Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 historical fiction books I loved

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The three loves of my life in one pic

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly top ten list hosted by Jana at Artsy Reader Girl.

This week, the theme is ❤ love ❤ . Since I’m doing a historical reading challenge this year, I thought it might be fun to share historical fiction I’ve read and loved in the past.

Here goes!

1. The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton


I discovered Anya Seton’s excellent historical fiction last year and started with The Winthrop Woman. It features a strong female character in colonial America. I now want to read all her books.



2. The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier


Featuring another strong female in a different era – the English civil war. Funny, I always think of du Maurier as one of my favorite authors and yet I’ve only read two of her books. This and Rebecca. Must remedy that.


3. Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright


Set in rural Ontario, this one is about two sisters and their relationship, as well as their different choices during a time of cultural upheaval. Clara’s sister moves to NYC to become a radio star and something terrible changes Clara’s life. Just talked myself into re-reading it…


4. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry


Murder at an English boarding school. What could be better? I’ll tell you. The audiobook version being read by the talented Jayne Entwistle, that’s what.



5. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters


Lesbian characters, 1920s London, murder, Sarah Waters’ incredible storytelling. Audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson. You can’t go wrong.



6. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom


More strong female characters, this time enslaved women of the antebellum South.



7. Doc by Mary Doria Russell 


I freakin’ love Doc Holliday. And at the hands of Mary Doria Russell, he comes to life, as does the 19th-century American West.



8. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty


Starring the woman who is hired to be the chaperone of early film star Louise Brooks. I might re-read this one too, actually.



9. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles 


If you enjoy tangled webs of tricky and codependent relationships played out to great drama in historic settings, you’ll probably like this as much as I did.



10. Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Margaret Campbell Barnes


One of my favorite English queens through the eyes of Margaret Campbell Barnes, a talented writer who probably doesn’t get remembered as she should. And isn’t that a great book title?



I could go on, but this is a top ten. I just adore this genre. As you can tell, I lean toward women’s stories, though the books I’ve listed here are mostly focused on white women’s stories. I aim to read more diverse books this year.

That said, got any historical fiction recommendations for me? Bonus points if they feature minority women characters!

That Reading Life, Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Discoveries I Made In 2019

Top Ten Tuesday header

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly top ten list hosted by Jana at Artsy Reader Girl.

If there’s anything I like as much as reading, it’s learning about books, talking about books, and discovering books. OK, that was three things. But yeah. That’s why I have a book blog. If it involves books, I’m in!

So when I saw this week’s topic, I knew I wanted to share a list. Below are the Top Ten Bookish Discoveries I Made in 2019, which Jana indicates can be books, authors, blogs, websites, apps, products, etc.

Here we go!

299278401. New author: Barbara Pym

Believe it or not, I had never head of author Barbara Pym until I saw her novel Quartet in Autumn listed on Five Books. I started reading it but got distracted. But I did listen to the entire audiobook version of Excellent Women and I loved it.


2. A fun blog:

Books and book thoughts by Stacey, a librarian who hosts a Book Bingo game each year. I always enjoy hearing about what she’s reading. (Link)

3. Books at the Museum of the American Revolution


I had the pleasure of visitng Philadelphia for a second time in July. One afternoon, after conference sessions, I walked around a historic area (I love the federal/colonial style architecture in the city) and happened upon the Museum of the American Revolution. I didn’t tour the museum as I was a bit tired, but I popped into the museum shopped and enjoyed perusing the books. Because I’m on a budget, I only bought Sally Wister’s Journal. But I took note of others and ended up buying the kindle version of Ties That Bound: Founding First Ladies and Slaves when I got home. And I checked out The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton at the library. I love finding books while traveling!

4. Inflatable kayaks

inflatablekayakI didn’t know that inflatable kayaks were a thing until I read Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery by Alys Fowler. I put two on my Christmas wish list and my sister- and brother-in-law came through, sending both kayaks and two life vests for my husband (or son) and me. I’m really looking forward to paddling down the river near our house in the spring.

5. The Literary Ladies Guide

I really enjoy following the Literary Ladies Guide on Facebook. Today, my feed hit me with this gem:


If that doesn’t just sum up working in a cubicle…

13167087._SY475_6. A rediscovery: Augusten Burroughs

I rediscovered Augusten Burroughs and ended up reading three of his books: Running With Scissors (a reread), Dry, and This is How. I liked This is How so much that I bought it. More here.



