Kam Fitzgibbons

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Book Review: ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson

“Am I walking towards something I should be running away from?” says Eleanor Vance, protagonist of the novel “The Haunting of Hill House.” This quote truly embodies the way I felt picking up the book and attempting to read it. Initially, the title made me believe this novel was going to be like any other about haunted houses, but I was shocked to discover it was nothing like what I had planned for. “The Haunting of Hill House” was much more cruel than I could have ever anticipated.

I read this novel for the first time about a year ago; it immediately became one of my favorites. As an avid horror lover, “The Haunting of Hill House” exceeded all expectations I had for a haunted house based ghost story. As the Netflix adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel has generated a lot of talk, I felt it important to emphasize the fact that the novel is just as terrifying and chilling as its television twin, but for much different reasons. Similar to the show, the protagonist of the novel is a young woman named Eleanor Vance. While the show focuses on a family living and experiencing the horrors of Hill House, the novel centers around a scientist named Dr. Montague attempting to provide scientific proof of the supernatural. His study takes place in none other than the infamous Hill House.

Dr. Montague begins this study by sending out a multitude of letters to those he thinks are susceptible to the supernatural. Although his letter count totals over a hundred, he only receives two responses: Eleanor and Theodora. In addition to the two girls, Dr. Montague’s study is overlooked by Luke Sanderson, heir of Hill House’s horrifying throne. The four spend an entire summer isolated inside of Hill House in an attempt to familiarize with the house and, hopefully, experience the supernatural effects the house is rumored to have. 

At the novel’s start, the house does not appear to have any haunting aspects. The four subjects spend three uneventful nights in Hill House before the seeds of terror begin to plant and grow. Much like most horror fiction, the supernatural acts of the house start small and grow throughout, but the true terror of “The Haunting of Hill House” is the eerie effect the house has on the mental capabilities of those within it. Jackson toys with the mind of the reader throughout the entirety of the novel. We are often made to believe one thing while blatantly witnessing another. This lies within Jackson’s choices in terms of narration and storytelling point of view. As we only see the story from the eyes of Eleanor Vance, the reader is often fed biased thoughts and commentaries.

Due to the limited perspective, by the completion of the novel, one has more questions than they did upon opening the book. The final chapters of the book provide the reader with an ability to insert creative input of their own, filling in the gaps purposely left by Shirley Jackson. This story is great for any horror lover, as well as those who are interested in psychological thrillers. “The Haunting of Hill House” is an easy, fun-filled read. Personally, I am not often a fan of books that leave me with more questions than answers, but “The Haunting of Hill House” is a very prominent exception due to Shirley Jackson’s masterful incorporation of the mysteriousness. Although I would not necessarily say this novel is at its core a ghost story, I would call it a wonderfully crafted psychological thriller with powerful commentary on the abilities of the mind.

5/5 Rating

Battling long distance friendships

Moving from New Jersey to North Carolina at the age of 14 was one of the hardest experiences of my life. Even harder was the challenge of maintaining all of my closest relationships now that there was a six hundred mile distance involved. I initially thought the process of keeping up with friends would be easy, and by wanting to continue the friendships I had made, I convinced myself long-distance relationships would be. Throughout the past seven years, I’ve learned just how wrong I was. Considering college is a time and place where many are forced into long-distance friendships, here are some tips and tricks from someone who is versed in the realm of media-based communication due to distance issues.

Don’t stress if your communication is varied. When I first moved, I constantly panicked when friends and I went a day without talking. I was convinced that this meant our relationship was completely doomed and texting would never resume. I have always been wrong. Those who have wanted to maintain relationships just as much as I have always reach out again. I eventually learned it simply meant my friends were busy adjusting, just as I was.

If you miss a long-distance pal, reach out and let them know. This may seem obvious, but I’ve often talked myself out of sending texts like these in fear of seeming overbearing and too clingy. It took me a while to understand that I’d be excited to receive a text like this from a long-distance pal, so why wouldn’t they feel the same when getting one from me? I have never once sent a text expressing my wishes to see/talk to someone and regretted it. I always feel reassured that my friends feel the same way, even if the disconnect prevents me from constantly feeling that way.

