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.    

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.

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.

A Beautiful Ending To A Wonderful Romantic Series

Back in August 2016, I introduced you to a new series, Wild Aces, by Chanel Cleeton.   on-broken-wingsYou can read about it here.  Available now is the third and final book in the series, On Broken Wings.   Here’s the official summary:

A year after losing her husband, Joker, the squadron commander of the Wild Aces, Dani Peterson gets an offer from his best friend, Alex “Easy” Rogers, to help fix up her house. Dani accepts, and their friendship grows—along with an undeniable attraction.

Racked by guilt for loving his best friend’s widow, Easy’s caught between what he wants and can’t have. Until one night everything changes, and the woman who’s always held his heart ends up in his arms. Yet as Easy leaves for his next deployment, he and Dani are torn between their feelings and their loyalty to Joker’s memory.

But when Dani discovers something that sends them both into a spin, the conflicted lovers must overcome the past to navigate a future together…

I can’t remember when I have ever been so moved by a fictional book.  When I finished reading it, I just sat in my chair stunned, only able to think “wow”.  The three books in the series can stand on their own, but On Broken Wings ties all the books together with a genuinely authentic military love story full of emotion, humor, love, passion, heartache and triumph.

What a way to end a series.  This book was completely captivating and everything a romance should be.