DVD review: Ginger Snaps

By , October 29, 2012

If you watch one werewolf movie this Samhain, make it Ginger Snaps. Not only does it share its name with my favorite cookie, it is the best movie about female puberty ever. Lycanthropy as a metaphor for male puberty is nothing new, but menstruation remains taboo. Ginger Snaps isn’t afraid to stare menstruation right in the face.

Goth sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are in a world of their own. Sworn to a suicide pact against adulthood, Ginger inadvertently breaks their bond by being attacked by a werewolf and getting her first period on the same day. The girls deal with this unexpected turn of events their own way on their own terms, the same way they have dealt with everything that has come at them before. Things get a little out of hand when Ginger can’t control the urge to kill neighborhood dogs. It only gets worse killing-wise. Brigitte is forced to turn to the neighborhood pot dealer (a boy – gasp) to help find a “cure.” Will Brigitte administer the antidote? Is their mom really a werewolf too?

Are you thinking this doesn’t sound like your thing? That’s what I was thinking too, but after a reluctant viewing, I was charmed. Isabelle and Perkins perfectly embody the introverted sisters. Their charisma fuels the film’s engine. The script is far more intelligent than it first appears and is laugh out loud funny to boot. Ginger Snaps could only be true to itself if written by a woman, and it was, in this case Karen Walton. The ambiguity surrounding the nature of Ginger’s “curse” should keep you thinking until the next full moon.

- Bryan

Book Review: Handmaid’s Tale

By , October 26, 2012

The Handmaid’s Tale

by Margaret Atwood

This novel was selected by the Mayor for Nashville Reads, for the entire city to read and discuss.

First, let me say that I have previously summarized this book as part of my blog on dystopian novels.

Here is that original entry:

“This novel was originally published in 1986, and it will bring a chill to anyone who reads it. The United States has become a theocracy – women are subservient, forced into specified roles – Handmaiden, Wife, and Servant – according to Biblical law. Women who are capable of breeding are treated like animals. There is a reason – government has been suspended due to a “terrorist attack” where most of the important leaders are killed. Another group, dubbing themselves “Sons of Jacob” take over, freezing the assets of all women (and other people they don’t like), and creating a society based on their believes. The story is told from the perspective of one handmaiden ‘Offred’ who started life as a free woman, who had a husband and a child, and who is forced into servitude by the change in laws.  The end of the story leaves you with a question mark, but it definitely makes you think.”

Interested yet? If not, let me implore you to do so. This novel was a timely selection for Nashville Reads, considering the current news articles about women’s rights. Margaret Atwood stated in an article she wrote for the Guardian, “I made a rule for myself. I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist.” If that doesn’t make you want to take a long look at society, nothing else will.

The Handmaid’s Tale has been one of my favorite novels since high school. I’m not ashamed that I’ve read it at least once a year since I first read it. Each year, I find something new that I missed before, something that keeps me coming back to it time and again. As I grew older, the ideas from the novel that affected the most began to change. That is one reason this book is so wonderful; returning to it at an older age changes the way you interpret what is written.

Since then, I’ve read everything that Atwood has ever written (no joke).  Most writers, when they become as prolific as she is, begin to lose a little steam in their writing. But with Margaret Atwood, I’m never disappointed. The Handmaid’s Tale is an excellent starting point for this wonderful writer.

Also – don’t miss Margaret Atwood’s public lecture and book signing on October 27th at 10 a.m. Check the library calendar for more details!

Pleasant reading -


Book review: Knit Your Own Dog: Easy-to-Follow Patterns for 25 Pedigree Pooches

By , October 25, 2012

Knit Your Own Dog: Easy-to-Follow Patterns for 25 Pedigree Pooches

By Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne


Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne have written the ultimate knitting book for dog lovers. Now you can knit tiny doll versions of your favorite breeds. Knit Your Own Dog features 25 breeds divided into Hounds, Terriers, Sporting, Non-Sporting and Working. These dogs are cute and full of detail and the colors and textures are spot on. The finished dolls range in height from 4.5” to almost 7.”

And for the cat lovers Knit Your Own Cat  features 16 breeds divided into Long-Haired, Short-Haired, Exotic and Street.





Book review: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

By , October 24, 2012

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Lisa Genova is clearly an author who writes from what she knows. She holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard and lives with her family in Cape Cod, Mass. This story incorporates many details that come into play from one who knows about physical therapies and the maddening and real disorder resulting from a traumatic brain injury – Unilateral Spatial Neglect or  Left Neglect.  It feels very real.
This is a whirlwind ride that is filled with terrific nuanced detail about a couple and their three young kids living hectic, action-filled lives in the suburbs of Boston (Welmont…nice!). Smart, well written dialogue – quick moving scenes – this is modern life! Sarah Nickerson is at the center of it all as Vice President of Human Resources at Berkley Consulting, where she manages numerous duties and multitasks to the max.
In a harrowing and well depicted scene it all changes in an instant. She suffers a traumatic brain injury in a car accident and must radically adapt to a completely altered life. She cannot really see what is in her left frame of vision among other difficulties and has to work extremely hard to get incrementally better. This part is really well done and you’ll feel her frustrations!
After some time, her long estranged mother enters the scene to offer her help and we get some interesting plot developments and tough choices all around.  Sarah’s husband Bob, on rocky financial ground, an oldest son with ADD and a chance development while visiting a ski area all factor into their having to make some hard decisions. This story is definitely about changing and working within the twisted paths our lives can take.
Much like her excellent and emotionally wrenching first novel – Still Alice, Lisa Genova has come up with another book that will transport you completely into someone’s world.


