Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Take Back My Life Campaign

Today I began my "Take Back My Life Campaign version 42.0"

The 42.0 stands for the amount of weight I need to lose to be where I ought to be.

You know, they warn you when you have kids that shedding the pregnancy weight is the hard part. Thing is, I gained all of 8 lbs. when I was pregnant & weighed less after the birth than when I started. My weight has all been gained in the years since. It started with the "terrible twos" when I started nibbling food from my son's plate in order to get him to eat (he had major food issues). And it continued with the stress of raising a child with special needs. Fast, unhealthy meals between therapist appts. & doctor's appts. & school & more therapists....followed by early onset menopause & underactive thyroid & non-existent vitamin D levels (get your vitamin D checked people!!) & what-the-fuck-ever else could go wrong....

I'm a fucking blimp.

So, I have 42 lbs. to lose. Today, I walked the high-school track - 1 1/2 miles in half an hour & I only had to blast my inhaler twice. Woot. My goal (other than not to look like the pillsbury dough girl) - at least 20 lbs by Sept. Go me. pfft.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Books w/Unique Character POVs

Today I thought I'd write about some of my favorite stories written from very unique POV's. Right now, I'm half way through Sandman Slim, which is what made me think about it.

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

This book is written first-person, present tense. Now, I have to say, I usually HATE present tense in a story...I do this, I do that...It drives me NUTS. But I heard good things about this book so I picked it up. I LOVE it. LOVE it!! Stark is such a unique character. A magician (think mage) that was sent to hell by his circle where he's been tortured, raped, and ended up a gladiator against all sorts of evil creatures for 11 years. He survives it all and comes back changed - he can't die, he has a key in his heart that allows him to move from one shadow to another through a room of doors, and he has a majorly pissed off attitude. He wants revenge. But his revenge may have to get put on hold because heaven, hell and the darkness are gearing up for a war. The descriptive writing in this book is nothing short of brilliant. And the story is just phenomenal. I'm fighting devouring it in a speed read that would make most people's heads spin, so that I can really appreciate its beauty. I think I love you, Richard Kadrey.
{And I think I need to put a little disclaimer on this one -- if you are devoutly religious and easily offended by the suggestion that angels might be complete badass dickheads in their own devout belief in God, this probably isn't the book for you.}

Undone * Unknown by Rachel Caine
This is a sister series to the Weather Warden books. Cassiel is an old world djinn who has been stripped of her powers. She's struggling to understand her human body -its functions and emotions - on top of having to deal with a powerful djinn she thought she killed. The story is from Cassiel's POV and its funny even as its sad, because she is so out of her element. I loved these books more than the Weather Warden series (which I think is fantastic) because of Cassie's struggles.

Mind Games by Carolyn Crane
This is the first in a new series. The main character is a hypochondriac who is recruited by a secret organization to fight bad guys using her fears. Its a brilliant concept and the story is fast paced with plot twists (some you'll see coming, some you won't). And seeing the world from the viewpoint of a hypochondriac just adds to the overall enjoyment of it.

The Dark Day Series (Nightwalker * Dayhunter * Dawnbreaker) by Jocelynn Drake
This is written from the POV of Mira, a vampire. A war is brewing between vampires and naturi (think bad-ass elves) and there are issues among the vampires themselves. Vampires are not portrayed as good or evil really, but they aren't exactly nice. Mira is fascinating because she is a predator, a killer and yet she cares deeply about those people she allows into her life. Awesome reading.

Elemental Assassin Series (Spider's Bite * Web of Lies) by Jennifer Estep
This is written from the POV of Gin, a sociopathic assassin with earth powers. She's a fantastic character - totally cold blooded when it comes to killing and yet she loves her 'family'. (Her real family is dead, but she was rescued by an assassin and his son.) When her mentor/handler/father figure is killed, look out! Gin is going to make people pay in the only way she knows how - violent death. I love this series.

Shadowfae * Shadowglass by Erica Hayes
I've already mentioned these in my last post about great books you've never heard of. They're written from the POV of faeries living in the human world & trying to survive. The writing in these will have you hooked from the first page. I dare you not to fall in love with them.

Hell's Belles * The Road To Hell * Hotter than Hell * Hell to Pay by Jackie Kessler
The first two books are from the POV of Jezebel, a succubus on the run from hell. She meets Paul, a cop, and falls in love. But she is a succubus and that plays out in her POV as she adapts to our world. Fair warning, there's sex in these books. It's incredibly well done & belongs there based on the story. The third book is written from the POV of Daunaun, Jez's friend (well, fuck-buddy) an incubus, who has issues of his own. Hell to Pay is currently being posted every tues. on-line at Ms. Kessler's website because of the outpouring of love for these books...

