For One More Day, By Mitch Albom

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Albom, M. (2006). For one more day. New York: Hyperion.

Paperback $12.00, Hardcover $21.00, Kindle $8.99, 197 pages

ISBN: 978-1606861585

Author’s Website and Interviews:

http://mitchalbom.com/d/books/3873/one-more-day

http://mikefurchesreviews.blogspot.com/2007/12/oprah-winfrey-presents-mitch-alboms-for.html

Online Reviews:

 http://bestsellers.about.com/od/fictionreviews/gr/one_more_day.htm

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10929.For_One_More_Day

Annotation: For Chick Benetto, attempting suicide twice and failing had to be life’s ultimate slap in the face.

Summary:  Chick Benetto feels like he has lost everything. He is divorced from his wife Catherine, estranged from his daughter Maria, and is a raging alcoholic. Struggling with the rejection by his daughter after not being invited to her wedding and reeling from the loss of his mother eight years prior, Chick believes his life has no purpose. After a bender one night at the local pub, Chick gets into his car intent on ending it all. He drives the wrong way down a freeway exit and collides with a truck, propelling his car down an embankment. To his own surprise and horror, he survives. He hesitates, wondering if the driver of the other car is ok, but instead of checking, he decides to walk back to his hometown and to the house he grew up in. Upon entering his old house, he discovers that his deceased mother is still living there and welcomes him home as if no time has passed. Together they embark on a journey of discovery and truths, as Chick begins to realize how his relationship with his mother shaped his life he sees that life might be worth living after all.

Evaluation: This book is compelling and examines the mother-son relationship in a very dynamic way. It is very thought provoking and makes the reader reexamine his or her own relationship with loved ones both deceased and living.  Albom did a fabulous job with character development , as Chick Benetto is complex and layered. The writing is both haunting and poignant and presents real life questions and challenges in very real and very relatable ways.

Genre: Mainstream Fiction (Inspirational)

Appeal Factors: Moving, inspirational, character-driven, compelling, and nostalgic.

Read-alike Titles and Authors:

  •  Life’s Golden Ticket, by Brendon Burchard
  • This Book Will Save Your Life, by A. M. Homes
  • Never Change, by Elizabeth Berg

Awards: #1 New York Times Best Seller, #1 USA Today Bestseller, and #1 Publishers Weekly Bestseller

Booktalk Ideas:

  • Immediately hook your reader/audience by reading the first sentence of the book “Let me guess. You want to know why I tried to kill myself.” For me, yes I wanted to know how and why because clearly the author survived to recount his story.

Book Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did Charley “Chick” Benetto attempt to kill himself not once but twice? What motivated him to finally take his life?
  2. Did you find his actions selfish or was he just a desperate man looking to end his pain?
  3. What role did his daughter Maria play in the story? Were you shocked by her revelation at the end of the book?
  4. Why did Chick’s dead mom return on the day he attempted suicide? Why were the sections of book titled “Times I Did Not Stand Up for My Mother” significant. What do they reveal about the Chick? About Chick’s mom?
  5. Do you feel that Chick found closure after spending time with his mother? Was there a specific moment that made you feel this way?

I am a big Mitch Albom fan and enjoyed Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven and knew this most likely was a book I was going to enjoy. The title initially hooked me because I was curious what the “for one more day” referred to. I read the back of the book and was intrigued by the questions it asked the reader, “If you had the chance, just one chance, to go back and fix what you did wrong in life, would you take it?” I think these are questions we have all asked ourselves and I instantly connected with the book.

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Blackberry Winter, By Sarah Jio

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Jio, S. (2012). Blackberry winter. New York: Plume.

Paperback $15.00, Kindle $7.99, 320 pages

ISBN: 978-0452298385

Author’s Website and Interviews:

http://www.sarahjio.com/

http://kindlesandwine.com/2012/12/05/mini-review-interview-giveaway-blackberry-winter-by-sarah-jio/

Online Reviews:

Kirkus: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/sarah-jio/blackberry-winter-jio/

http://blogcritics.org/book-review-blackberry-winter-by-sarah/

Annotation: Daniel Ray had mysteriously disappeared in the night leaving his mother in search of answers buried as deep as the falling snow outside.

