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Friday Fun! (Six Books/Six Months Meme and Blog Tour Updates)

July 20, 2012 5 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

This week I saw a new meme over on Jessica’s blog, The Bookworm Chronicles, and I immediately knew I’d want to participate.  And what better place than in Friday Fun, eh?  The Book Jotter created it after realizing we’re actually halfway through the year already (already!), so the theme is answers to the questions/categories in sixes.

Six New Authors to Me:

  1. S. A. Archer
  2. Kat Falls
  3. Steve Vernon
  4. David Anthony Durham
  5. Brandon Shire
  6. Susan Mallery

Six Authors I Have Read Before

  1. Brian K. Vaughan
  2. Robert Kirkman
  3. Joseph Robert Lewis
  4. Anne Rice
  5. Margaret Atwood
  6. Ann Brashares

Six Authors I Am Looking Forward To Reading More Of:

  1. Tera W. Hunter
  2. Joann Sfar
  3. Richelle Mead
  4. M. J. Rose
  5. Isaac Marion
  6. Roger Thurow

Six Books I Have Enjoyed the Most:

  1. To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War by Tera W. Hunter (review)
  2. Dark Life by Kat Falls (review)
  3. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (review)
  4. Acacia by David Anthony Durham (review)
  5. Vegan Vittles by Jo Stepaniak (review)
  6. The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change by Roger Thurow (review)

Six Books I Was Disappointed With:

  1. The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice (review)
  2. Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods by Renee Loux Underkoffler (review)
  3. Nano House: Innovations for Small Dwellings by Phyllis Richardson (review)
  4. The Child Who by Simon Lelic (review)
  5. To a Mountain in Tibet by Colin Thubron (review)
  6. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (review)

Six Series of Books Read or Started:

  1. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
  2. Touched by S. A. Archer
  3. Dark Life by Kat Falls
  4. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
  5. Georgina Kincaid by Richelle Mead
  6. The Reincarnationist by M. J. Rose

Phew! That was actually pretty tough to assemble. Super fun though! It’s always interesting to see your reading over a period of time summed up in different types of lists.

Now, it’s time for the Waiting For Daybreak blog tour updates (blog tour page)!  This was the first full week of the tour, and it’s really been quite fun so far.

Earth’s Book Nook hosted a guest post in which I talk about why I made “What is normal?” the theme of the novel and tour.  She is also hosting a giveaway!

The Chronicles of an Enamored Soul posted her review, and she said, “The reason it gets FIVE STARS, is because I simply loved how well-realized, and well-developed author McNeil’s characters were, ESPECIALLY Frieda. Amanda writes about mental illness with sensitivity, and yet never fails to make it interesting.”

Tabula Rasa‘s review said, “The book is, on the one hand packed with thrill and action, and on the other, has a very emotional and thought-provoking side. What I really appreciated was how none of it is overdone; I specially liked the subtlety of the relationship between Mike and Frieda.”

Tabula Rasa also hosted an interview!  Be sure to check that out to find out everything from whether plot or characters come first in my writing to what my next project is.

Nicki J Markus also interviewed me.  Check that out to find out what my favorite zombie book and zombie movie are.

Last but not least, Nicki J Markus is also hosting a giveaway.  Two chances to win this week!

Thanks once again to all the participating blogs!

Finally, happy weekends to all my lovely readers!  What did you think of the meme?  Any surprises or thoughts?

Book Review: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

February 18, 2012 6 comments

Image of a wolf's eyes.Summary:
Reuben Golding is a talented new journalist who feels as if he is floundering around with no direction in his family of wealthy, talented people.  That all changes when he’s bitten in a mysterious attack while writing about an old house on the seacoast.  He shortly discovers that the bite has turned him into a man wolf–like a werewolf, but with the ability to change every night.  Oh, and also he has an insatiable desire to devour those who smell like evil.  His quest for answers about his new situation will open up a whole new world to him.

