Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oh, hi neglected blog. Bragging to Daisy this morning about our new wireless router and how I could now email from the garage and blog poolside turned into me promising her a post before we went to dinner tonight. So here I am. Blogging poolside. But it's a little breezy, so I might go inside soon.

So then. Let's talk about Charlaine Harris. I've been meaning to read her vampire series for ages but never got around to it until forced to make a hasty purchase at Barnes & Noble lest I be left contemplating socket wrenches at Pep Boys while my car battery was being tested. Dead Until Dark proved a fun, quick read and I quickly picked up the others, Living Dead In Dallas, Club Dead, Dead To The World, Dead As A Doornail, Definitely Dead, and All Together Dead, which ends on a hell of a cliffhanger. I thought the series, despite a few too many conveniently stupid moments for Sookie, was pretty strong as vampire books go. As it progresses, the series starts to delve into vampire politics and the uneasy interaction between the paranormal world and the regular folks becomes quite volatile. It reminded me of why I enjoyed the early Laurell K. Hamilton books and has thus far avoided sinking to the depths where that series currently resides.

Since I had so much fun with those, I decided to continue with Harris' Grave Sight, Grave Surprise, and An Ice Cold Grave which feature a main character who, after being struck by lightning as a teenager, can tell where bodies are buried. I liked how the series began in what felt like the middle - no laying out of the back story. The characters make references to previous jobs, prior run-ins with the law, etc. and their existence seems wholly lived in. The mysteries themselves weren't hard to figure out, but that bothered me less than it usually would have because I liked the characters so much.

Next I read her two stand alone mysteries, Sweet And Deadly and A Secret Rage. Sweet And Deadly was a little slow to get going and I spotted the bad guy pretty quickly, but that could just be because by this point I was in tune with her style. A Secret Rage was promised to be shocking in the blurbs, and probably was when it was written back in the early 80's. It's about a string of rapes near a college campus and the survivors who refuse to go away quietly. Once again I picked up on the twists and spotted the rapist right off the bat, but was fascinated by the ways our culture has and, sadly, hasn't changed since then when it comes to dealing with the subject.

No, we're not done yet. Sometimes when I find a new-to-me author I can't help but read everything by them and as soon as possible. This was made much easier by the fact that none of her books took me more than a few hours to finish. Harris' first series, the Aurora Teagarden books, was a little hit or miss. On the plus side, many of the books were more hard-hitting than I expected, especially the first, Real Murders. The second, A Bone To Pick might be the strongest of the bunch because it actually surprised me with a twist or two at the end. The rest, Three Bedrooms, One Corpse, The Julius House, Dead Over Heels, A Fool And His Honey, Last Scene Alive, and Poppy Done To Death weren't outstanding, but Aurora annoyed me less and less as the series went on and Harris allowed her to grow and change which definitely helped keep things interesting even if the mysteries weren't too hard to figure out.

I thought the Lily Bart series was actually the strongest of the bunch. Shakespeare's Landlord, Shakespeare's Champion, Shakespeare's Christmas, Shakespeare's Trollop, and Shakespeare's Counselor all showcased Lily and the small Southern town of Shakespeare where she works as a house cleaner. These had a slightly harder edge to them. Lily has a violent past and a brittle hold on her life and the town is populated with characters that feel like more than props waiting to be bumped off for the sake of the plot.

One thing I realized as I was asking myself exactly what it was that made me want to read 25 books by the same author in one month was that all her main characters - Sookie, Aurora, Lily, Harper - they all like to read. It's a silly little thing, but something that automatically made me like those characters.

And now I'm only 15 books behind!


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