Archives for April 2011

Review: Definitely Dead

Reviewed by Jen

If you managed to get through Club Dead without hate in your heart for Bill Compton, this book is designed to remedy that. Yes, yes, there is a lot going on in this sixth installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series, but I will always think of it as the book where Bill became dead to me. (I’ll come back to this later.)

Definitely Dead covers a lot of ground. In fact, the first half and the second half felt like they could have been two separate (albeit short) books. The first half doesn’t have much of a unifying theme, except that Sookie’s life is in transition. The big were-tiger Quinn is in Bon Temps, to pursue a relationship with her. They go out on a date and get attacked by weres. We find out Alcide is moving on with a sweet were woman named Maria-Star. Jason’s girlfriend Crystal miscarries her baby. And a whole bunch of other stuff… But the book starts to come together when Sookie is summoned to New Orleans by the Vampire Queen of Louisiana to put her dead cousin Hadley’s affairs in order. While there, she befriends a witch named Amelia, gets closer to Quinn, faces grave danger and becomes embroiled in vampire politics at the highest level.

But as many events as we’re seeing happen throughout the course of this book (and believe it or not, I left some out!)… the interpersonal relationships are what have stuck with me now that it’s over. I’m still sad and disappointed over Alcide. Though his part in the book is small, you feel the end of the possibility of a relationship between him and Sookie. I feel big warm and fuzzies for Quinn. I know not everyone likes him (and his overuse of the word “babe” can’t be ignored,) but he is charming and strong… and most importantly, he is good to Sookie. Being a good guy comes naturally to him. There’s not much of Eric here, though he is always a treat when he’s around…

And then there is Bill. Here we find out the true depths of his deceptions in his relationship with Sookie. Yes, he hurt her with his indiscretions with Lorena. But over the course of the last two books, Sookie was beginning to forgive him and, perhaps, see him as a friend. And then the truth came out. As many tough knocks as Sookie has taken in these books, none have hurt worse than this one. The foundation of her self-worth is badly shaken. And to me, any chance Bill had for a future with her is gone forever. I hope he chokes on a sunshine sandwich. 4 stars.

P.S. If the introduction of Hadley’s death leaves you feeling like you missed something, then you probably didn’t read “One Word Answer.” It’s a short story that details Mr. Cataliades’ visit to Bon Temps to inform Sookie of Hadley’s death and the circumstances surrounding it. It was originally released as part of the Bite anthology and was re-released in A Touch of Dead.

Review: The Vampire Narcise

Reviewed by Jen

It’s a rare thing for me to find a book that truly surprises me.  I read a lot of books from the same genre and they tend to follow patterns.  And though I enjoy many of them thoroughly and may find a minor surprise here or there, I’m rarely as wrong about a book as I was about this one.

I had lukewarm feelings for The Vampire Voss, but I forged on and found I really liked The Vampire Dimitri. The two books were similar in tone and seemed to set up a pattern I just expected the third installment to follow.  But it didn’t. I wasn’t even right about who the love interest was, much less how the story would progress.  Much to my surprise, this was the love story of Narcise and GIORDAN, not Narcise and Woodmore.  Beyond that, it was not a rehash of the events of the first two books, but rather was set mostly before and after those events.

I usually detail at least a set-up on the plot of the books I review, but I really have already said too much.  For those totally unfamiliar with the series, Narcise is a vampire held captive by her twisted brother. Giordan is the man who falls for her and risks everything to free her.  (…I will not spoil… I will not spoil… I will not spoil...) Seriously, I couldn’t believe the sacrifice he was willing to make. Nor did I ever expect the book to take such a turn!And the way Narcise responded to his selflessness made want to pelt her with rotten eggs!

I am so glad I didn’t stop after the first book. Or the second.  This book blew me away.  And I think part of it was the bait and switch from the first two installments. Brava, Colleen Gleason! I would definitely recommend the series. Just be prepared, this last book is far from sunshine and roses. There are some very low points for our characters here, some which include rape.  It’s a story about sacrifice, perseverance, and love. And definitely worth reading. 5 stars.*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Review: Dead as a Doornail

Reviewed by Jen

I’d never want to stand in a bathing suit next to Heidi Klum.  Or sing after Aretha Franklin.  Who would? We’d all suck by comparison.  Much like any book with the misfortune of coming after the best installment of a series.  The first time I read Dead as a Doornail, I thought it was lame. It’s about Jason and Sam and problems with the shifters.  I want Eric and vampires and sex.  But with a little time and distance… and a patience born out of knowing what will happen next… I can look at the book a bit differently.  It’s still not my favorite in the series.  But the things that bother me about it now are totally different.

