Currently reading…

The Queen of the Damned: The Third Book in The Vampire Chronicles
by Anne Rice

The next book in my re-read of the Vampire Chronicles. I‘m in chapter 3, on page 75 of 573 pages. I‘ve been out a lot with friends this week again, so things are progressing slowly.

I did also rewatch the movie of the same name this week and can honestly say that it is really bad. It wasn‘t quite this. bad in my memory. Bad acting, bad directing, bad accents and I didn‘t feel the presumed romance at all. I am enjoying the book so far though. Let‘s see how much I remember of this one.

On the plus side I got a letter from my brother today and it had a really nice magnetic bookmark in it. Thank you, brother!

I am trying to buy a little less from Amazon and instead buy more local and/or second hand. So while I still bought this paperback online, I did buy it second hand from a German company. Local-ish, no new trees had to die, but still bad for my CO2 footprint. You win some, you loose some. The book was published in 1988, my edition is from 1990. It‘s in pretty good shape for being 32 years old. The edges are a bit scuffed, but the spine is not cracked. It is clean and has this nice “old book“ smell. The print is smallish, but ok.

So, Friday, last workday of the week, yay! No plans for tonight, so I might actually get some decent reading in. Saturday is Free Comic Day here, so I will take a trip to the big bookstore in next town over and see if there is anything there that tempts me. Or maybe I should pick something that I wouldn‘t normally choose…

Vampire, Boss Level

The Vampire Lestat (The Vampire Chronicles, #2) by Anne Rice

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Another re-read and old favourite from my teen/tween days. I read the first three books of the series about 30 years ago and loved them. Alas, this is another book were I remembered almost nothing of the plot but the broadest strokes. A monster of a book with very dense print on 599 pages, packing many parts with distinct plotlines and various stories of other vampires besides Lestat, provided backstory and a pretty comprehensive explanations of the world he lives in.

The pacing was too slow for me, but the story pulled me along. We touch down in ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, visit the Celts and meet druids, finally get a good, long look at pre-revolutionary France and Paris, travel around Europe and eventually make our way into the new world. Interview with the Vampire (my review) Armand and Louis make an appearance and we meet new characters that will have a major impact in the next book of the series.

Existential questions are discussed at length. Faith, god, good and evil, relationships, love, rituals… I have to confess that I skimmed past a few of those paragraphs. Online somewhere I read a description of Rice‘s writing style as both verbose and overly philosophical. I tend to agree. Sometimes the writing was a bit convoluted as well. There were some longer passages that I reread several times and I was still unsure afterwards what she wanted to tell me. Her livelong on-and-off affair with organized religion and the catholic church will have been a major influence here.

There was a much stronger gay vibe than I remember. It was pretty clear for me this time around that Lestat and Nicholas were in a relationship, although it is never explicitly spelled out.

Parts I did not like: the fixation on the superiority of blue-eyed blond people. Lack of meaningful female characters besides Gabrielle. General disdain of women as weak or, if strong, as unpredictable (deranged and dangerous?)—why do female writers perpetuate that image? Lack of diversity.

Re-reading old favourites is always a daunting undertaking. What if you hate that once beloved book? Luckily I liked my re-read of Interview with the Vampire. I discovered so many things I had missed as a late teen/early tween. Vampire Lestat is a much broader and complicated story with an even slower pace. It turns Louis into a very unreliable narrator, as this is quite a different Lestat to the first book. Or is Lestat pulling our leg? And Armand is a lot less likable, which makes it hard for me to relate to Lestat‘s love for him. Anyhow, I liked the book despite the above mentioned parts. 

I plan to read the next three books of the series:
The Queen of the Damned: The Third Book in The Vampire Chronicles — reread
The Tale of the Body Thief — unsure if I have read this
Memnoch the Devil — new to me

I will see how I feel about the rest of the series, the plot summaries sound increasingly bizarre.

There is no I in team and not everything is as it seems

Ham Helsing #1: Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ham Helsing comes from a long line of unsuccessful vampire hunters, killing themselves with crazy inventions. Apparently stupid runs in the family. Ham seems to be the odd one out…. Maybe? Anyway…

Written for young readers (8-12 years), this charmed me right away and made me laugh. It‘s all about not being bogged down by assumptions, being a good and sometimes selfless person, working as a team… There is humour, sarcasm, adventure, scary spiders, an evil chicken and other funny characters. It‘s a very simple story, but it is very well done.

Talking about team…

I might read issue #2 at some point…

February 2022 Wrap-up

Here is my February 2022. My page count is a bit lower this month, due to some distracting family issues. I couldn‘t concentrate on new stories and reverted to comfort re-reading quite a lot of older fanfiction early in the month, which I don‘t really track.

