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Book Review: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris (Series, #11) (Audiobook narrated by Johanna Parker)

February 26, 2014 3 comments

Cartoon drawing of a blonde woman in a green dress upside down with burning paper near her.Summary:
When Merlotte’s is firebombed, no one is sure if it’s because the shifters just came out and folks are angry that Sam is one or if it’s a more personal vendetta.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, Eric’s vampire boss, Victor, has just opened a new human bar that’s stealing business from Merlotte’s.  Sookie knows it’s a direct jab against her, as Eric’s wife.  And Victor isn’t just stealing business. He’s punishing Eric via Pam, preventing Pam from turning her dying lover.  Eric, Pam, and Sookie all know that Victor has got to go, and with the plotting going on, Sookie can’t be bothered to think too much about the firebombing.

Review:
This time it took me less than a year to return to Sookie, instead of the three year break I took last time.  I’ve read so much of the 13 book series; I just have to know how it ends.  The Sookie Stackhouse series is utterly ridiculous.  But it’s a comfortable kind of ridiculous that’s just right to ease into while you’re cooking dinner.  That’s why, when I listened to a sample and realized how perfect the audiobook narrator is for the books, I decided to listen to the end of the series.  The warmth and ease of Sookie Stackhouse is perfect for combating cabin fever.  This entry in the series has a bit more happen than in book 10, although the resolution to the big mystery feels repetitive.

Most of the ideas and plots in this book will ring familiar to any reader of the series.  There might be hate against a newly out group (the shifters this time), some vampire higher ups are causing problems and need to be dealt with, and Sookie is just shocked that someone wants her dead.  How she continues to be shocked by everyone hating her or wanting her out of the picture is beyond me, but Sookie isn’t exactly smart.  Because many of the plots feel like previously visited territory, in spite of the fact that they’re well-written and active, they’re a bit boring.  Something truly new really needs to happen to Sookie.  The one plot point that is new, of course, is her interactions with the fae that were left behind when Niall closed off fairy.  That plot was very interesting, and I’m glad it’s in the book, as it kept my interest up.

There really isn’t very much sex at this point.  I honestly felt like that was a mercy since listening to someone read the awkward sex scene out loud was almost too cringe-inducing to bear.  We all know Harris’s sex scenes are a bit….awkward.  There’s not much new to say about that except that there’s really only one, and that feels like a good thing.  Although Sookie does mention rather frequently Eric’s prowess in bed.

Sookie continues to be a self-righteous hypocrite, but someone close to her finally (finally!) calls her out on it.  It happens toward the end of the book, after a lot of build-up of Sookie continuing to think she’s better than everyone else and has more morals than the rest of the supe world.  The call-out is written with a perfect amount of ambiguity in the narration, leaving it up to the reader to decide if they agree with Sookie that she’s just holding onto her human morals or with the one who calls her out that she’s committing the acts and refusing to admit this is who she is.  I’m not sure what camp Harris falls into, but I appreciated the finesse with which she leaves it open-ended for the reader to form their own opinion of Sookie.

The audiobook narrator, Johanna Parker, does a wonderful job.  She truly makes Sookie and Bon Temps her own.  There is a clear delineation in my head when listening to her that this is the book Bon Temps, not the True Blood one.  She and Anna Paquin (who plays Sookie on tv) each bring their own interpretation, and they are both good and well-suited to the book and tv series, respectively.

Overall, this entry in the series is a bit repetitive.  Two of the three main plots are similar versions of things we have seen before.  However, Sookie finally gets called out for her hypocrisy and self-righteousness, and the third plot is new enough to keep interest up.  Fans of the series will be a bit disappointed but will still find it a moderately interesting, quick read.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Dead Until Dark, review
Living Dead in Dallas, review
Club Dead, review
Dead To The World, review
Dead as a Doornail, review
Definitely Dead, review
All Together Dead, review
From Dead to Worse, review
Dead And Gone, review
Dead in the Family, review

Book Review: Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris (Series, #9)

October 11, 2010 9 comments

Sookie in the air between two cloaked vampires.Summary:
Now that the pieces seem to have been picked up from the bombing at Rhodes, Sookie is hoping to just get back to her normal life and adjust to living with her two roommates, the witches Amelia and Octavia.  Of course, that can’t last for long.  After seeing how well things are going for the vampires being out, the shifters decide to come out as well.  Soon there’s what appears to be a hate crime against a shifter Sookie knows, and the FBI comes knocking wondering how Sookie was able to find survivors at Rhodes.  On top of everything, a fae war is brewing, and Sookie can no longer hide from the fact that she’s part fae.

