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There has been a lot of discussion about the new Charlaine Harris book, Dead Ever After, especially since the plot ending was prematurely revealed.  I have read all the Sookie Stackhouse books,but more out of sheer bloody mindedness than enjoyment.  I had planned to collate my notes for the outstanding reviews, but I simply don’t have the spoons or the inclination to edit and re-edit when there are so many better books to review.  So instead, here are some final thoughts on the whole shenanigans.

I believe that there is an unspoken agreement between the author and reader.  The author creates amazing characters and as the reader, we get to love them as much as the author does – with that there comes a bond of trust.  We trust that the author will do right by those characters and as long as that happens, the reader will forgive a multitude of sins right until the very end.

However, I also understand that inspiration is not a bottomless well and there are some times when characters have come to their natural end… or the author just gets bored with them.  This seems to have happened with Harris, who made no secret that she wanted to kill Bill off halfway through.  This was at the same time that True Blood started; a double edged sword creating an even bigger fan base while she was falling out of love with the characters.

You need to remember, that there is a new type of reader who grew up reading the Harry Potter books.  They expect the author to do right by the characters.  Sure, some may get killed, but it’s OK because the author loves the characters and has a *plan*, we just need to trust them.  These readers not only buy the books in hard back edition at the highest price as soon as they are released, but they watch the TV series and buy everything from the t-shirts to the perfume. They also suspend their criticism.  They forgave Harris for countless mistakes, the glaring continuity errors, rambling plot lines, the repetitive Debbie Pelt nonsense, and the weird personality changes of all the characters.  They truly believed that Harris would do right by them and that Sookie and Co. would get the ending that they deserve.

She didn’t.

For the last eleventy books Harris had been flipping the bird at her fans.  She could have been worthy of their trust and created a great final book that negated all of the shitty plot lines and errors (and if she didn’t feel that she could, she should have damn well got someone to help her).  In turn, these fans would have read her other books and stayed with her for the rest of her career.  Instead she has alienated them, not only with a book that seemed to lack any kind of passion, but also by letting down the characters too.

I don’t think that the uproar in the Sookie Stackhouse community is simply because Sookie ended up with Sam, but because the ends were tied up in such a lacklustre way.  People feel cheated because they were, and now they are having an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ moment, realising that the previous books were just as disappointing.  Readers don’t need to be treated like they are stupid, nor do they want to be mugged off.  All they wanted was for there to be a decent ending for the characters that they have grown with and loved.  That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

In thirteen books, Sookie showed very little growth.  She is still the same person who simply wanted to be normal.  Vampires not only allowed her to feel that, but showed her how to shield herself from other people’s thoughts (a fact that was dropped in and glossed over PDQ), so she really didn’t need vampires any more.  All she wanted to do (as we were told over and over again) was to lie out in the sun, make coffee, put her hair in a pony tail while wearing her Merlotte’s t-shirt. She stopped fighting for her relationship with Eric, in fact, I am not entirely sure that she fought for it in the first place; nor did she show any understanding of vampire politics or a desire to learn about it even when she was up to her armpits in it.  Her idea of growth was that ridiculous word a day calendar.  Ending up with Sam was obvious, but the lack of run up to the relationship was disappointing.  The fate of the vampires was secondary and many of the Eric fans would have been placated if there was more of an explanation and tidier ending.  Like many times in this series, Harris simply relied upon glossing over a lacklustre plot line.  I wouldn’t have put it past her to have tried a Dallas style ‘and it was all a dream!!’ ending.

It would have been better for the series if Harris had created 6 kick ass books that didn’t resort to rambling plot lines of repetitive details about Sookie’s day to day activities while she still liked the characters.  While I might not necessarily enjoy Laurell K Hamilton’s books, I respect her for saying that she wanted to hold off writing another Merry Gentry book because she felt that the character had come to a natural end.  This is how you respect your characters and readers.

So instead of spending best part of £10 on Dead Ever After how about these books.

