Monday, October 31, 2016

Short Review: The Halloween Tree

The Halloween Tree

by Ray Bradbury

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

On Halloween night, eight trick-or-treaters gather at the haunted house by the edge of town, ready for adventure.  But when Something whisks their friend Pip away, only one man can help the boys find him.  Join the sinister Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud as he takes them on an unforgettable journey through space and time, deep into the mysteries of this spookiest of all nights.

Can the boys save Pip before it's too late?

First of all, it wasn't until about five chapters into the book that I realized that the name of the mysterious, scary big dude was "Moundshroud."  As I was reading the book, I kept reading the name as "Moonshroud," because "Moundshroud" just felt like a mouthful.  After that, the hardest part about reading this book was stumbling over Moundshroud's name... so I might have mentally switched back to the initial name I was mistakenly using.

Anyway... Moving right along...

So apparently The Halloween Tree is the A Christmas Carol of the Halloween season.  Sort of.  It's a fantastical and ghostly adventure guided by strange Moundshroud that gives the readers and eight young boys a Reader's Digest history of the Halloween festivities starting from Egypt to England to Mexico, all while trying to find and save the boys' ninth friend, Pipkin, the Wonder Boy.  The history lessons cover Osiris, Samhain, Grecian festivities, and even Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

It's a very fast-paced, interesting adventure, and though I'm a little sheepish to admit that I got lost during some of the story, in truth, my mind totally wandered at some points.  I'm almost wanting to say that the book was so fast-paced that I couldn't keep up with it very well.

Still, it's a fun adventure, well-written, really, and something that I think many children would enjoy reading as part of the Halloween season.

Myself... it really wasn't my cuppa, unfortunately.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

Rambling Thoughts: The Haunting of Maddy Clare

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

by Simone St. James

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter.  Alistair Gellis--rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts--has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide.  Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death.  Soon Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle.  For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason.  Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?

The Haunting of Maddy Clare is really a type of book I find a little hard to form an opinion on, if only because it was such a fast-paced as well as short-length read.  While enjoyable at the time, I found myself looking back and having no recollection of anything that really stood out outside of the setting, some vague character biographies, and the mystery of Maddy's tragic tale.

In a way, I suppose that's actually a pretty good amount of recollection.  And have no doubt, I truly DID enjoy this book a lot!

The setting of Maddy Clare stands out because it is set in 1920s London--a time period that, whether in America, Europe, or even Asian countries, is one that I rarely visit in my literary (or other media) enjoyments.  It's an era that I'm not very familiar with, save for the tragic war-torn times of Chinese culture (thanks to several Chinese television series and movies I've watched growing up).  If Historical fiction is a genre I don't typically pick up, 1920s Historical is definitely a time period I don't usually even glance at.

What I'm trying to say is that, despite my new foray into Historical fiction, this book is definitely outside of my comfort zone, again, because I'm not familiar with that time period.  I have read a few books that were set during this time, but I can't say that I ever actually enjoyed them.  This is nothing against the time period itself; it's mainly a time period I rarely read about due to my own preferences.

Anyway, back to the book...

Maddy Clare was definitely a page-turner, with great atmosphere and serviceable characters.  I'm not entirely sure I was enamored of any of our main characters--Sarah, Matthew, or even Alistair.  In fact, I found that the characters I liked the most were some of the side characters, mainly Mrs. Clare and Mrs. MacCready, the ghostly Maddy Clare's keepers.  And, honestly, I also kind of had a soft spot for Maddy Clare herself, especially after realizing the tragedy that struck her and caused her to become a vengeful, angry spirit.

I was really sucked in by the mystery surrounding Maddy Clare's death, and despite it being rather predictable as soon as the investigation started, it was intense and hard not to develop some strong feelings about.  It was most definitely a sad, sad tragedy for Maddy Clare, and even in death as an angry spirit, I still feel for her.

The romance was one that I did not truly care for.  It was equal parts frustrating and unsettling considering the circumstances in which the first sex scene takes place, because CREEPY-STALKER much?  Okay, maybe it wasn't entirely a creepy-stalker scenario, because Matthew was never really a creepy stalker type... but the scene felt creepy-stalker-ish.  It really did, to me.  No matter how much Sarah was already lusting after him.

