Book Review: The Secret History

I was sitting here on my parents' couch (because I'm 2 years post-grad and still live with them) and thinking about how pathetic, disappointing and fun! it would be to post a book review on this long forgotten blog. Yay regression!!!

The Secret HistoryThe Secret History by Donna Tartt
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars (read June 2016)

You know that stretch of time between the last chapter and the epilogue that an author typically ignores because if she did write about it, the reader would get bored and stop reading before the novel was over? Okay well the last 300 pages of this novel was comprised of nothing but that boring stretch of time. Only a strong sense of curiosity deeply rooted in bewilderment kept me reading.

Donna Tartt graduated college and was like, "Now what do I do with this pointless Bachelor's in Classics literature, my irrelevant knowledge of Ancient Greek allusions, my extreme superiority complex, and my untapped potential? Oh!! I'll write a pretentious novel about pompous and overly-privileged college students in tweed jackets who engage in Dionysian debauchery in the pursuit of “enlightenment” (which sounds interesting on the book blurb, but I promise you, I’ll somehow make even a hedonistic ritual sound excessively dull). I'll reveal the main plot point on the first page and the rest of the book will be proof of how easy it is to fill 500 pages with nothing, devoid of character development, rising action and meaning." Not one of the characters is even remotely likable. In fact they're all uniquely insufferable and aggressively boring. Their competition to determine which of the six could be the most melancholic and supremely apathetic elitist is more than enough to send even the most hyperactive seven-year-old right to sleep.

Despite all of this, I never once considered not finishing this book. For whatever reason, Tartt had me. No matter how tedious the prose became, no matter how plotless the last half of the novel was, I was still overwhelmingly cloaked in a feeling of suspense, still held at rapt attention trying to figure out what could possibly be hidden in the remaining pages. And even though I despised the characters, there is a huge difference between what makes a good character and what makes a good person. And they're usually mutually exclusive (lol). Just because they disgusted me, doesn't mean they don't have value. Their terrible qualities gave me the desire to hate-read the novel to the end. It is for these reasons I'm giving The Secret History 3.5 stars.

Finishing this novel is a feat. The last page should come with a free ice cream cone coupon because you deserve it. I had to pay for mine, so I'm a little bitter.

View all my reviews


The cats of Hogwarts.

(Originally published July 17, 2012 6:09 PM)

I've been doing a lot of unnecessary thinking.

And a lot of math.

When asked during an interview, JK Rowling once stated that there are about a thousand students studying at Hogwarts at any given time. And that's nice to assume, because it's very easy to picture Hogwarts as a huge, bustling city of its own. But given the information in the books, I don't think this is accurate.

There's a lot of disagreeing evidence, but the consensus is that there are many less students. For instance, if there were a thousand students at Hogwarts, there would be 250 students per house and 36 per year in each house (assuming that the split is fairly even). I don't know about you, but I distinctly remember exactly eight students mentioned to be in Harry's year in Gryffindor: Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Lavender, Dean, Seamus and Parvati. Did she just forget to mention the other 28 students? And furthermore, in the books, during a double potions class, there are 20 cauldrons set up on desks: ten for Gryffindor, ten for Slytherin (Bear with me. This is going somewhere, I promise).

This suggests that there are about 10 students per year in each house, which would add up to 280 students total. But that's a drastic reduction from JK Rowling's guess of one thousand, so I'm willing to be lenient, and propose that in any given house, the number of students per year could potentially vary between 10 and 20. Which (using the higher limit) could bring the final total up to 560 students at Hogwarts.

Phew! I'm out of figurative breath. Sorry that took so long.

So basically, 560 total students. Got that? Kay good. So now it's time to get down to the real point of this post. The cats.

We know that students are allowed to bring one pet to school with them. This pet can be either an owl, cat, or toad.

It would probably be safe to assume that given the choice, most students would rather have an owl because they seem to be the most useful. But the school provides owls for student use, so a personal owl isn't absolutely necessary. And owls are probably more expensive than the other two types of animals. So using this information, I estimate that about 30 percent of the students (170 out of 560) own owls.

