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

Published May 24, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

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!

Happy Motherless Day

Published May 10, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

17bees_xlarge1There seems to be no other Hallmark holiday like Valentine’s Day that stirs up such widespread contention among the zillions of people who have zero cause to celebrate.  All the heart-shaped chocolate boxes and jewelry commercials are cruel reminders that they got gypped in the love department. Well that’s exactly how I feel when Mother’s Day rears its ugly head.  The good news, however, is that I get to spend the day lounging around with a good book instead of being smooshed inside a crowded restaurant eating overpriced brunch.  Ha! Take that, Mother’s Day revelers!

So for those of you who enjoy a good book about resourceful women who found their way in the world just fine without a mother, this reading roundup is for you. And hey, on the bright side, all that money you’d be spending on wilting tulips and sappy cards can go toward books. That ought to take the sting out of it, right?

Disclaimer: There are many wonderful, loving mothers out there who deserve to be spoiled on this day. Kudos to them and their lucky children.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

37435Break out that box of tissues! This one’s a tear-jerker. If you feel that you don’t need to read the book because you already saw the movie, think again. The prose, the poetic symbolism, the summertime Southern setting—everything about this book makes my soul sing! Lily’s inner turmoil took me to a familiar place that I’ve locked away, causing stubborn tears rising to the surface for the first time in years. It’s hard to articulate how I felt reading this book. Let’s see…how should I put this? Back when I experienced Disneyland for the first time as a kid, I was blown away by the lights, the sounds, the magic–the bigness of it all. It was like venturing into a whole new vibrant world that I never wanted to leave. Well that’s how I felt on an emotional level while reading Lily’s inner dialogue. Sounds corny, I know, but it’s the truth!   I rooted for her as she found love with her newfound mother figures and came to terms with her abandonment issues. It’s not just one story about Lily’s journey of self-discovery, it’s also a story about standing up for what’s right, demanding justice and equality, and carving a path for yourself in defiance of oppression.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

savingceeceehoneycuttNot since The Secret Life of Bees has a book touched that sweet spot in my heart that yearns for a good ol’ tear-jerking Southern drama.  I instantly fell in love with little CeeCee, a 12-year-old girl who lost her mentally ill mother and found solace in a new tribe of strong Southern women. Like Opal in Because of Win Dixie, CeeCee listens to other people’s lives and provides her own bits of wisdom through hopeful wonder and dead-on honesty. This is an inspiring coming-of-age journey filled with hope, redemption and the divine power of women. Oh how I wish I could spend an afternoon sipping iced tea with this sweet girl and her sisterhood of surrogate mothers in Aunt Tootie’s antebellum mansion…sigh. Go here for my review.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

32234Like listening to the perfect sad song on a bad day, this book has somewhat of a cathartic effect. Anyone who has grown up in a loveless household will identify with Astrid’s struggle. But ultimately this is a story about survival. Let’s face it; a lot of us get the short hand of the stick when it comes to parents. But once we get out from under their thumb, we have the freedom to chart our own destiny.  Astrid’s journey – from a naïve young girl, to a hardened foster kid, to a hopeful young artist –  is a tribute to the resiliency of the human spirit. Go here for my review.

 

 

Made in the USA by Billie Letts

2240527This heart-wrenching story of survival revolves around two orphans, Lutie and Fate, who  hit the road in their dead guardian’s rusted-out Pontiac in search of their estranged father. On their journey, they encounter the darkest side of humanity in a soulless city filled with rapists, murderers, robbers and pimps. When the kids hit rock bottom, their mysterious protector, Juan Vargas, swoops in and brings them into the fold at his family-owned circus in rural Oklahoma.  Away from the harsh city streets, they develop relationships with an eclectic cast of circus performers and slowly but surely come into their own.   Much like her bestselling hit Where the Heart Is, this heartwarming tale explores the depths of family ties, the agony of unexpected loss and the resilience of the human spirit. I recommend this book to anyone who likes feisty female protagonists and rags-to-riches endings. Go here for my review.

This Voice in My Heart by Gilbert Tuhabonye with Gary Brozek

Published May 2, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

539051While yapping with my very tolerant running buddy this morning, I got to talking about Gilbert’s book and how much I wanted to hug him after reading it. You see, Gilbert’s my running coach. Three days a week, I get to run under his watch with some of the coolest, most positive people I’ve ever met. To me, it’s more than just a running group; it’s a fellowship. We all gather together for the love of running and the joy it brings into our lives. Even after the crummiest day of work, I snap out of my funk the moment Gilbert greets me with an enormous smile and a high five.

