The Vampire Armand  - Anne Rice

I am giving this book two stars only because Anne Rice is a talented author, and I can’t bear to give this a single-star rating (though, honestly, it might deserve it).


Man, what a bummer. I loved the last four volumes in this series, but this was a mess. Written after a short hiatus from the Vampire Chronicles, this volume follows Memnoch the Devil, which Rice said was supposed to be the series finale. That would have made sense, and it would have been a fine note to end on. Instead, three years later, this mess hit bookstore shelves.


First off, Lestat is almost nowhere to be found here. I think because, up to this point, the Brat Prince features heavily in all the vampire novels that Rice wasn’t sure where to go with this story. Armand is certainly one of the more interesting immortals — for his age, if nothing else — but he makes for a booooooring narrator. He lacks all the wit and humor of Lestat; he has no personality of his own. What a dud. And don’t get me started on the disjointed ‘feel’ of the story: first half is littered with awkward, heavy-handed sex; second half is . . . I don’t even know, dude. Boring AF. I can’t remember a thing that happened. Maybe that’s for the best.


They can’t all be winners. I will be taking an extended break from this series.

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Memnoch the Devil - Anne Rice

When Anne Rice fans are asked which of her books they feel most passionate about — whether positively or negatively — the answer is almost invariable: Memnoch the Devil. Acting as a bit of a precursor to Rice’s Christian fiction novels of the mid-00s, this book is tonally out of step with the previous Vampire Chronicles (save for, perhaps, Interview With the Vampire, as this too has the ‘feel’ of an interview in spots) And seems to be cause for great joy, and disgust, in many readers.


Lestat wants to know the will of God, and the Devil: what are their purposes for him? Which does he serve? What is Heaven, what is Hell, what is the true story of creation, where and why is purgatory? These questions and more Memnoch, Lestat’s guide of the spiritual regions, are answered. This one is steeped in biblical and evolutionary history; I found it fascinating but can understand those who can’t get on with this book.


Perhaps more than anything, this novel is remembered for the infamous scene in which Lestat feeds on the bleeding crucified Christ. That moment, I think, sums up this book well. This certainly isn’t for all readers, but I had a great time. This book offered up questions I often find myself pondering and will continue pondering for time to come. The idea of an imperfect, foolish God and a tricky, boastful, but generally well-natured Devil (or Memnoch) is intriguing . . . not to mention the concept of what Hell really is. But I won’t spoil that!


I’m totally addicted to this series now and am blowing through the books. I don’t want it to end.

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The Tale of the Body Thief  - Anne Rice

It is official: this is the book that made me an unwavering fan of Lestat. While the previous Vampire Chronicle, Queen of the Damned<m features an array of characters and scenarios, there wasn’t as much a focus on the Brat Prince. In this, the fourth book in the series, Anne Rice has almost inverted that: Lestat de Lioncourt is front and center through all of it; the reader gets to, finally, see him fall, and seek redemption.


The concept is pretty simple: Lestat, after over two centuries of being a vampire, has grown weary of it all. He’s tired of the purgatory, the repetition; he longs to feel human pleasures again. He comes across a mysterious spirit — a body thief — that allows him to trade places with a human man.


By combining her trademark erotic and horrific tendencies with a hilarious and enthralling fish-out-of-water scenario (Lestat was human in the 1700s, mind you, and is attempting human life once more in the early 1990s), Anne Rice created a truly addictive read — perhaps the closest she’s come to a true crime thriller . . . sort of. This book is jam-packed with cool ideas and a lot of intriguing theology talk. I know the next novel in the series goes deep in that direction, and I can’t wait to jump on it.

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An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

This book has a rocky start. Without delving too deep into spoiler territory, this is about a young, upwardly mobile married couple in Atlanta faced with unforeseen circumstances that threaten to rip their marriage apart. As seen in the book’s synopsis, the husband — Roy — is wrongfully arrested and sentenced for twelve years. Celestial, his wife, is left alone to work at her business and visit hubby when possible.


I didn’t much care for these characters, especially Roy. At least not at first. For the first 150 pages or so, this novel seems to be a portrait of the toxicity of masculinity. Celestial’s life is ripped to and fro by the men around her, and I just wanted to shake her shoulders and scream “Wake up!” Ugh.