This book picks up just a couple of weeks after the last one ended.  Sookie is waiting to see if her brother Jason will shift into a were-panther in the wake of his attack.  And beyond that, she’s worried about how he’ll deal with it emotionally.  That situation resolves itself quickly, but an even greater problem presents itself. Someone is shooting shifters.  First some random girl, then Calvin (the leader of the panthers in Hot Shot,) and now, Sam.  The panthers suspect Jason is to blame, so Sookie makes it her personal mission to find out who the shooter is, to help protect her brother.

In the meantime, the leader of Alcide’s wolfpack is killed (in an unrelated accident.)  Alcide invites Sookie to the funeral and she quickly realizes he is seeking her help in his father’s bid to take over the pack.  We see a new side of Alcide in this book.  One that disappointed me greatly.   This was a guy who it seemed could really fit with Sookie. He is handsome and sexy. He is decent and loyal.  But he also blames Sookie for things that are not her fault. He manipulates. He judges. And he hurts her in the process.  I think watching him fall from the pedestal I placed him on bothered me more than the whole Lorena affair ever dead.

And this brings me to my real problem with the book.  Sookie gets kicked down too many times.  She is a target, over and over. Her home is destroyed.  She is sought for answers in Debbie’s disappearance. She is used and disappointed by Alcide.  She has to watch Bill move on.  She has to live with the memories of what happened with Eric, while he remembers nothing.  She has to shoulder responsibilities for Jason, the shifters, Alcide, her job, her friends… all while living with constant rejection and pain of both the physical and emotional varieties.

It’s not all bad.  We’ve got a great moment where Sookie finally tells Eric what happened between them. And we meet Quinn. (I’m aware not everyone is a fan, but I really ended up liking him down the road.)

I’m just ready for Sookie to get a little light back in her life. Almost 4 stars.

Follow Friday and Assorted Blog Hops

Happy Friday! Here’s our weekly opportunity for bloggers to come together and check out each others sites. Please remember to leave a comment below, along with your link so that I can check out your site, and return the favor.
If you want to participate, it’s easy. To learn more and to enter, check out: Parajunkee –  Crazy for Books – and Bitten By Paranormal Romance!

Q. If you were stocking your bomb shelter, what books would you HAVE to include if you only had space for ten?

1.  Lover Awakened by JR Ward
2.  Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole
3.  A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
4.  Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
5.  Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
6.  Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
7.  The Darkest Passion by Gene Showalter
8.  Dance With the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon
9.  Pale Demon by Kim Harrison
10. Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

But this list is subject to change based on the mood I am in.

Q: Do you have another hobby besides reading?

A. Not really. After work and the kids, there isn’t much time left in the day. Sometimes, I’ll watch a tv show with the hubs, but for the most part, it’s all about the books.

Review: Dead to the World

Reviewed by Jen

Ask any Sookie Stackhouse fan which book is the best in the series, and you’ll be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t pick Dead to the World. This is the very best that the series has to offer. And the crowning jewel of this masterpiece: a Viking Vampire with amnesia.

Thanks to the events in Club Dead, Sookie’s relationship with that asshat Bill is over. And as this book begins, Bill is heading off to Peru to work on his vampire-directory project. Shortly after he leaves, Sookie finds Eric, running barefoot on an old country road with no memory of who he is or how he got there. She brings him back to her house and learns through his second-in-command Pam, that he has been cursed by a powerful witch. Her coven is now searching for him and Sookie has to hide him in her home until the vamps can smoke out the coven. At the same time, Sookie’s brother Jason goes missing. And Sookie must divide her time and attention between searching for him and taking care of her houseguest.

Amnesiac Eric is exactly what Sookie needs in her life. He has all the sexy of his regular self, but he is also honest, unassuming, and hopelessly crazy about Sookie. It takes very little time for her to succumb to his charms. And holy cow, their love scenes are a sight to behold! (There is a reason that romp in the shower is a series landmark unto itself.)
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The nefarious witch and her reign of terror ends up drawing in the Weres, which means we are treated to some more of the luscious goodness of one Alcide Herveaux.
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We learn more about his pack… and unfortunately, we’re subjected to more Debbie as well. Let me be clear when I say, I love Eric. But Harris paints Alcide as such a great alternative in these early books –if only he could just get over that horrible, horrible woman.

