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.

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…

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!

Follies & Fixations: May 2016

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“The Kingkiller Chronicles” by Patrick Rothfuss… on second thought, also just Patrick Rothfuss

Raise your hand if you’re over A Song of Ice and Fire. Okay, maybe not over but raise your hand if it’s been quite the wait for any new material on that front and you’re sick of it and want something else to bide your time with besides the dumb TV show. Yes, you read that correctly, I said dumb. Anyways, this particular series was recommended to me several times, by several different people, and even though it’s also unfinished as of my writing this I decided to give it a try. Not only is the story wonderful and interesting and different, but Patrick Rothfuss has such a style – man, can that guy write! The issue I personally come across in a lot of adult sci-fi/fantasy books is that the writers tend to be too concentrated on making a unique world and language and culture that they forget that the reader is not going through that process in their own minds with them. Sometimes I get lost with the maps and the reference guides and the family trees and then opt to skip them altogether rather than flip around in the middle of reading and then lose my page and then get exasperated as I try to find my page and then give up altogether and settle for just reaching the end with no clue why anything was significant because you had to understand all those stupid charts to do so.

But this series absolutely does not present that problem. Sure, a map is offered but it’s simple and when Rothfuss writes about other cultures or areas he explains them right there in the text so when I flip to the map it’s out of genuine curiosity. As far as Rothfuss himself is concerned, I’ve taken to reading through old posts on his blog and have since decided that he is my favorite contemporary author. I appreciate honesty and candor and this whole blog post about book two made me laugh. Some of you may not agree with me but I don’t mind waiting for book three because the other two were so damn good that I’d be heartbroken if he rushed through the ending. Big fan, give it a try and pace yourself.

Innis & Gunn beer

A rad Scottish brewery that created this beer by accident. I had a few pints of what I presume was the original draught when I was over in the homeland and became obsessed. Lucky for me, and also you, they do distribute their brews in the US so take a look to see if you can find some near you and lets share in the deliciousness together. Unluckily for me, and also you, they aren’t selling merchandise internationally yet and that really bums me out. It is imperative that I acquire a set of the branded IPA pint glasses because they are the most beautifully designed imbibing instruments I have ever seen.

Copacetic

Adjective, meaning “in excellent order.” And yes, it’s been stuck in my mind recently because of that Local H song. Ousted the long time list topper – complacency – for my favorite, coolest sounding word. You just don’t get it… or do you?

This music video

Kaleo did a music video last year for their single “Way Down We Go” inside of a literal Icelandic volcano and I am fascinated. Also, the most liked comment is “these guys could play row row row your boat and it would sound kickass” – wholeheartedly agree, Alice A.

This article

Ever since I stumbled my way onto Medium like 3 years ago, I’m pretty sure I’ve been at the top of the leaderboard for ‘people, no – not people – suckers, who read those articles about being a more productive person before 4/5/6/7/8am.’ It was refreshing to finally see something that made me feel better about the fact that I too wake up hating myself and my life.

Adult(HAHA)-life homeware shopping

As I’ll be moving to a whole new state, apartment, job, situation, existence at the end of this week, a lot of what’s been on my mind lately revolves around acquiring things to fill said apartment situation existence with. Might do a special little show and tell of what I’ve been purchasing after I’ve settled it all in, but for now just know that this type of shopping has been a very favorite folly of mine. And has also been exceptionally Halloween-themed… I’ll keep you posted.

Tuneage

Instrumentals have been on my mind recently mostly because I feel like I’ve been watching more movies than I usually do, and therefore appreciating more movie scores. Every song has been included on this list because it hit me with chills influenced by being well placed, emotionally, within their respective movies (and one TV show…). These are a few of my favorites from what I’ve been watching recently, so take a listen.

Learn a Book! – 20[16k]

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“Seize the moments of happiness, make them love you, fall in love yourself! That is the only real thing in this world – the rest is all nonsense.” – Leo Tolstoy

For those of you who followed along with last year, learning some books was quite an accomplishment. In 2015 I read 30 books and racked up almost 12,000 pages. This year, rather than upping the same old ante again by tacking on a few more books to the total, I decided to shift the challenge over to those page counts. It’s something I track anyways, so why not make it the focus this go-around?

20[16k] pages. Let’s do this.


