Showing posts with label Charlaine Harris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charlaine Harris. Show all posts

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Deadlocked (Sookie #12) Review

Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse #12)
Charlaine Harris 
Publisher: Gollancz
Sookie has a murder investigation on her hands. A young girl has died at a vampire party - and it looks as though her lover, Eric, might be responsible. Eric swears he didn't do it, the police don't believe him, and even Sookie isn't so sure. Nor is she inclined to take his word for it, not having caught him enjoying the victim's blood minutes before she was killed. But something strange is going on. Why had Sookie been asked to come to the fateful party a few minutes early - just to catch Eric in the act? And why had the victim spiked her own blood before approaching Eric? Was it simply because she wanted to be irresistable, or was it something more sinister? Sookie will have to find out ... but it's the worst moment to investigate, as her Fae family are having troubles of their own and Sookie is, inevitably, drawn in. And there is one last complication. The cluviel dor her grandmother left her. It will grant her one wish, which could fulfil Sookie's heart's desire. The only problem is, she still doesn't know what - or who - her heart truly desires...
The end of the Sookie Stackhouse series is in sight (for me at least as I wait for the paperbacks to come out!) and once again it was nice to revisit Sookie and her world. I find it difficult to remember that for her only two years have passed since Bill Compton first walked into Merlottes but for it’s been over 10 years. Sookie’s world has always been a mixture of the miniature of life (shopping, birthday cards, sunbathing, shaving her legs etc) with some serious violence and supernatural politics. This visit to Bon Temps was like seeing old school friends again after an absence – you remember the good times and catch up but you know you’ll never re-capture that closeness you had when you were fifteen. 
Sookie and her vampire honey, Eric are having issues – partly due to someone trying to frame Eric for murder of a fangbanger and partly as struggle to reconcile some pretty big differences in their attitudes. Adding to the difficulties are the motley mixture of fae Sookie’s cousin Claude has been collecting at his strip club and some power struggles within the local werewolf pack. One issue with Sookie’s world is the number of different plot lines that don’t always go together well – my favourite books have always been the ones that have focused on a single plot line (Vampire summit, Hadley’s murder, Bill’s disappearance etc). Here the different strands of plots meant that I struggled to follow what was going on and the climax had less impact as a result. It was like trying to follow a single strand of spaghetti on a full plate.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. Sookie is never less than a likeable character who’s absolutes of right and wrong have become greyer over time. She’s more than happy to lie to the police to protect Eric and the vampires, yet is still kind and true in her friendships. The writing is so cosy and warm – Charlaine’s writing always makes me feel like I’m sinking into a huge armchair covered in cushions. Overall, this had a definite sense that the end is in sight with some plot strands wound up and some happy ending on the horizon. While people often say the series isn’t as good as it once I actually think the series has remained remarkably consistent over the last ten years. It’s one of the first UF (Rural) Fantasy series I read and I have never felt like dropping the series. I am looking forward to the final book in the series and think it’s right that we leave Sookie to some (hopefully) quiet time.
Recommended for fans of Rachel Caine and Patricia Briggs. 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Shakespeare's Champion (Lily Bard #2) Review

Shakespeare’s Champion (Lily Bard #2)
Charlaine Harris

Publisher: Gollancz

Lily Bard has started over in the quiet town of Shakespeare, Arkansas, as a cleaning lady. One who works out her anger and the pain of her past in a martial arts class. For Lily, the gym is a place to get away from her troubles, not find more of them. But when she stumbles on the corpse of a local bodybuilder, his neck broken with a barbell, the town's underlying racial tensions begin to boil over. The white victim was connected to two unsolved murders of black residents in Shakespeare, and a dogged policeman is determined to stop the killing. Lily may have to decide whether to stay and fight for justice, or run away one more time.

For some reason I was convinced this was a cosy mystery series – and I really couldn’t be more wrong! There is violence of the extremes in Lily’s world with this book alone including death by beating, bombings, and racist extremists. Not that any of this is done badly, but it helps if you approach these books as a small town mystery/thriller rather than a cosy story. With this in mind it is an extremely competent mystery which starts for us with a death in Lily’s gym and ends in a big shoot out.

