Book review: Somerset Maugham

By , October 27, 2010

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham
By Selina Hastings

This new biography of the enormously popular author is delightfully nonjudgmental and very readable.  I was surprised to learn that there are more film versions of Maugham’s work than any other writer’s—including Arthur Conan Doyle.

Cakes and Ale
By W. Somerset Maugham

This is Maugham’s lightest and funniest novel, and the author’s personal favorite.


The Moon and Sixpence
By W. Somerset Maugham

Loosely based on the life of Gauguin, this 1919 novel would be a great introduction to Maugham’s work.



Book list: Regency Redux – now with more brains!

By , October 25, 2010

Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies set off a gore-filled fad of 19th century classics reinterpreted through a lens of comic-horror.

What better way to celebrate Halloween than digging into a brain, sorry I mean book, you had to read in school but now with flying body parts? Click here for a complete list of zombified classics.

These books might lead teenagers back to the original Jane Eyre or it might lead them to the genius of George Romero.

TV Feud: Brothers and Sisters vs. Parenthood

By , October 23, 2010


So here recently I started watching two shows that, with a little more thought, are remarkably similar.  Both feature large families with grown-up siblings and drama.  I am, of course, talking about Brothers and Sisters and Parenthood. 

I started B&S first and am only through the first season.  Parenthood only has 1 season available on DVD, so for the purposes of this exercise, we are only going to compare and contrast the debut season for both shows.   I can’t decide which one I like better, so let’s go to the chart, shall we?

Family Feud Chart

Ok, so aside from being really fun to compile, the chart did nothing to help us settle this family feud.  Tell ya what…why don’t you check out the DVDs and see for yourself?  Watch them, and then let us know in the comments section which one you liked better.  Sound like a plan?

Alrighty, happy watching…
:) Amanda

P.S. Did you get the show that stared Peter Krause and Rachel Griffiths?  Need a hint? I saw dead people…lots and lots of dead people…

Book review: Get Ready for Billy Collins

By , October 20, 2010

Billy Collins is a poet for people who don’t like poetry.  His funny, accessible poems have the power to win over even avowed poetry haters.  You will not want to miss his free NPL appearance on Saturday, November 13th at 10:00 a.m. at Hume-Fogg High School.

Picnic, Lightning

This collection includes my favorite Billy Collins poem, I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey’s Version of “Three Blind Mice.”   


Billy Collins Live

This recording of one of Collins’ performances will give you a taste of what his Nashville appearance will be like: part wry comedy, part astute observation of life’s details, part heartache.


Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry

While Billy Collins was Poet Laureate, he created an innovative program which encouraged high schools to read one poem a day during the morning announcements (the 180 referring to the 180 days of a school year).  This is a collection of those poems.


Book Review: Tattoos on the Heart : The Power of Boundless Compassion

By , October 19, 2010

Tattoos on the heart : the power of boundless compassion by Greg Boyle
5 stars

Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle’s book of stories from his decades of work with gang members in Los Angeles is beautiful, full of heartbreak and hope.

The library also owns this title in Spanish:
Tatuajes en el corazón : el poder de la compasión sin límite

- Liz

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Book review: The Underrated Shirley Jackson

By , October 13, 2010

Get ready for Halloween with some unsettling stories by Shirley Jackson. 

The Haunting of Hill House

This intelligent and atmospheric thriller conjures up nice spooky feelings of dread.  It also inspired the excellent 1963 movie The Haunting.


Come Along With Me

Jackson’s brand of psychological terror is made scarier by its juxtaposition with extremely realistic settings.  Try her story The Summer People for a chilling example.


The Lottery and Other Stories

These stories aren’t as eerie as you’d expect, but they’re excellent: precisely written slice-of-life stories set in the 1940′s and ’50′s, with just a hint of unease.


We Have Always Lived in the Castle

This surprisingly lighthearted tale of arsenic poisoning and madness is many readers’ favorite Shirley Jackson novel.


Life Among the Savages

While primarily remembered for her scarier work, the author is also known for her domestic memoirs.  This is a madcap look at life as a housewife and mother of four in mid-century Vermont.





