lexlingua: (Macabre)
What are some traits of the villains we all love to hate? Here’s my count-down of some of the worst villains I have encountered in my reading life, and what makes them tick:

#1/ They were born with the silver tongue.
Well, first there was the serpent in Eden. Then there were the witches in Macbeth, who led a brave man into a mess of his own-making with their self-fulfilling prophecies, and the priest Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Iago in Othello who make the heroes turn against their own beloveds. Oh, these wily abettors, with all their slippery lies and their crafty gift of the gab. Let’s also not forget those serial killers in literature and on screen, who keep us on the edge of our seats as they persuade many a victim into their parlour and there onwards to an early grave.

#2/ Their motives remain hidden, and therefore, more ominous.
Sunday is not the name of a week. In The Man Who Was Thursday, Sunday is the head of a shady organization bent upon anarchy. Thursday is the under-cover police officer who has a mad-paced race to stop Sunday’s nefarious plans and prove that Order will always wins over Chaos. Except… Sunday turns out to be something else.

#3/ They are omniscient.
Like Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’ arch nemesis, these villains are everywhere. They have spies in the elitist and most secretive organizations, in the underground, in the police, in the government. There is nothing hidden from them, and this only makes them more difficult to defeat. Imagine what a master criminal mind they make, and if only they could have put it to good use.

#4/ They are deluded they are doing Good.
There is rarely a villain worse than the one who thinks his evil actions are intended for the Good of the people, or even their loved ones. Kilgrave from Jessica Jones is one such character; right till the end, he thinks his coercive, intrusive mind-raping actions are justified because Jessica is his true love and all’s well that ends well. And if you've read Jane Eyre, you will remember St. John Rivers, the missionary who was so very noble, but his sternness, sense of importance and inhuman emotional control made him completely unbearable.

#5/ They could have been redeemed, and sometimes, you want to pity them.
The villain from the Korean drama, Liar Game, is twisted. He is conducting a psychological experiment on reality TV, and as the manipulative, must-be-insane evil genius TV host, this villain is truly matchless. When his real motives come to light in the climax of the drama, you are disturbed, you grieve for the reasons he turned out this way, you pity him. You wonder if he can redeem himself in the next season of the TV show.

#6/ They can be unpredictable, and two-faced. Literally.
Sometimes, they have to make a choice between a an evil act and a good one. They’ll keep you on your toes, wondering what they’ll do next or whose side they’ll take. Loki is one example that comes to mind. Another’s Coyote, in Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series. And then there is that whole dissociative identity/ multiple personality disorder shenanigans, with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and Norman Bates from Psycho leading the parade. Which choice will finally be made? Which personality will finally take over?

#7/ Sometimes, their presence speaks louder than words.
They may not have raised a finger at the hero, yet their mere presence in the room is like a dark cloud. You are more terrified of their silence and their stillness than any action that any other character may decide to take. You know who I’m speaking about. That Madame Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities, you just know her knitting is weaving trouble all around. Or the Raven King from Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, who has disappeared from England and taken all the magic out with him, yet his legend persists, and it’s downright hair-raising.

#8/ They really just want to survive.
They’ll say, I only wanted to survive. And in a weird sad way, it sort of makes sense. Ask Sher Khan from The Jungle Book, who wants food, and who better than a hate human cub. Or even Count Vlad, Dracula, who is stuck permanently in this human realm and needs blood to live on – so obviously, he needs to crawl down walls and bite human women (why only human women?) to death.

#9/ They crave world domination.
This one’s a no-brainer. We all know Voldemort. We have seen his dark but fascinating evolution from Tom Marvolo Riddle to the Dark Lord in the Harry Potter series. From what I have read about J.K. Rowling, Voldemort’s mission for pureblood supremacy is mirrored against Hitler’s agenda of genocide. And then there’s Sauron from Lord of the Rings, and Darth Vader. If ever there was ambition, these villains have it.

#10/ They thrive on torture.
Er, have you seen Game of Thrones? Have you seen Ramsay Bolton torturing Reek? Or Nils Bjurman in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Phew. Enough said.

So, which villains have been most loathsome for you?
lexlingua: (Books)

Top Ten Gateway Books is a meme at Top 10 Tuesday that's recently become quite popular. Here's a round-up of the ten books that introduced me to new genres and new ways of thinking:


1. Gateway into Historical FictionLes Meserables by Victor Hugo -- I loved my old English teacher, and she once read to us, The Bishop's Candlesticks, in school. Eager to know whether Jean Valjean reformed himself and stopped stealing after all, I raced to buy an abridged version of Les Meserables. I devoured the book in one night, wailed buckets into my pillow and bunked school the next day -- a first for me.

