CeeCee & Lil Bootz’s 13 Books of Halloween

Happy Halloween, folks! In honor of our most favorite holiday, my two little goblins CeeCee and Lil Bootz rounded up a dozen more dark and devilish reads for our 13 Books of Halloween extravaganza! Nothing like waiting until the last minute to deliver on our book blogging challenge. You know how it goes, so little time, so many horror books piled up on the TBR stack! Without further ado, here is our bubbling couldren of books filled with ghosts, ghoulies, serial killers and spooky woodland sprites!

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Hold onto your hats and glasses, folks, because this is a wild ride! This is my first foray into Lucy Foley’s books, and I can assure you it won’t be my last! So we all know from the dustcover teaser that this group of friends partying at an isolated snowy lodge on the Scottish moor is doomed. By New Year’s Day, one will be killed, another will be the killer–but who?! They all have deep, dark secrets that slowly unfold as the tensions roll to a simmering boil. These people may look like well-dressed Oxford-educated yuppies, but they are really just MESSED UP! Sit back, get some popcorn and watch the trainwreck unfold.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier 

In a word, the best way to describe my thoughts on this book is CRINGE! Yes, yes, I know that this was written way back in the days when women vacuumed around their husbands’ feet while wearing stilettos and hoopskirts, and this is all just a product of the times. Yet, I still couldn’t help hating Maxim de Winter so, so, SO much—and then there’s his whirlwind lover Rebecca, who expertly played the part of the child bride, emphasis on the word “child.” He speaks to her like an abuser chastising a beaten-down dog, and she just ingratiates herself over and over again. Their dynamic is terrible and awful and repugnant, and I hate it so very, very much. That said, I should give credit where credit is due to the author’s talent for prose, tone and foreshadowing. If the characters weren’t so utterly repulsive, I would have truly adored this Gothic “romance” (I’m using that term lightly since it’s more of a codependent, abusive relationship) with a stunning setting amidst the backdrop of a potentially haunted mansion ran by a creep-tastic battle-axe of a housemaid. Props to Mrs. Danvers for keeping me intrigued! That ol’ bitch got what she deserved in the end–HA!

Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

Sorry, y’all, but his is another flop. The premise is great—a tweenage girl who is trailed by a ghost after joining her father on his haunted bus tour of Chicago. I did like the mystery behind the ghost, which provided some historical insights to an overlooked turn-of-the-century nautical tragedy, yet it did not offset the obnoxiousness that is the main character. This girl is a scientist—and she’ll keep telling you about it ad nauseam. However, I have yet to see her in a lab or doing anything to prove she is indeed a scientist. This is just another problem when authors forget to show, not tell. This girl is also a brat with some serious non-problems. I don’t get why she’s so upset about her father’s super cool ghost touring gig, and why she finds it so humiliating. What’s more, she refuses to go to him for help—a person who would truly believe her haunting—because of nonsensical reasons. Also, the dialogue seemed way too mature for a preteen, so I’m wondering why this was created for middle-grade readers. Either way, I’m over it and moving on to my tried-and-true middle-grade thriller authors.

Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn

This right here might be Mary Downing Hahn’s best piece of work! I love everything about this book—the murder mystery, the secretive small townsfolk, the spooky dilapidated theme park—it’s all good fun! I also just love a summer story involving kids tooling around town on their bikes looking for adventures and mysteries to solve. I really enjoyed watching the friendship flourish between the adorkable boy next door (think Kimmy Kibbler meets Erkle) and the new kid on the block Logan. They make a great crime-solving team, and I really enjoyed tagging along on their adventures!


The Haunting of Ashburn House by Darcy Coates

I’ve attempted to read a couple of books by Darcy Coates but had to DNF due to questionable, undeveloped characters. I wish I could say her shortcomings improved with this book, but alas, it was another dud. To her credit, she paints a great premise with a derelict old mansion, spooky nocturnal noises and unsolved mysteries. However, I have zero interest in any of this when the main character makes ZERO SENSE! How is it that a seemingly intelligent freelance writer cannot scrape together two pennies to even feed herself? I get that her deceased mother had medical expenses, but even in the toughest times, can’t some government programs assist? Like foods stamps, maybe? Also, since her clients aren’t even paying her, why not just get a job in town rather than sitting alone in a house night after night starving to death? I mean, even a low-paying, demeaning custodial job would be better than starvation, no? I just couldn’t make sense out of her situation. I also didn’t understand her lack of curiosity about her new house. It’s HER HOUSE, so why is she tiptoeing around the place like a tentative houseguest? Why isn’t she curious about the many cavernous rooms—hell if she looked around enough, maybe she could find some spare coins to go buy herself a Whopper. I could get into the haunted house part, but I’ll just save you the trouble by advising you to skip this mess. The climax was WAY too insane, and not in a good way. In fact, it was rather laughable, which is not what I want in a scary story.


