The Potter Project: The Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)

Image result for harry potter chamber of secrets book cover

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Honestly, this was my least favorite novel of the group, but that more than likely has to do with my fear of anything that can slither and the giant snake that the book centers around. However, I did enjoy it, as I do all of the Harry Potter books.

In regards to psychology, the most prevalent aspect in this book is the idea of discrimination and prejudice. Throughout the novel, we see certain characters who condemn and mistreat those termed Mudbloods, which refers to a witch or wizard whose parents lack magical abilities. Hermione Granger, for example, was considered a Mudblood.

In chapter 7, we see an encounter between the Quiddich teams of Slytherin and Gryffindor. There has been a dispute over who has rights to the field for practice. As Oliver Wood, the captain of the Gryffindor team, attempts to get the field back, we find out that the Slytherin team has a new Seeker, none other than Draco Malfoy. We then see the following exchange:

“At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in,” said Hermione sharply. “They got in on pure talent.”

The smug look on Malfoy’s face flickered.

“No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood,” he spat.

Harry knew at once that Malfoy had said something really bad because there was an instant uproar at his words. Flint had to dive in front of Malfoy to stop Fred and George jumping on him, Alicia shrieked, “How dare you!”, and Ron plunged his hand into his robes, pulled out his wand, yelling, “You’ll pay for that one, Malfoy!” and pointed it furiously under Flint’s arm at Malfoy’s face.

We can clearly see that Harry has never heard the term before and is confused by the reaction, though he realizes immediately that it was something awful. I think we can attribute this to his childhood and environment. While everyone else on the field was born to wizarding families with a knowledge of magic from the start, Harry was completely out of the loop until Hagrid entered his life on his 11th birthday and told him everything the Dursleys had been keeping from him.

Harry hadn’t even heard the word wizard, much less a derogatory term for wizards with so-called “filthy” background. Alicia, Ron, Malfoy, etc., had all grown up in a culture where they heard the terminology for wizards and witches and they had all experienced discrimination within their community. If they didn’t fit the role of either bully or bullied, they were still sure to hear about or observe such prejudice.

We see this idea even more a few pages later when Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to Hagrid’s hut to get help after Ron inadvertently casts a spell on himself.

“Malfoy called Hermione something — it must’ve been really bad, because everyone went wild.”

“It was bad,” said Ron hoarsely, emerging over the tabletop looking pale and sweaty. “Malfoy called her ‘Mudblood,’ Hagrid —” Ron dived out of sight again as a fresh wave of slugs made their appearance. Hagrid looked outraged.

“He didn’!” he growled at Hermione.

“He did,” she said. “But I don’t know what it means. I could tell it was really rude, of course —”

“It’s about the most insulting thing he could think of,” gasped Ron, coming back up. “Mudblood’s a really foul name for someone who is Muggle-born — you know, non-magic parents. There are some wizards — like Malfoy’s family — who think they’re better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure-blood.” He gave a small burp, and a single slug fell into his outstretched hand. He threw it into the basin and continued, “I mean, the rest of us know it doesn’t make any difference at all. Look at Neville Longbottom — he’s pure-blood and he can hardly stand a cauldron the right way up.”

“An’ they haven’t invented a spell our Hermione can’ do,” said Hagrid proudly, making Hermione go a brilliant shade of magenta.

“It’s a disgusting thing to call someone,” said Ron, wiping his sweaty brow with a shaking hand. “Dirty blood, see. Common blood. It’s ridiculous. Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway. If we hadn’t married Muggles we’d’ve died out.”

As shown above, Hermione also was not aware of the term Mudblood and what it meant. Our theory of culture influencing beliefs is proven yet again since Hermione also grew up in a home without wizardry for the most part. Her parents were Muggles, so they couldn’t share the culture of the wizarding world with Hermione. She simply had to figure it out on her own once she came to Hogwarts.

