Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Nevermore: Mahood, Speaks, Hamby, Melham, Rash, Jones, Willilams, Cooper

Reported by Garry and Laura

In the humorous non-fiction book Not Tonight Josephine: A Road Trip Through Small-Town America by George Mahood, the author and a friend come over from England, buy a 1985 Dodge minivan and proceed on a road trip across America from New York to California.  Once in California, Mahood’s friend, Mark, must return to the UK, and George manages to convince his girlfriend to fly over and meet him in Breckenridge, Colorado to accompany him on the trip back to New York.  Our reader reported that she smiled a lot while reading this light-hearted romp from coast to coast.  

Our next reader thoroughly enjoyed the book Historic Disasters of East Tennessee by Dewaine Speaks. In particular, she was riveted by the recounting of a disaster that happened in Bradley County which is known as the worst traffic accident in Tennessee history and the fifth worst in U.S. history.  One of our readers had a friend who was a proof-reader for a court recorder who recorded testimony during the lawsuits that came after the crash.   Our reader also pointed out the story of the 1904 train wreck in New Market, TN, 30 miles east of Knoxville in which 56 passengers and crew were killed, and 106 injured.  An inquiry into the disaster was inconclusive as the engineers and drivers involved died in the accident.    

Soul Full of Coal Dust:  The True Story of an Epic Battle for Justice by Chris Hamby is an investigative book which delves into the ongoing battle for compensation for coal miners and their families due to the ravages of black lung disease.  Our reader’s grandfather and all her neighbors were miners, and this book brought back memories of the miners returning home pitch black from coal dust because there were no showers at the mines.  The laws that were passed in the 1960s in to protect coal miners have failed to end black lung disease or to provide for those who are ill.  This true story of how a carpenter turned lawyer and a miner took on Massey Coal makes for an eye-opening read.

Published in 1976, John Muir’s Wild America by Tom Melham is an exploration of the lasting effect of land conservation and preservation, a movement spearheaded by John Muir – a Scottish born adventurer who lived in California and who was responsible for getting Congress to declare Yosemite as one of the first National Parks in the US.   Our reader praised John Muir for being such a dogged adventurer, barely even slowing down when he contracted malaria.  Amongst his many accomplishments he started the Sierra club, climbed mountains in Yosemite, and helped establish Sequoia as a National Park. 

Something Rich and Strange by poet and novelist Ron Rash is a series of short stories, all based in the Appalachian region. The stories are scattered throughout time, some being set in the modern day, others in the past.   Our reader recommended this book due to short stories not requiring a lot of memory during these times.   

Charley Davidson is a private investigator and Grim Reaper (yes, THAT Grim Reaper) in a series of supernatural detective mysteries by Darynda Jones.  The first novel in the series is First Grave on the Right which our reader thoroughly enjoyed and recommends. The books are a silly mindless romp, according to our reader and can be summed up as "graves and sex."  They are an excellent distraction right now and don’t require a lot of attention or brain space, but are pure fun. 

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Karen White, and Lauren Willig is a historical fiction mystery which intertwines two stories – one in 2013, and another in 1915.  Sarah Blake is an author looking for ideas for a new book when she goes against her mother's wishes and opens a trunk which belonged to her great-grandfather who died in the disaster of the RMS Lusitania.  What she discovers could change history.   Our reader liked this book, and recommended it.

Cut to the Bone by Ellison Cooper is a modern-day crime mystery thriller that revolves around a DC-based FBI agent who has a psych degree and is investigating the hijacking of a school bus of high school students.  The books has twists and turns, which makes our reader happy; she plans to go back and real all the other books by this same author.  This is the only book that our reader has encountered that has a cliffhanger ending, and it definitely has her hooked for the next!  Highly recommended if you like thrillers and procedurals.

            The Overstory by Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2019. It tells the story of nine strangers who are brought together by an unfolding natural catastrophe. The reviewer liked the book, but didn’t love it. She found it long and didn’t really begin to enjoy it until the stories began to intertwine. The book was a meditation on the fact that we don’t value the life of other living things or see what’s in front of us.


            Our last review is Good Dogs Don’t Make it to the South Pole by Hans Olav Thyvold, which is narrated by Tassen, a dog who can talk, but not read. After losing his master, the man’s wife begins to read to him about arctic expeditions and the dogs who serve them. The book has some light moments, but is very much a meditation on the ethics surrounding the treatment of the dogs used, and sometimes sacrificed, in the expeditions. This was a good book and comes recommended.


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