CeeCee’s Countdown to Christmas! The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans

 

I’m not ashamed to admit that the Hallmark Channel movie inspired me to read this holiday-infused romance. The movie wasn’t half bad and I like a plot centered around aspiring romance novelists. Also, I love the idea of spending a week at a writer’s retreat nestled in a snowy, Christmassy village replete with roasting chestnuts, twinkling lights and snow-capped mountains. Oh how sweet would it be to pound away at my keyboard in a cozy little room amidst a winter wonderland backdrop….sigh.

But I digress..lets’ get back to the story, shall we? Do I need to tell you that the book is better than the movie? Didn’t think so. While reading the book, I really connected with Kimberly because she’s a total daddy’s girl and a struggling aspiring writer. We’re basically soul sisters.  Her only flaw is her taste in men. How could such a smart, big-hearted girl waste her time on so many cads with blatant personality disorders? I just don’t get it. Either way, she’s a girl after my own heart, but maybe that’s because I, too, am a hapless, aspiring novelist.

I also really loved the sweet father-daughter relationship. Without a mother, Kimberly’s world revolves around her dad, who would sacrifice just about anything to make sure she fulfills her lifelong dream of becoming a novelist. The movie sort of touched on this, but of course Hallmark has to keep a laser focus on the contrived romance. Plus there were a few pointless silly antics thrown in the works, like Zeke lugging around a ginormous antique typewriter. Why? Is this a ploy to make him look like an authentic writer? Don’t even get me started on their first romantic encounter. In true Hallmark Channel fashion, Kimberly and Zeke mindlessly tumbled over each other and started bickering like an old married couple. Thus begins the love-hate relationship antics…snore. Also, why did the movie have to paint Kimberly as a blundering idiot? Are women more lovable when they’re constantly tripping all over themselves? I don’t get why this is a thing.

Thankfully, Kimberly is much more poised in the book. My only gripe is that this grown-ass woman turns into a crybaby when someone has the gall to critique her writing. When Zeke, her writing group buddy—and love interest—told her in the kindest way possible that she needs to develop her characters, she just about lost it. Does she not know the definition of the word “critique?”

Aside from that little snafu, I still rooted for Kimberly all the way. Whether or not she ended up with Zeke, I could care less. But I was pulling for her writing career and hoping that her father was right when he kept saying “our best years are still ahead of us.” 

As for the “surprise twist,” I’m a little confused. Was this really meant to be a surprise bombshell? Eh, whatevs. I was mildly amused nonetheless. I highly recommend the audiobook to anyone who needs a light, brainless distraction while wrapping presents or battling that zany holiday traffic.

CeeCee’s Countdown to Christmas: Twelve Slays of Christmas

Yappy howlidays! CeeCee is back with more holiday-themed book reviews! It’s the most wonderful time of year for this little lady who just loves playing dress-up. So sit back, grab yourself a hot toddy (careful with that whiskey…I speak from experience) and have yourself a jolly good time with a good yuletide tale of murder, mischief, lies and deceit!

The gist: A very formulaic cozy mystery about a big city girl named Holly (moan) who returns to her small-town roots in Mistletoe (double moan) with her tail tucked between her legs.  Unlucky in love and at a career crossroads, she shacks up with her sickeningly adorable parents at their Christmas tree farm. Lo and behold, someone knocked off the resident B-Word and all clues lead to Holly’s father. The love triangle ensues (just kill me now!) as she joins forces with a rookie reporter and a mysterious detective to track down the killer before her pops ends up in the big house and the tree farm goes belly up!

What worked: Aside from the generic plot structure, I enjoyed the Christmassy scenery. The author did a good job describing the sights and sounds of the season permeating the quaint little Mistletoe village. I also liked the budding BFF relationship between Holly and her old high school acquaintance. Despite my grievances, which I will get to in a moment, I might pick up the next book to see how her new bakery develops, and whether Holly will start up her own jewelry store business. Those little teasers really do work!

What didn’t work: This is a VERY paint-by-the-numbers murder mystery. Every cliché in the book is thrown in here. Sadly, this is a forgettable story that just melts into all the other cookie-cutter mysteries I’ve read in the past. The characters were all nice enough, but nobody really spoke to my heart.  Although I should give Holly some props for being a good cat mom to Cindy Lou Hoo.

Overall: Just a so-so holiday read for readers who enjoy Hallmark Movie-esque mysteries.

Minka’s Thanksgiving Special: Murder She Wrote: Fatal Feast!

Isn’t Minka cute?! She’s up for adoption at Austin Pets Alive! http://bit.ly/2hRuiEH

I’m a day late and a dollar short, but since we’re all still digesting our double and triple helpings of pie, Thanksgiving is the gift that keeps on giving…at least until the Pepto kicks in. So put down those Black Friday ads (seriously, Cyber Monday is the way to go) and indulge yourself in a good book. Since Minka’s a big snorting fan of turkey, she says you should read this one!

