You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘book talk’ category.
So here it is, the moment of truth, my final Armchair Audies post. You may have noticed an increase of non-fiction in the blog lately and that’s because I chose to listen, review and predict the winner of the History category of the Audies, the awards of the American Audio Publishers Association. These were the nominees:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt, narrated by Wanda McCaddon (sample), for love or money. Audible and other online audio stores imposed geographic restrictions on the book and I decided against ordering the (much more expensive) CD. This book was actually the one I was more looking forward to, not only for the topic, but because it’s the only in the category with a female narrator. I tried everything, promise, including calling Audible costumer service to grovel and using credit cards from three different (European) countries.
So, I must underline that my prediction for the winner compromised by the absence of one of the books.
I started off with In The Garden of Beasts (sample), narrated by Stephen Hoye, who was also nominated for The Emperor of All Maladies (sample). He did a great job with both books, especially considering the different languages in Garden and the complex medical terms in Emperor. Both books were about difficult topics, full of emotional moments which Hoye nailed perfectly.
Marc Vietor, who narrated 1812: The Navy’s War (sample), is also at a disadvantage with me because I didn’t care enough for the topic to listen to the full 19 hours of audiobook. Still, it was Vietor’s narration that got me through the five I did manage. There’s a “manliness” and confidence about his voice that fitted well with the descriptions of military strategy and naval battles. I’d love to listen to him read the Audrey/Maturin series.
Finally, Jonathan Davis’ wonderful job in 1861: The Civil War Awakening (sample). I was surprise by how much I actually enjoyed the book. It’s full of inflamed speeches and proclamations, so it wouldn’t do to have a flat narration or one that goes the other way and becomes theatrical. I though Davis found the right balance.
In the end, my prediction for the winner goes to Stephen Hoye and his narration of In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. It was a tough choice considering the quality of the other nominees, but in my humble opinion this one deserves it because of its higher degree of complexity. It’s full of names, places and expressions in English, German, Russian and French. There are also extensive quotes by men and women from different nationalities.
It’s a credit to Hoye’s skill that I almost didn’t notice the narration. In these cases, not being aware of the narration is a good sign because it means you’re not being disturbed by an unrealistic accent or a misspelled word.
My vote is casted, so now I’m looking forward to what the real judges will say.
I was in lovely Verona last week for work, but still had the time to visit some of the city’s literary locations.
Shakespeare’s statue on Verona’s Wall, put there the Juliet’s Club, the association who answers all letters to Juliet. The inscription quotes Romeo and Juliet:
“There is no world without Verona walls,
But purgatory, torture, hell itself.
Hence-banished is banish’d from the world,
And world’s exile is death.”
Third week of the Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-along.
1. Locke and Jean’s ability to find themselves at the center of a serious mess seems unparalleled. At this point, do you think that Stragos will get the return he expects on his investment in them?
During these chapters Locke and Jean completely lose control over their lives, nearly die, are saved, begin to enjoy that lack of control and then, as said in the last question, the Thorn of Camorr is back. I was ready to believe that from that point on they’d start planning how to con the Priory and the Spire. But then they have the argument.
I’m hoping Locke will find a way to get revenge with the help of the Poison Orchid, not over their dead bodies.
2. Merrain’s activities after our boys leave Windward Rock are interesting. What do you think her plans are?
Sneaky, sneaky! It’s still possible that she’s doing it at the command of the Priory. It might be all part of the Archon’s plan to hit the magi and get rid of evidence (i.e. Locke and Jean).
3. Does anyone know why having cats aboard the ship is so important?
The Ship’s Cat tradition/superstition goes way back, so in that, Lynch mirrored our world. Where he twisted the rules was in the one about women. Many seamen even today believe that having a woman on board the ship makes the seas angry and is an omen of bad luck for everyone aboard.
4. The word “mutiny” creates a lot of mental pictures. Were you surprised? Why or why not?
I have to admit I was surprised. Even after Caldris’ death, I thought Locke would be able to talk his way out of everything. I guess no women and no cats onboard really is bad luck!