2. Gateway to Literary FictionAtlas Shrugged by  Ayn Rand was possibly my first serious contemporary read. Prior to this, my life had been Harry Potter and Jane Austen. Suddenly, capitalism was thrust at me in the form of a fat book about a legendary guy gathering all the heroes of the world and leaving the loser moochers behind in the dust. I stole the book from my elder brother's bookshelf and never even understood the half of it. But I still loved Dagny Taggart and wanted to be like her. Who is John Galt? My favourite question ever.

3. Gateway into Non-FictionRusska: The Novel of Russia by Edward Rutherfurd -- I grew up on Russian/ Ukrainian folk tales (and if you have never tried them, you really, really must). So my enchantment with Russia, its history and architecture, and yes, even its politics, has been a long standing one. Then one day, I found Russka in a book store; someone had placed it in the wrong side of the shelves. Non-fiction suddenly became very intriguing.

4. Gateway into Detective FictionThe Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie is by no means my favorite but it's memorable because it started me off on a binge-read of Christie's books. The man in question was cynical, brooding, glowering (at our chirpy heroine), and possibly a murderer. Favorite qualities in a hero for a teenage girl, don't you know. The villain was so likeable, he put the said hero to shame. For someone whose idea of mystery books and detective fiction had so far been Nancy Drew, Hitchcok's Three Investigators and Enid Blyton's Five Find-Outers, Christie's The Man in the Brown Suit was a gateway to a whole new world out there.

5. Gateway into Science FictionCordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold -- I have reviewed this book before. Science fiction was a thing of worry, till someone rightly pointed out you don't have to a nuclear physicist to understand science. Well, Cordelia's Honor is less about science and more about integrity, but it still was a wonderful entry into the world of space opera. It also gave me one of my favorite authors. For any newbie, my recommended primer would always be Cordelia's Honor.

Read more... )
lexlingua: (Reading)

The theme for this Tuesday's The Broke and the Bookish meme is your top 10 best/worst movie adaptations, and here's mine:

10. Anne of Green Gables

While growing up, I came across Anne Shirley, the talkative, smart, red-haired, impulsive girl who loved to dream and use big words. Was there anything better than reading up Lucy Maud Montgomery’s adventures of Anne, and then seeing it onscreen? True, Montgomery should have stopped writing after the third book, Anne of the Island, and that’s where the telemovie ends. I think a sequel has been made too, The Continuing Story, though I am still to watch that. Anne of Green Gables is ideal for a feel-good day or as a present for any teenage girl you know.

9. The Last of the Mohicans

Michael Mann turned the book by James Fenimore Cooper into a visual delight. The soundtrack adds to the beauty of this adaptation, and it helps that the movie story is more hopeful than the actual book. This movie also made Daniel Day Lewis my favourite actor for a long time to come.

8. Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been turned into movie more times than any other book, and continues to fascinate readers even a century after it was first written in 1897. We owe our vampire legacy to Bram. I find it hard to decide which version of Dracula I like the most. Almost all movie adaptations have turned the story slightly or radically, and most of them end up making Mina Wentorth Dracula’s one true dear love. I found Wynona Ryder’s version of Dracula hard to digest for the same reason, but it definitely needed mention in this list for the sake of its eternal movie-making ability. Then of course, there's also the new Dracula TV show coming up onRead more... )

Funny Five

Apr. 27th, 2013 12:46 pm
lexlingua: (fanfiction)
Nothing feels better than ending a long day at work with a few big laughs. I thought I would put up a list of the top five books that made me hoot like a hyena.


1. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

In a Victorian world where everyone's brimming with insincerity and money-mindedness, Oscar Wilde talks about the importance of being earnest. No easy thing, when even wanting to be called 'Earnest' is going to make our heroes sweat with desperation. This was written as a play, but I personally felt reading the book was far funnier than watching it acted out (in the movie, to your right).


2. Tintin in Tibet by Herge

There are those who will disagree, saying The Castafiore Emerald and The Calculus Affair are so much funnier. There are those who will disagree because they think Herge was quite racist. But if there's one thing that makes Tintin in Tibet so hilarious, it is the number of epithets that Captain Haddocks comes up with in this one. Example to your left.