The writing is easy to relax into even if some of the events are not easy to read about. The town is boiling on the brink of social unrest between the black and white communities. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a city girl, or British but I find that kind of unrest in a small town difficult to understand in this day and age - I would hope that type of tension is less frequent these days (the book was originally written in 1997)!

Lily is still the same self contained survivor we met in Shakespeare’s Landlord but she seems to be forging friendships with other better even if opening up entirely isn’t easy for her. Her relationship with the local doctor, Carrie gives her some nice female friendship as otherwise Lily is surrounded by guys. A new love interest is introduced who has as much history and baggage as Lily so it will be interesting to see how this is balanced in the long term. Lily still isn’t the warmest of heroines and she likes to keep herself to herself, even in her own book, but she is constantly surprising and she is growing on me.

The murder mystery was intriguing and I have to confess I didn’t guess what was going on until near the end. This was a very good book that breaks expectations (or mine at least!) and entertained me throughout – and what more can you ask from a book?

Recommended for fans of Nora Roberts and Dean Koontz. 8 out of 10 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard #1) Review

Shakespeare’s Landlord (Lily Bard #1)
Charlaine Harris

Publisher: Gollancz

Disguising herself with short hair and baggy clothes, Lily Bard has started a new life; she's becoming a cleaning lady in the sleepy town of Shakespeare, where she can sweep away the secrets of her dark and violent past. However her plan to live a quiet, unobserved life begins to crumble when she discovers the dead body of her nosy landlord. Lily doesn't care who did it, but when the suspicion of the police and local community falls on her she realises if she doesn't unmask the murderer, her life might not just crumble; it might also end.

This is an eminently readable story with a main character that has survived the worst of human behaviour and retreated into herself. Lily Bard keeps herself isolated in the town of Shakespeare – never getting too close to any one and cleaning other people’s homes for money. When she stubbles onto a mysterious figure disposing of a body, she finds herself coming under scrutiny from the local police force...

For the most part this reads like a cosy mystery, with a main character going about their usual business but able to learn more about the murder and victim than the professionals. However, Lily Bard is different in that her past is horrific and traumatic and this impacts her whole life. Where she is living, what she does for a living, her spare time have all been shaped by her past even her self-imposed isolation have all been shaped by one event. This makes Shakespeare’s Landlord a strange beast in that it is a fluffy light story, but with some real bite. There is a certain aftertaste that stays with you...

Lily is a scarred woman but is trying her best and makes some genuine steps forward here and I’m glad I have the next books in this series to follow her journey. I hope she is able to mend herself and find some peace. Charlaine Harris’s writing is familiar to anyone who likes the Sookie Stackhouse series and is extremely easy to read with the pages turning fast. I managed to finish this admittedly slim volume in a day. It was an entertaining read.

Recommended for fans of Ellery Adams and Heather Blake. 7 out of 10  

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Audiobook Review: Real Murders

Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden #1)

Written by Charlaine Harris

Read by Therese Plummer
Librarian Aurora Teagarden reckons she knows everything about her fellow townsfolk, including which ones share her interest in the darker side of human nature, as she and her friends have formed a club to discuss real life killings. But fiction soon becomes fact as more and more bodies are discovered, and the similarities between prior murders and those of Aurora's fellow townsfolk become frighteningly common
I’ve read most of the Sookie Stackhouse books and enjoyed the down to earth take on the supernatural so I thought I’d try some of Charlaine Harris’s ‘regular’ mysteries. Real Murders takes place in a small town where everyone seems to know each other and have ‘their place’. Aurora or Roe is one of the librarians with little social life, always over shadowed by either her glamorous and successful mother or her beautiful best friend. Her one solace is the monthly meeting of Real Murders, a true crime club where they discuss old murders and the investigations. When one of the members is found murder at one of their meetings, Row find herself caught up in the investigation and possibly one of the next victims...
This is very much in the cosy mystery area with a regular person somehow able to make the pieces of the crime fit together better than the police, ask the questions that they don’t – all while continuing to live a normal life. As such it is an easy listen, not overly taxing but nothing really pulls me back to want to know what happens next. I found Roe a little bit of a caricature of a small town librarian and while a perfectly pleasant character not anyone that will ever back the lists of strongest women ever. In comparison I found her mother a much more compelling character with some real backbone. Roe also has a couple of love interests – for the first time in her life it seems and she is rather unsure about which one she likes.  
The murders themselves are the most compelling element with someone determined to recreated scenes and circumstances of famous real murders. I was not quite sure who it was and was surprised by the solution. That raised the story for me. The narration was perfect competent but not inspiring. The writing was very easy and unchallenging. Overall, this was a perfect nice audiobook but one I’m unlikely to remember much about in a few months.
Recommended for fans of Nora Roberts and M.C. Beaton  6.5 out of 10

