Quick Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

4 Mar

The Last RunawayGenre: Literary fiction, historical fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins UK (HarperFiction/Blue Door)

Pub date: Jan 14 2013

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis

Honor Bright, sails from England with her sister Grace to find some escape from her heartache. On the way to their new life in America, Grace falls ills and dies, leaving Honor all alone in a strange new land. Now dependent on her sister’s fiance to take care of her, Honor must learn a new way of life.

But life in Ohio in the 1850s is not easy. The landscape is vast and open, the weather is hot and Ohio is part of the Underground Railway. While the Quakers oppose slavery in theory, they dare not defy the law and help the slaves escapade. Honor has to come to terms with this contrast between her beliefs and the reality of life in the midst of all this.

Review

I just read Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring earlier this year, so when I got the chance to read this review copy, I wanted to give it a try. I enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring since I love artistic historical fiction (that’s a genre I just made up) but it didn’t make as much of an impact as I expected. I have to say that The Last Runaway was much the same.

Honor’s story is compelling, and the backdrop of frontier America, the Quaker and the Underground Railway combined with the beautiful art of quilting were all engaging elements of the story. But Honor herself didn’t shine too bright for me. Her travails as a young woman alone in a strange new land immediately won my sympathy, but the story moved along rather slowly. She is also a hard character to take for a long time. The character that I liked the most was Belle, the milliner. She was a strong, unconventional woman who lived her life the way she wanted.

On the whole, I liked The Last Runaway, but it’s not one of those stories that stayed/will stay with me.

Verdict

An enjoyable, slow read with a lot of description on the art of quilting.

Rating: 3.5*

*See my Rating policy

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© Stargazerpuj and Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, 2011-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Book Review: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf

21 Feb

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody BonesGenre: Psychological thriller

Publisher: Random House UK (Vintage Digital)

Pub date: 3 Jan 2013

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis (From Random House UK)

The year is 1750.

Tristan Hart, precociously talented student of medicine practising under the legendary Dr William Hunter. His obsession is the nature of pain and preventing it; the relationship between mind and matter and the existence of God. A product of the Age of Enlightenment, he is a rational man on a quest to cut through darkness and superstition with the brilliant blade of science.

Tristan Hart, madman and deviant. His obsession is the nature of pain, and causing it. A product of an age of faeries and goblins, gnomes and shape-shifting gypsies, he is on a quest to arouse the perfect scream and slay the daemon Raw Head who torments his dark days and long nights.

Troubled visionary, twisted genius, loving sadist. What is real and what imagined in Tristan Hart’s brutal, beautiful, complex world?

Review

This is a bizarre tale about the balance between science and superstition and between genius and madness. Tristan Hart enjoys a privileged life as the son of the Berkshire squire. As a young boy, his friendship with the rector’s son is always getting him into trouble. But when Tristan goes to London to study under the great Scottish anatomist and physician William Hunter, and Nathaniel to Oxford, they have to go their separate ways. In London, Tristan finds that he can not only study anatomy, but he can also indulge his other interest – causing pain.

Over the months, as Tristan learns medicine, his deviant behaviour also becomes unleashed. In his mind, science and fantasy find themselves jostling for space. And the reader is left wondering what is real and if Tristan will ever be able to find any balance.

The 18th century is quite the playing field for this battle. This is a time when science was winning over superstition, but Tristan’s world is filled with faeries and goblins all trying to do him harm. This is a vicious, bloody tale, filled with violence and sadism. But is also has heartfelt poetry and philosophical discussions. Chilling, scary, this book kept me awake at night contemplating the nature of man and the existence of a soul.

Verdict

Read if you have a strong stomach and discussions around the metaphysical intrigue you.  The Archaic Style of Writing With Initial Capitals Also Takes Some Getting Used To.

Rating: 3*

*See my Rating policy

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© Stargazerpuj and Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, 2011-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

5 Jul

Genre: YA, Paranormal

Series: Miss Peregrine #1

Publisher: Quirk Books

Pub date: 7 June 2011

Source: PGUK

Synopsis

Jacob has grown up listing to his grandfather’s strange stories, but of late, he doesn’t believe them like he used to. Sixteen-year-old Jacob has suffered a horrific tragedy. But when Jacob’s grandfather is killed in a vicious attack by a creature out of his stories, Jacob starts to think there might have been some truth in them after all. Determined to find out the truth, Jacob travels to a remote island off the coast of Wales to look for answers.

