A Door That Shouldn’t Be Opened

SPOILER warning!

I finished Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris a couple weeks ago, which is the first fiction book I’ve read in a long time. The only reason I’d give it even 2 out of 5 stars is because I was so desperate to read fiction that it seemed excellent. Kind of like when you’re really hungry and even that cardboard-like leftover pizza from five days ago is wonderful.

Anyway, Behind Closed Doors is the typical domestic violence thriller, pitting husband against wife. Grace is a 30-something woman, and her younger sister, Millie, has Down syndrome. Grace is finding it difficult to get a decent guy who accepts her and her sister. Her dreams appear to have come true when Jack Angel appears out of nowhere, dances with Millie at the park, then asks Grace out. Of course, is the perfect guy: good-looking, intelligent, and makes a ton of money as a highfalutin lawyer who defends battered women. Naturally, Grace falls for him, and in a matter of only three months, he asks her to marry him. She accepts. Her life becomes hell.

My first thought upon learning that the villain’s name was Jack Angel was “well, that’s a screamingly obvious technique to reveal that a seemingly good guy is in fact the bad guy.” Turns out that Jack is not actually his real name but a “clever” alias he developed for himself after he murdered his own mother. Classy guy.

I found it a bit unbelievable that Grace would end up marrying Jack in the first place. She supposedly had a lot of experience with dating, so you’d think she would know the warning signs, or her “creep radar” would start going off. But if you read the literature about psychopaths, which Jack revealed himself to be in short order, you know that they are initially charming and adept at fooling people. The entire time I was reading the book, I was picturing Jack looking something like Ted Bundy.

Behind Closed Doors is the kind of book in which you want to reach inside the fictional world and and kill the character yourself. It was also the kind of book that makes you feel uncomfortable the entire time you’re reading it, because you’re waiting for the next horrible thing to befall the protagonist. I didn’t particularly care for that kind of suspense vibe because everything that happened to Grace was just plain sick. Jack ended up wanting to get to Millie because she would be easier to scare (being that she had Down syndrome), and he apparently lives off the feeling of fear that he invokes in his victims. Fortunately nothing happened Millie, but just the thought that Jack would hurt her was very off-putting, like the author was making a cheap shot at people with disabilities.

Most suspense novels are incredibly fast paced and don’t have much description of settings and characters. Both applied to Behind Closed Doors, which I finished in less than 24 hours. Because there was so little description, it was hard to picture anything beyond Ted Bundy in an immaculate house torturing Grace, who I vaguely imagined to look like Gwyneth Paltrow. At a couple points in the book, the characters traveled to Thailand, but I couldn’t picture it at all from the author’s (lack of) description.

Other reviews have made comparisons to The Girl on the Train, but Behind Closed Doors was not as good or as memorable. What would have been more interesting is if the story had been written from Jack’s perspective; I would have liked to know more about his backstory. I suspect he was lying when he told Grace that he killed his mother. It is also rare to read a book from the perspective of the villain, especially a book in this genre.

Basically, I’d recommend this one if you have a few hours to kill or if for some reason, you want to feel very uncomfortable. Other than that… stay away from it.

The Last Jedi But Not the Last Star Wars Movie

Caution: SPOILERS.

The Last Jedi was a lot of fun. The adventurous spirit of the Star Wars saga was maintained well; the movie was full of action sequences, lightsaber battles, and even some wisdom from the old Jedi Master Yoda. But those traits might have also been the movie’s downfall—it was an awful lot like every other Star Wars movie, which is what some critics have complained about. That didn’t really bother me.*

One of the hallmarks of the Star Wars series has always been the complexity of the relationships between the characters and how they affect the series. The relationship between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker is reminiscent of the relationship between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi back in the first three episodes: we have a very angered young man, strong with the force, who feels a pull to the dark side, and a Jedi master who is powerless to stop him.

I also feel as though the relationship between Kylo Ren and Rey could become similar to the one between Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and Padmé/Queen Amidala. The “ship” of Kylo Ren and Rey is already pretty contentious among the fans because many are still convinced that the two are related by blood,** which would make a potential relationship incestuous. I’m a sucker for villains/bad boys, so I’m hoping that Kylo Ren and Rey end up in a relationship, and she is able to “turn him” to the light side as she predicts. However, other fans see this as a potentially abusive relationship and damaging to the movie’s image of the “strong woman.” That would be reminiscent of Anakin and Padmé because Anakin turned to the dark side, became Darth Vader, and even used the Force to choke Padmé while she was pregnant with Luke and Leia. (But was Padmé a “weaker” woman because of that? I don’t think so.)

Is there enough of the light side left in Kylo Ren that he can be changed? I think so. There’s still not enough explanation for why he turned to the dark side and became so angry, and his anger still seems more along the lines of teen angst/mood swings and not truly justified. Because his anger is so petulant, he may very well be able to turn to the light. He’s not as steeped in darkness as Anakin was, and in my mind, he doesn’t have a good enough motivation to keep toward the dark side, especially since his mentor, Supreme Leader Snoke, has been killed.

Some critics were complaining that the movie was essentially a left-wing spiel about left-wing values, like feminism and diversity, but I don’t agree (or at least, I don’t agree that this is something new). Females were always given powerful roles in the Star Wars series, and by virtue of being a space opera and taking place in planets all over the galaxy, the characters had to be diverse. It only makes sense. Star Wars characters have been diverse from the beginning of the saga.

Would I recommend the latest Star Wars? Absolutely. It is quite long (about 2.5 hours), but it doesn’t feel like it’s that long because it’s 100% pure fun from the first moment to the last.

*There is really nothing wrong with The Last Jedi being like every Star Wars movie because God knows, in real life, situations repeat themselves, humans make the same mistakes twice, and that lineage of error affects entire generations. I do hope that there is closure in the ninth episode in the saga (supposed to be coming out in December 2019) and that Kylo Ren turns to the light side simply as a reversal of what Anakin/Darth Vader did in the first three episodes. Reversals do happen in real life, too.

**I’m really hoping that they’re not blood relatives, but at the same time, I feel like Kylo Ren lied to Rey when he told her that her parents were “nobodies.” At least one of her parents has to be somebody important. She’s spent so much time wondering about her parentage that it seems weak to just leave it at “they were nobodies who sold you for drug  money.”

The Legendary Bullet Journal

One of the newest organizational crazes is bullet journaling, in which you essentially design the planning system that works for you. The bullet journal is a cross between a planner and a journal, so you can simultaneously have structure and work in a free-form way.

I believe you’re supposed to devise a system of symbols that you write on the first page of the journal, and you use these symbols throughout the journal to organize aspects of your life (work, personal life, etc.) and plan for the future. You can make an index, a table of contents, or whatever you want, as long as you know what you’re doing and as long as it works for you. There are more detailed guidelines on the official bullet journal website, but they are simply guidelines. There really are no rules.

Bullet journaling lends itself well to people who are more artistic. They design their journal pages with such beauty and creativity that a finished journal becomes a work of art. You can see some of their Instagrams and drool over the loveliness here and here.

The idea of bullet journaling really appeals to me, but I don’t think it would work for me in actuality because there is too much of a learning curve. The nameless system I have works for me. I have a planner and a journal, and the planner is for, obviously, planning, and the journal is for writing the random stuff that I think of every day, and for, obviously, journaling. I hate to say it, but most of the time, when I journal/plan, I value efficiency more than taking the time to make things beautiful, so the artistic aspect of bullet journaling would honestly stress me out.

Do you bullet journal, or have you tried it? Does it work for you?