Of Musings and Wonderings











harlequinAnita Blake and her men are threatened by a very strong, powerful force, a group that are so scary their name cannot be spoken. They act as police in the vampire world, sent by the council to punish vampires who don’t follow the rules. When they are contacted by The Harlequin, Anita and her group are put under threat. They can manipulate the emotions of humans, vampires and were-animals alike, almost causing Jean-Claude and Richard to kill each other. Anita must save them using the power of, what else, sex.

Of course it’s sex. It’s always sex. At this point in the series, it always comes down to sex. To Anita’s power, to the ardeur, inherited from Jean-Claude. Admittedly, it feels like, by The Harlequin, there’s a sort of decent balance between sex and plot, and rather than it just being jammed in there, it’s actually used to advance things and makes sense with what’s going on. Although, to be honest, I miss the earlier books, where Anita was given some sort of case which she had to help solve, while also dealing with her personal life. Now, it’s more about the vampire/shape-shifter side than the police side, and I sort of miss those guys.

When I first started reading the series, I loved Anita as a character. She was strong and fiercely independent. She had her own opinions, but they always seemed suited to her and her situation, felt like it made her a better character. I’m not saying that her romantic situation has made her less independent, by the way, but as the series has gone on, it feels more and more like a lot of what was so likeable about her is going by the wayside.

Plus, she’s so damn hypocritical. Her best friend Ronnie has a few problems during the course of the last few books, mainly to do with her relationship, the rate it’s moving at, her fear of commitment. And Anita basically tears her up. Rather than being there for her, when she expects Ronnie to be completely there for Anita, Anita just seems to dismiss everything and get angry because Ronnie’s problems aren’t as big as her own. She jumps on Ronnie for not wanting commitment from one man, when Anita, to be fair, has a number of them living at her house and is sleeping with a lot more.

Which brings me to another point about Anita’s hypocrisy. In The Harlequin, in order to get enough power to save herself, Jean-Claude and Richard, Anita must feed off the shapeshifters. If she feeds off the head of each shapeshifter group, she can feed off them all. They come to her, and she sleeps with them. Now, there have been issues with the werelions. Another werelion was brought by a vampire master, and Anita found herself attracted to him, putting it down to having yet another beast inside her, seeking a mate. Haven is sent away, because the local werelion pack is weak and if he were to take them over, it’s likely he’d kill many of them.

Anita does not allow the men in her life to have other partners. Not the ones she is closest to, anyway. Despite the fact that she – obviously – has multiple partners. Right. Okay. But the head of the werelion pack, Joseph, refuses to come to her, as he is faithful to his wife. And yes, there are other issues surrounding this and the general weakness of the pack. But instead of trying to get them to fix that or just telling Joseph to get out, it’s hinted that Haven, after permission from Anita, kills the leader, his brother and his wife.

Yes, something needed to be done about the lions. But killing them? Seriously? Little bit harsh! And just because he wouldn’t sleep with Anita and betray his wife? Ugh!

So, The Harlequin isn’t the best book of the series, but it’s not the worst. Yes, Anita’s beginning to grate on me a little, but it feels like the balance between plot and other things is, at least, getting a bit better. The characters are pretty much the same as always, and the last scene between Anita and the Harlequin does feel like it was squeezed in there just to have some sort of conclusion to it. Honestly? With this one, I’m left feeling pretty much the same as I always do after I finish one of these books. I want to know what happens next, I want to see how it all turns out, yet there are parts that just really annoy me and make me wonder if I really should carry on with it. Well, we’ll see. Worth reading if you’ve stuck it out with the series so far. Actually, yeah, if anyone else is reading this, what are your thoughts on them? Think the earlier ones are better or think they’re improving as the series goes on?

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danse macabreI’ve touched on the Anita Blake series before, where I had a little bit of a rant about the amount of sex in the books. Specifically, sex with guys with long hair and big dicks. Truth is, I was way too invested in the series before it got to that point, and I carried on reading because sometimes the plot made me want to keep reading, even if it got pushed by the wayside for all the sexual antics of Anita. But Micah, to me, feels like it made a bit of a turning point. It wasn’t all about sex. Instead, it was about Anita’s relationship with just one of the men, and showed a point where she actually had to confront what was happening in her life.

Similarly, I feel like Danse Macabre shows a point where Hamilton actually manages to balance the sex and plot, blending them together so the sex scenes actually make sense and aren’t just thrown in there for the sake of erotica.

