2022 Read Harder Challenge, What Shannon Read

What Shannon Read: February 2022

Wow, February walluped me with the terrible weather and corresponding winter blues. I’m not sad to see it in the rearview mirror. March is being kind to us so far, but I know what’s coming–at least one random snow storm and a damp cold that chills to the bone. And that’s the official weather report.

Two super fun events saved February from being a total loss. One, at the very end, we went to Vegas and saw a Metallica concert, among other delights.

Here we are outside the venue, ready to rock.

The weekend prior to that was the grandbaby’s baby shower and it was a hit!

We and the parents-to-be are all so grateful to our family and friends who came out to celebrate and shower them with gifts.

That’s the life update. Now, how about those books?

What Shannon Read in February

I read 8 books in February, including some repeats.

Some notes:

Less than Angels

I continue to work my way through Barbara Pym’s catalog. This was good, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Quartet in Autumn or Excellent Women. I believe this is exactly what I said last month about Jane and Prudence. Ah, well. Something keeps me coming back to Pym anyway, it seems.

Bookseller books

I re-read these in January….and then again in February—an unheard of turnaround for me as far as re-reads go. It seems I can’t get enough of Wigtown and Bythell’s snark.

Harriet Jacobs: A Life

This was fantastic. I read Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in college and it was one of my favorite required reads. It helped me to really feel the evils of slavery better (as a middle-class, suburban white girl), which I’m sure was the professor’s intent for us, a class of similar women.

At any rate, it affected me greatly, so I was excited to read this biography of Harriet Jacobs. It’s also my book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge category “book about an author you admire.”

It was fantastic. As with all good biographies, it gave excellent cultural background for the events that took place in Jacobs’ life. Also, I was reminded that she spent 7 years—7 years!!!—hiding in a tiny attic space where she couldn’t stand up. Jesus. This country.

A Sand County Almanac

This is a classic of nature writing and I was glad to see it listed on Audible. I enjoyed it so very much. If you enjoy nature writing, I highly recommend it. I was floored by the essay “Good Oak,” through which Leopold tells the history of Wisconsin’s land and people. Here it is if you’re interested.

Educated

I tried to read this book when it came out and couldn’t get into it. And I’m not sure why because this time, I read it in a day. A memoir about growing up in a Christian fundie family with a mentally ill and volatile father, this book was what the critics call “gripping.”

Also, why are all fundie fathers mentally ill? Every time I read a book by the children of these uber-Christians, the father, set up to be the “head” of the family, has lost his shit in one way or another—mostly via untreated mental illness. And, cut off from society at-large, the father gets no treatment and conducts a reign of terror over his family. Mental illnes + fundamentalist Christianity—conincidence? I think not.

Ghost Girl

This was a hard-to-stomach re-read. At one point in my life as a younger mother, I was contemplating taking in foster children, along with a career in social work with a focus on “troubled” kids. I gobbled up books about professionals working with children in need of some kind of services. Hayden’s books were among them. I wanted to re-read this to see what I thought of it as an older adult. I see now that the writing is sensational, but I found the story to be just as engrossing, though, I imagine, mostly for its shock value. Remember the book A Child Called It? This is similar, except that it’s written from the perspective of of a professional who helps a terribly abused child. As I said, hard to stomach.

I’m a Wild Seed

I was browsing graphic novels for the Read Harder Challenge and just happened upon this one. The art is wonderful and the story is touching and affirming. This is a memoir about identity in which Sharon Lee De La Cruz illustrates the challenges of coming of age as a queer, minority woman.


Possibly a bit of a boring recap here, sorry. I’ve got a more interesting mix planned for February. I leave you with my new favorite reading meme:

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What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: January 2022, plus a fun bonus announcement!

Happy end of January! I can’t lie–I’m not sad to see it go. It’s five degrees out right now. I’m cold and tired and I wish it were spring already.

(Pretty winter sunrise though)

This time of year, I become an indoor-Shan and try to entertain myself by planning my garden, making collage, baking, anxiety-pacing the house because it’s too cold to walk outside, and, of course, reading.