Crystal’s picks: Horror Films in Glorious Black & White

By , October 10, 2010

crystalspicks_markeeCheck out Horror Films in Glorious Black & White

Book review: The Wave

By , October 9, 2010

The WaveThe Wave: in Pursuit of Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean
By Susan Casey

“Surf’s up, dude.”
“Yeah, gnarly waves, bra.”  
“Hang ten, ya’ll.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the sum total of my entire surfing life (and just between you and me, I’m not even sure that last one counts).  I tell you this, not to bemoan my land-locked existence, but to give you the briefest and most irrelevant background info on me.  So…when I say that The Wave by Susan Casey is the gnarliest, no, raddest, no…um…mostest awesomest (?) book I have read in quite a while, you’ll be duly impressed.  Something like: “Man, she’s never even surfed and she loved this book?  I gotta read that!”

So anyway, Casey’s book chronicles her quest chasing guys who chase monster waves.  And we’re not talking tsunami time in the kiddie pool.  Naw bra.  I’m referencing those rare and deadly beauties who tower 75, 85, even 100 feet in the air.  Only surf royalty is allowed to even attempt to ride these bad boys.  

Traveling with surfer great Laird Hamilton and friends, Casey goes to Hawaii (natch), Indonesia, and Mexico in order to find the best rides in the world.  But this book isn’t all fun and games.  Casey also travels to the annual wave scientist convention thingy…where the math is hard and the lectures can get heated.  In addition, she visits South Africa and talks to a man who has spent his entire life rescuing boats (and humans) from the treacherous waters at the bottom of the world.

I don’t know why I enjoyed this book so much, but I did.  Maybe it was Casey’s narrative style of writing.  Or maybe it was the fact that I have seen Point Break, like, a dozen times (and no, Patrick Swayze does not show up in the book…bummer).  Either way, this is a good book and you should read it.  Go now.   It’s not like you can surf in Tennessee anyway, right?

:) Amanda

Book review: Bill Warrington’s Last Chance

By , October 7, 2010

bwlcBill Warrington’s Last Chance by James King

I do read fiction sometimes! In this case a really enjoyable, unique read and a great debut novel. Very character based with some hilarious and poignant counterbalance woven through this elliptical family reunion of sorts.

I found myself thinking “I know these people!” quite often, with the aging father, facing dementia, struggles to reunite his two sons and daughter, with the help of precocious and spot on hilarious granddaughter/runaway, April.  Bill calls to mind Clint Eastwood as cast in Gran Torino – he is an ex-marine who has some grand plan which turns into a one of a kind cross country road trip from Ohio to California. ( In fact,  Bill’s ride is a well preserved 1982 Chevy Impala SS.)
Each family member has some twisted, deep seated or recently developed troubles, marital or work related and they certainly have issues with each other.  Bill hopes to resolve some of these at long last, but his periods of lucidity are sometimes tempered with flashbacks and ramblings.  His helping April learn to drive is reciprocated by her looking out for her grandfather during several interesting encounters during their sometimes surreal  “road trip.”

The writing is first rate as the author skips around in an absorbing manner which works very well. Not quite as melancholy as Lisa Genova’s heart wrenching Still Alice, this one is full of humor as well as a shot at redemption for everyone.

This novel is a really entertaining, well written, funny, thought provoking and memorable winner.  I will be surprised if it doesn’t make some award lists come year’s end.


Book review: Nonfiction Quick Picks

By , October 6, 2010

Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading
By Lizzie Skurnick 

Did you spend your entire childhood with a book in your hand?  If you’re a woman in your thirties, Lizzie Skurnick read all of the same books, and her enthusiasm about them is totally infectious.  Plus she is really, really funny.

Hons and Rebels
By Jessica Mitford

Nancy is the better-known Mitford sister, but after reading this autobiography I like the hilarious, rebellious, adventurous Jessica much better.


Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences
By Barbara Holland

Barbara Holland, one of my favorite essayists, recently passed away.  This is her quintessential book, but her memoir When All the World Was Young is also excellent.


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