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, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/12/02/i-stretched-my-reading-horizons-in-november/ 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?

Janet

Do you have a TBDWIROOSMTTL list?

Disclaimer:  Today’s post is just for laughs.

Photo by Zbysiu Rodak on Unsplash.

My head is exploding! Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t want to go back to the life my fore-mothers lived.

They cooked over an open fire, and they had no matches. They beat their clothes clean on a rock in a creek after making their own soap. They got their news when it was weeks or months old — or not at all.

Most of them back through the centuries couldn’t read or write. They had almost none of the things I take for granted; however, they weren’t bothered with social media. For that, many days, I envy them.

I remember the days before social media. My great-nieces are in high school and college. They do not.


Subreddits

I’ve whined about social media before, and I’ll probably whine about it again if I continue to write a blog. The latest thing that got my ire up about social media is something called Subreddits.

Actually, Subreddits themselves did not get my ire up, since I didn’t know what they were. What grabbed my attention and, for a while at least, served as the proverbial last straw for me, was they (i.e., Subreddits) were just one more thing about which I had been blissfully ignorant. One more word I didn’t know. One more thing that meant the world was whizzing past me.


My #TBDWIROOSMTTL List

I’ve had a vague idea about Reddit for a year or so. It was something on my ever-growing to-be-done-when-I-run-out-of-social-media-things-to-learn list. That’s my “TBDWIROOSMTTL” List.


Back to Reddits

I’m not picking on Reddit. I actually have no opinion about Reddit. I’ve never tried it. I have enough trouble keeping up with several social media outlets without adding one more to the mix. I just never gave much thought to Reddit.

Then, one day in October while I was on vacation, I explored some of the never-used features on my iPhone. I discovered that, if I had a clue how to work the thing, I could create a Subreddit. It was a new word for me. I didn’t have a clue what a Subreddit was or why or if I needed to create one.


Janice Wald’s blog post about Subreddits

Lo and behold, just three days later, Janice Wald’s “Mostly Blogging” blog post (https://www.mostlyblogging.com/r-nsfw-gif-hot-subreddits/) was about Subreddits. There was that word again, and I still didn’t know what it was.

Curiosity got the best of me. With a blog post title like, “These 26 Subreddits will Make You Know More,” by Janice Wald, how could I resist? I had to find out how Subreddits could “make” me know more. I’m sort of from the camp of people who say, “You can’t make me!” so that alone in the title intrigued me.

Right off the bat, the blog post said that I needed to use Subreddits if I expected to have any success online, but I still didn’t know what a Subreddit was. I read on.

Soon, more new words were being thrown at me. “Redditors” (Reddit users) to name one. I learned that there are more than 138,000 Subreddits. Boy, did I feel stupid!

Ms. Wald’s blog post listed four reasons why I should use Reddit:

                1.  Reference information for blog posts.

                2.  Learn about your content area.

                3.  Network.

                4.  Blog promotion.

That list was very convincing. As a blogger and an aspiring novelist, I need all four of those things. I read on.

Ms. Wald went on to list the 26 favorite Subreddits of the 26 Redditors she surveyed. The list ran the gambit from r/houseplants to r/Howard Stern, but somewhere in the middle I found a possible home for myself.

In the coming days I might explore Reddit and check out Subreddits like r/askhistorians and r/blogging. When I read that the r/blogging Subreddit already had more than 40,000 members, though, it made me realize how I will forever play catch-up when it comes to social media.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell.

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.


Let’s continue the conversation

Whining about social media doesn’t make it better. Whining about it doesn’t make it go away. Perhaps my whining about it today brought a smile to your face.

How do you cope with the ever-expanding world of social media? How do you keep up? How do you try to keep up? Do you try to keep up? Should I just stop while I’m behind? Do you have a “TBDWIROOSMTTL” list?

Janet

#OnThisDay: Time Zones, Mickey Mouse, Push-Button Phones, & Daguerrerotype?

Occasionally, I write about little-known facts in history. These sometimes fall on the anniversary of the event. Today’s blog post falls on the 136th anniversary of railroads adopting standard time zones in the United States. It’s Mickey Mouse’s 91st birthday, and it was 56 years ago today that the first push-button telephones went into service for the first time as an alternative to rotary-dial phones. This is the 230th anniversary of the birth of Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre.

Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney’s first animated cartoon talking picture, Steamboat Willie, debuted at the Colony Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1928. It was also Mickey Mouse’s debut. The rest, as they say, is history.

Push-Button Telephones

As stated above, push-button telephone service was introduced on November 18, 1963. There was a catch, though. That service was only available in Carnegie and Greensburg, Pennsylvania in the beginning. “Touch Tone” service was available for a fee.

It took a while for this new-fangled technology to reach rural North Carolina where I lived. In 1963, I think our family was on a 10- or 12-party line and we definitely still had a rotary phone.

Daguerreotype

Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre was born in France on November 18, 1789. He was a “Jack of all trades” or – perhaps more-accurately, a master of all trades. He was a physicist, a tax collector, a scene painter for theaters, and the inventor of the daguerrerotype photographic process.

Standard US Time Zones

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.com

In an era when time can be measured in nanoseconds, jiffies, zeptoseconds, and yactoseconds, I think the advent of standard time zones deserves a few minutes of our time today. It was on November 18, 1883 that the railroads in the United States put into practice the four time zones of 15 degrees each that Charles Ferdinand Dowd had first proposed.

Can you imagine what it was like before time zones were standardized? Even after the railroads adopted standard time zones in 1883, localities were not required to follow suit. In fact, it wasn’t until 1918 that the Standard Time Act was passed, setting four standard time zones in the United States.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett and The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive 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.

Janet