Top Ten Tuesday: My Top 10… Greatest Villains

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Villains
(favourite, best, worst, lovable, creepiest, most evil, etc.)

Ooo you could go so many ways with this topic, but I have chosen to share with you my top ten greatest villains of all time:

  1. Count Dracula – Bram Stoker’s legendary antagonist has come to be universally recognised as the archetypal vampire. He is both cruel, heartless and vicious, and suave and refined: a deadly combination.
  2. Smaug – This vain, cunning and cruel dragon is the main antagonist in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, who destroyed the entire dwarf kingdom of Erebor to seize its treasure! And whatever you do, don’t play riddles with him!
  3. Frankenstein’s Monster – After being created and abandoned, the tragic villain of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein relentlessly chases down his creator, bringing vengeance down upon him and his innocent loved ones.
  4. Sauron – The main antagonist in Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings, a powerful, malicious spirit, that clings onto life as a great lidless eye, that never sleeps. Who mercilessly wishes to dominate all life.
  5. Professor Moriarty – Is the archenemy of Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery series. Famously dubbed the ‘Napoleon of Crime’ and considered one of the first super villains in fiction.
  6. Lord Voldemort – The main antagonist in J. K. Rowling’s magical Harry Potter series. A powerful Dark Wizard who murders anyone who doesn’t fit his supremacist views or gets in his way, including Harry’s parents.
  7. Milady de Winter – Is a beautiful but remorseless spy in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. She seduces and uses men to gain power, wealth, information and to do her dirty work.
  8. The White Witch – The tyrannical, self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Who cursed the land to a perpetual winter – always winter, never Christmas!
  9. Randall Flagg – Known as ‘The Man in Black’ when I met him in Stephen King’s The Tower Dark series. Where he hunted by Roland, the last gunslinger, after he killed all of Roland’s men and destroyed his family.
  10. Victor Frankenstein – Earlier I had Frankenstein’s monster, but it could be argued that as Victor created and them heartlessly abandoned him that he too is a villain. In fact, Shelley has us asking who is the real monster?

Do you agree with my choices? Who do you think are the greatest villains? Also, please share your link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.

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Re-Read: The Return of the Prodigal Son

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. After a summer break, we read and met to discuss But Is It Real? by Amy Orr-Ewing. Having got muddled with the order of the books, I actually read our October book, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen first. So it seemed like a good idea to re-read to refresh my memory before we met.

In The Return of the Prodigal Son, the bestselling writer and pastor, Henri Nouwen chronicles how a chance encounter with a poster of Rembrandt’s painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son, catapulted him into a long spiritual adventure. That saw him making a pilgrimage to the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg to see the original in the flesh and undertaking deep, personal meditation; that led him to discover the place within which God has chosen to dwell.

Inspired by Rembrandt’s powerful depiction of the Gospel story, Nouwen probed the several elements to the parable: the younger son’s return, the father’s restoration of sonship, the elder son’s resentment and the father’s compassion. Broken down into three parts with three short chapters each, Nouwen describes and discusses concisely each element and how he feels about them. With this lay out it meant I was able to take my time and easily dip in and out of this book, which gave me plenty of time to think and reflect.

The themes of homecoming, affirmation and reconciliation contained in this book will resonate with all of us who have ever experienced loneliness, dejection, jealousy or anger. I was also interested in how Nouwen felt that he and many of us have probably been both the younger and elder son at some point in our lives; even if you initially feel sympathy for one or the other. But the point is not which son we are, instead the challenge is to be able to love like the father and to be loved as the son, which Nouwen believed was the ultimate revelation of this parable.

When my church’s book club group met, just last week, to discuss this we were split on the use of Rembrandt’s painting to discuss this parable: some absolutely loved the visual aide, others found it distracting and at worst some thought it was irrelevant. However we all agreed we enjoyed Nouwen’s in-depth exploration of the parable, looking at the roles of both the younger and the older brother, as well as the father. We all also thought it was a beautiful piece of prose, with some real little gems of wisdom. Many of us had noted down favourite quotes.