Only one student's toad is mentioned in the book, and we know this to be Trevor, who belongs to Neville. This toad is quite a lot of trouble for Neville, for it is forever running away. And Neville, for a good portion of the series, is pretty lame. The fact that he has a toad enhances this. No one chooses to have a toad. You get stuck with a toad. Considering this, I have concluded that maybe 20 students have toads (and I think I'm being generous).

There are probably a fair amount who don't own pets at all. I think about 180 students thought that a pet would be too much of a burden, which leaves 190 students...

Of course, we must consider those students who don't follow rules and smuggle in other pets not mentioned on the school supplies list. Ron has Scabbers. Lee Jordan has a tarantuala. I think it's safe to assume that a couple Slytherins brought their snakes. And a rabbit or turtle wouldn't be too hard to hide. So maybe 40 students brought contraband animals.

Which leaves us with 150 students. One. Hundred. Fifty. students could potentially own cats. There could potentially be 150 cats roaming around Hogwarts at any time.  This is a lot of cats.

Cats are well-liked throughout the world and rank sufficiently higher than a lot of animals on the "cuteness scale". I don't think this number is far-fetched.

So think about it. We know that cats are basically allowed to go wherever they please. Just look at Crookshanks and his many a midnight stroll with Sirius/Snuffles, the dog. Cats can roam freely without a second look. I don't know about you, but I find this to be a cause for concern.

Let me just tell you, when there is a stray cat on my college campus, it's like Christmas. Everyone knows the cat. The cat is given 300 different names. The cat is picked up, pet, fed, even taken inside the buildings.

People love cats.

If there were 150 cats just prowling Hogwarts' halls, students would never get to class. They would sit all day playing with the cats and conjuring up mice for the cats to chase. There would be cats in the library, cats in the Great Hall, cats in classrooms, bathrooms, kitchens… Cats in the astronomy tower, cats in Hagrid's pumpkin patch, cats in the Room of Requirement… And everywhere you go, you would have to pet the cats. Because cats control peoples' minds.

And the bigger dilemma is, people would trip over the cats.

I know Hogwarts is a big place, but with 150 cats spread out all over it, you are bound to walk past at least five in a day. And if you were in a hurry, and had to rush to Potions because Professor Snape hinted that if you were late one more time he would slip some swelling solution into your pumpkin juice, it's not impossible to imagine that you would run by a few cats without noticing them. And because cats are stealthy and like to cause humans pain, they would probably strategically place themselves directly in your path. And then you would fall to your death (or extreme injury) and break your glass vials and brass scales, and the cat would walk away unscathed, because magical cats really do have nine lives.

We know this has happened because I spent way too long proving it.

So we can't overlook the cold hard truth: Harry has tripped over the cats.

And I'm a little outraged knowing this. Because JK Rowling never thinks to mention it.

I'm no "boy who lived" so I guess my problems aren't as "pressing" as Harry's, but if I tripped over three cats daily on my way to Charms, you can be sure I would write about it in the story of my life. I think that's something worth mentioning. Even if you just alluded to the monontony of it to add a bit of contrast like,

"Harry couldn't believe it. He was the seventh horcrux. Voldmort's soul had latched on to him. He had to die. But he would make sure he died for everyone he loved. Nothing but pure determination filled his mind as he tripped over yet another cat on his way into the forest to meet Voldemort and his last few breaths."

I don't know, I would have appreciated the honesty.


Feeling negligent.

I don't know if I feel like myself. But I don't know if I don't feel like myself, either.

Whenever I try to take control of a part of my life that was weighing me down in some way, I always let the other parts slip a little due to negligence. I'm like one of those crazy, over-stressed moms who's just trying to settle a fight between two of her kids, while her toddler is in her highchair spilling milk and spaghetti sauce everywhere, and the doorbell is ringing, and the oven is telling her that the chicken is done, and also she has stress at work on her mind, and has to actually be in a conference call in like five minutes (because my simile-mom is does it all).

I mean it's not that bad. And not exactly equivalent. Because the difference is that my hypothetical mom has things happening to her, whereas I bring hardships onto myself.

Motivation is an elusive beast. And if you're lucky enough to capture him, he's hard to keep.