Review:
It needs to be said that having read only Anne Rice’s earlier books, I somehow missed the memo that she went from atheist to Catholic in the early 2000s.  As an agnostic myself, one of the things I love about her earlier novels, beyond the poetic writing, is this search for meaning without belief in a god that the characters demonstrate.  So.  I was less than thrilled to find god all up in my werewolves.  *growl*

But it of course is more than philosophical differences that make this book bad.  The writing is just….not what it used to be.  The pacing is off.  Parts of the novel wax eloquent about the redwood forests, but then action sequences feel like Rice was trying to mimic the style of pulp authors like Palahniuk.  (Something that she does poorly, btw).  I get wanting to try a new style, but you need to pick one or the other.  The up and down almost randomness of the style changes made it difficult to get into the story.

Then we have the story itself.  If Rice had gone just slightly more absurd, this would make an excellent humorous novel.  Of course, it’s not meant to be.  A perfect example is one scene that I keep thinking over just for the giggles it gives me.  The scene, is supposed to be one of the pivotal, more serious ones in the book, naturally.  Reuben is in his wolf form and having just run through the forest eating animals, he stands on his hind legs and spins in a circle while singing the Shaker song “Simple Gifts.”  And then a woman in a cabin sees this and naturally they have the hot hot beastiality sex.  (Note: I do not actually find this scene hot at all.  In fact I find it really fucking disturbing, and I don’t find ANYTHING disturbing usually).  It isn’t like scenes of sex and violence in other novels that are part of an overall narrative designed to help you understand something.  It’s not an allegory of anything either.  It just is there because….yeah, I don’t know why it’s there, actually.

Then we have the wonderful presence of an atheist character who is clearly there so Rice can lecture atheists via her book.  Oh you silly atheists! Of course there’s a god!  The whole of nature is reaching toward him and yadda yadda yadda *eye-roll*  This is just bad writing.  It’s such an obvious attempt to be able to directly lecture the readers that it’s painful to see.  Particularly after knowing that Rice is capable of actual eloquent writing.

Also the whole entire concept of having werewolves actually be evil-fighting do-gooders is like a furry version of Batman. And who wants that? Nobody, that’s who.

Speaking of Batman, if I have to read one more book about a poor little privileged white boy, I’m going to lose my mind.  Aww, poor Reuben, he has a high-achieving lawyer girlfriend who loves him, a surgeon mother, a giving brother, and a professor father, but Reuben is bad at science and everyone tells him a 23 year old can’t write.  People need to take him seriously!  Poor Reuben.  And Reuben claims he changes after getting the “wolf gift” but he really doesn’t.  He still whines to anyone who will listen and runs around trying to tell everyone else what to do but never bothers to actually force himself to grow up.  He could have been an interesting main character if the wolf gift actually challenged and changed him.  But it doesn’t.  He’s still the same, whiny, privileged rich kid.  Only now he’s surrounded by the slightly creepy doting wolf pack.

Oh, and Rice?  Wolf packs don’t consist of only one gender, idiot.  Research? Have you heard of it?

Overall, this was an incredibly irritating and frustrating read that I disliked so much I’m not even going to do my usual of passing on my reviewer’s copy to my dad.  This one is going in the recycling bin.  And you all should give it a pass as well.

1 out of 5 stars

Source: Copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

Buy It

 

 

2011’s 5 Star Reads!

December 31, 2011 15 comments

My one regret last year when summing up my year in reading was that the 5 star reads didn’t get enough attention. So! They are getting their own post this time.  Please note that if the 5 star went to a book in a graphic novel series, I am just listing the whole series.  If it’s a non-graphic series, then the individual book is listed with a note about what series it is in.  With no further ado, presenting Opinions of a Wolf’s 5 Star Reads for 2011!

Black woman wrapped in a white piece of cloth.The Book of Night Women
By: Marlon James
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: Riverhead
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: slavery, Jamaica, resistance, evil of capitalism
Summary:
This is the story of Lilith. A mulatto with green eyes born on a plantation in Jamaica to a mama who was raped at 14 by the overseer as punishment to her brother.  Raised by a whore and a crazy man, all Lilith has ever wanted was to improve her status on the plantation. And maybe to understand why her green eyes seem to freak out slave and master alike.  Assigned to be a house slave, Lilith finds herself in direct contact with the most powerful slave on the plantation–Homer, who is in charge of the household.  Homer brings her into a secret meeting of the night women in a cave on the grounds and attempts to bring Lilith into a rebellion plot, insisting upon the darkness innate in Lilith’s soul.  But Lilith isn’t really sure what exactly will get her what she truly wants–to feel safe and be with the man she cares for.
Current Thoughts:
If someone asked me for a book that truly makes the reader feel the desperation of being trapped in an evil system with no escape, this is the book I would hand them.

