For my birthday this past year (in March), I treated myself to a weekend trip to Fort Myers, Florida, so I could watch my two favorite baseball teams play each other on my birthday (that’s the Cubs and the Red Sox for those keeping score). And as I tend to do when I’m faced with air travel, I picked a couple of paperbacks that I could read quickly, one of which I was sure I’d hate. I usually grab a Patricia Cornwell novel, but I couldn’t bring myself to read the next Kay Scarpetta tale for whatever reason. So this year, I brought the next Laurell K. Hamilton novel, Burnt Offerings.
Reader, it didn’t suck.
I mean, it wasn’t great; and now I’m faced with the fact that I read this almost eight months ago, and while I dogeared some quotes I don’t recall all the context about why I dogeared it (aside from a couple), and I can’t even remember the full plot. So –
– this will be fun! or else.
This is the seventh novel in the Anita Blake series, and I know I’m getting very close to the book where the series veers from private detective, vampire hunter stuff to paranormal erotica, and I am not sure how much further I’ll keep reading. I don’t have a problem with erotica, and I don’t have a problem with paranormal stuff; but a lot of these people in this series transform into animals (wereleopards, for example), and if sexytimes happen while animal stuff is happening … that is a thing that Homey absolutely does not play.
But in this one, Anita is only banging Jean-Claude, the prissy vampire who still calls her ma petite even though she has told him a hundred times that she hates that name. She has broken up with Richard, because Jean-Claude won’t let her date both of them and also, if I remember correctly, the werewolf part of Richard was too much for Anita? Maybe?
Jesus, how do things happen and yet also not happen so much in these books?
The book starts with a fire chief showing up to tell Anita that someone is burning down vampire haunts with the vampires in them. Anita and the chief think it’s a pyrokinetic – y’know, a firestarter. Unfortunately, the firestarter does not turn out to be Drew Barrymore.
At the same time, there is a power vacuum in the werewolf pack. Or whatever – I can’t even remember what the hell Richard is supposed to be, but Richard is out of town getting his master’s degree, so the pack or whatever is leaderless. When trouble shows up in the form of someone wanting to take over Richard’s pack, it falls to Anita to protect them.
Meanwhile, because Anita also killed the wereleopard’s pack leader in the last book, she is now the interim leader of that pack.
There is so much going on – I seem to remember that the majority of the first part of the book takes place on one of Anita and Jean-Claude’s dates, where she’s wearing some slinky, barely-there dress – so much so that she has to hide at least one of her guns in a belly band which she can reach through the dress’s thigh slit – and high heels, and she keeps bitching about the outfit instead of, I don’t know, wearing something comfortable on a date?
(This is why I’m still single – the idea of dressing up to please someone’s eye is so stupid to me. Why wear something slinky and sexy when, if you manage to “catch” them into a long-term relationship, they’re going to see you wearing nothing but sweats and your favorite tee shirts? Set them up for disappointment early! Wear that Save Ferris tee to your first date and see if he cares! Plus, if you’re the type that needs to carry weapons (Anita), jeans usually have pockets!)
So there are all these things going on – packs of werewolves and wereleopards are killing each other, Anita is still considered the second-in-command of Richard’s pack and first in command of the leopards, and she’s dealing with a power grab by the vampire council and someone is setting vampire lairs on fire.
I went to the wikipedia page for this book, seeing if it would jog my memory about some of the plot points – and it was fairly helpful. But I also scrolled through the Plot section and was like, I don’t remember most of this.
(Probably because while I was on vacation in Fort Myers, I came down with a flu on my thirty-fifth birthday. I don’t remember much of what happened that weekend, but I do distinctly remember kneeling on the floor of my Quality Inn bathroom, pushing my own hair back as I vomited up my birthday dinner (Fenway frank and frozen lemonade), and muttering to myself, “Happy birthday, baby,” and wondering if this is what happens when one turns 35 – does your body automatically just, fuck off and give out? I have thrown up more times this year than I have in the past ten. What the fuuuuuck.)
So, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Like Anita trying her darndest to sound like she’s straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel, but failing miserably:
“What happened to your arm?” McKinnon asked finally.
“I’m a legal vampire executioner. Sometimes they get pesky.” [p. 2]
Pesky? Pesky vampires? Okay, sure, Anita, whatever.
