Book review: Bird Box

By , November 13, 2015

18498558Bird Box: a Novel
by Josh Malerman

Don’t go outside without a blindfold, and keep all windows and doors covered!  Seriously, something is causing people to commit horrible violence.  We’ve managed to discover these shocking acts occur after victims see whatever this “thing” may be.  So remember, if you must go outside, keep your eyes closed!

Mallorie and her two children have been living in that house by the river, but their stockpile of food and supplies has run out.  It’s now or never to make a break for a better life.  They’ve set out on a journey down the river in an old rowboat, with only their hearing to protect them from whatever approaches…

Josh Malerman’s 2014 debut novel is a page turner that you’ll want to read with your blinds closed and all the lights on.  It’s a perfect read while you wait for the King of Horror‘s latest, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Book review: Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes

By , September 11, 2015

913YAFmLDXLAlly Hughes Has Sex Sometimes
by Jules Moulin

This may be an unusual way to start a book review, but in a minute you’ll understand why. I would like to acknowledge, celebrate, and applaud all of the single parents out there. Single parents work so hard to care for and raise your children, to work and maintain a home. You deserve all the happiness, good fortune, and moments of relaxation that come your way.

Ally Hughes is a single mom. She got pregnant during her junior year of college, and had her daughter Lizzie, without any support from the father. Ally finished college, completed her PhD, and is now teaching feminist economics at Brown, all while raising her extremely gifted, now ten year old daughter Lizzie. Enter Ally’s chance at happiness and relaxation (and dare I say love?!): Jake Bean, a twenty-one year old student in Ally’s class, who has requested a meeting to discuss his failing grade. Ally not only grants him that passing grade, but hires him to do some chores and repairs that her usual handyman has bailed on.

As Jake works around the house, he and Ally connect, and the romantic tension builds.   When Jake suggests they spend the night together, Ally reminds him she’s 31, he’s 21, AND her student.   Not anymore, he admits. Jake has quit Brown to take his life wherever it leads him. Ally has been so devoted to her daughter and focused on her career for so long… She reluctantly says yes, but only if their time together can remain a secret, and just for the weekend. If you’ve paid attention to the title of this book, you know what happens next.

Fast forward ten years. Ally’s twenty year old daughter Lizzie is pursuing a career in acting, and gets a bit part in a big movie, opposite the handsome A-List co-star Noah Bean. Lizzie invites him to have dinner at her mom’s house. When they arrive, Ally is shocked to find that her daughter’s friend, Noah Bean, is actually Jake Bean, her long-lost lover. Yikes!

Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes is Jules Moulin’s first novel, but if you were a Party of Five and/or The West Wing fan, you’ve experienced her smart, insightful, and witty writing.   Although her first novel isn’t perfect, Moulin’s cast of characters remains fully realized when her plot falls a little short. The love affair between Jake and Ally is as hot as a ghost pepper, but Moulin also brings to life that deep intimacy you expect between two people who are meant to be together. And I haven’t even mentioned the Internet sex-crimes ring that gets a big smackdown!

Ally Hughes would be a great beach read,  or just a great read for when you’re sitting in an easy chair with a cat (in my case) or your beloved toddler asleep in your lap.

-crystal

Book review: I Take You

By , June 12, 2015

I Take YouI Take You
by Eliza Kennedy

Hi there!  Are you a fan of offbeat romantic comedies looking for fun vacation reads? Even better, titles to read as part of your NPL Summer Challenge participation? If so, add  I Take You to your  holds list.  Lily Wilder (that’s her on the book cover), is a successful young litigator living in New York. She is soon to marry her adorable archeologist boyfriend Will.  The trouble is, Lily isn’t sure if she’s the marrying type.  You see, Lily is physically attracted to all sorts of men – her boss, random strangers she meets at the pub, even Will’s work colleague…Even though Lily believes she loves Will, she just can’t stay faithful to him.

Lily grew up in Key West, Florida, a child of divorce, raised by her mom and grandmother, with input from her father’s multiple ex-wives.   Yes, this is a very unconventional contemporary romantic story, complete with strong women, eccentric islanders and indulgent vacationers, wild chickens, a bit of booze and drug use, all within sight of the Hemingway Home.

Author Eliza Kennedy is a Harvard Law School graduate and former litigator herself, who happens to be married to writer Joshua Ferris.  I can’t wait for her next book! I sure hope she’s sitting at her writing desk right now…

Book review: Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow

By , May 8, 2015

Blood on Snow
by Jo Nesbo
Audio version narrated by the Patti Smith!

Do you know someone who suffers from reading avoidance? This person works hard all day and thinks the only way to relax at night is watching an hour or three of TV?  Jo Nesbo‘s Blood on Snow may be the book to fix the reluctant reader in your life.