I managed a whopping 18 books in January, which has to be some kind of record for me. I am just that bored.

The one highlight has been the fun of planning a baby shower because–drumroll please–your girl is about to become a v. young grandma!

That’s right, Jacob (my son) and Desiree’ (his partner) are expecting and we couldn’t be more excited. The baby is due in April and will be the highlight of the spring (and the year, obvi).

I truly can’t wait. Are there any good books for grandmas out there? Let me know.

(This will soon be a meme about me.)

Okay, on to the books!

What Shannon Read in January

See past monthly recaps here.

Re-reading

I did some heavy re-reading and some comfort reading in January.

Re-reads include:
Diary of a Bookseller–Fun, witty, touching, and interesting insight into owning a second-hand bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. Great writer/narrator and filled with fun characters.
Confessions of a Bookseller–Sequel to the above. Ditto.
Their Eyes Were Watching God–I read this in high school and hadn’t picked it up since. What a saga. Just. Yeah. There’s a reason this is a classic. It floored me.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry–Comfort reading here.
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times–Very obvious comfort reading. I recommend this one if you’re sick of winter and may benefit from “leaning in” to this trying season.
The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman–Fascinating story of a woman (girl at the time) taken captive by Yavapai and then Mojave Indians.

The Women of Brewster Place

I adored this book. The women’s stories are fascinating and often heartbreaking. A true modern classic. I plan to read lots more Gloria Naylor.

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism

The author examines several cults, both modern-day and historic, along with fanaticism that leans toward “cultish,” while showing how the language used by leaders and followers in cult movements foments/fomented each one’s influence. Really interesting.

More Barbara Pym

Really liked A Glass of Blessings. Didn’t particularly care for Jane and Prudence. Overall, the rest of Pym’s novels aren’t really hitting for me the way Quartet in Autumn and Excellent Women did last year. I’m currently listening to Less Than Angels though and will report back.

I’m afraid my impressions on the rest of the books I read are rather boring. In sum:
Secret Daughter: Really good!
She Came to Slay: Short but informative.
The Bluest Eye: I’ve only read two other Morrison books–Beloved and God Help the Child. I liked both better than The Bluest Eye. I’m not totally sure why. Maybe the story just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Bad With Money: A Millennial tells you how to money. Fun listen.
Joan is Okay: You know I love a quirky main character and this fit the bill.
Pizza Girl: Whole different kind of quirky and good.


In February, I plan to go right down my TBR and either read the books I think I want to read or dispense with them already. It’s a long list, so wish me luck.

And tell me what you’re reading this month!

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2022 Read Harder Challenge, That Reading Life

I decided I need a challenge…

January garden…apropos of nothing

…and the 2022 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge seems to fit the bill.

I debated about doing the Classics Challenge and the When Are You Reading Challenge, but neither suited my mood this year.

With classics, I’d rather just see where my natural impulses take me. (So far, they’ve taken me to The Women of Brewster Place, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Barbara Pym.)

And, with historical fiction, well, I read a lot of it last year and I’ll probably continue reading it this year, with no prompts needed. It is one of my favorite genres after all.

I decided I wanted to break out of my usual genres/themes and also learn a little more about contemporary fiction.

The Read Harder Challenges seems to offer some new-to-me types of categories and I will definitely enjoy looking for books to fit them.

All that said, here’s the list for the Read Harder Challenge and my best laid plans. We all know what happens to those. 😉


Read a biography of an author you admire.

Harriet Jacobs - Yellin, Jean Fagan

Read a book set in a bookstore.

Read any book from the Women’s Prize shortlist/longlist/winner list.

Read a book in any genre by a POC that’s about joy and not trauma.

Read an anthology featuring diverse voices.

Read a nonfiction YA comic.

Read a romance where at least one of the protagonists is over 40.

Read a classic written by a POC.

Read the book that’s been on your TBR the longest.

Read a political thriller by a marginalized author (BIPOC, or LGBTQIA+).
I hate political thrillers, but I’m trying to keep an open mind.

