Thursday, April 9, 2020

Books From The Backlog #41

Books from the Backlog, hosted by Carole's Random Life in Books, is a fun way to feature some of those neglected books sitting on your shelf unread.

I am featuring books in the order that they were added to my Goodreads To-Read shelf, so sometimes there will be a couple weeks in a row of books on the same topic.

Neglected Book of the Week

Why did I add Lady Jane Grey to my TBR?

Because her life is endlessly tragic yet fascinating. Mary was the rightful heir, and Jane had little say when the crown was forced atop her head. But who knows what kind of ruler she might have been, given the chance. By all accounts she was intelligent and well-educated. She might have made a great queen. However, the game her elders played was dangerous and they should have realized that Mary would inspire great support from the people because her mother had been so dearly loved.

Have you read this book, or is it somewhere on your TBR? If you've read it, would you recommend it to others?

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Book Review | What We Forgot To Bury

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Rating: ⭐⭐


I chose this title as my First Reads from Prime this month and I am at least happy that no money was spent in acquiring this title.

I really wanted to like this one because the premise was interesting and had me hooked. Sadly, it took forever for me to actually get into it. The story is told from alternating viewpoints of Charlotte and Elle, whose lives intersect in a pretty horrible way, though Charlotte doesn't know that.

Charlotte is locked away in her gated community with a husband who has to travel constantly for work. She is extremely cautious and fearful of the outside world due to reasons we discover along the way, thanks to Elle, the high school senior who 'accidentally' befriends her.

It's not a terrible story, but some of the parts were incredibly predictable, though there were a couple twists I did not see coming. I was not sure how the ending would play out, so that was a relief at least, even though I had guessed bits and pieces. I never expect a book to completely surprise me 100%, that is impossible. But there should not be some things that are so obvious, it's not even fair. Luckily this book did not have many of those moments.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a minor character who is actually pretty major but does not seem that way for most of the book, all of these people suck. None of them are even a bit likable and it was hard to care about what happened to any of them. I will be the first person to say that characters don't have to be likable for a book to be good (and I LOVE an unreliable narrator, usually) but there were none here. Literally none. NONE.

Everyone is lying, the end.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Tackling the TBR Week 13: April 1 - April 7, 2020

My TBR has been out of control for YEARS. Then in January of 2019 I started tracking weekly my true reading/acquiring habits, and voila! I have been able to keep on top of things a little bit better. I may never get below 1,000 books, but at least I won't be topping out over 5,000! When a book cover is linked, it goes to the review here on my blog.

I will be posting on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the last day of the month. Feel free to join in if you'd like!

Warning: I went on a NetGalley bender and the numbers are terrible.


Previous Week's TBR Total: 3,109

Currently Reading:  
17914369 41104077. sy475  5334090 359139
52950729. sx318 sy475  18875955 45046797 45046716 

Books Added to TBR: 
20923140 29743272. sy475  42290745. sy475  49128496 43561506 52880216. sx318 sy475  The Lost Pianos of Siberia 49348736 45551432. sx318  48994779 50765199. sx318 sy475  51352065 47355608. sy475  52578667 52950729. sx318 sy475  48509766. sx318  48647491  48590071 12595893 52322053 50189951 52756711. sx318 sy475
Books Removed from TBR: 1 

Books Read:        
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42290745. sy475  33230891

Books DNF-ed: 1

Duplicates Removed: 1

New TBR Total: 3,125

Any of these catch your eye? Have you already read any? Let me know!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday, 2020

It is officially Palm Sunday. and a day I look forward to every year, because of this book:


I read this book every year during Holy Week. The author lays out each day what is written in each of the books of the Gospel side by side so we see the similarities and differences from each account, then provides commentary and explanation for various events and what they mean. There are also a plethora of diagrams and maps to aid the reader. I say this every year, but I love this book so so SO much.

Palm Sunday and Easter will be so strange this year. I can't imagine not celebrating Easter with those I love so much, celebrating the fact that Jesus died for us and rose again. But this isolation is necessary and I fully support services being cancelled for the good of the public and those who are most vulnerable especially.

Be safe, my friends

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Mini Reviews | Natural Disasters

Much like my most recent post discussing books about man-made disasters, I think I am devouring books on natural disasters for some of the same reasons. We have to be hopeful, we have pray, and we have to do the things we are required to do in order to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. 

