Kate’s Review: “The Guest List”

51933429Book: “The Guest List” by Lucy Foley

Publishing Info: William Morrow, June 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me and eARC of this novel!

Last May, I spent a lovely Colorado trip with my husband at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. While it wasn’t exactly ‘isolated’ in the way that we think of isolation, it felt removed enough from the hustle and bustle of a big city that the tranquility of solitude was definitely present. It was here that I read “The Hunting Party”, Lucy Foley’s isolated whodunnit. I was very taken with this book, and when I saw that her newest novel, “The Guest List” was available on NetGalley I immediately opted to read it. It sounded similar to “The Hunting Party” with the isolation and the circle of friends/acquaintances hiding secrets from each other, but it worked well enough last time I was happy to dive into a similar story again. Even if isolation this time feels a little too close to home.

The first thing that really captured my attention in “The Guest List” was the setting. A somewhat spoiled bride and her charismatic and B-List famous fiance have decided to hold their wedding on a remote island off of Ireland, and boy oh boy did Foley really bring this locale to life. I could practically see the waves crashing against the rocks, and smell the salt in the air, and feel the odd foreboding of a rough terrain and perilous landscape for the unfamiliar. It also serves as a perfect spot for a gathering in which a murder is going to take place. Foley sets up the story with multiples narratives, and tells it between present time and flashbacks to give an entire picture as to who the potential victim is, and what exactly they did that ended with their cruel fate. I always like a non linear mystery if it’s done well, and Foley has no problem with keeping multiple balls in the air as the lays out various puzzle pieces as to who the victim is, and why they were killed. I am also happy to report that I was mostly caught off guard by the mystery as a whole, from who the victim was to who committed the crime to the motive. There are plenty of red herrings along with justifiable grudges that, in familiar Agatha Christie style, everyone is a possible suspect. Did it sometimes seem like the ‘everyone has a reason’ angle feel a little unbelievable? Sort of. But did that detract from the mystery or make it any less suspenseful? Not for me! I was able to overlook some of the REALLY coincidental stuff, because overall I thought that the work was put in to really pull off a satisfactory web of motives, secrets, and twists.

In terms of the characters and their perspectives, overall I thought that their characterizations were well rounded and interesting. Even though we are really only getting into who they are and what they are like in regards to their relationship to the bride and or groom, and even though it’s really only a snapshot taken within this one event, we learn a lot about all of them. From Aoife the wedding planner to Johnno the Best Man to Jules the Bride, everyone gets a moment to shine, and to show why they could be either a victim, or a perpetrator. My favorite of the perspectives was Olivia, the younger half sister of the bride, who is struggling with a fragile mental state. While it may have been tempting to fall back on tried and true tropes when it comes to characters who struggle with depression or depressive episodes, I really appreciated the effort and care that Foley put into Olivia, and how we learned where he difficulties stem from, and the difficulties those around her have to contend with when dealing with a mentally unstable loved one.

“The Guest List” was an enjoyable thriller mystery, and Lucy Foley continues to delight and entertain. If you’re looking for a fun mystery this summer, consider picking this one up!

Rating 8: A mystery filled with turns and surprises, “The Guest List” kept me guessing and held me in suspense.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Guest List” isn’t on any super relevant Goodreads lists as of now, but I think that it would fit in on “And Then There Were None: Deadly Parties”.

Find “The Guest List” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Something Is Killing the Children (Vol. 1)”

52757827._sx318_sy475_Book: “Something Is Killing the Children (Vol.1)” by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera (Ill.).

Publishing Info: BOOM!Studios, May 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: When children begin to go missing in the town of Archer’s Peak, all hope seems lost until a mysterious woman arrives to reveal that terrifying creatures are behind the chaos – and that she alone will destroy them, no matter the cost.

IT’S THE MONSTERS WHO SHOULD BE AFRAID.

