#60 A Review of Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Being on the 12th book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, I know how each book works and functions in this long and fantastic series.  While each book is written to be a standalone story, they really need to be read in order, as a group.  The reason I say this is that each book falls into one of two categories: books that set up a major event that will be discussed in later books, or books that are meant to advance character development.  Deadlocked falls more into the latter category.  With the thirteenth book marking the end of the series, Charlaine has spent books 11 (Dead Reckoning) and 12 (Deadlocked) prepping us for what is sure to be a blockbuster ending.

In Deadlocked, we start off with a bit of a problem (as all Sookie books seem to begin).  Eric Northman, Sheriff of District 5 in Louisiana, finds himself with a dead woman on his front lawn.  If this wasn’t bad enough, Eric also drank from this woman earlier, although he’s not sure whether or not this actually contributed to her death.  As the official district 5 investigator, Bill is assigned to investigate the incident, and he recruits Sookie to help him solve the murder.  Although she is only involved in the investigation, there is much more at play here, as Sookie finds that she is facing an enemy that is far more powerful than she’s ever faced before.  Will she and Bill be able to solve the murder?  Will Sookie have enough power to face this fierce enemy?

As much as it pains me to say it, this book was kind of disappointing.  This is tough, because this is truly one of my favorite book series. Harris writes with a ton of humor, Sookie is a spunky character, and Eric is sexy as hell!  It’s obvious that Harris has a way with words, as millions of readers worldwide devour Sookie books left and right.  It’s the direction of the series as a whole that has been revealed in this book that gets to me.  I know this is setting us up for the big finale, and there must be an ending for Bill, Sookie, Eric, and the other residents of Bon Temps, but after 12 books of the hemming and hawing that we see from Sookie regarding Eric and Bill, the supernatural world vs. natural world… Well, I can’t exactly say what disappointed me (it would be a major spoiler), just wished that Sookie would make better choices.  Other than this, there were parts here and there that reminded me of the old Sookie, and it was a warm and comfortable feeling, complete with her normal humorous commentary that always makes me laugh.  Book 13 better blow me out of the water, for I’ve spent two books now being set up for some major plot action!  I can’t wait for this final piece of the puzzle to come in.  May of 2013 can’t come soon enough!

3 out of 5 stars

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
Penguin Group (2012)
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN:  9781937007447

#35 A Review of Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

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Charlaine Harris presents us with the 11th installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series: Dead Reckoning.  Up until now, our heroine Sookie has been chased and attacked by all members of the undead/supernatural worlds, provided her services to the vampire community, and become intertwined in relationships with vampire Bill, Alcide, and Mr. Eric Northman.  Seems as if nothing more can happen in Sookie’s life, no?  Not if Harris has anything to say with it! 

