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?

A is for Anita Blake

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction. So let’s get to it, shall we?

IMG_8298I first met Anita Blake when I was a teenager, in the first Laurell K. Hamilton book in this series, Guilty Pleasures. Anita was my first encounter with a female character who was strong in this particular way. She was the best at what she did, and could keep up to the men in her life, yet she was still essentially female.

In so many books, if a woman is (excuse my language) kick ass, then she’s also basically a man in her attitude and her dress. Her femininity is stripped away. Anita Blake wasn’t like that. She was still insecure, looking for love, with nurturing tendencies. But she also wouldn’t hesitate to kill a vampire (or other monster). She didn’t back down if someone tried to intimidate her.

As the series progressed, Anita’s beliefs about vampires began to change, and it was interesting to see the evolution of her belief system in the face of new evidence. I loved that she wasn’t so stuck in what she believed to be right that she couldn’t change.

If you haven’t read it, the first 10 books in the series are wonderful. They’re books I own and re-read occasionally. There are currently 27 books, and I got less enthused about them as time went on. I think I’ve only read through about book 17. As with friends, sometimes as time goes on, you just grow apart. That’s what happened with this series.

It’s nothing personal; it’s just life, right?

I’ll always be grateful for the lessons she taught me, that it’s okay to both be tough and a girl. And to wear your scars with pride.

Any Anita Blake fans out there?

 

D is for Dracula

 

imagesI’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read Bram Stoker’s Dracula until last year (hangs head in shame).  I knew of it, of course.  I’d read Frankenstein and other classic horror, but somehow, I just never got around to Dracula.

That changed when I had an idea for a vampire story.  I started doing a great deal of reading on vampires on the internet, and pretty much smacked myself in the forehead when I realized that I’d skipped Dracula.  I had an idea what it was about, collected from other references, so I didn’t think it would offer me many surprises.

I ended up pretty much being wrong.  That’s the story of my life.

I never know if classic novels are going to be hard to get through or not, and this one turned out to be a really good read.  The creepy atmosphere gave me chills and made me want to stay inside after dark.  I didn’t sleep with a stake by the bed or anything, but… let’s just say I’m glad I enjoy garlic.

I’d gotten used to the modern vampire.  You know, the sexy one who can be domesticated and play nicely with humans.  I loved the fact that Dracula was straight up evil.  That he had his “human” personality, but when he was being a vampire, he could not be tamed, reasoned with, or seduced.  The only way out was to outwit him, use a stake, garlic, or a cross.

I don’t want my wolf to put on a sheep suit, sit at the table with me, and pretend that he’s not eyeing up my dog for dinner.  I want that wolf to have dripping fangs and red eyes, to growl and make his intentions clear.

Dracula reminded me of how scary horror can be.  Modern fiction wants antagonists who have motivation, who are understandable and maybe have sympathetic elements.  And while that’s great and all, sometimes, in fiction, I just want a bad guy to be a bad guy.

Life is complex.  Now and then, I just want my fiction to be black and white.

“How good and thoughtful he is; the world seems full of good men–even if there are monsters in it.”

-Bram Stoker, from Dracula

Confessions of a Vampire Lover

Look closely and you can see a big spider...  Creepy!

Look closely and you can see a big spider… Creepy!

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’ve never read Dracula.  I read Frankenstein, so at least I don’t have to be completely ashamed, but… how did I miss that?

I’m reading It Started with Dracula: The Count, My Mother & Me by Jane Congdon.  It’s a memoir written by a woman who has always been a Dracula fan since she saw her first Dracula movie, starring Christopher Lee.  She explains that she had always wanted to see Romania, but that it took her until her 60s to get there.  Once in Romania, she started resolving some of her childhood issues.

She explains that she had read about travel being a transformative experience, but that she didn’t expect to actually experience any transformation or changes.

I’m not very far into the book, but so far, I’m really enjoying it.  She talks about vampires, and I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve read anything with a “real” vampire in it.  I think the last one must have been ‘Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King.

Recent books with vampires have romanticized them, with books like Twilight, the Anita Blake books and The Vampire Diaries.  Vampires just aren’t scary anymore.  They’re sexy and rich, and can be tamed like puppies.  What made Dracula so scary was that he was sexy and evil.  He couldn’t be tamed.  Vampires of yesterday treated humans like food or vermin.

Here’s a list of 55 best vampire books per Goodreads.  I think my next mission is to work through this list.  What’s the best vampire book you’ve ever read?

O is for Older

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
-Madeleine L’Engle

DSC_44A lot of people get upset about getting older, but I’ve never been one of them.  Probably that’s partly because I don’t feel my age.  I know how old I am because I can do math, but I feel like I’m still in my 20s, like I have plenty of time to do everything, and that the whole world is still waiting for me.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  It just means I haven’t lost my sense of wonder and possiblity.

You couldn’t pay me to go back to my teenage years.  Sure, it would be nice to get rid of all the adult responsibilities again, but being stuck in a hormone-ridden body, driven by emotion?  No thanks; I’ll pass.  High school and college weren’t great.  It wasn’t until I got into the working world that I really felt like I came into my own.  I love writing and reading Young Adult fiction, but that doesn’t mean that I want to live there.

One thing that really bothers me about books like Twilight is that Edward is over 100 years old mentally, and he’s into a 17 year old girl?  Is it not disgusting because he looks 17?  I know I’m overthinking this, but I’m not the only one this occurred to, right?

The Originals

by The TV Guy

thI was flipping through the dial when I accidentally came across this odd little show. For those who watch prime time TV and live in a substantial viewing market, you are likely to have a CW network. This is a younger viewer’s network; it has vampires and monster hunters and lots of pretty people playing all the hip roles. I often flip through and just go by because the shows they offer do not excite me.

I took a look at The Originals, a vampire show where all the beautiful people never age and they are in a battle with werewolves, but only sometimes because they have made a truce with some of them and not others. I think I am losing IQ points as I ramble on about this show.  I sat through entire episode and was quite sad at the end as the idea is all right but the execution was horrendous. This is a block of time I can never get back, but I hope through my words, that you will avoid this one like the plague.

Lover Reborn- A Review

I love JR Ward’s books, and I think each one gets better than the last.  Book Ten, Lover Reborn, focuses on Tohrment, aka Tohr.  In this book, Tohr has to learn how to live again with the help of a mysterious woman who lived among the chosen.

My favorite books are the ones about the core brothers (and John Matthew), and this one is no exception.  If you’re a Black Dagger Brotherhood fan, or if you’re new to the series, this is a wonderful book.  The only problem with these books is that I have to wait for the next one, and I really want to see who the books focus on next.  I keep hoping for Qhuinn and Blay, though there were some interesting developments with Layla during this book, and I can’t wait to see how that plays out either.  I love being able to watch how the characters and different story lines develop.

If you like romance, danger, suspense, and vampires, this is the series for you.