Wolf howling at moon.The Call of the Wild
By: Jack London
Publication Date: 1903
Publisher: CreateSpace
Genre: Historical Fiction, Animal Perspective
Themes: animal rights, human/animal relationships, the nature of nature, Alaska, Canada, evil of capitalism
Summary:
Buck is a spoiled southern dog enjoying a posh life when one of the family’s servants steals him and sells him away to be a sled dog for the Alaska gold rush.  Buck soon goes from an easy life to one of trials and tribulations as the result of humans fawning over a golden metal, but it might not be all bad for him in the wild Alaskan north.
Current Thoughts:
I listened to this on audiobook.  I generally do this while cooking or cleaning my apartment. I distinctly remember being in the middle of washing my dishes, stopping, and going to lay down on my bed and cry.  No one could read this book and doubt that animals have their own inner lives and emotions.  It so powerfully depicts both that and the possible bond between animals and people.  Everything I have always felt between myself and the animals I love is so perfectly depicted here.

Black and white photo of a group of womenThe Group
By: Mary McCarthy
Publication Date: 1954
Publisher: Harvest Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: women’s rights, GLBTQ, women’s colleges, relationships, NYC
Summary:
A collection of women graduate from Vassar in the 1930s.  Their friendship is known collectively as “The Group,” and their distinctive Vassar education has given them a distinctly liberal view on the world.  How this changes with time as they repeatedly encounter societal expectations and relationship problems are told through a series of vignettes that focus in on moments in their lives over the seven years after graduation.
Current Thoughts:
This book addresses women’s issues in the 1930s and 1940s that are, honestly, too frequently too often issues today as well, through a series of vignettes that pop into the various women’s lives at different points in time.  This unique way of telling their stories is what makes this book such a powerful read.

Germany and Italy (manga versions)Hetalia: Axis Powers
By: Hidekaz Himaruya
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher: TokyoPop
Genre: Graphic Novel–Historical Fiction
Themes: international relations, world history
Summary:
The nations involved in WWII and the events leading up to it are personified as over-the-top manga characters and through manga-style scenarios the historic events leading up to WWII are explored.  The future of the nations after WWII is also explored.  For example: Russia’s dilemmas with his sisters the Ukraine and Belarus, Canada’s persistent ability to somehow be invisible to most of the rest of the G8 nations (and also to be mistaken for America), and Japan-kun and America-kun visiting each other’s homes and attempting to reach a cultural understanding.
Current Thoughts:
I actually squee when I see the manga version of America online.  I heart him so much. I heart the whole series so much. This series is the reason I got distraught when TokyoPop went out of business.  Read it.  Even if you aren’t a history person. It is hilarious!

Scales.Hunger (Riders of the Apocalypse, #1)
By: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Genre: YA–Fantasy
Themes: anorexia, bulimia, mental illness, winning inner battles, suicide
Summary:
Lisabeth Lewis thought it was just a nightmare.  Death coming to her when she tried to commit suicide with her mom’s antidepressants and offering to make her Famine–one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse–instead of letting her die.  It’s just all way too ironic, her as Famine.  After all, she’s fat.  She has to watch what she eats very carefully.  The Thin voice tells her all the time exactly how many calories each bit of food is and how much exercise it’ll take to burn it off.  Yes.  Lisabeth Lewis is fat.  So why would Death assign Famine to her anyway?
Current Thoughts:
I still love how Kessler depicts the inner battles that go on in mental illness via the fantastical appearance of Death and the Riders of the Apocalypse.  It makes it more relatable and understandable for teens struggling with those issues.