Going back to the book in general, the premise is that something sinister is happening at Hogwarts. People are becoming petrified and no one knows why. Harry and his friends get involved once people begin to get hurt. They start investigating and trying to find answers as more questions appear and more lives are at stake, including Ron’s younger sister, Ginny. We see the personalities of Harry, Ron, and Hermione really start to shine through as we watch them make sacrifices to save Ginny, Hagrid, and Hogwarts.

For example, it was already a well-known fact that Hermione is extremely intelligent. However, we get to see her solve a mystery with little to no information, not to mention put herself in danger to tell her friends what she found. She allows herself to get petrified so that Ron and Harry can have the information they need.

Another character that really expands his role is Hagrid. He gains much more depth and characterization, showing that he is much more than simply an animal-loving half-giant. He has a rich backstory that truly shows his caring nature and morality. He is unwilling to accept anyone placing the blame on innocent creatures, especially when he sees them as his friends, like Aragog.

All in all, this novel truly showed some depth and psychological ideals. I really enjoyed rereading it and it gave me a new outlook on why people do not see prejudice and discrimination the same way.

The Potter Project: The Sorcerer’s Stone (Film 1)

 

While extremely similar to the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone shows us how film can truly illuminate some of the more social aspects of psychology. In particular, it shows up the depth of relationships in the series.

For instance, Harry’s relationship with the Dursley family. We already knew they treated him terribly, but the movie shows us the effect it has on Harry’s psyche. You can see in his facial expressions the wariness whenever anyone approaches him. In the scene where Hagrid appears at the hut to give Harry a birthday cake, we see Harry’s complete surprise that anyone remembers his birthday, let alone acts on it. Birthdays are supposed to be special. You’re supposed to get spoiled and treated like royalty. It’s heartbreaking to watch Harry’s face light up at the realization that someone actually genuinely cares about him.

Later in the film, Harry has trouble trying to get to Platform 9¾. Molly Weasley appears, trying to usher her own kids to the platform. As Harry watched them literally pass through a stone column, he finally finds the courage to approach her and ask if she could teach him how. He stutters and looks completely unsure of himself, though Molly Weasley is more than warm towards him. This just goes to show the effects of neglect on a child. The pure joy on his face when he finally escapes the Dursleys perfectly captures his desire to be free.

Another great example of social relationships is the friendship between Harry and Ron. Harry and Ron first meet on the train to Hogwarts when Ron asks if he can sit in Harry’s compartment with him. This scene is adorable because they immediately hit it off and you can see how happy Harry is that he finally has a friend. He is so excited by this that he spends a ton of money on candy because he can see that Ron wants some, but can’t afford it. This goes to show the loyal nature that Harry possesses and how quick he is to trust someone once they show him affection or kindness. It just goes to show that he is so unused to the idea of someone treating him well that he believes it right away since it’s so foreign to him.

Hermione, unlike Ron, is more unsure of herself in a social capacity. She comes off as rather snide because she is confident in her intellect, though she does later prove herself to be a kind and caring person. She takes the blame for Harry and Ron when they fight the troll in the castle because she realizes they were trying to protect her. She is also shown to be extremely sensitive when she cries after overhearing Ron speak rudely of her. Hermione is by far my favorite character because we share quite a lot in common, including the lack of skill in social situations.

Overall, this movie really did a great job depicting relationships between the characters, both good and bad ones. It was interesting to witness the change in Harry’s personality as he escaped an abusive home and found his own happy family.

The Potter Project: The Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1)

Image result for harry potter sorcerer's stone book

Unless you have spent your entire existence under a rock, you know the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. These books got me through my childhood and helped make me the person I am today. From the first word to the last, I was enraptured with the world that Rowling created. This series taught me about courage and love and sacrifice and I don’t think I would have been able to succeed without Hermione Granger’s voice in my head and Albus Dumbledore’s kind words telling me to push through even when it seemed impossible.

