Fairy Files: The Genealogy Of Lucas Ballanheim

Originally, Lucas' physically appearance was based on Isaac from Golden Sun. As of now his exact appearance is a little up in the air, but he still wears a scarf, though it's more reminiscent of Lightning's clipped-on side scarf from Final Fantasy XIII

Originally, Lucas’ physically appearance was based on Isaac from Golden Sun. As of now his exact appearance is a little up in the air, but he still wears a scarf, though it’s more reminiscent of Lightning’s clipped-on side scarf from Final Fantasy XIII

Fairy Files is an attempt for me to get down in one place all of the ideas for my novel. It isn’t an official guide, or a companion that would be accurate to the final book, since the book is still to be finished. The novel itself, called at different times Fairy Tale, The Fairy’s Awakening, or having no title at all, has undergone so many changes that not all incarnations of the story were lasting or best for the story, but I want them to be recorded for my own memory as much as anything else.

Lucas Ballanheim has been the central character of this story from the beginning. The entire story began when I was watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and was really fascinated by the character of Hohenheim. I really love it when a character is so superior in magical ability that they can create earthquakes standing in place or do other incredible feats with their vast unseen reserves of magical power. I started to think about a young character who would have similar power to Hohenheim, and initially I called this character Hohenheim, mostly brainstorming about him in the shower. Eventually I decided on a first name of Lucas; I was reading a Star Wars novel called Outcast at the time and I had the sudden realization that obviously George Lucas must have named the character Luke after himself, a fact that I’m sure even the most casual Star Wars fan must have already observed, but one that slipped by me. A lot of really obvious things get past me in life because I’m usually looking for deeper meaning and missing things on the surface; I think this is the reason why I’m often caught by surprise by incredibly inane plot twists that are easily foreseeable and surprise no one else. It’s also what had discouraged me in the past and made me think I’m no good at coming up with plot twists, I think as I’ve grown I’ve learned that the way I twist a plot is more subtle and detailed, so there aren’t as many huge reveals, or at least I don’t know that there will be.

Lucas Hohenheim was initially my main character, and I had given him a best friend named Hephaestion and set him in a kingdom called Alexandria as the prince. I chose the name Alexandria because of my inspiration with the city of Alexandria in Final Fantasy IX, and of course that fictional city is named after the real city of Alexandria set up in the real world by the conqueror Alexander the Great. When I was a teenager I remember my brother watching the movie Alexander, and I was really interested in a character named Hephaestion played by Jared Leto who had been Alexander’s best friend from childhood and was also his lover. I was even more interested to learn that this is in fact based in history, and that there is a lot of evidence that the real Alexander was indeed Hephaestion’s lover, so I wanted to have a parallel there in my story. I like to try and recognize gay romance when it occurs in history in places you don’t expect it: apart from Alexander and Hephaestion, my other favorite historical romance is King David (yes, that King David, the one from the Bible) and his lover Jonathan, whose sex scene is all but spelled out in the Bible itself, but Biblical scholars trip over themselves trying to explain it away as a close friendship. And this dealing with a character as notoriously romantic and sexual as David.

Anyhow, I had very little in the beginning apart from some names and some ideas. I knew that Hephaestion (for the first couple of years I erroneously spelled his name “Hephaestian,” and then kept it that way for a while after discovering the correct spelling, before finally converting) was Lucas’ romantic interest, and I had a vague concept of the two being joined by a forest goddess in a kind of faux-wedding ceremony bonding a guardian (Hephaestion) and his charge (Lucas). At this early point in the story not much else was concrete, and I had to mull over a lot of ideas before the plot came even a little bit into focus.

Eventually I decided that it would be too obviously derivative to keep Lucas’ last name Hohenheim, so I modified it to Ballanheim, which is what is has remained. In various versions of the story, Ballanheim is either not his true name or a name he’s adopted, but that’s the name that’s stuck with him. Often I get ideas for characters based on small details: Bronwen’s entire character seemed to be formed around her name and then around the idea of a red coat similar to the Red Mage outfit from Final Fantasy, Lucas was inspired by the name Hohenheim and it’s connections to the magical abilities of the alchemist from which I borrowed the name, Imogen’s entire inclusion in the story at all came from the fact that when I briefly tried to write the story using RPG Maker, I liked the character sprite of a witch, and so I made her a party member. Small details end up creating complex characters. Hephaestion’s entire identity was simply based on the fact that I wanted Lucas to have a gay relationship with a naming parallel to the Alexander and Hephaestion of history.

