Friday, 3 July 2020

The Memories We Bury by H.A. Leuschel




I don't tend to read a lot of thriller books. I have nothing against them, they're just not something I gravitate towards. However, after making some terrible mistakes in regards to personal reading, now when I look for new books to review I simply ask for a surprise. The Memories We Bury by H.A. Leuschel was one such book. 

When I first started it, I didn't think much of it and was tempted not to finish it. There seems to be a style for authors writing pieces that vary from one narrator's perspective to another and back with each chapter, and it's not something I'm overly fond of. Although it can be helpful, I sometimes find myself getting lost in the narration and not quite knowing who's perspective I'm reading from. Regardless, I carried on and finished the book in one sitting. 

Unlike the book I previously reviewed, the plot line for this book is relatively simple. A young woman, Lizzie, and her husband Markus move in next door to an elderly woman named Morag, who carves a place for herself in their lives as a means of satisfying her need for grandchildren. What starts off as a friendly relationship becomes toxic and manipulative as Morag attempts to convince Lizzie's husband and friends that she is suffering from post-natal depression and is incapable of caring for her young child Jamie. 

As I said, I don't normally like books that write different chapters from different narrator's perspectives, but in this instance, I feel it really benefitted the text. From Lizzie's perspective, you can see how she is initially grateful for, and then comes to depend on, Morag's help, especially as her husband becomes more and more absent as the text progresses. Her sections of the text also draw on her relationship with her own cold and withdrawn mother and show us how Lizzie comes to see Morag as the mother she never had, as is her intention. Reading her narrative also allows us to see how Morag's behaviour becomes progressively more manipulative and shows us how she becomes a danger to Lizzie and her newborn son Jamie. 

Reading from Morag's perspective, however, allows us to understand why Morag is acting the way she is, at least to a degree. From the beginning, we know that she craves grandchildren and that she is a widow living alone who's children seldom come to visit. By seeing how she portrays herself as the kind and considerate neighbour, we see how her actions are entirely based upon her desire for grandchildren, and how she sees becoming a part of Lizzie and Jamie's life as a way of giving her the relatives she craves so badly. Whilst her actions start off as well-meaning, we soon see her actions becoming more and more dangerous and manipulative. 

It is as the book progresses that the divide between the two narrators becomes more and more effective in aiding the progression of the plotline. We not only see Morag's behaviour intensify and Lizzie's doubt begin to grow, but we are also given an explanation for why she acts the way that she does. 

As I said, at first I didn't have high hopes for the book and I do not think I will read it again. However, I did finish the book in one sitting and am sat here writing this review immediately afterwards with what can only be described as a severe case of the heebie-jeebies, and I think that makes it a very good thriller indeed. 


Sunday, 21 June 2020

Sorry not sorry


    This image has absolutely nothing to do wit the contents of this post, but it appeared on screen when I type No into Pixabay and who doesn't love a picture of a goat? Also, this post is a tad rambly. 

You know those people who never, ever, seem to be wrong? The ones who, whatever happens, they always manage to get an apology out of you? Yeah, I'm not like that. Somehow, whatever happens, I always feel like I need to apologize. I don't know why it is but, for whatever reason, I always feel like I'm in the wrong and, if I'm completely honest, I'm kind of done with it. 

There was an incident with the magazine yesterday in which I realized I had been working a job that I didn't actually have for four months without being paid. It wasn't the greatest, but it wasn't the worst. What got me the most though is that, when I sent my notes over my (ex) editor, he had a problem with how I phrased them. Apparently, he didn't respond well to my bluntness, and this is something I'm really tired of apologizing for. 

I'm blunt, I have always been blunt and I will always be blunt. Whilst I never deliberately try to hurt someone, I always try my best to be direct. I respond to direct, and I feel no need to sugar coat something just to make someone else feel better. An example of this comes from when I met a friend's boyfriend a few years ago. She repeatedly told me how horrible he was to her, but she had a problem with the fact that I didn't welcome him with open arms and immediately want him to be on my Christmas card list. I will be civil, but I won't fake my emotions if someone is mean to my friend. 

Another example of this was when I was with River. He was living with me at the time, and came home from a night out, got into bed with me and proceeded to tell me how a woman had been grinding up against him all night and told him she wanted to blow him. Unsurprisingly, I was not overly jazzed about this, and when I finally responded with an, ever so, disgruntled "DUDE", he got offended and I ended up apologizing. 

That's right, he felt the need to tell me that he spent his evening being offered oral in a public bathroom and I was the one that apologized. Let's just let that sink in. 