Now, I’m a junior in college and studying to be a Psychology/English major. Because of this, I am taking Social Psychology, which is how this project became a reality. You see, my lovely professor, who reminds me quite a bit of Sirius Black, forces all his students to create a Choose Your Own Adventure project where we decide how a portion of our grade will be determined. My CYOA? The Potter Project. For the next 8 weeks, I intend to read each book and watch each movie in chronological order and then write a post about the psychology behind the characters and such. This week is Book 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Our opening is simple, but truly sets up the story.

Chapter One

The Boy Who Lived

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

The entire first chapter features exposition from Mr. Dursley as he experiences a particularly strange and mysterious day, unlike his normal routine. He sees a cat reading a map and people in strange cloaks.

The first psychological aspect we encounter is Mr. and Mrs. Dursley’s view of the Potters. They are clearly prejudiced towards the wizarding community, even though they have no foundations for their stereotypes and judgement. In terms of attitudes, this shows how truly corrupt the Dursley family is.

Though Lily was Mrs. Dursley’s sister and Harry her nephew, Mrs. Dursley absolutely refused to treat him like a human being. The entire family treats him like dirt, as if he is an unwanted burden. I think the most horrendous aspect of the ordeal is the lack of grief shown by the Dursley family. They simply find the deaths of Lily and James Potter an inconvenience; they don’t recognize it as a tragedy. The abuse that the Dursleys inflict upon Harry is dismal. They force him to live under the stairs in a room the size of a cabinet and force him to be their slave.

We also see the controlling attitude of Vernon Dursley as he goes above and beyond to try and hide the letters from Hogwarts that were sent for Harry. He even goes as far as to take the entire family to a hotel, then later to a hut in the middle of the ocean at a small island when his prior tactic fails. He wants so badly to be in control that he is willing to uproot his wife and son, not to mention spend money to get away from the letters. He is desperate because his control is slipping away. He doesn’t get to decide what information to give Harry anymore. There are outside sources nibbling at his authority.

As Harry discovers the truth about his parents and about the wizarding world, we see him take on Hogwarts. Rowling offers a stark contrast to the Dursleys in the form of the Weasleys. Instead of the harsh and cold personalities of the Petunia and Vernon, we see the curiosity and cleverness of Arthur and the warmth and kindness from Molly. Instead of the cruel and calculating Dudley, we have a humorous and welcoming Ron. In a way, we are seeing what Harry’s life could have been like with James and Lily.

One of the most interesting scenes in this book, especially in terms of psychology, is the scene with the Sorting Hat. Here, Harry and his new friends will be put into one of the four Hogwarts houses. As Harry prepares to be sorted, the Hat proposes that he would be a good fit as a Slytherin. Harry immediately objects, which the Hat accepts, and he is put into Gryffindor, along with Ron and Hermione. This is interesting psychologically because I think it was all about choice and personality. Hermione is definitely a Ravenclaw, the house of intelligence and knowledge. Ron could easily have been a Hufflepuff because of his open nature and endearing personality. And, as the Hat said, Harry could have very well been a dark wizard and prospered in Slytherin. But, I think that they each wanted to be Gryffindor. They wanted it enough to ask for it, showing bravery, which is the central Gryffindor trait.

The book continues and we see a myriad of other characters, including Dumbledore, Malfoy, and Snape. The main conflict revolves around a trapdoor that seems to lead to the Philosopher’s Stone, an object made by Nicolas Flamel. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione fear that Snape is trying to get to the stone and use it to restore Voldemort to his former power, they venture into the trap to beat him to it. We see more of Ron’s personality and social psychology as he is willing to sacrifice himself to help his friends beat the game. He lets himself get injured to protect Harry and Hermione. On the other hand, we get to see his fears as he has the hardest time out of the three when they are dealing with the strangling plants.  I really like that Rowling showed such a dramatic difference here to show that people are not one dimensional. It is normal to be terrified of something, yet still be able to risk your own life for the people you love. Just because you get scared sometimes doesn’t mean you aren’t brave. Ron, Harry, and Hermione all have fears and we got to see them a little bit in this first book. But, we also got to see have astoundingly brave and courageous and fearless they are.

