Reading in April 2018

My first blog post of the month is usually about the books I read the previous month and sometimes a little about my writing. In recent months I’ve read so many books on occasion I’ve had to split the post in half. This is not the case today.

The Last Child, by John Hart

Knowing that John Hart’s sequel to The Last Child was being released, I got on the waitlist for the sequel at the public library and then hurriedly read The Last Child. It was awarded the Edgar Award in 2010 for Best Novel.

The Last Child was a good read. Mr. Hart made me really like the troubled 13-year-old boy, Johnny Merrimon, and the police detective, Clyde Hunt, who took a personal interest in Johnny and tried to guide him and keep him on the straight and narrow.

Johnny’s twin sister disappears and he takes it upon himself to find her. Everyone else thinks she’s dead, but Johnny is on a mission to find her when a second local girl disappears. Mr. Hart’s gift for descriptive writing puts the reader smack dab in the rural North Carolina setting of this book.

The Hush, by John Hart

I liked The Last Child. I liked the characters and I appreciated and enjoyed Mr. Hart’s writing style and talent. I couldn’t wait to get The Hush to see what happened to Johnny, Jack (Johnny’s friend), Detective Hunt, and Johnny’s mother ten years after The Last Child. I actually read 1bout 60 pages the first night I had it, but I struggled through the rest of the book.

It is my policy not to comment on books I read that I don’t like. I’m not a book reviewer. I just like to share books that I have enjoyed reading. The Hush, by John Hart just didn’t appeal to me. Since I’d enjoyed The Last Child and subsequently read its sequel, The Hush, I felt compelled to comment on it as well.

The writing was great, but mystical, paranormal stories just aren’t my cup of tea. I kept thinking the plot would move beyond the swamp which had bizarre effects on everyone who ventured into it, but it just got deeper into the weirdness. I read until the very end, but it was more work than pleasure. Again, I’m just not a fan of that type of book. Don’t judge it by me. You might like it.

The Family Next Door, by Sally Hepworth

The Family Next Door is the third of Sally Hepworth’s novels I’ve read. In case you missed them, here are the links to the blog posts in which I commented on The Mother’s Promise and The Things We KeepWhat I Read in April (posted May 2, 2017) and You Must Read (Some of) These Books! (posted July 3, 2017).

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
The Family Next Door, by Sally Hepworth

Ms. Hepworth is from Australia and all her novels are set there. The Family Next Door is set in a neighborhood in Melbourne in which it is assumed every house will be bought and lived in by a young couple with children. When Isabelle, a single woman, moves in next door to Essie, she and all her neighbors speculate that Isabelle is a lesbian.

Since I am a single woman, this struck a nerve with me. Married people often assume that all single people are homosexuals. Another false assumption that many married women make – and which was demonstrated in this novel – is that all single women who are not lesbians are a threat to them because we want their husbands. This is also a myth.

Perhaps you can see why I was drawn into this book and had to keep reading to see how Isabelle’s life unfolded and what was going to happen to Essie and each of her neighbors. It turned out that each couple in the neighborhood harbored secrets. There wasn’t a perfect marriage in the bunch. I won’t spoil the book for you by telling you Isabelle’s story. I’ll just say there are some unexpected twists in the story.

Sally Hepworth’s 2019 novel is titled The Mother-in-Law. I’ve never had one of those, but you can be sure I’ll be on the waitlist for it at the public library as soon as it’s on order.

 

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Divine Prey Noramgaell Saga Book 1), by Chris Andrews. Chris writes fantasy, which is another genre out of my comfort zone; however, Chris has been so generous with his writing advice that I really want to read his book. It’s his debut novel. If you’re a fan of fantasy, please look for it. Like Sally Hepworth, Chris lives in Australia. His book and several collections of his short stories are available from Amazon.

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

Feel free to share my blog posts on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or with your friends via email.

Thank you for reading my blog! What book are you reading? Do you ever read something out of your comfort zone? If so, how did it make you feel? Perhaps you discovered a new favorite genre you didn’t expect. Or perhaps it turned you off to all reading for a while. Share you experience below in the comments section.

Janet

What I Read in April

The Heavens May Fall

I had missed knowing that Allen Eskens’ third book, The Heavens May Fall, was released in October. When I found out about it, I immediately got on the wait list for it at the public library. Mr. Eskens writes legal thrillers. This one did not disappoint, as it kept me guessing who the killer was.

Last week I learned that Mr. Eskens’ fourth book, The Deep Dark Descending, will be released on October 3, 2017. It continues the story of homicide detective Max Rupert. I look forward to it!

Where I Lost Her

T. Greenwood was a new author for me. I read her 2016 novel, Where I Lost Her. It is about a woman, Tess, and her husband from New York who go to rural Vermont to visit friends. One night, while driving alone, Tess sees a little girl standing in the road. She stops to help, but the girl runs away into the woods.

When a search turned up nothing and there are no reports of a missing child, local officials begin to doubt Tess. Added to the lack of evidence is the fact that Tess and her husband have gone through unsuccessful fertility treatments and Tess is desperate to have a child. Locals label her a trouble maker from outside.

Tess knows what she saw, though, and she continues to search for the little girl even though that search puts her in incredible physical danger. I’ll probably read other books written by Ms. Greenwood.

