Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

SOOKIE’S BACK!! Yaaaaay!!! I say that not just because there’s a new book, but because she’s back in business…as in, good book business. After Dead in the Family, I had begun to worry that the series was sliding downhill, but alas, we are saved. (For now, at least.) My hubs – who has read the entire series – asked me to rate it “one to ten, how many stars? Wait…only compare it to the other Sookie books and don’t factor in all those depressing, sad books you read…” Hmmm, how long until he understands that not all sad books are bad books??? Anyhoo, I gave it a seven.

So someone attempts to firebomb Merlotte’s and Sookie and Sam are caught in the crossfire. Was the attack meant for Sam or Sookie? (Sookie, of course.) Victor has recently been made regent to the new King Felipe and he’s invaded Bon Temps and Shreveport, setting up two new bars that have put a kink in both Sam and Eric’s businesses. Claude and Dermot are living with Sookie and there is something suspicious happening with the fairy refugees that were left behind when the world of fae was sealed off. Eric is keeping a major secret and one of Sookie’s (many) enemies is back for vengeance.

It starts out a little slow, but the pace does pick up and there’s quite a lot of action in the second half. There are a few storylines that don’t go anywhere, but I assume they will be central to the next book. And I do tire a bit of the fairies, since I haven’t really made a connection to those characters yet.

However, the best part for me is that it gets back to the heart of the series: Sookie, Eric and Bill. Yep, you read that right, Bill’s back in business too!! (Hush, all you Bill-haters out there…) Sookie and Eric on the porch swing and Sookie and Bill – naked – underneath Bill’s house (the set-up for the latter was a bit hokey, but I can let that slide). Not exactly book 4 material, but still good. (At this point in the game, I should face reality and admit my weakness for a good love triangle.) And the ending is open-ended, frustrating, and annoying, much like Dead and Gone, but successfully makes you want more, more, more.

I’m really happy with this book and my interest has officially been re-piqued. All the books in this series are TOO SHORT and I’d like to see them at least 100 pages longer, but a fun and quick read is just what the doctor ordered sometimes. My interest in “True Blood” as been rekindled as well…just when we were planning to drop the cable altogether…damn you, Eric Northman!!

Should I admit to owning this poster? No, probably not...

 

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Five book reviews, one blog post

The tagline at the top of this page indicates that this blog is partly about books, but you sure wouldn’t know it from looking at my recent posts. I actually have been reading steadily (if not a wee bit slowly), but I just haven’t felt like writing about them. The weather finally decided to get cold and the loss of daylight savings time means that my excruciatingly long commute home is once again in complete darkness. This makes me want to sleep…all the time. Oh, and I pulled out the Snuggie…which instantly brings any productivity to a screeching halt. I need to get back into the groove, but I think I’ll just ease into it with some mini-reviews.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Seth Grahame Smith, what is this hold you have on me? I love reading about the Civil War, I love Abraham Lincoln, and I love vampire stories. Nuff said, right? (That goes out to you, Diana.) Abe’s mother is killed by a vampire when he is a young boy, thus igniting a lifelong quest to kill all vampires in America (with the exception of one “H,” who actually works with Lincoln to give him tips on the locations of especially evil vamps). He discovers that the vampires are funding slave owners in the South because the slave trade creates an endless, easy blood supply (here’s the vampiric connection to the Civil War). And John Wilkes Booth is a vampire, which I thought to be a touch of pure genius because he was such an outlandish character in real life that one has no problem believing that he was a vampire. There are also several old black and white photos (with slight modifications, of course) that genuinely creeped me out, especially the portrait of Booth.

I did have issues with this book, and if I were to analyze it and ponder the deep meanings within, I would probably not like it. I would be upset that it sort of shifts the real reason for the war away from slavery, which detracts from my image of the noble President Lincoln; and I would think it a little strange that he didn’t inform the country of the existence of vampires, instead of trying to slay each one individually with his trusty axe; and I would be most upset that Abe did not let his wife in on the fact that he became a vampire and instead continued to appear out of the darkness, causing her to be diagnosed as crazy and eventually institutionalized. BUT, I’m not going to over-think it, because this book is obviously not an accurate history and therefore not meant to be picked to pieces, thus, based solely on entertainment value, I loved it.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw was my first experience with Henry James and his millions upon millions of commas. It took me a long time to adjust to his style of writing and I grew a little impatient since it took me so long to read such a short book. I think it is a decent story, but there was so much suggestion that I felt a little lost because there were several times when I honestly had no idea what the heck he was suggesting. Perhaps this book is a little too high brow for me, but what I took away from it was this: the governess was insane and I’m not even sure that any of the ghostly occurences actually happened.