5. Ah, the Poison Orchid. So many surprises there, not the least of which were the captain’s children. Did you find the young children a natural part of the story?
I figured that as of the moment women are accepted and even required to be at sea, the rules of life on board need to be adjusted to accomodate them, including the presence of children. I’m sure there’s even some sort of day-care system in bigger boats.
I was more surprised about not seeing more children aboard the Poison Orchid.
6. Jean is developing more and more as a character as we get further in to the book. Ezri makes the comment to him that “Out here, the past is a currency, Jerome. Sometimes it’s the only one we have.” I think several interesting possibilities are coming into play regarding Jean and Ezri. What about you?
Last week I was asking for a romantic interest for Jean and voilá! It’s great they started bonding over books and fighting techniques. She’s a way for Jean to come into his own and for that he needed a bit of perspective away from Locke. No matter how great their friendship is, Jean has always been the “shadow”. A good example is how, because of his knowledge, he should have been the Captain of the Red Messenger (imho) – as far as we know, no one even considered that option.
I’ll do them both good.
I think that, even without Ezri, Jean would have rebelled against Locke’s willingness to sacrifice the crew for his revenge.
7. As we close down this week’s reading, the Thorn of Camorr is back! I love it, even with all the conflict. Several things from their Camorri background have come back up. Do you think we will see more Camorri characters?
I’d say no. They’re being saved for the third book.
- My favorite chapters so far. Maybe because of female characters that aren’t brilliant-but-evil?
- I’m hoping that part of the next books will be set in the Captain’s home-land. It sounded interesting!
For the Africa Reading Challenge I’ve decided to read one book from each of the five Portuguese-speaking African countries. The Last Will is the Cape Verde choice. I’ve read it in the original but I’m happy to report that there is an easily-found English translation, as well as a great movie adaptation.
Scribacchina from Paroles/Words was also planning to read it for a while, so we’ve decided to have a little chat about it, which I’ve included below. I’m always surprised at how much more you take out of a book by discussing it with other book lovers.
In the island of São Vicente, Senhor Napumoceno Silva Araújo led the life of a respectable self-made business man. He was famous for owning the island’s first car, but also for being a man of habits and routine. There was nothing extraordinary about his life, or so everyone though until the opening of his last will and testament…
Alex: Did you think there was an “African feeling” to the book? It somehow reminded me more strongly of South American story-telling. I often thought of the Brazilian Jorge Amado and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the way one describes Salvador da Bahia and the other the fictional village of Macondo. There’s no magic realism in The Last Will, but a the sort of other-worldly feeling about life in São Vicente, that had the same effect. It also reminded me why I love books set in islands, there is something about the feeling of isolation that’s perfect for growing eccentric characters and habits
I found the funeral (sorry to say it) delightful to read and couldn’t help but smile at all the loops the heir had to jump to be able to fulfill Napomunceno’s last wish to be buried to the sound of Beethoven’s Funeral March. Any favorite moment?
Scribacchina: It is interesting that you cite Marquez, because from the start I kept comparingThe Last Will to his Chronicle of a Death Foretold, if just for the structure: the death (or the last will) of a man is the excuse to tell different histories about several people in a close society. But I feel the parallelism (if there is one) ends there. To me, it did feel more like another African novel I read, Mia Couto’s A River Called Time, which was my first experience with African magical realism — and while there is no magical realism in The Last Will, the society feels very much alike. But I do see what you mean, and I do agree that in a way all of them talk about closely-knit societies and how they influence the type of characters that live in them.
At the same time, I feel The Last Will is much more focused on identity than society. Little by little we are told how Napumoceno’s saw himself. How he tried to be more European than he was — the Beethoven March is part of that effort, I think. But because the book is so much focused on real and perceived identity, I was completely baffled by the last chapter, which basically contradicts everything that we have been told previously: we are told that no one knew about his affair, but then Carlos says that everyone knew Maria da Graça was Napumoceno’s daughter; we are told that he was one of the most influential men in town, but then it looks like everyone still considered him the small-village poor he was when he was young… How did you react to the ending? Did it come out of the blue, or do you think it was expectable?
