Write About it Wednesday: The Underground Railroad

“Above all, the Underground Railroad was the opportunity for the bold and adventurous, it had the excitement of piracy, the secrecy of burglary, the daring of insurrection; to the pleasure of relieving the poor negros’ sufferings it added the triumph of snapping one’s fingers at the slave catcher” – Albert Bushnell Hart

Most of what I know about the Underground Railroad I learned in high school. It’s a sad fact that I knew so little that I truly thought Harriet Tubman created the movement, and that it died down well before Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation. This is why I research and why I always allow myself to question and look into everything my mind has a notion to learn about. I never go into something blindly, or believe myself to be an expert without extensive research. I have several book reviews coming up about this particular topic and I craved a deeper understanding. I lucked upon a quick overview at my local library while searching for Uncle Tom’s Cabin (I have yet to read this classic).

Slavery on a large scale began in the 15th century and took hold in the United States as a cheap form of labor for the plantation movement. The first abolitionist society was organized in 1775 before America became independent. In 1807, a law was passed prohibiting the import of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean causing the current slave values to increase. By 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law was passed making the ease of capturing slaves detrimental to the freedom movement. This law allowed for easy capture of any fugitive on the word of the slave catcher without any factual evidence or proof. The fact that this law was allowed to pass in the first place shows the country was deeply rooted in the slavery movement, and that their lives were worth only the price a slave owner was willing to pay. A Southerner could walk past a freed slave on the street and claim they were a long lost runaway and they would be captured and returned to their “owner.” This goes well beyond a constitutional injustice, but slaves were still seen as property instead of people. Changes began to take place after the release of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. More volunteers, supplies, and money were gathered for the Underground Railroad and it gained respectability. The Underground Railroad by Shaaron Cosner gives an excellent overview of several key players in the movement, along with visuals including maps and actual photographs from the time period.


While Harriet Tubman did not create the movement of the Underground Railroad, she is dubbed the “Moses of her people” for her contributions. She, along with several other runaway slaves later joined the Underground Railroad risking their own freedom to save others. They stood up for what they believed in and most chose a peaceful approach. Many supporters faced financial ruin from fines and court fees associated with helping, and others used their money to purchase freedom for slaves. The sacrifices made by the Railroad workers were vast, but they continued to give of their time, money, and freedom until 1863 when Lincoln gave his famous Emancipation Proclamation which eventually led to the end of slavery.

I have many books on my Underground Railroad adventure, but I would love suggestions from readers that have read about this topic before. I am particularly interested in life after runaways obtained freedom. I want to know more about the social and economic difficulties they must have faced after risking their lives for freedom. I look forward to your suggestions and stay tuned for more Underground Railroad updates!

Book Review Friday: Two Can Play

“Cautious is boring.”

I took a trip to my local library on a mission to find books from unknown authors. I wanted to stroll through the shelves and see what I could find without having my usual list of must haves. Two Can Play caught my eye with its bold red cover and “deliciously twisted” quote. I did not realize it was the second in a series before I made it home but it was easy to follow regardless.

Audrey Harte is a criminal psychologist hired to prepare for the trial of a teenage serial killer, Ian Monroe. Before interviewing Monroe, Audrey receives flowers signaling the beginning of a game that she did not intend on playing. As evidence begins to come together, it is likely that Monroe had a partner or someone that is helping taunt Audrey. She must race to find answers as more girls are taken and protect the one surviving witness, Tori Scott. Between the victims, Monroe and Audrey’s personal life this book is jam packed with action. After getting past the first few chapters I couldn’t put this one down. I had to know how everything was going to come together.

As far as mystery novels go, this one is a winner! The author gives just enough of the story to keep you hooked without letting you guess too much about the future. I didn’t really know the ending until about 20 pages before it was revealed. The clues left along the way are perfect to keep the reader going. I would definitely read this book again to see if I found any more along the way.

I have spoken to the author, Kate Kessler, and book three will be out in November of this year. She is currently writing the fourth installment. I am going to be anxiously waiting for my copy to arrive! 

Book Review Friday: Something Blue

“It was love as a verb, as Rachel used to say. Love that made me more patient, more loyal, and stronger. Love that made me feel more complete than I had ever felt in my glamorous, Jimmy Choo filled past.”

Something Blue is the follow up to Something Borrowed, a story of love and lost friendships. This story follows Darcy after her wedding has been called off and she finds herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby. When she goes to tell her best friend about the wedding cancellation, she finds her fiancé hiding in her friend’s closet. This is basically a crazy love triangle at its finest. Darcy’s best friend is in love with her former fiancé and Darcy is sleeping with her former fiancés friend aka groomsmen in their cancelled wedding. I wish this was less complicated than it sounds but the story does flow easily. If catching your best friend with your ex fiancé of only a few hours isn’t bad enough, her boyfriend breaks up with her and wants zero involvement with the baby. Left with few options, Darcy takes a leave of absence from her job and leaves for London to stay with a childhood friend.

Darcy spends the first few weeks in London absorbed in shopping and self-pity. Her only plan is to stay with Ethan in his small apartment and daydream of the perfect man coming along. She longs for a night out but meeting Ethan’s friends’ ends up leading to a serious fight about her true nature. “He had said so many mean things, come at me from so many angles, that I was unsure how to defend myself.” She wakes up the next morning feeling her baby kick and decides to write the steps to becoming a better Darcy. As she tackles this list she finds friends, finds out she is having twin boys, begins dating her doctor, and finds out that there is more to life than being pretty and marrying a rich man.

