Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Just finished up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which is the unique story of Abraham Lincoln’s life from birth to assassination.  As a young boy his mother was taken from him . . . by a vampire, and from then on he swore to kill every vampire in America.  With his trusty ax, he set about doing just this, traveling the country, gaining allies (some even vampires no less!), and doing his best to rid the country of the blood-sucking fiends.

Seth Grahame-Smith, author of the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, does a great job of weaving Lincoln’s life in with killing vampires, chronicling his political career and using the vampire population as an impetus for starting the Civil War.  One could almost read a biography on Lincoln, and be reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter alongside it, as told from Lincoln’s journal entries.  And then there are the hilarious photographs from the period!

I’ll be interviewing Seth Grahame-Smith in the near future for Episode 27 of BookBanter, which will be up March 1st, magically coinciding with the publication of the book on March 2nd.  (Funny how that works . . . almost like it’s planned or something!)

Indiana Jones and the Lost Explorer . . . or “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann

Lost City of Z

In 1925, renowned explorer Percy Fawcett launched his final expedition that was recorded and watched by the world, as he journeyed into the deepest jungles of the Amazon in search of a hidden civilization that has been thought to exist and has been searched for for centuries.  The messages continued coming to the outside world of the incredible things he saw and the unique people he met.  Then the messages suddenly stopped and Percy Fawcett was never heard from again; all members of the expedition were silenced, even Percy’s son, who was with them.

The Lost City of Z is the incredible story of Percy Fawcett’s life in becoming the last great explorer to search one of the world’s last, relatively unexplored regions.  It is also the story of the history of “El Dorado” and this lost civilization in Brazil that has been searched for for so long, for centuries, since the days of Columbus.  It is also the story of the human driving streak to search and discover and learn and to always be pushing further and harder, and never giving up.  Finally, it is the story of a talented author, David Grann, a writer for the New Yorker, who with this book traveled around the world, and even began his own small expedition to retrace Fawcett’s steps and finally get to the bottom of whether there is a hidden civilization within the jungles of Brazil.  While I won’t give it away, I will say that Grann certainly finds something in the Amazon.

And you’ll have to read my eventual review to find out more about the incredible book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (the book comes out in paperback on January 26th).  I am also currently working on securing an interview with the author in the near future, as I would love to hear some of his thoughts and ideas in traveling into the Amazon.

Watch this blog for updates.

“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins

Just finished, literally, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; the incredible sequel to Hunger Games.  They really need to put a warning on these books — as I’ve been telling everyone I get hooked on them — to not read them at night, or you’ll just be stuck into the wee hours of morning reading the entire book, wanting to, needing to get to the end to know what happens.  That’s just what happened to me and now I really want book 3 which won’t be out until September or October 2010.  Le sigh.  But what a final climax and cliffhanger.  Wow once again for Suzanne Collins, she sure knows how to tell a story and keep you riveted to every word, sentence, paragraph, and page.

Scott Westerfeld’s “Leviathan”

Tomorrow I’ll be working on my review for Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, before I begin putting the next episode of BookBanter together, so I wanted to get a few thoughts down about it before I write the review, plus I’ll add a few thoughts and ideas that likely won’t make it into the review.  It’s why there’s a blog.

Levithan is an alternate history set during the beginning of World War I, kicking the book off with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, leaving Prince Aleksander on his own.  He lives in a strange world of Clankers: giant mechanical machines of varying sizes.  Back in jolly old Britain is Deryn Sharp, who is training to be an airman in the British Air Service.  Yep, that’s right, airman; only men are allowed in the service, so Deryn cuts her hair short and keeps herself disguised.  Britain is on the side of the Darwinists, who have giant beast that are a genetic amalgamation of different creatures.  The Leviathan of the title is in fact a giant gene-crossed sperm whale upon which Deryn is an airman.  The Levithan finds itself caught in an impressive air battle with the German Clankers, causing it to flee into the alps where it conveniently crashes not too far from Prince Aleksander, which is how the two main characters meet.

