Book review: Storm Kings

By , June 29, 2013

Storm Kings: The Untold Story of America’s First Tornado Chasers
By Lee Sandlin

I loved this book. I don’t usually start reviews like that, but I did really and truly love reading this book. I should probably also admit that I am a weather nerd, so maybe I’m already predisposed to enjoying endless debates about tornadogenesis.

It’s hard to imagine not knowing everything we do about tornadoes. Way (way) back in the 1800s, there was great discussion about whether or not tornadoes even rotated or if the winds were just sucked into the core’s vacuum from all directions.

If you’re looking for something exciting – more like the storm chasers we know today – then check out Chapter Eight: The Finger of God. It’s about a huge fire tornado that ripped through Peshtigo, WI the same night that Mrs. O’Leery’s cow decided to burn down Chicago. Absolutely fascinating and a little horrifying.

Favorite fun fact: Dorothy Gale was a real person who was killed in the massive Irving, Kansas tornadoes in 1879. This was 20 years prior to L. Frank Baum using her name for his main character.

Admittedly, there is more science than action in the book overall, but if weather rocks your world, this book needs to be on your nightstand. I was truly sad to turn the last page.

Happy reading…

:) Amanda


Book review: Fall of Giants

By , June 27, 2013

 Fall of Giants

By Ken Follett



Fall of Giants is historical fiction at its best. It is the sweeping tale of five families living at the turn of the 20th century.


It is the tale of two brothers trying to escape Russia for a better life in America.

It is the tale of the Fitzherbert family, British aristocrats whose way of life is about to become obsolete.

It is the tale of the Williams family, rising up out of the coal mines of Wales.

It is the tale of Walter and his lady Maud; star crossed lovers, one British, one German, separated by political tensions.

And it is the tale of American Gus Dewar, who finds himself working for the President on the eve of the Great War.


Fall of Giants is filled with rich historical details; it has an engrossing story line that will keep your attention and leave you wanting more.


Fall of Giants is the first book of The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. Book two, Winter of the World, is available at the library. Book three, Edge of Eternity, is expected to be published in 2014.






Book review: Fifty Shames of Earl Grey

By , June 25, 2013

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey
by Fanny Merkin (aka Andrew Shaffer)

“I’m into BDSM – bards, dragons, sorcery, and magick.” – just one of Earl Grey’s fifty shames…

If you’re a pop culture junkie who enjoys a good laugh, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey comes highly recommended.  This parody of  EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey manages to poke fun at Gen-Xers, Millennials, and the Twilight series, in a way that’s not mean spirited, but absurdly hilarious.  Seriously, this book reads like it was co-written by Mel Brooks and Weird Al, with input from Dr. Ruth.

As the tale begins, the young, drop dead gorgeous, and filthy rich tycoon Earl Grey meets the naïve coed Anna Steal, and decides to make her his own.  But will Anna be able to get past Mr. Grey’s fifty shames?  Perhaps more importantly, can Anna stop picking her nose?!  Click the title link above to check out the audio version, or reserve the print version here.

Fifty Shames  was penned by author Fanny Merkin, better known as Andrew Shaffer.  Shaffer, whose writing appears in various publications, also reviews romance, erotica, and women’s fiction for RT Book Reviews magazine.  I’m looking forward to reading his latest book Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors. 

Now I’m not one to go round repeating gossip, but if you read Shaffer’s Twitter feed, one can glean that his special sweetie is erotica author Tiffany Reisz.

Books Made Into Movies

By , June 20, 2013

It is an age old question…..which is better……the book or the movie???  This spring and summer there have been a plethora of books made into movies and the library has them all!


Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles

By Paul Lieberman

“A group of Los Angeles police officers take on the mafia during the 40’s and 50’s.”


Gangster Squad  DVD




John Dies at the End

By David Wong

“A pair good–for-nothing college dropouts attempt to save humanity from an otherworldly drug.”


