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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Dead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse" Anthology

Editors:  Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner
Anthology Title:  Dead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Ratings:  Violence2-4; Sensuality2-3; Humor—2-3 
Publisher:  Ace  (11/2014)   
     The fifteen stories in this anthology all feature characters from Harris's SOOKIE STACKHOUSE series, and each one is written by a separate author, mostly well-known paranormal fiction writers. Many of these stories are outstandingproviding a new look at minor characters or adding depth to the backstories of major characters. A few are average, but interesting, and two (the final two) just don't make the grade. All in all, it's a nice collection and a great premise.

     Some of the featured characters are so minor that you might want to do a bit of research before you read their stories. Click HERE to go to Wikipedia's annotated list of SOOKIE STACKHOUSE characters. Click HERE to go to the Southern Vampire Mysteries wiki, where you can search for biographies of SOOKIE characters. And then there's always After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse. Click HERE to read my review of After Dead and other books in the SOOKIE series.

     I have marked each story with an icon to indicate my judgment as to their quality and success in remaining Sookie's world:

A great story that adds depth to the character and/or series; well told; maintains continuity in regard to the character's personality traits and backstory 

Average quality, but nothing special; remains true to series story line and characterization but adds little to our knowledge of these characters 

Misses the mark; doesn't do the character justice

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               THE STORIES               

Title: "Nobody's Business"  
Author: Rachel Caine 
Main Characters: Kevin Pryor and Kenya Jones, partners on the Bon Temps police force.
Closing Line: "…for the first time in a long time he heard Kenya laughing without restraint, and she never let go of his hand. Never once."  
Story Summary: The partnersone white and one blackare star-crossed lovers who keep their mutual attraction hidden from one another because neither believes that a romance between them could ever work in the deep South. When a drug-crazed vampire escape from their custody, they follow his trail to Dallas, where they butt heads with the local vampire sheriff and realize that they are true soul mates. 

     Click HERE to read my reviews of Rachel Caine's REVIVALIST TRILOGY. Click HERE to read my reviews of Caine's OUTCAST SEASON

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Title: "Tyger, Tyger"  
Author: Christopher Golden 
Main Character: Sookie's friend and former lover, Quinn, the weretiger  
LiFun Fact about Quinn: "He had punched in a classical station on his satellite radio that played mostly baroque music, a secret pleasure."  
Story Summary: The story takes place several months after the final Sookie novel. The were community has outed itself to the public, and non-supernaturals are having wildly diverse reactions to the knowledge that some of their friends and relatives are shifters. When Quinn visits his mentally disturbed mother in a nursing home that specializes in the two-natured, he walks right into a trap and finds himself in the hands of a sociopathic doctor who would fit right in with the evil Genetics Council in Lora Leigh's BREED series.
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Title: "The Real Santa Claus"  
Author: Leigh Perry (aka Toni L. P. Kelner
Main Character: Diantha, the half-demon niece of the mostly demon lawyer, Desmond Cataliades  
Diantha wonders whether Santa could be a vampire: "He only comes out at night, and hanging a stocking or putting up a sign that says Santa Stop Here is kinda like an invitation into the house, and nothing hides bloodstains like a red suit."  
Story Summary: The story is set several years after the final novel, and Sookie is pregnant with her third child. When Mr. Cataliades stops by to deliver Christmas gifts, he discovers that Sookie and Sam are having severe personal and business problems, so he assigns Diantha to figure out what's going on. Diantha has always been one of the quirkiest and most entertaining characters in the series, and Perry captures her personality perfectly. As Diantha solves the mystery and puts things to rights, she keeps trying to figure out what kind of supernatural Santa Claus could bevery funny. For me, this is the best story in the book.

     Click HERE to read my reviews of Leigh Perry's FAMILY SKELETON series.
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Title: "Taproot"  
Author: Jeffrey J. Mariotte 
Main Character: Andy Bellefleur  
Description of Andy and Casey-Lynn's high school relationship: "He played football and hung out with jocks…Casey-Lynn hung out in the library, wrote poetry, and was friends with the drama club people. If they had been drawn into a human Venn diagram, they would barely have intersected."  
Story Summary: The story takes place shortly after the death of Lafayette Reynold in the opening pages of Living Dead in Dallas. Andy got drunk one night at Merlotte's and had to be driven home by his sister, leaving his car behind in the parking lot. The next morning, Lafayette's body was found in Andy's car. Now he's on desk duty while the Bon Temps PD works on the case. Andy heads for Merlotte's where he finds a TV crew from a restaurant reality show filming an episode, even though Sam doesn't remember them ever contacting him. Coincidentally, Andy's long-gone high school girlfriend, Casey-Lynn, is among the crew. Andy remains true to form when he refuses to let emotion overrule his sense that something is very wrong with the whole situation. Andy is one of my favorite characters in the series, and this is a perfect characterization of his persistent, but fumbling, attempts to do the right thing.
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 Title: "Knit a Sweater Out of Sky"  
Author: Seanan McGuire 
Main Characters: Sookie's witchy friend, Amelia and her boyfriend, Bob  
Opening Line: "The cherry tree on my dining room table was growing steadily….I was no longer confident in my ability to get it out of the apartment."  
Story Summary: Amelia is not an easy character to like. Her primary shortcoming is trying to cast spells that are beyond her experience and talents. She once turned Bob into a cat, and her relationship with Sookie has had its share of ups and downs. Amelia and Bob are living in New Orleans, where Amelia is determined to control the wind so that she can prevent another Katrina-like hurricane from further destroying the city. When another witch involves herself in Amelia's experiments, disaster looms.

