What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon read: July 2022

July is over and I’m not totally sure how that happened. My body decided to celebrate the end of the month by contracting COVID. Not super fun. Would not recommend. I’m on day 5 of clogged sinuses and quarantine. I shouldn’t complain though. Feeling like you have a bad sinus infection is nothing compared to what some people have been through with this illness.

Other than the very end, July was a lovely month. Ben and I had a stay-cation, which included day trips to the beaches of Lake Michigan and to Chicago. The heat was ghastly, but we had fun. Next time you’re in Chicago, hit up Cindy’s Rooftop on Michigan Ave.

The view is amazing:

And so is the dessert!

One more of the view:

How about some books though?


What Shannon Read in July

Some Notes:

Rules for Visiting:

I love a quirky main character and this 40-year-old woman is kind of a curmudgeon. “Prickly” is how one of her friends describes her. I also love this concept. At 40, botanist May wins some recognition and time off from her university work and decides to spend it visiting four old friends. I enjoyed watching her rekindle her friendships with four very different women and seeing how they interacted after being out of touch for years at a time. Also, she’s a botanist who loves trees. So you know I liked the tree content.

Two Edith Whartons:

Love an Edith Wharton novella and this is the first time I’d read Bunner Sisters. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it. (Sorry, boring, milquetoast review here as I wasn’t in love with it.) I read The Age of Innocence for about the 4th time and of course enjoyed that. Though I must say, if we’re comparing Wharton’s great novels, I prefer The House of Mirth. It’s just more up my alley, possibly because it’s a woman’s story.

What the Fireflies Knew:

This one has a very coming-of-age feel. It centers on 10-year-old Kenyatta Bernice (KB), who is growing up in Detroit in the mid-90s. When her father dies of a drug overdose, KB’s mom drops her and her sister off at the home of the granddaddy they’ve never met and heads to an in-patient treatment facility for depression. The resulting story is the rest of what happens that summer, with endearing and heart-breaking results at turns. It’s a wonderful book and it feels like summer. Highly recommend.

Another view pic to break up the text

Forbidden City:

What a great concept for a story. Apparently, Chairman Mao loved ballroom dancing and while he was in power, his underlings organized dances for him and his comrades featuring the company of beautiful teenage girls plucked from all over China for his entertainment (and bedding). This is the fictional story of one of them. I chose it because I thought I could sneak it into the “political thriller written by a BIPOC author” for the Read Harder Challenge. Well, it’s definitely not a thriller, but it’s the closest I’m gonna’ get because I just hate political thrillers.

This is a heart-breaking story and is just fantastic. Here’s the Goodreads synopsis if you want to know more. Highly recommend.

Other People’s Houses:

Good, not great. I do like Abbi Waxman for her relatable writing and LA settings. But my favorites of hers are The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and The Garden of Small Beginnings (which, interestingly, have cross-over characters). I’d start there if you’re interested and new to Waxman.

Four Treasures of the Sky:

Another fascinating premise for a story. Here’s the Goodreads synopsis. I cried. Someone somewhere has probably said that this book just has too much tragedy for their taste, but each tragedy in the book feels real to me as well as lending the story its epic flavor. I’ll probably reread this one at some point.

The Good Sister:

This cover looks like the cover of a thriller, doesn’t it? With that font and the creepy sister in the window? It’s not really a thriller, but there is a creepy sister and a kind of murky mystery. It’s the story of Fern, a librarian (you know I love that) on the spectrum (where? unsure) who has a dark secret in her past. Good enough premise for me. She also has an overbearing sister, a new tech-guy boyfriend, and a plot to get pregnant as a surrogate for said overbearing sister.

I enjoyed this one, but thought it was a bit overblown. I wasn’t expecting great literature, though, so it went down just fine.


And that’s what I read in July! I swear these monthly recaps come closer and closer together. How’s things with you? What are you reading? Tell me!

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What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: May 2022

May started off with a bang when Baby Ames was born on the first. We are all totally in love, of course. (Side note: he is over a month old now and he is officially a smiler. Ahh!)

