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30 May 2010 @ 03:36 pm
Book Thoughts: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris  
So I just finished reading Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris.



It was okay. It was a light read and Sookie is a likeable character. Actually, I found all the characters pretty good, and unique, and the plot was decent. But I was surprised to find that I was more disappointed with it than I thought I would be. I think she has a great casual voice and I can hear her characters having that charming southern twang. I liked the atmosphere and the characters felt real. I just didn't get as hooked on it as I thought I might, given how many people love the Sookie Stackhouse books.

Maybe it's because I'm not a big vampire fan. Don't know. I thought Bill and the vampires were fascinating characters, but I wasn't sold on the romance between Sookie and Bill. It seemed more like just sex to me. Which gets me going on another topic.

The sex scenes were non-explicit and fairly tame, but I question the need for so many of them. I'm actually not against sex scenes. 99% of the time I think they are unnecessary because they hinder the plot, but I could see a couple of these as plot driven scenes. Others just seemed there for the sake of being there. So for me, the middle of the book dragged. I just wanted to get back to the murder investigation.

Also, I don't understand why female leads have to have like a half a dozen men falling all over them. I don't like it, and I haven't liked it for a long time. I understand there was rationale for it later in the book, after she had changed somewhat after consuming vampire blood, but I picked up on that vibe early on in the book as well. I think I would enjoy a book with a female lead who didn't have a bunch of guys panting over her.

So, aside from those issues, I thought it was an enjoyable book. I would probably read another, though I don't have the rush to immediately go seek one out. I'm actually far more interested in reading more of the Dresden series, as I enjoyed the first book of Butcher's series far more than I enjoyed Harris' first book of her series. Maybe the subsequent books are better.

So whenever I get around to the next one, I'll see if I like it better. I'm definitely in no hurry though, and I'm not enticed to watch True Blood from it.
 
 
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Working for the Mandroid: Legendarymoonshayde on May 30th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, that happens in the book. She saves his life, she thinks it's funny he has a normal name, and she likes that she isn't bombarded with his thoughts. And that was interesting to me. I really, really liked the beginning.

Then it sort of went off in a direction of yay! I can have amazing sex with a vampire! I would have been far more intrigued if the book had ventured more into exploring getting to know such an elusive character. But instead they just had a lot of sex, had issues, and she had guys hit on her.

Also, of course, the plot focused on a crazy guy going around strangling women and having sex with their dead bodies.

*sigh*
Gategrrl: Takes the Dumpgategrrl on May 30th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
I read through the first three of the Stackhouse series, and I think I skimmed through two more (I picked them up at a used Library bookstore!).

I liked the voice, too, but as the series went on, I didn't like the increasingly unhealthy and twisted relationship between Sookie and her vamp-lover, and her other vamp-lover. The relationships are treated as unhealthy and codependent, but that doesn't mean they aren't fetishized at the same time, if you know what I mean.

I have the same complaints about female characters in urban fantasy and its variations. I think it's because of the Romance origins of much of vampire/urban fantasy lore. Not all urban fantasy (at least, the "legitimate" urban fantasy of the type written before this kind took off). Why do they have to have tons of guys falling over them and panting after them? ALL.THE.TIME?

I actually wrote a vent-post on this about urban fantasy a few months ago. I'm also sick and tired of the dom-sub relationships that uf tends to reiterate until it's dead in the water. (maybe that should be the title of the next Stackhouse book...)

I can see this variety of urban fantasy having a large crash in a couple of years. It'll always be *around*, but not in force the way it is now.

I hate to sound sexist, but uf should be labelled as "urban fantasy ROMANCE". I really am not overly fond of Romance weaseling its way into my fantasy books. I hates it.
Working for the Mandroid: Angel Trapmoonshayde on May 30th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
Oh geez, she gets another vampire lover?

What gets me is that I don't mind romance. I don't even mind a good romance triangle. And I don't mind romantic elements in my fantasy or whatever I am reading.

I just get tired of seeing female leads being this major object of affection for a large number of guys. I don't care if they are pretty or not. It just rubs me the wrong way. Can't there be something else? I don't see this as much with the male characters.

Because instead of seeing strong, female character . or normal female characters, I see women fetished as overly sexual beings, even if they aren't meant to be that way.

This is my genre. This is what I hope to be querying in by the end of the year.

And it just makes me pull my hair.
Gategrrlgategrrl on May 30th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
I should amend what I said a little bit. I don't mind some romance in my fantasy; but I think my views are closer to yours than I thought at first (we tend to have something of the same tastes, I think, or at least the same definitions of "good").

