Book Review: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

In the last installment of the Sookie Stackhouse Series, Charlaine Harris wraps up her story of the sexy telepath from Bon Temps. Readers get a lot of their questions from Deadlocked answered while still creating new ones that will hopefully be explored in a later supplement to the series.

Out of all the Sookie books, this one was probably the calmest. There is very little action and when compared to the other books, not as much murder and bloodshed, though this book does have its fair share of that too. Most importantly, readers finally get an answer to the question that began all the back to the first book– who does Sookie choose, Eric or Bill?

That answer is somewhat surprising, but at the same time not completely alarming because true fans of the series and even of the show, could see that answer coming for a long time. Overall, Harris leaves Sookie in probably the best place she could find herself in considering everything that happened to her since the Vamps came out of the coffin. Loose ends are tied up and enemies finally banished (for now), leaving our heroine at peace for the time being.

We also get to see most of Sookie’s ex-loves and flirtations, including were-tiger Quinn and the oh so dreamy, Alcide Herveaux which is never a difficult thing to have to read about.

Not to disappoint, Harris will be releasing a novel-length epilogue of sorts in October explaining what happened to her much beloved characters following the conclusion of the series.

For my reviews on all other Sookie Stackhouse books, click on the sookie stackhouse novels tag at the bottom of this post.

Score: 4.5/5

Book Information: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris was released in May 2013 by Ace Books with ISBN 978-1937007881.

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Book Review: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

This was a super quick read. I finished it in about two days, but there was a lot to the book. I absolutely enjoyed it. I didn’t feel terribly connected to the characters, but I did feel connected to the situations and tragedies that they all were going through.

Sarah Nickerson has it all – a great house, a loving husband, three beautiful children and a high-pressure job that she adores, but when a terrible car accident leaves her damaged, Sarah has to figure out how to survive and live in her new life.

It’s easy to like Sarah, she’s like so many of us – busy and working towards attaining that perfect life while not always taking the time we need to just sit back and enjoy where we’re at when we have it. She has a contentious relationship with her mother and a pride streak so big that she finds it nearly impossible to rely on her mother even when she loses even the ability to see her left side. Left Neglect is a real condition that Genova documents throughly throughout the book. It occurs when a person suffers damage to the right side of the brain such as a stroke or in Sarah’s case a car accident. It makes it nearly impossible for the person to realize that they do in fact, have a left side. It’s like the left side of everything simply disappears.

What I liked most about the book is that Genova doesn’t make it a scientific trip through Left Neglect, but rather shows us what that is by showing us Sarah and her life following the accident. Overall, it was a quick and very enjoyable read with a clear message: maybe, we all just need to slow down.

Score: 5 out of 5

Book Information: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova is available for purchase with ISBN 9781439164631 via Gallery Books. It was originally published in 2011.

Book Review: A Woman in Berlin

This past week, I read A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in a Conquered City. It was hard to get through, not because of the writing which I loved considering the material, but just with how emotional the book was. The novel is the diary of a woman who recorded daily life during the Russian occupation of Berlin during the second World War.

For years, the book was published without credit, since its author feared what could become of her if it was known that she had in fact written it. It is presumed that the diary actually was of German journalist, Marta Hillers.

The diary largely chronicles the brutality and atrocities that can and do occur during wartime. The author descriptively records the multiple rapes she suffered at the hands of the Red Army, the murders, the suicides and the bombings that prevailed in Berlin following Hitler’s fall from power. She raises the question, is it really the more humane thing to do to leave women and children behind while men fight in wars? Without protection, women do become the booty of war (pun intended) and they die, along with the children.

The author is admirable because instead of making herself the victim, which she no doubt is, she rises above that. She uses her mind and her body to keep herself safe and to ensure that she can get food to feed herself and in turn the people that she lives with. Her bravery and courageousness that echoes in her writing is just unbelievable as when she was writing this, there was no end in sight for her. This was her life.

