Review: “Prince Lestat” by Anne Rice

21412673Almost 30 years after the defeat of Akasha, the Queen of the Damned responsible for the massacre of thousands of her own kind, there is a new crisis among the Undead. A mysterious Voice has been speaking to various vampires, young and old, provoking them to incinerate others of their kind. Meanwhile, the ancient ones whom the others depend on have hidden themselves away invarious places around the world, ignoring the pleas of the young ones to come together to prevent the destruction of their tribe. Only the strongest have a chance of answering the essential questions – who is the Voice, what is his motive, and how can he be stopped?

Prince Lestat was written in an entirely new way than Anne Rice’s previous books in the Vampire Chronicles series. Rather than being narrated by one principle character, each chapter jumps to a new narrative connected to the main plot. There are, of course, the ever-enduring personalities – Lestat, Louis, Marius, among others. But there is also a multitude of new or rarely seen characters, sometimes characters who were only mentioned in passing in the first books of the series. It is both surprising and pleasant to see these faces again after so much time.

While the structure of the book may be new, the main theme of Prince Lestat remains that which has pervaded all of the series – that is, the question of a vampire’s (and thus, humanity’s) inherent good or evil nature. The Voice that disturbs otherwise peaceful vampires demands the destruction of others, and some see little wrong in doing away with what they see as solely evil creatures. Others insist that this is arcane thinking, that no creature, even Undead, is inherently damned.

A new theme I noticed is a thinly-veiled hostility toward organized religion. This is no surprise to me, considering Rice left the Catholic Church a few years ago, disillusioned by its hypocrisy. She also has a progressive stance on science, which is also heavily reflected in the book.

In general, the book is very much representative of the world today, in which science tries to overcome superstition and people try to overcome their fears and assumptions in order to make a more peaceful world for everyone.

TL;DR: While Prince Lestat cannot live up to the first five books in the Vampire Chronicles series, it is a welcome addition after a 10 year wait.

4 stars

Review: “Lucky Us” by Amy Bloom

bloomLeft on her father’s porch at the age of twelve, Eva suddenly finds herself living in the shadow of her half-sister, Iris, though the two love each other dearly. Eva follows Iris to 1940s Hollywood as Iris pursues her dream of being a star. When things there go awry, the girls travel across the country to New York, to start new lives. Iris’ beauty and talent continues to overshadow Eva, who only wishes for the family she was never allowed. There is joy and success, but also loss and heartbreak for both girls.

I was really excited to read this book. It has already gotten a lot of praise, and  Amy Bloom has gotten a lot of recognition for her past books. Also, I’ll admit that I probably first judged it by its cover, which is pretty cool. But it turns out that this book was just bland. There were one or two interesting characters, but in general I found the cast difficult to like. The two main characters, in particular, were impossible to sympathize with. What’s more, the plot was uninspired.

TL;DR: I’m not sure what Bloom was going for in this book, but she didn’t achieve it. Unless you’re a die-hard Amy Bloom fan, I’d skip this one.

2 stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Review: “Paris Syndrome” by Tahir Shah

paris syndrome [From the publisher] On the morning of her fifth birthday, Miki Suzuki’s aged grandfather gave her an unusual gift – the fragment of a story. The tale told of a magical realm where all the women were beautiful, dressed in the finest gowns, and where the men had the looks of movie stars. The trees were covered in ivory-white blossom all year round, and everyone was joyful and proud. This place, young Miki learned, was a city in far off Europe – a city called Paris.

The story took seed in Miki’s mind and, over twenty years, she became quite obsessed with the French capital. Having studied its history, language, and traditions, she vowed that one day she would venture there.

Winning a competition at her work, where she sold low-grade beauty products door-to-door, Miki embarked on the journey of a lifetime to her dream destination.

Feverishly excited, and exhausted after a long flight, she hit the ground running, in her desperation to see every last tourist sight in town. But, as the others in the tour group looked on in horror, the telltale signs of a rare condition began to manifest themselves – a condition known as ‘Paris Syndrome’.

