The Vampire Chronicles: The Queen of the Damned

Make sure to see what I thought about The Vampire Chronicles:  Interview with a Vampire, and The Vampire Lestat.

In 1976, a uniquely seductive world of vampires was unveiled in the now-classic Interview with the Vampire . . . in 1985, a wild and voluptous voice spoke to us, telling the story of The Vampire Lestat.  In The Queen of the Damned, Anne Rice continues her extraordinary “Vampire Chronicles” in a feat of mesmeric storytelling, a chillingly hypnotic entertainment in which the oldest and most powerful forces of the night are unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Three brilliantly colored narrative threads intertwine as the story unfolds:

– The rock star known as Vampire Lestat, worshipped by millions of spellbound fans, prepares for a concert in San Francisco.  Among the audience–pilgrims in a blind swoon of adoration–are hundreds of vampires, creatures who see Lestat as a “greedy fiend risking the secret prosperity of all his kind just to be loved and seen by mortals,” fiends themselves who hate Lestat’s power and who are determined to destroy him . . .

– The sleep of certain men and women–vampires and mortals scattered around the world–is haunted by a vivid, mysterious dream: of twins with fiery red hair and piercing green eyes who suffer an unspeakable tragedy.  It is a dream that slowly, tauntingly reveals its meaning to the dreamers as they make their way toward each other–some to be destroyed on the journey, some to face an even more terrifying fate at journey’s end . . .

– Akasha–Queen of the Damned, mother of all vampires, rises after a 6,000 year sleep and puts into motion a heinous plan to “save” mankind from itself and make “all myths of the world real” by elevating herself and her chosen son/lover to the level of the gods: “I am the fulfillment and I shall from this moment be the cause” . . .

These narrative threads wind sinuously across a vast, richly detailed tapestry of the violent, sensual world of vampirism, taking us back 6,000 years to its beginnings.  As the stories of the “first brood” of blood drinkers are revealed, we are swept across the ages, from Egypt to South America to the Himalayas to all the shrouded corners of the globe where vampires have left their mark. Vampires are created–mortals succumbing to the sensation of “being emptied, of being devoured, of being nothing.” Vampires are destroyed.  Dark rituals are performed–the rituals of ancient creatures prowling the modern world.  And, finally, we are brought to a moment in the twentieth century when, in an astonishing climax, the fate of the living dead–and perhaps of the living, all the living–will be decided.

When I decided to set out on this Series…urm…Series. I wondered what would happen if I decided not to finish one. I did not anticipate getting to that point in my first go round. I loved the first two books in The Vampire ChroniclesInterview was fantastic, and Lestat blew that one away!

Maybe because the first two were so brilliant, the third book just couldn’t keep up the pace. I had pretty high expectations. From the title, I expected it to be either about Akasha–written in the same first person narrative style, with age and period-appropriate voice, that Rice had used for Louis and Lestat.

However, she flipped writing styles completely. Lestat gives an introduction, and forewarns us that he is handing over the book to all the other vampires. Right away, my inner reader went “OH NO.” This book is SO disjointed compared to the first two. It must also be leading to the concert at the end of The Vampire Lestat–running sort of parallel. Unfortunately, it’s just so hard to follow. There’s barely any direction, and aside from the weird dreams about “red-headed twins” and out of context mentions of Lestat, there are hardly any connections between the narrators.

I feel like most of these vampires have nothing to do with Lestat, and that the thought of him is just thrust in randomly. They will be having conversations or streams of consciousness and suddenly “la de da blah blah VAMPIRE LESTAT blah blah la de da.” Every single time I was so confused about where he came from. Lestat swears in his introduction that he DID NOT write these narratives, that this is how they were given to him but it sure seems like either his vanity is shining through with abundance, or I am missing something completely.

Either way, I hit page 150 and just could not make one more. I could not stand the idea of 433 pages of this disjointed nonsense. Have you read The Queen of the DamnedCare to shed some light on this confusing book?

