This books is amazing. It's about fairy tales (kinda), but mostly it's about the modern teenage girl and the everyday pitfalls of everyday life. It'sThis books is amazing. It's about fairy tales (kinda), but mostly it's about the modern teenage girl and the everyday pitfalls of everyday life. It's dark and morbid and edgy, but most of all it's very well-written. Twisting the too-happy, too-cute fairy tale ideas to line them up with the darker side of human nature--this collection of poems is jarring and disturbing, and it addresses everything from acne to anorexia, from high school to guy trouble, starring heroines from all walks of life.
This was not as good as its predecessor, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but then, most sequels aren't. This was stil~~Spoilers for the first novel~~
This was not as good as its predecessor, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but then, most sequels aren't. This was still pretty good; it was definitely interesting, and I found myself staying up late to read it, neglecting homework to read it, driving to work a little faster than usual just so I could get there a couple of minutes early and read it in the parking lot . . . you get the idea. It's very compelling.
This story picks up pretty much at the end of the last novel, with Lincoln recently assassinated. Like the first novel, it's told in third person, with first person block quotes throughout. Like the first novel, it's alternate history. And, like the first novel, it's all about one particular character who gets worn down by constantly struggling with a series of unfortunate, even tragic, circumstances.
So what's different? Well, pretty much everything else. For one thing, the main character is Henry, not Abraham. For another, the tone is very different. Whereas all the block quotes from the first novel are from Lincoln's diaries, narrating things as they happen, these block quotes here are from recordings of Grahame-Smith's (yes, he worked himself into the story again) interview with Henry. Because of this, these quotes are all told from the slightly more cynical perspective of someone who is recalling things from 150 years earlier. Instead of seeing a character's ups and downs through his own eyes as they happen, you get a relatively static picture of Henry from a long time afterward. Additionally, the 19th-century diary entries from the first novel felt like they took place in the nineteenth century. It was a little bit jarring, in this book, to hear a character narrate in the first person events from the 17th century, describing them with 21st-century analogies.
Another big difference is the gore. Wow, is this ever gory. Sooo many people (and children!) get shot in the head, and then come the detailed descriptions of which part of the head exploded first, and how the brains came out, and what they tasted like. There's violence TO the good guys, violence FROM the good guys, and violence that you find out only afterward didn't even happen, since it was just a daydreamt fantasy. This book even goes back to a death from the first novel that was treated vaguely (but very well-written), and re-tells it with this whole extra set of gory details that I did NOT need to know. And while the plot of the first book was pretty much a single issue, the Civil War and everything leading up to it, this book deals with pretty much every historical issue you can think of from Jack the Ripper to 9/11. It felt like a whole lot of name dropping, especially since so many of these events (in the story too, as well as real life) were unconnected. Henry goes to such-and-such famous place, meets so-and-so famous person (who really was either working for vampires, was working against vampires, or was a vampire). It's too disjointed. It also tends a little bit toward plot summary: I didn't feel I was reading a story as much as reading the Cliffs notes for one. There IS a main villain to sort of tie things together, but the motive, which isn't explained until late in the story, is pretty weak.
I thought Henry was a very interesting character in the first book, but he doesn't seem terribly interesting here. He doesn't even feel like the same character, and neither does Abe. Maybe it's because so much of the first book was about his friendship with Abe, and here he's pretty much a solo character for the first 2/3s of the story. Even when he and Abe are together, they don't really seem to connect. They had the mentor/student relationship in the first story, and here they're more equals. At least, that how one of the characters talks about their relationship, but it's never really shown in much detail.
In the first novel, they parted on very bad terms, and in that novel's epilogue, we see vampire Abe and Henry working together for a common goal. So when this novel came out, it seemed like we'd get something of what happened in between those two moments, of their reconciliation and coming to terms with everything. Turns out that there wasn't much. Every now and then in the early parts of the novel, Henry feels guilty that he and Abe parted on bad terms. When they finally reunite, it turns out that Abe is angry for a few weeks and then gets over it, and most of that happens outside the story. All that build up, and we don't get to see it. It's also harder to invest in the characters because so much of this story is action, without a lot of heart. There is a brief moment, early on, when Henry hears about the death of Abe's grandson. Remember how Abe's kids dying was such a big deal in the first novel? It's glossed over here. We don't see Abe's reaction to the news, and for all we know, he's completely unaware of it. And you remember all those strong supporting characters from the first novel? Joshua Speed and Mary Todd and everyone else who added so much? There aren't really any supporting characters in this story because of the episodic nature of it all. That's really too bad. The pacing is really weird, too. For example, he starts something really interesting with a surprise revelation about Adolf Hitler, but then just a few pages later, he abandons that whole idea, drops the thread entirely, and glosses through WWII. Meanwhile, the Cold War drags on, and on, and on, and so does Henry's backstory. In the first novel, Abe loses pretty much everyone and everything he cares about, and it's poignant and tragic. Here, Henry loses pretty much everyone and everything, but it's just not as deep, somehow. Maybe because there isn't as much of a connection to Henry to begin with?
