60 Books In 2019 #60: Merrick By Anne Rice

I don’t often get scared while reading, it’s why I’ve always been able to read horror when watching it was out of the question.

Anne Rice’s novels are the exception, at least the best ones, and I think that Merrick is on of the best ones. There’s always at least one chapter in the ones I love that terrifies me, my heartrate up and sends shivers down my spine. (Obviously, the sillier ones, Memnoch, Lasher and Taltos didn’t do that.) In Merrick, it’s the scene where Merrick Mayfair, from a cut off slave raped branched of the Mayfair family uses voodoo, Santeria and other unknown magics to raise the spirit of Claudia for Louis and David Talbot.

The ghosts tortured conversation with Louis is scary on an existential level, but the scene of the raising, through David’s disbelieving and terrified eyes is perfect.

The novel around that scene is good too. David recounts his relationship with Merrick, who he and Aaron Lightner adopted into the Talamasca at 10, became his lover many years later and then who he and Louis seek out in New Orleans many years later to put Claudia to rest.

Lestat is in his Memnoch and God induced coma at this point. He wakes up at the end though and is perfectly exasperated with both his boyfriends, don’t you worry.

There are paralells a plenty between Merrick and Claudia, and David and Aaron and Louis and Lestat, which I think is an interesting choice on Rice’s part. While I’m deeply over her whole “erotic beautiful child” thing. (I’ve been since Lasher) I do think the fact that all of her characters are so deeply obsessed with one another is an interesting facet of her work that deserves a deeper look than I can give it right now.

But this finishes my reading goal for 2019! HOORAY! And transitions right into my next project, which is all, fantasy and sci-fi series based. I’m putting together a list, but we’re starting off a few weeks early, with finishing out The Vampire Chronicles and The Tales Of The New Vampires. (So, I’ve got, Blood And Gold, Blackwood Farm, Blood Canticle, Prince Lestat, Prince Lestat And The Realms Of Atlantis and Blood Communion left, plus Pandor and Vittorio: The Vampire.) My Goodreads goal is going to be lower (maybe 40?) and I’m not going to be reporting it, as I’m going to read straight through the series.

But first I’m rereading Little Women for In The Shadow Of Adaptation. I won’t write it up until I see Greta Gerwig’s new film. (Mary and I have plans to see it together if at all possible, so it could be a while.) And The Lord Of The Rings because I rewatched the Extended Editions this weekend and I miss Middle Earth.

The other aspect of the project is going to be non fiction. I’m going to read one non fiction book (memoir or otherwise) for each fantasy series I finish. The first of those is going to be The Race To Save The Romanovs by Helen Rappaport which I borrowed from my mom maybe 6 months ago?

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this project. Hope you all will enjoy it too, deeper dives will be fun, I think, and committing to finishing series that I start will also feel good.

60 Books In 2019 #15: The Vampire Armand By Anne Rice

Armand has always been my favorite of Anne Rice’s vampires, even back when I had only read Interview, and seen the movies, I loved him. I loved that he knew he was the bad guy in this story, and frankly being played by Antonio Banderas doesn’t hurt.

But here’s my favorite thing about The Vampire Chronicles in general as they continue to unfurl, and it’s the way that Rice plays with unreliable narrators. We met these characters first through Louis, who’s perspective is skewed by his love of aestethics, his relatively short life in comparison to the other vampires, and his all consuming grief at the loss of Claudia. Of course he’d see Armand, who never denied the evil of what they have to do to survive as evil incarnate.

Then we meet them through Lestat. Who, while I adore him, is a complete and total blowhard. Armand’s quiet intensity and belief in anything, let alone a God who’d wish to punish the creatures of the night would be antithetical to Lestat’s view of the world as a playground for his grand adventures.

