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.

Last Days by Adam Nevill

last days Last Days by Adam Nevill

Published February 26th, 2013 by St. Martin’s Press

Cover and synopsis provided by the publisher.

 

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Books A Million / Amazon / B&N

 

Synopsis:

Indie filmmaker Kyle Freeman is hired to create a documentary about The Temple of the Last Days—a notorious cult that met its chilling end in an Arizona desert back in 1975. As he travels to the cult’s birthplaces in London and France, and its infamous demise in the United States, a series of uncanny events plague all his shoots: out-of-body experiences, visits in the night, ghastly artifacts appearing in their rooms each evening, and the deaths of their interviewees.

What exactly it is the cult managed to awaken – and what is its interest in Kyle Freeman?

 

Rating: 1 star

 

Review:

There is only one way to put this.  This book sucked.  It sucked to high heaven.  It bored me nearly to death with every page.  I honestly wondered if all of the good reviews were paid to say nice things about this crappy tome.  Even as I write this, I think that might still be the case.  With all that said, here are my issues with this crappy thing.

The author has zero sense of pacing.  This book moved at a snail’s pace for chapter upon chapter and then suddenly all kinds of things started to happen in the last quarter of it.  The idea of this book is a good one, a filmmaker is hired to do a documentary about a cult from the seventies that committed mass suicide/murder and manages to stumble into paranormal activity that targets him.  That sounds like it should be good right?  It’s not.  In every single city or location the characters visit the exact same things happen.  Every person the characters interviewed said exactly the same thing.    Approximately 300 pages was a repeat of what happened in the first 100 pages. I was bored to tears.

The author’s descriptions were annoying and confusing.  I didn’t understand what was going on most of the time.  As an example, the author described the room in which the last scene takes place for 2 whole pages.  The picture of it was fully formed in my head and it was a great description!  But then all of a sudden he starts talking about a “large plastic tent” in the middle of the room that had never been mentioned before.  Then just a few paragraphs later it’s described as a “plastic cube” that is solid enough that it requires beating it and shooting at it to dismantle it.  But, I thought it was a tent?  And why wasn’t this included in the initial room description if it’s so important?  If it was a tent then why was it so hard to puncture?  By the time I got to this question I had been pulled completely out of the story and just didn’t give a crap anymore.  This happened so often that I was regularly confused and thought I had skipped over something accidentally.  So I would go back and re-read that part and realize, no I hadn’t skipped over it, it was never addressed.

Most stereotypical American characters ever!  Let’s see, there was the sheriff who was a complete hillbilly.  Cowboy hat and boots, spoke with a drawl, kept saying things like “ya’ll” and “ain’t”, could have walked right out of a western…but he’s from Arizona.  Yeah, it confused me too.  Or Jed, the gun toting, muscle bound Jesus freak who thinks he’s on a mission for God, is unstable and keeps pointing guns at his own friends.  I mean, really?  All we needed was an overweight, outspoken black woman and the stereotypes would have been a complete collection!  It was ridiculous.

Kyle was supremely unlikable.  He spent most of the book mentally belittling and mocking the people he was interviewing for believing in this paranormal stuff.  Then he went on to experience the paranormal stuff himself and freaked out, running around and screaming at everyone else to figure out a way to protect him.  Shut up dirtbag!  Nobody likes you!  Just die already and quit your whining.  I hated this guy so much.

I was very disappointed that I hated the book this much.  I heard this author compared to my favorite author, Scott Sigler, and was excited to see if that comparison held true.  It most certainly does not!  This author has no sense of pacing, storytelling, or character building.  I can’t, in good conscience recommend this book to anyone, it was awful.

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

unholy ghosts Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

Published May 25th 2010 by Del Rey

Cover and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

Buy this book at: B&N/ AmazonBook Depository / Books A Million

 

Synopsis:

THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED.

The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.

 

Rating: 4 star

 

Review:

Anyone who has spent time in the online book reading community knows the name of Stacia Kane.  Normally her name is synonymous with a kickass author who just…well kicks ass!  At least that is what led me to buy this book.  I appreciated my interactions with her as a reader and so wanted to show some support.  Yet, still, I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to like this book for much of the first half.

Chess is awesome, let’s just say that right off the bat.  I loved her.  But then, if you read my other reviews you’ll see that I have a penchant for some seriously fucked up characters.  So that might explain my affection for her.  She is not a nice character.  She’s high most of her waking hours and something of a bitch for the remaining hours.  And that is exactly why I liked her so much.  She was gritty and real and I wanted to hear her backstory. And whoa, what a backstory it was.  No wonder she was high all the time, I would have been too.

The world was an interesting one too.  But I have to admit that I wasn’t overly pleased with the world building and felt like a lot was simply assumed.  I really hate it when an author assumes that I know what the hell they’re talking about, and Kane did that to a certain extent in this book.  But it wasn’t overly so, and so I could overlook it and enjoy the world building that we did get.  I liked the story that got Chess involved in the whole case and liked the pacing for how it unfolded.  My biggest complaint about this world was the slang.  It grated on my nerves and took me quite awhile to become accustomed to.  Eventually I found that it didn’t bother me so much, but at first I was ready to pull my hair out.  Along those same lines was my issue with the character’s names.  I can’t be all that terrified of a mobster drug dealer named Bump.  It makes me snort giggle just saying it.

But then there was Terrible.  Yes, that’s a name too….remember what I said about the names?  At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like him all that much but by the end *sigh*.   He’s a cutie and I was rooting for him in the love interest department.  A giant teddy bear who could also probably decapitate someone barehanded if he wished.  So attractive.

Oh, and the bad guy!  I admit, it surprised me.  I figured out the red herring pretty easily, or at least I prayed that it was a red herring and turned out to be accurate.  But I just didn’t suspect the real culprit. It never really crossed my mind and then when it happened I was dumbfounded.

I enjoyed this book a lot but it took awhile for me to get into it.  Once I hit the halfway point I was completely invested but before that it wasn’t looking too good.  I would suggest this book to fans of the genre, but people who are not Urban Fantasy fans might give up before the good parts.  For me, I will be reading the next one for sure.