Book review: Historic Homes of the “Old South”

By , November 29, 2012

Book review: Historic Homes of the “Old South”

By the American National Bank with reprint by the Ladies Hermitage Association


“Yet there still remain in the south homes built in the grand manner, where sumptuous living was known and whose historic association with the past is coupled with the glamour of romance. Of such is this brochure is compiled.”  And with that introduction to the 1952 reprint by the Ladies Hermitage Association we are introduced to Historic Homes of the “Old South,” a quiet unassuming little paperback that is filled with page after page of richly detailed pen illustrations of historic homes in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. Each entry features a drawing of the home, it’s location and a statement of its historical significance.   


 Historic Homes of the “Old South” is perfect for fans of architecture and southern history.






Book Review – Flight Behavior

By , November 23, 2012

Flight Behavior

by Barbara Kingsolver

Chaos. Beauty. The cycle of life and death, destruction and creation. Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Flight Behavior, shows us the beauty of every day life, and the tragedy of miracles. The novel takes place in a small Appalachian town in Tennessee, where a woman struggles to find the balance between her needs and the actuality of her life. When we first meet Dellarobia, she seems to be fleeing her home, driven on by her own lust and need, willing to through her entire life away for the simple pleasure of giving in to desire. What she finds instead is a miracle. Monarch butterflies, millions of them, in columns on the trees, floating through the air, and underfoot. Her near act of selfishness is the first step in a series of changes for herself, her family, and the town in which she lives. Dellarobia’s life expands as the butterflies bring scientists, tourists, and activists into her life, and into her front yard.

Kingsolver addresses the issue of the effects of climate change and of harmful acts towards natural environments, such as logging, by exploring the life cycle of butterfly through the eyes of a woman whose personal metamorphosis becomes linked to the survival of the butterflies she accidentally stumbled upon.  Dellarobia’s growth through the novel, the changes seen in her family, her friends, and the life of a small town, as well as the trials of the butterflies who have flown miles from their normal path are a gripping, emotional read.

Barbara Kingsolver will be speaking on Flight Behavior on November 27th at the Nashville Public Library as part of the Salon@615 series. 

Pleasant Reading -

Book reviews: Holiday Gift Wrapping

By , November 22, 2012

The holiday season is officially upon us……. If you have ever wanted to learn how to wrap beautiful packages the following books will show you how to wow them!


Presentations: a Passion for Gift Wrapping

By Carolyne Roehm

In Presentations: a Passion for Gift Wrapping the sample illustrations are lovely and elegant.  Carolyne Roehm teaches you how to choose the right paper, ribbons and accents. Wrap the perfect box and tie the perfect bow. Her packages are simply stunning.



The Gift Wrapping Book: Over 150 Ideas for All Occasions

By Caroline Birkett


The Gift Wrapping Book: Over 150 Ideas for All Occasions shows you how to create cool decorative gift tags, tie a variety of bows and actually make unusually shaped gift boxes. 



Two very different gift wrapping styles each with something to offer.





Book review:11/22/63 by Stephen King

By , November 18, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

I’ll admit after reading many of the early King classics – Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Firestarter, Christine, and the epic The Stand, I lost track of his writing somewhere around the time the scary clowns in the sewers of It were creating nightmares. That was 1987 and that one was set largely in circa 1958 Derry, Maine.
Strange coincidence – some of this tale takes place in that year and town as well. The plot: time travel in which a dying shopkeeper gets to explore the past through a portal that eventually allows a present day schoolteacher the same opportunity. After testing the pre- Civil Rights era waters of ‘58, this ultimately leads to a plan to stop Lee Oswald from shooting JFK in ‘63. It’s a quirky, absorbing tale of love and desperation played out between Jake Ebbing of Lisbon Falls, Maine and Sadie Dunhill of Jodie, Texas as the plot unfolds over several trips into the past. Full of touchstone Americana details in the time before cell phones, King’s characters spend a lot of time inhabiting the milieu of Oswald’s world in run down areas of Dallas and its environs.
The story pulls you through to the end with some heartbreaking occurrences and well-depicted scenes, although a few of the characters aren’t completely developed. The ramifications of actually being able to alter a string of events in world history are always present in this book – the underlying and thought provoking possibility of changing fate and reality. Everyone’s life matters and is interrelated (see The Butterfly Effect) and it’s clear that “life can turn on a dime.” But remember, as the author makes clear “the past is obdurate.”
Interesting that King cites several books in his notes including Oswald’s Tale by Norman Mailer and Case Closed by Gerald Posner (I’d add Reasonable Doubt by Henry Hurt, Plausible Denial by Mark Lane and Crossfire: the Plot that Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs to any budding conspiracy theorist’s to- read list!) but really this is a twisted journey into the past and a well done exploration of the “what if’s?” leading up to that fateful day. Take a ride!



Book review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

By , November 17, 2012

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
By Robin Sloan

I think that someday, in my free time, I’m going to build a magic device that will allow me to teleport not only to work instantaneously (goodbye hour commute!), but also lets me visit fictional places. The first place I would go would be Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (the second would be Hogwarts – but the body count there is higher). A place that is open all the time and has floor to ceiling books? I’m so in.

