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!

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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.

 

BennyHogan

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.

 

Gawain

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.

 

 

Edmund

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!

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Nonfiction, What Shannon Read

Help Me! One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-help Really Can Change Your Life


HelpMebookHelp Me! by Marianne Power
was a fun little romp. I’ve said recently that if I am going to read and enjoy a memoir (or essays), I have to like the author’s voice. And Power has a very distinct voice. She’s Irish, living in London, and her style is sort of Bridget Jones or, as one Goodreads reviewer put it “this memoir reminded me of a Sophie Kinsella novel.”

I’ve only read the first Shopaholic book, but I totally get it.

Anyway, Help Me! is Power’s memoir about one year in her life in which she attempts to actually take the advice given in her favorite, or just well-known, self-help books. She’s a self-help book addict, so to speak, and though she’d read it for years before writing the book, she noticed that she moved from one book to the other without ever really applying what she’d read.

One of the things I liked about this book is that it gives a view of the self-help industry, and it is a billion dollar industry, from the view of someone who buys in to the various popular gurus’ advice while possessing enough self-awareness to criticize it thoughtfully. Though, as you’ll see, Power gets deeper into the world of self-help and starts to lose her perspective.

Power is funny and endearing throughout. She had me from this paragraph:

“So why did I read self-help if it didn’t, well, help? Like eating chocolate cake or watching old episodes of Friends, I read self-help for comfort. These books acknowledged the insecurities and anxieties I felt but was always too ashamed to talk about. They made my personal angst seem like a normal part of being human. Reading them made me feel less alone.”

That is exactly why I read self-help. I have a few shelves devoted to it myself (though it’s mixed in with some other general spirituality/philosophy/psychology stuff):

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I mean, I also read it so I can use some of the advice, but, admittedly, follow-through is not my strong suit. But it keeps me inspired. I’m not looking for a fix, let alone a quick fix, for any of my problems at this point. I’m just looking for ways to continue working on myself.

Anyway, if you read self-help, I think you’ll really enjoy the books Power chooses, her methods of applying the advice given, and the consequences that play out in her personal life. As a self-help reader, I felt like an insider. I recognized every book and author and much of the advice.

I also appreciated Power’s critique of gurus and methods, though she doesn’t approach this with the intention of an exposé. She’s sincere about her interest and her attempts to find advice to apply to her own life. Still, I found the chapter on Tony Robbins especially poignant. Power attends a three-day event of his and the whole thing reminds me of one of those kooky mega-churches with Christian rock music and a pastor with trendy facial hair. It’s fascinating.

Anyway, whether you like self-help or not, I’d recommend this one. I enjoyed Power’s personality and insights; plus, she’s a journalist, which means her writing is particularly adept. That can be hard to find with funny writing. I so often read books where the author is funny but a bit clumsy.

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Friday Fives

Friday Fives

Happy Friday! It’s been a pretty mundane week, but I finished one book and started another, so I call it a win.

What I’m Watching:

Yesterday, I discovered these short BBC videos titled “The funny thing about…” Great format and they address some interesting topics.

Otherwise, I’ve now actually subscribed to BritBox and have continued the delightful Gardener’s World.

Atomic Habits by James ClearWhat I’m Reading: 

This week I finished Help Me! by Marianne Power (blog post to come) and started the much buzzed about Atomic Habits by James Clear. Got a copy from the library and liked it so much that I’ve ordered my own so I can mark it up with notes and highlights.

What I’m Listening to:

Not much of anything this week, I’m afraid. The weather has been rainy and cold, so I haven’t been walking home, which is when I usually listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

studionotenotebookWhat I’m Making: 

Crafts for some friends’ baby shower and that’s about it. I didn’t even work on my puzzle this week. Maybe it’s the weather. I’m too tired and curmudgeonly. I do continue to journal though and this week I was pleased to receive a new notebook I ordered, the Studio Note Tamoe River Notebook by Nanami Paper. It’s 480 pages of grid-paper goodness that lays flat when you write in it. The paper is fountain-pen friendly, which means I may have to treat myself to one of those too.

What I’m Loving: 

This lovely garden blog: Tangly Cottage Garden Journal

I’m hoping to be inspired to get my act together with our outdoor space. We just had a giant red oak removed because it was trying to push into our roof, so that was step one. I have a whole border flower garden planned out and I may be able to piecemeal some of it together this year, but we’re also shoveling money into painting our house, so…

Giant stump (and Jacob’s shadow)

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Trunk on a truck in our driveway, plus the stumps of three small (diseased) trees that were also removed.

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It’ll all come together in the end, right?…RIGHT?!

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The house is slightly more finished than this now. The triangle at the top and all other sides have yet to see paint.

Tell me what you’re up to/into lately! ❤ 🙂

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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.

 

 

ElDefo

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!

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Nonfiction, What Shannon Read

Madame Lalaurie

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Not the mansion in question because it was dark by the end of the tour, but this is something that’s haunted – I forget why and how…

God I love New Orleans. Ben and I went there recently when I had the opportunity to travel for a work conference. I went to sessions during the day and the night was ours. It was so much fun. It’s pretty much Ben’s favorite city and he says that it’s one of the only places he’s been to in the U.S. that truly feels different to him.

While there, we went on one of those hokey ghost tours and it was super fun. You get more legend than history with that kind of thing, but it still gets you into the spirit of the place. Especially in New Orleans.

One of the stops on the tour was the Lalaurie mansion, originally home to Delphine Lalaurie, the inspiration for Kathy Bates’ character in American Horror Story: Coven. After hearing the legend of Madame Lalaurie, in which she tortures and kills her slaves and possibly (it was strongly implied by our tour guide) murders her husbands, I had to research the real history of Delphine and the ill-fated mansion (later owned by Nicolas Cage, incidentally).

