Charlaine Harris : Sookie Stackhouse Series

Beware! There are spoilers below!

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If you’ve never read the books before, stop – and read them. If you have read them all, it’s safe to read on!

Before the HBO TV show, there was Sookie Stackhouse in book form, namely the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris.

Long before Kindles and tablets existed, I was a member of WorldBooks (The Sci-Fi and Fantasy division). I had signed up and got something like 6 books for 1p each and then you just had to commit to buying more books throughout the year. Well, the magazine came one month and I was in a situation where I had to order something to fulfill my membership deal. I scanned the magazine over and over again and then thought I would give this set of 3 books for £15 a whirl. The covers intrigued me. It looked like the best I was going to get out of the magazine. These 3 books were:

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When the books arrived, I started reading without much enthusiasm. However, from the first page, I was hooked. I have relations from Tennessee and I’ve travelled to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida etc….it wasn’t too hard for me to picture Sookie’s town, her house, the bar…..I was fully immersed from page 1 of book 1. When I came up for air a few days later after reading all 3 books, I wanted more. These first books are definitely the best of the series – I am just re-reading them now for the 5th or 6th time (I’m up to Dead to the World). So I started looking and found out there were about 2 more books out. I ordered them – one I had to get from the states – and then quickly got up to date. From then on, I picked up a new novel every time I went on vacation to the US to see my family. The last few novels I bought I had to get the tacky HBO TV series covers (booooo!) and were bought from Amazon.co.uk, right up until the series concluded with book 13. By then, I was ready for Sookie’s tales to come to an end. There was a lack of originality, nothing new to add to the mix and little remaining of the Sookie from book 1. I know that character development means people change, but thinking about the last book I read…..it didn’t have me hooked as the first ones did, as the re-read is proving!

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Still, I would much rather be in Sookie’s world than most other novels, these days. It’s familiar and fun. There’s humour, action, great writing and fantastic characters. Sometimes, there’s genuinely heartbreaking moments such as Bill confessing to Sookie why they really met and how it was engineered. That scene still reduces me to tears, even now, after many reads. The betrayal and hurt that Sookie feels leaps off the page and thumps into your chest with a boom! Fine writing.

For me, where things started to get tangled and a bit blurry was when the fairies appeared. I think there was just a little too much of them, too much betrayal and double crossing (when you think Sookie has found some kin and happiness at last, but tons of people still want her dead). I liked the back story to Sookie’s Grandmother. I liked the Cluviel Dor. I liked a lot, but there was a lot I could take or  leave. Sookie getting almost tortured/beat to death lost its impact after 9, 10, 11 books……we always know she’s going to make it. In the beginning, the attacks and injuries were shocking and upsetting, but later it’s just like yup – Sookie is almost dead again. The Supes will save her. Again.

Having said that, it’s easy to feel Sookie’s pain and frustration at being dragged into that whole world. Like when she’s been through so much but just can’t seem to find a way out of always being caught up in their wars and fights for power and domination. Also sad is the way Sookie’s own mother treated her – again, piognant, well-written and heartbreaking. Thank goodness for Grandmother Adele!

I was so excited that there was going to be a TV show of my beloved book series. The books had been getting more and more popular in the UK and I was delighted other readers were discovering Sookie and her universe. Let it be said that I love the show – mostly. I love elements of it. I didn’t particularly enjoy when it went off canon, or when characters who should have been long dead by book 1 were still parading around in series 5. I liked the introduction of new characters like Jessica and some of the casting was utterly inspired. Having said that, I didn’t let the TV show affect the mental pictures I had imagined about characters and locations. They got Merlotte’s spot on though – I definitely saw that one in my mind!

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The series was due to end at book 10. But Charlaine’s publishing house managed to squeeze her for another 3 books, and it shows. I do utterly agree with the way the series ended though – that Sookie was more than likely going to end up in a relationship with Sam. No neat, parcelled up ending. Why would there be? Charlaine knows her readers are intelligent enough to not need to be spoonfed a sugary sweet ending. Sookie was never going to end up as a vampire – she loves the sun too much, and she was never going to be the other woman on the side for Eric. Likewise, Bill never stood a chance because she could never fully trust him again.

There was a huge outcry when she didn’t end up with Eric or Bill, but I just can’t understand why. From book 1, Charlaine Harris lets you know that Sam has feelings for Sookie and she has them too for Sam. They go on a date. There’s love, understanding, friendship, warmth, and genuine affection in this relationship from the very start. Sam was always there for Sookie, was a rock for her in many ways. He helped her whenever he could and he saved her life more than once. Unlike the vamps who betrayed, lied to, used and abused Sookie. From the very beginning I could see where Sookie would go; it was inevitable really. Sookie loved to sunbathe – she likes warm, sunny, bright things. The vampires may have brought silence in her head, but they also took her to dark places where she never belonged. At the end of the series, you get the feeling that she really will get to step out into the light and live happily there.