So after all this, why am I giving a 4-star rating? Because the things it got right, it got very right. There are a few chapters with Arthur Conan Doyle, and a few with Mark Twain, and a few John F. Kennedy --chapters that hit the right mix of quirky and charming. There was definitely a sense of building up to something (though the quality of the pay-off is debatable). And Henry's melancholy and tiredness, especially near the end of the story, is very well portrayed. Most of all, I want to rate this book on its own terms, and it's a pretty good book. It's all very fine and dandy for me to sit here and list the things that are done better in the first book, but the truth is that if this were a standalone, or even a companion novel with different main characters, and not a direct sequel, I'd like it a whole lot better because I wouldn't be comparing it to anything. On its own, I'd say it's a very interesting/enjoyable/exciting/funny book to read, and recommend it to everyone. Go figure....more
Wow. I am stunned at how much worse this book is than its predecessors. After the tremendous plot from the first three novels, the action here grindsWow. I am stunned at how much worse this book is than its predecessors. After the tremendous plot from the first three novels, the action here grinds to a halt. Worse than that, the storytelling technique is so different from before, so tedious. Most of the novel feels only like introspection, and much of the introspection is repetitive. I know that part of what I liked so well earlier in the series was the attention paid to each character, but that just doesn't work here. Earlier, we'd see great detail as characters would grow and change, but here, they are static, even stagnant. There isn't a character at the end of the novel who is substantially different from his/her portrayal at the start. In addition, Martin adds many new characters to the mix--new characters who don't seem to do much of anything. Sure, there are a few who shake things up, but most of the newcomers seem so trivial. They do little to impact the plot, nor do they provide a unique perspective. They are not a fresh voice; in fact, they don't even seem too different from the other characters or from each other Instead, they bog down the story and distract from the parts that are well-written. The introspection all seems to blur together, and many times, when returning to a character, Martin just repeats much of what the character was feeling in the last chapter. (In case I fell asleep, I guess, so I can know I didn't miss anything.)
The writing disappoints on many different levels. Unlike previous books, some of the chapters don't begin with a character's name. Instead, they have titles like "The Soiled Knight" or "The Princess in the Tower," which is confusing and gets old fast. There are many dangling threads, and there are so many cliffhangers and fakeouts that I want to scream. While the last book stopped characters' story arcs at a satisfying point, this book just throws characters into dangerous situations and leaves them there. Worse, so often the writing is so vague that I don't actually know what this imminent danger even is. (Some characters may have died! Or not! Or soon will, maybe! Do I even care, at this point?)
This book ends at under a thousand pages, which is more than a hundred less than book 3, but it feels three times as long. I am floored that someone could write a 900 page novel in which nothing happens. Ironically, there are some exciting events that, I'm sure, would deeply impact the characters who endure them, but these events happen offscreen, as it were. A character (say Sam, for example) will have a chapter of introspection, disappear for a hundred pages, and reappear for another chapter of vague speculations about the future or fond recollections of another character that we've already read about. By the way, a couple of exciting life-changing events have happened to him in the time between his chapters when we weren't following his story, but we will only learn about these things in passing, and the look into his thoughts will focus more on abstract themes than on any personal development.
The heart of the story still follows the same characters from the earlier novels, and half of those characters won't appear in this book at all. I know that Martin intends this book to cover the same time frame as book 5, which will leave these characters alone and tell the stories for the ones who are missing here. This leaves the reader with half a story, which is just exactly what it feels like.
This is my favorite in the series so far. The plot continues to drive the book along, making it seem much shorter than its 1100 pages, and there are sThis is my favorite in the series so far. The plot continues to drive the book along, making it seem much shorter than its 1100 pages, and there are still plenty of surprises left. What I like best in this novel is the character development--not only does Martin give detailed insight into characters' minds, but they also grow and change throughout the book. Some characters face a crisis and rise above, while others learn from their experiences and gain maturity. One of these story arcs, in particular, is among the most moving that I've ever read, and I can't wait to see more of this character in future books. It's not all wonderful, however, as Martin throws in enough "fake-outs" for the writing to start to feel gimmicky at places. (Oh look! So-and-so's dead! Surprise! He's really not! Fooled you!) It's still an enjoyable read, though. Martin also deserves credit for ending this book at a very good point in the story. Without feeling pressured to tie up loose ends (and trust me, there are plenty of those), he does justice to the individual stories. He leaves some level of closure, and the different characters' positions at the end of the novel offer a satisfying conclusion to this installment....more
I enjoyed this second installment in the series even more than the first book. A certain event at the end of A Game of Thrones (if you've read it, youI enjoyed this second installment in the series even more than the first book. A certain event at the end of A Game of Thrones (if you've read it, you know which event I mean) is the catalyst for much of this novel's action. Beloved characters from the first book are given even greater depth here, and their decisions will shape not only their own destinies, but that of those around them. The carefully-woven plot drives the story and leaves the reader wanting more....more
If you are tired of sanitized fantasy tales with too-perfect heroes and 2D villains, this fantasy series from George R. R. Martin may be a refreshingIf you are tired of sanitized fantasy tales with too-perfect heroes and 2D villains, this fantasy series from George R. R. Martin may be a refreshing change. Don't let the fuzzy wolves fool you: there is nothing "cute" about this story. While there are supernatural elements in this novel, much of the story is told with gritty realism. The characters are largely complex and nuanced, and Martin does not balk from portraying political power struggles, greed, murder, sex, and betrayal. The "main" plot (if there is one) follows one family who is separated and eventually scattered as the turbulent political situation worsens. The six children, aged 3 to 14, each have a direwolf to protect them, but they must ultimately make their own way in an unfriendly and unfamiliar environment.
