Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Books & True Blood



AFTER DEAD: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse
CHARLAINE HARRIS

Ace Books
$18.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: four easy stars of five

The Publisher Says: Dead Ever After marked the end of the Sookie Stackhouse novels—a series that garnered millions of fans and spawned the hit HBO television show True Blood. It also stoked a hunger that will never die…a hunger to know what happened next.

With characters arranged alphabetically—from the Ancient Pythoness to Bethany Zanelli—bestselling author Charlaine Harris takes fans into the future of their favorite residents of Bon Temps and environs. You’ll learn how Michele and Jason’s marriage fared, what happened to Sookie’s cousin Hunter, and whether Tara and JB’s twins grew up to be solid citizens.

This coda provides the answers to your lingering questions—including details of Sookie’s own happily-ever-after…

The book will feature extensive interior art by acclaimed Sookie artist Lisa Desimini, including a Sookieverse Alphabet, color endpapers, and several full-page black and white interior illustrations.

My Review: This is the most generous gift I've ever received from a stranger. No, not the book...the loose-end-tying. I pre-ordered the book the instant I heard about it. It arrived today, and after ripping the box to shreds in my eagerness to get the book out, I read it. Twice. All the way through. You see, I love Sookie and the Sookieverse, and I miss them a little bit every so often when I'm reading something else that could use a little *oomph* in the supernatural parts.

I wasn't expecting a story, and I didn't get one. I was expecting a few sketches, and I got those, plus a whole lot of one-line summations of characters I'd forgotten existed. After a minute or two, if I concentrated, I'd get the connection to a book and the floodgates would open. There were a few, however, that I'm just completely blank on.

But think about this. A thirteen-book series, presented over a twelve-year span, has spawned such a passionate legion of fans that the author troubles herself to wind up even the most minor characters' arcs! I suspect Mother Charlaine knows that, based on her fans' passions and involvement with her, if she didn't do this somewhere, her inbox would ever after be chock-full of questions about this one or that one's fate. The first thought I had was a page on her website, let everyone find it as they came to need it.

But a hardcover book...well-designed, nicely printed, with the iconic "look" of all the other entries in the series...her publishers and she clearly read the marketing tea-leaves and figured that hits in cyberspace would cost a little and earn nothing whereas copies of a book would cost a lot and earn even more.

I hope it hits every bestseller list there is. This is the kindest gesture, the most touchingly thoughtful acknowledgment of fan passion and investment in one's own work, that I can imagine. Charlaine Harris gave us, her fans, over a decade of her life, and we gave her our money and our investment in her creations. And that seems like a good trade right there. So for Mother Charlaine to go the extra mile and bring us closure...and a few teasers for future works, or so I hope...well!

Thank you most kindly, ma'am. Like a legion of others, I appreciate the gifts. All of them.

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DEAD EVER AFTER (Sookie Stackhouse #13)
CHARLAINE HARRIS
Ace Books
$27.95 hardcover, available now

Reviewed by Richard, 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Sookie Stackhouse finds it easy to turn down the request of former barmaid Arlene when she wants her job back at Merlotte’s. After all, Arlene tried to have Sookie killed. But her relationship with Eric Northman is not so clearcut. He and his vampires are keeping their distance…and a cold silence. And when Sookie learns the reason why, she is devastated.

Then a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, and Sookie is arrested for the crime.

But the evidence against Sookie is weak, and she makes bail. Investigating the killing, she’ll learn that what passes for truth in Bon Temps is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough...

My Review: Parting is such sweet sorrow. Sookie is not to have another annual entry in the Sookieverse after this.

I got my first Sookieverse bite in 2001. I was dating Andy, who worked at the Half Price Books near my house. I stopped in after work one fine afternoon to make goo-goo eyes at him, and his boss complained. Andy handed me Dead Until Dark and told me to go wait in the bar down the strip mall.

I barely noticed when he came in. I was hooked.

