Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Series Review: The Southern Vampire Mysteries (Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries)

And here we are, back to vampires again.  Be honest, you knew we'd end up here, didn't you?  Yes, this is a review about another very popular universe that revolves around vampires, weres and shifters.  It was made popular by the hit series True Blood, which has been taking one season per book.  Of course, they have their own interpretation of things and there are some significant differences.
This is a series that has several books is still ongoing.  It's written by Charlaine Harris (  I believe Charlaine Harris has a three book deal in the Sookie Stackhouse series on top of a new installment that's coming out in May.  She also has a couple other popular mystery series.
Overview: There's way too many books to go into detail about them all, so I'll just do an overview.  There are a couple things that irk me about this series.  Why don't we get those out of the way up front? Actually, I have a few other bones to pick, but they include spoilers.  I'll do a spoiler's section at the end to include those.  Here are the non-spoiler irking parts:
1. – There are TONS of inconsistencies.  For example, in the first book Bill had 5 kids and was turned into a vampire in 1871.  In another book he dropped a few kids and had only 2 and was turned in 1869.  Finally, in a third book he was turned in 1868 (but he still had 2 kids).  Stuff like that just bugs me.  I notice it and it detracts from the story because my brain cells won't let it go.  However, most of them are inconsequential to the actual plot.  It's usually passing comments.
2. – I had a hard time with the author's writing style.  Let it be known now that I'm not a big "southern mystery" kind of person.  So some of this is completely personal preference.  However, I found it hard to get immersed in the books because of the writing style.  Once I was able to get into it, I found the style humorous and quirky, but it took a bit of effort to get to that point.
3. – This is yet another case where the whole love triangle is stretched out WAY too long.  Just make a decision already!  Even if the decision is to ditch them all and start over, at least it's a decision.  And I use the world "triangle" loosely.  There's the main triangle between Bill and Eric, but there's a few love interests hanging out there on the outer edges.  In later books, there's a third (I won't spoil it).  Yeah, I know you've got to make the suspense last.  I can rattle off quite a few series that died as soon as the tension between the main characters was gone, but that just means you've got to come up with something else to keep our attention and stop using the same old plot devices over and over and over.

Okay, now that that's over, what about the good parts?
1. – I love this world that the author built.  It's extremely detailed and even through all the inconsistencies, she sticks to the rules of her own universe.  I like that a lot!
2. – The characters are complex.  They aren't just good or bad, they're a combination.
3. – The plots aren't as obvious as some mystery series, but are a bit on the obvious side.  Even so, there were a few plot twists that had me yelling, "No way!"
4. – She's not afraid to kill off characters.  This is both good and bad.  I like the boldness of an author that isn't afraid to kill characters off.  It means that all bets are off and anyone can bite it at any point.  You don't always know what's going to happen because it's not necessarily always going to be a happy ending.  I do dislike, however, when we've grown attached to a character that has been the focus of our attention for awhile and then BAM they're killed.  Especially when we don't even read about it.  It's more of a passing comment, "Oh yeah, so-and-so got killed.  It was horrible."  "Oh, that's a shame.  What are we doing for lunch?"  Wait! What?  Go back!  This happens a couple of times in the series.
5. – The writing is quirky and humorous.  Yes, I listed this as a negative just a few minutes ago, but it's also a positive for me.  There were quite a few times where I caught myself chuckling out loud.  Her books have a definite unique quality to them.  You'll either love it or hate it.

Here's a listing of the books in order to date.  Note that I am not including short stories/novellas except for the compilation that was published in October of 2009:

Dead Until Dark – 2001
Living Dead in Dallas – 2002
Club Dead – 2003
Dead to the World – 2004
Dead as a Doornail – 2005
Definitely Dead – 2006
All Together Dead – 2007
From Dead to Worse – 2008
Dead and Gone – 2009
A Touch of Dead – October 2009 (a complication of all the short stories)
Dead in the Family – May 2010

A lot of readers were complaining that the later books were darker and just plain different.  This is a complaint I see of a lot of series and it's usually true.  I would say that they are different and darker, but that the characters have grown and evolved.  If they hadn't changed, the series would have gotten stale by now.  Sookie goes through very big changes in her life and she deals with them.  She learns and grows and moves on.  Therefore the series grows and moves on too.
That said, there were a few times where I wanted to scream at Sookie for something stupid she did.  Then, the latest book, Dead and Gone is extremely violent, bloody, and dark.  This particular book turned quite a few people off.  I was okay with it and it's actually one of my favorites, but I'm weird like that.
Conclusion:  It is a good series, but it isn't for everyone.  Maybe read a few of the short stories to see if it's for you.

