Book 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

Rating:  ★★★★

This is my second time reading Hendrix and it did not disappoint. The first time I read Horrorstor, and it felt fun and a little campy, and I listened to it on audio. I read a physical copy of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and it was a very different experience.

The premise is that Patricia, a housewife in South Carolina, gave up her career to be a wife and mother. She takes up reading in a book club with five friends. They read true crime novels. When a new neighbor moves in down the street, and fishy things start happening around him, Patricia starts to suspect the new neighbor may be up to no good, but everyone agrees Patricia is just letting her reading get to her head.

There aren’t any real twists or turns in the plot. Everything is pretty much as it seems. Which works in this instance because it allows the author to build suspense. There were several scenes where I felt like I was holding my breath. Is there such a thing as white knuckle reading?  I was doing that.  A good portion of my reading is comprised of horror and thriller books, so that’s probably one of the highest compliments I could pay this.

The characters aren’t the most robust I’ve ever encountered, but the author does a good job of fleshing them out. They each have their own little quirks and idiosyncrasies, different relationships with each other and with their husbands. Warning: the way women are treated in this book will make you want to scream. They are discounted as silly. Their thoughts, opinions and feelings meaningless, and treated like objects.  I don’t think Hendrix was endorsing this behavior – I think it was more based on what he read and observed growing up (afterall, he said the inspiration for this book was his own mother).

There are some graphic scenes, and there are things that happen off page involving children under the age of 10 which are terrible. I’m putting it here as a warning for people who would rather avoid it. I think the beginning of the book is a little misleading in that it’s fun and campy, like Horrorstor, but ultimately takes a very dark turn.

I thoroughly enjoyed this in the end, despite the semi depressing ending, and look forward to reading the next book from Hendrix.  The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires released on April 7, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher who sent a free review copy!

Book Review: The Deep by Alma Katsu

The Deep by Alma Katsu

Rating:  ★★★

The Deep is a dark fantasy that explores the sinking of both the Titanic, and it’s sister ship the Brittanic.  We follow several characters but primarily we follow the story of one of the ship’s maids, Annie Hebley.

The story is told in two timelines, following the past of events on the Titanic prior to its sinking, and the current events leading up to the sinking of the Britannic.  The transition between the two timelines felt very natural with flashbacks seeming to come to Annie and leading us on to another piece of the Titanic’s history.

Technically speaking, I think Katsu writes very well.  Things never felt awkward or overly descriptive.  All the scenes were clear with no confusion about the action taking place in the scene.  However I often felt like there was a lot of unnecessary filler content when it came to the Titanic’s timeline.

There were many characters that held view points that didn’t seem so out of place while reading, but in retrospect, knowing where the story was going and seeing the whole picture, felt a little wasted.  I feel bad saying that because a couple of the unnecessary POVs were some of my favorite characters.  I just think ultimately the novel would have benefited from having a narrower focus on Catherine, Mark, and Annie’s story.

There is a mystery at the core of The Deep: who is Annie?  What happened in her past that led her to leave home and board the ship in the first place?  Who is Mark and what is he hiding?  How are all of these things connected?

It’s a mystery that doesn’t disappoint and I genuinely think that if I hadn’t had to trudge through some of those other POVs to get at the heart of it, I would have given this book a higher rating.

In the end, it’s not a bad book, worth checking out if the topic is of interest to you.  The Deep can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for supplying an electronic copy of this book for review.

Book Review: The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

The Book of Koli by MR Carey

Rating:  ★★★★★

The Book of Koli is a book I have been very excited for since I first heard about it earlier this year.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, given this is my first time reading Carey, but I am thrilled to report he did not disappoint.

The world presented here is one of the more unique worlds I think I’ve encountered. It’s set in a future earth in which trees and plants have become deadly to humans.  On sunny days the trees are active (physically active!), so the village must wait for the rainy, grey days to venture out and do their hunting.  Most of the world’s human population has died out, so people live in villages few and far between.

