Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Last Runaway
By, Tracy Chevalier

Plume (January 8, 2013) ASIN: B008EXJVTQ, 320 pages
Sold by Penguin Group (USA) LLC $9.22
A Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier was our monthly book club selection at my local library located in Inwood, West Virginia. I have read, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Chevalier and was rather excited to read this novel.

Additionally, I had chosen this book from the library book club reading list for our discussion. Chevalier has a talent to transport the reader to the historical realm of antebellum Ohio with strong character development, amazing dialog, and historical accuracy. The Last Runaway is set during the 1850’s, in the cornfields of Oberlin, Ohio. Quaker Honor Bright has been jilted by her English fiancé in Bristol, England and makes the decision to travel to American with her sister Grace. Yet, life doesn’t always go according to Honor’s plan. Grace dies in route to Ohio, and Honor is unable to return home because of debilitating seasickness. 

She is companionless, shy, and dependent on the kindness of strangers. However, Honor is befriended by Belle Mills, a local hat maker in Oberlin. Complicating matters, Belle has a brother named Donovan, a runaway slave hunter who is introduced to Honor during her arrival to town. This introduction causes shock, confusion, and a stir of emotion for young Honor. Yet, love is found in the cornfields. Reader’s hearts are constantly tugged between Donovan, the local bad boy and Jack Haymaker the Quaker dairy farmer. Themes of resilience, choice, and the injustice of slavery are present in this novel.

My favorite character was Belle Mills. She is a free spirit, blunt, independent, and kind-hearted woman. As I read, The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, I was impressed by the development of Honor through her relationship with Belle. They grew together and created the voice that Honor so desperately needed. On the other hand, the relationship gives Belle the perspective to find the Quaker belief of “divine inner light that resides within every human being, no matter how bad they might seem on the outside.” I did not find this book as thought provoking as Chevalier’s, Girl with a Pearl Earring. 
Read more about Tracy Chevalier's quilts on this link.

This is why I have rated this book a four out of five star. I prefer a novel that provokes thought with entertainment. Even though The Last Runaway contains rich imagery, very few passages captured me. I felt a bit disappointed with the author’s missed opportunity to have a passage about slavery and the human condition not utilized. We discussed this as a group and came to the conclusion that the author’s purpose was to entertain with a light enjoyable read.

The author used letters, quilting frolics, and dialog throughout the novel to develop the internal and external conflict. I was impressed with the historical accuracy provided by the author. For example, the amount of time that news would arrive from Ohio to Bristol during the 1850’s could take as long as two months or more. Furthermore, the comparison of quilting styles of the English to local Quakers were rich with details and further established the conflicts that Honor must resolve between her mother and sister-in-law. The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier is a humble, authentic, and enjoyable read. It will be enjoyed mostly by woman ranging from preteen to adult.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Awakening (The Ydron Saga)By Raymond Bolton

Awakening (The Ydron Saga)
By Raymond Bolton
Amazon Inc. ISBN: 0991347102 (January 1, 2014)
Paperback: 368 pages $13.57
A Book Review by Ginger Dawn Harman

 A book's plot is as unique as its characters, and often it is the characters that awaken the story. In Awakening, Raymond Bolton creates a fantasy world that develops, captivates, and never left me bored as a reader. I was immediately sparked with curiosity as Regilius awakes in a futurist hospital screaming for his father. It is then that we learn of the main character’s past and unclear nightmares. Prince Regilius is confused and has to overcome the trauma of his father’s murder while evolving or awakening interpersonally. In a world of telepathic aliens, suspenseful chase scenes, and all knowing mentors, Raymond Bolton has crafted a remarkable tale.

This story is a powerful and sweeping epic tale of relationships and disloyalty. The language, the settings, the characters are well written and developed. My favorite character was Ai'Lorc, the mentor of Regilius. He has several bits of wisdom in the novel that provides Regilius an opportunity to give thought to his own questions. For example, Regilius at the beginning of the novel is unable to make a clear decision of his own, Ai’Lorc responds in a matter of fact tone,

 “It is impossible, to answer your question without addressing the events.” 

I had to chuckle when Regilius responded that he was aware of this only to be cut off by Ai’Lorc, “That is a good sign.” It is these relationships between the characters that get readers so involved in the plot. Yet Chapter 39, delivers the reader the greatest of emotional twist not just for the reader but for Regilius and the trust that is forged or dissolved in friendships. Now I must admit, I also enjoyed the Dalthin (The bad aliens). It must be the creepy touching of the mind that intrigued me about them. The author captures it beautifully when he wrote,  

“A bright new source of thoughts had recently come to her attention. She had never touched a mind like it. While most minds intruded gently and the Dalthins’ pricked, this new mind fairly sang.”

Ultimately, Awakening is a story of the many phases of progression in ourselves that some can relate to as we read how each character pass through the rise and fall, making the same old mistakes but occasionally making brand-new ones to learn from. Raymond Bolton’s Awakening blends Sci-fi mystic realism and cyberpunk historic adventure and action to explore a region of the world that is far more diverse and complex. I completely enjoyed Awakening by Raymond Bolton and highly recommend this novel.


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