Saturday, November 28, 2015

Instant Happy Journal

By Liz
Journal review: Instant Happy Journal by Karen Salmansohn
Official FC rating:

You know what I am? A bundle of god damn stress and anxiety at least 80% of the time. For example, if I am cooking a meal that involves meat, you can bet that I am calling my mom at some point during the cooking process to make sure I haven’t messed up.

I also can be so negative because of my anxiety. I’ll come home from work and 2-3 hours later I will think to myself, “I hope I didn’t come across as awkward during that meeting…I should have said this…I should have done that.” It gets exhausting, so when I came across the Instant Happy Journal on Blogging for Books, I figured “hey, why not? Maybe this will make me more ~positive~.”

The journal, which has lovely little designs and pretty colors, contains questions, quotes, and other prompts for each entry. When I received this journal in the mail (like…nearly two months ago…) my goal was to write in it every evening for one whole month.

Ooh, ahh, pretty cover!
Pretty outside and inside! 
Being the way that I am, I constantly felt like there was a certain way I had to use the journal. At first I wrote in each page consecutively, but occasionally the prompts felt weird. Sometimes they wouldn’t be applicable to my day. Was I supposed to write about something from my past? Would that make me more positive about this particular day? Annoyed, I eventually took to flipping through the entire journal to find a prompt that ~spoke~ to me. I liked this method better and stuck to it for a while. I felt like I was breaking the rules though, even though journals don’t really have rules (blame this on my Virgo nature??)

Another frustrating aspect was how god damn little space you have to actually write. When the prompts were particularly through provoking, it was annoying that I had to condense my thoughts to 5 lines. Remember when a teacher would say 1,000 words, no more and no less for your essay? That’s what this felt like sometimes.

Now the big question remains, did the Instant Happy Journal make me instantly happy? Nah. Part of the problem could be that I didn’t end up writing in the journal every day. On days that were stressful or busy, I didn’t feel like writing. Ironically, the days when I most wanted to write were days that were generally positive days for me. Like if I did well at work, or ran farther than normal- that’s when I wanted to use the journal.

Even, though I kind of feel like this is more like Instant MEH Journal, I give it four stars. All in all, this is a fun journal. I like the prompts, the colors are cheery, and the idea of it is nice. I’ll continue to use it over the course of the year, but I’ll try to get better about actually using it daily.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Flirting Book: Chapter 1

A few things. 1. This is part of an ongoing review. You can read the first part here. 2. If you are or ever have been a male mentor, teacher, or father figure to me, just don't read these.

This is a review of chapter 1: Rediscovering the Flirt in You

I finally managed to finish the first chapter of The Flirting Book (technically called How to Attract Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace: The Smart Guide to Flirting, but that’s a mouthful so I’m going to stick to calling it The Flirting Book, forever solidifying my role of Least Official Book Reviewer Ever). 

Moving on. 

The intro got off to a bad start by suggesting that all single people are party hopping hooligans (I’m exaggerating but only slightly). It’s alright though, because it soon after mentioned eating desserts for lunch and I am all for that

Right off the bat, I can tell this book is corny. I mean, I knew that because it's a book about flirting. But the writing is going to be corny, too. On the very first page, for instance, we see this line: 

Even a visit to the neighborhood laundromat doesn't have to be a social wash. 

I'd laugh hysterically at such an awful pun in real life, but puns are harder to work with in books. So already, I know I'm in for quite the ride. 

Let's get into it, though. The author says this:

Learning to flirt is no more difficult than learning to dance.

Uh okay, so basically I'm fucked. Or, actually, won't be often if the above statement is true and good flirting technique is only as attainable as good dancing technique.

Even though I think it's a bad/intimidating metaphor, I understood the author's point and marched forward. "I will read this book! I will rediscover the flirt in me!" Even if this doesn't help the romantic flirt in me, the intro all but promises increased social, communication, and work skills. So this won't, in theory, be a futile attempt. 

The book starts off with a quiz, and I'm all for quizzes. This quickly erased any worry that the book, written in the 90's, would be outdated and useless. Quizzes! We love quizzes! Isn't Buzzfeed extremely popular?! This book is basically Lil Kim to Buzzfeed's Nicki Minaj. This book is relevant. This book will help me rediscover the flirt within. So yes, I took the quiz. It was quick and relatively easy. I also feel like I should mention that at least one of the questions gave me pause. Flirting is okay, but there's a line and doing something like telling a woman "her melons look fine" as she's trying to pick fruit out at the grocery store isn't cute flirting, it's inappropriate. I worried that the book would end up being horrible, but I told myself that this is a quiz meant to gauge the reader's personality, not a section with actual advice, so I'm going to give it a chance.

