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Grave Surprise - Charlaine Harris

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Author: Charlaine Harris / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 20 September 2012 / Genre: Fantasy / Publisher: Orion Publishing Co / Title: Grave Surprise / ISBN 13: 9780575129498 / ISBN 10: 0575129498 / Alternative EAN: 9780575082878

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      20.08.2010 18:04
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      A woman with a paranormal ability finds dead bodies

      Grave Surprise is the second instalment in Charliane Harris's Harper Connelly mysteries. Although this is a series, I see no reason why you couldn't read this book as a standalone paranormal murder mystery. You may miss out on a little of Harper and her brother Tolliver's back story but that is all. Grave Surprise opens with Harper taking another case as part of her unusual job. She is invited to Bingham College to identify corpses in their ancient chapel graveyard. The college professor who organised the workshop is a complete sceptic. He doesn't believe that Harper can locate dead bodies, identify the deceased and state their cause of death. Of course, Harper proves him wrong but she also gets a surprise herself because there is an extra body in the grave. It is an eleven year old girl.

      I do love a good murder mystery and Grave Surprise is no exception. The plot of this book centres upon Harper trying to work out the identity of the girl's killer. Harper has a past connection with the girl's family and can't help but wonder which one of them did it. Of course, Harper is in the frame too. She found the girl and in a world of sceptics the only way she could have known that the body was there would to have seen someone do it or to have done it herself. Luckily, she is able to convince an FBI agent of her paranormal ability. She also has the support of her brother Tolliver. He is hiding something from Harper though and it could be vital to the case. The plot twists and turns and like any good mystery keeps you guessing. In this book the identity was a little trickier to work out. There are so many different people linked to the case in one way or another.

      Although this is marketed an adult book in the UK, it is written in a very accessible style. The story immediately draws you in with Harper's narrative. You are constantly rooting for her or barely able to read as she takes some dangerous decisions. In terms of characterisation, this series is excellent. There is a depth to Harper and her relationship with Tolliver. They have both lived through an abusive and traumatic childhood and this gives Harper a cynicism about families and relationships. Yet opposed to that is her relationship with the dead, she says that they all want to be found and has a sort of tenderness towards them. It is a really interesting exploration of a character and I can't wait to follow Harper's next case.

      Overall, Grave Surprise is a murder mystery with a firm grip on the paranormal. Great characteristion and a fast-moving unpredictable plot make this book such an enjoyable read. It's official! I am a fan of this series! Charlaine Harris is just the best!

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        24.02.2010 21:21
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        Sparks curiosity though a slow read

        Grave Surprise - Charlaine Harris

        No Real Surprise in This Grave

        When visiting the library with my daughter, I thought I would take a look for a new book for myself. There were two in particular which I picked up, both from the same author and seemingly from the same series so I thought that if I liked the first I wouldn't need to wait for the next.

        Unfortunately when I started what I believed to be the first book, there were some holes in the story which lead me to believe that it was not in fact the first in the series. On looking online I found that 'Grave Surprise' is actually the second in the 'Harper Connelly' series. There are four books in this particular series which include;

        Grave Sight
        Grave Surprise
        An Ice Cold Grave
        Grave Secret

        Not very original titles though they do say never judge a book by its cover (or title in this case!)

        Although there are some missing bits in the story from not reading the first book before this one, I was able to get in to the book as a lot is explained from the original title, and as I could not get hold of the first book I continued to read.


        *******************
        CHARLAINE HARRIS
        *******************

        Charlaine Harris began publishing her books over twenty-five years ago. Her original novels were mainly based around ghost stories though by the time she started college, she had begun writing both plays and poetry which led to her going towards the mystery genre. In later years, Charlaine started pushing the genre boundaries to appeal to a wider range of readers which led to books such as the 'Sookie Stackhouse' series which has now been turned into a popular television series under the name of 'True Blood'.

        To see the full list of her books, visit her website at the following link;
        http://www.charlaineharris.com/bibliography/bibliog-sookie.html


        *********************
        GRAVE SURPRISE
        *********************

        It is always difficult not to give too much away in a synopsis of a book as if you are like me, you will hate a book being ruined before you have even bought it, so I will give away nothing and only outline as much as the back of the book gives away.

