Book Review: Divergent

By , March 31, 2012

By Veronica Roth

Since I work at the library, I’m always reading books. Some of them because I want to, others because I have to. And with all that reading, sometimes it is hard to remember that a really good book has the ability to grab you, pull you in, and not let you go.

Which is exactly what Divergent did. I first heard about this book when it won Favorite Book of 2011 in the (completely non-scientific) Goodreads Choice Awards. Then I read somewhere that it was kinda like The Hunger Games – which I enjoyed. So, I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should check this one out.”

And here we are. The book is set in a future, dystopian Chicago where each individual chooses his/her faction (sometimes over their families) based on inherent characteristics: Dauntless, Amity, Abnegation, Candor, or Erudite.  Every now and again we find a rare individual who is divergent – or able to succeed in more than one faction (and therefore dangerous). Which is where our heroine, Beatrice, finds herself.

First of all, props to Roth for picking excellent vocab words for each faction. (This is a Young Adult book after all.) I must admit that abnegation was not a word in my lexicon prior to Divergent. Second of all, even at close to 500 pages (!), once you start reading this book you are not going to want to put it down.

If you’re just now hitting The Hunger Games bandwagon and are waiting for your copy of the book, Divergent would be an excellent diversion while you tick down the massive hold list. If you love this dystopian genre and are looking for more books like these, check out another readalikes list.

Happy reading…
:) Amanda

Book review: The Golden Age of Couture Paris and London 1947-57

By , March 29, 2012

Golden Age of CoutureThe Golden Age of Couture Paris and London 1947-57
Edited by Claire Wilcox

The Golden Age of Couture Paris and London 1947-57 is the exhibition catalog of the record breaking 2007 exhibit from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. With the drudgery of World War II in the past, sumptuous fabrics and couture clothing made a strong comeback in February of 1947 with Christian Dior’s New Look. This book looks at the ten year period before Dior’s death and tells the stories of the best couturiers in London and Paris. The book elegantly details Dior’s golden age, Paris and London haute couture, textile manufactures, and the visual culture of couture and its legacy. Featured are nearly 200 illustrations.

In 2010, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts brought The Golden Age of Couture to Nashville. The exhibit allowed everyone to experience fashion on a level most of us never get to. Typically, the closest the average person comes to wearing something truly formal is either at prom or on their wedding day. To be surrounded by all of the glamorous dresses was an incredible experience. The exhibit was a true celebration of fashion, filled with people of all ages who were excited to be there and eager to share stories of their favorite displayed pieces or of the gowns that they themselves had worn.

For anyone who has ever wanted to put on a pretty dress and twirl around …..The Golden Age of Couture Paris and London 1947-57 is for you!




Book review: The River of Doubt

By , March 28, 2012

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey
by Candice Millard

This is the amazing account of the ex-President’s exploration of an unmapped South American river at the age of 55.  It’s hard for me to imagine someone not enjoying this–it starts slow, but the trip down the river is so full of excitement and drama that it’s a little mind-boggling.  Highly recommended for fans of Teddy Roosevelt or Amazonian adventure tales like The Lost City of Z

Candice Millard is also the author of the excellent Destiny of the Republic : A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, about the assassination of President Garfield, and is currently working on a book about Winston Churchill.


Book review: The Tender Hour of Twilight

By , March 21, 2012

The Tender Hour of Twilight: Paris in the ’50s, New York in the ‘60s: A Memoir of Publishing’s Golden Age
by Richard Seaver

I am mystified that this memoir is not a major spring hit.  If you’re interested in book publishing, French literature, expat life, or censorship issues, please give this a shot. It’s like a fantastic time machine to mid-century Paris and New York.  I’d even go so far as to recommend it to literary fans of Mad Menit’s set in the same time period, but focused on the world of publishing rather than advertising.



Music review: Is This Hyperreal?

By , March 19, 2012

Atari Teenage Riot - Is This Hyperreal?Is This Hyperreal?
by Atari Teenage Riot

Of all rock-n-roll reunions, punk reunions are the most cringe worthy. Nihilistic like bombs, punk bands have their moments and then die. Dare I say, dare I dare to say, that Is This Hyperreal? is the rarest of punk reunions that actually works?

If there was a time for Atari Teenage Riot to reunite, NOW, with computer hackers running amok and demonstrators from both sides of the political spectrum competing for news cycle, is as good a time as ever. ATR don’t deviate from their pounding beats and hysterical shouting formula but the endearing charm is that it still sounds like it was recorded on stolen 16-bit equipment in 1992 – the techno equivalent of Chuck Berry’s out of tune guitar.

Lyrically, it isn’t Leonard Cohen, but what do you expect from a band called Atari Teenage Riot?  Again, current events suit their muse. If you are looking to flood yourself with forty minutes of adrenaline, this record is (hyper) real enough to get the job done. Oh late capitalism, you are such a bonny gal.

- Bryan

Book review: Stuck

By , March 17, 2012

By Oliver Jeffers

It’s happened to the best of us. You get a nice sunny spring day where the temperature is warm enough that you don’t need a coat. The wind is blowing, which gives off a nice breeze and you think, “Hey, I’ll go fly my kite.” But what happens when the gently wafting breeze becomes an errant gust? That’s right – your kite gets Stuck in a tree.

