Tag Archives: werewolf

Shame On You!

Are you ashamed of what you read?

One day in a bookstore, I overheard a man berating his wife for browsing through the Paranormal Romances. She apologized and promised not to read such “filth”, and of course she knew vampires weren’t real. I started to wonder how many readers of Paranormal Romance novels faced the same sort of criticism from family and friends.

By paying closer attention to what people said when discussing books, I learned that many regard PNR as either “Fluff” or “Trash”. Fluff apparently refers to books that show only idealized events and characters. The unbelievably romantic vampire with the tortured soul who hates what he is but suddenly his existence is given meaning when he meets the innocent and perfect heroine. The Trash label seems to be assigned to the grittier PNRs with their truly evil villains, heroes that don’t mind getting a little blood on their hands, and heroines who are perfectly capable of, and willing to, kick ass – and the hero and heroine enjoy an active and inventive sex life.

I found few people willing to admit to reading PNR, and those who did sort of laughed it off, giving the impression they were either embarrassed about it, or didn’t read it seriously. The covers often seem to cause discomfort in readers, too, even though many are gorgeous. But people have a certain expectation from a book with a man’s beautifully sculpted pecs and washboard abs enhanced by a mysterious tattoo – good literature isn’t it.

Almost all Romance, including all the sub-genres, takes more than its fair share of belittlement. But Paranormal seems to receive an extra helping of negativity. I’ve talked with many readers who hide what they read – a cover to conceal the cover, an e-reader, reading only when there’s no chance of anyone seeing what their book is, and on and on. Many authors, myself included, use pen names – you wouldn’t want your teen-age son taking flak from everyone at school because his mother writes about vampires having sex either.

It took me a long time to get past being ashamed of some of my choices in reading material. I only recently admitted to extended family and friends what I write. I don’t care what strangers think, and if my friends and family can’t accept the work I love doing, then they might not care for me as much as I thought.

The truth is, I have nothing to be ashamed of – at least in relation to my reading and writing.<G> And neither do you.

Of course we know vampires and werewolves, and those other creatures aren’t real. Neither are space aliens or elves or zombies, and on and on. They’re fiction, meant to entertain, no matter the genre. Good Paranormal Romance is as well written as any other genre. Good writing is good writing, no matter the subject matter. As for the accusation of having no plot, much to the contrary, Paranormal Romance plots are often intricate, full of twists and turns, and many are more complex than those from any other genre. That’s what happens when you combine two or more genres into one book, and do it well.

Those sex scenes – nothing to be ashamed of. Mainstream fiction, literary, and other genres have sex scenes as well. Granted, not as many, or as well written, but they’re there. And maybe that’s the problem. Romance writers in general have made an art and a science of writing sex scenes, but the sex in Paranormal Romance is often… more. The very nature of our paranormal beings turns ordinary sex into something exceptional. Perhaps the detractors are jealous, either of the ability to have that incredible sex all the time, or of the ability to write it in such a way that the reader almost experiences it.

Because I have immediate family members who could be negatively impacted by the public perception of the genre I choose to write, I will continue to use my pen name. I wouldn’t want them to be hurt by the comments of those who consider Paranormal Romance to be porn with vampires. But hell will freeze over before I hide what I read again.

Do other peoples’ opinions about your choice of reading material cause you discomfort or shame? What do you do about it? Is there a way for you to “take back your books”, even in a small way?


Fangtastic Friday: Twilight-inspired artwork & comic by Mangled Stare

This month, Austin comic artist Will Rodriguez celebrates the 10-year anniversary of his quirky web comic Mangled Stare, a dedicated accomplishment in today’s fickle entertainment market.  The Mighty Mangler may be the brain and brush behind MS, but he’s quick to give credit to his family for the handy supply of situational humor and for the occasional coloring assistance of his junior-graphic-artists-in-training.  When asked about awards and honors earned by Mangled Stare, Will said…

Aside from the praise and admiration of my family, no other awards really carry the same priority or worth. ^_^ (Though, I don’t mind mentioning that I have held the Chipotle Chowdown Champion title at each convention I’ve attended in the last 6 years.)

Aww.  And, congratulations… I think?  *wink*  Earlier this month, MS published a comic that Twilight fans everywhere, especially the significant others of TwiFans, will appreciate…

Psst – click to make it bigger and open in a new window!

Q&A with the Mighty Mangler!

From the comic, it’s clear that your honey is staunchly Team Jacob.  How do you feel about all the Twilight hype?

You’d never know if not for  her “Team Jacob” tshirt, keychain, posters, or bumper stickers, huh? Yes, my wife is extremely Team Jacob. I think Stephanie Meyers took a genre and turned it on its ear. She spun a story that built a very strong and dedicated fan-base and I applaud her for that.