The character at the center of Blood on Snow is called Olav.  Olav has made an interesting career choice.  He is a fixer under the employ of one of Oslo, Norway’s biggest crime bosses, Daniel Hoffmann.   Olav is fresh off a job fixing an associate of Hoffman’s competition, known as the Fisherman, when Hoffman calls with a new assignment.  He wants Olav to fix his own very beautiful wife, Mrs. Hoffman…

Olav is not without a heart, mind you.  He’s a gangster with a moral code, especially when it comes to  fixing women.  Does he fall in love with the boss’s wife and save instead of kill her? Maybe.  Does he go to the Fisherman to ask for a job fixing his current boss Hoffman?  Perhaps…  Has Nesbo written a mean little thriller featuring one of the most unusual shoot-outs ever put to the page by a writer? Most definitely!  If you’ve never read any Jo Nesbo, Blood on Snow would be a good place to start.  I highly recommend the audio version.  Patti Smith does a stupendous job giving voice to a Norwegian gangster.

 

Music review: Belgian musician Stromae

By , April 10, 2015

Promo stromaeThere is so much music out there in the world, my friends.  As residents of Music City, we can sometimes forget to explore beyond the musical borders of our beloved Nashville.  To make new music discoveries, I follow some of the big music happenings, like the South by Southwest festival in Austin.  Every year when I read about artists who wowed folks at SXSW, I happily discover a new musical obsession.  See the cutie in the picture to your left?  That’s Stromae, the Belgian pop star who has a bazillion views on Youtube!  Music fans all over the world already appreciate his artistry.  It’s about time we join in.

You might be wondering just how to pronounce his name.  Say the words “my strobe light.” Now reverse the words, and remove the be and the lightStromae has said it’s a play on the word “maestro.” Get it?  If you’ve never heard any of his music,  Stromae is an artist smartly influenced by the melodies and rhythms of the world.  Many of his songs make dancing a necessity.  Stromae sings and raps in French but you can easily find English translations of his lyrics online.  Do watch his videos – they reveal the tone and intent for those of us who don’t speak French.  Take his hit song Papaoutai.  In the video you see a young boy trying in vain to connect with his father.  Stromae’s father abandoned his family in Belgium to return to Rwanda, and was killed in the  genocide of the 1990′s.

I gotta give a shout out to the folks at NPR Music who hosted Stromae at their 2015 SXSW showcase.  You can watch his performance here.  Check out his music on Hoopla.  And let’s start a campaign to bring him to Nashville!!

 

Music review: Bjork’s Vulnicura

By , March 13, 2015

VulnicuraVulnicura
by Bjork

Sad but true:  some of the best art is inspired by heartbreak.  Bjork’s new album is no exception.  Now those of you that are thinking she’s just too far out there for your listening pleasure, remember that heartbreak is universal and something we can all relate to – a pain so intense and profound and utterly devastating.  But at the end of  that overwhelming sadness, there is hope.  Vulnicura is Bjork’s brave musical interpretation of the end of her relationship with her partner, her love, the father of her daughter.

Vulnicura is definitely an album to listen to in it’s entirety, in the correct order.  But if I had to narrow it for you, essential tracks are the album opener Stonemilker, Atom Dance featuring Antony Hegarty, and an epic ten minute song called Black Lake. In Black Lake, Bjork proclaims family was always our sacred mutual mission – which you abandoned…At the end of the phrase the strings sustain one melancholic note for several beats, a musical  representation of the gravity of this abandonment.

Vulnicura is Bjork’s best album since 2001′s Vespertine, the album that was perhaps inspired by the beginning of the relationship with her ex-partner.   Stream or download Vulnicura on freegal. Check out Vespertine through Hoopla.  And from now through June of 2015, visit the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York to see a Bjork career retrospective.

 

 

Download now: Valentine’s Playlist

By , February 13, 2015

say-anythingNothing says I love you quite like a mix tape.  With a playlist of songs handpicked and shuffled into the perfect order, your sweetie will know just how much and how deeply you care.  Listed here are songs guaranteed bring the love.   Download tracks or create a streaming playlist.   Grab that library card – that’s all you need…

The Very Thought of You, performed by Billie Holiday.  I dare you to find another singer who exudes longing and love as well as Billie…

Open Arms, by Journey.  “Haters gonna hate,” but in my opinion, Open Arms is one of the all-time best power ballads!

Drunk in Love by Beyonce.  Just to make sure your sweetie gets the point, let Queen Bey do the convincing.

At Last performed by Eva Cassidy.  When you think of At Last, I know Etta James is on your mind.  Give a listen to the second best interpreter of this iconic song, Miss Eva Cassidy. So sad both of these lovely songbirds are no longer with us…

Total Eclipse of the Heart, by Bonnie Tyler.  Love likes over the top 80′s production, right?  My sweetie and I go into hysterics every time we hear this song!

 

I’m not the only librarian who loves love songs! Here are recommendations from some of my esteemed colleagues…

Bryan recommends: Bob Dylan‘s Lay, Lady, Lay.

Jeremy recommends:  ELO‘s (Electric Light Orchestra) Turn to Stone.

Klem-Mari recommends:  Bruce Springsteen‘s I’m on Fire, and Calle 13‘s La Jirafa.

 

Please share your favorite love songs in the comments!  My Valentine’s gift to you – Bonnie Tyler’s timeless video interpretation of Total Eclipse of the Heart.  You’re welcome.

 

 

 

 

TV series review: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

By , January 9, 2015

Miss FisherMiss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
Starring Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher.
Based on the novels of Kerry Greenwood.