Anita Blake, the Executioner, is preparing to go to a meeting with some out-of-town vampire masters. They’ve brought with them possible candidates for Anita. See, she needs to feed off sex, after inheriting some powers from Jean-Claude, and in trying to gain favour and allies, Jean-Claude allows the other masters to bring in people who Anita could possibly feed off. But that’s not the most important problem in Anita’s life.

She thinks she might just be pregnant.

But that’s not the only problem. There are a few different possible fathers, and the questions are raised on whether the kid could be a vampire or shifter. Hamilton has put a lot of thought into the world she has created – the questions of children fathered by supernatural creatures has been raised before, with syndromes and diseases, carried by the potential children, having been mentioned. Of course, Anita worries that her possible child could be infected with one of these.

Danse Macabre also shows the strengthening of Jean-Claude’s power base, and the impact this has on those around him and Anita. Anita seems to be growing stronger, and having sex with a few of the visitors has consequences beyond what we’ve seen in previous books.

This novel, the fourteenth in the series, also explains some of Anita’s previous, seemingly out of character choices. We see another side to her, see a vulnerability that hasn’t really been revealed before, and get to see why, exactly, she attracts the men she does. Why Micah seemed to appear, almost magically, in her life when she needed someone like him. Why others are drawn to her and why she seems to just lose it at times.

But not all of the men are perfect. Any one reading the series will, by this point, be getting pretty fed up with Richard. Richard, the alpha of the local werewolf pack. But, and this is crucial point, Richard’s arc has been done really well. He acts like a downright bastard at times, but Hamilton lets us know why he acts like he does and why he gets so damn pissed off all the time. And it works. Annoyingly, it works, and it’s made clear why Anita may still love him, even when she hates him.

Danse Macabre shows the men of Anita’s world coming together to support her when she needs it most. It also reflects the tension between the men and Anita herself, building on the relationship aspects and the real complexities Anita faces with her current lifestyle. And there are some moments of downright creepiness, especially when the child vampire comments on how nice it would be to have someone smaller than her around. As well as the usual vampires and shifters, we get to see a bit more of the supernatural world in these books, with Anita meeting mermaids and trying to navigate the politics of a world she’s still not quite used to.

This book makes me feel glad that I didn’t give up on the series. Although it’s missing the crime scenes and monster hunts that made me originally fall in love with the world, it still adds a lot to the series as a whole, has some interesting character development and manages to blend the plot and romance more effectively than previous books. I just hope it’s kept up in the next books.



micahandstrangecandyI’ve been reading this series for a while, but it’s taken me this long to decide whether to review it as a series or book by book. With this one, however, I decided to do a review of it. Not because I came to a decision, but because this book wasn’t just an Anita Blake novel. Instead, it’s an Anita Blake novella (Micah) and a collection of short stories by Laurell K. Hamilton (Strange Candy).

MICAH

Before I get into the review of the book itself, it’s worth mentioning the series. The Anita Blake series follows the title character, a vampire executioner and animator, a woman who can raise zombies. The first novels saw her resisting Jean-Claude, the vampire master of the city. She dates Richard, a werewolf, even as her relationship with Jean-Claude grows into something more. As the novels progress, Anita’s love life becomes more complicated, drifting from the werewolf to Jean-Claude and to other men. She starts off as a girl who has only ever slept with one man, and by this point in the series, she’s had almost as many sexual partners as people who have died in A Song of Ice And Fire. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s still a drastic change.

And yet at some points, it works. The complications in her sex life arise when she inherits the power to feed from sex off Jean-Claude, after becoming his human servant. The power grows, as does her need to feed, to the point where she has to have some guy trailing after her just to satisfy her desire. And yeah, although I said at points it works, at times it just gets annoying, especially as it feels like more time is spent describing sex and everything around it than actually advancing the plot.

Micah in a way felt slightly different from this. At least at the start. Anita met Micah when she first gained the power of the ardeur, and not knowing what was going on, confused and possibly about to change into a were-leopard, she sleeps with him. At the time, it’s very out of character for Anita, but Micah soon becomes a key part of the novel. Yet, with the exception of being a were-leopard, he seems just like every other man in Anita’s life.

As in, she has a type. Clearly. Long hair. (When Richard cuts his hair, it feels like the world has ended) And big dicks. I mean, how many different ways can different men be described as having huge dicks? Plenty. Apparently. Seriously. There’s like pages of description for them. It’s…just odd.

