Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Published: April 7, 2020 by Quirk Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

Review: I had fairly high expectations for this book when I got the audiobook. I had heard a lot of great reviews from good friends of mine and it sounded absolutely thrilling and charming. Taking horror back to a time when the Internet was still just dial-up and cellphones weren’t a thing. Center it around a southern ladies’ book club and you have the stage set for a great read. Unfortunately it was just okay.

Patricia started out as a good character but she quickly became boring. Most of her narration is complaining about her boring life as a housewife. She complains about her mother in law, her husband, her children, her book club, her friends, the household chores, the new neighbors, the weather. She just complains a lot. And I was okay with that at first because it seemed like the plot was moving on from it, but then it didn’t and I had to listen to many more hours of Patricia complaining about everything. She’s also a very weak character and I just couldn’t deal with her anymore.

The plot meanders quite a bit too. We meet the suspicious James (I am fairly sure that was his name at least) early on and Patricia grows suspicious of him early on too. But when the women decide that they have to turn over the information they’ve found to the police their collective husbands hold a meeting to tell them how hysterical and ridiculous they are being. The husbands decree they are never to speak of this again. (Sidenote: I really really hated all the husbands in this book, there should have been a massive neighborhood divorce going on.) And so we spend many more hours of book club meetings, dinner parties, and pretending that James is just a perfect new neighbor. In fact no further plot development happens until three years later. And it literally felt like I had been listening for three more years too. It was so utterly boring.

It also isn’t lost on me that the white women in the book club are all perfectly fine with overlooking their suspicions for three years when it’s children from a poor, primarily African American community who are going missing or turning up dead. They only change their minds when it’s their children who are in danger. Then they can’t remain silent any longer.

Now, once Patricia decides to stop cowering behind her husband (remember what I said about her being weak?) and starts bringing the women over to her side I was back on board too. Things were moving and it was interesting and well written. I really loved the back half of the book. It was gritty, dark and at times disgusting. The ending was imaginative and unexpected. If the middle half had been taken out of this book then it would have been an easy five stars from me. But that middle half was some of the boring drivel I’ve ever read.

Review: After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill

After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill

Published: April 7, 2020 by Poisoned Pen Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: If you get lost in a book, be sure you can find your way back . . .

Madeleine d’Leon doesn’t know where Edward came from. He is simply a character in her next book. But as she writes, he becomes all she can think about. His charm, his dark hair, his pen scratching out his latest literary novel . . .

Edward McGinnity can’t get Madeleine out of his mind–softly smiling, infectiously enthusiastic, and perfectly damaged. She will be the ideal heroine for his next book.

But who is the author and who is the creation? And as the lines start to blur, who is affected when a killer finally takes flesh?

After She Wrote Him is a wildly inventive twist on the murder mystery that takes readers on a journey filled with passion, obsession, and the emptiness left behind when the real world starts to fall away. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press!***

The synopsis of this book appealed to me right away. As someone who fashions themselves an amateur writer, I was drawn into the idea of an author writing a character who is also writing about her as a character. Or is it the other way around? That premise did not disappoint. I can honestly say I have never read a novel so ingeniously written. I could not tell which one was the character and which was the author. And ultimately it didn’t really matter, the two were so intertwined that their fates depended on each other. Maddie would tell a bit of her story and then sit down to write Ned’s story, and his story picks up from there until he sits down to write about Maddie. It was perfectly executed.

Some elements of the plot were very predictable. I knew right away who the killer was in Ned’s story and I knew right away who the bad guy was in Maddie’s story. But even this was intentional I think. It’s supposed to be obvious, to the author, what the answers are. The author knows who the killer is. The author knows who the bad guy is. In that way, the reader was supposed to know these things too. Maddie and Ned didn’t know, because that’s real life. It’s always easy to point out the killer in a book. It’s not so easy when that person is someone close to you. That was one of the themes of the book that was executed perfectly.

The only thing I wished had been done differently was the ending. We spent a lot of time getting to know Maddie and Ned but their respective stories didn’t really get moving until we had about fifty pages to go. The ending seemed rushed and a bit unfinished. Neither of them got a resolution because their respective author was unavailable to finish the story. That ending might appeal to some readers but it detracted from the overall story a bit for me.

