Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Now reading: Claudia's Story

Meticulously extracted from the pages of Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice's seminal novel, Claudia's Story relates the tale of the vampire who never should have been through the eyes of the titular character, providing new insights into her mind and story. Lavishly illustrated by Ashely Marie Witter in her debut novel, this volume is a treasured addition to the library of any Anne Rice aficionado (from the inside flap).

I am re-reading this because I want to re-enter the world of the vampires, and now, truly, finally, read Anne's works in chronological novel. I know, I should begin again with Interview, but if I "begin" here at least I'll have a visual of how the characters look like. Plus I am sure I can do it in one sitting.

The illustrations are gothic, beautiful, morbid at times, but always elegant. If you find a copy of this in your bookstore, do not hesitate to get it.

I suspect it would fill in any questions we may have in the plot of Interview, as Claudia is such an enigmatic character that often Louis was surprised and astounded by her words and actions.

Claudia will always be my favorite vampire.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Realigning

photo credit Amazon.com
I have my battered copy of Prism of the Night, a biography of Anne Rice written by Katherine Ramsland on my desk, and I am considering following it now as I read Anne's books chronologically (in the order they were published), which was the original intent of this blog.

I got sidetracked by a lot of reading, and my excitement to read Anne's latest novels that came out since this blog's inception.

So, to realign with the original intent of this blog, I will read Prism of the Night, and alongside it, the novels mentioned and noted in the book. Granted it will only take me so far as The Tale of the Body Thief, but at least I have some guide to work on.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Literary vs Genre Fiction

Since I never finished school I am continually taking up courses and reading books to augment my education. Right now I am informally auditing and online creative writing crash course taught by Ursula K. Le Guin, where aspiring writers such as I am send her questions and she responds with her sharp wit and no-bullshit advice.

Someone asked Ursula the difference between literary and genre fiction, and she replied, "A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about Genre Fiction vs Literary Fiction in which I stated Le Guin’s Hypothesis: Literature is the extant body of written art. All novels belong to it. I find this saves a lot of head-scratching."

Naturally I am a fan of speculative and gothic fiction, but I am also on the lookout for widening my reading repertoire and going beyond my literary comfort zones.

Anne Rice shared this link on her page and you can go there to join in the discussion. It's about writer David Mitchell speaking about what literary fiction as well. I haven't read Mitchell, but I'll be sure to check him out now.

Oh, today is Interview with the Vampire (the movie)'s 21st birthday! Gotta watch it again!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Amazon reviews hijacked by causes, conspiracies, rage

Original article appeared on Seattle Times.  As for me, I shall purchase Scarlett Lewis's book this Christmas, and post an honest review.

Amazon reviews hijacked by causes, conspiracies, rage

Most book authors know they need to endure critics, even comments that may be malicious and personal.
But the venom that runs through more than three dozen reviews on Amazon.com of Scarlett Lewis’ latest book are particularly scathing.

“This Scarlet Lewis person is a real sick human being,” writes one reviewer named Kevin.

“Scarlett Lewis is a fraud and a sellout to all of humanity,” writes another, anonymously.

“Scarlett Lewis is a lying traitor,” writes a reviewer named David Weiss.

Those reviews might suggest that Lewis is a polemic politician, treasonous spy or scurrilous financier. She’s none of these. Lewis is the mother of Jesse Lewis, a 6-year-old boy who was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School three years ago.

She wrote “Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness” to describe her journey after the massacre and help others choose love and forgiveness instead of anger and resentment in their darkest moments.

The rage in those reviews is fueled by the conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook shootings were a hoax, perpetuated by the government to push for tougher gun-control laws. Several were posted after a YouTube user who goes by the handle “RadMc02” uploaded a video on Oct. 18 encouraging viewers to “Truth Bomb the Shit Out of Amazon Reviews!”

Reviewers have long used Amazon as a platform to vent about products that failed to live up to their expectations. Some have even used it to attack authors whose views differ from their own.
Increasingly, though, people are launching coordinated campaigns to push political and social agendas through negative reviews often only tangentially related to the product for sale. They are able to do so because Amazon welcomes reviews regardless of whether the writer has actually purchased the product.
Lewis isn’t the only target of the Sandy Hook tragedy deniers. “We want to hit this woman as hard as we can,” says a narrator in a YouTube video as he walks viewers through posting 1-star ratings and negative reviews for “Choosing Hope: Moving Forward from Life’s Darkest Hours,” by Sandy Hook Elementary first-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis. The video, posted by “Peekay22,” even guides viewers to click a

“Yes” button indicating they found other negative reviews helpful.

Since Peekay22’s video posted on Oct. 16, “Choosing Hope” has received more than 170 1-star reviews out of just over 250 total reviews. That’s tanked the book’s rating down to 2.1 stars out of 5.
“Amazon is giving these people a forum … ,” Lewis said. “Obviously, Amazon should remove (the reviews).”

But Amazon appears to have no intent of doing so. To the company, as long as the reviews are “authentic,” they have a place on its website.

“All authentic reviews, whether the reviewer bought the product on Amazon or not, are valuable to customers, helping them make informed buying decisions every day,” Amazon spokesman Tom Cook wrote in reply to questions about its review policy. He declined to address questions about specific reviews.