Book review: The Art book 2nd edition

By , October 21, 2012

The Art Book 

Deceptively simple in structure and weighing in at 8 pounds 8 ounces, the new edition of The Art Book  offers a comprehensive A to Z art appreciation course in one single volume.

Arranged alphabetically by artist, each page contains a single piece of representative art work. With this arrangement the reader will come across works of art on facing pages that have nothing in common besides the first letters in the surname of the artist. This allows for cross page displays of unlikely works. The black and white photograph of Nobuyashi Araki’s wife, Yoko (1971) shares the page spread with an Alexander Archipenko bronze sculpture, Walking (1912). Another “spread” finds a Claude Lorrain’s Landscape with a sacrifice to Apollo (1662) on page left and Franceso Clemente’s Self portrait: the first (1979) page right. The book is full of surprise pairings. The pairings are masterfully selected to enhance the work of each. Compare and contrast studies rarely gets this interesting.

Artists added to this edition include, Marina Abramivic, Tomma Abts, Ai Weiwei, Brice Marden, Alex Katz, Alice Neel, Ed Ruscha, Robert Smithson and Kara Walker. One current artist not included is John Currin. That means no topless Bea Arthur painting and no bulbous representation of females inspired by Rachel Feinstein. See Tomma Abts’ 2011 painting Uphe.  This work in teal blue and green is a mesmerizing study of the popular pallette of this Fall’s fashion and decorating season.

Occasionally the artists whose work was represented in the earlier edition, has been revised as in the case of John Singer Sargent. His updated entry  is Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. The Salvador Dali entry is now Lobster Telephone. Jan Vermeer now represented with Woman in blue reading a letter. New artists plus new selections equal new pairings.

Above each work few paragraphs describe the work, the artist and the works place in art history. A tiny pointing hand symbol directs the reader to related artists, a sort of “see also” note for continued investigation.

Beneath each work is the artist’s name, dob /dod, place of birth, place of death, date of production , materials, dimensions and holding gallery or collection. For example: Georgia O’Keefe b. Sun Prairie, WI, 1887. D. Santa Fe, NM, 1986. Radiator Building. 1927.  Oil on canvas. h.121.9 x w76.2 cm. h48 x w30 in. Fisk University, Nashville, Tn.  There’s always a Nashville connection.

Book Review – Live by Night

By , October 19, 2012

Live by Night

By Dennis Lehane

With the renewed interest in Prohibition-era living (think Nucky Thomas and Boardwalk Empire), Dennis Lehane opens up the literary road for those of us who don’t have cable television (or if you’d rather just read a book!)

Joe Coughlin is a man who lives outside the law. He lives in a time where a whole new criminal lifestyle which revolves around the making, shipping, and distributing of alcohol. He starts the story at the bottom level – a hired tough who spends the first part of the novel under the thumb of one crime lord or another. When we first meet Joe, he’s about to be sent to the briny deep with a pair of concrete shoes. He’s reflecting on what brought him to that point – namely, a woman. This novel is a tale of revenge, but not just the main character’s search for it.

The story is rich with details about the time – clothing, cars, buildings. I’ve read some reviews that say that there was too much detail, but I disagree. We are seeing the world through Joe’s eyes.  It’s difficult to tell whether the main character is just very lucky, or very smart. It is obvious that he has the guts to take what he want and survive with it – but his lifestyle comes with a heavy price.

The characters in this story aren’t necessarily meant to be loved. There are times when Joe’s behavior is deplorable. However, even though he lives outside of the law, he has a sense of honor that seems to help as much as hinder him.

If you love this book, or any of Dennis Lehane’s other works, please join the library in welcoming him as part of the Salon@615 series on October 23rd. Check the library calendar for details!

Pleasant Reading -



Book review: B Is For Baby: 26 Projects from A to Z

By , October 18, 2012

B Is For Baby: 26 Projects from A to Z

By Suzonne Stirling

Looking for a simple handmade gift to take to the next baby shower you attend?  B Is For Baby: 26 Projects from A to Z by Suzonne Stirling is chock-full of great ideas.  This book would be great for anyone interested in unique baby shower gift ideas or even new parents wanting to make something personal for their baby’s nursery.  

