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.

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).


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:

Buy the Book

The Trilogy

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The 4-Film Package