Now we have Armand’s story. The story of how the talented boy Andrei became the slave Amadeo who then became the vampire Armand. We learn about his kidnapping, his apprenticeship with Marius (Ah, Marius) as well as their love and then finally, his second kidnapping by Santino which lead to his leading the Paris coven of vampires, which then evolved into The Theatre De Vampire, and his turning of Daniel, at the begining of Queen Of The Damned. Which, you know, I kind of forgot about?

Armand views this as his most monstrous action, because he thinks turning humans is disgusting. (The killing is a necessary evil, but to rob them of normal lives is obscene. Seriously, I love Armand!) 

The book is framed by Armand giving his tale to David Talbot after the events of Memnoch The Devil, which is when it gets Jesus-y (of course it gets Jesus-y), Armand admits he was always religious, which was what made him easy prey. He’s also formed a small human family around himself, which as he heals from his leap into the sun, (will Armand now be the greatest vampire to ever vampire because he survived the same thing as Lestat? I sure hope so.) And in what I really, really enjoyed as a horrible finale, he surrenders the protection of his pet humans to Marius and Pandora, thinking they’ll care for them as he gets better, and when he goes back to find them all, find that Marius has turned them.

I was so happy to see the vampires behaving like monsters again. To see their nature made cruel and odd all over again. We’ve been living too long with Louis and Lestat and their moral codes of only killing killers, and never changing anyone again, and all that.

Armand knows he’s the bad guy. Marius knows he’s the bad guy. They’re much more interesting at this point.

Next up is Molly’s Game by Molly Bloom, because you know what? Let’s get some dumb Hollywood trash juice around her. It’s been a while.

60 Books in 2019 #1: Taltos By Anne Rice

Um, so I’ve never fallen so deeply out of love with a series that I loved so much to begin with. I named The Witching Hour as my favorite book I read in 2018. I noted that Lasher suffered by answering questions that were best left creepy and mysterious.

Taltos is just dull. It’s really boring, from the introduction of yet another Taltos, and quickly dispatched Talamasca conspiracy and next to no actual action with the Mayfair family, it was just a slog.

It doesn’t even have the weird sex stuff the other two do. There’s some sex, but nothing as fun and twisted as Lasher psychically bringing Rowan to climax, or Julien’s victrola sending Michael and Mona (ick) into an erotic craze. Nah, just some standard, Taltos like to have lots of sex stuff.

I’m still invested in getting through Anne Rice’s full bibliography. But this has made me a bit more wary of the direction things are going to be going. At least moving forward I still have Lestat and his personality to sustain the fun. Even when he’s drenched in ennui and thoughts of the immortal soul, Lestat’s fun. Rowan Mayfair, though powerful and somewhat interesting, was kind of a blank slate after she surrendered her agency to a ghost or whatever, and Michael Curry was even worse, once he was all, “welp, I fucked a 13 year old, but that’s how things are.”

Anyway, Taltos isn’t a good book. Not even like Lasher which was at least a good book, even if unsatisfying to me.

Up next is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy because I need me some adorable YA action. Plus I thought the movie was a damn delight. Also, now that we’re into 2019, remember the project is 52 books by women or people of color, only 8 by white men. (4 of those 8 are already earmarked, btw. But if I get up to the 60 quickly, which given a 10 day family vacation in February is not unlikely, I’ll reevaluate).

2018 Favorites: An Unexpected List

Hey everyone! Happy (almost!) New Year! So, as promised here’s my list of favorite things from the past year. We’ll get going quickly, I have a few categories, I think it’ll go well.

Favorite Movie (Not Movie Season): Black Panther

I’ll get into movie season movies in a few days. (I have my tickets for the final three.) But in the rest of the year, I don’t think I loved anything the way I loved Black Panther. I saw it in theaters 3 times, a thing I don’t do often anymore, and bought it on Amazon Prime immediately (Another thing I don’t do much anymore.)

Favorite Old Show I Finally Got Around To Watching: Battlestar Galactica

I fill in a bunch of gaps this year, and while this was a toss up, between Battlestar and Deadwood, ultimately I had to go with the Space Opera, and for one reason alone. As much as I enjoyed Deadwood, I didn’t connect to any of those characters the way I did to Kara Thrace. You can check out my Facebook for my thoughts on Starbuck, I love her, I find  her hugely inspirational and wonderful.

