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
This book is kind of weird. It's Christian nonfiction, and it's all about how Christians should live and what they should and shouldn't do, which meanThis book is kind of weird. It's Christian nonfiction, and it's all about how Christians should live and what they should and shouldn't do, which means it's not the type of book I usually read. I noticed it completely by accident: the author had written a novel that I had read for book discussion, and I had recognized the name. I became even more interested when I found that this book was written in a humorous tone, which really takes the edge off what might have otherwise been an unbearably preachy little book.
That said, Fabry still comes off as preachy (what did I expect?) That probably would've been all right, but some of what he preaches is really . . . out there. There are several passages that do makes sense, of course, but some of his statements just bizarre, even contradictary. For example, in one chapter, Fabry writes that "ineffective" Christians think of God as their pal. They forget how holy and powerful and infinite he is, and they spend too much time listening to "What a Friend we Have in Jesus." Seriously? Now he's picking on the hymns while criticizing the people? Leaving aside the argument that God's love for human beings is sorta central to the religion, his argument doesn't even hold up in the rest of the book. A few pages later, Fabry writes that another sign of ineffective Christians is that they think of God as being holy and powerful and important and forget that he is really interested in every mundane detail of their lives. This seems to me to be the spiritual equivalent of having one's cake and eating it too. If I'd had any expectations, this probably would have been a disappointment. As it is, even though I didn't really learn much or become spiritually enlightened, and even though I can't recommend it to anyone, I'm not sorry I read it, either. It was interesting enough, and there were a few funny moments. There was one hilarious joke about coffee grounds....more
A fun collection of urban legends. Some were familiar to me, and some weren't, but they were tremendous fun to read. Entertaining, certainly, this booA fun collection of urban legends. Some were familiar to me, and some weren't, but they were tremendous fun to read. Entertaining, certainly, this book also provides an intriguing look at urban legends' roles as cultural artifacts. Overall, it was quite informative....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 book was funny! Not as funny as The Christmas Scrapbook, perhaps, but vastly amusing nonetheless. This book is a series of amusing anecdotes setThis book was funny! Not as funny as The Christmas Scrapbook, perhaps, but vastly amusing nonetheless. This book is a series of amusing anecdotes set throughout the year, detailing the experiences of Sam, minister of a Quaker church in Harmony, Indiana. I enjoy books that make me laugh out loud, and this one did.
I think its biggest flaw, maybe its only flaw, was taking itself too seriously. Most novels have some central conflict that builds up until the climax, but this book, a series of funny vignettes, didn't necessarily need one. I didn't mind the central conflict that was introduced, but I felt that it was done in a very careless, hurried manner, as though it were only added in a later draft. About 80% of the way through, a schism threatens to divide the church, and many people want Sam fired. By this point in the story, however, it is too late for the book to be anything but a comedy, and the hasty resolution to the conflict seems far-fetched. The people pushing for him to lost his job suddenly, inexplicably, stop. The temporary lull is long enough for one character to draw everyone's attention elsewhere, and suddenly people are making up and inviting each other over for luncheon.
Still, improbabilities aside, this book is quite funny, a feel-good comedy about churchgoers. What makes them wonderful? What makes them terrible? What makes them so dreadfully annoying? And on top of it all, Gulley raises some profound questions about the role of theology in religious practice and the validity (and danger) of fundamentalism. Overall, a compelling book....more
This book was hilarious! First of all, if you've ever been involved in the workings of a church, you will recognize characters in this book. If you'veThis book was hilarious! First of all, if you've ever been involved in the workings of a church, you will recognize characters in this book. If you've ever had to organize (or act in) a committee, you will know these characters. You'll swear that Philip Gulley has gone to your church, and sat in on your committees, and listened to the gossipy ladies in the back pew, and incorporated those people into his novel. And he makes it all funny. This is the town of Harmony, central to the series, and it is the setting/backdrop for this tale.
Although Sam has been married for seventeen years, he has yet to give his wife a Christmas present that she actually likes. Determined to make up for almost two decades of crummy gifts, he enrolls in a scrapbooking class that meets Wednesday nights. This year, he thinks, he finally has the perfect gift.
His wife, however, is less than thrilled with his mysterious late nights and suspicious behavior. Is he having an affair? Is he sick? Somehow, as news travels down the grapevine, suspicion leads to rumor, and rumor leads to "fact," and suddenly everybody in Harmony, behind Sam's back, of course, is admiring his courage for facing his last Christmas and still not burdening his family with the news of his imminent demise. And his number one mourner, going out of her way to make his last Christmas comfortable? His wife. Of course.
This is a story about love and marriage, about rumors and misconceptions, about church activities and secretaries ready to go on strike for better photocopiers, about tacky Christmas presents and unfortunate accidents involving scrapbook glue.
This book made me laugh out loud in the library. That's about the highest praise I can give it....more
Is the holiday stress getting you down? Are you feeling overly grinchy? Then take a break from Christmas mayhem and remind yourself of the joy of theIs the holiday stress getting you down? Are you feeling overly grinchy? Then take a break from Christmas mayhem and remind yourself of the joy of the season. Fix yourself some cocoa, grab a candy cane, and read this book! Depicting Christmas from the perspective of an innocent--in this case, an innocent dog--this story is cute, adorable, and laugh-out-loud funny at times. Not-quite-grammatical dogspeak is a plus....more