The book moves pretty quickly and what I enjoyed most about it was the author’s writing style. Though written in the 1940’s, the book had a more modern feel to the way it was written, completely pulling me into her story and the story of those she lived with.

Score: 4 out of 5

Book Information: A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in a Conquered City is available for purchase with ISBN 0312426119 via Picador. This version was originally published in July 2006.

If you’re interested, there was even a movie made of this book not too long ago:

Sadie is Stranded by Madeleine Roux: Book Review

I was really excited for Madeleine Roux’s second book, Sadie Walker is Stranded. I thought it was going to be very similar to Allison Hewitt is Trapped which I had found to be funny, witty and fast-paced. Roux kept a lot coming at the reader in that book and that is probably because it was originally a daily blog so she wrote it differently.

I was disappointed with Sadie Walker is Stranded. It was still funny and witty in parts, but I felt like there was something missing that the first novel had. There were large expanses where I just felt bored and like she was rushing through it entirely, but dragging me along with her as she went.

She had a lot of good ideas for the novel, but I didn’t feel very immersed in them nor did I feel like she really went into any great detail about them. I kept waiting for the big moment where she went into the big scenes with the villain of the story, but all I got was a little less than a chapter after an entire novel built up to it. It was a total let down.

I was also interested in seeing how she would incorporate the Allison Hewitt blog into the story since so many of the people in her zombie-verse read that blog. I was disappointed in that it was mentioned, but never really explored beyond the friendship that one of Sadie’s co-survivors once had with Allison and her now husband, Collin.

Overall, I think she could have done more with the book then she did, there were so many great ideas that she had that she could have ran with.

Score: 2 out of 5

Book Information: Sadie Walker is Stranded  by Madeleine Roux is available for purchase through amazon with ISBN 0312658915. It was originally published on January 31, 2012 through St. Martin’s Griffin.

Club Dead: A Review of Charlaine Harris’ Third Book in Her True Blood Series

The following originally appeared in my book review column in February 2010:

clubdeadIt is speculated that HBO’s True Blood creator, Alan Ball will follow some of what Harris created with Club Dead in the third season of True Blood that is set to begin airing this summer. This will be a great treat for many of the shows followers, especially those who are big fans of the Sookie Stackhouse/Eric Northman relationship.

Club Dead

In Club Dead, Harris sets up the tensions in Bill’s and Sookie’s relationship that will inevitably lead to what occurs in the following book, Dead to the World. Vampire Bill is acting strange when Harris begins Club Dead. He is transfixed with something that he is working on with his computer and he subsequently disappears on business in another state. Sookie is left with a mix of emotions, but turns to Eric Northman for help in the end.

The nordic vampire knows exactly where to find him and soon Sookie finds herself in Jackson, Mississipi deep in the realm of the underworld of vampires who lounge around a mansion compound doing whatever they please. When Sookie finally finds Bill, he is in the midst of a most precarious situation and Sookie isn’t sure if she should stake him or save him. It is here, that readers are introduced to Bill’s maker, Lorena, who HBO viewers have only had glimpses of up until this point of the series.

True Blood Season Two Finale

Alan Ball sets up for Harris’ plot-line of the season two finale last summer when viewers were left with a cliff hanger after Bill asks Sookie a very important question. When Sookie leaves the bathroom to answer him, she finds the room a mess and viewers are led to believe that Bill was in fact kidnapped and probably by Lorena as an altercation between her and Sookie occurred when they all were in Dallas in the beginning of the season.

Whichever version that fans are following, both Club Dead and the upcoming season of True Blood are setting fans up for Dead to the World, where Eric Northman and Sookie Stackhouse will finally have an outlet for the sexual tension that has been built between them ever since Vampire Bill introduced them.

Overall, Harris gives readers a lot to digest in the goings on of Club Dead. Most of the relationships that she had built up in the first two installments of the Sookie Stackhouse series, meet with drastic changes at this point of the series. These changes have a lot of ground work laid in the previous book, Living Dead in Dallas, but do not come to light until the conclusion of Club Dead.

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Penguin Books with ISBN 9780441010516.

