Tag Archives: southern vampire chronicles

Comic Con 2011: True Blood S4 shower scene confirmed, season preview clip!

Fans attending this years Comic Con True Blood panel were treated to a generous gathering of the stars of everyone’s favorite vampire soap opera.  Traditionally, True Blood is  one of the few panels that routinely offers up such a large number of its cast for the Q&A session and this year was no different, with Alexander Skarsgard and Anna Paquin in attendance to spark questions about the possibility of fans finally getting to see the infamous “shower scene”.  To our collective overwhelmingly-excited-anticipation, the answer to that is (from Alan Ball)…

“There will be a moment in the show when Sookie and Eric are together in a shower,” he said. “It may not exactly be what happens in the books. It may be weirder… and dirtier. Maybe.”

When asked if Sookie has multiple personalities, referring to her upcoming change of attitude toward Eric and the show’s other vampires, Anna Paquin quipped…

“Part of her has really dirty vampire sex on a regular basis — with possibly multiple vampires.”

Eagle-eyed viewers noticed some wardrobe inconsistencies for Eric in the first episode of the season.  Not too many complains about the shirtless & shoeless hunk wandering the roadside near Sookie’s house (why missing just the shirt and shoes?  Eh, who cares!), but how does Sookie just happen to have a warm-up suit that will fit a 6’4″ Viking vampire?  Alexander Skarsgard suggested maybe it’s somehow one of Hoyt’s via Jason, but Alan Ball cleared the air on this one…

“I believe that if you took the Latin of the spell that was cast on Eric and were to translate it,” Ball explained, “there would be a part that said, ‘And by the way, you will lose your shirt, and then you will find a really dorky outfit that you will wear for several episodes in a row … and still be insanely hot in.'”

Of course, one of the best things about Comic Con is getting to see the preview clips of the upcoming films and television seasons.  Here’s the teaser trailer for what’s coming up in Season 4!

Wanna see the panel Q&A?  Check out the videos below!  (Courtesy of magicinthenumbers’s YouTube channel)

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Review: Darkfever (The Fever series #1), by Karen Marie Moning

TLDR recap:

After learning of her sister Alina’s mysterious murder, MacKayla Lane (better known as  just Mac) heads to Ireland determined to find out what happened and get her retribution.  At the tender age of 22, she doesn’t exactly have a plethora of survival skills but there just might be some fairly handly super-secret abilities that even she doesn’t know about.  On her quest to track down details of her sister’s sudden death, Mac teams up with an unlikely (and sometimes suspiciously nefarious) yet darkly appealing partner.  Chaos ensues as they begin the dangerous journey to finish Alina’s final task among the unsettling Unseelie fae.

    • Title: Darkfever
    • Series: The Fever series – book #1
    • Author: Karen Marie Moning
    • Prominent Characters: Mac Lane, Jericho Barrons
    • Recommended reader age: 15+
    • Sexual content level: Very light

Thoughts:

After reading several fast-and-furious style novels lately, the slower pace of this one was a pleasant change.  It’s a series starter, so I knew going in that it would be somewhat more leisurely getting to the point, but it turned out to be more of an adventurous journey than a romance or action-driven storyline.  Darkfever is the story of Mac Lane, who treks off to Ireland from her home in the states to solve her sister’s murder and get some retribution from the responsible parties.  To give some perspective on Mac, she is a 22-year-old Barbie doll of a bartender from a upper-middle-class American family who, according to her own narration, is beautiful and enviable, yet has no real life skills to speak of other than mixing drinks and schmoozing with patrons.  If you think you caught some snarkiness in that last comment, you did.  Mac comments WAY too frequently about how attractive she is… how soft and golden her skin, how long and lustrous her blond hair, how smooth and shapely her legs,  how stylish and cute her wardrobe & accessories… that she comes across as obsessively vain.  At first it didn’t bother me – I saw it as a vehicle for helping define her character in order to better develop and progress it later.  However, after about the 3rd reference to her youthly perfection, I wanted to punch her.  Maybe put some unsightly knots in that Barbie doll hair.  Replace her wardrobe with something gray and drab from a thrift store.  Seriously!  Ugh.

