Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Genre: Contemporary
Secondary genre: paranormal
Format read: audiobook
Rating: DNF

**This review contains mild spoilers**

Lara is in a lurch. She quit her job to start a company with her best friend, only to have said friend elope to another country. Her business is failing, her family is disappointed in her, and even worse, her wealthy relatives keep rubbing it in her face. To top it all off, her boyfriend dumped her.

And now she’s seeing ghosts. Well, a ghost. Of her great-aunt Sadie, whom she’s never met, but whose funeral she’s expected to attend.

The sad service–no flowers, only seven guests, and no one who’d ever actually met Sadie–is a huge disappointment on many levels, until suddenly Sadie’s ghost, circa 1927, swoops in and starts screaming about a lost necklace. And Lara’s the only one who can hear her.

This book should have been a home-run for me: Ghosts! The 1920s! A broke millennial finding her way in the world!

But no. I was cringing within the first five minutes.

Lara as a character is a wet noodle. She’s clingy, calling her ex so often he changed his phone number. She routinely put people in her life (like said ex, and her absentee best friend) who take advantage of her. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering her family  is a cluster of assholes. From a psychological standpoint, she’s drawn to what she knows.

Then we have Sadie. Sadie, of the screechy voice, the “look at me!” personality, and a complete lack of respect or consideration for the people around her.

The two of them butt heads from the first, and I couldn’t stand either of them. They were both extremely annoying. Just when I would start to feel sympathy for Sadie, she would go off and do something annoying again.

And Lara’s method of dealing with Sadie is to tell lie after lie…to the police. I’m not talking little white lies that might be funny later. I mean things like “I think someone at the nursing home murdered my aunt!” (shouted in desperation when Sadie pesters her to stop the funeral and subsequent cremation).

The fact that she would a) purger herself and b) put other people at risk without even thinking sent me so far over the edge that I DNFed this book at around 25%. It was a disappointing thing to do, especially after reading Finding Audrey and loving it so much. I don’t think I’ve ever read an author with both a 5 star read and a DNF before. But I just couldn’t stand listening to the two of them bicker, or watching as Lara sent her train wreck of a life straight over a cliff.

Maybe others find the things I dislike funny, but this one definitely didn’t hit the sweet spot for me.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Genre: adult supernatural
Secondary genre: historical
Format read: audiobook
Content warnings: violence, sexism, racism
Rating: planchet

In this twisted historical, Grahame-Smith re-imagines history with one slight change: vampires. Vampires are the power behind the politics that run pre-Civil War America, and when Abe Lincoln, then only a child, discovers their dark secrets, he dedicates his life to hunting them down and destroying them after they kill his mother, and later, his fiance.

Beginning as an itinerant vampire hunter, wandering the Mississippi River Valley, Abe is somewhat aimless until he meets the mysterious Henry, a vampire who takes him under his wing…to teach him how to hunt vampires.

Disgusted with the way his kind treats humanity, Henry feeds Abe information on where to find the most dangerous vampires, and the best way of dispatching them.

As the tensions between North and South begin to rise, however, Abe realizes that his best bet for defeating Vampires, and the slavery that supports them, is from within America’s political system.

At first I was super excited for this book. Vampires! Civil War! Lincoln! All of my favorite things, wrapped up into one great audiobook.

Alas, for me, it did not live up to expectations. The story is bookended by bits set during modern day, in which Henry delivers Lincoln’s journals to a writer for apparently no real reason. The story itself is the “biography” the author writes based on these notes, and it reads like it–like a very dry, very boring biography. The action scenes were dull, and even the deaths of Lincoln’s first girlfriend and his sons were barely a blip. The author completely missed the emotional beats of the story.

In addition, it’s rife with passive racism and sexism. I don’t think any of the women in Lincoln’s life had more than a single line of dialogue. I don’t know about you, but I can’t fathom Mary Todd Lincoln keeping her mouth shut for more than five minutes, let alone 200+ pages.

But the part that really got me was the fact that Grahame-Smith completely cut Kate Warne from the Baltimore Plot. Not only was she the one who uncovered it, but she was the one who came up with a way to save Lincoln’s life. She was with him the entire time. Additionally, she would have made an excellent fellow vampire hunter.

There’s been a lot of debate over the years about Lincoln’s position on race. While he was an abolitionist, he wasn’t as forceful about it as many of our history books would lead us to believe. He supported freeing slaves and sending them back to Africa, rather than allowing them to be free in America.

Somehow, though, the author manages to make Lincoln both more racist and a stronger abolitionist. He looks on slaves as inferior humans who are fit for little else, but at the same time calls slavery a stain on humanity, primarily because slave auctions are essentially the 1850s version of fast food for vampires. He seems to think of slavery as a necessary evil, however, until Henry reveals the vampire plot to enslave whites, as well. This is what prompts him to present the emancipation proclamation, not any sort of empathy or egalitarian leanings.

All in all, I was hugely disappointed in this book. I kept reading in the hopes it would get better, but I think I just wasted 10 hours of my life instead.