In one early concept scene, I attempted to switch the focus of the story to another character named Oliver. Oliver comes from an entirely separate story centered around vampire mythology that I began when I seventeen, and the original version of which is now lost. I also tried to combine Lucas’ story (at some times called Fairy Tale or The Fairy’s Awakening) with yet another story I never really finished called Jared and Cornelia, and early concept scenes show these connections as well. At one point Lucas was going to be a member of the main cast with Oliver at the center of the story as a human dealing with mages, vampires, and gods. This idea never really continued after the initial scene I wrote with Oliver speaking to Lucifer in the underworld (in fact I barely remembered the scene at all and had to go back and check to see just who the narrator of the scene was, I’d forgotten it was Oliver and assumed it was an unnamed protagonist).

I can’t say exactly how Lucas evolved at exactly when, but eventually I wrote the first version of my opening scene, which has been re-written several times. I wrote it by hand in a notebook and I don’t actually know what happened to that notebook but I’m hoping I still have it somewhere. The scene primarily consisted of Lucas standing, naked in front of a mirror, in his own room while he telekenetically whirled flames around the room and around himself. I got the idea for him closing his eyes and reaching out with “mind fingers” to grab the flames from reading Anne Rice’s depiction of how Akasha and other vampires in her story used an almost physical extension of their mind to set other vampires aflame. I remember it being important to me that Lucas was naked in that opening scene because I wanted to describe him in intimate detail: the light blonde hair covering his stomach, his penis and his testicles, his thighs and of course most importantly his face, the eye and hair color associated with which have been changed a hundred times and even now I’m not sure what exactly Lucas looks like. He probably has dirty blonde hair and blue or green eyes (they can’t be brown because one of Hephaestion’s defining characteristics is that he has brown eyes to match his curly greek-style chestnut hair). As for his reason for being naked, it’s because I like to describe things that I don’t often see described in other books, things that make scenes feel more realistic: you don’t ever really read about a character idly scratching their nose for absolutely no reason relevant to the plot, or pulling their undergarments out of their but, or masturbating just because they wanted to masturbate and not to drive a specific romance. I’m drawn to the idea of a naked and beautiful prince in front of a mirror more than I am of a clothed prince, so that’s what I went with.

I knew from the beginning Lucas was a prince, but a comment early on from someone pointing out that a blonde-haired blue eyed prince with magic powers seemed incredibly cliche, and that comment has stuck with me and always bothered me a bit because it’s absolutely true, but if I alter something about Lucas I want it to be because it’s true to his character, not just because I was following a (valid) criticism. He’s remained royal in some fashion or another, and only incredibly recently (within the last two days) did I consider changing his status to that of a governor’s son. It’s important that he be wealthy and a little spoiled because that’s an important part of his character; he has to survive in a wild and untamed world without the comfort he’s accustomed to, and he has to be continually surprised by the new places and people he discovers, so that I and the reader can continue to be surprised.

Lucas parentage has been pretty consistent. I knew that my villain was going to be a character whose name I still haven’t exactly pinpointed, but he started as Braeg Ballanehim, then became Elliot Varner, and sometimes a reversal of Varner Elliot. I still haven’t decided what his name should be but for the most part I refer to him as Varner. Varner is some kind of important figure, the de facto leader of Alexandria, because the royal family has no power. He’s also Lucas’ abusive father, but this fact is concealed from everyone with few exceptions: Hephaestion is the only person Lucas has ever told, and if Varner knew he would probably have Hephaestion silenced in some way or at least threaten him to keep him quiet. Lucas is the prince, but there is no king and queen. Why this hasn’t made Lucas king, when he’s been of young adult age for the entirety of his character’s development, I couldn’t tell you. He’s just the prince. His mother died in childbirth and his presumed father the king has died in a number of ways and never been important to the story, because his real father is Varner.