The gist: It’s another tranquil Thanksgiving weekend in Cabot Cove. Love is in the air as Jessica Fletcher prepares for the big feast with her international houseguest George Southerfield. Of course, he’s staying at Seth Hazlet’s house because Jessica is a lady and we don’t want her reputation to be sullied!  Turns out, there’s a bit of a jealous rivalry going on, thus proving that this ol’ gal’s still got it. You go, Miss Thang! While taking a romantic post-turkey stroll, what do they find? Come on, take a stab at it. Yep, that’s right—a dead body! Even worse—the killer used Seth’s prized antique carving knife. Now that’s just plain rude. It’s up to Jessica and her boy toys to figure out who killed the socially awkward homeless man—and why he (or she?) wanted his goose to be cooked. Aren’t food puns such fun?

What worked: You can’t beat the comfy, cozy town of Cabot Cove, Jessica’s lovely little Northeastern nook in the world! If this book doesn’t get you into the turkey-eating spirit, nothing will. It felt like I was right there with Jessica and all the movers and shakers of Cabot Cove at the Thanksgiving feast. As luck would have it, one of her dinner guests gets skewered at the end of the night. You’d think they’d catch on to her track record and stay home, but how could they refuse the hostess with the mostest?

What didn’t work: I love all these Murder She Wrote books but some are slower than others. This one is, by far, the slowest! Halfway into the book, I kept asking myself when the dead body would pop up. I re-read the dust cover just to make sure I did, in fact, pick up a murder mystery. I mean, it’s called “Fatal Feast,” so let’s get to it already!!! If I wasn’t so charmed by my favorite bike-riding sleuth, I’d be much more annoyed. But how can I stay mad at JB Fletcher? It’s impossible, I tell you!

Overall: Not the best book in the series, but still mildly amusing for us hard core MSW fans!

31 Days of CeeCee-o-Ween: Stephen King’s ‘IT’

We did it! CeeCee and I tackled the Mt. Everest of horror stories! It was a little touch and go there, but we climbed that dark mountain and made it out unscathed…well, for the most part. Did this massive monolith give me the willies? Yes. Did Stephen King take this story to dark places where no other author would dare venture? Absolutely. Did it need a ton of editing? OMG YES! Here’s my short assessment for a VERY long book.

Synapsis: If you haven’t already seen the movies (which I doubt!) here’s the gist. A bunch of misfit kids are terrorized by a demonic force in a clown getup. The force possesses the entire town in various way, yet the gang of kiddos (known as the “Losers Club”) are mostly immune to its powers. Only they can stop Pennywise the Dancing Clown with sheer bravery and goodness!

What worked: I’ll start off  by saying that the new movie is the perfect blend of camp and cheese, yet it doesn’t hold a candle to this massive tome. I mean, how could it? Stephen King took his sweet time with every character, allowing me to almost become one with all the kiddos. In horror stories, this is crucial because the fear isn’t real unless you can truly get inside the characters’ minds. And trust me, there are some truly frightening scenes involving oodles of monsters and ghoulies. Just to name a few, we’ve got Frankenstein’s monster, a man-eating bird, a pervy homeless leper — even an animated Paul Bunyan statue. Mister King really pulled out all the stops on this one!

Perhaps the most frightening villains were the ones without fangs and fur. The ones who could’ve intervened but chose to cower inside their dingy little houses. And then there’s the bullies—holy cow! When the kiddos weren’t being chased by psychopaths with switchblades, they were verbally or physically assaulted by their parents. It’s pretty sad when your only refuge is a creepy place in the woods near the sewage treatment plant. And I thought junior high was rough. Wow.

But I digress…were these living, breathing monsters truly evil? Or was a sinister force pupeteering their every move? You see, it’s not just about a creepy ass clown going gangbusters on the local kids. It’s about the evil that lurks within all of us. Imagine a world in which our inner demons overshadowed our goodness.  A world orchestrated by a nefarious entity that feeds off of weaknesses. Without Pennywise’s influence, would the schoolyard bullies resort to cold-blooded murder and animal torture?  Would the parents turn into belligerent tyrants? Would the entire town succumb to the bystander effect? Guess you’ll have to read the book to figure it out!

What didn’t work: This book is LONG! And sadly, in many parts, it felt tedious. Did we really need an hour-long character sketch of Stan’s wife? Considering that she had nothing to do with the story, probably not. In fact, all the subplots  involving the spouses seemed like a lot of filler to me. Also, I could’ve done without that chapter involving a periphery character and animal torture. I want a nightmare-inducing horror story, but not in that way.

And then there’s the super taboo ending that will forever haunt my dreams, again, not in a good way. A friend of mine warned me about this, but I had no idea it would be so disturbing! It’s hard to bemoan my disappointment without giving away spoilers, but I will say that Mister King must’ve been on some bad 80s cocaine to write such an outrageous scene involving 11-year-olds.

Since I’ve read his memoir On Writing (amazing book, by the way), I know he was in a dark place back then, so I’ll just chalk this up to a bad trip and leave it at that.