3. Quick Service by P.G. Wodehouse

No, not Blandings and no, not Jeeves. Sometimes, I find Freddie too silly and Jeeves too haughty. But Quick Service hits all the right notes. As usual, Wodehouse does wonders with his bag of imposters and henpecked husbands all locked up in a country house. It all starts with a beef-manufacturing tycoon wanting to steal a portrait  -- which several other people also want. Mayhem ensues, and much madcap laughter. Sadly, this particular book has not gone through the makeover that the other Wodehouse books have, so I have to put up a really old and discoloured cover image.


4. The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

Put Wodehouse in the Regency Era, and what do you get? You get Georgette Heyer. Heyer excels at putting our heroines in priceless situations of confused identities, crazy adventures, absolutely laughtastic relatives and a sparkling comedy of manners. In Talisman Ring, a ring gets stolen, a naive girl runs away, a dangerous smuggler escapes, an architect makes bad drawings, the policemen get confounded, and Tristram refuses to ride in haste. This is the closest I can get to describing the plot. It is making me laugh even as I write it.


5. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronvitch

"What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz?" Who would have thought that fantasy and detective fiction combined could make you laugh so hard? The laugh-out-loud kind of laughter is what Ben assures with his first book. Peter Grant, a policeman in London, narrates his story in first person, and his observations are straight-on and so amusing. His life catapults into the other world zone when one day he and a ghost have a chat. I still have to read the whole thing, and I often read it during my cab ride to office. Puts a cheeky grin on my face some mornings.


So what's your funny five? Do lets share a laugh.
lexlingua: (typing...)

Top Ten Short Stories

I am not much of a short-story reader; my attacks are mainly suffered by novels above 300 pages. And yet, since there are too many books and too little time, I really wanted some stories to dig into. Here’s a list of my top 10, and I would love to know yours:

1. GAMES AT TWILIGHT by Anita Desai

This one is a story about a little boy who, as the youngest in his family, could have been mollycoddled pet of his family and his friends, but alas, that is not the case. Once you get over Desai’s tedious descriptions of summer and garden—albeit done very beautifully—you will find that this story is one of the most painful tales of inadvertent neglect. Desai calls it the ‘ignominy of being forgotten’. If you click on the image to the left, it will redirect you to the story.

2. THE MOON WAS DROWNING by Charles de Lint

I discovered this story or rather read it completely by chance. I had heard a bit about this author, especially in reference to his work The Mystery of Grace , and the title caught my interest. There is a school of thought which believes that this world is actually the dream of another being—hello, Inception, anyone? What if one day you woke up, and discovered that the Moon had been padlocked at the base of a lake, and you were her only chance of rescue? It is enough to say that I fell in love with de Lint’s work after this story. An interesting painting by Carol Heyer at Fantasy Gallery is available online.

3. THE ROCKING HORSE WINNER BY D.H. Lawrence


D.H. Lawrence was a forbidden name in my household when I was a kid, so when I saw his name heading the list in an anthology of short stories at my school library, naturally I was very, very interested. I was in my fifth grade, a very impressionable age if I might say, and the darkness of this story was my first and indelible taste of reality’s mad hopes and disillusionment. There is a little boy who guesses at the horse number which could win the races next day. It was a lucky guess, and he makes these guesses while riding his own wooden toy horse at home. Except one time, he just couldn’t seize on a number, and he rides himself to his death in a frenzied panic.

Read more... )

I would love to know your favourites too!

lexlingua: (Disney)

The trouble with bibliophiles is that when they are not reading books, they are reading about books. So, the Broke and Bookish’s Tuesday meme was rather difficult for me: Top 10 Blogs/ Sites that Are NOT About Books. I had to go and check up all my bookmarks on delicious, and handpick ten, and I, er, apologize for being two days too late. Here’s the list:

10. The National Geographic

What better way to keep up with news, than these yellow-tipped journals full of lovely snaps! One of my school libraries used to subscribe to NGP, and I used to spend hours cooped up with them. The high definition pictures on all those glossy pages made me want to become a nature photographer.

NGP

9. Deviant Art

I am not much of an artist (though I do have a creative streak now and then), and the first time I came across Deviant Art was when I was hunting for Harry Potter Fanart.  I had no idea what a beautiful world exists out there, with so many talented painters (both traditional art and digital art) that it amazes me and also makes me green with envy. Check out my favourite pieces, and make sure to look at the Daily Deviant as well. The Daily Deviant is a daily selection of the favourite submissions as voted by DA users.


Read more... )

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