Woman in a kerchief in a fieldI Am Hutterite
By: Mary-Ann Kirkby
Publication Date: 2007
Publisher: Polka Dot Press
Genre: Nonfiction–Memoir
Themes: role of religion in family life, understanding your past, communal living, Canada
Summary:
Mary Ann Kirkby recounts her unique childhood in her memoir.  She was born into a Hutterite family.  The Hutterites are a religious sect similar to the Amish only they believe that living communally is a mandate for Christians.  Mary Ann recounts her childhood both in the religious sect (her particular group was located in western Canada), as well as the journey and culture shock she went through when her parents left the Hutterites when she was nine years old.
Current Thoughts:
This is the most unique memoir I read all year, and I read a lot of them.  Not only is the Hutterite lifestyle and community fascinating, but Kirkby also pulled off the rare feat of speaking about her childhood and difficult times in her life without ever once coming across as bitter.

Super creepy clownIt
By: Stephen King
Publication Date: 1986
Publisher: Signet
Genre: Horror
Themes: growing up, growing old, phases of life, Maine
Summary:
In the late 1950s in the small town of Derry, Maine, children are being mysteriously murdered.  Seven misfit and outcast kids band together to face It, and they think they’ve beaten it, but 27 years later, the murders return.  Vaguely remembering a promise they all made, the now adults return to their hometown of Derry to face It again.
Current Thoughts:
If someone asked me why I love pulp, what makes a horror writer like King so popular, I’d talk about this book.  King eloquently addresses something everyone goes through–being a kid, growing up, growing old–without the reader even really realizing it until the book is done and wraps it up in spine-chilling horror.  You relate and learn and your true fears are acquiesced all while being entertained.

Smoke coming out of a smoke stackThe Jungle
By: Upton Sinclair
Publication Date: 1906
Publisher: Simon & Brown
Genre: American Classic
Themes: socialism, worker’s rights, animal rights, evil of capitalism, Chicago, social justice, vegetarianism, debt slavery
Summary:
In the early 1900s Jurgis and his soon-to-be family by marriage decide to immigrate to the US from Lithuania.  Having heard from an old friend that Chicago’s Packingtown is where a working man can easily make his way in the world, this is where they head.  Soon the family find themselves deep in the horror that is the regulated in name only meat packing plants.  Dominated by a society that circulates entirely around greed and wealth for the few at the expense of the many, the family and individuals within it slowly fall apart.  But is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Current Thoughts:
It still baffles me that when this book came out all anyone could talk about was food safety.  I believe Sinclair did a great job demonstrating the plight of the blue collar worker, as well as the horrors of animal slaughter.  This is a classic that deserves that label.

Bird on a cross against the moon.The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1)
By: Rick Yancey
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Horror
Themes: New England, the nature of evil, relationships
Summary:
A New England town’s oldest resident dies leaving no known surviving family.  His journals end up at the university where a professor loans them to a writer friend.  In the first three folios, we learn of young Will Henry whose father and mother died in a terrible house fire leaving him to the care of his father’s employer–Warthrop.  Warthrop is a monstrumologist.  He studies monsters, and people arrive in the middle of the night for his help.  One night a grave robber arrives with the body of a young girl wrapped in the horrifying embrace of an anthropophagus–a creature with no head and a mouth full of shark-like teeth in the middle of his chest.  Will Henry, as the assistant apprentice monstrumologist, soon finds himself sucked into the secret horror found in his hometown.
Current Thoughts:
I still can’t get the damn image of the anthropophagus out of my head.  Also the characters of Will and Warthrop will forever live on in my head.  New England horror done exquisitely.

Red sword.Rage (Riders of the Apocalypse, #2)
By: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Genre: YA–Fantasy
Themes: mental illness, self-injury, bullying
Summary:
Melissa Miller is your typical 16 year old–mom, dad, annoying sister, a jerk of an ex-boyfriend–with one small difference.  She deals with her emotions by cutting herself.  She keeps a razor in a locked box in her closet and pulls it out when she gets overwhelmed.  One night she accidentally cuts too deep, and Death shows up with an option.  Either die now or become one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse–War.  Missy chooses the latter option, and as she gets to know the other Horsemen and her job as War, she starts to realize she needs to face the rage inside her.
Current Thoughts:
I periodically find myself thinking back on the climactic scene of this book, which in a fantastical manner depicts a self-injurer facing the anger inside herself.  If someone needs to understanding self-injury and doesn’t want to read the academic work on the topic, this is the book I would hand them.

