It also followed the storyline of Bly Manor’s resident spirits: two former employees who may or may not have been having—gasp—sex! Of course, those words were never spoken, but the subversive text certainly indicates they were very much “corrupted.” Makes me want to clutch my pearls!

This is where I ran into problems with the book. It was hard to figure out what exactly was going on since nothing is fully explained. I think it’s safe to assume the resident ghosts were doing the nasty and the nanny took it upon herself to shield her wards from corruption. In doing so, she makes matters worse, thus turning the screw into madness and destruction.

I could only get on at all by taking “nature” into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrous ordeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, but demanding, after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue.

The problem with the show, however, is that there’s very little guesswork. Sure, the governess seemed nutty at first, but you come to realize in further episodes that the house is indeed haunted. I suppose this works better for the mass audience, but I’m more creeped out by the notion that all the craziness that went down in Bly Manor was all in the nanny’s head.  I mean, really, do we need everything spelled out for us these days? The imagination is so much more fun!

As expected, the book is by far better—and it’s definitely worth a read for fans of the show. Of course, you don’t get to look for the surprise ghosts (aka “Easter eggs”) in every scene. But trust me, there are plenty of Easter eggs in the form of symbols and themes. One, which I particularly enjoyed, is the mentioning of a ship lost at sea. It perfectly encapsulates the feeling you have while following the Governess’s journey into madness. With her at the helm, we’re helplessly drifting off into craziness at every turn, rolling with the waves into a wasteland of nothingness. The mansion in itself feels like a sinking ship, which is masterful foreshadowing for the impending tragedy.

No; it was a big, ugly, antique, but convenient house, embodying a few features of a building still older, half replaced and half utilized, in which I had the fancy of our being almost as lost as a handful of passengers in a great drifting ship. Well, I was, strangely, at the helm!

Spoiler alert! The literary version doesn’t end well for the young boy named Miles, who was kicked out of boarding school for reasons unknown. All we know is that he relished being bad, and it bothered the governess to no end! She took it up on herself to save the children, believing that she was the only one who could save them. This calls into question the destructiveness of the hero-complex, and the motives behind incompetent fools who feel they can protect others from inevitable forces.

As you can see, there is a LOT packed into this book—and it’s up to you to tease apart all the subversive ramblings about innocence, corruption, the downfall of heroism, and many, many more themes. Is it scary? Eh, depends on how you look at it. To some, it’s a ghost story; to others, it’s a story of a misguided woman descending into madness. Either way, it’s an interesting ride that goes from 60 to zero in a matter of seconds. The abrupt ending still leaves me scratching my head in bewilderment…but I do have some theories. As for the TV series, the mystery is tied together in a neat little bow, which I’m sure appeals plenty of people who need a clear resolution. As for me, I relish the intrigue of a good unsolved mystery.

Lil Bootz’s Friday Flop Day: The Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

The premise of this book and the glowing reviews of it being as creepy as the Blair Witch Project really suckered me into checking it out (thankfully for free via Libby), but boy was I disappointed. I tried, y’all. I really did. I got as far as 50% through the audiobook when I decided to hit the “return early” button. Here’s where it went all kinds of wrong:

The premise it great–a bunch of teenage explorers lost in the woods whilst experimenting with an urban legend in search of a missing girl. My hopes for this story quickly dissipated when I met the main character, Sarah and her slew of friends via tedious direct message threads. Note: these long text conversations do not translate well on audio. Needless to say, I did not enjoy their snarky dialogue, nor did I care much for their personalities in general. The lack of character development is where this book went horribly wrong. We really don’t get under the surface with any of these kids–and there’s way too many of them. It’s like watching a classic teenage B-grade horror movie that makes the audience root for the monsters. The only character with a semblance of depth is Sara, and she’s a real Gloomy Gus. I mean, yeah it’s sad her adopted sister went missing and that she was scorned by her girl-crush, but it was even more sad for me to have to endure her emo attitude. But hey, if you’re into Sylvia Plath, you may enjoy Sara. To each their own.