Survive the Night by Riley Sager

If you’re going to read any of the books on this list, make it this one! Riley Sager is at the top of my list of favorite contemporary authors! Not once have I been let down—and this book might just be the most suspenseful out of them all! Imagine taking a red-eye road trip with a mysterious stranger behind the wheel after your BFF gets murdered by a serial killer on the loose. Through every twist and turn along the dark, desolate icy roads, I was on the edge of my seat wondering who exactly would survive this ill-fated night. This author is a master at character development, almost making me feel like I was the one in the passenger seat doubting my own sanity. Our main character Charlie has some…issues…leading readers to wonder what’s reality and what’s just a “movie in her mind.” I loved the throwback to the mid-90s back when Nirvana dominated the radio waves and cell phone distractions weren’t a thing. I’ll tell you one thing—I’ll never listen to “Come as You Are” the same way again. Such a perfect song for the theme of the book.


The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
 

Ugh…this was bad, y’all. I found this in the horror section, yet I think it needs to be moved to comedy. I’m not saying that to be mean; I just think humor (the dry, sardonic variety) is more in this author’s wheelhouse. I was lured in by the premise of a woman cleaning her dead grandmother’s house surrounded by spooky woods and malevolent entities scratching at the windows. Yet what I got was a hot mess of a story with an increasingly annoying main character who can’t help but crack jokes even while being led into the bellows of the forest by a murderous seven-foot-tall woodland sprite. At that point, I had to stop reading because it was just plain silly. Also, animal lovers, I should warn you that there are gratuitous scenes of animal mutilations in the woods, the worst of the worst of horror genre tropes. Thankfully the dog Bongo (the only character I was rooting for) was able to bypass the serial deer killer, so that’s something, I guess. Either way, this had the potential of being a very spooky story, but the humorous quips just kept throwing off the vibe. If the protagonist isn’t spooked enough to stop cracking jokes, how are the readers supposed to buy into it? DNF city, y’all!


The Haunting by Lindsey Duga

Confession—I love middle-grade horror as much as I love devouring candy-corn pumpkins on All Hallows Eve! Like a shiny lure, this cover hooked me in and reeled me right up to the checkout counter, where I told the clerk, “It’s for my niece.” Life is too short to begrudge ourselves of these guilty pleasures, no? These pocket-sized books are perfect for while I’m walking my dog, who moves at the speed of a geriatric turtle. Hmm…that would be a great costume for next Halloween. But I digress, this book is a fun, creepy read set in the horse-and-buggy times of the Victorian era, which I love! It follows a little orphan and her dog who hit the jackpot with wealthy adopters and a big, stately haunted mansion! Think Daddy Warbucks meets the Munsters. Spooky happenings ensue when a ghostly little girl keeps leading little orphan Emily into mischief, thus rocking the boat—or should I say yacht—and putting her in danger of being returned to the depressing orphanage and its slew of mean girls. I thoroughly enjoyed solving this little mystery with Emily and her pup amidst the spooky backdrop of a haunted mansion with hidden rooms and deep, dark secrets. I’m already planning on using my next audible credit on this author’s next book!


The Thirteenth Cat by Mary Downing Hahn

I love all of Mary Downing Hahn’s middle-grade thrillers…except this one. Aside from the fact that this gets the Cover of the Year Award, this book was a big, fat dud. It is such a big departure from her other ghost stories, and that’s not a good thing. If you’re into far-fetched fantasies involving humans being turned into cats and living together in some weird, witchy colony, this one’s for you. I honestly don’t know why I even finished this thing.


Apart in the Dark by Ania Ahlborn

This new-to-me author is one to watch! Both of the novellas inside this book are quality reads that are sure to win over fans of “Head Full of Ghosts.” The second novella, “I Call Upon Thee,” is so devilishly creepy—the kind of horror that gets under your skin and makes you turn on that extra bright night light before going to bed.  It follows Maggie, a marine biology student who begrudgingly rushes home to attend to her sister’s funeral arrangements. There seems to be a curse on her entire family—a curse that was set in motion when she made the grave mistake of befriending a creepy doll and playing the Ouija board with her friend. Very spooky stuff! The first novella, “The Pretty Ones,” is also quite unsettling, but in a different way. This one is more of a true crime thriller set amidst the 1970s backdrop of the “Summer of Sam” killer that follows a very questionable and fashionably challenged main character. This book is perfect for fans of Paul Trembley and Catriona Ward.

