Wednesday, May 28, 2008

From Dead To Worse (book) by Charlaine Harris

In this book, Sookie's got a lot to deal with (doesn't she always?). Her boyfriend, Quinn the weretiger, is still missing. She knows he's fine, but for some reason he's choosing not to contact her, and Sookie's afraid that this means he wants to break up with her and is just too chicken to do it. In a previous book (sorry, I can't remember which one), Sookie discovered that she's got a fairy somewhere in her family tree. Well, in this book she figures out exactly where in her family tree that fairy is located - and, yes, one of her magical relatives wants to have a closer relationship with her. While she's still reeling from this news, someone tries to kill her, and Eric, as usual, saves her. Did I mention that Eric is remembering more and more of his hot and steamy past with Sookie? Other previously begun storylines are also dealt with, including her brother's marriage, Alcide's place in the pack, Bob the cat, vampire politics after the Queen of Louisiana looses her legs, and probably more that I'm forgetting.

This is the 8th book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and Charlaine Harris uses it to tie up (or at least partially tie up) loose ends from several prior books. Although Harris starts the book off with a quick reminder of where the 7th book left off, it is definitely not advisable to start the series with this book - you'll be miserably lost.

Despite being a telepathic barmaid, Sookie often seems very normal and out-of-place in the dangerous world of vampires, shapeshifters, and fairies. She tends to be nice to a fault, which means that a lot of her problems are the result of continuing to deal with people who don't treat her nearly as nicely in return. In fact, although I like Sookie enough that she's one of the main reasons I read this series, she's so nice that I could see someone hating her and this series just for that reason.

Although there are no romantic scenes in this book, unless you count the tension between Sookie and Eric (a Viking vampire) and her cheating vampire ex-boyfriend Bill's attempts to rekindle some kind of friendly relationship with her, many of Sookie's relationships get further developed (or even just started). I loved finding out more about Sookie's family, and I can't wait to read more about the new people introduced in this book. Vampires and werewolves show up, there's fighting (which Sookie, not being a fighter, is lucky to survive, especially without needing a trip to the hospital), and Sookie uses her gift, sometimes more casually than she once did but not nearly as often as she used to.

My biggest complaint about the book was that there were so many climactic-feeling battles that it felt like the ending was late in coming. However, the last two pages made up for that, at least in my opinion. I won't give any more details, in case, for some strange reason, someone reads this post before they've actually read the book.

  • Guilty Pleasures (book) by Laurell K. Hamilton - Anita Blake became a vampire executioner after new legislation made vampire hunting illegal. She's a full-time animator (as in "raiser of the dead", not "creator of animated cartoons") who helps the police out with crimes that might involve the supernatural. Guilty Pleasures is the first book in the series. I don't consider it the best book, and, since I started with Lunatic Cafe (the fourth book) and followed along well enough, I think it would be safe to start with something a little later in the series if you wanted. The first book focuses on vampires, the second on zombies, the third on vampires again, and the fourth on wereanimals. I probably wouldn't start the series much later than the fourth book, but I definitely wouldn't start it at the tenth book or beyond - at that point, the series changes and becomes much more graphically sexual. I mean, the sex really becomes almost pornographically, clinically graphic, and the comparison to pornography becomes stronger when you realize that a large portion of some of the books is just the sex scenes. Sookie and Eric's sex scenes are tame in comparison. Don't let that stop you from reading the first ten books, though. Early Anita is tough and smart - later Anita becomes a bit colder and harder.
  • Undead and Unwed (book) by MaryJanice Davidson - This is the first book in Davidson's Betsy Taylor series. Soon after losing her job, Betsy is killed, only to wake up as a vampire. Her mother is happy she's back, but this ruins her stepmother's day. Betsy finds herself taking on the evil Nostro, the head vampire, with the help of her wealthy friend, a young doctor, and yummy Sinclair (yet another vampire). Sinclair claims Betsy is the Queen of the Vampires, but Betsy understandably does not believe him - after all, her biggest joy is shoe shopping, and what kind of vampire queen goes ga-ga over shoes? This book's humor reminds me more of the earlier Sookie Stackhouse books, but it's still a good read-alike if you like From Dead To Worse. Although Betsy tends to be more self-centered than Sookie, when she takes the time to think about it she really does want to help others (particularly Nostro's downtrodden vamps). Then there's the romantic aspects, which don't get into full swing until later in the series, but can be as much fun as those in Sookie's books, although the only man in Betsy's life is Sinclair.
  • Storm Front (book) by Jim Butcher - Harry Dresden is the only wizard in the phone book, probably because most of the world doesn't believe magic really exists. When he's not handling cases for his detective agency, he's helping the police out with weird cases. Storm Front is the first book in the series, and in this book Harry is helping the police out with a case in which a couple has had their hearts blown out of their chests. Unfortunately, trying to solve the case gets Harry in a lot of trouble, since it brings him too close to black magic. All the books are told from Harry's perspective, similar to the Sookie Stackhouse books. Also, they're less steeped in sex than the recent Anita Blake books (at least, that's been my experience with the first four books in the series - I don't know where things have gone by now). Harry's got more fighting ability than Sookie, although he ends up getting banged up a lot, too.
  • One for the Money (book) by Janet Evanovich - All Stephanie Plum wants to do is make enough money to live on, but the world seems to be against her. Since she can't keep anything resembling a normal job, she ends up working for her cousin Vinny as a bounty hunter. After she gets herself a car, a gun, and a can of mace, she's considered ready to handle her first assignment. Stephanie is never really ready to handle any assignment, even 10 books or more into the series, but she gets things done anyway with her knowledge of the habits of Trenton, New Jersey's Italian population, gossip filtering through the Italian grapevine, and help from her friends. Morelli, the gorgeous cop who once took Stephanie's virginity, shows up in this book - I'm not sure if dark and mysterious Ranger shows up as well. Anyway, this series may not have any fantasy elements (I'm not counting the holiday-themed side stories), but it does have a sense of humor that helps to lighten up the scary bits (like Stephanie getting shot at, or her car getting blown up), a nice heroine who loves her family and isn't really built to handle all the dangerous stuff happening around her, and several gorgeous guys all after the same woman.

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