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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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Forks Week: What to see, where to shop & eat!

Ok, let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute.  If you’re a Twilight fan, even if you don’t consider yourself a “Twihard”, you’ve probably considered visiting the tiny town of Forks, WA.  Maybe it was a wistful “Oh, what a lovely area. I’d like to see those beaches!” or maybe it was more “OMG I MUST go see where Bella and Jacob and the Cullens live, THEN I want to buy tons of awesome fangirl stuff!”  Somewhere in between?  *wink*  Well, this IS Forks week, and I just got back from a two week Pacific Northwest vacation, so of course I took a few days to visit the famed town!  If you missed Pocket Edward’s photo-journal, look at yesterday’s post and check out his awesome trip photos!  The rest of the week will also be lots of fun, with a look inside Twilight Tours, a review of the Misty Valley Inn Bed and Breakfast, and Edward’s own take on Port Angeles’ Bella Italia restaurant.  Today is all about the money!  Where can I spend it on attractions, souvenirs, and food?!

***** Note: For you non-Twilight fan readers out there, my normal blog activities (book reviews and news) will resume next week! ***** 
   

What to see!

Every Twilight fan on a pilgrimage to Forks, should visit the Chamber of Commerce.  Not only can you see (and take pictures with!) Bella’s trucks (the model from the books and the model from the movies), you can also pose with life-size cardboard cutouts of our favorite characters and see for yourself and just how much rain Forks actually gets each year via the outdoor rain gauge.  Don’t forget to put a pin in the map representing your home city, then marvel and just how much tourism Twilight has brought to Forks in the last few years.
(Click on any picture to open it full-size in a new window)
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Also not to miss, however anticlimactic it may turn out to be, is the Forks “Home of the Spartans” high school sign.  I’m told that not a single frame of the movies has been filmed in Forks, so don’t be surprised when you look at the high school and don’t recognize it at all.  In fact, they’re in the process of rebuilding the old high school and only re-displayed the original sign after legions of angry Twilight fans complained about its absence during their visits.  Thanks to our fellow sisters-in-arms (erm, sisters-in-sparkle?), you can now view the original Forks High School sign in all its wooden glory.  Beware jaded glances from actual high school students if you are brave enough to try taking a photo with it.  *grin*

Of course, any Twilight fan worth their glitter wouldn’t miss seeing all the famous houses!  You can see them on your own (Lapelles Florist will give you a free handy map with everything nicely drawn out and easy to find) or you can take one of the Twilight tours.  More info on the tours tomorrow!  Check out a quick sneak peek at the houses the townspeople felt best fit Stephanie Meyer’s book descriptions…

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Where to shop!

Shopping in Forks really is a must.  Nearly all the stores in town carry some sort of Twilight paraphernalia, and some of them offer one-of-a-kind handmade items (by locals) and unique commercial merchandise.

Tops on my list for commercial items is Dazzled By Twilight.  This is the mega-store for all things vampire and paranormal (including True Blood & The Vampire Diaries), and it even includes an “adult” section in a secluded black lit room.  The decor is unsurpassed, better than some of the popular trendy shops I’ve seen in larger cities with its “grass” turf floor, tree and foliage decor, and the Twilight flavor just shimmering off its shelves.  From “Bite me!” boy briefs to Cullen baseball jerseys, Dazzled has a selection large enough to satisfy even the most demanding of fans.

For personalized souvinirs and scrapbooking gems, you can’t beat Lapelles Flowers and Gifts.  This unassuming little flower shop will surprise you with its large selection of vampire-inspired (and Twilight-specific) papers, stickers, and kits (all of which takes up roughly half the merchandise space!), and it still has a great selection of charming gifts, including a few items that can be personalized while you wait.  Don’t forget t-shirts and caps!  Lapelles has those too, as well as some super-cute knit “Cullen” beanies and, my personal favorite souvinir from the entire trip, a personalized glittery apple.

If you’re more interested in the native culture in Forks and the Twilight Saga, definitely visit Native To Twilight.  Offering a wide selection of Quilluite-inspired home decorations such as carvings, jewelry, and wall & window hangings, Native To Twilight also carries handmade cards made by local artists.  Get yourself one of these, then take it to the Post Office and ask for a “cancel stamp” (it’s free – you don’t have to actually mail it, just ask to have your item stamped).  Voila, your very own one-of-a-kind keepsake with indisputable Forks provenance!

Where to eat!

With all this exploring, you’re going to need some serious fuel.  Here are a few of my favorites…

No Twilight trip would be complete without a trip to Bella Italia in Port Angeles!  Obviously, this restaurant is not IN Forks, but it is well worth the 45 minute or so drive to nearby Port A.  You’ll probably notice that this too is not the same as the movie location for Bella Italia.  Go ahead and feel a little down about it, but then shake it off and sit down to one of the best meals of your life… bar none.  I’ve eaten all over the world, had some of the finest cuisine in some of the fanciest restaurants, and the food at Bella Italia ranks up there with all but the most elite.  Of course, I’m partial to Italian food, but one thing I am NOT usually a fan of is mushrooms.  Unfortunately, Stephanie Meyer wrote in Mushroom Ravioli as Bella’s food the night of her and Edward’s first date.  This means (you guessed it) either my husband or I had to order this dish to try it.  Much to my surprise and overwhelming relief, it was divine!  I won’t go into any more detail because Edward will be covering the food reviews on Friday here on Gravetells, but suffice it to say this:

Save up some money ($14-$20 per plate ish), make your reservation (they fill up fast, so don’t wait til the day of!), make the drive, and sit down to one of the best restaurant Italian meals you’ll find outside of Italy itself!

