The 10 Nights of CeeCee-O-Ween: The Secret of Sleepy Hollow

14192733_930556600406474_3950721415268577724_nAs we count down the final days to CeeCee-O-Ween, I bring you a spooky book review paired with the world’s most adorable dog in her costume du jour! Tonight we bring you a review of a not-so-scary book based on Washington Irving’s seminal masterpiece, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

27187153Wow – so many five-star reviews! My fellow GoodReads reviewers did a great job suckering me into downloading this book. Sadly I was sorely disappointed. I typically give a book 100 pages until chucking it into the DNF pile, but it just got too painful. Hmm…how should I say this without sounding insensitive to the LGBTQ community? Okay, so I should start by saying that I found the lesbian love story to be a nice switch from the norm, and I’m a registered ALLIE to this wonderful community.  See, I’m not so bad, right? However, I’m a Legend of Sleepy Hollow purist, so there’s only so much I can take when authors butcher the legend into an oblivion. I’m sorry, but I wasn’t digging the whole “girl power” slant. I had to call it quits when the protagonist came up with the theory that the headless horseman was a cross-dresser caught in a lovers tryst. #ICANT!

Why can’t all these Sleepy Hollow reprisals give a nod to the original tale’s societal admonition? Why does it have to be all about romance? Why can’t Ichabod be an awkward, lanky dweeb vying for the Van Tassel fortune? Why can’t these stories have more to do with greed and social climbing rather than the typical bodice ripper crap? CHEESE AND CRACKERS! Do I need to write the dang book myself? Maybe I will – dangit!

So I’d be a total jerk if I didn’t say one nice thing about the book, right? To be fair, the author has a knack for atmosphere. But (yep, there’s a but) just when things started to get a little spooky, the protagonist would start obsessing over her crush and I was back in junior high all over again. The constant butterflies, goosebumps and cheap thrills got tiresome every time she came into eye-shot with her lover. Geeze—it reminded me of the torture I endured when my childhood BFFs would crush over their favorite New Kid on the Block. Personally, I’m a Joey girl, but that’s besides the point.

Anyhoo, if you’re looking for a heck of a Headless Horesman thrill ride, read the original–and then re-read it! And when you’re done with that, check out Richard Gleave’s Jason Crane series – it’s awesome!!! My rave reviews can be found here.

Brutus’ Book of the Month: Bridge of Bones by Richard Gleaves

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Brutus is a big fan of the Headless Horseman! He’s waiting at Austin Pets Alive for a haunted house to call his own.

Halloween may be just a memory but lucky for you, Brutus and I celebrate this spooktacular holiday all year round! Some may think it’s strange that I prominently display my Department 56 haunted village throughout all four seasons, but I scoff at their provincial ways.  After they swap their jack-o-lanterns for tinsel and twinkle lights, I’ll still be reading Sleepy Hollow-themed books underneath the glow of my faux Haunted Mansion candelabra.

23390914Without further ado, Brutus would like to bring you a review of the second installment of the Jason Crane Sleepy Hollow series – and boy is it a doozy! Wow, where to begin? This book is huge, and there’s SO much ground to cover.  How about I start by introducing you to the fearless and loveable hero, Jason Crane?  I applaud Richard Gleaves for bringing all of his characters to life in a way that only a few masterful storytellers can pull off. Jason is a hapless hero who appeals to anyone who hasn’t won the genetic lottery. A decendent of none other than Ichabod Crane, he’s long, lanky and rather awkward around girls. But what he lacks in good looks and social graces, he makes up for in bravery and wit.  It’s a good think he’s got a lot of true grit because in this next adventure, he’s got more obstacles than the Hobbit and Harry Potter combined! Okay, that may be an overstatement, but the dude’s got some major problems.

The story unfolds in the aftermath of Jason’s near-death encounter with the Headless Horseman. The town is in an uproar after he shattered the door of the old Dutch church. The townsfolk hate him so much, even his teachers are giving him the boot from their classrooms. To say that he is persona non grata would be an understatement. After his beloved grandmother’s untimely death, Jason is left under the care of his evil guardian, Hediwig (sorry about butchering his name, but that’s one of the drawbacks of reading via audio.) His family fortune is being siphoned into a nefarious political campaign and his grandmother’s old house has turned into a scene from Hoarders. Chips are down.

Things go from bad to worse when Jason and his crush Kate discover that they have been saddled with the Witches Curse. Isn’t it bad enough that they are both tortured by unrequited love?  Oh and they’re being hunted down by an axe-wielding horseman from beyond the grave.

This book may be long, but I finished it in a weekend because it’s one heck of a ride. I learned so much about the evil powers that control the Sleepy Hollow boneyard, and the evil entity that ultimately controls the Headless Horseman.  Murderous ghosts and malevolent witches are unsettling, but the most frightening thing about this book is the evil that lurks within Hediwig’s soul.  This is more than just a cat-and-mouse adventure story. It’s also a terrifying character sketch of the mind of a sociopath. There were points when Hediwick tried to fight his dark madness, yet his weakness was no match for pure evil. That, my friends, is far more frightening than a Headless Horseman lurking in the woods on Halloween night.

