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review 2018-01-21 21:46
A fun revenge story, set in the world of acting. Recommended if you’re looking for a light read set in London.
Faking Friends - Jane Fallon

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This is the first time I read one of Jane Fallon’s novels, and I’ve realised she has quite a following, and this is not the first novel she writes about revenge.

In this case, we have an actress, Amy, (not a big star, but an actress who has struggled from bit-part to bit-part until she managed to get a regular role in an American crime series. Well, or so she thought) who goes back home to surprise her childhood-friend Mel for her birthday, and she is the one to get a nasty surprise when she discovers her fiancé, Jack, is having an affair and somebody has taken her place. It does not take her long to discover that her supposed best-friend has stabbed her in the back, and rather than confronting both, her fiancé and her friend, she decides to try and get a new life and show them that she can make it on her own, before letting them know she is aware of their betrayal. This creates many awkward and difficult situations and a complex net of lies and deceit that will keep readers turning the pages.

The book is narrated in the first person, mostly from Amy’s point of view (who alternates what is happening in the present with the story of her friendship with Mel), although towards the last third of the novel we also have a few scenes when we follow Mel’s point of view, and that gives us some insight into her plans (more than her feelings, that we don’t know in detail, other than her wish to give Amy’s her comeuppance) and a different perspective on Amy’s relationships. (Sometimes both points of view might alternate in a single chapter, although it is easy to tell them apart).

Amy is a likeable character, although her reaction to the betrayal and her insistence in carrying on with her revenge plans for months and months and dragging others into it (including her friend Kat and Kat’s husband, Greg, two great characters, and Simon, a new love interest she meets when she moves back to London) make her less so at times, and she appears immature and too dependent on Mel’s friendship. Although both, Mel’s current behaviour, and what we learn about the history of their friendship, shows Mel in a very negative light (she is full of herself, self-aggrandizing, self-centred, vain, shows clear narcissistic personality traits, and is jealous of Amy’s good fortune, never giving her any credit and ruining her other friendships), sometimes, when Amy fights fire with fire, she goes so far that we have to wonder if they are not as bad as each other. Eventually, though, Amy has some scruples and there are lines she won’t cross, and it is easy to see that her friendship with Mel has made her doubt herself and lose her confidence. When a friend dismisses everything you do and only uses you to make herself feel better, she is not a friend, as Amy discovers.

There are a number of other characters (university friends, relatives, love interests, agents, etc.) that create an interesting and varied background, and London also provides a realistic setting for the story, from the difficulties of finding an affordable apartment, to the landscape, shops, food, and transportation. I particularly enjoyed the insights into the acting career (that the author has good knowledge of), that go beyond the glamor and big successes we are used to in films and books. Amy is a working actress who has to fight tooth and nail for tiny parts (woman in park, woman in pub), who is no longer young, and who has dedicated plenty of time to the career because she loves it, not because she thinks she will become famous and make it big (most of the time she can hardly make a living out of it). The fact that Mel, who also wanted to become an actress, and who was the more attractive and popular of the two when they were younger, never made it is a particularly nice touch.

The novel is enjoyable, full of lies, deceit, and twisted individuals, but it is a pretty light fare. There is some suspense, but it is not difficult to guess some of the events; there are some pretty funny moments, and some cringe-inducing ones too. Although the book exemplifies a toxic friendship, it is not a treatise in psychology and it is not a guidebook or a serious treatment of the subject (there are true memoirs and books written by experts if you are interested in the topic), but a light revenge novel, whose final message is a hopeful and positive one. Although the character goes through much heartache during the book, she learns from the experience, and she discovers who she really is and who her true friends are. (And, to be honest, she seems to be much better off without Jack, as there does not seem to be much love lost or chemistry between them).

Fallon’s style is fluid and the novel is easy to read and moves at good pace, although I don’t think the main characters will stay with me for long. A solid chick-lit book, set up in the world of acting, and one I’d recommend to those of you who enjoy revenge stories (and might have fantasised about your own).

