Today Kim and I bring you a double review of Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. Kim enjoyed it while it wasn’t really for me. But this is exactly why we like doing double reviews: Two readers with two very different feelings on a novel!
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Author: Grady Hendrix
Published: April 7, 2020
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.
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars
I have really enjoyed every book that I’ve read by Hendrix. He speaks to the darkness in my soul and I just want to embrace it! The Book Club’s Guide is no different. My only real criticism is more personal than it is objective. I know that Hendrix loves a good metaphor and considering how literal and shallow I am, I’m actually pretty good at deciphering them. I honestly have no idea what his metaphor is in this book. I feel really stupid but it’s true. But I’m still pondering so maybe I’ll figure it out. But other than that, I couldn’t put this book down. I read through it very quickly. I felt Patricia’s frustration and anger and desperation come through from every page. I liked how Hendrix didn’t shy away from the more subtle problems that seem to plague the older male generations. They saw women as fragile creatures put on this earth to serve and nurture, not to think or significantly contribute. I personally hate to think that anyone would see me as incompetent or stupid, but I have my own sense of self to fall back on. I made very good grades in school, I have a college degree, I know I have a brain and a relatively high level of intelligence. I also have a husband who would never treat me like and idiot emotional female whose only job is to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Patricia doesn’t seem to have any of that so when even her friends turn on her … dang I felt bad!
This book was intensely written with some crazy parts that made me physically uncomfortable! It also put me in the mood to go back and read My Best Friend’s Exorcism and We Sold Our Souls all over again. This is definitely not a YA book so I’d say keep it away from the teens. But I’d absolutely recommend this book to all my reader friends. There’s something so relatable about an honest, Southern book club filled with true crime and romance novels. Throw in a vampire? Oh yeah, I do need more info on who exactly this vampire is. Where did he come from? How did he become a vampire? Who is he??? Well, I guess Hendrix will have to write another book!
Jessica’s Rating: 2.5 Stars
Dates Read: June 28- July 15, 2020
Format Read: Audiobook
This is a novel that just did not work for me. It is about a group of ladies in a book club which intrigued me and also takes place in the 1990s, so I was looking forward to seeing references to that. But I should have been leery as the book description mentions Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias and I am not really a fan of those types of films. I guess the whole typical/expected southern stereotype just doesn’t work for me.
Patricia’s book club reads all kinds of true crime novels, so her suspicions of newcomer James are a bit out there, but her expectations are proved true. This is a dark and gory novel which did not pick up for me until about 30% was left. That 30% was good, but if you are sensitive about your ears there is one part that was just painful for me to listen to in that last 30%: The author really did his job with his descriptions. I kept touching my ear as if I was in pain!
There are other themes touched on throughout the novel: classism, racism, sexism, but also the closeness of female friendship through a shared love of reading. Though it wasn’t for me, I predict that this would be a fun book to discuss at your monthly book club if you have one.
Today Kim and I bring you a double review of Shirley Jackson’s classic short story The Lottery, and I also give a film comparison of the 1996 TV movie.
Author: Shirley Jackson
Published: June 26, 1948
Short Story Description:
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is a memorable and terrifying masterpiece, fueled by a tension that creeps up on you slowly without any clear indication of why. This is just a townful of people, after all, choosing their numbers for the annual lottery. What’s there to be scared of?
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
I love Shirley Jackson so much; she keeps getting better and better the more I read. The Lottery is one that sits quietly in anthologies and literature textbooks. We’ve all read it, back in high school where we complained about the required reading. It wasn’t until I read it again as an adult that I really understood its value and potency. Everything about this story is unassuming, until you reach the end, when all hell breaks loose, but calmly and simply. And that’s how Jackson gets her readers. A little bit of discomfort here, a little bit of creepy there, but then when you see the bigger picture …mind blown. The Lottery is an extra layer of brilliance since the terror is hidden until Jackson is ready. You don’t see the problem until the end. And then, the goosebumps raise on your skin and the story sticks with you for days. Genius in every way!
Jessica’s Rating: 4 Stars
I read this one back in high school and really enjoyed the story. As an adult I still enjoy it. What does that say about me???? LOL. The Lottery is a classic short story and Shirley Jackson has influenced so many authors today. Not popular at the time it was written, The Lottery shows the mob mentality and how ‘tradition’ keeps going despite not knowing where it started and why it continues. This short story moves at a quick pace and there are signs showing what is to come, but until you reach the end you don’t see it for what it is.