Critics long welcome
Amazon’s reviews system has long been a source of pride for Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. In his 2003 letter to shareholders, Bezos crowed about ignoring critics who wondered why the company would allow negative reviews that might discourage shoppers from buying products on Amazon’s site.

“Though negative reviews cost us some sales in the short term, helping customers make better purchase decisions ultimately pays off for the company,” Bezos wrote.

Still, Amazon has cracked down on some bogus reviews. Earlier this month, it filed a suit — the second this year — against reviewers who post positive product evaluations in exchange for payment from third-party sellers on the site.

“We continue to use a number of mechanisms to detect and remove the small fraction of reviews that violate our guidelines,” the company said after filing the most recent suit. “We terminate accounts that abuse the system and we take legal action.”

But Amazon doesn’t view coordinated campaigns to flood its review system with negative comments as abuse.

“We terminate accounts that abuse the system and take the appropriate legal action, whether it’s a 1- or 5-star review,” Cook, the Amazon spokesman, wrote. “The issue isn’t whether the reviews are negative or positive, it’s whether they are authentic or not.”

Forum for activists, too
It’s not just angry conspiracy theorists who use Amazon’s review system to air their views. Grass-roots political activists have figured out how to turn Amazon.com into a bullhorn as well.

A year ago, PepsiCo launched a new mid-calorie soda called Pepsi True exclusively on Amazon. That caught the attention of activists at the Rainforest Action Network and SumOfUs, who have condemned PepsiCo for its use of so-called “conflict palm oil,” the harvesting of which is causing deforestation, in its snack products such as Doritos.

The two groups decided to target Pepsi True through Amazon’s review system because they knew it was a low-cost way to make a high-impact statement. SumOfUs called for a “Pepsi True Amazon.com takeover!” on its Facebook page, and the Rainforest Action Network called on its Twitter followers to “Join in” the effort.

And it worked. Nearly 4,000 followers gave Pepsi True 1-star ratings and posted negative reviews that, among other things, ripped Pepsi for supporting “rain forest destruction by buying unsustainable palm oil.” Pepsi was caught so off-guard that it asked Amazon to take down the page.

“We totally sabotaged their product launch,” said Laurel Sutherlin, a Rainforest Action Network spokesman.
Pepsi, which eventually decided to revive the product page despite the negative reviews, said in a statement that Pepsi True was “subject to an orchestrated effort to post inaccurate information” about the company’s palm-oil policy. A spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the statement.

Even one of Amazon’s own products has been targeted by a coordinated, agenda-driven campaign. Greenpeace has long criticized Amazon’s lack of transparency regarding the type of energy it uses to power the massive data centers that run its cloud-computing business, Amazon Web Services.

Greenpeace brought that concern to last year’s debut of Amazon’s Fire Phone, launching an email campaign that encouraged users to post negative reviews and leave 1-star ratings on Amazon’s own website.
Gary Cook, Greenpeace’s senior IT analyst, said the group stopped counting reviews related to its environmental concerns after the number reached 1,500.

“We got an overwhelming response,” he said. “People enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to Amazon where it lives.”

While the Fire Phone failed on its own, the Greenpeace-prompted comments — including “Make a ‘smarter’ phone supported by clean, renewable energy!” from IT-Berater — remain on the site.

These campaign-driven negative reviews may promote agendas, but they often add little to the discussion about the product itself. That’s because the vast majority of reviewers responding to those calls-to-action have never used the products they are critiquing, a point they often acknowledge in their reviews. In the process, those reviews often overwhelm comments from customers who have read the book or used the product.

Rainforest Action Network’s Sutherlin believes removing reviews would limit the expression of opinions. But Amazon has always retained the right to control the information posted on its site. Its “General Review Creation Guidelines” include plenty of restrictions, including barring reviews with “profanity or spiteful remarks,” as well as “advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively.”

It would be hard to argue that some of the posts about Scarlett Lewis aren’t spiteful. And the very purpose of these coordinated campaigns is to make the same point excessively so as to drown out positive appraisals. Amazon’s Cook declined to respond to questions about the company’s process for determining if reviews violate its guidelines and how they are taken down.

One way to stifle the coordinated outrage would be to limit reviews to those who have actually purchased the product they want to evaluate on Amazon. The company already lets shoppers filter reviews by “Verified purchase only,” though that’s not the default. Sutherlin acknowledges that such a limit would have made the campaign against Pepsi True impossible.

“I doubt that most people weighing in would buy the product,” Sutherlin said.

“System is creaking”
But don’t expect Amazon to make that change. Cornell University science and technology professor Trevor Pinch, who has studied Amazon’s review system, said the company benefits from as many shoppers posting on its site as possible.

“The reason Amazon cannot just use verified reviews is simple. Most of the content at the site is from free customer reviews, and it would mean it would lose most of its content,” Pinch said.

And while some of those reviews are spiteful, repetitive and off-topic, the vast majority are not.

But Pinch also cautions that coordinated campaigns of negative reviews, as well as bogus paid-for positive reviews, can’t help but take a toll on the system’s credibility.

“These are signs that the whole system is creaking,” Pinch said. “As cases of abuse mount up, it does lead to more distrust.”

For her part, Scarlett Lewis is living her book’s message of compassion and understanding. She refuses to be upset by the hateful reviews or Amazon’s decision not to remove them.