I finally feel healthy and happy about myself, but I also feel like I'm letting responsibilities and relationships rot on the side. I'm always looking for a balance, and I just can't seem to figure out the formula. I've been trying to find it my whole life. I think this means I never will, right? I mean, isn't that the whole point of living? Trying to get to that point when you can actually smile knowing you finally figured it all out?

But it shouldn't be that way. We're always looking towards the future for answers and comfort, but shouldn't we be looking within ourselves instead? I guess that's scary because we don't always like what we find there. And in those cases, unhealthy ways of coping creep in without us realizing. Their insidious onset leaves us more than vulnerable when storms from the external world are thrown at us without warning. The positive feedback from the hurt, pain, and defenselessness just cause another domino to fall, taking down another with it.

It's a lot easier watching everything collapse than it is to set it all up again.

You have to try though. That's where humanity lies, I think; in the struggle. In the effort that seems futile because you're alone.

Do you ever notice how everyone is always talking, but never saying anything? It's a static, low murmur that creates the background noise to everything. It emphasizes that feeling of loneliness, doesn't it?

And that loneliness makes the trying so much harder to justify.

But you're not really alone. You may know that, but you have to believe it. And once you do, I think that's when you find the life you've been looking for.

I think.


Give it here. I'll fix it, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Twenty-one days ago I started to watch The Hobbit, and today I finished it. I guess the first thing you have to understand about me and the Lord of The Rings franchise is that we both think the other is ridiculous. That doesn't mean we don't appreciate one another. It just...we think that each other can be a little self-indulgent at times. Or all times.

It takes me weeks to finish a LOTR film; enormous amounts of rewinding, annoying pleas for explanation from those who were unfortunately chosen to watch it with me, and subtitles. We cannot forget the subtitles.

In order for me to relate to, understand, and keep track of the many characters and endless plot lines, I have to make the story my own. I have to find a way to fit it within the confines of my own personal reality.

I do this by renaming the characters whose names are incoherent. And also by giving the less important characters interesting histories so that they don't feel left out.

Friends, Carina and Shelby helped me tailor each name to specifically portray each character's finer attributes.

Let's start with the original trilogy. This is just a smattering chosen from all 9,000 characters.

LOTR Family Photo Album: As Seen through My Eyes

Now let's move on to The Hobbit

Hot Fred.
 I think this one is self explanatory.

Hot George.
Slightly hotter than Fred. And it's possible Fred resents him for this, but it hasn't manifested in any real, domestic quarrel. Yet.

 Lives among lesser-known species of rodents during seasons of non-dragon-hunting.

Vast Helga.
Does not know where he is. But loves indie films. And hockey.

Small Helga.
As you may notice, Small Helga is only slightly smaller than Vast Helga. This may have been an oversight when he was christened. It's confusing and unclear.
Small Helga's favorite food is salt water taffy.

Common Arthur.
Common Arthur may have contributed to the above confusion with Small Helga. Because I think, originally, he was the true Small Helga. But when it was discovered that he was far more common than someone named Helga, the Small Helga name had to go to the only other redhead.
Common Arthur is very common. He is faceless and sad.
Help us help Common Arthur.
Donations accepted.

Has that same disease as Robin Williams in that film, Jack, where he ages prematurely. So, though he looks roughly 167 years old, Whitebeard is only 28.

Uncle Blackbeard.
Divine baker of casseroles.

Damn, we missed one.
This dwarf is special because he is utterly forgettable. I think he really likes oil paintings?

Percival Goatface.
Percival Goatface grew up in a pine tree without a family. Does not like country music or popsicles.

Helps braid Vast Helga's hair every morning.
It should also be mentioned that Starfish always wins 1st prize at the annual flower show for his magnificent petunias.

Used to be a pirate, but has traded in his hardened criminal past for a brighter future. Has recently discovered his love of theater. Catch him as Feste in Twelfth Night this summer.

Also, shout out to my favorite character of The Hobbit, dragon who just wants to sit in piles of gold coins for hundreds of years. Because that is hilarious. His only aspiration. He just wants to sit on coins. Amazing.


