3 years to 50!?

I’ve had many words to say about inconsequential things, and inconsequential words to say about many things. Somehow that got us to 50 complete packages of things published on this here internet space we call Tales of Cass.

Three years! Fifty posts! I am equal parts impressed and disappointed in that figure.

A few weeks ago I stumbled back onto my landing page and started looking through the old drafts of some of the things I’ve saved to write over the years. I’ll be honest, it started making me pretty upset. I wish I could say in the past few weeks or even months but, in all honesty, in the past year (and then some) I’ve had such a stretch of lacking the desire to write anything at all – on and off this space.

If my personal journals ever make it into a museum exhibit, this time period will come to be known as The Barren. Correspondences with faraway friends via letters and emails, the kind that kept my fingers nice and toasty warmed up, have slowly dropped off. Scribbles of notes with ideas and words and strings of sentences sit in a notebook, unacted upon.

I remember the exact day that I started this site, which says a lot because I remember approximately nothing in my life (poor nutrition and homeostatic dehydration will do that to you, kids). It was while sitting on the bed of my tiny little dungeon (read: basement) dorm in Cambridge, convinced that I wasn’t going to make any friends during my study abroad experience (flash forward and I’ve now seen two of those friends get married) so I needed something else to keep myself occupied. It was a crazy, creative, wonderful summer for me because it was the first time I got to immerse myself entirely in the things that I loved – two whole months of reading and writing.

It made, and still makes, me so happy to post something here. To think of an idea and jot down a ton of random notes about what I envision I’ll be able to put together. Then to go out and do it so that I can sit down and write it.

When it comes easily, that’s when I know I’m onto something that I really truly enjoy – not just in the moment but in the now years later when I scan back through these pages on particularly bad days. I used to find any excuse to get my words out here, to make myself laugh and grow and do something a little outside my comfort zone. Now I find myself using Tales of Cass more often than not for the memorabilia – to look back on all of the cool things that I’ve done and to remind me of where my heart places lie.

I’m trying my hardest to get back to those words that we all know are in here somewhere.

In the meantime, and as a celebration of these three wild years, I wanted to do what I do best and look back on some of my top three categorized Casstastrophes. Obviously I can’t go without also giving you some slightly new content so “never-before-read” Editor’s Notes have also been added for every link, from me to me to you. Enjoy.


Top 3 Photos

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Top 3 Lists

Learn a Book, Every Annual
2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Pembroke Library

Probably the most consistent thing about this place. Technically this is cheating, you may say, these are four individual posts. But I say I do what I want. There will be a record kept of the books that I read regardless and I enjoy writing these annual challenges so much because they keep me on my toes. My past few years have gone so horribly off-course from the intended end results that even my intense internalized competitiveness couldn’t help drag them back, but here we are. I try really hard to write these as funny, punny, and informative. I’m also obsessive over page counts, which is why they’re always included. Engage me, I dare you.

A List of Cooking Tips For a Novice Like Me

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I am such a bad cook. And also still reeling from the fact that I baked bread once. As in, edible food bread. Like, bread that people actually ate. Shockingly enough, I actually still remember some of these tips that I was taught. I’ve also come to enjoy getting a little experimental in the kitchen every now and then. As long as the every includes a bottle of red wine.

23 Thoughts On Turning 23

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The OG of yet another annual series. 23 Thoughts is particularly fond to me because it essentially wrote itself in my head while I was driving down a well-worn street in my hometown, one I’ve driven at least 7,000 times. It was the holidays and I was home for indefinitely after just having finished my undergraduate education. Apparently I was in a reflective mood and a bunch of the Thoughts started begging for attention so I wrote them into a draft while waiting in line at Starbucks. Over the next month or so it grew into what it is. I’m either going to die young or we’re all going to be stuck living through this hellscape of wondering what gimmicks I can come up with until I’m 87.

Top 3 Written

Real Moments: “To Everything Its Proper Time And Place And Turn.”

I don’t really talk on why I do these but I do them. This one was a storm. I spent weeks barely sleeping on the floor of my college dorm room, drinking more apple cider than any human rightfully should, and playing hours upon hours of Gilmore Girls episodes because I was too afraid of quiet. Gogol’s ‘Dead Souls’ was the first thing to make me laugh again. A group of guys who asked to pair with me for a semester-long class project were the second. None of them were actually friends with me, but they’ll never know how much I needed them to be exactly them at that point in time. I had a duality to play. Go to class, finish your degree. Stay home, think of it all. Eventually this one wrote itself too.

Books I Brought Abroad

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Another one with strong associations to the floor. My room in Ireland had a heater settled at the wallspace between the bottom of the window and the top of the baseboards. When I was reading or writing I’d either sit in the chair at my little desk right next to it or on the floor with my body twisted and tucked to make the heat hit as many places as possible (my best was full back plus a thigh and a half). As a kid I used to lay on the floor next to the heater to read as well so if there’s two things we all take away about me today it’s warmth and floors. This was the first supplemental books posts I made (beyond Learn A Book), and it started the idea of bibliove.

To England, With Love: A Send-Off to Summer

Have I mentioned how important this experience was to me, yet? Cool, cool, just checking. To this day I am fascinated by the concept of a blue door. I don’t recall ever seeing them before this experience but there was something so soul-catching about the aesthetic of them. I learned a great many things during this experience and I really enjoyed finding a way to write the important ones out to share. It was my own little thank you to every person, place, and thing that was a part of it all.

Top 3 Voyages

Kancamagus Highway

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I believe I did this the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving one year. I really didn’t want to spend time around the house and for some reason this place that we used to visit when I was a kid just kept tugging at the back of my mind. Roadtrips are a favorite activity for me. I’ll find any excuse to drive around for a while. My family asked why and I lied and told them I was going to visit a friend because if I just said I wanted to take a drive they would have made it a big deal and ruined it for me (sorry, family!). I just missed the woods and the mountains and the feeling of Autumn. Boston and Newport weren’t delivering at the time. This was a day of getting comfortable with the quiet again.

Into Twilight

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It shocks me sometimes when people who really know me don’t realize how much I love Vampire lore. The Twilight Series meant a lot to me as a young teen, and it still means a lot to me today (I’ll hold my dissertation for another time but if you’d like to engage on this one too then you know how to find me). My best friend moved to the Pacific Northwest and during my first visit we took a roadtrip out to see the magical mystical realistical Forks, WA! It has since become our favorite annual excursion. If you’ve never been to the Olympic Peninsula you are missing out on some serious natural vigor. This trip was also my first time seeing the Pacific ocean.

Skibbereen & Baltimore

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This was a great day. It was brisk and Irish as all hell. I spent the morning wandering around on my own and appreciating the small town that is Skibbereen before Tony joined me and we took the tour a little farther out to the town of Baltimore. I don’t think I really have anything fresh and new to say that I didn’t already write into this – except for the fact that thanks to Tony, I am fully intending a return to the Emerald Isle so I can roadtrip the heck out of the Wild Atlantic Way. Windows down, old folk streaming through on the radio, winding my way around the ocean.

Top 3 To Make Me Laugh

Café Cake Crawl

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This was one of the funniest days I have ever spent with myself. Also one of the most physically grueling. Trying to explain to a bunch of Irish people that I was going to spend an entire day in town eating a ridiculous amount of cake… remembering their reactions to how I was choosing to spend my Saturday “off” and just in general the fact that this was an idea that I had… it still makes me laugh. I abused my stomach so much for this. Disturbing amounts of sugar layered on top with disturbing amounts of caffeine to make room for more sugar and thus more caffeine… what a day! I will surely do more ridiculous crawls like this in my lifetime. Little Birdie says stay tuned.

Scotland’s National Book Town

Hands down the best Voyage I have ever had. I wanted to save it for this category though because it was truly like some kind of TV special – a young girl trekking her way through the homeland lowland in pursuit of genuinely nothing at all. The entire trip was absolutely wild. I want to just quickly emphasize that I honestly truly laughed out loud to myself for three days straight on this trip. I did nothing but sleep and read and wander and laugh. I have a feeling this was a gift from the Universe to settle me and prepare me and bid me an apology right before it tore my world right into tiny shredded little pieces of heartache.

£5 Worth of Local Drinking Tips

this thing

Once again, I remember sitting on my bed in my little tiny dungeon (again, read: basement) dorm room in Cambridge (one more time for the people in the back), writing this post and cracking myself up. It was the first thing I was really putting out there on Tales of Cass and the jokes they were a-rolling! I doubt any of those jokes came through to anyone else reading it, but alas. I maintain that I am the funniest person I have ever known. No one can make me laugh like I can make me laugh, and that’s pretty special.


