Disappearances, nightmares and a sense of terror
 

Disappearances, nightmares and a sense of terror

Some 30 years ago, a science-fiction writer named Whitney Striber wrote a novel called Wolfen, and it frightened me badly. The…
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Finding elusive love in the modern world of dating
 

Finding elusive love in the modern world of dating

“Chick-lit” is, of course, the slang expression for those books appealing especially to women. Though not politically correct, most men…
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Wading into a few of my favorite ‘dipper’ books
 

Wading into a few of my favorite ‘dipper’ books

Some books — novels, certain histories and biographies — deserve full immersion. We dive into them, plummet into their depths,…
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Distilling the life of blues legend Robert Johnson
 

Distilling the life of blues legend Robert Johnson

I have always been fascinated by the folklore attending the too-short life of Robert Johnson, “King of the Delta Blues…
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Of rhyme and reason, for better or worse
 

Of rhyme and reason, for better or worse

Poetry. Po-e-tree. A word with a lovely sound, but with bleak connotations.
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A poetic description of a savage time
 

A poetic description of a savage time

It took me almost a year to read this book. I kept losing it, leaving it in restaurants and other…
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Mailer — a man of his time and shaper of it
 

Mailer — a man of his time and shaper of it

In the Prologue to Norman Mailer: A Double Life (978-1-4391-5019-1, 2013, $40), biographer J. Michael Lennon writes that “Mailer’s desire…
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‘Night Film’ is a tiring yet mesmerizing read
 

‘Night Film’ is a tiring yet mesmerizing read

I did not like this book. My first response on finishing it was that I would not review it, but there…
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Raising youth in the digital age
 

Raising youth in the digital age

Four years ago in November, a schoolteacher in Knoxville asked her English class to write a composition on family dinner…
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Slave narratives an insightful collection
 

Slave narratives an insightful collection

This remarkable collection of interviews with African-Americans in North Carolina who were once slaves is a fascinating discovery. Conducted by the…
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O’Brien’s fiction uniquely relevant to our current issues
 

O’Brien’s fiction uniquely relevant to our current issues

In Voyage To Alpha Centauri (Ignatius Press, ISBN 978-1-58617-832-1), Michael O’Brien, Canadian writer and painter, gives us a grand tale…
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The remaking of a learned writer
 

The remaking of a learned writer

The new year is a time when many people, dissatisfied with some condition of their lives, resolve to make changes.…
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Koch novel a hearty serving of words, plot
 

Koch novel a hearty serving of words, plot

Back in 1981, a provocative film called “My Dinner With Andre” created quite a stir by reducing drama to the…
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Conroy’s memoir reveals much about his troubled upbringing
 

Conroy’s memoir reveals much about his troubled upbringing

The times in which we live may someday be celebrated for our advancements in medicine, technology and education, but surely…
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Santa and reindeer and drones… Oh my!
 

Santa and reindeer and drones… Oh my!

I was never a fan of drone missiles. Until now, I had always regarded drones as killing machines or mechanical spies.…
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‘Green’ text more relevant today than ever
 

‘Green’ text more relevant today than ever

Although this book was published over a decade ago, A Fierce Green Fire has grown steadily in popularity and is…
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Can you believe the gall of this grafter Jeff Minick?
 

Can you believe the gall of this grafter Jeff Minick?

By Joe Ecclesia My name is Joe Ecclesia, and I have a bone the size of an elephant’s thigh to…
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Tarrt delivers once again — a decade later
 

Tarrt delivers once again — a decade later

I first encountered a Donna Tartt novel some 20 years ago when a friend reverently placed a copy of The…
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Hays’ new book succeeds on several levels
 

Hays’ new book succeeds on several levels

In What I Came To Tell You (Egmont Publishers, ISBN 9781606844335, $16.99), local author Tommy Hayes brings us the story…
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Vintage King is a frightening prospect
 

Vintage King is a frightening prospect

It has been more than 30 years since Stephen King published The Shining, but I still remember that little kid,…
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To those teachers who exacted excellence
 

To those teachers who exacted excellence

Book reviews shouldn’t begin with dedications. But with Strings Attached (ISBN 978-1-4013-2466-7, $24.99) being the book under review, I feel…
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A ‘writer’s writer’ delves into 1929 explosion
 

A ‘writer’s writer’ delves into 1929 explosion

I am convinced that author Daniel Woodrell is what is frequently referred to as “a writer’s writer.” In other words,…
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Some old-fashioned lessons for living
 

Some old-fashioned lessons for living

Google books on parenting, and you will find thousands — tens of thousands — of titles. There are books on…
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A warts and all biography of a WNC original
 

A warts and all biography of a WNC original

I first encountered Robert Henry’s name some 30 years ago in Lyman Draper’s account of the Battle of Kings Mountain…
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Jim Harrison keeps churning out quality writing
 

Jim Harrison keeps churning out quality writing

Jim Harrison is an American phenomenon. Not only has he written more than 30 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction…
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Another AT book, but a new set of lessons
 

Another AT book, but a new set of lessons

An online visit reveals hundreds of books written on hiking the Appalachian Trail. These range from Bill Bryson’s A Walk…
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New Burke novel is not to be
 

New Burke novel is not to be

In Light of the World (ISBN 978-1-4767-1076-1, $27.99), James Lee Burke once again gives readers writing cut and polished like…
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The lost West in all its violent glory
 

The lost West in all its violent glory

I have always had a fondness for great, sprawling epics, especially if they chronicle the downfall of a family/dynasty that acquired…
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A realistic, refreshing look at teaching
 

A realistic, refreshing look at teaching

For most students, parents, and teachers, autumn rather than spring is the season of budding growth, new life, and hope.
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Carden’s new book depicts Appalachian bestiary
 

Carden’s new book depicts Appalachian bestiary

By Newton Smith • Contributor Gary Carden, local bard, playwright, host of the Liars Bench and reviewer for The Smoky Mountain…
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Miracles and the miraculous in everyday life
 

Miracles and the miraculous in everyday life

Every once in a while, we encounter a situation so strange and so far removed from the natural order of…
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Tragic realism makes for a riveting read
 

Tragic realism makes for a riveting read

Let me begin by saying that this is a remarkable novel, and I suspect that it will be around for…
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Prickly but also extremely insightful
 

Prickly but also extremely insightful

On June 24, 1993, David Gelernter, then an associate professor of computer science at Yale University, opened a package in…
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Novel covers death, love, and all points in between
 

Novel covers death, love, and all points in between

Priscille Sibley’s The Promise of Stardust (ISBN 978-0-06-219417-6, 399 pages, $15.99) is a fine first novel by a woman who…
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Dad is Fat, and comical truths about child rearing
 

Dad is Fat, and comical truths about child rearing

Thirty some years ago, my wife and I announced to my mother that we were expecting our first child. After…
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The hard truth about the Cold War
 

The hard truth about the Cold War

We Americans like to sidle around the truth nowadays, which we do by labeling ourselves relativists. Like Pontius Pilate, we…
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Oil thicker than blood in Texas
 

Oil thicker than blood in Texas

Reviewers of Philipp Meyer’s new novel, The Son (ISBN 978-0-06-212039-7, 561 pages, $27.99) have compared his epic story of the…
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Kingsbury gives us a comfortable summer read
 

Kingsbury gives us a comfortable summer read

In The Bridge (ISBN 978-1-4516-4701-3, $19.99), Karen Kingsbury treats readers to a tale of romance and tribulation centered on a…
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King’s Joyland set in eastern North Carolina
 

King’s Joyland set in eastern North Carolina

There is something about carnivals, amusement parks and shoddy summer circus operations that inspire a special kind of supernatural tale.…
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The power of books to change lives
 

The power of books to change lives

Here are the true stories of some young people, all of them still under the age of 35. For the…
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Morgan conjures the past with a poet skill
 

Morgan conjures the past with a poet skill

Robert Morgan has a rare and cunning gift: he can sift through the detritus of the past, pluck objects and…
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A book to help wade through self-help industry
 

A book to help wade through self-help industry

In The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need: Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer, and Throttle Your…
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A story of violence and race in small-town N.C.
 

A story of violence and race in small-town N.C.

My decision to read this “docudrama” (part memoir, part history and part detective story) was prompted by my genuine wish…
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A fast look at a few worthwhile tomes
 

A fast look at a few worthwhile tomes

Here they are, books yammering for review: a hillock of books on the floor by the desk; more books stacked…
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Dobyns novel reveals small town underbelly
 

Dobyns novel reveals small town underbelly

Stephen Dobyns has written 20 novels and more than 10 volumes of poetry; however, he is difficult to “classify.” His writing…
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A rural bookstore that beat the odds
 

A rural bookstore that beat the odds

“Bookshops are magic.” This quotation, buried in the middle of Wendy Welch’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A…
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For your culinary and reading pleasure
 

For your culinary and reading pleasure

Most booklovers have suffered that “Oh, no” moment when a friend, with nothing but the best of intentions, presses an…
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Tension-soaked novel is one of Appalachia’s best
 

Tension-soaked novel is one of Appalachia’s best

Mark Powell’s The Dark Corner is probably the best Appalachian novel that I have read in the last decade. It is…
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History of Cherokee War is top notch
 

History of Cherokee War is top notch

We Americans sometimes forget how new we are to the history of the world. Here in Western North Carolina, for…
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Movies, book explore travails of Memphis Three
 

Movies, book explore travails of Memphis Three

They were known as the West Memphis Three: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., three teenagers who were accused…
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