So you visited Forks on your Spring Break… how exactly did she talk you into that? (hopeful TwiFans everywhere are holding their breath…)

She smiled and asked me in her sweetest girlie voice. >_< We were planning a road-trip and since I’d never seen the Pacific Ocean, I agreed that a drive to the west coast would be fun for the whole family. Besides, my wife supports my artistic endeavors and other geeky obsessions so it’s only fair that I support hers.

Did you enjoy the trip?  What did you like best about it?

Well, we all had a fantastic time. The drive from Texas to Washington is a beautiful one. Utah was just breath-taking and the Quileute Reservation was humbling to visit. The best part of the trip, though, was when we surprised my wife by telling her that we were staying in the “Jacob Cabin” right on the treaty line, from the books. The entire cabin was Twilight-themed and each of the rooms was named after a member of the Black clan. We had the entire cabin to ourselves and made use of that fact with all of our children.

Do you have any advice for fellow TwiFan significant others?

Unless you have a significant other who enjoys a battle, fake it! Even if you think vampires should be fanged, stone-cold murderers, pretend to like it or, if nothing else, don’t bad-mouth a Twihard or their stories. Play your cards right and you’ll reap all the benefits of his or her Twilight addiction. ^_-

Can we look forward to any other Twilight-inspired comics in the near future?  (Breaking Dawn is coming!  *nudge nudge*)

My wife is counting down the minutes until the first part of Breaking Dawn releases! If she has any say in the matter (and she nearly always does), I can guarantee plenty more Twilight humor from Mangled Stare.

How did you get started in comics and what have you done to keep yourself motivated all these years?

When my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child, I knew that my childhood dream of becoming a cartoonist had no better springboard than the milestone of parenthood. I wanted to be able to leave a legacy for my children and show them that any of their dreams were achievable. Their praise and the continued support of my wife and readers, in addition to my love of cartooning and making folks laugh, make motivation easy. Ten years-easy, as a matter of fact!

Do you have any goals or plans (besides world domination, of course) for Mangled Stare that you’re excited about?

World domination comes with WAY too much responsibility! Keeping my three kiddos in line is enough for me, thanks. I am working on a graphic novel with a great friend of mine which will serve as a sort of precursor to Mangled Stare. I’m also working on some other stories I’ve been dying to tell since high school through animated cartoons as well as future graphic novels.

What advice would you give to young artists just starting out in the industry?

Be true to your craft. Never “settle” or compromise your passions for creativity in the attempt to “succeed.” Hone your craft and never stop learning. Art is organic and dynamic, so you should never stagnate your style. Draw something every day; anything! Just keep drawing. Accept constructive critisism and avoid being defensive; art is subjective.

And finally (no, you can’t skip this one!), declare your Twilight “Team”!

Well, if I have to choose, I guess I’m team Alice, though I’ve always had an affinity for werewolves over vampires, just because shapeshifting is cooler than drinking blood…

Pfft, blasphemy (from the GT Team Edward corner)!  Thanks to Will Rodriguez from Mangled Stare for allowing GT to pepper him with Twilight fangirl-type questions and feature his work.  =)  Best of luck and we hope to see many future Twilight-inspired MS comic strips!

Related links:

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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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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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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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True Blood: Waiting Sucks – the writing’s on the wall…

*** Spoiler in the video below.  Do not click the Play arrow unless you want to get a sneak peek of what’s doing with Arlene and the mystery baby! ***


Creeeeee-py!  Is anyone else a little wigged out about this storyline?  Looks like, true to form, season 4 of True Blood will only follow the main story arc of the corresponding novel (Dead to the World), giving HBO plenty of room to add in more sex, humor, gore, drama, and just general weirdness.

Stay tuned for more Waiting Sucks preview snippets as we count down the days til the TB:S4 premiere!


True Blood: Waiting only sucks ’til June 26th

 

HBO has officially announced the start date for the new season (4) of True Blood.  A fan-made poster caused some initial confusion when it claimed the start date would be June 12, but the official word came the next day, stating that the show’s fourth season would commence on June 26.  That’s a long time to wait – longer than in previous years!  On the sunny side, Executive Producer Gregg Fienberg clarified that there will be no break between episodes this season, allowing the momentum of the show to continue more smoothly!  So waiting might suck for now, but it’ll all be worth it once we get our first glimpse of the new season on the now-much-anticipated 26th of June.

In the mean time, HBO is releasing a series of “Waiting Sucks” videos to keep us all enthralled and tuned in.  I posted one last month featuring Eric; here’s one with Pam, Tara, Lafayette, Jesus, & Marnie (a newbie).  Pam’s bustier is SEXEH!!

(skip this if you don’t want a spoiler!)


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