Andy had some troubles, vanished, reappeared twice, then vanished for good. Sookie, on the other hand, has been with me, amusing me, sometimes making me mad, for twelve years. So thanks, Andy, for the longest relationship of my entire life! Even though it wasn't with you.

And now Miss Charlaine has snapped that branch. She's whacked me in the readerly kneecaps. She's stuck the shiv into my pageturnin' shoulder. And, after I get my copy of After Dead this coming October, the what's-next wrapup of everyone in the Sookieverse's life or undeath, it will be all True Blood all the time.

That's not a bad thing, I hasten to add, since there exists the possibility in each episode that either Alexander Skarsgard or Ryan Kwanten will get naked, but the series is real, real, real different from the books. And I loved the books first. And I will miss the books.

I'm past the point in life where re-reading stuff seems like a good use of my eyeblinks. I'm well and truly past middle age...not a lot of 106-year-old men around...and there are squillions of books I want to read. Lucky me, in a weird way, that I can't work anymore as that leaves time to read. Not much money, but time! None of which I want to use re-reading even the most wonderful books.

The events of this book are fast-paced. The people from Sookie's past are effectively deployed to move the plot along while also tying up the loose ends. The entire ending made me smile through tears. The last line? Well, sentimental old fustilugs that I am, that last line was a dam-breaker.

Yeah. I am FOR SURE gonna miss these books, all Sookie's Jesusiness aside, all the moments I've thought Harris had lost interest or lost the thread or just lost me, all the emotional rollercoaster-ride queasiness...all of it is over now.

Unlike every other relationship of my life, this one ends well. I'm smiling because it happened, if also sniveling a bit because it's over. It's been a terrific ride.

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DEADLOCKED (Sookie Stackhouse #12)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$27.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: With Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), in town, it’s the worst possible time for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank.

Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down.

My Review: Entry #12 in the seemingly eternal Sookie Stackhouse novel series. Why bother reviewing entry #12, you ask, with perfect justice, when after 12 books you're either on the bus or not interested in going where the bus is going.

Recently I reviewed book 13 in the Meg Langslow mystery series, to say auf wiedersehen to that giggle-loaded fun fest of a series. That book left me feeling that Donna Andrews was decorating the narrative with little bits and bobs from the past entries, and had in fact lost interest in doing anything new with it.

Charlaine Harris hasn't lost interest in Sookie, at least not visibly. Sookie and Eric and Bill and Pam and Sam...everyone's here and accounted for, and each one still has stuff to do that makes the book move forward. Likewise Sookie's fairy family. Sookie's life changes, not to say that Langslow's doesn't, but Sookie's life-changes come out of a story being told that has its arc. I didn't feel that in the other case.

And this isn't to say that I've loved every Sookie book. No indeed! A few have been middle books, in that they gave the whole arc a push forward but in and of themselves weren't that satisfying. But it's crucial to note that, each and every time I've read a Sookie book, I've felt Harris's authorial presence making something happen. And after 12 books, she's still in it, still working out the ideas and making them happen in prose that's got a voice, that's made an effort to please my aesthetic sense and still make me laugh. Harris is still out to seduce me.

It worked.

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DEAD RECKONING (Sookie Stackhouse #11)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$27.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.8* of five

The Publisher Says: There's a reckoning on the way ...

Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana. It's a job which has its own challenges, but now the vampires and the shapeshifters are finally 'out', you'd think the supernaturals would get on with each other. But nothing is that simple in Bon Temps!

... and Sookie has a knack for being in trouble's way; not least when she witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte's, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but before she can investigate something else - something even more dangerous - comes up.

Sookie's lover Eric Northman, and his 'child' Pam are plotting something in secret. Whatever it is, they seem determined to keep Sookie out of it; almost as determined as Sookie is to find out what's going on. She can't sit on the sidelines when both her work and her love life are under threat - but as their plans gradually become clear Sookie finds the situation is deadlier than she could ever have imagined.

