“The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” and how lemons help fight misogyny.

I’m a bit behind the times, it seems. For months, I saw several people reading Grady Hendrix’s most recent book, “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.” I’m not sure I would say I’m a fan of Grady Hendrix, but I did enjoy his “Horrorstor,” especially after I worked at IKEA for a while and could better appreciate his fictional store setting. There may, in fact, be a gate to hell inside IKEA, and if so I’m pretty sure it’s in the sofa section. But that was the only book of Hendrix’s I’d read at that point. I’d heard this most recent book was a sort of sequel to “My Best Friend’s Exorcism;” not in a ‘same characters’ kind of way, but more in a ‘same setting’ (the 80’s) and different view points way (teen perspective vs adult perspective). So I put them both on hold and waited to see which showed up first, and here we are.

I’ve always loved the Charleston area. As a kid, my family spent a week on Folly Beach nearly every summer. I loved going into the city to visit the market, eat seafood, and go on a ghost walk. (Charleston has some of the best ghost walks I’ve been on. If you’re ever there, you must try one!) Needless to say, I was excited to read a book set in that area, plus book clubs AND vampire hunting. Totally sold.

As the book begins, we meet Patricia in a panic over her book club. It is a serious book club, led by a woman who believes in reading serious novels, novels that Patricia finds impossible to read. This month is Patricia’s turn to lead the discussion, and she couldn’t make it past the first page of the dry, lackluster tome, which of course leads to a situation steeped in awkward hilarity as she tries to wing the discussion. But once the cat is out of the bag, she soon realizes no one, other than the organizer, ever reads the book.

Not long after, Patricia is approached by another women to join a different kind of book club, a true crime book club. As an avid fan of true crime, this part of the story truly called to me. I loved it as they read their way through “The Stranger Beside Me,” “In Cold Blood,” “Helter, Skelter” and more. It was a true group of friends, sharing their daily frustrations and supporting each other in times of need.

Patricia is a busy, stay-at-home mom, who also cares for her husband’s ailing mother. Patricia, once a nurse with a thriving career, cares for her ungrateful kids, and a husband who grows more distant by the day. Her only respite is the book club with other women just like her.

“Sometimes she craved a little danger. And that was why she had book club.”

When a stranger comes to town, Patricia is enthralled by him, at first. But as children begin to go missing, she believes he is involved.

“One thing I learned from all these books: it pays to be paranoid.”

When it turns out he’s a different kind of monster, Patricia turns to her book club for help.

“We’re a book club,” MaryEllen said. “What are we supposed to do? Read him to death? Use strong language?”

There was so much to like about this book, I loved the true crime book club and the unique women who attended. They had so much fun reading about Dahmer, Bundy, Manson, and more. Their conversations echoed similar ones I’ve had with friends when talking serial killers.

“You’d rather get stabbed forty-one times than ruin the curb appeal of your home?” MaryEllen asked.

“Yes,” Grace said.

But there was a lot I hated. Yes, James is absolutely a monster, but so are many of the women’s husbands. I was a small child during the 80’s and I don’t really have a lot of memories from the era, but the status quo of these women’s lives felt more at home in the 60’s rather than the 80’s. From abuse, to being forcibly committed, and general neglect, the toxic masculinity in all the male characters was nauseating  and frankly exhausting. I know we as women still have a long way to go for true equality, but the way the women in this book were treated was truly unacceptable and hopefully a vast dramatization of the 80’s era.

“Every day, all the chaos and messiness of life happens and every day we clean it all up. Without us, they would just wallow in filth and disorder and nothing of any consequence would ever get done. Who taught you to sneer at that? I’ll tell you who. Someone who took their mother for granted.”

I will say that in the resolution of the story, some of the husbands did receive their comeuppance, in varying degrees. But the misogyny in this book was draining. There honestly isn’t a single redeemable male character in the entire book. So, though I enjoyed some great plot points, and some great and humorous lines, overall it just didn’t quite work for me.  I only gave it 2.5 stars.

I will further add some general Trigger Warnings for anyone who has this in their TBR pile: rape, abuse, neglect, involuntary commitment, and child abuse all occur in this story.

After finishing this book, I wanted something bright and sweet and very quickly decided on Lemon-Poppy Seed Loaf. I’ve always loved lemon-poppy seed but never really considered the flavor of the poppy seed. Turns out, poppy seeds give an earthy, nutty flavor with a hint of pepperiness that really helps round out the tart of the lemon and the sweet of the cake. But I warn you, don’t spill the little demons; they are not easy to clean up and will turn up weeks later. Don’t ask!

I used Sally’s Baking Addiction’s recipe found here and it was delicious, so moist and sweet and balanced. I did, however, completely forget to buy powdered sugar for the glaze, so I made a simple syrup with lemon juice and drizzled it over the loaf after pulling it from the oven. When life gives you lemons and all that.

Here’s the recipe:


2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons poppy seeds

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 large egg, at room temperature

¾ cup granulated sugar

⅓ cup vegetable oil

⅓ cup sour cream

⅔ cup whole milk

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 Tablespoon lemon zest


½ cup powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, poppy seeds, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and granulated sugar together until combined. Whisk in the oil, sour cream, milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then whisk to combine. Avoid over-mixing; a few small lumps are ok.
  3. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, covering loosing with foil about halfway through. Use toothpick test to test for doneness.
  4. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Drizzle with glaze while still warm. If you want more glaze, double the recipe.

Published by Aprile

An passionate reader, amateur baker, aspiring writer, and professional cat lady.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: