Intimidating Books on my Bookshelf

I have a few intimidating books on my bookshelf and I can’t be the only one. Sometimes it can be the size of the tome, the genre, the author or specific concerns about a book or series. Today I thought I’d share the most intimidating books on my TBR pile with you.

An author I’d like to read but have been too intimidated to try: is Haruki Murakami. I just don’t know where to start and whether I’ll understand his magical realism.

A book I haven’t read because I’m worried I won’t enjoy it is: Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. It’s the latest book in the Vampire Chronicles and while Anne Rice is a favourite author, I’m terrified I won’t enjoy this. I hated the previous book Prince Lestat (find out why here) and I’m worried in case this isn’t much better.

The classic I’m most intimidated to read is: Macbeth by William Shakespeare. It’s intimidating for obvious reasons, it’s a play and it’s Shakespeare!

A book I haven’t read because it’s kind of embarrassing: I have two books in this category. Perv by Jesse Bering and My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday. Less said the better?

The series I’m most intimidated to start is: A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin. I love the TV series and I’m worried I won’t be able to keep up with the mammoth cast of characters and complex sub-plots in the books. The series is very long and currently comprises: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, The Winds of Winter (forthcoming) and A Dream of Spring (forthcoming).

A series I haven’t finished that haunts me is: The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Stephen King is one of my favourite authors and I know The Dark Tower series is his ‘Opus’ but I just couldn’t get into it.  I read The Gunslinger (#1) and The Drawing of the Three (#2) but haven’t progressed any further; despite owning the entire series. I’m a completionist so this bothers me quite a bit.

The most intimidating book in my TBR pile is: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I have the Penguin Clothbound Edition and it comes in at more than 1200 pages which is intimidating enough as is. An adventure novel written in the 1840s it’s translated from French and I just haven’t picked it up yet.

What books do you find intimidating? Have you read any of the above? Let me know in the comments below.

5 Unexpected Books in 2017

We’re well into 2018 now, and in the process of setting new reading goals for the year I’ve been thinking about my varied reading success last year. Here are 5 unexpected books I read in 2017.

Most anticipated read
My most anticipated release and read of 2017 was A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. Being a loyal reader of the Pillars of the Earth series, I was keenly awaiting the third in the series and coming in at more than 750 pages, it was an impressive tome. While it was greater in scope than the others in the series, it was a great read.

Most disappointing read
I’d been savouring my signed copy of Prince Lestat by longtime favourite author Anne Rice for ages, delaying the gratification and joy I was sure would ensue from the first page until the last. Unfortunately when I finally picked it up to read last year this wasn’t the case.
This is the 11th in the Vampire Chronicles series and the plot contains chapters from different vampires as they begin to face a crisis threatening their kind. I should have been thrilled to rediscover favourite characters again, but the cause uniting them was a complete bore. Such a shame.

Long overdue
I don’t mean overdue library books here, but a book I should have read long before now. For me, this was Past the Shallows by Australian author Favel Parrett. Set on the coast of Tasmania and dealing with themes of grief, this is a coming-of-age story about brotherhood. Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012, it’s a haunting and often sad story, but it’s also a very quick read so I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it.

Least favourite book
My least favourite read of last year was Artemis by Andy Weir. Main character Jazz is living in a settlement on the moon and I just didn’t care about her or what she was doing. The attempted humour fell flat and the plot was uninteresting. It  clearly lacked the humour and interest of The Martian – one of my favourite books in 2014. If I didn’t know the novel was by Andy Weir, I would have stopped reading early on.

Taught me something new
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin was one of my favourite books last year and I still think of her theories several times a week, almost six months after reading her book. You can take the quiz for free and determine your own tendency, you’ll be either an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner or Rebel. I’m an Obliger and learning that helped me understand myself and others better and I highly recommend it.

Release of Beauty’s Kingdom by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

Long before the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, Anne Rice was writing a raunchy series of erotic novels in the 1980s under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure. The Sleeping Beauty series contained the following three novels: The Claiming of Sleeping BeautyBeauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release. The trilogy has been very successful for Anne Rice, and in the 1990s, she revealed her identity as the author behind the pen name A.N. Roquelaure.Beauty's Kingdom A.N. Roquelaure

The latest and most exciting news is that a new book has just been released, and Beauty’s Kingdom is the fourth in the series and the first in 30 years. Before I tell you about the latest release, let me give you a brief overview (or reminder) of the series in case you haven’t come across it before. And if the erotica genre is not for you, then click here for some art therapy to cleanse your mind, and I’ll bid you farewell.

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is certainly not your typical fairytale, nor is it appropriate for children. Beauty is woken from her 100 year sleep, not with a kiss from a handsome prince, but with copulation. The prince takes her to his kingdom and in gratitude for waking her from her spell, Beauty is trained to become a plaything and sex slave. Don’t worry though, Beauty enjoys her encounters and falls passionately in love with a male slave. The sex is submissive and features elements of BDSM and pony play.

In Beauty’s Punishment, Beauty is punished for her affair with a fellow slave and is sold at auction. She is purchased by an innkeeper and captures the attention of the Captain of the Guard, who takes over her ‘education in love, cruelty, dominance, submission and tenderness.’ At the end of the book, Beauty and several other slaves are kidnapped and sent to serve in the palace of the Sultan.

In Beauty’s Release, Beauty finds herself in a new realm and a prisoner within a harem belonging to an Eastern Sultan. As the title suggests, she does escape her predicament and marry, but to tell you any more would be a spoiler. As the blurb says: ‘Anne Rice makes the forbidden side of passion a doorway into the hidden regions of the psyche and the heart in this final volume of the classic Sleeping Beauty trilogy,’ and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Throughout the Sleeping Beauty series, themes of desire, discipline, pleasure, pain and surrender are all explored, and the writing is evocative and erotic.

Beauty’s Kingdom is the latest release, and is set 20 years after the events at the end of Beauty’s Release. Other than that, I don’t know much more, but I can’t wait to read it.

Anne Rice and The Vampire Chronicles

I’m a huge fan of Anne Rice, and her novel Interview With The Vampire is one of my favourite books of all time. Published in 1976, Interview With The Vampire stands the test of time, even surviving a film adaptation in 1994 starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater and Antonio Banderas. The book was the first in what would become The Vampire Chronicles, a series of now 12 books, with the latest, Prince Lestat just released.

With this new release, the first in more than 10 years, I thought it was a good time to take a retrospective look at the series and hopefully inspire a few of you to pick up a book by Anne Rice, if you haven’t done so before.Interview With The Vampire book cover Anne Rice

The Vampire Chronicles series of books in order of year published:

Book 1. Interview With The Vampire (1976)
Interview With The Vampire is where it all started, so, what’s it about? The vampire of the title is Louis, and he tells his life story (all 200 immortal years worth) to a young reporter. Made into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt for a companion in 1791, Louis’ life takes on many unexpected twists and turns across the decades and themes of love, companionship, loneliness, betrayal, suffering, revenge, horror, value of human life and immortality are all present.

Louis finds that he is tired of being immortal but at the end of the interview, the reporter asks to be made into a vampire, obviously having learned nothing from Louis’ personal story and infuriating Louis beyond belief.

Book 2. The Vampire Lestat (1985)
As the title suggests, the second novel in the series is the story of Lestat de Lioncourt, as he narrates his own life story. He was given the Dark Gift by Magnus. He later meets Armand (see Book 6) who tells Lestat he was made into a vampire by a very old vampire called Marius. Lestat becomes fixated on finding Marius to ask him questions about the history and origins of their kind. He does get answers (no spoilers here) and by the 1980s (time of publishing) Lestat is living life as a rockstar vampire.