Read a book with an asexual and/or aromantic main character.

Read an entire poetry collection.
I’m already rolling on this one because I received this for my bday last year. It’s becoming one of my favorite books of all time. I have to read it slowly because every poem kills me. Right in the feels.

Read an adventure story by a BIPOC author.
Cool, I was planning to read this anyway.

Read a book whose movie or TV adaptation you’ve seen (but haven’t read the book).
This is a tough one for me because I usually read a book then look for and watch the adaptation. Just me? Welp, maybe this is the year I finally read the books made into Merchant Ivory films. Howard’s End perhaps? A Room with a View? Maybe…

Read a new-to-you literary magazine (print or digital).
After I stopped submitting my poetry to them (with middling success), literary mags pretty much fell off the map for me. This looks like a good list though.

Read a book recommended by a friend with different reading tastes.
That’ll be easy. I don’t know anyone who has the same taste as me. I’ll ask Ben and see what he picks for me.

Read a memoir written by someone who is trans or nonbinary.
I just like the cover.

Read a “Best _ Writing of the year” book for a topic and year of your choice.
I’m not looking forward to this. I can’t seem to get through these contemporary anthologies.

Read a horror novel by a BIPOC author.
Can’t resist a creepy/haunted house story.

Read an award-winning book from the year you were born.
1980, here we come?
Actually, this is post-WWII literature. But it won the National Book Award in 1980.

Read a queer retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, folklore, or myth.
Definitely don’t like retellings. But, sigh, we’ll giver her a whirl.

Read a history about a period you know little about.
I rarely read histories focused on time periods. Rather, I read histories of specific people. It’s hard for me to look at a straight history book and be like, yes, that’s the one for me. I’ll give this one a whirl.

Read a book by a disabled author.
Torn between this and Hellen Keller’s autobiography.

Pick a challenge from any of the previous years’ challenges to repeat!

I think I’m going with “Read a book that takes place in a rural setting.” That leaves the field pretty open for me.


Are you doing the Read Harder Challenge this year? Or, do you have any books to recommend for these specific categories? Let me know!

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What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: 2021 End of Year Wrap-up

Hey hai hello and Happy New Year! I’m back as promised with an end-of-year wrap on the reading.

But First, Some Pics from Our NYE Party

Just had to share these moments.

Ben knocked it out of the park this year by commissioning an amazing ice sculpture. Family and friends turned out to celebrate and make it the best time. We all wore either “black tie” or just what we were feeling. I, of course, turned up in sequins with champagne bottle earrings because I am that extra. We had a ton of food, drinks, beer pong, and fireworks.

It couldn’t have been a better way to say good-bye to a rough year and hello to a new one.



And Now for the Reading Wrap-up with Nerdy Book Stats

Note that these numbers won’t reasonably add up to the total number of books read due to issues like books that cross genres and books written by both a male and a female author. In these cases, I logged both stats for one book.

Total books read: 82 (3 fewer than last year)
Fiction: 58
Nonfiction: 24
Female authors: 65
Male Authors: 18
Nonbinary/Trans authors: 0 (Same as last year. That’s a real miss for me. Determined to work on it this year.)
Non-white authors: I managed 11, 7 of which happened in December when I realized I’d barely read anything by someone who was not of my same race. I want to be a more informed and aware person than that, so…
E-books: 16
Audiobooks: 55 (damn)
Re-reads: Started an official re-reading project in 2019 and am keeping it up.

Year of the Audiobook

The bulk of my reading happened via audiobook. Here are a few of my favorites from the year.

Most-read Genres

Classics: 13

I didn’t succeed at the Classics Challenge this year. In fact, I ignored it completely and read whatever I wanted. 🙂 C’est la ME.

Historical Fiction: 13

It was a goal of mine to read more historical fiction this year and I learned that there is a lot of bad historical fiction out there. But here are a few I loved. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Pachinko.

Mystery/Thriller: 13

There’s almost nothing I like more than settling into a warm bath with a glass of wine and a thriller. It’s always a true break for my tired brain.

