Thursday, October 29, 2015

THE FLIRTING BOOK - An Ongoing Review

We're gonna have a little fun on Filthy Casket with an ongoing review of this book that is supposed to help you flirt better. 

I'd never, ever buy this kind of book without prompting. I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but I'd be too fake-confident to purchase it myself. But the world is funny and one day several of us were at the house of someone who was getting rid of old books. She'd hold up a book and one of us would claim it (me, an aunt, and several cousins). Well, she held up How to Attract Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace: The Smart Guide to Flirting and all of the voices sans mine shouted, "Charlotte!"

These motherfuckers.

At first I got a wee bit defensive. Just because I'm single doesn't mean I don't know how to flirt! I know how to flirt! I just don't engage in flirtation while I'm with a bunch of people, especially if it's family! I was mighty close to rejecting the book and insisting the fifteen year old would make better use of it when... 

I remembered that time in college when I was walking into the campus center and a handsome fella happened to be walking through the doors at the same time. I unintentionally but definitely audibly said, "You are scrumptious!" Commence a lot of internal "no no no no no no no." Not one of my finest moments, which is saying something, my friends. 

So with that memory suddenly fresh in my mind I shut my mouth and threw the book on top of my pile.

I picked it up once or twice but never really read it. I have no interest in starting a relationship here, since I'm going back to New York. There's one guy here who is very charming and if I have to endure even one more "Yes, ma'am" or "You look real pretty today" in his southern accent I might actually die because I know I can't pack him in my suitcase and take him up north with me. Le sigh. Knowing all that, I still think it'll be fun to read the book and try out some of the advice (not on the aforementioned farmer because again, it might cause my literal death). I normally hold back on flirting unless I already start to like a guy, but now that we're reviewing the book I've got to think about the greater good! I've got to flirt!* Think of all the people who might benefit! 

There are seven chapters and I think I'll probably do one post each week, so this will last for about two months. I'm not trying this to get a boyfriend. I just think it'll be fun and, always more importantly, funny. Maybe it'll even change some of my communication habits right in time for my return to NY. Who knows. From what I've seen so far, this book sounds super corny. I suppose that's to be expected. 

A quick glance at the table of contents tells me I'll be rediscovering the flirt in me. And by that I just have to assume she means *discovering for the first time. 

See you in a week. 


Chapter 1's post here
Chapter 2's post here
Chapter 3's post here

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

By Charlotte
Book Review: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Official FC Rating: 

This book was very well written (I mean obviously, it's Maya Angelou) and so very enjoyable... but it also took me longer to read than most books do. My reading level probably isn't what it ought to be. Remedy: Read! More! Books!

Even if they're harder to read, extremely well written books are my favorite. Not only do we get to delight in a beautiful story, but we also get to sit and marvel at the English language. Reading it gave me the same sort of feeling I experienced after reading The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (though, and I feel like this is nearly blasphemy, but I think I enjoy Mathis' writing more than Angelou's). It's autobiography, but she does such a wonderful job writing it that it feels like a beloved piece of literature.  

Angelou's story is beautiful, if haunting. There are very, very sad parts. But she writes us her life from childhood on, and despite all of the hard circumstances or violent actions, she makes us smile often. She writes with total authenticity, giving us glimpses of childhood in such a way that transports the reader to Stamps, Arkansas. I've read many memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies, and none have made me feel quite as present as Angelou's. Her writing is vivid and honest, and it feels like a privilege and a treat to be able to read her story of self discovery and confidence. 

Bottom line: I'd recommend this book to anyone. Especially in our current political climate. Many of the things Maya Angelou experienced are things people still experience today. Read this book for the writing but also for the story of a black woman in America.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Review | Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods

By Charlotte
Book Review: Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins
Official FC Rating: 

This is a review of the third book of the series. You can read the review for the first book here and the second one here

In the third book, Gregor is called to the Underland once again, this time to help find a cure for a plague that is spreading and killing the world's mammals. Our familiar main characters set out on this journey - the cure is said to exist, but only in the cradle where it was created - and we're introduced to new characters as well. There's death and destruction. But this book might be my favorite in the series, because it does a great job asking moral questions and it emerges as a sort of allegory of American military policy. (Granted, I'm not sure if Collins meant to mirror America, but I'd be surprised to learn she didn't.)

Basic review: It's a riveting tale, it's well written, and Collins, as always, plays with excellent themes and moral questions. I'd recommend it to a friend. I have recommended it to a friend. That friend is Liz and she still hasn't read Harry Potter but I'm convinced there is still hope for her.  

*Major spoilers ahead.*

Alright, so. Bats, humans, and rats are catching the plague. Beyond the obvious problem - sick people - it threatens to literally eradicate all mammals in the Underland. Of course, there's a prophecy that warns of the plague but suggests there is a chance of hope. Gregor, the prophesied warrior, must travel with several companions to the place where the plague was made.