Book 3. The Queen of the Damned (1988)
Following on from The Vampire Lestat is The Queen of the Damned, the third in the series (also made into a film). Akasha is the mother of all vampires and the Queen of the Damned and has been ‘woken up’ by Lestat after sleeping for 6,000 years. The reporter, Louis and Lestat are back and find that Akasha has her own agenda. We learn how the mother and father of vampires were created, and Akasha threatens to destroy all vampires.

Book 4. The Tale of the Body Thief (1992)
Lestat is depressed and lonely and takes great risks which almost cost him his immortal life. The body thief of the title is Raglan James who offers to switch bodies with Lestat. Lestat’s relationship with David Talbot (Head of the Talamasca Caste) is explored and he eventually reunites with Louis.

Book 5. Memnoch the Devil (1995)
In one of my favourite novels in the series, Memnoch the Devil, Lestat is approached by the Devil (calling himself Memnoch) and is offered a job of sorts.

Memnoch ‘takes Lestat on a whirlwind tour of Heaven and Hell and retells of the entirety of history from his own point of view in an effort to convince Lestat to join him as God’s adversary. In his journey, Memnoch claims he is not evil, but merely working for God by ushering lost souls into Heaven.’ (Source: WikipediaMemnoch the Devil ‘reinterprets biblical stories to create a complete history of Earth, Heaven and Hell that fit neatly with the history of vampires given in The Queen of the Damned.’ (Source: Wikipedia)

This is a book to make you re-think everything you know, consider life after death and our purpose on the planet and is one of my favourite books by Anne Rice.

Book 6. The Vampire Armand (1998)
In Book 6, we learn more about Armand’s back story, first featured in Interview With The Vampire. Telling his life story to vampire David Talbot, we learn Armand was born 500 years ago and was living and painting in a monastery before being kidnapped by slave traders and later purchased by the vampire Marius. There’s a lot of sex and sexual references in this novel, and when Armand is given the Dark Gift there is a repeat of the theme only to feed on evildoers and the struggle between good and evil.

Book 7. Merrick (2000)
Merrick Mayfair (of the title) is a witch, and features in the Mayfair Witches series also by Anne Rice. Louis, Lestat and David Talbot are back in Book 7 and the novel contains the backstory of Merrick’s relationship with David as well as her yearning for the Dark Gift.

Book 8. Blood and Gold (2001)
Another of my favourite novels of all time by Anne Rice, is Book 8 in The Vampire Chronicles, Blood and Gold. The reason I love it so much is the amount of art and history that is featured. Essentially, it’s the story of Marius.

Book 9. Blackwood Farm (2002)
Book 9 is unusual in that it introduces an entirely new character in Quinn Blackwood, a young boy haunted by a nasty spirit he calls Goblin. Quinn seeks help from Lestat who then contacts Merrick when he can’t rid the boy of the spirit.

Book 10. Blood Canticle (2003)
Quinn is back in Book 10, Blood Canticle, a story narrated by Lestat. Quinn is in love with Mona, a Mayfair Witch and Lestat has a love interest of his own. Mona is dying and Lestat turns her into a vampire to save her.Prince Lestat book cover Anne Rice

Book 11. Prince Lestat (2014)
Fans have been waiting more than a decade, but all the key characters are back in the newly released Prince Lestat, the latest book in The Vampire Chronicles. Apparently the vampire world is in crisis and their only hope of survival is our beloved Prince Lestat. (I can’t wait to read it).

Book 12. Blood Paradise (expected in 2015)
Said to be a sequel to Prince Lestat.

I hope this summary has given you a reading pathway into this series, and I’d love to hear from readers already in love with Anne Rice’s Lestat and other characters. It’s not hard to believe that in November 2008, The Vampire Chronicles had sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, and I’m sure that number will continue to increase with new books 11 and 12.

Enjoy!

The Severus Snape Guide to Literature’s Bad Boys (cont.)

It must have begun at a young age for me, though I can’t remember my first ‘bad boy’ book character. Was there an evil male character in One Fish, Two Fish? Doubt it.
The first memorable one was Colin, from The Secret Garden. Forget Dickon, Colin’s where it’s at, with his petulance and consistent weeping and general hysteria when his authority is questioned. Mary was the only girl who knew how to handle him…how I wished I was Mary!

