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Review: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse series novel #11), by Charlaine Harris

TLDR recap:

Sookie’s fairy kin are secretive and devious.  Sookie’s vampire friends are secretive and edgy.  Sookie’s old enemies are secretly still gunning for her.  Sookie’s family secrets finally see the light of day.  Secrets, secrets, everywhere, in Dead Reckoning, the 11th offering in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Chronicles.

    • Title: Dead Reckoning
    • Series: The Southern Vampire Chronicles (Sookie Stackhouse) series – book #11
    • Author: Charlaine Harris
    • Prominent Characters: Sookie, Eric, Pam, & co.
    • Recommended reader age: 16+
    • Sexual content level: Fairly light

I am going to try very hard to keep spoilers out of this review!  I know not everyone reads at the speed of light and I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t finished it, so if you read on, expect to see hints of the overall tone of the story but no real specifics (other than a few unrevealing quotes). 

Thoughts:

This is going to be a very difficult review to write and it’s tempting to just put it off for another time, but the truth is I’ll probably only read this book again once, maybe twice ever, so I should get my thoughts written down while they’re still fresh.  Did I like the book?  Yeah, it was ok.  Did I enjoy the story?  I enjoyed the last half of the story, until the (yet again) unresolved ending.  Did I get the usual feeling of fulfillment and completion upon finishing it?  Ugh, no.  I really wanted to love this one; I wanted Charlaine to hit it out of the park!  The last Sookie Stackhouse novel left me feeling similarly disjointed and unsatisfied and I’d hoped it was just a case of middle-movie syndrome (you know, the important 2nd movie in a trilogy that has the meat of the story but doesn’t pack the cinematic punch and resolution of the beginning and end).  I’m going to try to do this without spoilers, so I’ll break it down by character…

Sookie: Nothing really new here, same old Sook (although a little less “christian”, by her own definition, and a little more ruthless).  Our Sookie is learning to survive in a world where she is perpetually fragile and she’s not too sure she’s happy with the “new” her.  She does, of course, have no objections to still being alive.  *wink*  And you know it wouldn’t be a Sookie Stackhouse novel if people (plural) weren’t trying to kill her pretty much constantly…

Eric: Also more of the same: secretive, domineering, oddly charming at times (“my lover” /swoon), and utterly ruthless and centered.  It’s becoming more apparent that Eric actually does love Sookie for more than just her value as a political tool, but does he love her enough to endanger his own precarious position?  More on this later…

Pam: Pam is her usual visciously effective self, with a dash of vulnerability that we haven’t seen in her to date.  This was a nice change!  It’s also nice to see Sookie actually thinking of Pam as a “good friend” rather than a vampire who’s just impartial about her and helps her out when it suits the situation.

Bill: Another reviewer made a pretty witty statement about Bill’s role in this novel (“everyone’s favourite killjoy crawls out of his sickhole”), and before reading Dead Reckoning, I agreed and thought it was fairly entertaining & appropriate.  I mean, honestly, Bill has become a bore, hasn’t he?  After finishing the novel, however, I felt that Bill’s presence lent some of the only straightforward love and support that Sookie received throughout the entire book.  After being staunchly Team Eric since the early novels, I’m now starting to wonder why I’m still holding out…

Sam: Oh Sam, a perpetual friend art thee.  First let me say that I do NOT like Jannalyn, Sam’s newest honey, and her role in this novel doesn’t win her as many brownie points as it loses her, putting her slightly down in the count at the close.  She doesn’t care though – she’s a badass pack enforcer and everyone else who isn’t Alcide are just peons, right?  I’m thinking maybe Sam should rethink just what it is he’s getting out of this relationship with Ms. Testosterone.

Alcide: Ugh.  Seriously.  UGH!  I want this guy to go away.  How many more ways can he possibly abuse Sookie’s one-time friendship and trust?  Admittedly, his part in this story does lend some much-needed levity to an otherwise overly serious & sometimes slightly boring progression.  Ironically, I’d actually forgotten how much I disliked Alcide until I read his scene – Joe Manganiello sure does do a sweet, sexy portrayal of him and it’s damn hard not to like Alcide in the HBO series True Blood!  Psst Charlaine, if you’re going to put in guest appearances, toss us some Quinn next time! 

Jason:  Sookie’s annoying and self-centered brother makes only a brief appearance in this one, and he doesn’t even get a line to speak.  I guess having a fairy in residence who looks just like him is a good enough substitute, and I am most definitely NOT complaining about the lack of Jason-time!

Memorable quotes:

Oh fair tradition!