This is one lottery you don’t want to win! I also realize that I need to read more by Shirley Jackson….
1996 TV Movie Comparison
Jessica’s Rating: 4 Stars
**I was unable to find a trailer of the movie, which is understandable as it was a tv movie. I was able to find the movie poster**
I watched the tv movie version from 1996. I watched this as a teen and remember enjoying it and also enjoyed it as an adult. This version stars Dan Cortese (I have no idea who he is), Keri Russell (Felicity) , and William Daniels( Mr. Feeny!!!) Again, what does it say that I enjoyed this film?!?!? I can’t help it that I enjoy dark situations that could actually happen!
You can’t really compare this film to the short story: It takes Shirley Jackson’s story and brings it to present day (in 1996) and builds upon the story. Jason Smith’s dad just passed away and there is a mystery to his mom’s death when he was a child. Jason’s father wanted his ashes poured over his wife’s grave, thus begins Jason’s journey to Small Town America (New Hope) and a journey he never expected, including a romance with a small town girl torn between family and tradition and an altogether possible different life.
Despite the cheesiness of the Lifetime-esque movie, it still has aged relatively well and does the Shirley Jackson short story proud.[Top]
Today Kim and I bring you a double review of Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews (MKA)! We just love her at Jessica’s Reading Room and both of us awarded Sunset Beach 4 stars. Kim was also lucky enough to attend a signing and meet Mrs. MKA again!
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Published: May 7, 2019
Pull up a lounge chair and have a cocktail at Sunset Beach – it comes with a twist.
Drue Campbell’s life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother’s funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he’s remarried – to Drue’s eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they’re offering her a job.
It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance – her grandparents’ beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.
With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father’s firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may – or may not – involve her father. With an office romance building, a decades-old missing persons case re-opened, and a cottage in rehab, one thing is for sure at Sunset Beach: there’s a storm on the horizon.
Sunset Beach is a compelling ride, full of Mary Kay Andrews’ signature wit, heart, and charm.
Jessica’s Rating: 4 Stars
Dates Read: August 26- September 13, 2019
Here I am reviewing another MKA book! She is a ‘go- to’ author for me! MKA’s books are always enjoyable. This one has a double dose of mystery to it: present day and back in 1976, and the two stories are connected.
I really liked Drue and I identified with her as she is close to my age. She has had a hard run of life and then finds herself working for her father in a dead-end type job. He has also remarried, and what makes that situation worse is that she is an old classroom frenemy of Drue’s.
Drue finds herself looking more into a recently closed case that she personally connected with and also finds some old newspapers/file in her grandparents attic that also catches her attention. It says something about the professionals of this town that Drue, who in essence becomes an amateur sleuth figures things out that they couldn’t! I guess a pair of fresh eyes helps? Though I did like detective Rae Hernandez.
This is definitely a beach read with the mysteries involved and to find out how they are connected! And just look at the cover! It is meant to be read while relaxing. I look forward to seeing what MKA brings us next year!
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an arc copy via Goodreads.
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Mary Kay Andrews is one of our absolute favorite authors here at Jessica’s Reading Room. She consistently writes wonderful novels and creates memorable and likable characters. I really enjoyed Sunset Beach, but I’ll also admit that it’s not my favorite of all her novels. It kept my attention, I was emotionally invested, and the ending surprised me. However, it just felt slightly shallower as compared to her other books. I love the romance component to each of her stories and this one seemed to be lacking that. There was some romance and I really liked Jonah a lot, I just needed more.
My other issue was all the racial stuff she decided to throw in. Thankfully, she was very balanced, showing the problems on both sides of the “color spectrum”; I guess I just don’t understand why it had to be included at all. I really don’t think anything would have suffered had she not included such a focus on race. Other than that, the story was interesting, the mystery was solid, the characters were relatable and likable. And the cover of Sunset Beach is definitely one of my favorites of all the MKA books. It’s beautiful and totally appeals to a summer lover and beach bum like me! Definitely a good book that I would recommend for a great summer read!