When the children of Archer’s Peak—a sleepy town in the heart of America—begin to go missing, everything seems hopeless. Most children never return, but the ones that do have terrible stories—impossible details of terrifying creatures that live in the shadows. Their only hope of finding and eliminating the threat is the arrival of a mysterious stranger, one who believes the children and claims to be the only one who sees what they can see. 

Her name is Erica Slaughter. She kills monsters. That is all she does, and she bears the cost because it must be done.

GLAAD Award-winning writer James Tynion IV (The Woods, Batman: Detective Comics) teams with artist Werther Dell’Edera (Briggs Land) for an all-new story about staring into the abyss.

Collects Something is Killing the Children #1-5.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this book!

It’s been awhile since I tackled a straight up horror comic, so when I saw “Something Is Killing the Children (Vol.1)” I was immediately interested in reading it. I am vaguely familiar with James Tynion IV, as we read one of his comics for our book club a few years ago, but I hadn’t sought him out otherwise. I went into “Something Is Killing the Children” with my expectations of what I remembered from his other comic, but those expectations were tossed out the window almost immediately. “Something Is Killing the Children” doesn’t hold back, and it jumps almost immediately into the darkness that surrounds it.

And I should probably throw content warnings out there, because this comic doesn’t shy away from a lot of gore, gore involving children.

The plot is straightforward enough, with terrible things happening in a small town and a mysterious stranger coming to fight the evil that’s hiding in the shadows. Standard stuff, but I was still immersed because I’m a sucker for small towns with dark undertones. We mostly follow our monster hunter Erica Slaughter, but we also get to see the perspective of James, one of the teens who was attacked but spared, and therefore under suspicion from the other people in town. Throw in a couple others, like the brother of a missing girl, and the police officer on the case, though theirs are not as interesting as Erica’s and James’s. That said, we do get to have a number of sides of the plot through all these strings, and we slowly learn about the monsters that are plaguing the town, and also about the town and its inhabitants. A world and a mythos is being built slowly, and this volume was very much setting up dominoes that are undoubtedly going to fall as the story goes on. I like seeing these moments of building blocks being set in place, and I liked learning what we did about the mythology of the monsters, and those who hunt them. And they are genuinely scary. And super disturbing. That content warning I gave is no joke.

Plot aside, I also am very much intrigued by our protagonist, the mysterious Erica Slaughter. We know that she’s a monster hunter, and we know that she is part of some kind of group that goes out to take care of these things, but outside of that she is a mystery. She’s jaded, she’s determined, and she’s cold as ice, even though we see glimmers of empathy for James and his situation. She isn’t afraid to use violence if she needs to, but it’s also hinted at that this life is starting to make her weary. As someone who was a huge “Buffy” fan back in the day, she reminds me a LOT of Faith Lehane, but without the sarcasm, and just the potential damage and baggage she’s carrying. So I, of course, am so in love with her that it hurts, and I want to know EVERYTHING about her. But Tynion is keeping that close to the vest for now, which just makes me want to dive into the next arc even more, because we need more female characters that remind me of Faith Lehane.

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Queen. (source)

I really liked the artwork too, as it’s visceral and intense, which matches the story very well. I’m unfamiliar with Werther Dell’Edera, but his style works very well with the plot at hand. The reds are VERY red, and while other colors are muted a bit it serves for a powerful contrast that makes the violence all the more horrific.

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My one complaint is less to do with the story itself, and more to do with the formatting. The way that this book downloaded through NetGalley only would load one page at a time, so reading it on my screen was difficult when more creative styles layered one panel over multiple pages. I’m sure that this could be tweaked and adjusted on other eReaders and in other platforms, but it goes to show that sometimes designs with one format in mind don’t translate as well to others.

Overall, I was completely taken with “Something Is Killing the Children (Vol.1)”. I will absolutely be on the lookout for the next in the trade collection, and I can’t say that I will be terribly patient as I wait.

Rating 8: A scary horror comic with a lot of interesting potential, “Something Is Killing The Children (Vol.1)” has set up a creepy and intriguing world of monsters and monster hunters.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Something Is Killing the Children (Vol.1)” is included on the Goodreads list “North American Supernatural Realism”.