And then there’s this false promise that this book channels the Blair Witch Project. Sure, there’s a bunch of bickering kids lost in the woods, but that’s the only connection. The genius of the Blair Witch Project is the building suspense of an unseen force that may or may not exist, leaving everything up to the imagination. This book, however, is full of zombie people, ghosts and gates to multiple otherworldly dimensions. Sure it was disorienting, but in a bad acid trip kind of way.

To be fair, I only got halfway through this thing, but from what I could tell, this book was missing a very important element: A villain, either physical or supernatural, that ties the whole legend together. There’s a bunch of rules to follow in order to survive the cursed woods, but what overarching power is casting this spell? What’s the actual “Ghost of Lucy Gallows” legend here? Somewhere before reaching the midpoint of this story, the characters should have figured this out. I mean, it’s good to know what they’re up against, right?

With all the gates to different levels, I felt like I was inside a video game on a mission to capture the damsel in distress from the evil castle troll. But hey, if you’re into that, maybe this book is for you. I’m just not really into fantasy and sci-fi, so it’s not my cup of tea. I’m more into gothic ghost stories and psychological thrillers with supernatural twists.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

I’m just going to come right out and say that everything Riley Sager writes is gold! This book was especially exciting for me because it’s a classic haunted house story set in an old, dilapidated manor rife with legends and ghostly visitations.

This book is sure to win over fans of the new Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House (a modern twist to Shirley Jackson’s literary masterpiece). We’ve got two time-skipping storylines that revolve around the haunted Baneberry Hall. First, we meet Maggy Holt, a troubled woman who experiences haunted happenings while fixing up Baneberry Hall, in spite of her mother’s dire warnings to never set foot in the cursed place. Then the story skips back 25 years when the Holt family moved into the haunted homestead and experienced a slew of horrific events.

Like the Netflix show, we don’t find out why the family fled the house in dead of night until the very end. And trust me, this one’s a page-turner! Every chapter led to more questions, like why are Maggie’s parents so secretive? Why can’t they tell her the truth as to why they abandoned the house? Why did her father turn their story into a bestselling book filled with lies and embellishments? Can we trust the sexy handyman who seems to know more about Maggie’s inherited house than he lets on? Hell, can we even trust Maggie? Why is her memory so spotty? You’ll have to read the book to find out! It’s definitely worth your while.

It’s hard to say which Riley Sager book is my favorite, but this one is up there! The creepy, gothic atmosphere really ratcheted up the suspense. I especially loved the scene when grown-up Maggie stumbled upon the family graveyard up on the hill behind the house. Such fun!

This was the perfect October read, and I may just dive into it again next October! Until then, I’m moving on to an old gothic classic by the venerable Barbara Michaels.

It Came From the Multiplex: 80s Midnight Chillers

I miss going to the movies amidst this never-ending pandemic, so I requested this book just to fill in the void just a bit. Clearly ’80s nostalgia is in vogue these days thanks to Stranger Things, and this book delivers on all of those memories of big hair-sprayed bangs, acid wash denim, Walkman radios and Casey Kasem-approved playlists! Oh how I wish I could go back in time for just one day to roller-skate around the rink with my giggling friends to the beats of Tiffany and Janet Jackson…sigh.

That said, if 80s pulp horror movie nostalgia is what you’re looking for, this book’s for you. If you’re solely in it for the scares and psychological horror, get ready to be disappointed. Most of these stories are very tongue-in-cheek, especially when it comes to over-the-top insect monsters. I’m not a big fan of the B-grade movie monsters myself, but I did enjoy the campy atmosphere. Quite a few of these stories have LGBTQ themes, adding a modern twist to the typical teenage prototypes from that bygone movie era devoid of diversity, aside from the token Black kid.

Most of these stories took place in run-down movie houses or seedy drive-ins, so far from the luxurious leather recliner auditorium seats we’re so accustomed to these days. Alamo Drafthouse has ruined me, y’all! Never again can I see a movie at a place that won’t bring me pitchers of beer and gourmet pizzas.

