Review of “Malice”

In recent years, paranormal books have filled the shelves of bookstores and libraries, and the excerpt for Malice by Lisa Jackson led me to question whether it would be another one of those books. Having finished this chilling and gripping book,I am passed to report that it is not just another paranormal book. In fact, it is all the more gripping and chilling due to how utterly earthly it was.

The questions this book raises center largely on the quest for answers Rick Bentz embarks on, and the discretion needed to determine whether or not his mind is fooling him and the reader both. Instead of the paranormal book I thought I was reading, this book classifies fully as a psychological thriller, drawing out the reader’s tension right until the very last pages. Lisa Jackson is a genius in her genre and this novel is decidedly well written.

For those who are easily spooked, our dislike crude language and sexual references, this may not be the book for you. Likewise, if you’re looking for a light read, you might want to reconsider your choice, as this is a murder mystery, and forces the reader to wrestle through the same problems Bentz is dealing with. However, if you enjoy a spooky, sexy, and thrilling novel, I highly recommend this book for you.

Review of “Casual Vacancy”

For those readers who grew up reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, switching away from her world of magic and adolescence to the small town world of Pagford is like hearing your favorite band from high school’s new album- the voice is the same, but it’s grown up. The issues Rowling portrayed through her latest novel proved to be a far cry from any Harry and his friends faced, which is why I suspect so many people have negatively commented on this book.

Although initially slow, the plot revolved neatly on the vacancy left by Barry Fairweather, picking up pace as Rowling pushed through the stories of the adults and the adolescents in Pagford. The power struggle is gripping, and the story rapidly pulls the reader in, emotionally and mentally and demands a response.

Layering the plot with class struggle, marital problems, the angst and trouble of teenagers, domestic abuse, and the basest of humanity’s qualities, Rowling somehow manages to tie it all off with a bittersweet ending. This novel was deliciously familiar and a literary piece of genius (as always), but not appropriate for younger teens or children.

Review of “The City of Dark Magic”

One of the occupational hazards of being a history major is the tendancy to read books critically, appraising the content, if there is an argument, how effective the argument was, and whether it was a good book. When my semester ends, the urge to review, and write on them, doesn’t stop. A friend suggested that I should actually write out my reviews, so here is the first of them. If you plan on reading the book, I warn you that this review contains spoilers.

Like it’s title, The City of Dark Magic, centers on one of the European cities that is steeped in superstitions, bloodshed and history- Prague. Sarah, a PhD. student, is invited to come and work in Prague for the summer, in the wake of her mentor and adviser’s death, on preparing a collection of Beethoven’s works for a museum display. She is told on her arrival that her deceased mentor commuted suicide, and that he was a drug addict, but this doesn’t ring true for her, and she goes about her work in an attempt to solve this mystery.

As a history major who will be seeking a Masters in Museum Studies, I find myself a little skeptically of her ability to prepare an exhibit, which seems to be her secondary work, as Sarah gets caught up in the plot. Professionals are trained to do this, and yet she walks in and innately knows the process? It took an entire summer of Internship to learn the process of acquisitioning and storage, and I wasn’t even trained in display set up.

That aside, the plot thickens as she falls in love with the prince, makes friends with some of her coworkers, and more murders are committed. A US Senator turns out to be involved in the intrigues, the prince’s cousin is determined to take over the family holdings, and another academic is murdered, and framed as suicide. It was fascinating and gripping, blending science with myth and history, as each of her questions are answered, and new questions, not to mention murderer attempts, occur.

Despite the mysteries each being solved, justice being brought around, and the museum opening, the ending lacked certain elements of closure. There were certain elements throughout the book, as well, which could have been left out, such as Sarah’s sex life (though it was almost always written with taste), and the language could have been toned down a hint.

Overall, I would rate this book with a four and a half out of five. It was thrilling, and I had trouble putting it down, but there were some things which didn’t necessarily sit well with me. Continue reading

Story Without a Name III Chapter 2

The days turned into weeks, and then months, and my mother’s absence was felt acutely. I left school in order to take better care of my father and my siblings both.

I did my best to oversee the running of the house, and Lizzy tried to help me as best she could. Even so, it was as if the heart had gone out of our home.

Eleven months passed, and although we never did fully forget the hole in our family, we settled into new routines, new patterns. Life continued, even beyond the death that touched us.┬áThat’s where we found ourselves when the second tragedy struck our family. Settling into a new life without my mother.

The day started like any other spring day. The snow had melted into an ashy slush that coated our cobblestone streets, the sun was shining, and the birds were busy building their nests in the trees that lined the neighborhood streets.

Henry had gone back to college after mother’s funeral, and Julie returned to her finishing school. Papa began traveling to find new goods for his shop, and wen he was home he’d shut himself in his office for hours at a time.

Papa had just come home from one of his trips, and he and I were waiting for Julie to come home, so we could eat our dinner. When she finally came dancing in, Papa stared at her, disgust on his face. It didn’t take long to see what the problem was.

A bright pink bow held her hair back, the only color in her outfit. Forbidden color.