Find “Something Is Killing the Children (Vol.1)” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Kate’s Review: “Ghosted in L.A. (Vol. 1)”

52295766._sx318_sy475_Book: “Ghosted in L.A. (Vol.1)” by Sina Grace and Siobhan Keenan (Ill.)

Publishing Info: BOOM!Box, May 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Daphne Walters moves to Los Angeles and finds that the only ones who can help her find love and live life to the fullest are the ghosts of her new home!

In Los Angeles, finding an apartment is killer—unless you live with the dead. Daphne Walters moves to Los Angeles for her boyfriend Ronnie, ready to live her happily ever after. But when happily ever after turns into happily for a month, she’s stuck in a strange city with no friends, family, or prospects for fun. Desperate to escape the lingering ghost of Ronnie’s presence everywhere, Daphne sets out to explore the city—and ends up encountering ghosts of a more literal kind! Rycroft Manor is abandoned, beautiful, and haunted. Will the dead be able to help Daphne find the life she’s been missing in the big city? From GLAAD Award-nominated Sina Grace (Iceman) and illustrator Siobhan Keenan (Jem and the Holograms) comes a story about learning how to make friends, find love, and live life to the fullest with a little help from some friends whose lives didn’t end at death. Collects Ghosted In L.A #1-4.

Review: Thanks to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this graphic novel!

When the writing was on the wall about the social distancing measures we as a society would need to take regarding COVID-19, I knew that my library pile wasn’t going to sustain me through the long weeks of staying at home. So I hopped onto NetGalley and began to request books that captured my interest. One of those was “Ghosted in L.A. (Vol 1)” by Sina Grace. I saw a cute looking graphic novel style and the promise of ghosts, which was enough to pique my interests. What I got, however, was something more than I anticipated, and something that I ended up really enjoying.

For one, yes, we have a ghost story, people. I love a good ghost story, and it doesn’t even have to be scary for me to enjoy it. The ghosts in “Ghosted in L.A.” (for the most part) aren’t all that threatening, but have mysterious reasons as to why they have continued their afterlives in the abandoned Rycroft Manor. Before each chapter, we get a bit of insight into the backgrounds of each ghostly character, from ringleader Agi to kindhearted Bernard to toxic Maurice, which makes their interactions with Daphne more layered an interesting. It also means that they aren’t relegated to ghost sidekicks, and that we get to see their motivations and backgrounds. I am very interested in learning more about them, and given that we’ve discovered some pretty dark and even dangerous things about some, it makes me feel like there are no guarantees that these ghosts are all going to be the kindhearted roommates that Daphne wants.

But surprisingly, the aspect of this comic that I liked the most had less to do with the ghosts, and more to do with the coming of age journey that our protagonist Daphne is on. She’s an 18 year old who has followed her boyfriend to Los Angeles for school, but then finds herself single and in a city that she knows very little about. 18 is already a confusing and scary time, so this, of course, sets her on a path of making some questionable decisions, and having to contend with not always pleasant people who are going to be supportive of her. Daphne is definitely a flawed and sometimes frustrating character. Sometimes I wanted to shake her because she was being foolhardy or blissfully un-self aware, but at the same time I remember what it was like being an 18 year old in the middle of a huge identity shift. From problems with her standoffish and judgmental roommate to conflict with her at home best friend to trying to reconcile her newly single status (especially since her ex Ronnie is really a good guy), Daphne is all kinds of realistic and relatable. I find myself really wanting her to succeed, even when she’s being all kinds of unreasonable.

And finally, I really love the artwork. It’s upbeat and colorful, and all of the characters have their unique feels while still being very of the style at hand. Plus, I love the coloring on the ghosts, which makes use of the darker side of the color wheel without being limited to just different shades of grey.

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I really enjoyed “Ghosted in L.A. (Vol. 1)”, and I will definitely be on the look out for Volume 2!

