The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson, you crafty, crafty woman! Only one dark genius can create such an insidious haunted house story with scares that go far beyond the horror genre tropes. On the surface, this is a story about a paranormal research experiment gone awry in a legendary haunted house. I know you’re thinking, “I’ve read this same story 100 times!” Not so fast, chief! Sure, the characters and the house may seem cliched, but trust me, there’s more to the story. It’s a slow burn, but the tension rises as our unreliable narrator slowly loses touch with reality. Remember the boiler scene from The Shining? Well, it’s kind of like that only the climax is more…implosive, I should say.

If you love a good scare, you’ve come to the right place.  And trust me, this house is so much more than a cavernous monstrosity filled with drafty hallways, spooky statues and bumps in the night. The slow descent into madness begins with some foreboding words from the superstitious housemaid Mrs. Dudley.

“We couldn’t even hear you, in the night….
No one could. No one lives any nearer than town. No one else will come any nearer than that.”
“I know,” Eleanor said tiredly.
“In the night,” Mrs. Dudley said, and smiled outright. “In the dark,” she said..”

But perhaps the source of fear isn’t the house. Something isn’t right with our leading lady Eleanor. Sure, she’s a sweet little milquetoast of a woman. But you know what they say, be careful of the quiet ones. We learn early on that she’s a little off her rocker, but I do appreciate her misanthropic sentiments about society and family. I particularly liked this scene in the diner when an insolent little girl, who is used to drinking her milk out of a special cup with stars, refuses to go along to get along.

“Don’t do it, Eleanor told the little girl; insist on your cup of stars; once they have trapped you into being like everyone else you will never see your cup of stars again; don’t do it; and the little girl glanced at her, and smiled a little subtle, dimpling, wholly comprehending smile, and shook her head stubbornly at the glass. Brave girl, Eleanor thought; wise, brave girl.”

Early in the story, we learn that the house is imperceptibly crooked. It appears to be well built, but, as the professor says, something’s just a wee bit off. Hmmm..sounds like the house and Eleanor have quite a bit in common. Her blossoming love affair with the house prompts me to think about the toxicity of co-dependent relationships, and the darkness that can manifest from people feeding off of each other. Deep thoughts, I know. Like I said, this book–if you let it–will take you to the dark places.

“Journeys end in lovers meeting; I have spent an all but sleepless night, I have told lies and made a fool of myself, and the very air tastes like wine. I have been frightened half out of my foolish wits, but I have somehow earned this joy; I have been waiting for it for so long.”

As she becomes one with the haunted house, my equilibrium is thrown off. Being inside the mind of a mentally-deteriorating person is far and away more frightening than maniacal clowns or a ghostly girl crawling out of a deep, dark well. Perhaps because I felt like I was slowly but surely being swallowed whole by that spiraling dark hole in the ground. Somebody throw me a flashlight already!!!

I could go on and on about the themes Jackson masterfully folded into this book, but what would be the fun of reading it if I ruined all the surprises? To be fair, I’m not even sure I have it figured out. And therein lies the genius of Jackson’s works. The best horror stories are the ones that leave you dumbfounded. Sure, you can have theories but the answers will forever remain unknown.

Happy hauntings, everyone! Oh and I should note that I will NOT be writing a book/TV series comparison because there’s no way any Hollywood production could capture the horrors that only Shirley Jackson can produce in writing.

Lil Bootz’s Book of the Month: The Persian Always Meows Twice

Meowza! Lil Bootz and I are super excited about this new mystery series that is just purrfect for people like me who are crazy for crime-solving kitties! Much to my delight, I found this book in a “get well” gift basket filled with pink balloons, chocolate bars and dog toys. Needless to say, my friends know me well! And lucky for me, I had a whole week off from work to polish off the book and all my chocolate goodies. What can be better than books, chocolate and days upon days of free time? I ask you!

