Music review: Glee – The Music

By , June 26, 2010

GleeGlee: The Music
Brought to you free by NPL and freegal!

Attention all Gleeks!  Are you missing your musical slushiness?  Are you going into withdraw from not getting to enjoy all new Glee songs each week?  Summertime means no new episodes (boo), but to tide you over until next fall, NPL has teamed up with freegal to bring you lots of free (that’s right, I said, free) downloads – including…drum roll please…the entire Glee selection (cymbals crash randomly in the background)!  Yeah!

Choose from Mercedes favorites like “Hate on Me” or “Bust the Windows.”  Or maybe you’re a Rachel fan?  How about “Hello” or “Don’t Rain on My Parade”? So many choices so little time.  And how can we forget about Sue Sylvester’s reimagination of “Vogue”…I want to go listen to it right now.  Hold on a minute…

Strike a pose…

Ok, I’m back.  Vogue-ified.  Now to access freegal:

  1. Simply visit the library website.
  2. Go under Books Movies Muisc.
  3. Use the freegal linkl.
  4. Enter your library card number and PIN to log in.
  5. Download!

That’s it.  No need to create a new account with new log in info – which is awesome because I already have, like, 453 passwords for things.  And each week, you get 20 free songs.  20!  2. 0.   Each week.  So after the first two weeks - once you’ve downloaded all the yummy goodness that is Glee, you can move on to other great artists, like Beyonce or Journey! Is this cool or what?

Now for those of you who aren’t computer savvy – you can still enjoy all the great Glee music by checking out the old-school CDs.  Still cool(ish).  Still free (but please don’t copy the CDs because that violates copyright laws and I’m contractually obligated to tell you this otherwise the RIAA will come in and punch me*…and who wants that?).

Some of you might be asking, what, exactly, is this Glee of which you speak?  You guys need to go right now, get the DVDs from the library (or at least put them on hold) and sit in front of a TV until you’ve seen every minute of the first 13 episodes.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

It’s a long time until we get new Glee (sigh), but somehow, fellow Gleeks, we’ll make it.  Don’t stop believing…
:) Amanda

*Umm…so the RIAA probably won’t come punch me, but it’s still illegal to copy CDs, just FYI.

Book review: Candyfreak

By , June 24, 2010

Candyfreak: A  Journey Through The Chocolate Underbelly of America
by Steve Almond

For grown up fans of Willy Wonka, this memoir of a candy lover is a mouth watering Valentine of a book and an ode to America’s independent candy makers which are finding it more and more difficult to survive in today’s world of corporate giants like Hershey’s and Cadbury. A lifelong candy fiend, Almond claims to have eaten candy every day of his life and professes that there are 3 to 7 pounds of candy available in his household at all times.

Traveling around the country visiting local candy companies, Nashville’s own Standard Candy Company, maker of the famous Goo Goo Cluster is featured. Did you know this local company makes its bread and butter manufacturing various nutrition bars and candy bars for other companies and only makes their signature candy bar 10 days a month?   Also featured is the Idaho Candy Company’s Idaho Spud, first created in 1918.  It is a marshmallow like confection made of agar, a seaweed product, flavored with maple, sprinkled with coconut and rolled in cocoa to look like a potato.

Almond’s writing style is hilarious and if you get a hankering for any of the unique confections he describes there’s a list of handy websites offering these goodies for sale so we can all savor the joy.

- Phyllis

Book review: The Help

By , June 19, 2010

The HelpThe Help
By Kathryn Stockett

I like reading about the south.  It’s usually fiction and usually about the Civil War.  However, recently I’ve heard so many good things about Katheryn Stockett’s, The Help, that I decided to try it out – even though it’s set a century later than my favorite time period.  Thank you to everyone who told me to check out this book, because it was completely worth it.

The Help is about a handful of African-American maids and the white society ladies they work for in Jackson, MS during the racially-charged 1960’s.  I thought the characters were well developed and I really enjoyed how Stockett wove all the different story lines together.  Growing up in the racially-homogenous north (in a slightly more recent decade), we didn’t have help in the house, so I don’t know about the accuracy of the author’s portrayal.  All I know is that it was a good story and an enjoyable read – which is what I’m looking for in a book. 

Now, when you finish with The Help, I predicting that you’re gonna come in and say, “Amanda, I really liked this one.  What else you got like it?”  Well, because you asked so nicely, I am going to give them to you right now…no waiting.  I’ve got three books that I think are both very similar to, and as good as, The Help.

clp smallBook #1: The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder
by Rebecca Wells

I’ve told you about this little gem before.  Check out what I said here, and then feel free to jump into the fun. (Get it?  Jump in…because the girl of the cover is jumping…ha ha…but seriously folks…)

Between GeorgiaBook #2: Between, Georgia
by Joshilyn Jackson

I thought this one felt a lot like The Help. Not quite as racially divergent or controversial, but still a good, solid read.