In the version of Varner’s story that I like best, he was a councilman for Alexandria who began an illicit affair with the queen, whose name I’ve never decided on. The queen had never produced an heir for the king, and as these things go it was of course assumed that she was barren, when in fact there were complications with her own body as well as the kings, she had become pregnant once before but lost the child quickly, and had never conceived since. She also didn’t have sex with the king often because she wasn’t particularly interested in him and only consented to it when he made an advance on her. The queen has always been a good-hearted character, though I imagine her marriage to the king was done without her consent and she’s lived a troubled life because of it. She and Varner began an affair and she became pregnant with his child, which delighted her and quickly became news, everyone assuming that she and the king would finally have a son. Varner, though at this point not quite the angry psycopath he would later become, was unhappy with this turn of events for a few reasons: first, because he had great plans in mind for Alexandria and hadn’t though about bringing a child into the world before but would be completely against it if he had not already transformed Alexandria into the vision he had for it; second, because he did not want his child being assumed to be the son of the king, a man he loathed. Though he felt guilty about it, he convinced himself that the most prudent course of action was to terminate the pregnancy, but didn’t want to directly hurt the queen in the process, so he sought out a potion from a witch that would kill an unborn child.

As it happens, the witch who gave him this potion would turn out to be the adopted mother of Imogen (a character later to become one of the main cast but at this point not yet born), an old woman alternately named Phoebe or Samantha, and she agreed to his request without much disapproval. Varner slips her the potion and to his surprise it has exactly the reverse effect on her: the queen is invigorated by the potion and the baby is more healthy than ever. The queen also exhibits some slight magical ability, such as making flowers bloom or bringing life to things she touches. She may also have exhibited the fabled White Magic (or healing, life-giving magic), which is something that will be important elsewhere in the story, but which I’m going to assume parents of mages can perform a limited amount of while growing the life of a magical child within them. Furious, Varner goes back to the witch, and after threatening her he learns from her that the only way the potion could have failed would have been if the child itself was magical being, capable of absorbing the magic within the potion that would ordinarily have killed the child. Not knowing about the history of a group known as the mages, Varner assumes the child is a descendant of witches, and though it’s within Phoebe’s power to make a potion that can kill an unborn witch, she at first refuses, but relents when Varner threatens to kill the children she watches over in her secluded home in the forest. Phoebe weeps when giving him the potion, confessing that for a witch to kill another witch, especially an unborn, is a sin of the highest order, and he mocks her hypocrisy by pointing out that she had no problem giving him a potion to kill an ordinary unborn child with no inherent magic. Phoebe attempts to dissaude Varner from using the potion by reading his future against his will, seeing that his child is a son who will become a great leader one day.

Varner feels conflicted about slipping the queen the potion. He was unsure of himself the first time, but this time, upon seeing the effect of the last potion, and wondering exactly how this new one might affect the queen herself, as well as learning a few details about his unborn child, he can’t help but feel love for the baby and doesn’t want to kill it. He steels himself, believing it’s his duty not to bring a child into the world as it is now, and gives the queen the potion. Rather than killing the child, it causes her to go into labor with the child early, and Varner hides himself in a wardrobe in the queen’s chamber as he witnesses the birth of his son. The queen begins slipping away during the birth and her handmaids go to bring a physician, but Varner bars the door and prevents entrance to her room, going over to the bed and speaking with her before she dies. She smiles and asks Varner to take care of their son. He attempts to confess his actions to her but is too late even to tell her he loves her, and she dies. Heartbroken and enraged, Varner slips out the window as guards and physicians break into the queen’s room. A wake is held that night for the queen, and afterward Varner sneaked into the king’s chamber and murders him, refusing to allow the king to raise Varner’s child.

Varner soon after meets the baby for the first time, and witnesses the child exhibiting faint magical ability. Feeling conflicted over his love for the child, he considers the baby to be the cause of the death of the woman he loves as well as a forestalling of his own plans to become ruler of Alexandria. Conflicted by a mixture of innate love for the child, his grief over losing the queen and his further love of the child for being all he has left of her, an anger at the child for ending it’s mothers life, and ultimately profound anger at himself for bringing the whole situation to pass, Varner offers to adopt the child in his capacity as a councilman and the offer is seen as generous and selfless, so it’s allowed. The prince remains living in the castle but Varner is to be his surrogate father (though he is of course the child’s actual father). He is allowed to name the baby and gives him the name Lucas, and begins to hate the boy as a means of covering up his own guilt. Lucas is given the last name of Ballanheim, the name of the fallen king.

more to come…

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2013: My Literary Journey

I look so ditzy in this picture.