Rating 8: A super cute and creative comic about finding oneself and ghosts, “Ghosted in L.A.” has a lot of potential to become a new favorite comic series of mine!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Ghosted in L.A. (Vol.1)” is included on the Goodreads list “Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy Set in California”.

Find “Ghosted in L.A. (Vol.1)” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Follow Me”

46408162._sy475_Book: “Follow Me” by Kathleen Barber

Publishing Info: Gallery Books, February 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Book Description: Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.

Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.

But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.

Kathleen Barber’s electrifying new thriller will have you scrambling to cover your webcam and digital footprints.

Review: As you all know, I love the book “You” and it’s sequel “Hidden Bodies”. One of the creepiest aspects of those books is that we follow the stalker and creepazoid Joe Goldberg and get to root around in his head when he is obsessing over women, and going to violent lengths to get near them. As much as I LOVE those books, part of me has wondered how they would have been different if we’d been able to get a little more in the heads as his victims as much as we did his. So as I was reading “Follow Me” by Kathleen Barber, I was struck by the fact that that was basically what I was getting: insight into the stalking victim’s thought process and motivations.

“Follow Me” is another thriller novel that will make you want to double check your privacy settings on all of your social media, as the slow cat and mouse game of watching a mysterious stalker hone in on social media influencer Audrey is tense and freaky. Barber switches the perspectives between three distinct voices: ‘Him’, the stalker; Audrey, the ambitious and a little self involved social media influencer; and Cat, Audrey’s best friend from college whom she has reconnected with after moving to D.C. We get insights into each of the characters through these narratives, and while they aren’t always the most reliable, they all give key clues to the overarching mysteries at hand. I thought that all of them had distinct voices, and that Barber did a really good job of parsing out the pertinent clues between them. The pacing of their narratives really kept me interested, and the building suspense held a grip that kept me reeled in. Plus, at the beginning Barber has an author’s note that really lays out and explains some of the extra invasive and stalker-y tricks that some of these creeps will pull, like RAT software and spyware. This stuff is what nightmares are made of.

But what I appreciated most about this book was that it really humanized, but didn’t glamorize or infantilize, our stalking victim Audrey. Too often do we find narratives in the thriller genre in which women are either innocent and naive victims, or conniving bitches and/or whores who somehow deserve what is coming to them. Even “You” sometimes treads towards this, though I think that it ultimately doesn’t fall into this because EVERYONE in that book is horrible so it’s an even playing field (plus, what Joe does to Beck is horrifying). But in “Follow Me”, Audrey is given a lot of grace, even if she’s incredibly flawed. I was both hoping that everything would be okay for her, and also wanting to shake her because of her self involvement and mistreatment of those around her. I do wish that the same grace had been granted to Cat, as while we did learn a lot about of things about her past that explained her strange quirks, she felt a bit more two dimensional than I wanted her to be.

I will say that I thought that there were some hasty plot twists thrown in, and that the end fell apart by the time we got there. There were just some things that felt obvious and slapdash, and had the foundation been laid out a bit better it would have paid off more. But the journey getting to the end was so suspenseful and engaging that I didn’t really care about some of the ill conceived twists and turns.

“Follow Me” was a fun and unsettling read. Definitely pick it up if you want a suspenseful book, but also make sure you have something to cover your computer camera with once you are done with it.

Rating 8: A fast paced and suspenseful thriller that was enjoyable. It kind of fell apart at the end, but the time getting there was far too entertaining to discount.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Follow Me” is included on the Goodreads lists “Psychological Suspense for 2020 (U.S. Publications Jan-July 2020)”.

Find “Follow Me” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Little Secrets”

45046683Book: “Little Secrets” by Jennifer Hillier

Publishing Info: Minotaur Books, April 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley

Book Description: From the author of Jar of Hearts, a mother driven to the edge by the disappearance of her son learns her husband is having an affair with the woman who might have kidnapped him. Four hundred and eighty seconds. That’s how long it took for someone to steal Marin Machado’s four-year-old son.