ANYWAY!

The novella focuses on Anita’s relationship with Micah, as they spend their first night alone together. There is, of course, the main plot, where Anita has to travel out-of-town to raise a zombie, as the guy originally penned in to do it has other, more pressing problems to take care of. But for once, this plot and the relationship aspect are woven in together nicely, and actually balance each other out. Anita is, as usual, forced to confront aspects of herself in regards to the men in her lives. It’s a good novella, and ties in nicely with the series. It also offers a nice break from having so many different men in her life, as it focuses purely on Micah.

STRANGE CANDY

Strange Candy contains a number of short stories by Laurell K. Hamilton, including a few set in the world of Anita Blake or with Anita herself. And it’s great, really, to get a glimpse into other sides of Hamilton’s writing, as we see a woman trying to sell a haunted house, a couple who look after lake monsters, and Anita before she got all guy crazy. And those are just a few of the ones that really stick out to me, though I enjoyed all of them. Strange Candy is well worth a read, especially if you’re read any of the Anita Blake series and want to see a more varied scope of Hamilton’s writing, or even if you’re just a fan of horror and/or the supernatural. It also works nicely if you’re tempted by the Anita Blake series, but haven’t read it yet or just read the first couple, acting almost as a teaser.

Oh, and not forgetting the quirky story of two unmarrieds being chased down by cupids. Seriously. Strange Candy really is well worth a read.



I joined Goodreads years ago, when the main things I read were grabbed from the Young Adult section of the library. So, a few of the books on my ‘Read’ shelf are, well, a bit too young for me now. But recently, I decided to get back into the site, mainly to keep a track of what I’m reading and, also, in the hopes that it would give me some guidance on what to read next.

Today, I had a look over my ‘Recommended For You’ page. And I learnt something.

I am reading way too similar things.

Seriously, just check out what my recommended page looks like.

goodreads recA lot of very similar looking books, and none, really, that caught my eye.

I really need some more diversity in my book choices.

See, a lot of the ones up there are either horror (blame my love for Stephen King) or supernatural type romances. I can see why Goodreads has suggested these to me. Recently, I’ve been making my way through the Song of Ice & Fire series, the Anita Blake novels and the Sookie Stackhouse novels. And I’m thoroughly enjoying them all. But Bras and Broomsticks, Undead and Unwed and The Ghost and The Goth really do not look the type of books I would like. Hell, I could be wrong. I am, after all, judging these books based purely on their very girly, very chick lit covers. They could be amazing. They could open my eyes to a whole new world. But I’m still not going to read them. At least, not right now. I guess I can kind of see why two series about girls and the supernatural community – both of which contain love triangles with werewolves and vampires – could lead Goodreads to think I might like some more supernatural romance in my life. But in both series I’ve been reading, the romance isn’t the main focus. Okay, so it is as times in Sookie Stackhouse’s life but not always.

The Fantasy recommendations contain similar books to those mentioned above, along with some more ‘traditional’ looking fantasy types. I know, I know, I’m still judging based on their covers. But, I don’t know, when I’m presented with a lot of books in this way then the cover is all I have to go on, unless I want to trawl through them all. And the horror…well, okay, again they all look pretty typical.

Maybe I’m being too fussy. But when I read a book, I want something I can be drawn into. I read on my way to work, on my lunch break and my way home, and the books I’ve been reading recently (including Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who Walked Into Doors and Allison Hewitt is Trapped, by Madeleine Roux) have made me really look forward to going to work, because it means I get to read them. I want books like that. Books where the characters stick in my head for days and where I wish, just wish, I had thought of that idea first. (And, damn it, Roux, I did have a similar idea before! She just did it first. And, most likely, better.)

Okay, so, what I’ve established is this. I need something different, between the adventures of Anita and Sookie. I need something that will make Goodreads throw a variety of things at me to read, rather than…well, what I’ve got there already. I want to explore different worlds. Not that I’m fed up of them or anything, but I want to step away from vampires, zombies, werewolves and the general undead for a bit.

So, please, suggest some books to me! Throw some titles my way and I will add them to my ‘to read’ list. Give me something new. Something different. Something you read and just went “Bloody hell. Why did it have to end?” Oh, and for anyone who’s interested, I can be found here on Goodreads, with my real name which I may, just may, go into in another blog post. (As in, why I’m using Grace on here etc.)



et cetera