Past Features

Turning Off The TV #1: Supernatural

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Welcome to my new Thursday feature: Turning Off The TV! In this feature I’ll be recommending books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both entire series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Supernatural.

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Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth.

I’ll be covering Supernatural quite a bit in this feature, as there are so many different themes and monsters to discuss – but I’ll make sure to mix it up every week so it’s not just Supernatural for months!

Enjoyed ‘The Wendigo’ (Season One, Episode Two)?

Then you might like these reads that feature a Wendigo in some way. In fact I’m sure almost every Stephen King book could be recommended to fans of Supernatural! I’ve read some of Stephen King‘s work, but sadly not this one – I do like his writing though.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood The Orphan Master by Jean Zimmerman

Enjoyed ‘Skin’ (Season One, Episode Six)?

Then give these books featuring skin-changers (also known as skin-walkers) a try. Unlike this episode, the skin-walkers are not necessarily the villains. The Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlaine Harris is one of my favourite series, if not for amazing writing, then for just being a genuinely fun series to read.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Enjoyed ‘Asylum’ (Season One, Episode Ten)?

Asylums are certainly creepy places, and have been widely represented in literature. Here are some more stories to make them seem even creepier… Shutter Island is one of those books that really gets you thinking – one minute you’re sure of something, the next you’re questioning whether it’s the opposite.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Are you a fan of Supernatural?

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Horror October: My Top Ten Horror Books

For this week’s Horror October post, I’m sharing my top ten horror books with my lovely readers! Have you read any of these?
 


1. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill – more eerie and creepy than outright horrifying, this is not something you want to read at night. I haven’t yet watched the film – it doesn’t look like it’s completely captured the spirit of the book to me. Susan Hill is a master of suspense.

2. The Shining by Stephen King – obviously. A tale of a man’s spiral into madness… or is it? This book is shocking, horrifying and downright scary, making it a perfect Halloween read. The film makes some big changes, so definitely give it a read even if you think you don’t need to after seeing the film!


3. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris – or rather, the whole series for this one. Not particularly plain ol’ horror, it’s about vampires, werewolves, fairies and other mystical creatures, but has a fair amount of horrific moments and gory shocks. I discussed the series a couple of months ago.


4. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – this book isn’t just scary because of the vampires/zombies. It’s the effect that isolation has on Neville, and how his human instincts react to that isolation. (my review)


5. Incarnation by Emma Cornwall – a semi-retelling of Dracula told from the point of view of one of his victims, this is a wonderfully written book and one of my hidden gems from last year. (my review)


6. Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin – GRRM, a master of epic fantasy, has also written a pretty awesome vampire novel, set on the Mississippi. Typical of the author, it’s a very dark book.



 
 
7. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova – this one seems to have such mixed reviews and ratings on Goodreads, but I personally loved it. It follows the story of a young woman chasing her family’s past and the evil that is connected.
 
8. The Passage by Justin Cronin – another vampire novel, but so, so well done, especially because, like with I Am Legend, the vampirism is a disease and the results are believable. Books like this are always much scarier when they could actually happen to you. I’m still hoping to read the sequel, The Twelve, which came out last year.
 
9. Carrie by Stephen King – another one from the master of horror, Carrie follows the story of a young high school girl who is relentlessly teased at school. One day it just gets too much…
 
10. Ring by Koji Suzuki – I never want to see the film of this one – the book was creepy enough. I’m sure you’re familiar with the story, the film was really big when it came out  seven or eight years ago (I think). If you watch a certain video tape, you get a phone call – and are killed seven days later by a mysterious force. Shame that the tape has become infamous with the local teenagers, who are casually passing it around…
 

This post is part of Horror October, hosted by Leanne at Literary Excursion.

Misc.