Conclusion? J. K. Rowling is magic and so are her characters. Also, I grew up to be Hermione Granger, and I am not ashamed of that at all.

I Hope You Found Wonderland, Gabs.

My best friend died yesterday.

Typing it out loud hurts. It feels like it makes it real and I don’t want it to be real. I want it to be a joke or a cruel prank or a dream because I don’t understand.

She was only eighteen.

I first met Gabi through Musical Theatre Workshops. We both liked Alice in Wonderland and Panic! At The Disco and horror movies. I couldn’t tell you our first conversation because I don’t remember all of the details. It kills me a little bit to know that I can’t even recall the first thing I said to her. But, honestly, the first day wasn’t what mattered. Gabi and I clicked from the second we talked. I remember that much. We ended up hanging out a few days later and roaming around bookstores and malls until our feet hurt from walking and our sides hurt from laughing.

Gabi was one of those people that just loved with her whole heart. Once she cared about you, she wouldn’t stop. She never gave up on people, even the ones she probably should have. She was convinced that she could turn the worst people good because she wanted to believe it. I think part of her needed to. I remember every time a boy broke my heart or hurt my feelings, she would be completely prepared to go beat him up or text him something that was sure to make him cry. She was the kind of person who would protect the people she loved with her life.

We had so many adventures, too many to count. From sitting in the parking lot at Lady A and just talking about life and drinking energy drinks to being camp counselors for MTW and bursting into tears when it was all over. From sleepovers and that time we dyed my hair bright red and made the bathroom look like a murder scene to watching the first three Saw movies because “Molly, they’re not even that bad.” Spoiler alert, they were that bad and I still have nightmares about Jigsaw. But it was worth it because Gabi was there to hold my hand and let me break her fingers on the scary parts, a.k.a. all of them. It didn’t matter that I was at college for the last half of our friendship or that we both got super busy. We still found time to talk and catch up. I remember that time we took dozens of photos at your birthday party and even though most of them were blurry and ridiculous, they’re still my favorites.

Gabi, I have enough memories with you to fill at least three scrapbooks, but right now all I can think about is that we can’t make anymore and it hurts. I keep racking my brain, trying to figure out what happened and what I could have done to help. I knew that you were sad and in a bad place, but I thought it was getting better. I just keep thinking that I talked to you the day before you did it and you were fine. Or, maybe you just said you were because you didn’t to be a bother. I don’t know.

You were never a bother, Gabs. Every time we talked, it made me unbelievably happy. You were always beautiful. You were kind and you were sweet and you were special. You deserved to be here and you deserved to be deliriously happy. I’m sorry that life got in the way and you felt that you had no other option. I know you felt like no one would care, but I had to leave class because I was crying so hard this morning, so I want you to know that you were wrong. I’m sorry that you didn’t realize how loved you really were. You’re forever my best friend and you were supposed to be the Maid of Honor at my wedding. I don’t know what to do because you’re just gone and this was never supposed to happen.

I snapchatted you today because for a few seconds I forgot. I waited for you to open it and then it all came crashing down again and I couldn’t breathe. I just sat there and tried to understand. I’m a planner. I always have been. But I never planned for this and now I don’t know how to act or what to do or what to say. All I know is that it hurts and I don’t like it.

I feel like part of my heart is missing now and I can’t find the words to say and that’s not normal because I’m a writing tutor and an English major and words are supposed to be my thing. But you’re not here and that’s not normal either, so I don’t know if I even know what normal is anymore.

I love you, Gabi. I’m sorry that wasn’t enough. And maybe it’s pointless to think about what-ifs and what-could-have-beens, but that’s really the only thing I can do right now.