One of the things that made me LOL was Napumocenos’ reaction to green: basically, he’s so passionate about the Sporting football club that when he sees his cleaning lady dressed in the team’s green, he takes her on as his lover. (Of course that is not exactly what happens. It is a rape, but nobody seems to perceive it that way. What do you make of that?)
City of Mindelo, São Vicente Island – credits
Alex: I was reading the green parts to my boyfriend who’s a hard-core Benfica fan First about the ending, I wasn’t surprised because I assumed that over time the “affair” slowly came to light, it’s just that Carlos expected the money to go only to him. We’re told even her husband knew, and Napumoceno’s regular rent must have become suspicious. About the way the village saw him, I spend long months of my childhood and early teens in a small village in Serra da Estrela and I recognize those “mood swings” as typical of a close community. It’s very hard to forget that a stranger is a stranger, especially if the person is envied.
Interesting that you saw identity over society, because I did the other way around. I think the humor and witty language is used expose the public and private morality of village life. I wouldn’t be surprised it some stabs were private Cape Verdean-jokes, that we just don’t get.
I’ve read in another site an interesting quote that might shed some light into why the novel reminded us of South America, Europe and Africa:
Discovered in 1462 and settled before Columbus’ arrival in America, the arid Cape Verde archipelago is arguably home to the oldest, most thoroughly Creolized culture in the world. Indeed, the Portuguese used the islands as an advertisement for their missao civilizadora or assimilationist colonialism. (…) Cape Verdeans, scattered around the Atlantic Rim by geography and economics for centuries, intuitively understood the idea of “transnational identity” long before it became a buzzword in cultural studies journals.
It must be a very interesting society and I look forward to visiting it at some point (maybe in my honey-moon). (Did you know there’s going to be an Observatory of the Portuguese Language there?) I felt Almeida captured that peculiarity of the country well and subtly.
What do you think about Napumoceno the man as a metaphor for Cape Verde: isolated, with an apparently controlled and repetitive life, but full of secrets and adventures. He’s a serious business-man, with a good dose of the comical about him (he became rich by selling umbrellas in a country where it doesn’t rain!). He’s the poor foreigner, who cannot be part of the exclusive club, no matter how rich and philanthropist he becomes (Cape Verde vs. Portugal after independence?).
Scribacchina: I love your interpretation of Napumoceno as a metaphor for the country, it fits perfectly! At the same time, I know too little about Cape Verde to judge (I had to go and check out history and geography on the Internet), but I think that parallel to that metaphor there may be another, less subtle one: Napumoceno as a symbol (or even as a satire) of part of the local society, struggling to identify themselves less and less as African and more as Westernized. Or am I just mis-constructing Cape Verdean identity here? I would love to know how the locals reacted to the novel — I’m sure there are inside jokes as you mentioned, but also because they have the first-hand knowledge of the place that we lack.
Moving back from society (thanks for the links!) to plot, what do you think about Adélia, the lifelong love/lover that no one seems to know about? I wonder if it was some kind of wishful thinking on Napumoceno’s part, a fantasy that he created to redeem his bleak life and give it some color?
The late and very missed Cape Verdian singer Cesária Évora, singing one of her most famous songs, a love-song to São Nicolau Island, where Senhor Napumoceno was born (she makes an appearance in the movie).
Alex: That is also a great point! And I guess it can be applied to every country that was under some sort of restriction and then became infatuated by the wonders of the west and all its status symbols (Napumoceno’s car, the office gadgets). Regarding Adélia, I’m still convinced she’s the toothless old woman. We only see her described by Napumoceno and who’s to say he didn’t embellished her here and there? If the old woman is really Adélia, I can’t but to admire her pride and stubbornness.
Regarding the whole individual vs. societal focus we discussed above, I was thinking: there is a strong sense of place, but surprisingly little about history or politics in the book (unless we count our guessed metaphors). In the end, it’s really a story about a man trying not to be the poor child who arrive in São Vicente penniless. He wanted to exit this social limbo, so he divided his live between the boring bachelor business man that everyone esteemed (but maybe didn’t really respect?), and the man to whom the color green was so irresistible that he basically raped his cleaning lady when she wore a green skirt.