And in highschool, when I was introduced to Ol’ Willy Shakespeare, I wasn’t so much taken with Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other as I was infatuated with Macbeth’s ambition and his romantic willingness to do whatever Lady Macbeth said! Dreamy.

When I was started on Anne Rice a little later, Lestat was perhaps the most conventionally dashing element of my book character fetish. It didn’t matter to me whether or not he sucked people’s blood, sometimes to the fatal point. What mattered most was that he made sure he looked his best every time he was on the prowl – he was like the century’s first ever metrosexual, and darn proud of it!

But before you judge, cast your mind back to your book crushes. Even the best of girls have trouble resisting Mr Darcy’s charms from Pride and Prejudice. I preferred Captain Wentworth meself. And those fans of Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester? Go read Wide Sargasso Sea and get back to me on that one. It’s like everything I thought about him when I read the original text, but even juicier and more damning to his character.

It seems that the one thing I cannot stand as my tastes in fictional characters have “matured”, is a male lead being rude to his fellow females (Colin was the early departure from the rule but I have remedied that with my later bad boy choices). Give me a character who wants world domination, who sells his soul for three wishes, who creates an alter ego of himself so he can do evil things without suffering the consequences, rather than a gentleman who treats his lady with disdain. Mr Darcy, it’s just not on!

Draco Malfoy has managed to escape my lusty bookgirl advances because he’s under 18 years of age. Whenever I take a Harry Potter quiz, I’m a Ravenclaw girl (the bookish group), with one point away from being Slytherin (the “evil” group). My guess? Slytherin guys and gals are just misunderstood. They don’t REALLY want to be bad…it’s just that the GOOD guys are so, infuriatingly…well, good. And that would annoy just about anyone, wouldn’t you agree?

So I figure the thing that all my bad boys have in common, perhaps, is that they’re really good boys at heart.
Or at least, that‘s what helps me sleep at night. Heehee!

If Anne Rice Says It, It’s Gospel

Firstly, guys, apologies for deserting the blog for over a week…put it down to an incredibly hectic College of Law schedule. In case you’re wondering, I’m pretty sure I passed everything so I guess the sleepless nights, lack of socialisation and the mountainloads of chewed-up printer paper must have somehow been worth it (won’t someone please think of the TREES??)!

We should be back to our regular programme broadcasting now – I’ve been itching to discuss a bit more about angels, devils, and their current plan for world domination. And what better person to ask “Are Angels the New Vampires?” than the undisputed queen of contemporary vampire fiction – Anne Rice.

If you’ve just fainted in your chair with excitement, I hate to disappoint you, but I didn’t actually score an interview with Anne Rice (I mean, I’m good, but I ain’t THAT good). I did, however, notice that she’s been cornered by various journalists to give her point of view on the angels versus vampires debate.

Most of us who can stomach such bloodsucking stuff have seen that classic movie adaptation of Rice’s first book in the vampire series – Interview with the Vampire. Even now, I still can’t fathom the fact that they somehow managed to get Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Antonio Banderas to all have a go at donning fangs on the same movie set. The mind boggles.

Being the trendsetter that she is, Rice created The Vampire Chronicles’ most fashionable character, the vampire Lestat, as a golden-maned Don Juan with a love of cravats that could rival Masterchef’s Matt Preston. Early in the series, Lestat has a go at the 80s rock scene, and many fans love him for the devil-may-care attitude he displays during these first couple of books. But my personal favourite, which shows early signs of what would be a massively new direction for Anne Rice’s writings later on, is Memnoch the Devil, published 1997. The novel represented the holy dilemma vampires face: how can vampires be a product of God? Are they naturally forsaken, or can they be saved?