Cemetery Girl Trilogy by Charlaine Harris

I’m giving this two stars for the amazing production work on this “movie in your mind.” The actors and sound effects really took it to the next level! Now for the main character, Calexa. I get that she’s an amnesia victim, but she had the decision-making skills of a kindergartener. If your kidnappers believe you to be dead and dump your body in a graveyard, wouldn’t you want to flee the crime scene in anticipation of them coming back to bury their tracks??? Furthermore, why didn’t the kidnappers return to hide the body? Now on to my next befuddlement. She witnesses a horrific cold-blooded murder in the graveyard and manages to get ahold of the dead girl’s phone. Yet she just stashes the phone in her crypt/home and lies in wait while the search parties comb the neighborhood, all the while letting the killers roam free to murder again. She doesn’t want the police to track her down via GPS, but that could’ve been easily avoided if she just made an anonymous call from the girl’s phone outside of the graveyard and then dumped the darn thing. How hard is that to figure out? I’m sorry, y’all. I tried to enjoy this book for the amazing production value alone, but Calixa was 50 shades of stupid, so I will not be moving on to the next installments of this series. Hard pass.

CeeCee’s Roundup of Murder, Mayhem and Four-Legged Sleuths

UntitledLast night we had the mother of all thunderstorms—the perfect setting for a riveting whodunit! While the shingles were blowing off the roof and my poor doggie was shivering in the closet, I was busy wrapping up the last final chapters of my Chet and Bernie mystery. If you’re in the mood for a good mystery that’s light on the mind-numbing procedural stuff and heavy on cute animals and sassy amateur sleuths, this reading roundup is for you!

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

teagarden_book_a_pAfter watching the Hallmark channel movie—starring none other than Candace Cameron as Aurora (aka Ro) Teagarden—I had to check out this series to see how it compares to the made-for-TV train wreck. I mean, how can the mastermind behind the True Blood series have anything to do with such a snore fest filled with cardboard cutout characters and inane dialogue? Sadly, the literary version is just as disappointing. It has all the annoying tropes that run rampant in the cozy genre: the overbearing, meddling mother, the bossy best friend, the fashionably-challenged leading lady. Seriously, why do so many cozy mystery characters have to dress like lunch ladies? Is this a way to make them more likeable and relatable to the readers? What does that say about cozy mystery fans? What really bothered me about Candace Cameron’s role is that she looked like she stepped right out of the pages of an Anthropologie catalogue, yet people kept nagging her to dress better. And what’s up with those crazy long hair extensions? In the book, the drab librarian has a head of frizzy brown hair. It made no sense that the TV version looks like a freakin Pantene commercial. Although I do have to hand it to Candace, that girl sure has come a long way since Full House. I would love to get her beauty secrets!

The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn

16130393Oh my gawsh! How can I even articulate my complete and total adoration for this detective series? It’s told through the eyes of a big, goofy dog named Chet (aka “Chet the Jet”) who chases down perps and solves crimes with his human partner. I know what you’re thinking. A dog narrating the whole book? That’s got to get old real quick. Well think again! The story moves along at a rapid pace through Chet’s narrative. You see, dogs pick up on a lot of things that human can’t see, smell or hear. With his acute senses, Chet can give the readers some clues that Bernie won’t pick up on until the bad guys start closing in on them. This time, they’re solving a mystery in the Louisiana swamplands—my favorite kind of setting! What starts out as a simple missing persons case soon leads to a tangled web of drug dealers, biker gangs, Big Oil, and one mean-ass alligator named Iko. I love this series for two reasons: the top-notch mystery, and Chet’s unwavering love for Bernie. He is 100 percent devoted to his disheveled Hawaiian shirt-wearing human. In Chet’s eyes, Bernie is pure perfection…well except for when a woman crosses his path. I’d like to think this is how dogs really perceive their humans. The way they look up at us with those adoring eyes, how could they not?

A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller

20575402As with the first book in this new series, the story begins with a most peculiar catastrophe. A gang of masked bandits raid a bakery and make off with 90 pounds of cream cheese. What in the world?! The plot thickens when Daisy’s emotionally fragile employee stabs one of the robbers to death in self-defense. Turns out, he’s just some random dude with no connection to the town whatsoever. In a rural Virginia hamlet devoid of useful law enforcement, Daisy has no other choice but to solve the mystery of the stolen cream cheese on her own. When she’s not piecing together clues, she’s busy at the bakery attending to a big crowd of strangers who’re in town for a geocacher hunt. With so many strangers thrown into the mix, how will she ever narrow down the suspects list? What would a bunch of nerdy geocacher’s want with a mountain of cream cheese? With some help from a rather handsome geocacher, who’s also a hot history professor, she hunts down some leads that all seem to point to an underground moonshine ring. And as the romance heats up between her and the professor, she also starts to feel a gravitational pull toward Rick Balsam, the local moonshine-brewing bad boy. Uh oh, I smell trouble!