John Dies at the End  DVD




Beautiful Creatures

By Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

“In a small South Carolina town, where it seems little has changed since the Civil War, sixteen-year-old Ethan is powerfully drawn to Lena, a new classmate with whom he shares a psychic connection.”


Beautiful Creatures  DVD 



Warm Bodies: A Novel

By Isaac Marion

“A star-crossed post-apocalyptic romance between a zombie and a human.”



Warm Bodies  DVD



Safe Haven

By Nicholas Sparks

“When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past.”


Safe Haven  DVD




By Jean Hanff Korelitz


“A Princetin University admissions officer is forced to confront her past when she meets a high school student who may be the son she gave up for adoption.”


Admission  DVD



The Host

By Stephenie Myer

“The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact.”


The Host  DVD



The following movies are in theaters this summer but you can read the book they are based on now.


The Great Gatsy

By F. Scott Fitzgerald


“A young Midwestern man moves to Long Island and gets sucked into the life of this extravagant neighbor.”




Epic based on the children’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs

By William Joyce


“When an old woman gets sick and her garden begins to die, the doodle bugs call on the Leaf Men to make things right again.”




World War Z based on the book  World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie War

By Max Brooks


“A man travels the world to interview survivors of a zombie war.”






The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones based on the young adult book City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, Book 1)

By Cassandra Clare

“Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is drawn into a bizarre world when her mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a monster.”





Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters based on the children’s  book The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians  #2)

By Rick Riordan


“Percy Jackson and his friends must journey into the Sea of Monsters to save their camp.”








- Karen




Book review: Visit Sunny Chernobyl

By , June 15, 2013

Visit Sunny Chernobyl
By Andrew Blackwell

It’s summertime and vacations abound. Some folks choose Disney or the Grand Canyon while others choose more unique destinations. See Sarah Vowell and her field trip to Dead President Land in Assassination Vacation.  Or Jake Helpern and his dispatches from death-defying destinations in Braving Home.

But I think that Andrew Blackwell takes the cake with his first release. I suppose if you’re looking for a little peace and quiet, there are probably not a lot of tourist lines at the Chernobyl power plant. Or at a coal mine in Linfen. Or in the middle of the ocean at the world’s largest trash dump.

I can’t imagine purposely travelling to some of the world’s most toxic locations voluntarily, but that’s what the author did. And he seemed to enjoy it. (And he’s still with us, for the record.) It’s amazing how blase the local residents are with the effects on their health. Most of them just shrug and go about their business. Amazing…

This book is dense and can be somewhat depressing, but overall it’s an engaging read. Did it make me want to travel to these places? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Was I entertained by the crazy guy who did? Yep.

Happy reading…and don’t forget to bring your hazmat suit.

:) Amanda

Puppet Parade

By , June 14, 2013

This month the Main library will host the International Puppet Festival, June 21-23rd.  As most library patrons know, the Nashville Public Library has a rich history in puppetry and continues to be recognized for it’s innovative puppet performances.  In this post, I thought I’d highlight a few interesting articles I unearthed from our Periodicals collection about puppets in American popular culture:

“Behind the Scenes in a Puppet Show” from Popular Mechanics (June 1925 p. 899)

Describes the marionettes of Tony Sarg, who was credited with the revival of puppetry in America.  Sarg designed a “controller” to manipulate his complicated 22-string or 26-string marionettes.  The focus of the article is on how the sets are built and proportioned and how the puppets are operated (including a puppet enjoying a pipe that puffs real smoke) – amazing technical feats for the time period.  The article includes advice from Sarg on how to create marionette plays at home.



“Puppets in Politics”  from Colliers
(July 1, 1944 p. 14-15)

Features the groundbreaking work of Bil Baird and his wife Cora as they use puppets to make a movie – not just any movie, but a short film called Snarky’s Cow, to be distributed by the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in 3 languages to persuade South Americans to drink more milk with the aim of making “South Americans healthier and happier, better customers and better friends.”