I haven't gone into much detail about the characters, but let me attempt to give a rough idea real quick of the characters that are important in this review:

Gregor (often referred to as "Overlander"): a boy from NYC, falls into the Underland after his baby sister, Boots (they miraculously both survive, and it's determined that he is the warrior mentioned in several prophecies), Christ-figure, struggles with questions of when/if to fight

Luxa: the future queen of Regalia (the main human city in the Underland), her parents were killed by rats, her cousin died after he betrayed her and all of Regalia by secretly working with rats, granddaughter of Vikus and Solovet (who are powerful members of the council), extremely stubborn, highly trained fighter

Ripred: an old-ish and extremely tough rat, never loses fights, scruffy, harsh, sarcastic, has some followers, is attempting to lead the rats to a new way, wants humans and rats to achieve peace

Hamnet: son of Solovet and Vikus, unknown by younger characters until third book, left Regalia because his mother wanted him to fight and to commit violent atrocities against other creatures

Vikus: an old and wise council member of Regalia, very powerful, grandfather to Luxa, husband to Solovet, wants peace among all Underland creatures if possible, believes violence and war should be last resort, doesn't generally adhere to an "end justifies the means" philosophy, caring

Solovet: harsh, believes the end justifies the means, severe, mother to Hamnet, grandmother to Luxa, not very loving, values humans above other Underland creatures

Phew. There are other important characters in the book, but these are the ones that are important to major plot points.

Also essential to know: all of the Underland creatures are intelligent and sentient. In our real world, of course we value humans above rats. In the Underland, rats are 5+ feet tall, they think, they feel, they are capable of love and of all things humans are capable of (except things that require thumbs. Rats don't have thumbs..). This is also true of bats, cockroaches, spiders, mice, etc. They are human-like in their abilities and their capacities to think and feel.

So like I said, Gregor and some of the characters set out to find the cure, which comes in the form of a plant that only grows in one place. They find it and begin collecting it when a bunch of ants come and destroy every last bit of it. But it's okay, because............

The plague was actually created in Regalia.

Solovet The Vicious assigned a scientist to create a "plague" that she planned to use as biological warfare against the other creatures of the Underland. The plan went awry, obviously, but they still tried to keep it a secret. They already had the cure, they just couldn't tell anyone about it, because then everyone would know that humans were responsible for all of the destruction.

Of course, this caused huge problems. Distrust of humans became stronger, and even humans themselves were embarrassed. Naturally, the scientist was punished, but Solovet, if I remember correctly, just had to stay in her nice home. (Such is always the case, even in the real world. The rich and powerful face no consequences.) She was put on trial, but nothing happened.

This was the first really meaty book in the series. They're all short - nothing on LOTR or HP, but this dealt with complicated issues that we see in the real world. Things like:

preemptive tactics
biological warfare
rules of war
and more

This book called to mind some of the things we learned about in history class as kids. It also made me think of some things our own country still does. Insisting an entire race or region is guilty of something or lesser than you? Attacking innocent people so that they can never even think of becoming threats? Familiar themes, sadly.

It's these things that lead me to believe my friends would enjoy the series. Also, it's what makes me think it's a great series for kids. When I have kids, I want them to think about these things. I want them to question what they've been told about military might and exceptionalism. It's one thing to be proud of who you are, it's another to think everyone else is lesser than you and unworthy of life. This book, and this series, talks about those things in an age-appropriate way for kids. And for adults, it's an engrossing but easy-to-read book to fly through. Win-win.

Stay tuned for the next review in this series!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Reading Round-Up

Ciao bellas. Thanks for all the Filthy Casket love the last couple of weeks. We're getting good feedback, and nothing makes us happier. (Okay, maybe books make us happier. And puppies. And Star Wars. But nothing else!)

We've got a great bunch of book-related links from around the interwebs!

Liz is a huge Alice in Wonderland fan. Are any of you? Check out this list of little known facts about the Mad Hatter.

We've dissed romance novels quite a few times on this blog, but here's a list of 13 such books that allegedly must be on every woman's list. Maybe we'll have to give them a chance?

Strand Book Store is keepin' it real, telling us what book we could buy instead of wasting money on America's beloved Pumpkin Spice Lattes. (Also, how perfect is "coffee industrial complex" ??????)

We literally expelled lots of laughs out loud while reading this Twitter war between two book publishers.

Charlotte may or may not be addicted to lists, and after reading this, she's considering making her own list of books to read in the winter. (You're forewarned.)

Do you love plot twists? Or do you loathe them? Are you known to google the plots of the books you're reading to avoid heartache? If you love them, you might be interested in these books with killer plot twists. (Not literally killers. We think...)

