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Archive for December, 2013

I found this book randomly in a book store one day and bought it on a whim. “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt promised to be a chilling psychological thriller involving college students and a Greek centered mystery. The summary on the back reads: “Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last–inexorably–into evil.” It is a semi-long book, 559 pages with decently small print, but I read it fairly quickly. It is extremely well-written, and while in parts I was starting to feel it drag a little, it still captivated my attention well enough that I didn’t want to put it down until it was finished. So, all in all, I really liked it.

However, there were a few things that bothered me about this book, and one I wouldn’t necessarily consider Ms Tartt’s fault. It’s marketed as a “psychological thriller” over and over again in reviews on the book, which is half of the reason I bought it, but I would not consider it a psychological thriller. I feel like it never quite reaches the level of thriller. There was never a point in which I was on the edge of my seat, unsure as to where this book was going. It starts out in the prologue with a murder. You know who it is that dies, though you’re not sure why. And a lot of books have done something to that effect and still managed to keep the suspence level up. I don’t think this book does that. Again, I was always curious as to what exactly is going on, but I never felt a level of suspence that I think is needed for that branding.

Two, and this is a semi-minor thing: the usage of drugs and casual sex in this book. Now, I know this takes place in college. I know people experiment with drugs and casual hook-ups in college. I never did, and none of my close friends did, but I know it happens. That being said, I was not really buying how it was portrayed in this book. The main character is a guy named Richard. He seems like a kind of reserved, smart guy who is aspiring to be more than he is. He comes from a bad background, abusive, uncaring parents with little money. It doesn’t seem like he had many friends from back home. And yet, you’re following this guy’s life and all of a sudden he just has random sex with a stranger and mentions that he’s done it before. It may not sound like it from the way I typed the above, but it just seems really out of place. It comes out of nowhere with a character that didn’t seem like the type to just grab a girl and have sex with her. Secondly, and even worse, he randomly does drugs. And I’m not talking weed. He and this other girl (and other very minor characters and background characters) do more major drugs *recreationally*. They aren’t drug-addicts. There are some characters that are drug dealers and drug-addicts, but the main guy and his friend Judy don’t sound like they are. They just do them on occassion and at parties–but we’re talking cocaine and *meth*. Again, I didn’t do these drugs, so I can’t say for 100% certainty, but I was under the impression that (especially) meth was not done every once and a while and for fun. It was more for hardcore drug users who need professional help. What?? I was very taken aback from these parts of the book. I was not sure they portrayed real life very accurately.

Other than those two things, I didn’t really have a problem with the book. An interesting topic did come up while I was reading it and when I finished it, though. The idea of making the reader sympathetic to character(s) who did something terrible. Potential spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you don’t want anything ruined (but I won’t give away the major surprise points of the book I don’t think): but the characters that the book focuses upon committ a murder. In fact, some of them commit two murders. One is a little hazy on how it happened, the second one that everyone is involved in… well, let’s just say there’s not really a point in which I felt bad for the guy who was murdered. I actually at one point found myself thinking: If this happened to my friends and they felt this was the only was to help themselves, would I say anything to the cops? No!! That’s not what you should be thinking. You should think: Oh my god, this is atrocious! These people are cold monsters! How could Richard not go to the cops and tell them everything? How can he just go along with it? How could he even let himself get involved with it to begin with? But he does let himself get involved, to the point that if he did go to the cops, he would be serving some jail time. His life would be ruined. And it makes you think: If I was Richard, what would I do in that situation?

Would my friends that I’ve known for merely months be so important to me that I would just let them meticulously plan out someone’s murder? Once it happened, would I stay quiet? Just bear that burden forever? This book makes you feel sympathy, and even if it’s not neccessarily for the other characters, for the main character. Again, and at the very least, it doesn’t really paint the murder victim in a good light. Which, I don’t think he was a good person, but does that mean it’s okay to murder him? Richard does feel regret and remorse for it, as do other characters who experience some mental and emotional breakdowns, but still. Does the reader feel the appropriate remorse for what they did? I think this book raises some interesting questions as to what lengths people would go to in order to help themselves and people they barely know.

All in all, I give this book either a three and a half or a four out of five. If you can find it reasonably priced, and if you like ancient Greek culture, read it.

-AV

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I hate making blogs like this for the simple fact that bullying is one of my most hated things. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why anyone would bully anyone else, but I especially don’t understand the way most people around the situation react to it. I think when I was younger, even though I don’t recall being around what I will call “aggressive” bullying, I can kind of remember mentally being drawn to the reactions I will talk about; but thankfully as I got older, I started realizing that these first instinct reactions are not the correct ones to take. The common reactions? Ignoring or joining in.