But I digress. Horror movie buffs, do yourself a favor and read this book. You will especially enjoy the one about the strange theater that only serves a special clientele with very refined palettes. It has a Lovecraftian theme and a not-so-happy ending!

Note: I received a free copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

CeeCee’s Halloween Treat: The Shadows by Alex North

Note: I scored the free audiobook on Netgalley, but their app isn’t compatible with any of my devices so I went ahead and scored an audio download from the awesome Austin Library! Thanks, Libby!

This was a fantastic audio experience! The author’s British accent really helped me picture the blue-collar English village and its surrounding haunted woods. I listened to this to scare myself silly on my evening runs around the neighborhood. Maybe not the safest activity, but a girl’s gotta get creative during this time of quarantine, right?

There is something very, very spooky about a group of misfit kids playing around with the dreamworld via witchcraft in order to manifest a red-handed monster with their subconscious minds. Think Slender Man meets Nightmare on Elm Street meets Flatliners! Like I said, it’s freaky stuff!

The book skips from 25 years ago to present day and follows a man named Paul who was a part of the “dream-incubating” group of kiddos until they took things to a whole new level and he had to bail. Good call, buddy. One of the kids gets killed and Paul finds himself walking the earth a haunted, depressed shell of a man. When he returns home to take care of his ailing mom, bad things start happening again in the woods and red hand prints stain his front door! Like I said, this book is creeeeeepy!

While reading it, I kept steeling myself for an anticlimactic ending since the buildup was so dang good. I promise not to spoil anything for you, but I will say that the ending wasn’t a total letdown, but it wasn’t how I wanted things to pan out. It left me feeling more melancholy than scared, really.

Aside from that minor gripe, this book is well worth a read for those of use who love to feel those little hairs stand on end! The writing is top notch, and I will most certainly read his first book “The Whisper Man.”

Pleasant nightmares–and happy Halloween, y’all!

Lil Bootz’s Halloween Treat: The Spook in the Stacks


In short: Somebody knocked off a wealthy businessman in the rare books section of Lucy Richardson’s beloved lighthouse library during a Halloween-themed book event! All clues point to his mysterious–dare I say shifty–granddaughter Julia, who stands to gain a lot from his demise. 

What I liked: The author did a fantastic job creating a fun, spooky atmosphere around the historic Bodie Island lighthouse. The apparition of a horse appears in the mist and things go bump in the night when the lights go out at the historic, possibly haunted lighthouse. I especially enjoyed the scene where the townsfolk gathered outside the library at night for a special reading of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”–my favorite Halloween tale for a dark and spooky night! 

What irked me: Lucy the librarian is great, but she really needs to stop being so wishy washy about her love life. Connor is a catch, but if the chemistry isn’t there, throw the man back out into the dating pool, woman! 

Also, I have to say that Theodore is downright creepy. I get that he’s Ichabod and Julia is his lady Katrina, but dang boy, back off! Seriously, he was the creepiest part of the story. 

The mystery: As usual, this was another solid installment of the Lighthouse Library Mystery series. The murder victim made a lot of enemies among the town’s business community, so there’s a lot of suspects to sort through. I enjoyed tagging along with Lucy and her kitty sidekick Charles (not so much Theodore), as they followed the clues and ferreted out the killer whilst enjoying the haunted happenings around town during All Hallows Eve. Such fun! 

Summed up: I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys literary-themed cozies. Fans of Jen McKinlay and Lorna Barrett are sure to enjoy this cozy Halloweenie read

Lil Bootz’s Halloween Treat: Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

Next up in our Halloween countdown extravaganza is this fun little cozy mystery that we received for free (in exchange for a brutally honest review)  from NetGalley! Since this is light on scares, Lil Bootz recommends this to all the fraidy cats who love a good, cozy whodunnit.