Living Dead in Dallas: A Review of Charlaine Harris’ Second Book in Her True Blood Series

dallasIn Living Dead in DallasCharlaine Harris continues the bad luck streak that cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse seems to have been stuck in ever since Bon Temps received its very first vampire. Harris opens her novel much like HBO left off the first season, with the death of somebody in the back of a car in Merlotte’s parking lot. However, unlike HBO’s True Blood, the body in the car will turn out to be the body of one of Sookie Stackhouse’s coworkers, only no one really seems to care which bothers Sookie tremendously.

With the murder of her co-worker, Sookie is floored and hurt, but she soon will find herself in a whole new world of supernatural trouble. In Living Dead in Dallas, Sookie does take on the Maenad in the woods and nearly looses her life to her, but the vampires save her, sucking the poison from her veins. Since they save her, Sookie is now indebted to Eric, so when he requests that she go to Dallas to aid in the search of the missing vampire, Godric, she must comply.

Variations From True Blood

In HBO’s True Blood, Vampire Bill stacked Longshadow when he went to attack Sookie and thus, was forced to make a vampire out of a young girl named Jessica as his punishment. However, In Harris’ Dead Until Dark, it was not Vampire Bill who does the staking and therefore, there is no Vampire Jessica to interfere and complicate Sookie and Bill’s relationship at this point.

Moreover, Godric though meeting the same end in both the book and the series, is portrayed much more as a tortured man in Living Dead in Dallas as opposed to the series which paints him as a man with many regrets and a strong desire for redemption. He is also not Eric’s maker in the book, but is written as such in the True Blood series. The Fellowship of the Sun subplot with Jason Stackhouse is also an invention of the HBO series and not the book.

Main Points of Living Dead in Dallas

Moreover, what is key to this installment of the Sookie Stackhouse books is that Sookie gets attacked by the Maenad in the woods, inevitably goes to Dallas with Bill, uncovers Godric and gets stuck in the attack on the vampire nest where Eric Northman manipulates Sookie in such a way that she will be forever changed.

Overall, Harris delivers with Living Dead in Dallas. She expands greatly on many of the relationships that she introduced in Dead Until Darkand again, sets up the drama and events for what is to come in her following installment.

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Penguin Books with ISBN 9780441009237.

Dead Until Dark: A Review of Charlaine Harris’ First Book in Her True Blood Series

until darkCharlaine Harris introduces any of True Blood’s most admired characters in her first installment. Dead Until Dark, introduces Sookie Stackhouse, her sex-on-a-stick brother Jason, Vampire Bill, Eric Northman, Sam Merlotte, Detective Andy Bellefleur and many others.

Harris begins Dead Until Dark, her story of the fictional town of Bon Temps much like HBO begins the series with vampires finally “coming out of the coffin.” The vampires have officially announced their existence thanks to the Japanese who were able to create a synthetic blood substitute eliminating to the need for vampires to feed on humans, though it does not take away the vampire’s strong desire for human blood.

Vampire Bill

Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress at Sam Merlotte’s bar and supernatural in her own right, is excited that Merlotte’s has had its very own first vampire visitor, Vampire Bill. Sookie immediately befriends Bill, winning him over later in the story when she saves him from hated vampire drainers. Harris lays the foundation for the relationship that will later develop between the two.

Dead Until Dark and True Blood

The first season of HBO’s True Blood is based off of this book. As seen in the show, Vampire Bill and Sookie meet, Renee turns out to be more than what everyone thought he was, the Rattrays turn out to be a lot more than just drug dealers and what is most strikingly different from the series is that when Sookie runs into trouble with the Vampire Longshadow in Fangtasia, it is not Vampire Bill who does the staking.

Outside of plot-line with Renee that mostly ends in this book, much of what occurs in Dead Until Dark is setting up the story-line for the next installment in the series. Much of what has happened to Sookie will effect her choices and decisions in what Charlaine Harris delivers next and in what HBO delivers in season two of the True Blood series.