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review 2016-12-20 14:36
Maybe the Sky isn't Falling, It's Awfully Big You Know
The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism - Kristin Dombek

Nearly halfway through this book-length essay Kristin Dombek admits to using the kind of shallow depictions she is criticizing in other books and articles, but then it is a problem inherent to the form. How does one capture a person in 1,600 words, or even 70,000? 

 

The problem Dombek is exploring in The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism is a rash of lazy pop psychology online diagnosing pseudo-celebrities, ex-boyfriends, and an entire generation (spoiler alert: it's millennials) of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If Dombek isn't able to adequately sum up the lives of the people she brings into her arguement, it only serves her point. She may not be able to prove someone isn't a narcissist but the takeaway is that it is a very difficult thing to sum up a life, to throw a label around is a dangerous thing to do unless you can really back it up.

 

The thinness of internet diagnoses is almost comical, but Dombek, being a more serious essayist than myself, gives them an honest hearing and delves into the history of narcissism from the Greek story of Narcissus through Freud and finally to the DSM. It's a troubled history, based on misunderstanding and often reflecting as much on the diagnostician than on the diagnosed.

 

I could have been satisfied with just her chapter "The Millennial" which goes into the story of Allison, whose callousness on an episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen has become legend in books and essays and in the popular conception of the narcissistic millennial. Except, of course, she has a whole life, almost none of which was the one sentence where she insisted on closing down a street that goes past a hospital for the sake of her birthday party (and I think we've all known since at least 2005 that reality shows have naught but the thinnest relation to the reality they depict, much less any reality we know).

 

"It takes only a brief Internet search, though, to flesh out a bit more bout Allison's life," Dombek says, as if no one had considered to look past the surface before judging that there was nothing behind it.

 

She's married, Dombek reports, she and her husband run a foundation to help impoverished school children in Atlanta. She got her bachelor's degree in psychology. She may be a narcissist, she may be a sociopath for all I know, but casting a diagnosis based on one moment, or on any one appearance on MTV, must necessarily be more about our own assumptions about a group than about that group itself.

 

I don't think our tendency to play armchair psychologist is all that novel or dangerous, but I think Dombek has produced a thoughtful work here that hopefully reminds us that when we decry people who live on the internet we're judging people by what we see on the internet. It's well researched but is grounded in the experience of the writer who has been thinking of these things, witness as we all are to selfies and food pics and the other wonders of social media.

 

The Selfishness of Others is a slim book for all it contains, it is focused and can be gone through quickly. Be ready for some dense psychology stuff when you get into the thick of things, but it is worth getting through.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-09-24 18:46
Depraved Heart: Kay Scarpetta no. 23
Depraved Heart: A Scarpetta Novel (Kay Scarpetta) - Patricia Cornwell
Chaos: A Scarpetta Novel (Kay Scarpetta Mysteries) - Patricia Cornwell

 I am enjoying the arc of Kay's realizing first that Lucy is perhaps not just a sociopath, but also may be a dangerous sociopath; and Kay's exploration of how badly she spoiled Lucy and indulged Lucy's narcissism.

 

Kay has avoided fully acknowledging these glaring dangers with the belief that Lucy is, when it comes to her loved ones, a weapon pointing outwards from their wagon circle. But now, Kay is facing the fact that isn't true.

 

She has also avoided facing head-on the fact that Lucy's ravens have and will come to roost. Every selfish, dangerous thing she has done, every emotionally or physically violent act, every careless relationship...and every time Kay has fixed it all for her (special treatment in the Quantico dorms, for example)... consequences are and have been coming due all along.

 

 

coming this autumn: no. 24, Chaos

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text 2016-01-17 13:01
Narcissistic Personality Disorder & Pathological Narcissism

Less than 1% of general population is believed to have narcissistic personality disorder (2%-16% of clinical population) of which 50-75% are male.