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The Vampire Chronicles: The Vampire Lestat

Make sure to see what I thought about The Vampire Chronicles:  Interview with a Vampire.

Once an aristocrat in the heady days of pre-revolutionary France, now Lestat is a rockstar in the demonic, shimmering 1980s. He rushes through the centuries in search of others like him, seeking answers to the mystery of his terrifying existence. His story, the second volume in Anne Rice’s best-selling Vampire Chronicles, is mesmerizing, passionate, and thrilling.

After rereading InterviewI was really looking forward to moving on with the series. Anne Rice has such a mesmerizing writing style and and I couldn’t wait to peel back the curtain on the Lestat.

I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, The Vampire Lestat was even better than I imagined. This book is a unique sort of “time travel” story. We get to see across different centuries, without a time machine. Vampires are an ancient people, and that makes their stories so layered. Sometimes when we think of “period fiction” we forget that there are SO MANY PERIODS–and Anne Rice does such a fantastic job of separating them–not only crossing time borders, but continental ones as well.

At first I thought Lestat as a rock god was sort of weird. Why are we starting with an 80s hair band? But then, as we dove down into his days in the Paris theatre, it started to unwind and make a little more sense. I’m not saying I don’t still find that part of the book a little disjointed…but I can understand why Rice made that choice.

Rice’s vampirism is sexy–she took the metaphor she started in Interview all the way to actual sexual attraction and fulfillment in Lestat. And it was pretty freaking hot. I do not understand why incest is necessary–Rice’s fascination with perversion is probably the only thing I do not like about her books. I know becoming a vampire changes your relationship…but that is still is a no for me.

Lestats tone is incredibly poetic–much more than Interview–probably owing to the difference in the vampires’ eras. Also, Lestat was originally French, Louis American. That they are so different shows Rice’s skill as a writer. I can’t wait to move on to Queen of the Damned to find out the unique perspective that one will bring!

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The Vampire Chronicles: Interview With the Vampire

Series. The bain of my existence. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great series…but they are SUCH a commitment. And as a blogger, they are so hard to review, because do I a) read them as the books come out individually or b) wait until the full series is out? 

I almost never read a series when it is first out…but then I procrastinate reading the full thing in one go because then I have to forgo everything else I am reading. 

It’s such a challenge to fit everything in. TOO MANY BOOKS.

So, we are going to try something new here on ILR. I’m going to read full series, and review them, all in a row. I’ll post these on Mondays, and you can follow along with me as I read each book!

Up first:  The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I have the big silver Omnibus from Barnes & Noble, so it’s a great place to start. I read Interview with the Vampire in 2015, so the below is an updated version of that review.

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

Vampires have never held much interest for me in the supernatural world. I’ve always been much more interested in magic–witches and dragons and elves. The whole blood-sucking thing…not for me. It could be regional, I’m much more interested in old British lore than Germanic and Eastern European, which is where vampires reign supreme, so the ancient legends never made it into my repertoire. And the modern retellings…well…I’ll pass on Edward and Bella, thanks.

However, one can hardly be up to par on their literature lists without at least reading Anne Rice. Besides DraculaInterview with the Vampire is probably the most famous work on the subject. Rice’s lead character Louis gives an elaborate narrative to a young boy, detailing his life as an 18th century vampire in New Orleans and Paris. He tells how Lestat turned him in order to try and gain access to his property, and how they then took a child as their daughter. Lestat’s motives are always sinister, and Louis determines to get Claudia away as soon as possible. Thus begins a constant struggle for their eternal lives.

On my second readthrough, I picked up a lot more on the pedophilic undertones of the book. When I read Interview the first time, I thought Claudia’s age and relationship with Louis was weird–but it made sense in vampire-land, that she’d stay young. However, Lestat’s obsession with boys really creeps me out. I mean, Lestat is creepy all around, but why must he always “take” young boys? It would be one thing if it were just sucking their blood as food–but Rice clearly draws a relationship between the vampire lust for blood and human lust for sex–and so an older vampire taking children really messed with me.