Memoir/Autobiography: 11

Always a winning genre for me. A few of my favorites:

Other Genres I Read

Biography: 2
Fantasy/Magical Realism: 1
Nonfiction History: 3
Letters (nonfiction): 1
Myth/Folktale/Legend: 2
Psychology: 1
Speculative Fiction: 1
Self-help: 5 (Do not remember reading that many…)
Social Issues: 3
Spirituality: 1
YA Fiction: 1

2021 Takeaways/2022 Goals

I want to read more diversely and will be making a point to read many more books by BIPOC authors in 2022.

I loved the classics I read and plan to, once again, choose them at random rather than completing a Classics Challenge.

I’ve had a little time to reflect and can’t think what my other reading goals for 2022 should be. Just…drawing a blank. Will keep you posted.

In the meantime, I hope everyone’s 2022 is off to a good start!



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What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: December 2021

And there goes another year–woo! Happy Holidays, all! Hope your December was as enjoyable as mine. And if it wasn’t, I’m sending virtual *hugs* to you. I know it’s not everyone’s favorite time of year.

Here’s one of my favorite presents from this Christmas–a brand new potting bench!

I’m about to level up my gardening game hard. (Ignore the dirty siding. It’s winter…)

Isn’t is *heart eyes emoji*???

Here are my sister’s two Christmas pups who decided my new rug was the comfiest spot to squat.

And here’s a snowy scene from our block. It’s not from Christmas, which was rainy, but from a couple days after.

On to the books!

I’ll put together a recap of my entire reading year soon, but here’s what I read in the past month.

What Shannon Read in December

Aside from the treat of rereading Bridget Jones’ Diary (because Christmas), I was determined to read only books by BIPOC authors. I succeeded in seeking out and finding some awesome books–I read a total of 7.


Another Brooklyn: This is a coming-of-age story that was a bit too sentimental for my usual tastes. That said, I read it in two days, so who am I to criticize? Set in Brooklyn, of course, it’s the story of a young Black girl who tells her own story and that of her neighborhood. I loved the sense of place.

Heavy: Quite the opposite, this an incredibly heartbreaking memoir by an amazing writer. I can’t use enough meaningless superlatives to describe it. Laymon writes about growing up Black, male, fat, and with a mother who is larger than life in some of the most dysfunctional ways.

Klara and the Sun: A totally different book for me to read. This is speculative fiction told from the perspective of an Artificial Friend, essentially a solar-powered, humanlike robot named Klara. She gets purchased by a young girl and her mother. It turns out she was purchased to learn as much about being like the girl, Josie, as she can just in case Josie dies from her illness–so Klara can “continue Josie”. It’s wonderful, creepy in the ways that only speculative fiction can be, and a bit plodding, if I’m honest.

A Burning: What a fabulous novel. This one, set in India, begins with terrorists locking the doors of a train car and throwing molotov cocktails into it. It’s heart-wrenching from the start. We then follow the story of the young woman accused of organizing this act of terrorism. We witness the story through three narrators, the woman herself, a trans friend from her slum, and oddly, her school gym teacher, all of whom play vital roles in the case as we learn their own stories. I sped through it in a day. Can’t recommend it enough.

Such a Fun Age: This audiobook won an Audie Award and for good reason. It’s wonderfully narrated by Nicole Lewis and I was sucked in from the beginning. It starts with an incident where Emira, a Black babysitter has been asked to take her young charge, a white toddler, to a grocery store to get the girl out of the house for a while while the family deals with a whole other problem.

Emira, her best friend, and the little girl head to the neighborhood grocery, which is something like a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. There, a white woman alerts security that Emira is with a little white girl and wonders weather the little white girl is supposed to be with her. The scene errupts into a disturbing, racially-charged incident filmed by another customer.

And the story moves from there. We also get a second perspective in the novel, that of Emira’s white employer Alix. The book is heartbreaking, triumphant in the end, and also, in its way, is a sort of coming-of-age story for Emira.

Bridget Jones’ Diary: Because Christmas. Don’t worry, I also watched the movie twice. Also, has anyone moved on from there to watch Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason? It’s terrible. Do not recommend.