Anyway, back to the important stuff… Even with the slower pace, the story still progresses well and is entertaining to follow.  It doesn’t feel the need to rush through and pack in action scenes.   Instead, Ms. Moning gives the reader a plethora of clues and directional markers that allow us to form our own opinion of where Mac is headed and what might be in store for her.  Nothing is force-fed to us but important details are (generally) also not withheld for the sake of surprise and drama.  There is also a good amount of sarcasm and humor in the story, making me literally laugh out loud in a few parts.  The main supporting character, Jericho Barrons, is a successful mystery.  By that, I mean that the author does a respectable job of making him appealing and acceptable as an almost-lead character without giving away too much of his background… or really much of anything about him other than his vast financial wealth.  Usually by the end of a book, even the starter book in a series, the lead male character (or soon-to-be at least) will have been at least partially vetted and presented for reader approval.  Barrons is nearly as much of a mystery at the end of the story as he is when we first meet him.  Of course, some clues are inevitably dropped in the telling, but nothing that is too fast or too much… just enough to keep us speculating.

Darkfever, being a starter novel for the multi-book Fever series, is laid out well with good plot definition and pace, sporting an enjoyably motley cast of allies and baddies (ok, mostly baddies… of the fae variety).  It is entertaining and light enough for casual reading, with the promise of more intense and riveting developments in later installments.  I’m looking forward to getting started on number two in the series, Bloodfever.

Memorable quotes:

Hang on to your hats!  This book is infinitely quotable, so I pared it down to only eight.  *grin*

Tough crowd?

My philosophy is pretty simple – any day nobody’s trying to kill me is a good day in my book.

Oh, the bloom of immortal youth…

We were going to live forever.  Thirty was a million light-years away.  Forty wasn’t even in the same galaxy.  Death?  Ha.  Death happened to really old people.

Why books will always be better than the movies made from them…

I love books, by the way, way more than movies.  Movies tell you what to think.  A good book lets you choose a few thoughts for yourself.  Movies show you the pink house.  A good book tells you there’s a pink house and lets you paint some of the finishing touches, maybe choose the roof style, park your car out front.

In Gaellic, a rose is not just a rose…

“‘Dubh’ is ‘do’?”  I was incredulous.  It was no wonder I hadn’t been able to find the stupid word.  “Should I be calling all pubs ‘poos’?”

On the perils of philosophy…

I’m a bottom-line girl.  I barely managed Cs in my college philosophy courses.  When I tried to read Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, I developed an unshakable case of narcolepsy that attacked every two to three paragraphs, resulting in deep, coma-like fits of sleep.

Heroes are over-rated.

Peraonally, I’d never had any desire to save the world.  Decorate it? Yes.  Save it? No.

The sad reality of the “entitlement generation” (EG)…

The EG is made up of kids who believe they deserve the best of everything by mere virtue of having been born, and if parents don’t arm them with every possible advantage, they are condemning their own children to a life of ostracism and failure.  Raised by computer games, satellite TV, the Internet, and the latest greatest electronic device – while their parents are off slaving away to afford them all – most of the EG believe if there’s something wrong with them, it’s not their fault; their parents screwed them up, probably by being away too much.  It’s a vicious little catch-22 for the parents any way you look at it.

On the value of playing “hard to get”…

Distinguish yourself, my mom had told Alina and me, in an age where girls often make themselves too available to boys, by making him work a little for your attention.  He’ll think he’s won a prize when he gets it, and he’ll work that much harder to keep it.  Boys turn into men and men put a premium on what’s hardest to get.