The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

I loved The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and went around singing its praises to everyone I knew. It was the first book that had genuinely scared the dickens out of me since my middle school days with Stephen King. ( I can remember lying in bed during a bad storm, literlly crying with fear, after just finishing Salem’s Lot because I was convinced that if  I pulled back the curtain to investigate the scratching at my window, I would be face to face with a floating vampire. And thanks to Christine, I still get creeped out at night when I see oncoming headlights of old cars from the 1950’s.) This book scared me so much that I was actually worried about a vampire attacking our plane when we flew out to California just a few days after finishing it. And the first description of the Strigoi and the pic-pic-pic of this cane?! I still shudder at the thought.

That having been said however, The Fall did not live up to all of my own personal hype. I wasn’t the least bit scared and at times I found the descriptions of the newly turned vampires to be comical. I’m not a huge fan of zombie-esqe vampires as it is, so when said zombie vampires morph into crab-like vamps that scuttle along walls and ceilings…I found it a little hard to swallow.  Also, I don’t especially love the style of writing because (this may sound weird) it reads like a movie that was turned into a book. Like it’s more  movie than book? (This makes sense though, considering del Toro is a filmmaker and that there are already plans to turn these books into movies.) I was able to overlook that aspect during The Strain since it was so wonderfully scary, but it becomes more obvious when the creep factor isn’t there to distract you.  A few new characters are introduced, I particularly enjoyed Angel, the retired Mexican luchadore, but some of the major characters that I would have believed to be crucial to the finale are killed off. Overall, I was disappointed with this book, but I am still curious to see how it will end and I will undoubtedly read book three.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I finally got around to reading Mockingjay. I absolutely adore this series, but I have to admit that I have major issues with the ending. I was perfectly satisfied (albeit not on the edge of my seat, as was the case with the first two books) up until page 385-ish, when it felt like she suddenly realized that she only had 15 pages left to hastily wrap everything up. It didn’t sit right with me and I’m agitated about the resolution of one character in particular (I can’t really say much about this without spoilers) that just didn’t make any sense whatsoever. However, I will continue to recommend the series.

The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

I listened to the audio version of this book and was absolutely enthralled from beginning to end. It’s the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, the first woman painter to ever be accepted to the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence in the 1600’s. Her story is tragic and heartbreaking, but I was really moved by her drive and determination to follow her dreams. Vreeland is a master of creating atmosphere and I found the scenery to be more vivid than anything I’ve read in a long time. The audio aspect added an additional layer of ambience since I could hear the reader correctly pronounce the Italian words and I went around talking with an Italian accent for several days afterwards. I also found her paintings online and was able to envision them while she was creating them in the story (which made me giddy with excitement). I knew nothing about this author prior to this book, but I will definitely be adding her other novels to my TBR list. I would highly recommend this book!

Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi c. 1630

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Bree Tanner

I wasn’t planning on reading Stephenie Meyer’s newest addition to the Twilight series until this afternoon, when I stumbled upon www.breetanner.com. Meyer apparently made the new novella available for free for the past month as a gift to her fans. I wish I had discovered it sooner so that I could spread the word, but I am glad that I at least caught it on the last day and had the chance to read it. I wasn’t really expecting much since I don’t remember thinking Bree’s character significant (or interesting) enough to warrant her own novel; and I guess I had already written it off as just an easy way to squeeze a little more out of the cash cow that is Twilight, but as a quick afternoon read (on a painfully slow day at work), I found it quite enjoyable. There’s no major character development, but it does hold your attention even though you know exactly how it is going to end (assuming you have read Eclipse).

 Three month old Bree isn’t fitting in very well with the other new vampires in Victoria’s army, until she meets Diego. They become fast friends and together discover that most of what they’ve been told about their vampire nature is untrue. However, by the time they realize that they are just pawns in a larger plan to destroy “the yellow – eyes,” it is too late to escape. I actually found myself caring more about Diego than Bree (again, I already knew what was going to happen to Bree) and my eagerness to learn his fate had me quickly turning the pages. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and I’d recommend it as a very quick and easy summer read.

Dead in the Family

I am a devoted Sookie Stackhouse fan. I eagerly await the release of a new Sookie book each May and don’t even hesitate to fork over the money for the hardback. The latest installment in the series is Dead in the Family. I had read the negative reviews on Amazon that said it was no good, but refused to believe that a Sookie book could leave me disappointed. (Plus, the cover has Sookie and Eric hovering around a giant rose – which totally seems promising, right?) I kept the faith, but alas, I must regretfully admit…I was a bit disappointed.

Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 10)

The book picks up just weeks after the huge Fae War and Sookie is still healing both physically and mentally. Amelia has gone back to New Orleans, Claudine is dead, Niall is sealed up in Faery, and Jason has finally settled down with a nice girl. Claude moves in with Sookie and she begins forming a relationship with her new-found relative and fellow telepath, Hunter. Eric’s maker returns and introduces him to his new “brother” and a freshly introduced Were is murdered on Sookie’s property, where Dermot is discovered to be wandering around. Despite all that, my biggest gripe is that I was left feeling like absolutely nothing happened.  