As I expected, this mystery series just keep getting better and better. If you’re a sucker for an atmospheric whodunit with feisty female sleuths and steamy romantic tension, this one’s for you! Oh and did I mention that there’s also a crime-solving kitty named Blot? Now that’s the cream cheese icing on the cake!

Friday Finds (Oct. 18)

fridayfinds_bringontheinkFriday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by Should be Reading that showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

Happy Friday everybody!!! Don’t you just love this day of the week? It’s almost as awesome as Saturday, a day I reserve for running ungodly amounts of miles and then crashing into my reading nook for endless hours of book-nerdage.

Here’s all the lovely reads that I can’t wait to devour!

 Picked this one up at the airport
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 Scored this audiobook from the author! Post a comment to win a free download of this audiobook!
Dance-On-His-Grave-by-Sylvia-Dickey-Smith

 Bought this for only five bucks on Audible
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 Downloaded this on my Nook to retain my sanity
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I really have no business buying any more books, but what can I say? I’m a total book junkie! What are y’all reading this weekend? Post a comment and tell me all about it!  To enter the audiobook giveaway, post your answer to this question in a comment below: Who is your favorite strong female protagonist?  The winner’s name will be drawn at random.  Good Luck!

“Wolfsbane and Mistletoe” edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

Once again Christmas has roared to a screeching halt. Time to pluck off the ornaments and rake up the mountainous rubble of shredded paper underneath the tree. Although we must say goodbye to the decorations, fat-riddled goodies and yes, even the falalala Lifetime movies, there’s no reason to stop reading Christmassy stories! If you, like me, need something to stave off those post-holiday blues, you should pick up “Wolfsbane and Mistletoe,” a holiday feast of 15 short stories filled with werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires and oodles of romance! I’d like to give you mini-reviews for all 15, but that could take all day and I have some after-Christmas shopping to do! Here’s a taste of three of my favorites. 

For the funny bone
“S.A.” by JA Konrath 

When Robert Westin Smith attends his first Shapeshifters Anonymous meeting, he discovers Santa has a dark side – close ties with Satan to be exact. The not-so-jolly old elf teamed up with none other than Lucifer himself to rid the world of therianathropes, a special breed of shapeshifters with an appetite for evildoers. With his “salvation army” of demonic bell-ringing elves, Santa leaves toys as consolation prizes for children after devouring their parents. Wow – and I thought Billy Bob Thornton was a bad Santa!  Things really get ridiculous when Santa and his band of minions swoop in on the goofy group of shifters to systematically wipe them off his naughty list. I’m not sure what’s funnier about this story, the were-tortoise shouting “man your battle stations” or a wannabe shapeshifter who likes to dance in a hypo costume. Either way, this twisted-beyond-belief holiday tale is sure to tickle your funny bone!

 For Sookie Stackhouse fans
“Gift Wrap” by Charlaine Harris

For many happy couples, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But for Sookie Stackhouse, it’s downright depressing. Sad, single and alone on Christmas Eve, she can’t stop brooding over her string of fanged and furry ex-boyfriends. Like a gift from the paranormal gods – or perhaps a well-meaning relative – a wounded, naked were-man is left for dead in the winter-bare forest surrounding Sookie’s house. Never one to turn away from a stray were-man (who just so happens to be smoking hot), Sookie wraps him in a blanket and nurses him back to health – and boy does she have good bedside manner! If you aren’t up to date on the series, you may want to catch up before reading this little story because it contains some major spoilers.

 For the naughty list
“Christmas Past” by Keri Arthur

 
This Christmas isn’t so merry for Hannah. Rather than cozying up by the fire with a tall glass of eggnog, she must brave a snowstorm dressed in a skimpy elf costume – jingle bell shoes and all –to hunt down a vampire serial killer with a penchant for Christmas charity collectors. But the humiliating costume and the unrelenting snowstorm isn’t the worst of it. She’s forced to partner up with hunky Brodie James, werewolf expert and chief investigator for Para-Investigations Squad. Owner of a killer smile and smoldering eyes. And the man who broke her heart precisely one year ago. Frostbite and bloodthirsty vampires are the least of Hannah’s worries when Brodie attempts to lure her out of her elf costume and into his bed. Out of all the stories in this collection, this one’s the hottest! I recommend reading this with a hot toddy and a decadent slice of chocolate cake.