Things did pick up in the latter half, and the writing got less choppy. There were fewer exposition dumps and the characters became more sympathetic. My internal rating slowly rose to what it is now: four stars. The author stuck the landing; she didn’t go for what was easy, but what was appropriate for the story. I respect that.


I am glad I read this, but I doubt I’ll revisit it. At times too flimsy, at other times downright frustrating, this is an uneven story with a killer second act.

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The Queen of the Damned - Anne Rice

The Vampire Chronicles — Anne Rice’s seminal work — keeps getting better. While I was lukewarm on Interview With the Vampire (though my reading of its sequels has deepened my appreciation of that dark little novel), I quite enjoyed The Vampire Lestat and was blown away by The Queen of the Damned. This novel shows Rice getting a firm grip on her vampires; she juggles action and exposition (and angst — oh, the angst!) expertly here, never allowing the story’s pace to flag. Not once was I bored or wanted to skim, as has been the case at times in the previous two Vampire books.


At the end of book two, Lestat awakened Akasha, the Queen of the Undead, from a six thousand-year slumber, and upon wakening she yearns to rule with an iron fist. The worlds of the mortal and immortal alike are in peril; some Vampires are spared from certain death . . . why? What is she saving them for? Read and find out.


This book features, on top of many exquisitely horrific moments, some superb character development. Marius, Armand, Pandora, Jesse, Daniel, the Twins . . . I loved these characters, one and all, and can’t wait to read about them in future volumes. Lestat and Louis’s relationship is also brought full circle in a heartbreaking callback scene to Interview With the Vampire. I was choking back the tears when reading that.


What can I say, I had a blast with this book. I will soon be starting volume four!

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Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

DNF @ 39%.


I wanted to like this book. Really. It’s getting so much hype and sounded like it could be creepy. It isn’t. I found myself bored and annoyed. None of these characters are likable. The mom is a wilted flower, a crying dishrag; the dad is an oblivious fool; the daughter — she who is supposedly so evil — just does strange things that aren’t particularly scary. Just strange kid things, like talking in a strange voice sometimes. Spooky!


This book is a lot of Hanna, the daughter, doing something bad and Suzette, the Mom, saying “Wait until your father hears about this!” but half the time she never tells her husband, and the other half of the time hubby takes the daughter’s side. It feels repetitive and lame. This isn’t the suspenseful thriller it is made out to be.


Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.

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The Immortalists - Chloe Benjamin

“… they break through the surface in astounding numbers. They climb the nearest vertical object; the husks of their nymphal skins drop crisply to the ground. Their bodies are pale and not yet hardened. In the darkness, they sing.”


Despite my low rating, I do think it is possible for people to enjoy this novel. In fact, I’ve seen almost nothing but positive reviews for this, and I understand why: it is a character-driven literary thriller filled with gorgeous prose. As well, the idea (four young siblings visit a psychic who tells each of them the date of his or her death, and their lives unspool from there) is pretty clever. That’s why I bought this book new and paid almost full price for it; I thought there was no way I wouldn’t like it.


I was wrong.


My biggest problem is with the narrative’s structure. These siblings, after visiting the psychic, soon depart from one another and go on to live their lives. The youngest, Simon, goes to San Francisco with one of his sisters, Klara. I enjoyed these two, especially Simon. The focus is on these two for a while, and the reader is left in the dark about their older siblings. Each ‘part’ of this novel focuses on a different sibling, and typically he or she doesn’t interact much with his or her family . . . despite this being, in part, a novel about the ties that bind us to familial relationships. So it doesn’t work, for me. The end result is not a cohesive novel, but instead a series of vignettes spread out over four decades. Told in only 330 pages, the story feels excessively rushed and I never got the chance to feel for these characters. Klara was the closest to likable; I didn’t much care for the other siblings at all. They are selfish and brooding.


This is a unique story, and I give kudos to Chloe Benjamin for trying it. While it is not something I personally enjoyed, I could see it being appreciated by other readers. It just didn’t get off the ground, and I hate that. Perhaps if the story had been fleshed out a good deal more and the siblings had more things to do with one another, it would’ve been a better read.

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