The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

YaHoo!! Hot Diggity Dang! This is one brilliantly done story!!!

So how does what seems like a stereotyped, mocking sexism story about southern woman in a book club turn into a skin-crawling, blood soaking story? Then turn into a refreshing, powering, brilliantly humorous story with meaningful character development. Well, Grady Hendrix does some mighty fine footwork here, and I couldn’t help but analyze this story.

This one is not my normal story and one that was not on my radar to read, but after seeing how much fun some TS were having in a group read, that fear of missing out on a fun discussion had me joining in. That overthinker in me almost ruined the story, and that over-analyzer saved it for me along with my curiosity. I struggled at first with a few of those the gory scenes and with a darkly disturbing part to the story and almost did not finish, but I had to know why so many readers loved this one. Once the story hit that major turning point, everything started to become clear to me as to why!

On the surface, this one is not what it seems, through the brilliantly layered southern humour, horrifying twists, what seems like stereotyped characters and insightful social commentary comes a powerful turning point in the story that made this one an eclectic sightful, thrilling and entertaining read.

There is no doubt the story is over the top and highly fictionalized with the supernatural side to the story. It’s all in the subtext here, and Hendrix draws parallels between a blood-sucking vampire and soul-sucking husbands here in this story along with sexism and racism through the actions of them.

The strength of the story here is Grady Hendrix wanting “to pit Dracula against my mom,” he writes. “As you’ll see, it’s not a fair fight.” Never underestimate a Mother’s magical power called love!!

Well, this one is not for everyone I do highly recommend giving it a try if it has caught your curiosity. You might find yourself as surprised as I did!

I received a copy from the publisher on EW.

She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be by J.D. Barker @jdbarker

Hot Diggity Dang! If I were to describe She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be in one word, it would be MASTERFUL. But of course, I have many words, and so much I want to say about this one. I just had to ask J.D. Barker about his books and he joined us in The Behind the Pages group for a Q & A. I will be posting the Q & A here soon!

I am always intimidated by longer books, and J.D. Barker has intimidated me a few times with the length of his books. Even the title is long for this one! Lol, I am slow to start, but once I do, I can’t wait to finish but don’t want them to end.

She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be is one of a kind here and there are a few things going in the story that is weaved together so brilliantly. A twisty romance, mystery, unquie characters, a little horror to the story and enough suspense that will have you asking many questions. Making this one a great for a group discussion. I read this one in The Traveling sister group and we had a lot to talk about.

Things start a little strange, and I had no idea what was going on here with the characters, and the suspense that created had me turning the pages as fast as I could. It’s all about the characters here for me, and J.D creates a wide variety of characters here with conflicts that all come together so well. The characters are multidimensional, and through their actions and decisions under pressure, I changed how I felt about some characters as they developed. They were characters we wanted to talk about.

The story reaches an exciting, dramatic climax that had me at the edge of my seat, flipping the pages as if my fingers were on fire. After finishing, I was left wanting more from the characters, and I thought about them long after finishing the book. We did ask J.D. if he has plans for a sequel with these characters, and this is what he said “I have no plans to revisit them in a sequel at this time. Too many other books to write!” I am looking forward to those many other books he has in store for us!

I received a copy from J.D. Barker on NetGalley

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs @johnmarrs1

Yahoo!! Hot Diggity Dang!!! John Marrs creates another page-turner and I flew through What Lies Between Us so fast it’s surprising that my Kobo didn’t shut down to cool off.

John Marrs is joining us in the Behind the Pages group to answer our spoiler-free questions about What Lies Between Us, his books and his writing process. You can find the thread to the Q&A here

My Review

What Lies Between Us is an exciting original, entertaining read with one fascinatingly dark warped and twisted relationship here, between Mother and Daughter Maggie and Nina. John Marrs creates an intriguing and terrifying situation here for Maggie, who is chained and hidden in the house she shared with Nina. It’s not only the lies and secrets between them that are intriguing; it’s also the truths they are hiding.

