by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
We have been able to add a last minute giveaway to these reviews! So to enter for a chance to win these books check out the instructions at the end of these reviews!
As we continue with Halloween month, here you will find some more vampire fun from Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood is based on this book series) creator Charlaine Harris! First a review of Home Improvement: Undead Edition edited by Charlaine Harris/Toni L. P. Kelner and then a review of Charlaine’s companion to her vampire series, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion.
Home Improvement: Undead Edition edited by Charlaine Harris/Toni L. P. Kelner
Review by TV Mc Arthur
Home Improvement: Undead Edition, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner, is an anthology. That means it is a bunch of stories written by a bunch of people. If you buy it and read it because one writer’s name is on the cover, you will be upset and disappointed, because you’ll only find one of that author’s tales. However, if you look at it as if you are walking into the LotsaStories All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, you can try different authors to see what you like best, and make a satisfying meal out of it.
HI:UE follows the pattern of other Harris/Kelner books (Many Bloody Returns, Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, Death’s Excellent Vacation), getting a group of established writers to submit stories on a theme. This time it’s paranormal home repair, featuring ghosts, vampires, wizards, zombies, pixies, and Architectural Review Committees. Some of the offerings use characters that will be familiar to that writer’s fans, while others are stand-alone efforts.
Harris starts off the book with a Sookie Stackhouse Story, “If I Had a Hammer,” that presents a nice puzzle of ghostly anger that escapes when a hidden closet is opened, but contains none of the vampires that made her rich and famous. Kelner’s book-ending, “In Brightest Day,” tells of an architect who is raised from the dead to finish the house he designed, but the revenant (you and I would call it a zombie) keeps getting killed off; is it clumsiness, or is it murder?
Some of my favorites include:
“Gray” by Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson series), where a female vampire wants to go home again, and gets some remodeling help from an unusual source.
E. E. Knight’s “Woolsley’s Kitchen Nightmare,” which is what might happen if chef Gordon Ramsey tried to help redo a cannibal’s restaurant. (Warning: it contains some plot elements that sound uncomfortably like some sensational cases of the past few years).
“Rick the Brave” by Stacia Kane opens a world where ghosts have entered, and shows the efforts needed to get rid of them.
S. J. Rozan’s “The Path,” a gentle, cheerful saga of a long-dead monk trying to regain the head of a Buddha statue to help him continue his journey of reincarnation, and his conversations with a mountain that leads him onto the path of enlightenment.
The moods range from grim to madcap, but these samples can whet your palate for dining with authors that offer new and tasty fare.
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris
Review by TV Mc Arthur
Sookie Stackhouse is a Louisiana twenty-something in love with a Viking vampire named Eric (she used to date a former Confederate soldier named Bill, and she had a fling with a weretiger named Quinn), she is a friend of the Shreveport werewolf pack, she waitresses in a bar owned by a shapeshifter who likes to turn into a dog (but he makes a great lion), she has fairy blood in her, her house is next to the cemetery, and she is telepathic and can read minds. Not only are the books about her adventures best sellers, they spawned the HBO series True Blood, named for a brand of synthetic blood that some of the vampires drink instead of choosing a victim and “popping open a warm one” (so to speak).
With the popularity of the Southern Vampire Mystery books and the TV show, it’s hard to believe that it took Charlaine Harris almost two years to find a publisher for the first book, Dead Until Dark, now considered a founding landmark in the urban fantasy genre. After eleven books and a number of short stories in her Southern Vampire series, Harris has edited The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, a guide to all things Sookie…so far.
A new novella, “A Small-Town Wedding,” takes Sookie from her hometown of Bon Temps, Louisiana, to west Texas for the wedding of her boss, Sam Merlotte’s brother. They encounter violent prejudice against shapeshifters that turns very ugly. It gives Harris a chance to explore bigotry and the strengths and weaknesses of religion as it is practiced here on Earth. Vampires aren’t actively involved, but the story gives her shifter and were-folk characters room to develop.
The Companion is not just Harris’ writings. She has active fan club members in Charlaine’s Charlatans who contributed to the tome, which includes Q&A’s with Harris and Alan Ball, creator-producer of True Blood, fielding questions from fans. A mini-cookbook has 22 recipes for down-home, Louisiana, Southern cooking that includes everything from jambalaya to hush puppies. A detailed, day-by-day timeline lays out everything that happens in each book and story Charlaine has written about Sookie. There is a Who’s Who and What’s What of the Sookieverse from major characters like Sookie, Bill, and Eric to bit players like Unknown Enemy Vamp #2. A quiz tests the reader’s knowledge of the places, people, and events of Sookie’s world of stories. For people who wonder how close Sookie’s house is to the bar where she works, or where is Betty Ford Elementary School, a map of Bon Temps and the werepanther enclave of Hotshot is included.
The background material is fantastic for veteran Sookiephiles and new readers alike. The wedding story is a glorious bonus for fans like me. If you haven’t read the books already, you might avoid the timeline, which would be the world’s biggest spoiler, since it lays out ALL the plot points.
This is a great curl-up-and-read book that gives you a chance to brush up on your Sookie knowledge, get a glimpse behind the scenes of the creation of the books and series, and sink your teeth into the vampire world. It’s bloody good!
To enter to win a copy of The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, simply email KRL at email@example.com with the subject line “Sookie”, or to enter to win a copy of Home Improvement: Undead Edition email KRL at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Undead”, or comment on this article. U.S. residents only please. A winner will be chosen October 11, 2011.
If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.