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.

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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deadandgoneDead and Gone┬ábegins 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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The latest Charlaine Harris book is All Together Dead. It’s centered around the long-awaited vampire summit, which Sookie attends as an employee of Louisiana’s vampire queen. Between the events of the previous book and the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana delegation is in a precarious position. They face danger from other groups at the summit as well as from anti-vamp fanatics.

I read this book as slowly as I was able, since it’s one of my favorite series. Then as soon as I finished, I read it again. I rarely do that, but this is probably one of my favorite books in the series so far. There’s a good mix of story, action, and character development, the events of the summit don’t completely overwhelm everything else the way I was worried that they might.

One of my favorite things about this series is the way that Sookie’s choices always have very real consequences on her life. In All Together Dead, Sookie is dealing with her strange position with the vampires, trying to sort out her love life (as usual), and facing some social repercussions from being so involved in the supernatural world.

I’m really happy with the way these books have continued to develop. Now that Sookie is involved so deeply with the vampires, the tension between supernatural beings and humans seems to be increasing. Sookie’s personal life is also getting more high-stakes. She has two powerful, dangerous men confused about their feelings for her, and with each book she seems to gain more enemies.

I know I’m not the only one who wishes Mrs. Harris could write faster.

I re-read this yesterday because I’m planning on picking up the new Sookie Stackhouse book today.

Some backstory of Definitely Dead is included in the short story “One Word Answer” from the Bite anthology. Those who haven’t read it will still be able to follow Definitely Dead just fine, but unfortunately it’s a necessary purchase for those who want everything Sookie. (I say unfortunately because aside from the Harris story the rest of Bite is either more romance than paranormal or just plain bad.)

In the story, Sookie travels to New Orleans to settle the affairs of her estranged, twice-dead vampire cousin, Hadley. She becomes wrapped up in events at the court of Louisiana’s vampire queen and is, as usual, in over her head. With the help of a new guy, Sookie manages to not die while surrounded with vampire drama and dealing with the repercussions of earlier events.

Spoilers follow, so don’t continue reading if you haven’t finished the book yet.

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