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: “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

Review: “Gemini” by Carol Cassella

17742914[From the publisher] Dr. Charlotte Reese works in the intensive care unit of Seattle’s Beacon Hospital, tending to patients with the most life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Her job is to battle death — to monitor erratic heartbeats, worry over low oxygen levels, defend against infection and demise.

One night a Jane Doe is transferred to her care from a rural hospital on the Olympic Peninsula. This unidentified patient remains unconscious, the victim of a hit and run. As Charlotte and her team struggle to stabilize her, the police search for the driver who fled the scene.

Days pass, Jane’s condition worsens, and her identity remains a mystery. As Charlotte finds herself making increasingly complicated medical decisions that will tie her forever to Jane’s fate, her usual professional distance evaporates. She’s plagued by questions: Who is Jane Doe? Why will no one claim her? Who should decide her fate if she doesn’t regain consciousness — and when?

For such a long summary (I left out half of it), I found this book lacking. I enjoyed it, sure. But I didn’t enjoy it as much as wanted to. It was exciting, yet predictable. What I did enjoy was how Cassella developed the intertwine in relationships between characters, and she did a good job of alternating between past and present (something I usually hate in novels).

TL;DR: Fans of love stories and medicine might like this one. Otherwise I think it was over-hyped when it was released.

3 stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Review: “Nine Hills to Nabonkaha” by Sarah Erdman

8340728[From the publisher] The village of Nambonkaha in the Ivory Coast is a place where electricity hasn’t yet arrived, where sorcerers still conjure magic, where the tok-tok sound of women pounding corn fills the morning air like a drumbeat. As Sarah Erdman enters the social fold of the village as a Peace Corps volunteer, she finds that Nambonkaha is also a place where AIDS threatens and poverty is constant, where women suffer the indignities of patriarchal customs, and where children work like adults while still managing to dream. Lyrical and topical, Erdman’s beautiful debut captures the astonishing spirit of an unforgettable community. 

I picked this book up because I’m desperate to gather as much information as I can about what my experience with Peace Corps in Ethiopia may be like. And I’m really happy that I did. The book is full of beautiful details about the lives of the people living in a small village in the Ivory Coast. It brings to life a community that we in the West can’t possibly imagine.

TL;DR: A terrific read for anyone interested in Peace Corps or life in West Africa.

4 stars

Amazon | Goodreads