        This series follows Harper Connely, a young 24 year old woman and her step brother Tolliver.

        When Harper was 15, she was struck by lightning. After her brother saved her life, she was able to recover from the experience though her life was never quite the same. Her physical appearance had been altered by a strange red spider web scar which covered parts of her body and her right leg was weakened, though the biggest change was that Harper can now find dead people...

        Harper and Tolliver are invited to Memphis to give a demonstration of her abilities to a university professor and his class. It is obvious that the old professor does not believe in what she can do and takes her to a cemetery in hopes of showing her to be a fake, though not only does Harper answer questions that she could no possibly have known, but she also uncovers a recently deceased girl in the same grave as a centuries-deceased man.

        On opening the grave, history seems to be catching up on Harper as a young girl is uncovered, one who she tried to find two years previously and by morning, yet another body is found in the same grave which begins Harper and Tolliver on their own investigation to find the killer.

        (Nothing written above is anything more than what is on the back cover - just in my own words!)


        ******************************
        DISCOVERY - THE BEGINNING
        ******************************

        Having not read any previous books by this author, I did not have much to compare it to. I had watched the first season of True Blood (the television series based on another series by this author) so I did have a small idea of what to expect, though as we all know - television or big screen adaptations are rarely the same as their book counterparts.
        The other thing about going straight into this book was that I had not read the first book in the series. Some may have stopped and waited to read the first title before getting into this book, though I had already read a few chapters by the time I had found this out as there is no real mention on the book of this being the second one, so I felt I wanted to continue on. It was not difficult to pick up on what the first book had been about as there are many parts which go over certain story lines, catching you up on the action. The rest was self explanatory really so I did not get too confused.

        The first thing that caught my attention was the writing style. Although it was very simple, the flow, I felt, was disjointed. There was not a lot of attention to detail, though when there was it was in parts that really did not need it causing the readability to be slow and monotonous. The text came across as quite a serious start with many references to the more adult world with a small amount of swearing and sexual innuendos. This is not in your face so I was able to look over these parts easily.

        The beginning was overall a very slow start and it took me a little while to fall into the story. At parts I did feel like putting the book down for good, though something about the growing storyline did keep me reading. This was nothing to do with the fact that I was reading the second book first, though, as in the beginning the two main characters and a lot of background history was included, together with parts of book one. The first character writing style is perhaps one of the plus points of the story as this helps even more in getting to know the character.


        ********************************
        INVESTIGATION - THE MIDDLE
        ********************************

        By the time the story is half way through I started getting used to the writing style. The story within itself continued to be a slow one in regards to both the time frame being only a day and also the long drawn out scenes with some descriptions which really had no need to be included. One of the parts that started to frustrate me was that it felt as though the author had constantly used a thesaurus. There were many points where a much lesser word would have made the flow better, yet a longer unnecessary word was in its place which once again interrupted the flow and slowed the reading.

        At this point in the book I did begin to empathise with the main character of Harley though not with an overabundance of feeling by any means. Perhaps by reading the first book I may have already established a character connection by now, though apart from some underlying feelings of understanding and empathy and some small amount of feelings and ideas about other characters, this book does not really bring the reader particularly close to any of the characters as such. I did begin to have my ideas and suspicions by this point in the book about some other more minor characters involvements in the story though so far nothing too concrete.


        ***********************
        WELDED - THE END
        ***********************

        The story flowed nicely, if not slowly, into the ending of the book. There was no huge change in pace though there was a slight quickening in the action. By this point, I was drawn more in to the story though more from curiosity than anything else. The story had been a slow start though I had got more used to the writing style and the ending was no real surprise.

        The story was rounded up pretty nicely, leaving it open for the next book without leaving too many questions, though the way it was rounded up was more like the subtitles you find at the end of a true life film, telling you in brief what happened after the main story finished. It was not written in a bad way, though it was a large jump from the style found throughout the rest of the book which threw me a bit.