Did you love Friends? (Mixed opinions over here.) If so, check out this list of novels that might be right for you!

Maybe you're Christian, maybe you're not, but this list of books that are influenced by the Bible is stellar. Superman! Harry Potter! The list goes on. 

We all know Buzzfeed loves quizzing us! Hop over and take this quiz to see which series you ought to read (based on your favorite Harry Potter character, of course!).

Not really into reading fiction? Depending on your reasons, maybe you'll enjoy one of these books for people who tend to hate novels.

It would be weird and very self-promoting to link to our own superb list of books to read in your twenties, wouldn't it? Alright, so we won't mention that...


If you like Russian literature, maybe you'll fancy giving one of these books a read?

Here's a really helpful list of YA books coming to stores this season, if that's what you dig.

And we enjoyed this list of short novels you could read in a day, although... not entirely convinced that all of these are quite that short. Maybe 2-3 days.

And that's all for this time. Stay tuned.

Liz & Char

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Quest

By Charlotte
Book Review: The Quest by Nelson DeMille
Official FC Rating: *

Phew. Okay. 

This is about the 700th book of DeMille's I've read and I feel the same way about it that I do most all of his books: great story, loved following along, but..... can you be better, man? I rounded up to four stars, but this is more of 3.5 out of five stars. I know, I know, it's half a star but just bear with me for a minute. 

Let's start with the good. DeMille's stories are always enjoyable. They're action packed and filled with suspense. I have a lot of complaints about his novels, but I keep reading them because they're thrilling and entertaining. You pick up one of DeMille's books and then you don't want to put it down. 

There are a few other good things about DeMille. He's funny. Sarcasm may as well be another character in his books. He writes well, too. He's no Tolkien, and he doesn't use words the way Maya Angelou or Ayana Mathis can. They're poets, DeMille is... well, he's a good storyteller. He tells exciting stories, and he does it well enough. 

But, I wouldn't call him a masterful writer. 

Every book is the same. His characters are always the same. They go by different names, sure, but you know who they will be. The main character will be a smart aleck cowboy type. He'll definitely find a lady friend, who will both motivate and distract him. There will probably be another guy who is a good guy, but might have his own agenda - and he'll probably be into the main character's lady friend, and even if he's not, our main character is going to feel threatened and will start to act like a petty child. 

Because apparently, men are just overgrown teenage boys. Or animals. All of them. DeMille's central male characters are almost always the same. (I've read seven or eight of his novels now, and this holds true for all of them.) 

I'd understand if one of DeMille's characters was a macho-man, smart mouth, thinks-he-knows-best type. Hell, I'd even understand if he included this kind of character in every novel. But for this same character to be your protagonist in every single book? Come on. Our main character in The Quest is Frank Purcell. He might as well be named John Corey or Sam Hollis, because he is them. He is the same character as those in DeMille's other books. Sarcastic (not as sarcastic as John Corey, if you're a DeMille fan reading this), somewhat reckless, rebellious (or at least disobedient), and, well, perpetually horny. A fine character, but sometimes I wonder if DeMille is incapable of writing other kinds of characters or if he just thinks suspense novels necessitate this kind of character (I don't believe they do).

Speaking of the sex issue... Listen, I'm fine with sex scenes. And a well written sex scene is good even if there's no deeper meaning or plot twist attached to the sex. But in DeMille's books the alpha male cowboy, whose thoughts we're privy to, thinks often of his "meat" "wood" "sausage" etc etc and it's so frequent that it gets annoying. I don't want to hear this overgrown bro think about his "swollen meat," I want to read the story. I was very tempted to ask one of my male friends if this is how full grown men really think, but I figured that might be awkward. But my female friends and I have all agreed it's unlikely. I mean, I'm sure men think about sex often, I just doubt that most men think about it the same way. I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes think that the author just really likes his own penis and is frequently motivated by erections and that his main characters are heavily influenced by his own personality.

And the women. Oh, the female characters. They're all the same. Conventionally pretty, at least a little bit naive, skilled (but, usually, not too skilled, and definitely not more so than the main male character), and younger than the protagonist. They have some role in the stories, but mainly they're there for the protagonist to lust after, fall in love with, question the depth of that love, confirm that love, and then save from certain death. (Kate, from DeMille's John Corey novels, sometimes breaks away from this basic outline.) It's frustrating to read.

And then there is often a third main character, a man, who is somehow threatening to the main character. Usually because he's been with the woman before or because in the character's mind, everyone is after his girlfriend. 

