Four Other Books I Read in November 2019

After reading seven books (and parts of a couple others) in November, It soon became obvious that I needed to split the seven read books up between two blog posts. Last week’s blog, was about three of the books I read last month. Today’s post covers the other four.

The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

#HistoricalFiction #UndergroundRailroad
The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This historical novel combines history with a touch of fantasy. The main character, Hiram, is a slave who was fathered by a Virginia plantation’s white master. Early in the book, while Hiram is a young boy, the author tells much of Hiram’s story from the point-of-view of Hiram knowing his father’s white son is his half-brother. I found that to be an intriguing way to introduce Hiram and to explore his feelings and mindset. It made me stop and think about how that reality must have felt like for slaves who had to live in situations where that was true.

In The Water Dancer, Hiram has some supernatural powers that he inherited from his slave ancestors. Those powers come in handy in his later life when he is part of the workings of the Underground Railroad. Being the child of the white master, he has a unique opportunity to study under a white tutor – who just happens to be part of the Underground Railroad.

Before reading The Water Dancer, I thought slaves had to find their own way to safe houses on the Underground Railroad after escaping. In The Water Dancer, many slaves were actually chosen by workers and agents on the Underground Railroad to be helped to escape and travel north to freedom. People involved in the Underground Railroad in The Water Dancer forged identification papers and other documents to assist slaves.

I want to learn more about the workings of the Underground Railroad after reading The Water Dancer.

Heads You Win, by Jeffrey Archer

I don’t know why, but this is the first book I’ve read by Jeffrey Archer. It certainly won’t be the last! I enjoyed listening to Heads Your Win on CD while I muddled my way through a fibromyalgia flare.

#SovietUnion #HistoricalFiction
Heads You Win, by Jeffrey Archer

This novel got a little long for me, but I found the premise of the book clever and intriguing. It starts in 1968 Soviet Union. Alexander’s father is murdered for trying to organize a trade union. Alexander and his mother flee to the docks where they must decide whether to be smuggled onto a ship heading to America or one heading to England.

At this point, the plot splits into two scenarios. One assumes they get on the ship to America, and it follows Alexander’s business life in pizza parlors. Through a friend, he gets involved in the underworld of priceless art. The other scenario assumes Alexander (a.k.a., Sasha) and his mother get on the ship to England where Alexander gets involved in politics.

The story alternates between Alexander and Sasha and illustrates just how much in our lives can depend on “the luck of the draw.” Alexander and Sasha both wonder from time-to-time how their lives would have turned out differently if they’d chosen “the other crate” at the dock.

In checking reviews of Heads You Win, I discovered reactions all across the spectrum. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book get reviews so evenly spread between one, two, three, four, and five stars.

Many reviews state that the ending of the book confused them. I’ll add myself to that category. Someone I thought was dead, apparently wasn’t. And then the very last sentence in the book is one many readers say they didn’t see coming.

The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell

This was the first book I’ve read by Lisa Jewell. The Family Upstairs is a psychological thriller. It might have been easier for me to follow in written form, but I listened to it on CD. The repeated use of the “f-word” might have been easier to take in written form, too. I guess some people have a limited vocabulary and talk like that all the time. This appears to be the case with one of the characters.

#FamilySecrets #FamilyDynamics
The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell

Twenty-five years ago, police found the parents dead in their home. All their children were missing except for their 10-month-old daughter who was found unscathed. The baby is adopted and her name becomes Libby Jones. She knows nothing of her biological family. Fast-forward 25 years and Libby receives a letter informing her that she has inherited the mansion in Chelsea that had belonged to her parents.

Libby learns who she was, and her long-lost siblings start coming out of the woodwork. This isn’t my type of book. I found it to be very strange.

Selected Poems, by Carl Sandburg

I borrowed this book from the public library early in the month and enjoyed reading ten pages of Carl Sandburg’s poetry each day until I finished it. There were poems I was familiar with along with many that I’d never read. I’d forgotten how raw Carl Sandburg’s poetry was.

Reading this collection of his poetry brought to my attention more than ever before just how far removed his retirement home in the mountains of North Carolina was from the rough and tumble life in Chicago that he wrote about so eloquently.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading A Woman is No Man, by Etaf Rum.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

If you enjoy my blog posts, please share that on social media and with your real life friends. Don’t be shy about telling others about my blog!

Let’s continue the conversation

I’m always interested to know what you’re reading. What are you reading or what have you read recently that you’d recommend to others?


What I read in September

My first blog post each month is about the books I read during the previous month. Maybe my comments about those books will prompt you to read (or not read) one of my choices.

The Woman in Cabin 10

The first book I finished reading in September was the psychological crime thriller, The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware. This novel took me out of my reading comfort zone. Early on lots of characters were introduced and it was a little daunting to keep them straight; however, each one’s personality soon came through and prevented confusion. The author is British, so occasionally there was a word that prompted me to use the definition feature on my e-reader. Reading The Woman in Cabin 10 makes me want to read Ruth Ware’s first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, even though its review are all over the place.

Prayers the Devil Answers

The second book I read in September was Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb. Inspired by on event that took place in Kentucky in 1936, this novel is the story of a woman who became a county sheriff in Tennessee after her husband’s death. Albert, her husband, had only been the county sheriff for a short time when it became ill and died in a few days. His widow, Ellie, quickly figured out that she needed to find a way to support herself and their two children.

As only Sharyn McCrumb can do, she spins a story about a strong female protagonist and backs up the tale with numerous threads that made up the fiber of the fearlessly independent residents of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the days of the Great Depression. The story includes murder and betrayal and, all the while, Ellie faces a task that will test her mettle. To tell you more would spoil the book for you.

Child 44

The other book I read in September was Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith. It is a murder mystery/historical thriller set in the former Soviet Union in the 1950s. I discovered Child 44 in a roundabout way. I started reading The Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith only to find out I had started reading the second book of the Child 44 Trilogy. I stopped reading The Secret Speech and checked out Child 44. Mr. Smith paints a picture of what Stalin’s Russia must have been like. No one trusted anyone and members of the secret police were everywhere.

The main plot is the story of Leo Demidov taking it upon himself to track down a serial killer. The State denied that any of the murders could be connected and, in fact, denied that most of them had occurred. Although some details were unpleasant to read, I found this novel to be a page-turner.

Child 44 was Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel. All quotes are in italics, which sometimes pulled me out of the story; however, from a writer’s point of view, I recognize that eliminated the necessity for quotation marks. That format distracted me. It also made it difficult at times to remember who was speaking.

Until my next blog post in a few days, I hope you have a good book to read and, if you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.