I look so ditzy in this picture.

At the beginning of this year I made myself a list of goals. I failed most of them. However, one of them was to take the Goodreads reading challenge, which is a feature on the aforementioned website where you challenge yourself to read a certain number of books in a year. I wasn’t sure what number I should go with, as even though I own a great amount of books, I’m kind of a slow reader. My initial pick was 30 books, but at the last minute (being minutes ago) I changed it to 20, and realized I had actually already reached my goal! Is it an empty victory because I kind of rigged the system to fit my needs? No, because I still read 20 books, and just like on virtual pet sites, reading books increases your intelligence. Usually.

And here are the books I read in the year 2013.

Novels

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Dead Until Dark
by Charlaine Harris

This was an easy read, and an absolutely ridiculous book. The author has kind of made it clear in interviews about the series that a large part of why she writes the books is money, and it really shows. A telepathic waitress falls in love with a Civil War veteran who also happens to be a vampire. She’s also being courted by a shapeshifter who stalks her as a dog. Good things about this book: it was cute, it was fantasy, and it was interesting. Bad things: the stereotypes were drawn with magic marker. There are two gay characters in the book: the first one we meet is a man infected with AIDS who is trying to infect a vampire with it and kill him. The second is a flamboyant drug dealer who sleeps with vampires and steals their blood. Both of these stereotypes (the AIDS-spreader and the drug-dealing slut) have been bad images that have been superimposed onto gay people for decades, and I find it extremely ironic that this woman has won some kind of award for gay rights because she includes gay characters in her books. Don’t get me wrong, there are gay villains in the world, but I don’t think you qualify as a gay rights activist if your gay characters are harmful stereotypes and your supposedly accepting protagonist basically says several times in the novel that she just overlooks the fact that the gay people she knows are gay, as opposed to actually being an accepting person.

In addition to this, the novel is a parody of everything southern, and unfortunately it seems to take itself totally seriously. The character development is lacking, as there are something like thirty characters in the book and apart from the main four or so, each gets about two lines of dialogue, and once Sookie and Bill sleep together, they never have another conversation for the rest of the novel, they just fuck on every other page. I find it very disturbing that Sookie reveals to Bill that she was molested by her uncle (oh look, more fun stereotypes), and Bill’s immediate reaction is to get all turned on and force himself on her, before leaving her asleep to go and murder her uncle. It’s just… really ridiculous. And I will finish my thoughts on the book thusly: Elvis Presley is a character in the book. The real, actual Elvis Presley. He is a vampire. I am not making this up. Moving on.

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Sense and Sensibility
by Jane Austen

Ah, now onto something a lot more classy. The first Jane Austen novel I read was Pride and Prejudice, and I was surprised by how hilarious I found it and how extremely enjoyable it was to read. I was expecting the same experience from this book and I got it to a lesser degree. The story was basically structured the same way as Pride and Prejudice: a woman meets a man who seems perfect, he turns into a complete jerk and breaks her heart, and then comes back to redeem himself, all while a wise elder sister wags her finger from the corner, before she herself falls madly in love with some charming devil herself. Well, it’s mostly the same thing here, but my issue is that the story is not as witty, the characters are not as funny or interesting, and the jerk who comes back to redeem himself actually proves himself to be even more of an asshole that we thought. For some reason, only the reader understands this, as the characters all forgive him his terrible behavior for no real reason. In the end, some marriages are thrown together for the sake of getting everybody married off and they all live “as happily as can be managed.”

Don’t get me wrong, this is actually a fantastic novel, it’s just not as good as I was hoping after having read Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen’s writing style is engaging and fast-paced, she doesn’t bother with minute details and entire months can pass in a paragraph; she gets on to the action and the dialogue and in every chapter there is a clear event that changed the characters or progresses their story in some way. Sense and Sensibility is a great novel, just maybe not the greatest Jane Austen novel. Still, I recommend it for someone interested in getting started with classic literature, although I might think Pride and Prejudice would be a much better starting point.