By writing about these doomful creatures, Rice not only weaves an entertaining and dramatic novel. Louis has been written with quite they philosopher’s mind, and so the narrative thread weaves a tapestry rich with conversations about God versus Satan, morals and motives, and even a little creation theory. There’s no ignoring the depth in this one, and perhaps because you are encased in the world of vampires, it’s very hard to find the light.

I had originally given this 4 Book Dragons, but I’m going to drop it down to 3. I liked it, but not as much on the second read. Perhaps I went a little too far down into the dark. The next book is all about Lestat so…I have a feeling it’s about to get darker.

 

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William Faulkner: As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying is Faulkner’s harrowing account of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Told in turns by each of the family members—including Addie herself—the novel ranges in mood from dark comedy to the deepest pathos.

Can you believe that when I named my blog, I had actually never read Faulkner? I’ve since cut the “As” but really I just thought it was a clever play on words. I wonder what ILR would be called if I HAD read Faulkner first because it definitely would not be the same.

I looked up some Goodreads reviews to help me with this because holy cow I don’t even know how to explain this to you. Someone named Ademption explains it best. “THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HICKS THEY GO TO TOWN.” Thank you Ademption, that really about covers it.

Also, there is a fish.

Mostly, the first half of the book is every person saying “This woman is dying.” “Have you heard she’s dying?” “Do you think Addie might die?”

The second half, yup, you guessed it, Addie died. They trek through mud to get her to her hometown for burial.

GUYS WHY IS THIS BOOK FAMOUS?

The underlying theme, at least from what I can discern is how emotionally abusive their father is. He’s a complete jackass, a cheap bastard, and absolutely hates and ignores the needs of his children.

Annnnd that about covers it. Worst review ever? Maybe. Can we never talk about where I got my blog name again? Faaaaaaaaantastic.

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Phillip Lewis: The Barrowfields

A richly textured coming-of-age story about fathers and sons, home and family, recalling classics by Thomas Wolfe and William Styron, by a powerful new voice in fiction

Just before Henry Aster’s birth, his father—outsized literary ambition and pregnant wife in tow—reluctantly returns to the small Appalachian town in which he was raised and installs his young family in an immense house of iron and glass perched high on the side of a mountain. There, Henry grows up under the writing desk of this fiercely brilliant man. But when tragedy tips his father toward a fearsome unraveling, what was once a young son’s reverence is poisoned and Henry flees, not to return until years later when he, too, must go home again.

Mythic in its sweep and mesmeric in its prose, The Barrowfields is a breathtaking debut about the darker side of devotion, the limits of forgiveness, and the reparative power of shared pasts.

I am fairly certain that to qualify for the genre “literary fiction” there is only one requirement:  that your book must be as morose as possible. Look up Literary Fiction in the thesaurus and you will find the words Depressing, Melancholy, Miserable, Sulky, and Sullen. I cannot name a single book from the genre that does not fit this description. Maybe I’m wrong. But all the examples I can think of are just this.

The Barrowfields is all of these. It starts out interestingly enough–almost reminiscent of Cold Mountain in its descriptions of Appalachia. You can hear the mountain twang in the narrator’s voice as he speaks about his father’s family history. Only later do you realize you’re no longer in the 1800s, but in modern times.

That shift really confused me–as did the change in the narrator’s voice. At some point, he loses that twang and gains a snobby upper class air. To be fair, his father raises him in literature, but the vocabulary used is a bit obnoxious. Words like excrescence, deliquesce, and indomitable are commonplace in his story.

We lose characters a lot in this book too. People just drop off for no discernable reason–his mother, his school friends. People come into his life and then he moves on without them. Time passes, and he isn’t interested in waiting on it.

I feel very  melancholy about The Barrowfields. I didn’t dislike it, nor did I particularly like it. It’s literary fiction, so I suppose I am meant to feel SOMETHING…and I do. I’m just not entirely sure what that SOMETHING is.

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Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility

‘The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!’

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

This edition includes explanatory notes, textual variants between the first and second editions, and Tony Tanner’s introduction to the original Penguin Classic edition.

