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on March 5, 2004
Having now read seven (and most of the eighth) of the Anita Blake novels, I can't help but come to the seemingly paradoxical conclusion that Laurell K. Hamilton is one of the most INARTICULATE authors I've ever read. In writing about characters who are supposed to be charming, mysterious, worldly, etc., the dialogue she puts in their mouths is exceedingly clumsy. Ms. Hamilton is in dire need of a good editor to clean up her style (not to mention her bad grammar -- that would be nitpicking). Hamilton's main strength, if one may call it that, is in plotting stories and coming up with a new set of supernatural features in every novel. This strength is far outweighed by her flat inability to put together sentences that manage to create a cohesive impression. Her novels are like very long high school essays, with lots of sex. And, oh the sex (cringe!). Hamilton is trying, I suppose, to write horror romances, but the romance aspect of the writing is so juvenile, one is tempted just to skip over it to get to the violence. And her protagonist, Anita Blake, is written as being so bullheaded and impulsive that it's a wonder that she has lived as long as she has -- she just can't hold her tongue, which isn't a wise choice for someone dealing with dangerous forces. Last, but not least, is Hamilton's habit of going into excruciating detail on irrelevant matters, such as the layout of certain St. Louis suburbs or what colour brassiere to wear with firearms. It's like she's just using whatever random details reside in her memory to pad things out.
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on October 2, 2002
The Anita Blake series, which began with this novel, is an entertaining light read about an "animator" (someone who raises zombies from the dead for a living, for eg. to check the details of their will) who also is a legal vampire slayer - she's sent out with a court order to slay vampires who break the law. As you can guess, this series is set in an alternate reality where fantasy creatures exist and vampires have recently gained legal "human" status.
Anita herself has some interesting personal conflicts - she is a committed Christian who works with dark forces and kills a little too easily, and a very dainty and pretty-looking person who considers herself to be "tough as nails" (it makes it hard for the bad guys to take her seriously).
Each of the books is loosely based around a supernatural mystery and the ongoing story of Anita's life (she's 20-something at the start of this book). The writing is a little sloppy, but quite compelling, and the series steadily improves for the first few novels (the later ones get a little bogged down with Anita's issues).
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Vampire fiction is a dime a dozen, especially the goofy variety. But Laurell K. Hamilton managed to create something a wee bit out of the ordinary in "Guilty Pleasures," the first book of her Anita Blake series. Vampires, werebeasties and kick-butt policewomen abound, and the result is... yes, I'll say it: A guilty pleasure.

Anita Blake, a petite smart-alecky vampire hunter/necromancer, is known as the "Exterminator," and is feared by the vampires who have been lucky enough not to run into her. But at a bachelorette party, Anita is tricked into going to a vampire strip club, presided over by the sexy French vampire Jean-Claude. Soon a friend of hers is being held hostage. She'll stay alive if Anita works for the vampires.

Jean-Claude takes her to see the master vampire, the malevolent little girl Nikolaos, who tells her that vampires are being brutally killed -- including some of the most powerful in St. Louis. Now Anita is racing against the clock to find the killer, and keep from being killed by the very vampires that she is there to help.

The early books of the Anita Blake series are fun, sort of your typical detective stories with a bloodsucky twist. They also have the advantage of a strong female lead, some weird sidekicks, and a mild "freshening up" of your average dark fantasy/horror staples like vampires and werebeasties.

There's not a lot of actual innovation here -- werecreatures, vampires, and petite heroines who kick their butts. And Jean-Claude and the girl-vampires Nikolaos seem suspiciously close to classic Anne Rice characters. And I can only read so many pages of Anita detailing every outfit and weapon she wears.

However, Hamilton adds plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor; Anita has many of the best one-liners in the book, and there are some entertaining questions, such as whether a person can remarry if their dead spouse becomes a vampire. There are also some darker new twists, such as "freaks" (vampire junkies) and vampire groupies. The content is nothing new, but the handling is.

Despite her nymphomaniacal turns later in the series, Anita is strong, tough and in charge here. Hamilton gave her plenty of insecurities, but also the guts to live and fight despite them. The other compelling character is Jean-Claude, who is the very image of an enigmatic vamp. It's never quite clear what he's thinking, but Hamilton hinted at the actual personality under his suave charm.