Just when Sookie thinks her life is settling down, Merlotte’s (the bar she works in) gets bombed. Suspicion originally falls on anti-shifter groups, as Sam (the bar’s owner) is a known shifter.  If this wasn’t enough, Sookie also has to deal with a growing rift between her and her love interest Eric, who is distracted and stressed himself.  He is working with his vampire-child Pam on overthrowing Victor, the right hand man of the king of Louisiana and Nevada, who is both power and money hungry.  The blood-bond between the two of them is truly tested through all of this, and Sookie must try to hold on to her feelings and sense of identity as she becomes disillusioned with herself after all of her dealings with the paranormal that have come into her life and disrupted her small town girl persona.  Also, we come to find out a little more about Sookie’s family history, as well as discovering how her telepathy came to be.  Will all these changes rattle Sookie beyond repair?  Will her relationship with Eric survive?  Will she?
I’ve come to the realization after reading all 11 books that Charlaine Harris has written them as one large series.  (I know what you’re thinking, “well duh it’s a series”).  What I mean when I say this is that while each book stands by itself, it’s really all one massive story that needs each book to get it to its final conclusion.  Some of the books are bigger on pushing the characters to a certain place emotionally, while others move us along with the plot. Many fans were complaining that book 10, Dead in the Family, was boring and not enough “conflict” happened. I think that Dead Reckoning  will make them happier.  The book moved the plot and characters to a place which will cause big things to happen.  Harris is slated to write 2 more books and let me tell you, the current setup will let these last two books to be action packed blockbusters.  In Dead Reckoning Harris doesn’t completely resolve certain plot pieces, so it’s not a stretch to think that she will revisit them and bring them to climactic conclusions.
Dead Reckoning is definitely for the more mature audience.  Sookie and Eric get it on hot and heavy, as usual.  There is also a lot of violence, as there is a fairly large fight scene that happens towards the end of the novel.  Those with queasy stomaches should prepare themselves.  However, it’s not all R rated.  Harris’ humor shines through, as it always does, with Sookie’s witty comments and hilarious inner monologue.  It was a treat as usual to read.
My only disappointment in the novel was the continuation of the “Pelt” storyline.  I understand that Harris is trying to complete the smaller storylines to make room for the monster conflict that will complete the series, but I just felt that it was already resolved and didn’t warrant any revisiting.  Despite this Dead Reckoning is fun, energetic, full of spunk, and one book in the series you will not want to miss!
4 out of 5 Stars
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
Penguin Group (2011)
Hardcover 336 pages

Todd’s Review of Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

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Well, it’s that time of the month again (no, not that time).  It’s time to visit with Charlaine Harris and her cast of characters as we review Harris’ third installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Club Dead.  This time, Sookie begins the novel saying goodbye to her boyfriend vampire Bill, as he states he must leave immediately to work on a secret project for the Queen of Louisiana.  He shows her a computer and various disks that he tells her are full of his work, and must be hidden if any harm befalls him.  His cold departure leaves Sookie incalculably empty, as she attempts to grope with his lack of emotion and confusion about his “project”.  Even worse, she is followed and nearly escapes an attack by a were (shapeshifter that shifts to a werewolf) at Merlotte’s, the bar where she works.  Fortunately, she is protected by Bubba, a vampire who was Elvis himself.  Though she narrowly escapes the attack, Sookie is concerned that she is being followed and believes herself to be a target due to Bill and his work.  It is then that Eric informs her that not only has Bill left without telling anyone, but he left due to the summoning of his maker, Lorena, and now he has disappeared.  Sookie, although betrayed and hurt, agrees to travel to a vampire bar known as Club Dead in Jackson, Mississippi to help locate Bill by gathering intelligence from humans there.  Eric can not accompany her as the bar is in the territory of the King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, who would instigate a war if he was involved.

Sookie travels to Jackson under the protection of Alcide, a were hired by Eric to escort and help Sookie blend in with the local supernatural population.  Sparks fly as the two spend time together, and Sookie has to mightily hold off her feelings for Alcide as she tries to locate Bill.  As they enter Club Dead for the first time, Sookie is threatened by a were, who is soon sent packing by Edgington himself.  Through her telepathy Sookie learns from Edgington’s escort that Bill is being held and tortured at Edgington’s estate!  Trying to remain calm, they accept an invitation by Edgington to return to Club Dead the following night to learn more information.  The next evening the club is assaulted by the Fellowship of the Sun, an anti-vampire church intent on killing vampires.  Will Sookie and Alcide survive the attack?  Will she be able to save Bill?

I must say I really am torn with this novel.  On one hand Harris builds the suspense extremely well, with an ending that doesn’t disappoint.  However on the other hand, it takes the book a while to get there.  Yes, I understand that there are complicated relationship issues with Sookie and Bill and Alcide that do need to be worked out, but I think these took center stage to the action and adventure that I had come to know so well with Harris’ writing.  Once all those issues are more or less worked out, however, the action-packed ending really had me on the edge of my seat.  Harris’ description of Sookie’s “gift” has gotten really good, and I feel as though I’m learning more about it along with Sookie herself.  Additionally, she is better able to write about the interplay between the supernatural beings in this book as the reader has more background due to the first two books.  Harris does not need to explain about vampire rules and laws, as they have been covered previously.  The more I read the books in this series the more I like Sookie’s character.  Smart, determined, funny, and honest, Sookie is everything that a good main character should be and more.  I can’t wait to see what else Harris has in store in the next book: Dead to the World.

