The Best Audiobooks of 2017 (a subjective list)

The editors of AudioFile Magazine have released their selections for Best Audiobooks of 2017. AudioFile is a publication that reviews and recommends audiobooks, taking into account all the things that make an audiobook enjoyable: a great story, of course, but also the skillful pacing, structure, and narration that make them worth listening to.  (Full disclosure: I am a reviewer for AudioFile, mainly for romance books, and I have received free audiobooks from them to provide honest reviews). I have perused the dozens of audiobooks selected as “best”, and winnowed them down to three favorites in six categories, click on the titles to read more about each one. Consider this a jumping off point, audiophiles!

GENERAL FICTION

  • Beartown by Frederik Backman, read by Marin Ireland.
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, read by Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Rutina Wesley, Chris Chalk.
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, read by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris and George Saunders, with a full cast that includes Carrie Brownstein, Don Cheadle, Kat Dennings, Lena Dunham, Bill Hader, Miranda July, Mary Karr, Keegan-Michael Key, Julianne Moore, Megan Mullally, Mike O’Brien, Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller, Jeffrey Tambor, Jeff Tweedy, Bradley Whitford, Patrick Wilson, and Rainn Wilson.

MYSTERY & SUSPENSE

SCI-FI, FANTASY, HORROR

ROMANCE

YA FICTION

MEMOIR

Classic Read: The Ladies of Missalonghi

ladies2I recently revisited an old favorite, a  short novel set in Australia in the early 1900’s. The Ladies of Missalonghi, a tale by Australian author Colleen McCullough, has a rather dismal start. Missy Wright, a thirty-three year old spinster, lives in the town of Byron with her widowed mother and crippled aunt. The three women scrape along in genteel poverty, the victims of manipulative and greedy richer relatives. Their days are always the same: meager meals, chores, and the endless handicrafts that they create to fill the empty hours.

Missy, who believes her lack of beauty and lack of money have doomed her to never marry, has one escape from the dreariness of her life. She borrows novels from the local lending library and imagines the most spectacular adventures in her mind. The librarian, a distant relation named Una, is bright and vivacious and very interested in Missy, who is generally considered a non-entity by her other relatives.

Slowly, as Missy interacts with Una, she begins to change. She stops letting local shopkeepers push her around. She stands up against a rude and condescending cousin. She takes walks alone in the bush, experiencing the beauty of her natural environment, an experience that has always been denied her in the interest of keeping her “safe”.

Missy’s evolution is an unconventional fairy tale. No one rescues her; she saves herself. Una is an example for Missy to follow rather than a fairy godmother who grants requests. There is a prince of sorts–John Smith, a mysterious newcomer to the town of Byron who is not searching for a princess but running from his past.

This short tale can be read in one sitting. Through-out the story, I kept  wondering if Missy’s newfound strength would backfire. Could she possibly stand up to an entire town, not to mention a tradition of systematic discrimination against the poor widows and spinsters in her family? Would those richer relations turn and crush her? Would her mother and aunt, who are so steeped in family tradition, even support her in her quest for freedom? There were a few surprises before I discovered the answers to these questions.

This light yet lovely tale is enjoyable.  A recommended read for those who like light romance with descriptive settings.

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.    

What is the Next Book in This Series?

whats-nextIt is extremely frustrating to read a book only to discover it is part of a series, and there is no clear list of reading order. While some series are loosely tied together and allow for skipping around and reading out of order, others can only be fully enjoyed when read in order. To help ease your frustration, I am going to share the tools that I use to help determine the correct reading order. There are several routes to find the answer to this question, some are simple and easy, others require a little work.

The first way to find the answer of reading order is to find the author’s website. Many internet savvy authors, or their publishers, maintain websites with series listings in order and, in the case of multiple series, the suggested reading order for everything. Not all authors do this, but some have very helpful lists to help out their readers. Many include printable lists so you can easily keep track of titles you have read and what you should read next.

Some examples of authors that offer comprehensive lists or tools on their websites to find the reading order include Nora Roberts, Gail Carriger, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, and many more. I highly suggest checking with the author’s website first before branching out and trying other avenues, because who better to explain the best reading order than the person that wrote them?

goodrdsIf the author fails you, do not lose heart! My second choice for series order, and further reading suggestions, is Goodreads. If you search for a book title, Goodreads will give you a wonderful amount of information. On the book’s page you can follow links to the author page or a list of book in that series (both published and sometimes books that have not been released yet) in order. The bonus is you get suggestions for books that might appeal to you because some authors list what they are currently reading or their own recommendations. For instance, on the author page for one of my current favorites, Maria V. Snyder, you can see her books listed by series, in order, and what she is currently reading.

There are also a few websites dedicated to helping readers find the next book in a series, or the complete reading order of any given series.  One website that I often use is well titled as: Book Series in Order which you can search by author or character name.  Order of Books is a second site that can help you find the reading order of different authors and series. This site allows you to search by author or main character. If you are looking specifically for children’s series check out Juvenile Series and Sequels, and if you need young adult series listings I would suggest using Series and Sequels. whats-next-in-series1

If  you still are not sure about the series order of the books you are reading or want to read, please stop in and visit our Welcome Desk or give  the library a call. We are here to help.

Jane Austen Spinoffs

If one way to measure the popularity of an author is to note the number of spinoffs that his or her work has created, then Jane Austen is high on the popularity list!

longbourn Longbourn by Jo Baker
This is the story of Sarah, the Bennet’s housemaid in Pride and Prejudice, as she serves in their household while the events of the classic unfold. However, the downstairs is just as eventful as the upstairs, especially when a new footman arrives.

 

prideandprejudiceandzombiesPride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
This is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice during a zombie apocalypse. Elizabeth Bennett is fighting off the zombie infestation after a plague has settled on the village. However, she also finds herself fighting Mr. Darcy after his arrival.

 

scargravemanorJane Austen and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron
This is the first book in a mystery series about Jane Austen as a detective. In this book, Jane’s friend Isobel is newly wed to a man who is many years her senior. Then, during the night, her new husband dies. Soon after his death, Isobel’s maid accuses Isobel of murdering her husband and committing adultery with her late husband’s nephew.

anassemblysuchasthisAn Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan
This is the story of Pride and Prejudice, told from the point of view of Fitzwilliam Darcy. This is the book to read if you wish to know more about the mysterious man and his view of the events in the classic novel.

 

janeaustenThe Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen by Lindsay Ashford
Anne Sharp was Jane Austen’s governess. Ever since Jane’s death twenty-six years earlier, Anne has held onto a lock of Jane’s hair. However, Anne is following up on a suspicion that she has carried with her all this time. Jane may have been murdered, and the lock of hair may prove it.

 

missingmanuscriptofjaneaustenThe Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James
Samantha McDonough finds a letter that laments a missing manuscript at an estate in Devonshire. The author of both the letter and the manuscript is thought to be none other than Jane Austen. All that that Samantha needs to do is figure out a way of working with Anthony Whitaker, the handsome owner of the estate.

 

emmaEmma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith
As the title describes, this is the modern version of the classic novel about a young woman who interferes in the lives of those around her. Fresh from college, Emma is kept busy by running her own business, caring for her father, and playing matchmaker.

 

northangerabbeyNorthanger Abbey by Val McDermid
This is a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey. Cat Morland, who loves to read novels, constantly fantasizes about experiencing adventures. So, when she travels to Edinburgh to attend a festival, she begins to wonder about the mysterious Northanger Abbey and its seemingly perfect residents, one of whom is very handsome.