313267. Another new author: W. Somerset Maugham

I’d never heard of W. Somerset Maugham, but I came across Theatre in the classics section at the library and fell in love. May read another of his this year for the Back to the Classics Challenge.


8. The book that spurred a trip to the Robie House


At long last!

Several years ago, I discovered author Blue Balliet and read her children’s novel The Wright Three about three young sleuths solving a mystery around the Robie House, a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Chicago’s Hyde Park. It’s such a good book. Since then, I’ve wanted to visit that house, but none of our Chicago trips led me there. 2019 was the year! I finally made it to the house and Ben, Jacob, and I took one of their tours. It truly is a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece and an architectural treasure. I’m grateful to the author who led me there.


Here’s a view from across the street. Prairie style at its finest.


And check out these windows!

9. I realized I had a low-key reading project going


I’m rereading books from my younger years to see what I think now. Re-discovery is as fun as discovery sometimes. More here.

10. I truly cannot think of a 10th item…

What did you discover last year? Please share!

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020

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Literary Dog

Only cares when new snaccos are released.

This is an interesting topic for Top Ten Tuesday this week. As you may know from my previous posts, I don’t pay much attention to when the books I’m reading are published (unless they’re part of the Back to the Classics Challenge). I read old and new books every year.

But since this is the topic this week, I thought I might use it as a chance to research new books and educate myself about what’s coming down the pike.

Here are ten I want to investigate (thanks, internet!).

The Herd1. The Herd by Andrea Bartz

“When an exclusive New York women’s workspace is rocked by the mysterious disappearance of its enigmatic founder, two sisters must uncover the haunting truth before they lose their friendships, their careers–maybe even their lives.”

I discovered this one via Marie Claire, which said, “Anybody obsessed with the exclusivity of private women’s clubs, typically accessible only to the elite, will appreciate Andrea Bartz’s latest thriller, The Herd…”

I did not know that those clubs were a thing and am now prepared to become obsessed.

FastFashion2. How To Break Up With Fast Fashion by Lauren Bravo

“Journalist Lauren Bravo loves clothes more than anything, but she’s called time on her affair with fast fashion in search of a slower, saner way of dressing. In this book, she’ll help you do the same.”

Fast fashion presents so many issues. I want to be reminded of how it is affecting the planet and economics and look forward to reading about some solutions. I find that sometimes books like this are long on problems and short on solutions, so I’m hoping this one delivers.

handiwork-by-sara-baume3. handiwork by Sara Baume

“A glimpse into the process of one Ireland’s best writers, handiwork is Baume’s non-fiction debut, written with the keen eye for nature and beauty as well as the extraordinary versatility Sara Baume’s fans have come to expect.”

Recently, I’ve ventured into a new-to-me medium, collage, and the creative process of visual artists has become more interesting to me. Looking forward to this one.

fatcowfatchance4. Fat Cow, Fat Chance by Jenni Murray

“At sixty-four, Jenni Murray’s weight had become a disability. She avoided the scales, she wore a uniform of baggy black clothes, refused to make connections between her weight and health issues and told herself that she was fat and happy. She was certainly fat. But the happy part was an Oscar-winning performance. In private she lived with a growing sense of fear and misery that it would probably kill her before she made it to seventy.”

I’m on my own health and weight-related journey and I love to hear from women of my size.

bloomwild5. Bloom Wild: a free-spirited guide to decorating with floral by Bari J. Ackerman

“Bloom Wild is for rebellious maximalists seeking savvy advice for decorating their homes with bold floral fabrics.”

Ahhh, love all these prints! And this one comes out in March, just in time for spring!

neverenough6. Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction by Judith Grisel

“From a renowned behavioral neuroscientist and recovered drug addict, an authoritative and accessible guide to understanding drug addiction: clearly explained brain science and vivid personal stories reveal how addiction happens, show why specific drugs–from opioids to alcohol to coke and more–are so hard to kick, and illuminate the path to recovery for addicts, loved ones, caregivers, and crafters of public policy.”

It’s depressing, but I’m always interested in the science of addiction and why addictions hold people in thrall and ruin lives.

SizingPeopleUp7. Sizing People Up: A Veteran FBI Agent’s User Manual for Behavior Prediction by Robin Dreeke and Cameron Stauth

“After two decades as a behavior analyst in the FBI, Robin Dreeke knows a thing or two about sizing people up. He’s navigated complex situations that range from handling Russian spies to navigating the internal politics at the Bureau. Through that experience, he was forced to develop a knack for reading people–their intentions, their capabilities, their desires and their fears.”