"And straight on to" mourning the loss of your freedom.

So I'm going to continue this series of exploring the sexist themes of Disney movies. Because, why not? I always enjoy writing when I'm procrastinating a larger task at hand. So. Okay.

1951. Peter Pan

It's quite hard to defend accusations of Disney's blatant sexism and racism when citing this movie as an example. I mean, true, Peter Pan was originally written by J.M. Barrie, but still. We could have done without the "What Makes the Red Man Red?" song.

Wendy. I always hated Wendy, but I was wrong to. Not only was she basically a live-in servant to her brothers (I might be exaggerating) but she was brought to Neverland by the boy she had crush on to be his friends' MOTHER. Because, as a woman, that's all she's good for anyway.

Women tear each other down in this movie. It's so unhealthy. Wendy, the Mermaids, Tinker Bell and Tiger Lily are all in love with the same arrogant, misogynistic, pointy-eared creep in tights. Which would be fine if they had a reason. But they don't. He happens to be the main character, so they MUST have him. And he plays them all. Sure he's "brave," but is he really? He pulls pranks on dim-witted pirates, does that make a person courageous? Disney declares, "yes, definitely."

But we can't blame these women, entirely, for their actions.

I think Peter Pan might be a sociopath. He has death-gripping control over these women and doesn't seem to be the least bit phased by the negative consequences of his actions. He thinks himself invincible and free of all blame. Nothing and no one can touch him. Enchanting manipulation holds the girls captive and is the reason they lash out at each other instead of banding together to take Pan down.

I think we all need to question, what is pixie dust, really, and does it contain some sort of hallucinogen? If so, he wields a dangerous weapon.

I have concluded that there are very little redeeming qualities to this movie.


So this is L--my only way out?

I don't know if specified in the last post, so I guess I should probably explain the whole reason why I'm even ranting about Disney characters. It's mostly because Disney has been accused of sexism (by me and many, many others) for superficial, and at best, slightly misogynistic characters and plot lines in their movies, especially the early ones. And these accusations are not unfounded for a myriad of reasons. However, being who I am, I've got to question it. All of it. So here goes.

1950. Cinderella.

Normally I am morally opposed to the I'm just going to sit here and wish that my true love will save me one day, and if he does, I will marry him at first sight and then, and only then, will my life mean something sort of themes because I find them impossibly sexist, ill-advised and insulting. However, in Cinderella's and Snow White's cases, you have to be a bit more understanding.

When it all comes down to it, these are battered women. Now, of course their abusers are actually their stepmothers and not brutish, overly-aggressive cavemen, but nonetheless, each have been terribly mistreated by people they really have no choice but to live with. It's imperative to their health and safety that they get out of these toxic environments. A complete stranger who can offer some sort of refuge definitely resides on the greener side of the fence. And, hey, he might as well be a prince.

I mean, let's look at their list of no choices:

1. Die

2. Live

You can't fault them for picking the option that includes not only less chores but potential happiness even if it is abrupt, slightly insane and rash. It's called survival.

(It's okay if you're still skeptical.)

Although Cinderella isn't the strongest role model, at least she's resourceful. And she's brave. She doesn't let her slave-driver captors ruin her spirit.

Buuuut, she is also incredibly lucky. Having the ability to make a Fairy Godmother appear out of nowhere when you most need her is a talent that few have been able to posses.

(But don't forget that Cinderella and Snow White both have weird and somewhat unhealthy relationships with animals. We still can't eliminate the very real possibility of a psych disorder in both cases.)

Snow White and the Seven Reasons You're Glad You're Not A Disney Character from 1937

(I actually don't have a list of 7 reasons, that was just supposed to be a clever title. Sorry for lying.)

I'm going to begin this post like I haven't been away from blogging for a month.

So I wrote a post a while ago (has it really been 3 years?) about Disney Princesses and how they perpetuate the patriarchal oppression that we females try so hard to stamp out (I say that like I'm some revolutionary activist instead of what I actually am, which is a sad, hypocritical 20-something perpetual student drinking sweet tea on her bed).