Find a way to connect despite the distance. I have found this to be the most helpful in up-keeping my long-distance friendships. It’s difficult to find things to discuss with someone you’re far away from. They can’t relate to the people around you because they don’t know them. This is especially true for college students because, typically, friends may be unable to relate to or understand your particular college experience. For this reason, finding companionship in a television series, movie franchise, etc., is a great way to outlet conversation. My friends and I were forced to rebuild conversation topics after I moved, and we were able to do that through our similar music tastes and interests in bands.

Make the most out of the time you do spend together. Long-distance relationships give you an excuse to go on vacation! Going to visit your friend’s campus on a long weekend or even spending time together over school breaks seems so much more rewarding when your time with them is restricted. Due to its rarity, time spent with my New Jersey friends is always entertaining. Every time I visit, we pay tribute to our musical-based connection and go to local concert shows. Visits are seemingly an opportunity to make up for lost time, but once reunited, you realize time was never really lost. It was merely hidden behind six-hundred miles of distance.

Long-distance friendships can be hard. Missing a friend is super difficult, but it is not unmanageable. I’m evidence of that, as I’ve struggled with my long-distance double life for seven years now. All of these pieces of advice have helped me manage, though some of the lessons took me a long time to learn. Hopefully some of this information can prove to be helpful and simultaneously save you from some of the troubles I endured. With all of this in mind, remember that distance makes the heart grow fonder.

The time I became famous for my online book

When I was fourteen and heavily influenced by the world of Nicholas Sparks, I decided to write a romance novel. After making my hasty decision to contribute to the romantic era with horribly written fourteen-year-old ideas of love, I felt compelled to share my work. My young, hopeless brain thought it best to share my works on an internet platform in hopes that they would skyrocket and make me a world-famous writer.

Although I did not become a world-famous writer, the novel did garner quite a bit of attention for something produced by a fourteen, soon to be fifteen-year-old. Relatively quickly, all my social media platforms began to blow up with people questioning how long they were going to be forced to agonizingly wait for the next chapter. I, truly, was shocked. Of course I’d dreamed of people saying such things to me, but I hadn’t ever imagined it would truly happen. Within months, my novel went from nothing to something. Before it’s completion, the online site on which it was posted had calculated over 30,000 clicks and reads.

Doug Davey via Flickr

I had convinced myself it was still nothing at the time. 30,000 was so much less than most other stories on the same site. But one day it clicked. I was discussing the story with a friend who expressed desires to read it, and when I grudgingly shared the link with her, she could not contain her disbelief. She told me to imagine 30,000 people in one room, to visualize just what that numerical value constituted. On top of this, so many young writers started to contact me. People told me they were amazed by my age and inspired by my creativity. Someone once asked me if they could write a book report on this novel. Another told me I was their favorite author, and when asked, they told my online username. Another asked me if they could translate it into their native language so they could share it with their non-English speaking friends. Someone even asked me if they could make a “trailer” for it using actors they pictured my main characters as. It was then that I realized my story meant something, even if it was just another love story written by a young teenage girl. It was a complete and total learning experience.

When I finished the book, it came out to a whopping 203 pages. I was so unbelievably proud of myself when I finally finished it. It had taken me over a year and it was the first time in my life I had ever felt so proud. I’ve written a multitude of short little pieces throughout my life, but nothing has ever felt as fulfilling as that last word on that 203rd page — and I doubt anything ever will. That was my first ever book. Completed. And I was only fifteen. Although I look back now in total shame and cannot believe I ever thought the concepts I put down on those pages were romantic, I’ve learned so much about myself throughout that agonizing year I spent slaving over a computer screen. I discovered that, if I really put my mind to it, I could write a freaking book. I became hyperaware of what I was capable of.

My first novel, which was followed by a second shortly after, is something I will forever keep with me. Even if I am mortified by the fact that it is forever imprinted onto the Internet, I do take pride in the fact that I completed such a meticulous task at such a young age. Now, the story has a total of almost 140,000 reads. It was completely finished on November 6, 2013. Its fifth birthday isn’t too far away, and I can now (after years of regret) safely say that my fourteen-year-old self taught me just how powerful my words actually are.

