Category: Fiction

Book review: Landline

By , August 26, 2014

By Rainbow Rowell

I heart Rainbow Rowell. I really do – in spite of the fact that her books usually have a melancholy slant to them. I tend to avoid sappy books like the Ebola virus if I can help it, but something about Rainbow’s storytelling manages to pull me in every time. After all, this is the author who wrote Fangirl – possibly the best young adult book since Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens. (This begs the question – can you be a fangirl of Fangirl? Hmm…must ponder…)

So imagine how excited I was when I found that Rowell had a new book coming out – and it was for adults!  A little research reveals that this is actually the second book Rowell has written for the adult market. Somehow I managed to miss Attachments when it came out in 2011. But don’t worry, I plan on correcting this shortly (thanks Overdrive!).

Landline opens in LA with the troubled marriage of Georgie and Neal. He leaves for Christmas in Omaha with their two girls and Georgie stays behind to work on her upcoming pilot pitch for a show she’s been writing for decades. Luckily, Neal is horrible about using his cell phone and Georgie’s phone has a bad battery, so she can’t use it unless it’s plugged in. These drives her to use a….wait for it…old landline phone at her mother’s house to talk with her husband. (For those of you born after 1995, a landline is a phone that has a – gasp – cord that attaches to the wall and does not play Candy Crush.) But is it Neal now or Neal from 1998? And is her marriage really in trouble, or is there hope that she will save it?

If you watched The Lake House, it’s basically the same premise, except now we have a magic phone instead of a magic mailbox. I wasn’t really shocked at how it turned out, but it was excellent escapist reading and a cozy way to spend a Saturday afternoon. If you’re looking for a little light, enjoyable reading, give this one a shot. It’s not like any of us have a magic landline we can use to call our past loves anyway, right?

Happy reading…

:) Amanda

Emily Giffin – The One and Only

By , August 23, 2014

Emily Giffin discusses her latest book, The One and Only. In Giffin’s words, The One & Only is a story about love and friendship set against the backdrop of Texas football.  This author talk was recorded June 9, 2014. Emily Giffin appeared as part of the continuing Salon@615 author series.

Learn more about Salon@615 and view upcoming author visits at

Listen to the Archived Recording

Download MP3 audio

Subscribe to Salon@615 podcast (iTunes)

Ebola: a primer

By , August 15, 2014

Ebola: the plague fighters

Ebola Hemorragic Fever. If those three words did not send blood curding chills down your spine before the most recent West African outbreak, I bet they do now.

First identified in 1976, Ebola Hemorragic Fever appeared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Ebola River. The latest outbreak is centered in Guéckédou, Guinea. The virus is believed to be zoonotic (animal-borne) spreading to humans once in contact with a diseased animal. Ebola Hemorragic Fever is severe and often fatal to humans and nonhuman primates. The symptoms are frightening so to spare the reader graphic details, focus on the word, “hemorragic.”

If you care to further investigate this virus from the safety of your Ebola secretion free home, we offer these horrifying reads and films beginning with the 1987  Robin Cook medical thriller, Outbreak.  A film by the same name followed in 1995 featuring ”a take charge army virologist” played by Dustin Hoffman.  Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman also star. Cook followed up with the 1995 book Contagion (film by the same name in 2011).

In 1994 Richard Preston gave non-fiction audiences The Hot Zone. This book looks at the disease and the research behind the testing and the lab work involved in finding a treatment. If you wonder why no cure or treatment exists, it is because outbreaks are sporadic and occur mainly in Africa.

Finally for your viewing pleasure, the 2007 no-nonsense Nova production Ebola: plague fighters. The Nova film team was permitted into the 1995 Zaire Ebola “hot zone”. They spent four weeks in the quarantined city of Kikwit following medical specialists who traced and tracked the Ebola virus that dissolves internal organs and connective tissue. You can watch this one while donning a surgical mask. No one will blame you.

By visiting patients in their home, by helping them come to terms with their illness, I could heal when I could not cure.      Abraham Verghese





Book list: Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

By , August 11, 2014

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense
Edited by Sarah Weinman

Thank you to Sarah Weinman for shining a spotlight on one of my favorite genres: domestic suspense from the 1940’s and 1950’s.  I liked this collection best for making me track down other books by the authors she included:




Come Along With MeCome Along With Me
by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson’s brand of psychological terror is made scarier by its juxtaposition with extremely realistic settings.  Try the stories The Summer People, The Rock, and A Day in the Jungle.