This made me think of The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker, which I read in 2018 and loved.

godshot8. Godshot by Chelsea Bieker

“Chelsea Bieker’s gripping debut novel follows a teen girl embroiled in a cult, exploring how far she’ll go to break free of the abusive leadership.”

Radical Christian cult. I’m here for it.


howmuchofthesehillsisgold9. How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang

“An electric debut novel set against the twilight of the American gold rush, two siblings are on the run in an unforgiving landscape–trying not just to survive but to find a home.”

Considering this one for the history reading challenge I’m thinking of doing this year.


deathinherhands10. Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

“From one of our most ceaselessly provocative literary talents, a novel of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds a cryptic note on a walk in the woods that ultimately makes her question everything about her new home.”

Oh good, Ottessa Moshfegh has a new book coming out! I really enjoyed My Year of Rest and Relaxation and this one sounds like another in the same vein.


Some of these are very particular to my interests, but let me know what you think. Anything look good there?



Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Favorite Fictional Villains

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is a “character freebie,” meaning we could post a list about anything related to book characters. I thought it’d be fun to revisit some favorite fictional villains, those characters we love to hate, or just love for their inimitable badness. 🙂

Ben and I had a conversation about how it may not be easy. The fiction we read is so often more complicated than good guys vs. bad. I think that’s one of the things you learn in high school English classes right off the bat – protagonists aren’t always the “good guys” and the bad guys sometimes have very good reasons for being bad.

It’s not always the Rebellion against the Empire. And if it is, you can usually see why the Empire became the Empire in the first place. There’s a backstory.

That said, we did each come up with five villains that have stood out to us in our reading lives, and frankly, I scrambled a bit. You’ll see I had to include a “mysterious, nefarious presence” as a villain because the books I read lately that have villains are more likely to be ghost stories.*

Ben’s Top Five Fictional Villains

1. Valentine Wolfe – Deathstalker series by Simon R. Green


An appropriately insane space aristocrat from the delightfully deranged Deathstalker saga. He’s a ruthless, amoral schemer who is searching for some sort of transcendent consciousness by surfing a constant wave of exotic drugs while he plots against the heroes, his rivals, his own family…basically everybody.

2. The Black Riders – The Lord of the Ring series by J.R.R. Tolkien


Their mysterious, implacable menace as they stalk the hobbits through the early stages of The Fellowship of The Ring haunted my childhood nightmares. You know that the unimposing halfling heroes stand no chance if they’re caught without heavy hitters like Gandalf or Aragorn to protect them. So the relentless pursuit fills the reader with dread. And as always, the monster is scariest when it’s still a mystery.

3. Iago – Othello – Shakespeare 


Robert Ramirez as Iago, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival

He didn’t totally jump off the page to me when I read Othello. But seeing Robert Ramirez perform the role last year, he absolutely steals the show. His wit and all-too-knowing humor made it tempting to root for the bad guy up unitl the heart-wrenching final act.

TheWarrior4. Samuel “Slick” Des Grieux – The Warrior by David Drake

He’s actually the protagonist of “The Warrior” by David Drake, and he starts off looking like a hero. His rivalry with nemesis Lucas Broglie could be described as Achilles vs Hector with hovertanks: a heroic fighter gone off the rails due to pride, stubbornness, and rage.

5. Montresor – The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe


Right: Still from The Cask of Amontillado short film by Moonbot Studios

Another villain-as-protagonist, Montresor’s carefully-plotted vengeance in The Cask of Amontillado is haunting and sinister. Thanks to his narration, we journey through dark catacombs inside a mind poisoned with resentment over “a thousand” unspecified injuries and insults. His smug closing line, “Yes, for the love of God!” is deliciously dark.


Shannon’s Top Five Fictional Villains

1. Mrs. Danvers – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier


Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers (right) with Joan Fontaine as the unnamed protagonist in Rebecca (1940)

I hate to be so basic but no one makes me want to shout “WHY DON’T YOU SHUT UP AND GET OUT OF MY LIFE” in a Napoleon Dynamite voice like Mrs. Danvers. The housekeeper at Manderley made her creepy presence known and hated at every turn, along with her obsessive devotion to her previous mistress, and nearly drove our heroine to jump out a window to her death. Horrid woman.