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City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare

And here we go. I was roped into reading The Mortal Instruments by people who worked with me at my old job. Let me simplify it: City of Bones is cute. It’s even interesting and entertaining. It is also completely unoriginal. Every single plot point is ripped from Final Fantasy and other video games, anime and manga, and other fantasy novels. It’s a hodge-podge of fairies, vampires, werewolves, and angels, thrown into a boiling pot. It made for an okay read, but I was very dissapointed by the lack of originality, and I saw every plot “twist” coming a mile away. It incorporates such overused favorites as: the best friend becomes a vampire, the brooding sexy guy is violent and abusive, the female protagonist is an idiot, and that old favorite, the villain is the protagonists father. Let’s also mention that there are cringe-worthy names like Lucian Greymark, the werewolf, Raphael the vampire (a direct rip in appearance and personality from Armand of Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles), and of course the evil demon-hunter amassing an army of nasty creatures to wipe out humanity Nazi-style: Valentine. It’s just… yeah.

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City of Ashes
by Cassandra Clare

And then I kept reading! Shame on me, I know, but by this point it has been revealed that the two main lovers are actually siblings, and now their passion has become the incestuous love that dare not speak it’s name. What bothers me isn’t that they’re siblings, it isn’t that they continue to make out after they learn that they’re siblings, it’s that the description of the back of the book describes Jace as Clary’s sexy newfound brother, and kind of says up front: “Oh yeah, you ready for some steamy sibling love?” It’s just… unusual. “Unforseen” plot “twists” in this edition: the bad guy is gathering not one, not two, but three instruments of great power to summon forth the armies of hell and take over Hyrule, I mean the world, the best friend vampire becomes a SPECIAL vampire that can go out in daylight, and yet oddly after months, his mother notices no change in him whatsoever, and the main character is a magical savant with like, seriously extreme UBER ANGEL POWERS you guys, and they come from her talent as an artist, because she’s like, really misunderstood and stuff, like for real. Oh, and did I mention there’s a gay warlock who literally shits glitter? Like, glitter actually flies off of him every time he blinks or gestures or walks across the room. It only gets more predictable from here, folks!

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City of Glass
by Cassandra Clare

And here we go, the third installment! Will all of the loose ends be tied up? Will the girl finally fuck her brother/lover and get it over with? Will we hurry up and kill the Hitler/Voldemort-style fascist enslave-everyone-to-do-my-bidding bad guy and go whee whee whee all the way home? Well, yeah. Pretty much. We learn that the protagonist is in fact NOT related to the love interest, who was born into one family that was killed so adopted by another who was killed and raised by the villain and given the same name as his real son who he kept in a cave around the corner who actually DOES want to fuck his sister and who is supposedly “killed” but will CLEARLY be coming back. Confusing? It’s alright, don’t think about it too hard, no one else did. The bad guy summons the power of the Triforce Mortal Instruments to get his one wish granted, and in a “surprising” twist the protagonist gets there FIRST! and she of course wishes for the bastard to die and for her loverboy who he just killed to come back to life. Both happen. There’s a party, we dance we kiss we shmooze we carry on we go home happy, whaddya say? As far as I’m concerned the series ends here. It ties up nearly every loose end, and any continuation of the series from here is clearly a marketing campaign. Though it was riddled with trite cliches, these three books were actually alright reads, just don’t go looking for any serious fantasy or deep, thought-provoking writing.

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The Order of the Poison Oak
by Brent Hartinger

Here we go! The first winner of the bunch. Like it’s predecessor Geography Club, I read this book in one sitting, and it made me cry just like the first one did. The lovable gay protagonist of Geography Club goes to summer camp and of course meets a buncha hot boys he’s crazy for, but the first one turns out to be a total player and in the end he not only helps a group of kids who are burn survivors to regain their self-confidence but he actually falls in love with fellow camp counselor and they have nice happy fool-around time on the lake. It’s all very sweet, and I really, really enjoyed it.