There were five multiple choice questions, and each had seven possible answers. At the end you count up how many of each letter (the answers were a, b, c, d, e, f, g) you chose and if you had one letter multiple times, you're a certain type of flirt. I had a B, two Gs, and two that were a toss-up between A and G. (Does that make sense??) So I flipped to the page that tells people who chose G often to find out what kind of flirt I was, though I took it with a grain of salt. I am, it seems, an Analytical Flirt. Sounds about right (although I'm nowhere near as analytical as the example she gave). I flipped back and read over the other kinds of flirts, too:

The "I Don't Flirt" Flirt
The Self-Centered Flirt
The Terminator Flirt
The Pressured Flirt
The Insincere Flirt
The Rejected Flirt
The Analytical Flirt

Rabin describes each type of flirt (though the descriptions are exaggerated big time, to the point where I almost didn't want to read them) and I'm assuming the info and advice in the following chapters will be tailored to each kind. Only time will tell!


Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Bookshop

By Liz
Book review: The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
Official FC rating: 

I’m actually disgusted with myself for having been deceived by this book, because the back of the book describes it perfectly. It’s a book about a widow, Florence Green, who “risks it all” to open a bookshop in her small seaside town. From the onset, when the people of her town hear that she is opening a bookshop it causes a stir of rumors. Her bookshop slowly becomes a success, but small-town politics create hostility since the shop is seen as impractical. Only until it is too late (for both Florence and the reader) does she realize a town that doesn’t have a bookshop doesn’t necessarily want one.

Shocker: the book ends with Florence leaving the town she has lived in for ten years of her life because the town never wanted a bookshop.

And that’s it. That is literally all this book is about. All 156 pages are about the small-town politics and economics of opening, and eventually closing, a bookshop. I actually didn’t bother reading all 156 pages once I got to the half-way point and came to my senses that this book was not going to get any better. So, I skipped to the very end and was not remotely shocked by the depressing AF conclusion.

This novella was so even keeled. I got past the half way point and was like, “oh…this book isn’t going to have a climax…because there’s hardly any direct conflict…” Penelope Fitzgerald, did you think straight up not using plot devices that typically hook readers was going to work out for you, or what?

I have no idea why I expected this book to be more exciting or interesting. Maybe I had high hopes for this book because, in the back of my mind for years, I’ve had dreams of one day owning a bookstore or working in a library (like when I retire or something).

The kicker is that Florence isn’t even that into books. She describes herself as a trained retailer, not a person who understands the arts or whether or not a book is a masterpiece. WHY EVEN OPEN A BOOKSHOP THEN??? (Maybe the ending was poetic justice, then. I just don’t know).

I thought maybe this book will be a deeply thought-provoking commentary on how society is more interested in money and technology than literature and the arts. To some degree, the book probably was about that a little- but mostly it was about small-town politics and how they generally suck.

I will grant that the author has captured the nastiness and pettiness of small-town politics well, but I don’t need to read a book about small-town politics- all I need to do is visit my hometown in rural, Upstate New York for that. And frankly, the small-town politics of my hometown are more interesting than this damn novella.

Small-town characters have the potential to be interesting and have a lot of personality (not a book, but see Gilmore Girls as an example). Like the style of writing itself, the characters were given little description and were also boring.

If you would like to read passages about bookkeeping, taking out loans, and random details about a small town in the UK, then by all means, read this book. Otherwise, don’t waste your time. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Murder on the Orient Express

By Liz
Book review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Official FC rating: 

My first Agatha Christie novel was And Then There Were None, and it was fantastic! It was your perfect mystery- a bit scary, difficult to predict, and atmospheric. Dame Agatha Christie isn’t called the “Queen of Crime” for nothing, after all.

Both Charlotte and my partner, Sean, love Agatha Christie, so Sean stocked me up with a few of her novels from his collection, and I decided a mystery novel would be perfect to read in October. Thus, I chose Murder on the Orient Express.

Wikipedia summarizes the novel as follows (I’d summarize it myself, but I am a lazy mother effer this evening):
Upon arriving at the Tokatlian Hotel in Istanbul, private detective Hercule Poirot receives a telegram prompting him to cancel his arrangements and return to London. He instructs the concierge to book a first-class compartment on the Orient Express leaving that night. After boarding, Poirot is approached by Mr. Ratchett, a malevolent American he initially saw at the Tokatlian. Ratchett believes his life is being threatened and attempts to hire Poirot but, due to his distaste, Poirot refuses. "I do not like your face, Mr. Ratchett," he says. 
On the second night of the journey, the train is stopped by a snowdrift near Vinkovci. Several events disturb Poirot's sleep, including a cry emanating from Ratchett's compartment. The next morning, Mr. Bouc, an acquaintance of Poirot and director of the company operating the Orient Express, informs him that Ratchett has been murdered and asks Poirot to investigate, in order to avoid complications and bureaucracy when the Yugoslav police arrive. Poirot accepts.
Murder on the Orient Express didn’t grab me as quickly as And Then There Were None. And Then There Were None had a chilling element to it that I loved, but Murder on the Orient Express lacked that completely. I felt that the beginning of the novel sort of dragged, but I pushed through (Sean insisted that it got better). I would say the book finally caught me not long before the actual murder takes place.