     Click HERE to read my reviews of Seanan McGuire's OCTOBER DAYE series. Click HERE to read my reviews of McGuire's INCRYPTID series. Click HERE to read my reviews of McGuire's GHOST STORIES series.

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Title: "Love Story"  
Author: Jeanne C. Stein 
Main Character: Sookie's grandmother, Adele Stackhouse  
The first time Adele meets Fintan: "Back in the yard, that's when I saw him. No, that's not quite right. I felt him first. A tingling on the back of my neck. Not like when you're frightened. More like when you anticipate something happening. Something you know is going to change your life. Something you want."  
Story Summary: The story is composed of a series of entries from Adele's diary that cover the first few days of her relationship with Fintan, the part-human fairy who fathered her two children, a son and a daughter. Fintan turns up when Adele's husband, Mitchell, is away, and the two begin an affair that results in the birth of her son, Corbett, exactly nine months later. Adele and Mitchell had been trying to conceive a child for years, but as Fintan explains, "he cannot give you what you want most." Although we get the details of the Adele-Fintan relationship, I expected more romance and drama in this story. New fun fact: In addition to gifting Sookie with her telepathic powers, Mr. Cataliades gifted Jason with his seductive powers and his ability to attract women. 
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     Click HERE to read my reviews of Jeanne C. Stein's ANNA STRONG CHRONICLES.

Title: "The Million-Dollar Hunt"  
Author: Jonathan Maberry 
Main Character: Mustapha Khan, the gay ex-con werewolf loner who works as Eric Northman's daytime guy
Opening Line: "The trick was to remember that this was a game. Hard to do when  you're dying. Hard to do when they're hunting you."  
Story Summary: Mustapha takes a reality show job with Real Adventure Productions to earn some extra money and discoverstoo latethat it's a double-cross and that he is on the run for his life. The suspenseful story takes a few dramatic twists and turns and winds up being a thriller. 
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Title: "Borderline Dead"  
Author: Nicole Peeler 
Main Character: Desiree Dumas, waitress at the Bat's Wing, a vampire bar in Dallas, and human roommate of Bethany Rogers, who was murdered in Living Dead in Dallas 
Opening Line: "As if trying to commit suicide by Chevy, a giant, hairy shape hurled itself out of the darkness directly in front of my truck and collapsed."  
Story Summary: After Bethany's murder, Desiree realized that she would probably be next, so she packed up and ran away, managing to get only as far as a tiny village in southern Arizona before her money ran out. Now, she's working at the Super Gas-n-Go and flirting with Enrique (Ricky) Garcia, a good-looking illegal immigrant who stays with his sister at the Mission across the street. What Desiree doesn't realize is that Ricky is a coyote shifter who is helping illegal immigrants escape from the corrupt "coyotes" who escort them across the border. When some vampire mercenaries come to town, Desiree steps up to force them to back down.

     Click HERE to read my reviews of Nicole Peeler's JANE TRUE series.
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Title: "Extreme Makeover: Vamp Edition"  
Author: Leigh Evans 
Main Characters: Todd Seabrook and Bev Leveto, vampire hosts of a reality show mentioned in Dead and Gone  
All you need to know about Todd: "His maker had never bothered to perform an intelligence test before he turned the handsome farm boy with the dimples and flashing teeth into an immortal."  
Story Summary: Eric Northman has sent Todd and Bev into the bayous of southern Louisiana to track down Liara Giacona, known as "the recluse of Vicksburg." Then they are to do a makeover on her and bring her back to Shreveport to be married to Anthony van Dyck, a man of Eric's selection (and Beth's long-ago lover, who dumped her). Although Liara lives in a shack, the make-over duo is shocked to find state-of-the-art surveillance cameras and an extremely secure, Kevlar-walled safe room. As Todd undertakes a series of idiotic, sitcom-esque attempts (kerosene torch, chainsaw) to break into Liara's hide-away, he makes the perfect foil for Bev's practical, if emotionally tinged, straightforward approach to their problem. Although Todd's antics liven up the story, Bev's emotional flashbacks slow down the pace and don't really provide a pay-off. 