Review:
This is without a doubt my favorite Sookie Stackhouse book so far.  It’s dark and (I know this sounds odd to say about a paranormal story) realistic.  Harris doesn’t let Sookie hide from her problems.  She has to truly face reality and deal with it in a way she’s never had to previously in her life.  She can’t hide from her telepathy, her exes, her friendships, her coworkers, or her enemies.  In a way this book is all about Sookie having to grow up and deal with it.

Readers who started out loving the beginning of the series might not like the dark direction Harris has turned.  I for one love dark, disturbing tales, but those who don’t should be aware that there are a few scenes they may find upsetting.  I thought these scenes were quite creative, particularly for a series that is being told in the first person.

Of course, this book still faces the writing issues seen in the earlier books in the series.  Mainly, some of the writing is painfully simplistic or uses the obvious analogies.  Then again, Sookie isn’t exactly super-intelligent, so it fits her voice.  Additionally, the sex scenes continue to be a bit cringe inducing.  I know other reviewers have pointed out multiple times how the sex scenes are a bit ridiculous.  That continues to be true, but they aren’t exactly the focus of the series, so I’m ok with that myself.

Overall, Harris has taken an idea that could have worn out quickly and moved it gradually to a much darker tale that is quite thrilling.  The series continues to be complex, and readers who’ve enjoyed the series thus far won’t be disappointed as long as they can handle some disturbing scenes.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Previous Books in Series:
Dead Until Dark, review
Living Dead in Dallas, review
Club Dead, review
Dead To The World, review
Dead as a Doornail, review
Definitely Dead, review
All Together Dead, review
From Dead to Worse, review

Counts for R.I.P.V Challenge

Book Review: From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris (Series, #8)

Sookie and a vampire against a stormy background.Summary:
Hurricane Katrina and the bombing of the vampire assembly at Rhodes have left the Louisiana supernatural community reeling and disjointed.  This naturally creates the perfect atmosphere for attempted violent takeovers in both the were and vampire communities.  Sookie finds herself smack in the middle, as usual, both due to her telepathic abilities and her desire to help her friends.  Of course her telepathic abilities can’t tell her where her boyfriend, Quinn, has disappeared to.  In the middle of all this, she also finds out some interesting family secrets.

Review:
Not only is Sookie’s character developing and changing, but the series is as well, and that’s what’s keeping it interesting this many books in.  If you’ve stuck it out this long, then you’re clearly enjoying something that Harris is doing; however, I would say that the previous book and this one mark a stark change in the style of the series away from paranormal romance to just paranormal fiction.  I’m actually not sure what exactly one would call this genre, but From Dead to Worse definitely reads like modern-day fiction just with supernatural characters tossed in.  I really enjoy this partly because Harris’ sex scenes are cringe-inducing anyway, but also because it allows for that modern day connection but with problems that I will never have.  This makes it a relaxing read.

Unlike some paranormal series, the main character of Sookie has gone through significant character developments.  She went from a naive girl desperate to fit in to sadder but wiser woman who enjoys being different.  In the first book, we see Sookie being cared for by her grandmother; in this one, we see Sookie caring for not only the witch, Amelia, but also an elderly woman, Octavia.  It’s not just this that’s changing, however.  Sookie’s experiences leave her wondering if she’s a good person or not, and frankly the reader is left trying to figure that out as well.

Some readers will be thrown by the absence of sex in this book.  However, I enjoyed the various types of sexual and romantic interest tension Sookie has with the various men in her life.  It is evident that she’s attempting to figure out which direction she wants to go in her life before settling on a man.  Racking up this tension throughout one book is a great set-up for the next one.

My only gripes with this entry in the series are two-fold.  First, I really don’t like the Jason/Hotshot storyline.  Jason could be a very interesting character, as we know from the direction they’ve taken him in True Blood.  He’s not used well in the books, though, and I hope Harris fixes this soon.  I’m tired of cringing over the Hotshot scenes.  Also, this book yet again features a northern woman who yet again is an evil bitch in Sookie’s eyes.  This is obviously Harris’ own prejudice coming through as Sookie has been established as a person who is staunchly not prejudiced against anyone.  What is with this hating on northern women?  It says a lot about Harris that this prejudice seeps into her writing even when writing a character who is not prejudiced.  I’m sick of seeing it, and it stings as a northern female fan of the series.