Favorite Book I Read: The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

My God, I loved this book. I can’t stop thinking about this book. How sexy it is, how beautifully constructed, how twisted and dark and wonderful. Even it’s really really disappointing sequels (I’m into Taltos now, and it’s fine…) can’t tarnish the shine of how much I loved this book.

Favorite Current TV Show: The Good Place

Holy Mother Forking Shirtballs, you guys!

Friday night, Jess and I sighed about the show, and about how it just made us happy. The Good Place is funny, intelligent and kind, and with the way the world has felt like it was on fire all year, it was a beacon of light every Thursday night, and then Friday morning, when the conversations inevitably began. Plus The Good Place Podcast which gives a wonderful behind the scenes look at each episode. Seriously, The Good Place, y’all.

Favorite Thing I Rewatched And Fell Back In Love With: Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings extended editions

One weekend this summer, when I wasn’t feeling terribly well, I decided to watch The Lord Of The Rings, for some reason they weren’t streaming on any of my services so I was going to have to purchase them off Amazon. It was only a few extra dollars each to get the extended editions, and I think I’ve now watched them like five or six times. They’re nice to have on in the background, I usually watch them in chunks of an hour or two, making it more like binging a series than watching three epicily long movies and that’s a really fun way to revisit this series.

Favorite Broadway Show: Springsteen On Broadway

I saw a lot of theater this year, and I’m very grateful for that, but as I hinted  at earlier this week, nothing quite moved me the way that Springsteen On Broadway did. It’s something so special that discussing it feels moot. It’s just so good, I haven’t rewatched it on Netflix yet, although I’m sure that I will eventually, because revisiting this joyful piece of art will lift me up. A  love letter to his fans and to America, the carefully crafted one man show is The Boss at his broodiest and also possibly his best.

Unfinished Bussiness Being Pushed to 2019

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Nerd Homework: Watch More Anime

Finish Reading Dune series 

Catch Up On The Flash

45 Books In 2018 #44: Lasher By Anne Rice

It’s almost always the case that answers are rarely if ever as satisfying as mysteries. So all of the gothic weirdness and questions that made me absolutely love The Witching Hour, were answered, kind of stupidly in Lasher.

What is Lasher? A demon? A ghost? The same brand of dark spirit that possessed Akasha and created vampires? (I’m not going to lie, this is sort of what I was hoping for…the book does mention David Talbot’s disappearance, just as Body Thief mentioned Aaron Lightner needing Deborah Mayfair’s portrait for the family. The links begin to form! The tower has many levels.) Nope, turns out he was just a different species of humanoid, the Taltos, born without a soul, thus not allowed to Heaven or Hell, and reborn over and over again as the genetics of the Mayfairs allowed.

OK, that’s also kind of weird, but it’s not the brand of weird and mysterious and dark that I was hoping for here, which makes the sequel to The Witching Hour (possibly my favorite book I’ve read this year, but we’ll get there) something of a let down. Lasher is almost all answers and very few questions, pretty much the only questions left are how much the Mayfairs knew when Rowan and Michael returned to New Orleans (sort of interesting) and are we going to forgive Michael for sleeping with one of Rowan’s teenage cousins. (Seriously, Mrs. Rice? I mean really?)

There’s still another book in the Lives Of The Mayfair Witches, plus the places it apparently crosses over with Vampire Chronicles, but at the moment, I’m a little bummed out.

As a sequel this didn’t live up, though as a speculative fiction novel itself, it was very good. It’s well written, the plot stays moving, the characters develop in interesting and yet trackable ways. But man, as answers to creepy questions go? It sucked all of the magic out of the story.

Up next is TV: The Book: Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows Of All Time by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz. I’m jonesing hard for some non fiction and I’ve always really enjoyed both Sepinwall and Zoller Seitz’s writing, so I’m looking forward to it.

