Tag Archives: romance

What’s New in Austenland 2013

“No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.”  Henry Tilney to Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey

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Jane Austen, watercolor by her older sister, Cassandra

Guess what? It’s that time once again when I highlight some of the newest titles in Jane Austen scholarship. As I’ve happily written about for the last two years, Austen continues to be an endless inspiration for writers to discover new and different topics of discussion about the celebrated early nineteenth-century author. Nearly 200 years after her death in 1817, how many authors can you say that about?

cultscultures

 Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures by Claudia L. Johnson. Just how popular is Jane Austen? Well, there are two JASNA* chapters in the state of Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh is one of them and I’m proud to say that I am a member. Austen scholar Claudia Johnson traces Austen’s fame throughout history, from soon after the author’s death through the Victorian period, and into the middle of the twentieth century when landmarks began to be set aside and preserved for their historical affiliation with the novelist.

everybodysjane

Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination by Juliette Wells. Similar to the above, however, Wells’s focus is on the present day amateur madness for all things Austen, from book spin-offs–into diversities as graphic novelszombies, vampires, mysteries, and even (gasp!) erotica–to the tourism industry of Jane Austen’s England tours, and  individual collectors and their impressive collections.

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Image source: austenprose.com

Emma: An Annotated Edition edited by Bharat Tandon. Harvard University Press has produced yet another gorgeous coffee-table edition of annotated Austen novels. These are truly gift editions for the Austen aficionado. Reproductions of period fashions, maps, advertisements, and artists‘ portraits provide an understanding of not only Austen’s arguable masterpiece, but also early 19th century England.

realjaneausten

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne. Paying attention to the smallest details of Austen’s brief life, such as her topaz cross (a gift from a beloved brother), a shawl, a hat, and other personal artifacts, Byrne attempts to go beyond the published literature and delve deeper into the novelist’s personal life.

whatmattersinjane

What Matters in Jane Austen: Twenty Crucial Problems Solved by John Mullan. In this elegantly written and fascinating book, many interesting facets of Austen’s novels  are discussed with intriguing chapter titles such as: “Is There Any Sex in Jane Austen?”–yes, there is–, “What Do Characters Say When the Heroine Isn’t There?,” “How Much Money is Enough?,” and “Why Do Her Plots Rely on Blunders?”

Same time next year!

~Maria

*The Jane Austen Society of North America

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Belle of the Ball or Wallflower?*

‘wallflower’
2. a. a person who from shyness or unpopularity remains on the sidelines of a social activity (as a dance) Merriam Webster dictionary

I was a wallflower. You know, one of those women who go unnoticed (deliberately or not) in a room for whatever silly reason. Perhaps she’s bookish, doesn’t like (or know) how to dance, or is simply shy.

The theme of the wallflower is a popular trope in fiction, especially in historical romance. And there are several unique twists to that trope. But, oh, how I love that moment when the wallflower shines and is appreciated for just who she is by the handsomest gentleman in the room.

onegoodearl

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

Lady Philippa (Pippa) Marbury is a bluestocking–”I’m odd” she  declares–from a well-heeled family who wants to learn more about exactly what happens on a wedding night before her actual wedding night in two weeks. She approaches her brother-in-law’s notoriously scandalous friend, Cross, an earl in hiding from his past to aid in her “scientific research experiment.” What follows is a battle of wills, witty dialogue, and an unforgettable heroine. Funny and poignant, I found myself rooting for Pippa’s happy ending all the way. This is the second in MacLean’s very entertaining and engaging Rules of Scoundrels series about four owners of a successful Regency England gambling hell.

charmschool

The Charm School by Susan Wiggs

Isadora (Dora) Peabody is a misfit, an ugly duckling overshadowed by her talented and attractive aristocratic Boston family. She longs to escape her life and herself, so she maneuvers her way into a high seas adventure much to the dismay of the arrogant Captain Ryan Calhoun, a man who prefers to run away from his problems rather than face them. Along the way, Dora’s charm and  power are revealed and she befriends everyone she meets, effectively coming out of her shell. Calhoun comes to realize and appreciate her strength of character as well as her courage in the face of hardship. Note: Wiggs has said that Dora is “modeled after yrs truly.” Book one in a series.

