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.

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!

 

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!

 

Countdown to CeeCee-o-Ween! Locke and Key by Joe Hill

14729399_971074896354644_489282906771431935_nCeeCee and I aren’t big into comic books or superheroes, so finding a book to go with her Wonder Woofer costume was kind of a stretch. I did some digging into my dark and twisted reading list and discovered the most horrifically perfect comic book to feature in the second installment of my CeeCee-O-Ween series!

joehilllockekeyAudiobook lovers, eat your heart out! The highly produced, dramatized audio version of Joe Hill’s Locke and Key is far and away the best book on tape in the history of all time. For reals, yo! This audiobook is legit. There’s musical interludes, sound effects and quality performances by multiple B-list actors. It was like watching a movie–only better because I could use my own imagination!

As for the story, it is–in true Joe Hill fashion–waaaaaay out there. If you’ve read Horns, you know what I’m talking about. It revolves around this grieving, dysfunctional family that moved out to a haunted mansion after the father was slashed to death by a crazed teenager. Located in an East Coast hamlet called Lovecraft (a nice little nod to the most disturbed horror writer of all time), the house of horrors is saturated with a host of malevolent spirits. One spirit in particular is hell-bent on destroying the family–and everything in its wake–to get a hold of some magical keys that will unlock the ultimate Pandora’s Box.

The book starts out like a traditional gothic horror novel, but once the kids embark on their scavenger hunt throughout the dark corridors of Locke house, it morphs into a fantasy thrillride. There’s astral-projecting, evil-infested caves, and even some creeptastic elements of The Monkey’s Paw thrown into the mix.

If you’re a fan of fantasy/horror, you’re in for a treat. This is one audiobook I’ll be “reading” again and again and again!

Gizzy’s Halloween Treat!

gizzy_dracula (2)Happy Halloween, fellow bookworms! In honor of my most favorite holiday, I bring you a roundup of incredibly spooky reads for a blustery, or in my case muggy, Halloween night!

Last October I rounded up a handful of nostalgic Halloween reads, but this year, I’m much more in the mood for balls-to-the-wall frightening tales of blood-sucking fiends, demons and nightly visitors from the great beyond. Here are a few deliciously creepy books that are sure to keep you glued to the page way past the midnight hour.  Pleasant nightmares…and pay no attention to the scratching on the window. I’m sure it’s just the wind….

The Shining by Stephen King
11588From Goodreads: Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

 Ghost Story by Peter Straub 51Y3oJ8duSLFrom Goodreads: For four aging men in the terror-stricken town of Milburn, New York, an act inadvertently carried out in their youth has come back to haunt them. Now they are about to learn what happens to those who believe they can bury the past — and get away with murder. Peter Straub’s classic bestseller is a work of “superb horror” (The Washington Post Book World) that, like any good ghost story, stands the test of time — and conjures our darkest fears and nightmares.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
153025From Goodreads: Aging death-metal rock legend Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals…a used hangman’s noose…a snuff film. But nothing he possesses is as unique or as dreadful as his latest purchase off the Internet: a one-of-a-kind curiosity that arrives at his door in a black heart-shaped box…a musty dead man’s suit still inhabited by the spirit of its late owner. And now everywhere Judas Coyne goes, the old man is there—watching, waiting, dangling a razor blade on a chain from his bony hand.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
179780From Goodreads: Four decades after it first shook the nation, then the world, William Peter Blatty’s thrilling masterwork of faith and demonic possession returns in an even more powerful form. Raw and profane, shocking and blood-chilling, it remains a modern parable of good and evil and perhaps the most terrifying novel ever written.

The Right Hand of Evil by John Saul
6573From Goodreads: When the Conways move into their ancestral home in Louisiana after the death of an estranged aunt, it is with the promise of a new beginning. But the house has a life of its own. Abandoned for the last forty years, surrounded by thick trees and a stifling sense of melancholy, the sprawling Victorian house seems to swallow up the sunlight. Deep within the cold cellar and etched into the very walls is a long, dark history of the Conway name—a grim bloodline poisoned by suicide, strange disappearances, voodoo rituals, and rumors of murder. But the family knows nothing of the soul-shattering secrets that snake through generations of their past. They do not know that terror awaits them. For with each generation of the Conways comes a hellish day of reckoning. . . .

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
293101From Goodreads: In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the property – complete with boathouse and swimming pool – and the price had been too good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror…

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
11279From Goodreads: In the summer of 1960 in Elm Haven, Illinois, five 12-year-old boys forge the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. An ancient, sinister evil lurks in the dark, and when a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the deepest night, the people know it marks the beginning of terror. Now Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a fraternal war of blood against an arcane abomination.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
5413From Goodreads: Something strange is going on in Jerusalem’s Lot … but no one dares to talk about it. By day, ‘Salem’s Lot is a typical modest New England town; but when the sun goes down, evil roams the earth. The devilishly sweet insistent laughter of a child can be heard echoing through the fields, and the presence of silent looming spirits can be felt lurking right outside your window. Stephen King brings his gruesome imagination to life in this tale of spine tingling horror.

What’s your favorite scary story? Post a comment and tell me all the gory details!

Short & Sweet Sundays: The Unseen Volume 1: It Begins/Rest In Peace

In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! 

The Gist: (From the publisher) Out walking alone one rainy night, Lucy becomes convinced that someone – or something – is following her. Spooked, she ducks into a cemetery to try and lose her stalker. Panicking in the darkness, she slips and stumbles into an open grave – only to discover she is not alone in there. She manages to escape, but soon begins having terrifying visions and dreams – and she still can’t shake the feeling of an unseen presence, always watching, waiting… Who was the girl in the grave? And what did she do to Lucy?

What I liked: The deliciously spooky atmosphere. Filled with overgrown cemeteries, lurking shadows and sinister stalkers, this book really filled my pumpkin soul with the Halloween spirit! Next to Barbara Michaels, Richie Tankersley Cusick is my go-to author for a good old fashioned gothic ghost story.

Favorite character: The two dark and mysterious boys keep the sparks flying, but of all the characters, my favorite is Lucy’s unlikely sidekick, Dakota Montana. She’s weird, bookish and totally fascinated by all things paranormal. Hmm…come to think of it, she and I have a bit in common! A devout believer in ghostly forces, she’s the only one who can help Lucy ward off the evil forces. Plus her family owns an eclectic used book store/coffee house, so that really adds to her cool factor.

What I need more of: Answers! I need to know what the heck is stalking Lucy and tormenting her dreams at night. Is it a vampire or some sort of demonic incubus?  And what’s the backstory with the hot priest? Seems like there might be something sinister lurking under that good-boy facade. Guess I’ll have to get my hands on the next book to find out!

Gizzy gives this book two paws up!

Why I picked this one up: Richie Tankersley Cusick and I go way back…like to the mid-90s. I haven’t read one of her books since high school, so I figured it was time to revisit one of the authors who helped me escape my teenage angst. Without the Vampire Diaries (the books, not the WB series), R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through that craptastic chapter in my life. Come to think of it…that cute Luke Perry lookalike boy in fifth period English kind of helped.

This book is best pared with: A hot caramel apple cider and a Midnight Syndicate playlist.

Overall: This is the perfect curl-up-at-homer for a blustery night by the fire. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book from start to finish in one day, but the story just sucked me right in! Like chocolate, this book is addictive and it leaves me wanting more. Keep in mind this is young adult, so if you’re looking for a tight-plotted mystery, you may want to grab a Harlan Coben title instead. But if you’re in the mood for a Gothic ghost story loaded with campy atmosphere, give this author a try.