Orange is the New Black

By , May 31, 2014
The second season of Orange is the New Black will be released on Netflix this Friday, and I’ll be binge-watching along with rest of us on the outside.  If you missed the first season, it was as fun and engaging as television can be, and you can catch up by placing your holds on the DVD’s here.

While some may criticize the accuracy of how it portrays life in prison, one cannot deny that it starts a conversation about the conditions and power dynamics in our nation’s prisons that, to most of us, remain invisible. The library helps bring the conversation to the community by providing the materials needed to help round out the picture.  Netflix may have perfected binge watching, but libraries have long been enablers of binge reading (are those 100 book check-out limits just a rumor?)  If you’re looking to delve a little deeper, here are some places to start:

If you weren’t aware, Orange is the New Black (the show) takes its title from the best-selling memoir by Piper Kerman, and loosely follows her experiences in women’s prison. In addition to paperback copies, the audio book is now available for download instantly from Hoopla (where you can also check out the soundtrack).  For book clubs, you can get everything you need in one bag with our Book Club in a Bag (10 copies, plus discussion questions and an author bio).


A World Apart : Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars : While Kerman writes about her experience at a women’s minimum security prison, this exposé sheds light on one of the longest running women’s prisons in the country and serves to humanize its inmates


Assata : An Autobiography by Assata Shakur : A rare modern classic that is also a page turner.  Full of gripping descriptions and biting criticism, by a controversial figure and the grandmother of Tupac Shakur, dealing with issues of race, gender, and incarceration.


Herman’s House :  Herman Wallace made news last year when he was released after 41 years of solitary confinement and died just three days later, a free man.  This documentary deals with the practice of long term solitary confinement (called Solitary Housing Units, or “the SHU,” on Orange is the New Black) and the transformative power of art.  Available on DVD and streaming on Hoopla.

It’s Nia Time!

By , May 27, 2014

What has Nia Vardalos done lately?

I know you’re wondering, “Amanda, why do I need to care about a Big Fat movie that was popular 10 years ago? That Greek chick in it hasn’t done anything else. She’s a one-hit wonder.” I know you’re wondering this a) because I have a Magic Eight ball that told me and b) I was thinking it too until I had a delightful surprise in Overdrive one day.

Nia Vardalos wrote a book! (Taa daa…cymbals crash in the background.)

Called Instant Mom, on the surface, it’s about her struggles to adopt a child, but we also get some background on how My Big Fat Greek Wedding came to be. She talks about how her acting/writing career fit into to her new life as a mom. I didn’t realize that she had written as many films as she had. The only one I knew about was Connie and Carla – which I LOVE! It’s got drag queens and showtunes – the best combination since peanut butter and jelly. Vardalos uses her trademark sarcastic and self-deprecating voice in her writing to describe her problems, which manages to add comic relief without cheapening the situation. Her voice makes my hair curly.

I love Nia Vardalos. In an alternate universe, we’re Hollywood besties. Come along with  me now as we take a voyage through the seemingly underexplored oeuvre of that Big Fat Greek Girl…in no particular order…

My Life in Ruins

Filmed on location in Greece in 2009, Nia did not write this one, but she is the leading lady. It’s a cute little romcom, that’s more about group friendship than romantic love. It’s not better than my favorites, but it’s not a bad way to kill 90 minutes. Also, her husband makes a cameo as a grumpy desk clerk. Creepy…but funny.

Larry Crowne

I wasn’t really interested in this one when it came out, so I didn’t know that it was written by Vardalos. So I watched it and was pleasantly surprised. It’s funny though – I kept seeing Nia as the lead instead of Julia Roberts and I never realized how similar these two were. Larry Crowne, or Lance Corona, was a cute movie that I may have to watch again at some point. Husband alert again – he pops up as the dinner owner where Larry gets a job as a cook.

We also have an interview with Vardalos as part of The Dialogue and a playaway from Second City that includes Vardalos. The playaway is funny, although sometimes it can be hard to pick out Vardalos. But Steve Carell pops up every now and again, as does Ed Asner. The interview was a little slow in places and the Mike de Luca, the interviewer, kinda bugged me with all his interruptions, but Nia is charming and incredibly humble about her success. Her husband was not in the interview.