Summary (WARNING-SPOILER ALERT): It is May 1933 and Vera Ray, a single mother, is forced to make the hard decision to leave her three year old son Daniel home alone while she works the night shift at the Olympic Hotel. A freak snowstorm has blown into town, known as a “blackberry winter,”  leaving her worried about her son. Upon returning from her night shift, she finds her son missing and his teddy bear Max face down in the snow in the alley near their home. He has been abducted but no one, not even the police seem concerned with helping someone in Vera’s low social status. The book shifts to present day and introduces Clair Aldridge, a reporter who has been assigned to cover the snowstorm which has hit Seattle exactly 80 years to the day it hit in 1933. The story jumps back and forth between the past and the present and the connection between Vera and Claire is revealed. Claire herself has experienced the loss of a child when she was eight months pregnant and was hit by a car while running, ultimately loosing the baby. As she digs deeper into the blackberry winter of 1933, she is determined to find out what really happened to Daniel and who was responsible for Vera’s murder. As the truth begins to emerge, Claire begins to realize her husband’s connection to Vera and Daniel, and how the Kensington family could be destroyed if the truth were to come out. Claire must choose between bringing justice to Vera and her son or betray her husband and his family by publishing her story.

Evaluation: Jio’s writing is compelling and the parallel narrative  frames the story in a way that captures the bond between two grieving mothers, Vera and Claire. I enjoyed that the book was character-driven as it allowed me to connect with the characters on a deeper level. Although the two stories take place almost a century apart, they complement each other and reveal truths which impact Claire and her family in present day. Jio creates strong female characters who are forced to overcome insurmountable odds and who must carry on in the face of great tragedy. It is beautifully written and the story of Vera and Claire will resonate with any one who has lost a child or true love.

Genre: Mystery (Women’s Fiction)

Appeal Factors: Character-driven, intricately plotted, bittersweet, melancholy, moving,  and compelling

Read-alike Titles and Authors:

  • Tatiana, by Martin Cruz Smith
  • Lost in the Forest, by Sue Miller
  • He’s Gone, by Deb Caletti

Awards: 2012 New York Times Bestseller, 2012 USA Today Bestseller

Booktalk Ideas:

  • Ask questions that put the audience/reader in the shoes of Vera, Claire, or Charles. If your son disappeared without a trace, would you have turned to Lon for help knowing what he demands in return? Would Charles have been disowned by his family had he married Vera? If you were Charles, would you have chose love over money?

Book Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think the story’s parallel narrative helped reveal deeper truths about the connection between Vera and Claire?
  2. Why did Vera turn to Lon knowing what type of man he was? Did you believe he would truly help her? Why or why not?
  3. Charles and Vera seemed like soul mates. Were you surprised by how their relationship turned out? Do you think Vera was justified in keeping Daniel a secret from him?
  4. What is Warren’s connection to Vera and her son Daniel? How does the revelation of the Kensington family’s role in Daniel’s disappearance and Vera’s murder impact Claire and Ethan? Does this provide closure for them? Why did Warren never reveal his true identity?

I had never heard of Sarah Jio before reading this book and wanted to explore new authors, especially one whose work combines mystery with romance. I read the back of the book and was instantly hooked by the fact that it is a parallel narrative recounted by Vera Ray in 1933 and Claire Aldridge in present day. The title also drew me in as I was curious to find out what “blackberry winter” meant and its role in the story. I discovered this book while searching for books to add to my Kindle and came across this one under the mystery section on Amazon.

The Wanderer (Thunder Point #1), Robyn Carr

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Carr, R. (2013). The wanderer. Don Mills, Ont.: Mira Books.

Paperback $7.99, Hardcover $34.99, Kindle $5.39, 384 pages

ISBN: 978-0778314479

Author’s Website and Interviews:

http://www.robyncarr.com/

Online Reviews:

http://www.examiner.com/article/book-review-the-wanderer-by-robyn-carr

http://goodbooksandgoodwine.com/2014/04/the-wanderer-robyn-carr-book-review.html

Annotation: After the mysterious death of his friend, Hank Cooper heads to Oregon in search of answers and himself.

Summary: After the sudden death of his friend Ben Bailey, Hank “Coop” Cooper heads to Thunder Point, Oregon in search of answers. When Coop arrives in town, he is told Ben has left him his bait and tackle shop along with his beach front property which real estate developers have been after for years. Although he had only wanted to make this trip to Oregon a temporary stop to investigate the circumstances surrounding his friend’s death, Coop forms a friendship with Mac McCain, the resident cop, as well as Sarah Dupre, a helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard, and her younger brother Landon, the town’s newest football star. After realizing that his friend’s business means more to the town then just a local hangout and after witnessing the relentless harassment of Landon at the hands of Jag Morrison, the town’s richest bad boy, Coop makes the hard decision of whether or not to put down roots and reopen Ben’s business. Along the way, Coop continually runs into Sarah and her dog Ham during their morning walks in front of Ben’s shop. They have an instant connection but neither of them is ready or willing to put past heartbreaks aside for new love. As Coop sets out to restore Ben’s business as well as the town’s faith, he not only discovers what really happened to Ben but also what it means to finally call someplace home.