3 out of 5 stars

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Penguin Group (2003)
Paperback 272 pages
ISBN: 9780441010516

Todd’s Review of Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

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Charlaine Harris is back with her second novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series entitled Living Dead in Dallas.  The book begins soon after the first Sookie book Dead Until Dark, with Sookie waitressing at Merlotte’s just as she always has with Bill by her side as her vampire boyfriend.  There is one difference however: Merlotte’s has a new addition to its parking lot in the form of the dead corpse of Lafayette, one of the cooks from Merlotte’s.

The plot moves quickly right from the start, as Sookie tries to solve the murder of Lafayette and keep control of her life as she becomes more and more involved with the vampires.  She has had some recent changes to her life since the previous book, including increased vampire interest in her “disability” or “talent” as she often refers to her mind-reading abilities.  Now that they are aware of the implications of having a human with such skills, they call on her to use her abilities to their benefit instead of resulting to typical violent vampire methods of interrogation.  Sookie is summoned to Dallas to use these abilities, but before she can get there, she is attacked by a maenad known as Callisto.  She is badly poisoned, and barely survives.

After recovering from her injuries, Sookie finally makes it to Dallas to try to find the missing “brother” of Dallas vampire Stan Davis.  Through her investigation, Sookie is led to The Fellowship of the Sun, an anti-vampire church.   Under the guise of being a new member, Sookie enters the church, although she is soon found out by the church’s leader, Steve Newlin.  She is immediately imprisoned in the church’s basement, and both Bill and Eric are out of her reach.  Will she survive the Fellowship’s fanatic quest to kill vampires and those who conspire with them?  Will the maenad come back to finish the job?

I throughly enjoyed Harris’ work.  Harris is quite adept at building suspense in the novel.  As soon as the novel opens we’re engrossed in Sookie’s daily life, and follow her as her day becomes more and more hectic.  Even though in the back of my mind I knew that she would survive the maenad attack, I was still extremely nervous when I read that chapter.  Harris has a way of taking the action to the very edge, and bringing the reader back at the last second.  As a counterpoint to that trait, Harris’ humor definitely shines through via Sookie’s thoughts and remarks about the craziness of her life.  It was refreshing and funny to hear her takes on what was happening, and on more than one occasion it made me laugh out loud.  All in all, I definitely give Harris a lot of credit for creating a world for Sookie that contains so many layered characters and different paths.  If you haven’t given this series a try I suggest you do so.  Off to book three!

4 out of 5 stars

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
Penguin Group Incorporated (2002)
Paperback 304 pages
ISBN: 9780441009237

My Top 10….Literary Couples (Part I)

Happy Valentines Day!! I thought it would be interesting if I sat myself down and forced myself to think about my favorite literary couples.  So, without further adieu here is part one of my list! 

(Please be warned, there could be some spoilers in my blurbs on each couple)

10.) Sookie Stackhouse and Eric Northman (From the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris)

                For those of you who have read the series, you know that Sookie and Eric have had a very tumultuous relationship over the 10 books that have so far been published.  Sookie is a telepath who is thrust into the world of the supernatural when she begins dating a vampire named Bill Compton.  (The books take place in a world where vampires have come out into the open to admit their existence) Sookie and Bill break up once his true reasons for being with her are revealed.  Eric, another vampire, is over 1,000 years old and un-phased by humans.  Until meeting Sookie he thinks that humans are useless for anything beyond feeding from.   In the fourth book, Dead to the World, Sookie and Eric finally get together, much to the pleasure of Sookie readers everywhere.  Eric is normally cocky, cool, and all about himself, but his love for Sookie changes him in small ways here and there.  He is constantly trying to take care of her and protect her from the evils of the supernatural world.  He tries to hide from Sookie how deep his feelings are for her because he knows she is still wounded from her relationship with Bill.  When they are together and free from the supernatural drama there is a sweetness to their relationship that is wonderful to read.  Their relationship has its ups and downs, just as real ones do, and it’s this honesty and realness that I like so much. 

