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Charlaine Harris – Dead Until Dark

August 12, 2009

92. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (2001)
Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 1

Length: 292 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Chick-Lit, Romance, Mystery

Started: 30 July 2009
Finished: 02 August 2009

Where did it come from? Borrowed from a friend.
Why do I have it? I am massively addicted to the TV show True Blood and figured I’d have to read the books eventually.

Reading minds: not all
it’s cracked up to be. Best
chance for love? Vampires!

Summary: Sookie Stackhouse is a small-town Louisiana waitress who’s lived her whole life with a “disability”: telepathic powers that let her read minds whether she wants to or not, which have put a major crimp on her social life. She’s not the only supernatural being hanging around town, though: thanks to the invention of synthetic bottled blood, vampires have recently made themselves known to the public. When one comes into the bar where Sookie works, she think’s he’s handsome, and thoroughly intriguing… she can’t hear his thoughts, no matter how hard she tries. Bill finds her equally attractive, but dating a vampire is not without its problems – there are other vampires who are much less willing to “mainstream” into mortal life intent on stirring up trouble for Bill, and their small town also seems to have itself a serial killer… one who’s preying on women who associate with vampires.

Review: This is going to be one of those reviews where, try as I might, I can’t just discuss the book on its own merits, but wind up spending the entire time comparing it to the TV show. I got hooked on True Blood earlier this summer, and I absolutely love it, so taking a step back and looking as the book just as a book is going to be hard.

(On the flip-side, the fact that I’m a big fan of the show meant that this was the *perfect* book to read while moving. After each of several extraordinarily long and wearing days, I was exhausted and too keyed-up either to sleep, or to pay attention to anything. Having this book on hand, where I already knew exactly what was going to happen, and already knew (and loved) all of the characters, was exactly what was needed to get my tired, worn-out brain to calm down enough to sleep.)

So, to talk about just the book: Honestly, it’s a little bit of a jumble, like it can’t quite decide what it wants to be or what it wants to be about. It’s about a mind-reading girl… no, wait, it’s a vampire romance… no, wait, there’s also this murderer… no, wait… With all of the worldbuilding Harris has to do (and does excellently), and all of the characters to introduce, the plot elements don’t always get the attention they deserve, and they don’t always feel like they connect perfectly smoothly. The writing itself isn’t anything to get worked up about, either – there were a few turns of phrase that caught my ear badly, but for the most part it got the job done and then faded into the background and let the characters come to the fore.

And the characters, oh, man, that’s where this book shines. The plot’s jumbled, and the writing’s nothing remarkable, and the whole thing pretty much reeks of silly, campy fun, but the characters are just so interesting and sympathetic that it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in their story. Whether that would still be true if I hadn’t watched the TV show, I can’t say for sure… but I suspect it would.

Okay, so, can I talk about the book vis-a-vis the TV show now? I can’t say how I’d feel about things if I’d read the book first, but reading the book second was a little bizarre. So many scenes and conversations in the show are lifted almost shot-for-shot and word-for-word from the book that every time there was even a minor discrepancy, it stood out hugely. Like… vampires can levitate as well as do the zoomy-running? Sam’s blond? Rene is one of Arlene’s ex-husbands? Lafayette’s last name is Reynold instead of Reynolds? (I can’t say why, but that bugged me way more than the change of one little letter should.) And then there were the big things… like where the heck was Tara? I understand that they needed some more material to flesh out a relatively light book into 12 hours of TV, but Tara is one of my favorite characters (heck, they’re all kind of my favorite characters, but Tara especially so), and to discover that she’s missing from the book was kind of disappointing.

So, overall, while not perfect, Dead Until Dark was just what I needed: fun, slightly trashy, not terribly intellectual reading that contains an interesting world, great characters, a good romance, and enough mystery and horror to spice things up a bit. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I don’t read enough urban fantasy to judge the merits of Dead Until Dark against the rest of its genre, but if you’re in the mood for some paranormal-romance-flavored brain candy, it should fit the bill nicely. And if you want some eye candy to go along with your brain candy, I’d highly recommend watching True Blood, as well. :)

I will certainly be reading the second book, but I think I want to wait until the second season is over. From what I understand, the second season departs from the books more than did the first season, and I’m worried that watching half, then reading the book, then watching the other half is just going to mess me up. In about a month from now, though, watch out!