I really liked Germano Almeida’s style of writing: the ironic and witty way he gradually built this extraordinary character and I’m looking forward to reading more by him.
Scribacchina: You really think that woman is Adélia?! She doesn’t fit Napumoceno’s description at all, nor the character I had imagined! I’d rather set for the interpretation that Adélia was some kind of fantasy. But then again, nothing in the will completely mirrored his life, so…
In the end, I think I was less impressed by this book than you were, but the best thing about it (apart from the witticism you mentioned) is that it can be read on so many level. It is just the story of a man who tries to overcome his poor origins. It isjust the story of a man who basically missed each and every chance at happiness he had. And at the same time it is the social satire, and the reflection on identity, and probably many more things that we don’t see yet.
I’ve recently read a great book about books for the Project Gutenberg Project: an adventure story set aboard a book caravan – the Parnassus – at the beginning of the 20th century.
Go over to the PGP to read more about it, but before, take a look at this collection of modern Parnassus from all over the world, curtsy of a Flickr Group dedicated to bookmobiles. They make me want to hit the road…
She made me work for the honor by asking for a favorite book – just one! The question every bookworm fears The other two choices involved a book that changed my world and a book that deserves a wider audience.
Please visit Reading Matters to know my answers. Thanks again for the opportunity Kim!
I wish I’d made a similar list when I was in my early teens and twenties just to notice the evolution. I see some patterns in this collection of men: not a lot of Alphas or Bad Boys, there’s a surprising number of soldiers (although their soldering doesn’t defines them), only two of them lived in the 20th century and steadfastness seems a general quality.
I suspect that my past self would include more gloomy types, but intellect and the possibility of an interesting conversation is taking over. Mr. Darcy would have definitely be included in a previous list, but now I’m switching my Austen favorite from the brooding gentleman to the social adventurer. I’ve also noticed they aren’t very original choices, but for that I blame the amazing authors that created them.
10. Jaime Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire series)
“I think it passing odd that I am loved by one for a kindness I never did, and reviled by so many for my finest act.” (A Clash of Kings)
I struggle da bit about including Jamie because of the whole, you know, pushing a child out of the window thing. But the fact remains that as the series progresses, Martin’s genius is making him more and more interesting and layered.
He stats off with a ruthless reputation, but then on book three he becomes a POV character and we suddenly see the other side of the story. It’s also around that time that Jaime’s life stops being a succession of victories and the first cracks start to show. Although he has a twisted relationship with his sister, there’s true affection between him and Tyrion, always a good sign.
I’ll probably regret this choice in the future because, Martin being Martin, Jaime might be killing baby seals in the next book, but for now, his chapters are the ones I’m most looking forward to.
9. William Dobbin (Vanity Fair)
She admired Dobbin; she bore him no rancour for the part he had taken against her. It was an open move in the game, and played fairly. “Ah!” she thought, “if I could have had such a husband as that—a man with a heart and brains too! I would not have minded his large feet.” (Becky Sharp on William Dobbie)
Becky Sharp saying such a thing about a man should already be an indication of how great Dobbin is. He’s described as shy, ugly, awkward, the complete opposite of his best friend George, who marries the girl Dobbie loves and everyone thinks a hero, but is in fact the scum of the earth. I don’t usually go for the meek characters, but Dobbin is the underdog who sticks around when there’s trouble and one of the noblest literary men I’ve ever read about.
Everyone seems to underestimate him, but Dobbin goes from the son of a grocer to become a Captain, then a Major, and finally a Colonel. He also has a smart sense of humor, although it rarely makes an appearance. In one of the book’s last scenes, after years of constant affection, Dobbin finally stands up for himself after being unfairly mistreated by his beloved Amelia. Although it’s sad, it’s also the poignant scene that sealed the deal and made him enter this list.
It also didn’t hurt to see Philip Glenister play him in the adaptation.