I’ve always known the Reader’s Digest synapsis of his incredible story —that he was the lone survivor of a gruesome genocide attack—but reading about it in detail left me awestruck. Despite the unimaginable atrocities Gilbert endured, he managed to find a sense of peace and forgiveness. His palpable joyful spirit seeps into us all as we’re running our drills to the sound of him shouting “woo hoo hoo” or singing a hilariously warped rendition of Pharrell’s “Happy” song…at least I think that’s what he’s trying to sing.

While reading the book, I had the unique advantage of badgering the author about his life in Africa. When I could muster enough oxygen after sprinting up a hill the size of a small mountain, I’d pepper him with all sorts of inane questions like what does sorghum beer taste like? How on earth could you not like hamburgers? Were you nervous when you met Bill Clinton?

My Tues/Thurs running group (aka "the party people")

My Tues/Thurs running group (aka “the party people”)

It was really cool getting a peek in to Gilbert’s life growing up amidst cow pastures and miles upon miles of rugged African terrain. With only a radio for entertainment, he spent his days outside loping like a thoroughbred on dirt roads and helping out with farm chores like cutting wood and tending to cows. I know this is going to sound nuts, but where he comes from, running is considered fun—not a punishment for eating too many donuts. To say he’s a gifted runner would be an understatement.  The sport took him to places most of his schoolmates could only dream of—from Olympic training to Disneyworld.

Me, Gilbert, and my running BFF Karen

Me, Gilbert, and my running BFF Karen

It wasn’t until I read the book when I realized that running literally saved his life. He outran the machete-wielding Hutus after they tried to burn him alive in a gas station near his school.   The healing powers of running also helped him find peace and happiness again–a feat that is still a wonder to me after everything he witnessed on that tragic day.

To Gilbert, running is a vacation. We should look forward to meeting up for training because it’s time to cut loose and have some fun after work, he tells us. And you know what, it’s true! All that junk that runs through my mind after work just magically goes away the moment we begin warm ups. Of course, It’s kind of hard to ruminate when my lungs are burning and my calves feel like they’re about to split down the middle. There’s also something to be said about the runner’s high. Trust me, it’s a thing.

I really like how the book is formatted so that the story unfolds in a chronological manner with a few segments of the 1993 genocide interspersed in italics throughout the chapters. The tension gradually intensifies, keeping me glued to the pages until I can get to the resolution.  Gilbert’s experiences and insights really put some things into perspective—humility, the power of forgiveness, human resilience and hope, to name a few.  Whenever I start to feel cynical about the world (typically when I switch on the news or battle Austin traffic), I’ll keep this passage in mind:

“If I were to place on a scale all the bad things that had happened to me and my family on one side and all the kindness and generosity on the other, the goodness in people would far outweigh the bad. I saw Burundi for what it was—not a paradise and not a hell, simply a land made imperfect by the people who inhabited it.”

Dog Crazy: A Novel of Love Lost and Found by Meg Donahue

Published April 29, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

22573873Just look at the cover and tell me how I could possibly refuse to read this book! For 17 years, my little gray-striped pudgeball of a cat, Gizzy, has rocked my world. So when he goes, I know I’m going to need someone like Maggie Brennan to keep me from spiraling down the rabbit hole of despair. But let’s not think about that right now, okay? I’ll cross that rainbow bridge when I get to it.

You see, Maggie is a pet bereavement counselor. Most people who just don’t get it would laugh her off as some kind of quack. But anyone who has ever poured their heart and soul into one four-legged creature would understand that this is a most noble and important profession indeed.

“Love is love,” I told her, as I tell all of my patients who are ashamed to find themselves shattered by the death of a dog. “Loss is loss.”

She’s a total pro, but yet there’s one little catch. She can’t leave her house. After her beloved dog died, all of her pent-up stress came to a head, resulting in full-fledged agoraphobia. Luckily she’s able to work out of her home office and order all of her worldly needs on Amazon. It also helps that her BFF lives right next door. Everything is under control…that is until a distressed teenage client walks through her door.

Unlike her other clients who fill up their allotted time telling stories about their beloved pets, all this girl wants to do is hit the streets and search for her missing dog. Although the dog, Billy, been gone for over a month, she continues to comb the streets in a disheveled mess screaming out his name like a deranged banshee. When she refuses therapy, Maggie takes it upon herself to help her search for Billy–pro bono.

