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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith.

I guess it's vampire week here at The Book Blawg.

Wow, I really enjoyed this book! That's saying a bit, because I generally avoid biographies and history. I know I should like them and they are good for me to read, but I prefer historical fiction if I want to learn about history.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, as the title suggests, re-imagines Lincolns life with vampires. As a young man, Lincoln learns that his mother and his grandfather were murdered by vampires. He then writes in his journal:

I hereby resolve to kill every vampire in America.
Soon after, he meets a "good" vampire named Henry who teaches Lincoln about the undead and trains him to fight. Lincoln continues his secret vampire-fighting career until a "Union" of bloodsuckers persuades him to concentrate on politics. There is, we learn, a war coming - a war essentially between two groups of vampires: those that choose to coexist with humans; and those who enjoy terrorizing and victimizing them. (If this setup doesn't sound vaguely familiar, you haven't read any vampire fiction in the last 35 years.) The United States, particularly the South, has become a haven for vampires because of their ability to feed on slaves with impunity, and for that purpose have allied themselves with the southern plantation owners and slave traders. This fact makes the institution of slavery even darker, if that is possible; and their plans are to enslave the whole population and therefore they must be stopped, at all costs.

The bulk of the novel is not about vampires, but is a pretty well-written and engaging biography of Lincoln. It's not hard to discern fact from fiction. This book was great up until the very end, which didn't seem consistent with what we had learned about Lincoln. But I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot of history at the same time. The photos are clever, as well.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer.

So, if you've read the Twilight series, you know that Bree is the newborn vampire who "surrenders" to the Cullens at the end of Eclipse and then is destroyed by the Volturi. This short novel is her story - sort of a "day-in-the-life" of the vampire army that Victoria creates. As Ms. Meyer writes in the introduction, "you know this: it doesn't end well for her. But at least you will know the whole story." And I'll tell you, not only do you learn about Bree, but there is a major new piece of information that is revealed in this book that was not in the book Eclipse, but I suspect will be included in Eclipse the movie which premiers next week, and it affects events in Breaking Dawn as well.

I found Meyer's writing in Bree Tanner to be a lot more like The Host than the other Twilight novels. Now I liked The Host, but not every Twilight fan does. Also, I've read criticisms that the book doesn't have chapters, and indeed that feature can be annoying unless you plan to read it all in one sitting. But it's short, so deal with it.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is available to read for free until July 5 at

Android Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters.

Scroll down to find out how you can win one of 25 prize packages from Quirk Classics.

I'm sure I qualify as a hard-core Tolstoy geek. I've read War and Peace - twice - for fun (both times). Back in college, I took a Russian literature course on Tolstoy and wrote what were, I'm sure, pretentious essays on Sevastapol Stories and Anna Karenina. I translated one of Tolstoy's short stories from Russian to English. I have three copies of AK on my shelf; a cheap paperback, a Norton critical edition, and a two-volume set in Russian that I picked up at some Dom Knigi or other. I even acquired the nickname "Mrs. Tolstoy" for a while, based on the phonetic similarities between my first name and Tolsoty's initials and, of course, my love of 19th century Russian literature.

So when Quirk Classics announced a blog explosion for their latest offering, Android Karenina, I knew I had to be on board.

This book has got androids, aliens, and enough action to please any mash-up fan. The thing about mash-ups is you either love them or you hate them. If you are a purist, you don't want anyone messing with your Tolstoy or your Austen. So if that's you, just stay away from the genre altogether or you will get all upset, and that makes things unpleasant for the rest of us.

[Isn't this a cool photo of Tolstoy? It was taken in 1908, the only color photograph of the author.]
One thing that has always struck me as I have been reading so much Jane Austen lately (both the mashed and the un-mashed) is the social class distinctions of that time. The separation of the population into nobility, commoners, and clergy is a foreign concept to our modern egalitarian minds. We understand that one person may have more money than another, or a more powerful or prestigious job, but not that a person is somehow better merely by birth. In Tolstoy's day, the distinction was even more pronounced due to the existence of serfdom, which persisted in Russian for hundreds of years after it was abolished in Western Europe. Tolstoy made efforts, with limited success, to improve the lives of the peasants living on his estate, and it becomes an important theme in his writing. So the substitution of robots for servants in Android Karenina seems quite fitting, and represents the ultimate dehumanization of the serving class.

Like the previous Quirk Classics books (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters), this one contains discussion questions, such as:

7. In a crucial moment, Levin chooses his wife over Socrates, his beloved-companion robot. Are there any technological devices in your life that you love more than your spouse?
It seems that readers are going to find many of the themes in Android Karenina relevant to modern life. There's a reason they call it a CrackBerry, folks.

And now on to the give-away. To enter, visit Quirk Classics' Android Karenina contest page and leave a comment mentioning this blog (The Book Blawg). Quirk will be giving away 25 prize packages worth around $100 each, including 5 books, an Android Karenina poster, and more.

Thanks for joining me!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book.

Ray Comfort, author (and friend of Kirk Cameron) has a new book out, and it's available free, either on request, by .pdf, or as an .mp3 audiobook: God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Message.

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