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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Horror Humor Mystery Thriller

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

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.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was great. It would make an excellent book club choice.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Bahni Turpin, which I’d highly recommend. She brought the story to life. Her voice inflection, the cadence, her cleverness in depicting each character with such distinctness even while keeping all the Southern accents straight, the expressions in tone, and her amazing ability at voice preservation, very well done.

So for the story, I really liked how the author brought me into it, into the womens’ lives, working relationships, within this Southern lifestyle of home and hospitality, and bookclub, just the icing on the cake. It was just hilarious at times, one where I thought, oh, so spot on.

I enjoyed the trajectory of the story as it unfolded, wondering how it would go, then, it was very satisfying. Of course there were times I thought, oh geez, is that just too much? Was it far from the reality of what possibly could happen/how one would react? But it didn’t matter so much because it was consistent in character, setting, circumstances, and the tone of the book, suitable for what it was to build the climactic aspects up and overall fitting and done well anyway from those aspects, if that makes sense.

I loved the writing, the truth, the perception, all of it told in a way without apology which I just love about writing that does this in such a way. Also fun, playful with bits of humor, a spot on reminiscent decade of Redbook magazine, Opium perfume, dial phones.

The accurate quirks in the sayings of the time, not only how a child/teenager would simply act, but appropriate for the age and time on such a consistent basis within each rise and flow of the plot, narrative thought, and dialogue.

I did question a few things, though not terribly distracting. Pupils would constrict in sunlight, not dilate. How a suspected rape victim would have been handled by a medical professional. How they celebrated Halloween with an incident happening that evening, but then later in the story, the continuation of the timeline, the next day was a cloudless, sunny, October day?

A really great story nonetheless. One that definitely kept me engaged the whole way through.

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Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy #1) by Marlon James

In the first novel in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child.

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written an adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf explores the fundamentals of truths, the limits of power, the excesses of ambition, and our need to understand them all.

Black Leopard, Red WolfBlack Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting read. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it as far as style was concerned. I read it for the appeal of African history, folklore, and mythology. I felt the story was excellent in capturing these elements with imagination intermixed with the essence and meaning of it, subtle or not.

The interesting parts of the writing lies in the author deciding how to create and build a world for people to step into and it was all about perspective.

Do you want the reader to be given information or live it or both? Do you want them to be on the outside looking in as an observer, the inside looking out, the inside looking inside? The writing, in the way it merged fantasy with known cultural beliefs and practices was seamless and allowed me as a reader to be immersed in the story no matter what the objective was which I thought was amazingly done.

The imagery as both the natural world and level of surrealism was superb. The content itself was incredibly heavy and disturbing, and it took a certain understanding of the context of which it was written about to really deconstruct and accept what was being conveyed. From that standpoint, I felt the overall style and effect was there. I don’t know if I would have understood this one and continued to have read it to the extent I did, had I not known some of the background and concepts behind it.

Some descriptions were poetic and riddle-like, some, blunt and forceful. Deviance, truth, power, and loyalty were some running themes.

The book though was a bit long for my taste and may have felt that way because I wasn’t sure if there was some duplication in some of the phrasing, which was fine, but I did wonder if it was intentional or an oversight, much needed emphasis or overemphasis, I couldn’t decide.

Nonetheless it was a unique and reflective read for me.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.

Parable of the Sower (Earthseed, #1)Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An interesting story. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

This is a heavy read, not in volume but in sadness and much tragedy. It lingered there, a little too long for my taste.

It started out strong, but I quickly realized that maybe it’s one I would have better appreciated in the 90s or early 2000s. I wouldn’t say this book stands the test of time like other futuristic, dystopian concepts I’ve read. Which would be fine, but it lingered too much in the head of the narrator, that being presented in first person, with too much stagnation in personal reflection and not enough character growth or support for character consistency.

By the time I got half way through, realizing this was more of reminiscing and dwelling, and dwelling around a very specific concept of personal loss and societal woes, I just wanted to get it over with and didn’t look forward to finding out what was next because the interpersonal and personal victories kept getting postponed and never really came into full fruition by the end of the story in my opinion. It just became a bit exhausting to pick up and read, and I lost interest pretty early on unfortunately.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Childrens Fantasy Featured Fiction

The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll

When the mayor of Mouseville announces the town snowman contest, Clayton and Desmond claim that they will each make the biggest snowman ever. But building a huge snowman alone is hard! They work and work, but their snowmen just aren’t big enough.