“Once you’ve had a child murdered, shot in the forehead, there’s not a lot that can ruffle your feathers,” Lewis said.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, a review

Become Your BodyThis review originally appeared on Amazon.  If you find it useful, please vote Yes on Amazon.  Thanks!)

The book is a work of beauty. Rich cobalt blue with flourishing Rococo design (probably the Bellavalten coat-of-arms), accented by gold lettering. It is a sight to behold. Newly outed erotica fans may not recognize Beauty's Kingdom as an adult novel written for pure sexual pleasure. This is probably because they, as in the case of my co-workers, got into the genre by downloading a surreptitious pdf copy of Shades, with its cold and drab cover design, which they clandestinely read during office hours. Grey fans would be delighted to read The Beauty Series I believe, with its delicious master-slave roles played out by both women and men. The ruler of Bellavalten was a powerful female, Queen Eleanor. Not to say only men become slaves. There are female slaves, too.

I am grateful to receive this hardbound copy of Beauty's Kingdom in exchange for this honest review. Thankful because when the book became available in local bookstores here in the Philippines, there only was the softcover trade paperback editions. I am glad to be an owner of the hardbound edition.

Each Beauty book is not a rehash of its predecessor. In fact it outdoes the last in pushing the limits of sexual exploration and pleasure. Unlike other popular titles of the genre, you won't just find the same old formulaic story told in the other character's point-of-view, as is EL James's reportedly next project, or a gender-switch as in Twilight, which is Meyers's rehashing her own work. I comfort myself with the thought that as long as there'll be newer Roquelaure or Rampling books, Erotica will not lose its potency. I wonder if the book's plot, where Queen Eleanor loses interest in the games and traditions of the kingdom, alludes to the decline of the quality of erotica currently out in the market, albeit the great hype and interest generated by Fifty Shades. Now I can't comment about Shades because I've never read it, only heard about it from friends who did (they don't recommend it, though).

I have not read Punishment and Release yet (books 2 and 3 in this series), and I am glad that back stories are woven ever so smoothly into Beauty's Kingdom for crucial plot points I've missed. Sure, it may come as a spoiler, but these backstories were seamlessly told that it almost felt like my mind was simply trailing back to a memory of a favorite sexual adventure with an ex-lover. Besides, nothing can keep me from reading the previous stories when I get the time for them.

my personal hardcover collection
I wasn't born yet when the first Beauty books were written. Beauty's Kingdom I feel is warmer and more inviting in atmosphere than The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. I think it comes at a very ripe time for readers to accept its ideas. Everywhere there is a sexual awakening. Gay marriage has been legalized in the US, and other South American and European countries. Hate crimes against the LGBT are increasingly condemned. There is a growing acceptance of people coming out and embracing the full spectrum of their sexuality. Labels such as straight, bisexual, homosexual, transgender are just that: labels (none of which are used at all in the Kingdom), and people are beginning to recognize each other as human beings born with dignity in their sexuality, stripped of this sexual categorizing as if to be straight is holier than other orientations. Stigma, although not yet completely eradicated, is losing ground. Even the Westboro Baptist Church is seen for what it is, hypocritical and unloving.

Not that the book advocates slavery. The setting is unmistakably Medieval, with high castles, and references to Oriental rugs, Russian boots, Indian and Ottoman riches. These bring to mind the hustle and bustle of the Silk Road and the thriving trade that is now part of the history of humankind. Beauty's Kingdom is a fantasy world, and obviously fiction. What it does advocate is a growing acceptance of one's physicality and sexuality.

Now, I don't approach the book wanting a philosophy or another view of the world. I go to other books of Anne Rice for that. I come to Beauty's Kingdom seeking pure reading pleasure. And Beauty provides it, not just with the erotic scenes, but with the luscious, voluptuous prose, and its array of delectable characters. Strong-willed, spirited, beautiful characters.Comparing it real quick with Anne Rice's previous novel, Prince Lestat: PL is a thriller, and a page-turner. Beauty's Kingdom gives a thrill of a different sort, and it asks to be read slowly, as if to savor a romantic foreplay—the salt on a lover's neck—or studying the anatomy of a Pony or favorite Slave.

And yet Beauty's Kingdom shows me that at this stage of humanity's sexual evolution there may be no more need for the harsh and rough and grating sexual awakening (such as that Beauty had by way of the Crown Prince's rape of her). Today's society needs less shock tactics and more gentle nudging, a prodding encouragement towards complete sexual awareness and accountability. In this again, A.N. Roquelaure proves herself ahead of our times, speaking about exactly where we are as human beings and pointing us to a realm we can collectively evolve towards, all the while entertaining us sublimely in a rich and robust fantasy world. If you allow it for yourself, it can be an experience of "silent submission—submission to the moment, submission to Beauty, submission to the kingdom, but, more significant, submission to [your] own nature, [your] own soul" (page 228).

My personal way to derive the most pleasure from the book is to assign celebrities with whom I have a crush on as the characters in Beauty's Kingdom. Often I looked with longing at photos of these celebrities and didn't know just how to fantasize. I kept using the same old fetish plots in my head. But now I have the scenes written out for me! That may not be how A.N. Roquelaure intended her readers to enjoy the book. It may also mean deviating from characters' descriptions (such as the celebrities' complexion versus the characters' they portray in my head). But as for details of physique and sexual anatomy, I go with how A.N. Roquelaure's writing described them.