That said, I did not like this book as much as I could wish. The story grabbed me from the beginning, and I dropped pretty much everything to read it as fast as possible, yet I found that I could not recommend it to any of my friends. There's a lot going on in this novel, which means that there's going to be something to bother everyone. I know someone who loves reading about medieval warfare, but I can't recommend this to him because he wouldn't enjoy the fantasy. I have a friend who loves epic fantasy, but he'd be put off by the graphic sex. Another friend might give the book a chance because of the very interesting plot, but she's already told me that she isn't looking forward to Elys who marries Alys and Aegon/Aemon/Aerys Targaryen and 4 different Brandon Starks and at least 5 guys named Jon and two different Neds who are really Edrick and Eddard and 35 million minor characters who may or may not be important later so you'd better remember all their names. Another friend who has read this already (and who, incidentally, didn't recommend it to me, either) says that the detailed descriptions of every little thing really get on her nerves....more
I was hoping for sentences, for stories or jokes, and I was surprised to find only one word on each page. The book is profusely illustrated, and it isI was hoping for sentences, for stories or jokes, and I was surprised to find only one word on each page. The book is profusely illustrated, and it is funny enough for what it is. Quirky and slightly cute. I think my review is longer than the book....more
This collection of short stories provides a good mix of suspense, terror, and intrigue, with just the right amount of humor thrown in. Some of the stoThis collection of short stories provides a good mix of suspense, terror, and intrigue, with just the right amount of humor thrown in. Some of the stories are particularly innovative, and the various twists and turns are sure to keep you interested. A charming YA collection....more
This dramatization of Tolkien’s The Hobbit is a must-read for any fan of the novel. It is quite different in tone, which is only natural, but this difThis dramatization of Tolkien’s The Hobbit is a must-read for any fan of the novel. It is quite different in tone, which is only natural, but this difference is part of what makes this version so enjoyable. I relish the opportunity to experience someone else’s interpretation of a beloved novel, and in this case, I was pleasantly surprised by what was cut out and what was left in. I was impressed with the character development in such a truncated plot, not just Bilbo, but the Dwarves too. Parts were very silly, and parts were unexpectedly moving. ...more
The premise is interesting, to say the least. In this alternate history, a scientist trying to find a cure for the plague is studying a particular gruThe premise is interesting, to say the least. In this alternate history, a scientist trying to find a cure for the plague is studying a particular gruesome strain that turns its victims into mindless, flesh-hungry corpses. When the kaiser, eager to kick-start WWI and start the business of conquering other nations, finds out about the zombie-plague sample, the scientist knows he must steal the sample and hide it from the Germans. The scientist is a nice enough character, but he's not exactly the most competent guy around, which is how he winds up on the Titanic, is noticed by Agent who follows him on board, and accidentally sets in motion a series of events that leave the passengers and crew zombified. The events are described very carefully; it's a little bit gory in places but not bad.
This was a nice enough story for what it was. It was not as well-crafted as Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, but it was nevertheless a straightforward and gripping novel. I put off pretty much everything to finish it once I started, so I feel it should earn some points for being so hard to put down. That said, I never felt that the zombie premise worked particularly well with the Titanic legend; the "real" elements of the story, like the ship and the people on it, almost got in the way of the story. Although the novel was able to make historical figures like Smith and Andrews seem fresh and interesting, they were still not as well-developed as some of the novel's original characters. This story might have been stronger if it had left off the Titanic elements altogether and told just a zombie story.
What you make of this story will probably depend on what you're looking for. I thought it was a compelling story, and it was sort of a fun zombie romp that (I think) was written to come out at the same time as the Titanic centennial. If you want a serious story with deep characters and epic struggles, then you should probably look elsewhere (although the title should have probably tipped you off a little). If, however, you'd enjoy a quick story that both recognizes and sort of winks at the Titanic's crew and passengers, then be sure to give this little book a try....more