My Review: Sookie Stackhouse's latest print outing. I'm sure I missed something along the way. Too many givens aren't what my memory offers...well, who knows, I might just be sufferin' from worsening Half-heimer's. It certainly feels that way when one is internetless for long stretches! Facts I gave not a second's thought to, because I could pop online and look 'em up, are all wetware storage reliant. I suspect the little elf who does my mental filing has grown very lazy in these internetty years.

Our various dramatis personae are all a-whirl in this outing...how odd, right?...over the Nevada vampire king, Felipe, choosing the reprehensible (even for a vampire) Victor as his Regent. Victor's got his knickers in a knot because he felt he should be King of Louisiana, not just Regent. And, insult to injury, Felipe is separating the Louisiana/Arkansas merger that was effected before the mass deaths two (possibly three) books ago when Sophie-Anne married whatever the King of Arkansas's name was before everyone at the wedding was slaughtered. Felipe chose to keep Eric, Sookie's vampire-rite husband, as Sheriff, the only individual so favored, and thus Victor's gunning (literally and figuratively) for him. Eric, Sookie, and some oddly assorted allies decide that gunnin' for someone is a two-way street after Victor is revealed as the force behind the new vamp club ruining Eric's business, and the roadhouse ruining Sam's beloved Merlotte's, in an unsubtle effort to make Eric come for Victor so Eric can be killed without explanation or expiation.

Yeah, good luck with that. And good luck to Eric in his new, unexpected, and possibly Sookie-less life, as arranged by his now-dead maker, very different from the one he has in True Blood.

Anyhoo, throw in Claude the hot gay faery/stripper, Dermot the damaged faery uncle, Mr. Cataliades the demon (literally not pejoratively) lawyer, Amelia the renegade witch and her former pussycat Bob, and a return visit from nutball Sandra Pelt, and the corpses stack up to agreeable heights in the accustomed way of Harris's books. As is expected in this series, the ending is another sea-change in the life of the Sookster, not yet brought quite to fruition. If this technique has palled on you, avoid this book.Well, what can one say? I mentioned in the last review that I wasn't at all ready to give up on bookish Bon Temps. This book does nothing to push me in one direction or the other. I liked it, and I was very pleased as always to immerse myself in the supe-filled universe that Sookie inhabits. I suspect that, barring a return to the terrible flatness of the un-fun All Together Dead, I'll read along in the series. I won't be out trolling for converts, though, like I do with Louise Penny's addictive-as-chocolate-coated-nicotine-infused-heroin-enrobed-crack Three Pines mysteries. I don't imagine my non-proselytic stance will harm Mother Harris's rep or bottom line.

I'll have to loop back and fill in some details from the book I missed. I suspect I've got the gist from Harris's carefully crafted fill-ins, but some of the fill-ins have left me curious about the full version. (Good job, Mother Harris! I'm tough to inveigle!)

And I am amused to note that The Sookie Stackhouse Companion is now available. Really? A concordance? How Biblical. I might not like Sookie's Jesusy thoughts, but isn't this a bit much?

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DEAD IN THE FAMILY (Sookie Stackhouse #10)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$25.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: It's all about family ...

Sookie Stackhouse is dealing with a whole host of family problems, ranging from her own kin (a non-human fairy and a telepathic second cousin) demanding a place in her life, to her lover Eric's vampire sire, an ancient being who arrives with Eric's "brother" in tow at a most inopportune moment. And Sookie's tracking down a distant relation of her ailing neighbor (and ex), Vampire Bill Compton.

In addition to the multitude of family issues complicating her life, the werewolf pack of Shreveport has asked Sookie for a special favor, and since Sookie is an obliging young woman, she agrees. But this favor for the wolves has dire results for Sookie, who is still recovering from the trauma of her abduction during the Fairy War.

My Review: This is book ten in the thirteen-book series, and somehow I never got around to reviewing it before. I've unearthed it for a re-read preparatory to reading the series finale soon.