Review

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a quirky little story combining elements of YA adventure and supernatural horror. Right from the cover we can see that there is something rather spooky about these children. Jacob is very close to his grandfather who tells him strange tales about his own childhood. Initially, Jacob is taken in by stories of children with strange abilities, but as he grows up, he stops believing them. Until he sees one of the monsters from his grandfather’s story attack him. Haunted by his grandfather’s last words, Jacob is determined to find out the truth and follow the clues that have been left behind.

Jacob manages to convince his therapist and his parents that a holiday away from home in a remote island off the coast of Wales is just what he needs to clear his head. Once he’s there, however, he realises that all his grandfather’s stories were true. Peppered with creepy photographs, the story is one of adventure and fantasy. Jacob is a great narrator, one who’ll appeal to children and adults. On the island, he finally feels like he’s found a place where he belongs and a sense of purpose in his life. Despite the image on the cover, this is not a horror story. It is more a magical fantasy world that we enter when we go with Jacob into Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob finds out more about these children, Miss Peregrine and what makes them so peculiar, the adventure takes off, taking the reader into this quirky fantastical world. 

This is one of those books that needs to be read in physical copy. The layout of the book itself makes for a great experience and readers will want to flip back and forth between the images. I really enjoyed this strange, at times eerie adventure and look forward to the next instalment with Jacob and the children.

Verdict

Highly recommended for readers who like to be surprised.

Rating: 4.5*

Many thanks to PGUK for sending me the review copy. 

*See my Rating policy

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© Stargazerpuj and Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Book Review: The Lilac House by Anita Nair

26 Jun

Genre: Literary fiction

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Pub date: 24 April 2012

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis

Meera’s happy life as a corporate wife  comes crashing down when her husband leaves her and her two teenaged children. Heart-broken, Meera has to find a way to not only take care of her children, but also come to terms with her husband’s betrayal and her own life. She is also responsible for taking care of her mother and grandmother and a crumbling old family home in Bangalore.

Professor J.A. Krishnamurthy (aka Jak aka Kitcha) has recently come back from Florida to Bangalore to take care of his catatonic 19-year old daughter, who was the victim of a tragic accident. But he is plagued by her condition and desperate to find out what really happened to her in a small town by the sea.

Meera and Jak live a few streets away in Bangalore and slowly their lives intertwine.

Review

A review that shows you more about the reviewer than the book is a deficient one. But in this case, you must bear with me as I gush about a book that I fell in love with and could not get enough of. And since this is a purely subjective opinion, my reasons for loving this book perhaps have less to do its literary merit and more with how close to home it is for me. It’s not so much the characters that are close to home, but the setting itself.

Not that the book falls short of literary merit. Nair has used two very interesting devices to tell this story. Meera, the corporate housewife, compares herself to the Greek goddess Hera. She describes herself as Zeus’ neglected wife as he goes on to cavort with other women. She also describes many of the people in their social circle as mythological characters.

Jak is an expert on cyclones. Jak’s chapters describe life as a cyclone in its different stages. Excerpts from Jak’s book preface some of the chapters and give readers a preview of what it about to happen. And these are the two literary devices that provide the framework for this story.

The Lilac House is not an easy read, because there is so much it tackles and much of it is below the surface. And that for me is another reason that this story resonated. Each reader can take away a whole different experience. Nair deals with the status of women in this book as she has done in eariler works (I’ve read Mistress, which is one of my favourite books). Meera, her mother and grandmother, Jak’s aunt Kala Chitti, Jak’s daughter Smriti – each of these characters has colourful stories.

And of course, the lilac house where Meera lives with her mother and grandmother also plays a big part in the story. This house that looks like old money is hiding more than cheap paint.

The Lilac House is a beautifully told story of regret, redemption, and revival. Meera and Jak and easy characters to like and I found myself hoping that they would each find the peace they needed to get on with their lives. The story does not have a neat ending, though, and it’s clear that our protagonists have a long way to go. I loved every bit of the story from the mythological tones, to the chapters on cyclones, description of life in booming Bangalore and the small seaside town. Jak’s aunt Kala Chitti is another character who got under my skin. Her quiet wisdom and support of her nephew and his daughter made me fall in love with her character.

Verdict

Highly recommended for readers of literary fiction and contemporary Indian fiction.

Rating: 5*

*See my Rating policy

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© Stargazerpuj and Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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