All in all, I thought The Return of the Prodigal Son was an inspiring guide that helped me to look at this well-known parable with fresh eyes, which made for an interesting, if a little contentious, discussion point. Now I am reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan for our November meeting. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Henri Nouwen?

New Read: Stop Press Murder

It may have taken me a while to get to it, but after really enjoying Headline Murder earlier this year, I didn’t wait long to pick up Stop Press Murder by Peter Bartram. Which is the second book in Bartram’s comforting, crime series, Crampton of The Chronicle.

We re-join Colin Crampton, ace crime reporter for the Brighton Evening Chronicle, in the summer of 1963, almost a year after solving the murder of crazy-golf owner, Arnold Trumper and having his Aussie girlfriend, Shirley walk out on him. But there is no time for heartache with two juicy crimes having been committed on Brighton s Palace Pier. First, the theft of a saucy film from a ‘What the Butler Saw’ machine. Second, the murder of Fred Snout, the pier s night-watchman, who is found bludgeoned in the coconut shy! And even though he is ridiculed, Crampton is convinced that these two crimes are some how linked.

We follow all the fast-paced action, as his investigation spirals out of control, through the eyes of our protagonist, Colin Crampton, a dedicated – if a little cocky – local reporter. Who again is willing to go the miles, even risking life and limb to finally solve this mystery, get his story and prove the scoffers wrong! I have definitely grown rather fond of our reporter, especially seeing him get up to all kinds of mischief and scrapes. His cheeky, chappy personality also lends a lighter tone to the darker, edgier elements of murder and crime.

So what we get is a very British murder mystery, with twists, turns, colourful characters and a good dash of humour too. But there is no gratuitous blood or gore, which makes this perfect for those, like me, who prefer lighter murder mysteries. Then we have the setting of Brighton in the swinging sixties, that Bartram has brilliant evoked with its classic cars, well-cut suits, pop music, food and smoky pubs! All of which reminded me of my two favourite crime dramas, Endeavour and Inspector George Gently.

What impressed me so much about both books is how Bartram has been able to realistically describe the world of 1960s crime reporting. With the smoky, bustling newsroom, ringing phones and clicking typewriters, and, in an age without computers or mobile phones, everything has to be done the good, old-fashioned way with leg work and trips down to the archive office. In this book, Bartram also introduced me to the seedy world of the adult film industry in the roaring twenties, through the theft of a saucy film, entitled ‘Milady’s Bath Night’! Which Crampton is convinced has led to the subsequent pier murder.

Overall, I thought Stop Press Murder was another good, page-turning murder mystery, with a likeable protagonist and great setting. I would very much like to read more from this series. Good read.

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other mysteries set in the colourful Brighton?

This was also my second read towards the R.eaders I.mbibing Peril reading event.

Halloween Creatures Tag 2.0

If I’m honest I have never really been a big fan of Halloween – what with not being a huge fan of horror, blood, gore, being scared or of scaring other people. However, this time of year, I love taking part in the R.I.P reading event, which encourages me to read books on the darker side. So hopefully I will still be able to give this – the Halloween Creatures Tag 2.0 created by Anthony of Keep Reading Forward – a jolly good try, after Paige of Bookish Paige kindly tagged me in it.

First up here are the simple rules for taking part:

  • Answer all prompts.
  • Answer honestly.
  • Tag 1-13 people.
  • Link back to this post.
  • Remember to credit the creator (Anthony).
  • And have fun!

Now without further ado here are the prompts and my answers:

Witch
A Magical Character or Book.
One of my favourite magical characters – who also happens to be a witch – is the indomitable Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series.

Werewolf
The Perfect Book to Read at Night.
Nothing too scary, as I do want to actually be able to sleep! So maybe a cosy crime like M. C. Beaton’s long-running Agatha Raisin series, would be good for this time of year.

Frankenstein
A Book that Truly Shocked You.
I’m sorry, but as a huge lover of Mary Shelley’s novel, I first just have to say that Frankenstein is the doctor not the creature. Okay, now I’ve got that out of my system, a book that truly shocked and disappointed me was The Dark Tower VII by Stephen King. How could he do that ending to me?!

