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.

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson @HarperCollinsCa

Lindsay and I have been teaming up together to get to some of those titles we have been meaning to for awhile now. Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson was on the top of our list and we are so glad we read it. It was the right one that we were looking for right now with the something different to it. We highly recommend this unique and clever story that might just be a different pace from what you are used to.

Lindsay’s review

A refreshingly unique, suspenseful, clever and addictive mystery!

This was my first Peter Swanson book and I loved it! I connected with the writing, characters and storyline immediately and that connection remained strong throughout.

Malcolm owns a small bookstore with a loyal customer base. Years ago, he started a blog for the store and his first blog post outlined his list of eight of the most cleverly written murder mysteries. Years later, Malcolm is approached by the FBI who are investigating a string of murders that seem to be copying the murders within his list of eight books. These eight books do not appear together so concisely anywhere else.

There is a lot of reference to this list of eight murder mystery books, some of which are, Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders and Patrica Highsmith’s Strangers On A Train. Though I hadn’t read any of the books listed, the story outlines the theories and outcomes in each book — some might consider these spoilers, but for me with my terrible memory, it didn’t bother me. I’ll be able to read those books down the road and be shocked and surprised at who the murderer is.

There is something so very refreshing about the way this novel is written. None of the plot was filler. I hung onto every word and felt the tension and suspense in every chapter. The narration was one of my favourite parts of this novel – I adored Malcolm who guides us through the story. There was a secretive side to him that kept my curiosity building from start to finish. Malcolm was an extremely likeable character.

I adored the bookstore setting! And Nero the bookstore cat. The pace and flow were perfect. I did find it slightly confusing at times to remember which book or murder was being referred to but nothing that I couldn’t sort through quickly.

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes murder mysteries with a classic feel.

Brenda’s review

Lately, it’s has been all about the characters for me, and I find myself drawn to characters with something a little different from them. Eight Perfect Murders is all about the way it’s narrated through our lone narrator Malcolm (Mal). He is compelling odd, exciting and entertaining with his unique voice, and I enjoyed being drawn into his unique voice. At times he is unreliable, at other times, he gives us information and then second guesses himself. This kept me on my toes and had me asking questions that created some excellent suspense for me.

Peter Swanson delves into some classics here, and there are some spoilers to them. This is the center of the plot here, but for me, it lagged in places and slowed down the story for me. I am sure I missed some important clues to the story. An exciting game of cat and mouse develops between Mal and the killer, and I do love a good one. Even though I saw some of those reveals coming, I was left surprised in the end.

I highly recommend to readers who love an exciting narrator to their stories.

We received copies for the publisher on Edelweiss

Blog Tour: This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf @parkrowbooks @HarlequinBooks

Welcome to our stop on the blog tour for This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf I am excited to share our reviews with you all.

Book Summary:

With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

Brenda’s review

This Is How I Lied has a little something different here with the creep level to the story and Heather Gudenkauf had me a little worried as she created a sense of dread for me like I haven’t felt before while reading. I enjoyed that feeling of not knowing what to expect with that sense of dread. I put my trust in her and was rewarded with a chilling, dark and twisty entertaining read.

For me, this one was all about Nola. She is one odd, dark character with an interesting creepy side to her. She has an exciting, mysterious side to her that created some great tension and suspense to the story that had me turning those pages as fast as I could. She brought something a little different to the story and she was a character we wanted to talk about.

The crime here centers around the murder of Eve, Nola’s sister and her best friend, Maggie. Well, things didn’t really add up the way I would have liked them to, I loved the dynamics between Nola and Maggie. Maggie also brings something a little different here with the tension in the story with her pregnancy and I feared the danger she might be in. I enjoyed how things came together with Nola and Maggie and thought it all wrapped well with them. I recommend it!

Norma’s review

Gripping, absorbing, and an irresistible page turner!

THIS IS HOW I LIED by HEATHER GUDENKAUF is a cleverly layered, compelling, dark, and suspenseful psychological thriller that meanders and holds you tight in its grasp without you even realizing it. This definitely sets the tone for an immersive and unputdownable read.

