Posts Tagged ‘Appalachia’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 26, 2014

I read a wide variety of books of all different genres. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. Here are five books I stumbled upon this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

The Devil's BonesThe Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass
Bill Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. There he and his team study of the science of decomposition. He also finds himself drawn into the danger and drama of the murders they are trying to solve. It starts out simply enough, a woman’s charred body in a burned out car. How did she die? Then he receives a package of strange cremated remains. Suddenly he is fighting for his life and trying to solve a crime so hideous you won’t want to believe it. Another reason to love this book is that the author, Jefferson Bass, is actually a pseudonym for Bill Bass, the real-life famous forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm, and cowriter Jon Jefferson. How cool is that!

Pioneer WomanPioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – a love story by Ree Drummond
I had never read her blog, watched her cooking show, or picked up one of her cookbooks when I stumbled on this autobiography by Ree Drummond. As someone who spent some time feeling lost and unsure about the future, I could relate to her feelings as she struggled with where her next steps should take her. She never thought that future would mean staying in rural Oklahoma. And she certainly didn’t think it would involve a cowboy! I became lost in the words, flowery and syrupy as they sometimes are, as she “accidently” found herself on a cattle ranch and having adventures she never could have pictured in her future. A great read about taking a chance on love and setting out on the path less traveled.

Dangerous PassageDangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
This is a new inspirational series introducing widowed police detective Avery North and medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Harris nicely intertwines a love story into a thrilling murder mystery. Young Asian women are being murdered and the only link between them seems to be a small tattoo of a magnolia blossom. The investigation seems to simply uncover more mysteries and cover ups. Can they solve the case before more women go missing, and will Avery be ready to open her heart to love again?


Stand Up That MountainStand Up That Mountain by Jay Erskine Leutze
If you love the outdoors, this book is for you. If you love gut wrenching legal battles, this book is for you. If you love to root for the little guy, well you get the picture. Jay has escaped his life as an attorney and retreated to the North Carolina Mountains. Living quietly as a naturalist and fisherman, he loves the Appalachian Trail. He learns from a family of “mountain people” that a mining company plans to dynamite Belview Mountain, which sits right beside the Trail. They have evidence of their less than ethical behavior and the fight is on. As an avid mountain hiker and lover of nature, this book captured me, especially since it is in our own backyard! It is hard to believe that we almost lost one of the great treasures of our state. Jay Erskine Leutze recounts his story of the ground breaking legal fight to save this tiny Appalachian community in a book that is as engaging as any fiction tale.

SubmergedSubmerged by Dani Pettrey
The old saying “you can never go home again” seemed to hold true for Bailey Craig. Yet home is exactly where she found herself, for better or worse. She left Yancey, Alaska in disgrace, now can she find forgiveness? Bailey returned to bury her beloved aunt her died in a plane crash. Was it an accident or was it murder? Cole McKenna has put his past with Bailey behind him, until she shows up in town again. Soon she is fighting for her own life. Can Cole accept that Bailey has changed and help her solve the murder before she becomes another victim? Dani Pettrey is a new author and anyone who loves Dee Henderson’s novels should check her out. This new inspirational suspense series is fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the journey with her characters.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

April 8, 2014

Flight Behavior by Barbara KingsolverDellarobia is a young housewife living on a struggling family farm in the mountains of Tennessee. She is sneaking away for an illicit affair when she stumbles across an incredible sight. Millions of Monarch butterflies have set down in a field on their land. Dellarobia is so moved by the sight she convinces her husband and father-in-law to put on hold their plan to sell logging rights to raise cash.

When word spreads, the butterflies become a worldwide sensation and focus for controversy. Visitors from all over arrive to see the wonder. Environmentalists mount campaigns to save the butterflies. The local church believes it is a sign from God. Scientists argue over climate change. News crews keep showing up on Dellarobia’s doorstep.

For Dellarobia, it means a glimpse of life outside her small world. In high school she was considered bright and had planned for college when she discovered she was pregnant. Since then she has grown stagnant living in her home town. Now, she goes to work for the scientists who have arrived to study the butterflies and she becomes wrapped up in their work. When they tell her that they will only be there for a few short months she is devastated.