 
To kill a mockingbirdBook #3: To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

Ok, I must admit I’m not the only one to make this comparison, but I do think it’s a good one.  Both of these are set in the south.  Both cover racial issues and civil rights tension.  And both are first major novels from their authors.   Mockingbird actually makes a few cameos in The Help, as the main characters read it.  One of my All-Time Top-Ten Reads (Ever!), you definitely can’t go wrong with this one.

So let’s get readin’, y’all.  (Sorry, that’s my best attempt at a southern accent…)

:) Amanda

Book review: Peninsula of Lies

By , June 17, 2010

Peninsula of Lies:  A True Story of Mysterious Birth and Taboo Love
by Edward Ball

What Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil did for Savannah, this story does for Charleston.  I’m not sure why this story never achieved the same level of bestsellerdom but it’s just as lurid and fascinating.

It is the story of Gordon Langley Hall, the only son of parents who were “in service” to British aristocrats. After making his way to America he somehow managed to inherit the personal fortune of elderly American heiress Isabel Whitney. Hall headed to Charleston where he embarked on a grand restoration of an antebellum home on Society Street, filling it with fine antiques and making a place for himself in Charleston society. Adding further to his celebrity status he somehow managed to publish a string of  biographies, including one of Lady Bird Johnson.

All of this is scandalous enough but the real story begins when he takes up with a much younger African American man, changes his name to Dawn and has a sex change operation at Johns Hopkins. Bear in mind this all took place in the late sixties and early seventies. Think of the gossip. But wait, there’s more. Dawn shows up with a baby. Author Ball is to be commended for sorting the truth in the midst of a Gordian knot of lies, deceits and conflicting stories in this entertaining read.

- Phyllis

Music review:Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot Vol. 1

By , June 13, 2010

dolphyEric Dolphy at the Five Spot Vol. 1

Along with Miles, Monk and ‘Trane, Eric Dolphy is one of my all-time favorite jazz musicians. His exuberant playing on alto sax and sometimes bass clarinet on these stellar sessions recorded at NYC’s Five Spot club in 1961 is often mind-boggling.

Dolphy is intense, passionate, creative and clearly following some inner logic as he blazes away with Charlie Parker-like cascades of notes on “Fire Waltz” over the steady 3/4 beat. “The Prophet” clocks in at over 21 minutes and features some impressive solos by the other band members. Key players include pianist Mal Waldron, bassist Richard Davis (who would become more known for playing on Astral Weeks) and drummer Ed Blackwell along with superb, young trumpet player Booker Little.
This group is capable of an astounding range of styles and is just bursting with energy and chops. Ah, to have been there for this night would have been really memorable but this lively recording, along with volume 2,  is a great aural snapshot of a pivotal time in jazz and always gives me a lift.
Five stars!

Phil

Book review: Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

By , June 12, 2010

fgirls

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

by Leslie T. Chang

Often brilliant, insightful, humorous, poignant and certainly unflinchingly descriptive, this book was a rewarding read.  I learned much about the lives of young, ambitious Chinese girls leaving their home provinces to find work in Dongguan or Guangdong assembling electronic parts or working on handbags in crowded, hectic factories.
The author details the various fleeting accomplishments, relationships, ambitions and the social stratas involved in the lives of a few girls like Min and Chunming, who you will come to know quite well.
Chang has a knack for letting scenes speak for themselves – “On weekend afternoons, the Hopeful Computer Training Center was crowded with workers sitting at computers learning Word and Excel. (A sign outside advertised, in English, Microsoft Worb.)”  She takes you on hilarious side trips into hyped up etiquette training sessions and inane adventures of an “Assembly Line English” training academy along with the fun involved at the Donnguan Making Friends Club.
Underneath this interesting, personal and often twisting travelogue through Chinese cities is the author’s own homecoming to her ancestral hometown of Liutai.
The book ends with an interesting look at Chunming, ever trying to reinvent herself, venturing into direct sales in the area of health foods. You’ll get an inside view of a company sales convention and the goings on there.
Be prepared to learn and laugh too.

Phil

Audio Books: I have seen the light (or heard it, if you will…)

By , June 12, 2010

Ok.  So I am cough cough years old (excuse me, ah, something in my throat :) ) and have never, until very recently, understood the allure of audio books.  I thought because I tend to read things very quickly that the slower pace of the books would bore me and make me lose interest.

But I’ve heard such good things about a few series, that I just decided to try a couple.  It’s not like it cost me anything but time (thank you, NPL!).  First up on the docket – my Harrys.  Harry Potter and Harry Dresden. 

The Harry Potter series  (by JK Rowling) is read by the illustrious Jim Dale who somehow manages to create a different timbre of voice for each of the myriad number of characters he presents.  I have read the print books numerous times and have the movies memorized, but it is still fun to hear them read to me in my car as I drive to work.  And somehow I manage to find something new every now and again.  The library has all the HP books on audio, so feel free to start listening today!