Woman kissing man while surrounded by fire.Touched by an Alien (Katherine “Kitty” Katt, #1)
By: Gini Koch
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Daw Books
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Themes: aliens, FBI, intrigue, Arizona, action, sex
Summary:
Katherine “Kitty” Katt manages to get released early from a dull day of jury duty only to find herself confronted with an angry man who sprouts wings and starts flinging knives from their tips toward everyone in the vicinity.  Kitty attacks and stops him and quickly finds herself sucked into a world she was unaware existed.  A world of alien refugees defending Earth and themselves from a bunch of fugly alien parasites.  She soon discovers her ordinary parents are more involved in this secret world than she would ever have dreamed.  On top of that, she’s increasingly finding herself falling for one of the alien hunks who announced his intentions to marry her almost immediately upon meeting her.
Current Thoughts:
Aliens in suits? Check. Some lines and scenes pop into my head at odd times and make me laugh? Check. Favorite paranormal romance series to date? Triple-check.

Silhouette of a person standing in a white hall.The Unit
By: Ninni Holmqvist
Publication Date: 2006
Publisher: Other Press
Genre: Scifi–Dystopian
Themes: old age, socialism, Sweden, medical research
Summary:
In the Sweden of the near future women who reach the age of 50 and men who reach the age of 60 without having successfully acquired a partner or had children are deemed “dispensable” and sent to live in “a unit.”  These units appear at first glance to be like a high-class retirement home, and indeed they have all the amenities.  The residents, however, are required both to participate in medical experiments and to donate various organs and body parts up until their “final donation” of their heart anywhere from a year or a few years after their arrival in the unit.  Dorrit arrives at the unit depressed, but accepting of her fate as the result of her independent nature, but when she falls in love, she starts to question everything.
Current Thoughts:
This is a book that I literally cannot stop thinking about.  It left me with no clear answers, but tons of questions.  I also think of Dorrit and her friends every time I have a steam after working out, just like them.

Red cover with white and cold lettering.The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles, #2)
By: Anne Rice
Publication Date: 1985
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Fantasy–Vampires
Themes: resiliency, searching for love, European history, Egypt, rock stars, New Orleans
Summary:
Lestat, the maker of Louis and Claudia, takes center stage here to tell his own origin story, as well as explain why he has chosen to come out as a vampire rock star in the 1980s.  Starting with his beginnings as a rural member of the ruling class prior to the French Revolution, we discover the origins of the Vampire Theater, as well as the origins of vampires themselves.
Current Thoughts:
I just really love Lestat. You can vamp me and carry me around forever with you, dude.

Person in red surrounded by zombies.The Walking Dead
By: Robert Kirkman
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel–Horror
Themes: creation of a new society, living in fear, unjust wars, truthiness, self-protection, zombies, Georgia, survival
Summary:
When cop Rick wakes up from a coma brought on by a gun shot wound, he discovers a post-apocalyptic mess and zombies everywhere.  He sets off for Atlanta in search of his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, and soon teams up with a rag-tag group of survivors camped just outside of Atlanta.
Current Thoughts:
I’m still working my way through this series, but it just progressively gets better and better.  Although the beginning is cliche, it does not take Kirkman long to become unique, surprising, and thought-provoking.

Angry cow.Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth About Cow’s Milk and Your Health
By: Joseph Keon
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Genre: Nonfiction–Science and Health
Themes: health, Standard American Diet, animal rights, veganism, cancer, heart disease
Summary:
Joseph Keon seeks to combat the cultural myth of dairy being a necessary part of a healthy diet perpetuated by the milk moustache ads with his book citing multiple scientific studies that have been swept under the rug by those being paid by the dairy lobbyists.  Although Keon cares about animal welfare as well (and there is a chapter on the suffering of dairy cows), the book predominantly focuses on debunking multiple myths surrounding human consumption of dairy:  the overly-hyped “need” for calcium, that dairy is good for children, and the idea that dairy prevents disease.  Keon additionally alarmingly shows the various chemical, virus, and bacteria contaminants commonly found in dairy.  Citing multiple scientific studies, he unequivocally demonstrates that contrary to what the dairy industry and government want you to think, dairy is actually bad for your health.
Current Thoughts:
Oh god, how am I still eating dairy after reading all of these facts?  I am going to get cancer…..gah! Damn you, cheese. Damn you.