2. The Sheriff of Nottingham – The legend of Robin Hood


My two favorite sheriffs: Pat Buttram (1973) and Alan Rickman (1991)

Is there any worse villain than a mid-level government official on a power trip? I mean, we’ve all had business at the BMV or the County City building. Sorry, too real? In the legend of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham is characterized as a power-tripping, greedy low-level tyrant of the worst order. He imposes unreasonable taxes on the poor and is, of course, the nemesis of beloved Robin Hood. My two favorite flim adaptations of this story are the Disney movie and, because I grew up in the 90s, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. “Look into my eyes…You will see…What you mean to me…”

3. Annie Wilkes – Misery by Stephen King 


Cathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990)

Ahhhh, she’s so crazy. A classic obsessive psychopath, Annie Wilkes imprisons the injured bestselling novelist who has killed off her favorite character in his series of Victorian romance novels. That just won’t do. Is there anything better than a mentally unstable villain? They’re so deliciously unpredictable. And Cathy Bates is iconic in the movie adaptation. I think I’ll reread the book this year…

4. Count Olaf – A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket


Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf in the Netflix series (2017)

Count Olaf is a guy who is easy to hate. Ugly, mean, and lacking good hygiene, Count Olaf enacts a series of ridiculous and complicated plots to steal the fortune of the three Baudelaire orphans. Reading the series is a bit like watching a bunch of Scooby Doo episodes. It’s always “we thought it was [a grizzled seaman/mean gym teacher/detective in sunglasses] but it was really Count Olaf in a mask the whole time!”…or whatever. I read these books to Jacob when he was younger and always got a kick out of the “surprise.”

5. Mysterious, nefarious presence – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


Julie Harris as Eleanor “Lance” in the 1963 adaptation The Haunting

I don’t know if you consider inexplicable phenomena villains, but I feel that in the case of Hill House, it is an apt description. The spooky presence at Hill House leads poor, meek Eleanor Vance to a cataclysmic ending, so you be the judge. I don’t know how Jackson made progressively louder door-knocking so scary, and in book format no less, but I didn’t want to get up to pee in the middle of the night for like a week after reading this book.

*Speaking of ghost stories – do you have any you like and can recommend? I’m always on the hunt for more.

Check out our past Top Ten Tuesday posts here.

Top Ten Tuesday, What Ben Read, What Shannon Read

Top Ten Favorite Childhood Picture Books

Yeah, I know, late again for Top Ten Tuesday, but I loved this week’s theme and couldn’t not participate! So here we are.

This week, it’s Top Ten Favorite Picture Books from your childhood. I thought that because Ben also has a great reading history in this department, we should do a shared list (much like the characters list we did last month).

So, my five are first and Ben’s five follow.

Shannon’s Top Five Favorites

Ack, this list has me all sappy remembering these books and being read to as a kid. Get ready for some non-high-brow literature, baby. Here we go.

ADayattheBeachBook1. A Day at the Beach by Mircea Vasiliu

I was truly tickled to see that this one had reviews and comments on Goodreads. I loved going through this as a kid because everything is labeled and I could pick out all the things I recognized and all the things our (Great Lakes) beaches didn’t offer: crabs, giant seashells, etc. I still have my copy of this and every time my eye passes over it on the shelf, I remember being little and running through the waves with a butt covered in sand and sticky lemonade spills. So pure.

p.s. I did a bunch of Googling but couldn’t find a spread to share and I think my copy might be at my dad’s house or with one of my siblings.


2. Fairy Tales: A Puppet Treasury Book, Illustrations by Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata

img_20190704_102456327I memorized every single story and image in this creepy-ass 3D puppet illustration fairy tale book. The witch in Hansel and Gretel is truly alarming. Some internet sleuthing tells me that this was a popular form of “illustration” and that my compendium of stories were originally released as individual books with various editions in the 60s and 70s. There’s no copyright date inside the volume I have, just individual copyrights for the illustrations. It was bought for me in the 80s. Creepy? Yes. But now I also see now that I hold a bit of picture book history in my personal library.



14927513. The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot, Illustrations by Ruth Brown 

This one was given to me by my mom’s cousin and his wife. It’s written by Jim Herriot of rural-veterinarian-writer fame. It’s a sweet story about a mother cat who brought her kitten to the home of an elderly woman before she (the mother cat) died. Very real talk for a little kid, but I loved sweet stories about animals. I also read this to Jacob when he was little.




4. This random children’s Bible

We were pretty Catholic when I was growing up. I received this as a baptism gift and my dad read it to me at bedtime.  I’m no longer religious, but I still have the Bible, which went through both my siblings after me, then passed on to Jacob. I’ll probably have it forever and/or pass it on to grandchildren or, if Jacob doesn’t have children, possibly nieces or nephews.