If you like Darkfever of The Fever series…

If you enjoyed Darkfever, you may also like the the Cassandra Palmer series (starting with Touch the Dark) by Karen Chance. Cassie shares the same “it’s a good day when no one is trying to kill me” philosophy, and also frequently finds herself in amusing-yet-dangerous situations where she has to use her wits and still-developing special skills to prevail.  Both are more urban fantasy than paranormal romance, and both focus on a central young strong female character who is instrumentally necessary in solving some big world-wide crisis.

You may also enjoy A History of Witches, the first novel in the new All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness and the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Chronicles series (starting with Dead Until Dark) by Charlaine Harris.  Both of these are also first-person narratives from a female heroine’s perspective, and both are also somewhat slower paced stories.

Final thoughts:

This was a fun read.  It probably won’t ever be one of my go-to favorites for a rainy day or a nice cozy fireside read, but it was an entertaining and effective series starter.  The stage is set, the characters have been introduced, and all that remains is for the real action to begin.  Give this one and Bloodfever, the second book in the Fever series, a try and see what you think!

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT… 

Related links:

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

http://www.karenchance.com/ (The Cassie Palmer series website)

http://deborahharkness.com/ (A Discovery of Witches website)

http://www.charlaineharris.com/ (The Sookie Stackhouse series website)

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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: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse series novel #11), by Charlaine Harris

TLDR recap:

Sookie’s fairy kin are secretive and devious.  Sookie’s vampire friends are secretive and edgy.  Sookie’s old enemies are secretly still gunning for her.  Sookie’s family secrets finally see the light of day.  Secrets, secrets, everywhere, in Dead Reckoning, the 11th offering in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Chronicles.

    • Title: Dead Reckoning
    • Series: The Southern Vampire Chronicles (Sookie Stackhouse) series – book #11
    • Author: Charlaine Harris
    • Prominent Characters: Sookie, Eric, Pam, & co.
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: Fairly light

I am going to try very hard to keep spoilers out of this review!  I know not everyone reads at the speed of light and I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t finished it, so if you read on, expect to see hints of the overall tone of the story but no real specifics (other than a few unrevealing quotes). 

Thoughts:

This is going to be a very difficult review to write and it’s tempting to just put it off for another time, but the truth is I’ll probably only read this book again once, maybe twice ever, so I should get my thoughts written down while they’re still fresh.  Did I like the book?  Yeah, it was ok.  Did I enjoy the story?  I enjoyed the last half of the story, until the (yet again) unresolved ending.  Did I get the usual feeling of fulfillment and completion upon finishing it?  Ugh, no.  I really wanted to love this one; I wanted Charlaine to hit it out of the park!  The last Sookie Stackhouse novel left me feeling similarly disjointed and unsatisfied and I’d hoped it was just a case of middle-movie syndrome (you know, the important 2nd movie in a trilogy that has the meat of the story but doesn’t pack the cinematic punch and resolution of the beginning and end).  I’m going to try to do this without spoilers, so I’ll break it down by character…

Sookie: Nothing really new here, same old Sook (although a little less “christian”, by her own definition, and a little more ruthless).  Our Sookie is learning to survive in a world where she is perpetually fragile and she’s not too sure she’s happy with the “new” her.  She does, of course, have no objections to still being alive.  *wink*  And you know it wouldn’t be a Sookie Stackhouse novel if people (plural) weren’t trying to kill her pretty much constantly…

Eric: Also more of the same: secretive, domineering, oddly charming at times (“my lover” /swoon), and utterly ruthless and centered.  It’s becoming more apparent that Eric actually does love Sookie for more than just her value as a political tool, but does he love her enough to endanger his own precarious position?  More on this later…

Pam: Pam is her usual visciously effective self, with a dash of vulnerability that we haven’t seen in her to date.  This was a nice change!  It’s also nice to see Sookie actually thinking of Pam as a “good friend” rather than a vampire who’s just impartial about her and helps her out when it suits the situation.

