Friday, March 4, 2011

February: A Month in Review

February was...well, February was a crazy month.  I didn't post much, because I was crazy busy with Sex Week for a big chunk of it (which was awesome, by the way).  And then afterwards...well, afterwards, I pretty much just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for a month.  I swear, my sleep rhythms are still recovering.

I read 30 books in February.  How the hell did I manage to read 30 books in 28 days, you ask?  Three things: 1) I read really, really fast, 2) I don't watch much TV, and 3) I have a very limited social life.  The latter is by choice, I swear.  I have friends, and I have opportunities to go out.  But...well, I think the best way to describe myself is as an introvert who was born an extrovert.  I was the kid who would walk up to anyone and everyone and start a conversation.  The "don't talk to strangers" conversation must have been a nightmare for my parents.  Then I got into school and spent the next 10 or so years of my life being ostracized by my peers.  I moved around quite a bit growing up.  I went to three different middle schools, and then high school in yet another state.  Still, I was always the "weird" kid, and--after realizing that no amount of wishful thinking on my part was going to change it--I embraced it.  I eventually made some friends, and spent four years of high school in the same place, but my deep-seeded mistrust of humanity remains.  I can talk to people.  I'm told I come off as confident, outgoing, and assertive.  But when I get off of work at the end of the day, I'd often much rather curl up with my Kindle than deal with other people.  And I've been feeling particularly reclusive this month.

That said, February hasn't been a bad month for me.  I got hired for a new job, which I am greatly looking forward to.  It'll move me into a different field--training--and allow me more opportunities for traveling.  I start on March 14, and I've got a crapload of stuff to do before then.  Since I'll be working with people more, I think I need to go out and buy grown-up clothes.  Since I'll be standing up in front of a class all day, I think I'll need to buy some sensible shoes.  (All my dress shoes have heels, and I cannot stand in those things for extended periods of time.  I know.  I've tried.)  I know I have some grown-up clothes somewhere (a few, at least), so I need to clean out my closet to see what I have and what I should throw away.  Within the next week, I'm heading for the dentist and the veterinarian--though not at the same time, and not for the same reason.  I need to get a haircut.  And dammit, tomorrow I'm going to eat ice cream...and see a movie!

Anyway...I digress.  This blog is, primarily, about writing and reading.  And as you can tell, it's been a busy month.

Book series that I just discovered (and wondered why I was so late to the party): The Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane.  Oh my God.  These books are friggin awesome.  I've heard the description "dark urban fantasy" used before, and I didn't know what it meant exactly...until I read these books.  Urban fantasy is not a light genre anyway, but these books make many of the other urban fantasies I've read look like children's cartoons in comparison.  The heroine, Chess, is a drug addict trying to escape the demons of her past (namely being abused and molested by her foster families).  The male lead, Terrible, is an enforcer for the drug dealer/pimp/mob boss who raised him.  Their world is an unnerving, dystopic combination of Puritan New England and Poltergeist: 20-odd years earlier, ghosts invaded the world, angry and hungry and wanting nothing more than to feed on human life force.  An athiestic church emerged and forced the ghosts into an underground city.  Now, everyone knows the city is where you go when you die.  There's no God, but there is an eternity of hunger trapped in an underground city.  Most people think it sounds wonderful.  Chess thinks it sounds like hell.  I'm inclined to agree.  All other religions have become obsolete, and there is only the Church.  If you don't agree with them, don't follow their rules...well, let's just say they've resurrected stockades and public executions.  Chess works as a debunker for the Church, investigating ghosts sightings and (hopefully) proving them false.  (The Church doesn't much like real hauntings, since they have to pay the victims mucho dinero for failing to protect them from the ghosts.)  The Church is the only place where she's felt accepted, yet she hides herself, knowing if her drug addiction is revealed, she'll be punished and exiled.

See?  Bleak.

I was worried I wouldn't like the protagonist when I heard that she was a drug addict.  Yet I found myself rooting for her more and more.  Yes, Chess is an addict.  She's often preoccupied with getting her next fix, and this addiction is often used against her by others (as blackmail fodder, mostly).  She also lies constantly, usually to cover her own ass and hide said addiction.  But there are reasons she's so incredibly fucked up.  And she genuinely tries to do the right thing, even if she screws up as often as she succeeds.  In spite of everything, she really does want to help people.  What I loved about Chess and Terrible is that they're fighters.  In spite of everything that's happened to them, in spite of the craptastic world around them, they fight--for themselves, each other, and for the world.  They are beaten but not broken, and I love that about them. 

These books were awesome, and I can't wait until book 4 (which, sadly, I think is not being released until September, and I can't even find comfirmation of that).  They are dark, and they definitely fall into that "morally ambiguous" area some people hate.  But if that works for you, read them now!

Old friends who came to visit: Jeaniene Frost's This Side of the Grave came out this month.  The Night Huntress (Cat/Bones) series was one of the first urban fantasies I read, and I was instantly hooked.  Five books into the series, the dynamic between Cat and Bones feels a bit different than it did in Halfway to the Grave, as well it should: it's been seven years since they met, and Cat has matured a lot.  One of the things I love about these books is that she didn't stop the story at their "happily ever after."  Instead, Frost portrays a couple in a committed, long-term relationship--one that still has ups and downs.  Things are a bit more stable for them than they were in the last book, Destined for an Early Grave.  They're an "old married couple" now.  Yet they're still hot.  They still have the kind of sex that makes me both titillated and jealous.  (Kelley Armstrong also does a fantastic job with this in her Women of the Otherworld series, especially with Elena and Clay.)

The action is not as intense here as it has been in some of the previous installments, but it was also the most emotional of the series for me in a lot of ways.  It felt like a transitional book.  In the last book, Cat finally decided to leave her half-human status behind for good and convert into a vampire; in this book, she's still struggling to adjust to her newfound abilities and lifestyle.  But in a symbolic way, it felt like this book was where Cat said goodbye to her human life, and the things that tied her to it, for good.

But it was also, oddly enough, probably the funniest of the series.  The side characters, especially, had me in stitches.  Vlad was awesome, and now that I've heard Frost is going to do a spinoff starring him, I can't wait.  Meanwhile, another old favorite who I've been wondering about made an appearance: Timmie, Cat's college neighbor and friend.  (And thank goodness, too!  I've been waiting for him to show up again for four books now!)

So while I'm a little sad to say goodbye to half-human Cat, not-quite-dead vampire Cat seems like she'll have some interesting adventures in the future.  And Bones is...Bones.  I love him.  I love the series.  And I'll be anxiously awaiting book 6.

And now, it's March.  The winter is almost over, spring is creeping in, and I couldn't be happier.

No comments: