The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slaying is set in South Carolina in the early nineties. The main characters are a group of housewives whose lives are pretty dull and who form a book club specializing in true crime and novels featuring serial killers. Their mundane world changes when—you guessed it based on the novel’s title—a vampire moves into the neighborhood. Except, this isn’t a vampire in the traditional sense. I think monster would be a more apt description. Regardless, when James Harris moves into their neighborhood, everything changes for Patricia Campbell and her book club as they now have a monster in their midst, one that is fully accepted by their families and the community because of the prosperity he brings. The tone goes from very light in the early going, to dark and sinister as the book moves along and some truly horrific things happen.
This is the second book I’ve read from Grady Hendrix. Although the novels were thematically different, as well as markedly different in tone, style, and voice, what they share in common is general awesomeness. This was a captivating story, well written, and deeply engrossing. The idea of a novel whose main characters are southern housewives from the nineties is not the sort of thing I would have thought would appeal to me but Grady Hendrix makes it work. The characters were well written and were easy to get invested it. Well, at least the female characters were. The male characters were complete and utter morons, which was my only real negative about this book, because I thought the men in this novel were over the top in their idiocy. This is a novel that worked on many different levels and I would strongly recommend reading it. You can buy your copy by clicking this link.
In The Only Good Indians, four Blackfeet in their youth kill a pregnant female elk. Years later, the elk comes back for revenge in a quest to destroy each of their lives. There were some things I liked about this novel, and other things I didn’t like so much. Starting off with the good, I thought the narrative voice sounded fresh and authentic. I guess it helps that Stephen Graham Jones is Blackfeet and was able to use his background to give the novel that authenticity in the narration. The dialogue, in particular, was quite good. The story had good drama and horror elements, and moved at a brisk pace.
The things that I didn’t like so much was the storytelling viewpoint. I didn’t care for the present tense usage, but I especially didn’t care for the use of second person point of view, which should be banned forever from fiction. It was especially annoying when the author intermingled them so frequently that it was hard to tell whose viewpoint the story was in. There were also some serious logic gaps and plot holes in the story. I also felt the action scenes could have been described better.
All that said, I enjoyed the story. In particular, the characterization was very strong. Even though I had some misgivings and it was a little rough around the edges, this is a novel that I would recommend.
Wonder Woman 84 wasn’t a terrible movie, but it certainly wasn’t a good movie. To me the question I can’t figure out is who greenlit this movie. After coming off a tremendously successful movie and one of the best in the DC franchise, they settled on a plot of a guy who has a wish to turn himself into this wishstone, to grant wishes to as many people as he can without any particular rhyme or reason for doing so, and without a coherent explanation of what was in it for him? And he destroys the world in the process. Who are these people who thought this was a good idea? They took all of the fan excitement and anticipation of the first movie and wasted it on this? It’s little wonder that DC plays a distant second fiddle to the Marvel franchise.
There were elements that I liked about the movie. For instance, they had talented actors cast in the lead roles, but there were gigantic plot holes and believability issues in the movie, such as Wonder Woman on the fly thinking she could make things invisible because when she was a child, she was taught to make a cup invisible, and then, poof, she makes a fighter jet invisible. Oh, and they just manage to walk up to this jet and fly off on it, so apparently fighter jets are completely unguarded and unprotected in the world of this movie, and a World War 1 pilot has absolutely no issue figuring out how to fly a modern military jet. I’m sure they are exactly the same thing. I could give you a dozen examples of this type of ridiculousness in the movie. And where was the eighties music and references? The movie is Wonder Woman 84 but other than a group of people breakdancing, you would have no idea it was set in the eighties. I wouldn’t say to avoid watching this movie, but keep your expectations low.
Each novel in this series by Dale Lucas is wonderfully written, shows great imagination, and stands alone. Raise your hand if you can say that about other fantasy series. Missing are dragons and the fate of the world in the balance. Not there is anything wrong with that. But I love how the author has narrowed the scope and stakes, yet has still created a wonderfully compelling read and a story world that I would return to over and over again. These books are just enjoyable to read.
I am not sure if this ends the series or not, but there still seems to be more stories that could be told in this world. In this novel, Rem and Torval must transport a famous bandit called the Red Raven to the kingdom where he is wanted in order to claim their substantial reward. But nothing is at seems when the Red Raven appears to have an intimate relationship with the woman who is supposed to marry the Duke who has authorized the capture of the Red Raven. Rem and Torval now find themselves in a struggle that has wider ramifications and have to decide on what side they stand on.
There is lots of good action and intrigue in this novel. There is also strong characterization as you go throughout the cast of characters, something that is not easy to achieve beyond a few of the major characters, but the author skillfully navigates this. The action builds to a strong climax, and the ending is satisfying. If you enjoy fantasy and haven’t yet checked out Dale Lucas, then you should.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first novel in this trilogy. Despite the high bar, Friendly Fire, did not disappoint. Much like the first novel, the world building and characters are superb. That’s not to short change the overall quality of the writing and the dialogue, which are also top notch. The biggest difference between the two novels is that Friendly Fire was far more steeped in dwarven lore than its predecessor and magic was more tied to this novel. There was good character development as well. Rem moved toward being able to reveal his past, and Torval’s character was explored in far greater depth.
I like the use of the Kothrum in this novel, a demonic entity in dwarven lore that is called upon to seek vengeance that Rem and Torval eventually have to take down. The other thing that was particularly compelling was the racial turbulence between the dwarves and the human stonemasons. What I liked is that the author wasn’t heavy handed. There was no side that was clearly in the right or clearly in the wrong. Instead, they each have good people and bad people, and they each have their own points they made that were valid. That’s the way it should work in the real world but seldomly seems to. Even the villains in this novel generally weren’t real villains with a couple of exceptions.
This was a fun novel. I highly recommend it and look forward to completing the trilogy.
My seventh novel, Beyond the Shadow, a supernatural thriller is out now on Amazon. Here is a preview of the novel.