I actually hate that post because it's poorly written and doesn't fully express my opinion on all things Female-Disney-Characters-related. So I hope to correct that. Because I have nothing better to do.... Oh wait.

So tonight I'm going to be more critical, and also more forgiving (is that possible?). That post was sadly and weirdly outdated (why did I leave out so many characters?). We are going to talk about  ALL of the most popular female Disney characters. Not just the princesses, because, honestly, excluding the other characters just because they're not royal, makes me just as bad as the people who created them. Wow. Just call me Lorde.


This post would be bible-scroll-length if I tried to talk about all the characters at the same time. So we are going to split these up.

Okay. Chronologically, probably?

1937. Snow White.

I wasn't very understanding last time. But now that I've actually thought about her situation, there are a few things I want to explore. First off, this story takes place some time in the Middle Ages or shortly thereafter, right? This was a time in the world when psych medicine, along with all medicine (except for snake oil?) was nonexistent. There was no Seroquel or mental screenings. She had few resources. So, knowing this, I'm completely aware that Snow White had no way of treating or even knowing she had some sort of mental disorder.

She didn't know any better, guys. It's okay. If your brain never progressed past the mental capacity of a 5-year-old, you too would listen to the birds and decide it was okay to just walk into a small cottage full of sexually repressed, middle-aged men, and cook and clean for them. I don't begrudge her these actions. She had no way of knowing.

I mean, years of abuse can emotionally and mentally stunt a person. There's no room for growth when you fear your very existence. Maslow's hierarchy, people. (Am I getting too far into this?)

Alternatively, I've also considered that she knew exactly what she was doing, and did these things because literally anything would be better than living with a crazy witch who wanted to kill her. I mean, in the end, marrying a complete stranger, who may or may not really be a Prince (Yea, I bet you want to show her your "throne" and "big scepter", alright.) was her only way out. Resourceful, no?

So she's either suffering from disease or completely cunning. It's impossible to know without accurate medical records.

Delving into Cinderella's life and motives will also help us to understand Snow White. And that's coming soon.

Until then,

Psychotically Yours,


(there are about 32 things I should have done instead of write this)


There are no moose in Virginia,

contrary to what Disney might think.

I found this map. This is where the moose really are.

I've been watching Pocahontas today. And I have enjoyed myself immensely. My favorite thing about watching old Disney movies is the huge ego boost you get from understanding certain parts you didn't when you were little (i.e. like knowing what the Virginia Company actually was or actually listening to the parts where they talk instead of just singing along to the musical portions). It's a great way to make yourself feel so very intelligent. You also get this great (false) sense of superiority when you point out the silly things Disney put in the movies that aren't quite accurate or blatantly wrong. This is a great way to spend a lazy Sunday and make you feel better about yourself.

Ever noticed how John Smith had an American English accent before actual Americans?

Original Hipster

He was from E.N.G.L.A.N.D. Mel Gibson was perhaps not the best choice for this part.

We're not even going to talk about the fact that whole premise is based upon the tiniest portions of almost-but-not-really-true facts, and on the whole is widely historically inaccurate. Because that's too easy and boring.

But can we just imagine, for a second, if your grandmother was a Willow tree? I mean. That would be amazing. Unless someone cut her down, she might never die.

She will always be there to give you boy advice.

Besides Grandmother Willow, there is one thing of Pocahontas' of which I will forever be jealous. Yes, it's the magical wind leaves that help her immediately understand a foreign language. How convenient would that be?????

I need those leaves.

I'm going to The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It's on Netflix.


i learn how to do turnpike.

I'm not prepared to live in this world without supervision from sort of authority. When it comes to the set of skills some have dubbed street smarts, I'm literally braindead. When I have to figure out how to do something in the "real world," my brain responds back with DOES NOT COMPUTE.

Last week I had to attend this meeting for my internship in a city that it is about 40 minutes from where I live. With things like the internet and GPS, you would think this shouldn't be too hard. And if you are a normal, fully-functioning adult, you would be right.

So I was driving along, following my print-out directions, when a certain turn confused me. I freaked out a little and turned on the GPS on my phone (which I should have had on the entire time, but I was trying to save the battery). So I turned around, got back on the highway and before I knew it, I missed the exit. So I kept driving. And then I missed the next exit. And then I finally got off on the next exit after that. Then I saw this flashing yellow sign that read PLEASE TAKE TICKET.

