Five book reviews, one blog post

The tagline at the top of this page indicates that this blog is partly about books, but you sure wouldn’t know it from looking at my recent posts. I actually have been reading steadily (if not a wee bit slowly), but I just haven’t felt like writing about them. The weather finally decided to get cold and the loss of daylight savings time means that my excruciatingly long commute home is once again in complete darkness. This makes me want to sleep…all the time. Oh, and I pulled out the Snuggie…which instantly brings any productivity to a screeching halt. I need to get back into the groove, but I think I’ll just ease into it with some mini-reviews.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Seth Grahame Smith, what is this hold you have on me? I love reading about the Civil War, I love Abraham Lincoln, and I love vampire stories. Nuff said, right? (That goes out to you, Diana.) Abe’s mother is killed by a vampire when he is a young boy, thus igniting a lifelong quest to kill all vampires in America (with the exception of one “H,” who actually works with Lincoln to give him tips on the locations of especially evil vamps). He discovers that the vampires are funding slave owners in the South because the slave trade creates an endless, easy blood supply (here’s the vampiric connection to the Civil War). And John Wilkes Booth is a vampire, which I thought to be a touch of pure genius because he was such an outlandish character in real life that one has no problem believing that he was a vampire. There are also several old black and white photos (with slight modifications, of course) that genuinely creeped me out, especially the portrait of Booth.

I did have issues with this book, and if I were to analyze it and ponder the deep meanings within, I would probably not like it. I would be upset that it sort of shifts the real reason for the war away from slavery, which detracts from my image of the noble President Lincoln; and I would think it a little strange that he didn’t inform the country of the existence of vampires, instead of trying to slay each one individually with his trusty axe; and I would be most upset that Abe did not let his wife in on the fact that he became a vampire and instead continued to appear out of the darkness, causing her to be diagnosed as crazy and eventually institutionalized. BUT, I’m not going to over-think it, because this book is obviously not an accurate history and therefore not meant to be picked to pieces, thus, based solely on entertainment value, I loved it.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw was my first experience with Henry James and his millions upon millions of commas. It took me a long time to adjust to his style of writing and I grew a little impatient since it took me so long to read such a short book. I think it is a decent story, but there was so much suggestion that I felt a little lost because there were several times when I honestly had no idea what the heck he was suggesting. Perhaps this book is a little too high brow for me, but what I took away from it was this: the governess was insane and I’m not even sure that any of the ghostly occurences actually happened.

The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

I loved The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and went around singing its praises to everyone I knew. It was the first book that had genuinely scared the dickens out of me since my middle school days with Stephen King. ( I can remember lying in bed during a bad storm, literlly crying with fear, after just finishing Salem’s Lot because I was convinced that if  I pulled back the curtain to investigate the scratching at my window, I would be face to face with a floating vampire. And thanks to Christine, I still get creeped out at night when I see oncoming headlights of old cars from the 1950’s.) This book scared me so much that I was actually worried about a vampire attacking our plane when we flew out to California just a few days after finishing it. And the first description of the Strigoi and the pic-pic-pic of this cane?! I still shudder at the thought.

That having been said however, The Fall did not live up to all of my own personal hype. I wasn’t the least bit scared and at times I found the descriptions of the newly turned vampires to be comical. I’m not a huge fan of zombie-esqe vampires as it is, so when said zombie vampires morph into crab-like vamps that scuttle along walls and ceilings…I found it a little hard to swallow.  Also, I don’t especially love the style of writing because (this may sound weird) it reads like a movie that was turned into a book. Like it’s more  movie than book? (This makes sense though, considering del Toro is a filmmaker and that there are already plans to turn these books into movies.) I was able to overlook that aspect during The Strain since it was so wonderfully scary, but it becomes more obvious when the creep factor isn’t there to distract you.  A few new characters are introduced, I particularly enjoyed Angel, the retired Mexican luchadore, but some of the major characters that I would have believed to be crucial to the finale are killed off. Overall, I was disappointed with this book, but I am still curious to see how it will end and I will undoubtedly read book three.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I finally got around to reading Mockingjay. I absolutely adore this series, but I have to admit that I have major issues with the ending. I was perfectly satisfied (albeit not on the edge of my seat, as was the case with the first two books) up until page 385-ish, when it felt like she suddenly realized that she only had 15 pages left to hastily wrap everything up. It didn’t sit right with me and I’m agitated about the resolution of one character in particular (I can’t really say much about this without spoilers) that just didn’t make any sense whatsoever. However, I will continue to recommend the series.

The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

I listened to the audio version of this book and was absolutely enthralled from beginning to end. It’s the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, the first woman painter to ever be accepted to the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence in the 1600’s. Her story is tragic and heartbreaking, but I was really moved by her drive and determination to follow her dreams. Vreeland is a master of creating atmosphere and I found the scenery to be more vivid than anything I’ve read in a long time. The audio aspect added an additional layer of ambience since I could hear the reader correctly pronounce the Italian words and I went around talking with an Italian accent for several days afterwards. I also found her paintings online and was able to envision them while she was creating them in the story (which made me giddy with excitement). I knew nothing about this author prior to this book, but I will definitely be adding her other novels to my TBR list. I would highly recommend this book!

Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi c. 1630

4 comments on “Five book reviews, one blog post

  1. Carla says:

    You will want to see the visually gorgeous and emotive 1997 film “Artemisia,” which was released on DVD in 2001 and currently remains gettable at as well as at the odd B&N store.

  2. Carla says:

    Now…..for films of Henry James novels, which you will find a more palatable format perhaps, you might want to commence with a short, 1998 review by Alan Stone online at , then follow with viewing the films.

    There are disparate opinions as to the success of cinematic adaptations in presenting James’ novels. “The Turn of the Screw” has been filmed several times to varying degrees of reception.

    With the exception of the 1965 TV rendition of “The Ambassadors,” other film versions remain accessible. I have seen all the others.

    My personal film favorites are “The Portrait of a Lady” (1996), “The Wings of the Dove” (1997), “Washington Square” (1997), “The Golden Bowl” (2001), and “The American” (2001).

    Other films are “Daisy Miller” (1973), “The Europeans” (1979), “The Bostonians” (1984), and “Presence of Mind” aka “The Turn of the screw” (2003).

    Viewing films of James’ works is preferable to not reading his novels, because his is a provocative and interesting vision of class in society of that period. Moreover, the spectacle of clothing and furnishings should not be missed!

    • I can get all of your suggestions on Netflix except for Presence of Mind, which is the one I wanted to start with! Oh well, I will check them out for sure, I can not pass up a beautiful period piece with spectacular costumes :)
      Oh, I also found “Artemesia,” thanks so much for letting me know about it!

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