Here's a confession that reveals me as either an optimist, or a masochist, I'm not sure which: I just read the newest Anita Blake book from Laurell K. Hamilton, "Skin Trade."
I'm sure the irony of that title is accidental, but it's amusing given that the whole series has turned from paranormal action/mystery into kinky soft porn. Not that I have anything against porn of any variety, but I liked the old Anita Blake, who fondled her guns and killed people (or monsters) a lot.
And it wasn't as if they were even good porn. The new Anita did way too much processing with her emo-monster lovers, and had tons of hand-wringing angst about all the kinky/poly fucking she was doing. You'd think a woman who raises the dead and executes vampires for a living would learn to say, "Oh, all right, fine, so I fucked a couple of bloodsuckers and shape-shifters! Who cares?"
What I can say about the latest book is: it is not as wince-inducingly terrible as the last half dozen or so. It's not nearly as good as the first seven books, which were as yummy and addictive as crack-sprinkled brownies. It's... okay. There are good parts and oh-come-on parts. The ending is weak, but endings are never Ms. Hamilton's strong point in these books.
It has Edward in it. Edward ain't the charmingly creepy sociopath he used to be either, but still, I like him. It also has Olaf, the serial killer who has a crush on Anita. And heaven bless us, it's only got three (I think) sex scenes, and they're all not so terribly long and tedious.
So, it's a vampire novel that doesn't suck. For Ms. Hamilton and her creation, Ms. Blake, that's a good step.