5. The Bedtime Book 

This was a board book and I am now kicking myself because I can’t find. I’ve had it since I was little. It’s a board book. There is a little girl on the cover praying and the book is shaped around her silhouette. Gonna’ check with my siblings to see if either of them have it. I couldn’t find it online and really, it offers no literary significance. It was just special to us because it was read to us about a million times. Sort of our version of Goodnight Moon, which I don’t remember having as a kid.


Ben’s Top Five Favorites

Top 5 Records presents: the top 5 picture books of my childhood. Dr. Seuss boutsa be all up in the mothafuckin house. 😉 With longer to work on it I might make slightly different selections, but I think this is a pretty decent list.

2272201. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, illustrated by Michael Hague

The story itself is delightful, Tolkien’s Middle Earth is enchanting, and what little kid wouldn’t love an epic adventure where a half-size character gets to play the hero? Hague’s illustrations are a delightful mix of evocative scene-setting and dramatic action. On top of all that, it was a birthday present from one of my favorite Aunts. One of my all-time favorite books, picture or otherwise.


77752. Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss

I could fill this whole list with just Dr. Seuss books. But this one has a family tradition behind it. Also, if Wikipedia is correct, it is the first all-color picture book. So it’ll stand in for other favorites like Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are, On Beyond Zebra, and I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew. We would always get Happy Birthday To You from the library when any of the Rooney children had a birthday coming up, and my Dad would read it in honor of the birthday child. I find myself noting the sage injunction, “You have to be born, or you don’t get a present” to this very day.


Did this book contribute to the fact that I keep wanting to treat myself and those around me to slightly-extravagant birthday celebrations? Maaaaayyyyybe…..


2979113. The Grey Lady and The Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang

The whole book is just beautiful, slightly surreal pictures. The style is sort of Toulouse-Lautrec meets Dixit. Despite the absence of words the story is quite clearly told, and there is plenty of action and suspense.




17631114. Upside-Downers by Mitsumasa Anno

This book is really fun and creative. It’s written half upside down, and half right-side up. But which is which? The playing card-themed characters bicker about who is doing it wrong. Finally the matter comes before the Kings. “Oh king, great king your Heartiness, aren’t we the ones who are up? Oh King, kind king your Clubbiness aren’t they the ones who are down?”

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101185. Saint George and The Dragon by Margaret Hodges, Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

If you didn’t get this book from the Scholastic book fair back in the day, you were missing out. It has vivid illustrations, with some cool little details in the sidebars that reward a closer examination. The prose hints at alliterative verse, giving it a somewhat poetic effect. There are a few awkwardly turned phrases here and there, but as a kid I wasn’t about to scrutinize minor authorial foibles. LOOK AT THAT FREAKIN’ DRAGON!

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Thus ends another belated Top Ten Tuesday. Did you participate? If so, leave your link below!

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters that remind me of myself

I was not planning to participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt until my number one character popped into my head. After searching my book log on Goodreads, I came up with three more, but that’s where I stopped and had the thought that, actually, I don’t tend to read about characters that remind me of me. More often, I find characters that remind me of other people.

Then I was emailing with Ben and he came up with his own, so between us we put together a list of eight.

Ten Characters That Remind Me of…Me!


Kate Maberly as Mary Lennox in the 1993 adaptation of The Secret Garden

1. [Shannon] Mary Lennox from the very beginning of The Secret Garden: A little spoiled, a little bratty, has some health issues, loves animals, definitely needs to get outside more. I would argue that I am less bratty than Mary and Ben says he doesn’t think I’m that spoiled, but still, the characteristics are present.


MyYearofRestandRelaxation2. [Shannon] The narrator of My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: I’m not nearly as cranky or rude and I do not conduct myself as poorly in relationships as this character does, but I identify with her world-weariness and inclination toward escape. Sleep for a year? Sounds amazing.



Minnie Driver as Benny Hogan

3. [Shannon] Benny Hogan in Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy: This was a favorite of my friend group growing up. I’ve read the book at least five times and seen the movie starring Minnie Driver and Chris O’Donnell countless times. Anywho, I identify with Benny as the solid, reliable girl. She’s an older-sister type without any siblings.


Banana4. [Shannon] Nell Schwartz of Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg: Artsy, creative hippie woman with a love of the outdoors who falls in love with a hippie-ish dude and must battle the oppressive Midwestern winters. Sounds about right.



