Princess Alethea's Magical Elixir
Title: Thanks for the Memories
Author: Cecelia Ahern
I first experienced Cecilia Ahern on audio, with abridged (and incredibly well-performed) versions of If You Could See me Now and There's No Place Like Here.
I read her debut novel P.S. I Love You in hardcover (I still have to recover from the
book before I see the movie). And while I adore Ahern's concepts and characters
and style, her endings always felt off to me. My brain just has a tough time
rationalizing tales of lighthearted magical realism with such unrequited, unresolved
endings. Then again, I wasn't born on a magical green island and raised with
Guinness and "Danny Boy," so I left it at that. And then along came Thanks for the
This time, the tragedy happens right at the beginning. Joyce Conway has a terrible
accident at home, so terrible that it causes her to miscarry her baby and spend
several days in the hospital. On the other side of the city, visiting historical
architecture professor Justin Hitchcock attempts to impress a female colleague by
donating blood. And where does that blood end up? You guessed it! Only Ahern
kicks it up a notch: when Joyce wakes from her surgery, she can suddenly speak
several languages, knows more about architecture than most people forget in a
lifetime, and is having flashes of dreams and memories from a life that is not her
You know how this story is going to end. There's only one way for it to end. And
-- thank you, Cecelia -- we do not use the last page of the novel to sop up the
tears we're shedding into our pint while the chorus belts an Irish pub song. You're
not allowed to be disappointed when things turn out the way you expect them to.
Especially when that ending is positive. What you have to remember in this case is
another of Ireland's great tenets: the point of the journey is not the destination.
Joyce's life changes from that mundane moment to a whirlwind of ridiculous
adventure, as she chases the clues back to their source. From Viking tours to the
London Ballet, Thanks for the Memories is almost 400 pages of just a whole lot of
fun. And in true Ahern style, the characters who move these adventures along are
so enchanting and endearing you'll be wishing you could invite them to your
family reunion. I absolutely fell in love with Joyce's dad, a high-spirited man who
has never left Ireland in his life, consistently calls Joyce by her dead mother's
name, and has an incredible, unyielding passion for "Antiques Roadshow."
In a world of turmoil, it's a blessing to find these happy outlets of escape. Be
content in knowing that you will find Thanks for the Memories and enjoyable from
beginning to end. I look forward to the day this one sees a silver screen release -- I
won't hesitate to buy my ticket and be invigorated once more. We all need a
transfusion of new blood now and again.
Title: The Reformed Vampire Support Group
Author: Catherine Jinks
Speaking of blood . . .
In this day and age, with the massive glut of vampire books popping the seams of
your local brick & mortar, the first thing every reader must do upon opening a
paranormally-spun novel is to get his/her bearings. Where are these vampires and
when? How are they crated? Are they good or evil? What kills them? What keeps
them happy? What are their feelings toward werewolves? (There are always
werewolves.) I used to love all this paranormal hoo-ha, but lately I've found
myself bored by page 100 or so. (I gave up on Twilight halfway through.) I realize
"there are no new ideas," but there are certainly other books, and there is only so
much time in the day.
Despite my newly-adopted vampire apathy, the cover of Catherine Jinks' new title
drew me closer. Heath McKenzie's dark, Goreyesque figures huddled together
above the words The Reformed Vampire Support Group. Good title. It made me
want to learn more. Good titles have a tendency to do that. The second thing it had
going for it was its obvious YA-approved market, meaning that there wouldn't be
an overwhelming gore and/or sex element to distract from gaping holes in the plot.
The third thing was the author herself: Catherine Jinks is an Australian author, and
this book is set in Australia. Contemporary vampires braving the Australian
outback? That was somewhere my mind hadn't been before.
Our heroine -- if one can call her that -- is Nina Harrison, who is fifteen years old
. . . and has been for the last thirty years. She lives in her mother's basement and
writes a popular novel series starring Zadia Bloodstone, a vampire with all the slick
and sexy grace we've all come to expect from our vampire novels, and which bears
no resemblance whatsoever to what being a vampire is really like. Vampires in
Jinks's world live a life of constant illness: headaches, vomiting, panic attacks,
bleeding from the eyes, breakfasting on guinea pigs -- certainly not the glamorous
life we picture on the silver screen, as Nina is quick to point out. But the Reformed
Vampire Support Group -- led by human priest Father Ramon -- has each other,
so there is always someone to turn to when times get tough and things get strange.
Only now it seems that there is a slayer in town intent on picking them off. Nina
and her fellow reformed vampires must screw their courage to the sticking place.
They have to turn the tables, hook up with a werewolf (a genetic throwback
seventh son), solve the mystery, and hunt down this murderer before he strikes. As
miserable as it is, being a vampire isn't the same as being dead forever.
There are quite a few members of the Reformed Vampire Support Group. As a
result, there is a lot happening in this book . . . and a lot of dialogue, as the cast of
thousands discuss what's going on. I found myself at times wishing the characters
would just stop arguing and get on with it; undoubtedly the same thought that was
going through their own minds at the time. The action does snowball all the way to
the end, culminating on a final chapter which squeezes into it enough epilogical
information to fill a sequel. I did enjoy Jinks's approach at the very end, with a
blurring of the wall between fiction and fact so that the reader is forced to pause
and wonder if her slightly-more-plausible version of vampires are real.
I enjoyed The Reformed Vampire Support Group -- it was an exceptionally quick
read -- but I have to say, it didn't wow me. I wasn't disappointed, just unmoved.
Perhaps there were simply too may characters for me to get emotionally invested in
any of them. Perhaps the characters' own feelings didn't dig in deep enough.
Perhaps it's just that aforementioned vampire apathy as a result of vampire book
after vampire book. Perhaps my bar is just set so high now that it takes a trained
circus performer to impress me.
Or perhaps I am a vampire, and I know what the truth really is.
Read more by Alethea Kontis