HP Lineup

With Harry Dresden (by Jim Butcher), on the other hand, we were a little more selective in purchasing.  You can’t get the first couple of books on audio from us, but the back half of the series is just waiting on you to check them out.  This series is read by James Marsters – or Spike of Buffy fame, if you will.  He even uses his Spike voice when he reads Bob’s parts, which is awesome.  Marsters has that dry wit that totally works for Harry and I’ve long thought these two were a match made in heaven, and now I can see that I wasn’t wrong.  Good times.

HD lineup

 

 

I will admit that I have read all of these books before I listened to them, and I’m not sure I could tackle an audio book for a first “read.”  There are times when I find my mind wandering, which doesn’t matter so much if you already know the story.  Also, I can guarantee that the reason I like these so much is directly attributable to the reader.  If there was someone not quite as talented, that would be a complete turn-off for me (as would smelly feet and an overinflated sense of ego, but I digress…). 

After I finish with the Harrys, I’m going to listen to Paolini’s Eragon and Eldest to refresh my memory before I start Brisingr.  We’ll see how that works out with a new reader.   Fingers crossed…

So you may now consider me convinced (partially, at least) that audio books are good.  My name is Amanda, and I am an official audio book convert (more or less…).
:) Amanda

Book review: Maisie Dobbs

By , June 10, 2010

Maisie Dobbs
by Jacqueline Winspear

My favorite mysteries feature women detectives who rely on pure intellect to solve their cases. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Dorothy L. Sayers Harriet Vane come to mind. Add to this list Maisie Dobbs, nurse, veteran of the First World War, Cambridge educated, psychologist and private detective. This series by Jacqueline Winspear begins with Maisie Dobbs and continues with the seventh volume, Mapping of Love and Death, due out in March 2010.

Begin with this first volume, for background on how a bright working class girl developed into the remarkable Maisie. Starting out as a servant after the death of her mother, she is taken under the wing of Lady Rowan, the vivacious and progressive aristocrat who recognizes Maisie’s talent and sees she receives a first rate education after intense tutoring by her friend psychologist Maurice Blanche. During WW I Maisie finds herself a nurse in a field hospital in France where she treats victims of mustard gas and other horrific injuries before she and her fiancé, surgeon Simon Lynch are both injured themselves.

This war experience provides the foundation for all of Maisie’s work as a private detective, giving her compassion and understanding as she navigates the harsh realities of post war England when the tremendous death toll of the war left many damaged souls as well as social and economic devastation. Somehow, the conclusions she reaches while solving her cases move Maisie and her clients a little closer to healing the wounds of war. For mystery lovers who relish plowing through multiple volumes at once, this character driven series is a prize.

- Phyllis

Music review: Ladyhawke’s eponymous debut

By , June 8, 2010

ladyhawke album coverLadyhawke
by Ladyhawke

I’m a lady that’s gaga over an artist who goes by the name Ladyhawke.  Wait a minute, isn’t Ladyhawke that movie from the 80′s with Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfiefer, and a pre-Ferris Bueller Matthew Broderick?  Yes, you’re correct!  But if your musical influences and pop culture obsessions hail from that decade, what better movie to name yourself after…

Ladyhawke (aka Pip Brown) grew up in New Zealand, and joined her first band named after a movie: Two Lane Blacktop.  Pip later relocated to Australia, participating in various musical projects, before branching out on her own.  She then moved to London and co-wrote and recorded her debut album with the help of various producers.    If you love 80′s pop music, listening to this album will evoke those songs you adore, while maintaining originality and enthusiasm for the genre.  Standout tracks include the album opener “Magic,” and power pop anthem “My Delirium,” but all the songs are instantly accessible to the pop-friendly ear.  So put on your “Frankie Say Relax” t-shirt and give Ladyhawke a spin. -Crystal

Book review: My Soul to Take

By , June 5, 2010

My Soul to TakeMy Soul to Take
By Rachel Vincent

Ah, teenage romance.   It’s fun for everyone.  Teens.  Vampires.  Bean Sidhes (also known as banshees).  In Vincent’s newest series, Soul Screamers, high school student Kaylee Cavanaugh is about to learn that things are not always what they seem.  Pretty girls around her keep dying, which is really freaking Kaylee out.  Literally.  She sees about-to-be-dead people and all she wants to do is scream.  Unfortunately, that’s what got her locked up in the psych ward.

But she can’t help feeling the way she does.  Turns out, Kaylee’s a bean sidhe.  Screaming around dead people is what she’s genetically programmed to do.   Doesn’t mean she has to like it.  Take the angst of Twilight, the female empowerment of Buffy, and add just a dab of that creepy I-see-dead-people kid from The Sixth Sense, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for with this one.

This series wasn’t quite as enjoyable as Vincent’s Werecats, but it did have its own unique take on banshee mythology.  A little predictable in places, Vincent’s left herself quite a few possibilties for future story lines. Before you pick up My Soul to Take, though, make sure you read the prequel, My Soul to Lose, which is a free download from Vincent’s website.  It’s short and if you don’t read it, you’ll be lost through most of the book.  Just FYI.

Alrighty.  Well, you better get reading.  After all, you’re not going to live forever…or are you? (insert evil laugh here)
:) Amanda

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