Not that that is the only way to enjoy the book. Take it in any direction as it pleases you. If you care for story, and artful storytelling, for plot and character development, you'll find all of that in the book, too. No shoddy, sloppy, carelessness in the prose here. Details are handled with care, so that this is not crass pornography, but rather an elegant and classy offering. It bears a second, third, fourth rereading for its subtleties and nuances. For example, I love this quote from chapter 8: "When you are a naked pleasure slave, it seems to me, you learn not to be vain, but to reside completely in your physical being." I think that's beautiful, and makes me all the more curious about the characters' psychologies, not just their bodies.

I approach this book with a fantastical playfulness. Even the prose is light and easy. It does not beg to be taken too deeply or seriously. Rather it teasingly invites and beckons the reader into a guiltless fantasy (although rebelling towards an internalized and lingering Catholic guilt can be a certain pleasure in itself).

An important but rather tragic event is told in the first chapter of the book, and it is necessary to propel the plot. That is the only bitter episode, and death is just too real and seemingly out-of-place in a fairy-tale world. Death, as in the Tarot, is not just the signal of an end, but also a new beginning. It comes with its own sweet promise: the return of Laurent and Beauty to Bellavalten, now to serve as the new King and Queen. This is just too delicious! Once priced pleasure slaves, they are now to rule the kingdom. This swing in the roles of master and slave titillates with wonderfully wicked possibilities! Notice that in Bellavalten, the Queen is as powerful as the King, and so I am sure my feminist friends would approve.

How best to describe Beauty's Kingdom? It's like a happy reunion of ex-lovers, sans the drama. It is an enviable parallel universe where sexuality is not repressed but celebrated.

Rice, as a mistress of invention, is famous for turning long accepted literary conventions on its head. Under her masterful imagination, vampires become not just monstrous creatures but tormented souls. Werewolves are heroes and not mere slaves to the Moon. Angels are not quaint figurines but powerful emissaries from a heavenly realm. Witches aren't hags, but tragically beautiful women, powerful and yet helpless to their own fates or appetites.

Now with Beauty and Laurent ruling, Roquelaure shakes up the 'rules' of Bellavalten's world and expands it to limitless possibilities. Throughout the book, these changes are called "improvements," and such they are. If only Anastasia or Grey would sign up for slavery under Beauty and Laurent, they might learn a thing or two about classy erotica. Anne Rice seems to get better and better with each new book she sends out, and this could very well be her best yet.

Oh, had I been born beautiful I would have loved to serve in King Laurent and Queen Beauty's Court! At least, within the pages of this fantasy, I can. Suffice to say it gives motivation to work out daily.

Part I: Twilight of an Old Kingdom, tells of how dominion of Bellavalten is passed on to King Laurent and Queen Beauty. These lead characters make a willful decision, and hold fast to it with iron conviction.

Part II: Welcome to Beauty's Kingdom, where we are given a tour by characters distinctly drawn and nuanced. Some long chapters are divided into sections marked by Roman numerals. Each episode can be read on its own day (or night), as it climaxes and leaves you with a sigh.

There is great intrigue and anticipation at the coming of a key character. All the new characters, lords or slaves, mirror in their own way the strength of conviction and decision that their Monarchs have.

Part III: The Destiny of Queens, wherein through mounting intrigue the many mysteries coursing through the novel are solved. Yet, the explosive last two chapters are real game changers, in a book that has already changed the game for the genre, as they race to a thundering and climactic ending that left me breathless.

Anne Rice often advised aspiring writers to "Go where the pain is; go where the pleasure is." In this book, she shows that Pain and Pleasure are one thing, and that can be the grace that saves you.

Here's my favorite quote from Queen Beauty herself: "One cannot command oneself to love. How blessed we are those of us who do not have to try to do this. And we cannot command ourselves to love one form of loving over another."

When you finish the book you get a sense of what only pleasure slaves know: "The sanctuary of the bedroom, no matter how opulent and protected, was not the great engulfing world of the kingdom. The great world had a way of working itself into any bedchamber outside this kingdom" (page 241).

Beauty's Kingdom as a title is apt, because throughout the pages of this book you'll find nothing but beauty in all shapes, sizes, colors and forms—and startling new meanings and symbolisms. This is erotica excellently executed, and I hope there will be more stories from A.N. Roquelaure (or even from Anne Rampling). A book about the Secret City of Khaharanka, perhaps?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 18

A truly pagan fete, this chapter is!  And my catholic heart is filled with all sorts of envy.  The plot thunders on, and my heart beats fast for the Marriage Ceremony: the Maiden on the Platter. Where now, both Laurent and Beauty are the kingdom, are the fullness of the realm, Slave and Master.  Beautiful.  A new meaning to it all!  Maddening in its utter beauty and festive abandon.

What I'd give to join that wild party!

I'd like to thank Anne Rice for writing this beautiful novel.  Anne, thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 17

"No one expects you ever to pretend to feel that which you do not feel!" Alexi attests in this chapter, and how lovely it is to be nakedly honest... but why do we need permission?  Why do we need to be told to experience the fullness of our emotions?  Why can't we as human beings own up to our feelings?  We were born naked, put on clothing over our bodies, and then grow up to put on masks and other pretensions over our hearts.