 

narcissism

 

Narcissism, pathological narcissism & narcissistic personality disorder became a very popular & interesting subject for many clinicians & theorists. Most believe that some level of narcissism is healthy for a person, in order to be able to function in society & be able to face challenges, have drive for success & creativity. As to where the healthy narcissism ends & pathological begins is not exactly clear. Moreover, some believe that pathological narcissism IS narcissistic personality disorder, while others think that narcissistic personality disorder is a whole new level compared to pathological narcissism. As with any mental disorder diagnosis will vary from case to case, from society to society. Mental disorder is a dynamic concept & it never stays stale. So really the line of pathological narcissism is very blurry, unless one equals it to narcissistic personality disorder. As to when narcissism evolves into pathological personality disorder, one needs to understand what personality disorder is. Personality traits that are inflexible and maladaptive and cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress constitute personality disorder.  Simply put personality traits are the way you perceive life, relate to others & environment, your thinking pattern. In other words, it all relates to individuals functioning in given society with given individuals personality traits & if those traits cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress, you’ve got yourself a personality disorder. As you can see, a fully functional human being with sound mental health in one society can become a persona with personality disorder in another society.

 

THE CHARACTERIZING SYMPTOMS OF NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER ACCORDING TO DSM-IV ARE:

  • has a grandiose feeling of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements, talents, overestimates abilities, expects to be treated as special & recognized as superior)
  • is preoccupied with fantasies of huge success, power, beauty, ideal love, see themselves as a genius and often compare themselves to geniuses or famous people, depending on what they feel is important in life
  • believes that he or she is “special”, different & unique and can not be understood by “regular” people. See themselves as a part of special or high status people or institutions & believe that’s the only place where they can be understood & accepted
  • requires excessive admiration & reassurance of their achievements & superiority from others, constantly fishes for complements due to fragile self-esteem
  • has a sense of entitlement, unreasonable expectations, expects other to comply with his/her expectations & becomes furious & puzzled if it doesn’t happen, always expects special treatment
  • is interpersonally exploitative, expects others to bend their backs to help him/her achieve their goals; manipulates & takes advantage, is very likely to enter relationships for the sole purpose of achieving his/her goals or fulfilling their personal selfish needs
  • lacks empathy, unable to relate to others & put himself/herself in other people’s shoes: needs of others are often viewed as weaknesses and an opportunity to manipulate using the vulnerability, often speak lengthy of themselves & impatient with others who want to speak about their problems
  • is often envious of others and their achievements, believes that he/she deserved it more, harshly criticizes & tries to devaluate others’ achievements; also has a delusional belief that others are envious of him/her
  • shows arrogant, patronizing attitudes, overconfident & ever knowing behaviors

    Narcissists & Relationships

    Narcissists generally avoid intimacy. They are unlikely to avoid sexual contacts or “business” relationships, but they tend to avoid entering a real relationship, mostly without even realizing this themselves. Much of this is caused by many of their personality traits, like inability to trust other people, inability to relate to others, inability to like others because of their sense of superiority & grandiosity. Finding & being in intimate relationships is a difficult task for people with NPD, however being in such relationships greatly reduces their dependence on reinforcing their self-esteem on sexual attractiveness, mental superiority or power. Relationships & attachments, need for achievements at work are probably some of the best recipes to tame down their excessive individualism. Narcissists generally have fantasies of ideal unconditional love. Given a reason to doubt the unconditionality of it, they’ll run away faster than you can imagine. Many people who are in relationships with narcissists make the mistake thinking that that the narcissist is likely to change. Unfortunately, these people are blinded by their own delusions & are setting themselves up for disappointment, because changes are unlikely to happen.


    So I pretty much just copy and pasted some of the more interesting (in my opinion) points of this particular disorder. To read more click here >>>  http://depressiond.com/narcissistic-personality-disorder/
Source: depressiond.org/narcissistic-personality-disorder
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review 2014-02-17 20:10
Cloned & Curious by Kimbra Clausen
Cloned and Curious - Kimbra Clausen

“You want to film me fucking myself.”

 

Man is lured into participating in a super-secret medical trial. Man is unknowingly cloned, pumped with viagra and anti-anxiety drugs to lower inhibitions, then locked in a room with his clone. What happens next? Bow-chica-wow-wow.

 

Narcissus, from Greek mythology, ‘saw his reflection and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image.’

 

Narcissus painting

 

So, is this a form of extreme narcissism? An odd kind of masturbation?

 

Continue reading 

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