I hope you have enjoyed this trip through the World of Nia Vardalos. So who is this mysterious husband who keeps popping up? Vardalos has been married to Ian Gomez since 1993. When I looked up his picture – turns out he’s Ian’s (John Corbett) best friend/man in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  Wait? That guy? I know right – it does explain why they are so silly together in the book, though. Something must have worked for them in the last 20 years because we keep seeing him in her movies.

Happy Greeking out…

:) Amanda

PS I just realized that Ian is Stanley the club owner in Connie and Carla!!! Man, how did I miss that?


Books into Movies – Summer and Fall 2014

By , May 22, 2014

Gone Girl, Unbroken and Mockingjay are just a few of the books being made into movies this summer and fall. If you prefer to read the book before you see the film, here is your chance!


 The Fault in Our Stars    

Based on the young adult book by John Green

“Sixteen-year-old Hazel, a stage IV thyroid cancer patient, has accepted her terminal diagnosis until a chance meeting with a boy at cancer support group forces her to reexamine her perspective on love, loss, and life.”

Movie Release Date: June 6, 2014



The Hundred Foot Journey

Based on the book by Richard C. Morais

“The Hundred-Foot Journey “is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires. A testament to the inevitability of destiny, this is a fable for the ages–charming, endearing, and compulsively readable.”

Movie Release Date: August 2014



Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 

Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller

“It’s one of those hot nights, dry and windless. The kind that makes people do sweaty, secret things. Dwight’s thinking of all the ways he’s screwed up and what he’d give for one clear chance to wipe the slate clean, to dig his way out of the numb gray hell that is his life. And he’d give anything. Just to cut loose. Just to feel the fire. One more time. And then Ava calls.”

Movie Release Date: August 22, 2014



Gone Girl

Based on the book by Gillian Flynn

“On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick’s wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? “

Movie Release Date: Oct. 3, 2014



Mockingjay: Part 1               

Based on the young adult book by Suzanne Collins

“Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. A revolution is unfolding, and it is up to Katniss to accept responsibility for countless lives and to change the course of the future of Panem.”

Movie Release Date: November 21, 2014



Based on the book Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

“On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared–Lt. Louis Zamperini. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor .”

Movie Release Date: December 25, 2014





Book List: Teens and Homelessness

By , May 20, 2014

Inspired by a recent issue of The Contributor (Volume 8, Issue 12, May 12-19, 2014) that featured a list of “Nine Must-Read Books on Homelessness,” here is a list of Young Adult novels about teens who experience homelessness.

Tyrell by Booth Coe

By Coe Booth

Tyrell is only fourteen years old, but he carries an adult-sized load of responsibility. His dad is in jail, and his mom plays the party girl. Thanks to her consistently irresponsible behavior, Tyrell and  his seven year old brother, Troy, stay with their mom at a homeless shelter. But as soon as their time at the shelter runs out, they will be sent to the roach-infested Bennet Motel. Tyrell needs money to take care of his family, though his legal options are few. There is one excellent skill that Tyrell learned from his father – and that’s how to DJ. It might just be the advantage Tyrell can use.


Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick0.

Sorta Like a Rock Star
By Matthew Quick

“Mom’s taste in men is akin to a crackhead’s taste in crack cocaine. Any old hit will do.” This is why Amber Appleton is living in a bus named Hello Yellow with her alcoholic mother and adorable dog. It’s cold out. Amber’s clothes are all stuffed in a trash bag. Things can only get worse, of course, and they do.

Quick’s debut novel is tartly humorous as he explores one girl’s odyssey of hope.


No Place by Todd Strasser

No Place  
By Todd Strasser

For Dan’s family, the slippery slope to homelessness began when his mother lost her stockbroker job five years earlier. Then his father loses his job, and they move out of the house to live with relatives. That temporary solution quickly pans out, and the family moves into a tent, joining a homeless community dubbed, “Dignityville.” Dignityville receives water, electricity, trash pick-up, and other kinds of support from the town. Some townsfolks are happy to help those down on their luck, while others are furious that their tax money goes to people too “lazy” to work. Strasser presents multiple aspects of homelessness and community response in the telling of Dan’s story.


