Sunday, February 22, 2009

Interview with the Vampire

I have adored this book since I was in middle school. It was the first vampire novel I read and I read it all within a day. My young teenage frame of mind still didn't know a lot about the world and those who lived in it. I had barely experienced life and still to this day I have barely any experience worth mentioning. But I certainly have more experience then I did ten years ago.

The outline of the story is an interview with a vampire, Louis, who tells his life tale. He describes his human life, the briefness of it compared to his actual age, and the heartbreak he experienced then when his younger brother died. Then he moves into his immortal life and tells of love found and loss and ultimately his 'loss' of emotion which so many other vampires both prized and feared.

It's a heavy book and I have found over the past ten years that each time I read the book I come to understand it a bit more. We'll stick to my thoughts of the book this time around so as not to get confused.

There are three very large subjects in the book that reach out to me.
  1. Religion
  2. Emotions
  3. Sense of loss
I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and understand the compulsive thoughts that cross a devoted Catholic's mind when coming to obstacles that may be 'sinful'. I've seen Catholic's much more religious than myself who are driven by it. Their entire lives are without impulse but their idea of what God might want of them. The fear of ultimately being 'evil' and going to hell can be very strong. When I was a child, it horrified me. I would cut off my arm if I knew it would prevent me from being evil or going to hell. As I got older and grew distant with religion that fear died but I understand it.

Louis seems so transfixed on the idea of religion and whether or not being a vampire has made him evil or a child of Satan.
The entire conversation of religion between Louis and Armand towards the end of the book is fascinating and well thought out. But this is Anne Rice we're talking about, everything she writes is thought out with very little room for wonder because she's a stickler for detail.

The emotion Louis feels is displayed as a rarity for vampires. Most seem to exist without much feeling of worry, stress, love, or sadness. But Louis feels all of this and to the utter extreme. He reminds me a lot of the character May in The Secret Lives of Bees which I read prior to this. She too had an enormous amount of emotion that ultimately caused her demise. Louis feels for everything and even inanimate objects seem to make emotions arise.

A few years ago my boyfriend at the time had pointed out that I was a very emotional creature. I felt every emotion, even for things that didn't deserve to have my emotion. It was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you can understand people better in the long run. You can see how they work a little more. See where their mind is going. And you can easily shell out different ideas for advice. But it becomes a curse when you're the one left hurt and upset by things out of your control.

Louis life seems to be surrounded by events that are clearly out of his control and yet he blames himself or feels the sadness towards the events. It makes him out to be a very whiney depressing person.

The sense of loss which appears on and off through the entire novel ties into the emotion. Louis, having such a clear tie to emotion, feels for each loss he experiences. Deaths in his family, deaths of servants, death of himself, death of his victims, the mortal death of Claudia, the immortal death of Claudia, the repetitive 'deaths' of Lestat. It isn't until Claudia is killed that his emotion seems to snap and he simply feels numb. That portion of the book reminds me of notes taken in a classroom. Points of each action taken in his life. I went here, then I went there, then I lived there. No emotion left him dull and dry. I can almost relate to this. I know that when I experience death I go through a period where I feel numb. Nothing excites me, their all just pinpoints of events written down for each day of my life. But I eventually grow back into feeling and abandon the numbness I had been plagued with. I become alive again.

Louis doesn't seem to return to life. Armand hopes that events will stir Louis back to life but they don't seem to happen. With that, Louis becomes an even more depressing character and I understand why there is only one book of his. The story is out but now he has no emotion so who really wants to hear what else he thinks when all thoughts are bland? It's better to see his actions through the eyes of other characters.

Anne Rice is a beautiful writer. She has a firm grip on the English language and I've always admired her ability to do so much research on past lands and times so that when they are included in her stories they seem to be factual. This is why she's the Queen of Vampires. I only wish that she would return to writing about vampires. I adored her books all through middle school and high school. They would always bring me solace from my own sensitive emotions. I turn to the Vampire Chronicles again for that same solace they once provided. These economic times are hitting me and my family very hard. I need all the comfort that I can get.