What I absolutely love about HEATHER GUDENKAUF’S storytelling is that she hooks you in almost immediately and then the story makes its way under your skin as the story progresses. I find this so intriguing and keeps the suspense high for me. Then when you hit the ending it is so unexpected that it leaves you feeling exhilarated in the end.

There is a character in this book that is so creepy and disturbing but definitely ups the creep factor to the storyline.

There is a reason why I love this author so much….she keeps knocking out fabulous psychological thrillers that have a natural ability to get right under your skin, that’s why! Read this book!!

Lindsay’s review

Maggie is seven months pregnant and easing off her heavy workload as one of the two detectives in her small town. She reluctantly takes on desk duty and is assigned the cold case of a local young girls’ murder that devastated the town over twenty years ago. This case is close to Maggie as the victim, Eve, was her fifteen year old best friend and neighbour. Digging into the past brings up old memories while new clues surface.

This was entertaining and fast paced, each chapter leaving a little cliff hanger of curiosity. The characters and mystery were interesting and unique. I loved the small town atmosphere.

Even though this was a quick and action filled journey, I never felt fully invested or engaged. There were several questionable plot points and too much drama for my liking. Though there was an air of suspense created in the prologue, it didn’t carry forward or pull me deep into the story. I enjoyed this for being an entertaining, quick, surface level story that was an easy read during quarantine.

Author Bio: Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.

Publication Date: May 12, 2020

Publisher: Park Row Books

Buy Links:  Harlequin  Barnes & Noble Amazon Books-A-Million Powell’s

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @hgudenkauf

Instagram: @heathergudenkauf

Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor

Goodreads

Thank you to Park Row Books, for inviting us to be a part of this exciting Blog Tour and for our copies on NetGalley and EW.

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

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier @JenniferHillier @MinotaurBooks

We have an interesting one for you all here that just might challenge some thoughts to some uncomfortable realities for you and have you thinking about the story more than you think and it’s now available!

Happy Pub date to Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier!

Brenda’s review

Little Secrets has all the elements here for a twisty, dark psychological thriller that explores obsession, betrayal and revenge, but it is so much more. The overthinker in me was one happy reader after finishing this one. Jennifer Hillier bravely touches on some uncomfortable dark realities that are easy to ignore here while exploring loss and grief. She doesn’t delve too deep into them but uses it to add some impressive depth to a grieving mother. As uncomfortable as they are, I found them very thought-provoking, and it added some layers to the story.

Now the little secrets here with the messy affair storyline didn’t catch my attention, and I struggled with some believability issues with the missing child storyline. The depth to Marin’s character and her not so little secrets won me over. Jennifer Hillier delves into her mindset and we see her downward spiral as she deals with her pain and grief over her missing son, making her an interesting character.

The ending left me and a few of our Traveling Sisters with some unanswered questions. The story is one to talk about and there is quite a bit to discuss here, making it a great one for a group read. I highly recommend it.

Norma’s review

Edgy, complex, and gripping!

LITTLE SECRETS by JENNIFER HILLIER is a dark, twisty, and suspenseful psychological thriller that has quite the emotional and gut-wrenching opening scene.  I was immediately hooked and it totally grabbed my attention but then, unfortunately, the grasp that the storyline had on me lost its intensity a little bit and pretty much stayed that way until we hit the climax.  

The storyline progressed at a steady pace for me and I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was bored with what I was reading. It just didn’t have that same appeal as the beginning did. Once we hit the climax though it had me back in its grasp and I felt that beloved emotional pull again that originally hooked me in the beginning.

Now, I think where this story lost a little bit of its appeal for me and stayed on level ground was that I found it easy to see where the story was headed and nothing really shocked or surprised me.

JENNIFER HILLIER delivers an intricate, intriguing, and gut-wrenching tale here that was extremely well-written that definitely kept me intrigued and entertained. Now, where I think Hillier really hit it out of the park here was with our main character, Marin. Marin was such a raw, realistic, and bold character that was extremely well portrayed. 