I seem to apologize a lot for being blunt, worrying that I struggle with being tactful when really what I should be worried about is the fact that other people feel the need to react in the way they do. One of the few things I've learnt from my, many, experiences with therapy, is that someone's reaction to your behaviour has nothing to do with you. You can't control how they feel about your actions, and so attempting to modify your behaviour to change them is completely pointless 

Whilst this post may seem as if all I'm saying is "poor me", that's really not the case. What it is saying is that I'm finally realizing that I apologize way, way, too much and it's finally time for me to stand up for myself and accept that I'm not always in the wrong. Yes, there will be occasions where I cock up and I will obviously apologize for those, but I'm done saying sorry for reacting in a way that is perfectly understandable for the situation in hand. I really am over it. 

Lolita, Literature and Cancel Culture


I'm a self-certified member of the planner community, and while researching an incident involving a prominent member in the community I came across an article describing how singer Madison Beer had been "cancelled", due to her opinions on Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. 

For people who haven't heard of/read the novel, Lolita recounts the story of pedophile Humber Humbert and his obsession with prepubescent girls, or "nymphets" as he calls them. When in a relationship with a woman his own age, he becomes infatuated with her pre-pubescent daughter Delores, aka Lolita, and he forces himself into a sexual relationship with the child. There is no sugar coating the topic of the novel, it's about pedophilia and rape, end of. 

The reason that people took to social media in an attempt to "cancel" the singer, was because of her feelings towards the book. Describing the piece as one of her favorite texts, she said that she "romanticizes" the novel, causing a plethora of shouts, screams and opinions from people hell-bent on destroying the woman's career with a few tweets. 

Personally, I love Lolita. It was one of the first texts I studied whilst at university, and I spent hours ploughing through it in bed when the combination of Canada's ridiculous winter temperatures and the fact that my room had no heat was enough to shove me under the covers, whenever I wasn't traipsing across the city to work. It's a seminal piece, provocative and intense and it's meant to cause a reaction. Although I'm pretty sure Nabokov didn't bank on it being a catalyst for a social media campaign. 

Just to be clear, in case anyone was wondering, I obviously do not support pedophilia. There's nothing else that needs to be said about this, but it's not just the controversial subject matter than makes Lolita such a beautiful piece. It's stunningly written, bold, brave and shows Nabokov's daring nature as a writer. One of my favourite books is American Psycho, arguably one of the most controversial texts of the nineties, but my love for Bret Easton Ellis' book has nothing to do with my supporting the gruesome deplorable behaviours the protagonist Patrick Batement engages in, it's because it's a really good book. 

They say that no publicity is bad publicity, and this can mean the same for literature. Just because the subject matter of a text makes the reader uncomfortable, doesn't make it bad. If anything, it's a good thing. We witness events every single day that makes us uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean that we have to water-down literature, particularly literature written in 1953, just because the subject matter is taboo. Controversial and shocking content has amassed millions in the film industry, and few would make a bid to "cancel" anyone if they enjoyed films that affected them in a similar way to Lolita, so why should literature be any different?

Although, the whole thing where brands use sexually provocative names to sell their products (I'm looking at you Kat Von D. and your Lolita lip colour) is lazy, unimaginative and just plain boring at this point. That really can be "cancelled". 

xXx

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Rome




Whenever I've talked about my first, and only, visit to Rome in my blog, I've always discussed in a way that only notes the "terrible" decision I made to eventually leave my home and move to Vancouver to be with a man that I barely knew. A decision that didn't end the way I wanted to, but that I made none the less. 

This time, instead, I want to talk about the good in those moments. I'm re-reading Call me by your name again and it's made me think about that particular trip. The trip that was only meant to last a few days, the trip that really hadn't gone the way I'd planned at all, the trip that made me take such a risk. 

I met Jacob in a hostel. I'd been asleep all day, as per usual when I travel, and he was brought in by the hostel receptionist during his tour of the building. They walked in, waking me from my day of slumber, and commandeered the bed closest to the door. I was on the back left, he at front right, and we got to chatting casually with one of the other people staying in the room. After a few beers and the exit of the other guest, a drunken and flirtatious discussion ended up with me being topless and, as moved to his side of the room to retrieve the Deadpool t-shirt given to me by an ex-boyfriend, we kissed. 

I'm not going to say that it was a world-shatteringly romantic moment, it wasn't. Feverish and passionate, we were two drunk strangers making out on a single bed in a hostel. Making out that eventually led to us having silent, secretive sex while the person in the bed opposite pretended to be asleep. 

I'm very sorry about that by the way, who and wherever you are. 