 

image of book Murder in the Bayou Boneyard One look at this cover and I couldn’t hit the “request” button fast enough! How could I resist this adorable vampire basset hound lurking in a spooky graveyard? I always enjoy returning to Maggie’s historic plantation homestead-turned B&B located in the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun country. While reading this, I kept picturing Disney’s Haunted Mansion overlooking an overgrown cemetery shrouded by Spanish moss.

Of course, this cozy mystery is light on scares, so it appeals to even the most squeamish of readers, but the author does a fine job weaving a lot of Halloween hijinks into the storyline. There’s a rougarou lurking in the woods, inexplicable happenings in the attic and–even more frightening–nefarious relatives outstaying their welcome at the Crozat Mansion B&B! Bloodthirsty Cajun monsters ain’t got nothing over Maggie’s Canadian relatives, let me tell ya!

I must warn you, there’s a LOT of characters to sort through in this mystery, so it’s quite a challenge keeping them all straight, let alone sorting out the suspects. Since I’ve read all the other books in this series, it wasn’t so hard, but I did find myself flipping back to the list of characters. I love it when they include these little glossaries in cozy mysteries because the struggle is real, yo!

As for the characters, Maggie and her Crozat family are as charming as ever. It’s cute that she and her granny are planning their weddings together. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why the granny’s fiancé never entered the picture. Where was he? Hell, I can’t even remember who she’s marrying, to be honest. Guess I’ll need to look in the previous book to catch myself up to speed. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of the “spunky grandma” trope in these books. I find them annoying rather than cute, and Maggie’s grandma is walking a fine line…but she does have her moments.

While I’m being nitpicky, I had to roll my eyes at Maggie when she shouted at a suspected killer –who, at the time was brandishing a potential weapon– “Stop in the name of the law!” I know this was supposed to be chuckle-worthy, but it just made me groan.

Gripes aside, this is a quality mystery series filled with Cajun lore, Southern cooking and heartwarming moments. I must warn you: Do not read this on an empty stomach! You’ll get some mad cravings for shrimp gumbo, crawfish etouffee and sugary cakes!

CeeCee’s Short and Shivery Halloween Treats: Clown in a Cornfield

image of clown in a cornfield

Trick-or-treating may be canceled this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t scare ourselves silly with ghosts, ghoulies and blood-thirsty clowns! Here’s a short and shivery review of Clown in a Cornfield–a new book that’s been getting a lot of buzz from B-movie horror lovers such as myself! If you’re a fan of Pennywise, you’re sure to love this new title. Time to float!


image of Clown in a Cornfield BookWell, well, well, I must say this book took me by surprise! What I thought was going to be a run-of-the-mill YA thriller (low on scares and high on teen melodrama) turned out to be a solid slasher movie-themed thrillride with oodles of blood and guts. It was like reading one of those forbidden B-horror flicks that I’d watch at slumber parties with my giggling friends. Ah such sweet memories of rebellious tweenage bliss.

Amidst the cat-and-mouse chase with killer clowns lurking in the corn fields and dilapidated barns, the author managed to weave some timely themes into the story–themes of small town, small-minded hate and bigotry. The author even spelled it out for us in the townies’ “Make Kettle Springs Great Again” ballcaps. You see where I’m going with this, yes?

So hats off (pun intended!) to the author for weaving some social commentary into this modern-day slasher. You won’t find any big-boobied “bimbos” getting chased through the woods by chainsaw-wielding fiends in this book. Nope, in fact, the female leads are the town’s only hope for survival. There’s even a surprising twist to the love triangle that I didn’t see coming.

The only reason why I knocked off one star is because a big chunk of the book is an action-packed cat-and-mouse chase that demanded a lot of my attention span. I’m probably in the minority here because most reviewers loved the second half of the book, but I’m just not a big fan of chapters and chapters and chapters of action-packed scenes with car chases and exploding buildings. It’s just not my cup of tea.

But, like I said, most people love that stuff, so don’t let my minor misgivings throw you. This book is definitely worth checking out, especially during the spooky month of October!