Now…huge ****SPOILERS**** alert from here on out (and a bit of just random ranting...okay a lot of ranting):

Okay, for those of you who are True Blood fans, you might not like what I have to say.  The TV Bill Compton and the Book Bill Compton are two very different people/vampires.  What I'm going to go off on is the Book version.  As you'll see, I'm am not a Bill fan.
Bill and Sookie broke up early on in book three.  Ever since, it's been one long love triangle with Eric and then Quinn and Bill trying to win her back in some fashion or other.  Sam is just never going to get a girlfriend, especially not Sookie.
When people refer to Bill as a southern gentleman, I want to scream.  He is under no circumstances a gentleman.  Never was, even in the first book.  Just because someone opens a door for a lady, doesn't make them a gentleman.

Why do I have such hatred for Bill?  There are five reasons:

1. – He cheated on her
2. – When she saved his ass, he raped her and nearly killed her.
3. – When they were broke up he purposely flaunted his new girlfriend in front of her when he knew she could hear what the new girlfriend was thinking.  He pit them against each other purposely.  It was very hurtful and spiteful.
4. – While he had another girlfriend, he tried to cheat on that girlfriend with Sookie.  Once a cheater, always a cheater.
5. – He lied to her from the very beginning.  He was sent by the Queen to seduce her from the very start.  He felt it was "beneath him" to shack up with a mere human and wouldn't have done so otherwise.

Okay, #1 I can over look because he was "compelled" by his maker.  Supposedly no one can resist their maker.  Whatever…
#2 I can almost overlook too, because he was so starved and had been tortured.  He wasn't in his right mind.  He's a vampire, he's going to want blood and when they drink a sexual instinct kicks in.  So even after all that, I still had a secret wish that Bill and Sookie would hook up again.
#3, 4, and 5 was it.  I'd had it with Bill.  Now all he does is lurk outside Sookie's house and a very creepy way.

Now, I'm obviously not on Team Bill, but whose team am I on?  I'm SOOOOO on Team Quinn.  When she broke up with him I was shocked at her reasons.  That was such a bitchy and selfish move.  It was very unlike her and it did make me take a step back and re-evaluate the series.  The author must have realized it because in the next book Sookie wonders about her decision.
Where does that leave Eric?  I absolutely adore Eric.  I think he's fabulous.  Who else would don hot pants and a pink tank top and pretend to be gay to help Sookie save the day?  It also doesn't hurt that he's been described as having 1,000 years to perfect his kissing/love-making skills and that he makes love like a freight train going through a tunnel.  I really really really want the author to explore Eric's feelings for Sookie more.  Both he and Pam are my favorite characters of the series.  (Pam rocks!)
I know what you are thinking.  You're thinking I just said I was Team Quinn and then I gush about Eric.  What gives?  Eric is great and all that, but he's a vampire and Sookie has made him promise to never change her.  It just won't work out down the road. As hot as it might be, it's a relationship that's doomed to fail.
Quinn, on the other hand, is exactly what she needs.  He's also huge and can protect her since she seems to be a danger magnet.  In my humble opinion, when she's done diddling with Eric, she needs to invest some major time with Quinn.  Hopefully he'll take her back.

Finally, for those who like to compare Bill Compton to Twilight's Edward Cullen, here's the main difference:

Edward Cullen – "No, you mustn't come near me.  I'm a monster."  *dramatically turns away with a sob*

Bill Compton – "Yep.  I'm a monster.  Let's go have sex."  *turns on the Jacuzzi*

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