The proper way to clean your skin

My friends often tell me I’ve been blessed with unproblematic skin. Little do they know I spend about twenty minutes a day ensuring my skin stays clear and healthy. For years, I’ve been addicted to skincare routines. I spent months researching products that would work correctly for my skin type and better the beauty of my natural face. It’s important to understand when and how to wash your face, as many are unaware of how much should genuinely go into your routine.

For starters, I wash my face twice a day. Once when I first wake up in the morning and then again before I head to bed. Before I even let water hit my skin, I take off any makeup I may be wearing. It’s important to use more than just a makeup wipe to remove your makeup each night, especially if foundation or concealer have been sitting on your skin all day. Micellar water is a great alternative to makeup wipes, as it breaks down the makeup on your skin and properly removes makeup often left behind by wipes. After my makeup is totally off, I move on to the actual washing aspect.

I begin this by washing my hands. Without doing so, the dirt from your hands is transferring to your face. Although this seems silly, I’ve noticed minor breakouts when I forget to incorporate this step. Once my hands are clean, I use a cleanser. Cleansers are an important first step to washing your face because they clear out all dirt and residue your skin has built up throughout the day. Along with my cleanser, I use a spin-brush designed to further remove dirt from beneath the surface of my skin. I have found that this brush really makes my skin feel softer and cleaner, and a multitude of stores offer relatively cheap versions of this product that provide great results.

Photo by Kam Fitzgibbons

Here’s the part of your routine where one would apply a face mask if doing so. Face masks work best at this stage because your skin is totally clean. Whether your face mask is intended to brighten your skin, reduce the appearance of pores, etcetera, it works best following a cleanser because it’s easier for the mask to penetrate the skin and really do its job.

Secondly, I tone my skin. Introducing a toner into a skincare routine is a step that is typically overlooked, yet is unbelievably crucial. Cleansers typically wipe away all things that they come in contact with, and as a result of this, they remove some of the things your skin needs. Toners reintroduce those things to your skin. They bring back the life removed while cleansing. Toning also provides the skin with a breathability that cleansing takes away.

After toning (which I do twice, because I’m obsessed with bettering my skincare regimen), I introduce a multitude of serums into my routine. While this step is not necessary, it’s a great way to target the most problematics aspects of your skin and better them. Personally, after washing, my skin gets a little dry and dull. For this reason, I use two serums; one designed to hydrate, and another designed to brighten and highlight. This is the only step thus far that I only do at night. Serums work best when your skin is at rest.

To end my skincare regimen, I moisturize. This step is arguably the most important of all. Moisturizing not only reduces the amount of oil your skin produces, but it has the ability to make the skin feel baby soft. I use a water based moisturizer because I’ve found that lotion based ones clog my pores and add to the oiliness of my skin. In addition to moisturizing the two times I wash my face throughout the day, I always apply moisturizer before makeup or sporadically throughout the day. This step not only hydrates, but it locks in all the products you’ve previously put on.

These are just a couple of ways I’ve enhanced my skin’s natural beauty. I rarely get pimples and I truly believe it’s due to the effort I put in daily. Although all skin is different and my particular products may not work for others, I’ve found that washing the face in this order is helpful for a majority of people. Figure out what works for you and rock your natural look!

Six makeup tips and tricks for beginners

Have you ever wondered if you’re applying your makeup properly? Before delving into the world of YouTube makeup tutorials, I was practically clueless to the differences between foundation and concealer, eyeliner and eyeshadow, etc. After spending hours of my time and hundreds of my dollars on makeup, I became much more versed on the process of perfecting a full face. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way about the step-by-step art of crafting a flawless makeup look.

Use primer. While many see primer as a mere attempt to get you to shell out more money (I originally believed the same thing), it truly can add to the longevity of your makeup. There are a multitude of different primers that are suited for particular skin types. For example, my skin is relatively oily. Choosing a primer that masks the effects of that excess amount of oil has changed the game for me. My makeup lasts twice as long and continues to look flawless throughout the day.

Apply your foundation before your concealer. Aside from moisturizer and primer, foundation should be the first part of application. I prefer to apply with a beauty blender, but a brush works just the same. Foundation provides a canvas to work the rest of your makeup onto, and applying concealer beforehand can create a caking effect. On top of this, concealers primary goal is to highlight specific areas of your face. If your concealer goes on before your foundation, it can be dragged around during that second application and lessen the intended effect.