Void City series (Staked * ReVamped) by J.F. Lewis
I dare you not to laugh when you read these books. Seriously. They're written from the POV of Eric, the owner of a strip club and a master vampire. He has a bad temper and memory loss issues. AND he's just turned his girlfriend, her younger sister (a sex witch) shows up & makes moves on him, and someone wants him dead. His 'daughter' Greta is a scream. There's some grossness - like vampires produce blood instead of tears, saliva, and other body fluids - but Eric's POV with all its snark is priceless. And in the end, its a satisfyingly good story.

(now this next one may not be popular among some people but at least read my explanation)

Twilight * New Moon * Eclipse * Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
These books remind me of books like Jane Eyre and The Taming of the Shrew (old classics with lessons) and that's why I liked them. I don't need to explain what they're about - you'd have to be dead not to know. But what I found interesting was Bella's POV. You have vampires (monsters) and werewolves (monsters) but the real monster of the story was Bella, the human. She was so self-centered in her thought process that she didn't care what her decisions meant for anyone around her. It's almost like she's dead emotionally already. The vampires and the werewolves were all struggling with their 'monsterness', but not Bella. She wanted to be one - in the end, she got her wish...but the thing was, she was already one. That's why I liked them.

Jaz Parks series (Once Bitten, Twice Shy * Another One Bites the Dust * Biting the Bullet * Bitten to Death * One More Bite * Bite Marks) by Jennifer Rardin
This is written from the POV of Jaz, an assassin for the government. She has a partner, Vayle, a vampire who she's in love with. Jaz is a seriously good assassin, with some serious emotional issues. I like these because Jaz grows as the series progresses, but she's still a cold-hearted killer. The books themselves are fast-paced with a good sense of humor and are just plain enjoyable.

Shiver * Linger by Maggie Steifvater
These are written from the POVs of the main characters & change from chapter to chapter. (I got to read an ARC of Linger because I sometimes help out my sister who is a children's librarian with reviewing books for her library.) These may be some of my favorite reads of all time. They are brilliantly written and emotionally charged. I found myself talking to the books - a really good sign if you can get me to do that. Grace and Sam will make you weep. (I won't give away anything about Linger other than to say its as tragic and as good, if not better, than Shiver.) I can't even say enough about these books except that I actually didn't want to read another book after finishing them because I wanted to just linger (pun intended) in the story after I finished.

Cal Leandros series (Nightlife * Moonshine * Madhouse * Deathwish * Roadkill) by Rob Thurman
If you haven't read these, for God's sake go get them! They're written from the POV of Cal, a human/auphe (think evil elf demon). He and his brother Niko (if he was real, I'd be all over him) are on the run from the auphe. The later books add in POV from Niko and another character. (I'm not telling - read them.) Cal is snarky, angry, a kick ass killer (but he has nothing on Niko) and he loves his brother over and above everything else. They would die for each other. This is a series I've re-read every time a new book comes out. I recommend them to strangers in the bookstore. I rearrange bookshelves so that they're prominently displayed. That's how good they are. And, in a side note, her other books are equally good. (Chimera * Trick of Light)

Night Runner by Max Turner
This is from the POV of Zack, a 17 patient in a mental hospital who learns some very interesting things about himself, escapes & goes on the run. He's a vampire. Zack has no clue how to interpret the world around him based on his upbringing. And when he gets hungry, yikes. There's one point near the end of the book where he does something so shocking I just shrieked WTF? & scared the crap out of my 15 yr. old (then read him the entire passage because I just HAD to share). He thought it was epic. Definitely worth reading.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Urban Fantasy Books you've never heard of....

I thought I'd take a minute to blog about what I call indie books - that is books published through small publishing houses or that get very little publicity because they're not mainstream enough. Most of these books can't even be found in your local bookstore. Unless you're Amazon surfing, you may never even know they exist. So, I'm going to throw them out there for your consideration....

Bite Me by Parker Blue and Try Me by Parker Blue

These books are about a girl, Valentine (goes by Val), just about to celebrate her 18th birthday. Val has a secret - she's part demon, succubus. In order to control her inner demon, who she calls Lola, she's taken to hunting vampires. The story starts with Val discovering her little sister has hidden away in her car on a hunt. When they get home, all hell breaks loose and Val's mom - who has major issues with Val - not only throws her out of the house, but fires her from the family bookstore. Val must then find a way to survive. Enter a cop working for a special division that deals with supernatural creatures, an incubus who runs a secret organization, a vampire trying to bring his people into mainstream society, and someone who wants to stop that. I liked these books & I hope the author writes more. Definitely worth reading.