Review: The Gatherer by Colleen Winter

gathererThe Gatherer by Colleen Winter

Expected Publication: November 26, 2019 by Rebel Base Books

Buy this book at: Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Synopsis: Storm Freeman gave the world a miracle. She designed The Gatherer to draw electromagnetic energy from the air and disperse free and infinite electricity to rural and underprivileged communities. Her invention helped people but devalued power industries. Some revered Storm as a deity. Others saw her as an eco-terrorist.

Then the miracle became a curse. The Gatherer unleashed a plague that damaged the human electrical system, bringing pain, suffering–and eventual death–to anyone continually exposed to the technology. Stricken herself, Storm goes into exile, desperate to find a cure–and destroy her invention.

But there are people in the government and in the corporation that funded The Gatherer who refuse to publicly acknowledge the connection between the device and the spreading plague. And they will stop at nothing to find Storm and use her genius for military applications . . .

Rating: 4 star out of 5 stars

Review: 

***Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book for free on NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!***

This book was a nice surprise for me. I read the synopsis and thought to myself, “Well, that sounds like just about every dystopian young adult book I’ve ever read.” But it wasn’t and that surprised me a lot. I found the plot intriguing and the characters were crisp and refreshing. I didn’t really mean to make them sound like apples, but there we are.

Really only to things got on my nerves and I hope they are rectified before publishing. 1. The plot moves back and forth in time quite a bit, and there is no indication in the text about when we’re in a particular time period. I found it rather confusing with no idea what time period we were in until I had read a page or two. Even a “X year” at the beginning of the chapters from the past would help. 2. Sometimes the text seemed a bit disjointed. For example, I would read something and then all of a sudden they’d be talking about a dead body and I’m thinking “wait, when did someone die? what happened?” So I went back and read those passages again and still can’t figure out what happened. This didn’t occur a lot, but it happened a few times.

Storm was a good character, though I found her assumed helplessness a bit annoying sometimes. This book was the time for her to harness the power she still has and step forward into action. I saw that a little bit at the end, but it was quite literally only in the last 2 chapters. Prior to that she was a passenger to the plot and I wanted more from her.

Maria is a great character, a real kick butt strong woman with a purpose. The only drawback to her character is that I felt she was a vehicle to the next book. She seemed a little irrelevant to this particular plot but she was the method of getting our characters to the next book.

The plot moved at a good pace and the writing is exciting. I really enjoyed the journey this book took me on as a reader and I look forward to the revelations we get in the next book. I wish I could come up with more great things to say about this book, but anything else will spoil the plot and I endeavor to keep this review spoiler free. But it is a good, fun read that you should check out.

Review: Alive by Scott Sigler

aliveAlive (Generations Trilogy #1) by Scott Sigler

Published July 14, 2015 by Del Rey

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: I open my eyes to darkness. Total darkness. I hear my own breathing, but nothing else. I lift my head…it thumps against something solid and unmoving. There is a board right in front of my face. No, not a board…a lid.

A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief—she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no people…and no answers.

She knows only one thing about herself—her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin—yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Now, if they’re to have any chance, she must get them to trust one another.

Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it. If she has to lead, she will make sure they survive. Maybe there’s a way out, a rational explanation, and a fighting chance against the dangers to come. Or maybe a reality they cannot comprehend lies just beyond the next turn.

 

Rating: 2 star out of 5 stars

 

Review: I cannot begin to tell you how dismayed I am to be giving a book by Scott Sigler just two stars. I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever given one of his books less than four stars. For me, Scott Sigler is an auto-buy, auto-read author. If he puts it into print, I will read it. And every single time, I have loved it. Until this time. When I first heard this book was being published I was a little surprised. Young Adult is not really the Sigler wheelhouse. Dick jokes and very colorful language is part of the writing style, none of which can be in a young adult book. But he’s an extraordinary writer so I didn’t worry about it too much. Surprised but not worried. In hindsight, I should have been worried.

Now, in order for me to be intellectually honest, I also have to mildly rebuke the author a little. On the podcast for Alive, and apparently on the book (at least the advance copies), he felt it necessary to add a little notation that said if you’re going to review this book, please don’t post spoilers and ruin it for other people. This shocked me. My jaw literally dropped. Scott Sigler has never been someone that didn’t understand the reader/author line and always been very respectful of any and all feedback. But this was not okay. Once that book is out into the world, you no longer control it as an author and you certainly don’t control the way it is read or reviewed. If someone doesn’t wish to be spoiled, they should probably not read reviews. Or look for ones that specifically state no spoilers. Let’s not repeat this pattern Scott Sigler, it’s not a good look.