I wasn’t looking for a new crime series to binge watch when I recently came across Miss Fisher, but hours later I found my chores undone, my book club book unread, and my cat staring longingly at her empty food bowlMiss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has it all:  it’s cozy enough to appeal to fans of gentler mysteries, but it doesn’t shy away from serious issues like class, racial discrimination, and women’s rights. The tone of the series can be a little bit dark at times, with lots of funny, clever, and sexy bits in between.  By the end of each episode, Miss Fisher always solves her case, all while dressed impeccably I might add.

If you’re like me and aren’t familiar with Kerry Greenwood’s novels, her heroine Miss Phryne (pronounced Fry-Knee) Fisher is a thoroughly modern and independently wealthy woman living in 1920s Melbourne, Australia.  Phryne has quite a knack for solving mysteries and becomes a private detective.  She is dismissed by the local police leader Inspector Jack Robinson as a nosy pest, but sooner than later Robinson realizes how valuable her skills of deduction can be.  Phryne’s little sister was kidnapped and murdered when they were kids.  Her killer is in prison, but has never admitted to the crime, nor revealed where her body is buried.

I do feel guilty not having read any of the Miss Fisher novels before watching series one, but I plan to remedy that before moving to series two.  A third series has been commissioned so we have more episodes to look for in the future.  Essie Davis, whose name is gaining notoriety after starring in the 2014 horror film The Babadook, is absolutely superb as Miss Fisher.  The supporting cast is excellent as well.  And the historic setting of Melbourne is so much fun to experience.  There’s only one thing left to say – watch it and I guarantee you’ll be entertained!

Book review: Deep

By , December 12, 2014

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves
by James Nestor

In 2011, Journalist James Nestor was covering a freediving competition in Greece, when his editor at Outside Magazine called to check  in.  Nestor told him “freediving is like being in space, but it’s in water; like flying but you’re diving.  It’s the most…the worst…the best…the bloodiest.”  Nestor wrote his article without ever attempting a freedive himself.  But he soon began a journey all over the world speaking with people who freedive not only as a competitive sport, but as a way of life, a way to study and research creatures of the ocean and our negative effects upon them, and also as a means of meditation.

So what is freediving?  If you are a scuba diver, imagine leaving your oxygen tank behind, and diving down to depths of 100 feet below the surface.  If you think it impossible to survive, you are wrong.  Humans have been freediving for thousands of years, but freediving as a competitive sport is fairly new, and incredibly controversial.  In November of 2013, Nicholas Mevoli, a thirty-two year-old athlete from Brooklyn died shortly after completing a 236-foot no-fins dive.

After he covers the competition in Greece, Nestor goes to Japan to meet  an ancient culture of Japanese diving women called the Ama who gather sea urchins to sell to sushi restaurants.  He spends time on the French island of Reunion with  conservationist Fabrice Schnoller and Belgian freediver Fred Buyle to investigate the island’s man-eating shark problem.  (Spoiler – boats had been dumping loads of trash outside the port entrance, attracting bull sharks to the area…)  Nestor studies with some of the freediving greats (Eric Pinion, Hanli Prinsloo) so he can ultimately freedive with spermwhales off the northeast coast of Sri Lanka.  These are just a few of the experiences Nestor shares in his riveting, fascinating, and completely engrossing book.

Deep is my top pick for nonfiction book of 2014.  I rarely want to re-read a book immediately after I finish it, but that’s just what I did.  There are many freediving videos on youtube, but if you take the time to watch just one, it should be the 2010 short film of French freediver Guillaume Nery called Free Fall which I’ll share below.

 

Book review: Mad World

By , November 14, 2014

madworld-608x812Mad World: an Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s
by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein

As a former writer of Duran Duran fan fiction, it’s pretty much a given I’d appreciate this book, which features not only the fab five, but many of my favorite bands from the 80′s.  But even if you enter a rage when Take On Me comes out of your speakers, Mad World will help you understand the events that led up to and influenced the sounds of that decade.

Music fans and journalists Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein interviewed (I’m so jealous!) some of the most notable new wave artists, getting them each to talk about the genesis and recording of their most popular songs. You’ll also read in the artists’ own words tales of the scene, and how some had strong friendships with their fellow new wave bands.   And while we’re on the topic, the authors talk about what new wave actually means.  The band photos provide an instant step back into the 80′s hairstyles and unique fashion sense often parodied and misunderstood.  You’re a fan of mixtapes, right?  Majewski and Bernstein recommend some excellent themed mixtapes: bands with interesting names, songs about science, songs from new groups that grew out of old groups…

I’ve already mentioned Duran Duran is represented; other participants include members of New Order, The Smiths (Morrissey and Johnny Marr were obviously interviewed separately), Tears for Fears, Adam Ant, Devo,  A Flock of Seagulls, and INXS to name a few.  And don’t forget to check our catalog, Hoopla, and freegal when you’re inspired to listen to these bands.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite songs you may know from the cover versions by Grace Jones, or Trent Reznor and friends, that would be The Normal‘s Warm Leatherette.

 

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