Book Review: American Ghoul, by Walt Morton

American Ghoul starts out a little slow as the author gives us the background, but once he’s finished giving us the background information, which doesn’t take long, the action starts and doesn’t stop throughout the book.

The Background

We all know how difficult it is to be a teenager with raging hormones, boring classes, and tormenting bullies, but imagine watching your parents burnt to death because they are ghouls like you. You narrowly escape with your life because your father told the vigilante crowd you were in the house sleeping as it is burning to the ground. Imagine further, you’re in Georgia and your nearest relative lives in New Jersey and you only have a few dollars, so a bus or plane is out of the question.

Granny’s a Ghoul

Young Howard Pickman hitches to New Jersey to live with his grandmother, who he hasn’t seen in years. His grandmother is a haggard shell of a woman even though she is just into her early sixties. Howard figures out why after they dig up a freshly dead, not embalmed carcass (embalming fluid is poison to a ghoul), and granny regains her health after nearly four years of not eating human flesh.

Howard is convinced by his grandmother to go back to high school, so he can go to college and pursue an education to become a mortician. You see, ghouls are not like zombies who eat the living, they are scavengers that just clean up the would-be wasted carcasses of the already dead by raiding cemeteries in the early morning, while hopefully, no one is watching.

About High School

Well, going back to school was a big mistake, like any other high school, Pinebury HS is filled with bullies and jocks and jocks that are bullies. Of course, there are other nerds and cheerleaders, as well. When he takes his SAT and scores in the top five percentiles nationally, the trouble begins. Or, ends… depending on how you look at it. OK, maybe the beginning of the end. This really pisses off the Senior Class President, as he believes this somehow lessens his accomplishment on the SAT, even though they both did equally fantastic, though our ghoul was a nerdy newcomer. But, the class president joins with the jocks to harass and bully the now “famous” nerd.

Things really heat up when one the of the nerdy crowd commits suicide (??) in the boy’s locker room and the boys form a punk band. Howard calls more attention to himself by getting a Mohawk haircut and starts dating one of the prettiest girls in school.

I really don’t want to give you too many spoilers, but this is a fun and exciting book after the preliminaries. If you enjoy heart-wrenching drama, alternative lifestyles, a little romance, high school shenanigans, murder, and mayhem, this book is for you!

This author knows how to pull you into the story and then show you a good time. Just read it, you won’t regret it.

Book Review: Ashley Bell, Buy it Here!

Ashley Bell Book Review

This is a book review about Ashley Bell, which is a great read, a book I could not put down. Although I was a little confused at first by what was happening, I was hooked, right from the very beginning. When things cleared up and I realized what was going on I was shocked and compelled to keep going. Not only does it keep you at the edge of your seat waiting for what is going to happen next, but you will have genuine compassion for the characters. You will feel like you are right there with them.

An Introduction (Ashley Bell Book Review)

In this book review, I will detail (hopefully, without too many spoilers) the latest in a long line of spine-tingling thrillers, which readers like you have come to enjoy from Dean Koontz, title after title. Such as Final Hour, Last Light, The City, Whispers, Odd Thomas the series, and most recently, The Silent Corner. A page-turner to keep any reader riveted. The book gives the background of ten-year-old Bibi Blair who lived under a grim vault of sorrow each day in Southern California, at least until her grandfather (whom she called “Captain”) came to live in the loft of their garage. She wanted to marry a hero someday yet her mind was always spinning. Just how this little girl imagined her life at a tender age. Yet in the long run, this may turn out to be a bit too much for her.

I loved Bibi from the minute she was introduced in the book. What a charismatic young lady. Even from her childhood you couldn’t help but love her. The book ends up taking quite a turn when Bibi gets terminal brain cancer and believes that she did not die because she was meant to save someone else’s life, that someone was Ashley Bell.

At the time of the book, she is currently living in Southern California. To be exact, a small bungalow in Corona del Mar. There was no ocean view, despite being three blocks away from the Pacific. The girl wrote short stories and kept a diary. There is also mention of her previously living in San Francisco where a dog was abandoned by a cruel master on a beach just south of there. A lot of writings chronicled Jasper going from place to place in search of a new home. He was a black and gray mongrel named Jasper in her stories. Yet a golden retriever and named Olaf in Bibi’s real life.

Her parents named her Bibi because they were quirky and lighthearted surfers. Pronounced Beebee and derived from the Old French word ”Bibelot”, meaning a ”toy”, ”bauble”, or trinket. She resisted the thought of ever being anyone’s toy. She resisted the thought of ever being anyone’s toy. Yet by age sixteen, she was used to the name. After turning twenty, this woman embraced and accepted her quirky name. Feeling it made her stand out. Yet worried her name would prevent her from being taken seriously as a novelist yet she never used a pen name.