Looking back on all of this, what has stuck with me the most about this space is the people who have come along with it. I went through a ton of failed blog creations before Tales finally took hold, mostly because I was worried that I didn’t have anything to say to anyone. Now you’ve all shown me, friends and strangers alike, that I do. Months will go by with no content and yet you still reach out to send a message and start a dialogue, share your thoughts on what I wrote, or send support that makes me that much more encouraged to keep doing what I’m doing.

Tales of Cass was always first and foremost for me, but it continues from such a deep and heartfelt appreciation of the people around me that want to be a part of it too. No one on this planet, least of all me, can possibly comprehend what it means to me to share this space with others who actually want it. Thank you, thank you, thank you – if only that were enough.

25 Wants From Life After 25

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25 is a moment. It took me quite a few moons to get to this age.

This is the first birthday that I’ve actually looked forward to, felt excited about, etc. It takes too much energy to be someone actively against birthdays and I don’t naturally possess enough to be someone for them, so I generally land right smack in the middle of energetic indifference. I just have this feeling about 25. That sounds like something everyone this age says but I really mean it!

Piece by piece, the years have all been falling into place to make me into this person that I have somehow managed to personify. Things that I want for my life float into my brain and there’s not a single one of them that I feel I can’t do, or have to wait to make happen. If I truly, madly, deeply want something… I’m at a stage of existence now where I can very well get it. Do you know what that feels like!? It’s terrifying! And amazing!

At 23 we got random and weird and at 24 we learned some lessons. This year I wanted to share some of those rest-of-my-life wants. Spoiler Alert: it’s a great many of them. 25 to be exact. This is basically dissertation-level long so feel free to just skim the bold headers.


1. To watch every movie Sandra Bullock has ever made, in order.

Another revolution around the sun and this still hasn’t happened! How long have I been telling you all that this will happen? Too long. Now I’m hedging my bets. Eventually, in my life, I will achieve this feat. The list stands at well over 40 films and it’s only going to keep growing so whenever you see a new release, please check in on my progress. In case you somehow weren’t aware of this supremely fun fact about me: I love Sandra Bullock.

2. To become a whiskelier.

A whisk(e)y sommelier is not a thing because by definition a sommelier is a wine steward, but I want to become one anyway. I’m slowly but surely building a palate for whiskey, whisky, and scotch. I’d like to be able to say that it’s certified.

3. To move abroad.

Some people grow up in a place that they know they’ll always want to call home. Some struggle to find settlement and jump from city to city in remarkably short periods of time. I happen to envy the former and sympathize with the latter, but I also happen to have found the general corner of the earth that makes me feel unlike anywhere else. It’s a place I so desperately hope to call home as my honest to goodness, true heart place for the rest of my existence. If I’m not there in 2 years, please reach out and heckle me as to why. I hope I can give you a good reason.

4. To walk a runway.

In front of absolutely no one, preferably. It just always looks so fun! To have some M83 music videos projected on a massive screen behind you and strut your way to a fan favorite dance move finish in obscenely over-decorous formal wear.

5. To sink onto my hands and knees, dig my fingers deep into the mud, and scream as hard as I can.

There’s this scene in the movie ‘Testament of Youth’ in which the main character, Vera, runs up a hill, falls to her knees, digs her hands into the mud, and just sobs her heart open. Have you ever felt so emotionally compromised that you just couldn’t find a satisfying outlet? Maybe due to a specific life event or maybe due to many. The years build and build and eventually it’s overwhelming. Sometimes I wonder what it might be like to emotionally reset, to cleanse. To not worry about someone hearing you or seeing you, not worry about anything resembling an aftermath. Not only in heartbreak or pain, but in happiness and excitement. A compound of every emotion. Just animalistically exhausting it all out of yourself. Imagine what that feels like.

6. To find my Grandmother Willow.

There is something so mystical and magical about trees and if they had their own religion all to themselves I’d likely be the first to convert. Trees the world over possess this spiritual touch to the soul, a brush of the heart to the humans who’ve lost their way in returning it. I fully believe that there’s a Grandmother Willow out there, waiting for me to stumble upon it and find a confidant. You’ll know when I’ve found it because you’ll never hear from me again. I’ll spend the rest of my existence there beside it.

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7. To visit Alaska.

Fun Fact #1701: I LOVE ALASKA. This all began with a weird obsession that I developed over Alaskan television shows. Alaska: The Last Frontier, Alaska State Troopers, Alaskan Bush People, Ice Road Truckers, etc. I cannot predict what my reaction will be when some day I eventually visit this place but I can only hope that the rest of the world is prepared for it.

8. To find the final pieces of my pack.

Live your life by the wolves. When I watch television shows or movies where there’s a strong group of friends who’ve been together like a family, I think to myself how some day I hope to settle in a place where I can have that around me. The pieces of my pack who have known me through all of the goods and the uglies, who can call me in the middle of the night and know that no matter what happened I’ll be on my way to the airport in under 15 minutes to find them, who I can have round on holidays, who treat me as if we shared the same blood in our veins.

9. To dip myself in the Atlantic every Christmas Eve until I die.

This was a tradition I started with myself approximately 3 Christmas’ ago. I’ll be honest, the past few years I’ve woken up in absolutely no mood whatsoever to do it. But I get myself out of bed, I hype up on the drive to the beach, and as soon as I run into that salt water all hesitations disappear. This is genuinely a shock to the system, a defibrillator for the non-threatened living. The Atlantic is another piece of the lifeforce puzzle for me and I invite anyone who would like to try it to join me next 12/24.

10. To write a novel.

A fully finished, contentedly drafted version of a novel. It’s a secret to no one that I love to write. Most days I regret not taking the academia route and becoming a poor, starving writer living out of a 1-room apartment in Soho, feeding a mysterious cat leftover pizza crust when it comes to visit on my fire escape. For mostly myself but partly for others, I’d love to just be able to extract a full story from the hoards that swim up there in the ventricles of my brain. And better yet, to put it down in the way I know in my heart and soul that I can.

11. To go to Russia and channel my inner Lev.

Blame the birth of this random obsession on the mesmerizing writing style of Count Tolstoy in “Anna Karenina,” then allocate some more to Armie Hammer and Nikolai Gogol. Add a dash of the Napoleonic Muscovites and you’ve got yourself quite a few threads sewn into whatever it is that’s made me so interested in Russia. My fear with most places in this world is that some day humankind will ruin them. I’d like to see the beauty of the Russia that dear Lev wrote so wonderfully about before I can’t.

12. To cultivate a garden.

Gardening is a passion that I can’t say I possess any skill for, but I have a great deal of interest in it and that’s what matters! Some day I’d like to build a massive garden teeming with veggies, fruits, trees, flowers, and general shrubbery of vast array.

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13. To fall in love whenever I can.

A natural follow-up to planting lavender for luck. There’s a Great Love out there for all of us and I’d very much maybe I think like to find mine. I tend to not let myself near this within a 24,901 mile circumference but maybe some time I’ll give it a try. Whoever it is that gets stuck with me is gonna need quite a few new pairs of dancing shoes.

14. To see a ghostie.

This is and was and also still is one of my biggest fears. I 1,000% believe in ghosts and ghouls and spirits and sprites and whatever else you might want to term them. I believe that humans are not the only ones wandering around this planet. There have been several moments when I’ve gotten That Feeling but I’ll usually panic beg to see nothing, to experience nothing, to fall into a dreamless slumber and wake in the daylight and deal with nothing. But it’s a fascination, and some day I’d like to encounter something, or someone.

15. To overcome my fear of flying.

People continually scoff at me when I tell them that I am terrified of flying. Yes, it is something I do fairly frequently for my chosen career. Yes, I’ve also done it fairly frequently for my chosen leisure activities. Doesn’t mean that I don’t have a complete breakdown every time we encounter the slightest teeny tiny bump. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: some day I’ll learn to fly.

16. To learn the drums (only for very specific songs).

I want. To be. Dave Grohl. Have no fear, I’m not running off to become a rock and roll drummer in a Devo cover band (yet). It’s just that when listening to the music that I love, the drums are always the instrument that resonate the most with me (weak at best, I tried). There’s a handful of songs I’d like to progress from steering wheel slamming to kick drum stomping.

17. To get published.

By something with a little more reputational integrity than talesofcasstastrophe.com. Now, allow me to comment that I do in fact consider this as very much different from writing a novel. I have every faith in my abilities to write a novel in my lifetime. In fact, if we’re being really honest, I think I could muster up enough for half a dozen but let’s not expect too much from ourselves, shall we? Becoming published is something else altogether. I think it would be really cool to some day write an article or a short fiction for my dream publication The New Yorker, or even a 300 word book review for the local Daily News. Let’s go for gold. Both a published novel (to be picked up at your local brick and mortar bookstore, please) and a byline.

