Like Romance Novels but Hate the Covers? Here’s one solution.

I’m going to come clean – I’m a romance reader. There, I’ve said it. There can be some  stigma about the genre, though. Smart women don’t read romance. Romance is poorly-written schlock. It’s paperback porn. And the covers – oh the covers! – don’t exactly help overcome these assumptions about the quality of romance books.

Well, I’m a smart woman. I’m not a fan of bad writing. And the porn argument is pretty sexist. One thing I can’t argue with, though, are the covers; so many of them are just awful.

Like every genre, they’re not ALL gems, but these cheesy covers dumb the books down considerably. So what’s a romance-loving, cover-cringing reader to do?

E-books! We can read the books we like without flashing the eyebrow-raising covers around. Until the publishers figure out that romance readers don’t need a disembodied torso on the cover to sell copies, I will do most of my reading with a digital book.

These are just a few books I’ve loved in which the cover (and sometimes even the title!) had little or nothing to do with the actual story. If I were going by the covers, I probably wouldn’t have picked up these books, and would have missed some great reads:

 

 

 

Lucky for me, the library has digital copies of these titles, plus a LOT more. Cheshire Library has a large collection of all types of ebooks (including romance) available to download with your CPL card to your device of choice.  Our OverDrive platform has over 1500 romance ebooks available to check out, while our hoopla platform has over 1000. Enough to keep the most voracious reader supplied with happy endings.    

Sorting White Trash

indexIt was a hard call, but I’d say White Trash by Nancy Isenberg was my Number 2 Must Read of 2016 (after Chasing the Scream), but oh, have I put off writing about it because it played so much into last year’s politics it seemed as if it were written for it – but it couldn’t, because it was written before last year’s one-of-a-kind election year.

“White Trash” is a term that began just before the Civil War and became entrenched afterward, a term for the poorest white people who were absolutely uneducated, dirty, poorer than slaves – and had no desire to change their ways. They considered themselves perfectly fine and above anyone else. Rich people were to be sneered at, since they considered themselves better. Educated people were sneered at, because they considered themselves better. Yet as a class they were so despised for their lack of morals and work ethic, even slaves considered themselves above Poor White Trash.

Isenberg feels the concept goes back further than that. Who did England send over to1400306193764-cached America to pad out their colonies? Who would not be missed from the overcrowded prisons and cities? Not the landed gentry, but those persons who for whatever reason did not fit into society and were unsuccessful at supporting themselves. The Virginia Colony had to go so far as to set a death sentence for people who did not work and did not attend church on Sundays. Starvation was so bad that people resorted to cannibalism. The people sent over refused to work, preferring to run off to unsettled land (which was “owned” by others) and fend for themselves. Getting people to do the hard labor of setting up a colony was quite difficult.

Further, Isenberg says that as the country expanded, the first to move west were… the folk who refused to work for others, could not function in a society, and would rather starve than work. Each time, the ones who pushed west first were the dregs, seeking escape from prisons, debt collectors, tax men, and others who “infringed” upon them. The wild west was wild because the people who colonized it couldn’t get along with anyone.

“White Trash” has many names, depending on geography – Crackers, Okies, Rednecks, Hillbillies, Trailer Trash, Mud Eaters – all people who shun government, distrust education, live in abject poverty, and have a very flexible moral code. I don’t mean “flexible” as a pejorative but as a term to describe a juxtaposition of ideals: your baby out of wedlock is a sin, but it’s okay for me. Never take charity, but taking free stuff from this agency over here isn’t charity, it’s just free stuff. They have quite the knack for making things acceptable for them but a sin for anyone else.

Isenberg digs into both politics and popularism, citing Andrew Jack110932-004-3f4811e2son (the first person running for President who lost despite getting the most popular votes the first time he ran) as an uneducated, crass boor who appealed to the lowest masses and yet was elected President, and how he loved to flaunt that boorishness, to the distress of the American Gentry. She cites the 1970’s as a time when White Trash became hip – from Smokey and the Bandit, to the Dukes of Hazzard, to Tammy Faye Bakker and the  whole Televangelist craze. Today’s exploitainment shows like Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Boo, and 16 and Pregnant continue to flaunt poverty, lawlessness, and lack of education as something chic and desirable.

Of course race and politics play into it. Much of the divide still stems from the Civil War, with Southern States blaming Northern States for the outcomes, and the Northern States holding the South in utter contempt. Isenberg shows how that all translates into votes, and political forums, and how those in turn affect our elections – including the recent one.

indexIsenberg is not alone in her observations. Numerous authors have also written similar observations, making her research more plausible. One is Deer Hunting With Jesus, by Joe Bageant, in which he talks about going home to rural Virginia, and why such places are becoming  a permanent underclass.  Lee Smith touches on a little of it in her dreamy autobiography Dimestore, about growing up in rural Appalachia.  Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance does a fantastic job presenting the issues from the first-hand experience of growing up in 1980’s Kentucky.