Horror October: Rinn’s Guide to True Blood (or the Sookie Stackhouse novels)

Hello lovely readers. Many a time in the past, I’ve spoken about the True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse series of novels, written by Charlaine Harris, so I thought I’d do a guide for those of you out there who don’t know much about it. I will clearly label all spoilers (which will be separate from the main part of the text) and sometimes things may be more subjective than factual… like how I feel about Eric’s face. And body. But I will try to enlighten you about this great series, and why it blows all those other vampire-based books out of the water (only partly through the medium of gifs…). There are some large differences between the later books and TV series, and I’ll try to make these clear!

First things first. The series comprises of thirteen books all set in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps, with occasional excursions to Baton Rouge, Monroe and other states such as Mississippi and Texas. The books are told from the point of view of one Miss Sookie Stackhouse, waitress and telepath.

Yep, she’s a telepath. Poor ol’ Sookie has the misfortune of being able to hear the thoughts of others – which may sound pretty cool, but when you do the sort of job she does, you hear many not entirely sober thoughts that you maybe didn’t want to know. As you can imagine, this is quite distracting, and as a result she’s gained a bit of a reputation for being crazy. She also hasn’t had much experience with guys – being able to hear their every thought does not a romantic setting make.

Delicious. (image source)


But there are certain types of people that Sookie can’t hear the thoughts of. Vampires, not at all; shapeshifters, weres and other supernatural beings, barely. In the True Blood world, supernatural beings walk among us, vampires having recently ‘come out of the coffin’ when Japanese scientists successfully created synthetic blood, allowing them to live alongside humans without having to drink from them. Not that it stops some…


Oh, and there’s a lot of violence and gore. And sex.

The series pretty much follows the life of Sookie and her supernatural acquaintances, whom I shall now introduce. Sit down, grab a hot beverage (or a glass of True Blood perhaps) and buckle in… it’s going to be a long post.


The main protagonist of the series, Sookie Stackhouse is strong-willed and fiercely independent. A telepath, she can hear the thoughts of others and as a result finds it difficult to make friends – her only true human friends at the beginning of the series are Arlene Fowler and Tara Thornton. She works as a waitress at Merlotte’s Bar and Grill, owned by her friend Sam Merlotte.

In the very first book, shortly after vampires are revealed as real, Sookie saves the life of a vampire named Bill, who later goes on to become her boyfriend. Bill is her first love – but it doesn’t last. She dates several ‘supes’, including Eric Northman (vampire), Alcide Herveaux (werewolf) and Quinn (weretiger).


She has a witty narrative voice, and is an intelligent young woman, determined to make a good future for herself. When she was just a small child, her parents were killed in a flood and she has lived with her grandmother ever since, in a ramshackle old farmhouse that has been passed down the family for generations.

[spoiler]It is revealed in the later books that Sookie is in fact part fairy, which explains why vampires find her particularly delectable – fairy blood is like vampire crack.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: Sookie is badass. Well, until the ninth or tenth book – then she gets kind of boring. But honestly, she is a female protagonist that knows she doesn’t need a male in her life to make her happy, and sometimes she gives into her more primal instincts. So basically, she’s human (… or is she? *laughs evilly*)

Sookie is portrayed by Anna Paquin in the TV series.

A true Southern gentleman, Bill Compton is the first vampire Sookie meets – and her first love. Born in 1840, he fought for the South in the Civil War and was made a vampire twenty-eight years later. He returned to Bon Temps after vampires became public, to trace his descendants.

Bill is very caring of Sookie when they are in a relationship, but she gets frustrated by all the time he spends working on a project – a catalogue of all the vampires in North America. He later reveals something to Sookie that truly ends their relationship, but clearly still harbours feelings for her throughout the books. Bill is the official investigator for the local area – vampires have a strict hierarchy in this series, with various sheriffs across a state, and a king or queen of each state on top of them.

[spoiler]Bill betrays Sookie by giving information about her to the Queen of Louisiana, his boss. Their relationship was originally a way for Bill to learn about her, but he soon fell in love with her anyway. In the TV series, Bill becomes King of Louisiana and takes a very dark turn.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: Eh, I’m not a big Bill fan. Especially TV-Bill. I find him kind of boring and a bit of jerk later on. I do like his accent though…

Bill is portrayed by Stephen Moyer in the TV series.