The story quickly progresses to her life at age twenty-two. She wrote for a newspaper and had big dreams of a career beyond this, working on a novel. She preferred to write less about big events and more about stories where people’s lives are affected by forces beyond their control. The journey of a young woman in a man’s world is tough. Bibi, no doubt, also has it tough in some way. When you turn each page, more of her struggle will be revealed.

Starting with Bibi’s hunt for Ashley things get crazier than ever as Bibi gets involved in another world in her own mind. Bibi’s brain tumor puts her in a coma that the doctors cannot understand because the brain activity is as active as vibrant as a fully awake and functioning as any person’s mind would be. This world is full of many things Bibi is not used to. Lots of conspiracies and lots of crime. This story is filled with themes of both innocence and evil.

Warning: Spoilers ahead in this Book Review!

The girl that Bibi feels she is meant to save, Ashley Bell, whom she has never actually met but was a character in a book she read as a child. Ashley Bell was a Holocaust survivor who grows up to become a brain surgeon. Bibi’s strong desire to save her is what consumes her after her close encounter with death. Bibi has quite a knack for forgetting bad experiences that have happened in her life; however, to save Ashley Bell, she must open a deeper part of her mind of forgotten incidences. This is very important to her rescuing Ashley.

Dean Koontz keeps your attention in this story. Page after page and chapter after chapter you will not want to put it down. Your only thought while reading this book will be that you want to immediately find out what happens next.

The Characters

Another thing that is great about this story is that you can see the characters as real people. Such as Bibi’s mom and dad, a stereotypical Liberal surfer couple from California, if there ever was one, Pax, her Navy Seal BF, currently somewhere unknown to her, then there’s the Captain, her mother’s father and her childhood confidant, and many others you will grow to love and some you will hate tremendously. There isn’t anything that makes you think these are just some made-up people in a story you are reading.

The way Koontz describes his characters gives you such an opportunity to envision them in your own way. But, you do envision them as real people not just as characters in a book. This makes any story a better read because you feel like you are right there with them. You feel their happiness, their anger, their love, their sadness and their pain. Ashley Bell is a story that allows you to feel these emotions.

When you must put the book down, you are so into the story that you can’t wait to pick it up again because you just want to know that much what is going to happen next. And, your mind is racing along distracting you from whatever it is you’re doing, while you think… What is Bibi going to do next? What happens to Ashley Bell if she doesn’t get to her in time? No good character goes through a story without a conflict, this woman is no exception. Who is she? What will happen to her? Does she survive this novel? These questions and more will be on your mind as you read Ashley Bell.

The Book Review Summary & Recommendation

The book itself is quite long; however, with the short chapters in this book you won’t even notice this and you will feel like you are getting through the book quite quickly. This book can catch your attention quickly, especially those who are quite fond of stories that involve an overly determined character, lots of suspense, and maybe even some murders. Any mystery lover will be glad to read this book and will certainly be satisfied with the plot. This book is a must read and I give it two thumbs up as well as 5 out of 5 stars or however you want a book review to rate a novel. Those who are not Dean Koontz fans just might be after reading this novel.

While this book review cannot give too much away, Bibi’s ordeal is both unique and worth a read.

A Comparison?

From the standpoint of this book review, it is a more personal and character-driven story than say Koontz’ novel Breathless. A novel that is basically a high tech and plot-driven retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. While this latter book remains an exciting read, the personal focus and heartfelt emotions make Ashley Bell stand out among the rest of his works. This is not the usual Koontz thriller, it is a cut above showing what an author can really do when he digs deep into a character’s mind and soul. It will appeal both to his usual fan base of action thrillers and that of the rarer breed of those who want something more in their fiction. A deeper emotional core most best-selling authors are afraid to reach. And indeed, such depth says a lot about an author’s talent.

In conclusion, Ashley Bell is a very good read that you will not want to miss. Dean Koontz is a very good author who still puts out many books worth exploring. In an era where there is so much focus on digital media and cable TV screens, cell phones, tablets, and iPods, this is refreshing.

Koontz, Stephen King, and others of their ilk might end up being the last of an era. Stories are as timeless as life itself. The evolution of media always changes the way stories are told. Yet the experience of good storytelling, from the perspectives of both the reader and the author, should stay the same, no matter what. Ashley Bell is that personification of a great story.

I hope you liked my little book review and I hope I didn’t give away too much (though, I know I didn’t). It seemed to me that Mr. Koontz is setting us up for a sequel. What did you think? Will there be another thrilling story that focuses more on Pax? Let me know in the comments. By the way, if you have not read Final Hour and Last Light, though it is not necessary to the Ashley Bell story, some of the character lead-ins begin in these two Novellas. Thanks. 