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family. Up until the day Sebastian is taken. A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. The only thing keeping her going is the unlikely chance that one day Sebastian reappears. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding him, she discovers that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman.

Kenzie Li is an artist and grad student—Instagram famous—and up to her eyeballs in debt. She knows Derek is married. She also knows he’s rich, and dating him comes with perks: help with bills, trips away, expensive gifts. He isn’t her first rich boyfriend, but she finds herself hoping he’ll be the last. She’s falling for him—and that was never part of the plan.

Discovery of the affair sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. But as she sets a plan in motion, another revelation surfaces. Derek’s lover might know what happened to their son. And so might Derek.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this book!

When I picked up a Jennifer Hillier book for the first time, I was completely enthralled by it. “Jar of Hearts” sucked me in and fucked me up, and I knew right then and there that I needed to add Jennifer Hillier to my ‘must read’ list. So when I saw that she had a new book coming out called “Little Secrets”, I was pretty damn hyped. I was hoping we’d get another soapy thriller that was infused with a little more darkness than you might see from other books within the genre. After all, I kept thinking of “The Silence of the Lambs” while reading “Jar of Hearts”, and I wondered if something similar would happen with “Little Secrets”.

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Okay I just needed to use this gif. Does it fit? Eh. (source)

While “Little Secrets” didn’t quite rise to the level of “Jar of Hearts” in terms of darkness, it still managed to serve a twisted and well plotted mystery that really had me on my toes during my read. Hillier mostly focuses on the perspective of Marin Machado, a woman who is still reeling over the disappearance of her four year old son Sebastian. Her relationship with her husband Derek is almost nonexistent, and her life is a string of just trying to survive each day. I thought that Marin was a great protagonist for the genre she exists within. She’s incredibly damaged and makes pretty questionable decisions, but I thought that Hillier did a really good job of showing us how her trauma has changed her and why it makes her do what she does. Even when she considers going to really dark and terrible places, Hillier has laid enough groundwork that while you may not approve, you still have a lot of empathy for her. I really liked Marin. It’s not uncommon for me to get irritated with these ‘damaged women’ protagonists, but Marin never took me there.

But then there is another perspective that we get to  see in this book, and it is that of Kenzie, the mistress that Derek has taken up with and the main focus of Marin’s ire. Kenzie, too, gets an in depth backstory with her own various moments of vulnerability and trauma. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like we got enough of it to make her truly sympathetic. I won’t go too much into detail with her, as she really is a cornerstone of the mystery at hand, but just know that I was solidly Team Marin. I don’t know if that was because Hillier wanted my sympathies in this place, or if she didn’t quite give Kenzie enough depth. Either way, she never really rose above the ‘perhaps conniving mistress or maybe not?’ trope.

The mystery, though, was great. Between the disappearance of Sebastian, Kenzie’s true intentions, and whether or not Marin is going to go fully to the dark side, we got a very intricate web of lies, jealousy, and deceit! You know that there are puzzle pieces laid out in the open, but you aren’t completely sure as to what they are. Red Herrings are present, but never overused, and by the time we got to the end of the story I was breathless and finally able to relax. The suspense builds at the perfect pace and I loved how it all came to a head. A well executed ending is always going to get props from me, as sometimes in this genre endings and plot points will overreach. Hillier never makes that mistake in this book.

Hillier is still one of the best thriller authors out there, and “Little Secrets” made certain of that. Cannot wait to see what she comes out with next!!

Rating 8: A twisty and suspenseful thriller about lies, jealousy, and trauma, “Little Lies” is another great read from Jennifer Hillier!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Little Secrets” is included on the Goodreads list “Crime, Mystery, & Thrillers, 2020”, and would fit in on “Popular Missing Persons Books”.

Find “Little Secrets” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Salvation Station”

48927102._sy475_Book: “Salvation Station” by Kathryn Schleich

Publishing Info: She Writes Press, April 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from Book Publicity Services

Book Description: When committed female police captain Linda Turner, haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case, she finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer.

Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.

In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.

Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface. 

Review: Thank you to Book Publicity Services for sending me an ARC of this novel!

There is one particular scene in “The Silence of the Lambs” where I find myself closest to relating to Hannibal Lecter (Go with me, I promise this isn’t creepy). When Clarice Starling visits him after finding a human head in a storage space, he is being punished for goading on a fellow inmate into committing suicide. His punishment is having to sit in the dark of his cell with a televangelist station on at full blast. I’m with you, Lecter, that sounds awful. When Book Publicity Services contacted me about “Salvation Station” by Kathryn Schleich, the aspect that really stood out to me was the televangelist preacher who may be putting his faith into the wrong person. So that angle was what compelled me to read and review the book, even if I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t know if it was my lack of other expectations or what, but I dove into “Salvation Station” and found myself completely taken in its web.

The first aspect of this book I liked is that from the get go, we know who the bad guy is. We know that this Susannah Baker character is assuredly the same woman who was married to the murdered Reverend that our protagonist is trying to catch. So instead of writing a thriller that’s mostly whodunnit, it is instead a cat and mouse tale in which you are desperate to know if Susannah is going to exposed as the conniving murderer that we know her to be. Schleich is pitch perfect in making the villain a character you love to hate. She is so venomous and so calculating that I found myself just ACHING for her to get what was coming to her. The pious woman of God act is both extra maddening, but it also rang super true in that unfortunately there have been plenty of con artists who have abused people’s faith in order to make them victims. We don’t get as much of an insight into Ray, the televangelist who is taken in by Susannah’s flattery and supposed born-again life, but that perhaps that was the point. At the end of the day he’s a guy who is devoted to the idea of devoted and pious wives, and so Susannah knew exactly how to play him like a harp. Perhaps it’s a greater commentary on the evangelical culture, but that’s not my business. Ultimately, Susannah is the center of this part of the story, and she is pitch perfect in her psychopathy. She is THE WORST.

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So clearly Schleich nailed it. (source)

On the flip side of this cat and mouse game is Linda, a tenacious Nebraska police captain who is on Susannah’s trail. Linda was horrified to find a local reverend and his two children buried in a garden, and has made it her mission to track down his wife, who they have deemed responsible. Linda was also a great character to follow, as she is the perfect foil to Susannah who is driven by the need for justice. You get the feeling that this case is a little personal to her, and as we get to see her own background and the things she’s been through she makes all the more sense in her choices and motivations. I also really enjoyed the steps that we take to see her investigate while we see Susannah laying out her new traps. It served as a satisfying juxtaposition, and made me want to read quicker and quicker to see how it was all going to play out. Plus, she has a fun relationship with another investigator that doesn’t overtake her story, but adds some fun spice to it.

There was one issue that I had with this book, though it’s a nit pick to be sure as it’s just a single moment. Still, it left enough of a bad taste in my mouth that I wanted to address it here. At one point Linda is musing about the kind of woman who could kill her own children, and she draws comparisons to both Susan Smith and Andrea Yates. Smith is apt to be sure, but I really wasn’t happy that Yates was mentioned, as she was in a post-partum psychotic break when she drowned her five children in the bathtub. She wasn’t a psychopath, she was severely, SEVERELY mentally ill. As horrific as her actions were, and they were HORRIFIC, it wasn’t a fair comparison.

Overall, I really liked “Salvation Station”! Fans of the hunt in a thriller novel really need to give it a go, I think you will find lots to like!

Rating 8: A fun and complex thriller that addresses the dangers of blind faith and the lengths greed will go, “Salvation Station” was a great read.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Salvation Station” isn’t on any Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think that it would fit in on “Con Men, Gamblers, and Hustlers”.

Find “Salvation Station” at your library using WorldCat!

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

44077284Book: “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix

Publishing Info: Quirk Books, April 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: 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.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!