Jim Butcher – The Dresden Files.  Harry Dresden is a wizard, it says so in his yellow pages ad.  He helps the police with any weird shit activity which involves vampires, witches, wizards and other creepy things.

Kim Harrison – The Hollows Series.  Rachel Morgan is a kick ass bounty hunter who has just handed in her notice so has a life expectancy of -5 minutes.  She ends up moving in with her vampire friend Ivy and Jinx the pixie and becoming an independent bounty hunter.

Ilona Daniels – The Kate Daniels Series.  Kate is a mercenary investigating the murder of her friend, rubbing shoulders with vampires and weres and scary things that go bump in the night

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It has only taken seven books, but this one actually had some potential.  Of course there were still plot discrepancies, character inconsistencies, dodgy grammar and so on, but it was OK.

The main news from Bon Temps is that Jason and Crystal got married in a ceremony where Sookie promised to stand in for him if he screws up (or screws around) and you know that it won’t be long before she has to pay the price for his stupidity.

Sookie is finally off to the Rhodes summit and is working for the Queen of Louisiana whose territory has been decimated thanks to Hurricane Katrina.  Her position is also weakened because the Arkansas vampires believe that she had murdered her husband and she so hasn’t inherited his wealth yet.  So times are tough and it gets worse when the Arkansas contingent at the summit are being killed off with Sophie Anne being framed for the murderer.  Naturally, Sookie decides to poke around.  With the subtlety of a sledge hammer, Harris continually references unclaimed luggage being left in the suites, and as someone who remembers the 70’s and 80’s bomb threats in the UK, it was obvious that there was an imminent bomb attack.  Sookie is able to use her talents to help rescue survivors of the blast, hinting at what she could do if she went public with their talents.

Sookie finally realises that she has to decide who she is going to ally herself with, as both the supernatural and human communities want to utilise her talents.  Her love life ends up in the toilet as she is pushing Quinn away, while creating a blood link with Eric.

Having so many characters, and multiple plot lines showed the potential of the book, but in her usual fashion, Harris continued to underestimate the reader and cut corners leaving me feeling short changed at the end of the book.

So here we are again, book 5 in the Sookie Stackhouse series.  There are two threads to this storyline.  The first is that shape shifters are being shot and Jason, who has recently been bitten, is considered the main suspect supposedly wanting revenge.  Of course, this is completely wrong as Jason is having fun with his were-pantherism, so Sookie takes it upon herself to go searching for the culprit.  In the course of the story, both Sam and Sookie get shot, but what is frustrating is that the perpetrator(s) were so easy to pick out.

The second thread is based on werewolf politics, which is just as brutal as vampire politics.  Alcide wants Sookie’s help, but doesn’t want to ask for it (more about that in a bit).  She is forced to see the real nature of the people around her when her house is burnt down and who would be prepared to help her and more importantly, who wouldn’t.

So what is happening to the main characters?

Alcide is now obsessed with manipulating Sookie.  He asks her to come to the funeral of the head wolf as she is “friend of the pack”; but what he really wants is for her to read the minds of the pack as his Dad wants to run for head wolf position.  When he tells her his plan minutes before the ceremony, he adds that he knows that Debbie had been at her house and guesses (rightly) that she murdered her.  Sookie tells him that he doesn’t have to resort to blackmail as she’s happy to help, but that doesn’t stop him.  Throughout the book, he just gets worse, I am surprised that he didn’t walk up to her and pull her pigtails to show that he likes her as he’s resorting to such playground tactics.  Clearly on the rebound, he invites Sookie to live with him after her house burns down and seems to think that because he fancies her (get in line, pal) that her gifts are his to use as he wishes.  Big mistake.  Not even the vampires blackmail Sookie to get her to do stuff (yet).  She attends the wolf leader battle for him and didn’t leave when she found out just how brutal it would be (although some warning would have been nice, what with the whole fighting until the death and celebratory public sex, ick).  Given his personality change, of course he will blame her for not saving his Dad and will go back to dating insane were-ladies in the next book.

