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.