Here are some of my favourite bits of Sookie art (aside from the Lisa Desimini covers which I love):

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Author of the day – Stephen King

The first writer that I remember seriously getting into at the age of 15 was Stephen King. I read everything and anything I could find and all the money from my babysitting job was spent on books.  Other kids my age were buying CDs, beer, weed etc, but I just wanted to read, and I wanted to read anything he’d written.

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I was so enamored with ‘Steve’ (as he’s known), that I wrote to him when I was 16 years old, back in 1989. Imagine my immense pleasure and surprise when a big, thick, fat envelope arrived from America, with embossed spideweb gates on the top left hand corner!! It wasn’t a personal letter from the man himself, but a fab letter from his secretary, complete with a short story, some articles and stuff that kept me entertained for hours. And it had come from him own Maine address! I was in heaven.

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In the envelope was also a complete book list. This was before the Internet, you understand. Certain books only printed certain titles, so how could I be sure I got them all? I used that list to buy every book I could get and when my collection was complete, I then played the waiting game.  I bought every book as soon as it came out. I was part of the contingent that widely acknowledged that some books were okay, some were good, some were great and some were works of completely incredible story telling and were called The Stand. Stephen King has the ability to frighten me, but also to take me away into another world so completely and utterly, that sometimes I’d hear a noise and blink back into consciousness, surprised to find myself in Nottingham, England and not in Jerusalem’s Lot. Or Derry, Maine. Or travelling with Larry through the Lincoln Tunnel in New York…

Generally, every story was magic.  Some were sheer brilliance.  Some people are still surprised to find that he penned the novellas, novels and short stories behind the movies Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.  Everyone knows that The Shining, Firestarter and Carrie are his though!

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Around about Gerald’s game, he lost me a little. I just wasn’t enjoying his books as much and something was missing for me. In fact, I started to miss books out and just not bother.  Then, the accident happened.  Steve was hit by a drunk driver and was so close to death that we very nearly did lose him. Once that fear was out of the way, it was then a case of  him nearly losing a leg and fighting to keep it and enduring all the subsequent surgeries.

Around this time., something inside him seemed to changed.  After he gave us the great On Writing,  he went to a darker place and gave us the masterpiece Duma Key. Up until the release of this book, my favourite King novel, hands down had been Firestarter. Duma Key knocked it off the top spot. I read it during the Christmas of 2008 which we spent in the Florida sunshine in a bid to help my mum recover from her intensive Chemotherapy. The novel really spoke to me, really frightened me and I loved it.  After that, he was back on track. He gave us the brilliant 11.22.63 and then the sequel to the Shining, my runner up book of the year, Doctor Sleep.

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There is no stopping this man, his urge to write and the brilliant works he produces, but then, Constant Reader, why would we want to?

My top 5 King books:

  1. Duma Key
  2. Firestarter
  3. The Stand
  4. ‘Salem’s Lot
  5. The Eyes of the Dragon

Also, the entire Dark Tower series.

Recommended links:

Official website UK

Official website Worldwide

Stephen on Wikipedia

Stephen King interactive office

Steve on goodreads

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Author of the day – Jane Austen

After featuring the likes of Neil Gaiman, Marian Keyes and Sarah Addison Allen, it’s time for something else! Something from the world of the classics….

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Jane Austen was smart, witty, observant and did not suffer fools gladly.  Or write about them nicely!  She hasn’t just given us Pride & Prejudice; don’t forget the beautiful tale of 2 sisters in Sense & Sensibility or the story of that spoiled little rich girl Emma growing up and getting over herself.  Then there’s the tale of common Fanny Price coming good in Mansfield Park and the haunting supernatural elements of Northanger Abbey.
Jane’s novels are still cherished to this day because the observations and sentiments within them were spot on and are still relevant now.  Plus, she could tell such a damn good story!

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I enjoy the movies and TV shows created from her novels as they bring her work to a brand new audience.  The audience who want instant gratification and can’t be bothered to real an ‘old’ book.  The type of people who just don’t have the time or inclination to sit and read her novels.

Her works have inspired sequels and further stories, as well as satire novels and guides on how to live your life the Jane Austen way (presumably as a proper lady).

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The fact is that Jane Austen created such memorable stories and characters that we can’t bear to let her creations go off to their happy every afters. I am currently reading Death Comes to Pemberley and the BBC adaptation premieres at Christmas. Lizzy Benntett is still alive and kicking, it seems!

