Saturday, December 31, 2011

Southern Vampire Series Picks Up Steam

Cursed with the gift of telepathy, Sookie Stackhouse, a native of the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps, has never been accepted by normal mortals. Her abilities frighten people, so the sexy, blond 26-year-old waitress is viewed as a freak of nature. However, there is much more to the world than meets the eye, and Sookie befriends -- and is romanced by -- various supernatural creatures, including vampires, werewolves, and shape shifters.

The three sequels to Dead Until Dark and Living Dead in Dallas continue her story, adding a new mystery -- and some new supernatural twists -- in each novel. Sookie's romantic adventures, and the occasional steamy sex scene, are fun, but not enough to hold my interest. The mysteries are intriguing, but often predictable. And the characters, while quirky and delightful, would not be richly developed enough to stand on their own, without the paranormal mystery and romance. None of these elements, on its own, would make a particularly good novel. But somehow the blend of all of them, illuminated by a liberal amount of humor and local color, creates stories that are unique, imaginative, and tremendous fun, not to mention dangerously addictive.

Sookie is a warm, funny and likable character. Despite the suspension of disbelief required to become absorbed in her story, full of wild adventures and supernatural twists, she is a believable character. She's full of vitality, compassionate, brave, flawed and very "real." I think this seamless combination of a believable heroine -- along with humor and the minutiae of everyday life -- with wild paranormal adventures is part of what makes this series work. It's easy to slip into Charlaine Harris's fantasy world and go along for the ride.


Club Dead by Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 3)  Bill, a 150-year-old vampire, has been Sookie's first love in every sense of the word. But he's been immersed in a major project, a computer registry for vampires, and has been distant and preoccupied. Then he leaves the state, and his boss Eric, who was a Viking in his mortal life, suspects Bill was kidnapped. Sookie has reason to believe Bill may have betrayed her, but she still feels she owes it to him to find him and bring him home safely.

This quest takes her to "Club Dead" in Jackson, Mississippi, a nightclub for supernaturals. She's accompanied by Alcide Herveaux, a kind, sexy man with a supernatural quirk of his own. There she tries to peek into people's minds, probing for information about Bill. This investigation leads her into a dangerous vampire's lair, as well as into betrayal and heartbreak.   


Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 4) Sookie is estranged from her former boyfriend, Bill, though things are far from resolved. And her life is becoming much more complicated. She finds a man wandering at the side of the road, half-naked, disoriented and confused. It is none other than the dangerous, sexy vampire Eric. A witch has hexed him, causing him to lose his memory.

Sookie takes him under her wing, keeping him safe until his memory and personality can be restored. He amuses himself, in her house, by watching taped episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And Sookie find this Eric -- gentle, confused, and grateful -- hard to resist.

To make matters worse, Sookie's brother Jason -- her only living family member -- disappears. Jason is not particularly bright, and he's a womanizer to boot. But when he's been gone several days, Sookie starts to worry. Is his kidnapping connected to what happened to Eric? And why are these witches preying on the community?

This novel, which was my favorite in the series, introduced new elements to the story. This includes the nearby town of Hotshot, a small, in-bred community whose residents are all a little "different," which has a rather Lovecraftesque quality. And I loved the way Charlaine Harris blended facets of the rural South which I know and love, in a gently satirical way, into the story. In this passage, Bon Temps residents are searching for Jason:
The search party was the popular activity for the day in Bon Temps. Not only do people like to help in our small town -- but also rumors had inevitably begun circulating about the mysterious wild animal footprint ... most of the men had come armed -- well, actually, most of the men were always armed. Hunting is a way of life around here, the NRA provides most of the bumper stickers, and deer season is like a holy holiday.
I loved this combination of humor, the supernatural, and the quirky, familiar rhythm of small-town Southern life.   


Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 5) A sniper is pursuing local shape shifters, and for reasons I'd prefer to let you discover for yourself, Sookie's brother Jason is likely to be a prime suspect. Still struggling with her unresolved romantic attachments to vampires Bill and Eric, Sookie is anxious to help solve this mystery before the next full moon, when shape shifters are likely to seek revenge.

She is also worried about her friend Tara, who is involved with a dangerous vampire. And to complicate matters further, she is drawn into a campaign for leader of a werewolf pack, a brutal contest that's likely to be decided by treachery and sheer ruthlessness.

Like all the other books in this series, this novel blends wildly imaginative elements with the details of quotidian life, making it easy to slip into this author's world. And like the rest of the series, it is both disturbing and laugh out loud funny, and it's definitely not for the squeamish.

Rating: 3.5

5- Cherished Favorite4 - Keep in My Library3 - Good Read2 - Meh1 - Definitely Not
For Me

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