Pachinko: Another award-winner for a very good reason. This novel pulled out all the stops. It’s one of those novels that reviewers probably call a “tour de force.” Set in 1900s Korea in the beginning, the book follows a young girl, Sunja, who works in her parents’ boarding house, and who falls in love with a wealthy man from another town. You can probably already guess that she becomes pregnant and I really don’t want to give away anything else. This is a wonderful book to discover as you go.

The story of Sunja’s family starts in Korea but is largely set in Japan and illuminates the experience of Korean immigrants there during the time of the novel. These are issues that I, having grown up a suburban white girl in America, wasn’t even aware of. And that, in a nutshell, is why books like this one are so important.

How can you understand the perspectives of others if you don’t know where they’re coming from–the history and experiences behind their actions, behind who they are?

I want to understand other people, but my travel budget is limited and I’m an introvert. Thus, books.


I’ll end on that not-so-eloquent note and hope you get my point. I’ll be back soon with a full year recap. Thanks for stopping by! And here’s a jolly Christmas collage.

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What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: November 2021

And there went another month! Thanksgiving and my 41st (!!) birthday in the bag. How did I get this old? Like, what’s happening?

Life Update

  • I had a birthday! It was awesome and I was soundly spoiled by my loved ones. Lots of presents, two cakes, and a pie. I love you all so much.
  • Thanksgiving was so much fun. We gathered. We overate.
  • I’m still making tons of collage and the obsession continues.
  • I have almost all of my Christmas shopping done.
  • Work is fine.

Scintillating, no?

What Shannon Read in November

Past monthly recaps available here.

And here’s what I read in November.


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Finished up the Dragon Tattoo series and enjoyed it thoroughly. I see myself coming back to these over the years. Especially the audiobooks read by Simon Vance. He’s such a great narrator.

The Woman Upstairs

Exactly the kind of quirky, introspective novel I love. This is about a single woman who befriends a family and becomes mildly…obsessed with them. She makes weird art and has lots to say about the lot of the single woman and her place in society. I loved this book.

Homesick

Another quirky book, this time a memoir by a woman who can’t afford housing and thus lives in a shed. I loved the atmosphere in the book, which is set in western Cornwall. And I appreciated what Davies had to say about exchanging one’s life force for money. She’s a gardener and a surfer and a bit of a loner. Can relate. (Not the surfing bit, but yes to the rest.)

A Friend From England

I wanted to love this and didn’t. I’m finding that’s how I generally feel about Anita Brookner. Her novels are odd, often with–you guessed it–quirky characters. They’re intense, “delicate,” as Goodreads calls them. This one is an examination of a relationship between a single woman and some family friends. She gets overly involved in their lives and this leads to discomfort for her in many ways. It’s an interesting premise and I thought I’d love it, but instead of appreciating the book’s “delicacy,” I just found it tedious. And now I find this paragraph tedious…

Transcendent Kingdom

This was my favorite book of the month. Gyasi can do no wrong in my eyes. Themes explored run the gamut from race to familial relationships, to the immigrant experience in the U.S., to addiction, suicide, and grief. It floored me. I’m going to reread it for sure.


Tell me what you’re reading! I have big plans to finish out the year strong. And, aside from a reread of Bridget’ Jones’ Diary, I’m focusing on BIPOC authors. How about you?

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What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: October 2021

Happy belated Halloween! Did you read any spooky books in October? I tried a bunch of ghost stories but got bored and didn’t finish them. I need to stop trying Susan Hill. I just can’t get into her. Instead, I ended up re-listening to the Dragon Tattoo series and that’s where I got my fill of darkness.

But I’m still looking for spooky book recommendations, so bring ’em on if you have ’em! I can read spooky all year.

In other news, October was a busy month here. Working, of course, plus it was Jacob’s 20th birthday and Desiree’s 21st! We had so much fun celebrating them with cake, presents, and a few libations.

We also hosted quite a few football weekend guests. People are excited to get back to ND now that restrictions have lifted a bit. And I’m still busy making lots of collage.