Empire of Wild ★★★★☆, ebook, TBR, slow burning horror, indigenous folklore about a Rogarou.
– Iterum ★★★★☆, Stargate Atlantis fanfic, McShep, re-read / comfort reading — and a ton of other Spirk and McShep fanfiction!
– Bots of The Lost Ark in Clarkesworld Magazine #177, June 2021 ★★★★☆, online novelette, bots run amok, aliens threaten, ship and humans need to be saved, little bot to the rescue.
Interview with the Vampire ★★★★☆, ebook, re-read after 30 years or so. Slow start, but re-discovered so many details that I had forgotten. Ultimately rewarding.
– Shadecraft #1 ★★★★★, eComic, online for free at Image Comics, YA, Zadie is being chased by shadows… good artwork.
Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System ★★★★☆, audio, non-fiction, entertaining tour through our solar system and a fascinating look at volcanoes.
– Saga #56 ★★★★★, eComic
– Wikihistory ★★★★☆, short story, online, amusing piss-take on time travel and Wikipedia.
– The Legacy by R.A. Salvatore ★★★¾☆ ebook, TBR / StoryGraphReading Randomizer February #1, dark elves and dwarves battling it out in a lot of deep tunnels.
– An Easy Job ★★★★☆, short story, online, prequel to Sinew and Steel and What They Told

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Six (ongoing):
– SCAR TISSUE by Tobias S. Buckell – human MC fosters a robot. Is the mind just bolted into its carriage or the sum of a whole? And what does it mean to be raised and to learn from experience? Sweet story, I got pretty emotional. ★★★★★
– EYES OF THE FOREST by Ray Nayler – scouts in an alien and dangerous forest, very cool concepts. ★★★★½
– SINEW AND STEEL AND WHAT THEY TOLD by Carrie Vaughn – Graff faked his medical records and something really awkward is going to come out. ★★★★¾

StoryGraph Reading Randomizer / backlog:
– The Solitaire Mystery, paper, TBR / February StoryGraph #2, have to see when I can fit this in…

Specfic Movies & TV watched:
– For All Mankind, S1, Eps. 1-5 ★★★★☆

Planned for March:
Ring Shout, audio, started…
Mickey7, ebook, Netgalley owned and running late
Ogres, ebook, pub date 15.03., Netgalley owned
The Complete Angel Catbird, Angel Catbird #1-3, Margaret Atwood, comic, owned
– Saga #57, pub date 23.03., pre-ordered
– StoryGraph #1 Even The Wingless
– StoryGraph #2 The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear

Interview completed

Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles, #1) by Anne Rice

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s been a long time since I read this, as a teenager and in German. Mid 80s or so and several times in the years after… Loved it, loved it, loved it. Got me started on my path of life-long love of vampire stories. Shortly after I read Bram Stoker‘s Dracula and a bunch of other classic vampire books and loved those as well. 

I think the German translation dragged a bit. Although about 30% into my current re-read it was not exactly speedy either. A lot of exposition, very little direct speech—not my favourite. Luckily the book eventuality got more involving and lively.

As a teenager I considered this the best of the Vampire Chronicles and the one with the best story-line. The sequels got more and more commercial. I read four of them and then stopped, while I still liked them. In retrospect I probably remember the most of The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned. Boy, that was a horrible movie! If I should re-read the other books as well, I would probably prefer the „more commercial“ ones by now. We will see. I read another of Anne Rice‘s books recently, The Passion of Cleopatra and thought it was pretty meh.

Anyway, Interview with The Vampire. Probably THE book that sailed a massive fantasy subgenre and lead to two movies, one of them sporting a horribly miscast Tom Cruise and a beautifully moody Brad Pitt. 

A young reporter and a vampire sit in a bare room with a tape recorder. The vampire tells the story of his 200 years of life, err, un-death, from his early days on a plantation near New Orleans to Europe and all the way back to the Garden District of New Orleans in the mid-1970s, when the book was written. 

The book is a bit of a declaration of love for that city, which has been nicely captured in this review here: https://gonola.com/things-to-do-in-ne…

A lot of things happen that I didn‘t remember at all. Everything that hasn‘t appeared in the movie seems to have fallen away. Lestat is also a lot more hateful than I remember. And Claudia and Armand a lot more seductive.

The story moved pretty slowly and with a lot of exposition at first. Is it possible that later books were more dynamic? I was not impressed and skimmed some more boring passages early on. By the time the narrative moved to New Orleans and then on to Eastern Europe, I had become comfortable with the slightly old-fashioned feel of the language and the narrative had picked up some momentum. The high point of the book for me is Paris and the Theatre of the Vampires. 

Bottomline this has a lot more to offer than the movie. It is mostly slow paced and rich in detail. Very contemplative, pretty sad, with some shocking moments.

PS: there is an interesting article here about Anne Rice and fanfiction:
A Deep Dive Into the Anne Rice Fanfiction Debacle

Top Ten Tuesday—the ten best books of 2021

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

This week‘s topic / December 28: Best Books I Read In 2021

These books haven‘t necessarily been released in 2021, that‘s just when I read them… I left out all of my re-reads of Dragonriders of Pern, The Expanse, The Imperial Radch, etc. etc.:

Rovers by Richard Lange — A horror book with a different take on vampires. Of Mice and Men with vampires and a biker gang. 

Shards of Earth (The Final Architects Trilogy, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky — Space opera with a touch of The Expanse and Babylon 5, with a great ensemble cast on a scrappy scavenger ship, fighting against the odds and pretty much everything else. The proverbial underdogs against the universe.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir — Mark Watney in space! And he sciences the sh*t out of his situation… so, yes, very much reminiscent of The Martian. And then some. I loved it and could barely put it down. So much fun! 

The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1) by Alastair Reynolds — On the surface this comes along as a police procedural in a SF setting. Dreyfus is a cop with a strong moral code of right and wrong, committed to justice. My first association was Miller from The Expanse, with a bit of Blade Runner and minus any projectile weapons. Space opera, ultimately, with the many and very varied habitats of the Glitter Band, artificial intelligences, body modifications, uplifted mammals, many political systems, states of being and an elaborate polling system — fascinating! 

David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — Gods have rained down on Lagos, the capital of Nigeria. We enter the story some time later, into the dystopian society that has developed here in the aftermath. David Mogo, our 1st person narrator, is a demi-god working as an illegal godhunter. An old wizard with dubious morals sends David Mogo off to catch two high gods, Taiwo and Kehinde. David is in need of money to fix his roof, so off he goes, despite his misgivings about this wizard. Obviously things don’t go as expected. 

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6) by Martha Wells — Muderbot is back in novella length. Snark and sarcasm abound. Just another crazy day, tracking down a murderer and making sure one’s humans don‘t come to harm. All the stars.

Leviathan Falls (The Expanse #9) by James S.A. Corey — A well done ending to the series. I did not expect it to go into the direction it did, so that was satisfying. It ends bittersweet, with some sadness, but also hope.

Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4) by C.J. Sansom — Historically pretty sound, as far as I can tell. Very homogenous. Full of suspense towards the end, could not put it down anymore. The murders are gruesome and reminiscent of a famous 90s movie. With the context of Henry VIII, his dissolution of the monasteries and the religious upheaval of that time it works well.

Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega, #6) by Patricia Briggs — The FBI shows up at the doorstep of Anna and Charles and asks for help. A village in the mountains has disappeared and something potentially evil lurks in the woods.

The Whale Library by Zidrou,  Judith Vanistendael — Pretty watercolours, a mature story about a whale who contains a large library, a postman delivering sea mail, his wife and a smattering of sailors, pirates, fish, sea turtles, octopi and more…

Besides this one I also read some very good more traditional graphic novels. But that probably needs another entry…

The Moon is still Calling…

The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is one of the very few Urban Fantasy series that I still follow. I used to read almost nothing but UF for the best part of a decade, until the genre was so oversaturated with new, mediocre stuff that I lost the taste for it.

Last year, when another book in the spin-off series Alpha & Omega came out, I re-read both series in chronological order, which took quite a while. It was fun and an excellent reminder of some foggy details and hotly debated points of the fandom.

In June 2022 another installment of the series will be published, Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson, #13). Counting the spin-off series, that brings us to book 19 in this universe, ignoring a bunch of short stories, comics, etc. Book #12 of the main series dealt with some marriage problems between our titular hero and her mate, that hopefully will get resolved in the new book.

I liked that book, but this is another series where I am starting to wonder if it‘s perhaps time to wrap things up for good. Definitely still getting the new one in June though! Pre-ordered!

November Wrap-Up

We are galloping towards the end of the year, potentially more lockdowns, increased social distancing, renewed distance education, a new Covid mutation, snow storms, and so on… but for now here is just another wrap-up for my November reading.

– Rovers ★★★★★ – audiobook, Of Men and Mice meets From Dusk till Dawn. Excellent. Highlight of my month! Potentially one of the best books I have read this year.
– Elder Race ★★★★½ – ebook, novella, another Tchaikovsky, Sword-and-Sorcery with a touch of SF and Horror.
– Fated ★★★★☆ – ebook, re-read, wizards, London, Harry Dresden meets Peter Grant and the Iron Druid. Buddy reading #2 in January.
– Relic ★★¾☆☆ – ebook, Alan Dean Foster, the last human in search of Earth. Meh.
– The Resurrectionists ★★½☆☆ – ebook, Netgalley, novella, TBR pile, graphic body horror, not for me.