Portraits of three Chinese women on gold and blue background.Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
By: Jung Chang
Publication Date: 1991
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Nonfiction–Memoir
Themes: Chinese history, women’s rights, China, communism, revolutions, concubines, foot-binding
Summary:
In this memoir, Jung Chang recounts the lives of herself, her mother, and her grandmother growing up in pre-communist, revolutionary, and communist China.  Mixing extensive historical facts with intensely personal remembrances, Jung Chang presents a vivid portrait of real life in China.
Current Thoughts:
This is the book that jump-started my interest in China and learning Chinese history.  It is a stunning memoir that covers three generations during the time period that made modern China.

Man with a monkey on his back.Y: The Last Man
By: Brian K. Vaughan
Publication Date: 2003
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: Graphic Novel–Scifi–Post-apocalyptic
Themes: gender, gender norms, organization of society, Boston, United States, Israel, coming of age
Summary:
The world is changed overnight when all the men and boys in the world mysteriously drop dead.  Factions quickly develop among the women between those who want the world to remain all female and those who would like to restore the former gender balance.  One man is mysteriously left alive though–Yorick.  A 20-something, underachieving magician with a girlfriend in Australia.  He desperately wants to find her, but the US government and the man-hating Amazons have other ideas.
Current Thoughts:

Another series that I am currently in the middle of.  It is also steadily improving from the first volume.  It is colorfully illustrated, consistently funny, and thought-provoking.




Friday Fun! (Furniture, Anne Rice, TBR Challenge)

December 16, 2011 7 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  My, what a busy month this has been so far, and it’s only going to get busier!

My dad got me a mini kitchen island type piece of furniture to add much-needed cabinet and counter-top space to my very much utilized Boston kitchen!  It arrived in a 76 pound box that I have yet to open.  One of my Saturday goals is to assemble the thing.  I’ve already warned my neighbor that there may be yelling and throwing of things involved. 😉

If you follow me on twitter, then you know that last night I got a package from Random House containing an ARC of Anne Rice’s new novel. SQUEEEE  It’s coming out in February, and I’m honored that they consider me worthy of an ARC by such an awesome writer.  BTDUBS you guys, it’s totally a werewolf book.  Yup. Rice is taking on the werewolves now.  🙂

Amy and I have agreed to a one-on-one challenge starting January 1st regarding our TBR piles.  She’ll be tackling her 45 (right, Amy?) pre-2009 acquisitions, whereas I will be tackling my 44 pre-2011 acquisitions.  Whoever finishes first wins a kindle book courtesy of the other.  I’m already sitting staring at my pre-2011 acquisitions plotting at night.  However, I’ll be good and not start til January!  Partially because I’m currently doing my own personal challenge of catching up with the ARCs I accepted this year……

Tonight I’m going to a pub in a cute neighborhood of Boston with my friend Kat to listen to live music.  (*cough* live metal music *cough*).  It’s going to be a great Friday evening!

Happy weekends all!

Book Review: The Mummy by Anne Rice (series #1)

November 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Eye peeking out from grave wrappings.Summary:
Julie Stratford’s father is a retired shipping mogul who now spends his time as an archaeologist in Egypt.  He uncovers a tomb that claims to be that of Ramses the Damned, even though his tomb was already found.  Everything in the tomb is written in hieroglyphs, Latin, and Greek, and the mummy is accompanied by scrolls claiming that Ramses is immortal, was a lover of Cleopatra, and can and will rise again.

Review:
I’m a fan of Anne Rice.  Her Vampire Chronicles are a lovely mix of social commentary, lyrical writing, and all the best tropes of genre fiction, so I was excited to stumble upon a cheap copy of The Mummy in the second-hand section of the bookstore.  I wanted to love it.  I really did.  But whereas the Vampire Chronicles contain valid social commentary, this is so stereotypical of mainstream romance a la The Titanic that I was sorely disappointed.