Dead, Undead and Somewhere In Between by J.A. Saare

This was a great read. Rhiannon is a bartender. She's also a necromancer, but untrained. Disco is a vampire who needs her help. Someone is killing vampires and he needs her to speak to their ghosts if they exist. Rhiannon reluctantly agrees to help. The problem is, once its out that she's a necromancer and a powerful one, other vampires want to own her. She's forced to let Disco claim her. Through it all, her opinion of vampires (she doesn't really like them) changes and she falls in love with Disco. This has a MAJOR cliffhanger at the end and I'm praying that the author doesn't just let it end like that. I would definitely read more.

La Vida Vampire by Nancy Haddock and Last Vampire Standing by Nancy Haddock

These are the story of Francesca, a vampire who was turned and then locked in a hidden space in a basement by her sire because she wouldn't obey him. She was unearthed during a renovation. She now works for a tour group in New Orleans. Vampires are out in these books, and have limited rights. She's being hounded by an 'anti vampire' group. There's a hot cop boyfriend and a mystery mixed into the story of her learning to adapt to the world as it is. A surprisingly good read. Definitely worth picking up.

Shadowfae by Erica Hayes and Shadowglass by Erica Hayes

Okay, I will warn you that these books are loaded with sex. This is usually a turn-off for me, but these are so well done that I LOVED them. The first book is the story of a succubus and an incubus who fall in love and all the struggles they go through to be able to be together. The second book is about a water sprite, her friends, her enemies and a magical device that makes them act on their impulses with disastrous results. The stories are rich and the words tumble over each other to weave an amazingly emotional ride. You won't be able to put them down.

They Call Me Death by Missy Jane

I've talked about this book before. It takes place after shifters have come out and the US is now divided with shifters to the north and humans to the south. The lead character, Alexia, lost both her husband and her son during the 'coming out'. She hates shifters. Enter Andor, an eagle shifter, who is searching for his daughter. Everything Alexia believes gets turned upside down as she gets to know him. This book is fast paced and a really good read. I'm anxiously waiting for the sequel.

Demon Can't Help It by Kathy Love and What a Demon Wants by Kathy Love

I read these books out of order, and I'm in the middle of the first. They're short, sexy romances with characters that aren't perfect. And I like that.

The Calling by David Mack

This was a really solid story about a man named Tom who hears people's prayers and is compelled to help them. He has no idea there are others like him until he responds to a young girl's plea. Its a great good vs. evil tale.

Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill, Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill, Twice Bitten by Chloe Neill

This is an awesome new series. The third book is being released in less than a month & I can't wait for it!! Merit is a college student who is attacked by a rogue vampire one night on campus. Thankfully Ethan, head vampire of Cadogan House, comes across her and is able to turn her. Well - she's not so thrilled about it. She's irreverent and completely clueless to vampire rules. But it turns out she's a bad-ass vampire. I love this because the good guys aren't all good and the bad guys aren't all bad. Well written and just downright enjoyable.

Don't Kill the Messenger by Eileen Rendahl

When Melina was four, she drowned in the family pool. Now she's a messenger - able to see supernatural beings & basically at their beck and call. She's attracted to an ER doctor who's a vampire and has a hot cop boyfriend. She lives with a foot in each world but doesn't feel like she belongs in either. She's snarky, ascerbic, and just plain entertaining.

That Which Bites by Celis T. Rono

This is the story of Julia Po, survivor of a plague that wiped out most humans and the vampire uprising that followed. She was eight at the time and has grown up on her own with little social interaction. She's physically scarred, emotionally and socially stunted as an adult. She's also a kick-ass vampire killer. Its not a happy story, but its one worth reading.

The Demon's Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow

This is a tough one to find in a bookstore, tho her other books are well stocked. Its a shame, because this is an incredible story. Francesca (Chess) is a librarian. She discovers that demons exist, finds some old sorcery books and decides to take them on to protect her friends. Enter Ryan - a drakul - and all hell breaks loose. I loved LOVED this book.

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse by Thomas Sniegoski, Dancing on the Head of a Pin by Thomas Sniegoski and Where Angels Fear to Tread by Thomas Sniegoski

These books revolve around Remy Chandler, a fallen angel who has just lost his wife. He's put in a situation where he has to deal with other fallen who aren't so noble as he is in order to save the world. Remy struggles with his angel self (Remiel) who is an angel of war and would like nothing better to permanently shed the human mantle Remy has assumed. I love the whole idea of fallen angels, and I loved these books. Definitely worth reading.