That’s the life update…

On to the books!

What Shannon Read in October 2021

Some Notes:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I’d forgotten how good this is! The mood, the quirky main characters, the odd and wonderful relationships–I love it all. Also, since I listened to it, Simon Vance’s voices is burned into my brain from the first time I listened. And this time around I had flashbacks to listening while driving to a job I had five years ago!

Side note: Given all the crazy action in this book, is it strange that my favorite scene is when Lisbeth goes shopping and drops 90,000 kronor at IKEA?

Yes, Lisbeth. The answer is always yes.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

This one was slightly less interesting, and certainly not as well-paced and tight as the first book, but after finishing Book 1, I needed more Lisbeth Salander in my life. Still good, but nothing is wrapped up and one must slog one’s way through Book 3 to get to a satisfactory ending. And I do mean slog. The audiobook is in the neighborhood of 20 hours in length.

Where the Crawdads Sing

This is a book I avoided because it was popular. You know by now that this is a habit of mine. But a friend recommended it and I finally gave in and read it. I read the hard copy about halfway through, then finished up via audiobook. Both were excellent and, per usual, I need to get off my high horse and stop nixing books from my TBR just because other people like them. I mean, what a book snob.

Quartet in Autumn

I love Barbara Pym. I read this one because it was recommended on this list by Five Books: “The Best Five Books on Friendship.” It’s about a group of four coworkers who are all single for one reason or another. They are office drones in 1970s London, the flavor of which comes across wonderfully in the book. That’s one of the things I loved about it–it’s much moodier than Pym’s other books.

All four main characters are nearing the end of their working lives. They’re all single and super quirky in their own ways and I enjoyed watching them interact. But the book also saddened me as questions of worth and mortality are revealed through those quirks. It’s a beautiful and sad novel.

Hand to Mouth

I read Hand to Mouth after watching Maid on Netflix. I really enjoyed Maid, but I’ve already read the book, so I had to find something else when I wanted to read a book in a similar vein.

Tirado works in various service industry jobs (generally–she does mention retail and factory work), and this book came of an essay of hers that went viral. The essay, based on an internet forum comment, essentially explained reasons “poor people” act and think the way they do. She starts with explaining why poor people indulge in various costly vices (smoking, drinking, etc.) when they have trouble paying for the basics in life. She refutes the idea that poor folks aren’t worthy of little luxuries despite their poorness. And she goes on from there, covering things like payday loans and going to the ER in place of health insurance.

For anyone who’s ever been broke, none of this will be illuminating. But for anyone who hasn’t, I recommend reading it with an open mind.

Virginia Woolf

My fascination with the Bloomsbury set continues! (There’s a little account of my Bloomsbury obsession in this post.) This biography of Woolf is by Nigel Nicolson, son of Woolf’s friend and lover (famous in her own right) Vita Sackville-West. It’s not comprehensive, but Nicolson tells lots of fun stories about Woolf and her life among the Bloomsbury crowd.


That’s it from me. What did you read in October?

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What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: September 2021

And just like that, it’s October, one of my favorite months of the year. It’s time for spooky and cozy things, but it’s still warm enough to conduct outdoor activities in comfort. For me that means drinking more hot coffee and tea, decorating for Halloween, and giving the garden a good clean-up.

To whit, here are some autumn-y garden shots, plus goofing around with the fam, and walking a happy dog through the park. Also, Elvis the polar bear has his Halloween costume ready to go. And we celebrated Ben’s 41st bday, but slacker wife that I am, I can’t find any photos of that…

That’s the life update you didn’t come here for. Now, here are the books you did come for!

What Shannon read in September:

Some notes:

Affluence Without Abundace and Catching Fire

These two formed a theme. Both focus on hunter gatherer societies. Affluence Without Abundace offers a look at an existing hunter gatherer society in the Kalahari. It reflects on the Bushmen’s natural tendency to work only as much as is needed for food and comfort (as do/did most hunter gatherer societies). And author James Suzman introduces us to members of the group, illustrating the many new challenges such a society faces as their home territory is eaten up by the larger society, allowing them little room for their traditional way of life.

