Prince Lestat

Wow, I bet none of you were expecting this; an eleventh Vampire Chronicle long after the series was said to be over. And considering the last one was so relatively anti-climactic to be so positioned in the series, now we finally have a book worthy of being called a finale. Though of course you may have heard that this is not in fact going to be the last one, and another is already planned for next year. And I could not be happier.

This is very much a “where are they now” kind of book, and we get updates on characters major and (very) minor, and even some completely new ones. Of course a lot of time has passed since Blood Canticle, and this book positively revels in it. Are the vampires Mac or PC kind of people? Do they carry cell phones, do they send emails? The answers to these seemingly irrelevant questions are actually deeply etched into the plot, so that the newness of it all is much more than just a gimmick. This is brilliant storytelling, and fresh on many levels. We’re treated to Anne Rice’s signature romantic style without being bogged down by endless poetry. This is a book where things really happen. Of course I do still have to wonder if they like Netflix as much as I do.

Now, what’s a “where are they now” story without some review of where they’ve been? The Vampire Chronicles have always been written in such a way that if you read them out of order you won’t be lost, but they sure do sell each other. This game plan is in effect here more than ever, and Anne Rice seems to especially recognize that since it’s been so long since the last book, our memories might need a little refreshment. But this is done expertly here, not as a long-winded recap but with just enough tantalizing details to thoroughly involve earlier books into the latest plot. And as I said before, things really do happen. It’s not just an update, but it’s filled with fresh new events and dramatic plot twists worthy of M. Night Shamyalan that do more for the series as a whole than any of these books since Blood and Gold. And trust me, if this is the first Chronicle you read, you will be driven a little nuts with curiosity. The series has really evolved here, and all the references to the ways of the contemporary world don’t seem the least bit out of place but blend almost seamlessly into a storyline we’ve grown to love over the past almost forty years. This is brilliant, especially since this addition is sure to attract some new readers who are too young to have read the earlier books the first time around.

But I’m bad for not giving away spoilers. I can’t even buy someone a gift without telling them about it as soon as they payment has been processed. So let me meet you a fraction of the way. There’s science in this book, and it results in multiple conversations you would only expect to hear on Coast To Coast. Whereas the others have been purely about history, religion, art, and all the things included in your typical Bachelor of Arts curriculum, this new and unexpected subject actually gets a place at the head of the table here. After all, at least once science course is required in a B.A. So this may be perfectly appropriate for the latest lesson in our education about the Vampires.

Now aren’t you just positively thirsting to pick this one up? 😉

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Vittorio the Vampire

Well, what can I really say. It’s an Anne Rice book. That should probably tell you all you need to know. As this was the only one of her vampire books (with the exception of the upcoming Prince Lestat) I can confirm that your expectations will probably prove to be correct.

It’s heavily religious. The main character claims that he’ll speak naturally instead of like some… I don’t know, let’s call it a fancy-ass guilded flower. And of course, he lies. It’s not that big a deal that he tends to be long-winded though, as this isn’t a particularly long book by anyone’s standards. But I’m a little confused about the part where the plot just breaks off and starts again as though nothing happened in between scene A and scene B… it makes no sense, unless maybe someone can explain it to me. And the scene where he (finally!) gets made a vampire is unusually anti-climactic. It disappointed me, and it’s odd for a book like this. And the romance part…. Anne Rice is no stranger to romance, but usually it’s dark and gothic. This is somehow oddly sappy and just plain strange. It seems somehow quite out of character for Vittorio. Ursula’s spell over this guy must be pretty powerful, because he just doesn’t seem the type, at least in the face of all that he experiences here. But Vittorio is a good guy, I don’t want to say I dislike him as a character. He’s not particularly annoying, as can sometimes happen. And his personality fits well with the period in which this all takes place. No, there’s not a whole lot to complain about here, besides maybe that it doesn’t really break any new boundaries despite being the only vampire book truly cut-off from all the characters and events we’re otherwise familiar with.

If you’re into this sort of thing, definitely give it a go. If you’re not, then don’t. That’s about all I have to say about it.

DIY Bookshelf

If you’re like me and you have a habit of occasionally reading and getting angry, as most people do, you’ll know that “bookcases” sold in stores exist only for storing a small pot of flowers and a couple CDs. Trying to store actual books on them is an absurd idea, as you will no doubt see here.

Sonofabitch!!

It is almost always true that the older something is, the more it was built to last. So vintage or antique bookcases are always superior, and often more beautiful,  but not always affordable. It may also happen that the place in which you’d like to store your books is not ideal for a bookcase. So this, Strangers, is why I built my own, and why you should consider doing so too.

First of all, this shelf is built right into the wall, instead of being a standalone book case. So to give it a more “complete” look as opposed to something just floating (which is still not at all a bad choice) I covered the wall where the shelves would be with an accenting wallpaper, which came in a little roll at Walmart. Our living room is a beautiful grey-blue, so for the wallpaper I chose a distressed silver damask. I would also love to make a second accent with this above the mantle, but that will be for another day. The exact height of the paper doesn’t really matter. I matched mine up with the light switch and thus is looks somewhat like a back splash. You may want to get some help with this, because putting it up is very awkward. Consider it a team-building exercise.

A shelf I built 8 years ago with bird feeder hangers, and a great place to display my sword.

Next up, the brackets. To know how far up the shelves need to be from each other, measure with your largest book. That way you’ll know that all of your books will fit and won’t have to be placed front end down, because that’s annoying and you can’t easily see what the book is that way. As far as horizontal distance, we placed each bracket more towards the center than on the absolute edges of the space to prevent bowing of the shelves. The longer your shelves are of course, the more brackets you’ll need. You can get these at different price points from Home Depot, but years ago I used beautiful wrought iron bird feeder hangers that cost just $2 each, so keep in mind that improvising is totally ok here. Remember also to use a level.

For our own shelves we salvaged what was left of the old bookcase, but barring any available scrap you can get some small sturdy shelf boards from Home Depot or even better just cut some solid wood to size and stain it the shade of rich mahogany, or whatever color you prefer. You don’t absolutely need to secure the boards to the brackets. We didn’t. You’ll see here that although we used a level, the boards appear to be slanted. This is because the actual house is slanted, so what can you do.

Because our baseboards are quite high and we didn’t want to ruin them with holes, we used the baseboards themselves as a support system for the bottom shelf. To prop up the remaining corner we piled beautiful yet totally useless old dictionaries to the correct height. If your house is similar to ours in this way you can do the same thing, and use anything you like here, like a pretty dowel or a skull.

Speaking of skulls, no spooky library is complete without one, so among some of the decorative features I placed on the shelves is a beautiful skull candle. The wax inside is red so it looks like it’s bleeding when you light it, but we thought it was just too pretty to burn. Don’t overdo the decorations though, this is a place for books after all. If your decorative items are heavy and unbreakable enough you can use them as book ends. Just to be sure though I used some cheap standard ones I got from Staples. You’re going to need book ends if your shelf doesn’t have sides!

Ta-Da!

Creating shelf space in this way doesn’t have to be just for books, and is ideal for small spaces. We did this for night stands, and you can also put a very long shelf on the wall behind your couch to act as a console table or end table. You can even create a lovely little surface by lining an old drawer with beautiful wall paper and hanging it vertically on the wall as you can see in this lovely example. Of course once I do this I’ll probably still fill it with books.