This Sweet SicknessThis Sweet Sickness
by Patricia Highsmith

This is a sophisticated stalker tale, with great (insane) first-person narration and lots of unexpected plot developments. I love watching characters descend into madness and get caught in their webs of lies. Is that bad? It certainly makes Patricia Highsmith one of my top-ten all-time favorite authors.




The Innocent Mrs. Duff The Innocent Mrs. Duff and The Blank Wall
by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

Holding’s characters’ anxiety-filled inner monologues are amazing.  The Blank Wall, one of the two novels in this volume, was made into the movie The Deep End starring Tilda Swinton in 2001.





A Dram of Poison

A Dram of Poison
by Charlotte Armstrong

Perfect vintage suspense, which I especially loved because of its big dash of Davy Rothbart-style “human snowball” at the end (see yesterday’s post). Completely charming, and also the winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1957.




Beast in ViewBeast in View
by Margaret Millar

As soon as I finished this I wanted to start it over. Good for lovers of twists and mid-century prose; dated but still effective.





Book Preview: The Magician’s Land

By , August 1, 2014

JK Rowling AKA Robert Galbraith’s The Silkworm  has been out for a while and I hear it’s pretty good. But for those still sitting at home in your wizard cap & gown, wondering what to do with that honorary Hogwarts degree, I’m guessing these past few novels smack a bit too much of the Mugglish variety…

Just last month, Potter fans rejoiced as a new morsel was cruelly tossed to them by the author: a short story of the Hogwarts class as adults (link to Pottermore). This has led to some very palpable excitement as to whether J/K will ever write another wizard novel. While I continue to be amazed by the power of this decade-spanning franchise, I’ve been feeling the need to interject lately with an obvious book recommendation:

Seriously, for those seeking to continue their magic-themed coming-of-age on into adulthood, look no further than the Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman.  I say “obvious recommendation” because this critically acclaimed series has landed high on the NYT Bestsellers List, and it’s parallels to Harry Potter are inescapable (Though, I’m supposed to say here that such comparisons do a disservice to both). Yet, I still haven’t seen it embraced by aging Potterites.

The wizards, er, magicians in this series are not some elite class ordained by birth, but rather make up an outsiders group of geniuses, misfits and miscreants. Casting spells involves learning intricate hand positions, mastering dead languages, and the application of unnamed mathematical principles. (that’s right, folks, ‘with great power comes a lot of hard work’.)

This is YA for adults (the series kicks off in college).  This is Harry Potter with a side of scotch. This is fantasy meets realism/ tongue-and-cheek black comedy/ moody coming-of-age. At. It’s. Best.

Okay. To be honest, if you read these books in the hopes of reliving your Hogwarts honeymoon, you will likely be hit by a Confundus spell of disappointment.  What I like about them—what seems real to me—is the listlessness of the main character, Quentin Coldwater (and this is part of what pushes it into the realm of adult fiction).  The tone hints at a central question, and how it plays out may hit a little close to home: What if you found out that magic was real? (Not only is there a magic college, but YOU got in!) Except, what if, after all that, you still weren’t happy? What if that still weren’t enough? Well, Potter fans, welcome to adulthood…

The final installment of The Magicians trilogy, The Magician’s Land, will be out on Tuesday. Place your holds here. It looks like the series is headed for the SyFy channel, so you may soon see a spike demand.

And, abracadabra: Lev Grossman is confirmed for this year’s Southern Festival of Books, to be held here at the downtown library in October! You’re welcome.


Book review: The Crooked Hinge

By , July 31, 2014

The Crooked Hinge

by John Dickson Carr

Known for his literary command of the “locked room” mystery, John Dickson Carr’s novel The Hollow Man was selected as the greatest example of this style by an unofficial panel of seventeen mystery fiction authors and critics in 1981. The full list is here.

His 1938 novel The Crooked Hinge took the number four spot.

What this impossible crime has in addition to a terrific set-up is an eerie atmosphere that displays Carr’s love of the bizarre that only occasionally made its way into his mysteries. The plot is typically complex and involves such disparate elements as:

-          a deteriorating automaton

-          the sinking of the Titanic

-          witchcraft

-          two persons claiming one identity

Behold as Mr. Carr deftly ties them all together!

The man was prolific and many of his mysteries are highly regarded examples of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. If you’ve ever enjoyed a whodunit from the first half of the twentieth century – or you like your mysteries spooky – give this vintage puzzle-master a try.