Joel Edgerton as Gawain in King Arthur (2004)

5. [Ben] Gawain:He’s a little tricky, because different versions of the legend give different portrayals, ranging from heroic to villainous. But he’s often noted to have strength that varies with the sun. He’s weaker in the early morning, getting a substantial boost in power after 9 or so.  Then he has a slump around sunset.  It really do be like that.

He’s one of the more humanized characters in the Arthurian legends: sometimes criticized for a lack of piety, but generally regarded as honorable. Loyal to friends and siblings, vengeful toward those who do him wrong. Brave but not fearless.

WatershipDownbook6. [Ben] Bigwig from Watership Down: big, stubborn, tries to protect his smaller buddies, prone to make weird friends.



ParadiseLost7. [Ben] Lucifer in Paradise Lost: The ultimate individualist. I’m definitely not much of a “serve in heaven” type of guy.




Skandar Keynes as Edmund in the 2005 movie

8. [Ben] Speaking of the dark side, Edmund from The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe was always kinda relatable for me: contemptuous of saccharine-sweet goody-two-shoes like Lucy and Peter, prone to brood about perceived injustice, easily swayed by flattery and free food, slow to admit his mistakes. A lot in common with my id.

If you participated in Top Ten Tuesday, drop a link in the comments so we can see your list!

Top Ten Tuesday, What Shannon Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Inspirational/Thought-provoking…books

I’m going a bit off-book for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. The prompt is actually “Inspiration/though-provoking quotes from books,” but I don’t like reading blog posts full of quotes and huge amounts of text. What can I say? I’m a scanner, a product of the times I live in.

So instead, I’m list 10 inspirational/thought-provoking books and why I liked/recommend them. Hope you enjoy!

Ten Favorite Inspirational/Thought-provoking Books

Caveats: These are in no particular order and are not necessarily my favorites of all time or anything. I just like/recommend them.

yogaBitchbook1. Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment by Suzanne Morrison

I just really love the whole attitude of this book. It’s a memoir detailing a yoga retreat in Bali where she becomes a certified yoga teacher. We meet quite a cast of characters in her fellow participants and the couple who leads the teaching certification/retreat. Morrison also, of course, applies what she’s learning to her life and I found that she communicates a lot of simple wisdom without being preachy and while being pretty relatable, as the sub-title indicates.

InPraiseofMessyLivesbook2. In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays by Katie Roiphe

Speaking of relatable, I found a friend in Katie Roiphe as she talks about the highs and lows of motherhood and divorce, and lots of other topics with mass appeal. I enjoyed that she’s a whip smart intellectual and an interesting writer, but mostly, I enjoyed that she seems to embrace her “messy” self and I think that more of us could use to do the same. I find that with essays and memoirs, I must like the author’s personality as it comes across in the book. I’m more likely to keep reading whatever the topic.

RadicalAcceptance3. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach

I don’t know that Tara Brach needs much introduction, but I will say that if the idea of acceptance turns you off, read this book. I hate it when I’m told to accept things, but Tara helped me to understand the concept in a way that helped me successfully apply it to my own feelings and life.

ThesoulofAnOctopus4. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Conciousness by Sy Montgomery

I’ve talked about this book before, so I’ll just say: animals are amazing (us included).


KelseyMiller5. Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life

Just a thing that a lot of us need to do, me included.




6. El Deafo by Cece Bell

Ah, you didn’t expect a graphic novel from me, did you? 🙂 I just love this book about a young deaf girl who creates a superhero alter ego in order to process who she is vs. how the world sees her.


BigMagic7. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert was pretty much everywhere for a while and I think that’s why some people got annoyed with her and with the ubiquitous Eat, Pray, Love. But I liked Eat, Pray, Love and I really like Big Magic. It’s hopeful and encouraging, especially for creative people, and we all need as much of that as we can get.

WillpowerbyGillianRiley8. Willpower! How to Master Self-Control by Gillian Riley

Have I mastered self-control? Hahahahaha. No. But I still like the message of this book because it goes against the conventional understanding of willpower; namely, that we have a finite amount and it’s used up quickly. Riley’s message is that willpower is a muscle you can build. And I just like that approach because I’ve found it to be true in my own life.

LostandFound9. Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money by Geneen Roth

Roth lost her savings to Bernie Madoff and shares her thoughts on the place of money and food in her life. Two subject that may not seem related, but Roth writes about food and eating issues and notices, with great insight, that eating and money often follow the same patterns and fill similar needs in one’s life.