Again, the language is lyrical and gorgeous.  Rice without a doubt is incredibly talented at putting together sentences that read like a rich tapestry of old.  There is no rushing to get the story out as is so often found in more modern writing.  It’s fun to indulge the senses and oneself in the scene.

The plot, though, ohhhh the plot.  It’s so mainstream romance it hurts.  And yes, I know I read and enjoy (and write) paranormal romance, but the difference is that PNR is oftentimes tongue in cheek.  It knows it’s ridiculous and over the top and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s meant to be fun and ridiculous.  Rice is being serious here, however, and that’s why the plot bugs me.  Let’s look at it for a second, shall we?

Girl is engaged to the perfect guy but she mysteriously does not think she loves him.  Girl meets immortal man who is so hot he would be voted hottest man alive every year forever.  Girl immediately “falls in love” with immortal guy.  Girl ditches perfect guy for immortal guy.  Girl and immortal guy have lots of the hot hot sex.  Immortal guy causes a series of unfortunate events in pursuit of his ex-lover.  Girl insists she still loves guy but cannot forgive him.  Girl decides life is pointless without immortal guy.  Girl attempts to kill herself.  Immortal guy saves her.  Girl forgives immortal guy.  Girl agrees to become immortal too. Yay happily ever after.

Like….just……there are SO MANY parts of that that piss me the fuck off.  So. Many.  The main female character (Julie) is a shallow douchebag in spite of claiming to be a modern, progressive woman.  She does not “fall in love” with Ramses.  She falls in lust with him.  He gives her tinglies in all the right places.  He ditches her to pursue his ex-lover (Cleopatra).  She, at first, rightfully tells him she can’t forgive him for that.  But then she TRIES TO OFF HERSELF. OVER A GUY.  And the only reason she doesn’t succeed is douchebag saves her.  I just….wow.  Not a plot I can respect.  Not a plot that gives us anything different from the patriarchal rigamarole so often forced upon us.  Anne Rice.  I am disappointed.

Then there’s the odd eurocentrism at work in the narration.  Even though Julie’s father loves Egypt and Ramses is, um, Egyptian, for some reason everything modern and European is what is impressive to everyone.  I suppose I could maybe (maybe) forgive that, but then there’s the fact that the elixir that makes people immortal also for some mysterious reason turns their brown eyes blue.  So nobody immortal has brown eyes.  I don’t think I need to unpack why that’s offensive for you all.  I trust you can figure that out for yourselves. Unlike Rice.

So, essentially, The Mummy is a beautifully written book that is destroyed by a kind of offensive, all-too-common plot and Eurocentrism.  Even beautiful writing can’t overcome that.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Harvard Books

Buy It

Book Review: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

September 1, 2011 4 comments

Phases of the moon on a black background.Summary:
Jacob Marlowe finds out he’s the last werewolf living and has just been informed by the WOCOP that they plan to kill him during the next full moon.  That’s just fine with him.  He’s been living for almost 200 years and is just plain tired of it.  So he plans to let the WOCOP’s tails follow him and just let the death happen.  The fates don’t quite see it that way, though, and nothing quite goes according to Jake’s plans.

Review:
Think of this as what would have happened if Anne Rice chose to write about werewolves instead of vampires.  The Last Werewolf reads very much like Interview with a Vampire only with the characteristics of werewolves instead of vampires of course.  By this I mean that the sentences and story structure are incredibly literary while addressing the highly genre topic of werewolves.

Unlike vampires, werewolves must eat a human during each full moon or they become ill.  Animals are no substitute.  They cannot take a bite and leave the victim alive.  No, they must completely ravish the victim.  This is no weak True Blood style werepanther or werewolf that can simply shift at will and avoid killing people.  Jake is affected by The Hunger and must eat and kill to stay alive.  The rest of the month when he’s not in wolf form he has to come to terms with his actions.  The crux and root of the dilemma at the heart of the story is this:

We’re the worst thing because for us the worst thing is the best thing. And it’s only the best thing for us if it’s the worst thing for someone else. (page 197)

It’s quite the moral conundrum and is addressed eloquently in the story.