45 Books In 2018 #43: The Tale Of The Body Thief by Anne Rice

In which Lestat has a fun body switch adventure. And we learn that Claudia might be a ghost.

Since diving into The Vampire Chronicles I’ve been wondering if Rice was capable of writing another breezy horror adventure in the same vein as Interview, since while I love Lestat and Queen Of The Damned they got awfully bogged down in history and metaphysics.

There’s some of that in Body Theif, but it’s mostly just fun silliness and a bit of gothic angst. Lestat is approached by a disgraced member of the Talamasca, Raglan James, who’s developed the magic power to possess other bodies. He offers our favorite vampire the chance to be human again, they’ll switch bodies for a few days and then switch back.

Since his whole, “Imma be a rockstar and unite vampires and humans,” gambit didn’t work out (THANKS FOR THAT AKASHA!) Lestat’s been feeling the ennui so he agrees if only for the novelty. Of course James doesn’t keep to the plan so, Lestat and his friend (also Talamasca) David Talbot go off to hunt him.

They go on a cruise! They set Louis on fire! I repeat, they COMMUNE WITH CLAUDIA’S GHOST (maybe?) Seriously, this is the kind of bonkers one off adventure that I read long running genre series for. When the characters have settled into themselves and you can just set them off on something, it’s the best kind of book like this.

There’s also the small details here, that the minute Lestat gets a human body all he wants to do is fuck. As usual, with our favorite pansexual vampire rockstar brat, it’s men and women, but seriously, this is his first instinct. Oh, he also adopts a dog named Mojo. (Y’all, I seriously cannot wait for the TV series. Because if they get to this book, it will be the kind of one off season that people either think is totally brilliant or hate.

Anyway, I loved this one, and I’ll stand by it as a favorite (I know I have like six books left in the series, but so far, I like it best!) Up next is Lasher also Anne Rice, not because I’m so into her right now (Though I am) but more because it’s due back to the library this week and I’m out of renewals for it!

45 Books In 2018 #38: The Queen Of The Damned By Anne Rice

Boy, this is a weird series. I mean that in the best way. Even as someone who loves digressional world building there are large swaths of The Queen Of The Damned that were tough to get through. In the end it all comes together, though, and oddly, knowing the trajectory of Rice’s life and beliefs this is a fascinating read.

If Interview With A Vampire was a look into the horror of ennui, and The Vampire Lestat was about the deconstruction and reconstruction of myth, then Queen Of The Damned is about the triumph of humanism over dogma and superstition.

Part of what appeals to me about vampire fiction, and Rice’s work in particular is that I’m Catholic and I’m queer. You don’t get a better a intersection for what the woman’s trying to say than that. I identify with humanism in a lot of ways too. (My boy Tommy Quine Quine, to quote The Good Place.) (Are you watching The Good Place? If you aren’t, stop everything you’re doing and watch it!) So, you know, I’ve thought a lot about the ideas she’s talking about in this book, about the fall of superstition and the rise of human intellect that really spoke to me.

But there’s also a deep air of creepiness and horror here, not just weird musings about witches and spirits and their irrelevance in the face of technology and the human animal. Like, Akasha, The Queen Of The Damned herself is terrifying on both the visceral “crazy vampire” level and the existential, “this kind of unfeeling monster is the end of the line for an immortal” level. However, her overall plan to kill 90% of the men in the world and restart civilization with women in power sounds kind of deeply appealing.

Overall, I’m in though, and as I found with both Dune and Dark Tower in the past few years, book 3 tends to be point of no return for me. So, I guess I’m in. I’ve come this far. (And I’ve taken out like 6 other Anne Rice books from the library…so there’s that, too.)

Up next though, we’re taking a break to indulge in another old school obsession, I’m going to be reading I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon. I’ve missed the Romanovs. The Amazon show has gotten them back in my head again, so I’m sure there’s going to be some further spiraling back down that hole.