The book reminded me in a number of ways Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, no surprise really with the alternate history/fantasy world.  And my main complaint with the book would be while the setting was epic and impressive like Pullman’s world, the complex undertone and storyline wasn’t there, if anything the story seemed a little too simple.  But at the moment I’m putting this down to Leviathan being the first book in the series, where the second will open up the stage to something epic and mind-blowing like His Dark MaterialsLeviathan also reminded me of Naomi Novik’s successful Temeraire series also.  With how much story and set-up Westerfeld has done, the next few books in the series — I think — are really going to blow this whole thing out of the water, so to speak.

The other great thing about Leviathan is the work and care that has gone on with the book design, with the eye-catching Steampunkish cover, the type layout, the beautiful illustrations, the inlay design.  It’s a work of art that anyone would appreciate on their bookshelf.


2 Books in 2 Days

I essentially read two books over the last two days, both due in part to the Halloween season.

The first is The Halloween Tree by  Ray Bradbury (reviewed here), which I now read annually the week before Halloween each year.  It’s a wonderful short book that covers the history of Halloween and how different cultures have viewed and practiced it over the years, all told through the eyes of a bunch of boys dressed up for Halloween who travel across the ages.

Also read The Box: Uncanny Stories by Richard Matheson.  I’ve never read Matheson before and was happy to get my hands on a collection of some very entertaining stories, some of which I recognized, all mostly featuring a fun surprising twist at the end — in some cases I was able to spot it just before I got to it — as well as the story “Mute” which was a Twilight Zone episode.  My review for The Box will be showing up shortly on BookBanter.net.

Level 26: Dark Origins Finished

Finished up Level 26 and even after 400 odd pages, overall the book was still disappointing.  While the characters did develop a little more and the plot grew somewhat, everything was still so over the top and drawn out, which continued to kill the pace.  Zuiker continued to use short 3-5 page chapters (with over a 100 chapters for the entire book!) presumably with the goal of making it a page turner, but since little could be developed other than cheap quick reveals in that number of pages, the gimmick didn’t work for me (and has been my complaint with everything James Patterson writes these days).

As for the short video clips that varied in length from 30 seconds and shorter to up to 3 minutes, while the premise may have been interesting and potentially pretty cool, it was limiting in a number ways.  It required that when one was reading, one needed to be within close distance of a computer with an internet connection, unless you had a Google phone or Iphone or some portable device with said internet connection.  But this also detracted from the story by forcing the reader to put the book down to check out the short video, disengaging the reader from the story they were reading on the page to watch the same story on a different medium; coupled with the short chapters with little development . . . well, you can infer your own conclusions.

The videos continued to be incredibly over the top in a couple of different ways: the “graphic” torture scenes that were what got the book listed in the horror section, were mild in the videos, making them seem like different stories; the serial killer, Sqweegel, was overdone by the actor in the clips to the point where he was just funny and made me laugh (and when this is supposed to be the most horrific killer in history, requiring a new level of evil, I don’t think this is what the author was going for); and finally there were clips where the acting was predictably silly like a daytime soap opera, again making me laugh.

So overall, the idea and premise was interesting, but the result was that Level 26 was failure.  And with two sequels planned, I think I’ll be giving them a pass.

Death Troopers a la carte

Just wrapped up reading Death Troopers a couple of hours ago, and for my first Star Wars Universe book, I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t quite get the full five out of five stars, or four out of four “books” according to the BookBanter rating scale, for a couple of reasons which I will get to after talking about what I liked about the book.

Death Troopers employs a perfect recipe for a great horror novel, with a multitude of key ingredients. When cooking the perfect horror dish, it is always important to have some necessary base ingredients (like your flour, butter, eggs), such as darkness, space, the unknown, a virus, zombies, vampires, etc. Sometimes multiples of these base ingredients can be combined to make a stronger dish, where the extra “minor” ingredients simply add to the already good story.

