Tag Archives: Anita Blake

Review: Hit List (The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series #20), by Laurell K. Hamilton

TLDR recap:

The mother of all darkness may have been destroyed in body, but her spirit still lives and has taken control of the Harlequin, the most feared, respected, and skilled group of spies and assassins ever trained.  With assistance from these vampire boogeymen, Mommy Dearest is gunning for Anita, to possess her body and control her abilities.  The Harlequin have laid a clever trap for Anita, separated from her support animals and sweeties, and will stop at nothing to acquire her for their master.  With only Edward and her own preternatural skills to protect her, will Anita survive Seattle or will Mommy Dearest win at long last?

    • Title: Hit List
    • Series: The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series – book #20
    • Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
    • Prominent Characters: Anita, Edward, Bernardo, Ethan, Nicki
    • Recommended reader age: 18+
    • Sexual content level: light-to-moderate (explicit)

***** Slight spoilers ahead.  Read at your own risk.  =) *****

Thoughts:

This book has gotten a lot of negative reviews, for various reasons, so I fully expected to be disappointed and not enjoy reading it.  So let me just say first that I DID enjoy it and I’m glad I didn’t let the disgruntled reviewers scare me off!  I’m a fan of the ABVH series, but it’s not really enough to say “I like the series” because the series changes so drastically over the course of the impressive 20-book run.  Considering Ms. Hamilton (LKH) started work on the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter (ABVH) series in the early 1990s and has managed to successfully continue it through today, some changes in the characters and the plots should be expected.  Just like people change in real life, book characters should change as well, especially when they face as much trauma, violence, and loss in their lives as Anita and crew do.  If you’re not familiar with the series, the first 10 or so books are “one of the humans” stories for Anita, while the remaining books are “one of the monster” tales.  Anita is extremely verbose and is a master of talking circles around just about any other character I’ve seen in any book or series.  That’s not always a good thing, as the books tend to be dialogue-heavy, and the later books tend to be sex-dialogue-heavy (sometimes you feel like “OMG just get to it already!”), but it does give her character a more personal feel, as if she’s a girlfriend who’s relaying a story and walking you through her thought process.  It’s the way I tend to think, so I like it.

So… Hit List.  Part of the reason for explaining all that above is to say this…

Fans of the ABVH series for its explicit sexual content (let’s be honest with ourselves – she has a harem) and Anita’s acquisition of superhero-like powers, are the fans who enjoy the second half of the series.  Readers who enjoyed the crime-solving and horror elements of the beginning half of the series are less impressed with all the solve-everything-with-sex attitude that is so prevalent in the later books.  Given that, I’d expect that this novel would satisfy both camps, a) because there’s noticeably less sex in Hit List, and b) because she’s going back to her crime-solving roots.  This is an “Edward” book.  If you’re a reader of the series, then that alone should tell you whether or not you’re going to like this one.  Almost none of her harem of men are present in this adventure, leaving the story open for more focus on crime-solving.  However, something different between this and the previous “Edward” books is that he’s not nearly as I-could-kill-you-anytime and more I-think-I-want-you-to-stick-around, which is very un-Edward-like.  I chalk it up to part of her charm and maybe some of the metaphysics.  Men just like Anita, so it’s a natural progression to me.  Still, the crime-solving in this story is less about the horrendous gory crime scenes (thankfully!) and more about the hunt for the Harlequin, our newest big-bad since Mommy Dearest awoke.

Also, is it just me, or is LKH’s grammar improving noticably?  In the start of the book, I noticed several paragraphs with normal sentence structure, places where she’d usually run-on or fragment.  I wonder if the lack of sex in this book is indicative of LKH moving past her obsession with it (not that I’m complaining about said obsession – I find it entertaining), or if it is a vehicle for coming back to it stronger in the next one as she reunites with her many sweeties.  Of course, she could just skip that return-to-St-Louis period all together now that the next big bad seems like it will be Olaf, and if so, all bets are off.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.  =)

Memorable quotes:

When does Anita have time to read Harry Potter?

“We settled this, Anita.  The… ones who can’t be named-” He glared at me.  “I really hate that we can’t even say their names out loud.  It feels like we’re in a Harry Potter book talking about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

Anger management, Jack… get some.

