Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Death Incorporated: Chapter 2

Chapter Two: Sera, Sam, And The Rest Of The Fam

 Seraphina taught Sam to walk--a moment which Nina captured in a home movie. She taught Sam how to get the most out of his Halloween costume during his first outing trick-or-treating in their upper-middle-class neighborhood. "Hit the big houses first," she said, "the ones with the lights on and the decorations up. They'll be the ones with the good stuff--you know, the full-sized snickers bars and the big bags of m&m's." Nancy warned Seraphina, with a sardonic look and a half-smile, that two-year-olds didn't need to be eating full-sized snickers bars OR large bags of m&m's, but this did not deter Seraphina in the least from leveraging Sam's cuteness and her own never-give-up entrepreneurial spirit in order to procure the best candy.

 Life continued on like this for several years. Sam turned five, and Seraphina turned fifteen. The two were inseparable. They went everywhere together and seemed an unstoppable team. 

 When Lucas Mitchell had bullied Sam on the fifth-grade playground, Seraphina snuck out of the house one night with the intention of scaring Lucas while he was in bed, and then threatening him until he promised never ever to hurt, bother or upset Sam, either on the playground, or anywhere else, thank you very much, but to her consternation, found instead that Lucas had discovered his Dad's adult tube account, which he was watching with both zeal and ardor. The next day at lunchtime, Seraphina snuck out of her high school campus and paid a little visit to the elementary school her brother attended, which happened to be practically next door, smartphone in hand, a smug, yet determined look on her face, as she marched up to Sam and dragged him only semi-willingly up to Lucas Mitchell, who, as it turns out, was very capable of crying and wetting his pants on the playground, in addition to having a desire to bully other children for much more minor infractions of the elementary school social code. From that day on, Lucas never bothered another soul at recess, and even became friends with Sam, although Sam was slow to accept said friendship.

  Life was good for the Arrington-Wu family. Balance had been achieved, and they had, in Sam's colloquial terminology "leveled up" to the point that it seemed all of the families in the surrounding houses were jealous, at most, and admiring, at least, of the Smith-Wus.

 But in the fall of that year, things, as they tend to do, changed. Seraphina thought she was used to change by now, but, as it turns out, change can reach out and punch people right in the gut when they are least expecting it. Nancy, it became clear, had found a lump. It wasn't a big lump, but it was cause for concern. One Thursday morning, Nancy sat the family down at breakfast. She was going in for a biopsy. Sure everything would be fine, Nancy and Nina reassured the children.

 But things were not "fine," and Seraphina, as an almost-adult, resented being told that they would be. This was a point she would bring up often with both of her parents, but especially with Nina, who had reassured her to the point of repetitiveness that Nancy would, in fact, be fine. Nina's assurances, along with her confidences, however, started to crumble, and Seraphina's anger grew, while Sam seemed to spend all of his spare time with his Mom, cheering her up, reassuring her, and sending her videos, texts, and gifs to make her smile as she proceeded from surgery to chemotherapy to surgery to radiation treatment, and then back to surgery. Seraphina avoided spending time with Nancy. Seraphina was furious that Nancy had reassured her that everything would be okay when she knew it wouldn't. Seraphina even went so far as to reach out to her father, whom she hadn't talked to in years, to see what he could do to help. She expected to be met with ignorance, disdain, even derision. After all, she hadn't seen, nor talked with the man in many years--since he had moved away on business, but that was the arrangement he and Nancy had made, and he had built his own family. Seraphina, much to her dismay, was met only with kindness and understanding, which irritated her even further. Why was it, she wondered, that adults always told the truth to each other--talked behind their kids' backs, rather than telling them the truth upfront? Keith had not only commiserated with Seraphina upon the occasion of her first phone call to him, but he had, annoyingly, been video calling her on a weekly basis. He even dared to show off his family in these calls. Seraphina began to resent the sad looks his wife and children had when they sat with him or inconspicuously in the background during these chats. As Nancy's health declined, Seraphina stopped picking up the phone. She didn't need someone else pretending to tell her the truth. She didn't need anyone pretending to love her or spending time reaching out to her that they would probably rather spend doing anything else. Seraphina was nobody's burden.

 And so, the days and weeks of this continued. Sam, at Nancy's bedside, Nina trying and failing to connect with Seraphina, Grandma and Grandpa Wu phoning in from whatever Pacific Island their retirement boat, the Megumi, took them to next. 

And then, one day, Nina showed up at Seraphina's school, Sam in tow, sad look on both their faces. Had something happened to Mom? Seraphina wondered. And how was it that Sam had been told about this before she had? Adult always lied. It was, in Seraphina's view, basically their job. Nina held Seraphina's and Sam's hands as she told them they were going to see Nancy in the hospital. Things weren't going well, and Nancy had been in and out of consciousness that day. The hospital staff had said to come right away.