The Devil
A Dark, Evil Character.
Still one of the darkest, most evil characters for me has to be Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. While the many subsequent film and television interpretations have given him sympathetic love story and sex appeal, I found little to like about Stoker’s dark original.

Grim Reaper
A Character that Should Never Have Died.
That would have to be poor Cedric Diggory from J. K. Rowling’s magical Harry Potter series. Cedric was a kind, handsome and honourable young man, cruelly cut down in his prime by Lord Voldermort.

Zombie
A Book that Made You “Hungry” for More.
Earlier this year, I absolutely loved the superb, time-travelling horror, The House on the Strand by, the queen of gothic, Daphne du Maurier, and the more I read by her, the more I want!

Gargoyle
A Character that You Would Protect at All Cost.
You can’t help but feel for and want to protect poor, misused, little Oliver Twist, in the classic novel of the same name by Charles Dickens.

Vampire
A Book that Sucked the Life Out of You.
I genuinely can’t think of a book that sucked the life out of me – If I wasn’t enjoying a book that much, I would give up way before it got to sucking my life away!

Ghost
A Book that Still Haunts You.
That I think would have to be the quietly sinister We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, which I really need to get round to re-reading soon. It has been so long, but it is still with me.

Demon
A Book that Really Scared You.
Tough one as I don’t like books that scare me, however I did manage to read all of Stephen King’s terrifying, dark fantasy series, The Dark Tower. I would find myself staying up late into the night, as I couldn’t sleep until I got to a point in the book where the characters were safe… relatively safe anyway!

Skeleton
A Character You Have a Bone to Pick With.
Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins’ dark, dystopian The Hunger Games trilogy. Don’t get me wrong I love her, but what’s with this umming and ahhing between Gale and Peeta… it should clearly be Peeta!

Mummy
A Book You Would Preserve Throughout Time.
That is super easy! It would have to be The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien! I would say The Holy Bible, but I am pretty sure after surviving thousands of years already, that it is going to continue to be preserved with or without me.

Creepy Doll
A Cover too Scary to Look At.
My Modern Library Classics edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic, gothic mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles has pretty scary cover, featuring a distorted image of a snapping, snarling hound!

The Monster Mash
Tag Your Friends!
Well the rules state I have to tag at least one person, so my one is anyone who would like to take part!

Do you like my choices? What would your choices be? If you decide to take part please share a link to your post in the comments, so we can check it out.

New Read: Cauldstane

With September heralding the start of autumn and the R.I.P reading event, it seemed the perfect time to pick up the gothic romance, Cauldstane by Linda Gillard. The only thing I can’t believe is that it took me so long to read more by this great author! After loving her Emotional Geology, Untying the Knot and three of her other modern, women’s novels, with their wonderful mixture of mystery, romance, history and the paranormal.

Author Jenny Ryan has landed her dream job to ghost-write the memoirs of Sholto MacNab, the legendary adventurer and Laird of Cauldstane Castle. When Jenny arrives at the MacNabs’ ancestral seat in the stunning Scottish Highlands, she is prepared for thrilling tales of adventure and danger. Never imagining that danger awaits her! As members of the family confide in her their sins and secrets, slowly the castle’s violent and tragic history is revealed, with lust, betrayal, death and an ancient curse having blighted the family fortunes for generations.

I instantly liked Jenny, who is another realistic, independent but also fragile female heroine, which I have come to expect from Gillard. Jenny also has her own back story of heartache, mental illness and secrets, that she truly starts to explore and come to terms with as she begins to feel at home with the eccentric and eclectic MacNab family. Including, in particular, the handsome, brooding Alec MacNab, swordsmith, widower and heir to Cauldstane. As soon as Gillard introduced him, I knew we were to be treated to another mature, passionate romance, and I wasn’t disappointed!

However as Jenny and Alec become close she begins to find her work deleted, threatening messages and she even finds her life in danger. But Jenny refuses to be bullied into leaving the castle and family that she has come to love as her own. Instead she throws herself into discovering the truth. Is there really a curse? Is one of the family not all that they seem to be? Or crazily is there an evil presence residing within these ancient walls? Following Jenny as she risked her sanity and her life, I was gripped from page one and rapidly drawn into this sinister, family mystery.