Death Troopers excels in combining a number of these base ingredients. You have:

1/2lb of outer space
3 tbs of the unknown
1 qt of zombies
6 oz of blood and gore
2 cups of virus

And what makes the dish especially tasty are the extra ingredients:

1/2 L of the “sitting on the edge of your seat fear that everyone just might die” feeling
1/2 cup of cool Star Wars spaceships
1/4 cup of cool Star Wars references
A pinch of some familiar characters who show up

Death Troopers is a fantastic thrill ride that starts out as seemingly ordinary, well, as ordinary as a prison barge in a galaxy far far away can be, with little going on, and then goes to hell and pandemonium real soon, ratcheting up the stress, fear and excitement with the turn of each page.

The only things not giving this book a perfect review are:

1) The book weighs in at around 230 pages, and I was left wanting another couple hundred;

2) If it were a longer book, Schreiber would’ve had more time to explore the interesting characters he created, and more of their back story;

3) Also he would’ve been able to explore the reasoning behind the virus and the zombies; he does a fine job of explaining them, but the ideas was so cool that I wanted more.

Still, Death Troopers served (pun intended!) to pique my interest in the Star Wars novels, and clearly this is Del Rey’s intention as the book features a couple of chapters from Aaron Allston’s Star Wars Fate of the Jedi, Book 1: Outcast. Plus there’s a handy timeline (as I’m sure there is in every Star Wars book) listing how each and every Star Wars book fits into the continuity of the six movies.

After finishing Death Troopers, one wonders if Schreiber may be returning to the Star Wars Universe, and possibly within his own horror storyline.

I’ll be sure to ask when I interview him on Tuesday.

Now on to his other book: No Doors, No Windows.

Alan Jacobson’s Crush

A couple of days ago I finished up Crush by Alan Jacobson, which was released on September 22nd.  I originally met Alan about a year ago when he came into the store one day to talk about his debut novel, The 7th Victim.  We chatted for a while about his history in researching with the FBI which had led to the creation of his recurring and impressive character, Karen Veil, an FBI profiler.  He handed me an arc of the book which I read and enjoyed, and reviewed.

I remember I originally asked him if he would be doing a series involving Karen Veil, since he’d done so much research and Veil was such a great character.  At that point in time he said he wasn’t sure, but that he might.

Now I’m glad to see that Veil is back with Crush and this book is better than The 7th Victim.  Veil is on vacation at the start of the book in the wine country of Napa County, but then a body is discovered and even though she’s strictly “off duty,” her experience and profiling skills automatically kick into gear and she strategically maneuvers herself and get’s on the task force for the case.  The brilliant title of Crush comes from the link with grapes, and crushing them for wine, and all that jazz; coupled with the fact that the “crush killer” first kills his victims by strangling them to death.  Alan uses lots of place names so for any readers familiar with Napa and Sonoma counties (like I am), it’s a lot of fun recognizing the towns, places, and especially some of the wineries.  With this serial killer on the loose, Veil wants to get the word out to try and catch him, but with the wine industry supporting  a significant portion of the country’s economy, there are others who are very reluctant to do so.

Crush employs many different facets from government and politics, to wine county and wine drink — using real places — and a fast-paced plot line where the bodies start piling up and Veil has to do her very best to keep everyone in the loop and doing their best to find out just who this killer is.

After my initial reviewing of The 7th Victim, Alan and I have kept in touch over the year through email and Facebook, so I’ve been looking forward to Crush for some time (and was delighted to receive a copy without even asking!) and with somewhat of a cliffhanger, Alan is currently working on the third Karen Veil mystery.

While I plan to have my review for Crush up at BookBanter.net soon, I have also arranged with Alan for an interview with BookBanter which we’ll be doing on October 27th.  At the moment the interview with Alan is scheduled to run December 15th.

For now, head on over to Alan Jacobson’s website where you can found out all about Crush as well as some extras and behind-the-scenes that add to the great story.  And he’s currently on his tour, so check and see if he’s coming a place near you, drop by, buy a book, and say hi.