 This, as it happens, would recur and recur more times than Seraphina could count over the next few weeks, with the hospital chaplain stopping in for a visit upon occasion, and the Rabbi from Dad's old synagogue even putting in a few appearances. It was chaos--an oddly predictable chaos, that Seraphina's family had been thrown into.

 As the days passed and Seraphina's friends and teachers became more and more concerned, Seraphina grew distant, signing up for any job, title or activity that would take up time. Seraphina had always been a bit of an overachiever, but these were the acts of a person drowning in heartache and sorrow. Sera had to escape. She had to have an outlet. 

As the weeks wore on, Seraphina stopped going with Nina and Sam when they would visit Nancy at the hospital. If Nina was so convinced Nancy would get better, Seraphina would just see her then, and then they would have it out about lying to her own kid--her partner-in-crime about important things. Before Nina and stupid Sam, they used to talk about everything. Why should that change now, just because Nancy was sick? Nina was inconsolable--even to Sam, who spent every extra minute with her, trying to keep her spirits up. Sam was such a little sellout, Seraphina thought, always wanting to be liked--loved--always wanting everyone to be happy. Well, Seraphina wasn't happy, and she didn't need any of that. She would deal with reality, take things as they were. She wouldn't sugar coat things and pretend everything was fine when it wasn't.

 One day, as luck would have it, Nina and Sam turned up at school for a second time, without notice, asking that Seraphina be excused for the day. Seraphina's stomach dropped, but that initial reaction to this news, which couldn't be good, was outrage. How dare they come in here and interrupt her life AGAIN? Didn't anyone even care that this was the day of the student council elections? Did anyone even bother to check?

 Seraphina told Nina and Sam the same, after storming into the principal's office to see them. "Go!" she said. "You don't care about me! She won't even know I'm there! I'll see Mom when she gets better." Rounding on Sam, "you don't even care about Mom anymore! Why don't you go comfort your precious Nina? Clearly, she needs a hand to hold. And when Mom, dies, maybe YOU can marry her!" 

 Seraphina stalked out of the principal's office, taking care to slam the door on the way out. 

 Feeling a little bit bad, and needing somewhere to go to calm down, Seraphina pushed her way into the nearest girls bathroom. To her embarrassment, she found Gretchen Silversen and her clique of vultures nested around one of the sinks, in mid-gossip.

 "I don't know who she thinks she is," one of them said before any of them realized Seraphina was in the girls room, "she has like no friends. No one even knows her. I mean...wah, wah, her Mom's dead or whatever, but really--student council? Against me? How cliche?"

 Someone else wandered into the girl's room a moment later, hitting Seraphina on the back with the bathroom door. "Oh," said the perpetrator, a girl Seraphina barely knew, but who was always nice to her in French class, "I didn't see you there. I'll be voting for you in today's election. Good luck!"

"At least one person will be voting for you," said one of the girls holding court with Gretchen replied waspishly, "everyone deserves at least one vote. The other thousand, however, will be going to Gretchen."

 "Um," interjected one timid, ditzy girl in Gretchen's circle, "Gretch, I don't think her Mom's...like...dead or whatever."

 "And?" Said Gretchen, "that means what, exactly? My point stands. She's a loser. Literally, no one will vote for her."

 "Sorry," intoned the girl, whom Seraphina thought might have been named Jennifer, as the door closed with a thud.

 For a minute, Seraphina didn't know where to go next. She had a moment of panic, wondering if Nina and Sam had left yet, wanting desperately and inexplicably to go with them. Then, she shook her head, thinking to herself that if even her family had forgotten about her upcoming election, she needed to show up so that at least she could hold her head high and not be the laughing stock of the whole school.

Monday, October 28, 2019

New Novel: Death, Incorporated: Chapter One

Chapter One: Two’s Company; Three’s A Crowd

 Seraphina Smith-Wu sat, soaking up the sun in the courtyard of her Santa Clarita high school. It would later be days like this--days taken for granted--packed, yet uneventful days, which stretched on into limitless possibilities, which Seraphina missed with all of her heart--with all of her soul.

 "Sera--oy! Earth to Sera!"

 A voice interrupted her daydreams,

"So? What do you think?"

 "About?" Asked Seraphina, hoping that the utter lack of interest in her voice would dissuade Janice from sharing anything further.

"About?!" Janice responded indignantly, "I'm only pouring my heart out here. You are way too into that zen shit, Sera. Honestly. It's not healthy."

"What about being completely at peace with myself isn't healthy? Please--explain."
"Or, on second thought, don't. Because the bell's about to ring, and we've got an English test today. Let's go."

Seraphina rose, grabbing her bag and stuffing her phone into her pocket, long legs striding, carrying her closer to the oblivion she knew English class would offer, followed by Janice.