So what was it that made her characters so memorable?  Let’s take Elizabeth Bennett as an example – Lizzy (like Jane Austen) didn’t suffer fools gladly (or at all), or allow anybody to look down on her, undermine her or belittle her.  This includes people far above her rank who had every right (back then) to do so.  Lizzy was a strong, determined, educated woman in a time and place when those qualities were certainly not desirable in a lady.  So we love Jane’s heroines because they aren’t typical of those times and in a way, they’re the underdog and we always root for the underdog! It’s worth noting that Elizabeth Bennett was similar to Jane Austen in a few ways. Jane, who was a writer when she should have been getting married and producing heirs.  Jane, who didn’t live conventionally and actually dared to not like visiting Bath and go against the grain 🙂 I like to think that Jane based Elizabeth upon herself to some extent.

Jane received only a few positive reviews of her works during her lifetime and only became so well loved after a publication in 1869 of her nephew’s A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public. By the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer, and to this day is considered a national treasure.

So yes, a very worthy author of the day! And now, for your viewing pleasure, a selection of Elizabeth & Darcy images.  Enjoy!

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What was I reading at age 15?

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My favourite author growing up was one that I discovered at school – something totally unexpected.  But when my English teacher gave us a book by S E Hinton called Rumble Fish, I was the only one who didn’t groan at having to read it, but instead devoured it and then raided the school library looking for the rest of her books. I’ve read all of her books for young adults (but not the children’s books!), and my favourite is Taming the Star Runner, followed by the now iconic The Outsiders.

S.E. Hinton, was and still is, one of the most popular and best known writers of young adult fiction. Her books have been taught in some schools, and banned from others. Her novels changed the way people look at young adult literature. 

I for one, am glad that her books were taught in my school.  She captured perfectly at that time how some of us at that age felt. I came back to The Outsiders at College when I did my final paper about how growing up in different times didn’t change the fact that the problems and emotions were still the same. I used The Outsiders, Little Women and another book I can’t remember to show how times changes, but the feelings of teenagers don’t.  This is what S E Hinton always excelled at.

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The film worked so well too.  Although nothing could beat the book, the look and feel in the film perfectly captured the essence of the novel.  Plus, it spawned a generation of infamous actors who all went on to much bigger and better things but who will all be remembered on some level for this movie.

I will always remember the first and last lines of the book:

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight, from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman, and a ride home.”

THIS is a really great website, well worth a visit if you want a trip down memory lane, like I’ve had this morning. Sometimes, things, times and places just pop into my head (especially as I get older) and I would love to go back there.  I’d like to be 15 again, reading The Outsiders for the very first time and be wowed by it all over again. It never has the same impact as the first read, but it always works it’s magic on me, even at 39 years of age!

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Today, S E Hinton is very active on Twitter. She’s a huge Supernatural fan and she still visits and chats to actors from her movies like Rob Lowe and Matt Dillon, so well worth a follow!

Author of the day – Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen is the author of some of the most readable, magical, sweet, heartfelt books I’ve ever read. Except, there is nothing twee or mushy about her books; each one has an element of magic, but the most basic elements that make a good book are there too – three dimensional characters, a damn good story line and excellent writing.

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Sarah is a cancer survivor and a lover of cats who can’t drive. But man, can she write! She’s also wonderfully active and interactive on Social Media sites – she shares lots with her readers and gives plenty back. Not surprising that she has a wide readership and lots of fans, really.  Her new book, Lost Lake is due out January 21st 2014 and this will be her 5th novel.  Her previous novels are:

Garden Spells
The Sugar Queen
The Girl who chased the Moon
The Peach Keeper

I remember spotting this book on a shelf in my local Supermarket (in the UK), and thinking I would get it and give it a go. So far, I have read Garden Spells about 5 times.

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I have all her other books and I’ll be pre-ordering Lost Lake as soon as I get around to it. That will help cheer me up about going back to work after the holidays!

Anyway, I can truly recommend Sarah Addison Allen. Her website is better than the average author site, packed full of information, links, pretty visuals and facts.  It’s kept up to date with events and news and is well worth a visit.  In the meantime, sink your teeth into one of her books. You’ll be glad you did!