These villages are run by people with the “magical” ability to wake up tech.  No one knows how the tech chooses who it will work for or why.  These leaders are known as Ramparts.  Koli, our MC, dreams of becoming Koli Rampart, wielding his own tech and joining the ranks of leaders and lawmakers.  The overall result is a strange mix of antiquated societal structure combined with some far future dystopian technology.

The voice of Koli is very strong.  It almost reminded me of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.  The grammar is often incorrect, the sentences run on in stream of consciousness style.  While it might bother some readers, I found it somewhat endearing, and easy to connect with Koli as a character.  I also enjoyed the other characters, Ursala-From-Elsewhere and Monono Aware (A-wa-ray).   Ursala especially, with her intelligence and compassion, but also the prickly and unapproachable exterior.

The plot moves along at a breakneck pace.  I found the book almost impossible to put down and read it in just a couple of days.  That’s the fastest I’ve read a book all year.  The plot twists and turns and propels Koli from one peril to the next.  From about the midway point on- Koli’s situation never feels safe.  He cannot take a break to rest, his future is uncertain, and he is surrounded by danger, either from nearby people, animals, or plants.

I also loved the very natural way in which this story is told.  It feels like you might be sitting down with an old friend to hear where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to the past ten years.  Details are woven in about the past through Monono, explaining pieces of what happened to the world and what it was like before it ended.

I do wish we had been able to learn a little more about the natural environment.  I’m curious about the killer trees and the way some animals have evolved over time.  The plot appears to be leading away from village life to an adventure on the road, so I’m hopeful we’ll see more of this in book two.  (And thank goodness we only have to wait until September for it!).

I highly recommend The Book of Koli.  It is brilliantly written, with fully realized characters and detailed world-building.  It releases on April 14, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads, or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to Orbit Books, who supplied an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Rating:  ★★★★

This was a pretty awesome read. I’m glad I took a chance on it. I was worried it would upset me (abducted children is the main plotline, and not something I really want to cope with). While it is a central theme, there was nothing too graphic in regards to the abducted children. Other content warnings: attempted suicide and suicidal thoughts, drug overdose, and self harm.

The plot is pretty straightforward.  Marin is out shopping one day with her son in a busy market.  She stops to take a phone call and by the time she turns around her son is gone.  The police don’t have any leads and one year later he is still missing.  Marin hires a private investigator to continue searching for him, since the police have given up.

The book wastes no time getting to the story. I was sucked in from the moment I started and finished it in less than 24 hours. I could not stop turning the pages. The prose isn’t overly flowery or descriptive.

Marin is mostly a compelling character. I will say it’s hard to relate to a millionaire and sometimes I was frustrated with how much focus there was on Marin’s stuff or keeping her status. (Of course she can’t divorce her husband, he’s so much richer than her and what would that leave her with? Three successful celebrity hair salons? Pfft.) There is another POV character- Kenzie, who is supposed to be struggling, but I honestly didn’t understand how.. and it made me wonder more than once if the author was a little out of touch with us mere mortals but I digress.

I will say I had the whodunnit pegged fairly early. I actually didn’t mind that so much because I was so curious to see how we’d arrive at that conclusion. If everything else in the book is entertaining (and it was) I don’t mind when I guess parts of the plot. I did not know how it would end.

The other thing that frustrated me was the girl on girl hate, so if that’s something that bothers you steer clear. Overall I enjoyed it and will definitely look for more from Hillier in the future.

Little Secrets releases on April 21, 2020 from Minotaur Books, and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon. Thank you to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Borrowed For The Sake Of A Buddy

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Today’s topic is “Books I borrowed/bought because…”  The truth is, I am hugely influenced by what my friends and family are reading.  I enjoy being part of the discussion, of the book afterward.  It’s part of why I’m a blogger.  I appreciate having that additional insight and receiving recommendations for books I might not have otherwise found.

Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota) by Ada Palmer

Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota #1) by Ada Palmer – I would never ever have picked this up without being prompted both by the Science Fiction Fantasy Book Club on GoodReads and a very timely Kindle sale.  The blurb is super vague and a confusing mess that seems like it focuses mostly on world building.  It’s turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time, and if it hadn’t been for the book club pick, I’d never have discovered it.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Back before I started really getting back into reading, circa 2015 or so, I wasn’t very active on GoodReads and I wasn’t frequenting the bookstore.  The movie wasn’t out yet, so I’d honestly never heard of this.  Thanks to a coworker, who let me borrow it, I flew this book and it succeeded in making me love reading again.  I don’t talk about this one much, because it’s since faded to the background, tainted by that terrible movie I was so looking forward to, but I still hold this up as my Nerd Bible every once in awhile.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods by Neil Gaiman – Same workplace, different co-worker.  He went ON AND ON AND ON about this book.  Probably like I do with many of my favorite things.  I didn’t end up reading it until later, but I thought of him the whole time (in a totally not creepy way).  I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as he did, but I could see why he was talking about it so much.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor – This one was prompted by a reading challenge I was doing called “Inclusive Book Bingo”.  And it seemed very YA/MG to me which was sort of a turn off right from the start.  I participated because I didn’t have any better alternatives, and reading together is better than reading alone.  What I discovered was a story worthy of adults and younger audiences.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades by Marissa Meyer – This is kind of a weird story.  The short of it is, one reader objected to the inclusion of a gay couple in Renegades, so the rest of us rounded ourselves up and initiated a buddy-read-sit-in.  I made a couple wonderful reader friends that I still message with regularly.  Renegades turned out to be pretty enjoyable, even though I haven’t gone on to continue the series.  (I’m not opposed to it, it simply isn’t a priority.)

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife by  Maria Dahvana Headley – This was a book I’d never heard of, on a subject I knew nothing about, because for some reason I never had to read Beowulf in high school.  But I really admire the literary tastes of the person who proposed the buddy read in the first place so I decided to give it a go, even though it didn’t seem like my sort of thing.  And I am so glad I did.  Because truly this was one of the best books I read last year.

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James – The same person who prompted me to borrow The Mere Wife, prompted me to borrow this.  Unfortunately I didn’t love this one as much as I loved the other, but there was still a lot to appreciate about it, and I’m not sorry I read it.

Carnival by Elizabeth Bear

Carnival by Elizabeth Bear – Another one I can attribute to the Inclusive Book Bingo Challenge.  This was my first experience with Bear.  I still want me some carpet plant, and a House… and a Khir… so many cool things.  I likely never would have discovered this book if it hadn’t been elected as the Book Bingo group read.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning – I have my momma to thank for this one!  She has lots of good recommendations and I think we’ve read through most of this series together.  I doubt I’d ever have found it on my own.

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel – Another great recommendation from my mom!  This is way outside my comfort zone- but when my mom recounted the story to me I was sort of in disbelief.  I’ve seen a Maine winter.  Surviving 20 of them with no roof over your head?  I read the book and I still can’t imagine.
And that’s it!  Have you ever picked up a book or read something you might not have otherwise because someone you trusted recommended it?

 

 

Month in Review: March 2020

Hello friends!  I’m back after a short hiatus.  I needed to catch up on my reading.  It’s hard to be a book blogger when you aren’t getting any reading done afterall.

So this post is a little late, and to boot it’s a little sad.  I really didn’t get much done in March, adjusting to my new life as stay-at-home mom, educator, and recruiter.

Novels/Novellas Read: 4

Short Stories: 0

Pages Read: 1,373

Average Rating: 3.5

Female Authors: 3

Favorite Read:

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Other Reads Completed:

 

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn

A Time Of Dread by John Gwynne

The Deep by Alma Katsu (RTC)

ARCs Received:

Whelp.  There goes my ARC requesting ban.  I’m sorry.  I was doing good, for a little while anyway.

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

The Mirror Man by Jane Gilmartin

The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

PopSugar Challenge 2020 Prompts Completed:

A book on a subject you know nothing about: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

A book with a map: A Time of Dread by John Gwynne

Other Posts for March:

Discussion: The Dreaded Slump

Top Ten Tuesday: Pandemic Fiction

Ideas for Staying Sane While Social Distancing

Coming Up:

A couple of these I’ve already read through, and am super excited to share!  I also fell behind in March ARCs, so I’ll be catching up with those.

What have you got planned for April?  Anything exciting?