Commentary of Harris’ Creation

Overall, Harris does a great job of getting the reader to feel as though they are truly in Bon Temps, watching the beginning of all of this supernatural activity swirl around them. Her descriptions and plot twists make for a true page turner. Dead Until Dark, as action packed as Harris has written it, is still kept on the short side of a novel, but that does not mean the reader is left feeling jilted. Instead, readers are made ready and looking forward to what Harris creates next in Living Dead in Dallas.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Penguin Books with ISBN 9780441016990.

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris: Book Review

The following originally appeared on my former book review column in May, 2010:

dead in the famThe latest installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series gives Eric Northman fans a completely different view of the Nordic vampire.

On May 4, 2010 Ace Hardcover released the latest installment of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, Dead in the Family. Charlaine Harris concluded her last book of the Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead and Gone in 2009, with a huge cliff-hanger that could change everything that readers have been accustom to up until now.

In the aftermath of the Fae War that dominated Dead and Gone, Sookie’s great grandfather informs her that he is sealing off the world of the fae from the humans. No fairies will pass into the world, including him. In leaving, her tells her to go easy on the vampire, that he is a good man and that he loves her. He is gone before she can ask which vampire he refers to. Both vampires had come to her aid in the attacks against her family, and Bill had pledged his undying love to her, but exchanges between Eric and Sookie suggest that there has been much left off the page that will be explained in the future.

Relationships in Dead in the Family

Charlaine Harris opens Dead in the Family shortly after the Fae War. Many characters, including Sookie are still recovering from the attacks and even torture that they underwent during the war. Sookie and Eric are together, and he often reminds her that she is married to him despite her arguing that it had been a trick and that it only held ground in the vampire world. There are several rather touching and telling scenes between the two within the opening of the book which begs the question, is Eric the vampire that Sookie’s great grandfather was talking about in last year’s book?

Harris is not giving anything away though, at least not in the opening passages. Bill Compton is still living across the graveyard and at Sam’s urging, Sookie does go to see him. He is still suffering from silver-poisoning and again, in a moment that only Harris can deliver, Bill opens up to Sookie and tells her everything he has been holding back. Vampire Bill fans will not be disappointed either, but again, Harris is going to keep this contest for Sookie’s heart on a tight, neck-and-neck race.

Difference From Earlier Books

What is most notably different about Dead in the Family in comparison to other books in the series is the overall tone of the book. Though the subject matter of Harris’ books are often dark, Dead in the Family lacks the sort of upbeat frivolity that moves the earlier installments along. Sookie is depressed and clearly lost after confronting her own mortality in Dead and Gone. It seems that her cheerful, sunny innocent disposition is gone and what readers get is a more realistic woman who is trying to figure everything out outside of the ideal.

It is this mind-set that sets the tone and keeps much of the action a bit slow-building, but once Harris reaches her peak, the reader is off into a rich world of the supernatural and all of the politics that go along with it. Other notable characters such as Sookie’s newly taken brother, Jason, Alcide the Were, Claude the Fae and even Dermot who has some pretty surprising secrets of his own.

Back Story in Dead in the Family

Lastly, what is rather interesting in Dead in the Family is a lot of the back story that comes out about many of the main characters that readers have fallen in love with over the course of the Sookie Stackhouse series. Readers will learn about how the mysterious Eric became who he is and just who made him, they will also learn a more in-depth version of just how Lorena found Bill and made him into a vampire and they will also get a first-hand glimpse into Sookie’s supernatural side of the family.

Overall, Charlaine Harris’ Dead in the Family could be seen as a turning point for the series. There are many more questions and facts that are raised that change what has come before. Both new readers and old fans of the series will not be disappointed with this latest installment.

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris is available for purchase through Ace Hardcover with ISBN 0441018645.

Sheramy Bundrick’s Sunflowers: A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh – A Review

sunThere is nothing easy about writing historical fiction. Once a writer adds art into the mix, the project becomes something entirely different as many artists, especially those like Vincent Van Gogh are not so easily defined. Furthermore, having the ability to blend factual art historical information with the fiction a writer creates, is difficult and can often produce novels that are more of a creation as opposed to a well-researched, factual backdrop with a fictional story also added for entertainment.

