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.
Author: Grady Hendrix
Published: September 18, 2018
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
A new novel of supernatural horror (and pop culture) from the author of Horrorstor, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, and Paperbacks from Hell.
In the 1990s, heavy metal band Dürt Würk was poised for breakout success — but then lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom as Koffin, leaving his fellow bandmates to rot in rural Pennsylvania.
Two decades later, former guitarist Kris Pulaski works as the night manager of a Best Western – she’s tired, broke, and unhappy. Everything changes when she discovers a shocking secret from her heavy metal past: Turns out that Terry’s meteoric rise to success may have come at the price of Kris’s very soul.
This revelation prompts Kris to hit the road, reunite with the rest of her bandmates, and confront the man who ruined her life. It’s a journey that will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a Satanic rehab center and finally to a Las Vegas music festival that’s darker than any Mordor Tolkien could imagine. A furious power ballad about never giving up, even in the face of overwhelming odds, We Sold Our Souls is an epic journey into the heart of a conspiracy-crazed, paranoid country that seems to have lost its very soul…where only a girl with a guitar can save us all.
Grady Hendrix has a way of creating a metaphor for abstract ideas and then making those metaphors so realistic and takes them as far as they can go. He did it with My Best Friend’s Exorcism and he does it even better in We Sold Our Souls. And I learned so much about rock and metal while reading this! He throws in songs and bands and I had to keep stopping and going to iTunes to check them all out. I think I may be a closet metalhead . . . ok maybe not, but I can appreciate the life of a metalhead!
I like how I felt like I could still understand what Hendrix was trying to say. I’m not a rocker, I’m lucky to know who Metallica is, and I’m a shallow person who doesn’t always get the deeper meaning of things, but I got this book. I really love the look into this world and culture of rock bands and their fans. Kris is a believable character who, even tho she is completely different from me, I still got her. I think I identified with Melanie more than anyone else. She treats Koffin’s goodbye tour like I treat author signings . . . I love that kind of passion. Overall, I ended up liking this book way more than I thought I would. I did miss some of the more technical musical elements, but I enjoyed watching the conspiracy unfold. I absolutely recommend this to anyone who even remotely identifies as a musician or even a fan. And those who love conspiracies are gonna love it too!
Goodreads is giving away 100 kindle copies! The giveaway ends at the end of November. Jessica just entered this giveaway!!! The link for the giveaway is here.
Today is a double review!!! Kim and I both enjoy doing these. Everyone experiences life differently, and therefore has different reading experiences with books. That is why I enjoy reviewing so much: There are so many different opinions and with My Best Friend’s Exorcism we get that. Kim and I have totally different reviews and thoughts of the novel. We both listened to the audiobook and one of us enjoyed it and one of us not so much….
Kim’s Rating: 5 Stars
Jessica’s Rating: 3 Stars
Published: May 17, 2016
Description from Amazon:
A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession. The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries—and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil? Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist, My Best Friend’s Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of ’80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller.
I listened to this book on audio, but I did read the physical book last year as well. This one is a bit more difficult to review because I’m kinda shallow when it comes to getting those subtle little things that songs and books try to convey. But after reading this book a second time, I do have a theory. I think this book is simply about the drama of high school. Yes, there is an actual exorcism and demon possession but I’m pretty sure it’s all supposed to be a metaphor. It’s hyperbole . . . boom, obscure literary term!
Abby and Gretchen have been friends forever. Inseparable since 4th grade and Abby’s birthday party where only Gretchen showed up. They had grown up together, at least as far as their sophomore year of high school. And then, everything changed. As one of the unpopular kids, I completely relate to a lot of the things happening in this story. To be on the fringes of high school hierarchy. At least, I never even entered the popular group, so I didn’t know what I was missing. But Abby and Gretchen were some of the most popular girls in their grade. I can only imagine the things that Abby feels when everything changes. A lot of it is typical high school girl stuff, but stretched to the fantastic and unbelievable. Anorexia, crushes on teachers, infidelity, friendship. All such big deals to teenagers and all dealt with here.
And though there is an exorcism of a demon, this wasn’t meant to be a Christian book and I don’t think Hendrix was trying to pass judgement on religion. Like I said, this is more metaphorical than realism. Aside from the language and soft sexual themes, I would actually recommend this to older teenagers. If nothing else, then to show that sometimes friendships last past high school, but most times they don’t, and that’s ok.
Dates Listened: October 26-November 3, 2017
I had wanted to read My Best Friend’s Exorcism for a little while and I got the chance to listen to the audiobook at Halloween time! For me that was perfect since it deals with an exorcism. It is labeled as horror, fiction, and young adult. My Best Friend’s Exorcism is not really horror though there are some scenes that are not for the squeamish. Technically also a YA novel as the main characters are teenagers, this book will not be for younger teens. There are adult situations and the language was extreme for me. Language does not tend to bother me unless it is extreme, and I got tired of hearing the F-word. I don’t think I have read or watched anything with that much language since the movie Goodwill Hunting. I actually debated on stopping it because of the language, but the novel is well written and I wanted to get to the exorcism, so I continued on.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is all about Abby and Gretchen’s long term friendship. They have been best friends since they were children and bonded over E.T. I was born in 1980 and this story takes place in the 1980s so I really enjoyed the references to everything from the music to E.T., and even VHS tapes! There are so many kids now that will not know what some of these various media and ‘relics from the past’ are!
Then one night something happens to Gretchen and she begins to change. Everything changes for Abby as well. A lot of what happens is cliquish in that high school way that things are. I did like that the novels shows how relationships can last or fall apart after high school. This is true on so many levels. I have one friend I still keep in touch with that I have known since sixth grade. She has become like another sister. She has moved to another state due to her husband’s job and I miss her so much! She will be that lifelong friend that some of us are very lucky to have. I love you Jennie!
I was anticipating the exorcism and for the most part it delivered. The narrator portrayed the demon’s voice very well. It actually got me in the mood to watch The Exorcist. Or maybe I’ll listen to the audiobook… Or maybe I’ll do both… But will reading The Exorcist give me nightmares????
**SPOILER:The one thing with the exorcism that I don’t agree with was that the exorcist did not defeat the demon, Abby did. For me that was saying that the girls’ friendship is stronger than God. I can’t agree with that. I did see the point that the author was making, which is the girl’s friendship, I just can’t agree with this direction. END SPOILER**
Overall, I can’t recommend My Best Friend’s Exorcism as the language was too much for me. I gave it three stars since it was well written and again, I loved all the 80’s references.
For you ‘children of the 80’s,’ there is a second cover and I think you will like it!