mistress

Mistress by Midnight by Nicola Cornick

Lady Merryn Fenner is only interested in academics and has long given up girlish dreams of love and marriage after watching her dearest brother destroyed by it. And she’s determined to bring down the man she believes is responsible: Garrick, the Duke of Farne. When a freak accident traps them alone together forcing their marriage, they discover the truth about the past as well as their conflicting feelings for one another. I especially enjoy how Cornick’s stories are inspired by real life historical events. Book three in her provocative Scandalous Women of the Ton series.

reasons

The Reasons for Marriage by Stephanie Laurens

This is an early Laurens’ novel and I think it’s one of her best. Jason, the Duke of Eversleigh, needs to marry after the death of his eldest brother, the heir, and he sets his sights on his friend’s sister, Lenore Lester. Miss Lester is perfectly content to be mistress of her brother’s large household in the country, with her books and her gardens, and has no reason to marry; in fact, she adopts a dowdy exterior just to discourage suitors. But the Duke sees through her ruse and is determined to win her and show her the real reasons for marriage. Book one in the Lester family series.

nine

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean

“On-the-shelf” spinster, Lady Calpurnia Hartwell, has had enough of her dull life. So she creates a list of things she wishes to accomplish: learn fencing, gamble at a gentlemen’s club, and fire a pistol to name a few. She also needs the help of someone not afraid to break the rules: the scandalous–and handsome– Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston. First in MacLean’s Love by Numbers series.

week

A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare

Geologist Minerva Highwood is on a mission. Well, make that two missions. She is determined to present her research to an academic society in Scotland and also to prevent a certain roguish lord from marrying her beloved and fragile sister. She approaches the wicked Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, and proposes he escort her, thus avoiding marrying her sister, for which she will pay him handsomely. And so begins their hilarious road trip in a tiny carriage where they will confront their fears, their secrets, and their passion. This is the second book in Tessa Dare’s delightful Spindle Cove series, about a militia that comes to a seaside English village where mostly spinsters reside. Note: Dare (a librarian) has said that her inspiration for this series was Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, when the militia came to Meryton, thus causing the youngest Bennet girls to go crazy for the handsome officers.

~Maria

*This post is the first in a series highlighting my favorite historical romance novels, my new favorite genre, because it is filled with only happy endings,  history, wonderful stories, enchanting characters, and amazing writing. Many thanks to Eleventh Stack bloggers Jess and Sheila, for inspiring me to try them, and to the authors themselves for writing stories I love to read.

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Spotlight on Shana Abé

Thanks to Jess and Sheila‘s suggestions, I’ve been having a great time reading romance novels this month. I’ve even done a little branching out on my own, hoping to find an author whose work consistently makes me happy, and I think I’ve found one in Shana Abé. Two of her books made it into my weekend reading rotation, and I’m happy to report that they were both excellent, in different ways, and for different reasons.

Intimate Enemies revolves around Lauren MacRae and Arion DuMorgan, who find themselves in charge of their respective rival clans. A brief meeting as children, one in which Arion saved Lauren’s life, has stuck in both their memories.  However, it’s unclear as to whether or not that one kindness can erase years of bad blood and disputed property; after all, it’s a little nerve-wracking to fall in love with someone who’s forever harping on how their island is really your island. But fall in love they do, and when a common enemy invader threatens to wreck everything both clans hold dear, you just know Lauren and Arion are going to get it together and save the day. This book is packed to the gills with swords, honor, duty, and the angst that comes from fighting your attraction to somebody who drives you crazy, but looks really hot in battle dress. Sheer escapist fun, great for readers looking for a traditional historical romance.

What really sold me on Abé, however, was turning to The Smoke Thief and discovering that her chops in the fantasy department were particularly fine. I’m a little fussy about my fantasy fiction, so I was pleased to discover that The Smoke Thief is the first in a series of novels that does something entirely new with dragons. Abé’s intricate mythology begins with the story of Rue, a jewel thief with a secret, and Kit, the tribal lord who cannot let Rue roam free once he learns who she really is. Kit and Rue are drákon, shapeshifters whose lineage stretches back through history and faroff places, and their love story is only the beginning.

Although both books were great, I preferred The Smoke Thief; it’s a regency romance wrapped up in a high fantasy saga, something I didn’t expect to find, and can’t wait to pursue further; other books in the series remain set in the 18th century, but carry readers around the world, from Transylvania to Spain, pursuing the epic loves and power struggles of the drákon, in sensuous prose. Highly recommended for fantasy-lovers looking for something truly innovative, and romance fans willing to try something new.

