Book Review: Spooky South

This monthly column, by our own H.L. Rudd, will feature book reviews for books she loves including genres like Southern Gothic, horror, fantasy, and more.


Southerners like horror stories. In the deep south, it often seems like a restless spirit is behind every tap on the window or sharp summer breeze. Maybe it’s because of our rough history or our love of tales, but either way, I grew up surrounded by a devoted, sometimes evangelical love of the supernatural.


I grew out of my belief in the supernatural, but I never stopped loving the stories. Even now, I’m quick to snap up any book about spooky southern folklore. A couple months ago, while visiting my family in Alabama, an opportunity presented itself to me. While visiting a local book chain, I came across Spooky South: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore, by S.E. Schlosser. The title, though genetic, was enough to grab my attention, and the surreal artwork was enough to sell it. I took it home with me right away.


This book contains retellings of 38 different folktales from around the southeast. It contains a map displaying the locations of each story (by number), and the numbered table of contents tells the reader exactly where each story took place. I really like this feature, and I think it adds a lot of flavor to the book, but it’s also a bit wasted on the actual executions of the retellings.


I was already familiar with a handful of these stories. Some, like the tale of the Bell Witch, are familiar to many fans of the supernatural. Others, like the Wampus Cat, are a bit more regional in their distribution. The references section in the back shows good research on the part of the author, and I don’t doubt that she put genuine work into compiling these stories, but the writing itself didn’t draw me in.


Each story is short, often only 2-3 pages, though a few are a little longer. They’re perfect for a little bit of reading before bed, and they each come with a gorgeous illustration by Paul G Hoffman. The stories are narrated in one of a couple ways (with some told in a distant third-person style like a campfire story, and certain ones having first person setups to frame them), and are pretty straight forward. They describe something scary happening to someone, the end.


That’s what holds me back from loving this collection. The stories are neat, and it’s awesome to see such a wide collection of southern folk tales, but I just wanted a little more.

That’s not to say that the book doesn’t work. I just find these retellings to be inconsistent and a little bit flat. While Thirteen Alabama Ghosts deals with similar campfire fare, it adds local history and strong, close narration to really make the story feel like it matters. The stories in Spooky South sound more like something you’d overhear in a crowded bar. And that’s okay, but for me, it wasn’t quite enough. I’d give the book a three, but the effort in research and stellar art lift it to a four. If you want to read something quick to read before bed, this could be the folktale collection for you, but don’t expect to be frightened.

You can enjoy another book review by H.L. Rudd on the second Wednesday of the month.  Read an expanded version of this book review, at her blog, 905.  


Librarian Reading

This monthly column, by our own Sara Marks, will feature new books that librarians and book bloggers are talking about.

I’m a little biased this month.  I have a connection to both books I’m going to share with you, but it’s my column and I do what I want. One of my favorite things about being a writer and librarian is that it allows me to connect with other writers and librarians and writer librarians.

P.S. I Miss You My first pick for March is P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (coming out on March 6).  Jen and I have been friends for years.  This book is for middle grade readers- that means older elementary school, middle school, and lower high school students.  It deals with teenage pregnancy, sexual identities, and communication.  It’s written in letters (epistolary). I love the book and might have used a whole package of tissues as I read the book.  I’m even tearing up now as I write this.

Here’s the blurb:

Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.

The Lost DoorMy second pick, The Lost Door (already released on Kindle), is another book I have a connection to.  Long story short, before my first publisher closed a month before publishing my book, I paid a lot of attention to the other authors I thought I was being published with. One was Steen Jones who has just released her second book, a sequel to the one published last year.  The series, which begins with The Door Keeper and continues with The Lost Door, imagines different worlds connected through doors.  Each world has their own Door Keepers who protect it.  It was an exciting read.  I have only just started The Lost Door, so no spoilers!  This is an adult fantasy series, but young adults will enjoy it.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s been over seven years since Eden learned the truth about where she came from and that her mother was a Door Keeper from another world. Eden’s own daughter, Gabby, is about to turn 18 and learn the story herself, and about the predestined future that lay ahead of her. As fate would have it, the worlds intervene before Eden can tell her daughter the truth, throwing the family into complete and utter chaos. Gabby must find the strength to save her Mom while grappling with unbelievable realizations about herself, her family, and what it all means for her future.

This anticipated sequel to the portal fantasy, The Door Keeper, introduces interesting new characters, opens two new doors into unique and magical worlds, where our heroines must face the harsh elements and mythical creatures long thought extinct. The Lost Door explores the circle of mother/daughter legacy, the unbreakable bond of family, and the sometimes inescapable repetition of the past.

Want more?  Check out Sara’s blog, Book Club of 1, where she talks about her own experiences as writer and sometimes suggests books to her readers.  Her column will be featured on the first Wednesday of each month.  Want to see more books suggested by librarians, check out Library Reads.