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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

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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

The “Eating Healthy Is Expensive” Myth

January 6, 2010 9 comments

There is this huge misconception in American culture that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk food.  That’s the case if you don’t want to put effort into your meals and you want to buy gourmet food, but with a bit of effort it is simply not true.  I know about the dollar study where a guy went into a grocery store to see what he could buy for a dollar, and the worst foods had the most calories, aka “bang for the buck.”  However, I’m speaking from personal experience here.

Three years ago, I went vegetarian, and everyone told me how much more expensive my grocery bills would be.  You know what?  They aren’t.  On average, I spend about $50 every two weeks on groceries, and my groceries usually wind up feeding more than one person for around 5 nights a week.  That works out to approximately $100 a month, minus eating out, which happens about once a week.

For healthy eating, you need fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and other pantry needs necessary for cooking.  Whole grains are key, because they help your body feel full on fewer calories, and they are super-healthy for you too!  Let’s look at the facts on these food groups.

Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables can be a bit expensive, it’s true, but you just need to be a smart shopper when it comes to this.  Buy only what you will eat before it goes bad.  For me, this means I need to grab veggies once a week.  Also, store them properly, or they will go bad before their time.  If you really want to save money, buy fruits and veggies that are in season.  Produce that are in season are cheaper, because the stores can acquire them from closer sources.  I used this technique last night, and I found out that *all* of the produce I wanted was actually on sale, most of them for under $1 a pound.  A great resource for knowing what’s in season is eattheseasons.com, which also has an option for UK for my British readers.  For nights that you’re in more of a hurry, buy frozen fruits and veggies.  If you have more of a budget crunch, buy store brand ones.  These are cheap, and you usually can get two meals per bag.

Whole Grains
A box of whole grain pasta costs $1.29 at my local market.  That’s it, and I get at least 5 or 6 meals a box.  Whole grain rice appears expensive, but remember that a bag of it lasts a long-ass time, because it grows when it cooks.  Also invest in whole wheat flour and regular flour (you need that so it doesn’t get too heavy for some recipes).  A bag of either is around $2 in my market, and lasts months.  Any other whole grains you want are similarly priced.  It appears a lot to people, because they’re used to buying single-serving foods in the grocery store, but that $6 or $7 you’re spending on the bag of rice will make many many meals.

Protein
The most expensive proteins are the most highly processed.  This means that fake meats like tofurkey are the most expensive.  One box of tofurkey slices for sandwiches costs around $4.27 at my market.  You know what though?  It’s highly processed, and isn’t that healthy for you (though, healthier than meat).  A box of tofu, on the other hand, is usually somewhere between $1 and $2, and one box makes 4 meals.  Tempeh is similarly priced.  Beans, which you need to diversify from soy anyway, cost under $1 a can, and one can make around three meals.  If you want to go uber-healthy, you can buy bags of dry beans and cook them yourself, which is even cheaper than buying canned beans.

Other Pantry Needs
Since I’m not vegan, I do need to buy eggs, cheese, and butter, and these are usually the most expensive purchases I make.  However, one dozen eggs last me around 1.5 months.  Another purchase that, similar to the bags of rice, seems prohibitively expensive because of a single serving meal mindset is cooking oils.  Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils for you, and the bottle I bought last night cost $12 and some change.  However, one bottle lasts me at least 4 months.  Again, buy store brand.  The fact of the matter with all the pantry needs is their price can seem a bit high, but you use a little bit at a time in cooking–like with soy sauce for instance–so really per meal the cost is a few cents.

There you go. That’s my real-life shopping for healthy groceries experience.  Yes, you need to actually cook your meals instead of buying frozen and sticking it in the microwave, but trust me, it is not so hard to learn to stir-fry, sautee, and bake.  Stir-frying and pastas especially just require you to be able to stir things around in a pot.  Plus, you get the added benefit of burning some calories while making your food instead of just sitting on your butt on the couch watching tv waiting for it to heat up in the microwave.  It takes a bit of up-front cost to get your pantry equipped with the long-term use items like rice, but once you’ve done this, you’re down to buying a few quite cheap items a week, with the periodic need to replace the long-term items that never run out at the same time.  It is not too expensive to eat healthily if you know how to do it.