"He's totally crushing on you," said Janice, "Sawyer says she heard it from Jenna that HE is planning to ask you to the winter dance. You know," Janice qualified, "him. Logan Anderson. I wish he'd asked ME to the winter dance," Janice continued, "the winter dance is just one step away from prom, and prom is one step away from marrying into the wealthiest family in the state! I've looked. His Dad pulls a ridiculous paycheck from CharoCorp. He makes a cool ten million annually, and that's just what he declares on tax day. Who knows what money he's making from his investments? The possibilities here are limitless."

"Sera?" Janice asked, stopping short of their English classroom, upon discovering halfway into her monologue that Seraphina wasn't paying attention.

"Yeah," Seraphina said, inviting no further conversation.

"Well," said Janice hotly, “you could show a LITTLE more interest. I AM looking out for your future."

"My future?" Seraphina asked.

"Obvs," replied Janice, "always."

"Well," Seraphina quipped, opening the door to English class and lowering her voice, "then you are doing a terrible job because my foreseeable future includes the English test which I'm now late for."

 Seraphina glanced back at Janice with a smile and a wink to stave off the rage she knew Janice would later unleash. Janice's initially stony face melted into a smile and an eye roll as Janice picked up the pace, hurrying into the room, trying not to be seen by Mr. Adams.

 "Ms. Smith," said Mr. Adams, without looking up from his orderly desk, using Seraphina’s more colloquial and easily digestible English name, “so glad you could join us. And you appear to have brought Ms. Watson with you. I take it that something of dire importance must've kept you from arriving on time?"

"DIRE importance, sir," said Janice, casting a knowing look at Seraphina. Seraphina winced, glad of the need to unpack her bag and ready herself for the test, which gave her an excuse to look away.

As the bell rang, Seraphina packed her things quickly and got up, ready to sit through her history class--the only one she enjoyed, and to head to cheer practice.

 You see, Seraphina was a driven individual. She sat on the student council, helped with bake sales, played volleyball and had held a place on the cheerleading squad, which she had kept since middle school. Seraphina Smith was busy. She didn't have time to let the grass grow. Free time meant time made free to think--to feel--and feeling meant pain. Pain could lead to stagnancy, and stagnancy could lead to the kind of life that didn't bear thinking of. Pain was for the weak, and Seraphina didn't have time for weakness.

Seraphina knew what pain was like, and, like most kids her age, wasn't keen to feel it again. 

 Seraphina's mother had taught her that, in a roundabout way. Sera and Nancy had always been as close as a mother and daughter could be. They ate together, and when they ate, they made funny faces at each other, scrutinized the other diners in their vicinity and people watched, speculating at what each person's life must be like--gave them each a name, based on their most outstanding features and attributes, speculated about where they were going and why, whether they had families, what their friends were like and what kinds of cars they drove. They made silly faces at cars and school buses as they drove by, made up names for their least favorite school teachers and co-workers and would spend family vacations roasting marshmallows over the campfire and wondering what their lives would look like in ten years.

 Then came Nina. Nina came along at just the right time for Nancy. Nancy needed a partner her own age, it must be said, though her close relationship with Seraphina kept her young. Sera wasn't thrilled, needless to say, at the prospect of Nancy being someone else's partner-in-crime, making faces at buses, cars and trucks alike with someone else at her side, roasting marshmallows with someone else, speculating on where their lives might go with some generic person at her side, but as the months, and then years went by and Nina became part of the family, Seraphina saw how happy her mother had become. 

 Rather than taking Nancy away from Seraphina, Nina seemed to be a catalyst for Nancy to spend more time with her family--more time at home streaming silly teen movies on Netflix, more time gazing at diners when they went out to restaurants, people watching and wondering what other people's lives might be like and what sort of a family each diner was going home to on their way out of the restaurant; more time going to high school basketball games and rooting fiercely for the home team's hard-working girls, more time helping Seraphina with her homework, more time styling her hair before school, and more time getting manic/pedis at their favorite spas.

 Nina seemed to complete a part of Nancy that Seraphina didn't even know needed completion. She added to Nancy's happiness and Seraphina's wellbeing, rather than taking away from their close relationship. Nina had, somehow, someday, while Seraphina's guard was down, become family. Seraphina could not adequately understand how this had happened, but it had. 

 Now Sera's school conferences miraculously included not one, but two parents. Her take your parent to school days now included not one parent, but two whole parents with separate and equally interesting jobs to talk to her fellow students about. Seraphina was loved. And so, it seems, was Nancy. Nancy had been holding back a part of herself that perhaps even she never fully understood. Nina nourished this part of Nancy back to health, until, one day, Nina and Nancy took Seraphina out of school for the day. Happily--giddily, even, they drove her to the courthouse, where they brought in three dry cleaning bags full of freshly laundered and pressed garments. Nancy and Nina were getting married, and Seraphina was to be their one and only bridesmaid! Seraphina couldn't hold back her yelps of joy and pleasure as the three of them walked out of the courthouse, blowing paper trombones and wearing funny hats with their fancy dresses. They went for ice cream down the street, attracting what seemed to Seraphina like all the attention in the world as they went, but Seraphina didn't care. She did not have eyes for the happy smiles and well wishes the strangers on the street stopped and offered the happy family as they walked by. She only had eyes for Nancy--and for Nina, her other mother, for all intents and purposes. Seraphina joyfully skipped as she held Nina's and Nancy's hands that day.