Sookie's world, that is the one created for her by Miss Charlaine, is a very rich and varied one. It's amazing to me the depth of the population's weirdness and otherness, and the reason I've kept reading is at least partly that depth. There are so many rules when world-building, and each of them must make sense in the context of the story being told, and form a part of the overall trend of the story or series if it is to be believable. Well, that's a specialty of these tales!

Another big part of my pleasure in the books is the realness of the fantasy. Harris has created slang for her supes, "deader" being the rude term "twoeys" (the two-natured, or weres) use for "vamps" (human slang for vampires); "oneys" then are civilian humans to the weres, though the vamps call us "breathers." It's all very organic for a series of books about a character who is the nexus for a lot of contact among these parties that otherwise wouldn't take place. Of course any group comes up with names for the other, different, competing groups! Naturally. And so Miss Charlaine provides.

This entry in the series does several things that needed doing, snips off some very unprofitable lines of story and blooms open others, and makes a few of the unpalatable fae characters come more alive. Eric, played on TV by the gorgeous Alexander Skarsgard, and Sookie are deeply enmeshed in a relationship that makes Sookie do some very, very against-the-grain things in this book. They're totally understandable, and they add to the sense of the books as lived-life stories as improbable as that sounds.

I liked the ending of this book about the best of them all that I've read. Very satisfying. Very.

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DEAD AND GONE (Sookie Stackhouse #9)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$25.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: Except for Sookie Stackhouse, folks in Bon Temps, Louisiana, know little about vamps-and nothing about weres.

Until now. The weres and shifters have finally decided to reveal their existence to the ordinary world. At first all goes well. Then the mutilated body of a were-panther is found near the bar where Sookie works-and she feels compelled to discover who, human or otherwise, did it.

But there's a far greater danger threatening Bon Temps. A race of unhuman beings-older, more powerful, and more secretive than vampires or werewolves-is preparing for war. And Sookie finds herself an all-too human pawn in their battle.

My Review: Sookie Stackhouse, Bon Temps, Louisiana. That's all the address you'll ever need to mail off a big box of Pandora's leftover troubles. I suspect that, even though it's a fictional place, the parcel will arrive and be oh-so-generously distributed.

THIS time, the Sookster is beset by the murder of a family member in a grisly, quasi-religious way; the end of a long-time friendship; the loss and near-loss of some of her nearest and dearest supernatural beloveds; and horribly confusingly, a radical, radical change in her relationship to Eric Northman, Viking vampire and sheriff of Sookie's home turf, that she's either thrilled about or horrified by, depending on the day.

I recently rented the second season of True Blood, the HBO show based on Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels. The show is more inspired by the milieu of the books than a faithful rendering of them. Coming back to literary Bon Temps after two rapid-fire season viewings, I can't say I think one is better than the other, but rather that each has its merits.

This outing is a solid novel, more than I could say about the previous one ([All Together Dead]), wherein events transpire that make this book's painful lessons for Sookie seem like overkill. The series is mature, which is often a cue to stop reading it for a while so as to judge if can or will recover some of the energy and momentum of the first books. Not so much a problem here, truthfully; energy and momentum the books have got. The question is, is the written series going places you as a reader want to go?

I begin to suspect it is not headed my way. I'm not ready to say “piffle-winkin'-ptui” and walk away, but I am now more interested now in the HBO series. The second season focuses on a one-book character of the Maenad, played by the worth-going-straight-for hottie deluxe Michelle Forbes (“Ensign Ro” on ST:TNG). Her presence in Bon Temps brings back Sam's memories of his childhood, wildly different from the one given him in the books. We see Sam Trammell, who plays Sam Merlotte, naked a good bit, which is nice. We don't see Jason Stackhouse, played by the smokin'-hot Ryan Kwanten, naked this season, though shirtless fairly often. Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, the leads Sookie and Bill Compton, do some serious sexin' this season too, which is nice for all y'all straight people, I suppose.

But the big surprise here is Bill's newly made vampire, Jessica. She's completely new. Nothin' like this in the books! But what a great character she is. All the way around, the series is surprising me, and the books are not, so I am trending away from print in this case.

And that makes me sad.

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FROM DEAD TO WORSE (Sookie Stackhouse #8)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$24.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: After the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the manmade explosion at the vampire summit, everyone human and otherwise is stressed, including Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse, who is trying to cope with the fact that her boyfriend Quinn has gone missing.

It's clear that things are changing whether the weres and vamps of her corner of Louisiana like it or not. And Sookie, Friend to the Pack and blood-bonded to Eric Northman, leader of the local vampire community is caught up in the changes.

In the ensuing battles, Sookie faces danger, death, and once more, betrayal by someone she loves. And when the fur has finished flying and the cold blood finished flowing, her world will be forever altered.

My Review: After being sorely, sorely disappointed in book 7 of the series, All Together Dead, this was a refreshing, unsaggy unbaggy pointed read. It feels so good to be in Bon Temps again, and to have Sookie acting in her accustomed tartly self-possessed way. She's facing huge changes to the supernatural universe, of course, after the events of the last book, but she's doing so with a sense of purpose...which is what the last book lacked.

Among my most favoritest moments of all time in the series is the un-catting of Bob. 'Nuf sed.

Felipe de Castro, the new King of Louisiana, is memorably vile, and leaves you eager to see how Eric and Sookie will cope with his bland, banal evilness. His catspaw Victor Madden...well, nothing too bad can happen to someone like that, undead or not.

But the shocker of this book, the big baddie, is so horrible that I was compelled to put the book down and breathe deeply for a minute or two. Just, well, it's as bad as anything in the series. For sure and certain.

Better than I'd ever thought to hope, after last outing.

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ALL TOGETHER DEAD (Sookie Stackhouse #7)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$24.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.4* of five

The Publisher Says: Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has her hands full dealing with every sort of undead and paranormal creature imaginable. And after being betrayed by her longtime vampire love, Sookie must not only deal with a new man in her life—the shapeshifter Quinn—but also contend with the long-planned vampire summit.

The summit is a tense situation. The vampire queen of Louisiana is in a precarious position, her power base weakened by hurricane damage to New Orleans. And there are some vamps who would like to finish what nature started. Soon, Sookie must decide what side she'll stand with. And her choice may mean the difference between survival and all-out catastrophe.

My Review: Too many threads with too much happening and the end result is I don't have any idea what it is this entry in the series is about: Sookie and Quinn, after his early trauma is revealed? Sookie and the vamp queen, after Sookie's defense of her succeeds and is repaid with treachery? Sookie and Eric, now that she owes him another round of gratitude? Sookie detecting another of her telepathic kind, and the major events of the nightmare religious cult the Fellowship of the Sun unfold?

I suppose every series has a problem with the transitional tales that need telling. Too many transitions in this one, at least for my little two-volt nervous system.

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DEFINITELY DEAD (Sookie Stackhouse #6)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$23.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4.1* of five

The Publisher Says: As a person with so few living relatives, Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse really hated to lose one. But she never guessed that it would be her cousin Hadley—a consort of the Vampire Queen of New Orleans. After all, technically speaking, Hadley was already dead. And now, as unexpected heir to Hadley’s estate, Sookie discovers the inheritance definitely comes with a risk. Someone doesn’t want Sookie looking too deeply into Hadley’s past—or for that matter, Hadley’s possessions. And they’re prepared to do anything in their power to stop her. But who? The range of suspects runs from the Rogue Weres who reject Sookie as a friend of the Pack to the Vampire Queen herself, who could be working through a particularly vulnerable subject—Sookie’s first love, Bill.

Whoever it is, they’re definitely dangerous—and Sookie’s life is definitely on the line…

My Review: A bump in my rating for this entry in the series because I love Quinn, the weretiger we've just met in the last book, as Sookie's new suitor. Also love the ectoplasmic reconstruction of Hadley's murder. So cool.