The plan was for me to leave the next day. I was travelling by train and had another destination planned. Instead, he asked me to stay with him for a few days and, in a fashion that was incredibly unlike me, I agreed. We'd planned on meeting later that day after he'd booked us a private room for the next two nights, and spent the day travelling around Rome independently of each other until I eventually sat waiting for his message at the train station. 

I won't lie, I nearly left there and then. I couldn't get through to him and, as I sat exhausted crying on the floor of the station, I simultaneously craved his contact to prove that I hadn't changed my plans for nothing, and wanted more than anything to get on the next train out of Rome. I was tired of being attracted to people that didn't feel the same way, and being led on by a promise of something more than a one night stand. Fortunately, just being I was ready to give in, he messaged me, and I carried my bags back to the hostel and we settled into our room. 

It would be false to say that these were the most romantic of my life, there was an undoubtable connection and I knew I wanted to be with him at that moment, but that caused me a discomfort that I'd felt countless times before. I was scared, scared of how I would feel when I left, assuming that he wouldn't reciprocate my feelings of wanting to meet again. My past experiences and insecurities lead me to think I'm not worthy of love, and so I carried a tension around with me that giving into would have changed my path completely. Shortly after, I told him how uncomfortable I felt at the thought of continuing our journey together if we would never reconcile. In response, he simply asked, as he had been doing since the first night we spent together in our own private Italy, if I trusted him. 

I said that I did, I had no reason not to. 

It was our penultimate night in central Rome when he finally revealed why he was asking. Come to Canada, he'd said, this was serious. To many, the thought of travelling across the world to a place I'd never been, leaving my entire life behind, would have seemed insane. After all, not many people are willing to leave their homes, friends and family behind them. Me? I didn't see the problem. Yes, I'd miss people, but they were in no way going to leave my life. Travelling around so much, I'm used to not seeing the people I love on a regular basis and find it easy to maintain relationships over the phone. I said yes, of course, immediately contacting my friends and parents to tell them about our conversation. Did I know much about this man? No. Did I want to no more about him and be with him in Vancouver? Yes. 

That was our last night together in Europe. We spent our evening curled up next to each other in an Air BnB. Parting at the train station, I kissed him goodbye as he travelled to his next, and final, European location before leaving for Canada, with a plan to see each other soon. 

As we know, my journey to be with him didn't work out, as many people knew it would. But during that trip, in those moments, I was given the possibility of falling in love not only with a new person but with a brand new country as well. 

As I said in the beginning of this post, I often brush over my brief relationship with Jacob as a mistake, a choice that may have led to my eventual emigration to Toronto, but had also brought me an ungodly amount of pain. But, looking back, I now know that I'd make the exact same decision over and over again. I often think that, as a borderline, I'm not worthy of love. Not entitled to romantic happiness as I regularly so crave to be. But, in that moment, during those three days, I had a chance. Whether I reaped the benefits of my risks or not, I was given an opportunity to fall in love and, for that, I shall be eternally grateful. 


Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Between Love and Murder, Chris Bedell



First of all, happy pride month. There is no doubt that things are pretty terrible in the world right now, but that doesn't diminish the importance of pride. Pride matters, the LGBTQ+ community matters, we matter and there's nothing in the world that can change that. 

Seeing as it's currently pride month, it seems fitting that I review a book that involves a bisexual protagonist. What's important to note in this novel is that, while their relationship is relevant to the plot of the text, the fact that it's not a heterosexual relationship isn't a defining factor. Yes, there are sections where the sexuality of the protagonist is important, but the relationship between Chad and Archie is not sensationalized just because they aren't straight. Which is kind of nice, I'm not going to lie. 

The novel begins by introducing us to the three main characters and revealing the main focus of the plot. Mallory, Chad and Archie. Mallory is a long-time friend of Chad's who seconds before we the text begins has admitted her feelings for him, feelings he tells her he does not reciprocate. Immediately after this the plot is revealed and we find out that there is a missing person in the school named Tommy, and then we are introduced to Archie. 

There is a lot going on in this book, a lot. Bedell takes us through a journey of manipulative friendships, bisexual love triangles, blackmail, murder, threesomes and even incest in a way that really does seem to come out of nowhere at times. Given the short length of the text (I managed to finish it in an evening) sometimes the plot points came out of nowhere without ever being explained. The incestuous relationship between the murder victim Tommy and his sister Gemma is never really explained other than as a way of escaping their feelings towards their abusive father. Not only that, but the discovery of two other murders is touched upon but never really expanded on as well as it could be. 

There are also parts that I really don't think needed to be there, and that could have been explained by relating back to previous sections of the plot. The threesome between Mallory, Chad and Archie really doesn't seem relevant to the storyline, and the reason behind Mallory suggesting it and Archies subsequent reaction could just as easily have been related back to the fact that Mallory was blackmailing Archie into dating her, rather than adding in a sexual experience that seemed to spring out of nowhere.   