I am not gonna spoil anything, but it's the last two chapters and the plot is building to another climax with mounting suspense and mystery.  Why couldn't this novel have gone on and on?

"You are as much a man and woman as I am a man and woman," Dmitri tells the Queen, and this is the beauty of the kingdom: total acceptance of one's self, and the sharing of that self to others fully.

Titania makes an appearance here again.  I'm dying to know what this all means!  On to the next chapter!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 16

Here, King Laurent is described (by Eva) as a person of immense self-confidence and inner strength.  Oh, how to be that!  That is earned.  And truly that's why Laurent is royalty.  But surely there is some way for me to approximate that.  I have so much to learn.

I wonder if A.N. Roquelaure depicted Lexius as quite obnoxious and presumptuous in preparation for this scene, or whether, as I am inclined to believe, she simply followed his behavior in her mind's eye as the chapters unfolded, wrote it down, and then when she got to this chapter, had Lexius take a dose of Laurent's medicine.  Maybe the latter, and I am basing that solely on Anne's many videos on writing, which are very useful for aspiring writers.  It's November and a lot of people are NaNo-ing, and Anne gives much practical advice here.

In this chapter there is a seed, a hint, a possibility, of a future A.N. Roquelaure book!  Or am I wishfully thinking?

But I'm beginning to feel very sorry for Lexius now.  And this is Anne's trick (or devise) that I always fall for.  I get emotionally involved in her characters.  Always.  I could never be neutral towards them.  I am either antipathetic or totally sympathetic.  Madly in love, or seething in hatred.  But always there is a feeling.  Lexius now is working his way into my heart.

Well, what Lexius revealed, I never expected.  And then again, when has Anne ever been predictable?

It's a good time as any to reveal who I think of as Titania, the fairy woman who started it all with her gift of a hundred years' sleep to Beauty.  My ultimate teenage crush, of course.  Lea Salonga.  I wanted her to be Lady Eva from the beginning.  Well, maybe I could allow that.  And have Zhang Ziyi swap as Titania.  Well, it's my imagination.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 15

Well, although there wasn't a description of a hot scene because they seem to be minor characters, maybe I could assign Cristiano Ronaldo as Prince Richard, and Neymar as Penryn?  Let me decide on it after some thought.

Maybe, too, Zac Efron can be a fantasy Valentine.  Who to play Cesar?  I originally imagined Cristiano for that role.  Hm... all right, Cristiano as Cesar.  I am decided.

I am so far from having my goal abs (deadline is 25 December), and I must be both my own master and slave in this respect.  "Discipline had to pervade every moment of their lives," Prince Alexi said.  And that shall be my own prescription.

Brenn said at the end of the chapter in description of Beauty's Kingdom, "I never in my wildest longing dreamed of such a paradise."  You and me both, Brenn.  You and me both.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 14

Finally, Lexius arrives, but not in the manner I hoped for.  Well, when did Rice ever wrote something predictable anyway?  I hope Lexius doesn't disappoint.  He is beautiful!

Now Queen Beauty said something unnerving to me.  "It's as if every slave, no matter how lowly, how disobedient, how submissive, or how perfect is connected by a golden thread to my very heart."  Why this unsettled me is because not only is this true for me (I am in love with Queen Beauty), but also it reminded me of Christ.

That is strange to say reading erotica.  And I don't want to Christianize pornography.  But her statement made me think of Jesus, who became Man, and knows exactly how we all feel, being once all enslaved to sin, until, with His death and resurrection, triumphed over death and is now King of all.  For Beauty, she was slave first before ascending into Queen, through many trials.  Christ is God, who became Man, and also faced many trials.  Their identification with slaves is what's haunting to me.  Did not the Prophet Isaiah call the Messiah the Suffering Servant?  All right, end of such talk and back to Bellavalten.  When I get to the Christ the Lord series, I'll have lots to say about Jesus.

 Bellavalten.  A kingdom that exists for pure pleasure.  Now that is heaven.

As an afterthought, I think that Paul Bettany would have made a sexy Lord Stefan, had I not chosen Jon Bon Jovi beforehand.  Maybe I'm allowed to make changes?  Well, tell me what you think.



Well, I'm now at the end of the chapter and turns out that Lexius is sort of obnoxious. What a letdown.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 13

Prince Dmitri describes his style of discipline thus: "following an instinct to do what gave me the highest pleasure."  I am wondering if this style applies to other things, like one's job or vocation.  Instinctive, pleasurable.

There are many words I had to google the meaning of as I read Beauty's Kingdom, and I feel stupid that it is only now that I thought of listing them.  Well, all's not lost.  Equipage, pronounced ˈɛkwɪpɪdʒ, probably came from the root word Equus, which means horse. It means "a carriage and horses with attendants."

Hey, I know all of this is fiction, but I can't help but wonder if human beings would truly blossom when trained as a pleasure slave.  Or is this suspension of disbelief taking me over in the tale?  I am thinking of Dmitri's plans for disciplining Becca, making her lovelier.  But look at Beauty, isn't she the Queen of Sublime Gracefulness?  Did her years as a slave teach her that?  Beauty said, "It is unspeakable to live in misery in such a kingdom as this and never be able to give vent to your deepest feelings, to be denied what you truly want."  Simply remarkable that thought!