However, in spite of these short-comings, the series is still enjoyable.  This book marks a distinct change in the writing from paranormal romance to simply paranormal.  Readers who’ve stuck it out this far will either enjoy this change as I do or give up on the series due to its lack of romance.  If you’re reading it for the characters and the world Harris has created, you will enjoy this entry into the series.  If you’re reading it for paranormal romance, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Dead Until Dark, review
Living Dead in Dallas, review
Club Dead, review
Dead To The World, review
Dead as a Doornail, review
Definitely Dead, review
All Together Dead, review

Best Discoveries of 2009–Movies, TV Shows, and Websites

December 30, 2009 1 comment

You guys got to see my favorite reads of 2009, but what about all else entertainment?  I do, surprisingly, do things besides read with my (little) free-time.  So here’s Part One of my best of all-else entertainment list from 2009.  I’m not limiting myself to things that came out in 2009, just things that I encountered for the first time in 2009.  Consider everything listed as accompanied with the highest recommendations.

Movies

  • Coraline (2009)
    The story of a little girl rightfully frustrated with her parents who discovers another world is delightfully creative, but the animation is what makes this a must-see.  It is truly a feast for your eyes.
  • The Hangover (2009)
    Bust a gut, laugh out loud funny. A groom and his buddies go to Vegas a few days before his wedding for his bachelor party, and when they wake up the next morning, the buddies can’t find the groom or remember what they did the night before.  Uproariously awkward situations make you feel way better about that one night you can’t remember.
  • Inglorious Basterds (2009)
    A troop of American Jews led by Brad Pitt go on a Nazi-killing spree in WWII Europe.  Confession.  I fucking love WWII history.  I have ever since I was a kid.  I also absolutely love blood and guts movies.  The more gruesome the better.  I also love Jewish fellas (I blame my undergrad university for that one).  Additionally, I love Brad Pitt. *swoon* German is also my foreign language, so I didn’t even need the damn sub-titles.   Can you say must-see movie?  My only gripe is that not enough time was spent on the awesome group of American soldiers.
  • Kill Bill Volume One (2003)
    The Bride has a score to settle with her old boss Bill and everyone who helped him commit the slaughter of all present for her wedding day (not to mention almost killing her).  So many epic fight scenes.  So many bad-ass women.  Not to mention the whole blood and guts thing previously mentioned.
  • South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)
    The boys’ parents get all upset when they sneak in to see the R-rated Terrence and Phillip movie, which clearly leads to a war with Canada.  This basically is South Park The Musical and gave us the gifts that are the songs “Uncle Fucka” and “Blame Canada.”  Top it off with a giant talking vagina, and you have a seriously hilarious movie.
  • The Shining (1980), review
    Jack takes his family with him on a live-in caretaker job in a remote, empty hotel in Colorado.  Did I mention the hotel is sinister?  It takes a lot for a film to scare me, and this did.

TV Shows

  • Lost (2004 to present)
    The tale of the survivors of a flight that crashed on an uncharted island.  I remember when this first came out that I avoided watching it because I knew I didn’t have time to get addicted to another tv show.  Netflix Instant spurred me into watching it, and holy shit.  This show’s mystery and scifi are so good that I am literally yelling at the tv (yes, I bought the complete set).  Me yelling at the tv is a sign of a good tv show, btw.  I’m on the fourth season and am bound and determined to catch up before the new season starts in February.
  • The Simpsons (1989 to present)
    That sound you hear is the collective shock of everyone reading this, but I seriously had never watched The Simpsons ever before this year. No, not even one episode.  I really can’t explain why.  I just never got around to it.  Well, now I get what the obsession is with it, and I’ve watched a ton of episodes, let me tell you.
  • South Park (1997 to present)
    No big surprise here with the movie listed above, but I also was newly introduced to this show this year.  The pop culture commentary is epic.  All you need to do is see the Kanye West fish sticks episode to understand.
  • True Blood (2008 to present)
    A small Louisiana town deals with daily life and the recent coming out of vampires with the Japanese invention of synthetic human blood.  This show has everything: bayou setting, vampires, sex, drugs, comedy, and mystery.  Watching an episode is like taking a vacation.  It also provided me with the hilarity that is me imitating Bill saying “Sookie is mine!” I can’t wait for the second season to come out on DVD so I can watch it!