I love Abé’s versatility, and, if you like romances, I have a feeling you will too (if you haven’t, already–I know how voraciously you romance fans read!). Try her tales on for size and, as ever, report back.

–Leigh Anne

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Isn’t It Romantic?

It was a happy coincidence that Sheila wrote about Fifty Shades of Grey on Friday (while I agree with her assessment, I cannot stop reading the stupid series. Those books are like the worst kind of junk food. Andy Capp Cheddar Fries, maybe?), because today, I have a few suggestions for some romance series that actually have a little substance to them. And all of them are perfect for lounging by the pool this summer.

Historical Romance, or I Love to Swoon:

Tessa Dare‘s Spindle Cove series is set in a seaside haven for society ladies who don’t quite fit into proper society. Populated with widows, spinsters (most in their late 20s – the horrors!), and supposedly ruined women, the small town allows them to exist without judgement. So far, we’ve met Susanna, the headstrong daughter of an inventor who works for the military, and Minerva, a genius archaeologist. The third book, featuring orphaned musician Kate, is due out in August. I love that Dare lets these quirky, wonderful characters shine in her series.

Grace Burrowes is five books in to her expected eight about the large Windham family. The first three in the set focus on the brothers of the family – Gayle, Devlin, and Valentine - and the remaining have been about the girls – Sophie and Maggie, so far. Also, not one, but two of the siblings are recognized “by-blows” (each has a less than awesome biological mother, so they’re doing okay). With so many characters, Burrowes does an admirable job of giving each distinct personalities with obstacles to overcome on the road to love.

Contemporary Romance, or Modern Love is Rough

Louisa Edwards is a recent discovery of mine. A former food critic, her two overlapping series follow chefs in New York. The first series is set at a newly opened restaurant, where head chef and co-owner Adam falls for a critic, celebrity chef Devin gets his ego checked by a Southern Belle, and Wes, a line cook, finds himself challenged by a chemist. I really loved that each book is connected not only by the restaurant, but with a great arc about the relationship between sous-chef Frankie and a young waiter named Jess (I wish more romance writers put this kind of effort into their gay characters). I’ve only read the first book in the second series – about chefs at an old-school steakhouse who are trying to give their restaurant a boost by winning a national cooking competition – but I’m very much looking forward to reading the next two. (For the foodies out there, Edwards will make you super hungry from her descriptions. Luckily, she includes a few recipes in the back of each book.)

Lori Foster has written a lot of books. For the sake of brevity, I’ll go with her most recently completed series, the aptly named “Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor.” The heroes in these books are all professional mercenaries with a special interest in stopping human trafficing rings. It’s helpful to kick things off with the short story “Ready, Set, Jett,” in the Guy Next Door collection. Book one is about defacto leader, Dare; book two picks things up with the very intense Trace; book three follows Trace’s sister Alani and the goofy-but-still-hot Jackson; and book four wraps things up with outsiders Spencer and Arizona. This series is a little darker than some others, but that’s what helps set it apart.

Hopefully, some of these will provide a nice alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey. What junk food books are you reading now?

- Jess

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Too Much

I have just finished reading the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James. Everyone is talking about this book. You can’t open a newspaper or magazine, or turn on the TV, without a discussion about Grey and its two sequels. And it’s being discussed at the Library, as you can imagine. Is it erotica? Mommy porn? Fantasy? Or is it just a hot, sexy romance? Meanwhile, Library customers have placed hundreds upon hundreds of holds on the books, from throughout the County in our shared online catalog.

When I told them at my hairdresser’s, “I am reading Fifty Shades of Grey as a self-imposed work assignment,” they laughed. But really, that’s why I did it. I ultimately feel responsible for all the books we buy at Main, so I thought I should know first-hand what all the talk is about.

Choosing books to include in the library’s collection is a serious responsibility. Books are selected by librarians, and they must meet certain criteria. Check out, for example, the fiction criteria from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Collection Development Policy. Because of the unprecedented high demand, and because this book is seen as a touchstone of the culture of our times, we did decide to purchase James’s books to fill our customers’ requests.

I read a lot of fiction and about 50% of what I read is some form of romance–contemporary, regency, historical, chick lit, women’s fiction, romantic suspense, etc. I have gotten to an age where life is serious enough, and romance literature has an almost guaranteed happy ending. Clever, thoughtful authors always have something new to say about the condition of love and relationships. To be honest, with James, I was curious as to just how the sex descriptions compared with today’s typical romance novel. Romance novels have gotten increasingly “spicier” over the past ten years. Could Grey be that much different?