I could imagine my grandmother’s opinion about Holly’s white wedding dress, since Holly had a little boy in school – but hey, whatever made the bride happy.  White used to symbolize the virgin purity of the wearer.  Now it just meant the bride had acquired an expensive and unusable dress to hang in her closet after the big day.

Those fairies, always playing hard to get!

They didn’t really care a whole hell of a bunch about what happened to humans they didn’t know.  If they’d ever read John Donne, they would have disagreed with his idea that no man is an island.  Most humans were on one big island, to the fairies, and that island was adrift on a sea called I Totally Don’t Care.

Well, Bill certainly isn’t playing hard to get…

“I think just knocking on your door and looking lonesome would probably get me where I wanted to be, if that was my goal.  Or I could just say, ‘How ’bout it big boy?’  I don’t think I need to be naked and in danger to get you lusty.  Right?”

Buy now and get a special bonus!

Go on the Sookie Stackhouse Narrow Avoidance of Death Diet!  Run for your life, and miss meals, too!  Excercise plus starvation.

Never a dull moment at Sookie’s house…

I wondered if she’d see Bubba in the woods.  Or Bill.  Or maybe there’d be fairies.  Or some more kidnappers.  A homicidal maniac!  You never knew what you’d find in my woods.


If you like…

If you like Dead Reckoning and the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire Chronicles) series, you might enjoy the Cassandra Palmer series.  They have a surprisingly lot in common: innate psychic powers they’d rather not have, people constantly trying to kill or control them, multiple powerful men trying to maneuver them into bed, and a strong backbone and sense of right vs. wrong.  The Cassie Palmer series, by Karen Chance, is currently 4 novels long, with the 5th releasing early next month.

If you find yourself frustrated by the sometimes slow pace in the Sookie Stackhouse series and want a little more bang for your buck, check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J. R. Ward. Having recently released its 9th novel (10th, if you count the Insider’s Guide, and you totally should!), the series is packed with love, sex, violence, drama, unexpected twists, and some of the most well-written romantic entanglements I’ve ever read.  Read it for the couples or read it for the politics and action… just read it!  =)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Cat & Bones, my favorite paranormal couple from a series, in the “if you like this, then read this” list.  The Night Huntress series, by Jeaniene Frost, is still going strong after recently releasing its 6th most excellent novel (8 counting the 2 “world” spinoffs) and more is on the way later this year!

Final thoughts:

A lot goes down in this book and several long-running mysteries and plotlines are neatly tied off.  Some of the action feels almost TOO easy after the looooong draaaaawn out story arcs of perpetual assassination attempts and political intrigue.  I was definitely very happy with two particular outcomes, and I found myself laughing out loud at a few scenes that, for anyone but Sookie, shouldn’t have been amusing at all.  Long-time readers will be satisfied with some of the resolutions and spontaneous little gifts of information Ms. Harris delivers.  I’m already starting to speculate about where things will head next, but I’ll leave that for the comments below to keep from spoiling key plot points.  *wink*

My review probably comes across a little harsh for a 4+ rating.  I think the deal here is that we’ve all loved and lived Sookie’s life for years now, and waited so long in between very short-feeling installments (most of these books take place within a week of time or less!), that we’re impatient for big happenings.  Sookie’s love life has been tumultuous from the start, and I keep thinking “ok, it’s got to settle down some time!” but Ms. Harris obviously has other plans.  Personally, I read these novels partially for the Sookie/Eric developments and it feels like each new novel just delays their progression by filling the space with yet more political angst, assassination attempts, and battles.

So, bottom line, if you’re a long-time reader who doesn’t mind the incremental progress and can focus on the bigger picture of the series as a whole, you’re probably going to really enjoy this book!  If you, like me, need a little more romantic closure and less what-chores-Sookie-is-doing-today, you might leave this one feeling a little frustrated and wrung out.

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT!

Related links:

http://www.charlaineharris.com/

http://www.karenchance.com/

http://jeanienefrost.com/

http://www.jrward.com/bdb/

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True Blood’s Joe Manganiello, one of the 25 Fittest Men in the World

Let’s get the week started off with some gratuitous muscle-gazing (see, Monday’s aren’t all bad!)…

Everyone’s favorite True Blood werewolf (Joe Manganiello, of course!) will soon be celebrated as one of the Top 25 Fittest Men in the World by Men’s Fitness magazine.  Being uber-fit is nearly a requirement of landing a part on True Blood lately, considering just about every major cast member has some sort of revealing scene, but Joe really took it to the next level when he started buffing up for the part last year.  He works out twice a day at least 3 days a week, then does other cardio and strength-building workouts on three additional days.  Two workouts a day… whew, that’s dedication to your physique!  And we appreciate it, yes we do.  Thank you Joe!  ❤