I resisted a terrible urge to say, “You can’t handle the truth,” but the thought helped kill some of the anger.  I gave him calmer eyes and said, “The truth about what exactly?”

Hearts broken, lessons learned…

I learned a long time ago that being physically intimidating didn’t keep you from getting your feelings hurt.  Everyone’s heart is the same size.

Home is where your sweeties are.

It wasn’t about being the prettiest, or the best, it was about enjoying it.  It was about loving the men who were with you, while they were with you, and valuing every last one of them.  The love of a lover, of friends, and of partners, of people that I never wanted to lose, and wanted to wake up beside every damn day.  It was about home.  Home wasn’t a place, or a building, or a tropical night full of flowers and rain.  Love made home not out of boards and walls and furniture, but of hands to hold, and smiles to share, and the warmth of that body cuddled around you in the dark.

If you like Hit List of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series…

If you enjoyed Hit List for the paranormal aspect of it, check out the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning and the Feral Warriors series by Pamela Palmer.  The Fever series is a 5-book set of consecutive stories, told from female first-perspective, about the Fae and the epic consequences of their civil war on our world.  There’s also the side benefit of experiencing Barrons, the male lead in the Fever series, whom you will ever want more of once you meet him! The Feral Warriors are a (so far) 5 book series about a group of shape-shifters who are spirit warriors protecting their race from their mortal enemies.  The stories are all told from the 3rd person, focusing mostly on the primary couple for each story.  These books are pretty steamy.  *grin*

If you liked Hit List (and the last half of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series) for the intimate connections between Anita and her harem of sweeties, you’ll probably also enjoy The Meredith Gentry series, also by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Told from Merry’s perspective, it’s a series of stories full of love, sex, magic, fae, and battles.  Many fans of the ABVH series have reviewed positively about the Merry Gentry series, and it is one of my personal favorites.

Final thoughts:

As far as ABVH books go, Hit List is pretty tame, but I think it stays true to the story path and style that LKH has precedented in the previous few books.  I found it an enjoyable (and quick!) read and, while I probably won’t read it again for a while, may come back to it sometime in the future when I re-read the entire series again.

Rating:
4.25 fangs: Bite it!

Related links:

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/ (The Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series website – finally updated and easier to use!)

http://www.karenmoning.com/ (The Fever series website)

http://www.pamelapalmer.net/ (The Feral Warriors series website)

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Review: Covet (The Fallen Angels series #1), by J.R. Ward

TLDR recap:

The greater forces of good and evil have tired of the game, and it’s all come down to this: one player, 7 deadly sins, and 7 pawns at a crossroads.  Winner takes all and everything depends on Jim Heron and the choices he helps influence. His first task? Unravel the mysteries surrounding entrepreneur Vin diPietro and “dancer” Marie-Terese Boudreau before it’s too late and everything literally goes to hell.

    • Title: Covet
    • Series: The Fallen Angel series – book #1
    • Author: J.R. Ward
    • Prominent Characters: Jim Heron, Vin diPietro, Marie-Terese Boudreau, Eddie Blackhawk, Adrian Vogel
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: Light-to-Moderate (explicit)

Thoughts:

Being a ginourmous fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (by J.R. Ward), I expected a lot of this novel going in.  Probably not the smartest way to start off a book, but pretty unavoidable considering how larger-than-life the Brotherhood stories have become.  That said, I tried to keep in mind that this is a starter novel and, like Dark Lover, it’s probably going to be a little slower to allow for character/plot/setting development… and it was.  BDB fans will feel right at home in Caldwell, with locations like The Commodore and The Iron Mask.  There are also a few familiar faces, most notably Trez (one of Rev’s former Moor bodyguards), Marie-Terese (previously the head prostitute at Zero Sum), and Jose de la Cruz (Butch’s former homicide partner).

With part of the setup already done, Ms. Ward really only needed to introduce the new theme for the series and the players.  Here’s the deal: the big guy upstairs is apparently bored with the constant good vs. evil volley, and is ready to settle the score once and for all, literally.  Both sides will agree to a representative, then that person will help influence the decisions of 7 people at crossroads in their lives.  If the players choose the “good” path, the Angels score a point.  Likewise, if the players choose the “bad” path, the demons claim the point.  The score at the end of 7 turns decides the game.  I won’t go too much into who plays what roles or how things turn out, but I will admit I had a tough time getting into this one.