The title of this chapter is Dmitri: A New Challenge with the Masked One, and it excited me to find out who the masked one is!  Too delicious!  All I can say now is that Beauty's Kingdom truly is where dreams come true.

My ultimate football crush is Neymar, and I have been forever reserving him for a character of my desire, but I've gone to chapter 13, and now I'm afraid that the book might have run out of a naked slave for him.  I hope not.

hottest Brazilian ever
And there's Cristiano Ronaldo as well, although I imagine him to be Cesar, King Laurent's lead stallion.  Why not?


Well, if I can't find any more roles for them in the Beauty books, I'll reserve them for the Rampling stories! Oh, yeah, of course, Zac Efron, too.


Now this chapter is between Dmitri and the Masked One, and it is hot.  Simply hot.  What Prince Dmitri said reminded me of how I felt when I broke up with my ex.  "And so my life spread out before me and torn as I was, suffering as I was, I could not help but be grateful and glad."  So then I know I really loved him.  And that it's really over.

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 12

"Georgette, Charlotte, and Samantha, those are their names! Only no one ever knew them by those names when they served as grooms under the late queen. In those days, they were George, Charles and Samuel! Well, they've come back, and dressed as men! Same as before...and begging the new queen to allow them to serve once more.

"And the new queen has allowed it. 'Why not?' she said. 'Why should they not live as men if the choose.'"

Beauty's Kingdom is so aptly titled, as it is not only the Sleeping Beauty's realm, but also a place where true beauty is accepted, celebrated, and nourished. The label 'transgender' does not exist in this kingdom, nor does any such derogatory labels. What is encouraged is a loving, dignifying acceptance of one's true self. And that is the key to Beauty's kingdom.

Little side comment: I love the name Neshi!

Chapter 9 was mostly told in Brenn's point of view. Now we are told Sybil's experience as she enters service as a Pony for Queen Beauty. And it's an exquisitely beautiful chapter, resplendent with delicious detail. It's almost like every new chapter in this story becomes my favorite.

Tilda Swinton as Georgette

Mario Götze as Oweyn

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 11

This chapter holds my favorite quote in the whole book yet.  Queen Beauty said, "One cannot command oneself to love. How blessed we are those of us who do not have to try to do this. And we cannot command ourselves to love one form of loving over another."  This is a lesson I learned through the pain of unrequited love, that only the balm of acceptance has soothed and healed.

I found this hot picture of Rachel Weisz, who I imagine as Sonya, and thought I'd share it with you guys.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 10

Spoiler Alert!

The huge reversal of roles happens here.  Lord Stefan who was once master to Prince Tristan is now his slave!

The ever youthful Jon Bon Jovi
as Lord Stefan

With her strong eyes, Cara Delevigne makes a
good Becca

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 9

With Chapter 8, we have a returning Prince who gave us a view of the Kingdom's Village. Now we have two outsiders seeing the Kingdom for the first time, and what they see and tell is just as beautiful.

I absolutely am in love with Brenn! And who better to play Brenn than football star James Rodriguez?



Megan Young is Sybil!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 8

And we finally meet Prince Dmitri! Much as I adore Matt Bomer (who doesn't?), I can't help but think of him as Reuben Golding. So, I'm betting on Sean O'Pry.


I am in love with Prince Dmitri! It turns out he has a great voice—he is a natural storyteller. I love how he would have flashbacks of his past as a slave, even as he visits the new kingdom, and this helps give the sense of the passage of time. It is beautiful that we are given a tour of the Castle and the Village through his eyes. His voice is distinct from Lestat's, or Toby O'Dare's, or Louis's. It's amazing! He is a character on his own. Of course, he sees different things from the other characters in the other novels. But he sounds like himself, not like any other character of Anne's. Anne is a genius!

I want to think of the two slaves assigned to Prince Dmitri, Kiera and Bertram, as Yam Concepcion and Tom Taus, respectively.




I hope an artist or cartographer would be delighted in drawing a map of the castle grounds, its gardens, the Bridle Path, and even the Village, as in most Medieval fantasy stories.

I love these two sentences from page 103. "...I spent a long time with my mirror as I reflected on what might soon occur." And, "When you are a naked pleasure slave, it seems to me, you learn not to be vain, but to reside completely in your physical being."

The pleasure slave from the village, Barbara, I imagine as Lovi Poe.
 
Bella Thorne as Princess Rosalynd

The last two paragraphs of this chapter are just splendid!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapters 6 and 7

In Chapter 6 we see King Laurent and Queen Beauty drawing up new rules for Bellavalten. I suspect this was almost a commentary on the quality of popular erotica that is available today. Let me name it: Fifty Shades of Grey. I will not comment on the book as I have never read it, although friends and fellow readers who have equivocally abhor it. Queen Eleanor had lost the kingdom's former luster, and it is now time for the new Monarchs to revive the kingdom. Shades was badly written, and so A.N. Roquelaure returns to infuse blood into the genre.

Chapter 7. We meet Princess Blanche. I'd like to imagine Cara Delevigne in this role for no other reason except that her face bores me and I want to make her exciting by imaging her as a slave. But I revert to a girl who I have a real crush on. Alexis Bledel. Now that's a beauty!


