This kids' book of lost treasure stories was pretty interesting. Even though it didn't initially look like my cup of tea, I found that I kept coming bThis kids' book of lost treasure stories was pretty interesting. Even though it didn't initially look like my cup of tea, I found that I kept coming back to it to read more. It's written in an almost conversational style, which I found very appealing; it's not condescending to kids and might even entertain some adults, too. Each short chapter is almost a vignette, focusing either on a real historical treasure or on the folklore surrounding a particular legend. I enjoyed reading about the lucky (but mostly not-so-lucky) treasure seekers whose exploits earned them a place in history. Where is the next big fortune? In your backyard? In a nearby cave? Under the neighbors' outhouse? With its mix of irony, humor, and legend, this book was a delightful surprise....more
This book was interesting, to say the least. It is divided into several chapters, each of which has its own distinctive flavor and style. It opens witThis book was interesting, to say the least. It is divided into several chapters, each of which has its own distinctive flavor and style. It opens with a story strongly based on the Gospels, followed by an old Christmas legend, then a sermon, then a war memoir, and finally by a Bible excerpt.
Parts of this volume are very preachy and almost off-putting. I do appreciate that this collection is from a very conservative family and parts of it are probably, to some degree, a product of the times. My least favorite part was the sermon, and this really surprised me--I have always been interested in theology, and I love Christmas. A Christmas sermon should have been right up my alley, so to speak. However, this sermon was so similar to so many that I've heard before, and it should win the prize, in my opinion, for being the only Christmas sermon I've ever encountered that isn't about Christmas. It's more about hell. Go figure.
That said, other parts of the book were delightful. The old Christmas legend was a bit of cultural history that I found fascinating, and the story was interesting in its own right, so that was a double win. Corrie's own memoir was powerful and moving, and the whole book would be worth it just for that chapter alone. It was also nice seeing her lightly fictionalized version of the Gospel story. The Bible excerpt was a beautiful close to a beautiful volume. Altogether, the book is marvelous. I borrowed this from the library, but if I ever find a copy for sale, I would buy it.
Since each chapter is a standalone, here are my separate ratings:
Part 1: The Bible story as Corrie told it (more like a story than direct quotes) 3.5 stars Part 2: An old Christmas story 5 stars Part 3: Sermon 2 stars Part 4: WWII 5 stars Part 5: Bible excerpt (I'm not rating the Bible (!) but I will say that it was a perfect close to a very special book)...more
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
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
Surprisingly wonderful. This book features a strong story -- powerful and emotional -- and strong characters. Lincoln is very well-developed as a charSurprisingly wonderful. This book features a strong story -- powerful and emotional -- and strong characters. Lincoln is very well-developed as a character, and I was happy to see this book describe not just his political struggles, but also the tragedies in his personal life. A different main character, Henry, who is complete fiction, is nuanced and carefully written. Most importantly, this alternate-history novel approaches the real history and real Lincoln with reverence. Generally, this novel is a rewrite of history with the premise "What if vampires existed and had been involved in Lincoln's life and American politics?" I was surprised at the level of detail and the historical accuracy (which, for the most part, is sound). Best of all, although this novel seamlessly blends history with the fantasy of vampires, it also suggests that Abraham Lincoln, the true-life nonvampire-hunter Lincoln, was also heroic, hard-working, and worthy of every accolade and honor that his memory has received....more
I found this book quite enjoyable overall. It tells of a man, Eddie, who gains, after death, the opportunity to understand his life. He comes to termsI found this book quite enjoyable overall. It tells of a man, Eddie, who gains, after death, the opportunity to understand his life. He comes to terms with his past, gains peaces and wisdom, and, although he felt unloved for much of his life, he discovers the tremendous meaning and impact that his life has had on others.
While I recognize that this is just a story--a parable, if you will--I still did not care for certain aspects of the story. Some of the material that was supposed to be comforting came off, at least to me, as depressing. Even so, it is a very entertaining read. Powerful and deeply moving in some places, lighthearted and amusing in others, Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a story of love, of joy, and of hope. More than that, it is a celebration of life....more