Category: Fiction

Comics review: Sin City

By , September 18, 2014

Frank Miller has become reclusive in recent years. Before going off the grid, he changed comics forever. Jeremy tells us how.

Daredevil Volume 1

Batman: Year One

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Sin City Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye

Sin City Volume 2: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City Volume 3: A Big Fat Kill

Sin City Volume 7: Hell and Back

Sin City (movie version)

music by Black Dice Freegal | Hoopla | Free Music Archive


Sue Monk Kidd – The Invention of Wings

By , September 13, 2014

Sue Monk Kidd discusses her book, The Invention of Wings. This author talk was recorded in January, 2014. Sue Monk Kidd appeared as part of the continuing Salon@615 author series.

See upcoming author visits, including Carl Hiaasen and Jodi Picoult, and learn more

Listen to the Archived Recording

Download MP3 audio

Subscribe to Salon@615 podcast (iTunes)

Dennis Lehane – Live By Night

By , September 6, 2014

Dennis Lehane discusses his book, Live By Night. The novel follows con man Joe Coughlin through three decades of crime. This talk was recorded in October, 2012, as part of the ongoing Salon@615 author series.

Learn more about Salon@615 and view upcoming author visits, including Kristen Gillibrand and Carl Hiaasen, at

Listen to the Archived Recording

Download MP3 audio

Subscribe to Salon@615 podcast (iTunes)

Book list: The Best…

By , September 4, 2014

I’m a sucker for “Best of” lists, so happily there are compilations like these that gather everything together for you—no effort required!  These are the two that I’ve liked best in the past several years:

Best American Essays 2013Best American Essays 2013
Edited by Cheryl Strayed

I hadn’t ever read this annual collection before, but I will from now on. There were several standouts:



  • Highway of Lost Girls
  • The Exhibit Will Be So Marked (a meandering piece on the art of the mix tape that was more John Jeremiah Sullivan than the actual JJS essay)
  • When They Let Them Bleed (who knew I could be entranced by an essay about boxing?)
  • A Little Bit of Fun Before He Died, because of the unexpected surprise

However, my absolute favorite was the 3-page His Last Game.


Pushcart Prize 2013Pushcart Prize XXXVII: Best of the Small Presses (2013)


Top 5 (in order of appearance):



  1. American Juggalo, an exposé of a little-known music festival
  2. Civil Twilight, about the life of a city bus driver
  3. Juniper Beach, an ode to the Trip-Tik
  4. A Zen Zealot Comes Home, about a moment of insight after an exasperating family visit
  5. Helen Keller Answers the Iron, a ridiculously good essay on joke-telling
    Honorable Mention: the Harry Crews excerpt

I also anxiously await the Best American Short Stories each fall—the 2014 edition is coming out soon. Go ahead and put it on hold!

Best American Short Stories 2014Best American Short Stories 2014

Edited by Jennifer Egan




- Beth

Book Review: All I Know and Love

By , August 31, 2014

All I Know and Love book, by Judith Frank

All I Know and Love
By Judith Frank

A timely look at the emotional interplay of conflicts that arise between nations, families, and spouses, Judith Frank’s new novel tackles love and loss in the modern world.

From the first page, Frank pulled me into a story that shows how complicated ordinary lives can become. David and Matt are happily living together in Massachusetts when word arrives that David’s twin brother, Joel, and his wife have been killed in an explosion in Israel. In addition to dealing with this grief, David has been named guardian of Joel’s two children. The story follows the couple as they try to figure out their new life and all the challenges and rewards that come with it.

Frank is ambitious in the topics that she covers. Starting with the conflict in Israel, made ever more realistic by the current news coming from that region, she presents multiple ideological viewpoints through her characters. They have heated debates about terrorism and retribution, whisper about the potential taboo of two men raising children together, and shout about their varying responses to grief. Her use of various perspectives helped me to understand the thoughts of different characters at key points throughout the novel and keeps the reader on his or her toes. Though this writing style can get a little confusing, it is worth taking the time to understand how her characters feel when they are dealing with these complex situations.

- Amber


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

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.


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