Eric Northman, at over 1000 years old, is one of the most powerful vampires in the Bon Temps area. He was originally from Sweden, the son of a Jarl, and is commonly referred to as a ‘blonde viking’ by Sookie. He is the sheriff of Area 5 in Louisiana, which includes Bon Temps and Shreveport, where Eric runs his very own vampire bar, Fangtasia.

His progeny is Pam, a dry-witted and sultry vampire lady, who helps him run Fangtasia. Eric and Pam have a very close relationship, and it is often around Pam that Eric shows a more tender side.


In the fourth book, Eric suffers from amnesia as part of a witches’ curse, and Sookie ends up looking after him. He is reduced to a defenceless child, nothing like his former self – he is sweet and caring, and during this time he has a brief romance with Sookie.


Eric is also officially the hottest vampire in the entire state of Louisiana. Fact.

[spoiler] Eric doesn’t remember his romance with Sookie, but memories eventually come back to him. He still loves her, in fact he had been harbouring feelings for her since book three, and the two eventually get ‘married’ (vampire style!), although it is more for Sookie’s protection than an urge to be a married couple.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: No, the above was not my opinion. It’s fact. Very factual. I gladly accept that it is fact. Eric is my favourite. Yum yum. I like his cheeky sense of humour, how he always seems to say something deadly serious and then you see this little glint in his eye and know he’s joking. Plus it amuses me that despite the fact that he is one thousand years old, and has lived (questionable… un… lived?) through so much, sometimes things like technology and modern inventions baffle him.

Eric is portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard in the TV series.

Pam Swynford de Beaufort is the vampire progeny and business partner of Eric Northman. She was born in London, and met Eric there in 1905, when he turned her. However, in the TV series she is shown as the madam of a Chicago brothel.

Incredibly loyal to Eric, and willing to die for him, she often covers up her true feelings with dry wit and sarcasm. Initially she looks down on Sookie, but eventually they grow close, Sookie even referring to Pam as the closest thing to a vampire friend she has (apart from her vampire lovers of course). 

In contrast to her demeanour, she often dresses like a surburban housewife in pastel colours – when she’s not wearing her ‘vampire’ gear for her shifts at Fangtastia.

[spoiler]These spoilers are for the show, not the book – Pam is the vampire that turns Tara Thornton, Sookie’s best friend, after Tara dies. It is also shown that she meets Eric in her brothel as he is hunting Bill and his maker, Lorena, who are killing off prostitutes as ‘easy pickings’ for sustenance.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: I love Pam, she’s so wonderfully sarky and has a really dark sense of humour. Plus in the book she has a sort of admiration/liking for Sookie, and tries hard to hide it – it’s pretty cute.

Pam is portrayed by Kristin Bauer van Straten in the TV series. Swynford de Beaufort is actually her surname in the TV series – in the books it is in fact ‘Ravenscroft’. I remembered too late!

Alcide Herveaux is a werewolf from Shreveport, who owns a surveying company with his father, Jackson Herveaux. When Sookie first meets him, he is Sookie’s ‘protection’ during a mission. He has also just recently gone through a breakup with a woman named Debbie Pelt, who has it out for Sookie…

There is definite chemistry between Alcide and Sookie, but the presence of his on-off girlfriend makes things difficult. However, Sookie and Alcide help each other out many times throughout the series, including Alcide’s run for packleader.

Physically he is a very large man: muscly and well over six foot. He also has a habit of growling, even in human form.

[spoiler]Sookie kills Alcide’s ex-girlfriend in self defense. When Debbie goes missing, Alcide tries to discover what happened to her, and using his super-wolfie senses, can smell her scent in Sookie’s kitchen. He knows that Sookie killed her, and this makes it impossible for the two of them to ever have a relationship – but he never turns Sookie in.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: I think I prefer TV-Alcide to book-Alcide. Although we get some of his back story through Sookie in the book, we actually get to see a lot more in the TV series.