Generally we do not purchase erotica for the CLP collection. Certainly, lots of mainstream fiction includes graphic sex scenes and we do have some of the classic erotica like The Delta of Venus by Anais Nin* as well as her Diaries. I remember back in the late 70s when one of our more sophisticated librarians talked her boss into letting her have an Anais Nin / Henry Miller book discussion group. Gosh, that was a long time ago! As I recall, much of the talk was about the “literary” merits of the erotica and florid prose of that writing style.

So, I have read Fifty Shades of Grey, and here is my opinion: Grey’s prose is not florid. It is repetitive, pedestrian, titillating, often vulgar, and clichéd. It’s not fifty shades of grey, it’s fifty shades of black and blue and rosy pink. Here is a short, sanitized synopsis of the plot: virginal college graduate Anastasia meets and falls into immediate mutual attraction with a rich and powerful entrepreneur, Christian, who is not much older than herself. He sweeps her off her feet, literally, and quickly offers her a contract to be his submissive sexual companion. The rest of the story–at over 500 endless pages–is Ana’s conflict of conscience between her “subconscious” (I am not even sure that James is using this word correctly) and her “inner goddess,” for good and ill.

Can Ana negotiate her way to a somewhat normal relationship by redefining Christian’s rules and setting strict time limits on his potential actions while still indulging him in his craven need for dominance in all things? Throughout the whole story Ana is required to call him “Sir,” not out of respect, but instead recognizing his physical and emotional dominance in all aspects of their relationship. Their most honest communications occur in terse e-mail messages. Egad! What has love got to do with this?

For my part, I can’t explain the demand to read these books. The storylines are anti-feminist–though Ana sees herself as an independent woman. And it’s misogynistic. I think you would really have to hate women to treat them in such a demeaning manner. What really makes me feel bad is that a woman is the author of these stories.

So why the popularity? And why now at this time? Is it curiosity about kinky sex? Or maybe it’s a distraction from the bad economy or the difficulties of normal, everyday life? Maybe it’s just the fantasy of relinquishing control to a handsome, rich, devil of a guy? At the end of book one, Ana takes a stand. How will this play out over the rest of the series? Someone who slogs through these books is going to have to tell me, as I just can’t invest any more of my time with E. L. James.

 My hope is that these books, much like the Harry Potter series did, will have folks reading again. I hope that they will discover authors who write about love and relationships that are based on mutual attraction, love and respect, and are well-written! Get lost in the stories of Susan Wiggs, Robyn Carr,  Susan Mallery, Victoria Dahl, Nora Roberts, Emily Giffin, Lauren Weisberger, Jennifer Weiner, Mary Balogh, Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and many, many more. Just ask a librarian and we can recommend books for all tastes.

For my part, I’ll take romance. Fifty Shades of Grey was just too much.

–Sheila

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Next, Please

I have blogged in the past about why I like to read series books. If you like to read popular fiction and you have favorite authors, series books are often their profit-makers. Sure, most authors like the challenge and do occasional stand-alone titles. Take Harlan Coben, whose Myron Bolitar sports agent/lawyer series started his writing career.  Myron still gets to headline a new story every few years or so, between Coben’s complex standalone novels.  But even these stories share settings and subsidiary characters with each other and with the Bolitar books. 

There is a comfort in dropping in on the lives of characters you have come to know and love (or hate) over a sustained period of time.  Characters evolve.  They and their relationships grow and change.  Series cover all genres of popular fiction – action, suspense, cozy mysteries, science fiction, and romance, etc. With series books you look forward to their annual publication, carefully track reviews, place your reserve so you can get the book early, and then chat with friends to see if the book met your series expectations.  When you read series, you realize that some books are better written than others as the “plot” may not be as gripping, or funny or sad or compelling as others, but does it really matter when you are entertained just by the experience of reading?

Here are three recent titles from some of my favorite series:

Red MistPatricia Cornwell’s Red Mist, #19 in the Kay Scarpetta Series

Long before CSI became the rage of TV, Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, forensic pathologist; her investigator, Pete Marino; tech- genius niece Lucy;  and Kay’s FBI profiler husband Benton began working murder cases together.