Some of the projects are: super cute matchbox birth announcements, appliqued onesies, monogrammed hangers and decoupage step stools.  The book includes a thoughtful and thorough introduction to crafting tools, materials, computer tips and techniques to get you started. For each craft project, there is a list of the tools and materials that will be needed, a large color photo of the finished project and great step by step instructions.


B Is For Baby: 26 Projects from A to Z has something for everyone at every skill level.






Book review: Blasphemy

By , October 15, 2012

Sherman Alexie, one of America’s best short story writers, will be appearing at Montgomery Bell Academy on October 18th at 6:15pm as part of Salon@615. His new book Blasphemy is a collection of his new and best loved stories. Alexie’s stories evolved from his poetry, the orality of which is center stage. Many of the stories glow like burning coals when read aloud. It’s as if Raymond Carver finally saw the joy in life instead of just the misery. Alexie does know how to tell a joke but the subject matter here is not necessarily light.  Of the new stories, “Protest” and “Indian Country” are probably my favorites. They return to the examination of edgier aspects of indigenous-Anglo relations featured in earlier collections like Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven and Toughest Indian in the World. The highlights of both are included here. The softer, married with children Alexie found in the PEN/Faulkner award winning War Dances is mostly absent. Mellow out and win an award? Ask all the notably award-less, notably angry Native writers that came before. The only story I am missing is “Fearful Symmetry,” the most hilarious take down of Hollywood machinations since Kevin Smith’s Superman speech.

Besides his print work, Alexie has positioned himself as a screenwriter / director / producer of films. Smoke Signals’ on screen manifestations of Lone Ranger and Tonto‘s troubled teenage protagonists Thomas and Victor have rendered that film a contemporary classic. He was also instrumental in the re-release of Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles, a rare example of pre-Civil Rights era cinéma vérité capturing daily lives of Native people in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bunker Hill.

Since much of Alexie’s oeuvre is concerned with poverty, it is appropriate he will be appearing at Montgomery Bell Academy. He should be able to offer an illuminating perspective to much of the student body. It is worth your trip out to MBA too. It will be much more of a storytelling session than a book talk. He might even drop the three best lines ever penned about Sasquatch:

When I asked the Indian elder, she said
with a smile, “I don’t know if I believe in Sasquatch
but he sure do stink.”

- Bryan

Music review: new Dave Matthews Band album

By , October 13, 2012

Away from the World
By Dave Matthews Band

For anyone who came of age in the 1990′s, it is impossible to make a soundtrack of life without something from Dave Matthews Band. I’ve always been a fair weather DMB fan. I love their radio singles like “Crash” and “What Would You Say” but haven’t really gone deeper into their catalogue. I’ve also heard that DMB gives a great live show, but have never had the chance to experience it.

The early years of this millenia found Dave experimenting with solo work and doing many live concert albums, but I must admit I didn’t follow him and the band kind of fell off my radar a little bit. Recently, though, I was browsing through freegal and came across this latest release. After downloading the first five tracks I knew I’d found something equivalent to their previous 90′s brilliance.

Away from the World debutted at #1 on the Billboard 200 when it was released on 9/11/12 and is the DMB’s eighth studio album. The track listing contains a good mix of more upbeat tunes as well as Dave’s usual run of songs with a message. My favorites are “Mercy” (which was also the first single) and “Gaucho.” Oh and “Sweet” because I love how the song’s meter and feel changes halfway through – another one of DMB’s musical genius/tricks.

Take a listen see whatcha think…

DMB definitely has it share of haters out there, but I dare you to at least try one or two of these and give him another chance. After all, they’re free so what can you lose? I’ve had this album in pretty heavy rotation on my mp3 player since I found it a couple of weeks ago.

Happy listening…
:) Amanda

Book Review: The Bone Bed

By , October 12, 2012

The Bone Bed

by Patricia Cornwell

The Bone Bed is the twentieth novel in Cornwell’s popular Kay Scarpetta series. If you are like me, and you haven’t read any of them before, that’s perfectly alright. The Bone Bed can be read by someone who has never read the series before, although some of the back story on the characters does nothing more than wet your whistle to read the other books.

The Bone Bed begins with an e-mail to the Chief Medical Examiner, Kay Scarpetta, with a grisly ending to a short video – the shot of a severed human ear. The rest of the novel, without giving too much away, is about Scarpetta’s search for the killer who seems to be toying with her. She spends quite a bit of the novel trying to decide who she can and can’t trust, even casting doubt on her closest friends and her husband, as well as sorting out her feelings towards some of the same people.

One thing that definitely impressed me about this book, especially as a first time reader, was the level of detail that went into it. When Scarpetta conducts a medical examination of a dead body, you almost feel as if you are in the room with her. Cornwell has a way of keeping you guessing up until the very end!

Regardless of whether you are an avid fan or a new reader, if you like mystery novels with a twist and gory details galore, this is definitely a novel for you.

Patricia Cornwell joins readers in Nashville for a talk as part of the Salon@615 series on October 20th, at the University School of Nashville. Check the calendar for more details!

Pleasant reading -


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