You're absolutely right: female protagonists are often fetishized--on the covers, in the text...
Gategrrlgategrrl on May 30th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
With Bill's boss, or, um, superior. There's a lot of titillation that goes on. Sookie DOES "take charge" at the end of one of the books, but that doesn't negate all the sadly codependent, abusive relationships that go on in the meantime.

Makes you genuinely appreciate YA fantasy books.
Working for the Mandroidmoonshayde on May 30th, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
Is it that Eric guy? Or someone else I haven't met yet?

I think this might be why the YA books have more range. They tend to have larger appeal in terms of finding something anyone can like.

I find myself getting so annoyed with many of the current fantasy tropes.
Seisachtheiaclaudiapriscus on May 30th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
You know, I practically have nothing to say now, because you've basically said it all.

I used to love Urban Fantasy to death. I loved how it wasn't bound by genre conventions, and was free to mix and match tropes to its heart's content. It made things interesting, and less predictable.

But then at some point all the other genres moved in, so instead of having a book that was "kind of this, with a bit of that, and also some of this" you had "romance novel, except he's a VAMPIRE!" and "chick-lit book, except she now can see GHOSTS!" and "Spy thriller, except with FAIRIES!" They just were all the exact same things they always were, just with the monster of the week copy-pasted in.

And with the way things are marketed, it's so hard to tell them apart from the real deal until you actually start reading them.
Spiletta42: Max/Loganspiletta42 on May 30th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
Also, I don't understand why female leads have to have like a half a dozen men falling all over them

That drives me crazy as well. As a way to prove the female protagonist is special or worthy or whatever, it's made of fail.

Have you read Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold? She knows how to do a female protagonist the right way. Plus, no wedged-in sex scenes.
Working for the Mandroid: No Matter Whatmoonshayde on May 30th, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
It happens so much in my fave genre that it gets old quick.

No, I haven't read that one. I'll have to check it out.
ldyanneldyanne on May 30th, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
Lois MacMasters Bujold is awesome! Love her.
ldyanneldyanne on May 30th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
I have exactly your opinion of the Sookie Stackhouse books (I'm on the third one). I have friends who absolutely adore them and I'm just not seeing it. I just don't get what's so special about her that men are falling all over themselves for her. *shrugs*

I do by far prefer the Dresden books (I'm all caught up.) I really find Dresden an absorbing, ever-changing character with some of the most fascinating extra characters ever!!
Working for the Mandroid: Carside SamDeanmoonshayde on May 30th, 2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
I'm going to be reading the second book in the Dresden series this week. I'm looking forward to it. I enjoyed the first one enough.
Gategrrl: T-rex Close Upgategrrl on May 30th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
Love,loveLOVELOVELOVE the Dresden books. Jim Butcher really knows how to write a series and keep his characters interesting. ALL of them.
Gategrrl: T-rex Close Upgategrrl on May 30th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)
Oh, and he has 23? or 25? books planning in the Dresden series. Wow! He's only half-way through!
ldyanneldyanne on May 30th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
I know! I'm all caught up on the current book, so now I'm forced to wait with everyone else for the next book to come out ;-(

He doesn't have the greatest characters ever!
     Mandya_phoenixdragon on May 30th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
*hugs*
Naomi: Allison on Riese by krissie678frelling_tralk on May 30th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
Yeah I couldn't really get into them. I was surprised because I normally love vampire novels, but Idk I thought they were a pretty light read and gave up on them after the first two books. I didn't really find the author that great, so I was surprised at how popular they are
Working for the Mandroid: alec smilemoonshayde on June 1st, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
I found that I really enjoy something fun and light, and I liked her casual voice, but the plot just didn't grab me. And I couldn't buy the relationship. it surprised me considering how popular the books are.
Seisachtheiaclaudiapriscus on May 30th, 2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
I found the books to be kind of fluffy fun when they first came out. I'm not a fan of vampires, but I was willing to go with it. And at first, the author started to add some potentially interesting elements, so I kept reading. But they never really seemed to go anywhere, and I got a bit tired of the Man of the Week Who is Almost Certainly a Bad Idea.


The last book I read in the series involved Sookie doing something so obviously idiotic that she should know better about I just put the book down and walked away. I mean, either she's too dumb to live, in which case I'm not interested, or she's falling into the category of "female characters who secretly want to be dominated and forced into things against their will" which *really* doesn't interest me. (it's like a zombie of a romance trope! It was dead, but then rose again to terrorize the urban fantasy genre.)