Stung by the murder of long-time assistant pathologist Jack Fielding in Port Mortuary, Kay jumps into an investigation in Savannah leaving Benton, Marino, and Lucy behind in Boston.  She’s off to find out about the killer by visiting the murderer’s mother at the Georgia Women’s Prison where she is doing time for murder, too. Kay soon discovers that Marino, who is supposedly on vacation, is also in town, helping former colleague, NYC prosecutor Jamie Berger, with her first independent case for the defense– trying to clear another woman at the prison who is on death row and scheduled for execution.  In just three short days Kay and Marino are surrounded by bodies and are called upon by the local coroner to assist with the investigation which ties these disparate cases – the only common denominator being the prison.

Critics complain about Cornwell – too much psychology and not enough forensics; she doesn’t pay attention to continuity and details; should she write in first person or third person; Kay’s lost her humanity – she’s so unkind and bitter to everyone; she should put the spotlight on the cases and not the characters . . . but to my mind that’s what makes it worth reading the series.  Kay has been through a lot since 1990 – change happens.

Down by the River by Robyn Carr  – #3 in the Grace Valley Trilogy (prequel to the Virgin River Series)

Sometimes when you read a series you have to go back to the very beginning.  Several years ago I started to read the Virgin River Series by Robyn Carr.  # 17, Hidden Summit, has just been published and it’s sitting on a shelf at home calling to me.  But the last book I read is from the connected Grace Valley series, which she first published in 2003.

 Strong storytelling carries Carr’s series.  Small towns are populated by unique, independent men and women – the lawmen and lawyers, the medical personnel, the homemakers and the babies, the randy teens, and the preachers, the cooks and florist, the ranchers and farmers, the campers and the pot growers.  Many of the stories focus on returning war veterans re-assimilating into society, all choosing the picturesque communities of northern California where around every mountain curve is a beautiful view and lives touched by joy, tragedy, danger, intrigue and a true sense of community – where everyone knows everyone else and they care about and take care of each other. 

Medical emergencies in Virgin River often result in trips to the nearby hospital in Grace Valley.  And that’s where the whole series started.  The Grace Valley Trilogy centers on town Doctor June Hudson – she has dedicated her life to her practice and her town.  She is pushing 40 and has given up hope of ever having a family of her own, until undercover DEA agent Jim Post begins a secret liaison with June that will forever change her life and fill it with new possibilities.  In the last of this series, Down by the River, June’s high school sweetheart returns to town with his delinquent sons. Add a flooding river and the whole town has to pull together, with June leading the way to save the day.

J. D. Robb’s New York to Dallas – # 33 of the In Death Series

Now we come to my favorite book of last year, New York to Dallas.  Back in 1995, romance / romantic suspense writer Nora Roberts wanted to try her hand at a different genre – police procedurals with a twist.  Her publisher suggested she write these under a pen name since they were such a departure from her previous stories.  When they first came out I admit that although I am a big Nora fan, I could not countenance myself reading stories set in the late 2050s New York after the urban wars, but after reading #1 Naked in Death, I was hooked!  This is a series where character detail, continuity of character, setting, intriguing plots with despicable villains, and the development of a loving relationship over time between the two main characters have sustained the stories.

The series focuses on New York Police and Security Department detective Eve Dallas, and her Irish husband Roarke, a powerful, tech-savvy, mega-billionaire entrepreneur who often assists with her complex homicide cases as a professional civilian consultant.  Both Roarke and Eve come from tormented childhoods.  Eve was an abused child who grew up in Dallas Texas foster homes and Roarke was a petty thief, making his way by cunning and wits on the streets of Dublin, Ireland.  How these two people from vastly different backgrounds find each other, love, trust, marry, and struggle with their personal demons plays out through the series. At the NYPSD, Eve’s loyal squad includes detective Delia Peabody, IT Captain Feeney, and criminal profiler Dr. Mira.

In New York to Dallas, Eve finds that she must track a serial pedophile who brutalizes young girls to her home town of Dallas.  Eve is a fish-out-of-water without her normal department support system. With only Roarke by her side, she confronts a case with a twist of fate that makes her horrid past and her present life collide.  The story is so simple, yet so complex and compelling, that the stunning ending is a new beginning for Eve and Roarke. Wow.

–Sheila

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Hiding From Summer (But Not From Summer Reading)

Heat and I are not friends; ditto humidity.  With apologies to the beachgoers, picnickers and other outdoorsy folks, I think I’m just going to cut up some fresh fruit, whip up some cold drinks, and spend my summer inside, sprawled in front of a fan, reading.  If you’re inclined to copy my example, here are a few books you can sink your teeth into while you hide from the weather.