        Knowing that there was a further two books in this series, was I planning on reading further? Funnily enough, yes I was. The fact that I had already rented the next book from the library when I rented this one was one reason why I was going on to the next book, though the main reason was again - curiosity. I had established an empathetic view on the main characters and was interested in finding how their story continued. It was certainly not a five star story and had many flaws including the fact that I found the structure and style slow and difficult to slide in to, and the whole ending was pretty much preordained from very near the beginning in my mind, though there was something about the story and the characters that made it interesting.


        ***********************
        STRUCTURE
        ***********************

        The story has no real time stamp to it though only lasts through a few of days within the actual story. This fact alone helped in making the book seem very slow paced.

        The book contains 295 pages which took me around four days to read though probably would have taken me less time if I had not had to work at following the writing style to begin with and if I was able to sit and read more though this is not possible with an energetic two year old in the house!

        The flow of the story is slow but fluid. The style of writing is what makes this harder to read more so than the flow.

        The language is very wordy for want of a better word. As already mentioned, it feels as though the author uses a thesaurus throughout many parts of the story - using longer words when shorter and simpler words would have worked much better. This puts the reader off a little (well me anyway) and throws the flow a little off balance. The language also strikes me as very 'correct' and not the way you would think certain characters would speak. This makes some of the characterisation feel lost and rather same-ish. There is also a lot of unneeded descriptions in parts and in other parts too much conversational bits in my opinion.


        ***********************
        CHARACTERS
        ***********************

        There are two main characters within the story who continue through the rest of the series. There are also many other smaller characters, each holding their own little stories within the main story though apart from the discussions of the little girl, you do not really get too much of a feel for the minor characters. Yes, you find your dislikes and likes of certain characters though you do not really feel drawn to their lives or feelings. The two main characters, though, do start to give you a sense of empathy as the story goes on, especially Harper as the story is written from her point of view.

        We learn more about Harper and her history than any other character through her own thoughts and memories. The character is well rounded though I felt that there was some flaws in her characterisation, hindered by the language of the book. At first, I did not feel drawn to the character at all though half way through the story I did start feeling for her and her situation, mainly through her background memories. Her relationship with her step-brother is portrayed strongly though there are many holes where you want to find out more about this relationship. This is perhaps something that will be addressed in the next couple of books in the series.

        Tolliver, Harper's step-brother and manager, is the secondary main character though we do not find as much about him as with Harper, though little bits of his history seeps out through the story entwined with Harper's own story. His character, to me at least, is much more understandable and real to life. I find myself feeling for his situation a lot more than with Harper and it seems that more of his history and character is due to come out in further story lines. This I look forward to and is one of the things that draws me to read the next book.
        Overall, the characters are not the best written characters in a book and it did take me a long time to get used to them though after a while, with the two main characters at least, I did start to follow them and their story much easier.


        **********************
        GENRE
        **********************

        I believe that the main genre of this book is a mystery though it is a thin mystery and very predictable which is a let down slightly. There is also a running supernatural theme throughout the story though this is certainly not written in an unbelievable way. There are no vampires running around or werewolves howling at the moon, just the fact that Harper has this supernatural ability which she uses very subtly, though in saying that it is the main focus of the story (not in your face at all though). There are also more slight genres running through the book such as minor love stories in many different ways though this is as a very secondary genre in the book.


        ***********************
        PRICE AND AVALIABILITY
        ***********************

        Although I rented this book from the library, I did search for the price and found that the RRP is £6.99, though this can be found on Amazon for £2.11 used or £4.67 new. Personally, I wont be going out and buying this book, though to rent it is worth it.


        ************************
        FINAL WORDS
        ************************

        This book is certainly not the best book I have read by a long shot though there is something about it which holds my attention and curiosity. I wouldn't recommend spending full price on buying this book though I would say that if you rent it - give it a go, though you may find to begin with that you want to give up. Im not sure if it is entirely worth carrying on though in a lot of ways I am glad that I did and will be going on to the next book out of sheer curiosity.

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