This review also appears on Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2184678493

The Hunger Games: Book One Review

The Hunger Games: A Book Review

The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, is a fiction in the Youth Adult (YA) Fantasy genre.

Let me be clear, I am not a young adult. In fact, I am a more than a few years past middle-aged. I was immediately completely engrossed in this novel and devoured it feverishly until it was complete. The Hunger Games is so addictive because it draws the reader into a dramatic plot while introducing compelling characters.

The Plot 

The novel is narrated by the main character, a sixteen-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen. When the book opens, it is seemingly the future, after a great war. What remains is divided into twelve districts, collectively known as Panem that are governed by The Capital. Katniss, from District 12, volunteers to take her sister, Prim’s, place in The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a gladiator-like fight to the death among “tributes” two from each of the twelve districts. The tributes must be less than eighteen. The games are televised and presented as entertainment while being controlled by The Capital.
To survive, Katniss must win the games. By rule, only one tribute will be left at the end of the games. Complicating the dire odds are friendships and alliances formed along the way. Katniss brings to the games excellent hunting skills and an instinct for survival. She hunted and scrounged for food to keep her family going through very lean times. Her father was killed in a mining accident when she was young.
Especially relevant is that as the novel progresses it is very clear that there is a gross disparity in the wealth of the citizenry in the capital and those in the districts. Each of the districts is kept separate from the others. And, contributes some sort of agricultural or mineral products to the capital. The Capital controls every aspect of the districts to maintain a vise-like grip on the people.

The Other Characters

Other characters of note are Gale, Katniss’ best friend from District 12. He is her friend, hunting partner, and though not yet fully evident, her love interest. He represents much of what her home district means to her.
Peeta is the other tribute from District 12. He is an adversary with whom Katniss forms an alliance and a seemingly romantic relationship as well.
Haymitch Abernathy is the only Hunger Games victor who is still alive from District 12. He is Katniss and Peeta’s mentor in the games.
In addition, other notables are Panem President Snow, Effie Trinket, the District 12 escort for the tributes, and Katniss’s sister Primrose (Prim).

Recommendation

Consequently, the Hunger Games will appeal to teens 13 and older and just about anyone who enjoys fantasy. The novel contains some strong emotional themes and violence so I don’t recommend it for those younger than 13.
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media, gives it five stars, saying,

For her first young-adult novel, Collins has mixed together elements both classical and modern to produce a story that, if not entirely new, nevertheless bears her unique imprint.

In spite of all that I loved about this book, I did find one of the central tensions, the love triangle, very lame. The love triangle was very tired to me and while it drove the plot forward and added to the suspense, I didn’t find it very believable.

The Hunger Games: From Print to Big Screen

For me, this book was as huge a hit as it was for the general YA populace that made it and the movie such a huge success and I recommend it heartily. The novel explores many important themes such as poverty, the role of government, teenage angst, the search for identity, and the heroes journey. The action in the book drives the plot forward quickly and the writing is witty and straightforward.
Watch the 2012 movie trailer:

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The Trilogy

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The Litigators Book Review

The Litigators

John Grisham

The Litigators, John Grisham’s 25th novel, is a book you either love or hate. Personally, I thought it was not a great book but has the potential to be a good movie. The reason I say that you will either love it or hate it is because it is so different than what we are used to from John Grisham. I have read everything he has written including, Playing for Pizza, A Painted House, Bleachers, and Calico Joe, which a lot of people didn’t like because they were about sports or just not his usual fanfare about lawyers and trials. However, this book was about lawyers and trials, but still not his usual fanfare in that he used a lot of humor and it wasn’t based in the south, but in Chicago. Worst yet is that the plot is very narrow and predictable.

The Litigators, Finley and Figg

The Litigators begins with an introduction of the partners at Finley & Figg, the only two in the partnership. Oscar Finley is a 62-year-old lawyer, who is not very happy with life or his wife. He won the building that houses the partnership in a lawsuit years before, which is good because they couldn’t afford the rent otherwise. The junior partner, as Oscar like to refer to Wally Figg, to make his life seem a little more important, is a 45-year-old recovering alcoholic, who still has big dreams of the million dollar case.

The two other occupants at Finley & Figg are Rochelle and AC. Rochelle is the receptionist, she had hired them to represent her in an accident case in which she was not at fault and they botched her case so bad she threatened to sue them for legal malpractice until they hired her. AC, or Ambulance Chaser, is a dog whose ears perk up at the sound of a siren and is a full-time resident at Finley & Figg.