This, however, is not the case with Sheramy Bundrick’s Sunflowers. As an art historian and professor, Bundrick brings to the table a strong set of skills and research that are more than evident in her fictional retelling of the final two years of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh’s troubled life. She recounts with some liberty, the time that the struggling artist spent with a young woman named Rachel – the very same lady that would be presented with a fragment of his ear.

Rachel Corteau

In reality, there is nearly nothing that has survived in history about the real Rachel, other then a document that lists her name, address, occupation and that she was the woman Van Gogh asked for at the brothel to present her with a piece of his ear. Other artists such as Bernard and Gauguin mention Rachel in their writings and letters only in passing, referring to her as the “cafe girl” or “a wretched girl” respectively.

Irregardless of the reality of the factual, historical relationship between Van Gogh and Rachel, Bundrick writes her story having imagined what it might have been like had there been a relationship between the two people while incorporating factual information regarding the time period and Van Gogh’s work.

Mixing Factual with Fantasy

Moreover, Bundrick creates this mixture of fantasy and art historical fact seamlessly. She captivates her readers from the very first page and does not let them go until they reach the inevitable end of both the novel and of Vincent Van Gogh. Her intricate descriptions make her readers feel as though they are part of the dingy cafe where Vincent and Rachel meet to talk, part of the garden where he draws her and even part of the city and busyness of the city of Arles as a whole.

Overall, Sheramy Bundrick’s work is captured best through Susan Vreeland, author of Life Studies, ” [Bundrick] lays bare in rich, compelling scenes the mystery of the turbulent and misunderstood final two years in Van Gogh’s life.” Sunflowers is a gem of a first novel and makes for an interesting glimpse into the mental decline of one of the world’s most famous artists.

Sunflowers – A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh by Sheramy Bundrick is available for purchase through Avon with ISBN 0061765279.

Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime – A Review

missingKevin Nance of Booklist describes Houpt’s book through the following angle, “when houses like Sotheby’s trumpet their sales records – $104 million for a Picasso! – what’s a self-respecting art thief to do? In this brief and lively book, Houpt laments the transformation of art into an international commodity and sketches a series of quick portraits of famous latter-day art thieves and the intrepid detectives who try to catch them. In a few cases, Houpt has already been outpaced by events. Munch’s The Scream, stolen from a Norwegian museum in 2004, was recently recovered, and the Picasso sales record was eclipsed this year by the sale of a Klimt (once looted by the Nazis) for a reported $135 million.”

The Hypothesis

Auction house pricing has been a big complaint of many in the art world over the years. It is clear that such enormous prices for famous works by such well-knowns as Picasso only drive up the temptation behind nabbing one of these high-priced canvases for claim in a art thief’s private collection. Taking this idea, Houst takes the reader into the dark underbelly of one of the world’s largest markets and shows the reader just how underhanded some of the worst crimes in art have come to be.

From Munch’s The Scream to the Henry Moore Sculpture

Nothing will illicit intrigue more than when a largely famous work of art goes missing. Houpt does not miss a beat of the action in Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime as the author delves into heavy detail over such infamous thefts as the theft of The Scream and the even more bizarre theft of the nearly two-ton bronze sculpture by Henry Moore. Using photographs, illustrations and case studies, Houpt brings these crimes against art to life while still keeping the reader intrigued to learn just how people were able to pull off these brazen acts.

Large-Scale Thefts: From the Nazis to Iraq

What was most intriguing about this book was the coverage that Houpt included on much more large scale operations such as the Nazis’ art theft during World War II and the acts of looting that nearly crumbled the Iraqi Museum and outlaying institutions. If the Rape of Europa piqued your interest, then Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime will take it even another step.

Museum of the Missing: The High Stakes of Art Crime by Simon Houpt is available for purchase with ISBN 1897330448 through Black Walnut/Madison Press.