The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris
Dead Until Dark/Living Dead in Dallas/Club Dead/Dead to the World/Dead as a Doornail/Definitely Dead/All Together Dead/From Dead to Worse/Dead and Gone/Dead in the Family
So far there are 10 separate novels in the series. There is also a collection of the short stories within the series, A Touch of Dead, and The Sookie Stackhouse Companion. Neither of which have I read. An eleventh book in the series is due out 3 May 2011. This is the series on which the HBO series TrueBlood is based. I haven't watched the tv series at all.
Sookie is a barmaid in a small town in Northern Louisiana. She is also a telepath. A fact she refers to as her "disability". There is no specified time frame for this series but you get the impression that it's current and happening now. Especially in the later books there are a few references to the war in Iraq. There is a slight difference from "our" modern time in that vampires have revealed themselves to the world and now "live" side by side with the living - at least after dark anyway.
A Japanese company developed a synthetic blood for blood banks and hospitals but the positive off-shoot is that vampires could drink the synthetic blood and stop drinking from humans to survive. This prompted the vampires to finally come out of the shadows. Their propaganda is that they are not actually dead but they have an extreme allergy to sunlight, garlic and silver. Like most propaganda, it's totally not true - they really are dead.
Sookie meets her first vampire one night at the bar where she works. Because of her "disability" she discovers a couple of her more annoying regulars are plotting to attack the vampire in the parking lot and drain him of his blood. Vampire blood fetches high prices on the black market because it speeds a human's ability to heal, gives them strength and vitality and improves their sex life. Of course the blood can also cause someone to go insane especially if it is mixed with synthetic blood, pig blood or if it is old (meaning it's been awhile since the blood was removed from the vampire). Apparently vampire-blood addicts are a rising problem.
Sookie saves the life of the vampire and this begins a crazy whirlwind of an adventure. The two "drainers" she fought to save the vampire try to kill her but the vampire saves her. She dates this first vampire, Bill, for awhile but then they break up. She has one harrowing adventure after another and her life is in jeopardy many times.
Over the course of the series we meet a variety of Shape Shifters (can change into any animal form) and Weres (can change into only one specific form), Demons, Goblins, and Fairies. She dates a werewolf, a weretiger, is courted by a werepanther as well as dating another vampire. Considering the fact that human men all just think she's weird this is a pretty amazing track record. She has a hard time dating humans because she can hear everything they are thinking and it's quite distracting and often times a buzz-kill. The supernatural people she either can't hear or they are fuzzy and easy for her to block.
This is a fun series that is such a digression from reality that it has great escapist qualities. There is a little romance, a great deal of suspense, action and intrigue as well as politics (vampire and were). I'm looking forward to reading the 11th book when it is published and I recommend the series to anyone looking forward to some fun, fast, fantasy escapist reading.