Lestat meets a man in a suit, who introduces himself as Memnoch the Devil and spins a yarn Paradise Lost-style. Turns out there are two sides to every story and the Devil’s an angel who’s been misunderstood all this time. Lestat rides on Memnoch’s coattails (or should that be forked tail?) through Heaven, Hell and History, all the while experiencing inner conflict, as he struggles with his sympathy for the Devil versus the possible chance for redemption with a God he had never believed existed. The story of Memnoch the Devil can also be said to have reflected Rice’s own inner religious turmoil at the time (she ended up rejoining the Catholic church in 1998 after years of atheism).

So why did Rice continue writing books for The Vampire Chronicles, and why did she end them when she did (in 2004)?
She told Wall Street Journal:

“Vampires for me were always like feeling grief for my lost childhood faith, being cut off from that life. I reached the point where I didn’t have any more stories to tell from that point of view.”

At the conclusion of the Chronicles, Rice seemed to have made a decision to leave the doomed vampires behind and embark on a writing pilgrimage. Her last two books were spiritual stories about Jesus Christ, and while interesting, they didn’t seem to have the same passion of her earlier works. Imagine my excitement in late 2009 when she released Angel Time, a story of an assassin who is offered redemption by an angel for his sins (sound familiar?)… I haven’t got around to reading it yet: if any of you have, what did you think?

And whether you liked Angel Time or didn’t like it, I also want to know: what does Anne Rice think of her new direction ?

Being on the side of the angels, it feels much better than being on the side of the vampires. Vampires were tortured, tragic figures.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Authors with bite

Vampires! Post number two in a series of three about the pointy-toothed blood-suckers we all love to read about.

This time around I have enlisted the help of two authors who have written vamp fic. I’ve asked each of them to share with us their favourite vampire book.

NarrelleFirst cab off the rank is Narrelle M Harris, author of The Opposite of Life.

John Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In is a superb vampire novel. It’s Swedish, but the English translation captures its setting of a bleak suburb in 1980s Stockholm perfectly. Oskar, who is viciously bullied at school, befriends strange newcomer, Eli. The fact that Eli is a vampire and a killer is contrasted with the idea that Eli is also an abused child. The line between victim and monster is blurred, here and elsewhere in the story. It’s a disturbing horror story, but also ultimately a gentle love story. It’s elegant, atmospheric and unlike any other vampire story I’ve ever read.

You can find out more about Narrelle and her writing on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter. And for those of you who’ve read The Opposite of Life, you can also follow her two lead characters, Gary (the vampire) and Lissa (the librarian), on Twitter.

FozNext up we have Foz Meadows, author of Solace and Grief.

I love the Evernight series by Claudia Gray. On starting the first book, I was aggressively sceptical, but once I reached the halfway point, I couldn’t put it down, while the sequel volumes, Stargazer and Hourglass, were mesmerising. Gray’s characters are vividly realistic; her plotlines pull no punches. The more the series develops, the more it becomes apparent that a skilful long game is in effect: the mythology is built with care, and there are no loose threads – only questions that haven’t been answered yet. The writing is sleek, the pace swift, and the tension perfectly orchestrated. Definitely worth reading!

You can find out more about Foz and her writing by checking out her blog.

My thanks to Narrelle and Foz for stopping by.

My last post mentioned the vampire books that I loved. But I have read others — from the good (Thirsty by MT Anderson) to the not-so-good (The House of Caine by Ken Eulo). And then, there’s the disappointing…

Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice. This is a book that lots of people have raved about. My first encounter with it was the film version. I really liked the film and so I thought to myself… most film adaptations are not as good as the original books, so I must go and read Interview With The Vampire. Which I did… Unfortunately. I found the characters annoying, the style dry and the whole thing long-winded and boring. After spouting my disappointment at anyone who would listen, an avid Anne Rice fan insisted that the second book in the series was much better and that I should give it a go. I didn’t. In fact, I’ve never read another Anne Rice book. Life is too short and there are way too many other books that I really want to read.

Which now brings me to the Twilight books.

Tune in next time as I tell you why I haven’t read Twilight.

Catch ya later,  George