The Sookie Stackhouse CompanionThe Sookie piece included in this companion book (“Small Town Wedding”) was a good one, and in some ways I liked it more than the most recent book because it had a tight, cohesive story that tied in to a clear larger theme. I felt like this plot deserved inclusion in the main series rather than being shared in short story form, though. Sam’s talked about his family and the wedding in multiple Sookie books, so it was disconcerting for the characters in Dead Reckoning (Book 11) to just skip to talking about the situation in the past tense. Not all readers track down short stories, so this feels like a milder version of the “One Word Answer” problem, where fans who didn’t read an anthology felt as if they’d missed something.

After the story, there’s a “Timeline” section presenting the events of each book in condensed form. I guess it’s intended as a reference for those who are trying to remember specific details without re-reading, but it’s entirely skippable. Each book’s entry does include transcripts of written exchanges or phone calls between Eric and Bill, but they’re pretty dull with only a few exceptions. The Timeline is credited to the woman who wrote the summaries, and the text doesn’t make it clear if these little Bill/Eric bits were written by the same person or were provided by Harris.

The next section, written by Harris, is about the short stories. She mentions the events of “One Word Answer,” but those were also considered significant enough to include in the preceding timeline. Each story has a short description of its events and a mention of where it fits between the books, there are also descriptions of stories that focus on other Sookieverse characters.

Then there’s a Sookie-perspective chapter, also by Harris, about the various types of supernatural creatures in the world. It includes a family tree for any who are confused about the details of Sookie’s fairy lineage. That’s followed by a trivia quiz filled with laughably specific questions about the names of people or places that were mentioned once and the colors of various characters’ cars. The cookbook portion includes one series-relevant tidbit about Caroline Bellfleur’s famous chocolate cake that made it worth a skim.

The book is rounded out by Q&As with both Harris and Alan Ball, the creator of HBO’s “True Blood” adaptation. There’s also a section about Harris’s career and a personal essay from a fan club organizer that will mostly be of interest to other early fan club members. The final, largest section is an exhaustive A-Z listing of characters, places, things, and references from the books and short stories. Like the Timeline, I guess this could be an interesting reference, but I’m not sure when I’d ever personally use it.

A surprising omission was a complete bibliography of works by Charlaine Harris. All her books and stories are mentioned, but they’re in non-skimmable paragraphs and separated out into three different chapters. I’d like to have had a couple of pages in list form of all the books in each series, especially one that includes the short stories in the reading order and has a reminder of which anthologies those are found in.

This book was kind of a strange mix for me, and I’d recommend that even fans of the series check it out from the library before buying. I’m glad that I did.

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A Taint in the Blood (Shadowspawn, #1)Adrian Brézé is a Shadowspawn, one of the long-lived powerful beings who are the source of most of the world’s myths and supernatural lore. Adrian once fought side by side with humans against his own kind, but in recent years he’s tried to live a more reclusive life. Then his evil twin, Adrienne, stole his girlfriend. Ellen, who knew nothing about Adrian’s powers or thirst for blood until she was snatched away by his sadistic sister, now finds herself prisoner in a world where not even her thoughts are private.

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Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, #10)During Dead in the Family, Sookie is still dealing with the physical and emotional fallout from the Fae War. Sookie’s boyfriend, Eric, is having difficulties with Louisiana’s new vampire power structure, and her friend and employer, Sam, is facing increased scrutiny now that shapeshifters have made themselves publicly known. Sookie faces ambitious vampires and vengeful fairies, and is also drawn back into drama surrounding the Shreveport wolf pack, all while many of her strongest allies are distracted with troubles of their own.

This review doesn’t include any major spoilers for this book, though I will bring up a few more of the many, many plotlines than the cover blurb does – because it would be hard for me to write much about this book without them. Those who don’t want to hear what could be thought of as light spoilers should read no further, and of course you shouldn’t read this review at all if you haven’t finished the previous Sookie books.

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During all of Cassandra Palmer’s short reign as Pythia, the world’s most powerful clairvoyant and time traveler, factions in the supernatural community have been fighting to control or destroy her. Now Cassie is trying to stop the plans of her most powerful enemy yet – a supernatural being who was once worshiped as a god. She faces attacks, accidents, and even a magical disaster, all while having her usual arguments with the allies who want to keep her safely away from the action.

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You can read Conquistador de la Noche, a short story by Carrie Vaughn, over at the Subterranean Press website. It’s about the background of a character from her Kitty Norville series, but it works fine as a standalone story so even those who haven’t read her books yet should check it out.

deadandgoneDead and Gone begins with the weres and shapeshifters revealing their existence to the world. As one shifter changes her shape on live television, many others transform in front of their friends, customers, and even unsuspecting family members. Reactions are mixed, but many humans seem willing to try to accept their newly outed neighbors. Then a werepanther is found crucified behind Merlotte’s Bar.

Everyone in town wonders if the killer was an anti-supernatural fanatic or if there was a more personal motive. The local investigation is assisted by a pair of FBI agents with a keen interest in Sookie, so she has to be even more careful than usual about hiding her telepathic talent.

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In White Witch, Black Curse, Rachel and her partners team up with the FIB on a hunt for the dangerous Interlander that attacked her friend Glenn and left him for dead. It’s a difficult job, especially considering that Rachel is also trying to uphold her bargain with Al, deal with the fallout of her damaged reputation, defend her choices to her brother, evaluate the possibility of a new relationship, and face a ghost from her past, all on top of the standard level of roommate drama. Oh, and she’s also still trying to find the person responsible for the murder that’s been (rather cruelly in my opinion) left hanging since the end of For a Few Demons More.

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