For us grandparents, the month soon settled back into the usual day-to-day routine, then finished with lots of fun when my brother and sister and their spouses visited over Memorial Day weekend. We had lots of fun eating on restaurant patios and visiting one of the local botanical gardens.

That hour or so in nature really soothed my soul. And so did being with the people I love. Here are some scenes in the gardens.

That’s about it for May. On to the books!


What Shannon read in May

Excuse this weird-looking gallery…the quirks of WordPress prevail.

Some Notes:

Call Your Daughter Home

This is the story of three women living in South Carolina in 1924. Goodreads has a good synopsis.

Gertrude, a mother of four, is striving to save her daughters from starvation after freeing herself of an abusive husband. Retta, a first-generation free slave, has built a life with her beloved husband and makes her living working for the prominent Coles family, which includes keeping their appalling secrets. Over the course of the book, Annie, a.k.a. Mrs. Coles, is estranged from her daughters thanks to her appalling husband, and eventually learns he is keeping a pretty disgusting secret.

I found the book both riveting and sensationalist (shrug) and would give it about 3/5 stars. Spera excelled at writing in the three women’s voices, with the best, in my opinion, being Gertrude’s.

But the content was a bit rushed at times, the writing just OK. Other times, the story flowed and the writing was quotable even.

So, a mixed review of this one from me.

To Marry an English Lord

This was a reread. I just rewatched Downton Abbey and saw both movies, including Downton Abbey: A New Era.

Definitely recommend A New Era if you’re interested! It’s good fun.

Being immersed in that world again made me want to reread this book, which centers on the era when cash-poor English gentry went looking for rich American women to marry.

This was the situation for Cora, Countess of Grantham, an American who married the Earl on the show–and brought gobs of money with her.

The synopsis on Goodreads says this book is filled with gossipy stories and I’d agree. It’s got fun tales about people like Consuelo Vanderbilt and the famous Astors, along with a lot of English gentry I hadn’t heard of.

I found the most interesting bits to be the view into daily life in the Edwardian Era as the book discusses the family’s home lives after the couples are married. Would recommend!

Falling Angels

I find that Tracy Chevalier’s novels fall along the lines of “historical fiction lite.” They’re something to fill in the gaps between other books. Reliable storytelling in well-researched historical settings, her novels always pull me right into the story, and I’ll usually finish the book in about a day or so.

That was the case for this one, the story of two girls growing up in the middle- to upper-middle class in early-20th-century England. I don’t have much to say about it except that I enjoyed the setting more than the story, but I never had much interest in any of the characters and how their lives turned out. I’m not totally sure why.

Unf*ck Your Brain

I found this mildly helpful book to be spoiled by the author’s use of swearing as a crutch. I don’t mind a lot of swearing in general. I do mind it when it’s employed in the guise of being “conversational,” which typically means it’s used in place of actual good writing. Wouldn’t recommend this one. There are plenty of other good brain books out there.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

This book counts as my selection for the category “Read a romance where at least one of the protagonists is over 40” in the Read Harder challenge.

It’s the charming story of the Major (68), who falls in love with the Pakistani woman who runs one of the local shops in his English village. Romance and foibles ensue. There is also a story line about his son with whom the Major has a rocky relationship, which I found interesting. The characters, story, and tone come across with depth and wryness—a tough combo that author Helen Simonson masters. Would recommend.

Belgravia

Another Julian Fellowes special! He is, if you do not know, the creator of Downtown Abbey. He also wrote this novel and created a TV series to go along with it. I saw the series first and enjoyed it, then decided to listen to the audiobook version of the novel. Here’s the Belgravia Goodreads synopsis if you’re interested.

I really enjoyed the story and characters. A novel in which “the aristocracy rub shoulders with the emerging nouveau riche,” it’s chock full of class and family drama. It’s a little slow and subdued, so if slow historical fiction doesn’t work for you, you may want to skip it. I loved it and will probably rewatch the show soon.