I’m sorry.

10270440_10201054387881412_2145417947603201553_n10307177_10201054386721383_673348840407198957_n10380356_10201054388281422_5199534004147160533_n

 

 

Book Review: Confessions of a Murder Suspect (Confessions #1)

Summary:

On the night Malcolm and Maud Angel are murdered, Tandy Angel knows just three things: She was the last person to see her parents alive. The police have no suspects besides Tandy and her three siblings. She can’t trust anyone — maybe not even herself.

Having grown up under Malcolm and Maud’s intense perfectionist demands, no child comes away undamaged. Tandy decides that she will have to clear the family name, but digging deeper into her powerful parents’ affairs is a dangerous — and revealing — game. Who knows what the Angels are truly capable of?

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐ 5/5

(review may contain minor spoilers)

Confessions of a Murder Suspect is the first book in the Confessions series by James Patterson. I picked up this book at the store a few years ago, having recognized Patterson’s name from the Maximum Ride series. As I was going through my bookshelves for something to read, I came across this novel again and remembered how much I had enjoyed it. So, of course, I had to read it again and write a review!

This novel is not just a murder mystery. It’s much more complicated than that. It is the story of a family full of secrets and a narrator who admits that she might not be reliable–even she doesn’t know whether she should trust herself. It adds a unique element to the novel and makes you tiptoe the line between reality and fiction throughout each chapter.

The book opens with our narrator introducing herself– sort of.

I have some really bad secrets to share with someone, and it might as well be you–a stranger, a reader of books, but most of all, a person who can’t hurt me. So here goes nothing, or maybe everything. I’m not sure if I can even tell the difference anymore.

The night my parents died–after they’d been carried out in slick body bags through the service elevator–my brother Matthew shouted at the top of his powerful lungs, “My parents were vile, but they didn’t deserve to be taken out with the trash!”

He was right about the last part–and, as things turned out, the first part as well.

This opening featured just the right amount of mystery and suspense. We learn from the very start that secrets will play a huge part in this story, along with the fact that our narrator has a few things hidden as well. This intro immediately invested me in the story, so much so that I finished the entire novel in under an hour. I was curious about the secrets that were obviously spread throughout the Angel family and I wanted to unravel them and figure out what had happened to Tandy’s parents.

Characters

The Angel family is an immensely interesting set of characters. To start with Tandy, our narrator, I have to say that I absolutely adored her. I’ve seen some reviews that argue her blandness is overwhelming, but I disagree completely. She’s not bland. She’s simply trained herself not to show emotion. It’s a very integral part of her personality. I felt for her and I found myself trusting her, even though she implicitly stated that she didn’t know if she was trustworthy. I also really enjoyed Tandy’s voice. She was honest and blunt and matter-of-fact and it definitely worked for the story.

So as I sat in the living room that night, I took on the full responsibility of finding my parents’ killer–even if it turned out that the killer shared my DNA.

Even if it turned out to be me.

You shouldn’t count that out, friend.

Hugo Angel is Tandy’s younger brother. He appears to have a much more black and white view of the world than his sister. He was more prone to anger and it is pointed out that he sees the cops as villains. I thought Hugo was pretty adorable, even though it was clear he could break anyone like a twig if he really wanted to. I enjoyed his minor part in the story.

I found ten-year-old Hugo in his room. He was still wearing his Giants sweatshirt, and he was using a baseball bat to break up his four-poster bed.

As I entered the room, he swung the bat for the last time, splintering the headboard, then began working on the bed frame with karate kicks.

“Hey. Hey, Hugo,” I said. “Enough. Stop. Please.”

I dropped my lacrosse stick and wrapped my arms around my little brother. I dragged him away from the bed and more or less hurled him toward the cushy, life-size toy pony that Uncle Peter had given Hugo when he was born.

