Grady Hendrix has written a superb new novel about a women’s book club battling to save their small town from a mysterious newcomer. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a supernatural thriller set in the 1990s that highlights life in a small Southern town that is seemingly set in its ways. When a newcomer turns up in town with his white van parked in front of his elderly aunt’s house, most of the town are relieved that he has come to take care of her. One of the people not convinced: Patricia Campbell.
Patricia gave up her career as a nurse to marry her ambitious doctor beau and have children. Feeling slightly suffocated, Patricia needs a break. Her kids don’t care, her husband is hardly ever home, and her to-do-list is endlessly long and incredibly boring. The only bright spot in her life is her book club, a group of local women who are very close-knit and who all have a love of true crime.
James Harris, the newcomer, quickly becomes a topic of conversation at book club – mostly due to the fact that his van is an eyesore. The others believe him to be artistic, sensitive, and attractive, but despite Patricia’s initial attraction, she has her doubts. After some local children go missing across town, Patricia becomes increasingly worried that James has something to do with it. She starts her own investigation , but James is determined to stay in town. He inserts himself more and more into her life to the point where Patricia is terrified that he will destroy everything that she holds dear. Soon all that stands between James and the unsuspecting community is Patricia and her book club. They must find a way to save their town from him even when their families don’t see an issue with James’ kindness.
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You Don’t Sweat Much for a Fat Girl: Observations on Life from the Shallow End of the Pool is a collection of essays by author Celia Rivenbark in which she talks about everyday situations that she either finds charming or have succeeded in getting her all riled up.
Rivenbark has written books previous to this one, all applying her signature Southern style and wit. Read along as she writes witty, humorous, and sometimes sarcastic essays talking about how she read a study that people with twiggy legs are at twice the risk for heart disease compared to *normal* women(she swears it’s true, people!), how yoga is supposedly good for you(beware the farting..), and that she never really understands why and how people get so excited for elementary school science fairs(it shouldn’t be called a FAIR since there aren’t any RIDES). Heavily employing satire, Rivenbark discusses Snuggies, how she’s not opposed to TSA profiling at airports, the explosion of social media, her dreaded friend: Menopause, and many other relatable topics.
Enjoyed this book? The library owns other titles by Rivenbark: We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier, Stop Dressing Your Six-Year Old Like a Skank, Rude Bitches Make Me Tired, Belle Weather, Bless Your Heart, Tramp, and You Can’t Drink All Day if You Don’t Start in the Morning (which is only available in an audiobook).
In The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross, Ansley is a southern belle, Dallas style, whose well-planned life takes an unexpected turn; her perfect fiance leaves her for a fellow Baylor sorority sister. Unusually for romantic fiction, this is completely justified as the heroine is selfish, mean, and manipulative.
To get away from the gossip, she heads to New York City to live with her grandmother. The women of the family have always been expert bakers and have passed down a cookbook in which they record original recipes. Ansley uses her baking and business expertise to open a cupcakery.
A strong point is the insider information about baking (in particular, the difference between home baking and volume baking). Also, insights into Southern culture, specifically the uniquely Dallas way of life is fascinating.
Unfortunately, the novel wraps up quickly and glibly. Up to that point, the reader has willingly suspended belief when there were unlikely plot turns because the writing is graceful and the characters well-drawn. However, the last few chapters are written awkwardly, as if the author ran out of time or inspiration. I’d still give it an overall thumbs up, though…