Don't think it's a classic, or even a minor classic. "Guilty Pleasures" is no more and no less than its name -- an entertaining action-mystery filled with vampires and werebeasties.
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on January 1, 2003
The paralells between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Anita Blake series are virtually infinite. Both are tough, slim, short hot girls whose main goal in life is to free the world from the baddies. Both seem to have more than their fair share of relationships with some of these supernatural "baddies". Both of them love weapons. And both of them kick major .... while cracking tongue in cheek jokes.
I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I love these books.
I read several reviews pertaining to the lack of sex in this first book. Well if you want sex, read on....the series soon becomes permeated with it. Ms. Hamilton seems to either give us too much or too little. Personally I prefer too little. I'm more on the ride for the action and plots, not the sex. If I want sexual satisfaction from a book I'll read a romance novel. This is not a romance novel.
In the same way Buffy the Vampire Slayer has become more and more "sexual", so do Hamilton's books. Since it is a series, some of the books are more for setting the scene and creating sexual tension than supplying a release for it. I would say on the whole though this series (taken as a whole) has something for everyone. Humour, Horror, and lust.
An easy writing style and a killer character make this book a must read for anyone who likes things along the line of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
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on July 6, 2004
As the starting novel in the Anita Blake series, it was pretty good. Although, I couldn't get over the fact that she was scared all the time. I mean if you're scared of someone, then I don't think that you should crack stupid jokes. Nikolaos is the wrong one to piss off. For a thousand year-old vampire, she does not have a sense of humor. The dialog, however, was a lot better than the other books. Aubrey and Theresa are really well thought out characters and I like that. I also liked the scenes between Anita and Jean Claude, they brought a little romance to the book. The end has a nice twist to it that I wasn't expecting. What I didn't expect was for the next book to be so SORRY, but enough about that. If you like vampires, ghouls, and zombie's, then this is a good book to start with. It's not an excellent book, but it'll get you through the weekend.
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on July 20, 2000
This is a wonderfully fresh take on a somewhat tired genre. Imagine a female Spencer (cf. Robert Parker) turned loose in a world in which vampires, zombies, were-creatures, and ghouls really exist. Hamilton's originality and creativity even prompted her to have the Supreme Court recognize the constitutional rights of vampires, so that staking them is a crime. It was one of those few books to which that the old cliche about "not being able to put it down" really applies. I stayed up until 2 am the first night and then woke at 8 am to finish it. A fun combination of the vampire and female PI genres that really works. Although the violence is a little over the top, it is still highly recommended.
N.B.: One of the fun puzzles in the book is trying to figure out just what kind of critter Anita is: She has super-human reflexes and prefers the dark. Is she a vampire? Presumably not, because holy water doesn't burn her and she can wear a crucifix. So what's up? Hamilton has the good sense to keep you guessing.
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on March 15, 2002
Overall, this book was good. However, I doubt I will buy another from the series.
The Good:
*Entertaining. I got the book sometime in the morning before class and finished it the same day after dinner. Not a big feat (the book is not all that long), but still something.
*The occasional good character. Phillip especially. Kinda over the top with how insecure he was (the whole helpless little boy shtick), but I still liked him.
The Bad:
*Too "safe". I felt Anita was relatively emotionally pure. She had horrible scars and talked of horrible atacks by horrible monster, bla bla bla. Yet she didn't have any strong negative emotions to back that up. Explanation, yes, but no hate or fear (the kind arachnaphobics get from giant tarantulas, or rape victims for their atacker).
*Too much talk. Anita would say what she was, but wouldn't actually act the way she said she was. err, not exactly. You have to read the book to see what I mean. There was just a sort of incongruence.
*Too little facts. Like Zachary, I really didn't understand the whole metaphysics of Anita's world, but would have liked to. How are there vampires (Richard Matheson's "I am Legend" gives a plausible possibility, but not Laurell Hamilton), werewolves, zombies, and so on. In myths, it would make sense that they were psychological archtypes and wouldn't need much of an explanation. But in "Guilty Pleasures" an explanation was needed.
I bought this book for a quick thrill, a little time off from my boring world of academics and menial work, and I got that. That is why I gave it four stars. But, I would have liked more.
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on March 7, 2002