It is nice to finally find a book that lives up to the hype. It’s completely disappointing to read a great review, but then be let down while reading. Sigh. It’s kinda like when a movie preview contains every funny moment from the show. It might be hilarious, but the actual movie is a snoozefest because you’ve already heard all the punchlines. Penumbra’s Bookstore holds many surprises and intrigue. If you’re like me, you’ll probably waver back and forth between wanting to finish the book NOW! to see what happens and wanting to savor every moment because’s it so enjoyable.

What is the big mystery about Mr. Penumbra’s Bookstore? How does it stay open all the time when no one comes in? Why does our main character Clay have to record the minutest details about the customers who do peruse the shop? What is the Waybacklist? Will Google revolutionize mystery novel writing? Why do I like books about smart, nerdy people so much? Robin Sloan will definitely answer most of these questions.

This is probably the third best book I read all year (the other two: Ready, Player, One and Ghost Wave). If you are looking for something that isn’t just a publishing sensation but is actually a good read – start here.

Happy Reading,

:) Amanda

Book review: True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps

By , November 13, 2012

True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps
by Gianna Sobol and Alan Ball with Karen Sommer Shalett;
recipes by Marcelle Bienvenu

This True Blood cookbook is the latest in a long line of themed cookbooks.  (For you Game of Thrones fans, A Feast of Ice and Fire arrived earlier this year.)  Although novelty cookbooks are more for collectors of pop culture memorabilia (aka fanboys and fangirls), this one actually contains some interesting, not to mention tasty, Cajun, Low-Country, and Southern recipes.  Presented as if the characters were speaking directly to you, this book also features glossy on-set photos from locations in the show based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels.

First up is the Drinks to Die For chapter, but unless you’re hosting a viewing party skip this section.  Most of these concoctions call for the Tru Blood drink, or the homemade equivalent.  (If you’re on the search for new cocktails recipes, go here.)  Head straight to the Home Cookin‘ section for the standout  recipes up-in-arms biscuits and gravy, and beautifully broken bisque.  The Eating Out in Bon Temps chapter includes Merlotte’s staples fancy shrimp cocktail, all mixed up red beans and rice, and did I kiss your grits.  Let us not forget dessert!  The classic chess pie recipe featured is truly a sweet classic from the Southern dinner table.

If the vampires,werewolves, and other assorted creatures of True Blood aren’t your style, there’s always the Star Trek Cookbook, or the Star Wars Cook BookWookie-ookies!!!!

Book review: Lincoln suggestions

By , November 11, 2012

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln will be released in theaters this week.

The movie stars two time Academy Award winner for Best Actor, Daniel Day Lewis (son-in-law of the playwright Arthur Miller) in the title role and two time Academy Award winner for Best Actress, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. David Strathairn portrays Secretary of State William Seward. Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens. John Williams will provide his signature, sacchrine, sweeping  symphonic soundtrack.

If Lincoln on film awakens a curiosity in Lincoln in print, here is a supporting reading list.  The official movie tie-in is Lincoln: a president for the ages.

The movie is based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin’s (former NPL Foundation award recipient),  A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The film focuses on the last few months of Lincoln’s life and the crafting of the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery. The Nashville Public Library owns single copies of this title, playaway and  e-audiobook formats as well as multi-volume Book club in a Bag sets.

For a log cabin to “when lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed” look at Lincon, see Lincoln: an illustrated biography.This title follows the early days of Lincoln’s political life, his childhood and adult family life and presidency all accompanied by prints, photographs and ephemera.

Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction and the National Book Award in 1954.This volume is the final title in the Army of the Potomac trilogy but any of the Catton works focused on Lincoln are worthy reads.

Several new books released this fall focus on Lincoln, David Von Drehle’s Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year and James Oakes’ Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865.

As we take a look back at our 16th president in film and on the page remember, “My Best Friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.” – Abraham Lincoln

Book Review – Astray

By , November 9, 2012


By Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue, the red-headed Dublin native, re-visits leave-takings, journeys, wanderings and meanderings throughout history in her latest book of short stories Astray. It’s not just about the physical – these are people going astray in many aspects of their lives; they cross boundaries where boundaries have not been crossed before. Fourteen stories track fourteen lives throughout history as they are led astray – by themselves, by others, by race, by sexuality, and many other ideas.

The stories are reminiscent of a previous collection of Donoghue’s The Women Who Gave Birth To Rabbits, which focuses on grotesque and odd historical anecdotes. Just like in her previous collection, Donoghue breathes life into stories that seem like nothing more than footnotes in the grand scheme of history, but in truth are important reminders of all the little things we miss when looking at the “big picture.”