8. Ron Weasley (Harry Potter series)
“Hermione screamed again from overhead, and they could hear Bellatrix screaming too, but her words were inaudible, for Ron shouted again, ‘HERMIONE! HERMIONE!’” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
Ron is the real romantic hero of the Harry Potter series and I’m not alone in thinking so. He starts of as The Chosen One’s wingman, the one without any special gifts or abilities and ends up getting the (amazing) girl. Ron coughs up slugs and breaks wands, but he also offers himself up to Bellatrix in Hermione’s stead and, in one of the most amazing scenes of the whole serie, he faces his fears and insecurities and destroys the Locket.
AND he smells of freshly mown grass, new parchment and toothpaste…
7. Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables series)
“Gilbert Blythe was trying to make Anne Shirley look at him and failing utterly… she should look at him, that redhaired Shirley girl with the pointed chin and the big eyes that weren’t like the eyes of any other girl in Avonlea school.” (Anne of Green Gables)
He’s not afraid to apologize or to stand his ground and challenge Anne. He loves her but is ready to wait until she’s ready… and it also doesn’t hurt he’s easy on the eye.
All of their scenes together make me all mushy inside: calling her Carrot, the The Lady of Shalott debacle, his proposal(s) and basically the whole of Anne of the Island.
6. Captain Wentworth (Persuasion)
“A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman! He ought not; he does not”
His devotion to Anne, after all those years, after she broke her heart is impossible to resist. For me he has the added value of being the only Austenesque self-made hero and a sailor who’s seen the world to top. It’s a great combination.
He’s also one of the only people in the world who recognizes Anne for the sensible, intelligent and resourceful woman she is: no one puts Anne in a corner!
5. Robbie Turner (Atonement)
“Finally he spoke the three simple words that no amount of bad art or bad faith can every quite cheapen.”
Years of desiring Cecilia from afar and a few stolen minutes in the library sustain Robbie Turner throughout the horrors of WW2. Don’t know exactly why I like Robbie so much, but it’s probably because he carries an undeserved burden with courage, and strength, and always with Cecilia on his mind.
Robbie wears his heart of his sleeve and somehow there’s hope in him, even after Briony’s accusation and all that followed. We can’t help but, be like the narrator, wholeheartedly root for him to come back.
4. Stephen Maturin (Aubrey/Maturin series)
“There is a systematic flocci-nauci-nihili-pilification of all other aspects of existence that angers me.” (Master and Commander)
This is my most recent literary crush: he’s bright, funny and such a geek! Stephen might not be good looking, but he can tell you all about the Galápagos giant tortoise and how to do brain surgery in a stinking boat in six languages.
Actually, scratch that about him not being good looking, don’t care how O’Brian describes him, he’ll always look like Paul Bettany to me. It’s also attractive that he’s part of one of the best bromances around.
3. Rhett Butler (Gone with the Wind)
“There was a cool recklessness in his face and a cynical humor in his mouth as he smiled at her, and Scarlett caught her breath.”
A cliché, I know, but the millions of fans can’t all be wrong, right? Rhett Butler had me almost at hello, when he stands in a group of righteous Southern men hungry for war and says “Napoleon – perhaps you’ve hear of him? – remarked once, ‘God is on the side of the strongest battalion’“.
Just like Scarlett he’s an anti-hero, or at least a hero trying too hard not to be one (was there ever a more frustrating relationship?). He’s sharp, ambitious, worldly, cynical, confident and just devilish enough to keep any woman on her toes.
Mitchell never wrote a sex scene, but the pages are full to the brim with sexual tension whenever he’s around.
2. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
His attraction are his Southern Gentleman ways and his determination to do what’s right. He also kills rabid dogs and is raising two great and open-minded kids alone. I’m only surprised about how he never feels like a Mary Sue, preachy or self-righteous. I wonder what type of people his wife and his parents were, they must also have been extraordinary.