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Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies & Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies
by Brent Hartinger

Unfortunately, though the second Russel Middlebrook installment was as great as the first, the third one totally nosedives into barely interesting. There are some standard gay teen lit moments: parents being cold, unfeeling homophobes, priests trying to turn gay kids straight, and a love triangle between the ex-boyfriend and the new boyfriend, but for the most part this book was just boring. I wasn’t moved, I was barely even interested. The romance between Russel and his new boyfriend just disappears, he has a dramatic moment with his ex that we don’t get an explanation for, and the book is divided into two stories: the filming of a low-budget zombie film and all the teen drama that entails from Russel’s point of view, and the same thing from his best friend Min’s point of view. After you read the climax of the story less than halfway through the book, you have to go right back through the exposition again from another character’s perspective and claw your way to the other side of the climax to see what really happened. I almost couldn’t get myself to finish it, it was that much of a let-down.

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Pendragon: The Rivers of Zadaa
by D.J. MacHale

I have really loved the Pendragon series since I read the first five installments as a teenager, and I was very interested to know what happens next. It seems to be the consensus that this book is less intense and more formulaic than the ones before it: the main character, a dimension-traveling hero arrives in a strange new world, undergoes the trials therein, uncovers a plot that will lead to the worlds destruction, has a Rocky-like training montage, and goes to save the world, all while tiny bits of the overarching storyline are peppered in. At the end of this book though, I just didn’t feel like I could handle waiting four more books and going through countless, ultimately pointless sidequests, just to figure out what the hell the real story is, and what’s underneath everything, so I spent about another hour or so just flipping through the remaining books in the series to see what the hell is really going on and how things end. For the record, it was a little dissapointing, but I doubt I’ll ever return to this series to read the fully fleshed-out versions of the final four installments.

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A Lion Among Men
by Gregory Maguire

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is one of my favorite books. It literally touches on every single aspect of what it is to be a living being: it covers sexuality, religion, politics, and the dirty underbelly of who people really are, all with a lot of really fun and witty wordplay. Well, after the success of the Wicked musical, Maguire returned to write a sequel called Son of a Witch, which, apart from having some legitimate gay romance, no matter how fleeting, was very lukewarm and felt like it was riding on the coattails of Wicked rather than continuing the story. I think the premise of writing sequels to Wicked almost ruins the point of the book itself, because it ends when the Witch dies. We know she’s going to die. We know the story of her life is a tragedy. There isn’t a happy ending tied up with a bow, there are huge existential questions and an ending that really makes you think. The sequels kind of ruin this atmosphere.

That being said, A Lion Among Men wasn’t bad. It’s centers around two characters: Brr, also known as the Cowardly Lion, and Yackle, an enigmatic figure from the original book who hovered around the edges of Elphaba’s life. I won’t give away the ending, but all of the parts about Yackle were very interesting and gave a broader view of the events in Wicked. As for Brr’s life, it was mostly his self-indulgent soul-searching travels across Oz (like Liir in Son of a Witch) and some kinky cat sex. It kind of sets up for a big finale in the final book, and yet it also kind of drops off right as soon as the action ends. An enigma of sorts, but interesting nontheless, and hopefully the final installment will make all this buildup worth it.

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The Queen of the Damned
by Anne Rice

As with A Lion Among Men, this novel is a sequel to one of my favorite books ever: The Vampire Lestat. Anne Rice’s style is mostly unchanged: vivid, gorgeous descriptions of old castles and echoing cathedrals, intense, blood-soaked, heart-pounding passion, and the ocassional run-on chapter describing how frickin’ wonderful New Orleans is. We get it Anne, you really, REALLY like New Orleans. That being said, this book is actually the origin story for the rest of the Vampire Chronicles, it explains how the vampires came into existance and reunites a lot of lost loves with one another. Though there is a sense of danger in the terrifyingly powerful Queen Akasha, the most interesting parts of the story are the flashbacks to the origin story of the vampires, which takes place in ancient Egypt. Though I didn’t love this book as much as The Vampire Lestat, and I am STILL upset that there’s an entire character arc that takes place in one chapter, introducing a character, explaining her life, and then killing her at the end, it definitely feels like the missing chapter and the final piece of the puzzle laid out in Interview With the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat.