 From then on, things had become downright wonderful. Her family was finally complete, with the happy accident of a baby brother thrown in as the completely unnecessary, but greatly loved and cherished cherry on top. Nancy had heard about a young boy from her family's hometown in Japan, who needed a family, and, before Seraphina knew it, she had a new baby brother. Sam was eighteen months old when he joined her family, and, despite Sera's initial resistance to the idea that another child might take the spotlight off of her, she eventually fell in love with him--drool, goofy smile, and all. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

#BookReportSunday Dead Reckoning: Spoiler Free&Full Synopsis, Breakdown&Response

Intro and Welcome:

Hey folks! It's your girl, Dom. My #BookReportSunday series on my podcast, Dominique Does Life (available on Spreaker, iHeartRadio, iTunes Podcast, Google Play, Spotify and more!) has really taken off, so I've decided to bring it on over to my blog in written form. While this has taken some time to do, and while at this time, I don't think I'll be going back and doing this for every book I've reviewed on the Dominique Does Life podcast, I do think it'll be worth it to do a corresponding blog piece for each new book I review on Dominique Does Life's podcast. Let me know what you think, and leave your comments about what you liked, loved, disliked, hated or even what you felt a bit 'meh' about in this book in the comments below! As always, please introduce any spoilers with a spoiler alert, so that I don't have to deal with a bevy of angry readers 😂. Read on, be well and have a fabulous day!

Dead Reckoning Spoiler-Free Synopsis

In “Dead Reckoning,” a title which happens to be a play on a mode of navigation for flying airplanes in poor weather conditions with low visibility, Charlaine Harris takes Sookie and company on the wildest ride yet, with her characteristic twists and turns, and with the clear plan to wrap up the deliciously in-depth character arcs she has created throughout the previous ten books and the many vignettes in between. Sookie explores her relationship with Eric, which is pushed to the limits as new foes loom on the horizon, improves her friendship and simultaneously tests the bond between her and Amelia, and helps Tara through her unexpected pregnancy. 

 Sookie begins to understand more about her relationship with her fae brethren and what it means to be part fae herself, while finding new allies in old friends like Mr. Cotaliades and Diantha, and drawing lines in the sand with old flames, like Alcide and Bill. Sookie finds a new depth to her unexpected friendship with her ex-boyfriend Bill Compton, after having assisted Bill in reconnecting with family who had no idea they were descended from the Comptons (in the last book in the Sookieverse, “Dead In The Family”), while finding unforeseen complications which could spell trouble and ultimate doom for her relationship with Eric Northman. Sookie’s friendship with Pam is strengthened, as Pam defies her maker’s orders in order to give her friend [Sookie] a much-needed heads up about a situation that could have grave consequences for Sookie, about which Eric would prefer to keep Sookie in the dark. 

 Sookie cultivates a deepened bond both with her brother, Jason, and her faerie Great Uncle, Dermot, whom she has grown to love and respect. Jason’s relationship with his girlfriend-turned-fiancee, Michele, becomes more serious, and Sookie is incredibly grateful and eminently thankful to notice that her once harebrained, immature, and…er…promiscuous (to say the least!) brother has now grown up and is taking to his life as were-panther, former widower and current fiancee with a finesse that Sookie never realized Jason had. Jason is able to prove himself to Sookie on more than one occasion, being there for her in unexpected ways. 

 Sookie gains some new insight into who her Gran was and why she was so protective of Sookie, above and beyond Sookie’s telepathic “gift.” This window into her Gran’s soul also affects Sookie’s relationship with Niall, Claude, Dermot, Mr. Cotaliades, and her late Grandfather, Finton, as well as the rest of the fae at Hooligan’s, and those beyond the dimensional borders. Sookie’s friendship with Sam is tested, and will apparently continue to be, though she is able to help him in a major way when Merlotte’s heads into a bit of a slump, due to Victor, the new King Regent of Louisiana opening a new bar in his area, and the townsfolk being wary of Sam’s now public status as a two-natured shape-shifter. Sandra Pelt, Alcide Herveaux, and Lily Bard Leeds and her husband Jack even turn up in this book. I really enjoyed this entry into the Southern Vampire Mysteries and would highly recommend giving it a read.

Plot: 5/5
Character Development: 5/5
Setting: 5/5
Narrative Flow: 4/5
Style: 5/5
Editing: 4/5

Total Score: 28/30

I’d categorize this one as a Must Read!












