Sassy, No Spoilers: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

book reviews, contemporary, funny, scary

Well, considering I’m back in the South (sorry, California), it seemed appropriate to write a review of Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. This book managed to creep onto the NYT best seller list, making me give a little cheer because books like don’t often creep onto that list. I know that was like, a whole year ago, but I’ve been busy, okay? Okay.

So let’s talk about vampires for a second.

see also: stacks of grad school reading

I grew up going to a teeny-weeny library in my teeny-weeny hometown in Alabama, where the selections were limited (to say the least). I was lucky to stumble upon Anne Rice’s vampire novels, so I gulped them up at a very early age (twelve? Thirteen?), so to me—that’s what vampires are. They do not sparkle. I repeat: vampires do not sparkle.

I used to be really into whatever vampire-driven novel I could get my gothic little hands on, stopping around the time True Blood ended its long run, for some reason. I moved on. Vampires moved on, their day in the sun kind of over (see what I did there?).

And then What We Do in the Shadows brought it all back around for me, reminding me how much I love a well-told vampire story (that is the funniest show I’ve ever seen, and the vampires remind me a lot of Rice’s vampires, but with unintentional senses of humor). While working in a teeny-weeny library in a teeny-weeny town in Northern California, I stumbled across Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism, and I’ve been keeping up with his books ever since (that’s what a cool book cover will do for you). And I was so eager to see what Hendrix would do with a vampire.

Turns out, Hendrix’s vampires are kind of terrifying (as they should be).

This book is essentially exactly what the title suggests: about a gaggle of women who invite (never invite!) a man (never invite a man!) into their book club, and then really weird things start happening. I won’t give it away, because that’s the whole point of it, but I will say this is a page-turner. I enjoyed it, and had a few rare laugh-out-loud moments; Hendrix is quite good with humor—and also good at spinning really weird and uncomfortable situations.

Overall, this was such a fun read (and a little creepy—but not too much, fear not, fellow chickens), and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys:

  • Southern book club chatter/scandal
  • Vampires that don’t sparkle, even a little bit
  • Strong female characters that are sick of everybody’s shit
  • Humor with a dash of scary

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sassy, No Spoilers: Home Before Dark

book of the month selection, book reviews, fiction, scary

Abandoned haunted houses? Mysterious deaths? Creepy interior decorating? Yes, please.

Riley Sager is definitely one of the “buzziest” authors in the Book of the Month bubble. I’m most certainly the type of person that will read an author’s book just to see “what all the dang fuss is about,” and Sager has quickly tumbled into that category for me.

The thing I love most about Sager is that he clearly takes things he loves and puts his owns spin on it: Lock Every Door was a nod to Rosemary’s Baby/Ira Levin; Final Girls was perhaps a nod to 80s teen slasher flicks; and Home Before Dark is The Amityville Horror.

I’m here for this.

I, too, love writing my obsessions into my work, so it’s glaringly obvious to me when an author writes to something in which they clearly are passionate about. I think it goes without saying that you’d have to care a lot about famously haunted houses in order to write your fictional account of a family that survived a terrifyingly haunted house. Which is exactly what Home Before Dark is about. (Oddly enough, the title really has nothing to do with the book. I also argue this with Lock Every Door.)

Okay y’all. I’m a chicken. I don’t do “scary” very well–particularly the scary that involves:

  1. Vengeful ghosts
  2. Children (they are always the ones that see the shit first!)
  3. Possessions
  4. Haunted houses of any kind, really

So let it be known: I was nervous about this one. For good reason: Sager is really good at writing scenes filled with creepy suspense that keeps readers on their toes, throwing twists at you left and right, and wrapping things up with a bow (albeit, a bloody bow, but still).

The protagonist, Maggie (my sister’s name, but I doubt I could convince her to read this book, she’s as much of a chicken as I am), inherits the house she and her family fled decades ago, and which made her writer-father famous for his take on what happened in the house. Convinced her parents were full of crap (because ghosts are, like, totally not real, right?), Mags has to face the creepy house and uncover all the deep, dark secrets buried in those walls.

Some people have said this book isn’t scary at all. I disagree, perhaps because my imagination loves to run wild when the lights go out. I was essentially haunting myself with the visions of the ghosts in this book, and it gave me the creeps. Now that I’ve fully recovered (I recommend lights on for at least three nights with this one), I can move on to another Sager book.

If you’re a big chicken but love Riley Sager, this one might be your favorite. Be a chicken, but go forth. Be brave. And maybe read some David Sedaris before bedtime, to laugh those ghosts away.

I recommend this book for fans of:

  • Every haunted house book/movie ever made, particularly The Amityville Horror and The Conjuring*
  • Shirley Jackson in general
  • All those HGTV shows, because you really want to see a show about interior decorators taking on haunted houses (10/10 would watch this)
  • Antiques
  • Small towns

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

*Full disclosure: I went on a first date to this movie, got so scared I made us leave halfway through. Did not have another date with this guy ever again, can’t say I blame him.