Alright, all that finished. Consider yourself warned, there be spoilers ahead.

***SPOILERS***

Let’s talk about the redeeming qualities about this book first, that’s the shorter of my two lists. The premise of this book is very good, it’s intriguing and mysterious and horrifying at time. It was executed badly but the premise was great.

Em was a character with a lot of potential. A scared little girl who is thrust into a position of authority when she doesn’t know anything more about the situation than anyone else. Where Em fell short was that she ended up being largely boring. Most of her verbal dialogue and inner dialogue alike are “I’m the leader, I think that person wants to challenge me to be leader but I’M THE LEADER!!” Seriously, she repeats this so many times I was praying someone would actually challenge her leadership so she could stop stressing about it.

All of the other characters really don’t matter. Bello is very important to Em for some reason that I never figured out, she didn’t do anything except sit around, look pretty and be boring. O’Malley has some potential to be interesting because I got the sense that he is a secret trouble maker, he always seems like he’s supportive of Em but I think he’s undermining her behind her back. Bishop is scary and violent but, oh, those dreamy eyes and muscles of his. We hear a lot about liquid eyes and taunt muscles and flat stomachs too. Which brings me to my biggest problem with this book:

These kids are supposed to be 12 year olds stuck in adult bodies. Why are they all so sexually interested? Kids at 12 have crushes based on who looked at them across the playground, not because they are enthralled with their muscles and boobs. 12 year olds haven’t figured out what boobs are yet. So on one hand you have prepubescent kids acting like 16-17 year old kids, but then also calling these mysterious people who locked them away “grown ups”. I am pretty certain that most kids stop referring to adults as grown ups much earlier than 12 years old. It was very strange.

The kids, Em in particular, at times struck me as both a much younger and much older child and it did not make sense. She also seemed very disingenuous as a female character, often times she read like a boy. This could be explained by something I heard the author say in his podcast when he was asked how difficult it was to narrate a 12 year old girl. (Note: while in quotations, this is not a direct quote, but it’s close), “It really wasn’t that hard because the world of Alive is post-gender, post-race, post-everything except the caste system that they don’t even understand yet.”

This leads me to a question, if your world is post-gender, why differentiate between girls and boys at all? Presumably the “grown ups” that are cultivating their bodies for their own use don’t need to breed because they can live for millennia, so…why was this important anyway? And why exactly is everyone so obsessed with how attractive the opposite gender is, if it is really irrelevant? It was the strangest remark I’ve ever heard, I listened twice just to be sure I heard it correctly. And I am not sure what this caste system is because we were too busy obsessing over leadership and muscles to explore it at all.

While we’re on the subject of gender in characters, what the fuck was with dressing 12 year olds in too-small, too-tight, busting-at-the-seams Catholic schoolkids outfits? And everyone was so completely hot? Are we really sexualizing 12 year old children? I found that to be one of the more disturbing aspects of the whole book. My brain just kept screaming “Stop it! These are children! Literally prepubescent children!”

I will walk away from that for awhile and move on to tropes. This book has all of them. Smoldering eyes, liquid eyes, scintillating muscles, flat firm stomachs, boobs popping out of shirts, wistful glances across fields of flowers. There was so much purple prose I was inspired to quote from Willy Wonka. Sigler, you’re turning violet Sigler!

Lastly, the plot. It was boring. 70% of the book was walking, arguing about leadership, gazing longingly at each other, and occasionally doing something they think is a bad idea (I shouldn’t look in that room, oh I did anyway, OMG that’s awful I shouldn’t have looked!) Then when we finally started getting answers I was presented with Brewer the Cheshire Cat who I thought was supposed to be the bad guy, but apparently isn’t. But if he is a good guy, then why the hell was he talking in so many circles. I also lost my mind when Brewer gave them a lecture about “why tell you when I can show you, that’s so much better”….and then proceed to TELL them for about 6 pages everything that was going on. That was followed with 10 more pages of the actual bad guy, Matilda, once again telling them everything they need to know about what’s going on. I thought showing was better? I could almost hear the author over my shoulder whispering in my ear, “Are you so super surprised? You never saw it coming did you?” Honestly, no I didn’t see it coming but it also wasn’t that great either. My final feelings once I turned the last page were a big, whomp whomp.

Unfortunately, this trilogy will tie directly into the larger Siglerverse very heavily, I can see that, so I have to read the next two. I really don’t want to, but I will. Maybe it gets better, if not, I’ll let you know.