25634151. sy475  ⭐⭐⭐

This was a brief, factual account of a devastating hurricane that struck the Cedar Keys at the end of the 19th century. I always find it interesting how natural disasters were watched and communities recovered from them long before technology came along that could help either process. In the time before hurricanes were given names, they were simply numbered, and Hurricane Number 4 did quite a number on Cedar Keys. The destruction crippled the island. Buildings and people were washed away with ease.

This is another factual account, written as such without a narrative style that many seem to prefer when reading non-fiction. The author uses many firsthand accounts to describe what happened to the people that early morning, and many photos as well. The books is fairly short, and I feel like this is because there is simply not as much information about this event than there are of those that came later, even by a few years. Still, it is a decent introduction into the disaster.

40682437. sy475  ⭐⭐

This book started off really strong and I was impressed by the wealth of information that the author had access to. She weaves an incredible story of a town that expected rain and instead were confronted with a massive F5 tornado that claimed dozens of victims by the time it was over. The town of Rocksprings was small, less than one thousands people. Many had plans that evening to attend a show that evening at the school. Instead, their plans changed the moment hail began raining down on them, smashing windows and roofs. It took less than ten minutes to flatten nearly the entire town, kill nearly 80 people, and injure more than 150. What makes this all the more worse is that some of the victims were never found, and I can't imagine dealing with that kind of pain, knowing that you were not able to protect your loved ones, and had to live the rest of your life never knowing where they came to rest.

Those who were not injured sought to help immediately, however they could. There was a story of two men leaving town to get help. Due to the heavy rains, roads were very slick. They told how the car slid, ended up rolling twice before landing right side up again, and off they went to get helped for their community.

The author told the actual story of the tornado and its destruction so well, using so many sources - historical records, newspaper accounts, personal accounts - that is was deeply disappointing in the way the rest of the information was laid out. The story was told in chronological order, so naturally the most content was devoted to that date and the events that occurred then. Eventually the dated sections became brief statements of how people died, or other connected events as we moved further away from April 12th, 1927. The final section was the dedicated to each of the families impacted and conveyed so much of the same information already found elsewhere in the text. The only additional facts provided were what, if anything, was known about those families long after the tornado.

Recommended with caution, due to repetitive information in final section of book.

Mini Reviews | Man-Made Disasters

I have been on a man-made disaster binge lately and I mentioned before that I think it is partly because of the disaster all around us right now that is also man-made; our idiot-in-chief is certainly not helping here in the US, and is in fact out-right LYING - as is his cheering squad over at Faux News.

 Reading about past pandemics would make me feel worse, so instead I have found books involving other kinds of disasters - train wrecks, explosions, fires. Even so, in these stories there is hope because there are always people willing to help, to put themselves in harm's way to save the life of another, even if that person is a complete stranger. Despite the loss of life in these true stories, we can take hope from them as well. If everyone does their part and what they are supposed to do, we will be okay.

25684554. sy475  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here is another event that I knew nothing about, which surprised me given the time period that it happened in - 1944. The loss of life was quite large, and so many were children. Nearly 7,000 fans had entered the big top, ready for a fun afternoon provided by the Ringling Brothers. Somehow, and the cause is discussed but never 100% determined, the tent caught fire and panic set in. There were not enough exits for the thousands of spectators, and one of the exits was even blocked by an animal ramp so people were having to try to climb over, which slowed so many down and increased the number dead. Then the whole tent itself collapsed and anyone still alive perished within minutes. 168 people died that day, with hundreds more injured.

This is a quick read of only 144 pages, but it is packed with information. The author uses so many sources, including firsthand accounts given by witnesses, as well as interviews with survivors. I was also impressed with the exhaustive amount of photos and diagrams included, as they greatly aided in telling the dramatic and terrifying story.

Roughly 40% of the book is dedicated to identifying the victims. This is the best I have seen done in any of the disaster books I have read lately, because here the victims are identified by name and, when available, photographs. As happens all too often, victims get lumped together and lose their identity. Not so in this case and for that I am grateful because those who died deserve to be remembered. What made this section so overwhelming, however, is that the majority of the victims were children. This is a crucial, but devastating, section of the story.

Random Fact: Charles Nelson Reilly was at the circus that day and escaped the tent before it collapsed.

Overall I found this to be a concise and factual account of a major tragedy. I appreciate that the space today is marked with a monument to the victims, located at exactly the point where the middle tent post stood. This memorial was unveiled on the 60th anniversary of the fire. It lists the names of all those who died, accompanied by a diagram of the tent.

