Book Review: Dead Until Dark (Meet Sookie Stackhouse, a Favourite Book Heroine of Mine)

I started reading the “True Blood” books five or six years ago after catching the first season of the TV adaptation. Charlaine Harris’s depiction of the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, her smart, unique leading lady, Sookie Stackhouse, and the vampire shenanigans drew me in from the opening pages. I enjoyed hanging out at Merlotte’s bar with Sookie, Sam, Arlene and the other residents of Bon Temps.

dead until darkTaking advantage of the recent hint of sunshine, I spent my lunch breaks and the weekend sitting outside with Dead Until Dark and a cup of tea, going back to the beginning of Sookie’s story. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed this series, and I’ll be diving into the second book soon.

Sooke Stackhouse – the heart of Dead Until Dark and the rest of the series

Sookie Stackhouse is a twenty-five year old virgin. She spends most of her time waitressing at a bar in town and lives with her grandmother, who raised her after her parents died when Sookie was still a child. Sookie wouldn’t mind some romance in her life. Heaven knows her grandmother wants her to find someone badly, even a vampire will do. But there’s a problem. Sookie is a telepath. When she gets up close and personal with a man, it’s hard to avoid “hearing” him, which kind of puts a kink in any romantic relationship she might like to explore. Who wants to hear what a man is really thinking when you’re getting intimate?

Sookie doesn’t hold out much hope for a love life, that is until the vampire Bill Compton strolls into Merlotte’s one night. For the first time in Sookie’s life, she hears nothing but blissful silence when she’s near a man. She can’t read his thoughts. The relief is palpable.

The Gist of the Story
Just as Sookie’s love life starts to look up, a string of murders in town has people on edge. Women are being killed, and it’s not clear if the culprit is human or vampire. As the police try to figure out what’s going on in their small town, Sookie does her own investigating, kicking off the beginning of what will be a long association with the supernatural community.

Vampire Background

In this series, vampires have “come out of the coffin”. The world has known of their existence for a few years now, and most people are still getting used to the presence of the undead. Some folks aren’t too keen on vampire-human couples. On the opposite end of the spectrum are fang-bangers, humans who enjoy being intimate with vampires and allowing them to feed on them.

The Characters
A lot of this book mirrors the beginning of the TV show True Blood and I did find myself picturing Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer as Sookie and Bill.
Sookie is a ballsy chick and a good person, a woman you’d like to have as a friend, and her mind reading gift makes for some interesting scenarios. Bill is an old-school gentleman who was turned around the time of the Civil War but he bears a lascivious streak that comes out every so often – a combination which had me smirking from time to time. He’s more of a bad boy here than he is in the TV show and I found him pretty attractive.

I really warmed to Sam in this book. I can’t remember liking him so much the first time round, but he’s a decent man, protective of his staff, especially Sookie who he fancies, and has a quiet strength and subtle air of danger. He’s probably the wisest choice of boyfriend for Sookie, and it helps that she can’t read his thoughts as clearly as she can others.
I enjoyed the first glimpse of the Viking Eric and Pam at Fangtasia. Sookie’s womanising brother, Jason, and her best friend at Merlotte’s, Arlene, rounded out the cast nicely.

Setting
Small town settings have always held appeal for me. Bon Temps has an interesting mix of characters, both of the human and non-human variety. The descriptions of Sookie’s home, the long driveway up to the house and the graveyard nearby helped me get a vivid picture of the rural landscape in my mind.

Conclusion

Dead Until Dark
is plain good fun. If you’re after something serious, look elsewhere. This is a summer beach read. If you haven’t read these books yet, think about picking up this one for some light-hearted entertainment, and enjoy spending time with Sookie and the folks of Bon Temps. ****

Have you read this series by Charlaine Harris or seen the TV show? What do you think of Ms. Stackhouse?

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Friday Music: Songs from the Movies

As a teenager I had a pretty impressive CD collection of movie and TV soundtracks. To this day, I still love watching the Top 100 Movie Songs on VH1 and MTV. Hearing a song like “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits on the radio takes me back to my teen years when my friends and I would watch Empire Records, drink Bacardi Breezers (the orange flavour) and crash at a friend’s house whose backyard happened to look out onto a spooky graveyard. A pretty good setting for a girl who loved watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Music can elevate a mediocre film to something good. Take Fifty Shades of Grey for example. Thanks to Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You do” and Beyonce’s slow version of “Crazy in Love”, this film was a lot more enjoyable to watch.

For tonight, I’ve chosen a few songs from films I always enjoy listening to. The list is pretty random; these were the first to pop into my head when I thought of doing this post.

“Even Angels Fall” by Jessica Riddle from 10 Things I Hate About You.

“Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb from Reality Bites. I could have picked so many songs from this film: “My Sharona”, “Locked Out,” “I’m Nuthin'”…, but this one is my favourite. I loved this song long before I’d ever seen Reality Bites.

“Promentory” – from The Last of the Mohicans. Epic film. Half the characters die while this song is played. It’s a tragic scene set to beautiful music. I always get the goosebumps when watching this part. Here’s that scene.

“Good Enough” by Cyndi Lauper – from The Goonies.

“Higher Love” by Steve Winwood – from Big Business.

“Man in Motion” by John Parr – from St. Elmo’s Fire.

Others I love: “Twist and Shout” – from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Take My Breath Away” from TopGun, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop us Now” from Mannequin, “It Must Have Been Love” from Pretty Woman, “Eyes on Fire” from Twilight, “Hungry Eyes” from Dirty Dancing, “Show me Heaven” from Days of Thunder, and the list goes on and on and on.

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I could keep writing , but those were the first that came to mind. Are you a fan of any of these? Have you seen these films?

What are some of your favourite songs from the movies?