18. To learn how to fix my anxiety.

Many and much could be said on this matter, maybe some day I’ll give it a better story telling. It boils down to generalized anxiety, many people around the earth have it whether they admit it, know it, or not. I’d like to find out all the ways to cope and assuage and ultimately fix mine for the sake of myself.

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19. To spend a night under the Northern Hemisphere stars.

Ursas Major and Minor. Draco. Andromeda. Cassiopeia. I’ve never really seen a night sky. I’ve always been in places with a decent amount of light pollution and some day, I want to spend an eve in awe and wonder with my favorite version of the midnight hemisphere.

20. To amass a squad of little ones.

I toyed with replacing the . with a ? but for consistency’s sake I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Some time, in my life, I think that I want to have children? I always loved the idea of a home packed to bursting with the energy of kiddos running up and down the walls. I adore the idea of a big family, there for each other through every possible stage of humanity. As I get a little older, I realize just how difficult it is for me to picture the realities of this life. What it means to actually make it happen. But either way the love story goes, children will likely maybe could possibly come into play.

21. To rock and roll my way across America.

Partly inspired by items on my bucket list such as ‘drive Route 66 while listening to ‘Route 66” and partly inspired by Sonic Highways (again, Dave Grohl is my icon). Rock and roll is my most favorite thing about this country, and if #3 comes true then my time to experience it is drawing to a close. There are so many amazing, musically historical places. Underground Seattle, Chicago (Chicago!), the Hall of Fame in Cincinnati, Muscle Shoals, any and every hole in the wall across all of Tennessee.

22. To live in a home that is Broadway-level secluded.

Singing in the shower is a favorite pastime of mine. Relatable. However, because I’ve only ever lived in apartment buildings with uncomfortably close proximity to neighbors, I tend to sing very quietly in aforementioned shower. Which is not nearly as fun an experience as it could be! I want a place where I can crank the stereo to eardrum-bursting levels and really go for that “Phantom of the Opera” scale without fear of my neighbors broomstick-busting their ceilings.

23. To chase a storm.

In case you haven’t caught on by this point, pretty much everything I want to do in my life is unoriginal. This particular item is inspired by, you guessed it, you saw it coming: “Twister.” SUCH an incredible movie! I’d very much like to give this a try and end up cowering in a ditch, thinking this is the moment when I die, only to come out on the other side with my white tank-top moderately muddied.

24. To read every book I could ever possibly want to.

This one is a concession. I’d like to be Bill Nighy in “About Time” and just keep jumping back and forth to read millions and billions of books, but odds aren’t in my favor. This year I’ll take a list a little more seriously. I won’t just add things to my To Read on Goodreads and let them sit there for years, unattended. (If you believed that for one single second you are joking yourself.)

25. To want for nothing.

Self explanatory. To make it through my life doing and having and seeing and being all the things I could ever possibly want to.


Consider this my list of Casstastrophes on deck. I’ll do my best to update it as the years go on, so you can check back from your forearm-embedded smart screens in 2043 and see how cool and rad and awesome I always told you I was going to be.

In all seriousness, thank you from the every atom of my heart for being part of 25 with me. I’m very happy to be here.

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Learn a Book! – 20[18 Authors]

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2018 is the year of the people… who wrote books.

Believe it or not, I came up with the idea for this year’s annual reading challenge back in early 2016… two whole years ago (hint: lean towards believe it because it is 100% true). At this point I think I’ve booked myself out on reading challenges until at least the year 2020 (are you having that??).

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that I go through reading phases. Most times for a genre, some times for a style, but not so oftentimes for an author. This year, I picked out a handful of authors that I’ve been dying to get studious about… eighteen of them to be exact (Hello? Gimmick, is that you? How are the children?).

The name of the game is their first and last, or sometimes their first and most recent, works. Allow me to clarify immediately that some liberties were taken here. Works was a word chosen explicitly to allow for sometimes novellas over novels, sometimes first published over first written, etc., etc., and onward, and so forth. Hours more of research could have been dedicated to really get a definitive selection of first and last written novels, but you know what? This here life of mine is too lacking in a fellowship for that.

If you truly disagree over the following selections then please do reach out with suggested corrections and I will maybe possibly potentially be more than happy to oblige. I may also just tell you to get lost, so… choose wisely.

Here we go. 18 novelists in all. Well… with one exception. Spot the difference, and join in the adventure. Happy 2018!


1. Ernest Hemingway

First: The Sun Also Rises (1926) [251 pgs]
Last: The Old Man and the Sea (1952) [127 pgs]

Hem is my favorite male author and I look up to his technique and style more than I could ever articulate. I’ve read almost all of his works already, including these two, but I wanted to give myself a chance to get a little more studious about it.

Also, in case anyone cares to know, #TeamHadley.

2. Anne Brontë

First: Agnes Grey (1847) [193 pgs]
Last: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) [383 pgs]

The least loved of the Brontë sisters. I have a lot of thoughts about Anne, notably regarding her life and legacy, but I’ll save my dissertation for another time and place. In the meantime, let’s all just allow my imagination to submerge itself in the moors of her written words.

Ask me about Anne, I dare you.

3. Roald Dahl

First: James and the Giant Peach (1961) [146 pgs]
Last: The Minpins (1991) [48 pgs]

There isn’t much to say about Roald – except that he was positively instrumental to my childhood, as I’m sure he was to many of yours. Many moments in my life turn to early education reminiscence to remind me that I must never, ever, ever grow up. It felt right to take a look at some of the stories one of my earliest favorite authors put out there into the world, especially given I had never read these two.

I was a ‘Matilda’ kind of girl. Careful there! Roll your eyes any harder and they’ll get stuck like that.

4. Margaret Atwood

First: The Edible Woman (1969) [310 pgs]
Last: Hag-Seed (2016) [297 pgs]

I will be truly honest with you… Maggie here is an embarrassingly recent discovery of mine. I had never heard of her, never known of her works, never realized her significance as a woman writer until the hubbub around the television show and an article in The New Yorker.

I’m excited to finally introduce myself. Go ahead, feel those waves of disappointment in me. I’ll wait in the car.

6. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

First: Poor Folk (1846) [118 pgs]
Last: The Brothers Karamatzov (1880)

Oh Fyodor, my Fyodor!

Affectionately referred to around the Cass household as my second favorite Russian. His style is positively beautiful and his collection of works is one that I hope to spend a lot of time poring over in years to come. The man survived Siberia, for Peter the Great’s sake!

6. George Eliot

First: Adam Bede (1859)
Last: Daniel Deronda (1876)

AKA Mary Anne Evans. AKA the woman the White Rabbit was searching for. Turns out she withheld the last chapter of ‘Middlemarch’ and he had to know how it ended.

If you couldn’t deduce it from the way her first and last sounds like the very same on her list of conquests, then allow me to tell you that this woman had quite the love life and I adore her for it. I hope that every last word of it was true and that throughout it all she found happiness.

7. Neil Gaiman

First: Stardust (1999)
Last: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)

Neil here is hard to “officially” find a first and last for. Allow me to explain the logic behind my selection process for him: only works classified as standalone novels (not companion novels or short-fiction collections) and nothing with a co-authorship.

Also allow me to throw in that if you haven’t read ‘The Graveyard Book’ you should and then you should also allow yourself to cry and have a moment over it.

8. Virginia Woolf

First: The Voyage Out (1915)
Last: Between the Acts (1941)

The jury is still out on how I feel about Virginia Woolf, I’ll be honest. At one point I was radically anti, then recently flipped that switch for reasons unknown and consequently blacked out from my memory, but now I lean back towards I don’t think I really care for her as an existence? But should probably just start off with indifference? And that might be a really polarizing opinion?

I’ll get back to you all on this one when my soapbox here stops splintering.

9. Nathaniel Hawthorne

First: Fanshawe (1828)
Last: The Marble Faun (1860)

If you have not gone to Salem, Massachusetts and visited the House of Seven Gables then you are seriously missing out. I maintain to this day that I think I was the only person in my 11th grade English class to thoroughly enjoy reading that book. Years of begging for more 1800s literature yielded not much in the popularity of public school picks, let me tell you.

‘The Marble Faun’ appears to be the last fully finished published novel by Hawthorne, and as a fun fact: apparently he always hated all of his books when he finished writing them (according to dear Sophia). Typical.