Bill: Another reviewer made a pretty witty statement about Bill’s role in this novel (“everyone’s favourite killjoy crawls out of his sickhole”), and before reading Dead Reckoning, I agreed and thought it was fairly entertaining & appropriate.  I mean, honestly, Bill has become a bore, hasn’t he?  After finishing the novel, however, I felt that Bill’s presence lent some of the only straightforward love and support that Sookie received throughout the entire book.  After being staunchly Team Eric since the early novels, I’m now starting to wonder why I’m still holding out…

Sam: Oh Sam, a perpetual friend art thee.  First let me say that I do NOT like Jannalyn, Sam’s newest honey, and her role in this novel doesn’t win her as many brownie points as it loses her, putting her slightly down in the count at the close.  She doesn’t care though – she’s a badass pack enforcer and everyone else who isn’t Alcide are just peons, right?  I’m thinking maybe Sam should rethink just what it is he’s getting out of this relationship with Ms. Testosterone.

Alcide: Ugh.  Seriously.  UGH!  I want this guy to go away.  How many more ways can he possibly abuse Sookie’s one-time friendship and trust?  Admittedly, his part in this story does lend some much-needed levity to an otherwise overly serious & sometimes slightly boring progression.  Ironically, I’d actually forgotten how much I disliked Alcide until I read his scene – Joe Manganiello sure does do a sweet, sexy portrayal of him and it’s damn hard not to like Alcide in the HBO series True Blood!  Psst Charlaine, if you’re going to put in guest appearances, toss us some Quinn next time! 

Jason:  Sookie’s annoying and self-centered brother makes only a brief appearance in this one, and he doesn’t even get a line to speak.  I guess having a fairy in residence who looks just like him is a good enough substitute, and I am most definitely NOT complaining about the lack of Jason-time!

Memorable quotes:

Oh fair tradition!

I could imagine my grandmother’s opinion about Holly’s white wedding dress, since Holly had a little boy in school – but hey, whatever made the bride happy.  White used to symbolize the virgin purity of the wearer.  Now it just meant the bride had acquired an expensive and unusable dress to hang in her closet after the big day.

Those fairies, always playing hard to get!

They didn’t really care a whole hell of a bunch about what happened to humans they didn’t know.  If they’d ever read John Donne, they would have disagreed with his idea that no man is an island.  Most humans were on one big island, to the fairies, and that island was adrift on a sea called I Totally Don’t Care.

Well, Bill certainly isn’t playing hard to get…

“I think just knocking on your door and looking lonesome would probably get me where I wanted to be, if that was my goal.  Or I could just say, ‘How ’bout it big boy?’  I don’t think I need to be naked and in danger to get you lusty.  Right?”

Buy now and get a special bonus!

Go on the Sookie Stackhouse Narrow Avoidance of Death Diet!  Run for your life, and miss meals, too!  Excercise plus starvation.

Never a dull moment at Sookie’s house…

I wondered if she’d see Bubba in the woods.  Or Bill.  Or maybe there’d be fairies.  Or some more kidnappers.  A homicidal maniac!  You never knew what you’d find in my woods.


If you like…

If you like Dead Reckoning and the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire Chronicles) series, you might enjoy the Cassandra Palmer series.  They have a surprisingly lot in common: innate psychic powers they’d rather not have, people constantly trying to kill or control them, multiple powerful men trying to maneuver them into bed, and a strong backbone and sense of right vs. wrong.  The Cassie Palmer series, by Karen Chance, is currently 4 novels long, with the 5th releasing early next month.

If you find yourself frustrated by the sometimes slow pace in the Sookie Stackhouse series and want a little more bang for your buck, check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J. R. Ward. Having recently released its 9th novel (10th, if you count the Insider’s Guide, and you totally should!), the series is packed with love, sex, violence, drama, unexpected twists, and some of the most well-written romantic entanglements I’ve ever read.  Read it for the couples or read it for the politics and action… just read it!  =)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Cat & Bones, my favorite paranormal couple from a series, in the “if you like this, then read this” list.  The Night Huntress series, by Jeaniene Frost, is still going strong after recently releasing its 6th most excellent novel (8 counting the 2 “world” spinoffs) and more is on the way later this year!