(And no! She didn't write that scene between Tristan and Laurent! Sadness! Loss!)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 5

By chapter 5, my mind wanted to take an opposite track. What if I read from hereon for the story? What if it weren't erotica but a Medieval Tale, and it just happened to have sexy scenes along the way? What if I cared about the storytelling, the style, character development? Even in such a reading Beauty's Kingdom does not disappoint, because Roquelaure cared about the above in the telling so this is not some cheap pornography you hold in your hands, but one so stylishly executed to bear a second, third or fourth reading for its delicate nuances.

Rice, as a mistress of invention, is famous for turning long accepted rules on its head. Vampires are not just monstrous creatures but tormented souls. Werewolves are heroes and not slaves to the Moon. Angels are not quaint figurines but powerful emissaries from a heavenly realm. Now with Beauty and Laurent ruling, the she shakes up the 'rules' of Bellavalten's world and expands it to limitless possibilities.

I am most intrigued by Lexius and Sonya. I don't have a picture of who Sonya is in my mind, but as for Lexius, I choose Imran Abbas.


King Laurent's resolve is very early being shaken by doubt...whether he'd be able to bear if Queen Beauty decides to play slave for a night. Well, we'll see where this leads. There's also the promise of him mastering Tristan, which I hope happens!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 4

Severin is Lady Eva's personal slave. My fantasy cast as Severin is Jake Cuenca. Yes, I have a thing for boyish looks and abs.


And I have always fancied football players, so my Captain Gordon is David Beckham!


Ah, but this chapter belongs to Lady Eva and King Laurent. Oh, many times I looked with longing at these celebrities. Now I have the fantasies laid out before me Beauty's Kingdom.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 3

A whole slew of characters return for chapter 3. James Reid is my fantasy Prince Alexi. Those eyelids. Those abs.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Beauty's Kingdom, chapter 1

I finally got some time to read Beauty's Kingdom. I've tried to read it before, but it got so steamy I just couldn't continue without fapping. But now I lit some scented candles and the house is filled with the fragrance of rose petals. I shall begin to read on this stormy morning as Lando ravages Aurora.

I have only read The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty before this series. I have vague ideas of what happened in the plots of Punishment and Release, so I shall read those soon.

The book opens with a quote from Romeo and Juliet. Earlier this year we, The Manila Shakespeare Company, had a rerun of that play at Teatrino, Greenhills. At one scene I was to read a book, and naturally, I used Beauty's Kingdom as a prop.

That was a bit of erotica advertising from me! Now, my plan to read Rice's erotica is this: I may need to assign celebrities I personally have a crush on for the characters, so that I get to maximize my enjoyment of the scenes.

Part 1 Twilight of an Old Kingdom
Chapter 1 Lady Eva: Long day's journey into hope

We are introduced to Lady Eva. I'm not sure if she was in Release. I think I shall imagine Zhang Ziyi as her. I will need to disregard Anne's descriptions of race and complexions. I like Asian girls.

My Prince Tristan, of course, is JC de Vera. Emma Stone as Princess Blance.

Lady Eva
Prince Tristan
Princess Blanche


 





Monday, September 21, 2015

If you're a novelist

If you are, too, a novelist, you may be interested with some questions that Anne recently raised on her Facebook page.  They are about novel writing, and they certainly are thought-provoking.

Head on over there now to join the discussion.

Here are the links:
On the authors that taught you
Why endings are hard and can be artificial

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Greg Wilkey interview

The Examiner has news about our beloved Anne at http://www.examiner.com/article/ya-vampire-author-greg-wilkey-discusses-undeadcon-and-friendship-with-anne-rice and it's a fascinating testament to the bonds of friendship formed by literature.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Christianity without grace is not true Christianity

Without grace it's just legalism, and it kills.  Which is what Kim Davis did.  She is the opposite of the grace and gospel that Jesus gave.  What she did is shameful.  Had she prayed for the same-sex couples instead and still did her job, then she'd be pointing towards a loving God, and not to a self-righteous self.

Here's a worthy read from @kaj33 : http://time.com/4024556/kareem-abdul-jabbar-kim-davis/

And here's what Anne had to say.


Beauty

Chapter 3 of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty.

In one of Anne's interviews published on YouTube, she said, "In art and sexuality lie redemption and hope."  I wonder if she meant this about her Beauty series.  Surely the reader's sexuality is brought to awareness to the extent that his imagination serves him and his willingness to join the characters in sexual exploration allows him.

In this chapter Beauty becomes all the more aware of her body.  Do we need to go through training as a pleasure slave to learn this?  Secretly, I'd love to be a pleasure slave, although my body built isn't as sexy as the male slaves'.

Beauty was becoming aware of her own sexuality, slowly accepting of her fate, and being shocked at the impulses and desires.  Oh, how wonderful it would be to serve the Prince this way, I think, to undress a beautiful and powerful lord with one's teeth!  And he teaches her something else to do with her mouth.  Hot!

I love this sentence: "With each crack of the paddle you must think of the next and the next and that it is your Prince doing it to you, giving you this pain."  Lessons in being masochistic!  I love it!  And also complete servitude.  But Beauty's lessons are far from over.

The innkeeper girl makes another appearance here.