While applying concealer, add some to your eyelids. This process will initially have you looking a bit washed out, but it acts as a great alternative to eyeshadow primer. Since many college students don’t have the means to break the bank for both a face and eyeshadow primer, using concealer for both is extremely cost efficient. This not only makes your eyeshadow pop, but adds to the longevity as well.

Photo By Kam Fitzgibbons

If you’re using liquid or cream products, apply them before powders. Powders set the face and lock makeup into place. If you attempt to put cream or liquid products overtop, they won’t blend as well or sink into the skin in the desired manner. They’ll merely sit on top of the powder and add a cakey look to the skin. As a result of this, always setting the face last and making sure to use cream contour or highlight products before powder ones can provide a more natural, no makeup look.

If you use a beauty sponge, spray it with setting spray before blending out your foundation and concealer. Adding this small step into my makeup routine permanently altered it. Working at a restaurant, it tends to get hot. I often found myself sweating off my makeup, but after introducing setting spray throughout the entirety of my routine instead of saving it for the grand finale, that issue became a thing of the past. The process of blending with setting spray provides your makeup with the ability to set as it dries. This really prevents caking as it sets your foundation and concealer into the skin as they’re going on.

Finally, invest in an eyeshadow palette instead of individual shadows. A multitude of brands offer affordable eyeshadow palettes that allow for a variety of looks. Buying palettes with a wide range of colors over individual shadows not only saves money, but provides an ability to play with different looks until you discover what you like best on yourself. It saves money while giving room to evolve makeup looks and continually better your craft.

All of these tips and tricks have helped me personally achieve more stable and longwearing makeup looks over the past five years. These six tricks have helped me create looks I wouldn’t have imagined possible when I first fell down the YouTube rabbit hole all those years ago. Try incorporating some of these processes into your makeup routine and watch the magic happen!

(Fall Fest) Podcast Review: The “NoSleep” Podcast

Our tradition of listening to spooky podcast stories came from our desire to kill time while we roomed together freshman year. Both of us have a love for things morbid and haunting, and while searching the depths of YouTube, we discovered someone who did readings of spooky stories found on the internet. YouTube user Cryaotic primarily makes videos about games but has a small collection of videos in which he voice-acts scary stories he finds on Reddit. His lack of content lead us to the NoSleep podcast. This sparked a ritual that we still enjoy years later. We spent many nights picking stories and then failing to find enough peace to fall asleep afterwards. Based on experience, we can both say that the title of the podcast is very accurate.

The NoSleep podcast is an online series that features original horror stories. This podcast boasts 11 seasons, each season containing upwards of 20 episodes with each episode featuring a handful of similarly-themed stories. The NoSleep podcast is expertly done. There is a talented and experienced cast of voice actors, atmospheric music and immersive sound-effects which bring life to the haunting readings. One of the strengths of this podcasts is that it pulls stories from a diverse batch of authors. Amateurs, published authors, hobbyists and career writers have all been featured on the podcast. Even better is that the NoSleep podcast seems to have no boundaries or limits to its horror content. Each story seems to be more haunting than the last. 

The website for the NoSleep podcast is very user-friendly and provides suggestions on where to start if you are new. Many of these stories are great places to begin if you are unsure of your limits or do not have a particular taste or preference for horror. You can start there with any of the episodes they have listed, but if you’re interested in delving deeper, here are our suggestions based on what we have heard so far:

Courtesy of thenosleeppodcast.com

Borrasca: 
Borrasca was written by published author C.K. Walker and it can be read in its entirety online.

Episode 25 of Season 7 is a special full-length episode clocking in at 2 hours and 17 minutes; this one is a whirlwind. What draws you into this story at first are the characters and the childlike nature of their interactions. This eventually lulls you into a false sense of security as the ending of the story is far from innocent. Main character Sam lives in a small mountain town which exists under the shadow of an urban legend. When Sam’s best friend Kimber goes missing, the legend becomes more of a reality. We found this story to be incredibly memorable due to its intense plot twists and realistic use of horror content.