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Dead Reckoning Review

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse 11)
-          Charlaine Harris

Publisher: UK – Gollancz
With her knack for being in trouble's way, Sookie witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte's, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is now known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but her attention is divided when she realizes that her lover Eric Northman and his "child" Pam are plotting to kill the vampire who is now their master. Gradually, Sookie is drawn into the plot-which is much more complicated than she knows...

I know I’m about a year behind publication on the Sookie books but that’s mostly because I like to wait for the paperback to come out. Like many others I haven’t been overly impressed with recent books (All Together Dead was a series highlight for me that hasn’t been matched since) – there’s only so much enjoyment I get out of hearing the miniature of Sookie’s life – her money worries, her cleaning habits and sunbathing schedule. That said (or written!) there is still enough captivating about the characters that make me want to know what the latest happenings in Bon Temps are.
With that all in mind, I was pleasantly surprised with Dead Reckoning. Maybe I was just in the mood to read about Sookie shaving her legs or getting her haircut, but I was mildly entertained for the duration of the book. Sookie does seem to have changed since we first met her (only two years ago in her time, but over ten years for us!). She is more realistic about what the supernatural world is like, the violence and yes, the blood – but she does have a habit of bursting into tears a lot. I also wasn’t keen on Sookie randomly getting naked – I didn’t really see the point of that!
This isn’t a book that I would recommend people new to the series to start at – most of the plot lines are hold overs from previous books and only a few are resolved here.  There is a lot happening here – perhaps too much as individual stories can get lost, are tied up quickly or left unresolved. I guess I miss it when the Sookie books have definite beginning, middles and ends, but as the series has progressed the number of characters and plot elements have grown to unwieldy amounts.  On this occasion I felt the vampire, fae and home life stories meshed better with each one having something to say about who Sookie is now.
Overall, it was a pleasant enough read – I do love Eric and Pam so any book where they feature more is a plus for me…although I wasn’t so keen on the reappearance of Bill, or Alcide for that matter. I felt like both these characters have run out of steam a little. However, Sookie literally does need to fight men off sticks it seems…I wonder if I can find out her secret…
Recommended for fans of Patricia Briggs and Carrie Vaughn. 7 out of 10