The sexual tension and chemistry was quite steamy though.  I'm not sure if that helps.


The Haunting of Maddy Clare is enjoyable.  But as I'd already noted, not entirely memorable.  And honestly, I didn't even realize that it was rather unmemorable until I tried to tell my best friend about it, trying to introduce a new book and author to her.

The conversation might have gone a little liked this:

Me:  "So I've got a new book for you!"  **all excited**
BFF:  "What book?"  **also all excited**
Me:  "It's called The Haunting of Maddy Clare."
BFF:  **anticipation**
Me:  "It's about... um... a haunting... by the ghost of a dead girl named Maddy Clare..."
BFF:  **anticipation**
Me:  "She's an angry spirit because... stuff happened to her..."
BFF:  **anticipation**
Me:  "It takes place in the 1920s... in London.  It's Gothic-Romance-Paranormal-Mystery..."
BFF:  "That does sound interesting...  1920s, you say?"
Me:  "Right.  The mystery secret reveal is pretty sad.  And then there are people who are supposed to find out what Maddy wants... or get rid of her... or help her move on...  You know..."

**awkward silence**

(This conversation has been edited for blogging entertainment's sake, because I have the memory of a goldfish.)

Anyway, even thinking back on what I had said to my best friend, even though she DID genuinely sound interested, my half-assed summation probably describes every ghost story/haunting story ever written...  -_-

I admit: I obviously did this book no justice with that conversation...

And to be honest, I think BFF was more interested in the 1920s setting than the actually book description about a haunted barn itself, anyway.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Collective Reading Updates for P.S. I Like You

P.S. I Like You

by Kasie West

~ Goodreads ~

The most recent updates are added to the top each re-post.  Any longer, essay-length reading updates are separate posts and linked within this collective reading update post.

Progress on 10/30/16:  326 of 326 pages (100%) -- Finished!

Okay, so my attempts at keeping a collective reading update post is probably futile when I finish a book within hours of starting it.  But there was a point throughout the night/morning that I had decided to hold off on some updates... of course, I hadn't counted on sinking into the book so deeply and before I knew it, I was done.

Well, actually, before I knew it, I had less than a hundred pages left of P.S. I Like You left; and you would think that I'd have learned by now that less than a hundred pages still requires one to two hours to finish reading...

Anyway...  I have to say that I think this is the Kasie West I remember falling in love with: Sweet, cutesy love story; quirky characters; quirky family; tons of dry sarcasm and random nonsense...  This is what I love!

And now I've got a bit of a Book Hangover, and while there are a few things here and there that I could have done without, I'm going to honestly say that this is one of Kasie's better works compared to the previous two books she's put out.

I'm still going to have to think on this before I officially post a review though.  Of course, it's entirely possible I'm just going to reiterate everything I just said.

Progress on 10/30/16:  66 of 326 pages (20%)

I'm feeling a slight kinship with Lily:

Isabel sighed.  "I thought that if you didn't know you were goin gon a date tonight, you wouldn't have time to stress.  That you wouldn't practice lines in your mind and imagine outcomes."

"You thought my awkwardness was from preconceived plans to be awkward?"

"Yes, actually."

I laughed.  "Well, now you know the truth."

Progress on 10/30/16:  54 of 326 pages (17%)

I'm really digging the sibling relationship between Lily and her brothers and sister.  It's very cute.  I also love the friendship between Lily and Isabel... but I'm having some really bad "this friendship is going to be seeing some hard times" vibes, and I'm not sure I like that.

I guess, until then (whether those vibes turn out to be true or not), I'll just enjoy the cuteness.

"Monsters in trees," I said to Isabel the next morning when I saw her by our lockers.


"That's what I thought about before going to bed last night.  Are we doing this or not?

She clapped her hands, then bit her lip in thought.

I laughed.  "Gabriel, right?"

"Shhh.  There was something after that.  I'm trying to remember.  Oh!  Nutella crepes."

"Now I'm hungry."