     CLick HERE to read my reviews of Leigh Evans's MYSTWALKER SERIES.
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 Title: "Don't Be Cruel"  
Author: Bill Crider 
Main Character: The title tells you that Bubba is the star of this story.  
Snack time: "Bubba knew he should ignore the cat. He knew he should do what Eric had told him. He almost always did what he was told when he could, but impulse control wasn't one of Bubba's better qualities. He took off after the cat."  
Story Summary: This one takes place during Club Dead when Russell Edgington and Lorena have captured Bill Compton and Eric and Sookie are trying to rescue him. Bubba has scoped out  the grounds of Russell's mansion and reported his findings back to Eric. Now, he is supposed to make his escape over the wall to safety, butwouldn't you know ithe gets distracted by one of his favorite snacks, a feral cat. Things get crazy for Bubba at that point. A silver net, a crucifixion, and a rhinestone-encrusted jump suit all play important parts in the big finale. Bubba is a great character who deserved a better story. The best part is the cat chase, and the worst part is the sappy ending.
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Title: "What a Dream I Had"  
Author: Nancy Holder 
Main Character: the werewolf Alcide Herveaux  
Alcide sees Em for the first time in decades: "As he absorbed the shock of whatwhohe was seeing, the hard, cynical part of his mind spun lemon-sour thoughts: A dead girl walks into a bar…"  
Story Summary: This is a flashback story that seeks to explain the history of Alcide's disastrous relationships with women, beginning with the very first. That would be Emmaline Ravel, the human girl Alcide took to his high school senior prom. After a series of unfortunate events caused Alcide to partially change into his wolfy form, Em ran off into the woods, and shortly thereafter she and her family left town, never to be seen againuntil now, when Em returns because her abusive father is dying. The story moves back and forth in timefrom prom night to the night Em returns, and the tone jumps from shock to regret to fear and back again. I'm giving the story a top rating mostly because I love Alcide as a character (and a hunk), but it's really a "B" not an "A." 
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Title: "Another Dead Fairy"  
Author: Miranda James 
Main Character: Claude Crane, cousin of Sookie's fairy father, Fintan
First Line: "Only the killer heard the fairy scream in agony when he died."  
Story Summary: When Seamus, Claude's cousin and one of the male strippers at Hooligan's, is found dead, Claude and Claudine must figure out the killer's motive and track him or her down. The story is laid out like a mini-procedural as they review the facts, search the premises, and question the suspects. It's like an Agatha Christie mystery with fairies. This one, too, is a "B."
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Title: "The Bat-Signal"  
Author: Suzanne McLeod
Main Character: Luna Garza, shapeshifting werebat and undercover operative for the Dallas shifters; also featuring Sookie's telepathic cousin, Hunter Savoy, and his father, Remy  
How the story got its name: "The huge halogen headlights bolted to Remy's pickup flashed brightly twice, lighting up the night about her…Luna squeaked with success. They had two-way communication!…And so the halogens became the Bat-Signal (without the bat cutout, though Hunter had taken some convincing by Remy that they didn't need one)."    
Story Summary: The story takes place between Deadlocked and Dead Ever After. Luna has flown into Bon Temps to search for Jimmy, a runaway teenage shifter who attacked two people in Dallas. When she overhears Hunter tell his father about "hearing" the mental voice of an unknown person who is sad and afraid. Luna immediately suspects that Hunter is hearing Jimmy's voice. The rest of the story follows the trio as they figure out a way for Luna to make use of Hunter's talents as she takes her bat form and flies deep into the bayous in the middle of the night to find Jimmy. The runaway-boy plot is fine, but the story ends on an unfinished note as Remy and Hunter disappear from the scene and Luna makes the standard "come with me and I'll help you" plea to Jimmy.

    Click HERE to read my reviews of Suzanne McLeod's SPELLCRACKERS series.
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Title: "The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars"  
Author: Dana Cameron 
Main Character: Pamela Ravenscroft (Eric's Pam)  
First Line: "The day I died was the day I'd never anticipated."  
Story Summary: This one starts out with a weak rendering of Pam's vampire changeover at the hands (and fangs) of Eric Northman. These scenes include clichéd lines like these: "The touch of his cold lips against my neck and my knees went weak." and "I felt my whole body alive at his touch." and "...his blood quenched my tortured throat." After we get all that out of the way, things get marginally better as Pam rescues Eric from an old enemy and reignites a relationship with an old lover. This is probably the most unsuccessful story in the book, and that's too bad because Pam is such a great characterso full of contradictions.
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Title: "Widower's Walk"  
Author: MaryJanice Davidson 
Main Character: Eric Northman  
Intriguing Opening Lines: "When is a betrayal not a betrayal? When it's not a betrayal."   
Best Line: "Not since the dark days of the Twilight franchise had it been so trendy to be dead." 
Story Summary: The story takes place 201 years after the events of Dead Ever After as Eric revisits Bon Temps. He is having a bottle of True Blood at Merlotte's (now called Were About) and eavesdropping on a group of Sookie and Sam's descendants as they tell each other stories about their great-great-great-great grandmother. Lest you think that Eric is getting emotional in his very old age, think again. There is a deeper reason for Eric's presence, one that we don't learn until the very end. Although the story has a few good lines, Eric's barely coherent train of thought rambles all over the place as he fills us in on what's been going on in the past two centuries and reminisces about Sookie. Most of the story takes place in Eric's head, and Davidson uses a stream of consciousness approach that is regularly interrupted by italicized sub-thoughts, many of which flash back to his feelings for Sookie. Like the later books in Davidson's QUEEN BETSY series, the story suffers from the author's disjointed narrative.

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