Sunday, 3 March 2013

Individual Reading Group Challenge - Focus Author for March

So far in 2013 I've focused on two authors; January being Australian writer Ngaio Marsh and last month being American SciFi author, Philip K. Dick. For March, I've chosen American mystery/ fantasy author, Charlaine Harris. I first noticed her writing as I was getting near the end of another author's books, the Anita Blake fantasy series by Laurell K. Hamilton. As I looked for the next book in the series, I remember noticing Ms. Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series; the series which eventually became a hit HBO TV series, True Blood. I read a few of the Deep South series and enjoyed it very much. It was similar in some ways to the Anita Blake books, in that Sookie Stackhouse has powers and also ongoing relationships with a vampire, Bill, and a shape shifter, Sam Merlotte. Other than that the books have their own unique qualities that make them worth reading. Over time as I've been going through my mystery author phase, I've discovered that she has also written a number of mystery books, featuring differing main characters. However, let's get down to basic facts first. Charlaine Harris was born in 1951 in the Mississippi river delta and now resides in Arkansas. This does help to explain some of the locales used in her stories. She's been a prolific writer who is best known for the Southern Vampire Books, aka the Sookie Stackhouse series. I've also enjoyed some of her other series, especially the Lily Bard mysteries which are set in the town of Shakespeare Arkansas and have been introduced to her Aurora Teagarden books and the first  Harper Connelly series. So that is my plan for March; to touch base with her various series once again and clean up some of her books from my To Be Read (TBR) shelf. Below is my tentative plan -

Shakespeare's Trollop, Lily Bard #4. I've enjoyed the other books in this series very much. There are 5 in the series, the last which was written in 2001. Lily Bard is a previous entitled Southern girl who suffered a traumatic experience in the past and who moved to Shakespeare Arkansas to escape her past and to rebuild her present. She is a fitness nut and the town cleaner (so-to-speak), making her living hiring out her cleaning services. As well, she gets involved in solving murders that have taken place in town. It's a very interesting series and I've enjoyed watching Lily grow and change and try to open up as the series progresses. The write up for this story reads as follows - "Shakespeare, Arkansas is home to endless back roads, historic buildings, colourful residents--and the occasional murder. It is also home to Lily Bard, the local karate expert/ cleaning woman hit a particular knack for finding skeletons in closets. But when Deedra Dean - the local woman of ill repute - is found murdered, her promiscuous lifestyle leaves more than a few suspects. And being familiar with Deedra's dirty laundry could make Lily the next Shakespearean to die....." Unfortunately when I finish this Lily Bard story, one that I have started the month with, I'll have completed the series and that will be a sad day as I've enjoyed the stories very much.

Definitely Dead, Sookie Stackhouse #6. The Southern Vampire books are most definitely Charlaine Harris' best-known series. It has been made more famous by the success of the True Blood series, with its graphic sex and violence. I discovered the books before the series was created and enjoyed the books so very much. They had a great quality, Lily was an excellent protagonist and her ongoing, developing relationships and the growth of her powers (basically she hears what other people are thinking) made the stories even more interesting. I enjoyed the setting, small town Louisiana, with wanderings through other Southern locales and I also liked the many other beings that populated the stories. I didn't read them in any sequence, and while it would have been better reading them from Book 1 in order, I don't think my enjoyment suffered any by not doing so. The write up for Definitely Dead is as follows - "As a person with so few living relatives, Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse really hated to lose one. But she never guessed that it would be her cousin Hadley—a consort of the Vampire Queen of New Orleans. After all, technically speaking, Hadley was already dead. And now, as unexpected heir to Hadley’s estate, Sookie discovers the inheritance definitely comes with a risk. Someone doesn’t want Sookie looking too deeply into Hadley’s past—or for that matter, Hadley’s possessions. And they’re prepared to do anything in their power to stop her. But who? The range of suspects runs from the Rogue Weres who reject Sookie as a friend of the Pack to the Vampire Queen herself, who could be working through a particularly vulnerable subject—Sookie’s first love, Bill." This is a series that seems to hold Charlaine Harris' interest as there are 12 books in the series. Unfortunately it appears that the next one will be the last. Bummer....

Grave Sight, Harper Connelly #1. I'm not as familiar with this series, in fact, although I highlighted it as having been read previously, I don't think I did. So I was going to read Book 2 in the series, but I don't think that would be fair to my enjoyment. If I have previously read Book 1, well, it'll be a fresh read and reintroduce me to the characters that populate the series. The series started in 2005 and features Harper Connelly, a young woman who after being struck by lightning, is able to locate dead bodies and see their last moments. The write up for Grave Sight is - "Harper and her stepbrother Tolliver are experts at getting in, getting paid, and then getting out of town fast, because the people who hire Harper have a funny habit of not really wanting to know what she has to tell them. At first, the little Ozarks town of Sarne seems like no exception. A teenage girl has gone missing and Harper knows almost immediately that this girl is dead. But the secrets of her death, and the secrets of the town, are deep enough that even Harper's special ability can't uncover them. With hostility welling up all around them, she and Tolliver would like nothing better than to be on their way. But then another woman is murdered. And the killer's not finished yet..." There are only 4 books in this series. It was supposedly optioned as a TV series in 2010 but nothing seems to have come of it yet.\

Dead Over Heels, Aurora Teagarden #5. The Aurora Teagarden series was Charlaine Harris' first. She wrote the first in 1990 and finished the series in 2003 after 8 books. I've read one book in the series previously and enjoyed it. It is a change of pace from her other books, with a more light-hearted tone. I'm obviously not reading in sequence, but the series has been difficult for me to find in my local new and used book stores. The write-up is as follows - "What's the world coming to when you can't relax with a glass of ice-cold beverage in your own backyard without a body falling from the sky into your garden? Part-time librarian and amateur investigator Roe Teagarden has good reason to ask herself this question when the remains of one of the Lawrenceton, Georgia police department's finest catapults into her flower bed. The mystery deepens as two federal agents arrive to investigate the murder. Its only when Madeleine the cat provides a clue that Roe begins to realise that using her yard as a temporary landfill may have been no accident and that Roe herself could be in terrible danger."

So there you have it, my tentative reading plan for my Charlaine Harris series. I hope to have the time to read at least these four books in March. Should my luck be even better, I do have a few others on my shelves to fill the gap. Wish me luck.

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