"And I'm confused," Isabel said, shutting her locker.  "Monsters in trees?"

"Fake song idea.  But I actually started a real song, one I'll read to you when I'm done."

"I'd like that."

"This is going to be a fun tradition."

"She laughed.  "It is.  I feel out friendship getting cuter already."

-- Page 54

Backstory:  Basically, Isabel had wanted to start a tradition with Lily as best friends and one of the ideas was to, each morning, telling each other what the last thing they thought about was before going to sleep the night before.  It certainly DOES sound cute.

So far there's a lot of the Kasie West dry humor that I love present in this book, so I'm really enjoying it.  Crossing my fingers and hope that it keeps up and that things don't get too angst-ridden and complicated.  Although with a Kasie West book, the emotional angst usually isn't too heavy and the romance is usually really sweet.

Progress on 10/30/16:  15 of 326 pages (5%)

I have the distinct feeling I already know how this little love story is going to go down.  And to be honest, aside from one little quibble, I'm actually looking forward to it, because it will totally give this book a You've Got Mail vibe, and I'm quite okay with that.

Secondly, the girl on the cover doesn't really connect with the description of the girl in the book.  Lily takes a paragraph to describe her quirky fashion:

Today I was wearing an over-sized button-down that I had found at a thrift story.  I'd cut the sleeves to make it more like a kimono and tied a brown vintage belt at the waist.  On my feet were beat-up red high-top sneakers.  My look was quirky, not trendy, and I would stand out in a group like Lauren's where they were all perfectly put together in their slim-fitting jeans and tank tops.

--Page 6 & 7

The girl on the cover is wearing a pretty dress that, to be honest, doesn't seem to strike me as quirky.  Although she IS wearing the red high-top sneakers (??), though they do not look beat up.

I might be a little put out if this is an indication that Lily gives up her quirky sense of fashion when she starts her little love story.

Thoughts: Beg for Mercy

Beg for Mercy

by Jami Alden
Book 1 of Dead Wrong

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

He lurks in the shadows, waiting and watching.... And once he has you, all you can do is...


Megan Flynn thought she was falling in love.  Cole Williams wasn't just handsome and passionate, he was one of the good guys.  Or so she thought, until he arrested her brother-the only family she has left-for a murder she knows he couldn't have possibly committed.  Now, with her heart broken and her brother's life hanging in the balance, Megan will risk everything to prove his innocence.  Even if that means throwing herself into the path of a sadistic killer with a hauntingly familiar MO.

Seattle Detective Cole Williams had given up on making Megan see reason where her brother is concerned.  But when she insinuates herself into the most shockingly brutal case Cole has ever worked, he can't stand idly by.  Plunged into a secret world where the city's elite indulge their darkest desires, Cole will do whatever it takes to bring down a madman who has made Megan his most coveted prey.

I was actually really looking forward to this book (and this trilogy), mainly because I've read a few erotica-contemporary romances by Jami Alden and really DID enjoy them.  They were written well with some fluff love stories that I found decently likable.

And, to be honest, Beg for Mercy was enjoyable for some reasons... but utterly frustrating for others.  The book is written quite well.  Even the mystery and the story's set-up wasn't too bad.

But the murderer was completely obvious the moment he strolls into the book.  And also, I absolutely hated our main couple!  Okay.  Maybe "hated" might be too strong a word for two characters who made me cringe with everything they said and did.  To be blunt:  Megan Flynn is stupid, and Cole Williams is a douche-nozzle.  That is probably the best way to describe these two--their relationship will probably mainly have to be sustained on steamy sex and Megan's ability to overlook every asshole thing Cole does.

From the moment their relationship falls apart in the beginning to their subsequent reunion three years into the present, to Megan's frustrating attempts at investigating her brother's case, to Cole's continued douche-hole behavior...  I just really, really got frustrated with these two before the mid-mark of the book came around.

Megan's amateur and non-existent investigation skills not-withstanding, she is just a trouble magnet who can't seem to do anything right.  While I understand, and also admire, her desperation to find the real killer and get her brother out of prison, she really DOES just recklessly bowl into every situation without thinking about any consequences, and then is surprised when her activities come back to bite her in the ass.