But let's talk specifically about The Quest. Here's the description given online:
A sweeping adventure that's equal parts thriller and love story, Nelson DeMille's newest novel takes the reader from the war torn jungles of Ethiopia to the magical city of Rome. 
While the Ethiopian Civil War rages, a Catholic priest languishes in prison. Forty years have passed since he last saw daylight. His crime? Claiming to know the true location of Christ's cup from the Last Supper. Then the miraculous happens - a mortar strikes the prison and he is free!  
Old, frail, and injured, he escapes to the jungle, where he encounters two Western journalists and a beautiful freelance photographer taking refuge from the carnage. As they tend to his wounds, he relates his incredible story.  
Motivated by the sensational tale and their desire to find the location of the holiest of relics, the trio agrees to search for the Grail.  
Thus begins an impossible quest that will pit them against murderous tribes, deadly assassins, fanatical monks, and the passions of their own hearts. 
The Quest is suspenseful, romantic, and filled with heart-pounding action. Nelson DeMille is at the top of his game as he masterfully interprets one of history's greatest mysteries.
AHAHA no. The basic stuff is right - a priest escapes, relays his story, and the characters decide to go on this quest to find the Holy Grail. They're pitted against a murderous tribe once or twice. There were no assassins or menacing monks. That's all gross exaggeration. Also, it was by no means a "love story." Twisted love triangle, yes. 

The story itself was a good one. I know there were many people who read this and hated it, because they were expecting it to be more action-packed. His other novels are a bit faster paced and less research based. I actually liked that aspect of this book. The middle of the story was largely devoted to the trio - Frank Purcell and Henry Mercado, both journalists, and Vivian Smith, a photographer - delving into the stories of the Holy Grail. Doing research, perusing Rome. I liked that. I like the history. It never got too slow. 

Spoilers (sort of) ahead.

Let's talk about the love triangle real quick though. Love triangles are rarely necessary, and this was no exception. I have no clue why DeMille wrote it in, and it wasn't enjoyable just for kicks, either. Basically, Vivian is with Mercado first (a much older man), but then has sex with Purcell behind Mercado's back.. oh, except it's not behind his back. It's in front of his face, as he's tied to a pole, a prisoner of war with certain death quick approaching. The whole things adds nothing but frustration to the story. Of course, as the story progresses and the three characters need to work together to manage this quest they've been chosen to make, things get awkward. There's a lot of jealousy. And then, because DeMille's women are often there to motivate or distract men, she sleeps with her first boyfriend, Mercado (the one she previously cheated on), while she's in a relationship with Purcell. Why? Literally to make Mercado feel better. She sleeps with him to make him feel like a man again. Easily the most annoying part of the novel. I'm not going to tell how the love triangle ultimately ends, but just know it's useless and detracts from the story. 

Over all, the story is engaging. I didn't fall in love with any of the characters, and they don't possess much virtue. DeMille's characters often don't though (sometimes justice, but usually a vulgar, vengeful kind of justice, so..). Characters aside, it was a good read. I prefer a deeper story with more character development, but the plot was good and thrilling. I complain about DeMille's books a lot, and every time I read one I have to roll my eyes a bit, but he does know how to tell an exciting story. The Quest was especially good because it's filled with history and background, something his other novels sometimes lack. The ending was predictable, but that's okay. DeMille is a good enough writer that you'll find the tale gripping despite guessing the ending.  

Bottom line: Good story, crappy characters. DeMille is a successful author and it's clear why. His stories are ones you can't put down. His characters lack substance and I think his model man/woman formula is very problematic, but he's got a formula and he knows it sells books, and he runs with it. If you're looking for an entertaining story, go for it. But be prepared for some disappointment with the characters. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Books to Read in Your Twenties

Hey, ya'll. We stumbled across this terrific list written by another blogger. Check this out: 
I realized that I have 2,843 days left of being in my twenties; I began to consider, in what ways would I like to have grown by age 30? 
"Books" is what immediately came to mind. I want to know my classics, discover the best novels of our decade, and fall in love with new authors. In what other time of our lives will we have so much freedom to indulge in 500-1000 page novels, or actually spend time appreciating those books we “read” in high school?
How great! We were inspired by the list and decided to make our own. Such fun! These are books we've been dying to read, or we've been too intimidated to read (hellllo, Les Miserables!), or we feel should be read in order to be socially literate. We've got just over 2,000 days left in our twenties - enough time to check each and every book off this bucket list, hopefully.

Let's start with the books that appear on both of our bucket lists: 

1. The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Liz: Malcolm X’s words and philosophy are just as relevant today as they ever were. In light of the persistent police violence and institutional racism that exists in the U.S., this book is an important read. 

Char: Agreed. I've started it, but kept putting it off. But this is an important book, and it's especially relevant today.

2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac 

Liz: Coming of age novels are my jam. 

Char: I just want to be socially literate, bebe. When books are referenced so often, I feel the need to read them. I want to know what everyone is talking about. I may or may not also like the way "Kerouac" rolls off the tongue. (A completely legitimate reason to read a book, dammit.)