What I love most about this new series is that the cats have a starring role! Normally in my magical cat-themed mysteries, the critters rarely share the limelight with the main characters. But in this mystery, the story revolves around Cassie, a professional cat groomer, and her feline clients. In fact, a fluffy Persian becomes the main attraction when her owner gets bludgeoned in his stately mansion. Soon after discovering his lifeless body in the foyer, she swoops up his gorgeous Persian, Harpo, before she ends up at a shelter–or worse–in the hands of a shady family member who has something to gain from the mysterious man’s demise.

Why did someone snuff out a seemingly harmless millionaire? Did it have something to do with a potential client who is on the verge of patenting new technology that could change the face of data encryption? What do all of these so-called bereaved people have to gain from adopting poor little Harpo?

It’s up to our intrepid cat groomer, Cassie, to answer these questions before the fluffball ends up in the wrong hands. Lucky for Harpo, nobody can claim her until the will is out of probate. That gives Cassie plenty of time to question the many shady suspects–from the bitter wife to the schmarmy executive assistant to the greedy, entrepreneurial  sister. And if that’s no enough fancy feast on her plate, Cassie also has do deal with a stalking ex-boyfriend who is seriously cramping her style with her new crush, the hot veterinarian.

Like a cracked-open can of seafood medley, there’s a lot going on here! And there’s definitely something fishy about Harpo’s many potential adopters. But have no fear! No cat will be harmed under Cassie’s watch–and you better believe she’ll fight tooth and nail to save her furbabies and four-legged clients from abusers. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of this leading lady and I can’t wait to see what’s for store for her in the next installment. This is definitely a win for all my fellow cat ladies out there who enjoy a good whodunnit. Four paws up!

Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay



You know, I really don’t care for home invasion horror movies/books because that shit is way too scary–and not in a good way. Next to being eaten alive by a Great White (or my newest nightmare, a Megalodon), home-invasion is at the top of my greatest fears list. That said, I didn’t even think twice about reading this book because it’s penned by Paul Tremblay, the one contemporary horror author who knows exactly how to hit that sweet spot of terror! Read my review of Head Full of Ghosts and you’ll see what I mean.

Also, Stephen King talked me into it.

“A tremendous book―thought-provoking and terrifying, with tension that winds up like a chain. The Cabin at the End of the World is Tremblay’s personal best. It’s that good.” — Stephen King

So let’s talk about this winding chain of tension. I had to tear through this thing in a matter of hours because it just got weirder and weirder and I just needed to know where it was all going!  It’s like driving down a mountain with no breaks. I’m hit with so many blind corners, but if I keep a death grip on the steering wheel maybe I’ll reach the bottom where it’s safe and everything will be OK!

Like his previous books, horrible forces envelop a hapless all-American dysfunctional family. In this story, the family–comprised of a gay scholarly couple and their adopted daughter–is more functional than others.  Everything’s going great on their family vacation out in the woods…away from anyone who could hear them scream. The terror begins when a hulking stranger approaches the daughter while she’s out in the field experimenting with grasshoppers. Right from the get-go, his overly friendly demeaner seems just a tad off-putting. And just when the girl senses the red flags, more of his friends come out of the shadows–and they’re all brandishing homemade medieval weapons. He assures her that they aren’t going to hurt her, but that her family will have to make some very difficult decisions. Let the games begin!

What I thought would pan out like one of those cat-and mouse Purge movies, ended up being much more terrifying.  It’s what I consider to be a “chose your own adventure” story that leaves it up to the readers to decide if supernatural forces are at work or if these home-invaders are just a bunch of doomsday nutjobs.  I tell you what, after learning about the characters’ backstories and how they all found each other, I’m leaning toward the supernatural. But one never knows.

I’d love to go more into detail about the horrific happenings in that cabin, but I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. And if you want to jump on this rollercoaster ride, I suggest you go into it blind. Another piece of advice: Do not listen to this on audio because this is a story you’ll want to zip through at warp speed. There are some frustrating spots when the author interjects a suspenseful scene with a flashback to a character’s backstory. I’m a big fan of character development, but less is more when I’m glued to the pages, dying to see what happens with this alleged apocalyptic scenario!