Runaway by Wendy Van Draanen

By Wendy Van Draanen

Holly is only twelve years old, but she is living in her fifth foster home. It’s unbearable. When her foster father plunges her head in a toilet (think Sani-Flush), Holly knows it’s time to go. But this time, she’s not headed for another foster home. Holly takes to the streets, alone. It’s rough, and dangerous. Holly sleeps on the streets in the cold, and steals food to stay alive. Through it all, Holly just can’t forget her mother, whom she believes loved heroin more than she loved Holly. As Holly realizes how deeply she was hurt by this, she begins to take back control of her life.


Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones

Blink & Caution 
By Tim Wynne-Jones

Two teens, living on the streets of Toronto, meet on a train. Both of them are on the run. Blink has witnessed a terrorist crime, and now his knowledge of the players puts him in danger. Caution, living with a drug dealer nearly twice her age, has an intimate connection to the terrorists. At first, Caution sees Blink as someone to rob. But as the two become entangled in a blackmail scheme that thrusts them in mortal danger, something beautiful and unexpected grows between them.


Book Recommendation: Into Thin Air

By , May 16, 2014

Into Thin Air
by Jon Krakauer

The 2014 climbing season has proved the deadliest yet on Mount Everest.  On April 18th, 16 sherpas lost their lives as they worked to haul supplies and install fixed ropes to insure the safety of climbers trekking over the Kumbhu Icefall.  Out of respect for those lost, all expeditions hoping to summit Everest from the “South Col ” route (thru Nepal) have been cancelled this year.

Prior to 2014, 1996 was the most deadly, with eight climbers lost in a single day as they attempted to descend after reaching the summit.  Author and mountaineer Jon Krakauer was participating in an Everest expedition during that climbing season, and his book Into Thin Air offers his version of what happened and his theories as to why so many lost their lives.  Krakauer’s tale reads like your favorite page-turner of a thriller – it’s simply tragic that the climbers lost by the end of the book aren’t fiction.

If you share my fascination with mountaineering, and our world’s tallest peaks, the links below should be of interest.

  • Tim, owner and outfitter with adventure company Peak Freaks blogs from Mount Everest.
  • Outside Magazine, available through Zinio.
  • Explorersweb, a news site which covers Everest, K2, and more.
  • EVEREST the Death Zone, a NOVA documentary where scientists research the physiological changes experienced by climbers.
  • Storm Over Everest, a documentary by world-renowned climber and filmmaker David Breashears, who aided the rescue efforts during the tragedy in 1996.
  • The Abominable, Dan Simmons’ 2013 novel set in 1924 during the rush to be the first to summit the world’s tallest mountain.


Comics review: Prophet

By , May 15, 2014

First time vlogger Jeremy tells us about Prophet version 2.0. Can 1990s comics icon / schlockmeister Rob Liefeld be redeemed?

Prophet Volume 1: Remission

Prophet Volume 2: Brothers

Prophet Volume 3: Empire

Rob Liefeld and Spike Lee hock Levi’s

The Great Escape – an awesome place to find back issues

music by Black Dice CD | Freegal | Hoopla | Free Music Archive


Book List: Fun Facts for Kids

By , May 10, 2014

Add a little fact-finding to your kids’ reading this summer by checking out these fascinating — and incredibly readable! — new nonfiction books.

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle 

By Cheryl Bardoe

Engaging from the very first sentence (“Somewhere in the world right now an animal is lightening its load…”) this book explains how the three types of dung beetles survive and thrive off – well, poop. You’ll never scrape the bottom of your shoe the same after beholding the beautiful dung beetle.


Picture This:  Animals

By Margaret Hynes

If there’s a visual learner in your life, please check out this book of animal infographics for them! It’s 63 pages full of random facts kids we all love (Do you know that one tablespoon of house dust contains nearly 5,000 dust mites?!) Each fact is accompanied by explanatory pictures or graphs, making all this information easy to remember and quote ad nauseam on road trips.


Tooth  and Claw:  The Wild World of Big Predators

By Jim Arnosky

Esteemed author and illustrator Jim Arnosky focuses on large predators in his latest work. Each page details a different animal and includes beautiful and realistic illustrations and diagrams. The text is engaging, mixing fact and first-person anecdotes from the author. This book is packed with fold-out pages, so there’s a lot of information without intimidating size (the book – not the predators).

Check out these books today, and don’t forget to register for NPL’s Summer Challenge and earn points for doing fun things this summer!