- Ben

50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer

By , July 27, 2014

In the summer of 1964, around one thousand young people, mostly college students, mostly white, headed to Mississippi. Their goals seemed simple. Help black people to register to vote. Start community schools, libraries, and centers. They knew it would be tough. Mississippi law was not on their side.

Check out the full movie: Freedom Summer from Nashville Public Library


Freedom Summer by Susan Goldman Rubin

Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi 
by Susan Goldman Rubin

The disappearance of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner forms the backbone of this thoroughly researched book. Rubin conducted interviews with many of the students and leaders present in Mississippi during that summer, interweaving their stories with news accounts and other primary source documentation. The real treasures of the book, however, are the photographs. From frightening scenes of violence to the peaceful setting of children reading in a library, readers are able to viscerally connect with that long-ago summer.

Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell

The Freedom Summer Murders  
by Don Mitchell

Who were those three young men who were shot in a dark, secluded Mississippi woods? Their names and faces mobilized the first real government interference in Mississippi’s racist political system, but they did not set out to be heroes. Mitchell traces the early years of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, as well as the reactions of their families to their disappearance at the onset of Freedom Summer.


Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

Freedom Summer  
by Deborah Wiles
illustrated by John Lagarrigue

John Henry swims better than anyone I know. He crawls like a catfish, blows bubbles like a swamp monster, but he doesn’t swim in the town pool with me. He’s not allowed. Joe and John Henry are a lot alike. They both like shooting marbles, they both want to be firemen, and they both love to swim. But there’s one important way they’re different: Joe is white and John Henry is black and in the South in 1964, that means John Henry isn’t allowed to do everything his best friend is. Then a law is passed that forbids segregation and opens the town pool to everyone. Joe and John Henry are so excited they race each other there…only to discover that it takes more than a new law to change people’s hearts.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

Glory Be  
by Augusta Scattergood

A Mississippi town in 1964 gets riled when tempers flare at the segregated public pool. As much as Gloriana June Hemphill, or Glory as everyone knows her, wants to turn twelve, there are times when Glory wishes she could turn back the clock a year. Jesslyn, her sister and former confidante, no longer has the time of day for her now that she’ll be entering high school. Then there’s her best friend, Frankie. Things have always been so easy with Frankie, and now suddenly they aren’t. Maybe it’s the new girl from the North that’s got everyone out of sorts. Or maybe it’s the debate about whether or not the town should keep the segregated public pool open.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

by Deborah Wiles

Sunny is twelve-years-old as the summer of 1964 begins to bake her home in Greenwood, Mississippi. She’s already feeling overwhelmed by her new stepmother and her two kids, and now there’s talk of white people coming to stir up trouble for everyone. And sure enough, right away three Freedom Summer workers disappear. Violence hangs like a thundercloud over Greenwood, while Sunny frantically tries to understand who is right.


Freedom Summer by Bruce Watson

Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy 
by Bruce Watson

A majestic history of the summer of ’64, which forever changed race relations in America In the summer of 1964, with the civil rights movement stalled, seven hundred college students descended on Mississippi to register black voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and live in sharecroppers’ shacks. But by the time their first night in the state had ended, three volunteers were dead, black churches had burned, and America had a new definition of freedom. This remarkable chapter in American history is the subject of Bruce Watson’s thoughtful and riveting historical narrative.

Like a Holy Crusade by Nicolaus Mills

Like a Holy Crusade: Mississippi 1964 – The Turning of the Civil Rights Movement in America  
by Nicolaus Mills

We remember the Kennedy men of the 1960s as “the best and the brightest”; we celebrate the Mercury astronauts for having “the right stuff.” But, Mills writes, if anyone in the 1960s earned the right to be called heroes it was the men and women who risked their lives to carry out the Mississippi Summer Project. That summer took a terrible toll on staff, volunteers, and, above all, those black families who opened their homes to the movement. In the face of danger, courage was everywhere.


Freshwater Road by Denise Nichols

Freshwater Road  
by Denise Nichols

Nineteen-year-old Celeste Tyree leaves Ann Arbor to go to Pineyville, Mississippi, in the summer of 1964 to help found a voter registration project as part of Freedom Summer. As the summer unfolds, she confronts not only the political realities of race and poverty in this tiny town, but also deep truths about her family and herself.



