Books with Bite: What to Read While Waiting for True Blood

There’s no True Blood Retro this week because libraries have something called “˜lending limits’ and “˜only two renewals,’ so I’m waiting for my DVDs to cycle back around again. While we’re all waiting for whomever that other person is bogarting the season 1 set to return it, let’s read something!

Souther Vampire Mysteries
Sookie's Series

The obvious place to start is with The Southern Vampire Mysteries, the series True Blood is based on. Book 11, Dead Reckoning, in the series is due to be released May 3. If you haven’t been reading the novels, it is not imperative to start with Dead Until Dark (book one), especially if you’ve been watching the series. The stories are similar enough that you can jump into the book world and know more or less what’s going on. However, those of you who hate spoilers will want to avoid Dead to the World, which is the novel the fourth season of the show will be loosely based on.

Nominal plot summary: Small town waitress and telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, finds her worldview blown apart after she becomes embroiled in a romance with a vampire. Vampires, werewolves, and witches, oh my!

 

The Vampire Lestat
Anne Rice – The Vampire Chronicles

I firmly believe that no lover of the vampire-romance genre should skip over the Gran of that genre, Anne Rice. For my money, the first three novels of The Vampire Chronicles is some of the greatest world-building, vampire-making, subversive-gay-plotting fiction on the market. The series becomes huge and unwieldy after a while, and Lestat goes from loveable, amoral rogue to unbearably self-absorbed jackass, but it’s a good ride while it lasts. You can also, of course, see the two terrible, horrible, no-good movies that were based on the books, Interview with a Vampire and Queen of the Damned. One is saved by a very young Kirsten Dunst as Claudia and long-hair-era Brad Pitt as Louis, while the other has Stuart Townsend in a see-through shirt. And that is the only positive thing anyone has ever had to say about that film.

Nominal plot summary: The series follows the adventures of the amoral Vampire Lestat across the centuries, from his transformation from a vampire fledgling until something more human-than-human. Book one is told from the viewpoint of his former paramour, Louis, though the rest of the novels are either in first person (Lestat) or omniscient narrator style.

 

 

 

Let the right one slip in. And when it does at last, I'd say you were within your rights to bite the right one and say 'what kept you so long'?

Let the Right One In is nominally a romance novel, in so much that there is a vampire and a boy who loves them, but the book is more of the “unsettling” variety over “cloyingly saccharine,” which is often the problem with paranormal romances. The Mary Sue protagonist has been a real pox upon the genre, but if you find anyone who thinks Oskar or Eli are idealized alter egos, you should back away from them. As quickly and safely as you can. The book inspired a fantastic movie that I can recommend as one of the best vampire movies I’ve seen in at least the past decade. There’s an American remake called Let Me In that I have not seen, but is reportedly not too terrible. Let the Right One In is currently available on Netflix Instant.

Nominal plot summary: 12-year old Oskar suffers abuse at school and isolation at home. His life turns around when an odd little girl moves into the apartment next door. She’s the only friend he’s ever been able to make. The slow reveal of Eli’s identity and the actual implications of what it would mean to be a vampire forever trapped in the body of a child sets this story out from others of its ilk. Warning: if you’re bothered by gore or abuse themes, this is not the book for you.

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[E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com. She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

30 thoughts on “Books with Bite: What to Read While Waiting for True Blood”

  1. Also, another series I can recommend is Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. There are no vampires (apart from a brief mention in one of the books) but this is an engaging and entertaining supernatural series, with a dark sense of humour.

    John Taylor is (another!) PI who lives and works in the Nightside – a dark netherworld of London that never sees the sun – where anything and everything exists or is possible. John’s particular talent is that he can find anything, even something that is non-corporeal.

  2. I recommend these two excellent book series that feature vampires within a diverse cast of supernatural creatures.

    Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series.
    Briefly, Harper Blaine is a private detective. Out on a routine visit as part of a job, she is viciously attacked. She is clinically dead for two minutes and soon after, she discovers she can see ghosts and enter the Grey – the ghostworld. Harper’s adventures lead her deeper into the supernatural and vampires play a key role as the plots of each book develops.

    Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.
    Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only practising Wizard, at least, he’s the only one listed in the phone book. Harry is a PI that specialises in the supernatual. He consults to the local police, specifically the team headed by Lt. Karrin Murphy.

    I love, LOVE the Dresden Files. This is a series you wish will never end. Harry is a fascinating and endearing character and there is a strong supporting cast, notably Karrin Murphy.

    1. I tried the first of the Greywalker novels and it really didn’t grab me. I ended up putting it down and forgetting about it. Do they get better or did I just not give it the ole college try?

      I’ve been really enjoying Lilith Saint Crow over the past year.I didn’t include her in the recommendation because she’s not a vampire novelist, but I’ve been reading her YA series ‘Strange Angels’ (which, uh, actually does have vampires in it but I disregarded because I wanted to recommend non-YA books) and the Hunter’s Prayer series, which I really love. The main character in HP feels very flesh and blood — she’s a paranormal hunter for her city who is dealing with her past as a prostitute and the fact that she had to make a deal with a demon to gain the power she needed to be a hunter. I highly recommend them, especially if you like the Dresden Files/Sookie/Greywalker genre.

      1. The Greywalker books, IMO, do fall down in a couple of aspects: humour and pacing. There are too few humourous moments to lighten the often very dark mood. And the pace does plod along at certain points. I don’t think these books are for everone but I also don’t think you’d be wasting your time if you gave them another try. My niece (who’s 21) was also a bit iffy about the first book but once she’d finished it she was much more positive and wants to read the next one.

        The Hunter’s Prayer series sounds interesting. I’ll definitely look into it. Thanks for the tip. :-)

  3. I would really suggest that if someone is missing Sookie and Co, they should pick up Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, about a witch, her vampire roommate, her pixie sidekick, and her elf nemesis in modern-day alternate-history St. Louis. Rachel’s a flawed and appealing heroine and I love, love, love the supporting characters.

    1. Woo hoo! Another Hollows fan here. :-)

      Doesn’t the love between Jenks and Matalina just make you tear up? They’re such an adorable couple. I’m enjoying Rachel’s journey and can’t wait to read what will happen next. The hardcover of Pale Demon is available but I’m trying to wait for the paperback as I have the rest of the series in paperback.

      Don’t you think Algaliarept is a fascinating character?

      1. I ADORE Al! And I was just fondling Pale Demon today at B&N and you reminded me to put it on my library holds list. When there have been deaths in the series, I’ve sobbed, which is pretty rare for me, and I think is a pretty good marker of a well-written series (especially urban fantasy).

        1. I know what you mean. I felt so sad when key characters died.

          Which reminds me, have you read Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series? If not, she’s a part-Native American skinwalker – she changes into a coyote – and has some natural resistence to magic.. She ekes out a living as a mechanic in the garage she owns and is heavily involved (often against her will) in the business of the town’s supernatural residents – werewolves, vampires, the occasional sorceror and the local faerie community.

          It’s a really good series and Mercy Thompson is a very engaging character. Also, she has the sweetest cat – Madea – who loves everyone. :-)

          In book three something truly shocking happens to Mercy and let me tell you, I cried. Those scenes (and ones that followed in book 4) were so sensitively written.

          The books are: Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed, Silver Borne and River Marked. I still need to ger River Marked.

  4. Okay, so these are super old, and actually maybe for kids (except when was Christopher Pike ever really for kids… The Midnight Club anyone?), but The Last Vampire series will stick with me forever. If somewhat vaguely. But nevertheless, at the same time I went through reading everything ever written by Anne Rice, I read these books and loved them equally as much.