Comics:
– The Whale Library ★★★★★ eComic, Netgalley. Pretty story about a whale who contains a library.
– Dragonflight ★☆☆☆☆ paper, TBR pile, bad adaptation of Anne McCaffrey‘s first book of the Dragonriders of Pern.
– Cyber Force (2012) #1 ★☆☆☆☆ eComic, DNF after 8 of 24 pages, no idea what is going on.

Started, carry over into December:
The Quantum Magician, ebook + audio, ~60%. Around 3.5 to 4 stars right now. Ocean‘s 11 in space, post-humanism.
– Life on Earth, audio, TBR pile, ~30%. David Attenborough talks about evolution.

Movies & TV watched:

Nature Documentaries
– David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet ★★★★★+ Beautiful images, important story, fabulous Sir David!
– Our Planet — Behind the Scenes ★★★★★ The walruses, OMG!, and the calving ice shelf, wow!
– Our Planet — One Planet / Frozen Worlds / Jungles / Coastal Seas / From Deserts to Graslands ★★★★★
– Night on Earth: Shot in the Dark ★★★☆☆

Specfic Series
– Foundation, S1, Ep. 1 ★★★★☆
– Infiltration (Invasion), S1, Ep. 1-8 ★★★¾☆
– Wheel of Time, S1, Ep. 1-4 ★★★☆☆

Planned for December:
Leviathan Falls Expanse #9, the final novel, audiobook owned
Silent Blade Kinsmen #1, Ilona Andrews, re-read
Silver Shark Kinsmen #2, Ilona Andrews, re-read
A Mere Formality Kinsmen short, Ilona Andrews, re-read
Fated Blades Kinsmen #3, Ilona Andrews, the new one
– maybe Black Powder War, Temeraire #3
– maybe Dragonsong, re-reading Dragonriders of Pern

Gothic 70s

Rovers
by Richard Lange (Goodreads Author),  Marc Vietor (Narrator),  Wayne Carr (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A horror book with a different take on vampires. Of Mice and Men with vampires and a biker gang. Alternating POVs with a diverse cast and two different audiobook narrators. 

I breezed though this and really enjoyed it, not just because of the characters and the fast-paced plot—this would make a great movie—but also because of the entertaining and well done audiobook narration.

It‘s a dark, but not too grim. A little shocking at times. Quite a few heads fall, as is to be expected in vampire novels. Mainly plot driven with good action sequences and very tight writing, but various existentialist questions are mulled over as well by the main characters, without slowing down the pace. It all leads to a great ending and I would love to pick up the narratives of the surviving characters again. 

Excellent stuff, recommended!

Currently Reading…

I am still working my way through Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora. The current story, Clanfall: Death of Kings by Odida Nyabundi, is good, pretty puzzling, set in a very far away in time Kenya with bionically enhanced, conscious and intelligent animals (I think), where humanity has ceased to exists…

I have about an hour left in the kindle and would like to finish the book today. However, Life! Going on a business trip next week, starting off tomorrows afternoon. Busy doing stuff in preparation, trying to keep myself from procrastinating too much. Failing so far.

Anyhow, I started the morning by looking for an audiobook—something I can listen to whilst folding laundry etc. Ended up (or rather started) with Rovers (Audible Audio) by Richard Lange, a horror book with a different take on vampires. Of Mice and Men with vampires and biker gangs? The audio sounds good so far.

He hasn’t been outside during the day in more than seventy-five years. Seventy-five years since he’s felt the sun on his face, seventy-five years since he’s lain under a tree and run his fingers over leaf shadows flitting across a patch of warm grass, seventy-five years since he’s squinted through his lashes to pin a cawing raven against the noon glare. For the past three-quarters of a century he’s lived by night, in the ebon hours when monsters hunt and good folk keep to their houses. Since he turned, every dawn’s been a death sentence, every sunbeam a white-hot razor. That’s why he’s overjoyed whenever he dreams his only dream, when he finds himself walking that road under the blazing sun, under a few wisps of cloud unraveling across the sky. A bounding jackrabbit kicks up dust. A breeze brings a whiff of sage. He comes upon an empty pop can and gives it a kick. Light and warmth worm their way into the coldest, darkest thickets inside him, and if he never woke again, he’d be fine. This would be enough—the road, the sky, the sun—forever.

From the first page

And just for the heck of it, I just signed up for Dewey‘s October readathon, starting in about 90 minutes. Not that I have the time or intention to read for 24 hours straight, because real life…. Anyway….