Category: Women’s Fiction

A #SpooktasticReads Book Review | “Ghastly and Good” (Merry Hanukkah series, Halloween short) by Debby Caruso

Posted Monday, 19 October, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: In 2018, I was approached by the author to read the first story in her Merry Hanukkah series – whilst in 2019, I had the delightful joy of having her as a featured guest during my @SatBookChat! In June, 2020 I was able to read the sequel to ‘Merry Hanukkah’ which was ‘Happy Everything’. Wickedly ahead of sorting out which spooky reads I wanted to be reading this #SpooktasticReads, I was contacted by the author about this lovely Halloween short story she had written into the series. I was quite chuffed I could receive a print copy and thus, this delightful short became the story which kicked off my readathon of #SpooktasticReads! (a mini-event for @WyrdAndWonder)

I received a complimentary copy of “Ghastly and Good” direct from the author Debby Caruso in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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On why I love #SpooktasticReads:

Quite humbly, I attempted to host #SpooktasticReads as a book blogger years ago – however, the better incantation of the event I envisioned wasn’t fully realised until I pitched the idea as a mini-event attached to Wyrd And Wonder to Lisa and Imyril. As we co-founded @WyrdAndWonder together as a celebration of Fantasy. #SpooktasticReads picks up where Wyrd and Wonder leaves off – wherein, each Autumn we get hankerings to be reading a spookier side of Fantasy and/or any story which allows us to get our spook on – in whichever capacity which inspires us to read.

Some of us like the cosier side of Horror (ie. my own personal declaration of reading #CosyHorror notwithstanding!) whilst others like to seek out ghost stories, Urban Fantasy, Gothic Lit or Gothic Romance or any route betwixt and between which seeks to give us a slight chill to our readerly lives this October. For me personally, I love reading selections which run the full gambit of choices – from stories of Suspense & Thrillers which give me a chilling read through a Mystery I cannot predict how it will end to an epic Ghost Story which might leave me rattling my funnybone or contemplating the layers of how authors write such believable ghost stories within a witchy setting! I love stories involving witches and ghouls as much as I appreciate a delightful Urban Fantasy.

Ergo, to get myself into the festive mood of the next 13 days where you will find me on a bit of a binge of all the spooktacular reads I have on hand to be read – I decided to dial it back a bit and selected a story I hadn’t even realised was available to read this #SpooktasticReads as it was a surprise from the author! I love light Halloweeny tales as much as the grip your heart ones and this one is right in the middle of a series I have loved reading since the first novel released.

I felt this lighter read was the best way to start my readathon and find the festive spirit within the story itself! I can’t wait to see what everyone else is reading and I can’t wait to dive into stories and audiobooks in the thirteen days leading into Halloween!

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On what I enjoyed about “Happy Everything”:

Caruso also spends a wonderful amount of time tucking you closer into Rhonda’s marriage – how she feels as distant as her husband does to the celebratory coupling moments they loved sharing – wherein once life starts to pick up its pacing after you’ve dated and married, those more intimate and special moments can feel as if they’ve gone by the wayside. You can feel how much he misses their romance – the little nuanced moments they used to share vs how rushed they feel now going to family meetings and doing what they might consider out of duty for friends and family alike. In essence, reality has truly hit and hit hard as these two try to navigate their ‘new world’ as a married couple who barely have enough time to spend on each other. It drives home the realism once the afterglow of the honeymoon stage waxes off and the truer moments of marriage are observed with a humbled honesty only Caruso can tell.

One new character I liked as much as Rhonda was Diana – she seemed like the kind of person who could consistently surprise people for how much she understands about this dynamic family and how to show a different side to a person even Rhonda felt she knew everything about. It just shows you that sometimes you can have the complete wrong impression about someone until a new person shows up and starts to show you a new side of their personality which had remain hidden until now! Diana is a charming character who has a tough-as-nails job to do but one that is truly important in a world where not everyone cares about their companions in fur, feather or scales.