That old joke.  The masochist told the sadist, "Hurt me."  And the sadist replied, "No."  Well, the Prince wouldn't take Beauty tonight, leaving her consumed in her desire for him.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Punishment at the Inn





Elle Fanning is so classy and pretty! Well, as an ode to her for playing Sleeping Beauty so beautifully and innocently in Disney's Maleficent, I am imagining her as that girl from the inn whom the Crown Prince asked to punish Beauty.

This little episode off a commoner, a villager being allowed to punish Beauty is a wonderful foreshadowing of the second book Beauty's Punishment. But I have no way of telling you if Anne had planned a second book, or that it would be a quartet, when she penned Claiming. Did she pre-plan it? Did she just follow this nudging from her subconscious to include this episode? At any rate, it's a brilliant stroke of genius.

Of course my Captain of the Guard is the hunky David Beckham. I have a thing for football players.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Journey and the Punishment at the Inn

Day Two on The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty
Chapter Two
part one, "The Journey"

It's a long chapter, so I'll post reactions to the Journey part before they arrive at the Inn, which I'll react to tomorrow.

Playboy said that the Beauty series is light fantasy. If you happen to be an empathic reader, you may feel sorry for Beauty. That's all right. There can be some wicked pleasure to feeling sorry for another person.

But if you instead use the books as a guide to your sexual fantasies, assigning celebrities you fancy as cast of characters, you may find the books will give you a titillating turn. A. N. Roquelaure invites us to embrace our full sexuality, not to apologize for our attractions to the same or opposite sex. Admire and appreciate beauty in all humans, and in yourself.

As for the Captain of the Guard, I would like to assign my favorite football player who I have a man crush on: Neymar Jr!







Tuesday, July 21, 2015

AnneRice.com

I am referencing Anne Rice's own website: AnneRice.com. Check it out, if you haven't already. Naturally, you'd rather go on her Facebook page, as she is very active there.

But there's a beautiful layout of all of her books in her website, and it's worth ogling at. They're categorized according to series, and the year when they were published. Kinds of inspires me to go back and working on this blog again.

And there's link into deeper information with each of her books if you wanted. So dig in.

You're welcome!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Let's take a peek into Josh Boone's IG

 I envy that book collection! Anne posted on her Page this wonderful news.
As many of you know Universal Studios, and Imagine Entertainment optioned the Vampire Chronicles. We hear Josh Boone (director of "The Fault in Our Stars") is hard at work on the next Lestat movie. Josh is a writer/director. Things look better than ever for a relaunch of my beloved Children of Darkness on the silver screen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Go Set A Watchman is released today!

Possibly the most anticipated sequel in writing history, Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman finally hits bookstores today, and I'm excited. I've read people say that Atticus Finch took a dark turn, but don't we all have our own shadows?

The Guardian gave us an amazing preview on their site. Experience the first full chapter here.

There's been a lot of controversy surrounding the posthumous release of this novel. Anne Rice weighed in her thoughts on her page:
I'm looking forward to Harper Lee's new novel. And frankly don't want to read another word "about" it. I want to read it. Jonathan Burham is a highly respected editor in a highly respected publishing house. If he says Ms. Lee is pleased with this publication that's good enough for me.
So, who's as excited as I am?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The wedding of the centuries

Depending on where you stand on the issue, you either celebrated the momentous event that has been come to be known as #LoveWins, or got on your moral high horse and decried destruction for America.

I wanted to cross-post this from the Lestat Book Coven. This is Anne's reply to the question: What would a Lestat and Louis wedding look like?

"If Lestat and Louis were to marry, it would take place in the private chapel of Lestat's chateau in France. They would likely both wear their favorite velvet frockcoats--- Lestat in red, Louis in black -- in the old style, with a lot of white pearl studded lace at the throat and at the cuffs...and they would speak their vows in a reverent whisper, and Marius, in a long simple burgundy colored velvet robe, would preside. They would exchange gorgeous and priceless emerald rings. 
"The chapel would be filled with candles, incense, and white roses and white lilies, and all the closest of the vampire kindred would be invited, and the venerable old ones, including the great Servraine, Gabrielle, Gregory, and Lestat's body guards, Thorne and Cyril, and other elders. 
"Armand in finest burnt gold brocade and lace would be best man for Louis. David Talbot in dark hunter green velvet and white linen would be best man for Lestat. A choir of Vampire boys led by Notker would sing a cantata from Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimmer --- the Chorale or first part. (BWV 140) 
"Then a great ball would take place in the grand or great hall of the chateau: with Notker conducting a vampire orchestra and Antoine playing first violin and occasional solos.Benji would make a speech; so would Gregory; and also Gremt Stryker Knollys. And also Jesse. And others. 
"After the first dizzying Tchaikovsky waltz and a few other Viennesewaltzes, there would be a lot of Greek side by side taverna dancing on the part of the vampires, maleand female, to Greek taverna music (electronic mandolins), and then the great arched windows of the ball room would be thrown open and those who could take to the air would go out in pairs and groups to hunt in Marseilles amongst the pimps and the dope peddlers. 
(There wouldn't be too many young ones at the ball, as given their need to hunt, and their inability to defy gravity, they cannot spend long nights in the country; Lestat permits no hunting in Lyon or the neighboring French towns of his old homeland. So they would send their regards from Paris, London, Marseilles, Berlin, Rome, etc.) 
"It could happen."
Beautiful, isn't it? Naturally, we mortals can't attend the wedding, either, unless we wanted to be the banquet.