One thing that is frustrating here, is that no cause was ever determined. The farthest any investigation got was that it started near the men's restroom, which was attached to the main tent. There was a man who confessed to starting the fire, but recanted, and there are a whole slew of reasons he should and should not be believed. It is thought that a dropped cigarette could have started the blaze, but it is unlikely we will ever know for sure what caused the fire that terrible day.

27261466. sy475  ⭐⭐⭐

On June 23rd, 1900 Engine #7 and its passengers were due in Atlanta. The problem was, a massive storm was raging and the train waited for quite some time before finally being given the green-light to continue on its way from McDonough. This area of Georgia had seen rainstorms for WEEKS. With one storm after another filling rivers and creeks beyond capacity, on this night disaster struck. The water in the Camp Creek had rushed forward so quickly, it had eroded the bridge supports holding the tracks in place. As Engine #7 crossed the bridge, it gave way. Only nine people aboard survived, the rest were killed in the wreck, the ensuing fire, or the creek itself.

So I am kind of perplexed with this one and how to truly rate it, because author perspective does matter. An Author's perspective dictates how he or she writes. In giving a history of the area prior to the crash, the author relates how the town came to be a suburb of Atlanta over decades. It is when he is describing the Civil War that troubles me however, because in one of the many photos provided throughout the book, one is captions as "A nighttime view of the monument of Colonel Charles T. Zachry, Civil War hero of McDonough, located in the square downtown" (15%).

Hold up a second. You don't get to call someone a "Civil War Hero" if they fought for the South. You can call someone a dirty treasonous traitor, which is accurate. Never a hero. NEVER. Don't come at with the "States' rights" bullshit argument. Yes, the Civil War was about states' rights. STATES' RIGHTS TO OWN SLAVES. Fuck off with every other pathetic argument, good-bye.

So, back to the book.

This gave me pause because I wondered how the rest of the story would then be told, and what kind of bias there might be, intended or otherwise. I did not seem to find any, and in fact found the author gave explicit praise to various African Americans for their acts that night. He first mentions a railroad employee by the name of T.C. Carter who aided survivors in escaping the rail cars, all while dealing with the intense pain of a dislocated hip. He also wrote of how the train's flagman, J.J. Quinlan was able to scale the embankment - no easy task as the ground continued to give way beneath him - and alert people along the way that there had been a wreck and they needed help.

"As he made his way up the track, he passed the houses of several African American families. Waking them up, he told them of the wreck and said that their help was needed to rescue survivors. He instructed them to gather all of the rope they could find and take it with them to the washout. Quinlan knew this was the only way the survivors could be pulled out of the chasm below the tracks. Although unnamed, these African American residents neat McDonough responded quickly and heroically" (40%).

So, I don't really know what else to say about this, except that calling confederates 'Civil War heroes' really bothers me.

One of the great mysteries of this wreck is the story of a mother and babe who perished. Or didn't. No one really knows for sure. What is known is that there was a woman and her infant on board the train, and that they were thought to have left that train before the stop at McDonough. Yet there were reports of a clothe diaper found downstream, still pinned, indicating it had been washed off the child.

"Why did the rescuers report seeing a woman and baby lifeless on the creek bank and then washed downstream? were they delirious from their work, or is it possible that there was another woman onboard in another car? Perhaps we will never know if this woman was involved in the crash. Several bodies were never recovered, and it might be that she and her baby were two of them" (49%).

Subplots like this one make these disasters stories so much worse, because there is that aspect of not knowing. To me it is a terrible thing to have potential victims never able to be acknowledged because we know nothing about them, their names, or if they are even real. The only survivors of this wreck were those in the back, in the Pullman car. Those in the locomotive and first two train cars were killed in a variety of horrible ways, and in most cases were unable to be identified by sight. The dead were not able to recovered until the fire was out, which was not until the following morning. Those still within the wreck and not washed away by the rushing water were disfigured and/or burned beyond recognition, so they had to be identified by whatever documents or paper that were in their pockets. Who really knows then how many bodies were never recovered?

All in all, this is quick read about another disaster that was not entirely preventable. It was preventable in terms of having workers out constantly checking the bridge supports during the string of such terrible storms, but on that specific night it would have been impossible to be monitoring due to the heavy winds and rain.