10. Flannery O’Connor

First: Wise Blood (1952)
Last: The Violent Bear it Away (1960)

I know next to nothing about Flannery. I only know her name through googling “women authors” because as I was coming up with this list I was very disheartened in myself to find that the names that came easiest to mind were those of men. This is 2018, there’s no excuse for that, and I wholeheartedly apologize. I very much look forward to getting to know F O’C, and I’m intrigued that, like Anne, she only had 2 novels to her name.

Flannery had a self-described “you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex” which I very much identify with. Her first novel was published just before she was diagnosed with lupus and her last well into her living with the disease. Remarkable and amazing, just to name a few.

11. Ray Bradbury

First: The Martian Chronicles (1950)
Last: Farewell Summer (2006)

‘Fahrenheit 451’ is one of my coveted all-time favorite soul books – part of the handful that will hold a special place in my heart for making me fall deeply in love with literature. Really cool fact about his first and last: Bradbury’s intended first novel was to be titled ‘Summer Morning, Summer Night,’ composed of a bunch of stories and vignettes. Some of these were later extracted into what is now ‘Dandelion Wine’ and the originals that were left over were later pulled together into ‘Farewell Summer’ – his last novel. How freaking cool is that!?

Researching his works learned me that Ray is buried in Los Angeles and it’s only a matter of time before I make it that way to pay my respects. I don’t know if my heart can take the experience, but I owe him those tears at the very least.

12. Louisa May Alcott

First: The Inheritance (1849)
Last: Jo’s Boys (1886)

‘Little Women’ is one of the first big chapter books that I remember reading, and I have fond memories of reading it sort of, kind of with my mom. I think she had a free copy on her ereader when I was younger and we tried reading it together but I don’t think we ever officially finished it together. Regardless, I definitely watched the film with her (1994, Winona & Christian forever).

Let’s all just take a moment to also remember that Louisa grew up in the time of Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau. And that she wrote her first novel by age 18.

13. Cormac McCarthy

First: The Orchard Keeper (1965)
Last: The Road (2006)

In the mood for a little more honesty? Cool, so, I rolled my eyes when we were forced to read ‘The Road’ in high school (see above – years of begging). It wasn’t until college, when I had to study the movie as part of my Apocalypticism in Film class that I developed any sort of interest in it. Which is disturbing on many levels given my newfound obsession with Pulitzer Winners, of which ‘The Road’ is one!

Which concludes another growing up life lesson for a young Cass. This is turning borderline confessional. I solemnly swear I will pay Cormac here more respect.

14. Edith Wharton

First: The Valley of Decision (1902)
Last: The Buccaneers (1938)

THE FIRST EVER WOMAN. TO WIN. THE PULITZER FOR LITERATURE. Please see aforementioned newfound obsession. Never read any of her works before, which feels like an American Woman crime of Lenny’s highest nature. Wharton was also nominated for the Nobel three separate times, no big deal. Her first novel wasn’t published until she was 40 so she gives me a lot of hope for the nothing that I am currently doing with my life. ‘The Buccaneers’ is technically an unfinished work, but what the heck. If it’s good enough for Gogol, right?

Fun fact: apparently Edith and her family used to spend their summers in my little ol’ hometown of Newport, Rhode Island. Shockingly very much unknown to me until this actual second when researching her bibliography?

15. Norman Mailer

First: The Naked and the Dead (1948)
Last: The Castle in the Forest (2007)

There’s something to do with a Gilmore Girl and Mr. Mailer Man and that’s really the main reason that I’m here. Another Pulitzer Winner. Three’s Company, and that company is up there with Thompson, Didion, and Capote.

Something about the distribution of when his works were published gives me the utmost confidence that his will be the best comparative study of this whole lot.

16. Alice Walker

First: The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970)
Last: Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart (2004)

Someway, somehow, I ended up never reading ‘The Color Purple’ in all my years of public schooling. Likely because I was too busy complaining about the lack of Victorian-era fiction and the surplus of Shakespeare. Don’t get me started again. That’s your first warning.

I am truly ashamed to have realized post-original publishing of this list that I have seriously neglected African American authors. When I was originally looking for authors to include I was trying my hardest just to alternate between men and women, let alone minorities within that. Women authors were a challenge to find in and of themselves but there is no excuse for my lack of diversity in this list and I humbly apologize. There is a promise in here for me to do better. More cultures, more perspectives, more outside of my Victorian-era comfort zone. Please send recommendations for non-white male works of note.

17. Thomas Hardy

First: Desperate Remedies (1871)
Last: Jude the Obscure (1895)

Fun fact: Hardy’s first actual written novel was never published because he destroyed the manuscript. ‘The Poor Man and the Lady’ sounds so unlike anything else that he had ever done, too! Shame, Writing Cass. That is a historic work that we as a civilization lost, don’t poke fun. Apologies, Editing Cass, might also happen again though.

Fun Fact #687: apparently the term “cliffhanger” is attributed to people trying to follow serialised versions of some of Hardy’s works?! Which is… madness?! I’ll be the first to say that I don’t particularly like the stories this man has to tell. They don’t really turn out all that well for the heroines, but this is a hate to love scenario because his writing style is… admittedly formidable to me.

18. Robert Burns

The Completed Works of Robert Burns (Whenever, Wherever, We’re meant to be toge- I’ll stop)

Listen, this is my game, my rules.

Rabbie here is a poet, a bard if you will. The Bard, if you won’t. This little lass wants to get in touch with one of her heritigurgical noteworthies and this felt like a good place to put him so get over it and join in the merriment.

‘For auld lang syne, my Jo, for auld lang syne!’ Annotate it along with me, now!


As always, feel free to follow me on Goodreads. Reviews still not written but check out the shelvage. Let’s be friends over what we want to throw out of windows.

Additional Reads

  1. ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ by V.E. Schwab [398 pgs]
  2. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin [174 pgs]
  3. ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle [232 pgs]
  4. ‘The Raven King’ by Maggie Stiefvater [438 pgs]
  5. ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline [372 pgs]
  6. ‘Winter’ by Marissa Meyer [823 pgs]
  7. ‘Between You and Me’ by Mary Norris [200 pgs]
  8. ‘The Jane Austen Project’ by Kathleen Flynn [373 pgs]
  9. ‘Meet Me at the Museum’ by Anne Youngson [268 pgs]
  10. ‘The Price Guide to the Occult’ by Leslye Walton [272 pgs]
  11. ‘Stardust’ by Neil Gaiman [248 pgs]
  12. ‘A Secret History of Witches’ by Louisa Morgan [484 pgs]
  13. ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson [233 pgs]
  14. ‘Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe’ by Melissa de la Cruz [225 pgs]

Total Page Count: 6,613 pgs


6/1/18 Edit: Due to difficulty in finding her earliest work, Gertrude Stein has been replaced with Alice Walker. Sorry, y’all! See what I originally had to say below:

16. Gertrude Stein

First: Q.E.D. (1903)
Last: Ida: A Novel (1941)

The woman who taught Hemingway how to keep it simple. That’s likely not true, I like to think that Hem knew what he was doing all on his own, but I want to say that ‘A Moveable Feast’ is where he spoke about the influence that Stein had on his writing style. Either that or I picked it up in ‘The Paris Wife.’ Someone else can fact check me. I’m also just now realizing that I’ve always imagined Stein as a very Queen Victoria-esque person and that’s… pretty… not really… true at all. Her bibliography was the most difficult to research and I’m not at all confident that I got it right.

Also, apparently a woman named Gertrude Jekyll also existed around the same time, but as a horticulturalist. Which is pretty rad. Thanks, autocomplete!

Recent Reads – Halloween Edition 2017

Bookstores should offer human horse blinders at the front door, right next to the plastic shopping baskets.

We’re all either the type of person who needs the former or the type that needs the latter. Key word: “needs.” This girl right here happens to want a basket, but need some blinders. When struck with the urge to have a particular book, it consumes me. It quickly evolves into something primal, with a sense of the highest immediacy to get to the nearest bookstore. Upon arrival, rather than get what I came for and go, I tend to get carried away and submit to the frenzy. Few hours and many dollars later, I emerge with what some (looking at you, Mom) might consider too many too much. Unfortunately, the have-to-have-it craze doesn’t always translate into a have-to-read-it urgency. Stacks on stacks of volumes lay unread in a home by the name of mine.

I’ve recently tried switching to the online ‘Reserve In-Store’ option with the theory that this will allow for less ambling amoung new release tables, less perusing the YAF aisle, and fewer frenzied pick-ups. Get me in, get me out, small paperback in hand, only one addition to the stacks. Shocker, it hasn’t worked yet. Alas, there are worse things to foster an addiction for.