There is also of course Jake’s suicidal mentality.  He wants to die, but he doesn’t want to be the one to do it.  He’s completely over life.  Life is boring and pointless.  There are absolutely some beautifully depressing passages about the emptiness of life that both perfectly depict depression and remind me a bit of the Romantic period of poetry.  Think of Lord Byron.  That type of thing.  Beautifully suicidal.  That may bother some readers.  To me, it’s often a part of great literature.  This overwhelming sadness and feelings of helplessness.  They’re common human emotions and lend a great force to the narrative.

Now, I was sent this for review due to how much I enjoyed American Psycho in January, so I was expecting it to be graphically violent and sexual and have the two mixed-up.  It is all of those things but–dare I say it–it wasn’t quite violent enough for me.  I was expecting something shocking, due to the American Psycho  connection, but I can see a lot of people reading this and not being put-off by the amount of violence.  Compared to your average R rated action flick, it’s really not that bad.  On the other hand, a lot of people are profoundly disturbed by the violence in American Psycho.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the level of violence in this book, and I think Duncan was probably smart in that, since it will have a wider appeal.  What can I say.  I was looking forward to something incredibly gross and twisted and instead got a lot of beautiful prose with the occasional murder.  It was a happy surprise, absolutely.  I just want to make it abundantly clear to potential readers that if you can handle an R rated horror movie, you can definitely handle the violence in this book, so don’t be turned off!

So the prose is beautiful and the topics addressed and discussed are important or at least interesting, so why am I not raving?  The ending left me disappointed.  It felt rather cliche and expected, and I didn’t like what became the focus in the end.  There are so many other ways the ending could have gone that would have been amazing and powerful, but instead I finished this book and basically said, “AGH not this shit again.”  *mini-spoiler* It includes pregnancy and babies, and ya’ll know how I feel about that. *end mini-spoiler*

Overall this is a literary take on a genre theme.  It is violent and sexual, but not disturbingly so.  Recommended to fans of Anne Rice.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

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Book Review: The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice (Series, #2)

White and gold letters on red background.Summary:
Lestat, the maker of Louis and Claudia, takes center stage here to tell his own origin story, as well as explain why he has chosen to come out as a vampire rock star in the 1980s.  Starting with his beginnings as a rural member of the ruling class prior to the French Revolution, we discover the origins of the Vampire Theater, as well as the origins of vampires themselves.

Review:
The Vampire Lestat is an excellent example of an incredibly well-executed character study.  Although we learn things about vampires and their origins, the real crux of the story is who Lestat is.  Why he acts the way he acts.  How his innate personality affects his life and the lives of those around him.  We see how over the course of time he may adapt to new ages and customs, but he is still Lestat.  What makes him who he is does not change in spite of all his experiences.  This doesn’t mean he doesn’t learn anything, but instead it simply means he is who he is.  It is a remarkable example of how people are simply who they are.

Lestat is much more sympathetic a character than Louis.  Whereas Louis mostly sits around pouting about what happens to him, Lestat is a fighter.

I never despair! Others do that, not me. I go on fighting no matter what happens. Always.  (page 199)

He’s more than a fighter though; he’s also desperate for love.  He did not choose to become a vampire.  It happened to him, and now he is conflicted as to how to find love when he is essentially a monster.

You sense…my bitterness that I’m evil, that I don’t deserve to be loved and yet I need love hungrily.   (page 355)

What truly makes Lestat Lestat though is his impulsivity.  Lestat just does things because they feel like something he absolutely must do.  He does not concern himself with consequences; he simply acts.   This makes those vampires who love him simultaneously frustrated and amazed.  They love him for his lack of restraint, but they also worry for him and themselves.

Beyond the great example of studying a character at length, though, Rice’s writing is simply beautiful to read.  There as an elegance and a flow to it that pairs up perfectly with the story of a centuries old rock star vampire.  I actually read about three pages aloud on skype to a friend simply to revel in how beautiful the language is.  For example:

Laughter. That insane music. That din, that dissonance, that never ending shrill articulation of the meaninglessness.  (page 358)

This is the type of writing that is a pleasure to read.  It feels like treating yourself to a glass of fine wine for your brain.  I highly recommend it to all.  You do not have to be a fan of vampires to appreciate the language and rich character study it contains.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Previous Books in Series:
Interview with the Vampire, review