  1. “Scarlet” by Marissa Meyer [461 pgs]
  2. “Cress” by Marissa Meyer [550 pgs]
  3. “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh [308 pgs]
  4. “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater [408 pgs]
  5. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee [323 pgs]
  6. “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt [139 pgs]
  7. “Dr. Franklin’s Island” by Ann Halam [245 pgs]
  8. “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss [662 pgs]
  9. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë [524 pgs]
  10. “Skibbereen: The Famine Story” by Terri Kearney & Philip O’Regan [84 pgs]
  11. “The Trial” by Franz Kafka [210 pgs]
  12. “Dubliners” by James Joyce [192 pgs]
  13. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë [326 pgs]
  14. “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy [464 pgs]
  15. “Memoirs of a Mangy Lover” by Groucho Marx [224 pgs]
  16. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows [240 pgs]
  17. “The Dream Thieves” by Maggie Stiefvater [437 pgs]
  18. “84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff [94 pgs]
  19. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews [295 pgs]
  20. “Blue Lily, Lily Blue” by Maggie Stiefvater [391 pgs]
  21. “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George [370 pgs]
  22. “Lights Out Till Dawn” by Dee Williams [341 pgs]
  23. “Opening Belle” by Maureen Sherry [352 pgs]
  24. “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis [270 pgs]
  25. “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss [1,000 pgs]
  26. “hush, hush” by Becca Fitzpatrick [391 pgs]
  27. “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides [406 pgs]
  28. “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway [127 pgs]
  29. “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard [383 pgs]
  30. ** “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton [180 pgs]
  31. “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut [215 pgs]
  32. “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee [278 pgs]
  33. “The Last Star” by Rick Yancey [338 pgs]
  34. “Ghost Fleet” by P.W. Singer and August Cole [379 pgs]
  35. “Rapture” by Lauren Kate [466 pgs]
  36. “Northanger Abbey” by Val McDermid [343 pgs]
  37. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne [308 pgs]
  38. “Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir” by Alan Cumming [282 pgs]
  39. “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King [251 pgs]
  40. “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley [482 pgs]
  41. “Diary of an Oxygen Thief” by anonymous [151 pgs]
  42. ** “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman [286 pgs]
  43. “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller [143 pgs]
  44. “Between Two Thorns” by Emma Newman [327 pgs]
  45. “The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide” by Stephenie Meyer [543 pgs]
  46. “As Old As Time” by Liz Braswell [484 pgs]
  47. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by JK Rowling [309 pgs]
  48. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by JK Rowling  [341 pgs]

Total Pages: 16,323


Bolded books come recommended by yours truly. Please do reach out if you want to know why.

** This signifies an absolute must read, irrespective of genre or author or any other segregating factor. I consider it the top recommendation I could ever give to a book – so definitely go pick up a copy right this instant.

Feel free to follow me on Goodreads as well. I don’t write reviews, I seldom remember to rank the stars, and you won’t see a status update from me until the book is moved from “Want to Read” to “Read.” So… enjoy that.

 

Follies & Fixations: November 2015

Ceramic Hedgehog Pals

Technically it’s a salt and pepper shaker but I named mine Autumn and she sits as a little figurine on my bedside table. If I can’t have a real pet hedgehog, this is certainly the next best thing.

Jane Austen Literary Mug

Come ON, can you believe something so wonderful as a Jane Austen quote mug exists?? I bought this in my favorite place on earth – Salem, MA. Specifically, at a fantastic store there called Roost & Company. They sell all sorts of cool knick-knacky home ware and other bits and bobs (think stationary, books, jewelry, etc). The saleswoman ringing me up commented on how she watched me walk around the store for 15 minutes clutching it to my chest, so that should be an indication of my excitement at owning this. Not to mention, it makes an excellent companion to the famous first lines quote mug my best friend got me for my birthday.

Russian Lit

Speaking of literary things, this is my latest phase. When I read, I tend to spend a few months on a particular author or genre. Naturally, I also spend obscene amounts of money on as many books as I can carry and usually weeks later end up dropping away from the phase before I finish them all. Rinse and repeat for infinity. Nikolai Gogol had been on my list for quite some time and when I went to pick up a copy of “Dead Souls” I figured what the heck, let’s stock up on some ‘stoys, ‘kovs, and ‘evskys too.

A goal of mine, albeit an ambitious one, is to read “War and Peace” in a week once I’m officially through with my last semester of college. I had a professor in Cambridge who told us that he read “Bleak House” in a week and because I’m the most competitive person to ever exist, I got it in my head to do something equally as impressive. Given that I am continually inspired by Professor G.M. much in the same way that Tolstoy was inspired by Dickens, I thought W&P was an appropriate choice for the challenge. Not to mention it’s almost 200 pages longer…

Apple Cider Everything

No specific brand, no specific way, just all of it all the time.

Society of Grownups

I can’t even think of a way to describe what this place is other than an amazing incredible resource. A friend and I attended a few classes in the beginning of November and color me so impressed. Society of Grownups hosts classes, chats, guest speakers, events, and more all around the important aspects of Grownuphood. I personally went to the “Basics of Investing” and “You’re a Grownup Now (Don’t Panic)” sessions and am planning to return in December. Even though I’m a finance major and I work at a Center for Financial Independence, personal finance is still a really scary thing for me to confront! SoG makes it relaxed and fun, not to mention their Brookline location has an indescribably comfortable vibe. I couldn’t sing higher praises. Worth stopping by, even just to see the space and peruse their really great bookshelves (they make a kick-ass cup of coffee too).

Halloween @ Home

I know, technically an October folly but November 1st is my December 26th so deal with me for a moment. Ever since I can remember, my family has gone all out with turning our front porch orange for the month of October. I love dressing up, I love eating candy, I love every possible activity that has to do with Halloween (I’m even coming around to haunted houses and scary movies, thanks to my best friends who really love forcing me through them… and by coming around I mean I mull it over for .7 seconds longer than I used to before begging “NOOOO!”) I’m the most basic of New Englanders in saying that Autumn is my favorite time of the year, but know that being home for Halloween makes up a solid 90% of that favoritism.

Tuneage

The Men of Pop have been coming out with all sorts of jams to kill the game lately. Obviously I’m in love with the new One Direction album, but here’s some other stuff I’ve been listening to on repeat. Enjoy! (Also, do yourself a favor and watch this video – WOW, you’re so welcome)

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