9.) Beauty and the Beast (From the fairytale)

                Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite Disney movies as a child and subsequently it’s my favorite fairytale.  The fairytale is fairly different from the movie version, but the idea of Belle falling in love with the beast is still existent.  The idea that love can transcend the physical appearances of people is what draws me to Belle and the Beast.  I feel that so many people focus on the physical appearances of their partners rather than what’s on the inside.  Beauty and the Beast pushes a message that I personally wish more people would try out in their own lives.

8.) Odysseus and Penelope (From The Odyssey by Homer)

                The Trojan War is at an end and Odysseus begins his long journey back to Ithaca to his wife Penelope and their son Telemachus.  Odysseus has been gone for ten years, and in that ten-year span Penelope and Telemachus have kept a large group of suitors at bay.  Odysseus’ journey is filled with many obstacles, each one threatening to end his quest to return home.  He must deal with a Cyclops, the Sirens, and countless other obstacles.  His love for his family, his kingdom, and his people all keep his spirits up.  He knows that the relationship he has with his wife is strong enough to withstand anything.  The strength and courage they have in their marriage is admirable.  I had to have them on this list because of how much faith they have in each other and their relationship. 

7.) Noah Calhoun and Allie Nelson (From The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks)

                The Notebook is a romantic novel that chronicles Noah and Allie’s love story told through the pages of a notebook.  Stricken with dementia Allie doesn’t remember anything about her life.  Noah fills the pages of a notebook and reads it to her on a daily basis, hoping that it will bring her back to him.  He tells her about Noah, a poor southern boy, and Allie, a rich socialite, who meet one summer while in their late teens and have an unforgettable summer romance.  Circumstances arise tearing them apart from each other, but it doesn’t last.  They make their way back to each other eventually and get married.  Their relationship is indicative that even in the face of tragedy love can overcome it all.

6.)  Mary Boleyn and William Stafford (From The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory)

                Everyone knows who Anne Boleyn is, but few know of her younger sister Mary.  Before Anne was with King Henry VIII, Mary was.  It is said that Mary had two children by the king before he began courting Anne.  When Henry was done with Mary she began spending as much time as possible with her children at the family home in the country.  Mary is chaperoned out to the country by a group of her uncle’s men.  Leading these men was William Stafford.  Stafford begins interacting with Mary and her children on each trip out to the country.  Mary becomes interested in him and when she’s at court begins to secretly seek out his company.  William, knowing that Mary is too high for him socially, leaves court to begin making a life for himself as a farmer.  After a short separation Mary realizes that she has found true love in William Stafford.  Leaving court suddenly she rushes to William’s farm to tell him that she will leave everything of her former life behind if he will have her.  I absolutely love Mary and William.  Mary is willing to leave her wealth, family, social status, and position completely behind for a man who literally has nothing but a piece of land with which to grow a farm on.  If that’s not love what is?!? (For Todd’s review of The Other Boleyn Girl click here)

So there you have it folks! The first half of my top ten literary couples!  Do you agree with the first half of my choices?? Who are some of your favorite literary couples?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Check back in tomorrow for the top 5!  I hope you all have a fantastic Valentine’s Day filled with love!

How do you find time?!

I’m often asked, “how do you have/find time to read?’ Most people in my life know that I love being involved in 1,000 things at once.  They also know I’m fiercely dedicated to everything I attempt to do.  Ever since I was in high school I’ve loved being involved.  I was involved in numerous clubs, I was the head of tech and assistant director for my high school plays,  played volleyball, tutored, and took dance classes.

