Legends of Film: Richard Sarafian interview

By , June 30, 2011

Bill brings us an interview with Richard C. Sarafian.  Mr. Sarafian has directed Vanishing Point, a classic episode of The Twilight Zone “Living Doll” and Man in the Wilderness. 

Book review: More Tales of Adventure

By , June 29, 2011

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World : The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance
By Jennifer Armstrong

This is my personal choice for greatest survival story of all time.  I’ll just say that it involves a ship being crushed by ice, the crew being stranded for months in a camp on a floating iceberg, and an 800-mile journey in a lifeboat through Antarctic seas.

The Floor of Heaven : A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush
By Howard Blum

This is a fascinating account of the Klondike Gold Rush, told from the perspective of a prospector, a con man, and a Pinkerton detective on the track of stolen gold.

Book Review: Nazis Two Ways

By , June 25, 2011

June seems to be the month of the Nazis for me. Which is weird because usually I avoid anything war related since it can be so dark and depressing. And yet, two of the books I’ve enjoyed the most this month featured Nazis. Go fig, right?

In the Garden of Beasts
By Erik Larson

This is the first book I read. In May, Mr. Larson visited our Salon 615 here at the library and spoke about his latest work. I love Erik Larson and have read everything he’s written (and I highly recommend everything but Thunderstruck - that one about did me in). However, with this one I was a little concerned because of the subject matter.

After hearing Larson speak, though, I was intrigued. His book features the American ambassador to Berlin, William Dodd and his family in Berlin in 1933-34. This was period of history I was mostly unfamiliar with. Most people know about the later part of the war, with the concentration camps, etc., but in the beginning the Nazis were party animals. Berlin in the 30′s was like a frat party run amok, and if you didn’t like it, you either left or they shot you.

My favorite quote from Larson’s book was also mentioned during the author’s talk: at one point after being named Chancellor, in discussing all the finger- pointing that was going on, neighbor against neighbor, etc., Hitler states “we are living at present in a sea of denunciations and human meanness.” Ok, when you can out-mean Adolf Hitler something is seriously wrong.

Larson’s book was good – dark, but not a total buzz kill. It was interesting to see an aspect of the Third Reich that I was previously unfamiliar with. Highly readable.

A Vintage Affair
By Isabel Wolff

The second book I found only by chance. I regularly shelve new books, and one day I came across this one. Thinking the cover was neat, I opened it, thought the story sounded good, and checked it out.  I expected it to be something along the lines of Sophie Kinsella and her Shopaholic series since both authors are British and writing about fashion.

The main premise of the book is that Phoebe has decided to open a vintage clothing store in London. Now I’m not a fashion guru, so I don’t know that I gave all the mentioned clothes their appropriate portion of shock and awe, but they did sound pretty and lighthearted.

The Nazis snuck into the book through a surprising side story that soon captured my attention. Phoebe visits the home of an older lady to potentially buy some of her clothes and ends up getting pulled into the past. All because of a little blue overcoat she finds tucked in the back of the ladies closet. Throughout the book, we learn how it was to live in Avignon during the war – but I’m not going to give more details than that.

This book had its fun moments, usually via the cupcake dresses that hung on the wall in the store.  But it also had a little more depth and breadth than I was expecting. Surprisingly good for something that looked like fluff. I’m not sure that I would have been as interested in the Nazi moments, though, if I hadn’t just finished the Larson book.

So those are my Nazi books. Both were really good, but for really different reasons, hence the Nazis Two Ways title (or maybe I’ve just been watching too much Food Network). If you’re looking for something different, check one of these out.

Happy reading…
:) Amanda

Book review: What Alice Forgot

By , June 22, 2011

When 39-year-old Alice wakes up from a fall at the gym, she has lost all memory of the past ten years.  What might strike you as a trite premise is actually extraordinarily suspenseful as you watch Alice discover her current (and much different) self through her 29-year-old eyes.  It reminded me of It’s a Wonderful Life mixed with Lionel Shriver’s popular The Post Birthday World.  I predict that this will be a huge word-of-mouth hit this summer–reserve your copy before the list gets too long!

What Alice Forgot
by Liane Moriarty

Movie review: You Don’t Know Jack

By , June 20, 2011

You Don’t Know Jack

This is a terrific biopic done for HBO that has a lot of fine acting (a tour de force for Al Pacino), nuanced scenes and humor amid the seriousness that surrounds Jack Kevorkian’s mission of providing “medical services” to terminally ill patients.

I must admit it paints a detailed, sympathetic portrait of an intelligent, driven and passionate man who goes well beyond the call of his medical professional duty in fighting his battles to let people die with dignity.  Some of the courtroom scenes do become pretty hilarious as Kevorkian attempts to defend himself (he eventually served almost 8 years in prison) from serious charges using some dramatic antics and unusual banter with the judges.

Excellent performances by Susan Sarandon (a Hemlock Society member), Brenda Vaccaro (his sister Janet), Danny Huston (his attorney) and others along with newsreel footage, interview snippets with patients bring this documentary vividly to life.

Wherever you stand on the issues of euthanasia or doctor assisted suicide, this film adds substance to the view of the  life of a doctor who became known only as “Dr. Death” and was often the punchline to cruel quips and jokes.  Watch this Barry Levinson-directed film and you definitely will know Jack!