On the plus side, the somewhat extensive character development laid down in Covet helps set the scene for more of the closer-than-brother male friendships we’ve come to love so much in the BDB series.  Ms. Ward also holds back some details that readers will be eager to learn about, which I appreciate – why keep reading if all the secrets are spilled in the first one?!

The “primary couple” is really more secondary as a couple-unit than they are as individual characters on their own path to redemption.  Their relationship felt a little empty to me, and while I appreciated their connection to each other, I just couldn’t get into it like I’ve been able to with other pairings (kinda like how I felt so-so about Manny and Payne after all the ridiculously intense Brother pairings).  Yeah, there were a few steamy scenes and they were ok, but the book just didn’t hold that much of my attention.  I actually skipped through nearly an entire chapter near the end where the whole situation, which the reader learns at the start of the story, is re-explained to one of the main characters.

This book reminded me of The Devil’s Advocate (with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves), from the characters not being who they first appeared to the creepy demonic overtones to some of the action/investigation sequences.  It’s part thriller, part crime drama, and part horror, with a little romance on the side.

Memorable quotes:

The light at the end of the tunnel… is just a pep talk?

Coaches had to stay on the sidelines, but they could put different complements of players on the field with the human to influence things – and also call time-outs for pep talks.

If you like Covet of The Fallen Angels series…

If you enjoyed Covet, you may also like the first half of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton.  The first and second halves of that series are drastically different: the first half focuses on disturbingly explicit supernatural crime investigations and the second is a sex-fest with a little police work on the side.  Ms. Hamilton bases most of her crime scenes on true crimes, making the stories even more unnerving, and the first few books in the series should really be classified more as horror than as paranormal romance.

If you’re new to J.R. Ward’s work, then definitely check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood novels, starting with Dark Lover.

Final thoughts:

I won’t read this again, but it was a decent (if slow) starter novel.  I’ll check out the Crave before I decide whether or not to hop off the Fallen Angels train.

There’s something about the vampires in paranormal romance that makes them more romantic and less horrible.  They’re almost human and we can relate to them.  We know they probably won’t do unthinkable things… at least not without a reason.  That’s all out the window here: demons are capable of pure evil and the fright/creep factor is high.  There’s a reason I don’t watch horror movies or crime dramas like Criminal Minds.  Usually I have to force myself to stop reading at night in time to go to bed at a decent hour, but I willingly put this one aside for sleep and I was worried I’d have nightmares from it.  No, it wasn’t THAT rough, but I spook easily, so if you do too, either steer clear of this book or go into it knowing it’s going to get creepy.

Rating:
3.75 fangs: BITE IT… if you dare.

Related links:

http://www.jrward.com/ (Fallen Angel & Black Dagger Brotherhood sites)

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/ (Anita Blake)

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Fangtastic Friday: The Alpha Showdown is ON! Bones & Cat go fang-to-fang!

I came across this great review blog last week via Facebook and LOVE the Alpha Showdown idea!  The Vampire Book Club has set up a tournament bracket, pitting some of our favorite heroes and heroines of paranormal romance & urban fantasy against each other.  The contest is billed as an “alpha” showdown, implying it’s about strength of leadership but it’s feeling more like a “who could kick whose ass in a fight” sort of thing.  Really either way is fun, so no complaint here!  In the first two showdowns, one of my personal favorite paranormal romance couples, the Night Huntress series’ Cat & Bones, won their respective matches and are moving on to the next round… to fight EACH OTHER!  *gasp*

Soooooo, this is either some really bad bracket seeding or a nice ironic jab at the power couple.  Now there’s a tough choice for voters: powerful, sexy, badass, dirty-fighting Bones or his one-of-a-kind vampire-blood-drinking mate, whom he trained personally.  My first instinct is “Bones, hands down”.  He’s got at least a century on Cat, extra strength and abilities, and knows all her weaknesses.  That said, she knows all of his weaknesses too, and she tops his list of “people I’d rather die for than sneeze at”.  She also could drain him of all his blood and absorb some of his powers… if she could hold him down long enough.  Mmmm, toss -up.