He is almost like a male version of Sookie, he has terrible taste in women and keeps on returning to them, only to be manipulated by them again.  He’s also fickle with his affections.  Sure, he’s attractive and you know, alive, but he’s also a supernatural being.  I think that part of this book is showing Sookie that there’s more to weres than them being in touch with their fuzzy side every month.  Their animal side is always there and their brutality is on a par with vampires, maybe even more so as their leadership battle and ‘celebrations’ show.

Jason is getting used to being a were-panther and as he has fewer brains than a panther, he seems to enjoy this side of him.   The Hotshot crowd are willing to keep an eye on him thanks to his relationship with Crystal and her Uncle Calvin’s crush on Sookie.  It’s clear to everyone but Sookie that Hotshot is rife with inbreeding and Calvin is mating with any pure blood to try and stop the genetic faults like some kind of Hapsburg King, clutching at straws.  He really wants to mate with Sookie so she can dilute the bloodline too and he’s not afraid to use Jason as leverage.  He gets shot and spends most of the book in hospital, so initially Sookie visits him to keep on his good side, but then continues more than necessary and even kisses him.  With the naivety of someone blessed with good looks, great tan, big boobs and short skirts, she muses how nice it was to bring pleasure to him just because she was pretty.  Agggh, this is what makes me so furious with these books.  Just when I think that she finally starts to get a grip and she’s not completely brain dead something like this happens, showing that she has as much depth as a puddle. Of course, Calvin won’t be impressed when he realises that all the ‘affection’ is just the Sookie brand of friendliness.

Tara has landed herself with a dodgy vampire thanks to her boyfriend, allowing another vampire, Mickey, “use” her.  Sookie, asks Eric (who is still in the dark as to what happened when he was cursed) to sort it as a favour to her.  This is an easy fix for him and after a quick phone call and some fisticuffs, Mickey is sorted out.  Now Sookie has to explain what happened to Eric and makes a big deal about the amazing sex, as well as how he wanted to run away with her, which shocks Eric.  It turns out that part of the curse was that he was to be near the person that he loves, but not know her.  The aim of the showdown with Mickey was to show the power that sires have over their creations and how they can’t fight it (take note for further books)

Bill’s back and is displaying his true colours with pride.  Even when he hurts Sookie (again) she still believes that ‘he doesn’t really mean it’, not wanting to accept how horrible he is because she loved him.  At some point, she  is going to have to face up to that.  He’s a vampire. Duh.  He walks in on her and Sam kissing (which doesn’t mean that much as she seems to be kissing everyone), causing another fight.  Regardless of all the kissing, neither man seems to realise that they are both in the friendzone.

We have a new character too, Quinn the were-tiger who was MC/referee in charge of the werewolf battle for leadership.  Of course he immediately has lusty feelings towards Sookie (which is getting so boring now) and I expect that we’ll see him again.  There’s also a new vampire, Charles who is a pirate bartender on loan to Sam from Fangtasia when he got shot (really? Couldn’t the author think of anything better than a Jack Sparrow clone?)

The storylines were ropey and full of holes, I think (I hope) that the author was establishing some groundwork for future books with the complexities of the werewolf /shapeshifter communities, and showing that the vampires don’t have the monopoly on being a vicious breed.  If this book was to have a theme, it would be loyalties.  Sookie is still naïve enough to think that she can go along and do ‘good deeds’ to all and sundry and people will return the favour.  It doesn’t work that way.  No matter how she acts, the supernaturals will always want her to join their gang because of her talents and because they want to get into her knickers.  At some point, she will have to pin her colours to the mast and have done with it.  It is almost as if this book is a watershed, things just can’t carry on any longer.

I wish that I liked Sookie more, but she continually does things that negate any kind of personal growth.  On one hand she is wittering on about how she wasn’t going to rebound, but then she’s kissing every supernatural being she meets.  There are constant references to her reading books and that sodding word of the day calendar as if that in itself indicates her intelligence and common sense, but based on her actions she comes off as a brainless idiot, never mind the fact that she can use a new word.  I want her to become more savvy and aware of what is going on.  She chose to immerse herself in this life, yet she is unwilling to truly appreciate the laws and regulations and instead she is insisting on applying human rules to them which just doesn’t work.

