Note the First: Well, damn, I've fallen way behind again. Sorry about that. I'm gonna force myself to write at least one review per day, that way maybe I can catch up.
Note the Second: This is a review for the entire The Southern Vampire(aka Sookie Stackhouse) series. I wrote a review of the first book a while ago, and you can read it here. I've tried my best to keep it completely spoiler-free.
Here's the bottom line about Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire" series: They are incredibly fun to read. After finishing Dead Reckoning, the last of the books published so far (there are two more to come, I believe), I couldn't wait to go out and recommend the series to everyone I know. That is, everyone I know who enjoys a little bit of fun, fluffy reading or everyone who needs something good to read at the beach. This is a fun, well-written and easy-to-read series about a southern telephatic girl and her adventures with vampires, werewolves, fairies, demons and all other kinds of supernatural beings who are just trying to get at her.
Without spoiling anything, let's just say that Sookie is like many Mary Sues out there--everything happens to her. Every man she meets either wants to kill her, have sex with her, rape her or just hurt her in some way. After first getting involved with Vampire Bill in the first book, Sookie gets drawn in to the intrigues of the world of supernatural beings, mostly because of her own supernatural powers. Each book either continues or introduces new mysteries and characters, building up a complex, interesting world that never seems to be at peace. So it's not all fluff and Sexy Vampire times--some of the things that happen to and around Sookie are dangerous and downright terrifying. The result is that it's always entertaining to read, even hard to put down sometimes.
What really sets this series above other romantic/horror mixes I've read before is that Sookie is a wonderfully likable character. She's independent and strong, and an engaging and funny narrator. She's impulsive, yes, but not in that stupid way that a lot of heroines seem to have in this type of book. There's a reason for everything she does, and she doesn't shy back from violence when it comes to saving herself and those she loves. And best of all, she doesn't waste any time moping around or waiting for someone to come save her--she takes charge of her own life. And I liked that.
It's not a perfect series, however. Harris sometimes gets bogged down in describing the mundane details of Sookie's daily life, as in "I sorted laundry. I put detergent in the laundry. I did a delicates cycle", etc. While this helps make Sookie feel more real and accessible, sometimes you just want her to get on with the story. Fortunately, the books are so easy to read that the payoff is never long in coming, and the little details do help Sookie give a stronger voice as a narrator.
Reviewing the series book by book would be exhausting, and probably useless to most people, so I'll just say that if you start one, you'll want to finish them all. Some of the books are a little slow, some are packed with action--so you can rest assured that things will pick back up eventually. Harris not only creates plots specific to one book but also has larger, overarching plots that cover the entire series and (in some cases) still have to be resolved.
In the end, you could do much worse than this series. Harris is a talented writer who knows what she's writing, and doesn't take herself too seriously. She knows her fans and her audience, and always keeps things moving and fun. She's created a likable heroine and a complex world for her to live in. It's one of the most entertaining "romance" series I've ever read, set in a world where anything could happen--so you get the idea that Harris has any number of cards up her sleeve for future books. Plenty of over-the-top, sexy, and infinitely fun books. I can't wait to read more of them.
Note the Final: Here are the books in proper order, and next to their number on my own Cannonball List:
Book 1: Dead Until Dark (CB #7)
Book 2: Living Dead in Dallas (CB #15)
Book 3: Club Dead (CB #16)
Book 4: Dead to the World (CB #17)
Book 5: Dead as a Doornail (CB #18)
Book 6: Definitely Dead (CB #19)
Book 7: All Together Dead (CB #22)
Book 8: From Dead to Worse (CB #23)
Book 9: Dead and Gone (CB #25)
Book 10: Dead Reckoning (CB #29)