Aside from that minor gripe, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys suspense stories that end with a “What the hell just happened?” twist. The genius in Tremblay’s writing is that he doesn’t spell everything out to his readers. It’s up to us to ferret out the symbols and clues and tie them all together. To be honest, I still don’t have a solid theory about what went down. Maybe that’s the point. Not everything on this planet–or beyond–can be figured out and tied together in a neat little bow.

Birthday Book Haul!

Speaking from personal experience, I don’t recommend scheduling a super scary surgical procedure on your birthday–especially if it’s your very first time going under the knife! But hey, I needed peace of mind, so I put on my big girl panties (or inflatable surgery gown, I should say) and got exactly what I needed: a clean bill of health! What better birthday present could a girl ask for? You know what else turned my frown upside down? A bounty of gifts, flowers, cookies and cakes from my adoring fan club!

Not only am I elated that I get to live 100 more years, I am also super stoked to have such an amazing circle of friends and family. I’m especially impressed with my husband who isn’t afraid to purchase pink, glittery cozy mysteries at Barnes & Noble.


Just look at this basket-o-books!!! I don’t even know where to begin. Should I start with the cozy Halloween-themed mystery set in a bookstore/lighthouse? Or perhaps I should dive into the second installment of the Georgia Peach mystery series. Considering how much I loved, Peaches and Scream, I’m sure it’s a winner. And then there’s the magical bakeshop mystery! I love this series–especially the hot fireman boyfriend. Read all about him here! 



Thanks to Lil Bootz, I didn’t have to make the tough decision. Since she’s the boss of me, I have no choice but to read The Persian Always Meows Twice. Psst…don’t tell her, but this was already my first choice.

Now I’m off to the picturesque town of Chadwick to play a game of cat and mouse with Cassie McGlone and her feline sidekicks!

Lil Bootz’s Cozy Corner: Mardi Gras Murder & Killer Green Tomatoes

Lil Bootz and I are super excited to get advance review copies of these two books via the wide, wonderous world of NetGalley. Hooray for free books! The only problem, however, is that both of these mysteries are devoid of cats. With promises of catnip and extra helpings of party mix, she reluctantly decided to humor me. Here we bring you two cozies for those of us who enjoy downhome cooking, small town mystique and jigsaw puzzle mysteries.

Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron

It’s been a while since I’ve journeyed to the Crozet Plantation B&B, located on the outskirts of the Big Easy. When I saw this cover, I immediately requested an ARC so I could party at Mardi Gras with Maggie and her fam in the land of gators and gumbo. As expected, this was a fun, atmospheric mystery filled with eccentric Southerners, downhome Cajun cooking and deep, dark family secrets. The story begins with an unidentified dead body washing up on the B&B’s property after a major storm. Who was this stranger and what was he doing in Pelican of all places? Things get even weirder when someone knocks off one of the judges for the local teen queen pageant. It’s up to our fearless sleuth—and her two doggie sidekicks—to solve both mysteries before Pelican’s annual Mardi Gras parade. And if that’s not stressful enough, she’s also got another vexing mystery involving an absentee boyfriend. There’s quite a few guessing games to sort out, but I had a lot of fun playing along! Like a pot full of Tug’s jambalaya, there’s a lot going on here! We’ve got a shady cast of suspects involving stage moms (aka momtestants), competitive teenage girls, Southern bluebloods and a very bitter wife. So many people had something to gain from the town historian’s murder—and it’s up to Maggie to piece together the clues before the king cake gets cut! If you enjoy atmospheric mysteries set in the South, I highly recommend this series. Fans of Jana Deleon will enjoy the humorous banter and ridiculous subplots. Poor Tug…I hope he eventually bonds with that new gumbo pot.