That’s it for May! What are you reading this summer? Do tell! I need some ideas.

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What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: April 2022

It’s been kind of a whirlwind around here. I almost forgot to do an April wrap-up.

We spent April very anxiously awaiting the birth of my grandson, Baby Ames. Due April 22, he was actually born May 1!

He was a very healthy 9 lbs 1 oz and 21.5 inches. A long little guy just like his tall parents and OH SO SWEET. I can’t get over him and I never will. We’re not splashing his photo across the internet for now, but trust me when I say he is adorable and perfect and so very loved.

That’s the big life update and the only thing (person) that’s been commanding our attention right now.

In less important news, it’s World Collage Day! Hosted by the online collage community, it’s a day to celebrate collage in all its forms. This is what I posted on Instagram to celebrate.

On to the April books!


What Shannon Read in April

I read a total of 8 books in April and it was quite a mix, with a couple of rereads, a couple Read Harder Challenge selections, and a good smattering of nature.

Some Notes:

The Inner Life of Animals: Peter Wohlleben is quickly becoming one of my favorite nature writers. I enjoyed these animal stories and recommend the audiobook. Just know that if you’re looking for a bunch of science with your nature writing, you may be disappointed. I was mostly looking for interesting stories about animal behavior and that’s what I got, so I really enjoyed it.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. du Bois: This one was recommended by my friend Brigid and I’m so glad! It was epic at more than 800 pages. I had no idea it would be that long when I started because I read it on a Kindle, but I didn’t care and I stuck with it to the end. Jeffers is an incredibly talented fiction writer and I was easily drawn into the story of Ailey and her family history. Synopsis on Goodreads if you’d like to know what the story is about.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden and The Enchanted April: If you read this blog, you’re sick of hearing about von Arnim’s books, I imagine. But she’s one of my favorite authors and these are two of my favorite books to read in the spring (ahem, “second winter”). Highly recommend the audiobook versions of both.

Quicksand: I loved Passing by Nella Larsen (if you haven’t heard of the book, you may have seen the screen adaptation advertised on Prime Video), so I decided to seek out this author once again for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge category “Read a Classic Written by a Person of Color.”

I’m so glad I did.

The story centers on Helga Crane, a woman who quits her comfortable teaching job despite the security it offers and goes from situation to situation, moving to Harlem, Denmark, and eventually to Alabama for various reasons. Race is a major theme as Crane has her own thoughts about how her race (she is half Black, half white) has affected her life and situation.

This is a story about a woman trying to find herself and the various geographical locations she finds herself in each teach her something about who she is and what she wants. The ending leaves Helga’s ending to the imagination, which is both frustrating and a perfect ending in different ways.

Sorrow and Bliss: This contemporary novel is part love story (or marriage story, more like), part introspection on the part of the protagonist Martha, and part family drama.

If someone had described the novel in that way to me, I’d probably have passed. But I came to it with no expectations, not really knowing what the book was about, and was immediately sucked in by Mason’s incredible writing. Here’s the Goodreads link if you need a better description than mine!

The Wild Remedy: Get ready for this–I read this because Britney Spears recommended it on her Instagram account. Yeah, it’s a funny way to get a book recommendation, but you know what? This book was excellent.

Mitchell explores the ways in which nature can help us heal while telling of its influence on her own life and especially her struggle with depression. I loved it. It reminded me a lot of another favorite of mine in the same vein–Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May.

The Silence of the Lambs: Did you know this book was the second in a series? I had no idea. I read it for the Read Harder Challenge category “Read a book whose movie or TV adaptation you’ve seen (but haven’t read the book).”

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the story. The book was just as gritty as the movie, but I found it slightly less dramatic because it’s definitely a police procedural. Not my usual brand, but I still enjoyed reading the book, then watching the movie again for comparison.


And that’s it for April, friend. I’m happy to say the weather has started behaving itself, relatively speaking. So it seems we are finally over “second winter” and on to summer. Hope you’re doing well!

I leave you with a few pics of this year’s daffs and tulips.


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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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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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