Hadley, Sookie's cousin, dies the True Death and Sookie now needs to (what a surprise) clean up the loose ends of her worldly estate. You just know bad stuff will happen here...bad bad...and of course, it does. Sookie's never gonna catch a break. Well, there wouldn't be a series if she did, now would there?

And adding to the revels is the Big Reveal of Sookie's fascination for the supernatural community, which it damn near kills me not to spoiler. But I won't. Not that there are any Americans left who can read who haven't read these books already.

Okay, that's an exaggeration, but these are very much as popular as Twilight (thank the gods!) and its hell-spawn. It's just an older crowd. And, I suspect though I cannot prove this, a gayer crowd. There's a degree of identification with Sookie and her relationship problems that most gay guys and lesbians can expect to experience, because there are vocal and crazy-passionate groups hatin' on Sookie and her friends and lovers simply for existing and being themselves. All in the name of what's Good and Right, of course.

Hmm. Not like I've ever heard that line of shit aimed at me before.

So here we have a series that's made phenomenal success out of showing up hatred and intolerance, demonstrating the futility of trying to reason with the insanely hate-filled, and triumphing by refusing to accept anyone else's definition of your essential self.

No wonder I, and so many others, keep reading them.

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DEAD AS A DOORNAIL (Sookie Stackhouse #5)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$22.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.9* of five

The Publisher Says: Small-town cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has had more than her share of experience with the supernatural—but now it’s really hitting close to home. When Sookie sees her brother Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’s about to turn into a were-panther for the first time—a transformation he embraces more readily than most shapeshifters she knows. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population, and Jason’s new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who’s behind the attacks—unless the killer decides to find her first…

My Review: Jason is such a pain. A narcissistic little creep with sex appeal to spare, he's always been the popular Stackhouse. With humans, anyway. And now? Now he's UNpopular with the shifter, or two-natured, or were community. Seems like Sookie needs to come to the rescue, again.

Of course it doesn't hurt her willingness to work on the little someone's-murdering-the-weres issue that Alcide, Cajun were-muffin, is at risk too. And Sookie, well, she's put her supermegaultra hots for Eric behind her after he becomes his scary boss-man-vamp self again; she's not ready to forgive Bill for her two-books-ago scare at his cheatin' hands; so...what's a lusty lassie of twenty-odd to do, with all that muscular alpha-male sex appeal on the hoof courting her?

Yep. You would too, don't even front.

Problem is, in the course of involving herself in the affairs of the weres, Sookie sees and learns things she can't unsee or forget, or really even do more than just...tolerate. Walking on the wild side isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it's downright upsetting. Sookie, you see, is a good girl at heart, a real believer in do-unto-others and possessor of a very starchy sense of honor. Getting involved in the werewolf pack's life causes the starch to chafe parts of her sensibilities. But involved she is, and she's savvy enough to know that involved is safer for her than bystanding could ever be.

Here at last I feel the need to bring up True Blood, the HBO TV series based on the Sookie-verse. Note that I don't say based on the books. The characters' names and essential beings, some of the events, a few grace notes are all lifted from the books, but the show is radically different in many ways.

One of them is the role of Tara, Sookie's human pal who owns a dress shop and (in this book) gets tangled up with a nasty, nasty vampire, and needs serious rescuing from him. Tara in the series is, well, she's a force of nature and she's a hard-livin' hard-lovin' hot mama. Not so in the novels, not even a little bit.

Sookie rescues Tara, but at a cost to their ancient friendship. It's one of the ways Harris makes the series so compulsively readable, addictively followable: she never hesitates to give actions consequences. Things aren't all cozy-cozy in the Sookie-verse. People die, and people still here fall from grace, and people we love show their dark sides and we love them a little differently for it.

Sometimes respect goes away, sometimes it comes back, but never ever is the relationship the way it once was. And Sookie's character is such that, even though she knows that things have changed, she sees the good that's (usually) still there and accepts the shadows as they come.