Wally prints their advertisements on bingo cards. Additionally, he goes to every viewing of the recently deceased in hopes of hearing rumors of a wrongful death. He finally stumbles upon what he immediately perceives to be a big payday. He hears from the son of the deceased that his father may have died from a heart attack brought on by Krayoxx, a medication he was using to lower cholesterol. After doing some research he learns of a possible class-action lawsuit initiated by Jerry Alisandros in Florida. He thinks if they can sign up as many clients as possible, they can ride the coat-tails of the class-action suit to a big money score.

Enter David Zinc, a Harvard Law School graduate, working as a drone in International Law for a large firm. David is burnt out from working 80-hour weeks for 500 dollars an hour, most of which goes to the firm, even though he earns a very good wage. One day he just loses it and leaves. He goes to Abner’s Bar and drinks the rest of the day away. When he leaves, he sees a sign on a bus stop ad for Finley & Figg and tells the taxi driver to take him there. With no job and little hope, he begs for a job with the partners, who agree to hire him for much less than he’s worth.

Late one night, David’s wife tells him of a friend that has an immigrant housekeeper whose son is comatose, possibly from lead poisoning from a toy. David and his wife Helen befriend the parents and David winds up representing some of the immigrants in a labor dispute and he wins. However, during the dispute one of the employers tries to burn down Finley & Figg.

Unfortunately, Oscar is sleeping on the couch in the office, shoots the arsonist, and winds up getting sued for excessive force. That’s just the start of problems for Finley & Figg. The lawyers representing the pharmaceutical firm, Varrick Labs decide they have a favorable judge in Chicago and they know none of the partners at Finley & Figg have trial experience. Since there is little evidence to tie Krayoxx to the deaths, they narrowly escape a legal malpractice suit from their clients and a deformation of character suit by Varrick Labs.

Since the trial is the best part of the book I won’t be the “spoiler” for you, even though it goes as expected. David Zinc continues to dig into the lead poisoning and eventually starts his own firm.

Although some will argue that it is not Grisham’s best, it is a good read, well worth the money, and with a few adjustments could be a very good movie.

The Litigators Book Review

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Sycamore Row Book Review

Sycamore Row

John Grisham

25 real-world years after John Grisham’s first novel. Grisham takes us back to Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi. Three book years after Jake Brigance successfully defended a black man accused of murdering the three white men that raped and killed his daughter in A Time to Kill, Grisham re-introduces us to Jake, Judge Attlee, and the racial tensions that abound in this small southern town.

The Tribulations of Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row gets its name from a stand of sycamore trees, one of which was used by Seth Hubbard, a millionaire suffering from late stage lung cancer, hanging himself from a sycamore tree. The day prior, he made a new will. A hand-written will leaving the majority of his estate to his maid, Lettie Lang, who nursed him through his final days on earth. He also left 5 percent to his church and 5 percent to his brother whom he hadn’t seen in years and wasn’t sure was still alive. This hand-written will would over-ride the will he had drawn up by a law firm two years earlier. What makes this story interesting is that the new will was legal in Mississippi. Probate law requires he had the mental capacity to write it and there was no undue tampering from anyone named in the will. Seth hated lawyers and had a healthy distrust for all but Jake Brigance, whom he wrote to requesting that he protect his new will at all costs.

Since, Seth Hubbard was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 million dollars, everybody wanted a piece of his estate. In the first will, Seth’s children, Herschel and Ramona were named as the primary recipients of his estate. Herschel and Ramona were deadbeats according to their father that rarely came to see him, unless they needed something. So, they of course hired lawyers to protect their interest. Their primary purpose was to raise a bit of doubt in the jury’s mind. Both, to the mental capacity of Hubbard and the relationship between he and Lettie.

Lettie, whose husband cared more for drinking than he did working, had a son in prison, and a daughter recently returned from the military. Lettie’s supposed friends and relatives came out of the woodwork to help her stake her claim to the money, hoping she would reward them monetarily after she received her reward.

And, the Trial

Grisham takes us through the boring and mundane process of establishing the estates worth, jury selection, and trial procedures. After all, not everything about a trial is filled with action and adventure. But, the events outside the courtroom, such as Lettie’s husband arrest for driving under the influence and vehicular homicide, Lucien’s search for Seth’s brother, a merchant marine with drug and alcohol abuse problems, the search for Lettie’s real parents, since she is an orphan, and the racially charged events in the town where the trial takes place are what really keeps the story moving.

Grisham is a master story teller that knows his way around a courtroom. He has proven that time and time again in his other books, but in Sycamore Row as in A Time to Kill he showed us his ability to pull us into the small town of Clanton that is the Deep South and hold us spellbound until the final verdict.

Sycamore Row Book Review

 

 

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