After a good book in Book 4, this one was a disappointment I really hope that the next one will be better.

This is the fourth book in the Sookie Stackhouse series.  I had read an excerpt of this book in ‘Tempest Rising’ which had prompted me to purchase the box set when I saw the offer.  Now I realise that this is the best book so far and enjoyed it far more than the last three.  For me, I liked that Bill was off on his travels and we could see Sookie without all the angst that surrounds them both; we also saw the flickerings of more than one plot being woven together within the book which made it feel more challenging.

The book starts off on New Year’s Eve and once again Sookie is working in the bar grumbling that everyone else has stuff to do.  As she is driving back home she meets a half naked vampire walking along the road – it’s Eric and he’s suffering from amnesia.  After a quick chat with Pam and Co. Sookie ends up vampire sitting him and thanks to Jason, this time she’s getting paid for it.  She’s such a sucker for waifs and strays, I am surprised that her house isn’t jammed full of animals needing a home, but then again this might encourage more vamps…

There was an element of sadness throughout the book.   Sookie rapidly falls in love with Eric who is a ‘pure’ version of himself without his usual bravado and the power, wealth and influence that he has created as a buffer against the human world .  He constantly looks to Sookie for reassurance, love and affection, so she has the upper hand.  This is ideal for her, not only does she get to take care of and mother him, but she also has the benefits of being with a vampire.  In fact, it’s probably the closest she’d ever get to a ‘normal’ relationship with a vampire.  For Eric, he has the benefits of a relationship that is simply about love and he takes to it to such an extent that he said that he didn’t care if he ever got his memory back and that he wants to run away with her.  This is what makes this book so sad, they both have this fleeting moment of what a life together could be like, but of course Sookie would never stop him from getting his memory back and an Eric with his memory would find it hard to give up all the trappings he has accumulated.  To quote Nine Inch Nails, it’s something that they’ll never have.

So, what was the matter with Eric?  Well, we have a new supernatural on our hands – witches!  This brother and sister led group of powerful witches go around to successful businesses blackmailing the owners and threatening to curse their customers/business if they don’t get a cut of their profits and now they have arrived in Shreveport.  That isn’t the only problem.  Hallow, the main witch, generously said that she wanted Eric to be her love bunny and in return she wouldn’t take all of his profits.  When he refused, he got cursed.  Now Pam and Co. need to find the witch so she can remove the curse, while Eric who is a danger to himself, needs to keep his head down.

Now we get to learn about witches!  In fact, there are witches who have power and Wiccans who are about the religion, but this new group doesn’t care which sort you are.  They are on a recruiting spree and using their tried and tested business tactics to blackmail other witches to join them.  Sookie discovers that there are witches closer to home and decides that she has to warn Alcide (who is back with Debbie Pelt, again).  He introduces her to the Chief wolf and discovers that the second in command (who is also a witch) was missing.  She turns up dead and this is just the excuse that the wolf pack needs to join the fight. Hooray!

In the meantime, Jason is missing and what with all the witchy goings on, Sookie believes that they are behind it.  In trying to figure out Jason’s last movement she visits Hotshot, a village populated by were-panthers.  Crystal, Jason’s latest fling lives there and initially lies to Sookie, but her Uncle Calvin turns up and she starts singing like a canary.  Being of a supernatural disposition, Calvin takes a shine to Sookie and offers to protect her now that she doesn’t have a man to do so.  Lovely.

Sookie, now doing her bit for supernatural relations has bought together both the wolves and vampires and everyone is up for a fight.  They have devised a plan to invade the house where the witches are holed up, seize Hallow and reverse the spell on Eric.  Simple. Meanwhile, Bill who is back from his travels and happens to mention that Debbie was a part of the torture team from the last book and that she had known the state he was in when she pushed Sookie into the boot of the car.  This takes Alcide by surprise and he finally sees the light and publicly abjures her, meanwhile Debbie is furious.  The plan is for Sookie to stay at a safe distance, but of course she ends up to her armpits in blood and gore as vampires, witches and wolves rip each other to pieces.