Monday, 16 January 2012

Must Love Hellhounds Review

Must Love Hellhounds
-          Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews & Meljean Brook
Publisher: Berkley
In these hound-eat-hound worlds, anything goes... and everything bites.
Follow paranormal bodyguards Clovache and Batanya into Lucifer's realm, where they encounter his fearsome four-legged pets, in Charlaine Harris's
The Britlingens Go to Hell. Seek out a traitor in the midst of a guild of non- lethal vampire trackers, one that intends to eradicate the entire species of bloodsuckers, in Nalini Singh's Angels' Judgment. Find out why the giant three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades has left the underworld for the real world-and whose scent he's following-in Ilona Andrews's Magic Mourns. Embark on a perilous search for the kidnapped niece of a powerful vampire alongside her blind- and damn sexy-companion and a hellhound in Meljean Brook's Blind Spot.
Four novellas from four Urban Fantasy stalwarts each one featuring a hellhound of some description. I’ve read books by Charlaine Harris and Ilona Andrews previously but Nalini Singh and Meljean Brook were new authors to me – even if I have full books by both of them somewhere in my TBR pile...
The Britlingens Go to Hell by Charlaine Harris is a fun romp through a couple of dimesions parallel to Sookie Stackhouse. The Britlingens in question – Clovache and Batanya are fierce, determined warriors with snark and I really enjoyed this tale – more so than recent Sookie Stackhouse books! 8 out of 10
Angel’s Judgement by Nalini Singh follows two Guild Hunters as they look for a traitor in their midsts. This is a sexy short tale in which Sara Haziz takes centre stage. Having no read any books in this world before, there was a lot to get used and at first the relationships between Angels, Archangels, Vampires and the Guild was a little overwhelming and distracted me from the story. However, I soon settled in and enjoyed the ride. I’m happy I have Angel’s Blood to read at some point as I would like to get to know this world better. 7 out of 10
Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews bypasses Kate Daniels in favour of her best friend, Andrea and an adventure with the were-hyena, Raphael. I love this world were magic and tech battle each other and anything man made slowly falls apart. Andrea has always been a favourite of mine with her preference for guns over swords and troubled past. While it kills me that I have to wait another year for the next Kate book, I’m more than happy with a Andrea based story – Gunmetal Magic this summer! 9 out of 10
Blind Spot by Meljean Brooks is an interesting story – a cute romance and an adorable hellhound makes for a fun read. I enjoyed the handicap that Blake has being blind and the determination of Maggie to prove herself. 7 out of 10
Overall, this was a high quality anthology with each story hitting highs and all worth reading. Recommended for fans of Ilona Andrews, Charlaine Harris, Meljean Brook and Nalini Singh. 8 out of 10

Monday, 16 May 2011

Dead In The Family Review

Dead In The Family (Sookie Stackhouse 10)
-       Charlaine Harris
Publisher: UK – Gollancz
Stackhouse is dealing with a whole host of family problems, ranging from her own kin (a non-human fairy and a telepathic second cousin) demanding a place in her life, to her lover Eric's vampire sire, an ancient being, who arrives with Eric's 'brother' in tow at a most inopportune moment. And Sookie's tracking down a distant relation of her ailing neighbour (and ex), Vampire Bill Compton. In addition to the multitude of family issues complicating her life, the werewolf pack of Shreveport has asked Sookie for a special favour, and since Sookie is an obliging young woman, she agrees. But this favour for the wolves has dire results for Sookie, who is still recovering from the trauma of her abduction during the Fairy War.
I have to admit to feeling a little territorial over Sookie books as I discovered and loved them long before True Blood and part of me resents having to share these characters...okay, having to share Eric (I never liked Bill!). In this instalment Sookie is recovering from her torture by fairies in the previous book and it was nice that Charlaine doesn’t just gloss over Sookie’s ordeal but shows her struggling to return to a normal life. As ever, Sookie’s life isn’t easy but is complicated here by her relationship with Eric, the vampire head of section five, her distant fairy relatives and her friend of the pack status.
I really enjoyed spending time in Sookie’s company and I really liked how her relationship with her brother Jason grew here – he finally seems to be there for her and steps up as a reliable brother – for once! While the beginning of this book has lots of separate strands going so it feels a little discontinuous with Sookie dealing with vampire politics one minute, her cousin Hadley’s son the next and then dealing with weres before talking to fairies, but most of these strands wind together for a layered finale which solves most of the issues raised in this book. There are still plenty of ongoing issues though that aren’t moved on here – particularly with regards to the vampire politics.
The writing is easy to slip into and familiar if you’ve been following the series so far. Probably not the best book to start with if you’ve not visited Bon Temps so far though as there are a lot references to past events and characters that it assumes you some knowledge of. Like a comfortable pair of pyjamas, you know what to expect by now and Charlaine doesn’t disappoint even if it doesn’t quite hit the highs of All Together Dead.
Recommended for fans of Nicole Peeler and Jeaniene Frost. 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 14 March 2011

