Monday, May 17, 2010

Sookie's Latest Outing

The UK's The Bookseller had an article on Thursday in which it listed the two fastest-selling books thus far this year. No. 2 was Laura Bush's memoir Spoken From the Heart, which sold 147,003 copies in its first partial week according to Nielsen's BookScan.

The #1 fastest-selling book thus far this year is Charlaine Harris' Dead in the Family. The novel, the tenth outing for her protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse, sold 199,732 copies during the six days beginning with its May 4 release.

I suspect Amazon's sales price of $9.99 for the hardcover probably provided a boost to the book's sales.

I'm a voracious reader as well as a faithful follower of the series novels I like. However, it is very rare for me to come in on the first novel in a series. Generally most series are on their second or third books before I discover them.

One deviation from my usual pattern was the Sookie Stackhouse series. I picked up the first book Dead Until Dark shortly after its release in 2001 to read during a plane ride to Florida. With all the time I spent in the airport and on the flight, I finished it before arriving in Tampa.

I remember being so tickled by its dry humor that I dragged my mother to Haslam's Bookstore in St. Petersburg to buy a copy for my younger brother. Although he and I usually have the same taste in books, Sookie's breezy chick lit voice just did not appeal to him.

If you are not familiar with the series, maybe you know it by its television title: True Blood. The books are set in an alternate universe where vampires have gone mainstream, all the while assuring the human public (understandably fearful of becoming munchies) that a diet of artificial blood suits them just fine.

Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress living and working in the little town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Sookie is a psychic being slowly driven crazy by the chatter in her head from all the minds she cannot block out. She is thrilled to realize that she cannot "read" a vampire's thoughts. That alone is enough to tempt her into an affair with Bill the Vampire, tiny Bon Temps' only vamp. At the same time, the vampires' power structure is delighted to learn of the existence of a psychic whom they can employ for their own purposes. Sookie's life becomes a balancing act as she is introduced to the underworld of other paranormal creatures existing secretly alongside humans and vamps.

Harris' series was the first vampire novel with a chick lit voice I'd encountered, and I adored the understated humor. Three years later, MaryJanice Davidson created a straightforward chick lit vampire with her "Undead" series. The difference between the two is that Harris' series are vampire stories with a chick lit voice while MJD's series are chick lit novels that just happen to be about vampires.

Dead in the Family is much darker in tone than previous outings in the series. It begins after the short but horrific Fae War in which both Sookie and her ex-lover, Bill the Vampire, were badly wounded. Sookie is healing faster than Bill, who appears to be suffering from his own brand of depression because of the ending of their relationship.

Meanwhile, Sooke and her current boyfriend, Eric the Viking, are having relationship problems, and he's not there to protect her from the growing threat hiding in the woods behind her house.

Yes, it's true. I was one of the readers who helped create that 199,732 sales figure.

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