Review – The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier


Today, I’d like to introduce you to Tracy Chevalier‘s novel The Last Runaway. It took me quite some time to pick it up and finally read it, but when I did, I was thoroughly entertained.

The Last Runaway
Image provided by HarperFiction¹
Synopsis quoted from HarperFiction¹:

When modest Quaker Honor Bright sails from Bristol with her sister, she is fleeing heartache for a new life in America, far from home. But tragedy leaves her alone and vulnerable, torn between two worlds and dependent on the kindness of strangers.

Life in 1850s Ohio is precarious and unsentimental. The sun is too hot, the thunderstorms too violent, the snow too deep. The roads are spattered with mud and spit. The woods are home to skunks and porcupines and raccoons. They also shelter slaves escaping north to freedom.

Should Honor hide runaways from the ruthless men who hunt them down? The Quaker community she has joined may oppose slavery in principle, but does it have the courage to help her defy the law? As she struggles to find her place and her voice, Honor must decide what she is willing to risk for her beliefs.

My Thoughts:

Tracy Chevalier’s historical novel The Last Runaway is mainly set in 19th century Ohio. The author paints very vivid pictures of North America’s rural landscape. We ride carriages through high corn fields and feel the summer heat before the storm. I particularly enjoyed the impressive descriptions of the sky prior to thunderstorms.

Honor Bright, the main character, is a shy and quiet young Quaker woman with a mind of her own. She develops into an unconventional Quaker and manages to surprise us. Other great characters are Belle and Donovan. Belle is a safe haven for Honor, a home away from home and in her own way a very charming character. Donovan, on the other side, is mysterious and scary but he does provide some attraction and without him the book would be a bore. The remaining characters, however, are a bit flat.

The Last Runaway is told in third person narration interspersed by various letters. This set-up makes the novel lively, even though it is a quick read anyways. The Last Runaway is gripping until the very end. You really want to know how Honor will find a way to be happy. The ending however feels a little forced. The Last Runaway is a novel for those who are passionate about the American Frontier, stories on the Underground Railroad, or just good, old historical fiction.

3beans(actually, 3.5 magic beans)


Review – Paddington Helps Out by Michael Bond

Hello everyone,

Today we’re having a look at a classic for children and those who are young at heart: Michael Bond‘s Paddington Helps Out. It is the second book in a series of 13, so you will most definitely see more of Paddington.

Paddington Helps Out
Image provided by HarperCollins Children’s Books¹
Synopsis quoted from HarperCollins Children’s Books¹:

“Oh dear,” said Paddington, as everyone turned to look at him accusingly. “I’m in trouble again.” Somehow trouble comes naturally to Paddington.

What other bear could upset the whole cinema by standing on his seat to boo the ‘bad guy’ in the cowboy film? Or drip ice-cream on the people down below? Or flood the launderette and saw Mr Curry’s kitchen into little pieces? Only Paddington! But when Paddington’s head is so full of ideas, some things are bound to go wrong!

My Thoughts:

Like A Bear Called Paddington, the first instalment in the Paddington series, Paddington Helps Out is set in London, UK. Again, Michael Bond takes us to familiar places like the Browns’ home, the market, or Mr Gruber’s fascinating shop. We are, however, also introduced to new locations like a fancy restaurant, or the launderette and, as always, we see them like Paddington, as utterly exciting and strange.

By now you should all be familiar with our main character Paddington. The young, charming and naive bear from the darkest Peru always means well and has a big heart. It is just wonderful to see the world through his eyes.

Like all the books in the series, Paddington Helps Out is divided into short stories that are connected to each other. The stories in this book are about Paddington trying to help out, but it wouldn’t be him if things would go as planned. Paddington Helps Out is a fun and entertaining read that teaches us that even a bad situation can turn into something good in the end.



Review – The Road To Reckoning by Robert Lautner

Happy Monday everyone,

I spent this weekend as a boy devouring an adventure novel. Yup, you read right, a boy 😀 That doesn’t happen often. I read Robert Lautner’s The Road To Reckoning which I was lucky enough to win in a Twitter competition by The Borough Press. We had to tweet our top three country & western songs that we would pick as a soundtrack for the book. I chose the following:

  • Ian Tyson: Cowboys Don’t Cry
  • Randy Newman: Gonna Take You There
  • Loretta Lynn: Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’

Now that I’ve read the book, it’s kinda creepy how well they fit. The titles of the first and second song fit perfectly and the third one is up to interpretation 😀

There’s something else I’d like to show you. The Borough Press posted a special on how the cover was designed and I think it’s worth a read. You can find it here.

Road To Reckoning
Image provided by The Borough Press¹
Synopsis quoted from The Borough Press¹:

Set in 1837, this is the remarkably poignant story of 12-year-old orphan Thomas Walker and his treacherous journey home through the wide open lands of America.‘I, to this day, hold to only one truth: if a man chooses to carry a gun he will get shot. My father agreed to carry twelve.’
Young Tom Walker cannot believe his luck when his father allows him to accompany him on the road, selling Samuel Colt’s newly-invented revolver. They will leave behind the depression and disease that is gripping 1830’s New York to travel the country together.
Still only twelve years old, Tom is convinced that he is now a man. Fate, it seems, thinks so too …
On the road west the towns get smaller, the forests wilder, and the path more unforgiving. A devastating encounter cuts their journey tragically short, and leaves Tom all alone in the wilderness.
Struggling to see a way home, he finds his only hope: ageing ranger Henry Stands, who is heading back east. Tom’s resolve to survive initiates an unlikely partnership that will be tested by the dangers of the road ahead, where outlaws prowl.

My Thoughts:

Set in the early 19th century, The Road To Reckoning takes us on a trip to the American frontier. Thomas Walker and his father make their way from New York to Pennsylvania and as I’ve never traveled that road, I had problems imagining the landscape that surrounded Thomas on his adventure. Too often, my mind created Wild West scenes where the woods and meadows of Pennsylvania should have been.

Twelve-year-old Thomas Walker is the main character in The Road To Reckoning. By letting the adult Thomas Walker narrate what happened in his childhood, Robert Lautner avoided all the difficulties that come with stepping into a little boy’s mind. This approach also added a touch of nostalgia to the tale which fit perfectly. I also really liked the character development of Henry Stands. I don’t want to take away too much, so you’ll only get three words: What a man!

The Road To Reckoning is an exciting tale that has everything you expect from a western-style adventure: horses, dirt, bad guys and guns. It reminds me of the western novels my father used to read when he was a boy. The Road To Reckoning might look like it’s targeted at adults, but I think teenagers will also take pleasure in a trip back to the American frontier.