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The Iron Horse by Edward Marston

The Iron Horse by Edward Marston Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

Robert Colbeck, dubbed the Railway Detective by the newspapers, is investigating another murder.   As a train was being unloaded, a hatbox falls from the hands of a porter and shocks all nearby when it pops open on impact to reveal a severed head.  Who would want to transport such a deadly message in a fancy hat box? And who was it meant to scare?  

Soon, Colbeck and Leeming find out the hat box was stolen and it just so happens the buyer has a horse that will run in the Debry.  They realize that the severed head has to be connected.  This is the fourth book I have read in the series I have read.  The story flows well and I became hooked. However, toward the end, I began to feel the story dragged a bit. Luckily, the story picked back up speed and ended with a thrilling conclusion.

The Iron Horse by Edward Marston
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Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement

Waking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (Image from Amazon.com)

Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis with Michael D’Orso is a great read.  I have seen footage from the Civil Rights movement, documentary films, and heard a lot of the speeches from that time. But to read about this period from someone who lived it takes it on another level and really grabs you.  I felt it when I read two previous books on Lewis. I am sure I will feel it when I read another book about him or another member of the Civil Rights movement.

I especially felt that the last chapter, Onward, is just as relevant in 1998 when it first appeared in publication, as it does now.   Lewis was right then and his words are right now. The struggle does not stop for any of us.  We all need to know about the past to break the cycle of repetition. This includes fighting poverty, discrimination, hate crimes, re-segregating this country, and a lot more. As Lewis writes, it does get tiring, but it is a fight that cannot be stopped. There is too much on the line to do so.  

Walking in the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement
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John Lewis: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

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Since around March, I have been listening to audio-books because of a nasty concussion.   Recently, on and off, trying to read a magazine has become much easier.  My head does not spin, and my eyes are much more stable.  They do not go out of focus nearly as often as they used to.  I felt good about this and decided to go to the library and get a slender book to read.  I chose John Lewis: The Last Interview and other Conversations.

There are four interviews in all, starting with a trial transcript.  As I read it and thought about interviews later in Lewis’ life, I thought did the court clerk dumb down what Lewis said because of his race?  Or was it all the concussion he likely had at the time? Could it have been both?  

I know from a previous book I listened to about John Lewis. He went through all the grades in school and attended two universities. Lewis graduated from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, and was ordained as a Baptist minister.  Later he earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University.  Lewis spoke eloquently, and it came through how bright he was in each interview.  

The reader gets a good sense of who he was as he discusses how he became connected to the Civil Rights Movement, the training he got for sit-ins and marches to survive the beatings, and on into his days as a Congressional representative, and how he never failed to believe he could help make society better, not just for himself but everyone else too.

John Lewis: The Last Interview and Other Conversations
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Review of South to America by Imani Perry

South to America – A journey Below the Mason Dixon to Understand the Soul of the South by Imani Perry . Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

I thought South to America by Imani Perry would be in the vein of one of Dr. Angela Davis’s books, taking a look at the historical, current, and cultural events among the races. In some ways, the book does that, especially when Perry talks about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina as well as when she made a visit to Cuba. In other ways, the book is a memoir and replays her personal journey to the South below the Mason Dixie Line, where she has family and personal roots. While I do wish the book had a more critical edge, I still think Perry’s book is still worth reading for the deeply personal perspective she shares and the insights she has.

South to America – A journey Below the Mason Dixon to Understand the Soul of the South by Imani Perry
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Review of Spying on the South by Tony Horwitz

Spying on the South – book cover image from Amazon.com

Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide tells the stories of Frederick Law Omstead (as a young man and writer for the New York Daily News) across the South and the pre-Civil War era, along side the author’s,Tony Horwitz, own journey covering the same ground Omstead crossed.  He found connections between the past and 2019.  Horwitz starts in West Virginia, , spends time in Kentucky, Tennessee, along the Mississippi, in Louisiana, Texas, and on the Texas-Mexico border before heading back north to his home. (The author does not cover his trip back.)

I found the connections Horwitz makes very interesting and offer some good insights. He also points out how some parts of the South have managed to keep long ago traditions alive and manage to ignore/not speak of slavery and its brutality altogether.  I also laughed hard, especially during the mule trek.   The book is the right mix of history, commentary, and insight into culture that I have read in a long time.

Review of Audio Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Diviide
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Review of The Business of Blood by Kerrigan Byrne

The Business of Blood -Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

In London, England, Fiona Maloney makes her living cleaning up murder scenes after the corpse is removed by the coroner.  Not only does she get to restore a scene to what it was, she also gets to involve herself in murder investigations.  Fiona offers advice and insight to the police.   Her interest in murder sadly came as a result of finding her best friend Mary butchered by Jack the Ripper and, since that time, she has not stopped searching for him.  