“Witches and Wonders: The Salzburg Marionettes Act Out Classic Fairy Tales”  from Life (December 29, 1952 p. 68-73)

Photos of the Salzburg Marionettes, on their second tour of America at the time, with summaries of the classic fairy tales they re-enacted:

      • Rumpelstiltskin,
      • Hansel and Gretel,
      • Rapunzel,
      • Snow White and Rose Red, and more.



“Puppets Parody Flyweight Feud, Paar vs. Sullivan” from Life
March 24, 1961 p. 33-36)

Puppets created by Bil and Cora Baird illustrate what might have happened if the planned debate between Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan, spawned by a highly publicized feud between the talk show hosts, hadn’t been cancelled.





For more on puppet history, how to make puppets, and even the Nashville Public Library’s puppet heritage, check out these items from our Non-Fiction collection:

American Puppetry: Collections, History, and Performance by Phyllis T. Dircks
Puppet Mania
by John E. Kennedy
Puppetry: A World History by Eileen Blumenthal
The World on a String: The Puppet History of the Nashville Public Library by F. Lynne Bachleda



Book review: Black Against Empire

By , June 10, 2013

Black Against EmpireBlack Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.

Since Karen and Laurie often blog about fashion, it seemed like a good time to revisit the timelessness of a black leather jacket and beret. Not to downplay the social import of fashion, but Black Against Empire concerns the history of the Black Panther Party, one of the few political parties ever to call for the violent overthrow of the United States government and see any modicum of success. Bloom and Martin successfully defuse the explosive controversies surrounding the Party by focusing on its political platform with academic detachment. Their primary sources are Party materials and first person interviews. This is not to say the authors shy away from intra-Party personal conflicts, or extremely dirty tricks on the part of law enforcement, or Party founder Huey Newton’s downward spiral after the organization blossomed to international significance only to implode under its own weight. Remember how Good Will Hunting ends with Matt Damon driving off into the sunset for California? Newton’s life after the collapse of the Panthers is the sequel. Lingering over Newton’s biography is exactly the sort of thing Bloom and Martin do their best to avoid. What I am struck by are the contrasts between then and now. Reading this now throws an entirely different light on the gun control debate. It reveals the Occupy Movement was not that good at occupying anything at least compared to the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement, the American Indian Movement, or Students for a Democratic Society. Though the difference there might be trying to occupy a university versus trying to occupy a bank. Black Against Empire is vital history and a fascinating addendum to the social justice narrative chronicled by the library’s own Civil Rights Collection.

If you are interested in the Panthers, you might also want to check out the relatively new Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention by Jamal Joseph and the documentary Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975.

If you are genuinely interested in black leather as fashion, you should check out Punk: Chaos to Couture. I might blog about that soon.

- Bryan

Reading list: Summer in the City

By , June 9, 2013

Does this vacation season find you short on time and money? Don’t worry, arm-chair travel requires only one passport document, your library card. This summer why not travel to the most exciting city in the world, New York City?

Our first stop is a visit with one of the most talented and excitable New Yorkers of all time, Mel Brooks. The latest American Masters program, Mel Brooks-Make a noise offers a rare, rare, rare look into his world.  With commentary  by Carl Reiner, Joan Rivers and the gorgeous Anne Bancroft aka Mrs. Mel Brooks, this may be the most entertaining 90 minutes of television you will come across this summer.

Next on the itinerary, Man on wire, follows Philippe Petit as he prepares for his August 7th, 1974, high wire walk between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.  The walk  is remembered as “the artistic crime of the century”. It is bittersweet to recall a time when mention of the Twin Towers signified a triumph in personal artistry.

New York City apartment life offers endless imagined possibilities. Luckily for the voyeur in all of us,  a fascination with apartment living captures the eye of some our best writers and directors. Here are a few peeks past the doorman starting with the children’s classic, Harriet the Spy by Fitzhugh, Louise.