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Beauty’s Punishment
by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

This is the sequel to The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, a sadomasochistic erotic take on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. I feel compelled to mention, however, that the Sleeping Beauty tale is only used as a jumping off point for the story, because after the prince awakens the sleeping beauty with a kiss and a few impassioned thrusts into her virgin sex, the story has nothing whatsoever to do with the fairy tale, that I can tell at least. In fact, there really is very little plot in the Beauty books, it’s mostly a series of intense erotic fantasies brought to life in an ornate sexual dreamworld, kind of like an endlessly pounding orgasm that goes on for page after page, with very little over-arching story. As such, it was a good read for those qualities, but not because of a strong narrative and a deep back story; like with the first Sleeping Beauty book, this is more of an exploration of the human psyche, emotions and sexuality. There are metaphors for the human experience aplenty, particularly that of losing one’s virginity and growing as a sexual and emotional and living being. It’s a beautiful book, but it’s also grade A masturbation material, and I think it’s meant to be such.

Biographies

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
by Jenny Lawson

This is the hilarious life story of Jenny Lawson, who you may also know as the Bloggess. To put it simply, I frequently laughed so hard that I couldn’t hold the book still and had to stop reading just so I could laugh. The woman is hilarious, and she not only talks about her insane upbringing but also about the realities of dealing with severe, crippling anxiety, death, family, and growing up. Also there are some taxidermy animals and a proposal story that involves both suspicion of murder and kneeling in broken glass. Enough said.

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Bossypants
by Tina Fey

Tina Fey’s autobiography was unfortunately not nearly as entertaining as Jenny Lawson’s. It describes Tina’s childhood and career as an actress and writer, the development process of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, with a few hilarious anecdotes here and there. Unfortunately the hilarious anecdotes get fewer and fewer, and though the tone remains light and funny throughout, I stopped laughing after the first half of the book and was just ready to be done. But it was still funny, and I’ll definitely give her that. Also, there’s an example of a “racy joke” somewhere in this book that is the most horrifyingly funny thing I’ve read in a while.

Graphic Novels

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Parts 1 & 2)
by Arika Himekawa

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Fullmetal Alchemist (Vol. 2 & Vol. 3)
by Hiromu Arakawa

Sonic Genesis

Sonic: Genesis
by Ian Flynn

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The Sandman: Vol. 1 – Preludes & Nocturnes
The Sandman: Vol. 2 – The Doll’s House
by Neil Gaiman

I’m not going to go into detail about all of the graphic novels I read, because frankly they are what they are. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time parts 1 & 2 were just slightly altered versions of the story of the original Nintendo 64 game, the second and third volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist were exactly the same story that you may have seen in either version of the anime, and Sonic the Hedgehog was, well, Sonic the Hedgehog. He got the Chaos Emeralds, transformed into Super Sonic, and beat Doctor Eggman, what else is there to talk about? I do want to mention Sandman by Neil Gaiman though, because this is a story I’ve wanted to read for a long time, and I finally got the chance to start. It is downright terrifying and extremely interesting, it builds a huge cosmology of gods and fantasy creatures that actually manages to be completely original while still borrowing heavily from various mythologies, and eventually I’m going to get to the character who shares a lot of personality traits with Tori Amos. I highly recommend Sandman, and I look forward to continuing the series, but as for the rest, I could take them or leave them, to be honest.

I mean, I've really gotta start reading some of these goddamn books.

I mean, I’ve really gotta start reading some of these goddamn books.

And there it is! The twenty books I read in 2013! Yeah, I know six of them were graphic novels but frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I’m just proud of myself for having gotten so much reading done this year. However I really feel that I didn’t gain all too much from reading so many books, I was mostly just trying to rack up numbers for my year end score, and it felt more like a marathon or a competition than the actual experience of sitting down and reading and immersing myself in a story. As such, I think I will take the reading challenge again next year, but lower it to perhaps 12 books, one for each month, or even something lower, so that I can take my time and really absorb what I’m reading. I enjoy reading, but not enough to constitute reading 30 books in a year, at least not yet.