Websites

  • Etsy
    Buy and/or sell handmade or vintage items and supplies.  It’s kind of like having a craft fair in your browser, and I love buying one-of-a-kind earrings there.
  • Regretsy
    My friends and I were doing what this blog does for a while–finding the hideous things people offer up as “vintage” or “handmade” on Etsy (not the majority of things found there at all) and mocking them.  This blog is sure to send many giggles your way. (or horror)
  • Sock Dreams
    I love wearing snazzy socks, tights, and legwarmers, and this website has the best selection for the best prices.
  • Tor
    I’m a scifi freak, and their theme months are great.  This month was Cthulu Christmas, for instance.  Also they host a bunch of amazing give-aways.

Coming up in Part Two, Boston places, web clips, and recipes!

Book Review: All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris (Series, #7)

December 17, 2009 14 comments

Summary:
Against her fairy godmother’s better judgment, Sookie accompanies the Louisiana vampire contingency to Rhodes, Illinois for the vampire summit to work for the queen reading human minds at the various wheelings and dealings.  She is excited that Quinn will be there as well, but a wrench is thrown in the works of their relationship when she is forced to exchange blood for a third time with Eric.  To top it all off Sookie and fellow telepath Barry have the odd sensation that something isn’t quite right at the summit.  It’s a lot for small-town girl Sookie to handle in one week in the north.

Review:
I want to say the action in this entry into Sookie’s adventures is excellent, but it isn’t quite there.  The minor side-mysteries are quite good, but they are meant to distract from the main event, which frankly I had figured out way way way before Sookie.  It was pratically hitting her in the face, and she didn’t get it.  So the mystery leaves a little to be desired.

On the other hand, the plot point where Andre is trying to force Sookie to exchange blood with him, and Eric steps up to exchange blood with her instead is excellent.  Quinn is unjustifiably angry, and Sookie discovers that trading blood three times is a magical number.  She is more closely tied to Eric than she is comfortable with, and she is left incredibly confused about her feelings for him vs her feelings for Quinn.  This is a love conflict that is bound to prove interesting because she has feelings for Eric but intellectually believes Quinn is a wiser choice.  Now this is juicy romantic conflict!

Something that has been bugging me about the series that is featured epicenter of this book though is the whole idea of the vampires arranging their kingdoms based on the states.  There’s the King of Tennessee and the Queen of Louisiana, and they even call each other simply by the state (as in, “Oh hi, Louisiana”).  This makes zero sense.  Why would the super-powerful and, for the majority of existence, hidden vampires arrange themselves based on arbitrary human dividing lines?  Sure having multiple kingdoms in the US makes sense, but not arranged based on the human-created state lines.  It doesn’t fit into the characterization of what a vampire is.

I think what really bothered me about this book though was that it made me dislike Sookie.  I don’t like how she behaves, her superficial focus on clothing, or her prejudiced view of northerners.  (Not a single northern woman she runs into does she view as anything other than a rude bitch).  I don’t always need to like my main characters, but I think in a paranormal romance that’s problematic.

Overall, the action is excellent, even if some of the world-building doesn’t make sense and the characterization can be off-putting.  I think this may be a set-up for a major, character-changing circumstance in Sookie’s life, which would make it more understandable.  We’ll see if I’m right.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Bought on Amazon

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Dead Until Dark, review
Living Dead in Dallas, review
Club Dead, review
Dead To The World, review
Dead as a Doornail, review
Definitely Dead, review

Book Review: Definitely Dead By Charlaine Harris (Series #6)

December 15, 2009 10 comments

Summary:
Sookie needs to go to New Orleans for both personal and business reasons.  Her cousin Hadley had been a vampire but died her second death leaving everything to Sookie, so she needs to go clean out her apartment.  As far as business goes, the queen of Louisiana has also requested her presence to figure out if she will require Sookie’s services for the upcoming vampire summit.  When Sookie finds out that Hadley was the queen’s lover, a connection between the two purposes for the visit shows up that may be more significant than she at first realizes.

Review:
I’m glad I learned on some blog (wish I could remember which one) that a short story comes between the previous book and this one in the series, otherwise I would have thought I missed a book or something.  That annoying tendency to retell things that already happened?  Actually awfully helpful here, since I haven’t read that short story.  You don’t need to read the short story to enjoy this book, but I wish I had and advise you to as well.  If you’re interested, some investigation reveals that short story is contained in the collection of Sookie short stories called A Touch of Dead.