Catching Fire offers a look into the development of fire, its use in cooking, and the place of cooking in human history. Richard Wrangham posits that cooking directly affected and encouraged sapiens’ development as a species. Fascinating!

The Wife Stalker and The Therapist

Funny to have read Affluence Without Abundace: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen along with a thriller bearing the hilarious title of The Wife Stalker. 🙂 Hey, everyone has their brain candy. That’s exactly what The Wife Stalker and The Therapist were. I do love relaxing with a good, cheesy thriller.

Pretty Things

This is what I like to call a “smart thriller.” In my opinion, books like Pretty Things fall into a category apart from those like The Wife Stalker. These novels are signified by smart writing, good character development, and a thorough sense of place. The mystery moves the story along deftly while the reader is engrossed with the characters.

In Pretty Things, a woman whose mother is in need of expensive cancer treatment becomes a con artist. She needs to carry out one last big job to pay for an experimental treatment. (Ain’t that always the way it goes?) The target is a social media influencer overwhelmed by family secrets. It takes place in a historic mansion in Lake Tahoe.

All the elements of a smart thriler! And I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

The Exiles

A quick historical fiction read that centers on a nanny–one of my favorite protagonist types.

The Great Alone

I’m sure you beat me to this one. It’s been so popular that I ignored it like the book hipster I pretend I am. This is one of those novels that can be tritely described as “sweeping.” *eyeroll*

It’s the story of a family who moves to Alaska in the 70s, centering on thirteen-year-old daughter Leni. She comes of age in a small town surrounded by vast wilderness, growing up with a violent Vietnam vet father and a mother who is loving but cowed by and entirely devoted to her husband.

I’ll be honest, this started off slow and there were definite dips in the narrative with what felt like barely enough plot to keep me moving along with the story. But I am more tolerant of such issues in audiobooks and I did listen to this. So I was able to stick with it and I found it very much worth it in the end.

Valentine

This is a heartbreaking story. It begins with the rape of a young second-generation Mexican-American teenager in the oil town of Odessa, Texas in the 1960s.

What struck me about the book was author Elizabeth Wetmore’s ability to incorporate a healthy number of characters, and to write from the perspective of each, without losing the story line. Somehow, we read from the perspective of more than five characters and can transfer between them with ease.

Anyway, it’s an excellent book.


That’s it for September. Tell me what you’re reading! And let me know if you have any good spooky book recommendations for October!

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Audiobooks, Fiction, Nonfiction, What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: August 2021

I guess I only blog once a month now, but since I don’t have a lot of readers, I feel like that’s OK. This space is mostly for me to get out my thoughts about books. If you enjoy reading them, thank you! Let’s be friends and talk about books. 🙂

Life updates:

I went back to the office. It was a rough transition, but we have a brand new building on campus, so that’s fun. Here’s my new cubicle. It needs some artwork.

I’m still collaging and sharing what I make on Instagram.

Still gardening too. Here’s a local volunteer garden I have been helping with. I’m a little over halfway toward getting my Master Gardener certificate.

And that’s about it. What’s up with you? Tell me in the comments.


Now, in case you just came for the books, here is…

What Shannon Read in August

Some Notes ‘n’ Things

The Great Gatsby:

Still great! I hadn’t read this in so long. It’s a summery book in my mind, so I went for in the 90-degree melee that was August, and I read it in about two days. I know we’re not supposed to call classics “readable” but I must say, this one is, OK? I’d forgotten how easy it is to get wrapped up in the story. Does good writing sometimes make you forget about the writing entirely because you’re so involved in the story? Let’s discuss.

Also, why is everyone but Nick a terrible person?

The Chaperone:

Also a re-read for me. This is about a woman who chaperones the famous Louise Brooks on her first trip to New York to become a dancer. I love the characters, the simultaneous story lines, and the glimpse into 1920s Kansas and NYC. Recommend.