Next Up:
Unsure... either Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, or The Vampire Lestat

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees

I had a certain level of apprehension about reading The Secret Life of Bees. The movie trailer certainly caught my interest and I knew it was based on the book. By default all books are better then their movie adaptation. So I figured, the book has to be good, but still it didn't fall into my area of interest. Normally I read books that pertain to my area of interest or things I already have a knowledge of. This book is very much centered around the civil rights movements of the 60's and... well... I never really had too much of an interest in the movement. I'm glad it happened, people deserve their rights and it shoudn't matter what your skin tone is. But all the hatred, all the crimes that were committed, the very terrors that African Americans had to deal with kind of scares me so I shy away from it all. So there are many points in this book where I'm shaking off chills because I know that despite this is a fictional work it's based on reality.

"I had the same birthday as the country, which made it even harder to get noticed. When I was little, I thought people were sending up rockets and cherry bobs because of me- hurray, Lily was born! Then reality set in, like it always did."
This quote made me laugh because it's straight from my mind. I was born two days after the Fourth of July and thought the very same thing. It's something pretty insignificant but I found it amusing. "There ARE people who thought that the Fourth of July was for them!"

Moving along, the structure of the story is interesting in that it's from the POV of a 14-year-old girl. The language that Lily uses is very mature for a girl of that age and normally it seems people shun such intelligence. But it works, her attitude, her actions, everything is a bit more mature then what one would assume any 14 year old would have. Granted, some of her actions are quickly made and without much planning, but there are people of all ages who do such things. Mid-life crisis anyone?

The book is emotionally heavy dealing with the stress of the 1960's, the injustices done, and the personal history of two families becoming one. It highlights how small of a world is, color aside, when color at one time used to make such a heavy difference.

At times people go hunting for something specific in their lives that they feel is missing. What always makes the world so exciting is that most times you can find that item in the oddest of places. As if the world has lead you to that point. It's hard to realize that, everything has a meaning, even something so frivolous as a honey jar label. But it's true.

I feel that this is a great book to give to the maternal person in your life near Mother's Day. The journey of many strong women all looking for that motherly bond makes for a wonderful story. I was pleasantly surprised with the book, I truly enjoyed it despite it not being in my normal range of interest.

And now, I am going to go have some honey. :-)

Next Book Up:
I'm either going to pull out the Vampire Chronicles or pick another book off my shelf I haven't read yet.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


This novel I picked up at the urging of my Aunt and older cousin. Both of whom I look up to and take their literary opinions to hart because they love books as much as I do, but they love a different genre. They are very much into the romantics and mysteries, they are quite possibly one of Jane Austen's biggest fans, and most life experiences can be compared to scenes in books.

I've been on this kick for the past year to dive into genres that I am not quite so comfortable with. Books that have certainly sounded interesting enough. Books that have certainly seemed to be literary classics. But books that I none the less stayed away from for most of my life.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon was the book which kept being brought up in every discussion I had with my aunt and cousin while talking of books. Not just books though, they brought it up whenever we spoke of travel, or better yet travel to the UK (a place I have longed to visit all of my life).

"You have to read Outlander! It's this great book about this woman who gets brought back in time after touching a rock and meets this wonderful Scottish man whose handsome and the classic Highlander with the kilt and tartan!" my cousin had exclaimed during dinner back in October. My aunt had generally said the same thing so I made a mental note of it all but forgot the name of the book. It wasn't until January that my aunt told me the name once more and I happily purchased it at the bookstore I worked at.

The copy I bought is paperback and nearly 900 pages long. If you intend to read this book or the series and are afraid of page numbers consider this your warning. It is a long book. When I first began to read it I was back and forth with interest. Things kept coming up to get in the way of reading. My friend came to visit for three days and I was too busy enjoying her company to burrow off by myself and read. Then my dog died (it sounds like a horrible excuse but it did, indeed, happen.) and I was too upset and heartbroken to have much care for a book. After some time I picked the book up again and have been reading about 200 pages a night ever since.

Today, I read 300 pages worth amongst doing other things and allow me to say that I feel like my eyes are about to bleed.

But moving onto the story! It's lovely and I do intend to read the next book in the series. I already bought it in fact and am glad I hadn't wasted the money. I was initially apprehensive of the story after my cousins description. A woman getting sucked back in time due to touching a rock? What is that? It sounds like some stupid SciFi show. But it does indeed happen and with a lot more class then I had originally pictured.