Harry Angel was also an interesting character. Though he is Tandy’s twin, the two are worlds apart in terms of personality. He was the more sensitive of all the Angel siblings and his characterization made him the most sympathetic character as well. Though each Angel eventually showed their grief, Harry was distraught the moment he was told that his parents were dead. I loved that he seemed to be more fragile than the rest of his siblings. It made him seem more real and tangible than the other siblings. It was also interesting to see his backstory and how it connected to his attitude and persona.

Harry also has a great smile. I guess I do, too, but I almost never use it. Harry uses his a lot. Maybe he’s the only Angel who does, actually.

Finally, the last Angel sibling is Matthew. Though it was apparent that he was honest to the point of harsh bluntness, he also seemed to genuinely care about his family. As a famous player for the NFL, Matthew brings an incredibly new element to the story. He had possibly the most caustic relationship with his parents, but his reaction to their death was raw and impassioned. He was angry at their death and you could tell that he was struggling with how to handle it throughout the book. His relationship with his siblings showed his caring nature, however, and I loved the little moments between the Angels.

When Matthew entered a room, he seemed to draw all the light and air to him. He had light brown dreadlocks tied in a bunch with a hank of yarn, and intense blue eyes that shone like high beams.

I’ve never seen eyes like his. No one has.

Other characters included Detective Hayes and Sergeant Caputo, the two officers assigned to the case. I thought that the author did an incredible job with both of these characters. They were polar opposites, a fact that our narrator pointed out as soon as she met them. It was a very interesting dynamic and it kept me on the edge of my seat as I wondered who would solve the murder first.

Plot

Confessions of a Murder Suspect is quite honestly one of favorite novels. The tension is palpable throughout the chapters and it is written in a way that makes you crave more. I loved the story and I was right there with Tandy the entire time, trying to figure out the truth behind the death of her parents. This book was really interesting because it puts you in the mind of a narrator that isn’t sure if even she can be trusted. I went back and forth between characters, trying to decide who the real killer was. I did eventually guess the ending, but it took me much longer than it usually would and I couldn’t figure out all the details.

The plot was filled with mystery and I was constantly  trying to find clues that I was missing. Another extremely interesting thing about this book is the intertwined Confession chapters. In between every few chapters, there are chapters entitled Confession where we get to see into the past from Tandy’s perspective. It’s really interesting and gives us a way to delve into the secrets and pasts of the entire Angel family, even Harry and Hugo.

Conclusion

I absolutely adore this book and I highly suggest you pick it up as soon as possible. It is filled with danger and disaster and dysfunction, not to mention the twists and turns of the investigation. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro truly created a masterpiece and I believe that if you enjoy suspense or crime, you should definitely give it a try.

Signed,

your favorite bookworm

Book Review: Fatal Frost (Defenders of Justice #1)

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Following in her absentee father’s footsteps in a law enforcement career, U.S. Marshal Mercy Brennan has just recovered from being shot in the line of duty. And, unbeknownst to her, her father’s recent reappearance in her life has put her in the sights of St. Louis’s most powerful gang. Her boss assigns Deputy U.S. Marshal Mark St. Laurent-Mercy’s ex-boyfriend- to get her out of town until her safety can be guaranteed.

Unaware of the extent her boss and Mark have been keeping her in the dark, it isn’t until a freak ice storm strands them at a remote location and out of contact with the district office that the full severity of their situation becomes clear. As the storm worsens, the forces of nature combine with a deadly enemy to put them in great danger. Can they survive long enough for help to arrive-if help is even coming at all?

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5

(review may contain minor spoilers)

Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl is a novel about cops and U.S. marshals, along with gangs, drugs, and criminals. It takes place in St. Louis where cartels and criminal activity are running wild. When I first read the premise of this book, I was interested, but not expecting much, to be honest.

The first chapter starts out by introducing us to the overall atmosphere of the city.