I was never bullied going through grade school or college. In a way, I almost expected it in grade school, because I was shy, had bad skin, and was overweight, but a few factors I think contributed to it not happening, the most important one being that, for the most part, my school and especially my graduating class were relatively nice and not prone to bullying to begin with. Bullying is never okay ever, but let’s face it: it does happen, and I think in some weird way never watching it really happen didn’t really prepare me for when it started happening later. (BUT, just to be clear, I in no way wished it would have happened to me or anyone else!) I mean, I could have been talked about behind my back, and I know kids talked about each other constantly, but there was never “in my face” making fun of to me or anyone that I remember (then again, maybe I really ignored everyone more than I remember).

Now, the first time I was even remotely bullied that I can think of was in a later job, and it didn’t really last, and it never got too particularly nasty. It was from another woman, someone older than me, and she said the most condescending things to me, tried to make me look bad to fellow coworkers, and (as I was “above” her job-wise) didn’t listen to much of anything I would try to tell her. Some people might not really think of that as *bullying*, but it really is if you think about it. It’s not physical, but she put me in tears more than once at work, and at one point I was sick to my stomach and shaking all over. I stopped wanting to go in if I knew she would be working even part of my shift. Perhaps unfortunately, I tend to take the approach of keeping quiet about things that truly upset me, and I didn’t say anything right away to the manager, despite being close with her, and this person would make sure to do these things when we were alone. Finally, when I did talk to the manager, I felt better about her knowing about it, and our shifts were almost 100% kept apart, and eventually because of the fact that she wasn’t even that good of a worker, she was slowly cut in shifts. I didn’t stay long after she started for personal reasons, but I will never forget how I felt dealing with her. It was stressful and it was horrible. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I felt like there was nothing I could do. She was older than me; she was more willing to be hurtful to others; and no one else witnessed it. I thought I was powerless, so I swallowed most of it and just told my husband and parents about it.

I’m not very confrontational, and I tend to keep to myself for the most part. However, with my latest job, I started getting a lot more outgoing, mostly due to the way the rest of the shift was. Almost everyone is loud and happy and prone to TMI, but it’s almost like a little family (or was, for most of my time there). So I slowly but surely started joining in. I talked to almost everyone and pretty much got along with everyone, as usual. Lately, however, things started going downhill.

Due to an outside-work problem that I’m not going into because it doesn’t involve me at all, suddenly there was a split starting on the shift. Now, to anyone new to my blogs, I work nightshifts, so the place is basically deserted except for our approximately 30 people shift and two managers. So most of what goes on happens amongst ourselves with no one outside of the situation to take notice. One person involved in this outside conflict started being bullied by two other coworkers. We will call the girl being bullied Arianna and the two bullies Helen and Jed. Helen and Jed started it out slow. They started ignoring Arianna and talking about what she did to them constantly and loudly–and it slowly but surely started a lot of people on the path to hating Arianna and just flat out ignoring her, too. Now, at first I believed everything Jed and Helen said. And now, I wish I knew how much of it is true and how much of it is exaggerated or blown up. So most of the shift stopped being friends with Arianna and expressed sympathy toward the other two.

However, it didn’t stop there. It just kept getting worse. From the first week I started at this place, I talked to and really liked Arianna. I didn’t want something that didn’t involve me to stop that, so I kept talking to her, and she basically never mentioned the other two or anything they did to her. Later, as her and I talked more and more and became better friends, she would finally get fed up enough that she would rant for a few minutes about them, and I started learning that they were bullying her outside of work and they weren’t as pure and good as they made themselves out to be at work. I still talked to them, however. I wasn’t going to help the divide that was forming.

However, it kept getting worse. For a separate reason, I got angry enough at Jed that I stopped talking to him. Eventually Helen stopped talking to me. Suddenly, I was now part of Jed’s target. Some people stopped talking to me altogether, and others started acting just a little less friendly to me. Now he was using the same kind of intimidation tactics that he used with Arianna–trying to make me move out of the way when we passed each other; trying to push me out of the way if we both needed in the same place; saying things loud enough for everyone around to hear that were “subtly” directed at me; talking about me to other people.

I was never keen on this overnight working stuff, but this is too much. It was the worst last time I was in there, and I’m hoping everyone was in a particularly bad mood and it won’t be as bad this week. But while I’ve had enough, I feel like I did in the last situation. I feel like if I say anything directly to them, I will end up getting reprimanded by the managers. I feel like if I go to the managers, these two will find out about it and they will retaliate worse than before, to me or Arianna or both. I’m afraid I will alienate people that are still talking to me. On top of the health problems I’ve been experiencing lately, this is just too much. I feel sick when I have to go to work. I dread going in there. What will happen this time? Will I lose more friends?