Now that we’ve gone through that little personal story time journey together, let’s get on with it. There was a point, I swear. It’s that we’ve done recent reads around here before, but this particular one features a few of those stack selections. They’ve been lying around my house for upwards of a year, just waiting for me to pick them up and dust them off and lovingly read them through with ample consideration for their poor spines (crack kills, folks). I’ve also held off because they align with a certain Octoberly theme…

Halloween is my absolute favorite season. Every year, I look forward to teeing up the hot apple cider and spooky-but-not-scary movies and pumpkin decor and autumnal playlists. Naturally, this love extends to the biblio nature. So here are some of my recent reads, ’tis the season edition. Enjoy.


Anno Dracula – Kim Newton

This has been out for a while and sitting in my ‘to read’ pile for almost as long. In one of my frenzies, the title caught my eye and the Neil Gaiman review snippet on the cover sealed the deal. This book is a take on vampire lore (check) set in Queen Victoria’s England (check) with references up the werewolf’s wazoo to other popular fictional characters of the time (the biggest check there ever was). Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Henry Jekyll and that other guy Mr. Hyde, Inspector Lestrade, Bram Stoker himself, Lord Ruthven, and more! A decently hefty read, it’s getting tough for me to lug it across the country and back (more on that another day).

Unlikely that I’ll finish this one before Halloween, but I’m giving it the good ol’ Monsters University try.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson

I cannot rightfully take credit for willingly wanting to read this one. My best friend has had this book on her list for quite some time, and I believe her spooky-horror-loving mama was the one to put it there. The cover art of this edition is absolutely beautiful so right off the bats I recommend it for that reason alone. Jackson’s writing style is interesting and her dialogue can get… unsettling. Not scary, not spooky, but there’s something about the emotional shifts in how her character’s talk to one other, or on occasion to themselves, that you can’t help but think something’s not all there. I came into the book trying to puzzle out the grand finale scare the entire time and I recommend others do the same… because there doesn’t happen to be much of one, so that’s as much excitement as you’re gonna get.

The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole

The veritable patriarch of the Gothic novel – the “OG,” if you will. Think Dracula, think Frankenstein, think The Monk (does anyone think The Monk anymore these days?). All inspired by Walpole and his tales of Otranto. I’ll admit, I had never heard of him until the professor of my Jane Austen class in Cambridge gave us some short passages to study. It’s a quick read, just over 100 pages, and the story keeps the pace at move-along speed. I got through it in the span of a bubble bath (I mean, blood bath…?) so you should be able to chomp on through it as well. Funnily enough, it may have been considered scary way back in the day but I wouldn’t worry too much about it in the present. This is just Stephen King’s world and we’re all living in it.

This fell into the frenzied pick-up pile courtesy of my time at Strand.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

I mean… I’m not even going to gratify this one.

The Dollhouse Murders – Betty Ren Wright

Not to be mistaken with The Doll People (which is precisely the mistake that I made, which led to completing yet another Reserve In-Store hasty pick-up because, again… have-to-have), this is another such doll-related book of a much more macabre variety. I recall going through a very odd, short-lived murder mystery phase in the days of my youth and this book happened to be part of it. Basically, a young girl goes to stay with her Aunt in their mysterious old family home with, you guessed it, history of a gruesome murder. The dollhouse happens to be an exact replica of said old family home and the dolls happen to be itching their wooden limbs with a story to tell. The overall plot is… interesting? It’s stuck with me in bits and (rest in) pieces(???), but I’ll also forewarn that Wright takes on some sensitive topic, social commentary threads that I completely forgot about. Wouldn’t really recommend this one unless it is literally one of the last books on earth. So. Yeah.

More importantly, anyone out there able to remind me what The Doll People is actually about? It’ll be a few years before I get around to that one, I’m sure.

Red Moon – Benjamin Percy

Another that’s been on my list for perhaps years, as in multiple. The cover art is rad. People who say don’t judge a book by it’s cover are lying to you, it’s something that is a very okay thing to judge it by. Percy has a really great narrative style and the story itself is so interesting and adaptive. It brings to mind all sorts of politically-charged times in American history (think AIDS crisis, think post and pre-9/11 terrorism, think the Red Scare, Civil Rights, World Wars, any oppression you’ve ever heard about, and riots for peace… think anything in the news these days, really) with a werewolf (“lupine”) twist.

This is a bit of a monster read (are you having that???), so it’s looking to be the one that carries me through to that Halloween finish line.


As always, feel free to follow along with my real time bibliove over on Goodreads. I’ve learned how to update page progress.

Voyages: New York City [@NYNY]

Remember when my Voyages used to feature little-to-no words? Yeah, me neither.

Work commitments recently packed me up and sent me off to the Big Apple for a week. New York City isn’t my favorite place on earth, but I knew that I’d have some time to kill so I wanted to make the best of it. First and foremost, that meant visiting some old haunts from when I lived there in college for a few months. Beyond that, I did some research (mostly by asking others to do some for me) and gleaned a few new spots to try.

Even though the song itself alludes to San Francisco, visiting New York City always makes me think of Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Piazza, New York Catcher.’ While there, I did in fact drink myself awake but did not get eloped… though I can’t safely say that I would have turned down the offer if it were presented in a coffee house awarded certificates. Okay… I’ll stop.

What I’m trying to say is that the theme of this here adventure is pretty much brews, books, and… well, other brews. Presented in the hybrid form of a Voyage and a Travel, these are my excursions. Enjoy.


SUNDAY

The Whitney

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It was very difficult for me to forego the American Museum of Natural History on this trip, but alas, it would not be a true Voyage without something new (feeling old and blue). The Whitney has been on my mind for a few months now for no other reason than the Edward Hopper collection. I’ll save the lengthy anecdote and fast-forward to the part where I copied (“interpreted”) his work for every single high school art class artist study project. I’ve only ever seen images of the art, so I was shocked to find that the originals are actually HUGE. Totally changed my perspective.

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Tears were shed over the fact that I could get this close to Edward’s ACTUAL HANDWRITING. (Anyone else think that’s extremely cool???) Even though I came for the Hoppers, I stayed for the Calder: Hypermobility exhibit. Legend has it that Calder created the mobile. In the 1930s. Allow me to pause and check if anyone else is as shocked by that fact as I was (and still am)? I had always assumed mobiles were like fire… created long, long ago by an unknown sapien and now just a basic foundational staple of humanity. Turns out, no. Fairly recent invention.

Quick aside, this Calder exhibit had scheduled ‘activations’ of the art, which in short consisted of a man in a lab coat poking things with a very large stick. But only certain things, which is why my strategy was to linger towards the last piece he was going to poke so I could avoid the large crowd gathered around the first one and get a good look when the last one’s turn came around. As I stood waiting, unsuspecting of yet another mindblowing experience, a man and his daughter approached to view some of the other pieces beside the one I was standing near. Subconsciously, I began to tune into them. “Yeah, we all had these when we were kids.” The man was flippant as he drew in a deep breath. My subconscious couldn’t help itself and gave way to full conscious. My gaze flickered over just in time to watch as the man leaned forward and started huffing at the art, which sure enough slowly started to move. This unauthorized activation occurred in the span of less than minute, whereas most other people in the room had been waiting for upwards of twenty. And while I don’t encourage this sort of rule breaking I suppose I can’t help but condone it. I should have known that an art museum is where I’d find the people who don’t play by the rules. My curiosity at what an ‘activation’ looked like was satiated. I didn’t even bother to stick around for the guy with one after seeing that.

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Strand

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Shockingly enough, this was my first time visiting Strand. I’m sure none of you underestimate my bibliove because of that, but I’ll admit that it felt like a rite of passage to visit this coveted NYC bookstore. It was just as overwhelming as I had anticipated. Spent the majority of my time in the rare books room, laughed at some witty magnets, purchased some new reads, and carried on with my life, bitter that I don’t get to be an employee here.

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The Dead Poet

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One of the first times I ever came to this bar, my best friend and I ended up getting into some kind of heated discussion which spanned multiple actual hours and myriad actual beers. I will be the first to admit that I do not recall any detail of said discussion, other than that I talked a lot, walked out of the bar arm-in-arm with best friend at the end of the night, and wore Budweiser stickers under each of my eyes a la eye black.

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In my humble and inexperienced opinion, The Dead Poet is the best bar in New York City. It’s my comfort zone, the place I feel I’ve never left no matter how long I’ve been away. I didn’t make friends easily when I lived in the city, but boy did that never matter less than when I walked into this place. Suffice it to say, the remainder of my Sunday evening was passed here, curled up with a book and many a pint of the black stuff.