It’s no surprise that Pride and Prejudice is an all-time favorite of mine. So many of us fell in love with Mr. Darcy at a young age, and we just never really let go of that crush. But I’ve had a hard time getting into some of Austen’s other books. Emma I like, but everything will always fall short of P&P.

Sense and Sensibility probably would have been better titled as Nonsense and Secrets Destroy Your Life.

I.

Was.

So.

CONFUSED.

Everyone is love with the wrong person in this book, which seemed that it would have been solved simply if they would stop keeping secrets from everybody else. Oh, this person is engaged already to this person, and this person is engaged already to this person, but not really because no one knows it and they aren’t ACTUALLY engaged, he just has a lock of her hair.

WHAT THE WHAT.

The only honest person in the whole freaking book is Colonel Brandon–who I might be even more in love with now than Mr. Darcy. If we all had a Colonel Brandon in our lives, we’d all be SO much better off.

Instead we all have Willoughbys and Wickhams.

By the end of this, I was skimming, so I took to Hulu to watch the 2008 version–and it made much more sense in movie format. Still, the only real result is that I fell even more in love with Colonel Brandon, and everyone else seemed much more the mess. Of course, in true Jane Austen fashion, it all turns right in the end, but goodness she does like to torture her lovers, doesn’t she?

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Han Kang–Human Acts

From the internationally bestselling author of The Vegetarian, a rare and astonishing (The Observer) portrait of political unrest and the universal struggle for justice.

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.

The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho’s own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.

An award-winning, controversial bestseller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.

This book.

Deep Exhale.

This book is a ghost story. To read this book is to experience the mass casualty that overcomes a city in war. We see both sides–from the living and bereaved–trying to find closure in a city building overcome with overflowing death. We see, too, through the blind eyes of a trapped soul, panicking under the press of rot and gore, unable to release himself from the body that no longer lives.

And that is only the beginning.

This book is a ghost story–and there are so many ghosts. There are only 218 pages, but I could not read this for more than a few minutes at a time without putting my bookmark in and just breathing. I could not cry because I felt like every emotion I had was sucked right out of me.

I’m not sure how to describe this book–beautiful? amazing? great? All of those words could fit but mostly it just tore me to shreds. This short book is exhausting to read and in literature that is the exact opposite of a negative review. Just be prepared when you go into this. Han Kang does not need to waste 500 pages on dramatic world-building, she can do it in a whisper. You will be haunted by Human Acts. This book is a ghost story.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books and Hogarth for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

Read the World:  South Korea

DiversityBingo2017:  NonWestern Real World Setting

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Jacqueline Woodson: Feathers

“Hope is the thing with feathers,” starts the poem Frannie is reading in school. Frannie hasn’t thought much about hope. There are so many other things to think about. Each day, her friend Samantha seems a bit more holy.”There is a new boy in class everyone is calling the Jesus Boy. And although the new boy looks like a white kid, he says he’is not white. Who is he?

During a winter full of surprises, good and bad, Frannie starts seeing a lot of things in a new light:—her brother Sean’s deafness, her mother’s fear, the class bully’s anger, her best friend’s faith and her own desire for the thing with feathers.”

Jacqueline Woodson once again takes readers on a journey into a young girl’s heart and reveals the pain and the joy of learning to look beneath the surface.

Oh Jacqueline Woodson, you strike again. When I read Brown Girl DreamingI added this one to my TBR right away. I fell in love with her poetry and wanted to read more of her incredible writing.

I was not disappointed. Feathers is prose instead of poetry, but it is just as gorgeous. Written for middle-grade, her story combines so many different facets into a book under 150 pages. We see a young girl learning about life alongside a mother with depression and a brother who is deaf, and that gives her a unique outlook when a new boy comes to school needing a bit of compassion.

This is for sure going on my list of books to recommend when my parent friends reach out to me for their kids. If you have a child in middle school, definitely add this to your shelves.

