Book Review – Nashville/Davidson County Public Art

Title: Nashville/Davidson County Public Art: Location Study & Typology Recommendations
Format: Paperback
Published: This format printed 2010

Okay, Nashville/Davidson County Public Art is a unique thing I managed to find on the shelves in my local library when I was randomly checking the shelves. Apparently our local government voted for 1% of the budget to go towards public art – I’ll leave most of the commentary out of this, but I’m torn between thinking we need more things to enrich and enlighten and thinking that 1% of the budget is a lot when we’re short of funding for things like education; what do you think? – and this is the report/study/whatever done to evaluate locations in the county.

There’s a section at the front that explains the book and the process, and a few appendices/that type of thing in the back. The bulk of the book, though, is made up of the site studies. A map of the location with a few landmarks (local businesses, schools, welcome centers, whatever) marked, a couple photos of the area, and paragraphs about both the site and what should go there. Then there’s a couple pages of photos of other pieces of public art across the country in a similar vein.

I’ve got to say that I’ve learned a lot about my county from this book. History of parts of town, little factoids, etc. They also explained both what was going in a site if construction was underway, or what was already there. I liked that stuff, because I like silly trivia. Just sayin’. Also, as a not TN native, I don’t know a lot of the local history that I would have learned in schools. So it was nice to learn something about my area.

So how to give you a rating. Personally, I give the book a 4/5. I really liked it, and the public art – although sometimes very odd – was mostly really cool. (Side note – I had no idea that Cleveland, OH had so much public art, and they didn’t even put the Free stamp, which we all know about if we came from anywhere near there, in the book) So I think it was interesting. If you’re from the area, or you’re into public art or sculpture or design, it’s interesting. With that said, I think this is going to appeal to a very specific demographic (after all, the book wasn’t even really sold anywhere, just distributed to the important key people who needed the study) and if you’re not part of that, just keep walking on by if you happen to see a copy.

Book Review: The Naked Truth

The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) positive

Marvelyn Brown (with Courtney E. Martin)

Paperback, 2008


Okay, in case you weren’t sure, The Naked Truth is the memoir of a teen who contracts (HIV).

Now, where to start with this review.  Marvelyn Brown grew up in Nashville, TN, somewhere.  I saw this book on the shelf in Nashville’s very own library system, and it sort of jumped out at me, so I grabbed it.  And then I started reading it, and I wish I would have put it back.

Marvelyn (so named because her domineering, uncaring mother thought the name was beautiful *ahem*) contracted (HIV) through unprotected sex because she fell into bed easily and often with guys she barely knew.  The guy, who she chose not to name in the book, swept her off her feet and fed her what she wanted/needed to hear so that she’d sleep with him.  Awesome guy.

For a while, I sort of felt bad for her.  And then I kept reading, and I sort of don’t.  For starters, she managed to get through school knowing pretty much next to nothing about anything important, despite (initially anyway, until she decided she didn’t give a shit) getting honor-roll level grades for most of her life.  Her worries about protection were pretty much pregnancy related (and at some point she sort of wanted a baby anyway), but when she got the (HIV) diagnosis, she was like “okay, whatever” until she actually learned what the disease was from pamphlets.  Seriously?  Public School fail for sure.

Second, while she was somehow the face of (HIV) and everywhere on the speaking circuit, she was somehow broke and didn’t think to have insurance any way other than to go to college for a year and flunk out.  Nevermind that she had a tutor and worked “really hard” and managed a 16 on her ACTs.  For those not in the know, a 16 is a sub-par score.  How does somebody who got honor roll for so many years and still managed to graduate and all squeak out a 16?

Third, in the book, I kept hearing about how she was so charming and wonderful and funny and everything else.  The book was boring and unfeeling.  At first I thought it was because she wasn’t a writer, but then I realized she had a co-writer of an actual author, and… I don’t know what this book’s dysfunction is.  But the way it is written, I just don’t care about Marvelyn at all.  Most of the opportunities she got were only because she got (HIV), and she threw most of them away in a minute – Nashville CARES for a year, a magazine for a year, etc.  And she kept doing stupid stuff, like partying and running herself ragged, going off her meds because her t-cells were fine, moving with no money and no place to live (really, how do you move without a place to move to?!), etc.

