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Review of “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires”

It’s that time of the year again.

It’s spooky season.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and this year it holds extra special sentimental value. This time a year ago, I was preparing to launch this blog. Even though it was a soft launch and even a softer year as I don’t post much, this blog has brought me back to reading. It has helped me carve out a space on the internet where I can write what I think to my little hearts content and that’s something to celebrate.

As a form of celebration, I finally sat down to share with you guys one of my favorite books from this year. It’s the perfect book for October, and I’ve been recommending this book nonstop online. “The Southern Book Clubs Guide to Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix is a contemporary masterpiece.

There, I said it.

Do not get me wrong, he has a few authors he holds the spotlight with this season. Sophia Moreno-Garcia is another exceptional horror writer I’m recommending this season and Ali Hazelwood knocked it out of the ballpark with her academic romance novel. But Grady Hendrix brought vampires back for me, just as “Midnight Sun” was prepared to crush my hopes and dreams.

First Impressions

I picked this book up when I was shopping at my local Barnes & Noble. What attracted to me first was of course the name. I love a chunky name if done right, and something about “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” had my curiosity peaked. The book cover was a close second.

The southern peaches with blood dripping from gaping bite wounds was a “hidden between the lines” temptation for me. This book was daring me to imagine what it was trying to say by just the cover. Was a handsome vampire going to swoop into a southern belle’s heart (and bed…) while the reader begs her to understand what he truly is? Was the book club a clan of hardened criminals living on the edge of society and slaughtering vampires while reading smutty fanfiction?

During Reading

This is the first book I’ve read by Grady Hendrix, although I’ve had “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” in my mental TBR reading pile for a couple of months. I’ve heard this book is pretty mild as far as his other works are concerned, but I cannot attest to that. I do enjoy the book clubs reading lists for the timespan taking place in the book, and I do enjoy the rudimentary maps that were included in my copy as well. I am a visual person, and I always love when authors include extra materials in their books to help the readers better disappear into their world.

This book follows a group of 90s housewives as they find out the mysteries surrounding their neighbor and fellow book club member, James Harris. What follows is some female badass-ery as these housewives navigate the dark waters of what happens behind the closed doors in a sleepy Southern town. I don’t want to get into too much detail because I know I’ll end up spoiling something, but this book is going to be great for someone who:

1.) Doesn’t mind dark themes including – child murder, rape, suicide, kidnapping, domestic abuse and violence.

2.) Graphic content being drawn out figuratively across the page

3.) Likes novels with contemporary historical themes (it takes place in the 90s)

4.) Dislikes complex plots; this book is pretty clean cut, and is not for someone who likes longer length narratives.

Honestly, to me this book was pretty mild as far as language goes and content, but I would say it does have some pretty mature content that wouldn’t be suitable for younger readers.

After Reading & Star Rating

I really liked this book. The author tackled pretty hard hitting topics such as classism and sexism, and overall Grady Hendrix did a great job. I never thought I needed a book where housewives take on a creature of the night, but lo and behold here it is.

My biggest gripe with this book would be that we aren’t introduced to some of the background characters as much as I would have liked to be. Most of the book clubs family members are just mentioned in passing, and much of the husbands characters can be summed up in a descriptive word or two. I think if he had made these characters more complex he could have expanded further on sexism. Where it stands, most of the husbands I could either cared less about or they were just so self-centric it was easy to hate them.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Overall I give this book a 4/5 stars and highly recommend you reading this book during the month of October.

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Why I Dislike Stephen King

Since I’ve been on a roll this month with controversial topics, I figured I’d go into a little more detail on my dislike primarily on the known King of Horror, and that’s Stephen King. Most people find this the most shocking about myself personally because I am such a horror buff, one would automatically assume that my love for the horror genre would just automatically translate to the book world. In most cases I’d say you’d be correct, however not in all cases, as I have a love/hate relationship with this author. 

Photo credit here.

I cannot remember the first horror movie I ever watched, but I’m sure it was probably a movie based around a Stephen King book. I can say this with almost positive certainty because my parents VHS tape collection is vast, and one of the movies I remember them both jointly liking in my younger years was Stanley Kuberick’s “The Shining”.

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Believe it or not, this version of “The Shining” is extremely different from the book and highly saturated with content that was made up for your viewing pleasure. A lot of scenes from the book has been left out in the movie version or has changed to be more exciting for visual purposes. If you’re planning on watching a better adaption from book to movie then I’d recommend getting your hands on the 90s television version of “The Shining”. My parents had a bootleg copy of this version on VHS at one point, and it was so uniquely different from Kubrick’s version that I had to read the book after watching both screen adaptations.

So I started to read “The Shining” when I was probably around 12 (parents didn’t care what I read, yes they owned bootlegged VHS tapes, let’s continue) and the book most closely identifies with the TV series. I ended up not being a fan of either the book nor the movie, and both will eventually give us the dumpster fire that Doctor Sleep is many decades later, I’m sure.

Even though I didn’t like The Shining”, I decided to try and start reading other books by Stephen King because I had liked most of the movies I was watching. I have tried to read “Christine”, “It”, “Firestarter”, “Pet Semetary”, “Salem’s Lot”, “Doctor Sleep”, “Duma Key”, and “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”. To this day I can say I successfully have finished one of his books and that was “On Writing”, which ironically is one of my favorite books. 

When I picked up Firestarter, it had me interested until about the last quarter of the book where the one guy droned on about his military knowledge for the next six pages. Sometimes I feel as if his writing gets sidetracked and he spends the next five pages talking about a tree, and that loses it’s charm easily. 

Most of Stephen King’s books to me are very bland and have been an outdated concept by the time I’ve begun to read them. Nothing in his books pull me in or decidedly give me chills, and I expect more from a horror novel than what Stephen King’s books deliver to me. Perhaps it’s because his books have been over done by everyone else in the horror genre by this point, but I’m pretty certain a tale such as Cujo isn’t just an original thought he came up with (Old Yeller) and don’t get me started on Salem’s Lot (vampire weirdos living in crawlspaces? Yeah okay). 

However, despite my harsh criticism thus far of his work, I hold a certain respect and admiration for Stephen King. Even though I have not been able to find much enjoyment in his books, I cannot deny someone who has talent when I see it. There is a reason everyone knows his name, and knows some plots as being associated with his name. All I have to say is “kids battle an evil clown. Name that title,” and arguably everyone who is reading this will automatically assume I’m talking about “It” by Stephen King. The fact that he has full plots that we associate only as being a Stephen King novel says something, especially when a rare few contemporary novelists have reached the same height in recent decades.

Photo credit here.

There is no denying that Stephen King is truly a master when it comes to his craft, even if his craft is not necessarily my cup of tea. A few contemporary authors have created works of fiction that will withstand the test of time as his work surely will. However, it’s still going to take some time for me to get into reading another book of his.