Hats off to Gillard because Cauldstane is another beautiful written tale, with all the things I love in a book: mystery; romance; history; a big, old house and a touch of the paranormal. I can’t believe I waited so long to read this and I vow not to wait so long again, and I have no excuse as I already have Gillard’s The Trysting Tree lined up on my Kindle. Great read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Linda Gillard?

This was also my first read towards the R.eaders I.mbibing Peril reading event, and what a cracking start to it too!

New Read: But is it Real?

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. Back in June, we read and discussed Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey. After a break over the summer, we kicked things off again in September with this, But is it Real? by Christian apologist, Amy Orr-Ewing.

Is God real? God is just a psychological crutch. Why does God allow bad things to happen? I used to believe, but I’ve given it all up now. What about the spiritual experiences of other faiths? Are just five of the ten common questions, accusations and objections to the Christian faith, all directly taken from real-life situations, which Orr-Ewing seeks to answer in this book. Hoping the thoughts offered will help people to see what the Christian faith has to say amid all the pain, confusion and complexity of this life.

And Orr-Ewing is really coming from a strong place of knowledge to answer these big and often hard-hitting questions and issues, being the Curriculum Director for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. As well as speaking and lecturing on Christian apologetics all over the world. If, like me, you’ve heard of this apologetics malarkey, but aren’t sure exactly what it is: well it is a branch of Christian theology which focuses specifically on defending Christianity against objections. Throughout this book, Orr-Ewing’s knowledge and experience was evident as she spoke in a clear and confident style.

Each of the ten common questions, accusations and objections, are given its own chapter, each of which are broken down into several parts themselves. With this lay out, very similar to The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen, I found I was able to take my time and easily dip in and out of this book, which gave me plenty of time to think and reflect. While perhaps not the most in-depth book, I did think Orr-Ewing clearly described and discussed each objection and gave plenty of examples and other materials to support her arguments against it.

When my church’s book club group met to discuss this we agreed it didn’t really inspire or move us like previous reads have, however it is a very informative read which will be great to refer back to when faced with difficult questions of our own faith in the future. We also ended up going off on a tangent – due in-part to one member’s comment on Orr-Ewing’s reliance on scripture – to discussions on the validity of scripture and creationism vs evolution! Slightly random but very interesting all the same.

Overall, I thought But is it Real? was a short, concise and informative handbook on how to discuss and defend my Christian faith. It also made for an interesting starting point for our last book club meeting. Next we will be meeting up to discuss The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen and I have already started reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan for November. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else about Christian apologetics?

This was also book 8/10 for my 10 Books of Summer 2018 reading challenge.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top 10… Longest Books I’ve Read

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

As I tend to run shy away from hefty tomes – i.e. War and Peace absolutely terrifies me – I thought this might be a tough topic for me. However after a closer inspection of my shelves, turns out I have read a fair few long books and here they are in size order:

  1. The Holy Bible – No surprise really that this collection of Christian sacred texts and scriptures comes in at a winning 1127 pages.
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – Not that far behind is Tolkien’s epic, high fantasy classic at around 1077 pages.
  3. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin – The fourth book in Martin’s epic fantasy A Song of Ice and Fire series comes in at around 1061 pages.
  4. The Dark Tower by Stephen King – I was surprised to find that the final book in King’s epic Dark Tower series is a hefty 1050 pages.
  5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens – Not surprisingly Dickens’ multi-threaded classic with its large cast of characters is around 1017 pages.
  6. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin – Martin’s second entry to the list, is the second book in his epic fantasy series, with about 1010 pages.
  7. Wolves of Calla by Stephen King – Another entry for King, with the fifth book in his epic series being another hefty one with 931 pages.
  8. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – While Dickens’ second entry to this list, is this coming-of-age classic, with around 882 pages.
  9. The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales – This classic collection compiled by the Brothers Grimm is made up of over 200 tales and has about 880 pages.
  10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling – Finally the fifth Harry Potter book has around 870 pages, which is rather impressive for a children’s book!

Have you read any of my choices? What are the longest books you have read? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.