The seemingly deserted street was lined with empty houses, their windows as blank and vacant as the eyes of those who had become casualties in St. Louis’s war on heroin. Deputy U.S. Marshal Mercy Brennan gazed out the window of the black van as cold tendrils of rain slid down the darkened glass next to her, reminding her of tears. It was as if the tortured city of St. Louis wept because of the treacherous drug that had invaded her. The influx of cheap heroin had turned neighborhoods into war zones. The gangs that claimed ownership over their communities were killing men, women, and children for the right to rule. Crime was out of control, and many good people were trapped in their homes, praying they or their loved ones wouldn’t be the next victims of the violence that raged around them.

One particularly interesting thing about this novel was that it did not just follow Mercy’s point of view. We also saw snippets from the gang members, cartel leaders, and other detectives and marshals. It was a really intriguing way to let the reader see the thoughts of the lesser characters.

Characters

Our main character is a U.S. Marshal named Mercy Brennan. She is strong-willed and stubborn with a tendency to keep people at arm’s length, as we see in her relationship with Mark. Mercy is extremely prepared and organized, not to mention always armed with a back-up plan, which is just the thing that ends up saving her life, as well as the lives of every else involved. We get to see her transition from a young woman who is scared to let anyone get too close to an emotionally vulnerable person that isn’t afraid to cry or get a dog. Throughout the story, I was rooting for Mercy and I wanted her to find her own piece of happiness.

Another major character is Lieutenant Tally Williams. Tally and Mercy have been friends since they were kids and though Tally is married with his own children, the two are still as tight as ever. In fact, they’re neighbors. I really liked Tally. His character was warm and kind and just a great guy in general. I also adored his wife Annie. I wish we could have been introduced to his kids and seen his family more, but his part in the story worked very well. He was a very honest and sincere person and it was absolutely precious to see how much he cared for Mercy.

He was angry with himself for not seeing through his charade. Now Mark and Mercy were in terrible danger. He loved Mercy as if she were his own sister. Knowing she was in trouble and that he had no way to help her grieved him to the very center of his soul.

Now for the love interest. Deputy U.S. Marshal Mark St. Laurent. Aka Mercy’s ex-boyfriend. Talk about awkward an awkward situation… Anyway, I absolutely loved the dynamic between Mark and Mercy. I thought it was a really great balance of tension and familiarity between the two and I enjoyed how we got to see the reasons behind their break-up. Though I did keep screaming, “Stop being idiots and just make out already!” And, lo and behold, they did…after a few chapters of confessions, gun fights, mortal danger, and terror. It may have taken awhile, but the point is, they did it. I loved the little moments of their relationship from the past that was interwoven in the current story.

Mark pulled Mercy’s cellphone from her purse. “What’s your code?”

Marcy rattled off the numbers before realizing what she’d done. She searched Mark’s face, but he didn’t seem to notice anything unusual. She breathed a sigh of relief. She was still using the date he’d first told her he loved her. She’d meant to change it many times but just hadn’t gotten around to it. A voice inside her whispered Liar! She ignored it and steeled herself to concentrate on the situation at hand. 

As for the minor characters, I thought we got to see some nice background for even the smaller characters, like some of the gang members and crooked agents. It was interesting to see that a lot of the minor characters were connected in ways you couldn’t even begin to expect. While I guessed who the mole was pretty early, it was still a great read and I was surprised a few times.

Plot

I truly did enjoy this novel. However, I would have enjoyed it a lot more without the religious aspect thrown in. Now, I have read my fair share of novels with a Christian component and it usually doesn’t bother me. In this particular book though, it felt out of place. I wasn’t expecting it and it threw me for a loop at first. It was hard to equate religion with the situation and the characters. My mind just sort of skimmed over everything that had to do with religion because it seemed to take away from the story. I felt like it was a distraction and I think the book would have moved along much more smoothly without it. While it was important to understand that Mercy went through an enormous transition, it wasn’t necessary to show this through religious faith and church. We could see it in the little things, like Mark and Pippin and her demeanor.