Made crazed by a stream of unfavourable events, Miki went on a riotous rampage, which ended in her mooning the sales clerk in Louis Vuitton – an assault that gripped the French nation. And so began the treatment in the most bizarre of clinics – a refuge for fellow sufferers of Paris Syndrome. All this set against a backdrop of vigilante groups, trade wars, bounty hunters, and true love.

Both hilarious and toe-cringing, Miki Suzuki’s psychological rollercoaster ride gets under the skin like nothing else, as the novel explores the real condition that afflicts dozens of Japanese tourists each year.O

I was lucky enough to be contacted by Mr. Shah’s agent about reviewing this book for him. I had previously read and reviewed his In Search of King Solomon’s Mines and loved it, so was happy to be able to read another of his books.

Before reading Paris Syndrome, I had never heard of the “condition.” However, a Parisian friend of mine was well-acquainted with it and told me all about it. Essentially it occurs when someone has idealized Paris in their minds, but when they finally visit the city, it is not what they imagined it to be. Because of this, the person may become temporarily mad and is only “cured” by leaving the city. It’s curious to me that the primary sufferers are Japanese people; I don’t know what in their culture would make this so, and would like to see a study sometime that looks into it.

The book was interesting in the way that it showed the progression of Miki’s Paris syndrome. She experiences one unfortunate after another and eventually becomes an international sensation for her crazy actions. Unfortunately, I think the book lacked the humor and voice of In Search of King Solomon’s Mines (and possibly other of Shah’s books). The book seemed a little disorganized, like maybe it was rushed and not as well thought-out as it might have been. An explanation could be that Shah is more accustomed to writing non-fiction than fiction. I’ll certainly be reading more of his non-fiction. Still, I enjoyed Paris Syndrome.

TL;DR: Enjoyable, though not as good as Shah’s In Search of King Solomon’s Mines.

Amazon | Goodreads

Apologies for the long absence

At the beginning of July, I shipped off to Ethiopia with the U.S. Peace Corps. Internet is extremely limited, and when I do get online, my priorities are contacting my family and checking my email.

When possible, I will continue to update, though I can’t make promises about how frequently. Thanks for your continued reading!

Review: “Drifting” by Katia D. Ulysse

driftingDrifting is a collection of interwoven stories surrounding the lives of several Haitian men, women, and children, hinging on the devastating earthquake of 2010.

From the publisher:

Ulysse’s characters are everyday people: a ruthless entrepreneur who ferries peasants out of the countryside, promising them a better life in Port-au-Prince; the office worker who learns that the amount of money and time off she receives depend on her boss’s definition of family; a mother of three who is desperate to leave Haiti to join the husband who left her behind; young girls who fall prey to a trusted schoolteacher who advises them to “work smart, not hard.” And readers meet the desperate elderly woman who seeks the help of a vodun priest to help “fix” her dying husband.

I read this one quickly, in about 2 days. The characters were well-developed, believable, and easy to sympathize with. The descriptions were vivid and well put together. Though not a feel-good book by any means, it’s very informative and important.

TL;DR: All-in-all a good, worthwhile read, especially for those interested in modern Haiti or American immigration.

3 stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Review: “Claudia’s Story” by Ashley Marie Witter

13504055A beautifully adapted graphic novel version of Interview with the VampireClaudia’s Story retells the story from the point of view of the child vampire. It’s an amazing treat for fans of Anne Rice, even those like me who never particularly liked Claudia. Witter’s illustrations are rich in detail. I love that all of them are in black and white except for any depiction of blood, adding an extra layer of depth to the drawings.

It took me all of an hour to get through, and I’ll be adding Witter’s adaptation of The Wolf Gift to my to-read list as well.

5 stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Review: “The Dinner” by Herman Koch

15797938[From the publisher] A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened… Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified – by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

The characters Koch has created in this book are perfect. By that, I mean each one is carefully crafted and developed, people I could identify in real life if they existed. The book is designed in sections, each one pertaining to a course of the meal. The protagonist is relatable and hilarious in his distaste for his brother and the restaurant in which he finds himself. Despite this, I’m not sure that I liked anyone in this book. They are all morally questionable, though that’s really the whole point of the book – what would you do to keep things the way they always have been?

TL;DR: This is one of those books you’re going to want to discuss with someone else. Really enjoyable and thought-provoking.

4 stars

Amazon | Goodreads