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Liz: I picked it up when I was in High School, read the first 30 pages and hated it. As an adult person, I think I might enjoy it more, so it’s worth giving another shot. It’s also referenced so often in other books, in society, in life, I might as well try to understand what the F folks are on about.

Char: Why can’t I finish this? It’s taking me so long, but I like it and I really need to just finish it already.

4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

Char: Because Mark told me to.

5. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is beloved by all and Lee finally had another book published. We’ve got to read it. 

That's all for the books we both want to read before the big 3-0. But don't fret, there's so much more where that came from. 

Charlotte: At the risk of sounding exceptionally corny, when I was coming up with this list, I tried to think about what kind of woman I want to be. (One answer: Not the kind of grown ass woman who hasn't read Pride and Prejudice.) I want to be someone who reads often and who reads critically and thoughtfully. I also want to be the kind of woman who never finds herself without a witty comeback. I'm already pretty good with that, but I can stand to up my literary humor game. 

I want to know more about the world, I want to understand the struggles of other people, and I want to be able to talk about the classics. I also do not - do not - want to be the kind of person who doesn't pick up a book because reading it feels like a daunting task. Do that too many times and suddenly my reading habits will become a metaphor for my life, and that's not the kind of life I want to make. 

You'll also find a few heavy Catholic books on here, because I've really started to love being a Catholic. It's already made me a better person, and I've been devouring saints' stories left and right. Your twenties are supposed to be a wonderful time to solidify habits, and I'd love to start incorporating more of the Catholic customs into my life. No time like the present! 

Lastly, I've got a few kids books on here. Maybe I'll have kids before my thirtieth birthday, maybe I won't - but I really like the idea of having a few kids books under my belt before I'm a parent. Is that weird? Probably. But again, I tried to keep in mind what kind of woman I want to be while writing this - and a good parent is definitely part of the answer.

I own a lot of these, plus most are classics or at least very old, meaning they're nearly free for the kindle. I officially have no excuses to not finish this list.  

Sorry for the novella! Here we go:

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Honestly, I just loved the movie so much that I’ve got to read the book. The story is a beautiful one.  

7. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri 
We read Dante’s Inferno in high school, and I’ve wanted to read the other two ever since. 

8. The Diary of Anne Frank
I’ve read this before, but I think I should reread it. 

9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Again, because I’d like to be socially literate. 

10. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 
Numerous people have suggested this, but they’ve also told me it’s very depressing. At some point I’d like to read it, though.

11. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 
Similar to Pride and Prejudice in that I’ve been reading this forever. I love it, so it’s weird that I haven’t finished it. I think it’s mainly due to putting it down and picking up Harry Potter instead. 

12. Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton
Because I bought it a few years ago and never even opened it. For shame, Charlotte.

13. Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman by Sarah Bradford 
This was the first substantial book about Tubman, and I’d really like to delve into it. 

14. Something by Stephen King
Because I feel like it’s wrong to have never read anything by Stephen King.

15. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck 
Another one of those books that people love and talk about, and that I really ought to read. Plus, Mark told me to read it.

16. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
I loved the movies and I generally love anything by C.S. Lewis. I love LOTR and Harry Potter, so I will likely enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia, as well. 

17. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Literally because another blogger said it was great and that it fell right behind HP on her list of favorites. 

18. On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard
Kind of self-explanatory? And I’m starting to really love books about the Faith. 

19. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
Because one of my favorite kids from work told me I “absolutely have to read this!” Will do, Samson.

20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Again, it’s a classic I feel like I should read. I’ve started it before, but… HP strikes again.

21. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler 
I love Amy Poehler and I like books by funny women, so.

22. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut 
I’ve wanted to read this for a long, long time. Must take the plunge, Char. 

23. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Because several friends have told me to. 

24. The Confessions of Saint Augustine 
Like I said, love these kind of books. I enjoy learning more about the saints, too. 

25. Cities and the Wealth of Nations by Jane Jacobs
Because I have it. And I hear it’s terrific.

26. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Another classic! I started reading this before, and enjoyed it, but stopped. 

27. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 
This book is America’s second favorite book (right behind the Bible), so I figure I need to see what all the fuss is about. 

28. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Another classic. 

29. In Search of Lost Time by Proust 
Not going to lie, my main reason for wanting to read this is just because it was featured in an episode of Gilmore Girls. (But also I just googled it and it’s so highly revered that I really want to read it.)

30. Catechism of the Catholic Church
I’m already reading this, but it’s been slow going. If I can’t finish it in 5.5 years, I’m a major slacker.

31. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 
What’s that? Classic. (Plus, from everything I’ve read/heard, I think I’ll like the story.)

