Z is for Zsadist

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8478Zsadist is a character in the Brotherhood of the Black Dagger series, by JR Ward. These books are shelved in romance, and while they do have a lot of things in common with regular romance books, I think it’s an oversimplification.

The Brotherhood is a group of vampires who protect their species from the Lessers. The Brotherhood are scary, badass vampires who have no interest in humans. In this universe, vampires take blood from one another, as human blood would be too weak to sustain them.

Each book focuses on a different brother and his romantic attachment to a female. There’s sex and romance and all the typical stuff you find in a romance novel, including a “happily ever after” ending.

One of the reasons I love these books is that each of the brothers struggles with some form of disability. One brother is blind. Another has a prosthetic leg. Another struggles with a “beast” that emerges whenever he gets too emotional. And they’re still badass.

Zsadist is considered the coldest and cruelest of the brothers. When he was a young man, he was kidnapped and sold to a female who abused him physically, emotionally, and sexually. Because of that, he’s really just frightened of everyone, especially women, and uses his hard persona to keep everyone away. Though he’s loyal to the brothers, even they pretty much think he’s a psychopath.

When Zsadist meets a female who’s interested in him, he reacts the way you might expect: with fear that comes across as cruelty.

His story happens in the third book of the series, Lover Awakened. He’s really well-drawn. At times, my heart ached for him. But he didn’t come across as pitiful. He’s someone who was coping with his abuse in the only way he knew how, and I loved how he still managed to be a hero when it mattered.

It’s rare to see a male survivor of sexual abuse in a story, much less one who’s still masculine and tough. In a later book, he counsels a younger male about living with this kind of trauma, and it’s a powerful thing. The more fiction talks about it, the more we take steps to destigmatize it for the survivors.

Because his book is the third in the series, we get to see him from other points of view first. His behavior makes him look like the horrible person everyone believed. I think it’s a powerful reminder that we can never truly know another person’s story unless we’re in their head.

These are great books. If you’re not usually into romance, give these a try anyway. They focus as heavily on the vampire world and war as they do on the love story.

How do you feel about vampire books? Can’t get enough or overdone?

Y is for Yoda

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8479There aren’t many characters whose names start with “Y.” In fact, I could only come up with two: Yoda and Yorick. And though I’ve been known to throw out the quote, “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him Horatio,” I don’t think being a skull in a soliloquy qualifies as a great character.

Luckily, I actually like Yoda and think he’s a legitimately great character. Full disclosure: I used to read Star Wars books when I was a teenager, but I don’t remember if Yoda was in them. So my saying that he’s a great character is based on the movies.

In science fiction and fantasy, there’s almost always a wise old sage to teach the main character how to be whatever they are. As a sage, Yoda is an unexpected one (at least I assume I was surprised the first time I saw the movie… it was a long time ago). Luke doesn’t even know who he is when they first meet because Yoda engages in silly and annoying antics to see what Luke is like.

When Yoda does get serious though, he’s quite good at what he does. He’s able to use and manipulate the force, showing Luke that it can be done. While I’m a fan of the original trilogy and have little use for I, II, and III, the lightsaber scene with Yoda against Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones is one of the best scenes in all the movies.

All these qualities: the ability to play dumb when it suits, throwing out lessons, being able to mop the floor with an opponent, are all qualities of good sages. One other quality that I think happens often (though not always) is the mentor reluctantly taking on the apprentice. Yoda just wasn’t sure of Luke in the beginning, and told Obi Wan that.

Even though he is pretty standard, Yoda is still one of my favorite mentors. Maybe it’s because of his small stature. I’m short, and everyone always underestimates me too. It just goes to show that size doesn’t really matter for much.

 

X is for Weapon X

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8471Weapon X, aka Wolverine, is a character I know best from the movies. I love the X-men, and like many people, I especially love Wolverine.

Because this is primarily a book blog, I went to the library and got my first X-men comic, and read it through so that I could blend my opinion on Wolverine from the comics and movies.

No matter what, he’s still a great character. Wolverine is a (pardon the pun) lone wolf who doesn’t want to care about anyone. He comes off as brusque and anti-social.

He’s got a big heart, and wants to make connections with other people. But I guess it can be difficult when other people have an expiration date, and you can heal from any injury.

He’s got adamantium claws that cut him every time he uses them. So he’s used to dealing with pain. I guess if you’ve got all that going on, you’re not going to show very much on the surface. Because while you can get used to pain, it doesn’t make it hurt less.

I haven’t seen all the Wolverine movies, but I did see the most recent one, Logan. While it was pretty good, I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. I’ll stick with the original X-men movie.

Oh, and I liked the comic. 🙂

V is for Victoria

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8444Victoria, from the Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is a heartbreaking character.

The book is written with dual timelines. The first timeline starts the day Victoria ages out of the foster care system and is thrust into a world of her own. The second timeline starts when she was 8 years old and placed in a home with a woman who vowed to adopt her. That obviously didn’t happen, and it takes a long time to figure out why.