Having read a virtual smorgasbord of books across all spectrum of subjects, I happened into a copy of Ms. Hamilton's GUILTY PLEASURES on the recommendation of a friend ... and I have to admit that I don't understand what all of the fascination is about.
Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter (which she really isn't, by her own admission), goes about her business of serving the living and the dead, as the world has descended into a place where even zombies can have a Congressional lobby. While this might seem a bit of fun for some readers, I found the humor to be lost on a style that's all to reminiscent of the FLETCH series of books.
If Ms. Hamilton accomplishes anything with tremendous depth here, it is to underscore that the seminal rule taught by high school grammar teachers everywhere ("do NOT write sentences in fragments") doesn't apply to hot-selling authors, as GUILTY PLEASURES is easily 65% fragments. It's not so much style as it is 'smartass,' and, after a while, I found it more distracting than inventive.
Still, the characters are lively drawn, if not derivative of works elsewhere. Anita Blake is a wonder to behold ... or not, depending upon what your tastes in a woman are.
Minimally, I think Anne Rice and the fine folks behind BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER might feel '...' if they were to happen across these GUILTY PLEASURES.
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on May 16, 2003
Hamilton's Anita Blake series began here, and perhaps certain crudities of plot and narration can be excused by Hamilton's inexperience at the time. She is quite skillful at creating surprising, suspenseful, often violent and even disgusting action scenes. The book is never boring. The weaknesses here are that the action scenes do not seem connected by a plausible storyline and that the first-person narrator (Blake) tells us her thoughts far, far too much. The narrative approach is something of a blend of Sam Spade and Kinsey Milhone, and Hamilton would do better to stick with the Spade. I found myself longing to take a blue pencil to the page, marking out the constant inner commentary and explanations and leaving just the action and dailogue. If the character provides her own inner reaction to every action and line of dialogue, the book leaves nothing for the reader to do. There is nowhere to enter into the story oneself. The plausibility issue has to do with Hamilton's lengthy set-up for the main action. It takes 100 pages, nearly half the book, for Blake to actually begin her investigation. Moreover, considering the amazing powers that vampires enjoy in Hamilton's world, it is just not believable that they would go to such lengths to employ a mere human investigator like Blake to track down a vampire killer. The whole idea, based on Hamilton's own premises, is implausible. The plot seems a manipulated, flimsy structure that exists at the author's whim for the purpose of stringing together (rather good) action scenes. In sum: an enjoyable read, if sometimes frustrating in its execution. One senses that it falls short of its potential and would have benefited from stronger editorial advice.
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on July 4, 2003
I just finished this book and must say that it wasn't as good as I thought or hoped it would be. It was still good enough to garner a 3 star vote, but it seemed lacking something.
Firstly, I don't necessarily agree that this is an "R-rated version of Buffy" like the back of the book proclaims. I've seen a lot of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I think Anita Blake to Buffy Sommers is a poor comparison. The only thing they have in common is that they are both young females (though Buffy is younger than Anita's 24 years) and they both kill vampires. Buffy does it because she is chosen to do so but Anita does it because it's her job and she gets paid for it. The comparisons end there. Anita lacks the air of invincibility that Buffy has and thus she seems more human, which is ironic because the book hints that she may not be totally human now or in the future. Anita displays vulnerabilities that Buffy never least not until the last couple seasons of her TV show.
I enjoyed the story itself but I would have liked more backstory. Laurell Hamilton fails to tell us much about Anita Blake and her background. How she got into the business that she's in. Why she's chosen to be an "animator". Stories about all of her scars (which we are to assume has come from fighting vampires and other supernatural creatures).
Hamilton's style of writing is somewhat engaging and witty. I hate to say so, but I think the author thinks she's more witty than others may think of her. To be fair, I liked her style and her tone, but I don't know if others will. Moreover, I'm not sure I like the fact that Hamilton seems to leave out a lot of details about some characters, places, and events. I don't know if it's because she knew she was going to write more books in this series or if she didn't want to spend time filling the reader in. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and hope that it's the former.
I bought the first four books of this series as a set because I anticipated liking this series. This first book was decent, but it didn't give me everything I wanted. I hope the next few books do a better job of expanding upon Anita Blake's background and making me like her character more.
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