Sometimes life throws you curveballs and you have to reevaluate yourself. I think this is a great story for anyone starting over, or looking for a good read about relationships made over. ***Spoiler Alert*** I do not like when everything works out perfectly though. I’m not sure if this makes me cynical or a realist, but the ending left me wondering how often the happily ever after works out this easily. I would have liked more time spent on Darcy discovering herself, rather than realizing she’s in love and winding up married with her friend and ex fiancé attending the wedding. Life is complicated and messy and literature should reveal that.

Happy Reading!! 

Hard to Die

“Nowhere is the place where one gets repeat chances at life. You don’t get to live the same life, but if no one solves the mystery of how you died, you get thirteen opportunities to complete an assignment and move beyond Nowhere.”

I received this as an advanced reader copy from Smith Publicity for an honest review.

When expecting a historical thriller, I was wildly surprised with the story of Theodosia Burr Alston. Theo as she prefers to be called is the daughter of Aaron Burr. Theo is in her own form of “Nowhere” with a guide that helps her focus on a mission without revealing too much. Her mission is to help a cadet at West Point, Richard, avoid returning to his spy background. Her mission is led astray when she seeks vengeance for her father and son’s death. She blames General Wilkinson, who turns out to be recruiting Richard under an alias of “George.” The fact that General and George are the same person was little shock to me. Also, Meriwether Lewis makes an appearance to find Wilkinson and saves Theo when she least expects it. The book ends with many unanswered questions.

I think the concept of “Nowhere” is the best part of this book, the concept that we stay around if our death is a mystery. I like when an author creates a new concept, but I was very disappointed in the lack of actual historic detail. I did not learn anything new, and I questioned if the characters really had relationships with one another or if she was making it fit for the story. I did read the acknowledgements which begins “this isn’t a history book,” but I hoped for some historical take away. Also, the author needs to describe the background of the characters, because the book takes off without any explanation. I will not be reading any additional books in the series to answer my questions, but I will do some research on Meriwether Lewis, Aaron Burr, and Richard Colvin Cox who did disappear from West Point.

If you’re looking for a historical fantasy adventure thriller, then this is the book for you. It is light on the history, but heavy on the fantasy adventure.

Bruiser


“The way I see it, the impossible happens all the time; but we’re so good at taking it for granted, we forget it was once possible.”

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but it was clearly not anything close to how I feel after reading. Bruiser is a fascinating tale of a boy who takes on the pain and suffering of those he loves. From a young age he is taught to stay away from people, and not interact with the world around him. Everything changes when Bronte (his girlfriend) and Tennyson come into the picture. Bruiser learns to love, but simultaneously begins taking on more suffering than imaginable. We watch this scene play out from several perspectives, and watch as those he loves begin to take back their pain to help Bruiser. I think this is an excellent read for the younger generation, but I can’t say I LOVED it. It is a quick and easy read, and does keep you entertained. It’s an interesting perspective to have someone take on other’s emotions and pain, and I think the author did an amazing job of showing how judgement of others has negative consequences.

Tatiana and Alexander

  
 

“We walk alone through this world, but if we’re lucky, we have a moment of belonging to something, to someone, that sustains us through a lifetime of loneliness.”

If you haven’t read the Bronze Horseman, please stop reading this review and run to your nearest bookstore and begin reading immediately. I’m serious, it’s that good. I have just finished the second book in the trilogy (probably close to 1300 pages between the two books in less than 10 days), and I am emotionally and mentally unable to continue with the world around me until I finish the third book. After I cried, (yes, cried…you’ll understand once you have read) I found myself unable to open the third book because then this would all be over. I would no longer be a part of Tatiana and Alexander’s constant struggle to be with one another. I am in Leningrad, I am watching the war play out, I am at Ellis Island, and I am wherever they are. Paullina Simons, you are amazing! I truly haven’t read a book that has left me this “hungover” in so long. I have a hunger for all things Russian, and I am truly sad to start the end of my journey. You will fall in love, you will cry, you will want to punch someone. Embrace it all, and do yourself a favor and do it quickly!!

I am going to need Russian suggestions to keep from crying when this is over…Any suggestions are appreciated! What is your favorite love story? What book made you feel something?

Thomas Jefferson : Joyce Appleby

  
“Coming to terms with Thomas Jefferson is not easy for Americans in the twenty-first century.”

If you read only one book about Thomas Jefferson in your lifetime, don’t choose this one. The quote above is true if you are reliant on the author’s informed but less than appealing recap of history. When I finished this novel, I felt as though I was leaving a five hour long history lecture that used fancy vocabulary to sound superior to everyone listening. I have frequent whims where I am intrigued by a topic and want to learn everything about it. My current Presidential obsession has led to a real interest in history and how it is conveyed. I think we need more unbiased historians providing an experience to the reader that is worth their time. A reader lives through an author’s work, and I would have died of boredom if I wasn’t determined to finish.

I was desperate to love Thomas Jefferson and I chose to read Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power – Review to come!