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Film Review: As Above, So Below – Best Horror I’ve Seen in a While

The ingredients of this film are delicious. An archaeologist searching for the philosopher’s stone, a trek underground into the catacombs of Paris, the documentary feel thanks to the “found footage” filming method, and a cast of characters I was rooting for – unusual for me when it comes to horror movies.

asaboveThe scares take a while to come along but the journey is worth it. We start with Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) in Iran, chasing down a lead from her dead father into a system of caves about to be blown up. She knocks through a wall and finds a statue probably unseen by human eyes for thousands of years, photographs the inscriptions and manages, in the nick of time, to escape with her life.

The drawings lead her to Paris where she tracks down her old pal George (Ben Feldman) who’s handy when it comes to translating ancient languages. With his help, Scarlett is certain the philosopher’s stone is hidden in a secret part of the catacombs no one has set foot in in hundreds of years.

As Above, So Below is mix of Indiana Jones, The Descent, The DaVinci Code and found footage films of the horror variety, not a bad combination. Like The Descent, this film effectively captures the claustrophobia of the tight caverns and the suffocating atmosphere that comes from being deep underground. When one of the crew actually gets stuck attempting to crawl through a narrow space, I watched with my stomach clenched, feeling his panic as if it was my own.

As the horror elements kick in, and Scarlett and her fellow explorers run into one hellish thing after another, I couldn’t help but think of a haunted house of horrors you’d find in a carnival. I was right there with them, huddled against the wall, afraid to look around the next corner. The references to Dante’s Inferno gave me chills. As Above, So Below got me Googling “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” For the most part, this was a decent film. Some of the scary stuff at the end was unnecessary and felt forced, but didn’t take away from the creepy setting and the overall ominous atmosphere.

One major plus: The film crew actually got permission to shoot in the catacombs. It’s not a set.

I had a quick look on YouTube at the trailer, thinking I’d post it here, but nope. Please, please do not watch the trailer. It shows the whole story. Arg. This modern thing of trailers revealing every twist and turn is a pet peeve of mine. Does anyone remember the days when a trailer was about 10 seconds long, simply an intriguing teaser? Okay, I’m taking a deep breath now before the vein in my head pops. Here’s a short clip instead.

Overall, As Above, So Below is very enjoyable. Hopefully I’ve persuaded some of you to check it out?  

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Introducing PAPER GOLD PUBLISHING and its first author

Emma:

My friend Ella Medler has set up her own publishing company. Congratulations, Ella. I know with your talent you’ll do brilliantly.
If you have a free moment, pop over to check out Paper Gold Publishing.

Originally posted on ellamedler:

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Paper Gold Publishing is a royalty-paying publisher with international reach, where the focus is on the author.

Click on the link to see what we do, and help us spread the word. We are now open for submissions.

While I’ve got your attention, I would also like to introduce PGP’s first traditionally published author:

BRUCE BLAKE

WHEN-SHADOWS-FALL-FULL

I first edited for Bruce in June 2012. All I can say is that he is an author of huge potential, and absolute master of the craft, and his books are a joy to read. You will not want to put them down. I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Over the years, Bruce’s writing has won him the Life Changing Read Award, and his books continue to wow fans of the fantasy genre.

Today, When Shadows Fall, the first book in the Small Gods Series, has been made available on all Amazon sites and also…

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Edinburgh: A City Steeped in History

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Photo taken by my sister Lucy from the park below Edinburgh Castle.

I’m already planning my next visit

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Sky view from our balcony the evening we arrived

I visited Edinburgh last weekend (my second time after many years) and while I can’t say I encountered anything supernatural on my trip through this Gothic town and the cobblestones of the Royal Mile, I had no trouble at all imagining this medieval city filled with ghosts. The architecture everywhere you look drops you back into the past, from the Georgian buildings of New Town to the medieval feel of Old Town where Edinburgh Castle rises tall. No wonder this city has been recognised as a World Heritage Site.

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh is a place to be explored at a leisurely pace. Stroll through the grand park below the castle, explore the centuries old headstones in the graveyard of St. Cuthbert’s Church at the foot of the castle, grab a whisky on the Royal Mile or opt for a walking tour. There are many to choose from. Just a few I came across included the Book Lovers Tour, Edinburgh Literary Tour and The Witchery Tour.

The castle sitting high  up on a rock in the middle of town is a jaw dropping sight. My first thought upon seeing this beautifully preserved fortress was “that must be where JK Rowling got her inspiration for Hogwarts.” Look at the photos below. Can’t you imagine Harry and his friends roaming the halls inside?

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I took a ghost tour on a freezing Saturday night. 27 people turned up despite the cold and we huddled together for warmth as our guide, Katie, led us from St. Giles’ Cathedral to the nearby Greyfriars cemetery. With the graveyard cloaked in darkness, it wasn’t difficult for her to create a spooky atmosphere as she took us through Edinburgh’s bloody and tragic past and warned us about the MacKenzie Poltergeist said to haunt one of the tombs in the locked part of the cemetery only tour guides from City of the Dead Tours had access to.

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Somehow, despite my best intentions, I ended up at the back of the group inside the tomb, fearfully wondering if the cold draft around my legs was ghostly in origin as Katie explained how poltergeists grow from fear. I linked my sisters’ arms on either side of me, only relaxing again as we left the tomb and the Covenanter’s Prison section of the cemetery behind. We went for a few pints in a local pub afterwards to ward off the chill from the late graveyard walk. One negative about the tour – Katie ruined the story of Greyfriars Bobby, the dog who sat for 14 years on his Master’s grave. I won’t go into it here, but grrr.

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Royal Mile. Top right = view from outside the castle. 

 

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Have you been to Edinburgh? Does the city appeal to you? What’s your favourite city in the world to visit?

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