Wraith by Phaedra Weldon, Spectre by Phaedra Weldon, Phantasm by Phaedra Weldon and Revenant by Phaedra Weldon (also Grimoire - an online story)

This is a great series about a woman, Zoe, who can travel through the astral planes. There are a lot of secrets as to what Zoe actually is revealed as the story progresses. She has to deal with emotional issues as much as bad guys. Again, the bad guys aren't always bad and the good guys aren't always good, making things much more interesting.

And Falling, Fly by Skyler White

This is the story of Dominic and Olivia. Dominic is a neuroscientist who believes he's insane because he remembers past lives. Olivia is a vampire who is tired of living. This has a major Clive Barker feel. I honestly couldn't put it down - it was so fascinating.

The Book of Illumination by Mary Ann Winkowski and Maureen Foley

Anza is a single mom still in love with her ex (who is remarried). She's a bookbinder by trade but because she sees ghosts, she also works to helps them pass over. She's hired to help two monks who are guarding an ancient illuminated manuscript, but its stolen before she can look at it. Its a great story.

I'm sure there are tons of books out there that would fall on this list. I have five currently ordered thru Amazon that I'm going to add to my TBR pile (which is at roughly 120 books - yikes). And there are a few in that TBR pile pleading to be read, too. Seriously, think about picking these up. You will enjoy them.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Strange Local Rituals

So, I grew up in a small town in Vermont. My childhood was a good one. We lived in a tiny little house with floor to ceiling windows, gingerbread trim, hardwood floors, and a wonderful front porch where we would spend hours reading.

It was a short walk to town, which didn't consist of much. There was a penny candy store (or at least that's how I viewed it - in reality it was a convenience/liquor store with a huge candy selection), a donut shop that had the best chocolate frosted & glazed donuts this side of heaven, an office supply store where I bought my books, an Rx shop, two very old movie theatres, a 5 & Dime, an A&P, an army/navy store (bought my first pair of jeans there), a pizza place and not much else. My sisters and I would walk downtown & browse the stores, catch the saturday matinees, or wander to the library where the librarian not only knew us by name, but let us work behind the counter. There was nothing like punching those cards she slipped in the back of the books.

When I was a teenager chain stores started coming in - dunkin donuts, rite aid, jc penney, and more. The town changed, but not for the better. A lot of the charm was lost.

Still, on holidays there were parades and festivals, and one weekend in July there were sidewalk sales where you could buy all kinds of crazy things for next to nothing. Oh the junk I collected.

There wasn't much there for an adult. Unless I wanted to be a secretary, a cashier or work in a factory, that is. When I graduated, I couldn't wait to escape. I went to college. I moved away. My friends that stayed were married with children before they were nineteen - some had kids long before they had husbands. And while I'm now raising a 15 yr. old, those friends are in many cases grandmothers with kids in their late twenties. It boggles the mind.

My parents still live in the area, though they sold the house and now live on the family homestead which has been in the family for over a hundred years. I keep up on the news by reading the newspaper on line - my favorite part...the obituaries. (I'm a morbid person. I get some sort of weird pleasure when I come across a name I recognize.) Well, except for this weekend.

This weekend was the Annual Strolling of the Heifers. And yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. One of the businesses in town is where farmers register their cows. My friend had a job there during the summers. She colored cows' markings on forms, as well as described these cows for posterity. I worked in a napkin factory stuffing napkins into plastic bags. My job was crappier, but it paid a lot more.

Anyway, somewhere along the way, the running of the bulls was translated into the strolling of the heifers in my neck of the woods. The local 4H club, farmers, schools, really anyone can dress up their cows with flowers and such and then they walk them down main street to the cheering of thousands. Yes, thousands. People come from all over to watch this annual event. There are floats and candy and dancers. And if they're lucky, at the end of the event they get to watch a group of nuclear plant protesters pretend to collapse and die at the end in a mock nuclear disaster. If you think I'm making this up, I'm not. Google it.

I've never actually attended the Strolling in person. Every year, I try to convince my husband and son to make the trip to see it. They think I'm insane for wanting to stand on the sidelines, fighting the crowds (yes, you do have to fight for a spot), to watch this event. They're too citified to appreciate the sheer quirkiness of a bunch of cows with daisies around their necks pooping along the route. Not me. It almost makes me want to build a cabin in the woods, change my name to Flower, stop shaving my legs and grow illegal pot to sell to the naked people who hang out in the municipal parking lot. (Okay, nothing that radical, but...)

....well, the naked people are real. Although, I think the town passed a law forbidding nudity at this point after people started parading up and down the street that way. Seriously.