1. Faramir (The Lord of the Rings)
“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” (The Two Towers)
“He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore by many in those days his courage was judged less than his brother’s. But it was not so, except that he did not seek glory in danger without a purpose.” (The Return of the King)
“Here was one with an air of high nobility such as Aragorn at times revealed, less high perhaps, yet also less incalculable and remote: one of the Kings of Men born into a later time, but touched with the wisdom and sadness of the Elder Race. [...] He was a captain that men would follow, [...] even under the shadow of the black wings.” (The Two Towers)
Faramir only makes his appearance in The Two Towers, but he got my attention immediately and became my biggest literary crush. Yep, I liked him even before he fell in love with Éowyn, the only 3D female character in the whole book.
That’s just the cherry on top: Faramir’s a soldier, but his father calls him “a wizard’s pupil” because Gandalf himself taught him the lore of Middle-earth. He’s noble, but human, and his need to please his father, who preferred his brother Boromir, broke my heart. He also resisted the Ring, letting Frodo and Sam go, even though he could be killed for it (“You know the laws of our country, the laws of your father. If you let them go, your life will be forfeit.”)
I’m always secretly happy when I see Aragorn or Legolas in literary crushes lists, because it means that Faramir, the scholarly soldier, is still one of the best kept open-secrets in literature ;)
So, who did I miss?
I’m a bit lazy today, so I’ll just post a few photos of a recent night visit to the Royal Library of Belgium.
The garden by night (the Library is the building on the left).
Each locker is dedicated to a Belgian author.
Exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the publicaiton of Les Misérables. A Belgian first edition in 10 volumes.
The Librarium, a permanent exhibition space on the history of books, writing and libraries.
According to my 2011 end-year statistics, 40% of the books I’ve read are audiobooks, but I only remember reviewing them as such twice. This happens because I haven’t figured out the best way to do it. Saying things like “She has good diction” or “Hearing his sharp intakes of breath really distracted me from the story” sounds too personal, like commenting on a person’s hairstyle. Would love some advice from experienced audiobook reviewers. Is there a “Reviewing Audiobooks for Dummies” post somewhere?
Yesterday I discovered an event that looks perfect to get me out of the closet as a huge audiobook fan: The Armchair Audies. It’s organized by Jennifer (The Literate Housewife) and Bob (The Guilded Earlobe) and invites bloggers to celebrate the Audies, the audiobook industry’s Awards. The nomination list is daunting, comprising 28 categories, each with 5 nominates, so Jennifer and Bob suggest that participants chose one or more categories and just listen to all the books in it.
The winners will be announced in June and Armchair Audies participants should be able to publish their closing post (maybe with some predictions?) shortly before. Jennifer is reviewing Literary Fiction and Bob will ambitiously tackle three categories: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Paranormal.
I’ll go for History. Although all the books in this category sound interesting, and some were already under my radar, the topics seems a bit limited: two about WW2 events, three on American History (or from an American perspective) and two of these about the 19th century. Only one written by a woman and only that one narrated by one. Four written by American writers, but even Mukherjee, although Indian, lives and works in NY. As a reader I’d prefer more variety.
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Tantor Media)
Read by Stephen Hoye
Already had it in the TBL, so I’m happy it’s nominated. It’s a history of cancer, from the first documented cases thousands of years ago to the 20th century attempts at better understand it and finding a cure. Heard great things about it.x
1812: The Navy’s War
by George C. Daughan (Audible, Inc.)
Read by Marc Vietor
It’s about the American Navy but it’ll still be a nice compliment to my recently Navy interest, brought about by the Aubrey/Maturin series. The blurb says it “is the first complete account in more than a century of how the U.S. Navy rescued the fledgling nation and secured America’s future.“
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
Hannah Arendt (Tantor Media)
Read by Wanda McCaddon
This is the one I’m more curious about, but Audible doesn’t let me buy it because of my Belgian credit card! Hopefully, the copy-right issue is solved before June. Arendt (a Jew who fled Germany during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power), reported on Eichmann’s trial for The New Yorker. While covering the technical aspects of the trial, she also explored the nature of justice, the behavior of the Jewish leadership during the Nazi Regime, and, most controversially, the nature of Evil itself.
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
by Erik Larson (Random House Audio)
Read by Stephen Hoye
Really liked The Devil in the White City, so this one was already on the wish-list. It’s the story of William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany, and his attempts to report to the outside world the rising horrors happening there.