A Touch Of Dead Review

A Touch of Dead
-          Charlaine Harris
Publisher: UK – Gollancz
Sookie Stackhouse enjoys her job as a cocktail waitress in Merlotte's, a small-town bar in small-town Bon Temps, deep in Louisiana. She's funny and pretty and, thanks to her grandmother, she's very well-mannered - but since not many people truly appreciate her ability to read their minds, the guys haven't exactly been beating down her door . . . And then along came Bill, tall, dark and handsome - and Sookie couldn't 'hear' a word he was thinking. He was exactly the
type of guy she'd been waiting all her life for. Of course, Bill had a disability of his own: fussy about his food, not into suntans, bit of a night person: yep, Bill was a vampire. But at least now Sookie nows there *are* guys she can date who won't worry about her catching them thinking about other women . . . And that's going to make Sookie's life really interesting!
I’m really glad I didn’t pay a lot of money for this book! At a slim 180 pages it took me less than two hours to read the whole thing – consisting of five short stories starring Sookie Stackhouse – two of which I had read previously in other anthologies. I really like the Sookie Stackhouse series having discovered them years before True Blood started. I will admit some novels I prefer to others and these short stories are a mix of what I like and don’t about the series. I like when Sookie is being is being proactive or investigating a mystery so the stories Lucky and Fairy Dust worked best for me. Both of which involve Sookie using her telepathy to solve a crime. The stories I disliked where when the action seems to stumble upon Sookie as in Dracula Night and Gift Wrapped – which I didn’t like as it didn’t sit well with what I know of Sookie, but hey I’m a reader not the writer! One Word Answer is more of a prequel to Dead as a Doornail and probably the best of the bunch.
These short stories do assume some background knowledge of the series with details dropped in more to remind the reader of when the book takes rather than inform.  Overall, I would say this is more a book for completists only. I don’t think it adds much to the casual reader or those new to the series. It's not bad - just not memorable. However, I do recommend the series as a fun distraction for a few hours!
Recommended for die-hard Sookie fans only. 5.5 out of 10

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Grave Secret Review

Grave Secret (Harper Connelly 4)
– Charlaine Harris
Publisher: UK – Gollancz
When she was 15, Harper Connelly was struck by a bolt of lightning, which left her with a spiderweb of red over her body, headaches, and episodes of weakness. Sometimes her right hand shakes. And she can find dead people. It's taken a while, but at last Harper's pretty happy with her life: she's making a living, using her unique talent to help people, and she's got a lover - her stepbrother Tolliver. That creeps some people out, but though they grew up together, and got each other through the real bad times - their parents' drug-use, the abuse, the disappearance of Harper's elder sister Cameron - they're not blood relatives. Then Tolliver's dad arrives on the scene, seeking forgiveness for the sins of their youth, and the police get a tip-off that after all these years, Cameron's been spotted in a mall. With all this going on Harper realises life is getting a little complicated, but she doesn't expect those complications to include Tolliver getting shot, or watching a cop die taking a bullet for her. Harper can find dead people, but now it's clear someone wants her dead . . .
I’ve been reading Charlaine Harris books for years (before True Blood TV Series and everyone jumped on the bandwagon!) and really enjoy the way she manages to blend everyday with the strangely wonderful. Harper Connelly is a particular favourite of mine as she is an ordinary heroine. She doesn’t fight or capture bad guys, save the world nor have a snarky temper. She is ordinary – apart from this uncanny ability to locate the dead and tell what they died from. In this book she and her step-brother – and her lover, Tolliver finally find out what happened to her sister Cameron. After hints and suggestion for three books it was nice and heartbreaking to learn more about their past and how that helped strengthen the bond between Harper and Tolliver.
Grave Secret was an easy read and almost what I would call a ‘cosy urban fantasy’. The plot moves along at a brisk and with plenty of revelations and action but at a little more than 300 pages is relatively short. I managed to finish it in two sittings – and it only took two because I wanted to watch something on TV! As ever the characters drew me in and wanted to help them. I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance between Harper and Tolliver in the last book – I found it a little strange even though they aren’t related, but here I came to believe it made sense given how much they care about and rely on each other. This time I found it rather sweet and rooted for them.
This is a great book to enjoy with the snow piling up outside and while away a few hours – as ever Charlaine delivers real characters who you just can’t help but like!
Recommended for fans of Charlaine Harris and Carrie Vaughn. 8 out of 10.