Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Nevermore: Lady Bird, Murder in Time, Ceremonial Time, Blood at the Root, and Packing for Mars

Reported by Ambrea

This week, one of our Nevermore members had a new book to share with her fellow readers, launching into a review of Jan Jarboe Russell’s biography of Mrs. Claudia Johnson—or “Lady Bird,” as she was more famously known.  In Lady Bird, Mrs. Johnson takes center stage and, through a series of interviews, shares glimpses of her life, her career, her place in the presidency, and her complicated relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson.  Our reader said she enjoyed reading Russell’s biography on Lady Bird, saying it was both interesting and insightful.  It provides such detailed information on the former First Lady, on her career as a business woman—she was, in fact, a highly successful one—and her influence on presidential policy.  Moreover, Lady Bird offers a thoughtful look at issues such as Vietnam, Civil Rights, racism, and roadway beautification, details our reader said she greatly enjoyed.

Next, Nevemore looked at a brand new novel, Murder in Time by Julie McElwain.  Part science fiction, part historical thriller, Murder in Time follows Kendra Donovan, a rising star in the FBI—and, currently, a rogue agent after half her team is murdered in a raid gone wrong.  Her sights set on vengeance, Kendra doesn’t expect to flee an assassin or, as happens, stumble into a wormhole that leads her to Aldrich Castle in the year 1815.  Our reader said she thought McElwain’s novel was very good.  “It’s…a good mystery,” she said.  She admitted it wasn’t her usual fare, but she found herself curious to reach the end and, moreover, she enjoyed the trip.  She mentioned that A Murder in Time is actually the first book in a new mystery series with A Twist in Time following sometime next year.

Nevermore also picked up a curious little history book called Ceremonial Time:  Fifteen Thousand Years on One Square Mile by John Hanson Mitchell.  As Mitchell details in the first chapter, Ceremonial Time is a book about history, but it is also a book about the future and the slow, inexorable movement of time on one small plot of land.  “Every morning between April and November, weather permitting, I take a pot of coffee up to [the plum] grove to watch the sun come over the lower fields and I think about things.  More and more now I find myself thinking there about time…and how none of these stages, neither past, nor present, nor future, is really knowable,” writes Mitchell.  A curious blend of history and narrative, Ceremonial Time was a real treat for our reader.  She said she enjoyed it immensely, and she was glad she discovered it on the library discard cart.

Next, Nevermore moved to review Blood at the Root:  A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips, which tells the gripping and harrowing story of Forsyth County, Georgia, which essentially “purged” the county of its African American population.  In 1912, three young black laborers were accused of raping and murdering a white girl—and violence quickly ensued.  All three men were eventually lynched, and the entire African American population—all 1,098 citizens—was driven out of Forsyth by violent racial prejudice.  Our reader, who knew of Forsyth County, picked up Phillips’ books with the interest of learning more about such a heinous and terrifying event; however, he admitted he had to eventually put it aside because he could not abide by the terrible things witnessed in this book.  Phillips creates a meticulously detailed and wonderfully written book on a horrifying moment of history, and he does so with a honesty that is both jarring and refreshing.  Our reader was impressed by his work, but he simply did not wish to learn more of the atrocities inflicted on Forsyth County that continues to reverberate to this day.

Last, Nevermore looked at Packing for Mars:  The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach.  After hearing about Grunt from another reviewer, our reader couldn’t wait to get ahold of some of Roach’s work—and she was very glad she had the chance to read Packing for Mars first.  Both humorous and insightful, Packing for Mars was a wonderfully informative book and a fun way to learn a little more about space travel, NASA, and mankinds’ (among other species) trip out into the open void.  Our reader said she absolutely loved reading Roach’s book, and she admitted that she learned more than a few surprising facts about space and the astronauts who ventured there.  She was also surprised to learn that technology doesn’t always work the same in space.  Fuses, for instance, don’t work in space:  when the fuses “fries,” a piece of metal in the middle melts and drips off, stopping the current, but in zero gravity it doesn’t—which makes for some very unhappy machinery.  “Who would have thought?” our reader proclaimed.

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