The Mother’s Promise

Sally Hepworth was another new author for me in April. I read her 2017-released novel, The Mother’s Promise. The book follows a single mother, Alice, and her teenage daughter, Zoe, who has no social graces or self-confidence. Alice has promised to always be there for Zoe, but a diagnosis of ovarian cancer tears their world apart.

As Alice’s illness progresses, Zoe gradually gains confidence and begins to take a more active part in her classes. A cast of minor characters move this story through some surprising twists and turns. I found myself really caring about Alice and Zoe.

In Order to Live:  A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

In spite of my memory problems, a book that will stay with me for a long time is In Order to Live:  A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, by Yeonmi Park. Written in 2015, this nonfiction book is a memoir of a young woman who was born in and grew up in North Korea. Reading the harrowing story of Ms. Park’s childhood of hunger, governmental brainwashing, escape to China, and eventual escape to South Korea will have you turning the pages to find out what happens next.

This is a story of personal strength, the love of a family, and the will to live. Ms. Park’s story is one that is so far removed from my own experience, I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t fiction. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially during this time of high tension between the United States and North Korea.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet

1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment

On the 20th day of the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge, the featured letter is “T.” Most people don’t enjoy reading about taxes, but today I am blogging about the 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment. I can safely say that there is only one Cabarrus County in the United States, and it is located in the southern piedmont of North Carolina.

What’s so special about it?

Cabarrus County is one of the few North Carolina counties for which the 1863 Tax Assessment records exist.

It is sobering to read the pages of the 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment. It is a list of every slave owner in Cabarrus County, North Carolina at that time, along with the name, age, physical condition, and monetary value of each of their slaves. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to read this tax document through African American eyes.

I was pleased to find these records in 2003 when I was compiling a list of the 1,000+ slaves and free persons of color who were members of or were baptized at Rocky River Presbyterian Church between Concord and Harrisburg in Cabarrus County prior to 1870. I was able to supplement the church’s records with these tax records for my privately printed-on-demand booklet, “Slaves and Free Blacks Known to be Associated with Rocky River Presbyterian Church Prior to 1870.”

The following is a slightly edited version of one of my local history newspaper columns published in 2006 in Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper. The name of my column was, “Did You Know?” The original version of the article can be found on my website at http://janetmorrisonbooks.com/1863%20tax.html.

Did You Know?

Did you know that Cabarrus County is one of the few counties in North Carolina for which the 1863 Tax Assessment records exist? It wasn’t until I inquired in Charlotte and at the State Archives in Raleigh that I learned that no such records survived for Mecklenburg County.

“What’s the big deal?” you may ask.

The Congress of the Confederate States of America passed Statute 177 on August 19, 1861, which authorized the levying of a tax to help finance the Southern states’ government and military during the American Civil War. A tax rate of fifty cents per $100 valuation was established.

Taxable property included “real estate, slaves, merchandise, stocks, securities, money, and other property.” Subsequent legislation expanded the list in April, 1863, to include agricultural products, many occupations and trades, some businesses, and income.

The Cabarrus County Board of Assessors met at the courthouse in Concord on April 9, 1863. The Board increased the values of thirteen pieces of property in District (now Township) One and then recorded the names of all taxpayers by district.

The 1863 Cabarrus Tax Assessment records list each property owner in alphabetical order by district. The districts of 1863 essentially coincide with today’s townships. There are columns for number of acres of land owned, value per acre, and total value. The river or creek on which the land lay is also indicated.

In 1863, real estate in what is now Township One (the township in which Rocky River Presbyterian Church is located) ranged in value from $6 to $400 per acre. Most land was valued in the $6 to $20 per acre range. One of the exceptions was the half acre of land owned by Howie and Johnston, mercantile business partners in Harrisburg. Although their store closed in 1858, the property was valued at $200 in 1863.

It is interesting to read about the old land values and to think how things have changed, but the most intriguing part of the 1863 Tax Assessment records for me is the list of slaves. Under each slave holder is a list of their slaves by name. The age of each slave is given, along with their value. In cases of physical or mental disability, the type of disability is listed.

Pattern in slaves’ monetary value

There is a definite pattern in how the slaves were valued. Male children were generally valued at the rate of $100 for each year of their age, while female children were valued at $50 less. Slaves less than one year old were valued at $100. Young adult female slaves were typically valued at around $1,400, while young adult male slaves were valued around $1,600. The value of a slave in his or her late 30s began to decrease.

Two slaves listed as being blacksmiths were valued at $1,800 each, which was the highest value of any slaves in Township One.

It is sobering to read the names of the slaves and to see a monetary value placed on them. As an amateur genealogist and historian, I see tremendous value in the records.

Sources I used

1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment List on microfilm at the Lore Local History Room, Cabarrus County Public Library, Concord, North Carolina

The Confederacy:  A Guide to the Archives of the Government of the Confederate States of America, by Henry Putney Beers, 1968.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. (After reading one-third of Bittersweet, by Colleen McCullough, I decided I wasn’t interested enough in the story to finish the book. I’m reading The Mother’s Promise, by Sally Hepworth.)

If you are a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet