Category: Fiction

Book review: Wolf in White Van

By , October 16, 2014

Can musicians write good books? Jesse doesn’t pull any punches when he takes a look at John Darnielle’s debut novel.

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

The Mountain Goats CD | Freegal

Judas Priest CD | Freegal | Hoopla


music by Black Dice CD | Freegal | Hoopla

Book review: One Kick

By , October 10, 2014

One KickOne Kick
by Chelsea Cain

If you’ve been longing for another fierce female character like Stieg Larsson‘s Lisbeth Salander, Chelsea Cain‘s Kick Lannigan is waiting (rather impatiently!) for you to read her story.

Kick was kidnapped at age six and rescued from her captors five years later in a tense and dramatic FBI operation.  Assimilating back into a normal existence has been difficult for Kick.  Her abductor and abuser trained her to live off the grid and defend herself from outsiders by ANY means necessary.  Now 21, Kick lives with her adopted brother (another survivor of childhood abuse and abduction) and keeps her sanity through an extremely vigorous practice of martial arts, target practice, picking locks as a hobby, and obsessively following news updates on abducted children.

Kick is approached by a mysterious and wealthy man named John Bishop whose hobby is tracking down missing children.  Bishop is convinced Kick’s personal history arms her with the skills and knowledge needed to find these kids alive.  They both know it’s a race against time to find the latest victim before it’s too late.  Will their search bring Kick too close to the terrors of her own past?

If you’ve never read any Chelsea Cain, plan to set aside a chunk of time because once you open one of her books, YOU WON’T PUT IT DOWN!  Trust me, the girl can write a thriller.   Cain set aside her Gretchen Lowell serial killer series to write One Kick, which begs for a sequel.  As one of Cain’s biggest fans, I’m hoping she takes the time and conjures the creative juices she needs to keep writing books in both series.

Southern Festival of Books

By , October 6, 2014

Start planning your Southern Festival weekend!  Some recommendations:


Mr. Tall

Mr. Tall: A Novella and Stories

by Tony Earley

Friday, October 10


Nashville Public Library auditorium

This new collection of short stories, set mainly in North Carolina and Nashville, was worth the wait.  Be prepared for some crushing last lines.




by Lily King

Sunday, October 12


Nashville Public Library, Conference Room 3

I’d like to go ahead and declare this one of the best books of 2014. I also loved King’s Father of the Rain, which is completely different.


Station Eleven

Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

Saturday, October 11


Nashville Public Library auditorium

This is one of the most talked-about books of the season–arrive early for this one!


Funny OnceFunny Once: Stories

by Antonya Nelson

Friday, October 10


Room 12, Legislative Plaza

Antonya Nelson’s specialty is creating sympathetic portrayals of characters with all of their vices, flaws, and regrets.


Between WrecksBetween Wrecks

by George Singleton

Saturday, October 11


Nashville Public Library, Special Collections Room

If you like George Saunders or Charles Portis, give George Singleton a shot.  His readings at the Festival are consistently hilarious.


Under MagnoliaUnder Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

by Frances Mayes

Friday, October 10


Nashville Public Library, 3rd floor Program Room

Mayes is best known for Under the Tuscan Sun, but this is very vivid recollection of her earlier life coming of age in rural Georgia.


Grit Lit: A Rough South ReaderGrit Lit

Edited by Tom Franklin and Brian Carpenter

Read this just to get in the Festival mood—it includes great Southern authors like Harry Crews, Larry Brown, Lewis Nordan, and Daniel Woodrell, just to name a few.






Book review: Mambo in Chinatown

By , September 25, 2014

Mambo in Chinatown

By Jean Kwok


Fans of the movie Shall We Dance? about the man who rediscovers his passion for life after taking some ballroom dance lessons will enjoy Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok.   Charlie Wong is a twenty two year old dishwasher living in Chinatown.  The daughter of a dancer and a noodle-maker, Charlie has never excelled at much of anything until she applied for a job working as a receptionist at a ballroom dance studio.  Charlie’s life begins to blossom as she discovers herself and her love of dance.


Mambo in Chinatown will have you putting on your dance shoes.







Book review: Tara Road

By , September 23, 2014

 Tara Road
By Maeve Binchy

This book has sat and sat and SAT on my To-Be-Read pile for what seems like forever. Initially I grabbed it because I thought it might have something to do with Gone with the Wind. Even though it completely doesn’t, the book jacket grabbed me. A house swap? From Dublin to Connecticut and vice versa? Hmm…I liked The Holiday. Why not?

When I finally began to read Tara Road, I borrowed the audio. This was a lucky happenstance, because the reader (in this case, Jenny Sterlin) has a beautiful Irish voice and sets the story nicely. Starting in Dublin, we meet Ria Johnson. The first half of the book details how she meets Danny Lynch & how they build their family. I kept waiting for the house exchange part, but couldn’t possibly see how it would fit. I even went back and read the cover, just to make sure this was the same book. It was, and is. I just hadn’t read far enough.

Little by little, Marilyn Vine and her Connecticut world sneek into the story. She and her husband are estranged, having just suffered through some horrific tragedy and Marilyn decides she needs some time to get away. On a whim, she dials Danny’s number in Dublin, having met him on a previous visit several years prior. When Ria answers they both cook up this scheme to trade houses for two months.

Whew! That was a lot of backstory to get through for a house exchange. But, honestly, every minute and page and scenario was worth it. At this point, you may either continue reading Tara Road OR you may switch out at start watching the movie (or do both like me!).

The movie starts right before the house exchange, significantly truncating Ria’s backstory and stars Andie MacDowell as Marilyn Vine and Olivia Williams as Ria Lynch. (Just because I always have to find some Joss Whedon connection, Williams starred as Adelle DeWitt, the head of his short-lived Dollhouse.) The book version is almost 500 pages, so naturally several plotlines and characters get cut in the movie. I loved both Ria and Marilyn, but I thought that movie Danny Lynch was nowhere as good, or as handsome, as the written Danny and I wanted to punch Polly Calahan in the face in both versions. Definitely a decent film adaptation though.

This book was nothing like what I was expecting, but I so enjoyed reading it. I was sorry when I finally finished. I had not read anything from Maeve Binchy before, but I have a feeling this won’t be the last book of hers I read.

Happy reading…

:) Amanda

PS Today is my birthday (Da na na na na na). I’m gonna have a good time (birthday!)…

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


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