Dead Reckoning Timeline Of Events: Spoilers Included

Sookie, Dermot, and Claude work together to clean out the attic and affect some home improvements so that Dermot has a furnished attic to live in (Dermot loves HGTV).

Sookie decides to sell her old items and old family “junk” to an antique shop called Splendide, in Shreveport. 
Sam told Sookie about Splendide, where, apparently, Janalynne shops. Sam and Sookie make plans to go to Splendide to talk to the owners about selling Sookie’s stuff. Dermot, Claude and Sookie start a burn pile for the rest. 

Merlotte’s is firebombed by a quickly moving supe who Sookie just barely catches sight of out of the corner of her eye before the supe throws the molotov cocktail through the window of the bar, before running away and disappearing. Jane Boathouse, the town drunk, is seated by the window when this happens. Sam gets Jane to safety and Sam and Sookie put out the blaze. Sam quickly recovers from his burnt arm and Sookie has some of the ends of her hair burnt beyond repair. 

By the time Bud Dearborn shows up to investigate the fire, Eric has already arrived, having felt Sookie’s pain and fear, having dropped everything and flown over to rescue Sookie. Bud is surprised that Eric was able to make it over so quickly. Eric tells Bud that Eric has flown over to Merlotte’s, much to Bud’s consternation. Sookie and Eric strategically avoid talking about their blood bond and the implications it has on how and why Eric showed up so quickly when Sookie was in danger. 

Eric and Pam bring Emanuel, a top-notch hairdresser and the brother of Pam’s human partner, Miriam, to fix Sookie’s burnt hair. Eric is in a terrible mood and, in a towering rage, Eric attacks Pam and makes a mess out of Sookie’s kitchen in the process. Sookie ushers everyone out of her house, wondering why Eric is in such an horrible mood. Pam seems to be trying to tell Sookie something, but Sookie can’t fathom what that might be. 

 The faeries come home and wonder what the hell happened. Sookie is too frustrated to explain. 

 Sam shows up at Sookie’s the next morning, despite the fire the previous night at Merlotte’s, ready to take Sookie over to Splendide. Apparently, Sam is looking to buy Janalynne a birthday present while he and Sookie are at the antique shop. Between Danny the new bouncer, Terry, Sam, and the fire marshall, Merlotte’s has been cleaned up and is ready to reopen the following evening, despite the police have as yet been unable to catch whoever firebombed Merlotte’s. 
I cannot with Sam right now

 Sam acts like a little bitch, being jealous and surly with Claude, and, after visiting Splendide with Sookie, convinces Sookie to head right on over to the strip club Claude runs and Dermot helps manage, to give all of the fae there the hard brace about why they’re really staying at Sookie’s house and what implications being fae has for Sookie on her life (which, why not just ask Claude and Dermot while you were at the house being surly with them when you picked Sookie up to go to Splendide...? Ugh, Sam. I can’t even with you.). Obviously, the fae aren’t super thrilled with this dick move, but they oblige as much as they feel comfortable. Sam then scolds Sookie about Eric needing to fix the mess he made of Sookie’s kitchen, because why not, I guess...?

Eric and Sookie are asked to go to Victor's new bar, Vampire's Kiss, to pay tribute to the King Regent of Louisiana (holding the state for King Filipé de Castro, who is the first vampire king to rule more than one state at a time, or possibly the first vampire king to hold more than one state ever). Pam arrives first, being Eric’s second and lieutenant, and asks to check the premises to ensure Eric’s safety when he arrives. Victor takes offense to this and has his minions beat the ever-loving crap out of Pam.

When Eric and Sookie arrive, Victor acts as offensively and disrespectfully as possible to Sookie and Eric, hoping to make them snap and start a fight, so he has an excuse for Felipe to sanction the killing of Eric, Pam and Sookie. Victor has also kidnapped Pam’s sick human partner, Miriam, Emanuel’s sister, and holds her hostage at the bar, pretending that she came of her own volition. Pam must go through the night pretending that she doesn’t care about Miriam so that Victor doesn’t harm her further. Eric, Pam, and Sookie don’t bite, and maintain their best behavior, and so Victor moves to his backup plan and tries to serve Pam and Eric True Blood that has been laced with faerie blood, which is intoxicating to vampires, again, in the hopes that they’ll lose their minds and go nuts in his club, allowing him license to kill them and not get in trouble with Felipe for killing Eric, who is one of Felipe’s top earners, due to his ownership of Fangtasia. Victor has even primed two of his vampire minions to approach Eric and company in the bar parking lot, pretending to want to overthrow Victor. Back inside of the club, when Victor attempts to spike Eric’s and Pam’s blood, one of the servers, a man named Colton, sends Sookie a message telepathically, in order to warn her that there was faerie blood in their glasses. Sookie sends her concern through her blood bond with Eric and, while she is unable to give him specifics, intimates to him that he and Pam should not drink from the glasses Victor has offered them. Eric then tells Victor that he and Pam have nothing against American packaging and that he would prefer to drink from the bottle. This confounds Victor, but his hands are tied, and he serves them bottled True Blood instead of True Blood from the glasses Victor initially provided.