DiversityBingo2017: D/dEAF/HARD OF HEARING MC

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Rohinton Mistry: A Fine Balance

In 1975, in an unidentified Indian city, Mrs Dina Dalal, a financially pressed Parsi widow in her early 40s sets up a sweatshop of sorts in her ramshackle apartment. Determined to remain financially independent and to avoid a second marriage, she takes in a boarder and two Hindu tailors to sew dresses for an export company. As the four share their stories, then meals, then living space, human kinship prevails and the four become a kind of family, despite the lines of caste, class and religion. When tragedy strikes, their cherished, newfound stability is threatened, and each character must face a difficult choice in trying to salvage their relationships.

I will never be amazed at how much books surprise me sometimes. Rohinton Mistry was recommended to me as a key Indian author, but I’ve never much been interested in books written about the 70s, so I was hesitant to read this. When I saw how BIG this book was…I won’t lie–I put this thing off until it was absolutely due at the library, and even then I extended my contract.

951 pages later (I mistakenly got the large print version, I think the regular one is only 600), I have laughed, cried, gasped, and near made myself sick over this book. Mistry has sewn together a quilt of patches from poverty to familial abuse, from fascist regimes to mob bosses. I expected India to seem as far away as 1975–decades and countries away. Certainly something I needed to learn about, but I didn’t think I would be able to relate to quite so much. But this story resonated in so many ways with what is happening in the United States today–this book was a little TOO real.

It was also impossible not to fall in love with the characters. Mistry flips prejudice and privilege on its head because the people he wants you to see aren’t the rich and freshly-bathed, but the beggars and Untouchables–those who most disregard completely. Dina struggles over and over with her prejudice against the tailors–she is us, our wrinkled nose and closed door. There are also those who are obsessed with political movements, and those who are being affected by the horrific changes by the massive changes made by the government…and those who just don’t seem to care at all what is going on until it is too late.

A Fine Balance is two things. It IS a brilliant book about Indian culture in the 1970s. I learned so much about the country and amazingly diverse people that I did not know before. But this book is also us, in our country, right now. It’s on my list of books kids should be reading in school but would never be allowed. I know it’s long, but devote some time this year for this one. It’s worth it.

DiversityBingo2017:  Indian MC Own Voices

Read Around the World:  India

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Aldous Huxley: Brave New World

Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress…

Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece.

A friend of mine tweeted recently that we were living Brave New World. I hadn’t read it yet, but coincidentally (or not), I’d just ordered it from ThriftBooks. Well, I suppose I better move it up the list, then.

Aldous Huxley certainly wastes no time in horrifying the reader. From the very first chapter, I read slack-jawed in terror about the “utopia” he had created for us. There are definite similarities to what we are seeing today. I don’t know that we are there yet, but we should certainly be wary. It is alarming, for sure.

As far as the book goes–this is going to have to be a twofer. I will need to reread it again. I understood the overall themes and concepts, but I didn’t connect with any of the characters. Maybe it was just too abstract for me.

I have two observations to make:

The first, is just about utopias in general. In every other utopia I’ve read–The Giver, for example–the drug use is hidden. The leaders don’t want society to know they must have drugs to suppress their natural urges, go on with the utopian lifestyle, etc. The drug is always hidden in vitamins, or the water, or something. Here, it is relished, open, necessary. Not taking high doses of soma is frowned upon. You SHOULD be an addict. But don’t take TOO much. Don’t take 20, or you will die. Take a lot, but just enough. Have fun, all of the time. Be high, all of the time.

Second, the caste system–bred into the new embryos, then taught while the children sleep. HOW CREEPY IS THAT?! This is the part that really resonates to today’s world, because while we don’t have a utopian system built for this yet…we have a societal structure that is already this way. Parents teaching children without realizing some of the toxic things that are getting in. I don’t want to get full on conspiratorial but…I think you could see how it could go downhill fast.

Brave New World is a book that would be burnt first if ever such a thing were to happen. If literature starts disappearing, hide your copies. Read it now, while you still can. It should be read, by everyone. And read it more than once, so you know you truly understand what is happening.

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