Final thoughts:

A lot goes down in this book and several long-running mysteries and plotlines are neatly tied off.  Some of the action feels almost TOO easy after the looooong draaaaawn out story arcs of perpetual assassination attempts and political intrigue.  I was definitely very happy with two particular outcomes, and I found myself laughing out loud at a few scenes that, for anyone but Sookie, shouldn’t have been amusing at all.  Long-time readers will be satisfied with some of the resolutions and spontaneous little gifts of information Ms. Harris delivers.  I’m already starting to speculate about where things will head next, but I’ll leave that for the comments below to keep from spoiling key plot points.  *wink*

My review probably comes across a little harsh for a 4+ rating.  I think the deal here is that we’ve all loved and lived Sookie’s life for years now, and waited so long in between very short-feeling installments (most of these books take place within a week of time or less!), that we’re impatient for big happenings.  Sookie’s love life has been tumultuous from the start, and I keep thinking “ok, it’s got to settle down some time!” but Ms. Harris obviously has other plans.  Personally, I read these novels partially for the Sookie/Eric developments and it feels like each new novel just delays their progression by filling the space with yet more political angst, assassination attempts, and battles.

So, bottom line, if you’re a long-time reader who doesn’t mind the incremental progress and can focus on the bigger picture of the series as a whole, you’re probably going to really enjoy this book!  If you, like me, need a little more romantic closure and less what-chores-Sookie-is-doing-today, you might leave this one feeling a little frustrated and wrung out.

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT!

Related links:

http://www.charlaineharris.com/

http://www.karenchance.com/

http://jeanienefrost.com/

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/

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Dead Reckoning: Interview with Charlaine Harris on Sookie Stackhouse and her 11th novel in the series

Another painfully long wait is nearly over for Sookie Stackhouse fans, as Dead Reckoning, the 11th novel in the Southern Vampire Chronicles series, launches next week.  Nearly one year to the day since the 10th novel, Dead in the Family, was released, this newest chapter in the story of Sookie and her increasingly wacky & scary life will focus on the fae remaining among us after the gates to Fairy were closed, the state of Louisiana’s new vampire management, and Sookie’s exploration of her heritage. 

You can’t get your next Eric fix until May 3 (next Tuesday, for the calendar-challenged! Click on the book cover above for a sneak peek!), but maybe this interview with Charlaine will tide you over…

tvnz.co.nz: Can you tell us a little bit about your latest novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead Reckoning?
 
Charlaine: Yes, a little. My books aren’t long enough to share a lot! Dead Reckoning deals with Sookie learning about her heritage, the struggles of the fae left in our world, and the vampires of Louisiana coping (or not) with the new regime. 
 
tvnz.co.nz: The books are getting noticeably darker in tone as they progress, especially after Sookie’s traumatic experiences in Dead and Gone. Were you influenced by the TV series to go a little darker or was it always planned? 
 
I don’t see the show as darker than the books. All the bad things that happen in the books happen on “True Blood,” though perhaps the TV show has even MORE stuff. I knew that as Sookie was drawn in more and more into vampire politics, the books would get darker.

tvnz.co.nz: What do you think of True Blood and Alan Ball’s interpretation of the world you created? 
 
I think Alan is a genius, and I’m always excited to see what he’s put up on the screen.
 
tvnz.co.nz: Clearly you’re on Team Eric in the books but has Stephen Moyer managed to sway you back towards Bill at all?
 
I dislike the idea of teams. The story I’m telling is Sookie’s, and since all the characters come from my head, it’s not like I could “favour” one of them more than the other.
 
tvnz.co.nz: How do you feel about working with such a long series – what do you love/hate about it?
 