Book Review | The Silver Bridge Disaster of 1967


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It was probably really stupid of me to read this because I really hate bridges. Gephyrophobia is a thing and it is the scientific name for people like me who have major bridge-phobia. I hate driving over them and under them and I ESPECIALLY hate being stopped under or on one in traffic. I am so glad I do not have to regularly drive on the interstate anymore to get to work, because so much about bridges are super stressful to me. I am not sure when this fear started, but it was heightened exponentially in August of 2007 when the I35W Mississippi Rover Bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour. I've driven over that bridge a million times in my life, and the same goes for many of my family members. What made that night even worse was that it was nearly impossible to get a hold of ANYONE in my family, as I was living in Nebraska by then. Every phone I called, whether it was a land line or a cell phone just gave me a busy signal and it was like that for HOURS. I watched footage over and over of the collapse and rescue efforts and had to wait anxiously to make sure all my loved ones were safe. Luckily they were not among the killed, but that still means that dozens other families and friends were left to grieve.

Such grief is what so many families in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Kanauga and Gallipolis, Ohio and beyond had to deal with just ten days before Christmas in 1967. The bridge was completed in 1928, considered an engineering marvel at the time of its construction. During rush hour nearly 40 years later the bridge collapsed, trapping or killing travelers instantly as vehicles plunged into the freezing cold water of the Ohio River below. Rescue attempts commenced immediately, but the job was made difficult by the coming nightfall, and terrible weather for the following days. Rescue also quickly turned to recovery, as the water temperatures made it difficult to survive very long. In the end, 46 people died that day due to faulty design that in hindsight seems so obvious. The bridge supports were constructed with an eyebar designed, but because of the way the eyebars linked together, parts were hidden by the next link; even when the bridge was inspected for safety, corrosion and cracks went undetected. Combined with the weight of rush hour traffic that December night, an eyebar finally gave way on the Ohio side of the bridge, causing all the others in the chain to immediately fail as well.

I did not read the cover very carefully at first, and did not realize this book was part of a series called 'Images of America'. At first it struck me as odd that there were SO MANY photos with extensive captions, but very little blocks of text. However, once I figured that out, the organization of information made a lot more sense.

This is a quick read, but even then it is still packed with information and photographs from the disaster, as well as of the victims, which were graciously donated by their families. This short history details the life of the bridge, starting with its construction in 1927-1928 and through the investigation. Each chapter begins with a short summary of a few paragraphs, and then begins the photos with the captions explaining each picture. Even with the story being told largely through the photos and captions, I don't feel like it was lacking in any information or details. We see both the before and after, and how the communities responded to the disaster.

There was one statement early on, around 9%, that said, "Thankfully, bridge collapses are rare. Most bridges are well-built, well maintained, and perfectly safe." That is partially true, but after the 2007 collapse of I35W that I mentioned above, inspections showed that numerous bridges have been found deficient and in need of repair. I did some research on this while writing this review and found statistics from 2019 that roughly 47,000 bridges in the US are 'structurally deficient'. You can check out the NPR article here if you are interested in reading more. Basically, almost 10% of the bridges in the US are not safe. That's a lot, to me at least. Our infrastructure is crumbling and we need to make these repairs as soon as possible.

Here are a few quotes I highlighted that were of interest

"A total of 38 vehicles were on the bridge at the time. Of these, 31 fell into the river or became enmeshed in a debris pile on the Ohio shoreline. The other seven were on the bridge approach and did not fall. In all, 64 people fell with the bridge, 46 of whom were killed. Each victim faced their own personal hell during the disaster. About 80% of the who died drowned. The other died from severe trauma. Two victims disappeared into the river and were never recovered" (26%).

"In many cases, victims' bodies were not removed from the vehicles until they were out of the water, so special care had to be taken during recovery to make sure the vehicles were handled as gently as possible" (56%). I can't even imagine having that job, of pulling the vehicles from the river.

"Photographs of the bodies were not permitted. Official government photographers did not take pictures of the victims, and police asked civilians not to photograph vehicles with bodies inside. When an overzealous cameraman ignored this request, a frustrated deputy threw the man's camera into the river" (58%). Good! How disgusting. People can be such vultures.

Overall, this was an engaging account of a tragedy that could have been prevented. The mistake seems so obvious to us now, parts of the structure unable to be viewed by inspectors - how could this happen?! But at the time this design was considered innovative and state-of-the-art.