45 Books in 2018 #37: The Vampire Lestat By Anne Rice

I think my favorite part of diving into a new series is figuring out the parts of the series the author is most interested and how they diverge from the things that am interested.

For example, when I was reading the Dune Chronicles, I was interested in the bonkers court politics and weirdo religious structures. Frank Herbert, appeared more interested in governmental philosophy and deconstruction of mythos. In The Dark Tower I was interested in the ways that connections to people change us and our goals. Stephen King was interested in meta textual wankery. (I am also interested in meta textual wankery, btw. That’s why I love The Dark Tower) And with The Vampire Chronicles it’s clear that Anne Rice is interested in the ways that myths function, the nature of evil and good and what truly makes humans, well, human. am interested in SEXY GAY VAMPIRE ROCKSTARS.

Luckily, The Vampire Lestat gives me sexy gay vampire rockstars, as well as ruminations on humanity and good and evil and myths and blah blah blah. Sure, Lestat’s life story is kind of interesting, and the fact that he’s always been a theatrical little bitch makes a lot of sense. (Plus he’s just good at everything. Just because. He’s freaking Lestat OK?) And, OK, it’s a little weird that the first person he made into a vampire was his Mom, and then his boyfriend…I mean, that’s actually really weird, but whatever.

This book RULES. I am so so glad that I’ve decided to read this series. I’m wildly in love with this mythos and these characters. (Louis and Lestat get back together at the end! SQUEE!) And even though Lestat’s chosen one status is a little bit much (and not at all in line with his description in Interview, but as someone who is used to characters taking over on their own, I can forgive this) I’m really looking forward to moving through the rest of the books.

Up next is Queen Of The Damned, because I am powerless against the power of a good fantasy series.

Happy Halloween Y’all!

45 Books In 2018 #34: Interview With The Vampire By Anne Rice

OK, confession time, this is a repeat! But I read it in high school so that barely counts.

Plus I’m diving into  The Vampire Chronicles as a whole, which means that I just had to start at the beginning. Also, it was a good way to get into the spooky mood for October, a reasonably easy read. So, I dove in, back into the magical, sexy, world of Anne Rice and Louis and Lestat and Claudia. (And Armand, people forget Armand. They shouldn’t, because he’s my favorite, but they do.) (And it’s only a little bit because Antonio Banderas plays him in the movie.) (Also, yes, I know that in the early days of the internet, Anne Rice was kind of an asshole to people, that’s why I’m going out my way to take the books out of the library rather than buy them and support her! SEE! Je suis woke, or whatever.)

I know the movie Interview With A Vampire by heart, because it’s awesome. (It’s my third favorite Tom Cruise performance, after A Few Good Men and Top Gun.) I didn’t remember the book once, but I was shocked by how faithful to the book the movie is, details are fudged, timelines are streamlined, but it follows the A-B-C of the thing very well. Louis is a feckless aristocrat, Lestat falls in love with him (this is much more explicit in the book, the gay stuff, SOOOO GAY!) turns him into a vampire, he becomes a feckless vampire. They change Claudia into a vampire and raise her as their daughter. (GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY!) Then Claudia goes crazy and she murders Lestat (OR SO SHE THINKS) they go to Europe, they meet Armand and the Paris vampires. (ARMAND!) Armand falls in love with Louis. (GAAAYYYYYYYYY) Lestat comes back, and the Paris vampires kill Claudia, and Louis and Armand run away and live together for a while, and then they find Lestat and again and then they break up.

There’s a lot of detail and cool world building and spooky scenes but the story is pretty basic. But I loved reading it again, and I’m waiting on The Vampire Lestat and The Queen Of The Damned to come in for me to pick up from the library.

I’m sticking spooky for the month of October, and with books written by women, since I haven’t read enough of those this year. So, I’m picking up Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrell, which Aless gave me for Christmas years ago and I haven’t gotten to.

More gay vampires on the way, but for now, I’m happy to dive into some magic.