There are certainly two sides. It’s wonderful to have such a large cast to work with, and to not have to reinvent the people every time. On the other hand, that’s a lot of back story to remember.
 
tvnz.co.nz: Which character has been your favourite to write for?  

Pam is always fun to write, but there again, there are always fun moments with any character.
 
tvnz.co.nz: How do you feel about the worldwide popularity of your books? Did you ever think you would win fans as far away as New Zealand?
 
No, it still seems incredible to me to think of people reading my books all across the world. I could never have foreseen this.
 
tvnz.co.nz: What did you think when you found out a New Zealand girl, Anna Paquin, was going to be playing Sookie?
 
I was very excited that an actor of her stature was interested in the role.
 
tvnz.co.nz: What’s your current reading obsession?

I have so many. I reread Barbara Pym often, which may seem odd. I’m also a huge fan of Lee Child, Jim Butcher, Naomi Novik, Sarah Monette. . . . a very long list.

Interview compliments of TVNZ.

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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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Review: Lover Mine (Black Dagger Brotherhood #8) by J. R. Ward

TLDR recap:

In this 8th installment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Ms. Ward drops us right back into the middle of the Brothers vs Lessers conflict and holds nothing back.  After his Xhex was taken during a raid at the end of book 7, John Matthew & the Brotherhood spend 4 weeks searching for her while she is hidden right under their noses.  Imprisoned and abused at the hands of Lash, John’s old enemy and the son of nasty big bad “the Omega”, Xhex is struggling to retain her sanity and her identity.   This book is smokin’ hot, viciously intense, and a roller coaster ride through the spectrum of emotions.

  • Title: Lover Mine
  • Series: The Black Dagger Brotherhood series – book #8
  • Author: J. R. Ward
  • Prominent Characters: John Matthew, Xhex, Quinn, Blaylock, & Tohrment
  • Recommended reader age: 17+
  • Sexual content level: Moderate

Premise:

John Matthew and the Brotherhood must find Xhex before Lash turns or kills her, or she dies from lack of male vampire blood.  The clock is ticking and, though her body is physically still strong, her fragile psyche is constantly teased with the knowledge that even if they found her, they wouldn’t be able to help her.  John is out of control, behaving like a bonded male and taking crazy risks to try to find his female.  Meanwhile, a new story arc is begun and an existing storyline is developed even more intensely.

Thoughts:

The long-awaited John Matthew book is a doozey.  It was one of those books I couldn’t stop reading, but didn’t want to finish.  I found myself constantly checking my progress (e-reader) to see how much more story I had left before the book was over!  All the Brotherhood books are intense and addicting, but this one in particular really had me all wrapped up in it.  Some of the scenes with Quinn and Blay were just heart-rending, and John’s personality is so intense yet self-sacrificing that it’s hard to not be fully invested in his situation.

This book wraps up a few story arcs that feature John Matthew, particularly the bitterness & regret between him and Tohr, the Lash conflict, and his eerie insta-connection with Xhex.  We also get to see some of the Darius history & character development.  Personally, I want him to remember and know and I was hoping that would happen in this novel, but that’s either not in the cards on purpose or is being held as an ace for a later book.  It’ll be fun to keep reading and see if Ms. Ward ever lets him in on the big secret.  😉

I will say that, initially, the new storyline taking place at the old manor bed and breakfast with the ghost of Elias Rathboone was an unwelcome intrusion, but after figuring out where it was heading I started to enjoy it.  That said, I’d probably have felt that way about any departure from the main storylines because they were SO INTENSE in this one.

On a separate note, I really love how Ms. Ward doesn’t play it safe with the homosexual undertones in this series.  First it was Butch & V, and now Quinn and Blay.  We know that nothing came of Butch & V, but I think we haven’t seen the last of Quinn & Blay, and we get a glimpse of that in this book.  Those scenes are really well done too – descriptive enough to portray the emotions but discreet enough to keep from turning away some sensitive readers.

