Thank God it’s summer. Not only is the weather warm, but I don’t have to spend all of my time cooped up indoors, reading dry textbooks that do nothing to stimulate my imagination. Thanks to the absence of all the reports, chapters, and numerous tasks for on-campus jobs, I am once again free to catch up on my ever-growing reading list. In honor of my devouring multiple new books in the past couple months, here are some short reviews of my most recent reads.
Possible spoilers, but since I’m playing severe catch-up (and most of these books aren’t very new) you probably don’t have much to fear by reading this.
The Homelanders series by Andrew Klavan
I’m lumping all four books of this series into one entry because I bought the whole collection that way. I also felt like these books alternated between being engaging and being a chore, and they are each similar enough I didn’t need to write separate entries. Just know these have taken up the last month or so of my reading time.
The basic plot line follows Charlie West, an average high school kid who wakes up being tortured by terrorists without any memory of the last year of his life. The books alternate between Charlie’s recollections of his past and his fight for survival in the present. There are decent twists and turns, and the story contains great moments of suspense, but the biggest reason I struggled to get through this series were the characters.
Primarily, Charlie doesn’t have much depth. There are attempts at introducing some moral dilemmas having to do with patriotism and his Christian faith, but I never became invested in them. I always knew he would do the right thing in the end, which made these bits boring. I’m always wary of harshing on books, because it’s not like I’ve ever written one, but if your job is to tell an engaging story that readers can invest in, you need characters who aren’t just relatable, but who have depth and human complexity.
Otherwise they are forgettable.
While this series was a wild ride that I mostly enjoyed, I don’t think I’d necessarily recommend these books. I mostly finished them to find the answers concerning the mysterious terrorists’ plot and some secondary characters more so than to find out what happens to Charlie.
3 1/2 Oreos out of 5.
The Green Mile by Stephen King
THIS is an unforgettable story. While I tend to dismiss most Stephen King (and James Patterson) novels as profit-driven-paperbacks, this novel is a diamond in the rough.
The simple backdrop of a Southern prison in the 1930s leads to a not-so-simple plot about prejudice, life and death, and good and evil, among others.
When I was younger, I saw part of the movie starring Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan. I’m glad I didn’t remember much of the film, because I always love reading before seeing an adaptation.
There are so many twists and turns, excellent characters with heart, and I love that King tackles complex themes (see list in the previous paragraph) while acknowledging that the answers can be interpreted in many different ways.
If you haven’t seen the film or (preferably) read the book, I would really encourage you to do so. This is a book that comes along and changes your perspective on life, and helps you reaffirm what you value most. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot so these are my two cents:
-Plot: Paul Edgecomb, former guard of the prison’s death row, recounts stories concerning the inmates of a life-changing summer, all of whom have dark secrets, and one of whom has a powerful gift.
-Rating: 5 out of 5 Oreos with extra cream filling
The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith
If you’ve seen the somewhat laughable film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, please do yourself a favor and give the book a chance. It reads like a biography but with undertones of Abe’s secret life ridding the States of vampires with the help of a “vegetarian” vampire pal. This ain’t no Twilight, it’s gritty and historical.
The Last American Vampire is the sequel, following Abe (now a vampire, in order to use his immortality to kill other vampires) and Henry, the vegetarian, as they travel the world, hunting the evil vampires who are trying to enslave humanity as a food source. Along the way, these characters become involved with various historical figures and events. You’ll see Mark Twain, Tesla, the Russian Revolution, the Hindenburg crash, and JFK’s assassination, just to name a few.
The plot is never dull and the characters and fictional alternate story lines are cohesive with the rest of the plot and with the historical pieces. You can tell Grahame-Smith took a lot of time and care to pull together this fun read. It’s a little out there, but history buffs or anyone looking for a good story should check it out.
5 out of 5 Oreos + a glass of milk.
Currently reading: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)
Once I finish this book (which is brilliant so far) and a few others on my reading list, I will post another set of reviews.
Happy reading 🙂