On film, The Apartment (1960) starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacClaine is the classic by which all other madcap comedies were once measured.  Other filmed “apartment” stories include any work of Woody Allen. Three apartment vignettes (included one by Woody Allen) are featured in New York Stories (1989). Carnage and A Late Quartet, both feature starring roles by great apartments.

To conclude your NYC tour, pick up The View from Penthouse B  by Elinor Lipman. This elegant story features a cast of (relatively) down on their luck roommates, two sisters “of a certain age” and a platonic male boarder. Visitors  include one recently convicted ex-husband, his millinery designing son, various friends and extended family.  Take one part saga of lost wealth add one part comedy of personalities add a dash of domesticity and in the hands of this accomplished author and the result is a perfectly executed soufflé of a novel.

Dust off the bottles of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth,  look in the way, way back of the refrigerator for those Marachino cherries, mix up a Manhattan and stay a while, it is summer after all.

“All my life, I never really felt comfortable anywhere in New York, except maybe in an apartment somewhere.”  Martin Scorsese



DVD Review: Hit and Run

By , June 8, 2013

Hit and Run

Wait – we have a movie starring Veronica Mars? And that guy from Punked? Aren’t they engaged? Why am I asking you? Aren’t you coming to me for advice?

Sorry, got a little carried away there. Ha. So anyway, I saw this movie coming through and can’t remember having heard of it while it was still in theaters. I didn’t expect much, but thought it was at least worth one viewing.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Ok, here’s the premise: Kristen Bell’s character is a teacher in a dead-end job who gets a magical job opportunity in LA. But – sigh – this means she’ll have to leave her boyfriend (Dax Sheppard, natch) because he can’t go to LA since he’s in Witness Protection. Add in her ex-boyfriend, Michael Rosenbaum (aka Lex Luthor), whose still IN LOVE with Kristen and oh yeah, also knows about the Witness Protection. Lastly, let’s not forget about Tom Arnold’s incompetent FBI Witness Protection agent.

Sounds totally believable, right?

But seriously, once you get past Bradley Cooper’s HORRIBLE dredlocks, it’s a rip-roarin’ good time. Plus, there are some really cool cars in car chases once Dax decides to throw caution to the wind and drive his girl to her interview.

If you’re looking for a fun summer movie, this one should definitely make your list.

Happy viewing…

:) Amanda

Movie review: The Last Mountain

By , June 5, 2013

  The Last Mountain

“Eye opening and infuriating” this 2011 Sundance Film Festival selection and NY Times Critic’s Pick is a very absorbing and well done documentary set in the  Coal River Mountain area of WV, where mountain top blast mining is causing a multitude of problems in this once pristine region.

It’s really heartbreaking that the area, so dependent and entrenched in the coal industry and their unions, is being so decimated.  Towns being flooded due to deforestation (the “replacement” of the tops blasted is a sham as is the sidestepping of safety regs by older plants run by Massey), unusually high percentages of cancer deaths in one area (directly related to polluted water care of the mining sludge) and the sometimes thrice daily blasts disturbing the peace are just a few of the problems these residents face.

Robert Kennedy Jr. has lent his time and energy (Who knew he was a NY State Falconry expert?) into rallies and events, legislation and challenges to take this area in another direction and figures in several scenes.  It’s not quite a Michael Moore piece but this film has some moments (a sit down by Kennedy with a Big Coal flunkie  in a diner for instance) that recall his work along with the relentless pursuit of the truth we saw in the excellent  Erin Brockovich, as depicted by Maria Gunnoe and other resident (and non-local) activists.

Full of facts but never boring this environmental expose has great extras and deleted scenes and is a thoroughly memorable 90 minute  trip into the coal areas we sometimes forget about and the changes that must occur, hopefully sooner than later.

I’d highly recommend this – a sleeper that certainly should be seen and one that won’t disappoint.


Off the Shelf is powered by WordPress. Panorama Theme by Themocracy