I need to preface the impending rant by saying that I truly love Charlaine Harris and the Sookie Stackhouse series. I sheepishly admit to having read the entire series twice, actually I’ve read a few of the books three times, but this one will not be added to that  list. What didn’t I like? Well,  Eric and Sookie are officially a couple right from the get-go. I was a bit taken aback by this since apparently I missed the part where their relationship began? (No, I didn’t miss it. It  just didn’t happen.) I have wanted them to be together for some time now, so why should this rather abrupt departure be an issue with me? Well, for one, I was unpleasantly surprised to find them acting like an old married couple (i.e. Sookie picking up Eric’s wet towels off the bathroom floor. Really? Ok, who am I kidding, I’d probably pick up Eric’s towels too, but moving on…), not to mention the fact that there is practically no passion between them at all. Quite frankly, if their relationship isn’t going to include goodies like those found in Dead to the World, then why even bother? And we still don’t get much insight regarding whether Sookie’s feelings for Eric (and vice versa) are genuine or simply a result of the blood bond.

And then there is poor Bill, who practically died during the Fae War while saving Sookie, and who is still in dire straights for the most part of this book. Even though Bill has dropped the ball numerous times throughout this series, he still holds a special place in my heart and I feel he was done a terrible disservice in this book. Although some might argue that there was a happy ending for him at the end, it just wasn’t what I was hoping for.

Like I said before, the biggest disappointment for me is that nothing really happens in this book. I know, technically something happens when Eric’s maker returns, accompanied by his psychotic son; and technically things happen when a few people get murdered by said son, but I just really found it rather dull compared to the previous books. Also, the storyline with Eric’s maker was so similar to what happened in True Blood last year, I couldn’t help but wonder if Harris had gotten the idea from the show.

On the bright side, the fact that Eric is now free holds a lot of potential for future drama and I am glad that they are together now. I haven’t given up hope, it will take a lot more than one dull book to quell my love for these characters.

Lover Mine

I recently finished the newest book in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Series, Lover Mine. Actually, I love this series so much that I can’t believe I waited a whole two months before reading it. In my defense however, I happened to be preoccupied with the only thing that could keep me from running out and forking over the money for the brand new hardback and staying up all night to eagerly devour it: Jamie Fraser. Anyhoo, a co-worker of mine did  run out and buy it the day it hit the shelves and then proceeded to bring it to work the next day and taunt me with it before (after re-reading it several times) graciously letting  me borrow it.

Right off the bat, it’s hard not to notice that the cover style has been changed, thus eliminating any possibility of hiding exactly what type of book you are reading from the husband. No worries though, I have no qualms about being a devoted fan of the Brothers and afterall my friends, this is vampire smut at it’s best!Lover Mine: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

Lover Mine focuses on John Matthew and picks up with his search to find Xhex, who was kidnapped from the sympath colony at the end of Lover Avenged. Lash is holding Xhex captive in some sort of invisible bubble in Caldwell, where he violently beats and rapes her daily. Lash and the Omega have a falling out, and Lash begins a rather grotesque transformation that slowly weakens his powers and inadvertently allows Xhex to escape. I was never a fan of Xhex in the previous novels (because of the way she treated John Matthew), but she also goes through a transformation and discovers her softer side after being rescued and cared for in the Brotherhood’s mansion. Of course, she and John Matthew get together and very steamy vampire smut ensues.

As in all of J.R. Ward’s novels, there are several other less prominent story lines running as well. One that I was not expecting involves Payne, V’s twin sister who has been held against her will by the Scribe Virgin and who has become Wrath’s sparring partner since the total loss of his eyesight. She ends up being expelled from the Far Side and finds herself in the Brothers’ mansion, thus opening up a potentially exciting thread that will hopefully be continued in the next novel. I was also happy to see that Tohr is finally back in the game and well on his way to regaining his status as a Brother. We get a detailed glimpse into his past and discover that he has even more connections to John Matthew (and Xhex). They patch up their relationship and have a quite touching, and much deserved, happy ending.

Poor Blay is still having a hard time dealing with his feelings for Qhuinn and I found myself becoming a bit frustrated with their relationship. Their story line is definitely left undone and while I hope that they are not the main focus of the next book, I look forward to a more satisfying resolution to their story.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I am still impressed with Ward’s ability to weave detailed histories together and neatly tie up loose ends, while simultaneously unravelling additional threads that keep us wanting more. These books are just the right mixture of suspense, adventure, sex and tenderness (involving big, tough, leather-clad vampires) and even at book eight, I don’t see any signs that she’s starting to fizzle out. Each book in this series is equally as strong as the last (although Z’s book, Lover Awakened, will always be my favorite…) and I look forward to the next one.