Kingsolver’s novel is wonderfully written and is an insightful study of different worlds colliding. One of my favorite scenes is when an environmental activist tries to get Dellarobia to join the fight “to save the planet”. His list of things people can do to help aren’t remotely relevant to her life. Save electricity by turning off the computer? She doesn’t have one. Bring your own cup to Starbucks? There isn’t one, and they couldn’t afford it anyway. Recycle? Her husband’s truck is on its third engine and they never buy new clothes. The man becomes discouraged and leaves without talking to anyone else in the town. It is hard to reconcile that there are so many in this country living such different lives than what we think of as normal, but Kingsolver does a good job of making everyone in the book realistic and sympathetic. And by the end you are really hoping for a new life for both Dellarobia and the butterflies.

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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

July 19, 2013

bookcover.phpMy own real-life experience backpacking on the Appalachian Trail is limited to one very cold overnight trip during my college spring break. The night we spent in the trail shelter was rather unpleasant, owing to a troupe of resident skunks that refused to be evicted, but the next morning was glorious. We hiked along a ridgeline on the NC-Tennessee border, overlooking frost-covered trees on the west side of the ridge and basking in sunshine on the east side. Nothing but trees and mountains stretched away from us, as far as we could see.

Having had this one small experience, I could really appreciate this book. Bryson starts his adventure at the camping store, piling up overpriced gear of dubious necessity. He carries it all home, sets up his new tent in the basement, and sits up late reading books about bear attacks. He enlists his overweight, beer-guzzling friend Stephen Katz to accompany him on the trail (what better way to get in shape than lugging a 40-pound pack 8 hours a day over rugged terrain?). They start out cheerfully in Georgia in early March, intending to hike all the way to Maine by summer’s end. Things don’t quite work out as planned, however.

The Appalachian Trail, which runs for at least 2,100 miles along the eastern seaboard, is the oldest and until recently the longest continuous trail in the country. Bryson tells us quite a lot about its history and ecology, as well as how beautiful, rugged and yet fragile it is. Mostly, though, we get to experience the day-to-day mishaps of these two greenhorns on the trail. They meet all sorts of people, some annoyingly loquacious, some annoyingly fit, and some truly kind strangers who ease their hardships and practically save their lives. Their adventures off the trail are just as funny, as they occasionally hitchhike into a tiny mountain town to refuel, refurbish, and do their laundry. In one small town laundromat, Katz gallantly helps a woman disentangle her lingerie from the washing machine agitator (she wasn’t wearing it at the time, thank goodness). Unfortunately, this chivalrous deed arouses the anger of her rifle-toting husband, and Katz and Bryson are lucky to get out of town alive.

No matter how badly my day was going, a few minutes spent checking in on Bryson and Katz got me chuckling. However, this book also has plenty of the “wow” factor. Even though they never saw a bear or stepped over a rattlesnake, there is plenty of real danger narrowly averted and loads of breathtaking views aptly described. They might not have hiked the whole trail or stared death in the face, but as Bryson says, “I gained a profound respect for wildness and nature and . . . understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the world.”

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A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

March 28, 2013

A beautiful first novel by a writer born in North Carolina, Wiley Cash. It is a story of three generations of the Hall family, who live in western North Carolina, and the people who intersect their lives: Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife, Sheriff Clem Barefield, and the one person who plays a defining role in all their lives, Carson Chambliss, the preacher.  A preacher who speaks in tongues, who tests God will to rid people of evil by having them confront poisonous snakes and who papers over the windows of his church so no one not attending his service can be aware of what transpires inside.

The book is mostly the story of Jess Hall, the son of Bill and Julie Hall and grandson of Jim Hall, but it is the Reverend who sets the story in motion. Jess is very protective of his older brother, Christopher who is a mute and nicknamed ‘Stump ‘. And it is what happens to Stump that will either bring the community of Marshall closer together or forever divide it.

The book is divided into sections, each highlighting one of the main players while still bringing the story forward. It is a fascinating look at a part of our culture that is often ignored in today’s fast paced electronic existence. It is wonderfully written book that makes it easy to predict the author’s continued success.

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Read a previous post about this book.

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