Book review: Ina May Gaskin

By , May 9, 2014

Book review: Spiritual Midwifery
by Ina May Gaskin

One hour south of Nashville in Summertown you will find the intentional community known simply as The Farm. Founded in 1971 by Stephen Gaskin and several hundred like-minded individuals, for the last 40 plus years the Farm in Summertown has grown, shrunk and finally found balance with a population of 200.

A quiet revolution has been growing forth from this community. Not a political revolution as such but a revolution of lasting importance nonetheless. One of the original Farm residents, Ina May Gaskin has been revolutionizing the world view of childbirth from her Farm Midwifery Center.

Her 1977 classic title, Spiritual Midwifery, now in its 4th edition, offers an alternative natural birth process as opposed to a clinical one and has revolutionized the birth experience for a generation. A new generation of mothers are taking their cues from the thoughtful process Ina May and the Farm midwives has put into action over the last 40 years. The 2003 edition has been retitled, Ina May’s guide to natural childbirth : discover the proven wisdom that has guided thousands of women through childbirth with more confidence, less pain, and little or no medical intervention – whether in a hospital, birthing center, or the comfort of a home

In addition, Ina May’s guide to breastfeeding  is the Bible on breastfeeding. This book has garnered endorsements ranging from such diverse figures as singer songwriter Ani DiFranco to  Dr. Christiane Northrup. Ina May’s guide to breastfeeding offers straightforward, gentle, supportive and reasonable advice to the lactating mother.

Now we can add to the Ina May collection, the DVD Birth Story. The film includes archival and modern footage of the work of Ina May and the Midwives of The Farm.

This Mother’s Day take a moment to consider the accomplishments of our neighbor in Summertown, the 2011 recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, Ina May Gaskin.

Here is the link to Ina May’s TEDxSacramento talk:;search%3Atag%3A%22TEDxSacramento%22


“I dreaded having a boring life when I grew up. And I certainly can’t complain about being bored.” – Ina May Gaskin


Book review: Knit Your Own Moustache: Create 20 Knit and Crochet Disguises

By , May 8, 2014

Knit Your Own Moustache: Create 20 Knit and Crochet Disguises

By Vicky Eames


This knitting book is kooky with a capital K and a whole lot of fun! Riding on the “novelty moustache” trend of this past year, Knit Your Own Moustache by Vicky Eames will teach you how to knit or crochet your own moustache and 19 other disguises.

The Handlebar, The Walrus, The Classic, The Sven and The Dali are just a few of the moustache styles you can make.

And who doesn’t need a good disguise every now and then; with this book you can create a Loopy Beard, a Pigtail Wig, a Groucho on a Stick mask, Bunny Rabbit Ears, even a Paper Bag!

These projects work up so fast you can knit a moustache for yourself and all your friends…..

And for those wanting something more exotic you can go to Wife of, Vicky Eames’ website where you can purchase the Knitted Black Fu Manchu Moustache or my personal favorite a hat with full beard and moustache attached called the Knitted Beard Balaclava.


It’s time to get out your yarn and make stuff!







Popmatic Podcast May 2014: A Renaissance (of Sorts)

By , May 4, 2014

May marks the joyful return of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. We hark back to the Renaissance, the Dark Ages, and Season 5 of Gilmore Girls. Merriment is had by all.


Tournaments and Jousts: Training for War in Medieval Times by Andrea Hopkins

The Art of Chess by Colleen Schafroth

Shakespeare’s Insults: Educating Your Wits by William Shakespeare

Gilmore Girls Season 5

Big Bang Theory Season Two Episode Two “The Codpiece Topology

The Armada by Garrett Manningly

Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn

Hild by Nicola Griffith

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Porius by John Cowper Powys

Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters

The Story of Wales

Lancelot of the Lake

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Tenth of December by George Saunders featuring the story “My Chivalric Fiasco”

Donatello’s bronze David

turkey legs


The Guild DVD | YouTube

Four & Twenty Blackbird Pie Book by Emily Elson & Melissa Elson

Ascendant by Drew Chapman

The World of Yesterday by Stephan Zweig

The Wes Anderson Collection by Matt Zoller Seitz

Under the Skin by Michel Farber

Are you a Tim Gunn or a RuPaul?


Transcripts of the show are available upon request.

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