Imagine you are walking through the woods (although in the book it takes place at a rock gathering much like Stonehenge) and you decide to rest your hand on a large bolder but suddenly you feel yourself being torn through time. Time boys and girls. Hundreds of years. You open your eyes and you are exactly where you were before but now there is what seems to be a small battle being raged near you. What would you do? How would you react?

Gabaldon takes you into the main character Claire's mind and displays the obvious confusion and hesitance to this world she has found herself in. Much like any normal person she tries to reason with herself, convince herself that this did not happen, and then tries to make herself (with time) believe it had happened. I feel that Gabaldon was quite on with how a person would react to a situation such as this. Finding her feelings for the handsome Scottish lad while she knows full well that she left an adoring husband behind two hundred years in the future.

But the story doesn't linger on the fact that Claire had been transported back in time. Life goes on no matter what occurs to you, don't think you are ever so special that the world will stop because of you, and it happens such as this for Claire. The politics of 18th century Scotland continue and so do their common beliefs.

Many topics that cause stir are brought up in this book. Rape, beating your children, torturing prisoners, witch craft, and the lack of power women had at that time. Gabaldon leaves little to the imagination in being very clear of each issue and how the scenes play out. She is also quick to have a more current brain considering all of these actions and reacting much as anyone in this present day would if they were standing amongst a bunch of people who clearly believe there are witches and they are Satan's mistress.

One thing that truly impressed me was that Gabaldon clearly depicted the Scottish accents. I am a girl born and raised in New York and have never stepped a toe out of the United States. I have heard Scottish accents only through television and movies. But Gabaldon wrote the accents out so that while I read the story I heard the Scottish characters speaking in their Scottish accent. It was wonderful and easy to believe. However, that is in my own opinion, I wonder what Scottish people would see of the writing or someone who is more used to the Scottish accent.

I absolutely loved all the characters that were featured in the book- even the bad ones. Mainly because these characters were all well rounded and there wasn't any room for question. There weren't plot holes nor any truly surprising changes in any of them. They were who they were and they stayed that way. They were incredibly well developed so if you were meant to like a character you most certainly did and if you were meant to hate one well by God you hated that character.

There is only one complaint that I have about the book. The character Claire on several occasions would break out into uncontrollably laughter at points where I truly did not understand why she was laughing nor was it made clear. That was a bother but nothing worth destroying the decency of the story. Claire also makes an assortment of references to different sayings and people from our present day and I came to wonder if those phrases or people existed at the time that she had left her own present day (pre-1950's). And yet, I was in no way willing to sit down the book to do some research and find out. This book was by my side until forty minutes ago when I finished it.
On a scale of one to five, I'd give this book five. I really enjoyed it, even if it made my eyes bleed.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Secret Garden

This is a tale that has been around for so long that my mother was raised on it and I raised on it also. It was one of the first 'big books' I recall reading when I was a kid (along with A Little Princess which I think goes hand and hand with The Secret Garden). I reread both books repeatedly as I grew up and watched the movie adaptations as if it were my job.

I feel this is one of the best stories ever written that displays character growth. You begin the story with the most foul of little girls you can think of but she grows, she changes, she becomes humbled by life and begins to actually think of others. Then you're introduced to her cousin who is just the same and he too grows and overcomes obstacles to become a decent human being.

It's eery in a way. Children should not be so bitter and negative and yet these two characters are. In a way it drives it's point home even more then if you were to display adults with similar characteristics. There is more to the world then yourself and I feel in a way that is what the book is trying to say. To think of others, to help others, even if the 'other' is that of a garden. It can make beautiful things occur if you only let go of yourself and set your mind to other things.

Now that it is February and spring feels close yet oh so far away (it also helps that today is Ground Hog's Day and the poor little thing saw it's shadow after being dragged out of it's bed which means six more weeks of winter). The story begins where there isn't much of a sign of spring with crabby, angry, little children (who reflect my feelings towards winter right now) but as the story progresses and they begin to grow and warm up to life so does the world around them. The story ends with spring being fully present just as their newly rejuvenated characters. I enjoy how the weather and moods reflect one another.

This book is a classic and I suspect that many children for years to come will be read this, especially in the winter months when spring seems to be an impossible season to see.

Up Next:
Maybe Outlander I keep saying I'll read the book and post about it but I keep getting distracted by other stories.