Killer Green Tomatoes by Lynn Cahoon 

Surprisingly I have only just now discovered this talented author who has written dozens of cozy mysteries. How’d that happen? Perhaps not enough kitties on the covers? If it wasn’t for the big, goofy St. Bernard gracing the cover, I don’t think I would’ve even noticed this new farm-to-table series. Also, I’m a big fan of comfort food, so the restaurant setting was most enjoyable. A word to the wise: You must not read this on an empty stomach. Otherwise all the sumptuous entrees in Angie’s kitchen will drive you bonkers! Come to think of it, I could go for some fried green tomatoes right about now…but I digress. This is a fun little whodunnit with an interesting cast of characters—from the womanizing tomato vendor (and No. 1 murder suspect!) to the serial-dater best friend to the gossipy townies. For the most part, Angie’s a likeable gal with a good heart. It just irks me that she’s a workaholic and clearly has no time for her incredibly sweet boyfriend. There’s zero fireworks between the two—especially on Angie’s end. And it just seems like it’s only fair for her to let the poor man go so another lucky single lady can cash in on that action. Don’t get me wrong, Angie’s a great gal. She looks after her neighbors and makes her team of restaurant workers feel like family. I just wish she could let loose a little and maybe partake in a hobby that doesn’t involve work. Perhaps a mystery cruise is in order for the next installment! Aside from those minor gripes, this is a solid mystery series that left me guessing until the final chapters.  And—spoiler alert!—there’s a yummy fried zucchini recipe included in the back pages! Now if you’ll please excuse me, I have some experimenting to do in the kitchen.

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

As many of you know, self-help books are hit or miss. Don’t even get me started on the positive psychology BS that involves “the universe” and victim-blaming psychobabble. Louse Hay, I’m talking to you! So I was a little skeptical when a friend recommended this book to help me sort out my misanthropic views on life.

Just one chapter into it and I was completely enraptured! This book sang to my soul in so many ways and I encourage everyone to read it—even those who aren’t on the cusp of leaving civilization to live in an igloo.

I don’t even know where to begin with this review because Brene Brown was dropping wisdom like bullets from a fighter jet! Perhaps I shall break it down into quotes.

Essentially, the wilderness is one’s true self. For many of us, this wild, untamed forest remains unexplored and, perhaps in some cases, roped off. This is the place where truth and integrity lie. But to fit in, or to climb ahead while kicking down, people become disconnected from their inner core and lose touch with their purpose in life. It takes a lot of practice and courage to tap into this realm of consciousness when we feel like something’s off. And when we do, we run the risk of being ostracized. It’s a rather esoteric concept, but I think I get it.

“Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness — an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”

THIS RIGHT HERE IS EVERYTHING! Sorry, I don’t mean to scream, but this passage is so on point with what I’m observing in the animal rescue “industry.” I’ll just leave it at that to spare you from a long soapbox tirade.

“When the culture of any organization mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of a system and those in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of the individuals who serve that system or who are served by that system, you can be certain that the shame is systemic, the money is driving ethics, and the accountability is all but dead.”

I especially appreciated her thoughts on those who find solace in self-segregating echo chambers, where anger gets amplified and opposing voices are silenced. I found myself nodding profusely throughout this entire chapter because it perfectly illustrates what’s driving our highly polarized society.

“We confuse belonging with fitting in, but the truth is that belonging is just in our heart, and when we belong to ourselves and believe in ourselves above all else, we belong everywhere and nowhere.”

As for the haters, I have a new outlook on why they spew their venom in such terrible ways. Of course, we all have to deal with these miserable people, but it’s good to be aware of what’s lying underneath their slimy reptilian scales. Oops, that was a rather dehumanizing turn of phrase, but hey I’m a work in progress. This passage really helped me understand my bullies, thus reminding me to never sink to their level.

“Dehumanizing and holding people accountable are mutually exclusive. Humiliation and dehumanizing are not accountability or social justice tools, they’re emotional off-loading at best, emotional self-indulgence at worst. And if our faith asks us to find the face of God in everyone we meet, that should include the politicians, media, and strangers on Twitter with whom we most violently disagree. When we desecrate their divinity, we desecrate our own, and we betray our faith.”