Ticket? Ticket for what? Do I have to pay for something? I don't want to pay for something.

But I got the ticket.

So I kept driving. I drove 14 miles out of my way before I realized that I was only driving those 14 miles out of my way, so that I could turn back around, because there apparently wasn't a better way to get to this meeting…says my GPS.

So I turned around and headed back those stupid 14 miles.

By that time, I knew I was going to be late to my meeting, when I was originally going to be 20 minutes early. So I was panicking about that when I saw another flashing sign. PAY TOLL.

Toll? Toll for what? Does this ticket cover the cost of the toll? I don't want to pay for something.

So I pulled up to this booth and the gate in front of me closed down. Is there such thing as a ticket container? Where would a ticket container be located? A ticket collector maybe? But I saw no sign of human life. It was all machine.

It looked like the person in the car in front of me didn't even do anything. So I thought maybe the gate would open on its own. So I just sat there for a second. Waiting. Willing the gate to magically open or spontaneously combust. And I wondered if I would be stuck on that stupid strip of highway forever. Doomed to driving around in circles until the end of time. Always collecting tickets, but never having anywhere to put them.

But then I looked to my left and I saw this lady in a booth. So I backed up a little and rolled down my window, and she looked at me expectantly. And so I said, "I got lost. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know where I am. I have this ticket. Do you need this?" all while displaying a desperate expression that clearly said, WHAT. IS. LIFE.

And so I gave her the ticket and she asked for 50 cents and then Turnpike was over.

Tomorrow I'm riding a train into New York by myself. Wish me luck guys.


Beauty and the Beast Ponderings.

I was in the shower earlier this week (just the one time), and I started to think about the plot of Beauty and the Beast (as you do). And my thoughts quickly formed themselves into one of those annoying, trivial rants that I'm accustomed to having. So I thought I should write about it (because, obviously, this is one hot topic that everyone cares about greatly).

First things first. YES, this is an animated, children's story about a fictional event with creatures of fantasy. HOWEVER, I still noticed some gaping holes in the plot that I want answered. I think Disney owes us that much.

1. Why didn't any of the townspeople know that their kingdom was an actual king-dom?

The castle is hidden away in a place that you only find when you're not looking for it, deep within the forest filled with wolves. Nobody seems know it is there, and if they do, they really don't care that their ruler all of the sudden just stopped existing. As far as I know, the Beast/Prince Adam never did any actual ruling. How is he paying for the upkeep of that mansion, and the salaries of his servants if he isn't collecting taxes? What good is being a Prince when the only ruling you do is ordering around some plates and napkins??
Wouldn't you at least see the top of the spires and be like "Hmmm. That's interesting. We have a castle. I wonder why?"

2. Why didn't the servants' families care that their kin just never came back from work that one day?

Why wouldn't they go seek the reason for their disappearance? Wouldn't you be at all concerned that your wife went to her maid job in the morning and then never came back for 10 years? I mean, the least you could do knock on the castle door. Send a letter? Hire a PI?

That's a lot of families being represented. You would think at least one would be worried 

3. What the heck is this thing?

Magic, outdoor, transporter pot?

4. If they live in France, why do only two characters have French accents? 

To me, that should be an all-or-none sort of thing.

There is a lot of FanFic about these two. I would read it.

5. I'm guessing Belle was at the castle for a total of a few weeks. A month? Two days? I don't know, I haven't seen the movie in a while, but I do know that it was not a very long time. So that brings me to the inexplicable exponential shedding pattern of the Enchanted Rose. Like, what gives? After ten years the rose loses five petals, but after two weeks it looses twenty-five? What was the unseen cause of the hyper-shedding? Was it that love was so close, but so far away at the same time... and the rose got frustrated with the Beast on his lack of action...and started to take it out on him in the only way it knew how? That's ridiculous though, Lexie. Roses don't blackmail. 

Do they? Only Disney can answer this.

I was kidding about the one-shower-per-week bit. Mostly.