Soon they have an idea. As the day of the contest approaches, Clayton and Desmond join forces to build the biggest snowman ever.

The Biggest Snowman EverThe Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A charming, simple little story about group effort and having a good time!

I listened via audiobook which was narrated by Oliver Wyman, very fun and lively.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Childrens Fantasy Featured Fiction

Clark the Shark: Lost and Found by Bruce Hale

Clark the Shark is a great read-aloud picture book, with fun rhythm and rhyme, from the ever-popular Bruce Hale and Guy Francis.

Clark the SharkClark the Shark by Bruce Hale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The was such a cute story with a wonderful moral lesson. It also contained fascinating facts about sharks. Any child would enjoy!

I listened to the audio version of this one, narrated by Oliver Wyman, who has such a diverse, unique set of character voices, super compelling.

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Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Horror Humor

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore

‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit.

But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead.

But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.

Move over, Charles Dickens—it’s Christopher Moore time.

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror (Pine Cove, #3)The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So amusing!

Some parts are so incredibly outlandish, but yet totally make sense in the realm of Christopher Moore’s work as characters make a reappearance with the stunning humor that only he can deliver. Some of the humor and topics are overt, some understated, which only add to the inside jokes of character attribution, settings, and plot which are built upon previous readings that are hilarious in themselves.

Prepare to be entertained, offended, and to laugh out loud.

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Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Romance

Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle #1) by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Loved, loved, loved! I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club. I converted my read to the audiobook version which was excellent.

This book was just all-around well-paced, adorable, fun, and adventurous. Side note- I think I may make a scarecrow for my garden just like the character.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang’s first published story, “Tower of Babylon,” won the Nebula Award in 1990. Subsequent stories have won the Asimov’s SF Magazine reader poll, a second Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Sidewise Award for alternate history. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1992. Story for story, he is the most honored young writer in modern SF.

Now, collected here for the first time are all seven of this extraordinary writer’s stories so far-plus an eighth story written especially for this volume.

What if men built a tower from Earth to Heaven-and broke through to Heaven’s other side? What if we discovered that the fundamentals of mathematics were arbitrary and inconsistent? What if there were a science of naming things that calls life into being from inanimate matter? What if exposure to an alien language forever changed our perception of time? What if all the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity were literally true, and the sight of sinners being swallowed into fiery pits were a routine event on city streets? These are the kinds of outrageous questions posed by the stories of Ted Chiang. Stories of your life . . . and others.

Stories of Your Life and OthersStories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sort of an eclectic collection of short stories. I read this for Life’s Library Book Club and it was one already on my TBR. I’d say more of them are within the fantasy realm. I converted to audiobook, narrated by Todd McLaren & Abby Craden, which was ok as it added a bit of personality to some of the more boorish reads for me. Abby’s reads have a wide range of character, though at her lower register became fatigued and I was getting sleepy listening to it, so I ended up going back to the physical copy of the book to finish up some parts.

My favorite was the first story, the one about the Tower of Babylon. Although theologically it doesn’t really represent the Biblical point of the building of the tower, this story one was the most intriguing one to read. The descriptions of the atmosphere, emotional turmoil, and characterization of brick layering while working under the hot sun to accomplish a common goal was well thought out.

I wasn’t as fond of most of the other stories though. Between scientific jargon sort of thrown about, kind of forced and like a word salad at times, some of which were less precise in definition and illogical, not in the fantasy story sense, but in the actual physiological characteristics and function of normal/pathological anatomy. And reading the thought pattern of a teen trying to solve a math problem in her head was just not for me.

Overall, though I liked the riddle-like sense captured each story.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction

The Wolf’s Call (Raven’s Blade #1) by Anthony Ryan

Anthony Ryan’s debut novel Blood Song – book one of the Raven’s Shadow series – took the fantasy world by storm. The sequels, Tower Lord and Queen of Fire were both New York Times bestsellers. Now, Anthony Ryan returns to the world of this acclaimed fantasy series with The Wolf’s Call, which begins a thrilling new story of razor-sharp action and epic adventure.