And Ms. Hamilton sure knows how to describe a character trait and then immediately contradict it:
[Jean-Claude] smoothed his hands down the ruffles of his shirt, adjusting the cuffs on his jacket so the ruffles at his wrists showed to the best advantage. He often fussed with his clothes when he was nervous. Of course, he fussed with his clothes when he wasn’t nervous, too. [p. 95]
So … Jean-Claude fusses with his clothes. Period. Sometimes when he’s nervous, sometimes when he’s not nervous. If you’re going to make the action indicative of an underlying emotion, commit to it, don’t just contradict it in the immediate next sentence!
And now, the All About Alaina section of this review.
I had to re-read this paragraph twice today to remember why I dog-eared the page:
I was half-trusting Thomas and Gideon to keep the rat-boy from searching too hard. I don’t usually trust people that easily, but Gideon had called him the petite bâtard. The little bastard. [p. 215]
“The Little Bastard” is what I have called Patrick Dempsey since … 2005?
Patrick Dempsey is from Maine, originally, and one of my former co-workers grew up with him – they played in the same Little League! And one week, my Dear Friend Emily was visiting and hanging out while I worked, and the three of us – me, Emily, and the co-worker – started talking about famous people who have come in the store, and the co-worker brought up Dempsey, and in part of the conversation, he said that Dempsey is the guy you want playing on your team, and not against, because –
And here Emily cut him off and piped up, “Oh, because he’s a little bastard?”
And the co-worker tapped his nose to indicate that she was exactly correct, and Patrick Dempsey has been named The Little Bastard ever since.
Then there’s this, where after reading the paragraph, I said, “Goddammit, I actually have to agree with Anita Blake about something”:
I’d have rather rappelled down on ropes with Special Forces into a free-fire zone than shuffle along in the mummy suit trying not to lose it. It was just a phobia, dammit. Nothing was wrong. Nothing was hurting me. My body didn’t believe the logic. Phobias are like that. Reason doesn’t move them. [p. 325]
She is correct! Phobias do not listen to reason! People laugh at me and my VERY REAL snake phobia (ophidiophobia), but goddammit, it’s a real goddamn thing! And when you have a phobia, you can try and curtail that phobia with logic as much as possible, but that phobia will not listen to you! It will laugh in the face of your logic, and then you’ll find yourself brought into a reptile house of a zoo, because your sister has absolutely NO FEAR WHATSOEVER and wants to see the alligators, which live with the snakes, and no matter how many times you tell yourself that you are not Harry Potter and the glass in the tanks will not disappear simply because you’re present, you will still find yourself walking in the exact center of the hallway, because that way you’re equidistant from any snakes should the glass in the tanks spontaneously become porous.
Or, when you’re walking through a wetlands on your 35th birthday, and your insides are all seized up the entire time, because you’re walking along a path that looks like this –
– and you’re pretty sure snakes can crawl up over wooden planks, because you’ve heard of them being in trees, so not only are you looking frantically at the path ahead but you’re also cringing every time you hear a branch creak, and then you finally get to the end of the path (which was fairly long, tbh), and you read this sign –
– and then you do a double-take to make sure you read the last two sentences correctly –
AND THEN YOU FREEZE
BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO CROSS THIS RATTLESNAKE-INFESTED PATH TO GET BACK TO YOUR CAR
OR YOU HAVE TO WALK BACK THE WAY YOU CAME
And that’s when you realize you’re going to die on your 35th birthday. (and this was before the flu set in.)
And so, you do the bravest thing you’ve ever had to do – you take quite a few deep breaths (to stave off the panic attack that’s growing in your chest), and you march onward. Very quickly but also carefully. Humming the theme song to Raiders of the Lost Ark the entire time.
And when you finally reach your car, you nearly break down in tears that you didn’t die, and didn’t see any snakes, rattle or otherwise.
CUT TO: a week later, when you’re showing your dad the pictures you took, and come across this little guy that YOU DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WAS THERE at the botanical garden:
IT IS A GODDAMNED MIRACLE I AM ALIVE
So anyway. Yes. Phobias are real. And yes, I did just give myself the complete willies in finishing this post.
As for the book — it didn’t suck as hard as some of the other Anita Blake novels I’ve read in the past; but I’m afraid this is the last title before the hard skid into paranormal erotica, so … I dunno. 2 stars? Maybe? Let’s say it should be closer to 1.5, and I threw in another half-star because I ended up agreeing with Anita about something, and that’s pretty hard to do.
Grade for Burnt Offerings: 2 stars