Even though I wasn’t exactly thrilled by this one I think many readers will be and find this to be one heck of a thrilling read!  Would recommend it!

Lindsay’s review

A fast-paced, twisty, thrilling read!

Three days before Christmas, Marin is at a busy shopping centre with her four-year-old son Sebastian.   Marin lets go of her sons’ hand to answer a phone call only to realize her son is gone when she hangs up a minute later.  Security is notified and comes back from their search empty-handed with video surveillance showing her son being lead out of the mall with a stranger.   Marin cannot forgive herself for losing Sebastian and falls into a deep depression.  Consumed by her need to find answers, Marin hires a private investigator to look into Sebastian’s disappearance.  What the investigator discovers provides more questions than answers.

I had an immediate connection to this story being the mother of a four-year-old boy.  I felt Marin’s shock, anger, stress and grief.  Those opening chapters were emotional and pulse-pounding for me, creating an intense investment with the storyline.  

The writing was excellent.  This is my first novel by Jennifer Hillier and I truly enjoyed the pace, flow and prose.  I’ve heard great things about her work and this definitely lived up to the hype.  

As the story progressed, my intense connection faded slightly as the novel focuses on things that the private investigator discovers rather than solely on the missing child.  I still felt engaged and invested, just not as intensely as when the novel began.  

Overall, this was a gripping, suspenseful, edgy novel that I recommend to psychological thriller lovers!

We received copies from the publisher on Edelweiss

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

Today I am sharing our reviews for a book that Norma and I picked up on some different things and went down two different paths with this one, each thinking differently about who was in that prologue.  

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown is available on April 21, 2020

Norma’s review

Stunning cover, twisty, and clever!

The cover of PRETTY THINGS by JANELLE BROWN is initially what attracted me to read this book, isn’t it pretty?

JANELLE BROWN delivers a slow-burning, character-driven, compelling, and well-written read here that really intrigued, engaged, and entertained me. It was a little bit slow going at times but the author’s fabulous writing definitely captured my attention and drew me right in keeping me fully absorbed in this deceitful and cunning tale. Plus there were some pretty surprising and thrilling reveals that definitely got my adrenaline pumping moving this story forward for me.

The story is told in alternating perspectives between our two main sinister characters here, Nina our con artist and Vanessa an Instagram influencer. The connections and dynamics between these two women really surprised, intrigued & captivated me. I never really knew who to trust or believe. Each of these women brought their own unique and distinct voice to the narrative which I was equally invested in. I was really surprised with the direction this book took and had me questioning multiple plot points in the end.

I’m not sure if my perception of what was going on in the end with a certain character was all wrong or if my deliberations were correct. I can hardly believe that I am saying this because I am not a deep reader at all, I’m more surface but this one totally had me digging deep and discussing it in our Traveling Sisters group. Brenda thinks I was overthinking things! I’d love to have a conversation with the author!

Brenda’s review

Nina is working her most dangerous scam here and Vanessa, an heiress, is her mark. They are two very different women who have something in common and things are not so pretty here for them. They are not very likable at all, but each had an interesting back story to them, that had me feeling a bit of sympathy for them both.

The pace was slow for me in parts and then fast in other parts. At times some parts of the story felt like those packing peanuts that are used for filler and surround that anticipated package you are waiting for. You have to weed through some filler to get to the good stuff and that weighted down the story for me. I think that is where Norma and I went in different directions with not sure what was a clue or important to the story or not, or maybe were red herrings to throw us off.

The thing I loved about the story the most was Vanessa’s connection to her brother Benny, and I would have liked him to have filled up some of that filler space instead of what felt like packing peanuts to me.

There are some surprising twists here, some interesting ones and some that I figured out along the way. Overall I was entertained by them all, and in the end, it’s all about the good stuff, and I like the way the story wrapped up, and it all worked for me.

We received copies from the publisher