The Historian

The HistorianThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unabridged audio version narrated by Justine Eyre and Paul Michael. I think it was a mistake to listen to this on audio. Even with two narrators, we are still dealing with 4 different time periods and events covering three generations. The tone and style was reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though I could not differentiate between the father’s letters and his mentors. It all sounded the same. The visual cues of reading might have helped this.

For those leery of vampires and horror novels, this is pretty mild suspense and nothing too graphic. Where the novel excels is in the descriptions of all the places visited and details of culture, food, buildings, folklore, and history. As a travelogue it’s great, as a vampire story – not so much. Too many coincidences drive the plot, and what could have been a great romance just didn’t satisfy.

Book description: Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This might have gotten another star from me, but I just wasn’t in the mood for blood and gore. Though it lacks the cleverness of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the alternative history presented is quite believable! With the extensive “introduction” about how the author was given the journals and the dictum to write a book from them, I expected to return to the narrator at the end with some twist or other, so it felt a bit incomplete at the end. While P&P&Z stuck quite closely to Jane Austen’s text (which is what made it work, in my opinion!), this book was derived from a mix of historical stuff with some madeup history (like Lincoln meeting Poe) thrown in, so the whole thing was a lot more ambiguous as to what was historical and what wasn’t. Yes, this is fiction, but I think it might have been stronger with an actual underlying source. In the end, it almost works. I just think this book could have been so much more.

Description: While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.


Twilight (Twilight, #1) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Stephanie Meyer has noted that each of the novels in the Twilight Saga pays homage to other literary classics. For Twilight, she has said Pride and Prejudice was the key inspiration. Well, I suppose it isn’t any worse than some of the other P&P fanfic out there. Beyond the superficial – the relationship of Bella and her father, a mother prone to hystrionics, a boyfriend who goes out of his way to avoid her (at first), and a passionate love that develops out of very little substance, oh, and a few letters thrown in here and there – there is no comparison. Bella is no Elizabeth Bennet. She is a very insecure teenager who seems to have a classic martyr complex. While Edward is a creepy stalker, made somehow wholesome by the fact that he abstains from human blood.

I assigned this book to a local book club of Red Hat ladies because of its popularity. I didn’t know what to expect. To my surprise, they all loved it! What is the appeal, I asked, because I don’t get it. It’s spiritual, one woman replied. It opens you up to the paranormal – I like the idea that there are things out there that we don’t know about. Okay, I get that. It’s a fantasy. On the other hand, these women will tell you that they don’t “like” the fantasy genre. We all have fantasies about flirting with danger. I think the idea of becoming immortal also has a certain appeal. But I still don’t get the romance. I failed to understand what the¬†characters¬†saw in each other. Silly me, wanting some depth of character. It had about as much substance as Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks, which I read for the same book club, not too long ago. And that one, we all agreed, was “fluff.” A quick and easy book for a day at the beach – no thinking required.

Perhaps a few Twilight fans will go on to read Pride and Prejudice. Harper has come out with a new “Twilight” edition of classics aimed at teen readers with covers reminiscent of the Twilight series. And will Pride and Prejudice fans turn to the likes of “Mr. Darcy, Vampire”? I have to admit that there is a certain logic behind imagining the haughty and stone-faced Fitzwilliam Darcy as a vampire.