The Wonder:

Good historical fiction, but will not be a favorite for me. This one is about a Florence Nightengale-trained nurse who in 1859 travels from England to care for a young Irish girl, “the wonder.” The girl has been fasting for months, taking in nothing but water. This is ostensibly for religious reasons, but the reader, along with the nurse, gets to the bottom of the mystery as the nurse observes the girl and her family day in and day out. Watch out for the English bigotry against the Irish.

The Underground Railroad:

Why did it take me so long to read this? You probably beat me to it and already know that this is a heart-breaking and wonderfully written novel about living in and escaping from slavery. 10/10

Cork Dork:

My sister-in-law Susannah, founder of Wines and Bends, is a wine afficianado. When she and her family moved here during quarantine, we became a tightly-knit crew, mostly hanging out with each other. We had wine at pretty much every gathering and I learned a ton from Susannah just by asking about the different wines. That led me to Cork Dork, the memoir of a journalist turned sommelier in NYC.

This book tells the story of wine and serving wine in restaurants, while offering education on the sciences of taste and smell–oh, and there are about 100 types of wine mentioned, so I now recognize many more in every day situations than I ever did before. The process of becoming a somm is explored in detail. What a fascinating world. I’d recommend it even if you’re not that interested in wine. I wasn’t and now I am.

The Four Winds:

This is an epic tale of one woman struggling to keep her children safe in Dust Bowl Texas and small town California of the 1930s. I listened to the audiobook and fell in love with narrator Julia Whelan. I will now listen to pretty much anything she reads.

The book itself totally grabbed me. Though melodramatic at times, I found the writing generally excellent and the characters engrossing. Many driveway moments were had.


That’s it from me! What are you reading? I’m on a total historical fiction kick, so let me know if you have recommendations!

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Fiction, Nonfiction, What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: July 2021

It’s August. What happened? I blinked, went to New Orleans at the end of July, my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and nephew moved, and now here we are.

We are going to miss those folks like crazy. We became a tight crew during the raging-est part of the pandemic.

I’m also going back to the office tomorrow for the first time in months and months. My anxiety knows no bounds and I have no idea what to wear. I just know I can’t show up in my Metallica tshirt the way I do for Zoom meetings.

But here we are.

Anywho, here’s what I read in July. Mostly audiobooks, with some library books sprinkled in. I’ve now got a yen for contemporary gothic novels, especially if they are about spinsters or mansions or nannies. So hit me up if you have suggestions!

What Shannon read in July

Some notes:

Flowers in the Attic:

When I was a teenager, I read every V.C. Andrews book I could get from the library. I thought it would be good fun to revisit Flowers in the Attic as an adult and see how it held up. I listened to the audiobook and it was weirdly engrossing. Seriously, I’ll probably reread it again sometime. That said, the melodrama was almost unbearable at times. Still good fun.

Like One of the Family:

This is a classic about a black domestic worker and her experiences throughout her working life, as well as during the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. If you don’t understand what domestic workers have been through in the U.S., and what many go through even now, I recommend reading this one. The way Childress handles the subtleties of racism may be illuminating. Or, as it did for me, the book may reinforce your understanding and remind you that we still have a lot to fight for in this country.

Okay Fine Whatever:

One of those fun memoirs about trying new things. Lots of good fish out of water moments for Hameister, but mostly I remember the sex-capades, to be honest. I can’t recall if the book focused a lot on those or if they just stood out to me. I feel more informed about polyamory though.

The Invited and The Companion:

Great spooky, gothic fun.

The Unsuitable:

I loved the protagonist, who is a Victorian spinster with a terrible father who is trying to marry her off. There’s a loving housekeeper, some will-they-won’t-they action with a fiancé, and, wait for it, a dead mother who lives in the woman’s neck. Yep, I thought it would be too weird for me too, but I loved this book. Again, good gothic fun. This was my favorite book of the month.


And that’s all she read! Thanks for visiting.

I leave you now with a great view of the Mighty Mississippi and a pic of us at the New Orleans Audubon aquarium–a rare moment when no alcohol was being consumed. Don’t worry, we fortified with daiquiris directly before.

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