Once the murder happens, it’s a whirlwind of information. As I was reading I was thinking to myself, half seriously, “should I be taking notes? Is this like ‘Clue’?” I’m terrible at solving mysteries, so naturally my first instinct is to suspect everybody, or to suspect the one person one would assume is the least likely to have committed the crime.


I should’ve just continued to suspect everyone because, Agatha Christie, looking to fuck with us all, made EVERY SUSPECT GUILTY OF THE CRIME. Almost every suspect stabbed Ratchett, except, of course, the person with the best motivation to kill Ratchett.

I literally laughed at the ending. It was great. I enjoyed that the novel has humor now and then at various parts. For example:

Such sass, Poirot.
“I DON’T LIKE YOUR FACE.” Man. I just need to channel that in my daily life. #PoirotGoals?

Christie’s character descriptions are both a great strength of hers, but also a great flaw. She creates unique characters that are easy to envision, but she also relies heavily on racist and anti-Semitic descriptors. I noticed this in both And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express. In Murder on the Orient Express she type-casts the lone Italian character as brusque, thick, burly, and mafia-like. There is at least one Jewish character in Murder on the Orient Express, but, thankfully, I did not see any overt anti-Semitism. In And Then There Were None, however, the character, Lombard, describes a young boy as “Jew-Boy,” and characterizes him as sneaky and conniving.

To be honest, when I noticed Christie’s anti-Semitism in And Then There Were None, I almost put the book down vowing to never read her books again. Of course, that didn’t happen. I enjoy her writing, and her books are easy reads. However, Christie is undoubtedly one of those authors that I could never be friends with. In fact, I’d probably hate her.

In summary, I enjoyed this novel, and I’m looking forward to reading another novel of Christie’s. I’d recommend her books to someone, but I would always be sure to let them know that Christie is a racist, anti-Semitic piece of trash.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Reading Round Up

Hey hey. We know things have been a little slow over here lately. Liz is busy at work and Charlotte is busy constantly being sick. We do have a nice line up of reviews planned for later this week/early next week though, so don't fret. 

In the meantime, here's a terrific bunch of book-related stories from around the web:

First and foremost, did you all hear that Entertainment Weekly has published some of the first pictures from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?! We're both very excited and Liz has proclaimed that Eddie Redmayne has never looked better and Charlotte has decided she must read the book before the movie is released. (Also, check out America's version of  the word for non-magical people. It's different from the UK's "muggle." Don't know why.)

In related news, Queen Rowling has announced she's working on a children's book. She's said this before, so it makes us nervous, but we're going to throw caution to the wind and let ourselves be hella excited. 

(And because we simply cannot post a Reading Round-Up without a plethora of HP/Rowling related stories, check out this stellar review of "Career of Evil," Rowling's newest book published under pen name Robert Galbraith. After such praise, the book is certainly on our radar.)

Charlotte loves Gretchen Rubin's books but never read Happier at Home after hearing much of it was a reiteration of Rubin's first book. But! After happily finding this old post, maybe it's a must read?! The idea of shrine-like areas filled with things we love throughout a home sounds wonderful.

Bustle threw together a list of books that ambitious women ought to read. What do you think? (Charlotte thinks there's a fine line between ambition and selfish, predatory, shark-like behavior, but she's willing to read some of these if they offer good advice.) 

Both of us loved this post of tattoos inspired by books. Liz already has a pretty awesome idea for one, and Charlotte is... trying to think of one.

If you like powerful, emotional stories, hop on over to this list of books that are just sure to make you cry. We can personally attest to the cry-factor of several of them.

The Royal We is a book that neither of us would read without prompting, but Charlotte is reading the first few chapters to gauge interest. We do love Lauren Graham though, so it's exciting that she's involved.

Do you love YA? Check out this list of most-anticipated young adult novels coming out this month!

They are turning the extremely popular self-help book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, into a television show. Weird? Not weird? What do you think?

Khloe Kardashian wrote a book and it seems as though it's not all bad.

One more HP link: here's a list of fan fiction you might want to read if you love HP. 

And we'll leave you with this awful, awful idea of building a Hunger Games theme park.

Liz & Char