Monday

Citizen’s of Chelsea

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Previously the home of Pushcart Coffee (which I believe they still technically serve here? but it’s technically Unity coffee? either way it’s delicious?), this used to be my Sunday morning city spot. I’d pick up a copy of the NYT, tuck myself into the corner of the bar with a cold brew and a peach pistachio muffin, and see how many ridiculous yet fitting (in all senses) answers I could come up with for the Sunday crossword. The biggest redesign in the new space is the plant-lined bar and kitchen area. Extremely rad. Kicking off those Monday vibes, I pushed myself to try the raspberry chia bowl… then immediately regretted not opting for the waffle instead.

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Also, apparently they serve hot apple cider here. ALL. YEAR. !!!.

The Headless Horseman

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This place confirmed that part of my aesthetic is in fact late-18th century in nature. Dark, dungeony, and filled with people much cooler than myself. My intention was to come by for a drink, so I pulled out my book to accompany my bourbon, got teased for reading by candlelight, and met some very interesting people representing Games for Change.

Lillie’s Victorian Establishment

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Another part of my aesthetic? Victorian. Lillie’s was a little too hip for my comfort, but there was an old man named Brian sitting next to me (or rather, that I was sitting next to given everyone knew him by name… clearly he’s a staple) and I like to imagine that he’s the owner, or the son of the owner, or somehow personally connected to this place via the good old days of yore. My fondest memory of Lillie’s is that at one point I swear I overheard the bartender say to a server “herein lies the ruckus” before going to town with a cocktail shaker full of liquids and ice. I swear. Then again, maybe I was just projecting.

Tuesday

Tompkins Square Bagels

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Let me just level set here… I don’t really care about bagels. I’m personally pretty indifferent to flavors (which is probably why I always opt for the plain variety), I don’t even really like cream cheese, and I’ll fare just fine if the toaster is broken. This particular East Village bagel spot came recommended as “pretty good” and I can confirm, pretty good it was. The bagel, for all intents and purposes, was fine but the playlist was on fire. Tears for Fears, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Phil Collins… my people. That’s the way you want to start a Tuesday.

The Supply House

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Never spent much time on the Upper East side of Manhattan before, so on Tuesday evening I decided to stop in and try this place. The beer menu was great (drained a Montauk Driftwood Ale in mach speed thanks to the irregular city heat), the food menu was great, and the overall vibe was great. The hostess sat me beside the massive open window, so I carried on reading my book and living my life for a while. Have I mentioned said book yet? No? Well, this here Lady in New York was accompanied by “A Gentleman in Moscow” throughout her adventures. Highly recommend, Towles is a splendor.

After grabbing a quick bite, I set my sights on a stroll across Central Park from Upper East to Upper West for a nightcap at… you guessed it, The Dead Poet. This also allowed for the triumphant return of the NYC phone calls I used to bestow upon my best friend where I talked absolute nonsense for at least an hour. This time around: I declared I was going to apply for a grant to become a squirrel translator in the park.

Cafe Lalo

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A sweet tooth is meant to be indomitable and there is no such thing as too late for coffee. With these philosophies in mind, I ventured over to Cafe Lalo after finishing my last drink at The Dead Poet. I should have gotten a key pal first so that I could have been stood up, and therefore continued on my quest to live life like 1990s Meg Ryan would, but alas. Hindsight.

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While “You’ve Got Mail” is truly iconic, Cafe Lalo isn’t all that great. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have every intention of returning with a rose tucked into my “Pride and Prejudice,” anxious eyes on the door… Told you I would have eloped.

Wednesday

Third Rail Coffee

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Wednesday left me a little more pressed for morning exploration time, so I needed something I could grab and go with. That something was the age old classic: coffee and a doughnut. Stopped into Third Rail right at opening for a coffee so hot and fresh that I think my fingerprints have permanently been burned off (even now, weeks later, as I edit this, they feel remiss). Couldn’t resist adding a vanilla bean doughnut (apparently from Doughnut Plant, which is apparently notable). Let me tell you, this combo really carried me through that 8am call. Very rad vibe here (can you tell I’m in a “rad” phase?). 10 out of 10 would return.

(Also, stopped by a spot in the Times Square area called Cafe Grumpy with my team after said 8am call – tried the Ombre and would suggest not ordering it when you have to go back to work because you’ll end up spending a solid hour and a half wishing you were enjoying it outside.)

(Also, also, not pictured – Wednesday evening was spent with coworkers at Houston Hall and then a little underground bar called The Folly… let’s just say Thursday morning wasn’t much made for adventuring after that.)


And there we have it folks. A summary of… well, basically just brews and brews, with a dash of activities thrown in on a Sunday afternoon for good measure. Highly recommend trying a spot of two of these next time you find yourself in New York, New York. Don’t bother letting me know if you happen to be in vicious disagreement with anything I thought about them.

Follies & Fixations: July 2017

Yikes, when was the last time we did a Follies & Fixations around here? Unfortunately for all of us, I’ve been running a little low on Follies lately. Thankfully, I’ve got plenty of Fixations to share. Time to bring back an old favorite. Read on.

Morning Fog Candle

I’ve mentioned these folks before in a previous Follies & Fixations post, but left out the bit about my obsession. We did a case study on United By Blue in college and they’ve been one of the few brand names that have stuck with me over the years. They’re amazing. Please go check out all of the incredible work that they do and then come back to this. Also follow their insta, as the kids say, for a LOT of wanderlust (not sponsored, just wishing my life was lived through their lens).

Back? Great. This candle was a recent purchase that I was very worried about. I generally don’t trust ordering candles online if I haven’t in-person scent tested them first but ‘Morning Fog’ just sounded so intriguing! “This soy wax candle has a fresh, earthy scent with hints of dewy moss.” Confirmed. Everything it was cracked up to be and more. Now, please join me in patiently waiting for the Pine Tree Hat to not be sold out anymore because, ouch UBB, break my heart wide open. This is why people impulse shop. Take it from me: do not just think about it for literal months because it’ll pull a Dan Stevens and SELL OUT.

Arrival (2016)

Okay, so, this movie has been out there in the world for a while now. It’s been positively ingrained in my brain (crazy insane, got no brain! … no?) and I just can’t get it out of my life. However, I’ve been very distressed to find that not many people I know have seen it. Visually, it was wondrous. Storywise? Wondrous. Scorewise? Wondrous. Similar to Pacific Rim (another film I highly suggest seeing if you haven’t), the promotions and trailers really didn’t do the story justice. Whatever you think it’s about, I promise you that it holds so much more. So many emotions. I sobbed my eyes out for over half an hour in the theater parking lot after the first time I saw it. Please do yourself and myself and every self there is a favor and watch Arrival.

Rainier Galvanized Bar Cart

The recent move (yes, that happened) has led to quite a few new furniture acquisitions for Casa del Cass. Let me tell you, this bar cart and I had quite the flirtation. I saw it online one day and couldn’t get a feel for it. Weeks passed, and when I finally decided that I wanted it I dragged my entire family to the mall only to find that it was sold out! Another Pottery Barn location apparently had one left in stock, but she-wants-it-not struck hard so we went back home and I resolved I’d find another in the future. Fast forward to the next day and it was back in my heart’s desired. In the car we piled and hark! What happiness was achieved wheeling this galvanized beauty into the pre-designated bar corner of my living room and piling it high with bottles of this, that, and the third (not so high, any friends who would like to send me belated housewarming gifts should see below for suggestions). This is such a Southern-aesthetic piece and quite a cost-effective alternative to the gilded gold glass carts currently in fashion elsewhere. Add some terra cotta plant pots and you’re in business, baby.

Scotch

Your girl has recently begun her slow emergence into the whirled wide web of Scotch. By which I mean that a few years back I submerged myself into some bourbon and haven’t looked back since. Every now and then I’ll try a whisk(e)y (aside: one time my best friend made me try a Japanese whisky and wow, did I hate it a lot… tears of hatred level, a lot) but currently my eyes are on this highlander heritage prize. I want to get good at Scotch. I want to just like Scotch, full stop. So here we are. My first big-girl-,-bottle-of-my-own foray was into Glenkinchie (that’s definitely not the way to hyphenate, Cassie, you menace):

My review: “Tastes like wood with a hint of soap.”

My best friend’s review: “A slight cheerio taste on the palate and a swift kick to the windpipe on the swallow.”

Basically, we love it?