You might also like…

It’s hard to think of anything right now that gives such a complete and satisfying escape into the story as this series does.  When I read the BDB books, I literally cannot put them down and become obsessively lost in the stories.  Using that as a gauge, there are a few other series that have a similar effect on me, although with slightly less intensity…

If you like the Black Dagger Brotherhood and Lover Mine, you might also like the Night Huntress Series (Cat & Bones) by Jeaniene Frost and the Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance.  Not to be too critical of Ms. Harris, but the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire Chronicles) series, while entertaining & enjoyable, don’t even come close to this level of intensity and vivid emotional commitment for me.  Since I really like SS/SVC, that’s saying a lot for the BDB!  I’m still looking for something that hits as hard as the BDB series does, so if you have a recommendation for me, post a comment and let me know!  I need my next fix.  *grin*

Memorable quotes:

Vampires have bromances too…

Chronologically speaking, Blaylocke son of Rocke had known John Matthew for just over a year.

But that was not a true reflection of the bromance.  There were two timelines to people’s lives: the absolute and the perceived.  The absolute was the universal day-and-night cycle that for them added to something like three hundred and sixty-five.  Then there was the way that time period had gone, the events, the deaths, the destruction, the training, the fighting.

He figured all told… that pegged the two of them at about four hundred thousand years.

On loving and losing…

The thing was, all mortals were going to lose the ones they loved.  It was the way life worked.  But for most of the time, that reality was so far off in the mind that it had no more weight than a mere hypothetical.  There were reminders, however, and the almost’s, the near-misses, the oh-God-please-no’s, snapped your chain and got you to stop and feel what was in your heart.


Final thoughts:

With each new book in this series (with the exception of maybe Phury’s book, which didn’t give me quite the same rush), Ms. Ward continues to masterfully interweave her vivid rainbow of story arcs while tying off some and threading in brand new ones.   Sometimes she brings in the new ones so subtly, over several books, that you don’t even realize where it’s going until suddenly, we have new major players that are already part of the fabric of the BDB universe.  The emotional spectrum she is able to evoke is so intense and hard-hitting that it is easy to lose hours at a time reading, and sleep fitfully dreaming of them.  I haven’t been so emotionally invested in a book series, and dedicated to overnight reading sessions, since the last half of the Harry Potter series was released.  When Payne’s book comes out next week, I think I’m going to need to schedule a 36-hour “do nothing but read” period, or I’m going to be so distracted and antsy I’ll be worthless for anything else!

If you have not started this series, OR if you read Dark Lover (the first book in the series) but weren’t bowled over, please please please give this series a chance!  Read at least through Rhage’s book (BDB#2 – Lover Eternal) and see how you feel.  If you can get through that one without breaking a sweat, then this probably isn’t the series for you.  However, this series isn’t one of the most well-known and -loved in the genre for nothing.  Where other series are starting to lose momentum in their later books (like the Sookie Stackhouse series), the Black Dagger Brotherhood is stronger than ever and as addicting as it was in the beginning (moreso, I say!).

Rating:
5 fangs: BITE IT!

I don’t give a 5-fang rating lightly.  Even as I was reading this I kept thinking “I think this might make the 5-fang mark!” and it definitely did not disappoint.  Ms. Ward is the master of anticipation and building the energy and momentum of a story, and John & Xhex’s story is a amazingly well written.  Do yourself a favor: take the weekend off, find a comfy chair, and READ THIS BOOK!  Of course, if you haven’t read the rest, you might want to get caught up first.  But don’t wait too long, because we only have one week left until #9 is released: Lover Unleashed!

Related links:

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/index.html

http://jeanienefrost.com/books/

http://www.karenchance.com/books.html

http://www.charlaineharris.com/bibliography/bibliog-sookie.html

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