At first I thought it was a little far-fetched for a therapist to take on a case for free, but then it all made sense when I realized that she was also saving herself hundreds—hell, probably thousands of dollars—in exposure therapy bills for her agoraphobia. By helping Anya look for her dog, she had face her demons and step out into the great outdoors.

Keeping her anxiety disorder under wraps, she uses her BFF’s poodle as a “therapy dog,” while out hunting for Billy. The stakes get even higher when she realizes that she might be falling for Anya’s handsome older brother. Yes, ladies, there’s a touch of romance–and even some mystery–in this heart-warming animal story.

Thanks to Maggie’s dogged (pun intended!) persistence, Anya slowly comes around. She even rekindles her love of photography by taking some marketing photos of a dog in desperate need of a forever home. Oh how I love Seymour, the adorably neurotic basset hound/golden retriever mix. I’m not going to spoil anything for you, but I will say that everything worked out exactly how I wanted in the end. I’ll just leave it at that!

I loved the shelter dog marketing aspect of this book because that’s my side job at Austin Pets Alive. So on many levels, this book really hit close to home. Emily Donahue has a remarkable talent for articulating the complexities of emotions that overtake us when we are hopelessly in love with our animals. Throughout the book, her lyrical, heart-wrenching prose sang to me. At various points, I wanted to shout “hallelujah” from the rooftop! If you, like me, get mushy about animals, get ready to cry your bleeding hearts out!

Yes, this is a book about dogs, but it really made me wax poetic about my Gizzy, who has been by my side through so many chapters in my life. I picked him up off the streets when I was a 19-year-old mess. I kid you not, after I brought that scrawny bat-eared creature into my home, my life changed so much for the better. At that, I’ll leave you with my favorite passage from the book.

“I have a theory that you get the right dog, the dog you need, for a particular stage in your life.”

Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn Dingman

Published April 25, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

18698835This is another one of those stories about an overworked woman stuck in the rut of big city corporate life who unexpectedly finds clarity in small town Americana.  Her anal-retentive fiancé is so clichéd, you can cut him right out of any “city girl gone country” Hallmark Channel movie. All the usual tropes are there: the loveless relationship that should’ve ended years ago—check. The bossy, controlling big sister—check. The city girl who’s permanently glued to her incessantly chirping cell phone—check, check!

Needless to say, it was pretty slow going at first, but once Olivia started unraveling the mystery of her dead mother’s secret life, the pages started flying. Who knew that I could enjoy a mystery that didn’t involve a body with a knife lodged in its back?

It was a lot of fun joining Olivia and her new crush, Elliot (the town’s newspaper man), as they combed through library archives and courthouse documents on their quest to uncover the town’s many hidden secrets. All of which were buried underneath a lake that washed over the town many moons ago. The closer they get to unearthing Mama Jane’s hidden secrets, more questions pop up. Why did Jane want to be buried in two rather peculiar places? Why did she never speak of her one true love? Who’s cutting out critical pages in public documents that could lead Olivia to all the answers?  You’ll have to read the book to find out!

I really enjoyed watching Olivia’s relationships with Elliot and her teenage niece blossom. They all made  a great Scooby Doo detective team. As always in these types of books, Elliot was the perfect gentleman. Always saying and doing the right thing. He was nothing but honest with Olivia, so why couldn’t she pay him the same courtesy? It pissed me off that she just couldn’t come clean to Elliot—even when he gave her plenty of opportunities—about her fiancé. And even though I despised the douchebag fiancé, she was wrong to string him along for so long. I kept shaking my head wondering why the hell she stayed with him. I mean come on, if you’re not even married and already seeing a relationship counselor, it’s time to cut and run. Just sayin!

She was lying by omission to both of them, and that didn’t sit well with me.  Considering that her mother never came clean to her daughters about who she really was, it seems as though lying must be encoded in their DNA.

As you can see, I’m rather conflicted about this book. I loved the tranquil small town setting, the peaceful quiet nights out on the deck overlooking the lake, the mystery of the drowned town, the sweet summer romance. But all the cowardly dishonesty left a sour taste in my mouth.

Jessica’s Cranky Corner: Into the Wild

Published March 29, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

541919_3911362915034_469792480_n121Have you ever read a book that frustrated you to the core, but yet morbid fascination kept you glued to the pages? “Into the Wild” is one of those books. It’s been a few days since I finished it, but my mind keeps drifting off to that haunting last chapter when Christopher McCandless starved to death in an abandoned bus deep in the wilds of Alaska.

I just can’t wrap my brain around the risks he took, and the self-centered decisions he made. It’s human nature to not like what you can’t understand. So maybe that’s why I had a hard time giving Christopher (aka “Alexander Super-Tramp”) the benefit of the doubt.