I’m grateful for the people who decided or just naturally didn’t respond with the common reaction to join in. There are a lot of people who have not gotten involved and talk to everyone. But for the most part, there is an ignoring problem. No one wants to be the “tattle-tail” who goes to the managers and expresses concern. Maybe because it isn’t physical or extreme enough. No one’s been hit or actually pushed or anything, so maybe this isn’t really that bad.

All I know is, my heart has always gone out to children, young adults, and anyone else who have dealt with bullying of any kind. It is a terrible, abhorrent thing to do to anyone. No one deserves to go through any kind of bullying. If you know someone is being bullied, take the first step. They probably don’t want to look weak or like a tattle-tail, or they think it will make it worse to go to someone in charge. Go to someone in charge and try to help this person. You may make a difference. Talk to this person and let them know they have a friend. That in itself may make all of the difference in the world. But most of all, never, ever let the “group mentality” take over you. If someone is being bullied, a lot of the people around will back off because they don’t want to become a target by association. Be brave and don’t look away.

Be a friend. Be a good person. Any bully is weak and a coward, whether it’s a guy bullying a girl, a girl bullying a guy, or the same genders.

-AV

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I have been eyeing this book up in book stores for almost a year now. The title first caught my attention, as “pandemonium” just happens to be one of my favorite words (which weirdly makes sense if you know me well, haha). So when I had a little extra money, I finally decided to give it a chance.

I will admit that while I was hesitant to buy it at first because of the summary, the summary was the second reason I wanted to buy it. It was about demon or demon-like possessions, and I wasn’t sure how graphic it was going to get. It didn’t get graphic really at all. Basically, this book takes place in a world like our own, except that back in the 1950’s, all of a sudden there began demon-like possessions. They would suddenly take ahold of someone, and soon enough, the “demon” would leave the person (and whatever destruction they caused). As you go through the book, you start to find out that there are different types or “personalities” of demons that can possession a person, leading different theories as to what these “possessions” are. There is a group called the Jungians (after Jung) that think this is stems from the collective unconscious, rather than demons. The word archetype is thrown around a lot.

The main character was possessed as a child by the demon or archetype known as the Hellion. This “demon” is attracted to little boys, and it basically causes the little boy to become, well, a hellion. They destroy and don’t listen…and worse of all, its chosen weapon is a slingshot, and usually someone loses an eye. The person who loses her eye is the main character’s mother.

What I liked about this book: I did overall like this book. I’m really glad I read it. 1.) I think the overall idea of it is super interesting. 2.) Throughout the book, there are a few chapters or sections that take specific archetypes and elaborate on how they act, since the main character Del only really talks in length about two, the Hellion which has possessed him and the Painter, who he sees in action. 3.) While I didn’t feel specifically connected to any of the characters, as I didn’t really relate to them on any deep level, I liked the characters in general. No one really did anything that I thought was out-of-place or strange…except Mother Mariette, who proves to have probably the most “levels” to her personality. 4.) I like that some of the archetypes are not that bad, such as the Painter (while they destroy stuff, they generally don’t hurt anyone), but there are a lot of bad ones that cause a lot of hurt and death. However, the author conveys this well without getting graphic or disgusting, which I appreciate. 5.) There is a bit of a twist, or a few twists, that I didn’t see coming. I’m not good at mysteries or detective books and I don’t really even like them, so someone who reads a lot of that might see this stuff coming…but I didn’t, and I liked that. 6.) I don’t think I read anything that was super cliched.

What I didn’t like as much about this book: 1.) The wrap-up. As stated, there were some twists that I didn’t see coming, and while I liked them…the wrap-up in general was not very satisfying for me. I don’t want to ruin anything, but there are times that I enjoy books that leave a bit of an open ending so everyone can interpret it on their own, and there are times that I want the book to have a solid theory that they are sticking with and explain it. This book goes with more of an open-ending, and I wanted to bang it against a wall in hopes that it would tell me what specifically happened in this world.

And that’s about it. That was really the only thing that I would complain about with this book. I read it fairly quickly; it’s not very long and what I would call a quick read, and I was interested enough that I wanted to keep reading it in all of my spare time. Look it up on amazon or your local book store (I found mine in a local store for $5) and read the full summary on the back and see what you think. If it sounds at all interesting, buy it. I think it’s worth it.

-AV

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