Victoria makes awful choices in both timelines, but it’s clear she’s lonely and disconnected. She never learned to accept love, and never met anyone worth connecting to.

Victoria doesn’t like interacting with other people. Her foster mother taught her the language of flowers, that the common thistle means misanthropy, for instance. It’s how she communicates with people, even if they don’t know it.

She ends up meeting a young man who understands her language. And for the first time since she was a child, someone breaks through the armor she coats herself with.

The theme of this story is healing. All the characters need to heal from various wounds and forgive themselves. Victoria is prickly and irritable and lovely. There were times I yelled at her, and times I wanted to give her a big hug.

Do you ever talk to characters in books?

U is for Umbridge

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8447Yes, this blog is about Delores Umbridge. From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by JK Rowling (in case you’ve been living under a rock or something).

You may have noticed by now that I like villains and antiheroes. I like complex characters who make you see their point of view.

I loathe Delores Umbridge. I wanted to see something awful happen to her. Like being forced to watch reruns of Jersey Shore. Or being dismembered.

It’s not just because she tortures Harry. I always kind of liked Snape. Even before the last book, I always thought he was good, deep down. Like Vader.

But everything abut Delores Umbridge is detestable. She talks in a sickly sweet voice that makes me want to vomit, even when I’m reading the book and not actually listening to her. She has plates of creepy kittens (and anyone who makes kittens a bad thing deserves to die, in my book).

She’s got her own agenda, which is Villain 101. But she runs roughshod over the other teachers, respecting nothing and no one who opposes her. Every time she tightens her grasp, more slips out of her grubby little fingers.

But all this is what makes her such a great villain. Every once in awhile, it’s nice for things to be in black and white. There’s no reason to like her. Even He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named wasn’t as horrible as she was.

And that’s really saying something.

Who’s your favorite villain?

Some of you may have seen my “V” blog go live for a brief second this morning. I apologize… apparently I don’t know my alphabet. If anyone wants to send me back to Kindergarten to relearn it, as long as I get snack time and nap time, I’m in.

T is for Tiffany

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

UnknownThe Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, is a great story. The thing I liked most about this story was that it portrayed characters with mental health issues as the heroes of the story. No one comes in and saves them; they save themselves (or one another).

Pat has just gotten out of the mental hospital, and is obsessed with getting his ex-wife back. He and Tiffany are the outsiders, the crazy people that everyone in the neighborhood knows. Eventually they enter a dance competition together. Practicing together every day, they become friends.

They both do things that are problematic through the story, things not usually worthy of “real” heroes. But the point is that they’re both struggling under the weight of mental illnesses, and they’re doing the best they can to survive in a world that doesn’t get it.

When I read reviews about this book, no one mentions Tiffany, and I love her. Here’s why… Tiffany has borderline personality disorder. I’ve provided a link to what that actually means if you’re interested in the diagnosis. But in a nutshell, it means that she struggles with relationships. She wants love, is desperate for it, but pushes people away. She’s done impulsive things that have gotten her all sorts of labels (crazy, slut, etc.). She hurts herself, and looks for something, anything to fill up the emptiness.

No one ever portrays people with this disorder in a positive light, a human light. Even therapists, for some reason, often look down on people with this disorder. I mean, in real life, it’s true that someone with this disorder can be exhausting for those around them. But no one wants to be that way.

Advocacy for the destigmatization of mental illness is becoming more and more common. But while most people are aware of autism and schizophrenia and substance abuse disorders, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of those scary illnesses that no one seems to talk about.

Brace yourself for what I’m about to say… I liked the book, but I loved the movie. Maybe it was because Jennifer Lawrence really sold Tiffany, and her onscreen chemistry with Pat (played by Bradley Cooper) was wonderful. When they argued, sparks flew. And the sweet ending was exactly what they both deserved.

Neither of them are perfect characters, and no one is trying to pretend they are. But they’re human and worthy of having stories where they’re not the villain or a punchline.

If you’re interested in a memoir about this disorder, I can recommend two: Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl by Stacy Pershall, and Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder by Rachel Reiland.

S is for Scott Pilgrim

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8425

80s stuff rocks! Effect done with Photo Lab Pro on my iPhone. 

I watched the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and loved it. It’s such an underrated movie. I guess it probably appealed to the 80s kid in me, with the many nods to classic video games.

The graphic novels are fun, and follow the same basic premise. Scott is pretty much a screw up who falls for Ramona Flowers after she starts using a subspace highway in his head as a short cut. So he dreams of her first, and then later meets her in real life.

Scott’s so determined to have Ramona date him that he agrees to fight her seven evil ex-boyfriends.

Scott isn’t perfect. In fact, he’s kind of a jerk. He doesn’t break up with his other girlfriend before starting to date Ramona. He doesn’t have a job or his own place. In real life, if one of my friends wanted to date him, I’d be like, “Run.”

But as the “hero” of a graphic novel, he’s actually pretty fun. Having him be such a screw up gives him a shot at redemption. Can he become less selfish? Will he defeat the evil exes? Or will he become one of them…?

Do you like graphic novels? What do you think about flawed characters like Scott?