TurningStonesMarcParent10. Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children at Risk by Marc Parent

A social worker in NYC talks about the child welfare system, the people whose lives it affects, and its limitations. He takes the reader into his daily life as a social worker and, as you can imagine, the stories are at turns heartbreaking and inspiring.

And there we have it, my somewhat-dissenting Top Ten Tuesday for this week. Would love to hear any related suggestions! Thanks for stopping by!

Top Ten Tuesday

10 perfect rainy day books

I know, I’m like way too late for Top Ten Tuesday. I haven’t done one of these in awhile, but I love rainy days and spring is upon us at last, so I thought this would be a fun list to do along with other readers of That Artsy Reader Girl (her post, with all other participants is here).

More Top Ten Tuesday posts here.

Here we go.

10 Perfect Rainy Day Books


JaneEyre1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Full disclosure: this is one of my favorite books. But what could be better on a rainy day than a classic gothic novel? Wander the weather-beaten moors with me, friend.



TheDollintheGarden2. The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn

Yeah, it’s a children’s book, but hear me out. This book creeped me out as a kid and it creeps me out now. It has a lonely young girl, an old Victorian house, and spooky ghosties—perfect for stormy weather.


AmericasMostHauntedHotels3. America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in with Uninvited Guests by Jamie Davis Whitmer

Spooky. Ghosties.



BoarIsland4. Boar Island by Nevada Barr

This is, sadly, the only book by Nevada Barr I’ve ever been able to get into, despite loving national parks and general outdoorsy-ness. Her Anna Pigeon series boasts a female lead and each is set at a national park. Anyway, Boar Island is set, yes, at an island outside Acadia National Park in Maine and features stormy waters and a stalker. I found it quick-paced enough to hold my attention. For some reason, other Anna Pigeon books just don’t feel that way to me and I haven’t been able to get through any others. If you have read-alike recommendations for me, I’m all ears!

TheSoulofanOctopus5. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

In my opinion, a rainy day is the perfect weather in which to contemplate the depths of consciousness.


AHouseinFez6. A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco by Suzanna Clarke

Tired of the rain? Too gloomy for you? Not in the mood for introspection? I recommend traveling to a very desert-y place to combat the blues. This is a book Ben bought for me one Christmas. It is a dream of mine to go to Morocco. I haven’t made it yet, but I plan to.

EveryBodyYoga7. Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear. Get On the Mat. Love Your Body. by Jessamyn Stanley

A free afternoon to read? Focus on you.


EnglandinChains8. London in Chains: An English Civil War Novel by Gillian Bradshaw

Broody, England-y, and if you like it, this is a series. Features a female protagonist who defies social norms by reading and getting involved with a printing press.


Dewy9. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

This book may have the same effect on you as a cozy mystery. It’s heartwarming and gentle, but also tells the story of a town library and has a fun cast of characters. Perfect for a cozy reading session curled up on the couch.

TheSecretGarden10. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

You didn’t think I could get through a rainy day list, in the springtime no less, without mentioning The Secret Garden, hmm? Dirt. Rain. Moors. Perfection.



In conclusion, I feel that just about any book is good on a rainy day. The best thing about it is that you’ve made some time for reading.

Audiobooks, Top Ten Tuesday, What Shannon Read

10 of My Favorite Audiobooks


Walking home, listening to an audiobook, like I do

Top Ten Tuesday is sponsored by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I’m a day late, but I decided to post anyway. This week’s TTT is a “freebie,” meaning “make up your own topic.” So, because I love a good audiobook, I thought I’d highlight 10 of my faves.

In order for me to stick with an audiobook, I must must must like the reader’s voice, accent, inflection, and style. There are notable exceptions—Sweet Lamb of Heaven, for example, where the story/writing is so good that I’ll tolerate a terrible reader. But, for the most part, the reader is paramount.
So, with that bit of preamble, here we go.

10 of My Fave Audiobooks

049561. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, read by Davina Porter

Historical fiction, romance, sword fighting, and a great reader. The romance gets slightly ridiculous, but hey, that’s why you read this kind of book, for the dramatic departure from real life. And Davina Porter’s reading is on point.

This audiobook was on repeat in the car for awhile when Jake was younger. I think Harris’ voice is burned into my brain. But it’s a delightful book and the narration is fantastic.

Actress Juliet Stevenson is my top favorite reader. There’s something about her British accent. And she’s just great at doing voices without overacting those kinds of things. I’m hoping she’ll record herself reading the phone book someday just so I can fall asleep to it. One good thing about following a great reader is that they usually pick awesome books to read and I can always depend on Stevenson for that.

4. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry, read by Jayne Entwistle

95607Another actress and reader with a fantastic British accent. But Entwistle’s voice is completely different and she really shows what it can do with the various characters in this very British children’s novel. It’s a Victorian boarding school, so you know I’m all about it. Entwistle is another reader I can count on to lead me to great books.

War5. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle

Another Entwistle for your listening pleasure. I adored this story. Usually I don’t pick up stories set in WWII, but this one touched on a topic of interest: children sent away from London during the bombing. The main character, Ada, will tug at your heartstrings from the get-go.

Flight.jpg6. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, read by the author

Kingsolver isn’t my favorite reader, but she does, as the review on audiofile says, nail the main character’s Appalachian twang. And the writing is just so beautiful that I willingly overlooked Kinsolver’s imperfections as a narrator and got sucked into the story.

Kitchen7. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, read by Bahni Turpin and Orlagh Cassidy

I almost don’t want to write about this book because I loved it so much. I couldn’t do it justice. The story features two narrators as different characters, though the story centers on Cassidy as Lavinia, an indentured servant on a Southern plantation.

Cool story time – I actually emailed author Kathleen Grissom after I finished this book in tears and told her how much it affected me. She wrote back such a warm, kind response. One of my top author interactions ever.

Mare8. The Mare by Mary Gaitskill, read by Kyla Garcia, Christa Lewis, Sean Pratt, and Nicol Zanzarella

This book was more about the story than the readers for me, but, actually, I can still hear Ginger’s voice in my head. And it’s been two years since I listened to this book.

OCT9. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery, read by the author

Another one where the story did more for me than the reader. Ask Ben. I’m still talking about this book. It’s one of those animal books that makes me want to be a vegan out of respect for the animals in it. But now we know plants have feelings, so if I keep on like this, I’ll have to start photosynthesizing.

BAD10. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, read by Tim Curry

Tim Curry is a great reader. I highly recommend listening to the books in the series that he reads. Lemony Snicket himself takes over at some point in the series and Jake and I were upset by this bait and switch.

Note: All links (except for Henry and Ribsy) go to book reviews on Audiofile because I think it’s a fantastic resource for audiobooks.

Here’s a link to the TTT post on That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Ten Tuesday

Books I could re-read forever

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

This Top Ten Tuesday was a challenge for me at first. I don’t do a lot of re-reading. But I’ve recently starting picking up books I read as a teenager or college student just to see how they sit with me now that I have some life experience. Some are still awesome and some, upon a second read, fall flat. But I was absolutely shocked to see that I came up with 15 books I could happily re-read over and over. Who frikken knew?

Books I could re-read forever


1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I read this several times as a teenager, which makes me proud of lil Shannon because I was not real woke back then.

2. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein

I recently read this for just the second time (except for Return of the King, which I never got through the first time for some reason).  Still love the characters and the story and will the rest of my life.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I just love an unfortunate (and then very fortunate) governess, what can I say?


4. One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

I re-read this for the third or fourth time recently and enjoyed it immensely. It’s one of those books that puts early American history into perspective.

5. The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn

This book freaked me out as a kid and tbh it freaks me out now.

6. The Ruins by Scott B. Smith

A nail-biting vacation gone wrong. You can see tragedy about to happen and you’re powerless to stop it. My favorite.


7. Timeline by Michael Crichton

What really gets me about this book is the way Crichton drives home the toughness of medieval people. Think you could fight a medieval knight? Best get to the gym yo.

8. Illumination in the Flatwoods: A Season With The Wild Turkey by Joe Hutto

This is the book that made me fall in love with wild turkeys. Yeah, I know it’s weird.

9. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

I’ve read this about a hundred times. It’s just such a sad, beautiful novel. And Wally Lamb is one of my favorite fiction writers overall.


10. Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott

I clung to this book when Jake was little. It totally validated my own exhaustion.

Yeah, I’m still going…

11. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Loved this book as a kid. I had a beautiful illustrated hardback. I wish I knew where that was. Anyway, I love it as an adult and it’s about time for a re-read…

12. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Ditto this one.


13. Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison

Memoir by a loving foster mother to hundreds of kids. Gets me every time.

14. Back Home by Michelle Magorian

As a kid I was fascinated to learn that children from the UK had been shipped to other countries during WWII.

15. Perfect English by Ros Byam Shaw

And a decorating book because I just want to dive in and live between these pages.

Check out what other people are endlessly re-reading over at That Artsy Reader Girl.