 Pam is able to escort Miriam off the premises and get her safely home. Pam, knowing that Miriam is ill (she has leukemia), has petitioned Victor to turn Miriam into a vampire. Victor has delayed the process, knowing that when Miriam eventually dies, Pam will be enraged, and hoping that she will attack and give Victor an excuse to put Pam and Eric down and take over Fangtasia himself. While Pam escorts Miriam home, Eric and Sookie follow Colton, the helpful server home to talk to him. Once Colton and his girlfriend Audrina realize that Eric and Sookie are not a threat, they set up a time to meet at Sookie’s house to discuss how they might all go about killing Victor, as Victor has become too big of a threat and too unpredictable to allow him to live. Felipe won’t take any action against Victor, because he doesn’t want his other lieutenants thinking that’s how he normally deals with the vampires who have sworn loyalty to him and rebelling against him. Victor is a pain in Felipe’s behind too, because of his thirst for power and unpredictability, and Sookie, Eric and Pam know that if they do kill Victor, Felipe will need to make a show of imposing some sort of consequence on them, even if it is just for optics.
I realize this is Debbie, but we work with what we've got

Because one attack wasn’t enough, Sandra Pelt sends some blood heads (vampire blood users) to Merlotte’s AFTER Janalynne walks in and becomes jealous of Sookie and Sam, because they are closeted together in his office working on tax paperwork. Janalynne, Sam, Sookie, and visitors Lily [nee Bard] and Jack Leeds who have visited the bar to finish up their involvement with the Debbie Pelt case, and Terry Bellefleur subdue the attackers. Andy happens to be in the bar at the time and he hauls said thugs off to jail. Apparently, Mr. Cotaliades has sent Lily and Jack to Merlotte’s, knowing that Sandra was planning yet another attack on the bar. Mr. Cotaliades is the executor of the Pelt family’s will, and, as we find out later on in this book, Sookie’s sponsor, which essentially means that as Sookie’s Grandfather Finton’s best friend, in addition to keeping an eye on Sookie and keeping Sookie safe, he gave Sookie her gift of telepathy (and Hunter’s too) by giving her Gran some of his blood in some wine, which allowed Sookie and any other descendants of Gran to have the ability of telepathy, an ability which Finton and Desmond Cotaliades both thought would be a boon, and would offer any descendants with the essential spark (a basic ability to empathize with and understand those who were supernatural, an ability which Gran apparently had and passed on to some of her descendants) in an effort to offer them a leg up on their human peers. But Desmond Cotaliades isn’t the only one looking out for Sookie. Terry admits to Sookie, in a state of PTSD shock, that Niall and Eric have coerced him into looking after Sookie and keeping an eye on her when they’re not around. Sookie is displeased at this news but isn’t too terribly surprised. Jack Leeds is shot for his trouble to come out to Merlotte’s and finish his job working for the Pelt estate, warning Sookie of Sandra’s intentions in so doing. Thankfully Lily was able to get Jack to the hospital emergency room and all was well with them after that. Apparently the bar patrons, Andy included, mistook the thugs’ comment about being there for “the blonde” to mean that they had followed Lily Leeds, who also has blonde hair, to Merlotte’s, which allowed Sookie to go home without further questioning from local law enforcement.
Debbie again, but close enough

 Sookie knows now that not only does Sandra Pelt dislike her—even hate her, but that she’s gunning for her, and not only is she gunning for her, but she isn’t willing to let any grass grow under her feet; she wants Sookie dead like yesterday. For those who need a primer on why Sandra Pelt hates Sookie Stackhouse so, Sookie was forced to kill Sandra’s adopted sister, Debbie, after Debbie broke into Sookie’s house with a gun, in an angry, jealous rage, after Alcide Herveaux abjured her. This wasn’t the first time Debbie Pelt had tried to kill Sookie. She attacked her hours before she broke into Sookie’s house during the witch war, and before that, Debbie threw Sookie into a car trunk with a blood deprived Bill, who eventually raped Sookie and nearly drained her before he regained his senses. Debbie did all of this because she was jealous of Sookie and Alcide, despite the fact that her relationship with Alcide was on-again-off-again, and despite the fact that Debbie was engaged for a portion of these attacks on Sookie. When Debbie showed up at Sookie’s house after the witch war, wielding a gun, Eric jumped in front of Sookie and took the bullet for her, giving Sookie time to grab the rifle she borrowed from Jason’s house and shoot Debbie in the head. Eric then buried Debbie’s body on the outskirts of Sookie’s property and hid her car somewhere else. Debbie and Sandra’s parents promised Sookie, Quinn, and Eric that they would keep Sandra in check, and told them that they accepted [albeit grudgingly] that Sookie had shot and killed Debbie Pelt justifiably, being that Debbie had attacked Sookie first, with the intent of killing her. Unfortunately, not long afterward, the Pelts died in a car accident, leaving Sandra to go about trying to kill Sookie. 