MadamLalaurieAfter reading some reviews online, I turned to Madame Lalaurie, Mistress of the Haunted House by Carolyn Morrow Long. Despite is sensational title, this is an exhaustively researched biography that endeavors to tell the real story of Delphine’s life, and her alleged crimes, based on original sources, along with an examination of the legends. I was delighted that the book also provides a good history of the city from its founding and life during the Civil War era.

I love to read both true crime and well-researched biographies of historically significant women and this book definitely fits the bill there—but knowing that Delphine was about to torture/kill her slaves, knowing that she “owned” people at all, was creepy and the whole biography has a depressing mood. If you read it, I recommend a palate cleanser afterwards or, if you read books simultaneously, opt something more light-hearted in between chapters.

At any rate, Morrow Long provides a 3D view of Delphine. We see her grow up in the upper echelons of New Orleans society. Her family history is interwoven with the history of the city as her grandfather brought the (MacCarthy) family there from Ireland during the French colonial era.

We hear about Delphine’s childhood and her three marriages, as well as what’s known about her family, friends, and of course, her slaves, or what’s known of them based on record and rumor.

If you don’t know the history, I won’t ruin it for you. I will say that the major plot points were covered by our ghost tour guide but at the end, she very mysteriously declared “…and Delphine was never seen or heard from again…” Lol. That’s not what happened. If you don’t want to read the book, check wikipedia.

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Nonfiction, What Shannon Read

This is Where You Belong

 

ThisisWhereYouBelongbookI listened to this audiobook version of This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick on my walks home from work in the past couple of weeks, which made for some delightful synchronicity.

This book is part memoir, part self-help, part reporting. Warnick tells the story of her family’s propensity to move to new cities, rather than staying put, and the process of deciding where to move and why. Through her “Love Where You Live Project,” she then conducts experiments in how one can intentionally cultivate a feeling of “place attachment” where it doesn’t exists.

Warnick conducts interviews with experts and plain old residents like herself in various cities across the country. But she focuses on Blacksburg, Virginia, where her family moved due to her husband’s job (Go Hokies?).

River

I take a bridge over the river on my walks home. It’s especially pretty in the springtime, though behind me is a super busy street.

Throughout each chapter, she lays out Love Where You Live “principles,” like “If you want to love your town, act like someone who loves your town would act.” In little ways and small ways. For example, you see some trash on the ground in the park: would a person who loved your town pick it up? Probably. So get to it. Cultivate a sense of ownership over the space.

Each chapter also ends with a Love Where You Live Checklist based on the strategies discussed, offering practical advice for creating positive feeling/attachment to the city you live in. Some of these were unique and helpful and some, I thought, were common sense.

But maybe that’s because I’m already place attached. For example, patronize businesses you don’t want to go away. If you like that you have an independent bookstore in your town, spend money there to ensure its future. Etc., etc.

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook, especially while I was walking home from work through a few different “landmark” areas in my city. It genuinely made me appreciate where I live a little more.

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Friday Fives

Friday Fives

Foyer

Our foyer BEFORE the cleaners got there. Does this say “squalor” to you?

Happy Friday! I, for one, am trés ready for the weekend.

In First World Problems news, we had cleaners at the house yesterday and it ended up being more stressful than if I’d just cleaned the whole house myself. There were two cleaners, who were very nice and who probably don’t make enough money to spend the better part of an hour scrubbing our bathroom floor. And then a lady who called herself “the inspector” showed up with a clipboard and tried to temper my expectations by saying the house would not be spick and span by the time she left and that since the mess wasn’t made in a day, I shouldn’t expect it to be clean in a day.

I felt…judged. I mean, do we have a lot of dog hair? Yes. Should we clean our bathroom floor more than we do? Absolutely. Do we live in abject filth and squalor? Certainly not.

All this is neither here nor there at this point. They have my money and I have experience, which, as Ben says, is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

On to more pertinent, if not more interesting, musings!

What I’m Watching:

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Monty Don of Gardener’s World – the two dogs follow him around on camera. I ask you.

Gardener’s World, a BBC show hosted by Monty Don. I am watching it through a free trial of BritBox because apparently I am now a full-fledged Anglophile.

 

What I’m Reading:

TheInvitedbookI’ve started The Invited by Jennifer McMahon because I am always looking for a good ghost story. So far it’s…OK. I don’t care for the pedestrian writing – McMahon falls a little too far on the tell side of “show, don’t tell,” and it’s just not very sophisticated, I guess. I know I sound like a snob, sorry. I’ll see if it holds my attention.

What I’m Listening to:

UnderTheSkinPodcastStill listening to the audiobook version of Sarah Wilson’s First We Make the Beast Beautiful. And when not listening to that, I’m delving into Russell Brand’s podcast Under the Skin. I like him much better now that he’s been through a 12-step program. In fact, I truly enjoyed his book Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions. If you like audiobooks, I recommend listening to it as he reads very well. If you’re not British, you’ll have to get used to the accent, of course. But I find it quite amusing and him quite insightful.

What I’m Making:

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I COVET this traveler’s notebook from Chic Sparrow. It will be mine!

I’m doing a lot of personal writing lately, rather than crafting or art-ing. Journaling is my method of choice and I’m even jotting down the beginnings of a book about it. Shhh, don’t tell. You’ll ruin the mystique around it in my head.

 

What I’m Loving:

And speaking of journaling, I’m currently obsessed with two blogs which are very focused on the tools of the trade:

Notebook Stories – I recommend this one for people who obsess about notebooks and journals and sketchbooks.

From the Pen Cup – fancy pens, writing, and notebook goodness. A bit more personal as well.

Fill me in on you. What are you reading, watching, etc., etc.?

Happy Friday to all! ❤ ❤ ❤

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