Sookie takes Eric back home while Pam is getting the spell reversed, but the fun doesn’t end there.  They have a visitor and it’s Debbie Pelt who is not a happy camper and wants revenge.  She tries to shoot  Sookie, but Eric takes the bullet for her and in the moment that this distracts Debbie, Sookie shoots her dead.  Afterwards, Eric gets rid of the body and car just before he gets his mind back.  Once again Sookie is left alone.

It turns out that the witches weren’t behind Jason’s disappearance and Sookie has a brain wave.  She and Sam go to Hotshot where Jason is being held hostage.  One of Crystal’s admirers, jealous that she preferred a regular human, had taken him hostage with the intention of turning Jason into a part panther by repeatedly biting him.  Pow.  That was how quickly it was all resolved.  In what is becoming a pattern to these books, the main plot was usually concluded four fifths of the way through and then the mini plot gains a little speed only to fizzle out with a rush as if CH wants to get it all over and done with.  I don’t know why it is like this, it is not as if these books are huge tomes – a few extra pages adding more to the mini plot would have rounded out the story and it would have felt far less rushed.

Now everything is back to normal in Sookieland.  It is clear that this book is far more interesting because there is more of Eric and less of Bill.  His character is far more appealing and he actually has depth and doesn’t sulk, on the other hand Sookie hasn’t changed much.  I hope that now as all the supernatural beings have been introduced, she is allowed to have a bit of room to grow too.

This is the second book in the Sookie Stack house series.  I have to admit that I am not champing at the bit to find out what happens, but I bought the set of 10 books for £19 and I am curious as to what all the fuss is about. We find Sookie trying to navigate her relationship with Bill, although it is becoming clear that he is not the best person for her.

First of all Sookie is attacked by a Maenad as a message to Eric Northman, demanding that she gets a tribute from him.  She is then taken to Eric who, along with a doctor and other vampires declares that Sookie needs a blood transfusion and have the poisoned blood removed, so it is a grand old Sookie picnic for the vamps.  This is the start of Eric gradually showing Sookie that he is an alternative and not all vampires are like Bill.

Then Lafayette, unlike the TV series, is found dead in Andy Bellefleur’s car (while he is in the bar on a bender).  So Sookie, being loyal and always one to defend the underdog, decides that she wants to figure out what happened to him.  She soon discovers that this all centres around an orgy that Lafayette went to, and his inability to keep gossip to himself.

This line of investigation is stalled when Sookie is shipped off to Dallas, it seems that her talents (no longer a disability) has made her hot property and she is to see Stan who has a problem with a missing vampire.  The trip to Dallas is interesting as we see how vampires travel by air, but we also shown how insulated Sookie’s life has been.

When they get to Dallas, Sookie quickly shows her worth and they are all happy as the proverbial pigs in muck, especially when she goes on an undercover ‘mission’ with another human looking into the Fellowship of a Sun, an ultra-Christian group of anti-vampire nutjobs, who seem to have forgotten about Christian values and are all about killing, raping and beating people up.  Good times.  Of course Sookie is on the receiving end of this, but is rescued by a shapeshifter (an introduction of a new group of supernaturals) and then Eric takes care of her while Bill is off gallivanting.  Again he shows how tender he can be and also reliable too, how about that!

Battered and beaten, Sookie is then subjected to a vampire party, which Bill is loving every second of.  He completely ignores Sookie and is chatting up other female vampires, only for the party to be targeted by the Fellowship of the Sun.  Sookie realises just in time  and warns them, but only  the vampires heed her advice.  The scene is carnage, but she is kept safe – why? because Eric threw himself on top of her and took a bullet that was destined for her.  He then asks her to suck out the bullet ick.  Where is Bill?  Is he rushing forward to make sure that she is OK?  No, he is off on a blood crazed mission to chase after the Fellowship peeps who were responsible for the attack.  Sookie is not impressed as he promised that he wouldn’t kill anyone, and goes home alone.