Julie took her seat, oblivious to our father’s anger. He stood and tersely crossed the room, and pulled the ribbon from her hair.

“Papa!” Julie cried out, partially from pain as several stray hairs came out with the ribbon and partially out of shock and confusion.

“What’s this?” he demanded of her, holding the ribbon up. “Do you have no respect for your mother?”

“Papa, I do, but-” she began helplessly. I froze in my seat, , watching them, terrified of my father’s wrath.

“You are in mourning, Julia Maria Hancock!” he roared.

“I’m sorry!” she whimpered, tears forming in her eyes. “I lost my own ribbon this morning, and Lily lent me one of hers.”

“You are not supposed to be wearing color!” he yelled, causing Julie to shrink back.

“It was an accident! Mine slipped out on the way to school, and Ms. Carter will use the ruler on us if our hair is let down!”

“That is no excuse!”

“I tried to do what is right!” Julie exclaimed, and ran out of the room. A few minutes later we heard the front door open and slam shut again.

“Julie, wait,” I called after her as I moved to follow her, knowing full well that she couldn’t hear me. Papa turned away as I left the room. “Julie, come back!”

She was in the street by the time I had reached the door, the late afternoon sunlight blindingly shining down on our street. She was obviously crying as she ran. It was no surprise that she didn’t see the automobile.

“Julie, look out!” I screamed, darting down the front steps. She was only halfway across the street, still moving, when a motor car sped around the corner and down the block.

Julie paused for a moment, a moment too long. I froze as the car connected with her body and she went flying over the roof of it. A wordless shriek broke from my lips as the brakes screeched.

She hit the ground with a sick sounding crunch, and blood stained her dark colored gown and white underthings, which were peaking out from under the skirt’s hem.

I ran out to her with no regard for my own safety as the driver got out of the cursed contraption and made his way to her side. She was dead. Anyone with eyes could see that much. Nonetheless, I frantically searched for a pulse as people poured out of the houses around, summoned by my horrid shriek.

Father barreled out of our house, appearing by my side suddenly. He quickly scooped Julie up and carried her out of the road like a rag doll, up our stairs, leaving me kneeling beside the small puddle of blood staining our cobblestone street.

“Miss, I’m sorry, I didn’t see her. I’m so sorry,” the driver said helplessly to me. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I rose, hurrying blindly back into the house.

I couldn’t help but remember the day mother had taken ill, and how Julie and I had come back to the empty house. Lizzy jerked me out of my memories as she descended on my like a bird of prey, gripping my upper arm.

“Miss Samantha, what happened? What happened to Miss Julie?”

“She was hit,” I said, the voice not sounding like mine. “She’s gone.”

“Are you alright, Miss?” she asked me, the concern evident in both her face and her voice, as a tap sounded on the door.

“I’ll be fine,” I lied, straightening my skirts. “Answer the door and show them into the parlor.”

“Your father took Miss Julie into the parlor,” Lizzy said gently.

“Why did he do that?” I moaned, frustration tinging the horror and the rage I felt. “There’ll be blood all over the furnishings!” It was the least of my concerns, and I allowed myself to be distracted by it. I didn’t want to face this horror, but I knew I’d have to. I took a deep breath, trying to steady and calm myself. “Show whoever it is into the library. I will be with them shortly.”

“Of course, Miss,” Lizzy said, making her way to the door.

Dread carried me to the door of the parlor, and I let myself in to see my father kneeling beside the horsehair settee, where Julie was laying, motionless. As I approached, I could see that Papa had closed her eyes, and that she looked like she was sleeping.

The curtains hadn’t been drawn that morning in the parlor, and dark shadows fell across the floor. Darkness enveloped the entire room, and death hovered in the shadows.

“Papa,” I said quietly. He gave no response, as he merely sat beside Julie silently. Reluctantly, I crossed the room to his side, and placed a hand on his shoulders, which were trembling slightly. He seemed broken, almost completely leveled by this blow.

“It’s my fault,” he whispered hoarsely. “She’s with your mother, and it’s my fault.” Tears escaped from his eyes, and I rose, not wanting to witness this breaking of my proud, strong father.

I left the parlor, feeling as though I was suffocating. First mother, and now Julie… The blackness seemed to be trying to drown me.

My next stop was the library, where our visitor was waiting. Reluctance clung to me, and with a heavy heart I opened the door.

A young man sat in the armchair in front of the fire, his legs crossed nonchalantly. Apparently he hadn’t heard me open the door, and I shut it carefully behind myself.

“Hello,” I said, coming around the armchair. He leaped to his feet, startled by my entrance. As I saw his face, I gasped, realizing that this was the driver of the car. The man who had killed my sister.

“Miss, I’m so sorry,” he said, speaking rapidly and with the hint of an accent as he extended his hand. “I didn’t mean to hit her. Please tell me she’s alright?” he begged, genuine sorrow and remorse on his face.

“She’s dead,” I said coldly, trying to hold the wave of tears back. He flinched back, anguish shooting across his face. “You killed her.”