While it’s certainly not up there with my favorite vampire movies, I really do have a soft spot for “Fright Night”. The original, not the new one. There’s just something about it that is so cheesy and 80s, but also feels very sinister and menacing. That’s probably because Chris Sarandon’s Jerry Dandrige is so outwardly charming when he’s a literal monster next door. It’s a great example of suburban horror, as suburbs were created so affluent white people could flee the dangerous city to feel safe, when danger is everywhere. Even in the handsome bachelor next door. If you took “Fright Night” and mixed it with “Steel Magnolias”, you would get Grady Hendrix new horror novel, “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires”. It’s no surprise that Hendrix would be the one to make that combination into one of his quirky horror novels, as his offbeat and campy scary stories have true elements of terror. “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” almost dethroned “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” as my favorite of his works. And you guys know how much I love “My Best Friend’s Exorcism”.

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Remember when Marcy Darcy and Prince Humperdink basically boned during an awkward dance sequence? Gosh I love “Fright Night”. (source)

The quirkiness and humor is a bit of a given with Hendrix’s stories, and “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” is no exception. It’s very funny at times, and has it’s tongue planted in cheek, though it does take itself seriously enough to create some legitimate scary moments. Our main character Patricia is an awkward and goodhearted book worm who loves to read tales of the macabre, as her husband is patronizing and her kids take her for granted. So she and her Southern Belle lady friends focus their book club on books about serial killers, murder, and other creepy things. I found Patricia relatable in some ways, mostly her general anxiety and her love of creepy books, and I liked how she is easy to root for, but also has flaws that are deeply human. Her initial encounter with James, the new neighbor, is right out of a horror movie, as she catches him in a trance of some sorts and his reaction is basically to scare her to death. But Patricia’s been raised in a culture (Southern, white, 1990s) in which she is more inclined to doubt herself and her own perceptions of James when he comes by later and just seems so nice, and so gregarious, and takes interest in her and her interests when her family does not. In fact, in contention for biggest SOBs up against James the vampire (more on him in a bit) were the husbands of the book club members, as they ranged from patronizing and gaslighting asshats like Patricia’s husband Carter to actual spousal abusers. And once Patricia starts to question if James is more dangerous than he seems, the men in the story are more inclined to believe the new man in town over their wives and any suspicions that they may have. It’s a tale as old as time, and it added an entire layer of suspense to this book that made my blood boil and had me concerned for Patricia. 

The vampire mythos that Hendrix has created for this story is centered around James, the deadly but enticing neighbor. Hendrix has created an original set of vampire rules for James, some of which are rooted in various folklores and some that feel totally original. Like Chris Sarandon in “Fright Night”, he’s the perfect villain because he just seems so wonderful, when he’s actually a vampire that is killing children in an impoverished part of town that is mostly black people. While some of the ways that Hendrix took on this part of the story felt a little clunky when it came to the racial issues at hand, I did appreciate that he wanted to talk about the fact that, indeed, in a situation like this the greater community of Charleston probably wouldn’t notice or care too much if these were the people being victimized. And he doesn’t spare Patricia and her book club friends from criticism in this way, as they are taken to task for their places of privilege in relation to the people that James uses as initial victims. 

I did have one big hang up with this book, however, and this is what knocked it down from a serious contender for top Hendrix novel. This is a mild spoiler, just to get that out there. There is a moment in this book that involves the implied rape of one of the characters, and the fallout thereafter. This moment was used as a way to up the stakes within the story, and I am so very sick of authors using rape in that way. There were plenty of other ways that Hendrix could have really reiterated how dangerous the situation had become, so to be like ‘ah, I’ll just use rape for that’ is something I am completely sick of. We can do better.

Overall, I thought that “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” was a very fun and entertaining read. Grady Hendrix has once again written a scary and funny horror novel, and I am happy he continues his streak of cheeky horror triumphs.

Rating 8: An original, eerie, and deeply funny vampire story from the master of quirky and cheeky horror, “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slaying” is both scary and amusing!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slaying” is included on the Goodreads list “2020 Horror to Scream For”.

Find “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slaying” at your library using WorldCat!