  5. I would also highly recommend the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton – at least the first few books, anyways. It’s about a vampire executioner, Anita Blake, who is also an animator, meaning that she can raise the dead. The first few books revolve around investigative work she does for the police, which of course coincide with things that are happening with the vampire/werewolf community. In Anita’s personal life, the vampire Master of the City is madly in love with Anita, as is the Ulfric, the head of the local werewolf pack, and Anita must choose between the two. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your book taste) about half-way through the series the plot lines devolve into just an excuse to get from sex scene to sex scene, but the first half to 3/4 of the series is great.

    1. I debated and debated including the Blake series. I was a big fan of its initial run — I loved hard boiled noir and thought the series did a nice take on it originally — but I feel like the books are so bad and the main character such a Mary Sure harpy that I can not, in good conscious, recommend anyone read them. I’m still embarrassed that I convinced the library I used to work in to invest in buying the series.

      I personally think the last decent book was 6. Where did you fall off the wagon?

      1. See, I really identify with the main character, so I wouldn’t really call her a Mary Sue harpy (unless maybe I am too?? Ah, shit.). At least, I identify with her I-am-a-petite-woman-with-a-Napoleonic-complex-ness, but not so much the virgin/whore dichotomy she has in her head and that Hamilton then perpetuates by making her fuck everything that moves in the later books. I’ve actually read almost all of them, but I got a bit fatigued around Danse Macabre and Blood Noir really disgusted me with its terrible writing. I think I’m going to stick it out until the end, though, because the first half of the series has some of the only books that I can read over and over and over again and not get bored.

        What do you think about her Meredith Gentry series? Have you read it?

        1. I don’t think the Mary-Sue is really apparent in the first couple of books, though clearly the character looks like Hamiliton and Richard was admittedly based off her then-husband.Things really just start to go off the rails after a certain point, when Anita just starts racking up these ridiculous powers and fucks everyone just to do so. There’s a passage in one of the books where it comes out that Anita’s best friend wanted to sleep with Nathan, and Anita calls her a jealous bitch, and I was just done with the books. It was so transparent, such a ridiculous dig at other women I couldn’t stand it anymore.

          I liked the Gentry series. I felt that I could accept the extensive porn stuff because that was the world was fundamentally based on. In the Blake books, the series was supposed to be a detective story with romance that became books about soft-core pornography with no regard to characters or plot. But I stopped reading Hamilton entirely after I saw the way she treated her fans that expressed dissatisfaction with the Blake novels — I don’t need to give my money to an author who is so disrespectful to her fanbase. Did Merry ever have her baby?

          1. I don’t think Merry will ever have her baby, because it’s probably pretty hard to conduct an in-home orgy with a newborn. I’m sorry, I love the Merry books (much more than the Anita books), but with the last ten or so Anita books and all of the Merry books, I feel like plot and realistic ideas have all fallen by the wayside in favor of MOAR SECKS.

            I liked the earlier Anita books, but when I do re-read the series, I have to take a break around #6 before I can muster up the desire to read the rest. The later books (12 and on) seem to be the worst offenders of the sex-over-plot-development lot. And I hate that as the series goes on, the Anita-as-Laurell, Richard-as-first-husband, Jean-Claude-or-Micah-as-second-husband projection becomes so terribly, terribly obvious.

            1. One of the things that struck me (and isn’t entirely obvious at first) is how little time passes during the Blake/Gentry novels. There’s one book — I think its Obsidian Butterfly — where Anita mentions its been something like a week or two since the events of 3 books before, which means every book covers a week and everything happens one after another, so like 6 months have passed since the start of the whole series. I totally had a ‘say what?’ moment. Somehow it seemed harder to swallow that 6 months had passed than she was a necromancer.

              Also, does she ever go to work?

              I assume that same thing is happening with the Gentry novels.

              1. Blah, I just realized that I forgot to respond to this! In the most recent Merry novel, Divine Misdemeanors, Merry actually goes back to work and doesn’t have nearly as much sex as she did in the other books – I think because she’s pregnant. In fact, it’s much more fantasy noir than any of the other Gentry books and also one of my favorites specifically because it backs away from all teh secks. The Blake novels actually cover something like 4 or 5 years, but most of those years happen in the first half of the series. I know she starts out at like 23 in the first book and then in later books talks about being 26 and pitying Larry for his naivete.