One of the things I liked the most in this novel, in the most cliched of ways, is how much I recognized my own behaviour in Chad's. Chad's main floor is that he self-sabotages his own happiness, believing that good things simply won't happen to him because that's just how he is. He doesn't believe he deserves to be happy with Archie, which is why he struggles to reveal his feelings, automatically assuming things will fail and that he will be rejected. 

Hmmm, who does that sound like?

The book is a nice and easy read. I managed to finish it in an evening and it's quite easy to follow the before and after style of the chapters as you move through the text. While there is a lot going on, and I feel the novel would have benefitted from expanding on certain areas of the plotline, it's an interesting exploration of relationships, blackmail and friendship that allows an LGBTQ+ couple to play a central role in a text, without the entire focus being placed on the fact that they're not straight. 

xXx 

Monday, 11 May 2020

Time




Just before the lockdown was set in place, and we were blessed with the freedom to leave our houses for reasons other than emergencies and a series of walks that no one would ever have taken before quarantine began, I went on three dates with a guy I met online. He was great, treated me nicely, pulled my chair out for me when I sat down and paid for my dinner when we went out to eat, he was a nice guy. Thing is, there just wasn't anything there for me and, whilst I enjoyed his company, I knew I didn't feel any kind of romantic or sexual attraction to him.

He, however, seemed to feel the opposite, and at the end of said third date slipped into the conversation that he was my boyfriend. I freaked out, panicked, and ran into my house whilst messaging my friends who thought it was really great that I'd met someone. They were happy for me, but I just wasn't feeling it and, in turn, was kind of scared.

The freaking out amped up a notch when, after returning from a trip, he turned up at my house uninvited at 8pm wearing rubber gloves and a face mask to give me a gift he'd brought me from Italy. Now, I don't like people knowing where I live, never have done. I don't know if it's because I move around so much or because it takes a lot for me to feel safe and comfortable somewhere, but my house is my house and, for the most part, I'm happy being there alone. To some it would have seemed like a romantic gesture, it's a scene straight out of every teen movie after all, but for me, it was too much, and I had to end it.

In contrast to this, I put up with being with my ex on and off for three years without us ever admitting we were together. He never told me he had any form of feelings for me, but we were a couple. Our "arrangement" as he called it began on odd terms where he misunderstood how I felt about him, and we carried on in the same vein until he finally got a girlfriend a few years later.

There are some days I think of that sentence in my head and rephrase it as "someone he wanted people to know he was with" which really says a lot about my self-esteem.

When I was with River last year, he would never put any labels on our relationship because it made him feel uncomfortable, despite the fact that he was essentially living with me at one point. He would only see me once a week, often tell me that I was supposed to be a one night stand and all in all make me feel like crap. In spite of how unhappy I was, in spite of how many times I told myself he needed to go, I refused to end things. I don't know if it was in fear of being alone, or because I am used to the one being left and, subsequently, hurt, but I just didn't feel able to do it. As it turns out my refusal to end things myself became irrelevant, as he broke up with me via text anyway, citing my BPD as his reasoning.

Not a nice guy in the end.

What I'm struggling with at the moment, and by struggling I mean inexplicably trying to unpick as a way of deflecting from being governmentally required to stay alone with my thoughts 24 hours a day during the anniversary of the worst month of my life, is trying to work out why I do this. Why do I freak out when someone who treats me well and wants to be with me, but allow myself to be hurt by someone who treats me like garbage? For a long time, I thought it was purely because I thought it was the treatment I deserved but, lately, I'm wondering if there's more to it than that. Am I really as afraid of getting close to someone as I seem to be?

I don't know if it's a BPD thing or something else, but right now I feel completely overwhelmed. Overwhelmed and somehow scared of getting close to anyone whilst simultaneously emotionally drained as a result of being alone.

Ah, quarantine brain, you got to love it.

xXx

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Will I?



The night I was raped, I came home, laid on my bed and listened to Will I from the Rent soundtrack whilst eating Mini Eggs. It's been 6 years, and each and every time that moment clocks around I have the same response to those questions.

1) Will I lose my dignity?

Yes. Your dignity will disappear the second you need your friend to hold a glass of your pee because the police officers you called will be in vague search of the DNA of the man that raped you. That feeling of loss of dignity never goes away. It's gone, you don't get that back.

2) Will someone care?

They will, for about a year, They will care from the moment you report the rape until the end of the trial that sends him to prison. After that, you're fare game. People don't care anymore, but you carry it on day after day.

3) Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?

No.

xXx