Alcide is portrayed by Joe Manganiello in the TV series.

Jason Stackhouse is Sookie’s older brother, a well-known womaniser in the town of Bon Temps, and not particularly blessed in intelligence. However he more than makes up for this in the kindness of his ways, and is always looking out for his younger sister.

He works on the parish road crew in Bon Temps, and lives in his parents old house.

[spoiler]Like Sookie, Jason is part fairy which explains why many women find him so irresistible despite his infamous ways. Later on in the series he also becomes a part were-panther – he was bitten and made that way, rather than born were-panther, so he becomes a half-man, half-panther hybrid on the full moon. However, in the TV series he is bitten, but nothing becomes of it.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: Totally the kind of guy I would avoid, but when you see him with Sookie he’s really a sweetie at heart. And in the TV series he turns into a bit of a badass. But just a little bit.

Jason is portrayed by Ryan Kwanten in the TV series.

Sookie’s best friend since childhood, Tara Thornton has had a hard life. Abused by her parents, she often ran to Sookie’s house to get away, so sees Sookie almost as a sister.

Book-Tara and TV-Tara differ quite a bit. Although both have had a traumatic childhood, book-Tara runs her own shop called Tara’s Togs, whereas TV-Tara has trouble keeping down a job and ends up doing occasional bar work at Merlotte’s.


Tara has several troubled relationships throughout the series, including one with a controlling vampire, but finally ends up in a happy one, as she deserves, later on.


TV-Tara is a much more interesting character than book-Tara – we get to learn so much more about her. Lafayette, the cook at Merlotte’s and her cousin in the TV series,  is very close with Tara.

[spoiler]In the TV series, Tara is killed and made vampire by Pam after Sookie and Lafayette beg her to turn Tara. As Tara hates vampires after her previous relationship with one, she is a very unstable new vampire and seems resentful towards Sookie and Lafayette, both previously her closest friends.[/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: TV-Tara is way more fun! I’m glad they developed her character and I love the dynamic between her and Lafayette.

Tara is portrayed by Rutina Wesley in the TV series.

Sam Merlotte is the owner of Merlotte’s, a popular bar and grill located in the town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. He is Sookie’s boss, and there is some chemistry between them, but neither really act on it.

Sam also happens to be a shapeshifter, meaning he can take on the form of any animal, but his favourite is the border collie. He uses his heightened senses as a dog to track down several people, including murderers.

In the TV show, he has a brief relationship with Tara.

[spoiler]In the TV series, we glimpse some of Sam’s past. He used his shifting abilities to steal money and expensive goods, and eventually used the funds to start his business. [/spoiler]

Rinn’s opinion: Sam is such a sweetie and I often end up feeling sorry for him; he’s rather downtrodden. I just want a happy ending for him (I haven’t read the last book yet).

Sam is portrayed by Sam Trammell in the TV series.


The fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, is home to nearly 3,000 people – including a host of vampires, werewolves and other supernatural beings. It is not too far from Shreveport, and comes under vampire Area 5 – Eric Northman being the Sheriff of the area. Notable Bon Temps families include the Stackhouses, the Fortenberrys, the Comptons and the Bellefleurs.


Merlotte’s Bar and Grill is a popular establishment located in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Owned by Sam Merlotte, it is a frequent destination for locals and visitors to the area. Employees include Sookie Stackhouse, Arlene Fowler, Tara Thornton (TV series) and Lafeyette Reynolds.

Fangtasia – ‘Life Begins At Night‘ – is the popular vampire nightclub owned by Eric Northman. It is located in Shreveport, and there is a strict no biting policy enforced. The local vampires take it in turns to make appearances, to draw in humans. Pam Swynford de Beaufort/Ravenscroft is also a business partner.

