Welcome back to the Preternatura Book Club! We have an ambitious fall reading schedule but a new twist–while I encourage everyone to read along with the chosen books, you can still contribute to the conversations and win one of the giveaways. We’ll be talking about topics that are related to the book we’re reading but are general enough for you to pipe up and voice an opinion.
Each book read will last four weeks, which is a much faster schedule than we’ve done on previous books. We begin today with the first twelve chapters of GUILTY PLEASURES, book one in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton.
The remainder of the fall Preternatura Book Club schedule looks like this:
September 15-October 15: SKINWALKER (Jane Yellow Rock Book 1), by Faith Hunter
October 15-November 15: STORM FRONT (Dresden Files Book 1), by Jim Butcher
November 15-December 15: SPIDER’S BITE (Elemental Assassins, Book 1), by Jennifer Estep
December 15-January 15: DARK LOVER (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1), by JR Ward
Today’s giveaway will be your choice of any of our upcoming reads: Guilty Pleasures, by Laurell K. Hamilton; Skinwalker, by Faith Hunter; Storm Front, by Jim Butcher; Spider’s Bite, by Jennifer Estep; or Dark Lover, by JR Ward. (Not to influence you or anything, but I will say that Butcher’s Dresden series is my favorite urban fantasy, and JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood is my favorite paranormal romance. Just sayin’.)
Okay, so let’s talk Anita Blake. Back in the olden days…oh, about 15 years ago, my friend Meg said the infamous words: “You’ve gotta read these vampire books.” Now, at the time, Meg was into cozy mysteries with or without a little paranormal twist, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when she dumped Guilty Pleasures, The Laughing Corpse, and Circus of the Damned into my lap.
I inhaled them. They were unlike anything I’d ever read, and I think there’s a strong case crediting Laurell K. Hamilton with “inventing” the modern urban fantasy with the first-person narrative, the kickass heroine, and the romantic bad boy. Anne Rice wrote vampires before this, of course, and Lestat was sexy. But he wasn’t romantic, and there was no kickass human to keep Lestat in line. So I give Anne Rice credit for maybe getting the wheels in motion, but not quite getting us to the modern incarnation of UF.
(Anyone read Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks? I’m just starting it, but have read some arguments for that being the first modern urban fantasy. It came out in 1987, six years before Anita began her reign. So if anyone’s read it, an opinion?)
In the meantime, we have Anita. This is the first time I’ve read Guilty Pleasures in quite a while, and I was struck by several things I’d forgotten:
–The book’s “voice” is very noir, with short, choppy sentences and a rigid subject-verb-object style. It reads like a police procedural. Do you like that tone? I found it a little off-putting, so I don’t remember if I just got used to it in the later books (there are 21 in this series now, of which I’ve read 19) or if the author dropped some of that tone.
–Anita’s snarkiness feels dated. Snark has been elevated to such high levels of sophistication in UF that phrases like “Yippee” and “Naw” seem odd. I do think Anita either elevated her snark or toned it back in later books. Another thing dated this read: language. Did you notice there’s very, very little cursing in this book? Part of it is that Anita is fairly religious, and partly, I think, is the changing times. Should Guilty Pleasures be written anew today, I’d anticipate more F-bombs flying around.
–Likeability. Okay, Anita’s not always the most likeable character, especially in these early books before we get inside her head very much. She’s rarely boring, but she can be hard. Part of it is the noir tone. Part of it is the recitation of weapons. Part is the dated snark. Do you find you like Anita so far? Is she too kickass, or not enough? Are you getting tired of the classic kickass UF heroine?
–If you’ve read very far into this series, you know that the tenor of the books changed about book seven, from urban fantasy “with romantic elements” to a pretty hardcore erotic focus. A lot of people abandoned the series at that point–did you? I kept reading them until the last two, and I do have them. I’ve just gotten busy and behind in my reading. I was getting weary of the sexual olympics but have been told the last couple of books have veered back to adult UF.
–Jean-Claude. Le sigh. I thought Laurell K. Hamilton did a great job of dropping hints that Jean-Claude is more emotionally complex than Anita thinks. One of Anita’s great faults is that she stereotypes the monsters, and changing that thinking is a journey she takes throughout this series. But I’d forgotten how Jean-Claude both exploits Anita (by giving her the vampire marks) and saves her (by giving her the vampire marks). It gives him a moral ambiguity that’s appealing. Jean-Claude has always been one of my favorite vampires, and I think he has aged well. What’s your early opinion of him?
–St. Louis. My impression of the series over the years is that it really didn’t make use of its setting in St. Louis, and I haven’t really changed that opinion. Any of you familiar with St. Louis, and do you think the book makes use of the city?
Other opinions on the opening chapters of this book? I think we’ve had a lot of setup chapters now, we’ve met the major players, and we’re ready for the meat of the story to really begin.
Leave a comment, start a discussion, and let’s see where it takes us! Anyone who leaves a comment gets entered in the giveaway, which is international, of course. I’ve highlighted some possible talking points above. What do you think?