No matter what your political leanings, White Trash815bv15ciol will open your eyes to why current politics are playing out the way they are and how people are being exploited in the process, why you can’t seem to educate people out of poverty, and how that poverty persists generation after generation – and no, it’s not due to Welfare. How do we change it? How do we shape it? Or should we allow an uneducated underclass to dictate policies it knows nothing about – and chooses not to learn?  There’s no easy answer to be had, but this book is a must read and will open your eyes to a lot of things you never learned in school.

May is National Salad Month

salad

The Association for Dressings & Sauces (ADS) launched National Salad Month in May 1992 in response to a 1991 Gallup Poll that revealed that three out of four people eat a tossed salad at least every other day.

Salad is generally a mixture of cold foods such as vegetables or fruits.  It is usually topped with dressing, nuts, croutons and sometimes meat, fish, pasta, cheese or whole grains are added.  It is often served as an appetizer, sometimes as a meal, and some people serve it after the meal.

Eating a salad is great all year round, but now that the warm weather is here, take a look at what the Cheshire Library has to offer with these selections of salad cookbooks.  It’s a great time to come up with some new ideas for salads!

saladWilliams-Sonoma Salad  – Salads bring out the best in fresh seasonal ingredients, whether they are delicate spring lettuces paired with soft goat cheese or crisp autumn apples tossed with toasted pecans. Williams-Sonoma Collection Salad offers more than 40 easy-to-follow recipes, including both classic favorites and fresh new ideas. In these pages, you’ll find inspiring salads designed to suit occasions throughout the year — from an informal summer picnic to an elegant dinner with friends. This vividly photographed, full-color recipe collection, appealing to both novice and experienced cooks, will become an essential addition to your kitchen bookshelf.

foodFood Made Fast – Salad – A collection of illustrated cookbooks for the busy home cook utilizes a straightforward approach to preparing tasty, healthful, and time-saving dishes for every night of the week, with easy-to-follow recipes and tips on keeping a well-stocked pantry, planning ahead, and using fresh ingredients.

 

mealSalad as a Meal – A collection of recipes for more than one hundred salads that can be served as a main dish, featuring salads for each season as well as recipes for soup sides and breads.

 

 

daySalad of the Day – A year’s worth of salad ideas features seasonally inspired options for every month and includes suggestions for special occasions, providing instructions for such dishes as chickpea salad with mint and spicy crab salad.

 

salad-daysSalad Days – The author of Death by Chocolate and Desserts to Die For brings his creative approach to main-course salads, with such creations as Penne Pasta and Spinach with Oven-Roasted Plum Tomatoes, Toasted Walnuts, Curly Endive, and Cracked Black Pepper Vinaigrette.

 

bib-bookCooking Light Big Book of Salads – Showcases salads, from simple side salads to giant, meal-size creations, featuring recipes centered around pasta and grains, poultry and meats, and fish.

 

 

subSubstantial Salads – Salads are often considered an appetizer or a summertime meal. When the weather is too hot, lightly tossed greens with seasonal fruits and veggies are perfect for cooling the body and filling the stomach. But with rich, filling ingredients and heartier flavors, salads can be served as main courses even in spring, autumn, and winter. Substantial Salads offers one hundred healthy and delicious recipes for green salads, whole-grain salads, and dressings.

May is quite the foody month.  Here is a link to a blog post I did in 2014 on National Barbecue Month and National Hamburger Month.

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in May

MAY we interest you in some programs this month? When you’re done groaning over that terrible pun, check out some of the highlights from May’s event calendar:

Friends of Cheshire Public Library Spring Book Sale

  • Thursday May 4, 2017, 9:00 AM  –  8:00 PM
  • Friday May 5, 2017, 9:00 AM  –  4:30 PM
  • Saturday May 6, 2017, 9:00 AM  –  4:30 PM
  • Sunday May 7, 2017, 12:00 PM  –  3:00 PM

Bargains! More Bargains! And don’t forget Sunday is Bag of Books Day – fill up a bag of books for one low price (bags provided) – $10 for one bag, $15 for two!

Tuesday Movie Matinees

Tuesdays, May 9, 16, 23, 30 at 1:00 PM

A different movie each week! No registration required.

Mark Twain in Connecticut

Tuesday May 16, 2017, 6:30 PM

Dr. James Golden of the Mark Twain House and Museum  explains the importance of Connecticut and Hartford to Twain’s life and work, including his famous neighbors, such as novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, travel writer and journalist Charles Dudley Warner, Civil War hero and senator Joseph Hawley, and female suffrage campaigner Isabella Beecher Hooker. Registration is required.

Writing Workshop: Story First (Plotting your novel)

Wednesday May 17, 2017, 6:00 PM

This workshop takes participants through the process of developing an idea into a workable premise that can generate a full story. From there writers will examine how to build a plot that will keep readers asking questions and turning pages until they reach a powerful and satisfying ending.  Presented by author Steve Liskow.  Registration required for this adult program.

