Review | Prince Lestat, Anne Rice

21412673The Vampire Chronicles have always been my favourite among Anne Rice’s books, so I was thrilled when she announced a return to it with Prince Lestat. To be honest, it’s been awhile since I’ve read a Vampire Chronicles book, and while I vaguely remember reading Queen of the Damned (referenced a lot in this book), I remember nothing of the story. So parts of this book did confuse me, but overall, there was just enough backstory provided that I could figure it out.

In Prince Lestat, Rice not only re-introduces us to the Brat Prince, she also takes us deep into the very mythology of her vampires. As such, the book feels much larger than the story of its titular character. The story travels through time and among various points of view, and we learn a lot about how vampires came to be and how fragile their existence as a species really is.

The story is about the vampire world in crisis — a mysterious Voice speaks to select vampires, commanding them to burn seemingly random groups of vampires around the world. It’s vampire genocide, and no one seems to know why it’s happening or how to stop it. The Voice also contacts Lestat, though appears more interested in conversing with him than in commanding him. Lestat himself is his usual dashing, seductive self, though with a lot more pathos now than usual. I love the scenes with Louie and Armand, mostly because I remember them from Interview with a Vampire, and it was sweet to see how much Lestat still cares for Louie.

There are a lot of characters and their flashbacks, and it’s impossible to keep track of all of them, or remember how or if I’d ever known them from a previous book. As a result, I didn’t really care about any individual character, except for Lestat, Louie and Armand. I did become fascinated by the mythology, and by the eventual explanation of what and who the Voice is. I’m not sure how much I liked the resolution, but it did feel right.

I remember reading Interview with a Vampire years ago, and being absolutely spellbound by the language and the story. Anne Rice, at her best, is a master of literary seduction. Prince Lestat falls somewhat short of that mark, but it’s a fascinating story nonetheless.

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Thank you to Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell

20819685How can I even begin to talk about David Mitchell’s The Bone ClocksTouted as Mitchell’s most ambitious, most “Mitchell-esque” novel ever, this massive beauty of a book kept me enthralled for an entire weekend. I devoured this book, unable to put it down. I took it with me as my sister and I went around Toronto, lugging the 600+ pages just for the briefest snippets stolen on the subway, or the blissfully long wait for a movie to begin… and the weight was so worth it.

First: major, major kudos to Peter Mendelsund and Oliver Munday for this beautiful cover. All respect for the UK cover, but this one has such ethereal beauty that I would encourage purchasing a copy just for the cover art (something that in the past, I’ve only really suggested for Chip Kidd covers).

Then, the story itself is a series of layers that spans about a century, with all of the stories delicately, intricately intertwined. I wish I were more familiar with Mitchell’s body of work, as I’ve heard he includes a lot of characters from previous books in this story, and it would have been pretty mind-blowing to recognize them as they appeared. The story begins with fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes, who runs away from home after an argument with her mother. As a child, she used to hear what she called “the radio people,” mysterious figures who we barely understand till much later in the book. A psychologist “cures” Holly of these visions, but unfortunately, she can never truly escape. The story follows her journey, and the lives of the people she touches — a Cambridge scholarship boy, a war journalist unable to connect with his family, a middle-aged writer who goes too far in beating down his rival, and so on. Each of these figures narrates a section of the story, and each of them encounters “the radio people,” at times with horrifying results.

The story reminds me of Stephen King’s books, with its creepy, surreal feel, and also of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life in its epic sweep yet intimate tone. While I felt that Atkinson’s Life After Life fell short of its promise, Mitchell holds the narrative together well, and I found The Bone Clocks to be a much better constructed book. The book jacket describes the novel as “kaleidoscopic” and that’s a great way to describe it. Every time I felt like I was just beginning to grasp the story, something else happens, and it always felt like I was just glancing off the edge of what the story was really about.

Around three quarters of the way into the novel, we finally learn what the mysterious radio people are about, and the story settles pretty firmly into supernatural thriller mode. We learn about an age old battle between good and evil, with Holly and the other characters merely innocent pawns. I was expecting the stakes to be somewhat higher and the battle to be somewhat more epic, but I still love how all the threads came together, especially the significance of the image on the US cover.

My only real disappointment with this book was the final section. I’m sure Mitchell had his reasons for extending the story that far into the future, but after such a fantastical, epic, sweeping narrative in the previous sections, this one just felt like a letdown. It was a return to a feeling of reality, and a way to tie up remaining loose ends, and I just felt about it like I did about the epilogue of Harry Potter.

Still, overall, a beautiful, fantastic story. I love David Mitchell’s Ghostwrittennumber9dream and Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet — a wide range of stories that demonstrates how versatile this author isThe Bone Clocks, by many accounts, is his most ambitious yet, and in true David Mitchell form, he pulls it off with flair.

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Thank you to Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | The Winter People, Jennifer McMahon

18007535What if you could bring the dead back to life? If you’ve read Stephen King or seen any number of classic horror movies, it should be pretty obvious that this is never a good idea. A character says as much near the beginning of this book, only to be told that someday, she just may love someone enough to seriously consider it.

Indeed. A mother loses her child. A woman loses her husband. Two children lose their mother. Loss is everywhere in this book, and Stephen King nightmares aside, how much can we really blame anyone for wanting just a few extra days with a loved one?

That being said, as we all know, the reality is never as good as we imagine. In Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People reanimated corpses called sleepers are rumoured to haunt the woods, and in classic horror story tradition, these sleepers turn out to be rather thirsty for human blood. Reviews on Goodreads have compared it to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, which either I’ve never read or it freaked me out so much I’ve blocked it completely from my memory. If you have read it, that might give you an idea of what to expect.

There is a Stephen King feel to McMahon’s book, particularly near the end. The story spans over a century, and refers to several mysterious deaths over the years, but McMahon keeps her focus tight and intimate. There is Sara in 1908, who has grown up hearing tales of sleepers in the woods from her Auntie who practices dark magic. When Sara’s daughter Gertie dies, Sara’s desire to be reunited with her leads to mysterious knocks in the night and notes in childish handwriting suggesting Gertie had been murdered.

The story switches between Sara’s story and the present day, with sisters Ruthie and Fawn living in the house Sara used to live. When their mother goes missing, their search for answers leads them to discover Sara’s story and realize that the tales of sleepers in the woods may be real after all. Also in the present day is Katherine, who discovers her husband met with a mysterious woman before he died, and her investigation into the last day of his life leads her to Ruthie and Fawn, and to Sara’s story.

It’s a scary book, though the supernatural elements weren’t quite explored enough to haunt the reader past the last page. The reveal about Gertie’s murderer mostly just confused me, and I had to flip back to see what I’d missed, and with regard to the ending, a couple of the characters appear far too easily accepting of their fates. Overall, it’s a good weekend read, an atmospheric, creepy tale that I can easily imagine being adapted for screen.

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Thank you to Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.