Soft White Damn: 

Courtesy of thenosleeppodcast.com

Season 5, Episode 18 is a shorter listen, but it is no less terrifying. The main character is a disgruntled single man staying in a cabin alone during a snow flurry. As the night progresses, he begins to hear noises outside. These sounds, combined with the amount of alcohol the main character has been consuming, lead for a terrifying and convoluted night during which the main character must confront both the monster outside and the monsters in his past and in his mind. The voices and sounds in this episode are particularly important to the story. Over a year later, we can still recall the chilling noises from this particular story.

The Smiling Man:

This story, featured in Season 2, episode 5, won the NoSleep horror writing contest of 2012 and for good reason. This story centers around someone who, when walking alone at night, encounters a terrifying and intimidating individual. From there, the story only gets more and more disturbing. This one stuck with us because of how simple it is. It’s one of the shorter stories featured on NoSleep, yet it still has a chilling storyline that leaves listeners feeling uneasy.


Honorable Mentions:

We found the following three stories featured on the podcast memorable and felt they were too spooky to be left out. Each (for their own reasons) left the two of us unable to sleep, yet again allowing the podcast’s name to ring true.

The Disappearance of Ashley, Kansas (Season 2, Episode 5)

The Penpal (Season 1, Episode 11)

Butcherface (Season 1, Episode 4)

 

For anyone interested in checking out the NoSleep podcast, all of their stories can be accessed here: https://www.thenosleeppodcast.com/.

CONCERT REVIEW: 5 Seconds of Summer leave a lasting impression

Photo By: Pooja Pasupula

Music has an interesting way of bringing people together. Unlike any other medium, it truly allows for a deep connection without understanding. We can all connect to the person beside us at a concert. Us and the person next to us have both been affected enough by the music to shell out the fee for a ticket, yet we don’t truly get what made them connect to the music. We can relate, as we have also connected, but we cannot grasp the whole depth of what the lyrics being belted out mean to them personally. Despite that, these emotions create a unity unlike any other. There aren’t many other places in the world where you can unashamedly scream at the top of your voice with the stranger beside you between smiles.

It is not often that I experience reflective thoughts like these at concerts (and I am an avid concert-goer), yet seeing 5 Seconds of Summer — often referred to as 5SOS — brought alive these realizations within me as I stood in Section 4 of PNC Music Pavilion on Sept. 20. 5 Seconds of Summer is an Australian based pop-rock group. Their latest album, “Youngblood,” shifts into something much more experimental and personal than the two prior. Its raw lyricism about relationships and the hardships of life produces very individualized abilities in terms of resonation. Considering it is their newest release, most of the songs they sang had a home on “Youngblood.” Hearing the emotionally expressive songs from this album live generated a feeling within PNC Music Pavilion that I have had yet to experience there before. 5SOS’ authentic lyrics connected with every single person there in a different way.

The feelings invoked by the music was tangible within the arena. While this may have been partly due to the fact that the lawn section was closed off and everyone’s seats were upgraded, it merely made the event all the more unique and genuine. The close proximity to the surrounding people as well as the stage itself produced a unity unlike one would normally experience on the lawn. 5SOS took that unity and ran with it. The concert, initially supposed to be on Sept. 16, was rescheduled as a result of Hurricane Florence. 5SOS took an opportunity to support those affected by the storms. A percentage of all of their t-shirt sales the night of the Charlotte show was donated towards reformation and those in need post-Florence. This act of kindness not only allowed the band to give back, but provided a way in which the audience could take part in as well.

The band not only brought the audience together to give back but also through shared confusion and disbelief in a few instances. A moment that stands out as something I will surely never forget is the band’s performance of “The Only Reason,” a ballad-like, slow song that seemingly reflects the process of a failing relationship. The song is very somber in nature, yet for the first verse, their performance was layered with an effect that created an alien-like sound and caused the audience to laugh and collectively show confusion. Their humorous twist at the beginning made light of a song typically associated with sadness.

The concert was an amazing experience. In lieu of 5SOS’ newest, most real album and Hurricane Florence, the atmosphere was something that I’m unsure I will never be able to experience at another show. The unity generated through those powerful, connecting lyrics and the process of simultaneously providing for those in need was unlike any feeling produced at all the concerts I have been to in my life. It was a connection at the craziest of levels. Music has an interesting way of bringing people together, and 5 Seconds of Summer did an incredible job of tapping into that.


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.