Visitors to the Queen (and her) City

Now that I no longer hate my apartment, it’s been quite the treat having friends and family by to visit! In the past few weeks both of my best friends have come down to the Queen City, one for the millionth time and one for the first time. Also my brother, sister, mother, and grandmother – yes, all 4 at one time and yes, all 4 staying with me in my one bedroom apartment. Even though Charlotte has never felt like a permanent home to me, I’m thankful that it has been so kind in the interim and that I get to share all of that kindness with friends and family. Can I entice you to come visit? That bar cart of mine has recently gotten its own guestbook (thanks to a friend’s suggestion) so come on over and let me make you a drink and then you can write about how awful it is and think about how you wish you never had it and warn others to beware and come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide! Oops, I broke me again.

“The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben

The second page of the Foreword. That was how long it took for this book to make me cry. Usually I save all of my bibliove for specifically designated posts, but I couldn’t help myself with this one. A recent search for a tree species guidebook (we’ll get into reasons for that in a different post on this site some day, I’m sure) led me to this bestseller about, well, the hidden life of trees. When my family came to visit I teared up just describing what I learned from the first few chapters and my sister, who rarely reads, felt compelled to rush out and get a copy for herself. It’s such a beautiful read, please join us! And then also become friends with me on Goodreads and let me know what you thought about it.

Tuneage

It’s been absolute ages since I made you all a playlist, hasn’t it?? No theme this time around, just some recently discovered tunes that I’ve been listening to lately. Enjoy.

Learn a Book! – 20[Seven Teen Series]

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“Don’t let the Muggles get you down.”

One of these years I’m going to run out of gimmicks.

This is not that year.

Over the past two years (2015 and 2016, go check ’em out) I’ve found that my annual reading challenges have gotten pretty intensive. In 2017 I’d like to make it a bit more relaxing and, get ready for it…, give myself some time to do other things. Like finally watch Westworld and Stranger Things and actually do all that stuff that I said I would on my halfway bucket list (I know, I know, I get it, leave your judgment elsewhere, I’ve hit my quota for the month).

As we all (hopefully) know, I’m a HUGE advocate of Young Adult Fiction. This year I’ve decided to go back to the beginning of my torpent love affair – all the way back to my not-so-long-lost teenage years – and revisit some of the series that made me into the reader I am today.

By the end of 2017 I’m hoping to have finished at least seven popular “teen” series (it’s all relative). I’m sure a few other bits and bobs will distract me along the way so I’ve included a section accordingly. In order to get a decent mix of the old and the new, I’m soliciting fan favorites from back in your own younger years. I don’t ask for recommendations very often, so take advantage while you can.


The Main Course – Seven Teen Series

1. Harry Potter – JK Rowling

First up, the OG fan favorite.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [304 pgs]
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [341 pgs]
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [435 pgs]
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [734 pgs]
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [870 pgs]
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [652 pgs]
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [759 pgs]

2. Blue is for Nightmares – Laurie Faria Stolarz

These books have stayed on my mind for years and years. I was terrified of them, I loved them, and I can’t wait to get back to them.

  1. Blue is for Nightmares [283 pgs]
  2. White is for Magic [301 pgs]
  3. Silver is for Secrets
  4. Red is for Remembrance

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

In all honesty, I don’t remember ever finishing this series. Maybe I got through the first 6 before returning to the latest Junie B Jones.

  1. The Bad Beginning [162 pgs]
  2. The Reptile Room [190 pgs]
  3. The Wide Window
  4. The Miserable Mill
  5. The Austere Academy
  6. The Ersatz Elevator
  7. The Vile Village
  8. The Hostile Hospital
  9. The Carnivorous Carnival
  10. The Slippery Slope
  11. The Grim Grotto
  12. The Penultimate Peril
  13. The End

4. House of Night – P.C. Cast

One my my very first Vampire, or should I say “Vampyre,” obsessions.

  1. Marked
  2. Betrayed
  3. Chosen
  4. Untamed
  5. Hunted
  6. Tempted
  7. Burned
  8. Awakened
  9. Destined
  10. Hidden
  11. Revealed
  12. Redeemed

5. Heartland – Lauren Brooke

6. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares

7. The Spiderwick Chronicles – Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black

  1. The Field Guide [107 pgs]
  2. The Seeing Stone [108 pgs]
  3. Lucinda’s Secret [108 pgs]
  4. The Ironwood Tree [108 pgs]
  5. The Wrath of Mulgarath [136 pgs]

Additionally

Not teen series, but you can’t expect me to rein in my wandering eyes all year long can you? No, I thought not. This is where I’ll list whatever else it is I’m reading, because I’m psychotic about tracking page counts.

  1. Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders [343 pgs]
  2. Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld  [488 pgs]
  3. Heartless – Marissa Meyer [453 pgs]
  4. Carry On – Rainbow Rowell [521 pgs]
  5. The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben [250 pgs]
  6. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles [462 pgs]
  7. Bear – Marian Engel [122 pgs]
  8. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith [336 pgs]
  9. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson [146 pgs]
  10. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley [197 pgs]
  11. The Dollhouse Murders – Betty Ren Wright [149 pgs]
  12. The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole [109 pgs]
  13. Red Moon – Benjamin Percy [530 pgs]
  14. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt [771 pgs]
  15. An Irish Country Doctor – Patrick Taylor [337 pgs]
  16. Talking as Fast as I Can – Lauren Graham [223 pgs]
  17. The Wild Robot – Peter Brown [273 pgs]

As always, feel free to follow me on Goodreads. I still don’t write reviews, but I’m getting better about remembering to rank the stars. So… enjoy that.

Be forewarned that some of these planned series may change with the seasons… I fall in and out of reading phases on a terrifyingly consistent basis. So check back every once in a while to see what’s happened – like, for instance, all of a sudden I’ve just decided to read all 62 original Goosebumps books…

Voyages: Into Twilight [@ForksWA]

About three things I was absolutely positive. And “I love Forks” was every single one of them.

I lied to you all, this is the real reason I went out west to Seattle country – because Seattle is very close to the small town of Forks, Washington. Otherwise known as the town in which The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer is based. Even if you’re not into the series, there are some beautiful photos of the Olympicly Peninsular landscape for you to scroll through. However, I absolutely adore the series so… I’m kinda hoping that some of you do too.

On Sunday, my best friend and I rented a car, woke up early, and took a little Twilight-themed day trip out away from the Emerald City. May or may not have returned as members of a different species.


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After sufficiently caffeinating in the earlier hours of the morning, we hit the road to the tune of “This Is Halloween” followed by the Ghostbusters theme song.

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I literally could not resist howling out the window in hopes that all nearby werewolves would come run alongside the car under cover of the massively impressive thick trees. Our entire trip was spent winding in and out and around the Olympic National Park. Did I mention massively impressive trees? One more time for good measure? They were massively impressive.

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As we drew closer to the town limits we switched the playlist over from general Halloween to the soundtracks from the Twilight Saga movies. I just about lost my mind when we spotted the first road sign.

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The iconic sign! Missing the 3,120 population count, but I’m assuming that’s because it’s grown ever so slightly since 2008.

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The Forks Chamber of Commerce/Welcome Center was our first stop, where we picked up a town map and some other fun little bits and pieces. The woman who helped us out was supremely nice and I’ve decided that if ever there was a dream job, it would be me sitting on the porch of the Forks Chamber of Commerce in a rocking chair, talking about this Saga with anyone and everyone who will listen to me. While cross-stitching “Team Jasper” pillows.

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Foreground truck: Bella’s from the movie. Background truck: Bella’s from the books.

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The Swan Residence, which happens to be up for sale (I don’t blame them even in the slightest). Seriously considering putting in a bid, who wants to join?

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Very familiar with this sign. We circled the perimeter in search of some picnic tables to perch ourselves on but they were sadly absent from the property.

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A local inn had offered up their digs as the official Cullen House. A giant beautiful tree was out front and right next door you could see the Forks Police Station with plenty of cruisers a la Charlie’s.

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Rad rad rad rad rad! This was a super cool spot. About a 25 minute drive from Forks – La Push actually is an existing Reservation and actually does have quite a few beaches (which a lot of people were taking advantage of). Pretty sure those cliffs off in the distance were the ones Bella would have jumped off of, as they’re land accessible. Facts, that’s what you’re here for people.

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A best friend, spotted roaming in the wild! This is my road trip, life companion Robin!! We spent a lot of time looking for cool pebbles on this beach. And yes, I did bring one home with me.

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As Robin so truthfully put, the driftwood collected at the edge of First Beach looked eerily similar to the Elephant Graveyard in The Lion King. Very fun to climb over and play on, though.

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Queen of Fashion, you can call me. I channeled my inner Eric all day long and Robin had to ask me more than once to stop saying “La Push, baby… it’s La Push.” Didn’t stop, though. And this snapchat was what came of it.

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Very pretty ocean and rocks and everything, all the things.