Now, that said, this is the showdown doesn’t necessarily have to involve fighting.  When it comes to straight leadership, it’s still a tight race, with both of them having headed up separate successful and powerful organizations, but I think the scales tip a little to Bones on that front.  She does allow him to dominate her though (well, moreso than the other way around at least), and that’s what being “alpha” is about – convincing others to accept you as their leader, whether through fighting, love,  loyalty, or manipulation.  Who will win?  You’ll have to check back and see!

Other notable match-ups are…

  • Anita Blake vs Eugenie Markham
  • Zsadist vs Curran (I’d have rather seen Vishous here! /pout)
  • Eric Northman vs Raphael (this one should be interesting)
To follow the action, check out The Vampire Book Club and cast your vote!  The competition bracket is below, if you want a sneak peek…
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Review: Narcissus in Chains (Anita Blake series novel #10), by Laurell K. Hamilton

TLDR recap:

Anita reconnects with Jean-Claude and Richard to finally “marry” the vampire marks that bind them as a triumvirate.  Meanwhile, a brand new sweetie and a nasty new big bad hit town, as Anita fights her way from one crisis to the next in true ABVH style.

    • Title: Narcissus in Chains
    • Series: The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series – book #10
    • Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
    • Prominent Characters: Anita, Jean-Claude, Richard, Nathaniel, Micah
    • Recommended reader age: 17+
    • Sexual content level: Moderate, but fairly explicit

*** Spoiler alert! ***

If you have not read the first 9 books of the ABVH series and still plan to, OR if you do not want to know ANYTHING about the major events that will happen in Narcissus in Chains, stop reading now and come back once you’ve read it.  If you want some insight into the happenings of the novel, read on!  =) 

Premise & overview:

Anita, Richard, and Jean Claude finally marry their vampire marks, resulting in increased powers and new, although not necessarily desirable, abilities for each of them.  Anita & Richard are on-again off-again before Anita meets a new main squeeze and has to deal with the possibility of being Nimir-Ra of the leopards for real.  Furry politics takes a nasty turn when a new mystery alpha comes to town.

Thoughts:

It’s been a while since I read an Anita Blake book, but since I’ve never reviewed one and I really enjoyed this re-read, I figured it was a good time to put this one out there.  Narcissus in Chains is the book where Anita becomes “one of the monsters” and the series turns from being a mostly horror/thriller crime-solving drama to focusing on Anita’s new arduous power & burgeoning bevy of lovers and vamp/furry politics.

I’m a big fan of the Anita Blake series.  There are definitely things that annoy me, and the pace seems to spontaneously switch from super-slow to super-speed, but somehow I keep coming back for more even though I’ve read all the later books at least a few times.  The first 9 books mostly focus on Anita’s work as a necromancer (raising zombies for a living) and her side-job as a licensed vampire executioner and police correspondent, while developing the foundations of her relationships with Jean-Claude and Richard.  Because these early books were written nearly 20 years ago, there are a lot of references to now-antiquated technology and fashions that make it difficult to stay immersed in the story.  For example, any talk of shoulderpads automatically gives me visions of the 80s and 90s and really, to be completely honest, puts me off.  Let’s face it: shoulderpads are just NOT that attractive in normal clothes and I don’t want to read about them on my supposedly cute & kick-ass heroine!  Also, not having access to a cell phone, or having any references to cell phones, makes me think “why doesn’t she just get a cell phone?!” because mobile phones are one of the most, if not the absolute most, common personal accessory in our society today.  The early books also make a lot of references to Anita’s Nike shoes: what color they are, how many pairs she has, how often she wears them.  I don’t know why, I just find that really annoying.  It’s almost like Ms. Hamilton had some sort of advertising deal with Nike.  Of course, it could just be that she likes to thoroughly describe people, items, and events in her novels…

That is actually one of the things that annoys me most yet I like the most about Anita – she has a tendency to chat up little details regardless of their significance to the plot.  It’s sort of how people notice the things happening around them in real-time and the thoughts that pass through our heads – sometimes these thoughts are pertinent to the situation at hand and sometimes they’re superfluous, but including these little blurbs definitely helps the readers immerse themselves in the story and feel a closer connection to the main character.  The down-side to this is that there’s apparently no limit to what Ms. Hamilton is willing to talk circles around, including her sex scenes.  LKH writes some of the most steamy & gutsy sex scenes of all the authors I read, but sometimes it takes her forever to get down to it.  Sometimes, the characters actually talk themselves OUT of having sex during chapters-long dialogues that end in arguments (usually involving Richard – shocker, I know).  This is less of an issue in the later books, once Anita and Richard come more to grips with what they have become.

