V is for (Books About) Villains #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I do love a good villain, one with their own story, who you can even sort of understand and root for. So many villains are one-dimensional and boring. When they’re not, they’re often the best part of the book.

Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal, by Thomas Harris (horror): I loved Hannibal Lecter the moment he said he liked eating the rude. I think of that often in the grocery store. He appealed to me because of how manipulative he was, like a chess master, using people as the pawns. These books would not have been as good with a lesser villain.

Gavin in Fearscape, Horrorscape, and Terrorscape, by Nenia Campbell (YA horror): Before I get to the review part, I need to be honest about these books. The first one was fantastic, but quality went downhill as they continued. I still liked them a lot by the last one, but the last two would have benefitted greatly from better editing. (I think the second two were self-published. If they were ever re-edited and re-released, I’d definitely buy them.) Okay, so anyway… Gavin is a creepy stalker who develops an interest in Valerian, despite her friends telling her to stay away. I loved these books because they didn’t make the bad boy turn good with the influence of the right girl. He is a creep and that doesn’t change.

Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey (classic): There’s nothing worse than someone who’s awful to people in their care. That’s one of the things that makes Nurse Ratched one of the evilest characters of all time. She’s a control freak, among other things, and McMurphy and his chaos are perfect foils for her. It’s a classic story.

Heartsick, by Chelsea Cain (horror): In my mind, there’s nothing better than a female villain (done well), and Gretchen is one of the perfect ones. She’s a serial killer who’s also a psychologist. She manipulates her way into working with police and then tortures the police detective in charge. Instead of killing him, she then lets him go and turns herself in, professing her love for him. But it turns out that it was all another manipulation, and she keeps manipulating him from jail, Hannibal Lecter-style. There’s a second book I haven’t gotten to, mostly because I didn’t know it existed. It’s now on my TBR.

Who are your favorite villains?

J is for Joe

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_6764Joe is the narrator of You, by Caroline Kepnes. He meets Beck in the bookstore where he works, and after getting her name from her credit card, Googles her.  He looks at her Facebook and Twitter. And then he starts to figure out where she’ll be so he can engineer a “chance” meeting. It gets creepy. Fast.

The thing is that Joe is an otherwise nice guy. Overly emotional and obviously a stalker, he also does his best to make her happy. And Beck likes to mess with men. She’s not a good person either. They’re not a problematic combination even if Joe was an ordinary guy.

My emotions were all over the place with this book, because while Joe is a bad guy, obviously, I started to see where he was coming from. Because it’s told in his point of view, I started to get sympathetic.

It’s masterful, and I don’t know how Caroline Kepnes did it. It made me think of this quote:

“When you really know somebody you can’t hate them.”
― Orson Scott Card

Believe me; I didn’t like Joe. And having worked in mental health, with people who’ve been in DV relationships and people who’ve assaulted others, I know that he’s wrong on so many levels.

But… the ability to get inside his head was a valuable experience. Fiction gives us that ability, even when it’s disturbing.

Do you ever find yourself sympathizing with the villain?

Breaking Bad- I’m Out of Sync

imagesEveryone loves Breaking Bad, and everyone is talking about it.  The husband and I started watching it because everyone said we should.  I admit, the storytelling is good and the characters are well-drawn.

That being said, I’m almost indifferent to the show, on the point of not liking it.  However, even though I don’t like it, I feel compelled to continue watching it, and I probably will finish all of it, though at a less frenetic pace than most people seem to.  Not long ago, the TV Guy’s Stepmom blogged about it and mentioned how she went through 40 episodes in 5 weeks.  The husband went from nothing to caught up in about 2 or 3.  I’ve been watching 4-5 episodes per weekend, so I’ll catch up eventually.

It took me awhile to figure out why I’m less “into it” than everyone else seems to be.  Before I go further, let me say that I’m going to start talking about some spoilers.  I’m only into Season 2, and the spoilers I talk about will be broad concept type things.  Just FYI.

The husband watched an episode of Talking Bad with the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, and he explained that the show isn’t about good guys and bad guys.  There’s no moral lesson.  It’s just about the de-evolution of Walter White.

And right there is the reason I don’t much like it.

Walter starts out as a nice guy.  He’s a pushover, and early on, I cheered him on as he started to gain confidence and some power.  I even cheered him on as he pushed around stoner-loser Jesse.  However, it quickly became apparent that Jesse has moral lines that he won’t cross, even when “ordered” to.  And Walter’s lines are blurring.  If they’ve blurred this much by Season 2, I can’t imagine where they’ll go by the end.

I love stories about dystopian futures, tragedies, difficult circumstances.  But what I like in a story is a redeeming main character.  Sure, we all make mistakes, and I’m fine with a human main characters who makes mistakes, has moral failings, and even acts in ways I don’t approve of.  But in the end, I want them to have grown in a positive direction.  Walter White isn’t doing that.  He’s becoming someone I don’t like, at all.  Is it a “true” story of the human condition?  Maybe.  I could see someone in that circumstance becoming like Walter, but why would I want to watch it?

For the record, I don’t like Skyler either.  Something about her just rubs me the wrong way.  I really think the people I like best are Jesse and Walt Jr.

Anyone else have thoughts on this very polarizing show?  Do you watch it?