Okay, so I know I promised I would not post about Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series again, but I lied. I know, I’m a terrible person, and here you’ve patiently waited a week for a new post and I don’t even have anything interesting to share (or at least I assume that’s the general train of thought for all you non-vampire readers out there, and really, I don’t hold it against you). But the thing is, I was on vacation. And I read five more of her books while I was away. Now I’m back, and I have roughly ninety loads of laundry to do, and paying projects that need attending to, and a husband who is even more jet-lagged than I am (thanks a lot nine-hour time difference!), and it’s raining. I can’t possibly get my head in the game as quickly as I’d planned to, and that’s just the bottom line. I won’t be offended if you trip off to explore further regions of the interwebs today, but know that next week, I’ll be back on my game and I’ll have something special to report on.
For those of you who are fans of Harris (or are just completists, like me, who hate stopping halfway through a blog post), welcome. I have to admit to being curious about watching the show based on the books now that I’ve read so many of them, but I’m even more interested in the fact that Harris managed to pull off something that very few series writers do – she paces her novels so well that they flow seamlessly together and make, I expect, for excellent translation to television.
Seriously though, she’s addictive. I found myself reading bits and pieces at every possible opportunity over the last two weeks (I’m so thankful for Kindle apps on smart phones!), although I quickly realized that I’m a little too wound up if I read her right before bedtime. Inevitably I run across a gruesome murder about three pages before I plan to turn out the light, and then the night is just one crazy nightmare after another as my brain tries to process all the violence, especially against women. But while waiting for my parents to be ready to go out? While standing and stirring pudding on the stove? After getting to yoga twenty minutes earlier than necessary? Check, check and check.
The reason it’s so easy to go through Harris’ books rapidly is that they’re written to take place only a week or two after the last one wraps up. Often in a series, the time between the novels is indeterminate, or at best, a few months or a year later. It’s a lot easier to disengage from the characters when so much time has passed. Harris doesn’t allow that to happen, and once I discovered that evil little fact, I was screwed.
And, well, I’m the sort of person who falls in with characters like they’re my best friends, and I keep in touch with my actual best friends on almost a weekly basis…so give me the chance to keep up with my fictional friends on a timeline with no lag and I’m hooked. It’s really not fair because I have an insanely long list of recommendations for books from my friends, but I’m so tuned into these characters that even tv shows I normally love are annoying to me because they take away from reading time. And that’s why I can justify writing two entries about an author many serious readers wouldn’t give a chance – she writes books that make me forget about television, about email, about Facebook and Twitter – and that is no small feat.
When I talk to other people, especially my age and younger, I’m disappointed by how few readers are in my social circles. People are always telling me, “oh, but I read articles online!” All I can say to that is articles are not books. Blog posts are not books (unless of course, an author is posting chapters of their book to their blog…). Magazines are not books. Books are books. Anthologies? Sure. Fanfic even gets the thumbs up from me. Essays – I’ll give ’em to you, though they’re on the line for me.
The sad truth is, books are not as in now as I want them to be. I sometimes feel in the minority as a writer and reader who loves the advent of the electronic book, but the fact of the matter is, e-readers are encouraging people to read who had long been stuck to their computer screens, people who felt daunted by physical books (yes, it turns out not everyone is as turned on by the smell of well-worn paper as Readers are). I’ve seen my husband start books a hundred times and never finish them, and yet a novel I get him on the Kindle is devoured – the format is just so familiar and comfortable to him – the little screen, the ability to get it anywhere…it makes reading accessible to a whole new audience.
But only if that audience stops messing around on the internet long enough to try it. Since I started this project in December, I realized how much time I was wasting watching reruns on tv, refreshing my twitter stream, and generally making excuses to put off books until later. Sometimes, even though I adore books, I still make excuses; the fact that I write about them here keeps me on track. It was sort of moving, then, for me to realize last week, when I was reading books I had no plans to review, how much I enjoy the simple pleasures of a compelling story. Sure, Sookie Stackhouse is no Sherlock Holmes, but her stories thrill me and make me laugh and reinforce a love for books over other things. And for that, Charlaine Harris deserves great respect.