I’ll stop right here to save you from spoilers.  But I will leave you with one tip. I highly suggest “reading” this one of audio. The narrator is the best in the business, and it’s a lot of fun listening to the book while walking around a spooky trail at dusk. Happy reading—or listening—my friends!

Washington Irving Fans, Eat Your Heart Out!

18586140Another hot and muggy September has reared its ugly head in this inferno called Austin. That means I’ll be reading nothing but spooky ghost stories all the way through December! This year, I’m jump-starting the witching season with this fun YA thriller filled with ghosts, leering jack-o-lanterns and a sword-wielding fiend on horseback.

Sounds promising, but yet I went into this book with cautious optimism. After attempting to watch that blasphemous Sleepy Hollow series and suffering through the first installment of the Hollow Trilogy, I know that there’s so many ways a headless horseman story could go wrong. Oh and please don’t get me started on the Tim Burton movie. Who in their right mind would cast Johnny Depp as Ichabod? I’m sure poor old Irving is still rolling around in his grave over that one.

Here’s the thing. If you’re going to retell old Washington Irving’s masterpiece, you better use the spooky setting to your full advantage. Irving and Ray Bradbury mastered the art of intoxicating readers with lyrical descriptions of fall landscapes. Contemporary authors all seem to pale in comparison. That is until I took a chance on Richard Gleaves.

He is clearly a huge fan of Irving’s work, and it shows in his atmospheric descriptions of Ichabod Crane’s stomping grounds. His prose swept me away to the little hamlet along the Hudson River, where I could hear the soft autumn breeze wafting through the trees, smell the smoke drifting from burnt leaves, and see the moonlight shining upon spooky boneyard. Such fun!

With a hip hip and a clippity clop, he's out looking for a head to chop!

With a hip hip and a clippity clop, he’s out looking for a head to chop!

The genius of the story, is the parallels between the modern day characters and their direct descendants—Brom bones and Ichabod Crane. Our hero Jason Crane may be long and lanky, but he’s much cooler than his social-climbing ancestor. As expected, he falls in love with Kate (the new Katrina), who is unfortunately hooked up with the modern day Brom Bones, a school jock with lots of skeletons in the closet.

Of all the multi-dimensional characters in this book, I most enjoyed Jason’s newfound bestie—a wannabe Robin Williams who spends most of his waking hours manning the grounds of the local cemetery. This actually comes in handy when Jason finds that his grandmother is being conned into digging up a veritable Pandora’s box that has been entombed in the family crypt for two centuries.

I’ll save you from the gory details—and I mean that in every sense of the word! But I will say that this is one thrill ride that will get you in the Halloween spirit. Ever since I watched the Disney version of Sleepy Hollow—a masterpiece onto itself—I’ve been obsessed with this story. It was such a treat when Gleaves invoked bits and pieces from Ichabod’s last ride into the climax. I won’t tell you any more, but I will say that fans of the Disney classic will be most amused.

 

Chick Lit Cafe’s Halloween Treat

I’ll say it loud, I’m a Halloween freak and I’m proud! It’s only the second day of October and my head is already swirling with visions of candy corn and big colorful bags of fun-sized chocolate deliciousness! But most of all, I’m looking forward to curling up with a pumpkin spice latte and a spooky ghost story on a dark, blustery October night. In honor of my most favorite holiday, I bring you my top Halloween reads. 

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

This is the book I turn to every October when I want to wax nostalgic about that one special night of the year when the parentals allowed me to run rampant on the streets in a sugar-high induced candy craze. The story follows a group of kiddos as they travel with the harbinger of death across oceans and time to save their friend, Pipkin, from an untimely death. They learn all about the origins of trick or treat, ancient death rituals, witchcraft and Celtic celebrations of All Hallows Eve. Such ghoulish fun! 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

With a hip hip and and hippity clop, he’s out looking for a head to chop! Who doesn’t love this wonderful tale of fright? The short story and the old-school Disney cartoon are Halloween classics! Washington Irving’s lyrical descriptions of the dark road back to the school house really gave me the chills. And what better way to set up the headless horseman chase scene than by filling the reader’s heads with spooky stories told around the fire at Baltus Van Tassal’s Halloween party? I’m pretty sure the story was meant to be a cautionary tale about social climbing, and that the headless horseman was just a hoax to scare Ichabod away. But I’d like to believe he was really spirited away by the headless horseman on that fateful night. 

Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

When it comes to evoking the sights, sounds and smells of autumn in good ol’ Americana, nobody does it better than the late, great Ray Bradbury. Set in a small Midwestern town, the book follows two boys as they investigate a mysterious traveling carnival filled with angry midgets, evil fortune tellers, and time-bending rides. When the sinister ringmaster, aptly named Mr. Dark, finds the two boys know more than they should, he sets out on a quest to destroy them and their loved ones. This is one creepy story that will definitely get you in the mood for Halloween. If you haven’t seen the Disney movie, go put it on top of your Netflix list now! 