Also thankfully, my prediction that Dead as a Doornail was a random clunker and not a death toll for the series was correct.  Definitely Dead is a step back up in quality.  The multiple storylines actuall do reveal to be related and not just random throwaways designed to throw you off the scent of the main mystery.  We also get the addition of a new supe–part-demons–and some serious reveals.  I mean makes you rethink how you look at the entire story reveals.  To give you non-spoilery hints, you learn something about Bill and something about just why Sookie is so darn appealing to the supe guys.  I personally love that sort of thing, and I’m hoping these two reveals will help the series continue to grow and expand.

On the minus side, I have to come right out and say it that I am not impressed with Quinn.  I’m glad Sookie has become a bit more savvy about pursuing a long-term relationship, but with Quinn? Really?  The man’s looks don’t match what has been established to be Sookie’s type at all–tall and lean–he is instead the muscle-bound guy.  That suits some women, but it comes out of the blue that Sookie’s at all attracted to him.  Also, what’s with the purple eyes?  On what planet is it sexy for a man to have eyes not only an unnatural color, but an unnatural color that’s girly?  I of course dislike him for nonsuperficial reasons too.  He seems far too perfect.  He says those puke-inducing gushy things to Sookie that, I’m sorry, perfectly nice men just don’t say in real life, and you know why they don’t say them?  Because they sound corny and false and how the man treats you is far more important than what he says to you.  There’s also the fact that he originally came on to her when there was a fight to the death going on in front of them, something I find indicative of just how sympathetic he really is to other people.  Frankly, I just don’t find Quinn or Sookie’s interest in him believable.  Something just rings false about the whole thing.  It isn’t like her interactions with Eric, for example, that are full of witty banter and internal conflict about liking this person on both sides.  Quinn and Sookie’s conversations literally make me want to puke at how disgustingly sweet and false they sound.  Reading their conversations is like eating a twinkie.  A deep-fried twinkie.

Thankfully, there isn’t much Quinn in this book, so it’s still an enjoyable read and a sign of better things to come in the series.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Bought on Amazon

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Dead Until Dark, review
Living Dead in Dallas, review
Club Dead, review
Dead To The World, review
Dead as a Doornail, review

Book Review: Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris (Series, #4)

November 25, 2009 10 comments

Summary:
Just because Sookie has broken up with Bill doesn’t mean her relationship with the supernatural world is over–especially when she finds Eric naked and suffering from amnesia on the side of the road.  When she discovers from Pam that a league of evil witches have their sights set on ruling Shreveport, she agrees to hide Eric while the vampires, werewolves, and Wiccans attempt to fend off the witches.  To top it off, Sookie’s brother has gone missing, which may or may not be related to the near-war going on.

Review:
While the books in the series so far have been improving, Dead to the World is definitely a step back.

The individual plot lines aren’t so bad, but Harris doesn’t do a good job of keeping them integrated and flowing.  The book reads as if it has too many sticks in the fire.  Just too much happens in such a short book.  The reader is left feeling a bit of whiplash from the rapidly changing storylines and situations.

I knew Sookie would have a rebound after Bill, but I’d hoped Harris would be more creative than having that rebound be Eric.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Eric better than Bill, but I also enjoyed the tension between him and Sookie.  I wish that had lasted longer.  Similarly, I don’t think giving Eric amnesia was a wise character development choice.  I’m pretty sure anyone with amnesia plopped into the supernatural world would be a cowering mess.  That doesn’t tell us anything about who Eric is underneath his persona.  Sookie’s interactions with him therefore felt so fake that I not only couldn’t take real interest in them, I was also a bit grossed out by the falseness of them.  I didn’t expect Sookie’s rebound to be emotional, but I did expect it to be more real.

On the other hand, Sookie’s character development takes a nice turn.  Without Bill in the picture, she may have expected the supernatural world to pretty much leave her alone.  Instead she finds out they still depend on her.  Through the various situations, she starts to become a more empowered version of herself, and I enjoyed seeing that.

The best part of the book by far is Jason’s plot-line.  I can’t say much more or I’ll give away the secret, but suffice to say that I hope True Blood gets to this part of the story sooner rather than later.

While I’m irritated by some of the character development choices Harris has made, I am still enjoying the world she has created.  I am hoping though that the series returns to the tight, witty writing found in Club Dead.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Bought on Amazon

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Dead Until Dark, review
Living Dead in Dallas, review
Club Dead, review