The Wolf's Call (Raven's Blade #1)The Wolf’s Call by Anthony Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! This is my first from this author and I was engrossed with the story from beginning to end. I thought it was very well written in the way the plot was constructed and how the characters fit seamlessly into the flow of battle encounters, as well as how the kingdom atmosphere was brought to life. It was a deep and intricate story with many fascinating layers. I will look forward to reading the next in series.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings, Book One of the Stormlight Archive begins an incredible new saga of epic proportion.

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths:

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before Destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1)The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My goodness this was slow and I’m so bummed because I really wanted to like it more than I did. The long description says it all. I listened to it as an audiobook.

I enjoyed the storyline once it got going but it took FOREVER to get there.

Here’s my notes: The Way of Kings long, didn’t hold my attention, slow, lack of focus, lacks emotion, I like books that make every sentence, every word count… Had lot of detail without really going anywhere, I had a difficult time immersing myself in the story.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Romance

Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

Heather Webber’s Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm.

Midnight at the Blackbird CaféMidnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Macmillan/Forge Books for providing me with an advance reader copy via Wunderkind PR.

This was a heartwarming read and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially for who enjoy books that you want to take your time with and ponder, those who enjoy a bit of magical realism, a plot taking place around a charming cafe set in the American south, and those who enjoy reads by Sarah Addison Allen.

It would also make an excellent book club read.

If you are drawn to the lovely title, the lovely cover, and are expecting a sweet and meaningful story to match, you won’t be disappointed. This one lingered with me, especially the quote “There were times, like right now, when it felt as though I’d been grieving my whole life long. Probably because I had been.”

I really enjoyed the author, Heather Webber’s writing style as it drew out the beautiful atmosphere and real emotion of the characters. There was great insight into each character’s emotion as they dealt with loss, their life choices, and each other’s outcome.

There was a middle-fourth to fifth of the book where the premise started to be a bit drawn out and being much much more descriptive in style. Not meandering in the sense because the focus remained, but sort of caught up in descriptive details rather than more about the depth of what was to come and sort of double-backed in that which was already established. However it certainly picked up again and soon I was even more intrigued by the level of mystery and connectivity among the characters as events led up to find the truth.

Discussion of life including business, penmanship, southern cooking, gossip, tragedy, building of friendship and family bonds, and just enjoying conversation and each other’s company as well as the precious things in life helped to keep the story grounded, while the birds brought a certain depth and validity to humanistic expression. The quote, for example “We survive on sweet tea and complaining, plain and simple. Mostly the sweet tea, if I’m tellin’ it to you straight.”

There were excerpts to guide the story along as well which I thought was helpful and confirming.

Also the perfect read for this summer!

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Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured

Ragnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques

Prophecies don’t untangle themselves.

Just ask Ikepela Ives, whose estranged mother left her with the power to unravel the binding threads of fate. Stuck with immortal power in a mortal body, Ives has turned her back on the duty she never wanted.

But it turns out she can’t run from her fate forever, not now that Ragnarok has been set in motion and the god at the center of that tangled mess has gone missing. With a ragtag group of companions—including a brownie, a Valkyrie, and the goddess of death herself—Ives embarks on her first official mission as Fate Cipher—to save the world from doomsday.

Ragnarok UnwoundRagnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Edit: Apparently I didn’t understand it as well as I thought I did. I was discussing the book with another reader and I guess I was a little more confused than I thought I initially was. I feel that has changed what I knew to be significant in moving the plot forward as well as character development… I thought two of the main characters were sisters? I thought they shared the same dad? And the titles everyone held?

I still adored the writing style which was playful and compelling, reflecting the adventurous nature of the plot. With a spin on mythological characters consisting of both a mesh of creative and original thought, I enjoyed the introduction and intermingling of each role and the pacing throughout the book.

And the bits of humor, many of which were relative to my childhood, along with modern day perspective, added a unique freshness to legendary aspects of tales that are fun to be told. I spent quite some time cross-checking and appreciating the glossary, which led me into several fascinating Wikipedia spirals, adding to my excitement for the next book.

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