 Meanwhile, at home, Sookie is given a bag and a piece of paper which were hidden in a hidden compartment in a desk she had sold to Splendide. Sookie reads the letter which is from Gran, which describes the item inside of the drawstring bag, which is called a cluvial dor. It is a mystical item that gives the one receiving it as a gift [of love] one wish. The wish can be as big or as small as the receiver wishes—the only stipulation being that it MUST be used in love i.e. in the service of or to otherwise benefit someone the receiver loves. Gran may or may not have fully believed in this magic and never told Sookie, either out of shame or because she never thought Sookie was ready to hear about it—and her affair with Finton, but Sookie, being more familiar with magic, knows it’s for real and immediately enlists Amelia’s help in figuring out more about the cluvial dor. Sookie ruminates on the possibility that Gran could’ve used the cluvial for to save herself when Rene Leniere murdered her. Sookie hides the cluvial dor in her vanity, disguising it as a powder compact and telling no one about it—least of all her fae roommates. 

 Donald Calloway (the co-owner of Splendide) ends up finding out that the cluvial dor is valuable and wants to steal it back from Sookie. Sookie ends up killing Donald Calloway in self-defense, and Mr. Cotaliades and Diantha help her to cover it up and dispose of his body, giving her an alibi. 

Sookie wonders why Eric has been in such a mood and ends up finding out, through Pam’s insistence, that Eric’s maker, Apius Livius Ocala, had made up a binding contract to pair Eric with Frida, the queen of Oklahoma. Eric has been covering up the fact that he’s been talking to Frida, and that this is basically a done deal. Sookie is hurt, and in the meantime, she enlists Amelia and Bob’s help in breaking the magical blood bond between her and Eric, which enrages Eric, since she didn’t consult him before doing so. Apparently, the blood bond was the thing which was offering Sookie the most protection—even more so than their marriage. 

 Sandra then ends up coming to Merlotte’s herself and freaks tf out on Sookie and is promptly arrested by Bud Dearborne, who can frequently be found at Merlotte’s, holding court and having dinner. Terry subdues Sandra with a baseball bat to the head and his PTSD goes hog wild. Terry is taken to the ER.

Sookie finds her door hanging open when she gets home from work one day not too much later. A were then downs a tree behind her car to trap her, so she gets out of her car, flings her milk jug at the were and runs over to Bills, where she doffs her clothes and shoes, shakes the rain off of her, grabs Bill’s spare key and enters his house. Despite the rain and darkness, it isn’t nightfall yet, and Bill is still dead for the day. Sookie finds his sleeping area and enters it to hide with him. Bill wakes up and falls back to sleep a few times and Sookie hushes him. Once Bill wakes up and sees Sookie naked, he jokes that he wonders whether she concocted this scenario just to be naked around Bill and potentially have sex with him. Sookie isn’t pleased about this and she puts on what she thinks is a table cloth, only to find out that it’s Bill’s late Aunt Edwina’s favorite shawl. Sookie and Bill finally head back to Sookie’s house and they find Dermot injured and bleeding from a head wound, having been attacked by the weres who came looking for Sookie (three guesses as to who hired them). Bill almost eats Dermot and Sookie but is able to leave her house before he does anything too crazy. Sookie calls one of the fae from Hooligans, an elf named Bellanos, who comes to help Dermot. Apparently, the best medicine for Dermot is the blood of the men who attacked him. That pretty much spells the end for them, and Dermot and Bellanos bring the severed head of one of the weres back to Sookie’s house to show her that they took care of the weres who attacked Dermot and tried to attack Sookie. Sookie vomits, but tries to be positive with Dermot and is, of course, glad that he has recovered. Sookie cuts Dermot a little bit of a break on having taken down Amelia’s protection spell (in order to put up an apparently stronger one of his own) since he was attacked and injured because of it.

Sookie lends Sam money to keep Merlotte’s afloat, since it is in a bit of a slump, due to Sam coming out as a shifter and Victor opening Vic’s Redneck Roadhouse. Sam balks at first, but then graciously accepts it. At a later surprise birthday party for Sookie at Merlotte’s, Sam presents Sookie with a certificate stating that she is 1/3 owner of Merlotte’s. Sookie then takes over managerial and ownership duties alongside Sam.

 Sookie plans a baby shower for Tara (apparently in addition to Halle and Tara being pregnant, Porsche is pregnant too) for the day after Eric, Sookie and Pam plan to kill Victor. Mr. Cotaliades shows up afterward, having been chased by some hellhounds, and explains his relationship to Sookie, as well as what it means that he’s her sponsor. Sookie is both thankful for this and a little miffed that he waited until now to tell her all of this. 

