Review: Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book because I got to hear author Charlaine Harris speak at a conference—and everything about her was adorable. I felt I owed it to her to actually read her work. I’d seen (some of) the TV show TrueBlood based on the books, so I was a little worried I’d ruined the experience for myself. Luckily, it just left me well-prepared.

Let me give an aside on Ms. Harris. She has a gentle Southern accent, just a touch, and a modest demeanor. Judging by her appearance and her publicity photos, she’s partial to the long, elegant, drapey fabric looks. But underneath, just below the surface, is a sharp wit and a snappy bite. She’s the epitome of the Southern women I know: all cookies and Bless your hearts on the surface, but acute observation and rapier wit hiding just below the surface, where it’s modest and ok to whisper behind your hands.

So, in that way, Dead Until Dark is very true to life for me. My absolute favorite character was Sookie’s grandmother (which…may be unfortunate). She doesn’t hold truck with people being discriminatory for no good reason; she cooks a damn good spread and keeps a tidy house; and hopes against hope that her granddaughter will just get a date already–even if he IS dead.

The writing in this book was warm and cool like a glass of iced tea on a hot, sticky day. The story is certainly original: rather than Anne Rice’s cool and distant, extremely frightening vampires, Harris’ vamps come in a range–still spooky, maybe even deadly, but much more approachable. You’re invited to fangirl right next to Sookie as she swoons over the hunks in the vampire community. And hunks there are, of both the male and female variety. You can immediately see why HBO wanted this for their channel.
That said, the book is more tame than the TV series, by far. It almost feels that Harris wanted sex scenes, but felt they were rather too icky to actually write down (that Southern discretion again). Much of the scenes are…left to the readers’ imagination. Which is good. Because it seems vampires don’t particularly invest in foreplay; I imagine a more realistic rendition would involve bruising.

A lot happens in the story, and it pulls you right along. I find it a little hard to get into, for the same reason I eventually dropped out of the TV show—the townspeople in Bon Temps seem to roll with an awful lot of punches, without asking too many questions. Convenient for the author, perhaps, but it took me out of the story a bit. Plus, there’s so much action, so much I want to know…and then the story stopped as suddenly as if we’d crashed into a tree. I actually put my Kindle down and exclaimed,”That’s IT?!”

I guess it’s supposed to make you want to read more–and maybe I will–but it was also frustrating. Overall, these books will make excellent vacation reads, or perhaps an All Hallow’s Read book for those who can’t handle spooky stuff. They’re brain candy, as rich as Sookie’s grandmother’s hummingbird cake.

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