Learning how to organize information overload
 

Learning how to organize information overload

Twenty-five years ago, while under a good deal of pressure and stress, I began noticing I was forgetting things. I…
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Complicated, confusing and utterly fascinating
 

Complicated, confusing and utterly fascinating

I am intimidated by this book. In fact, this is one of the most challenging reviews that I have ever undertaken.…
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The end is near — now what?
 

The end is near — now what?

When the novel, The Leftovers came out several years ago, it was an immediate success. (Oprah gave it a significant boost…
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A realist writer examines uncomfortable topics
 

A realist writer examines uncomfortable topics

“Evil is no more at an end than History, and so long as there are men there will be no…
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Collective guilt permeates novel’s characters
 

Collective guilt permeates novel’s characters

A little over one year ago, Mark Powell published The Dark Corner, a novel that was set in the northwest…
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Time to clear the desk of books waiting for review
 

Time to clear the desk of books waiting for review

For many reasons, this summer in particular afforded many opportunities for reading. During a 60-hour stay at Figure Eight Island,…
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A dark world explored by a gifted writer
 

A dark world explored by a gifted writer

In case you haven’t noticed, let me call your attention to a disturbing fact regarding current Appalachian literature: some critics have been…
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Book challenges me to critique the critic
 

Book challenges me to critique the critic

In Why Read?, University of Virginia professor Mark Edmundson discusses the practice of student reviews of a teacher, then writes:…
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Poems to honor the insatiable mystery of cats
 

Poems to honor the insatiable mystery of cats

By Michael Beadle • Contributing writer Anyone who’s spent serious time with a cat knows there are a myriad of ways…
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Novel explores life in  Chairman Mao’s China
 

Novel explores life in Chairman Mao’s China

After running into numerous critical references to this little novel, which has won a series of international awards and has…
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A critic’s guide to literary genres renamed
 

A critic’s guide to literary genres renamed

Not so long ago, a neighbor in the building where I love in Montford, a budding comedian in her early…
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Stephen King’s newest is more noir than horror
 

Stephen King’s newest is more noir than horror

Each time Stephen King is interviewed, he finds himself responding to the same question: “Where do you get your ideas?”…
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Summer reading always takes a different tack
 

Summer reading always takes a different tack

For whatever reason — the leisurely pace of days, the break in my work routine, the annual trip to the…
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Harlem Hellfighters deserve their due
 

Harlem Hellfighters deserve their due

I have always been something of a fanatic about graphic novels and my collection includes Maus (which depicts the holocaust…
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Give thanks to Burroughs for telling us ‘how’
 

Give thanks to Burroughs for telling us ‘how’

This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More, For Young and…
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A story of Jackson County’s Hooper-Watson feud
 

A story of Jackson County’s Hooper-Watson feud

Since I happen to love folklore and storytelling, I have always felt blessed to be a resident of Jackson County.…
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Book examines alcohol and the writer’s life
 

Book examines alcohol and the writer’s life

Let’s begin by noting the continuing biographical interest in writers and drinking. In my own collection are Tom Dardis’s The…
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A lost soul finds a home
 

A lost soul finds a home

On a spring night in 1929, Mary Seneca Steele escapes from her home in Charleston, taking only her two children…
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Old West comes alive in Enger novel
 

Old West comes alive in Enger novel

If you love epic tales that celebrate the American West; if you treasure novels like Trail of the Lonesome Dove,…
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Trio of quality books explore facets of faith
 

Trio of quality books explore facets of faith

Back in the day when the “culture wars” focused more on literature, music and movies — Tipper Gore, for example,…
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Dark story explores love, retribution
 

Dark story explores love, retribution

I have always been drawn to authors who can seize your attention in the first paragraph and like a pit…
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A frank look at monogamy through the ages
 

A frank look at monogamy through the ages

In our tell-all age of talk shows and reality television, of Facebook and Twitter, the idea that restraint and repression…
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Social media gone awry in this compelling novel
 

Social media gone awry in this compelling novel

In recent years, I have developed a growing discomfort with the Internet. Services like Facebook, Amazon, Linked-in have become increasingly…
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The excitement in a bag full of books
 

The excitement in a bag full of books

Recently I returned from a trip to the library with a bagful of books. When handling these books in the…
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The Jane Goodall of sea turtles
 

The Jane Goodall of sea turtles

As I write this, I am wondering if I should disqualify myself from writing a review about a book written…
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A story in which nothing is as it seems
 

A story in which nothing is as it seems

Early in this novel, an old retired teacher with Alzheimer’s, mistaking a visitor for his son, gives the young man…
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Curmudgeon offers words of wisdom
 

Curmudgeon offers words of wisdom

May is fast approaching, and with May comes the season of graduations. Daughters and sons, nephews and nieces, young people…
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Bleak story has far-reaching implications
 

Bleak story has far-reaching implications

Russell Banks knows how to hook the reader’s interest. In the opening pages of Lost Memory of Skin, the book’s…
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A well-written, lively look through history
 

A well-written, lively look through history

In the first half of the fifteenth century, decades before Columbus set sail, the great Chinese admiral Zheng He commanded…
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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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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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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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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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