Through Maggie and Nina’s POV, each tells their side of the story in two timelines creating suspense and tension here that kept me turning the pages. With each side of the story, something new is revealed and I went back and forth, questioning the cruel one is.

Things get darker as the story goes and I was on the edge of seat anticipating how this one was going to wrap up, but really I had no idea. All I knew was it was going to be good and it was. The story wrapped up brilliantly and I loved everything about this one! I highly recommend it!

I received a copy from John Marrs on NetGalley

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon @aharmon_author

Giddy up! Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon is now available! Make room on your TBR list or click on that Ebook edition for this daisy of a read!! I loved everything about this one!!

Amy Harmon will be joining us in our Behind the Pages Goodreads group May 12 for a Q & A. We will be asking here about her writing process and insight into Where The Lost Wander. You can find the thread here to ask her question or view the threads after the Q & A

Brenda’s review

Where the Lost Wander is a fast-paced adventure packed gorgeously written and insightful story with heart. Amy Harmon knows how to kick up a dust storm of emotions. The unforgettable characters are the most likable characters I have read in a story. The story is set on the Oregon Trail in 1853, where we are taken on a vividly written journey with this wagon train set for a better life.

I was on pins and needles all through this one, fearing the danger and hardship of the trail and path taken for these characters. Amy Harmon doesn’t sugarcoated things here however, through her powerful insight and wisdom to family, love and hardship she brings a quieter and hopeful tone to the story. The characters are the definition of courage, scared, but still, saddle up anyway. I feared for them and rooted for them.

There is some romance here to warm up the story and I loved the bond between John & Naomi and it melted this non-romantic heart. The strength in this story for me is in the bond, and trust the characters had for each other. They face uncertainly, hardship, tragedy, and find the strength within each other. I highly recommend.

Lindsay’s review

An unforgettable journey following a group of emigrants on the Oregon Trail.

1853: John Lowry, a half-white half-Pawnee man, leads a group of families across the rough terrain of the Oregon Trail. The families each have their own horses and wagon packed with all that they own heading to start a better life out West. The families depend on Lowry’s experience and expertise to get them through the unimaginably difficult landscape and hostile areas. Their trek is gruelling and strenuous, unbearable at times. Their lives rest in the hands of Lowry to keep them safe and guided in the right direction.

Such a wonderful novel! I loved learning about this time in our history. The exquisite writing engrossed me, pulling me deep into this part of history, making me feel an immediate connection to and investment in the characters and storyline. I knew nothing about this piece of history which is why I love reading historical fiction. The novel was extremely insightful, informative and enlightening, all while immersing the reader within an unforgettable tale. Endearing characters, atmospheric landscapes, thought provoking scenarios, heart breaking losses – this book has it all. My one tiny critique is that the last 20% felt a bit too drawn out for me.

I enjoyed the animal aspect of this story and learned a lot about how mules and horses were so highly depended upon during these times. Crossing rivers (often the same river multiple times throughout the trek), surviving a variety of brutal weather, always having to remain “on guard”, pushing through the constant fear of the unknown that lies ahead — I felt all of these stresses right alongside the characters and animals. Please be warned, there are some awful scenes involving animals.

The Authors Note at the end is powerful. To learn that much of this story is based on the authors family history makes it more impactful to me as a reader. Overall, I truly enjoyed this remarkable novel! It isn’t gripping or addictive, but a slow burn, beautifully written tale that needs to be savoured and not rushed.

We received copies from the publisher on NetGalley

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh has been on our list to read for quite some time now just waiting for that perfect time to read it. Well, that time came and I finally read this one with my sister-in-laws. They are pretty picky and my SIL gave us Picky Sisters as our name. Finding a book that meets what they, as readers like, is a little bit of a challenge for this dark and twisted reader. They like to read books that spark emotions but is lighter with little darkness and the most important for them hopeful stories. Well, this one fitted the bill and I am happy to say we all enjoyed this one.