Also, I don’t believe for a minute that “everyone in Nashville” knew she was (HIV) positive.  She knew about eight people, and we’re a city of easily half a million, if not more.

When I read Ryan White’s book (who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion), I cared about him.  When I read Paul Monette (who watched many of his lovers and friends die of this new unknown disease before he, too, succumbed), I cried.  But when I read this, I really ended with a “who cares?”

I can’t fault the technical writing of the sentences, although I wonder if the writer and co-writer being from such different backgrounds help muddled the voice of the book.

I flip-flopped for a minute about the rating, but in the end it came down to this.  If you want a book about HIV/AIDS, I could sit here and name a dozen in a heartbeat, and they’re all better than this one.  Nothing comes from this one except the “I’m a stupid victim” mentality, and really, it’s not worth it.  There’s so little about her disease that you may as well not be reading a (HIV) memoir.

Thus, I give it a 2/5 and tell you to pick a different one and only read this if you don’t have any other choice.

Writer Wednesday – Nick Valentino

I met this guy a couple years ago at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. It’s a mainstream festival, giving just a little of everything and making books a little more accessible to the general public. And there was Nick. It was my first intro into Steampunk – this guy on the midway, and his girlfriend now wife – and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been waiting for his new book for a couple years now, and this interview since the blog opened, but he wanted the two to coincide. Without further ado, here he is.





Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
Tell us (briefly) about you…

My name is Nick Valentino, I live in Gig Harbor Washinton with my wife, Elizabeth. I lived in Nashville, Tennessee my whole life until last year when we moved here. I wrote the steampunk novel, Thomas Riley and now the second book in the series, Thomas Riley and The Maelstrom which are published by ZOVA Books. I’ve also written a bunch of steampunk short stories. The Black Dress which appears in Kerlak Publishing’s Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells anthology, Ten Thousand Years which appears in Echelon Press’ Her Majesty’s Mysterious Conveyance anthology, Engine 316 which appears in Kerlak Publishing’s Dreams of Steam anthology, Bedeviled which appears in Dreams of Steam II and Double Crossed at Gray Raven Mill which appears in Steampunk Tales Issue #7. Currently, I’m working on three projects, the third installment of the Thomas Riley Series, a twisty zombie book called Tribes and a Steampunk Roll Playing Game for the Harsh Realities game company with Elizabeth.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
When I was young I really didn’t like reading much. I remember slogging through summer reading for school until I went to a party and heard some people talking about Weaveworld by Clive Barker. I decided to check it out and from there I fell in love with books and storytelling.
What are your three favorite books?
Ooh, wow… That’s kind of tough. Let’s go with this.
Watership Down by Richard Adams is probably number one. I just love the characters. That story has a lot of memories for me from my childhood and I still relate to it to this day.
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker comes in at number two. I am a slow reader and I finished this book while listening to Tori Amos’ Winter ep over and over in twenty four hours. That’s when I discovered I loved reading to music as it gives everything a “4th dimension”.
Coldheart Canyon again by Clive Barker is number three. It’s an amazingly creepy story full of Hollywood history and old rumors that give haunted houses a new identity.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I can only read one book at a time. I’m a shamefully slow reader, clocking in at a sloth-like twenty pages an hour. Right now as terrible as this sounds, I’m still reading my wife’s book, Bound By Blood, (which is under her old name, Elizabeth Darvill) on my Kindle. It’s an awesome action packed story by the way. It was called a “post apocalyptic Underworld” and it really is.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
like to lose myself and when I’m done, hours have passed.

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question. 
Absolutely re-read. And re-read again and again and again… until you hate the story.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?