For fast food with quality ingredients and a clean atmosphere, visit Pacific Pizza! I’m what I like to call a “pizza connoisseur”.  That’s fancy-schmancy for “I eat a lot of pizza and can’t seem to get enough”.  I’ve tasted a lot of bad pizza and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I expected Pacific Pizza to be disappointing.  Well, I certainly don’t mind being wrong about a fabulous new pizza place!  This joint was, to borrow from Rachel Ray, YUM-O!  The menu is surprisingly sophisticated, with a selection of sandwiches and paninis in addition to their standard and gourmet pizzas, and the dining area was quaintly decorated and cleanly kept.  The service was also warm and friendly, which sadly was not the overwhelmingly typical experience for me in Forks.  Minimally friendly, yes.  Southern-hospitality-style welcoming, no.

For yummy, fresh sandwiches and sweet coffee confections, head over to Forks Outfitters! Yep, I said Forks Outfitters.  Outwardly, this building looks like a Safeway meets Academy meets Home Depo, with a coffee shop attached.  Honestly speaking, it’s not really a welcoming facade, and I probably wouldn’t have stopped in here to check for food if I hadn’t been a) really hungry and b) jonzing for a London Fog.  *grin*  Luckily for me (and now all of you!), we took a chance and had the deli make us fresh sandwiches.  As simple as that sounds (“fresh” sandwiches), I should point out that the deli has a decent selection of pre-made sammies and other cooked foods such as pasta, eggrolls, and meats.  When we asked for a freshly made sandwich, we were repeatedly pointed toward the pre-mades and warned about the size limitation (they apparently won’ t make a half-sized-sandwich fresh, only whole ones) and the extra cost of additional meats and cheeses ($1 each).  After about a 5 minute discussion and explanation, we finally had our sandwiches started.  It took a while to make them (I’m thinking most people probably just cave and buy the pre-made ones, which probably taste great too!), but when we finally got them back to the B&B, the wait was COMPLETELY worth it!

Long story short?  Go to Forks Outfitters and insist on a freshly made deli sandwich, then hit up the cute little coffee shop and get yourself a London Fog or a Mocha.  Best sandwich and coffee I had all trip!

Finally, if you’re willing to spend a little extra and want the best breakfast in town, book a night at Misty Valley Inn bed & breakfast.  The Misty Valley Inn is a wonderfully charming bed & breakfast just a couple miles outside the town center of Forks.  By that, I mean it’ll take you a whole 5 minutes to drive from the B&B to downtown.  😉  The owners are lovely people and have a serious flair for extravagant breakfasts.  You’ll get your morning tray of tea/coffee/chocolate, which is heavenly on its own, and then you’ll be treated to a literally gourmet breakfast overlooking one of the most scenic views in the entire area.  More about the Misty Valley Inn B&B on Thursday, but for now let me just share a few images of their mouthwatering breakfast selections and view…

Contact info for featured businesses

If you live too far away to visit Forks but still want to order some merchandise, or if you’re planning a trip and want to start making your reservations, check out the links below.  Hope you enjoyed the info!  I’d be glad to answer any questions in the comments section below.  Also look for my reviews (as davincikittie) on TripAdvisor.com

© All photos displayed in this post are property of DavinciKittie.  Copies of these photos may be used for personal purposes without permission, but not on any monetized website/blog  or in any media outlets intended for profit.  Persons and businesses may use these photos in a non-profit manner ONLY as long as a link back to this site is provided in a reasonably visible location and (for businesses only) permission from DavinciKittie is obtained in advance.

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Forks Week: Edward’s travel scrapbook

Helloooooo fellow vampire lovers and faithful Gravetells readers!  I know it’s been a while since my last update, and I try to keep up at least semi-regular postings, so where the heck have I been?!  My husband and I just returned from a 2 week Pacific Northwest blitz vacation, where my sweetie gracriously agreed to spend a whole 3 tedious (for him, hah!) days in Forks and Port Angeles.  I know, how awesome is he?!

So, in honor of the all the Twilight fans out there soaking up new information about Forks and the whole Twilight experience, this week is Forks Week!  All week I’ll be profiling various places and activities to share with all of you, and to give you some recommendations for your own future Twilight Pilgrimages.  Here’s this week’s lineup:

  • Monday (today!):  Edward’s travels through the Pacific Northwest
  • Tuesday:  Forks – What to see, where to eat, & where to shop!
  • Wednesday:  Twilight Tours photos & info
  • Thursday:  Misty Vally Inn Bed & Breakfast review
  • Friday:  Edward reviews Bella Italia in Port Angeles
***** Note: For you non-Twilight fan readers out there, my normal blog activities (book reviews and news) will resume next week! ***** 
   
Of course I took Pocket Edward along on the journey, and he had a fantastic time touring Seattle, exploring the harbor, revisiting Bella Italia, and thumbing his nose at Jacob’s house in Forks.  Edward is getting ready for his food critique of Bella Italia on Friday, so he asked me to share a few of his favorite moments from the trip.  Enjoy!  (Click on any picture to open it full-size in a new window)

© All photos displayed in this post are property of DavinciKittie.  Copies of these photos may be used for personal purposes without permission, but not on any monetized website/blog  or in any media outlets intended for profit.  Persons and businesses may use these photos in a non-profit manner ONLY as long as a link back to this site is provided in a reasonably visible location and (for businesses only) permission from DavinciKittie is obtained in advance.

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