-Phil

 

Book review: The Color of Night

By , June 20, 2011

The Color of Night
by Madison Smartt Bell

Madison Smartt Bell’s historical novels have been bobbing on and off my to-read list for awhile now so I was excited to learn he was returning to Nashville as part of the Salon @ 615 series. I wasn’t sure what I would think of The Color of Night until Bell started reading and I was transfixed. Wondering around the desert at night with a rifle, being possessed by pagan gods, weapon fetishism – ya’ know feel-good-summer-time stuff – I knew this book was up my alley.

The Color of Night is actually a sophisticated and literate What If… story. What if two Manson girls got away unnoticed and lived on  divergent paths until 9/11. One segued back into normalcy. While the other… yeah, that whole in the desert with a gun deal. The psychic wound of 9/11 tosses our gun-toting hermit back into the mental world she inhabited during her time with the Summer of “Love” Debased cultus. (Something’s wrong here. A LOT of things are wrong here.) So then she seeks her long forgotten other half. This has best ending of any novel I have read since Drop City.

Though not pitch perfect, the book does link the collective scars of the Manson murders and 9/11 as turning points in popular consciousness. With equal dollops of sex, horror, ancient deities, and Americana, The Color of Night is everything I hoped Neil Gaiman’s post-comics fiction would have become instead of the children’s stories which have made him famous.

Devil’s Dream just got bumped to the top of my to-read list.

Road Trip Candy: Stephanie Plum on audio

By , June 18, 2011

The Stephanie Plum series
By Janet Evanovich

Last summer I started on a quest into audio bookland, enjoying all the Harry Potters and making a dent in the Harry Dresdens. (I’m still working on Harry D, BTW). This summer I needed something equally light, but definately enjoyable.

Having read the first Stephanie Plum (One for the Money), I remembered really liking the hilarious hijinks of bounty hunter Steph, and I knew that there were a bunch in the series to keep me occupied. So, I figured why not? Now…14ish books later, I have to say that I am loving them (especially Ranger…wink, wink).

It took me a little bit to get into them because first we had CJ Critt reading, who I really liked.  Then Lorelai King reads a couple – who I didn’t like at all in the beginning. Then back to CJ. However, now that I’m in the teens, it seems like Lorelai reads all of these, and I have to say, I’ve grown to really like her as a reader – although, I still don’t think she does Grandma right.

I’m only now starting Lean Mean Thirteen, but I’m excited that Smokin’ Seventeen comes out this Tues (June 21). These books go by too quickly – with Steph always in trouble for something or other and Ranger and Joe saving the day. Before you know it, I’ll be ready for the latest one. Good thing I’ve got my hold on it already.

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So if you’re going on a long road trip this summer, take Ranger, Stephanie, Joe, Grandma, Lula, and the rest of the gang with you. It will be fun, and they won’t take up too much room in your car or make you stop for the potty every other exit.

Happy listening…
:) Amanda



Book review: Strange As This Weather Has Been

By , June 15, 2011

If you saw The Last Mountain at the Belcourt this past weekend, you’re probably still thinking about the devastating effects of mountaintop removal on Appalachian communities.  If you want to delve further, try West Virginian author Ann Pancake’s fictional approach to the issue in her book Strange As This Weather Has BeenHer ear for dialect, her sympathy for her characters, and her sense of atmosphere are stunning.  This is one of my favorite books of the past few years.

Book reviews: The Diana Chronicles, Royal Feud

By , June 12, 2011

The Diana Chronicles
by Tina Brown

Join the wickedly observant Tina Brown as she takes you through the years when Princess Diana was the queen of everyone’s heart! Brown’s writing snaps, crackles and pops as she discusses Diana’s courtship with Prince Charles, the tragedy of their marriage and her later death, and the effect she had both on the British monarchy and the world. Brown is an impartial observer who does not shrink from telling us that the Golden Princess of Wales was often a needy, lonely, and angry woman, but one who had great courage and compassion. This book is a page-turner!

- AJ


Royal Feud: the Dark Side of the Love Story of the Century
by Michael Thornton

In December of 1936, Edward VIII abdicated the throne of Great Britain to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. His brother the Duke of York, was crowned King George the VI six months later. His wife was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore and known to us today as the Queen Mum. She and Wallis, two women with more similarities than differences, were to have a lifelong relationship of mutual antagonism that only thawed when Edward died.

Michael Thornton paints a vivid picture of these two strong characters and their lives and struggles. Beneath her fluffy hats and constant smile, the Queen Mother is revealed a woman of extraordinary strength. And Wallis Warfield Simpson is much more than a mere gold-digger or femme fatale in this wonderfully written book.

- AJ

Book review: Tales of Adventure

By , June 8, 2011

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
By Mitchell Zuckoff

I thought this was an almost perfect adventure story, about the survivors of a plane crash in New Guinea, their encounters with the local (rumored to be cannibalistic) tribes, and their amazing escape.  If you like jungle survival plotlines, try The Lost City of Z while you’re waiting for this one.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
By David Grann

This was riveting reading, especially if you like tales of exploration in the vein of Ernest Shackleton in the Antarctic. It also has echoes of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo.

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