Mississippi Burning (movie) Mississippi Burning (DVD)

Two FBI agents investigate the deaths of civil rights workers in a Mississippi town. Tension is caused by the discovery of a local coverup.

Directed by Alan Parker. With Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, and Brad Dourif.


Neshoba (movie)

 Neshoba: The Price of Freedom (DVD)

The story of a Mississippi town forty years after the murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, an event dramatized in the Oscar-winning film Mississippi Burning. No one was held accountable until 2005, when the State indicted preacher Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old notorious racist and mastermind of the murders.

Directed by Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano


The Nashville Room at the Nashville Public Library’s Main Branch has many resources on the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these books are unique and hard to find. Below is a list of books available in the Nashville Room. These books cannot be checked out.

Letters from Mississippi

Letters from Mississippi: Reports from the Civil Rights Volunteers and Freedom School Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer  
ed. by Elizabeth Martinez

800 students gathered for a week-long orientation session at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, in June, 1964, before leaving for Mississippi. They were mostly white and young, with an average age of 21. Letters from Mississippi is a collection of moving, personal letters written by volunteers of the summer.

And Gently He Shall Lead Them

And Gently He Shall Lead Them: Robert Parris Moses and Civil Rights in Mississippi  
by Eric Burner

Moses spent almost three years in Mississippi trying to awaken the state”s black citizens to their moral and legal rights before the fateful summer of 1964 would thrust him and the Freedom Summer movement into the national spotlight. This first biography, a primer in the life of a unique American, sheds significant light on the intellectual and philosophical worldview of a man who is rarely seen but whose work is always in evidence.

Freedom Summer - Belfrage

Freedom Summer 
by Sally Belfrage

Published in 1965, Belfrage recounts her time participating in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s summer project in Mississippi in 1964. The text covers one intense summer from the basic training session in June to the Democratic Convention in August.
Faces of Freedom SummerFaces of Freedom Summer
text by Bobs M. Tusa
photographs by Herbert Randall

These rare photographs re-create the exhilaration and danger of Freedom Summer in 1964 Mississippi.

David Baldacci – The Finisher

By , July 26, 2014

David Baldacci discusses The Finisher, his first fantasy novel for young readers. This author talk was recorded July 10, 2014. David Baldacci appeared as part of the continuing Salon@615 author series.

Learn more about Salon@615 and view upcoming author visits at

Listen to the Archived Recording

Download MP3 audio

Subscribe to Salon@615 podcast

Book review: Four

By , July 22, 2014

By Veronica Roth

2014 is the summer of Divergent. Last fall we finished up the book trilogy. Here’s what I said then. In March, the first movie came out, starring  Shailene Woodley and Theo James. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard really good things both from folks who read the books and those who didn’t. Good thing NPL has the Divergent DVD on order. Better place your hold today, though, because this list isn’t getting any shorter (I think I’m 178…sigh).

But luckily for you, while you’re waiting for the movie, a new collection of short stories was just released featuring Four aka Tobias. I always like when authors go back and add scenes or rewrite things with an opposite perspective from their original (even with Twilight’s “Midnight Son“). With this Divergent collection, we get four stories about Four. They are pretty easy reads – I managed to polish them off in a couple of hours. It was fun, though, to be back in that world and get a better picture of how things unfolded.

Just to whet your whistle a little – the first story is called “The Transfer” and described Tobias’ choice in becoming Dauntless. Then we learn about his Dauntless training in “The Initiate” (made me want to punch Eric in the face even more than I already did). In the third story, Roth shows us why Tobias chose not to lead Dauntless in “The Son”. And finally in “The Traitor”, we see Tobias try and save the world.

So make sure you get your hold placed today. There will be a few folks in front of you in line, but nothing like for the DVD plus we bought A LOT of copies, so your wait will hopefully be short and sweet.

Happy reading…

:) Amanda


Comics review: Afterlife with Archie

By , July 17, 2014

Jeremy returns to remind us that even good, wholesome kids can get turned into zombies. What’s best about this is that he assumes we still know who the characters from Archie are. Summer Challenge is a great time to get reacquainted with the (re-animated) gang from Riverdale.

Afterlife with Archie: Book One, Escape from Riverdale by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla

old school Archie comics

Archie meets Glee

Archie meets KISS

The Walking Dead TV show

The Walking Dead comic

The Black Beetle by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

music by Black Dice Freegal | Hoopla | Free Music Archive

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