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What do I love most about her website? The gorgeous visuals that have been created for each of her books! Just beautiful.
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Runner up book of the year

This book felt very much like sitting down with an old friend I hadn’t seen for years and years, but was very pleased to see once more. I wish I hadn’t read it on Kindle because it ruined the mood somewhat and wasn’t the same as sitting down with a new hardback book like I did back in the day.  Still, it didn’t ruin this most excellent book for me.  I’m talking about (of course) Doctor Sleep, by arguably the greatest writer of our time, Stephen King. First off, it’s time literary snobs stopped looking down on Mr King and his works.  Yes, I know he created Pet Semetary…..but he also crafted the stories behind The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and Stand by me.  He is the master of his craft and although he did seem to lose his way a little around Gerald’s Game (argh!), he came back fighting with Duma Key and every work since then has been back on form – the form of the old days.

Doctor Sleep in no exception.

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We are back with that little boy Danny Torrance from The Shining, but now he’s all grown up and disappointingly, he’s a bit of an asshole.  His father would be so proud…..

With a huge drinking problem (he drinks to dull the ‘Shining’), a drifter existence and not a lot going for him, the book catches up with Danny at a pivotal moment in his life, as a young girl Abra reaches out to him.  She has the Shining so bright it makes Danny’s Shining look dull.  She first connects with him when she’s a baby. They continue to have dialogue through various forms during the following years, until one day she is much older and then she’s suddenly reaching out to Danny for help.

Rose & her crew are ancient beings.  They survive by consuming ‘The Shining’ from kids – they extract it from them by torturing them to death.  Abra has just hit their radar as the meal of all meals and now Abra needs Danny’s help.  Except Danny is now ‘Dan’, drunk drifter……can he help her?  And why does he have this special connection with Abra?

You’ll have to read to find out, and if you’re a King fan it’s one you will not want to miss! There’s an excellent twist and a couple of great cameo appearances 😉

View Stephen King’s fantastic online library here. A great part of his website and a good chance to cross off all the books you’ve read and read up on the ones you’ve missed.

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Author of the day – Marian Keyes

Author of the day today is Irish writer Marian Keyes.

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Although she often doubts her own epic talents, she’s a fantastic writer whose books are full of warmth, humour and cracking storylines, but sadly (and unfairly) she often seems to get thrown into the ‘chick-lit’ category (as though books aimed at women are bad!). I don’t class her books as chick-lit.  Books that tackle death, loss, addiction, domestic violence, rape and other hard-hitting subjects are to me just books attempting to tell a damn good story about life in general. They don’t deserve the derogatory label of chick-lit and it is a derogatory label, almost as if anything in this category is for bubble headed thick types who can’t handle real books…..anyway, at least they can’t put Saved By Cake into the chick-lit category!!

Marian loves her fans and because of that, we love her.  She Tweets, holds prize raffles, blogs, writes back to you if you write to her and is so lovely if you are lucky enough to meet her at a book signing/reading.  She also loves fashion and beauty and writes lots of lovely beauty columns on her website.  But back to the novel writing!

My favourite books (although I love them ALL) are about The Walsh Sisters.  There are 5 sisters and they each have a book.  The books are funny, brilliant, addictive, fantastically written and each one has been a bestseller.  Here they are in order of how much I love them!

1. Rachel’s Holiday  – Featuring Rachel Walsh.  This is not only my favourite Marian Keyes book but my favourite book of all time.  Yes, it’s that good. Read it and I dare you to not fall in love with Luke Costello, or Rachel’s touching story.  Sheer brilliance.

2. Anybody out there? – Anna Walsh’s story.  If you see the twist coming early, then good for you – it took me awhile and as the penny dropped, I actually gasped out loud to myself and put the book down for a moment to process….

3. Angels – Featuring the oldest sister, Maggie. I love this book because one of the main stars in my beloved City of Angels, LA. I also adore the book because it’s brilliant.

4. The Mystery of Mercy Close – This is the youngest sister’s story – Helen is the prettiest, most sarcastic sister of all but she suffers from debilitating depression…..something Marian can truly write from the heart about.

5. Watermelon – Claire’s story and Marian’s first novel.  I do love the book, but I love the others more! It’s still a cracking place to start with the collection.

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One reason why I find Marian herself so awesome is because of everything this lady has had to deal with and go through and how she has come out the other side, still smiling (most days), still writing (excellently), and still fighting.  She’s battled and won against alcoholism and addiction and even now battles daily with debilitating depression.  Did she let it get the better of her? As if she did! Instead of acting on strong and persistent impulses to end her life and instead of going under completely, she made cake (or several hundred). Now, how fantastic is that?!

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You can read about Marian’s latest news and her struggles and get advice and see fabulous videos on her lovely website : HERE. You can also access a full list of her books HERE.

Why not let yourself be drawn into the world of Marian? If you don’t fancy the Walsh Sisters, she has plenty more offerings – all wonderful, all well worth a read.