Pet First Aid with VCA

Thursday May 18, 2017, 6:30 PM

Pet First Aid will teach participants emergency care procedures for your fur babies and provide tips for keeping your pet healthy too. Join us as Doctor Deborah Goul, Director of General Practice at VCA Cheshire Animal Hospital, and other VCA ER doctors,  Please be so kind as to leave your fur family at home. Registration required.

 Introduction to Microsoft Word

Wednesdays,  May 24 & 31,  2017, 6:00  –  8:00 PM

This class will provide an introduction to Microsoft Word and is divided into two sessions.You will learn basic navigation skills to effectively use the Microsoft Word program:

  • Create a simple document.
  • Edit text and check spelling errors.
  • Format the document.
  • Insert a picture; change font formatting and much more.

Please register separately for May 24 and May 31 sessions.

STEM Coffee Hour: Virtual Reality

Thursday May 25, 2017, 7:00  –  8:00 PM

STEM Coffee Hours are designed for adults who are interested in learning more about a particular science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topic. The general format is an informative presentation followed by group discussion. Facilitator: Dr. Tracie Addy, Center for Teaching and Learning, STEM Educator, Yale University. Please be aware that Coffee Hours are first come, first served. Please arrive 10 minutes in advance. If for any reason you are unable to attend, please cancel your reservation to open your space.  Register here (required).

Above and Beyond

Thursday May 25, 2017, 6:30  –  7:45 PM

Join us for the incredible documentary film of the escape from Nazi-occupied Europe by Jewish-American Pilot Bruce Sundlun and his subsequent return to support the French Resistance. Registration required.

Soccer Shots Mini Demo Class (ages 2-3)

Tuesday May 30, 2017  – Two sessions: 10:30 AM  &  11:15 AM

Soccer Shots of Central CT will be hosting a demonstration class for kids ages 2-3 years old. Soccer Shots Mini is a high-energy program introducing young children to fundamental soccer principles, such as using your feet, dribbling and the basic rules of the game. Through fun games, songs and positive reinforcement, children will begin to experience the joy of playing soccer and being active. This program is presented by Soccer Shots of Central CT. For ages 2-3 years old with caregiver.  Registration begins May 9.

Tossing and Turning? Try an Audiobook!

I think we all have nights when sleep eludes us. Our brains start whirling and it’s hard to quiet our thoughts enough to fall asleep. Some people take a pill. I take a book, an audiobook, that is.

I have found that listening to audiobooks in bed at night is the best way to redirect my thoughts away from all the stuff that’s keeping me awake. I discovered this by accident when my children were young and would wake up from a nightmare. They would inevitably be too keyed up to fall back to sleep, and I would stay up with them, usually telling them a story to get their mind off the bad dream until they could drift back off to sleep.

Years later, I had trouble sleeping myself and decided to adapt the storytelling method that had worked with my kids. I started listening to audiobooks at bedtime. What a help they were! I would inevitably fall asleep faster with the audiobook than without, and I found a way to squeeze a little extra “reading” time in!

Now, not all audiobooks are suitable for relaxing bedtime listening. A gruesome crime novel or horror story kind of defeats the purpose – I reserve grittier fare for print reading. Likewise, I find most mysteries require too much attention to detail, so are not the best for my “bedtime stories”. Romance, humor, fantasy, and classics have become my nighttime listening go-tos.

Here are a few suggestions if you want to give my insomnia-cure a try (great for daytime listening, too!):

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, read by Dan O’Grady. A perfect match of book and narrator, this quirky Aussie love story is a delight.

The Martian by Andy Weir, read by R.C. Bray. Terrific narration by Bray gets character Mark Watney’s nerdy genius and dry humor just right.

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Bachman, read by George Newbern. You’ll quickly embrace the prickly Ove, and the neighbors who invade his formerly well-ordered life.

The Harry Potter audiobooks by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale. Jim Dale is a perfect example of how the right narrator can elevate even the best books. He’s won many awards for his narration of the Harry Potter series, and all the accolades are deserved.

The His Dark Materials audiobooks by Philip Pullman, performed by a full cast. Another series that absolutely blooms to life in audio, with this full cast performance pulled together by Pullman’s narration. It’s stunning.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, read by Rob Inglis. Even if you’ve read the book, you’ll get something new out of the audiobook. If you like Inglis’s narration of The Hobbit, you can listen to him read the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well.

The Outlander audiobooks by Diana Gabaldon, read by Davina Porter. Again, even if you’ve read the Outlander series before, you will find new things to love about it in Davina Porter’s skilled narration. And it’s nice to hear all the Gaelic words pronounced correctly!

Bossypants by Tina Fey, read by the author. This book is, quite frankly, hysterical, and Tina Fey’s narration will have you chuckling into your pillow.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, read by Jeremy Irons. Sure, it’s the story of a middle-aged man’s unhealthy obsession with a teenager, but the prose is practically poetry and Jeremy Iron’s narration is mesmerizing.