 Of course, there are plenty more books on my Halloween reading list. From now until Halloween, I’ll post a spotlight a spooky book – from cozies to young adult thrillers to gothic ghost stories – on my Facebook page.

Short & Sweet Sunday: The Hollow by Jessica Verday

In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! For more of my “Short & Sweet” reviews, go here.  

The gist:  (From Goodreads) After the death of her best friend, Abbey feels abandoned and alone. She tries distracting herself by creating perfumes, but true distraction comes in the form of Caspian, the “total hottie” she meets in the Sleepy Hollow cemetery. Abbey quickly falls head over heels in love with Caspian, although she struggles with his mysterious and elusive demeanor. Just as things seem like they are back to normal, Abbey makes two discoveries: she finds Kristen’s secret diary that reveals she was hiding something from Abbey, and she learns Caspian’s true identity. On the verge of a breakdown, Abbey’s world slowly begins to unravel when she realizes Sleepy Hollow may hold more truth than legend.

Why I read it: I’m a HUGE fan of Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow, so any book or movie that touches on this Halloweenie masterpiece really sparks my interest. How could I resist a gothic mystery involving a creepy cemetery, an alluring ghost boy and the headless horseman?!? It’s like this book was tailor made just for me!

The perks: Despite its many flaws, this is a fun little Halloween read. The new spin on the legend of the headless horseman is entertaining…although Washington Irving is most likely rolling around in his grave. I liked the spooky atmospheric graveyard, where Abbey would spend her days reminiscing about the good times she had with her best friend. Apparently the two weirdos liked to hang out at Washignton Irving’s grave, where they would tell ghost stories about the Headless Horseman and giggle about boys.

The drawbacks: The love connection between Abbey and Caspian seemed forced. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just didn’t feel the heat radiating off of these two star-crossed lovers. They’re just so nice and sweet and polite …yawn. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but it felt like the author wasn’t really feeling it, but she had to fuse them together to appease her swoony teenage readers. While I’m at it, I should also add that the editor should have been more heavy-handed with the red pen. The story would have moved along at a much quicker pace if it wasn’t bogged down with superfluous details about Abbey’s day-to-day motions like mixing scents, organizing her uncle’s office or working on a science fair project. As for the mystery, Abbey’s obsession with Caspian eclipses her interest in her friend’s disappearance. If you’re looking for clues and red-herrings you won’t find them in this book.

This book is best pared with: A steaming mug of apple cider and a glowing jack-o-lantern. I know it’s crazy to be thinking of Halloween in April, but what can I say?  I’ll say it loud, I’m a Halloween freak and I’m proud!

Soundtrack pick: Paramore–Haunted

Overall: To quote Randy Jackson: It was just OK for me, dog. I’m not itching to jump right into the next book, but I’ll probably get around to it. The author really didn’t crack open the case of the missing best friend until the very last chapter, so I’m hoping she’ll get down to business in the next book. Plus I want to figure out what the heck is going on with Caspian’s inexplicable link to the Headless Horseman!

The Countdown to CeeCee-o-Ween! Another Sleepy Hollow Fail

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CeeCee is having a devil of a time with this fun Halloweenie book series! She regrets to inform you that we wasted our time on another craptastic rendition of Washington Irving’s seminal masterpiece, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Seriously, why didn’t we just re-read the original?

18400224Oh man…this book is quite bad. I see there are many glowing reviews by people who got what they needed out of this mess. If you’re in it for the paint-by-the-numbers harlequin romance, than you won’t be disappointed. It’s all about Katrina and Ichabod falling into insta-love and making out in secret hidey holes. The horseman was just a nuisance that got in the way of their forbidden trysts. BORING!

Needless to say, I learned my lesson about these YA Sleepy Hollow books. I need action, adventure, bloody headless bodies! Star-crossed love sagas, not so much.

As for anachronisms–and trust me, there are many–I’m pretty sure the term “time management” was not a thing back in Washington Irving’s day.

Now if you, like me, are a Sleepy Hollow purist, I highly recommend listening to a couple books on tape.

 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Rabbit Ears: A Classic Tale
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Read by Glenn Close, a most talented voice artist, this is a terrific little audiobook full of sound effects and spooky atmosphere. A good G-rated version of the tale for the kiddos. I really must get my hands on this hardback because the illustrations are off the charts amazing!

 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: A Radio Dramatization

61xtb2gmell-_sl300_There’s a lot of traditional Sleepy Hollow audiobooks out there, but this one is probably the best. It’s got sound effects, voice actors and lots of creeptastic scenes. It’s like watching a movie in your head! I listen to this one every year when I’m out walking dogs around the spooky lake at night!