“Mon Deiu,” he murmured, recoiling. He dropped his hand. “Please, tell me, is there anything I can do for your family, to ease this crime I have inflicted on you?”

“No,” I snapped, my hurt coming out as wrath. “Do you think my sister’s life is so cheep that money might buy back what you took?”

He flinched away, and I knew that I should feel remorse for hurting him, but I didn’t. Instead, I turned away from him, trying to keep my exterior from betraying the turmoil inside.

“Nothing I can do for your family will ever replace what I have taken from you, or bring back your sister,” he said gently. “I am aware you are hurting, and in mourning over another loss. I, however, would like to make amends for this horror that I have wreaked on your household, if you will allow me.”

I turned to look at him as he drew a small card holder from his pocket. From it he took a calling card and offered it to me.

“So you can find me, if you change your mind,” he said. When I made no move to take it, he set it on the side table and made his way to the door. “What was her name?”

“Julie,” I said. “Julie Hancock.”

“And you?” he asked, lingering in the doorway.

“Samantha,” I said, a steely tone entering my voice.

“I am sorry, Miss Samantha Hancock,” he said before taking his leave.

~~~

Andre's Calling Card

A History Major’s Rant

This semester, as I engage with the texts of the past, I’ve been struggling on an emotional level with the material I’ve been reading for courses.

It is so hard to be so steeped in humanity’s failures, to see the death and dying, to see the fighting and the drinking and the drugs effect so many people’s lives. It’s hard to read about the destruction of the earth and other people so someone could make a quick buck. It’s hard to read about people dying brutal, bloody deaths, inflicted by other people. It’s hard to read about the injustices committed because of race, or gender, or people group. It’s hard to see the broken Imago Dei in the past, without looking away.

People come to my major because they think that History is an easy “A.” They think it’s about memorizing facts, names, dates. That’s not what it’s about, and I’m reminded of that every semester. It’s easy to lose sight of the people behind those names and dates, the ones who made this world we’re in now what it is.

Some days, I just want to find peace, love, joy. I long for a restoration from this broken reality. That’s the hope of Christ, and I can’t imagine doing my job without it. I don’t think I could do my job without it.

All of this is to say, it’s easy to say that hurtful thing. I know, I’ve done it repeatedly. But hurt people hurt people. In five words, that’s my summary of history. Guys, I’ve come to treasure those moments where people show kindness, no matter how small. It’s not the stuff that’s often remembered in history texts, and it seems like it’s far outweighed at the time. But it’s the stuff that makes us human. It’s the stuff that keeps us going. We can’t keep on like this. If we profess to be image bearers, then aren’t we called to reflect the goodness that God is? Even a little light can be bright in the darkness.

Friendships (Don’t Be Me)

I looked up today and realized that I was firmly and irrevocably on the outside of what used to be two of my dearest friendships. And it breaks my heart.

You see, I’m not entirely innocent. I have this brutal temper, and it tends to emerge when I’m stressed out of my mind, like I was about a month ago. I made some deep wounds, because I was hurting. little did I know that the wounds I inflicted were actually on myself, when I thought I was lashing out at air.

I know this about myself. And I thought that my friends knew that. So I assumed we’d be okay at the end of the day.

We aren’t. They view me like I’m some kind of monster, a stranger who will verbally destroy anyone who dares disagree. They’re still friends, it’s just me who’s on the other side, outside in the cold.

They say I won’t listen, but they don’t speak.

This is being written after an attempt on my part at patching things up. But nothing’s been done on their part to make amends. At least, nothing that I’m aware of.

They claimed to be concerned about me, but I don’t believe that they really are. That suggests an active attempt to help, to care, to be there, and they were not there when I felt like my world was falling apart.

All of this has left me redefining what a real friendship is. And I’m incriminating myself as well as them by everything I say after this.

Friendship is what happens when two people choose to love and care for each other for no reason other than a genuine enjoyment of the other’s company. It’s a bond that, in some cases, is deeper than anything blood can create. It’s an acceptance of the other person for who they are, and a choice to stay by their side when the world is falling apart around their ears.

Friendship is patience, it is love, it is laughter and loyalty. Friendship is crying and comforting and protecting. Friendship is understanding.

I can point fingers in all directions to show the failures of these, ESPECIALLY IN ME. Because even though this is my ideal of what friendship is, I am still human and I still fail. And, even if you don’t know me, you must know that although I hold myself to impossible standards (see some of my previous posts for more insight), I realize that no one else will live by them.

The break down in these two friendships began because of poor communication. They broke down because I hit a boiling point, and let all of the ugly out. I made assumptions, and I was wrong.

They doubt the sincerity of my apologies because of the way I behaved to try to survive. They didn’t care that there’s more to the story.

I find myself becoming resigned to this whole situation. It’s just another day in my life. Another friendship gone.

On the off chance that they’re reading this, that they’ve made it to the end of this article, they’ve heard me speak my piece. The ball is in your court. You know who you are, and you know your options.

For the rest of you reading this, treasure your friends, and choose your words carefully. Be cautious about hitting send. Don’t be me.