Side note: I “read” all 48 hours of this via audiobook, which I highly recommend! Stephen King fans will appreciate that the narrator, Stephen Weber,  had a cameo in the new movie (Bill and Georgie’s absentee dad) and he also starred in the TV remake of The Shining. There’s a fun trivia fact to know and share!

The 31 Days of CeeCee-O-Ween: Lost Among the Living


Egads! Only a few days left ’til All Hallows Eve and CeeCee still has oodles of scary stories to review–not to mention a boatload of costumes to wear–before the big day! While reading this book, I was compelled to pick up this fabulous vampiress bust (now known as Drucilla) because she looks just like the woman on the cover.  It’s like she called to me….ooooh spooky!  Either way, here’s the scoop on my latest literary conquest.


Synapsis:
Grieving war widow Jo Manders takes on a job as a paid companion at a spooky ol’ manor surrounded by haunted woods, a rabid dog and a ghostly girl who leaves a snail trail of leaves in the drafty hallways. Soon Jo finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery and everyone’s a suspect—even her dead husband! But of course, his body was never found…dum dum duuuuuum!

What worked: When I’m in the mood for a deliciously atmospheric gothic thriller/romance, Simone St. James always delivers. However, I must warn you that this is what I call “horror light,” so you’re not going to have to worry about sleeping with the lights on. I just really enjoyed the mystique of the haunted manor house that frightens the provincial townsfolk. And then there’s the threat of a man-eating ghost dog roaming the haunted woods. Such fun!

What didn’t work: One of my biggest literary pet peeves is the dreaded info dump. Sadly the story took a turn for the worst when I got hit with a barrage of information after the big plot twist. I had to hit the rewind button on my audiobook numerous times to catch it all. And to be honest, I was not all that surprised by the bombshell, which sadly watered down all the spooky ghostly goodness. I won’t reveal any spoilers but I will say that spy games aren’t my thing. Also, I should add that the main character seems to be cut from the same mold as all the other mopey women in St. James’ books. Might be time for her to mix things up in the next one.

Overall: Of all of St. James’ works, this one isn’t her best. We were off to a good start with the creepy Wych Elm House and the creepy nocturnal encounters with the desperate ghost girl. But after the focus shifted to wartime conspiracies, I lost interest. All things considered, this author is still in the same league as Wendy Webb and Barbara Michaels, two of the best gothic romance writers in the biz!

 

31 Days of CeeCee-o-Ween: Head Full of Ghosts on Sale for $1.99!

Horror fans, eat your cold, black hearts out! The scariest book I’ve ever read (sorry, Stephen King and Joe Hill) is on sale for two buckeroos! I PROMISE YOU, this book will make those tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention! So get on the Amazon or the Nook Shop and download this book today!

Synopsis: Two sisters battle sinister forces in a slow-burning tale of demonic possession. It’s up to the readers’ to determine whether or not this is Satan’s work or a toxic concoction of teenage hormones and schizophrenia. Essentially Turn of the Screw meets The Exorcist.

Why it gave me the creeps: There is nothing more unsettling than the thought of living under the same roof with someone who may or may not be possessed by demonic forces. However, I did have some doubts about my sister from time to time. Kidding! Well…sort of. Head Full of Ghosts got under my skin because it seemed so real. I could totally relate to the dysfunctional, blue-collar household because I lived in one. I could especially connect with the two bickering sisters. I remember scaring my poor sister silly with my “demon voice” at night when we were forced to share the same room. To be honest, I even scared myself! Could you imagine the horror of hearing that voice, knowing that your sister really could be possessed by the devil?

Jeepers!! I’m giving myself the willies just thinking about that book…and how it all came to a head in the end. Don’t worry! I won’t tell you what happens, but I will say that it’s the scariest—and most satisfying—ending. The genius of Tremblay’s storytelling is that he doesn’t spell it out for you. It’s up to the reader to pick up on the subtle clues and draw their own conclusion at the end. Like Mulder, I want to believe. Judging by the little hints—and one big nudge at the end—I’m pretty sure Tremplay gave me what I wanted.

Overall: A dark and twisted masterpiece pulled off by a relatively unknown writer. When it comes to the uncanny, Paul Tremblay is the master!

31 Days of CeeCee-O-Ween: Friday the 13th Special

Why is CeeCee in a banana split costume, you ask? Well she’s gone bananas over our newest literary acquisitions! Somebody let me loose in BookPeople’s super secret half-off section and I ended up with a stack of spine-tingling tales of horror, mischief, murder and mythological gods of death destruction!

Here is our latest book haul! In the wise words of R.L. Stine, readers beware, you’re in for a scare!

Which one will I read first? My Best Friend’s Exorcism, of course! I mean, look at that cover! It evokes memories of my most favorite campy 80s horror movies. Here’s the synapsis:

A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession. The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries–and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil? Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist, My Best Friend’s Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of ’80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller.

If I wasn’t going to ACL, I would spend my entire Friday the 13th consumed with this book!