Cole is just a jackass, period.  Even after admitting that he didn't handle his relationship with Megan very well, he still continues to prove to me that he's just a jackass.  He continues to handle his reunion relationship with Megan very poorly, and at times is kind of a condescending jerk.

And the romance was hard for me to root for because Megan all but drops her pants whenever Cole is around her, even though she's still vengefully angry at him for arresting her brother as well as dropping her like a hot potato three years prior when it all happened.  Though I suppose she DOES manage to walk away at least twice before finally just having sex with the asshole...

It's just that, even if she were able to understand Cole's "just doing his job" by arresting Sean because all the evidence added up; I'm not sure that it would have been as easy for her to forgive him for that fact, nor forgive him for walking away from her during a time when she needed support the most.  Sean is her only family, and with him being arrested, Megan pretty much had no one else in her life except for her not-so-serious-but-becoming-serious-because-love boyfriend, Cole.


The reason why this book got an average, 'meh' rating though, is because the book DOES pick up after the midpoint when Cole stops being an asshole and Megan starts using her common sense a little bit more.  Things get a little more interesting.

And also, I liked Sean Flynn.  For a guy stuck in a prison for most of the book, I think he was probably my favorite of all the characters in the entire book.  Coming in a close second might be some side characters such as the fourteen-year-old Devany who actually kind of exhibits a bit more sense than Megan does, even if she DOES make some terrible mistakes--but she's fourteen, so I'm more forgiving.  Also there's the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Kristin Slater, who makes a brief appearance; and even the mysterious former Ranger, Jack Brook.

But mainly, I liked Sean.  He is pretty much like the ideal older, protective brother.

And for this reason, I'm going to continue on reading the rest of the trilogy since Sean is the main character of the second book.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

Free Space

Thoughts: Frankenstein


by Mary Shelley

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars


The story of Frankenstein is a classic that has been around for a very long time.  Many people know the story, but I know a lot of others do not.  So I'm going to go ahead and insert a SPOILER TAG here if only because I know I might have given away a few things about the ending.  You know, just in case.

To be totally honest, the book itself only received 2 Stars; the extra 1 Star is for the fact that this book continues to remain a popular historical classic after all these years and I can see reasons why.

I don't claim to be a good critic of literature.  Analyzing books in high school was one of my least favorite assignments.  I read for enjoyment and entertainment; I like what I like and I don't like what I don't like.  Frankenstein has been on my reading list for a long time for various reasons that aren't even all that significant.  I'm glad that I've finally read it, but I'm not going to deny that I only partially enjoyed it--it's not a bad book, but it's not going to be one of my favorites any time soon.

The story itself is written very well.  The format wherein a story is written as a series of letters sent to the sea captain, Walton's sister Margaret, is one of the appeals of the book.  Epistolary, right?  The long-running prose of Frankenstein himself is settled within one of these letters, written by Walton to his sister as well as edited by Frankenstein himself.  On top of that, we then get an anecdote presented by the creature created by Frankenstein, told by Frankenstein to Walton, who embeds this short story into the long-running letter to his sister of Frankenstein's story.

It all sounds pretty confusing when you look at is as a set of stories within a set of stories within a set of stories.  But I really liked it a lot.

Unfortunately, that may be where the attractiveness of the story itself stops.  Frankenstein is a very intriguing and thought-provoking tale, and I dare to say that there is more meaning behind the concept, the ideals, and the reactions one would have towards the subject matter presented by Frankenstein.  Is Frankenstein's creature pure malevolence by nature, or was he turned that way by society's treatment of him just because he's a hideous monster?  Does someone become a monster because we turn that person into one, or would that same person become evil regardless?

The execution of the story itself, however, is filled with meandering tangents, long-drawn out monologues, and very little to draw out an emotional spark of any kind.  The only time I might have felt saddened or slightly horrified was at the death of Elizabeth on her wedding night.  Otherwise, it feels like good ol' Victor did enough angst-ing for the lot of us.  The story also appeals heavily upon your suspension of disbelief as it gives very little credence to how one mad scientist could be so ingenious as to create a living creature by himself, or how this creature is able to be so far superior to human beings that he learns to communicate intellectually with Frankenstein in less than a year simply through observation.