1861: The Civil War Awakening
by Adam Goodheart (Audible, Inc./ Brilliance Audio)
Read by Jonathan Davis
Most books about the Civil War are about the fighting years, so this account of the years that led up to it should be interesting.
Monday has become a day of firsts chez The Sleepless Reader. Last week we’ve had the first joint review and now the first guest post. Patricia is a fellow member of the Brontë Brussels Group and one of the most avid readers I’ve met since moving here. She is also the only Maltese I know!
When we talked about a guest post I asked her to write about why she loves romance novels so much and also to give me some recommendations, since it’s one of the genres I know less about.
If you have any other recommendations, please let me know!
When Alex asked me to contribute a blog to her website my first reaction was ‘but the type of books I like reading are different from the ones she reviews’. So it got me thinking ‘why do I enjoy romance novels?’ Judging by the number of romance novels published and sold every year and the large amount of websites and blogs devoted to this genre I am not the only person to enjoy these types of books. There are various subgenres; historical romance, suspense, paranormal, chick-lit, contemporary, futuristic, the list is endless with most readers preferring one or the other. I do not have a real preference, it generally depends on my mood.
I have been a bookworm from a young age. One of my earliest memories is walking to the library with my sisters during school holidays. This was long before DVDs and computers were invented so books were our main means of recreation. Our local library was an old building lined with old musty books from the 14th and 15th century which were just to be admired from the distance. But on the bottom shelves there were books by Enid Blyton and the Nancy Drew adventures. Then for my 9th birthday I received a copy of Jane Eyre. I was immediately transported into a world of young heroines who have to make their own way in the world fighting against evil relatives and poverty but end up finding true love. At school we studied Dickens, Hardy and Austen but in the weekends to relax my sisters and I read ‘Mills and Boons’ novels borrowed from our aunts. From there we moved on to the historical romances of Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer before discovering the blockbusters of Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins.
Why are romances novels so popular? Speaking from experience I find that after a long busy day I want nothing more than to curl up with a book that does not require too much thinking and which leaves me feeling good. I dislike nothing more than a book that has no clear ending or ‘horror of horrors’ a sad ending (I feel the same way about movies).
As anyone who has come to my house can attest I own a lot of books. When I find an author I like I tend to read everything they have written. My biggest collection must be Nora Roberts novels (she has over 200 in publication). Her stories are mainly contemporary with a mystery thrown in. Another favourite author is Jayne Ann Krentz, who writes under three different names. As Jayne Ann Krentz she writes contemporary suspense and/or paranormal, as Jayne Castle she writes future paranormal but my favourite are her Amanda Quick novels. These novels are historical romances, straight up romances with a hint of comedy, adventure and sometimes paranormal thrown in. Her heroines are independent women who know what they want and are equal partners with the heroes despite living in a period where woman equality is unheard of. I also enjoy the historical romances by Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, Cristina Dodd and Teresa Medeiros.
I am also a big fan of Meg Cabot, of the Princess Diaries fame. She also writes books for adults and my favourite are the Heather Wells series about a former teen pop star who now works as a residence house coordinator at a New York College while trying to rebuild her life after being fired by her record label and being swindled out of all her money. Small aside, Meg Cabot has one of the better author websites, her video blogs are hilarious. It is worth checking out.
I am currently going through a paranormal romance phase. One downside of this genre is they tend come in the form of a series so once I read one book I’m hooked and have to buy and read the rest. I’m big fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward and the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh. I have just discovered the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. It is so much fun to read about these fantasy worlds where anything is possible, the heroes face insurmountable challenges and villains and yet still find time to fall in love despite sometimes being of a different species.
In case you are wondering if my sisters still share my love of books, I am happy to say that although we now live in different countries and have demanding careers and families, when we meet-up we regularly discuss and exchange the latest novels we have read, or as our children call them ‘books with half naked men on the cover’.
If you would like to know more about this genre I regularly guestblog on Patty’s book blog ‘A Tale of Three Cities‘.
Thank you Alex for allowing me to share my ramblings on your site.