I complained to my husband about my frustration with the guy. Apparently, he believes men have an innate desire to explore nature and discover uncharted territory.  He also defended Chris by stating that he was just a kid, and that all 20-somethings do stupid things. I get that…kind of.  Sure, we all do stupid things when our temporal lobes aren’t fully developed, but what Christopher did was so extreme, and so bizarre. It can’t just be chocked up to the ol’ “kids will be kids” theory.1845

The thing is, I can’t get pass Christopher’s one big character flaw. For someone who so vehemently preaches the gospel for human rights and social justice, he really didn’t do a damned thing for anyone except himself. Sure he visited some homeless camps, fed them a few sandwiches and dropped a couple bucks in their tin cups. But really, he wasn’t concerned about helping people out in the long-term. In fact, he actually did more harm than good by hitchhiking in and out of people’s lives so quickly. He had a way of staying in a town long enough to start building relationships with new friends only to vanish into the night, leaving them confused and heartbroken.

I felt so bad for Ronald, an old widower who wanted to be Christopher’s grandfather. Not only did Christopher leave Ron in the lurch, he also had the gall to send him a really offensive letter. In his sanctimonious ramblings, he belittled Ron’s conventional lifestyle, imploring him to sell all his belongings and hit the road. In essence, he told the old man that his life was crap, and that it wasn’t worth living unless he embraced an extreme, nomadic lifestyle. Huh. This is coming from a guy who hated being controlled.

I’m not a big fan of people who abandon the ones they love. That’s why I really didn’t like the book “Wild” (read my review here) and refuse to read “Eat, Pray, Love.”  Christopher’s parents did have their flaws, his dad especially, but they were the Waltons compared to my own pitiful family. He crucified them for every injustice, large or small, including trying to buy him a new car (oh boo hoo).  Since my parents never even considered providing me with a car, college tuition and an enormous trust fund, he’s not getting my sympathies.

Am I missing the point altogether? Do I just not understand Chris’ motives on a deep, existential level? Am I just another cog in the machine of mainstream American society? I’m sure many people reading this would be nodding their heads. I, too, marvel at his footloose and fancy free journey into the wild. Hell, I even agree with a lot of his esoteric ramblings about the meaningless ways people are living their lives. When I’m trapped in a sea of brake lights every morning on my way to work, I fantasize about ditching the daily grind and living off the grid far away from materialism and power-hungry people. But truth be told, I’m happy with my life that Christopher would quickly dismiss as provincial and meaningless. His unrelenting black-and-white standpoint on right and wrong makes him no different than a religious fundamentalist. He believed that he held all the answers and everyone else just didn’t see the light. That arrogance and self-righteousness was his downfall.

Many reviewers chastised the author for “glorifying” Christopher by making him out to be this big hero for chasing his dream and living life to its fullest. I would have to disagree. The book was well researched, and the author did a fine job throwing out some theories, leaving it up to the readers to formulate their own opinions. He even pointed out that Christopher was somewhat of a hypocrite. He worshipped a bunch of authors and philosophers who were drunks and sexual deviants. In his travels he even befriended a man who habitually beat up his girlfriend. But yet he could never grant clemency to his own father for cheating on his wife decades ago. Since Christopher never let anyone in, his motives for running away will remain a mystery. My guess is that his hatred for his parents was so powerful, he wanted to crush them in the cruelest way possible. Take it from someone who knows, abandonment is one of the cruelest, most cowardly forms of punishment.

I know I’m being hard on the guy, but that’s partly because I’m so frustrated that he had to die. He was clearly a brilliant kid who could master a skill in just about any field. He was a natural entrepreneur, a computer software engineer, a writer, a political scientist. He even had plans to become a lawyer, a profession that would have allowed him to correct all of those social injustices that he so passionately decried.  It’s a shame he chose to live the transient life with no intention of connecting with people and making an impact on the world.  I’m all for getting in touch with nature and exploring far and distant lands, but humans are social animals. We need to share our experiences with others, a lesson that Christopher learned the hard way. In my humble opinion, if the world was full of “Alexander Super-Tramps” it wouldn’t be a better place.

Gizzy’s Roundup of Witches, Warlocks and Weirdos!