32. The Epistles of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch 
Church classics. 

33. Beloved by Toni Morrison 
One of those books, again, that everyone should read. Of all the people I know who have read it, none disliked it. 

34. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
I’ve heard this described as Woolf’s “strangest” novel and “most experimental” novel, and I’m intrigued. 

35. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 
I know it’s a difficult and long read, but it’s world renowned and I need to just get over the intimidation and read it.

36. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 
It’s a classic and it’s in that movie, Definitely Maybe. 

37. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Haters gonna hate but I mainly want to read this book because it briefly appeared on an episode of The Daily Show. 

38. Narrative of Sojourner Truth
Another one everyone should read. 

39. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset 
Numerous bloggers I read have mentioned it so I figure it’s got to be good. 

40. Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots by Scott Hahn 
As I’m getting better at the whole being a Catholic thing, I’d like to read this.

41. Peter Pan by JM Barrie
I’ve heard that the book is amazing. 

42. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
This will be a reread for me, but I think it's such a helpful book. 

43. My own book. 
Really, I have 5.5 years. I should be able to finish writing it. 

And now, Liz's bucket list! 

Before I turn thirty I want to read:

44. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A classic. I like that the Bronte sisters write moody stories. I loved Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, so Wuthering Heights sounds like a natural fit for me.

45. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
I read the first three when I was young, and then I just stopped reading them. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy them- I guess I just lost patience for them to come out. I obviously need to correct this and read the series ASAP. 

46. The Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson
Lisbeth Salander is a god damn role model. As a young woman, I’m drawn to a series with an admirable female lead. 

47. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
I read The Kite Runner last winter and loved it! It brought tears to my eyes, so I can’t wait to read Hosseini’s other novels

48. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Same as above.

49. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
I’ve read and loved so many Murakami novels. This is one that is constantly hyped up by Murakami fans, so I want to read it myself. 

50. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
It’s a classic dystopian novel that I have yet to read- it’s time.

51. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
A classic. It's been on my reading list for years. 

52. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
A lesser-known classic. It's applauded for its feminist themes.

53. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Adichie has written excellent essays on feminism, and this novel by her sounds like it'll be a fantastic exploration of young love, the experience of being a black woman in America, and the experience of being undocumented.  

54. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton is another writer applauded for her feminism. 

55. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Another expertly written classic. 

56. This Changes Everything Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein
Clearly this book is relevant to our time. The topic is crucially important to the future of our planet as we know it.

57. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
Fuck suburbia, that’s why.

58. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
A classic. Sounds depressing, and who doesn’t like to read depressing shit? 

59. 1984 by George Orwell
Shamefully, I read a good chunk of this in Highschool, but never finished it.

60. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Another one I started to read, but never finished. I really liked it too! It's renown for being expertly written, and it's definitely apparent when you're reading it. I hope by reading this book I'll become a better writer myself, through osmosis of course. 

There it is! Our twenties bucket list!

Did we do a good job? Do you all think we missed any essential reading? Here's to many nights reading away and completing this list!  

Liz & Char

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pie in the Sky

By Charlotte 
Book Review: The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book - Uncommon Recipes From the Celebrated Brooklyn Pie Shop by Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen
Official FC Rating: 

This book was given to me as a Christmas gift and I love it. There are so many great things about it.  The authors are sisters who run a pie shop and the way they write about their family, their history, and their work is really endearing. It’s also well organized, which is great for me. I’m easily distracted and I tend to feel a little overwhelmed if I don’t have clear cut ways of doing things.  IT’S SO HARD TO LIVE. But yeah, the book. The recipes are organized by season! It’s so terrific to not have to go real nutsy looking for a recipe and just turning to that season’s page instead. Boom: right there, right now.

Another terrific thing? It’s aesthetically pleasing. I know that’s not the single most important thing, but for me it adds to the overall quality of a book, especially a book of this nature. ~eat with your eyes~ This book is really beautiful. I won’t lie, I’m known to just randomly pluck it off the shelf to look at it for no reason. It’s just so lovely.

I should win an award for this stellar photography.
I use recipes for meals from the internet fairly often, but I enjoy using recipes from books more. That’s true for all kinds of food, but definitely for desserts. I don’t know, it’s a quirk. This book includes over 60 recipes (around 50-ish for pies and some more for different kinds of crusts) and so is a great resource to have on hand at any moment.

And lucky thing, because I love pie. LOVE PIE. So there is really no better thing than a big fat book filled with all the info I need. BECAUSE I LOVE PIE.

See? I love it.
(Also, do you love Gilmore Girls? You SHOULD love Gilmore Girls. And if you're a true fan, you know pie is a beloved dessert of the GG. Lorelai would buy this book. She'd never use it, but she'd have it. Sookie would use it. If you love Gilmore Girls, you should probably own this book.)