Sookie Stackhouse’s ramshackle farmhouse, passed down through generations of Stackhouses, is located a little ways out of Bon Temps, along the Hummingbird Road. She lives beside the local cemetery, and her closest neighbour is Bill Compton.

I hope that I have at least piqued your interest in the series – or if you’ve already read/watched it, that this was a fun read! And would you look at that, I managed to almost completely avoid using gifs!

Damnit Sam!
Here are the books available in the series:
There are also a lot of other short story compilations containing stories featuring Sookie – but here I’ve just listed the books where Charlaine Harris was the only/main author.
 
And what about the TV series?
There are currently six seasons (the sixth is airing now), and there will be a seventh and final  series. The first three or four series use main plotlines from the book – in fact series one is very loyal – but it really changes things after that. Several characters are pretty different: for example Tara has a much larger part, Lafayette is Tara’s cousin in the TV series but not the books (he’s also a more frequently recurring character), characters are added or omitted. One of Sookie’s love interests, Quinn the weretiger, has not yet appeared in the TV series. It also has the most amazing soundtrack ever, plus some of my favourite TV opening credits.
 

So that’s all for this post! Let me know if you’ve read the books, watched the show and what you think – or perhaps I’ve persuaded you to try it out? I’ve still got to read book thirteen, and watch series six myself.

 
Eric (and Rinn) out.
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Top Ten Tuesday #1: Books To Get Into The Halloween Spirit

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I’m joining in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week’s theme is:

Top Ten Books To Get Into The Halloween Spirit

1. The Shining by Stephen King
Most likely a very popular choice on this Top Ten! I don’t think I need to explain this one. I love the book but I just can’t bring myself to watch the film…

2. Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist
One of the few books that has actually made me feel physically sick. It is graphic and shocking, and definitely not for the weak-hearted. I know my Goodreads rating of this one is quite low, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book – it was just not particularly to my taste (as I’m squeamish…). However, it most definitely fits this top ten!

3. Dead until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris
Not scary, but all about the paranormal. I love this series, although sadly the last couple of books have been quite a let down – it feels almost as though Charlaine Harris is writing to fulfil the quota of thirteen in the series, rather than because she wants to or has much to say about Sookie (Sookehhh) and co. They are good fun though.

4. The Passage by Justin Cronin
A fantastic vampire dystopian novel that feels more like a character study. A hefty volume, but definitely worth the read! The sequel, The Twelve, is released on 25th October 2012.

5. Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin
If you’re a fan of A Song and Ice and Fire, then get on it and read some of GRRM’s other work – especially this one! A fantastic vampire novel set along the nineteenth century Mississippi river, and based around steamboats. I love the Louisiana accent so I had fun imagining this one in my head…

6. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Not quite as action packed as the film adaptation makes it out to be. But a great read, and very harrowing. And I’m sorry for having so many vampire novels on this list!

7. Carrie by Stephen King
Here we go, a non-vampire novel! If you want to read some of King’s shorter works, this is a good one to start with. A tale of a social outcast with telekinetic powers, who is pushed too far…

8. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Not scary, as much as eerie. The stage production is terrifying, however. A friend of mine borrowed this from me and said she almost felt the need to keep it in the fridge when it got too scary, a la Joey from Friends 😉

9. The Stuff of Nightmares by Malorie Blackman
This one is on my list because I figure it’s probably not on many others. A good, scary YA novel by the fantastic author Malorie Blackman (who wrote the Noughts & Crosses trilogy. Note to Victoria Foyt: that is how you tackle racism.)

10. Fever (Flu #2) by Wayne Simmons
A good old-fashioned, action-packed zombie breakout novel. I won this from Goodreads, so I have a copy dedicated to me by Wayne himself. If anyone reading is from the Gloucestershire area, Wayne will be at the Cheltenham Waterstones store on 31st October, as part of a Halloween event.
So that’s my Top Ten Tuesday! I will probably participate in TTT every so often, depending on the topic and how much time I have.

What would your top ten books be? Have you read any of the ones on my list?