The ending of this particular book wraps a thread in the vampire story more tightly around Sookie, as she and Eric face together a threat to their mutual survival and happiness. Eric is driven mad by the hole in his memories from the last book's witch war. He knows something happened, and he knows Sookie knows what it is, and his body carries residual feelings for Sookie...and she ain't tellin' what happened.

How to control a control freak in one easy lesson. Go Sook.

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DEAD TO THE WORLD (Sookie Stackhouse #4)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$19.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.9* of five

The Publisher Says: In Sookie Stackhouse—a Southern cocktail waitress with a supernatural gift—Harris has a created a heroine like few others, and a series that puts the bite back in vampire fiction. Now the hit series launches into hardcover for Sookie's biggest twist-filled adventure yet.

When cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse sees a naked man on the side of the road, she doesn't just drive on by. Turns out the poor thing hasn't a clue who he is, but Sookie does. It's Eric the vampire—but now he's a kinder, gentler Eric. And a scared Eric, because whoever took his memory now wants his life.

My Review: Sookie's life isn't dull, is it? I'd hate to be a character written by Harris, because one thing would be sure and certain. I'd never get a single uncomplicated moment's peace.

Bill's the ex, Eric's the new boy, and Jason (Sookie's playa of a brother) has vanished. That right there, in a person's real life, would be enough for a Jamaican escape cruise and a year of therapy to be necessary. Sookie, she gets no rest. She's got a powerful ancient vampire living in her basement, bereft of his memories and therefore stripped to his essential nature. That he also happens to be a gigantic, gorgeous blond Viking with a millennium's-worth of sex secrets to share (the mind might forget but the body doesn't) makes Sookie's rebound from her breakup with Bill one heckuva lot of fun, in the sack at least.

It's that pesky out-of-bed world.

Eric's memory was taken from him for a reason. There's a new group in Shreveport with domination of the supernatural community on their minds, the witches. Some bad, bad witches. With some really nasty plans for Shreveport, and getting rid of Eric is step one. He's the supernatural law, after all.

Sookie struggles with the fear and grief of losing her brother, her one surviving blood relative, throughout the book. It just can't be good that Jason's vanished after starting a relationship with a werepanther girl. Calvin Norris, the leader of the bizarre werepanther community of Hot Shot (out at the ancient native trails crossroads near Bon Temps), adds to the complexity of the situation by getting a little bit of a Thing for blonde, busty bimbo-lookin' Sookie-with-the-special-powers.

Sookie's world, once devoid of companionship, now teems with people of both genders, all imaginable persuasions, and every conceivable level of bizarreness, all wanting a piece of the woman, and her special mind-reading powers. She was isolated, and now being left alone sounds awful good. She battles the dark witches, she finds her brother, she sacrifices the simplicity of loving for the honorable and dutiful complexity of restoring balance to as much of the world as she can reach.

It's a pretty darn spiffy, if jam-packed, episode in the Stackhouse Files.

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CLUB DEAD (Sookie Stackhouse #3)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$24.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: Things between cocktail waitress Sookie and her vampire boyfriend Bill seem to be going excellently (apart from the small matter of him being undead) until he leaves town for a while. A long while. Bill's sinister boss Eric has an idea of where to find him, whisking her off to Jackson, Mississippi to mingle with the under-underworld at Club Dead. When she finally catches up with the errant vampire, he is in big trouble and caught in an act of serious betrayal. This raises serious doubts as to whether she should save him or start sharpening a few stakes of her own...

My Review: Ah, the vicissitudes of love...Sookie faces them in a very very very big way in this book. She's afraid she's losing Bill, she's afraid for Bill, she's afraid *of* Bill, and it's barely book three! She also has her fears about Bill's boss Eric, whose hold over her grows.

Sookie doesn't lack for drama in the love department. Add in a werewolf named Alcide, a superultrayummy Cajun construction worker, and you have an exquisitely delicious conundrum: Whom shall I bed, wonders Sookie?

Don't you just hate when there are several hunky men panting after you?