                I actually had no idea about the Richard/Jean Claude/Micah projection thing or Hamilton’s rudeness to her fans, partly because I don’t pay attention to anything authors do in real life. I just assumed that Anita and Merry were Hamilton’s projections of her idealized self because of the picture of her on the back cover. What did Hamilton do that was so rude?

                1. I did wonder if I had unfortunately insulted you away!

                  In early interviews, Hamilton outs who she based the original characters in the series, specifically naming her then-husband as Richard. You can pretty much track the deterioration of Richard as a character to the break up of the marriage. Hamilton is just so harsh on Richard’s characterizations after a point I couldn’t recognize him as the person we’re introduced to in the early books. I haven’t picked up the series in a long time, but the last I left it, he was still kind of a wussy asshole. With more and more emphasis being laid on the ‘asshole’ part of that equation.

                  After the Blake series really took off and Hamilton started moving away from the noir detective route and into the tons of teh sexxors route, plenty of fans complained. Instead of responding, you know, maturely with a ‘the direction of the series changed’, she put up a series of blog posts about whiners and complainers, slamming them as prudes who couldn’t handle women’s sexuality. And other posts about people who put negative reviews on her books. Just really rude and aggressive stuff. I don’t like that kind of behavior in people I just deal with everyday — I don’t need to give money to anyone who acts that way either.

                  1. Nope, you didn’t! I’m just a space cadet sometimes.

                    Richard is still, for the most part, a wussy asshole. He gets a little “better” in that he starts being ok with Blake humping everything that moves after some mystical mojo that he and she and Jean Claude do that transfers bits of their personalities to each other, but in the later books he’s barely a part of it. I’m not surprised that she destroyed his character as she (I’m sure) wanted to destroy her ex-husband, but her personal life really led to the deterioration of the books.

                    It disappoints me that Hamilton’s behavior towards her fans is so terrible, but it also makes me glad that I haven’t actually purchased most of the books. That’s partly why I don’t make a point of looking into authors’ personal lives – if they suck as people, it really colors how I read the books.

  6. I know what you mean about the Lestat novels going downhill. The first three are pure magic, but that one where Lestat essentially sits down and has a convo about the existence of God and the devil? Yikes.

    I didn’t realize Let the Right One In was a novel either! I might just dive into that while I’m waiting for the new Sookie book to appear on my Kindle.

    1. Both the book and movie were some of the best offerings of the vampire genre, bar none. I highly, highly recommend reading the book but take the warning seriously — if you have a problem with sexual abuse themes, this is not the novel for you.

      The book includes a subplot that’s hinted at in the original version of the film and dropped entirely from the American remake that I think adds a dimension to the story that is very complex.

  7. Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready is entertaining. And I’m in the middle of Hunted by Others by Jess Haines (this was a free Kindle download, so I thought ‘Why not?’). They are both along the same vein as the Sookie novels, not Middlemarch Madness worthy … but fun reads.

    1. I second Slaybelle’s recommendation. It’s a very good book but not always an easy read. Lindqvist doesn’t spare the reader and there are passages that are very bleak and at times, heartbreaking. Overall, I’d say he makes it all seem so real, so plausible, that if you found out it was based on a true story you wouldn’t be all that surprised.

  8. Anne Rice disappointed me and I never got over it. I never read her Vampire Chronicles stories, but four – five other books and while they started out well, the plot and/or ending were – time and again- so disappointing that I completely gave up on her.

    I read a Sookie Stackhouse novel from time to time, until now I only read #2, 4 and 5. They’re quite the snack.

    I saw the Danish film of Let the right one in and I loved the dark vibe of it. Vampires without buckets of blood and smoldering stares.

    1. I gave up on her too after.. The Body Thief? I think that’s the one that finally lost me. But I’ve found recently that I’ve come around on her again. Those first three books in the Vampire Chronicles are just so good. I like to think of them as a closed ended trilogy.

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