Also recognized, are Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga’s Emmett Cullen)…

Jason Momoa (the new Conan, also Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones & Ronin Dex from Stargate: Atlantis)…

Chris Evans (the new Captain America & Johnny Storm from The Fantastic Four)…

Also rumored to be on the list is Chris Pine, Captain James T. Kirk in the revitalized new Star Trek franchise.  Check out the June/July of Men’s Fitness for the complete list of the World’s 25 Fittest Men in 2011, due out on newstands on May 9th.  Until then, enjoy your eye candy!  *grin*

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Stephen Moyer chats up True Blood for Bullett magazine

In an interview with Bullett magazine, appropriately titled “Return to the Soft Gore”, Stephen Moyer talks about being comfortable with Alex Skarsgard’s “bits”, his unexpected married life with Anna Paquin, the necessity of recycling, and his frequent fundraising efforts for various causes.  He also donned some glam over-the-top duds for his metro-goth rocker photo shoot. 

When asked about how married life with his co-star Anna Paquin (who plays Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood) is treating him, Stephen’s reply is sure to warm any Truebie’s bleeding heart…

“I’ve never been married before, and it wasn’t something that really entered my mind to do.  Then suddenly, in this relationship with Anna, I just couldn’t think of a good reason not to.  It just felt really right.  When you meet somebody you’re going to be spending the rest of your life with, it doesn’t seem right to call them your girlfriend forever, so I felt like I needed to be able to call her something else.  Now, I can shout “wife” quite happily.”

Stephen has a professionally cosmopolitan attitude, however, when it comes to sharing said wife on set and in racy photoshoots…

“She does get around a bit.  Alex {Skarsgård} and I have been very close since the beginning, and Joe {Manganiello} who’s playing Alcide now, we’re pretty close too.”

“Alex and I have gotten quite close to each other.  We have seen each other’s bits many times.  But I think the main thing is that Alex and Joe, when they have stuff to do with my missus, they feel like they’re free to do so.  There’s no point in me being territorial because, A: I don’t feel like that anyway because it’s work, and B: they need to feel like they can be true in their characters without me spying on them.  Even though of course I have a GPS loaded into Anna’s skin.  She doesn’t know where it is – I have actually buried it somewhere in her.”

On the somewhat unusual pairings we’ve seen in some of the TB episodes so far…

“I’ve had a couple scripts where I don’t get to suck any face, and it’s like ‘Oh, I don’t get to suck any face, I’m really bored!’  Which is why I’m praying that at some point me and Alex or Joe will have some kind of crazy threesome.  I mean, it’s got to happen, Season 27…” 

“Did you like me & Sam last year?”

Stephen does a surprising amount of fundraising for the charities, and personal convictions, he’s passionate about…

“One of the things I hadn’t really considered before the show became successful is one’s ability to help out causes that you’re interested in.  If we can get Alan to sign a script, if we can get some of the other cast to sign a script, we can auction it off and it can raise quite a lot of money.”

“Alex does it for various charities.  Alex and I were approached about this idea for Battle of the Fang – we raised $70,000 dollars.  People got completely absorbed in it and ultimately, it wasn’t about the victory – apart from the fact that I won – but it wasn’t about that.  We both raised a very similar amount, right up to the wire – I think I raised about $35,100 and he got $34,950.  We both chose causes that we cared about, and at the same time the gulf had exploded and the oil was washing to the shore in Louisiana.  Because it was Louisiana, I chose that as my charity because of the show, because we filmed down there.”

Maybe his dog Splash is worried about a possible global shortage of tennis balls, but Stephen’s concerns are a little more green…

“For me, it’s the huge stuff.  Something I drone on and on about which just bores people senseless is the plastic vortex in the Pacific.  The fact that we’ve just got oceans of sea life eating our discarded plastic really upsets me.”

“If I’m walking along behind somebody and they throw something {away}, I go back up to them and say ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I think you’ve dropped this.’  Unless they’re 75 feet tall, in which case I’ll just say f*ck it and put it in the bin for them.”

The interview’s accompanying photoshoot, shot by photographer Kurt Iswarienko, is a modern, metro throwback to 80’s rockband trends and has a goth punch to it.  It’s more unusual than anything we’ve seen previously from Stephen, and while it won’t make my list of “best photoshoots ever”, it just might rank among the most interesting.

To see the photos and read the full interview in Bullett, go here.


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