One of my favorite stories in this book is actually the first one, called “Man and Boy”, which reads like a monologue. At first, you can’t tell that the person speaking is an animal trainer, addressing his ward: an elephant named Jumbo. The story tells of the elephant’s sale to P.T. Barnum, and the trainer’s preparation for the ocean voyage from London. There is so much tenderness in the speaker that it is easy to believe why Matthew Scott, the trainer, refers to Jumbo as “his boy”.

If you like historical fiction with a twist, this is definitely a book for you!

Meet Emma Donoghue on November 13th, as she joins the Nashville Public Library as part of their Salon@615 series. Please check the calendar for details.

Pleasant Reading –


Book List: New Picture Books

By , November 8, 2012

Extra Yarn
Written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

When Annabelle discovers a box of colorful yarn, she knits herself a sweater. When she still has yarn left, she knits her dog a sweater, then a sweater for her friend and his dog. It appears that Annabelle’s box of yarn has no end and neither does her willingness to knit for everyone and everything around her, until an archduke with evil intentions comes to town. Dark, yet sweetly illustrated by my new favorite illustrator, Jon Klassen (see next review), this picture book has made it into my daughter’s nighttime ritual and it’s at the tip top of my favorite picture books for the year. Librarian geek note: look out for the cameo from another Jon Klassen book.


This is Not My Hat
Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Fans of Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back (hint: ME! I AM!) will also like This Is Not My Hat which tells a similar tale of a thieving culprit, but this time from the thief’s point of view. Unabashed in his thievery, little fish recounts how he took the big fish’s hat and brags that he’s going to get away with it – or so he thinks. The illustrations lead the narrative and are just as funny and unflinching as its predecessor. This ends the I’m-obsessed-with –Jon-Klassen’s-books part of this review.


I’m Bored
By Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

When you read a book 850 times to your child, you really appreciate when a book comes along that is fun to read. That’s the case with this clever little book about a young girl who begins by bemoaning her boredom. Along comes a potato. Yes, a potato, who echoes the little girl’s cries of “I’m Bored.”  It is now up to the little girl to convince the potato that there is an infinite amount of fun to be had as a kid…or a potato.


Loveabye Dragon
By Barbara Joose, illustrated by Randy Cecil

This sweet book is about a girl – not a princess even though she lives in a castle – who longs for a dragon as a friend and a dragon who longs for a girl – not a princess – as a friend. Lyrical and repetitive, whimsical and sweet, this book will satisfy your child’s desire for more princess material without outwardly focusing on the inanity of monarchies and the complicity of the masses. (Oops, did my feminism just show? How (not) embarrassing.) Seriously, this book is sweet and Randy Cecil’s illustrations have a dark, but subtle and quirky modernity to them that make this book stand out from other fairy tale books. In a good way.


Nighttime Ninja
By Barbara DeCosta, illustrated by Ed Young

I admit, I’m a little torn about this book. I immediately wanted to like it because it’s about ninjas and who doesn’t love a good ninja picture book? But, aside from Ed Young’s amazing illustrations, I’m not really feeling it. It is minimal and the story is told mostly through the illustrations – again, which are amazing – but the text about a ninja’s nighttime adventure (spoiler: the ninja is a little boy up for a midnight snack) just doesn’t flow for me. I’ve tried playing with cadence when reading it and building suspense, but I couldn’t talk myself into liking the text.  HOWEVER, Ed Young is brilliant and it’s worth checking it out for the illustrations alone. (I would feel remiss if I didn’t point out my husband’s objections to the stuffed panda bear appearing later in the book.  He feels like this is a gross mix-up of Asian cultures.  I feel like a young Japanese boy can love pandas just as much as any other child, but admit, in a book rife with Japanese cultures and symbols, it is a little fishy.)


Book review: Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

By , November 6, 2012

Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

Another atmospheric, absorbing and unique work by Charles Frazier, whose acclaimed debut, Cold Mountain was published in 1999 (although it seems so short a time ago). (Also, Thirteen Moons).   He takes his time between books, which in my opinion, is usually a good thing!

This one is also set in the North Carolina Appalachian mountain areas he knows so well  but the time is the ‘60s (think backwoods).  The primary characters are Luce, whose sister was killed, leaving her to take care of her semi-mute, abused, pyromaniac kids – Frank and Dolores, and her stepfather/Deputy – Lit.  Luce resides in an old abandoned lodge on a large piece of land that has recently changed hands and becomes the inherited property of a Mr. Stubblefield (the grandson).  Stubblefield clumsily tries to revive a long ago love interest with Luce and the plot takes some surprising turns, always with the ominous specter of bad men doing bad things in the background.

The dialogue is usually sparse but you’ll really get a feel for the issues and realities Luce is facing.  That’s the way of a good writer and there is no question that Mr. Frazier deserves his positive reviews.

An interesting novel which defies simple murder-mystery classification – one that balances beautifully rendered scenes, suspenseful build ups and stark, gritty reality.  I started this as an e-book, listened to it on CD audio (narrator didn’t work for me as this was a more thought provoking story that unfolded slower for me) and finished the hardcover edition. Whichever format you choose – this book is worthy of your time and will pull you into the night woods!



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