If I could have transported myself into Mimosa alongside Rhonda, her and I would have spilt a second salted caramel brownie!! Sometimes you just have to go with what soothes your soul and in that moment, where Rhonda knew the best response was to show kindness and grace, the better part of her mind knew that if she didn’t comfort herself with some much needed chocolate, she might have spoken out of turn which would have done nothing to savage the lunch. It was the kind of scene you’d find yourself living inside but without the right set of reactions – I agreed with Rhonda about how her father blindsided her with news and the kind of news that he seemed to have taken in stride – expecting her to do the same and let nothing be said about it either. I felt that was a bit over the top as how could Rhonda not have a reaction? She played her cards well!

Caruso allows Rhonda to show the portions of herself and her emotional internal life that might not always be disclosed in other stories. The ways in which she lets the reader see Rhonda’s heightened emotional states and reactions to different life moments in the heat of Rhonda being unable to sort through them properly and chooses to explode instead. Seeing how she becomes vocal and then remorseful – how she uses exercise to find a centre of calm and how like for most of us in those instances, nothing truly changes immediately after an experience like that but we each know of a route to find our balance and re-centre ourselves to continue moving forward. I liked how Caruso showed this area of Rhonda’s life and how emotionally Rhonda was at her tipping point.

Through everything Rhonda and Dez rise to the occasion. Their lives are chaotic and sometimes they have family members who drive their very last nerve out of their bones but overall, they share a sisterhood friendship with has such a strong bond that nothing can shatter it. Not even all the little fires which creep up in our lives which seek to cut us down to the quick. I love how Caruso shows through faith, family and friendship you can tackle anything which crosses your path in life but without the addition of humour, coffee and some wicked sweet Italian foods – you might not get through it quite as well as those who do!

I love this series – I am hoping for a third if not fourth installment – as I can’t leave this family where we last find them. Plus, I was so overjoyed I could handle the journey through Cancer with Aunt Bunny as that is one of my issues with most Contemporaries which feature the illness; either the details or the descriptions weigh heavy on my heart. Caruso thankfully focused on other bits of her journey and mostly focused on the recovery and bolstering of having loved ones have your back when a medical crisis arises. Best of all though is the comfortable pace and the realistic marriage you get to tuck inside between Rhonda and James. Theirs is a marriage which is equally strong to Kay Hunter and Adam (from the Kay Hunter series by Rachael Amphlett). You truly will find yourself snorting into laughter, getting emotional about the tides which keep turning and eager to get to the conclusion to find out if Rhonda can breathe a bit easier again!

-quoted from my book review for Happy Everything

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A #SpooktasticReads Book Review | “Ghastly and Good” (Merry Hanukkah series, Halloween short) by Debby CarusoGhastly and Good
by Debby Caruso
Source: Direct from Author

Join Rhonda, Dez, and the Merry Hanukkah crew as they try to pull off yet another holiday feat in this Halloween Short that’s sure to leave you laughing.

In an attempt to treat the kids at the local shelter to a Halloween party like no other, Rhonda finds herself running out of time, battling a hurricane, and wrestling with ghosts. In true Rhonda fashion, she has a few tricks up her sleeve, and the end result is anything but ghastly.

Grab a hot apple cider—or pumpkin spice anything—snuggle up, and enjoy a short story that will bring you back to a time when Halloween was filled with all the good things life has to offer.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy (Rom Com), Spooky Reads for Halloween, Women's Fiction


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ASIN: B08GJBCYFL

Also by this author: Merry Hanukkah, Happy Everything

Also in this series: Merry Hanukkah, Happy Everything


Published by Self Published

on 9th September, 2020

Format: Personal Copy provided by Author

Pages: 37

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The Merry Hanukkah series:

Merry Hanukkah by Debby CarusoHappy Everything by Debby CarusoGhastly and Good by Debby Caruso

Merry Hanukkah (book one) | see also Review

Happy Everything (book two) | see also Review

Converse via: #SpooktasticReads + #WomensFiction or #Halloween #shortstory

This is a Digital First Release (ebook only!) Read More

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #SpooktasticReads 2020
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Posted Monday, 19 October, 2020 by jorielov in #SpooktasticReads, 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Contemporary Romance, Family Drama, Family Life, Indie Author, Modern Day, Romance Fiction, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Women's Fiction