The other half of the book features Sookie, who is still in a strop and not seeing Bill, distracting herself by donning the Miss Marple hat and trying to figure out who killed Lafayette.  Turns out that the rottenness inside of Bon Temps goes right to the core with an orgy featuring certain members of the town, probably encouraged by the Maenad.  She turns to Eric asking him to escort her and being a good sport, he turns up kitted out in lycra.  Of course he wants to be with her, but he isn’t going to force her – I think that he is an actions speak louder than words kind of man, I only wish that Sookie would pay more attention.

The concluding scene of the orgy was fairly grubby and it seems the author did too as she rushed through Sookie finding who the rest of the orgy-ers were, who had killed Lafayette, trying to escape, the Maenad having a hissy fit, Bill turning up like a bad smell and finally the resolution.

Bill and Sookie has a rollercoaster relationship one minute  they are screwing like rabbits and the other time they are arguing with Sookie going off in a strop.  One thing that I felt a little uncomfortable was the growing way in which Bill is wanting to have sex with Sookie all the time, even when she doesn’t feel like it – there is one sex scene when she asks him to “be sweet” and he says that he can’t.  That is a little too close to rape and control games for my liking and she just seems to accept that it is part of the way a vampire treats her.  Maybe this is because she is so naive or maybe it is inexperience or not having a decent male role model, but the way in which Bill treats Sookie is becoming less about love and more about control.

This is highlighted even more so when there is Eric in the picture.  He helps to heal her when she is poisoned by the Maenad; he takes care of her after her experience with the Fellowship of the Sun; he throws himself on top of her and takes a bullet for her – then stays around to make sure that she is OK.  He even humiliates himself in a pink lycra outfit when she needs to have help going to the orgy.  Each time he looks after her when she is scared and vulnerable and not once did he try to force himself on her, can’t say the same for Bill who is addicted to her blood – and can only get to it by having sex.  I hope that this is a subtle way of the author pointing out that Bill isn’t a nice guy who should be kicked to the curb.

This is also the book where we get to meet more mystical creatures, including the shape shifters, there’s more to this world than she realises and when she has barely seen the normal human world, this could be a culture shock. I suppose that this book is all about setting the scene for future books, which is why I am hoping that Book 3 will be better.

I am currently sifting through my backlog of book review notes and this is one that I had read last Halloween (it seemed fitting!).  I had strayed from the cozy genre into paranormal with the hope of finding a new series of books to capture my attention…

This was the first book in a year or so where I seriously thought about stopping it, but I soldiered on.  Joy and her friend Roxy go to Eastern Europe where Roxy is in search of the “Dark Ones”, – vampires that she has read about in a book (irritation no.1).  Joy who doesn’t believe in vampires, for a couple of chapters at least, starts to get visions in a pub, when 2 men walk in – it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one was a regular man and the other was a ‘vampire’ (irritation no.2)

Roxy is obsessed with sex and the vampire and frustratingly the author didn’t give her any depth or redeeming features – someone somewhere should have told her to grow the fuck up and get over her groupie fantasies (irritation no.3).

Soon Joy starts shagging Raphael a head of security, cue skin crawlingly awful sex scenes, (irritation no.4) not to mention that despite her comments about safe sex in the first few chapters, she doesn’t seem to care that the condom split.

Irritations 5 to 30… The plot felt lacklustre as it was obvious who the serial killer was when he walked into the bar; there were also more awful sex scenes and the concept of the Dark Ones felt embarrassingly fan girl as was Roxy’s reaction to the vampires. I had such hopes for this book because of all the reviews and I went from hoping that it was just a ‘slow starter’ to just wanting to get it over and done with as soon as possible.  It really wasn’t my cup of tea.  However if you like Chick Lit, then this might be for you.

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