Last Monday I blogged about five of the ten books I read last month. Today I’m sharing my thoughts about the other five books I read in February. Four of them are nonfiction. Any month I get to read ten books is a good month!
George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
I really liked this book! I was intrigued by the title. Although I always liked studying American history and minored in history in college, this book was full of information I’d either forgotten or never knew.
I’m going to show my ignorance here. The chapter about Benedict Arnold was especially enlightening. We all (I hope!) learned in elementary school that he was a traitor during the American Revolution. I realized when I started reading the chapter about him that that’s all I knew about him. I didn’t know what he did to betray America. If you don’t know the story, I suggest you read this book or do other research on your own. You might be surprised what you learn. Or, maybe I’m the only one who didn’t learn this bit of history.
It saddened me to learn that one of the six American spies was a woman whose name is lost to history. She is only remembered today as Number 355. Each of the spies had a three digit number, just like James Bond of 007 fame! Number 355 was found out by the British and taken prisoner on a ship in New York harbor. It isn’t known if she survived her ordeal as a prisoner of war.
Why are the contributions made by women swept under
the rug and not mentioned in history books? I know the answer. I’m just
throwing the question out in frustration for you to ponder.
In the Woods, by Tana French
I kept seeing publicity for and reviews for Tana French’s new book, The Witch Elm, and I realized I’d never read any of her books. Instead of starting with her latest, I decided to read In the Woods, which is the first book in her Dublin Murder Squad Series. It was published in 2007, and is set in the Dublin, Ireland area in 1984 and 2004.
The book begins in 1984 with the disappearance of two children and the survival of one of their companions. Then the story shifts to 2004 to Detective Bob Ryan, who sees too many similarities between his experience as that survivor and the mystery of a missing 12-year-old girl.
Bob Ryan keeps his past a secret as he and fellow-detective Cassie Maddox try to solve the girl’s disappearance. Ryan hopes in the process they will also solve the mystery of his own experience as a young boy.
That said, I did not finish reading In the Woods. The premise held such promise, but one-third of the way into the book I lost interest in the conversations the characters had that did not seem to move the story along. I wanted to like the book and read the rest of the series. But alas, there were too many other books calling my name.
Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
This book caught my attention because it had “Story Brand” in the title, but I almost didn’t read it since it had “Customers” in the subtitle. Everywhere the book said, “customer,” I mentally substituted “reader.” That worked pretty well in most cases.
I was unable to download an image of the book for my blog post today.
Here are a few takeaways from the book:
“The fact is, pretty websites don’t sell things. Words sell things.”
“The reality is we aren’t just in a race to get our products to market; we’re also in a race to communicate why our customers need those products in their lives.” (In other words, my challenge is not only getting my novel published, I must also get across to potential readers why they will benefit from reading my book.)
“The first mistake brands make is they fail to focus on the aspects of their offer that will help people survive and thrive.” (In other words, how will reading my novel help the reader thrive? Oh my!)
“The second mistake brands make is they cause their customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand their offer.” (In other words, I need to be able to “pitch” my novel is as few words as possible.)
“In a story, audiences must always know who the hero is, what the hero wants, who the hero has to defeat to get what they want, what tragic thing will happen if the hero doesn’t win, and what wonderful thing will happen if they do.” (I knew that about stories, but I didn’t know the same was true in retail.)
“If you confuse, you lose.” (Just because I know what I’m trying to say or write doesn’t mean anyone else understands it.)
Becoming, by Michele Obama
This was a book that I listened to. It was read by Michelle Robinson Obama, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her talk about her growing up years, college years, working so hard to excel in law school, meeting Barack Obama, working in a big law firm and coming to the realization that she was not going to be fulfilled by practicing law, finding a new career path, the struggles of trying so long to have children before Malia and Sasha finally came along, being under a microscope while living in the White House, and how much it hurt when people told lies about her husband and herself.
I know some people do not like Michelle Obama, and I don’t understand why. They might have a better opinion about her if they read – or better yet, listened to – Becoming. I enjoyed every bit of it!
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder
This book was recommended by one of my loyal blog readers, Alison. (She has a keen sense of humor and often reveals it in her blog, “A Pierman Sister” — https://piermanparis.com/.)
Many of the details of how venture investing works were beyond my interest or understanding, but I couldn’t seem to stop reading it.
This is the story of the author’s experience in the world of high finance in eastern Russia. What I know about high finance could easily fit on the head of a pin. I’ve never really needed to know the details of high finance. I don’t move in those circles. Nevertheless, the book is intriguing and sheds some timely light on current USA-Russia interactions.
Red Notice gives insightful background about how Russia transitioned from communism to capitalism and why capitalism doesn’t work in Russia the same way it works in America. There is a different mindset in Russia after decades of communist rule and thought.
I’ll share a few quotes from this political thriller:
“It bears mentioning that in Russia there is no respect for the individual and his or her rights. People can be sacrificed for the needs of the state, used as shields, trading chips, or even simple fodder. If necessary, anyone can disappear.”
“The moral is simple: when it comes to money, Russians will gladly – gleefully, even – sacrifice their own success to screw their neighbor.”
“The major downside to what I was doing was that I was seriously disrespecting a Russian oligarch in public, and in Russia that had often led to lethal results in the past. The imagination is a horrible thing when it’s preoccupied with exactly how someone might try to kill you.”
Seizing an opportunity that was too good to pass up, Mr. Browder founded what was to become the largest investment fund in Russia after the demise of the Soviet Union. Quoting from Goodreads.com: “But when he exposed the corrupt oligarchs who were robbing the companies in which he was investing, Vladimir Putin turned on him and, in 2005, had him expelled from Russia.”
Mr. Browder’s offices in Moscow were raided in 2007. His attorney was arrested and eventually murdered by prison guards in 2009. Mr. Browder wrote this book in an effort to bring justice for his deceased lawyer and to expose what takes place in Russian business dealings right up to Vladimir Putin.
This book should give us pause.
Since my last blog post
Two days this past week, no one from the United States has looked at my blog. What’s with that?
Carolyn W. and her team at WordPress.com continued to work on the problem I was having with the “like” buttons on other people’s blogs. They didn’t stop until they’d figured out that it was a browser issue. Now instead of using Firefox, I must use Chrome. Kuddos to WordPress.com’s support chat for getting to the bottom of this!
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’ll finish reading The Glovemaker, by Ann Weisgarber today. I’ve enjoyed it. It is set in what is now Capitol Reef National Park in Utah – a place I had the pleasure of visiting in 2002.
If you’re a writer, I have you have quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.
Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: Two Books Written by Women of Color. Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog.
Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.
Let’s continue the conversation
Have you read any of the five books I talked about today? If so, please share your thoughts with me. Have I piqued your interest in reading any of these books?
What are you reading, and would you recommend it?