Toward the end of the book, the author brought me to tears when she shared some anecdotes about people coming together in times of grief and happiness. I really choked up—in a good way—when she recounted a movie theater experience when all the Harry Potter fans raised their wands to the sky. Why? Because they believe in the light.

“Not enough of us know how to sit in pain with others. Worse, our discomfort shows up in ways that can hurt people and reinforce their own isolation. I have started to believe that crying with strangers in person could save the world.”

CeeCee’s Celtic Celebration!

UntitledTop of the morning to ya, lads and lassies! My wee four-legged bonnie lass is doing an Irish jig in anticipation of St. Pattie’s Day weekend!  By the luck of the Irish, we found some literary treasures under the rainbow. So grab yourself a cuppa—or perhaps an Irish whiskey—and curl up with these cozy little whodunits!

Off Kilter By Hannah Reed

The gist: As with all our hapless sleuths in the cozy mystery genre, Eden Elliott is at a crossroads in her life. With nothing anchoring her to the city life (lucky!), she decides to take a prolonged sabbatical in a quaint Scottish hamlet, where she can blissfully write her little heart out and complete her first novel. Lo and behold a worker is found dead—stabbed by his own sheers—on her new friend’s sheep farm. Someone is out to sabotage the farm and all evidence points to the new owner.  It’s up to our intrepid aspiring novelist to untangle the twisted web of nefarious family members to save her friend from a life in prison—or worse!

What worked: I picked up this book so I could whisk myself away to a quiet Scottish village with quirky characters, cozy bars with crackling fireplaces, and miles of rolling green pastures dotted with fluffy white sheep. This solid little mystery delivered all that in spades—and I can’t wait to read the next installment in this series to see if Eden will eventually fall for the town’s most eligible bachelor and set down roots in the lovely little hamlet of GlenKillen.

What irked me: Considering that Eden went to a tiny little town to stay put and write a book, why did she feel the need to rent a car—especially since she had to learn to drive stick shift on dangerous hairpin roads? This was a golden opportunity for her to go without a car and travel around on a bike like J.B. Fletcher. How cool would that be?

Overall: This is a great first installment to a fun little mystery series for those of us who enjoy traveling the world variously through books! Eden is a likeable, yet flawed, character who clearly has an interesting journey ahead filled with romance and dead bodies!


Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O’Conner

The gist: Siobhán O’Sullivan is struggling to keep her family bistro—and her five siblings—afloat in the aftermath of her parents’ fatal car accident. Things go from bad to worse when a dead body is found inside the bistro and all evidence points to her alcoholic brother. Someone is clearly out to harm the “O’Sullivan Six,” and it’s up to our brown bread-baking sleuth to ferret out the killer before she loses her brother and the family business.

What worked: Siobhán is a girl after my own heart. When she’s not baking brown bread (whatever that is) or keeping her five siblings in line, she’s visiting the auto shop and pining over a pink scooter. I can totally relate! She’s also a lioness when it comes to protecting her brood. It’ll be interesting to see what pans out in the future. Will she fulfill her dreams of going off to college and living the big city life? Or will she fall in love with the hot detective and stay put in Kilbane? There’s also the hint of a love triangle forming with an entrepreneurial Yank. I’m a sucker for these dangling carrots so I’m off to the bookstore to get my next fix!

What irked me: SO MANY CHARACTERS! This is a constant struggle with cozy mysteries. Some books are easier to follow than others, but this one revolves around a family of six—plus a large cast of townies. Also, what in tarnations is brown bread? It can’t be just boring ol’ wheat bread, right? I need lots of savory details!

Overall: Another solid whodunit with a plot-twist ending I didn’t see coming! It’s hard to pull the Irish wool over my eyes, but this author managed to divert my suspicions with some clever red herrings. This is a fun little Irish getaway filled with lovable characters, small town charm, dangerous encounters and a dash of romance!