If you want a general dessert book, I don’t know if this is the book for you because it’s just pie. No cake or muffins or anything. But if you know where it’s at and have recognized that pie is THE prime dessert anyway, then good gravy, go buy this book! There are pies for EVERY season. It’s perfect for any kind of party you might be hosting.

This book was so good, you might say.... it's to pie for.* 



Saturday, October 10, 2015

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Being a "Best Seller" Doesn't Mean Shit

By: Liz
Book review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Official FC Rating: 

This book is exceptionally deceptive. I read the inside cover and it sounded right up my alley: creepy, weird, a little spooky- perfect for autumn. So, I borrowed it from my mom despite her warning that it was “really weird.”

My mom, unlike me, isn’t much of a reader, but a year or two ago she was compelled to join some book club and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was their first book. Not shockingly, my mom never finished the book, but I figured that’s typical of my mom with fiction books, so that doesn’t mean the book is bad….

Let’s get some things straight: there are some weird books that are my favorites. Murakami’s books? All kinds of weird. This book, sure, is weird, but the bottom-line is that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is just downright bad.

The book is about a 16-year-old brat boy, Jacob, who ends up journeying to a secluded island off the coast of Wales after his grandfather dies to explore Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, where his grandfather once resided. While Jacob explores the decrepit old home, he learns that the unbelievable stories his grandfather told him as a child of the supernatural children that resided there are not only true, but that the children and Miss Peregrine are still alive. However, everyone is in grave danger.

Reading my summary in the paragraph above makes it sound like this book has potential to be great- and maybe it would, if it was written by a more talented author. The writing was just…amateurish. I could have written something at least equivalent in quality, if not better, when I was in high school.

Half the allure of the novel is that the story is accompanied by antique photographs. However, the author incorporates the pictures in such a clunky way. The story would be happening and then it would suddenly be like “oh look, how convenient, here’s a picture of the thing.” And it was like that every. Single. Time. It reminded me of creative writing assignments in high school where you’d be given a random picture and told to write a story to accompany it- but worse. It just seems so obvious to me that the author got these weird pictures from collectors and then wrote the story.

Alright- let’s try to get past the poor quality of writing for a moment- the characters did not redeem the story at all. There was nothing compelling about them. Not a single character was relatable or, honestly, that interesting. Jacob, the main character, is God awful. I think the author was trying to go for a Holden Caulfield vibe, but failed miserably. Holden Caulfield is annoying in his own right, but Jacob is the worst. We’re never given any kind of characteristic to make him likeable. First off, in the first few pages Jacob is trying to get himself fired from his job, which was given to him by his wealthy family who owns a chain of pharmacies. Hello, ungrateful brat much? He dreads the day he will be expected to take over the family business, and naturally does what he can to fight against his preordained future. Jacob- whiny, privileged little shit.

I had to share my agony with my mother via text messages. My opinions clearly haven't changed.

Bottom-line: the author is transparent and uncreative. Besides the poor writing and weak characters that show his lack of creativity…look at this shit:

"The hollowgast." SMH
The “HOLLOWGAST”???????? Wow, what a remarkable similarity in sound to “holocaust.” This similarity would probably be just as obvious even if a part of the storyline didn’t have to do with the fact that Jacob’s grandfather was a Jewish survivor of World War II. Not only is this uncreative, it’s borderline offensive.

In conclusion, the fact that this book is a best seller doesn’t mean shit. This book is garbage. The pictures were better than the story. I’m amazed I was able to stand to read the whole thing. What. A. Disappointment.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why Not Me? or, Mindy Kaling's New Book

By Charlotte
Book Review: Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling
Official FC Rating:

Oh, gosh. I am such a huge fan of Mindy Kaling. (As we know.) I loved her last book, but this one was even better. I'm more than ten years younger than Kaling, so this might sound stupid, but this book seemed more mature than the last one (less superficiality, although a little bit of that is great) and it was hilarious. I laughed out loud several times, I nodded along, and I uttered the word "preach" more times than I did when I watched Sister Act 2, so... This book gets five out of five stars from me.

Let's start off with the truly important aspects of the book: Its looks. The font is so pretty, which is something normal people might not notice, but yeah, that shipped sailed, I notice it. The cover is light and airy, I like the pops of gold, the back cover is hilarious, and the inside has the coolest design. I know the old adage, but I almost always judge books based on their covers, and this one is sublime. I know you're probably not reading this for a summary of the design, so I'm going to talk about the book itself... but first let me post a few pictures: 

You mean you don't take pics of books on old chairs with a denim jacket casually hanging in the background?

A diagram of her heart: Stephen Colbert, Light Personal Drama, Heavy Celebrity Drama, Rebels, Authority, among others.