Yeah, me neither.

This is the most sexual of the series to date, and it's not the strongest outing possibly for that reason. The story is pretty straightforward, and it's not as if there's a lot of room for suspense. Plenty of room for "who wins the fair maid," however. Now, I am not one to whinge about some smexy goins-on, but there needs to be either more or less of them to make this work.

Still and all...the series is as addictive as cocktail peanuts. Stop now? Are you MAD?!

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LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS (Sookie Stackhouse #2)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$24.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.9* of five

The Publisher Says: Sookie Stackhouse likes living in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and she likes working as a cocktail waitress at Merlotte's. But she is having a streak of bad luck. First her co-worker is killed, and no one seems to care. Then she comes face-to-face with a beastly creature which gives her a painful and poisonous lashing. Enter the vampires, who graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn't enjoy it).

The point is: the vampires saved her life. So when one of her bloodsuckers asks for a favour, she obliges-and soon Sookie's in Dallas, using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She's supposed to interview certain humans involved, but she makes one condition: the vampires must promise to behave, and let the humans go unharmed. But that's easier than done, and all it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly...

My Review: Back to Bon Temps! It's a good vacation, let me assure you, since thee and me don't have to endure the bizarreness of the supernatural occurances Sookie Stackhouse has to live through. This time out, Sookie's now-normal intercourse (clean-minded, now, think above the waist!) with the undead is life-saving after she encounters a maenad. Her run-in with this extremely bizarre force of wildness and madness leaves her in a really bad way. Her vampire, well, friends isn't precisely the term but it will have to serve, save her life instead of taking it. (Not that they weren't tempted.)

In return, when Sookie does them a solid in the Dallas part of the story, she thinks they're even. Oh ha.

After coming home to Bon Temps, the maenad must be dealt with. More vampire indebtedness there, Sookie!

But really, the memorable thing about this book is the introduction of a fundamentalist hate group, the Fellowship of the Sun, which targets vampires for destruction. And it's not as if there aren't plenty of vampires that richly deserve destruction, including one Sookie has reason to get to know. But the blanket hate that this religious group spreads, well...it's kinda sorta eerie, how closely it resembles the present-day landscape in regard to gay folks.

Harris doesn't pull punches here, she goes after the hatefulness of the religiosifiers, and she does so in the most effective way possible: She sets Sookie as their contrast, Sookie of the kind and forgiving heart, the girl who believes the message she was taught in her own church of forgiveness, love, and non-judgment.

So refreshing. So rare. So refreshing because it's so rare. Still fun all these years later.

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DEAD UNTIL DARK (Sookie Stackhouse #1)
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books
$7.99 mass market, available now

Rating: 3.9* of five

The Publisher Says: Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of "disability." She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome--and Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting for all her life....

But Bill has a disability of his own: He's a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of--big surprise--murder. And when one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next....

My Review: The first book in the iconic series of Sookie Stackhouse novels. Nothing like beginning as you mean to go on! Harris pitches us Sookie's unusual talent, reading minds, on the first page and in Sookie's own voice. It's refreshing, to say the least, to have the set-up done and dusted on page one.

Oh, but how much more there is to come! Sookie meets the vampire of her dreams, Bill; she suffers her first huge loss in the series, and it's a doozie; she suspects, with the rest of the town, that Bill might be involved in some nefarious activity; and she faces down an evil-doer who comes from a pretty damn close to unsuspected quarter.

Whee dawggie! This is the first book, too!

I got this book and devoured it maybe ten years ago, and the series had me utterly hooked in no time at all. I appreciate the storytelling chops Harris has, and I loved then the novel (!) idea of vampires coming out of the coffin (a phrase Sookie uses in this book that still makes me chuckle). Nowadays, it's refreshing when a book has no majgickq or paranormalcy to it. Then it was fresh and new and really, really fun.

Things do change. My response to the book now wouldn't be one of pleasure, I suspect, so I'm happy that it's a comfort re-read and not a first encounter.

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