Maybe I just don't know how to appreciate classic literature and I'm sure there are many people more apt to appreciate this book than myself.  I've read very few old classics (I read Dracula in middle school and enjoyed it immensely, so it's not like I'm a complete pretentious jerk about classic literature).  I'm not familiar with Gothic horror either.

I understand that this is the fashion of which stories were written during Mary Shelley's time--long drawn out descriptions, lots of anecdotes and lots of stories within stories within stories (the format of which I do like), but that don't seem to pertain to the central plot.  I was once told by a friend who is a lover of old classics that these books always loved to "tell, in five or more words, what can easily be told with just one."

It was a thing of the times, I guess.

Still, I'm glad that I read this book.  I may not have enjoyed it much, but I have a better understanding of it's popularity now.

Reading this novel DOES bring into perspective how different the story of Frankenstein and his monster has become after Hollywood's touch, though.  While reading this book, I tried very hard to conjure up the movie version of Frankenstein's monster, but it just did not fit the description given by the book itself.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it?


This book was read for my 2014 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in October 2014.

Halloween Bingo Update || BINGOs, and BLACKOUTs, and a Wrap Up! Oh My!

Two days from the end of Halloween Bingo 2016 and I have made it!  Twelve BINGOs total and a BLACKOUT, with The Halloween Tree as my final book read!

I want to give another shout-out to Moonlight Murder and Obsidian Black Death for putting all of this together.  Thank you two so much!  I've had so, SO much fun, and I look forward to the next Booklikes bookish activity, and hope that I can participate even more.  I'm not an entirely social person, but this game has brought me out of my lurking status, as well as expanded my reading appetite a little bit.

I've read many great books these past two months, and with the exception of maybe one or two books, I think I've had a pretty good run of reading for Halloween Bingo.

I also wanted to thank all the other BL-ers who helped with book suggestions, and for sharing all your thoughts and discussing with me any and all books we have all read during this time.

Truly, this has been lots of fun!

I will have the reviews for The Haunting of Maddy Clare, Beg for Mercy, and The Halloween Tree posted, hopefully within the next two days.

Original Unmarked Card:

Finished Card:

The Books:
Read by candlelight or flashlight:  A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
Magical Realism:  Un Lun Dun by China MiĆ©ville
Witches:  Dark Witch by Nora Roberts
Genre: Horror:  The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James
Black Cat:  Voodoo or Die by Stephanie Bond

Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun:  The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses:  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Young Adult Horror:  Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Scary Women (Authors:  We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Reads With (Booklikes) Friends:  Ammie, Come Home by Barbara Michaels

Grave or Graveyard:  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Mystery:  In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond
Free Space:  Beg for Mercy by Jami Alden
Gothic:  Be Buried in the Rain by Barbara Michaels
Creepy Crawlies:  The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir A.C. Doyle

"Fall" into a good book:  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Locked Room Mystery:  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
It was a dark and stormy night:  The Hound of the Baskervilles by A.C. Doyle
Set in New England:  Truly, Madly by Heather Webber
Full Moon:  The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Vampires vs Werewolves:  Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
Supernatural:  Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Classic Horror:  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Pumpkin:  Scared Stiff by Annelise Ryan
Set on Halloween:  The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

BLACKOUT Achieved 10/29/2016 || Blackout Book -- The Halloween Tree

BINGOs #1 & #2:  Achieved 10/10/2016 || Bingo Book -- The Ghost Bride
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BINGOs #3 & #4:  Achieved 10/26/2016 || Bingo Book -- And Then There Were None
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BINGOs #5 & #6:  Achieved 10/27/2016 || Bingo Book - The Haunting of Maddy Clare
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BINGOs #7, #8, #9:  Achieved 10/29/2016 || Bingo Book -- Beg for Mercy
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BINGOs #10, #11, #12:  Achieved 10/29/2016 || Bingo Book -- The Halloween Tree
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