After I read this one, I shared with Lindsay that we read it and she quickly grabbed her copy and read it too. So today, I am sharing our reviews with you all.

Brenda’s review

The Language of Flowers is a mesmerizing, unforgettable hopeful story that beautifully weaves the past and present while exploring abandonment, love and finding what triggers a person to open up to others. In the past we see Victoria’s self-destructive ways as she grows up in foster homes. Now through her connections to flowers, she starts to open up by speaking the language of flowers to help people find some joy through flowers. Flowers start to connect Victoria to others as she tries to learn to trust herself.

The characters are like a beautiful bouquet of flowers and Vanessa Diffenbaugh weaves a moving story her with the bonds between damage Victoria and the characters. Each brought some emotional conflict to Victoria while bringing something heartwarming to the story. Victoria stole our hearts and, left us heartbroken with her self-destructive ways. Victoria’s foster mother, Elizabeth, warmed our hearts with her love, how she always saw the beauty in Victoria and her commitment to her. We rooted for each bond between the characters to bloom and fear the storms that threatened them.

The ending wrapped up so well and left us all with the most satisfying feels. Just what we all needed right now. We highly recommend it.

Lindsay’s review

This book was even better than I had hoped for (and I had high hopes!)!

I have had this book on my shelf for years and have read countless raving reviews. To be honest, I was worried this might end up being one of the many over-hyped books I’ve been reading lately. It is not! It fully lived up to the hype (and more)!

Exquisitely beautiful writing. Heart wrenching storyline. Endearing and unforgettable characters. This was done to perfection.

Victoria is a young woman who grew up in foster care system. Emotionally damaged by the back and forth between numerous foster homes and group homes, she is unable to maintain healthy relationships. She constantly chooses self-destructing behaviour and pushes herself away from those who care. Her one true connection is to the language of flowers which is how she makes her mark in the world. Each plant and flower holds a true meaning and when placed skillfully and precisely in an arrangement, conveys deep meaning.

I adored Victoria! She is flawed and insecure, yet strong and set in her ways. I had a deep connection with her from the first chapter and whole-heartedly enjoyed following her emotional and heart-wrenching journey. There is a strong theme of motherhood among these pages, specifically mother-daughter relationships, that will stay with me a long time. The relationships within this novel are complex and emotional. I was completely immersed within each of Victoria’s relationship, finding myself analyzing each scenario and situation the characters found themselves in. Though I did not agree with many of Victoria’s personal choices, I was committed to rooting for her to find true happiness and contentment.

This is a beautiful book that has earned a spot on my Favourites List. It is one to be savoured and not rushed through. I highly recommend and look forward to reading more from this very talented author.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Ok Friends!! I have a great one for right now! It might seem a little out there but that’s the heart of the story here. It’s thought provoking, light yet very meaningful, fun and entertaining!

Brenda’s review

Great flaming balls of fire!! Kids that catch on fire! No, nothing to see here!

You can’t get anymore original than this quirky, sweet, mesmerizing funny and touching story that uniquely explores what is normal and the power of compassion. It left me thinking we can normalize almost anything if we have compassion for each other.

I loved our main character here, Lillian, whose’s job is to keep fireballs Bessie and Roland calm while keeping her own cool. These adorable twins who I wanted to give a big hug to take temper tantrums to a whole new level and they don’t just have meltdowns they start on fire. Kevin Wilson brilliantly weaves that into the story as a form of self-protection and defence.

Lillian, with her own conflicts and an oddball herself, is not afraid of these little fireballs. Her plan is to “hypnotize them with my own weirdness.” She accepts them, protects them and loves them just the way they are. My heart melted and felt like it would burst in flames itself.

This is one odd, entertaining story with one of the weirdness storylines ever; however, by the end of the story, it all felt normal. Now that’s some talent. I highly recommend it.

Stay safe friends!