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Another Great Read, Ashley’s Library, Arch Thinking, Avid Book Reader, Best Fantasy Stories, Blacklin’s Reading Room Reviews, The Book Smugglers, Booking Mama, Bookish, Bookworm’s Dinner, Books by their Cover, Books and Other Thoughts, Ciara Stewart, Cindy’s Love of Books, Confessions of a Bibliophile, Desert Rose Booklogue, The Eclectic Reader, Everyday Reads, I’m Booking It, Just One More Page, Life in the Thumb, Lous Pages, Love Vampires, MariReads, Medieval Bookworm, Melissa’s Bookshelf, Melody’s Reading Corner, Mervi’s Book Reviews, The Novel World, Once Upon a Bookshelf, Paperback Passion, Passion for the Page, Pop Culture Junkie, Racy Romance Reviews, A Reader’s Respite, Reading Adventures, Reading Comes from Writing, Romance Rookie, S. Krishna’s Books, Scooper Speaks, Serendipity, Stella Matutina, Stephanie’s Written Word, Storytime with Tonya and Friends, VVB32 Reads, Whimpulsive, Working Title, Yule Time Reading,
*Whew!* Have you reviewed this book and I missed it? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 6: “Since vampire blood was supposed to temporarily relieve symptoms of illness and increase sexual potency, kind of like prednisone and Viagra rolled into one, there was a huge black market for genuine, undiluted vampire blood.” – an analogue of cortisone, used as an anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive, and antineoplastic in the treatment of various diseases.
15 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2009 8:12 am

    I hope to read this soon for the Sookie challenge. I’ve never seen True Blood, so all I’m expecting is a light, fun read.

  2. August 12, 2009 10:45 am

    I have been trying to decide whether I want to watch True Blood. I like vampire stories – though it’s possible there have been a surfeit of them in the world lately – but as a South Louisiana girl, I sometimes get frustrated listening to actors try to do Southern accents. I couldn’t even finish The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – I was too busy going, “Humph, this is very inauthentic,” at the screen. :P

    They’re from Monroe though, aren’t they? I may have less patriotic righteousness about the way North Louisiana people talk…

  3. August 12, 2009 12:02 pm

    I need to give this series another try. I must say I am not a huge fan of the cover change. I liked the other ones better… They were different.

  4. August 12, 2009 4:28 pm

    Thank you for the link to my review.
    @Kailana: I’m with you on the cover art. I like the “old” style best. They are different and those covers are what caught my eye on the bookshelf in the first place. I don’t watch the series. I’m happy with just the books.

  5. August 12, 2009 7:45 pm

    Thanks for the link to my review.
    I haven’t read the second book yet…. I need to catch up on it soon!

  6. August 12, 2009 8:13 pm

    I didn’t read your whole review, because I’m planning on reading this in the future, but that book always makes me feel like licking my own lips, or making sure there isn’t a dribble of blood there myself =P

  7. August 13, 2009 1:58 pm

    I want to read some of these books too. Thanks for the great review, and especially the comparison!

  8. August 15, 2009 2:40 pm

    I read the book before the show and loved it. I also love the show. But now I’m re-reading for the Harris challenge and I find myself being much too critical. Like you I am very much missing Tara, she really added a lot to the story as a whole.

  9. August 15, 2009 11:49 pm

    Great review! I am doing the Sookie challenge, too, and I really want to start reading those soon! I’ve watched True Blood so far and loved it, hopefully I’ll like the books too.

  10. August 16, 2009 7:56 pm

    Hrm. Maybe it’s because I haven’t watched the TV show, but I found this book borderline unbearable and have no desire to read any more in the series or watch the show. The writing really is bad – I alternated between laughing and groaning out loud as I read it – and I HATED Sookie – she reminded me too much of Bella, but with reading minds instead of being clumsy. I liked the idea of vampires being a part of “normal” human society, but that was pretty much it.

    It’s probably just something wrong with me, though, as every other person I’ve talked to about this series loves it and doesn’t understand why I didn’t. Oh, well.

  11. August 16, 2009 9:44 pm

    I thought this was a fun book, but it didn’t exactly blow me out of the water. I’m really looking forward to seeing the show, though; it seems like the sort of thing that would transfer to film really, really well.

    I reviewed it a couple of months back; it’s here. I’ve added yours to my list.

  12. August 18, 2009 7:50 pm

    bermudaonion – Good expectations to have!

    Jenny – They are supposed to be from near Monroe, yes… although among the five main characters in the first season, you’ve got a Brit, a Canadian, and an Australian all trying their hand at a Louisiana accent. :)

    Kailana & blacklin – I agree – this cover feels right for the DVDs but the old book covers just looked a lot more individual.

    Melody – I’m waiting for S2 to be over to read the second book, but the box set of books on Amazon is SO tempting.

    Sharry – Ha ha! The cover makes me wonder how she keeps her lipstick that neat while she’s drinking blood. :)

    rhapsodyinbooks – The books are good fun, perfect for summer or plane reading.

    Joanne – It also bothered me how kind of horrible Jason was in the books when he manages to play so charming in the show.

    kay – I’ll be interested to hear what another TV-then-book person has to say about it!

    Jessi – Aww, that’s a shame. Personally I don’t think Sookie’s nearly as bad as Bella, but she’s also not one of my favorite characters, either, so.

    Memory – The story does transfer to film really well; it’s not particularly effects-heavy (mostly just fangs popping in and out, and fast-motion “vampire speed”.) Plus it doesn’t hurt that they cast a bunch of really attractive people in just about every role. ;)

  13. August 19, 2009 2:28 am

    Hmm…I have been way too scared to read the books. I love True Blood so much that I don’t want to be disappointed.

    Your review makes it sound like it may be worth a read after all. Will try it if it ever comes my way


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