2002 Dance Recital

 Once I hit college I knew I needed a bit of a break, I was burnt out.  I decided to take a semester off of being involved and I just spent the time hanging with friends or doing schoolwork.  I started getting the involvement bug again and started joining clubs, working two work-study jobs, as well as becoming an orientation leader. 

Most of the orientation staff my final year interning

 I applied my sophomore year in college to become the orientation intern, helping run a program that shuttled in over 1,500 potential freshmen every summer for a weekend stay on our campus three weekends in a row.  We also ran a 5 day program the 5 days before classes started in August.  It was through being an orientation intern and everything I did in high school that taught me to make time for the things I really wanted. 

As I graduated college and my schedule got considerably lighter, I moved in with my then boyfriend, now husband Todd.  We both worked a 40-hr work week and were enjoying our new free time.  We signed up to join our local alumni chapter for our alma mater and began taking part in the sporting events our college put on.  I began to read heavily, finding it a pleasure to read again.  Todd would always make fun of me because I would find a series of books that I’d never read before and want to read them all at once. One example is when my former roommate Ashley

Ashley and I

 told me about the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris.  She knew I enjoyed the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and said Kim you have to check them out.  Well around the same time True Blood (the HBO series based on the Sookie books) was beginning its 2nd season.  Me having the obsessive personality that I do went out and bought the first season on Blu-ray. I forced Todd and our good friend Adam to begin the first season with me.  12 hours, a lunch break, dinner break, multiple pee and drink breaks later we had completed the first season.  We were in shock and awe.  I looked at Todd and said Todd I HAVE to read these books. Adam (who really doesn’t read but gives it a shot for me anyway) proceeded to make a bet with me.  (At this point in time there were 9 Sookie books available)  Adam bet me that I couldn’t read the 9 books in 6 days.  I bet him that he couldn’t finish them in 2 weeks.  Adam lost his half of the bet and I won my half, finishing the 9 books in 5 days.  Todd called it Bomb Shelter week because I literally refused to do anything but read.  I came home from work and Todd made dinner and cleaned and took care of our two cats that week.  Todd and Adam both still make fun of me and every once in a while tell me that bomb shelter week seems to be happening again. 

I fully admit that I get caught up in books, sometimes allowing them to take over my daily life. I have gotten more of a routine and schedule down with books though.  To jump back onto the subject of the post, how I find time, I answer – I don’t “find” time – I make time.  I read every night without fail before I go to bed.  The more you read the faster your reading pace will get, hence why I make myself read every night.  I’m at a pace where I can read 100pgs an hour, which is another reason I go through books so fast.  As things get busier in my life the time I spend before bed obviously diminishes, but when I get time I read.

I try to tell people who are interested in reading to split up every book they want to read.  I’ll use Adam as an example.  Under the Dome by Stephen King was selected as our book club book for September.  (Our book club incredibly flexible, being completely done online)  The book is over 1,000 pages and he didn’t get to it for September, and wasn’t able to fit it into his schedule for October.  I told him to stop looking at it as this 1,000 page monster and break it down.  Take the entire month of November if you want to and break it down by day.  1,000 pages over 30 days equal 33 pages a day.  That’s not difficult at all.  When you take books and make them have small attainable goals you can fit the time in anywhere.  Don’t have time at home to read before bed? Bring a book to work with you and read 20 pages at your lunch break.  As long as you try to read something everyday your reading pace will quicken over time.  Thus this has been my secret all these years to reading so much.  I find minutes here and there and everywhere through my day to keep my passion for reading alive. 

Happy Reading!

Note: I’ve written a review for Sharon Lathan’s In the Arms of Mr. Darcy that is set to appear on http://www.austenprose.com I’ll post a connecting link once it’s gone up, but do keep your eye out for it!