Narcissus in Chains marks the turning point in the series, where the books go from being widely classified as “thrillers” or “horror/crime drama” to “erotica” and “paranormal romance”.  The further into the series you get, the more appropriate the erotica label becomes.  I imagine bookstores have a tough time classifying this series – what section do you shelve it in when it’s pretty much split in two?

Memorable quotes:

Finally one of the monsters…

I’d tried not to be one of the monsters for so long, and now, in one fell swoop I was them, both of them.  You couldn’t be a bloodsucking vampire and be a lycanthrope at the same time.  They cancelled each other out as a disease or a curse… I’d always thought I’d have to drink blood to be one of them.  But I had been wrong about so many things.

Direct?  Who, me?

“You are simultaneously one of the most direct women I know, and one of the most self-deluding.”

“I am really not liking where this conversation is going.”

A lesson in BDSM…

I kept equating submissiveness with being inferior, and that wasn’t really the case.  Some people choose to be bottoms, to serve; it doesn’t make them less, just different.

Is there such a thing as too much firepower?

The doorbell rang again.  I didn’t jump this time.  I hung the Uzi over my shoulder by its strap and settled the Browning more comfortably in my hand.  The Uzi was really an emergency weapon.  The fact that I’d even thought about answering my door with it on my person was probably a bad sign.  If I needed more than a 9mm to answer my own front door, I should just leave town.

If you like…

If you like Narcissus in Chains and the Anita Blake series, you will almost certainly like the Meredith Gentry series, also written by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Unlike the ABVH series, which takes 10 books to really get into the steamy stuff, Merry Gentry focuses on sex as a central plot device starting with the first book.  MG also has some crime-solving elements in its plots, making it pretty damn near the fae version of an Anita Blake clone series, harem of hunky men included.

You might also like the Sookie Stackhouse (South Vampire Chronicles) series by Charlaine Harris and the Night Huntress (Cat & Bones) series by Jeaniene Frost.  Both of these are told from the same first person heroine perspective and involve plenty of vamps and other supes.  The Night Huntress series is probably closer to ABVH than Sookie Stackhouse since the main character is also a fighter, but be aware that while both these series have some excellent steamy moments, they are not nearly as close to being classified as erotica as ABVH is.

Final thoughts:

LKH has created a world where the heroine is kick-ass, attractive, intelligent, capable, and gains power constantly.  Anita attracts men and trouble like flies to honey, and since the stories are all told in first person, the reader really gets to feel immersed in the crazy happenings and goings on.  We also get to see the plots of the entire series unfold through the eyes of one person (Anita), instead of from a third person view of whatever the marquee couple is for a particular book.  To have a successful series dedicated to one main voice that has lasted for this long is a fairly rare accomplishment in the Paranormal Romance genre, and I’m excited to see a few new series coming along a similar path.

I personally found the first few books, and a few of the non-St. Louis books (featuring Edward), very difficult to read.  I’m not into excessive gore or horror or thrillers, and some of the crime scene content in the first half of the series really left me troubled (especially considering LKH has stated that she gets her ideas from actual crimes!).  For readers with more sensitive psyches I’d like to recommend just skipping those first 9 books and starting with Narcissus in Chains.  However, if you do that, you’re going to miss out on all the groundwork for the Anita/Jean-Claude/Richard relationships and a lot of the events that shape Anita into who she becomes.  If you decide to start the series with NiC, find a good wiki and read cliff-note versions of the stories so you at least have an idea of what happened.  Read the entire series if you can, and stick it out through all the horror content if that’s not your bag, until at least NiC… skip through parts if you need to!  I’ve included some helpful wiki links below.  Be very careful what you click on with these, as you could inadvertently spoil some of the book 11+ storylines.   *wink*

Maybe I just really identify with Anita’s personality, or maybe it’s just that engrossing (I think the frequent random details and descriptions probably help with that more than they hurt) , but this series definitely has a permanent place on my bookshelf.

Rating:

4.5 fangs: BITE IT!

Rating:

Related links:

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/

http://jeanienefrost.com/

http://www.charlaineharris.com/

http://www.anitablakewiki.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Blake

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