Published March 20, 2015 by Chick-Lit Cafe

gizzyGizzy and I have been going through a paranormal/fantasy phase lately. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because February and March are the crappiest months of the year and we need a total escape from reality. Or perhaps Gizzy thinks he’s a wizard now that he has his own Dumbledore hat. I’m not going to bother trying to make sense out of it all. Either way, here are a few books that we recently polished off. If you’re in the mood for magic, mayhem and swoonalicious love triangles, here ya go:

The Line by J.D. Horn

18010355I scored this audiobook for a song on Audible, and well you know that saying, “you get what you pay for”? Well that doesn’t apply here. This book is incredible!  The narrator, the rollercoaster pacing, the atmospheric Savannah setting—everything about it kept me glued to the story for hours on end. The main character, Mercy, is somewhat of an embarrassment to her family of powerful witches.  Unlike her magically-blessed twin sister, she has very little power of her own. Some major power players in her clan of witches seem to be harboring deep, dark secrets. And when the head matriarch (aka “the anchor”) is brutally murdered, Mercy starts piecing together some clues that eventually lead her to a series of bombshells about her family’s tangled web of lies. In the last third of the book, my jaw dropped at least 50 times when the skeletons came dancing the conga-line out of the closet. Aside from the shock factor, I really enjoyed the Deep South setting, and Mercy’s “Liars Tour.” As an unapologetic dorky tourist, I would love to tour around Savannah, drinking a hurricane while listening to outrageous fabrications and urban legends about the city’s landmarks. Too bad she had to hang up her tour guide hat in the second book.

The Source by J.D. Horn

18803931I’ll just come right out and tell you that this book was a big disappointment. Right from the get-go the story just seemed to be all over the place. In the first book, it was so much easier to immerse myself into the story as it gradually unfolded before taking off like a freight train. This book, however, went from zero to sixty. All of a sudden, I’m thrust into a series of crazy events full of a bunch of characters. Keeping track of it all was a struggle to say the least. Bombshells continue to drop at warp speed and the story just gets more and more convoluted with every chapter. The love triangle with Emmitt, the robotic golem, is a little too creepy for my taste. There was a point when I almost aborted the mission of completing this book, but morbid curiosity kept me going.  Why is Mercy’s supposedly-dead mother coming out of the woodwork? Can she be trusted? Is her entire family out to get her? Who can she trust?!?  Is it weird that I didn’t enjoy this book, but yet I’ll probably end up reading the third installment because I need answers to a zillion more questions? Clearly J.D. Horn must be doing something right since I’m inevitably going to read the whole trilogy.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

23164983Again, here is a second installment that didn’t measure up to the first. It’s not that it wasn’t entertaining. Hmm…how should I put my finger on this? It’s just that the first book was SO amazing! The world building, the character development, the mysterious school of weirdo children with super-human powers—all of it was so mesmerizing. This next adventure moves along in the same fashion as The Hobbit. Lots of “out of the frying pan, into the fire,” action sequences.  Throughout the book, the kids are jumping into different time loops in their quest to restore Mrs. Peregrine back into her human form. Trapped in a bird’s body, she has only a short amount of time until her humanity withers away. Without Mrs. P., the kids’ sanctuary from the storm of hollows (evil peculiar children-eating monsters) and wights (double-evil peculiar children-murdering fiends) will be lost forever.  Gripes aside, I did enjoy learning more about the villains and finding out their reasons for targeting peculiar children. After that cliffhanger of an ending, I absolutely HAVE to read the next book. What can I say? I’m a total sucker for trilogies. Oh and I would be remiss not to give a nod to the author’s ingenious inventions with the found old-timey photographs. My favorite character, who I hope to see in the next book, is the pretentious pipe-smoking dog.  Anyone who has read his books would probably agree that Ransom Riggs’ imagination is a force to be reckoned with!

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahan

18007535Remember that old campfire story The Monkey’s Paw? That one never fails to give me the shivers, even though I’ve heard it about a bajillion times. There’s something very creepy about the concept of bringing a loved one back from the dead and not knowing who—or what—will be showing up at your doorstep. That’s why this book gave me the heebie jeebies, especially when dead creatures started coming back to life, scratching from inside the closet door. JEEPERS! This is not a book to read alone if you’re a chicken like me. So in terms of creepiness, I give this book four stars. As for the characters, well that’s a whole other story. Aside from the teenage girl and her baby sister, the characters who carelessly messed around with witchcraft all seemed to be a bunch of imbeciles, in my humble opinion. Yes, they were crazy with grief, but that didn’t give them the right to mess with black magic. To be honest, I was pleased when they all got what was coming to them. Aside from those fools, I have another issue with the book. Since the story revolved around death and bereavement, the gloominess of it all really bummed me out.  After reading this, I had to immediately cheer myself up with a light and fluffy romance.

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