Meet Floyd. Floyd’s kite is stuck in a tree, too. Oliver Jeffers latest book chronicles Floyd’s exploits to get his kite out of that tree. Throw your shoe at it? Nope, that doesn’t work. Maybe the policeman can help? Aw, man. Now he got stuck. How in the world is Floyd going to get his kite back?

Jeffers’ book is targeted for children, but it is a fun read for kids of any age. Not since Mo Willems and his Pigeon (who I would totally let drive the bus, by the way) have I so enjoyed a kiddie book. You won’t believe the plans that Floyd concocts to get his kite out of the tree.

You’ll probably wonder why you didn’t think to try that yourself.

Happy reading…
:) Amanda



Book review: The Fashion File: Advice, Tips and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men

By , March 15, 2012

Banana Republic has just launched their second collection of Mad Men inspired clothing for men and women.

Mattel has a Mad Men Barbie doll collection featuring Don Draper, Betty Draper, Joan Holloway and Roger Sterling. 

And the library has……. The Fashion File written by Janie Bryant, Mad Men’s costume designer. The Fashion File is a fun little book filled with cast photos and comments, chic illustrations, and advice about how you can create your own vintage inspired wardrobe.

 If you need to catch up on previous Mad Men episodes before the premier, the library has the past seasons available for check out.


- Karen



Music review: Crazy Clown Time

By , March 12, 2012

Crazy Clown Time
by David Lynch

America’s most humongous cinematic auteur has a new album out. Yes, traummeister Lynch records music. The albums he’s released in the past were very underground (who owns the BlueBob album) but this time around he seems to be giving his sonic endeavors more of a marketing push.

Amateurish electronic beats, seriously damp blues guitar, and atonal vocals make this reek of vanity project but the lyrics clear the air a bit. An obvious level of irony pervades the subject matter (trucks, dogs, drunken violence) and this justifies the simplistic musical base if considered as a sardonic pose. Of course you never can tell with Lynch and so really this is just the same old Lynch. On one track though, “Strange and Unproductive Thinking” which feels like the keystone of the record, Lynch (for once) shows his hand. Here Lynch speak-sings a short essay seeped in his beliefs about the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM). Though candid about the validity of TM in interviews, rarely does such subject matter appear so explicitly in his notoriously obtuse creative works.

I can only recommend Crazy Clown Time to hardcore Lynch fans, but I know there are a lot of you out there so go for it. Library owns quite a few of Lynch’s more under the radar projects; e.g., The Short Films of David Lynch, featuring some his early truly experimental work, and Dumbland a previously web-only animated series that the created most quotable soundbite this side of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

If you don’t like to “kill deer” and are looking for a more immersive Lynchian musical experience you can always go back to Angelo Badalamenti’s brilliant Blue Velvet score. It launched Badalamenti’s career. Over twenty-five years since its initial release, it only warms with age.

- Bryan

Book review: Quiet

By , March 10, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
By Susan Cain

How can you not read a book with such a great title? I think every introvert who’s read it has said “Amen brother!” – but ya know, quietly and to ourselves.

America is one of, if not the, most extroverted nations in the world. With our rowdy frat boys and GroupThink-favoring business schools, it’s tough to be the quiet kid who just wants to read (or build computers or make movies). And yet, it is these people (Steve Wozniak and Steven Spielberg) who are often the folks most idolized by the general population.

Cain’s book is a beautifully well-reasoned explanation of why introverts are introverts. She explains that group projects like Wikipedia or Linux succeed, not because the contributors are all sitting in giant, open-floor offices (as most b-schools would advocate), but in the solitude of their own apartments and dorm rooms working alone, together.

Just because someone is louder doesn’t mean his (or less likely her) idea is better. I think Wall Street’s proven that time and time again in the recent years.

Cain also argues that it’s not better to be introverted than extroverted. Both personalities have important qualities, but it’s how we relate to each other that’s significant. And I’m sure that all the introverts among us would just like to stop having to force themselves into an extroverted world.

Quiet won’t kill you. Trust us…we know.

Happy reading…
:) Amanda

Book review: Voguing and the Ballroom Scene of New York 1989-92

By , March 5, 2012

Voguing and the Ballroom Scene of New York 1989-92
by Chantal Regnault

Karen’s review of Vogue the Covers and Madonna’s career semi-retrospective at the Super Bowl created a cultural matrix forcing me to review the recently released Voguing and the Ballroom Scene of New York 1989-92. This is the scene that sparked the voguing dance craze cemented in our cultural memory by Madge’s song. (Though voguing and famous voguers were featured here first.) In Voguing, we find candid photos of the originators of the phenomenon. And they are amazing. The back cover describes it as “a visual riot of fashion, gender, polysexuality and subversive style…” I couldn’t have said it better myself. What I find in these photos is a serious queering of Paris high fashion. These black and Latino gay and transgender men were excluded from something, so they created their own thing. It is in your face and inspiring. Besides the photos, there are interviews with movers and shakers and notable models/dancers. Or at least interviews with those that survived the first wave of the AIDS epidemic. AIDS, Madonna, and fallout from the notorious Paris is Burning documentary are all covered. We also get a short history of drag balls in New York. Yes, these go back hundreds of years.

Madonna stole the show from these amazing artists, but M.I.A. stole the show from Madonna at the Super Bowl. The library has all of M.I.A.’s records, but make sure to search out her unofficial mixtapes Piracy Funds Terrorism and Vicki Leekx. The latter is probably her best.

- Bryan


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