Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 3) Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
Of the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, Club Dead (Book 3) was definitely better than Living Dead in Dallas (Book 2), but lacked the believable (or semi-believable) plot of Dead Until Dark (Book 1). Instead of action sequence after action sequence, Harris slows down the pace and lets Sookie think about her surroundings and what she wants: Does she want Bill or Eric or Alcide? Sometimes Harris has her thinking about people and consequences way after I thought was appropriate, but Harris usually never left anything out -- which was good. However, she failed to let us readers know WHY Bill left Sookie for Lorena in the first place and if he was even upset that Sookie staked her (a pitfall of 1st person point of view). But this is explained within the first pages of Book 4. I can tell that Harris doesn't like Bill much -- she's making him more and more flat and gives Alcide and Eric all of the juicy lines. (Eric: "You are speaking of my future lover. Be more respectful.") Alcide comes across as a real person, through Harris's very clear details, but Sookie forgets about him as soon as he's out of sight.

Sookie was less annoying, but she is so stubborn that she doesn't want anyone to give her anything, yet she's hoping Bill will give her a present or money (yet she doesn't want to be a kept woman). Talk about sending mixed messages. Sookie is coming from a lower class background and is very insecure financially. I'd like to see more of her insecurity explored in the next book. I also couldn't buy into all of the book's violence, which is getting too much for me. How many beatings (and a rape) can this girl take? I hope this trend ends soon. But at least the violence broke up the boring setting of the bar and the situation of the girl getting ready to go out on the town. Sookie's outfits are dated and Harris seems to think that Sarah McLaughlin's "Good Enough" has a beat -- no, it doesn't. It's weird -- some parts of the book are very authentic, such as the food (biscuits, gravy, furniture), but the clothing descriptions seem off to me. Women usually don't wear formal cocktail dresses to a night club -- that's the domain of beaded tanks and leather skirts.But Harris is funny -- even more funny than in Book 1. I especially liked Sookie mentioning her "vampire cleaning crew" which made me think of Sandra Boynton's "Birthday Monsters" (I guess you have to have kids to get this one).

The ludricrous plot of the computer vampire directory that's in Bill's possession felt forced and contrived, but it made it possible for the reader to know more about Weres. I'm so tired of Bubba and so relieved that Alan Ball never considered using him in the HBO Series. I also wished Harris would trust her reader's intelligence and stop repeating facts that we should know about Sookie (i.e. her telepathy, her not going to college, her Word-of-the-Day obsession). I suppose the author must balance repeating old information vs. valuing the memories of loyal readers, but Harris could have done a better job.

On the plus side, Club Dead was a fast read and I didn't get bored like I did with Living Dead in Dallas. Harris is a strong writer when she wants to be and I hope that the rest of the series will be worth my time. At least it'll tide me over till "True Blood" returns in June.

View all my reviews.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Storyteller's Open Mic Night

Storyteller's, an independent bookstore owned by Dr. Drew Bridges in Wake Forest, NC had its first Open Mic night tonight (Fri. 12/12). I organized it along with Drew's and Megan Cutter's help. It was a brilliant success! We had 14 readers who read memoir, flash fiction and poetry. Everyone had a great time. Stay tuned for more Storyteller's Open Mics.

Here are a few photos of Tim, Dave, Megan and Barton.

Pedestal Magazine Poetry Reading Event

Last Sunday, December 7th, John Amen, founder and editor of The Pedestal Magazine, organized a poetry workshop with the NC Poetry Society and a reading that included 10 NC poets. My son Daniel and I attended and I read with the group. Here are a few pictures Daniel took of John Amen, me and Jaki Shelton Green, our new Piedmont Poet Laureate. This event was held at Market St. Books in Chapel Hill's Southern Village - it was all about poetry, selling our books, networking, food, drink and fellowship! What fun on a Sunday afternoon!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 2) Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I was glad to start "Living Dead in Dallas" as I was in the middle of "True Blood" on HBO since the series introduced many characters in Book 2 who will also become regulars in True Blood's Season 2. Creator Alan Ball has also mentioned that Season 2 will take a lot of inspiration from "Dead in Dallas," but I hope he improves on the novel.

The novel opens with Sookie finding the dead Lafayette in Andy Bellfleur's patrol car. She then has an encounter with the maenad (Marianne Forrester in the show) and then she and Bill head to Dallas to help Stan the Dallas vampire chief find his missing nestmate. Here in Dallas we meet the Fellowship of the Sun -- which I believe will be an important antagonist in Season 2. Sookie gets beat up a lot from beginning to end and after she and Bill survive two lovers' fights she helps Andy find who killed Lafayette. She kisses Eric the vampire and likes it and Bill doesn't seem to be all that jealous. This novel is full of plotholes (now, really, Bill doesn't know how he's related to the Bellefleurs and he hasn't looked at the family Bible since he's been living in Bon Temps?)and swift summaries -- like Harris knew she was going to go back and elaborate on her scenes, but never did. Perhaps she was bored with them and needed filler. Most of the cat and mouse scenes in Dallas reminded me of a Nancy Drew mystery and I couldn't finish this book long after I started it. But after Sookie and Bill leave Dallas the action picks up. In fact whenever Eric, Sookie and Bill are in a scene together (pick Eric/Sookie or Bill/Sookie) the writing is full of energy and is extremely enjoyable to read. Why can't all of the book be this way?

As some of the other reviewers have stated, I found Sookie very annoying in this book because she's written like a selfish bimbo. She is looking to pick a fight with Bill and seems to totally forget he's a vampire - Hello?!

I prefer everything about the show to the books, so far, but I like the books for the background information since the show throw's so much information at you to digest right away. All I can say, is Harris is a good writer, not a great writer, and she gave Alan Ball plenty to work with.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dorianne Laux

This fall semester I took Dorianne Laux's MFA (Master of Fine Arts) poetry class at NC State. Yesterday was our final class and we met at Dorianne's home to recite memorized poetry. I think the only way you can really know a poem is through recitation. I recited Yusef Komunyakaa's poem, "Facing It." We also heard Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Wallace Stevens and more. Throughout the semester I learned so much from Dorianne about other poets and styles, as well as from my very smart classmates.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I Did It!: I wrote a novel in 30 days through NaNoWriMo

Last month I took on the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. My friend Beth has done 5 of them! She was my inspiration to sign up for this NaNoWriMo this year. The 10th annual National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short, starts every Nov 1st and ends midnight Nov 30th. You're supposed to not have done too much research before starting your book and you need to keep up a good pace of 1,667 words a day (that's 50,000 into 30). I was very inconsistent in my daily word count, but did write almost every day. I believe I skipped 4 days out of the entire month. I was most productive this last week since I have my in-laws with us so they could occupy my kids and I had an entire Wednesday to work on my novel. In fact, I started this week with a mere 27,000 words, knowing that I had to have 50,000 by Nov 30th.

Whew! All I can say is that keeping the daily word count, no matter how small, is the key to success. I also loved all of Chris Baty's (the NaNoWriMo's) emails and the supportive emails coming from my Raleigh-Durham WriMo Region. I never attended an official write-in because of the lack of time, but I still read everyone's email and advice. It was all good.

Now I just have to revise my raw (very raw) book. But at least I have something to work with! If you've ever wanted or dreamed of writing a novel, please consider doing NaNoWriMo next year!