One late night, Fiona is called to the home of a murdered man who hangs by one foot with one leg bent behind him.  Looking straight at the victim, he was gutted like a fish.  Later, looking into a bucket containing his organs, Fiona finds turquoise beads that send her on a fresh search for the Ripper.    

The reader gets to know Fiona and those in her circle, including her Aunt Nola, who supposedly speaks to the dead, her lost love Father Aidan, crime lord Jorah Roth aka the Hammer and assassin Aramis Night Horse aka the Blade and more, who are given as much definition as Fiona herself.

The historical-based mystery is not full of horror or sensationalism, but rather dives deep into various topics including religion, personal beliefs, revenge, and more.  

Review of Audio The Business of Blood by Kerrigan Byrne
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Review of the Audio Version – Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol 3

Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

The third volume of The Autobiography of Mark Twain was created from March 1907 to December 1909.   Like the first two volumes, Twain keeps the conversational dictations going that were recorded by either Twain or a stenographer. 

I am a fan of the way Twain did his autobiography and I do not mind that he did not keep it chronological.  More than once I laughed so hard I cried at Twain’s stories, he made me think about a few topics he got  philosophical about, he shared his love of family, and so much more of his private and public self. 

  Volume 3 finishes in three parts.  First are Twain’s closing words about his daughter Jean, who died on Christmas Eve 1909; next, a previously unpublished manuscript known as the The Ashcroft-Lyon Affair, where Twain writes to a dear friend about his two secretaries taking advantage of him before shifting to his thoughts on two explorers finding Antartica.  

The effort that was put into making the three volumes of The Autobiography of Mark Twain is remarkable and impressive to me. Also, Grover Gardner, who reads it, brings Twain to life through is narrative.  I am very glad that my friend Tori told me about these books.

Review of Audio Version of the Autobiography of Mark Twain Volumes 3
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Review of the audio book The Last Remains

The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths – Image from Amazon.com For many years I have read the Ruth Galloway Mystery series by Elly Griffiths. On the sixteenth of this month I completed the final book in the series.  The Last Remains provides one final mystery for DCI Nelson and his team to solve with a…

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Review of Volumes 1 & 2 of Mark Twain’s Autobiography

Autobiography of Mark Train – Image from Amazon.com

Not long ago, Tori, my land lady and friend, was reading Mark Twain’s Autobiography (first volume) at her office desk.  I recall asking her about the book and she said it was interesting and not the usual biography.  I found the audio versions of all three volumes and checked out two of them.  I finished volume one and two.

Autobiography of Mark Twain Volume 2 Image from Amazon.com

In this review I will comment on both volumes together.  I really like the format Twain decided to do his biography in.  He talks about different subjects from memory, from written records, letters, and articles. Most of these subjects are similar to each other and do not often change dramatically. 

His love for his family shines throughout the book and I really like it when he visits Susy’s diary and the biography she wrote about her father. I laughed hard at his tale of pretending to be a bear and took interest in his stories about his brother Orion, who was the first and only Secretary of the Nevada Territory.  When Twain talks about an Italian villa and its owner who will not leave, I got caught up in that too. There is so much in the first two volumes of Twain’s biography to take in.  I am enjoying it a lot and look forward to getting into volume three.

Review of The Autobiography of Mark Twain Volumes 1 and 2
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Ron Chernow’s Grant

Ron Chernow’s Grant (Book Image from Amazon.com)

I listened to the audiobook version of Ron Chernow’s Grant, which is a full account of Grant’s life.   He gives deep into who Grant was, his faults, his strengths and a lot more.   I  knew a little before listening to the book.  I did know he was a failed business person, but he thrived in the military.   After listening to Chernow’s book, there is so much more to know about Grant.   Here are a few things I learned. I did not realize his father, Jessie Grant, was a prosperous business man and that a few of Grant’s siblings followed in his footsteps.  Nor did I realize his father asked a Congressional representative to get a reluctant Grant into West Point.  However, once Grant was in, although he did not excel in his studies, his horseman ship won praise from his fellow students and instructors.   Nor did I realize Grant, as president, would send Federal troops several times into the South not only to fight the Ku Klux Klan, but also to protect African Americans so they could vote and practice other rights they gained after the Civil War, which many in the South did not want them to do.   

Ron Chernow’s book goes beyond telling the facts about Grant and instead is a thorough examination, commentary on who this important military man and later President is to our American history.  

Review of Ron Chernow’s Grant
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