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Can’t stop won’t stop with my window pictures. Won’t stop. This was a lake somewhere in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula that we had the extreme fortune of getting to drive along the perimeter of on our way to Port Angeles. Don’t be lazy, Cassie. Look up the lake for your loyal readers… Lake Crescent, of course it was Lake Crescent.

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I wish we got to spend more time in Port Angeles, but Seattle is quite the drive away and as it was we were pushing the later hours for our return journey when we got there. Our final stop on our Tour de Twilight was to indulge in the same Italian restaurant Edward and Bella went to on their first date!

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I’m not even a fan of ravioli but I couldn’t come all the way here and skip ordering it! If you don’t understand why, how did you even make it this far through this post? The mushrooms were delicious and Robin, the kind wonderful best friend soul that she is, even ordered a second Coke so she could slide it across the table to me. Again, true fans only, please. After filling up on delicious carbs, we hit the road for our return to Seattle.


And that just about wraps up my first ever West Coast adventure weekend! Going to Forks was an honest to goodness dream come true. Going with a best friend who completely understands when you burst into tears at lunch over how every character in The Twilight Saga was fated together is even better.

As always, thanks for reading! Oh, and…

Be safe.

Real Moments: Tales Turns One!

It’s been one whole year since I started Tales of Casstastrophe and look how far we’ve come! If you’re here anticipating styled photos of giant golden balloon numbers or letters, please kindly close your eyes and imagine them for a moment so you’re not disappointed and then open your eyes and continue reading.

First and foremost, let’s review some of the adventures we’ve been on since we got to know each other last July:

Secondly, I’ve made a few updates around the site. Nothing too fancy but allow me to direct you to the new home page. This Is Me and Casstegories have also gotten a little sprucing. Have no fear, navigation is still largely the same and I want to make sure that my past posts remain unaffected so if you see anything looking funky please let me know!

And finally, thank you to everyone who has come along on this whirlwind of a year with me! I appreciate it more than you know that anyone out there, even one single person, cares to read my thoughts and prose. Writing is fun for me; it’s a hobby, it’s a habit, and it’s a love. While I’m thankful to have these musings recorded somewhere for myself in the future, I’m even more thankful to think that someone out there might actually get something from what I write. If that someone is you – please write back.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Here’s to many more Tales of Casstastrophe!

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Recent Reads – July 2016

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A week or so prior to moving, my mother instituted a ban on my buying any more books until after my arrival in North Carolina. I know. “You’ve got a ton you haven’t even read yet!” She said. “You don’t have any more room to pack them!”

She even went so far as to physically remove the very platinum edition of The Outsiders I have featured here from my own two hands while at the book store. I’ll admit, I told myself I wasn’t going to get anything that day but very quickly had several paperbacks catch my eye on the tables at the front (book lovers, you know what I’m talking about). I could feel the tension in my upper arms building as the muscles worked to restrain my fingers from snatching up everything around me. Cue my mother seeing the mania in my eyes and pushing me towards the coffee section of the store in hopes of my indulging in a different vice.

Jokes on her because within actual days of moving to North Carolina I dragged my parents on an expedition to the nearest Barnes & Noble and absolutely lost my damn mind. You would have thought I was a contestant on an episode of Supermarket Sweep, Bookstore Edition. Pretty sure I was the only person actually utilizing the plastic baskets pushed off to the corner of the entryway and let me tell you, utilize I did.

Here’s my haul.


GO SET A WATCHMAN | HARPER LEE

Confession #1: I only just recently read To Kill A Mockingbird. It was never required reading for me and so many people talked it up as a fantastic book (rightfully so, Harper Lee was a literary goddess of an inspiration) that I avoided it at all costs. I didn’t want other people’s opinions clouding my own judgment so I waited. Then, this book was released last year and I had to wait a little bit longer but finally got around to the start of Scout’s story back in January. Seeing this particular paperback, a little something whispered into my consciousness that it was finally time to start the end. I know it has received mixed reviews, but I really liked it.

THE LAST STAR | RICK YANCEY

Super refreshing to see a trilogy on the table again. These days I feel like a lot of young adult novels are going for gold in the length of series competition and I am not about it. The Lunar Chronicles? Fantastic, capped out at 4 and very well planned out. The ones where the authors willingly admit, having just published book 6, that they aren’t sure when they’ll get around to giving us closure? Unsubscribe. In my days of being a pre-teen youngin’, I could keep up with a 10+ book series! These days? Ha.

That being said, I’d have to admit that I was unimpressed with this final book. No spoilers, but also no closure.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | KURT VONNEGUT

Confession #2: never read this either. Kurt Vonnegut seemed to be the first runner-up to Shakespeare in every other high school English class in the country as so many people, real and fictional, referenced it as required reading. I only had one teacher who assigned us some of Vonnegut’s short stories but this book just never pulled my attention. Probably because I was too busy begging the same teacher to incorporate more Victorian literature. Apparently other kids thought that was boring but potato, tomato. So for years I’ve skipped this and then happened to walk by a copy in my already manic state. I made a bet with my mom that if it was more than $10 I wouldn’t buy it… $7.99, guys. $7.99.

Another personal opinion? Not my cup of tea. In fact, I consider this a regret.

GHOST FLEET | P.W. SINGER & AUGUST COLE

I had some doubts about adding this book to my pile. I still have doubts. I get easily scared by things. I also consider myself to be a pretty paranoid person about the future and humanity and all of that from time to time so this book seemed as though it had the potential to instigate a massive panic crisis inside of me and yet it also seemed too interesting to skip over? That’s the exact train of thought that chugged on through my mind and I can promise you there are many more cars to come on that thing.

To summarize, this is a novel about the next world war. An opening note reads “the following was inspired by real-world trends and technologies. But, ultimately, it is a work of fiction, not prediction.” This is my current read.

RED QUEEN | VICTORIA AVEYARD

Okay, let’s talk about the hard cover epidemic. Actually, you know what? Let’s bump it up to a pandemic. Let’s talk about the hard cover pandemic. I love a good hard cover, I truly do, but the concept of waiting almost an entire year to get a book in paperback is distressing. A few months? Fine. 6 months, even? Okay, for some kind of popular/renowned bestseller, sure. ONE YEAR? ARE YOU KIDDING? Not to mention as a series is published, the earlier hard covers tend to disappear from the shelves. So if you arrive at the series a few volumes late, you’ve got to wait that much longer to get books that will stay in format with the set you have already started to accumulate! This is a cause I very much believe in, people. Shorten Paperback Releases, 2016.

Anyways, yeah, I wanted to read this series and didn’t want the hard covers so I waited until the first one was comfortably paper backed before I picked it up and here we are, very excited about it. I can already tell that this will be my next Young Adult Fantasy Series pick because the first book just really hooked me in. As in, once I started I didn’t stop until I was finished. An actual blood versus blood war where people have evolved to have super powers… basically. It gets more complex, read the summary elsewhere.

THE OUTSIDERS | S.E. HINTON

My mom was astounded when I told her that I hadn’t actually read this book. It’s an 80s movie classic! And I love the 80s! And I always read the books before seeing the movies! Well, I’d done neither for this particular story and the platinum edition absolutely threw itself at me from the New Releases shelf so I couldn’t say no.

This freaking book… honestly, top of my list for Must Read recommendations to people now. It hits you in all sorts of places. Literally as soon as I finished it I watched the movie (the complete novel version, not the original) because I could not get enough. The story that S.E. Hinton creates is so… I’m at a loss for words. It’s incredible. Read it immediately.

Stay gold… *bursts into tears*

THE ROOK | DANIEL O’MALLEY

My Uncle is my go-to recommender of sci-fi/fantasy books. He usually tells me to read things and I think “mhm, sounds like I’d like that, okay” and add it to my Goodreads list and then, oops, 10 months later it’s pushed down to the third page of the list. Riding his ‘The Kingkiller Chronicles’ recommendation wave, this time I made more of a conscious effort to pick up a copy. This is my up next read.

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA | ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Darling, dearest Hemingway is my absolute favorite male author to exist in this here universe. His prose style is captivating and almost meditative, really. I was surprised when I saw that this particular work, one of his shortest, was a Pulitzer Prize winner but considering Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature a year later, it makes sense that this would be the one to make a splash (anyone? anyone?).

Anyways, I went into it not anticipating to really relate to the story much and came out of it in my own sea of tears (I can’t stop). It’s a quick read, there’s no reason not to.


As always, please feel free to follow along with my recent reading escapades over on Goodreads and if you’re curious how I’m doing on my 20[16k] reading challenge then go check out my progress.

If you’ve read or will read any of these, let me know what you think!