Conclusion

This book was wonderful. I am giving it four out of five stars because of a few small things. First, I wish that we had more characterization of the minor and some of the major characters. We got to delve into their psyches a little bit, but I wanted more. I wanted a more concrete definition of the things that made them tick. Second, the religion aspect seemed foreign with the plot line. If it had been introduced earlier in a more subtle way, I feel like it could have worked, but as it was written, it felt forced. Because of the relationships and plot, however, I would definitely recommend this book.

Signed,

your favorite bookworm

 

 

Of Mental Breakdowns and Time Management

Well.

It’s that time of year again. The point in the semester where everything feels like it’s building up and preparing to squash you like a bug. And, to be honest, it probably is.

Midterm.

Ugh.

Not only does this mark the point where you actually take your midterms, but it also means that you’re halfway through the semester. Halfway to finals, which can make or break you.

If you’re not careful, this time of year will drown you. It will eat you alive and then spit you back out with stresses that you didn’t even know you had. It’s that point during school where every professor seems to be assigning extra homework, papers, and projects at exactly that same time. Personally, I’m about ready to crawl under a rock and hibernate until Thanksgiving Break.

Realistically, however, that is not exactly an option. So, here are some tricks for surviving the semester without your mind spectacularly exploding.

Tip #1: Breathe.

Before you start any paper or assignment, take a deep breath. If you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, take a minute to just inhale and exhale until your heart rate goes back to normal and you feel some semblance of calm.

You’re not going to get anything productive done if you spend the entire time worrying and convincing yourself that whatever you come up with won’t be any good. You can do this. You just have to take it one step at a time.

Tip #2: Stay ahead.

Try to make time for your homework the day before it’s due. Finishing things early keeps a load of stress off your back and allows you a little bit of time to relax before class instead of hastily answering those last few questions.

Tip #3: Time Management is crucial.

College isn’t just about keeping up with your assignments. It’s about knowing when you have exams, quizzes, or papers due. It is about being able to plan your time in a way that you have a little bit of breathing room for if a commitment or activity goes longer than you thought it would. When you have everything you need to do laid out in front of you, whether in a calendar, planner, or online scheduling app, it takes a load off your shoulders because you can physically see what you need to do.

This allows you to stay on track much more easily than if you were just trying to remember everything.

Fun fact: Today in Psych, we talked about how the brain can actually only remember 4-7 bits of information at a time.

Tip #4: Take a break.

While it’s important to get everything done in a timely manner, it’s also just as important to give yourself a break when you need it. Don’t be afraid to plan out time for a Netflix episode or an hour of video games. It’s okay to do something completely pointless to get your mind to stop working so hard. Even the smartest of us need a break sometimes.

It doesn’t make you any less intelligent or any less capable because you took a few minutes between Math homework and your English essay to fangirl over the new Gilmore Girls trailer or to go on a short nature walk.

As long as the ratio of productivity to breaks leans more towards the former, it’s okay to take a breather. Your mind works a lot better when it has time to rest.

Tip #5: Get a good night’s sleep.

Yes, you’re in college, the time of adventuring and late nights. But adventures can happen during daylight too. Staying up til 3am seems like a great idea until your alarm goes off for class the following morning. Stay up on the weekends if you really want to, but try to get a decent amount of sleep on school nights. When you are awake and alert, your mind is more likely to retain information that you learn during class.

Bottom Line

College is tough. It will make you want to pull your hair out, especially during these midterm months. But if you stay focused, get enough sleep, and allow yourself some downtime, you should survive fully intact and no longer on the edge of a mental breakdown.

When you feel like crying, look up dumb puns on the internet or YouTube videos of cats. I promise that the semester isn’t as hard as you think it is. You aren’t actually drowning. It just feels like it right now.

You are smart and successful and you can do this. 🙂