There are cheeseburgers in this design. Made me hungry, but I've forgiven her. 
Alright, alright. On to the important stuff.

Mindy's book is a steady stream of funny. People can knock essays or humor, but they don't get it. Being consistently funny isn't the easiest thing to do when you're writing to an invisible audience. I try it when I write blog posts, and if you've ever read any of my blog posts, you know I usually fail. A sense of humor might come naturally - I think I'm funny in situations and conversations. But writing 220 pages without faltering in the humor department? That's talent. Straight up talent. If you're a funny person, love a funny person, or wish you were a funny person, I'd recommend this book.

If you're into autobiographies and you're in Mindy's target audience (women and gay men, I imagine she'd say), you might love this book. I love autobiographies, but there's something great about a collection of personal essays instead. I felt as though I were reading Her Life Story, but in reality we're reading just some of her life's stories. This is better because it means she can write twenty more books of life stories and we won't get bored. 

Kaling writes about her career, her romantic relationships, her friendships, and more. What I most admired while reading this book was that it's so chill and funny, but never once did I think that Mindy wasn't a serious or dedicated person. Her work ethic and love for her friends and family shine through, even though it's a funny book.

And my God, it's a funny book. And super easy to relate to! Some examples: 

When discussing how she sometimes gets overwhelmed by her work and cries, she says she just has to remember, "Mindy, you have literally the best life in the world besides that hot lawyer who married George Clooney." I feel that I can say, with completely certainty, that all of humankind agrees with Mindy; Amal Clooney is the most badass woman with a badass life and we envy her.

"People who say breakfast should be the biggest meal are insane. You can't have dessert at breakfast."

When she and her friend went to a White House State Dinner they were introduced thusly: "Miss Mindy Kaling and her best friend from Dartmouth College, Miss Jocelyn Leavitt." Excuse me for five minutes as I crack up. Okay, so maybe most of us can't relate to that (though I've shaken hands with the president...), but it's funny as hell.

After she tells us she is capable of completely detaching from someone emotionally: "That's why I'm always saying I would be a great serial murderer." 

There is so much more where these came from. You really must read her book! 

I'm kind of mad I even like Mindy Kaling. Usually I'm far behind - I'm just now watching Friends, by the time I started watching Gilmore Girls it was already airing as reruns on ABC Family - you get the idea. I've accepted that it's an indication that I'm a bit of a lame-o, but I sort of like it because I never have to wait with anticipation. Do you know what I mean? I was able to skip school and read the entire Hunger Games trilogy because it was so old, all the books were published. I don't have to wait a week to watch Parenthood, I just binge on Netflix. This is how I wish it were with Mindy Kaling's stuff. Assuming she writes another book - I don't want to wait! I just want to read it now! Because that's how fabulous her books are. I loved everything about Why Not Me? 

Also, also, Mindy mentions that since she's become more famous, a lot of women say they'd like to be her best friend. She lists a few pros of being her best friend, and two of them are that she can deal with ex-boyfriend situations and that she's always up for dessert. Yes, please, I'd like to be your friend! (The ex boyfriend thing isn't relevant because I can't even land a bf in the first place, but dessert is one of my favorite things. Ever.)

So yes. Read this book. It was wonderful, entertaining, and well-written. And it was laugh out loud funny - always a good thing. 


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Blogging For Books program in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reading Round-Up

Howdy. We've got some great reviews coming up this week, but first(!) check out these book-related links from around the web!

Do you have a dog? Or, or! Are you thinking about getting a pup? Click on over to this list of books about dogs. Gretchen Rubin, list-maker, said that she enjoyed the memoirs even more than the how-to books, so maybe a few of these books would be good even if you're not considering a new pet love.

We've already shared this over on our facebook page, but in case you missed it, take a gander: 43 Books You Won't Be Able to Stop Talking About. (Charlotte is a little pissed that Harry Potter isn't on the list.)

We all find it hard to make time for reading when we're super busy, but what if you're a parent? Is it possible??? Check out this blogger's take right here.

Did you know that certain books are banned in prisons? What do you think - is that okay?

Loved this Reading Challenge! (Although... is it weird that they just posted this with only a few more months to go in 2015?) Thinking we might need to make our very own Filthy Casket Reading Challenge for 2016!

Mindy Kaling's new book is out (a FC review will pop up sometime in the next couple of weeks, swear it) and apparently it's terrific.

And how about some oldies but goodies? 

It's almost always a good idea to sit down with a cup of hot chocolate and read oft-hilarious reviews of Twilight.

And last but never least! We're both big fans of Emma Watson (Liz especially), so this list of books she's mentioned could be a nice starting place for a future reading challenge.

That's it for now! Keep your eyes peeled for some of our upcoming reviews this week. One of them is a review for a book about pie. Everyone loves pie. 

-Liz & Char