It’s all a time issue with me. I’m very likely to read a book that’s been recommended to me. I love a fresh new story. While there’s so many copycat books out these days, there’s also a cornucopia of vastly original stories. Like everyone, I have a crazy life and my biggest problem that I really need to work on is carving out more time for reading.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
I do it all the time. I often to use my blog for promoting other authors, especially my friends no matter what genre. It’s great fun to help spread the word about some great authors.

What do you look for in a good book?
Clever twists, surprises and characters that I want to be or that I wish I had written.

Why do you write?
I have to be creative. I was in a band for a long time and anyone that knows me, knows that I have to be doing something somewhat creative all the time. I do stencil art from time to time, I like to experiment with fun forms of art (I really want to get into tee shirt making as a hobby). Anyway, I have to be doing something all the time or I get kooky. Once I left the music scene, I channeled my energy into writing, and once I was published, I traveled my butt off for the book. It was a never ending cycle of writing, planning, traveling, promotional material, posters, banners, blog tours, postcards, newsletters, email blasts… the list goes on and on. I’m happiest when I’m perusing something creative and my cornerstone is writing.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I was a decent baseball player quite some time ago and if I’d gotten the bug, I think I would have tried to do that with more vigor but I became more obsessed with music in those formative years. I guess I’m a bit old for that now so if I wasn’t a writer right now I think I’d be some kind of artist and basically do the same thing I’m doing now just with spray paint and stencils.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A lot of my inspiration comes from things in my childhood. Movies, stories, my only-child entertaining myself brain. I love things that have a deeper meaning and secret hidden treasures. I like the Samurai/Asian aspect of Star Wars. I love the endless Easter Eggs of the show Lost. I love the raw emotion, the passion and the detail in every Hayao Miyazaki movie. These are things I strive to do in my own work. I want to write with a deeper intent. I want you to feel the characters and I want it all to be rife with secrets so the inquisitive reader can learn and understand more. Almost every character in the Thomas Riley series has secrets hidden in the words. It might be in a name, or a number, you never know. I like to leave little gems that can be discovered with a little research.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
Writing has taught me (or better put, is teaching me) that maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I can get pretty twisted up in worrying about what I write and how well it’s written but in the end when you open that book and see it in actual print, it’s a wonderful sight and it often feels like I didn’t even write it. It’s a great feeling.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They all take it pretty seriously which is nice. I’m a persistent person and I expect a lot of myself and I think that’s how most people in my life see me. So when I do something everyone expects me to hustle as hard as I can no matter what it is. I like being over the top.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true? 
Haha actually I think most are true although I feel like they most are all good things. Writers seem to be nerdy (in a wonderful way), they are passionate people and they are goal oriented. A lot of writers seem to be generally kind souls and they are often at least slightly introverted. Basically what you get from these stereotypes are shy but super nice people once you get to know them. Of course there is always the flip side to that. There are the arrogant writers, the one that think that since they wrote a book that they are better than others. Sure you’ll meet those people but honestly it’s kind of rare.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out? 
It’s really hard to just say one. I guess it depends on the writer. For some it’s completing a book for others it’s meeting their goals like getting their work published. I guess something that’s universal is getting attention for your work in an environment where there are literally hundreds of thousands of books that come out every year. I guess that’s not really answering the question… For writers starting out I feel like the biggest challenge would be getting the book done and doing well enough to get published. It’s very hard to get the attention of people that will back you and publish your work.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Oh man, yes. Too many to name and a lot of them are horribly embarrassing. I was not classically trained as a writer. I graduated college with a History degree so yes I wrote a lot of papers but I was never really taught to write professionally. So

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
I’d actually be excited about just about anything. I guess if I could pick a fantasy I would say write for a Miyazaki movie or a feature film.

How do you deal with your fan base?
My fan base is awesome. Seriously, everyone that seems to like my work or that approaches me at cons has been so incredibly nice and good to me. It’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them with the second book.

Anything else we should know?
My second steampunk adventure novel, Thomas Riley and The Maelstrom, came out yesterday on ZOVA Books.
Order signed copies here
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