In addition to the introduction of Alcide’s pack members, we learn more about Crystal and the shifters in Hot Shot. (They’ll feature prominently in the next book.) And we meet Claudine, a Fairy who will become a big part of Sookie’s life.

It’s hard to talk about this book without gushing. It’s got the best of everything: great characters, good story, plenty of action, emotion, and hot sex. Plus Eric and Alcide. What more could a woman want? 5 stars

Review: Club Dead

Reviewed by Jen

My, what a difference one book can make! This is the book that changes the Sookie Stackhouse series from the Sookie and Bill Show into so much more.

As the story begins, a chasm is growing between Bill and Sookie. She feels the distance, but is still surprised and hurt when he tells her he is taking an extended business trip and won’t be honest about the details. After he is gone a short time, his vampire-boss Eric comes to Sookie to tell her Bill has disappeared. To make matters worse, Bill had told Eric that he was planning on leaving her, once he returned. Despite the heartbreak this causes, Sookie agrees to travel to Jackson, using her gifts to try to seek out her (former) flame.

Eric pairs Sookie with sexy, earthy werewolf Alcide. The were agrees to help, so he can pay off a debt his family owes to Eric. Alcide helps ease Sookie into the supernatural world of Jackson and, together, they work to figure out what happened to Bill.

The chemistry between Sookie and Alcide is off the charts. Almost as fantastic as it is between her and Eric. It’s easy to find yourself asking, “Bill who?” as she interacts with both men. Alcide would be a great partner for Sookie if he could just get over his dysfunctional relationship with his ex-girlfriend Debbie (who hates Sookie in a big way). As for Eric… he and Sookie are drawn together like magnets. It’s easy to see how she is hanging on to her resolve not to sleep with him, by a thin thread. And Bill… well, it’s hard to see how anyone can leave this book without thinking he is a complete asshat.I really like where this book took us. I have to say, Bill’s distance and change of heart at the beginning of the book felt forced and abrupt. But since I hate him so much now, I don’t really care anymore. 4 1/2 stars

Review: Living Dead in Dallas

Reviewed by Jen

Sookie Stackhouse is back. She’s happy and she’s in love. Her romance with Vampire Bill is a few-months strong and for the first time, she has somewhere she belongs. But the peace she’s been enjoying can’t continue forever. The small town of Bon Temps is turned upside down again, when Lafayette, the flamboyant gay cook at Merlotte’s, is found dead in the backseat of Detective Andy Bellefleur’s car.

But that mystery has to wait. Because Bill’s vampire-boss Eric is sending Sookie to Dallas to do a job. He’s loaned her out to the vampires there to help them find one of their own who has gone missing. Sookie uses her telepathic skills to figure out what happened to Russell. That draws her into the clutches of the nefarious Fellowship of the Sun, a group dedicated to the destruction of all vampires.

A lot happens to Sookie in this book. She meets Barry, a hotel bell boy who is also a telepath. She makes a big impression on the Texas vampires, including their leader Stan… who will be back in later books. For the first time, we get glimpses of the sizzling sexual tension between Sookie and Eric. And fissures begin to show in her relationship with Bill. We see, along with Sookie, what Bill’s lack of humanity really means. And she has to ask herself some very tough questions about what she can and cannot accept in her life.

I enjoy Sookie’s voice. She maintains her spunky, country-girl mentality. She holds on to her own morality, though admittedly she doesn’t stay too rigid –she allows herself to recognize that some of her formerly held beliefs may have been naive and in need of adjustments. But Eric is definitely a shining star here… just a glimpse of the supernova character he’ll become.

Season two of True Blood is based on this book. But there are some very big differences here. And I have to say, as with every season so far, other than the glory that is Alexander Skarsgard, the show is vastly substandard to the storyline in the book. There is a maenad, but it’s only a very small part of the storyline. Lafayette is the body in the car, because there is no Miss Jeanette. Tara is not Lafayette’s cousin. In fact, her role is very small and her character is nothing like it is the show. Oh yeah. And Godric is not the kidnapped vampire. He was the bait that helped kidnap Russell. And he’s not Eric’s maker. He is a child molester and killer. Just read the book.

