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books and reading

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

As much as I love horror, I’ve never read a Grady Hendrix book. I admit that I judged his books by the cover (and title, really). I expected them to be campy and cheesy and ridiculous. What I found was quite the opposite, though. This book was awesome, simple as that. I cannot wait to read his others now.

From Goodreads:

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.

I grew up in and currently live in the south. I know people that are exactly like these characters. Anything out of the ordinary is immediately rejected. Several of the characters are super religious, so anything they don’t perceive as Christian-like, isn’t given a second thought, which is a major plot point in this book as well. The gross factor was pretty high in places. There’s one scene (this isn’t a spoiler) where a cockroach climbs into a person’s ear. Ever since seeing Star Trek Wrath of Khan as a child where the thing crawls into the guy’s ear, I’ve had a phobia of this very event. The cockroach scene almost sent me over the edge. Gah. But I flew through this tightly-written, creative, excellent book. Highly recommend.

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books and reading

The Historian

Here’s another book that has been on my to read list for quite some time. When the 2017 book challenge came out, I noticed I needed a book of letters. Unless I know of a title right off the bat, I head over to Goodreads to search for books that might fit this category. I discovered there aren’t a ton of books of letters, however, this one fit. All I knew about this book before starting was that it was about Dracula.

At over 700 pages, it does take some time to sink into the story. You have a young girl and her father who live in Europe and travel quite a bit for the father’s job and once she is old enough, he begins to tell her a story of his youth. Unlike most stories, this one involves vampires. The father, Paul, spent a good chunk of his early adult days searching for the tomb of Dracula. His mentor, Professor Rossi goes missing, and Paul decides he’s going to find him. Along the way he meets Rossi’s daughter, Helen, and the two of them embark on the quest. All this information is revealed via letters Paul has left for his daughter. You see, Paul has gone missing as well, and his daughter uses the story in the letters to try to find him. So you also have a story within a story going on here.

Once you really get into the meat of the story, it flies by really quickly. And it’s not about vampires really. Sure, Dracula’s tomb is the ultimate quest, but it really is just about solving problems, finding people, and searching for a treasure. I would consider it a quest book more than a vampire book. If you’re looking for vampires, might I recommend The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin. Overall, a really good read and it moved much more quickly than I was expecting it to.

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books and reading

The Passage

I rarely reread books. Partly because there are just so many books on my “to read” list that I just don’t have time for rereading. I’m too antsy to get to the new ones. Also, because if I loved a book the first time around, I am really nervous to read it again because it might not be as good the second time. There are books that fit into your life exactly in the perfect time and place. Reading Les Miserables was an experience that I could never recreate. The only time I’ve read it, I was teaching and would share the story with my students. Although, I fully believe Les Mis would hold up to a second reading, something would be missing from my joy: my students. So, I’ve never reread it. But there are books that I miss. I want to visit them again. My memories of them have started to fade. So this year, I vowed to reread some of my favorites.

I originally read The Passage when it came out, years and years ago. And then I read The Twelve (review coming soon) when it was published. And I have never revisited either one. But since City of Mirrors is FINALLY coming out this month, and it had been so damn long since I read the first two, I am gladly refreshing my memory of this series.

I loved The Passage. Not your typical vampire story, but really more of a character study. And unlike any story I’ve read, the vampires are humanized, well, as much as death row inmates can be. And you get inside their brains to really understand what life is like for them. The story also follows several formats. It’s not just a narrative, but also emails, journals, documents, etc, which helps break up the 800+ pages. As lengthy as this book is, the story flies. It’s told in a bit of a random order, jumping ahead 100 years in the middle, which was quite surprising when I originally read it, but all is wrapped up fairly well by the end. The Passage isn’t just another “vampire book.” It is unique and one not to pass up.