I think the author has gotten a little burned out on the series to boot.

If you want something else to try, I recommend Karen Chance. Her series really surprised me. On the surface, it seems to fit into the same genre, but then it goes and does very interesting things.
Working for the Mandroid: Dean Rebelmoonshayde on June 1st, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC)
This is why I don't think long running series is a good idea. I'm sure some authors can pull it off, but they scream burn out. Authors get pressured to release more and more, and it out lives the viability of the series itself, you know? Though in this case even the first book was a hard sell on me. It's a shame since I am actively looking for stuff on the lighter side. I need funny to go with my angst.

Is the Karen Chance heavy stuff or does she sway light? A mix of both?
Seisachtheiaclaudiapriscus on June 1st, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
I would say she's more on the adventure/humor side of things than the angst side of things. A least in the Cassie Palmer series. Dorina tends to angst a bit more, but the books are not inherently angsty; she just is.

But damn, a good deal of the Cassie books takes place in a hell-themed (and supernatural-run) casino in las vegas. Complete with zombie floor shows and an incubus-run spa.

The books are in the first person, but the author does a good job of hinting at the character's blind spots. There's a scene where she's hanging out with a bunch of vampires...and up to that point, you're just a bit wary of them because she is, but not too wary, because her wariness is more "I'm getting pulled into a game of politics, and that guy, while sexy, is undoubtedly turning on the charm in order to manipulate me" than "OMG, monsters." But then in the very same scene, there'll be things that are going on that send home the message that while she may be desensitized, there's actually freaky, horrifying stuff going on. It's well done. There are a lot of mafia comparisons, and it works. For all the 'sexy', there's no whitewashing of how awful parts of it are.

The first book was pretty good but I didn't get really hooked until the third, when some of the rougher parts of the first book (apparent dropped plot elements and a few random details) suddenly become signs of brilliance.
Muse Chaser: Writing_DrWho|Snoopyplatysseus on May 31st, 2010 02:23 am (UTC)
I usually try to avoid vampire things (unless it's Whedon or Kripke stuff) as I just don't have interest in those creatures. Whedon helped me understand the love for them better, but he didn't influence me.

Also, I don't understand why female leads have to have like a half a dozen men falling all over them
*feels a tad guilty* That seems to be the running minor-theme in all but one of my novels. The reasons for it are different each time. Re: my trilogy, it just happens to be a consequence of being the daughter of the most difficult man to find. Just about everyone in the higher classes is interested in her (& her brother) for one reason or another. But they're not exactly panting; at least 2 of the 4 are plotting. ;)
Working for the Mandroid: Fan Apocalypsemoonshayde on June 1st, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
I never minded vamps in Whedon's shows (and I have no big love for him) and I like them fine on SPN.

I think when it comes to guys chasing the female lead, it comes down to how it's handled. If it's for plot reasons--she has something they need or they want to use her to get to someone else--I'm a bit kinder. But in so many stories it seems like a dozen or so men fall head over heels in love with the main female lead and that just annoys me to no end.
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Working for the Mandroid: Dean Facemoonshayde on June 1st, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
I was willing to give Bill a try in the book, even if I didn't buy the relationship between him and Sookie. But I hear he's pretty much thrown under the bus later in the series, and I don't know what.
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Working for the Mandroid: archaeologistmoonshayde on June 1st, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
I don't even know if I'll make it to the second. It drives me nuts because I actually like her voice and style, but the relationship isn't working for me. I peeked ahead to see what the next books are about, and while some sound intriguing, it's the "men falling all over her" part that is shying me away. And I just don't get the relationships!

Book 1 makes it seem like Sookie and Bill are the it couple, and whether I like Bill or not it just seems odd so much focus is on them and then...she shifts directions a few times.
brijeana: LOTS - Reading is Magicbrijeana on June 1st, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
Oooh I'm excited to hear your thoughts about the book. chatchien and I were talking about how Supernatural and True Blood both combine the supernatural with blue collar characters and working class atmosphere.

I have a friend who loves the books so I've been meaning to check them out. My sister says the show pretty much fails to capture the southern feel.

Between my Anne Rice phase and Buffy I'm kind of over vampires.

Working for the Mandroid: Legendarymoonshayde on June 1st, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I like how SPN does that and expected to like it in the Sookie books, but I just didn't. SPN has handled it much better for my enjoyment.

I haven't watched True Blood so I guess I can't really comment on that.

I'm not much of a vampire gal myself, though, so maybe that is part of the problem.