4 stars.

Review: Dead Until Dark

Reviewed by Jen

If you’ve learned everything you know about Sookie Stackhouse from watching True Blood, you are missing out in a big way. Yeah, yeah, there is definitely something to be said about the joys of watching Alexander Skarsgard brood and wear muscle shirts. But the books put the tv series to shame. The biggest difference is that these books are all first-person Sookie. Everything is about her and the world from her perspective. (Most of the more ridiculous subplots of the series don’t even exist in the books.)

Sookie is a waitress in small town in northern Louisiana. She can read minds and it’s a curse that has plagued her for her entire life. It has isolated her and prevented her from ever developing real relationships… until she meets Bill. He is a vampire; his kind has just “come out” to the world. And when she is with him, there is no noise… just peace and silence. Their relationship kicks off when she saves his life from a wayward couple, planning to drain him and sell his blood as a drug. Not long after she rescues him, he ends up doing the same for her, when the couple returns to retaliate.

The relationship between Bill and Sookie develops quickly. (There are definitely some sexy scenes between the two that can get your blood racing, but nothing likely to make you blush if you’re reading in public.) But there is much more to the story than their relationship. Women are being murdered in their small town of Bon Temps. The victims all seem to have ties to vampires –and eventually, the murders hit very close to home for our heroine. There is action and suspense –and a great element of surprise when the killer is finally revealed.

Sookie is a likeable lead… a sweet country girl who is often underestimated. We see Bill through her eyes as this dashing, sexy, larger-than-life guy, who straddles the line between man and monster. There is a great supporting cast, lead by her boss Sam, her slutty brother Jason (who, despite his portrayal on tv, is not a complete idiot,) and the enigmatic Viking vampire Eric. This first installment really only gives us a peek into the supernatural world that will eventually be revealed as the series progresses. But it’s a great start. It’s fun and fantastic series for any fan of the Urban Fantasy genre. 4 1/2 stars

Click to purchase: Amazon

Series Reading Order: Sookie Stackhouse

This is the chronological reading order for the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris:

*Denotes short story/ novella
**There are other short stories set in the Sookie universe, but only these feature Sookie

Review: Faith and Fidelity

Reviewed by Jen

This book was my very first m/m romance and for the most part, I really enjoyed it. The story featured a widower cop named Evan. He’s a 30-something father of four, who lost his wife about a year ago. Sherri was his high school sweetheart: the only person he has ever loved; the only person he’s ever been with. He’s been trying to pick up the pieces of his life, but doing a pretty sorry job, until he makes a new friend.Matt is a former police officer, who fell from grace when he turned in a dirty cop a few years back. Now he’s a security guard, cut off from his brothers in blue. He can’t hold down a relationship. He just flits around to the occasional one night stand. And he drinks to numb the pain and loneliness. When he meets Evan, he finds a kindred, broken spirit. The two become drinking buddies and, over time, good friends. Then, the dreams begin. Matt starts looking at Evan in a different way and he’s totally freaked about it, since he’s never been attracted to a man before. He tries to fight it, but one night, as he tries to comfort his friend from a brutal nightmare, his touch becomes something other than what either man expected.

From there, things escalate rather quickly. Touches turn to kisses, which turn into more touching, and a few days later, they’re naked. And in love. Obviously, these developments come as a surprise to the guys. But they seem to accept their attraction to each other pretty easily, and are quickly talking dirty and joking around about it. This is my only stumbling block with the book. Because these are supposed to be two mature men who have been straight all their lives. And I would have expected much more trepidation in the early stages. Yeah, Evan eventually does kind of wig out about it all. But it’s not about himself or his attraction to Matt, but rather, what people will think when they find out.

If you can put this aside (which you kind of have to, in order to get through the book), the story is pretty good. The love scenes are good, though not scorching. If it were m/f instead of m/m, I doubt I would have even raised an eyebrow. Both leads are sympathetic and likeable, despite their misery. You can’t help but root for them to work it out. And they get the happy ending they’re both looking for. All that’s missing is a shiny, red bow on top. 4 stars

*Thanks to Brie at Romance Around the Corner for the recommendation.