Sookie and Eric go through with their plan to kill Victor, which involves Sookie’s brilliant idea of Bill convincing Bubba to perform for Victor at an exclusive concert just for Victor at Fangtasia, being that Victor is a huge Elvis fan. Sadly, by the time the night of the concert rolls around, Miriam has died. Emanuel attends in honor of his sister Miriam, as do Audrina and Colton. Eric, Pam, Sookie and team succeed in killing Victor, despite the fact that he has replaced the two vampires he sent to kill Pam and Sookie (who Pam and Sookie ended up killing in self-defense, instead) in the last book with a notorious fighter called Akiro. This makes it even more difficult to kill Victor, and ends up causing the goofy, narcissistic human couple Victor swings with and drags around everywhere to become casualties. Sadly, Audrina is killed by Jock the bartender, a Victor loyalist and newly hired Fangtasia bartender, who was hired to replace Felicia, the sweet bartender who was dating Bobby Burnham, Eric’s old daytime man, who were both killed by Alexei killed in the previous book. Thankfully Indira kills Jock. 

 Sandra Pelt makes another gambit at freedom and at killing Sookie, when she escapes from jail (Bud Dearborn calls Sookie to let her know that Sandra has escaped from the Bon Temps holding cell she was taken to after the second fiasco at Merlotte’s), holding Sam and Janalynne (does anyone else absolutely HATE Janalynne’s name, by the way? Because holy cow, I have a major bias against that monstrosity of a name!) hostage and coaching Sam to spin a story that someone has dropped off a package at the bar and that Sookie should come out and get it. Sookie, knowing by Sam’s voice and general phone presence that something is not right, casually suggests to Sam that he and Janalynne bring the “package” out to her house, so she can open it there. Sam relays this information to Sandra, who is handicapped by her own stupid plan into acquiescing to Sookie’s request, has no choice but to haul her useless behind out to Sookie’s, with Sam and Janalynne in tow, where Sookie is waiting for them with her shotgun. Sookie, who should at this point be simultaneously kissing the boots of AND investing in Binelli stock, shoots Sandra, winging her so that Janalynne can take her out. Janalynne incapacitates Sandra long enough for the three of them to decide if they should kill her. Sookie decides that they should, and Sam agrees, citing the fact that she simply will not stop coming for Sookie if they don’t. Janalynne kills Sandra with hands interlaced and fisted brought down with force onto Sandra’s head, and they dispose of the body somewhat jovially (I mean, who wouldn’t? Sandra and the Pelt sisters have been a thorn in Sookie’s side for years!) in the faerie hole, where the two dimensions still connect in Sookie’s woods, where they immediately hear creatures fighting overeating the corpse (yuck!). Farewell, Sandra!

 One character I feel the need to touch on before we say adieu to this week’s #bookreportsunday episode is Mustafa Khan. Mustafa is Eric’s new daytime man and a lone werewolf, wary of joining Alcide’s pack because of bad experiences he’s had in the past. Mustafa Khan has had his name changed to reflect personal growth after a stint in prison. His name was originally Keshawn Johnson, which for some reason makes Sookie and Eric keen to muse on whether or not he was related to/descended from Rashawn, the vampire lieutenant who was beheaded by either Ciabert or Waybert, fighting for the King of Kentucky in his doomed bid for power against Sophie Ann LeClair in the sixth entry in the franchise. 

 Another notable mention with regard to the plot of this book is Alcide Herveaux, who has, it is worth noting, turned into a complete jackwad. Alcide, at the behest and coaxing of Amelia, who can’t keep her damned mouth shut sometimes, who HATES Eric, Janalynne, who HATES Sookie and would do anything to see her in an uncomfortable or even potentially life-threatening situation, and Claude, who is a total frenemy to just about everyone he knows, turns up in Sookie’s bed the morning after she spent the night at Eric’s, looking “all sexy and rumpled” (that’s a direct quote from the book)” to entice Sookie into a relationship with him, AND, it is worth noting, to entice Sookie into a relationship with the pack, probably as their Shaman. Sookie is nonplussed and a little bit disappointed, as she had hoped that Alcide was a better person than that. Alcide finally listens to Sookie’s many valid complaints and concerns after she has stated and restated them several times, and leaves in a bit of a huff, leaving Sookie to tell her houseguests Amelia, Bob (who is apparently a complete wuss) and Claude, but not Dermot, as he was not involved, to leave. 

This book was super jam-packed with information, plot development, and character development, but I feel like I’ve covered the lion’s share of what happened in this entry into the Sookieverse. Let me know if you feel I’ve forgotten anything or if you have any opinions or nuggets you’d like to add. If not, have an amazing day, take care of yourself and be well.

First Question [podcast] Belle Gunness short show notes

​ Listen to THIS episode of First Question here! Born as Brynhild Paulsdatter Størseth Belle Gunness, nee Paulsen was born in Christiania, ...