Dead Until Dark  - Johanna Parker, Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse is a barmaid living in a small town in Louisiana. She has a special talent - she can read minds - that tends to get in the way of her social life, aka her dating life. This all changes when Bill Compton enters the bar. He's a hot looking guy - AND she can't read his mind because he's a vampire.

There was a time when I wanted to read all the urban fantasy books in the bookstore, so I pretty much picked up the first book in every series. Then I realized that there were others already reading urban fantasy, that there was good and bad urban fantasy and that I needed variety in my reading or I would go nuts. This is how I bought "Dead Until Dark".

So it's been sitting on my shelf for a few years. Recently, I needed something light-hearted and funny as a break from the Anita Blake series (which is Intense, Deep, Meaningful "Urban Fantasy"). Someone suggested this series, and I found an audiobook version to read.

"Dead Until Dark" is fun and unassuming. It isn't going to blow your mind away with wonderful writing (aw, hell no!), intricate plots (definitely not), or a completely unique take on the vampires thing, but that's not what I wanted. I just wanted something FUN. Something CUTE. And that's what this book was to me.

The characters are pretty good. I liked the Southern charm and flavor in them. OK, what I REALLY liked was how Sookie was not the only female in this entire world and she was not the only GOOD CAPABLE female in this world. After reading Anita Blake's increasingly sexist series (in which the only woman who can do anything and is NOT evil is practically Anita Blake) along with several other books composed mostly of a male cast, I was pleased as punch to see several other women in this book. We have Gran, Sookie herself (Duh), Arlene, Kenya, Portia, and more - all of these women were competent (in their own ways), and I didn't have to hear Sookie's constant ragging on them for how weak and pathetic they were in comparison to her.

One thing that bugged me, character-wise, was the on-again, off-again relationship between Sookie and Bill. They get together and break up like twice in this book. Talk about moodwhiplash! I am OK with Sookie moving on or not wanting to be with Bill (he is dangerous after all, being a vampire), but can't we have a couple of books with them together before busting them apart?

The mystery was lacking; I really feel this book is supposed to be more of a cozy, like [b:Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder|33443|Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (Hannah Swensen, #1)|Joanne Fluke|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1168444071s/33443.jpg|1127060]. Which is OK for what it is; definitely don't go into this expecting a complicated, intricate mystery that will take Holmesian skill to solve!

As for Harris' writing...it's okay. It's not particularly bad per se, even if at points I went into spasms thinking she was borrowing some of Laurell K. Hamilton's favorite words, but it's not noteworthy.

If you are tired of reading intense urban fantasy where characters are dark and grim and Deep and Meaningful, then give this book a shot. It's funny, fun, cute - and doesn't require much brain cells for reading.