Fiction

The Paris Wife, Paula McClain.  The waiting list for this novel is awfully long, but if you’re a fan of either literary fiction or tragic romance, you should place a hold now, because it’s definitely worth the wait.  McClain’s lush tale of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage brings 1920s Paris to life through the eyes of Hadley, a timid fearful woman whose life revolves around her soon-to-be famous husband.  The Hemingways’ fictionalized courtship, sojourn to the City of Lights, and subsequent break-up (due as much to incompatibility as to expatriate American morals) are both compelling and haunting.  If your heart doesn’t break just a little for Hadley by the end of the novel, you might want to make sure you haven’t died from heatstroke.

Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones.  A bigamist’s two daughters both live in Atlanta, but only one is aware that the other is her sister. Born only four months apart, but as different as night and day, Dana and Chaurisse both love their father.  Chaurisse, however, has never been told about Dana, while Dana knows all about Chaurisse.  In fact, Dana’s been spying on Chaurisse since she was a little girl, with her mother’s help; will the secrecy that’s dominated Dana’s life lead her to make irrevocable choices?  This is a darkly delicious meditation on the nature of deceit and desire, and how they can lead people down paths they never thought they’d take.  Crank up the fan while you turn the pages–this one’s a psychological scorcher.

Witch Child, Celia Rees.  Recapture the feeling of “school’s out for summer” by making a foray into teen fiction via this historical novel. The story unfolds via the diary of Mary, an English teen whose grandmother was executed for witchcraft, forcing Mary’s flight to the new world.  Matters don’t improve there, however, as the witch craze seizes New England, and anybody who doesn’t quite fit the proper social mold is accused of unnatural deeds…including our solitary, introverted heroine.  Will Mary survive and thrive in the colonies?  Or will she meet her fate at the hands of the Puritains? If you enjoy this story, you can then move on to Sorceress, the sequel, in which a contemporary teen finds and reads Mary’s journal.

Non-fiction

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present, Gail Collins. New York Times columnist Collins offers a breathtaking micro-history of the feminist movement that will appeal to readers looking for a balanced history amongst all the heated rhetoric. Readers under forty, especially, may find themselves alternately fascinated with and horrified by pre 1960 cultural conditions and the struggles that led to benefits said readers currently enjoy.  Collins, however, pulls no punches when it comes to describing setbacks, unforseen consequences, and other wobbly patches in women’s liberation.  A clear-eyed, well-researched read for anybody interested in contemporary women’s issues.

33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs From Billie Holiday to Green Day, Dorian Lynskey.  Music buffs and casual listeners alike will find something to love in Lynskey’s collection, which begins by defining the term “protest song,” then takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the cultural circumstances under which some of America’s hardest-hitting tunes were composed.  Beginning with “Strange Fruit,” Lynskey winds through the tumultuous events of twentieth-century history, highlighting artists such as Woody Guthrie , Dead Kennedys, and the recently deceased Gil Scott-Heron.  If you’re curious about the stories behind some of your favorite songs, or just want to learn more about protest music in America, this collection will engross and absorb you!

 Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton.  When it’s too hot to do anything useful, why not try an imaginary life on for size?  Thornton’s in-depth exploration of what it’s like to be part of the contemporary art world allows you to do just that, so if you’ve ever fantasized about working at Christie’s, going to art school, or participating in an international exhibition, this is the book for you.  Thornton’s seven chapters provide a fly-on-the-wall view of what it’s like to occupy a different role in the visual arts, from creator to teacher to buyer, delivering an experience that’s sure to both educate and entertain.  If you love reality television, why not switch off the set for a second and see how the “warts and all” experience of behind-the-scenes reporting translates into book form?

Hot as it may get, you won’t want to hide from the 11th annual Summer Reading Extravaganza coming up on June 12th.  Even I will be there, slathered in sunscreen, and probably wearing a ridiculous hat.  And if the reclusive librarian with the sunshine phobia will be there, you have no excuse not to join the fun.  Pre-register today so you can dive right into the festivities, or sign up that day and tell the registration staff about all the great books you’ve been reading thus far.  And if you happen to catch me before I vanish back into the shadows?  We can swap book suggestions and smoothie recipes!  Definitely cool, in multiple senses of the word.

Leigh Anne
pale, pedantic and proud

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