Evaluation: I thought Carr did a great job of bringing the town of Thunder Point to life and created characters that were relatable, layered, and really explored the complex nature of romantic relationships. I found the book to move at a very quick pace yet still provided enough detail in terms of plot and character-development. The relationships between the characters, especially Coop, Sarah, Mac, and Gina progressed and evolved throughout the book and allowed the reader a glimpse at their flaws. Although the book is considered a romance novel, it had aspects of mystery as well. I could not put the book down until I finished it and felt there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested and vested in the characters. Carr knows how to write romance and I was impressed with how well written it was and with her ability to capture the highs and lows of relationships form both a male and female perspective.

Genre: Romance

Appeal Factors: Amusing, heartwarming, moving, and engaging

Read-alike Titles and Authors:

  • Something More, by Janet Dailey
  • Three Wishes, by Barbara Delinsky
  • The Blessing, by Judge Deveraux

Awards: Library Journal Best Romance Book

Booktalk Ideas:

  • Keep a secret from the audience surrounding Gina’s feelings for Mac and reveal bits and pieces but never the whole truth to build up suspense. You could also use the secret surrounding what really happened to Ben.

Book Discussion Questions:

  1. After the truth behind Ben’s death is revealed, how does it impact the town? Were you surprised by who did it?
  2. Why is Sarah so reluctant to commit to Coop? How does her past marriage to Derek affect her relationship with Coop?
  3. Why are Mac and Gina so afraid to admit their feelings for one another?
  4. What does Coop’s renovation of Ben’s bait and tackle shop signify about his life? Do you feel that his character has changed from the beginning of the book until the end? How so? Does Sarah have a lot to do with this change?

I recently house sat and stumbled across a large collection of Robyn Carr books. After reading the backs of a few of the books, I felt like this one was the most intriguing as it seemed to mix romance with a touch of mystery. I have not read much in the romance genre and wanted to expand my knowledge of more distinguished romance writers such as Carr. I also read reviews on Goodreads which peaked my curiosity as many gave it a high rating in terms of character-development which is an appeal factor I depend on when selecting books.

Innocence, By Dean Koontz

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Koontz, D. (2013). Innocence. New York: Bantam Books.

Hardcover $28.00, Paperback $18.00, Kindle $6.50, Audible $22.95 or free, 352 pages or 11 hours on Audible

ISBN: 978-0007518029

Author’s Website and Interviews:

http://www.deankoontz.com/

http://www.wired.com/2013/12/geeks-guide-dean-koontz/

Online Reviews:

Kirkus: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/dean-koontz/innocence-koontz/

Publishers Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com:8080/978-0-553-80803-2

Annotation: Addison hid his monstrous face from the world because to reveal himself meant certain death.

Summary: Addison Goodheart is born with a monstrous affliction that forces him to live his life in isolation. When people look upon his face they become enraged and want to kill him. When he is 8 years old, his drug addicted mother banishes him from their cabin secluded in the woods. Alone and scared, Addison comes across a man who suffers from the same affliction that he has. The man raises Addison and teaches him how to live underground and how to survive in the outside world. When his “father” is murdered one night by two cops who can’t stand the sight of him, Addison retreats underground, only coming out at night in search of food and clothing. One night when he is exploring the library after hours, he stumbles upon a young girl who is being chased by a man. Curious and intent on helping her, he follows her and discovers her name is Gwyneth. She is a young woman who claims to suffer from crippling “social phobia” and cannot stand to have anyone touch her. She too lives a life of isolation in the many apartments her wealthy father entrusted to her before his murder. She is being pursued by the libraries Rare Books curator Ryan Telford, whose connection to her father proves deadly. He is a depraved sexual predator intent on exacting revenge of on Gwyenth and it is through her escape from Telford that she stumbles across Addison, a man who will change the course of both their lives in mysterious and mystical ways. As they attempt to break free from their lives of isolation, shocking truths are revealed, bringing the world they once knew crashing down around them.

Evaluation: I have mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed the book up until chapter 73 in which I felt the book took a rather weird turn. I almost felt as if I were reading a different story. Although I felt that Koontz provided the reader with some form of closure in terms of Addison and Gwen, it was just not an ending I saw coming and it threw me for a loop! The writing is descriptive, lyrical, and reads like poetry. I thought Koontz did a great job of developing the characters especially Addison, Gwen, and Telford. I thought Addison’s flashbacks really helped provide much needed background information for his story but at times I thought it was overdone and moved at a slow pace. Overall, I thought the plot was layered and complex and it is written in such a way that you can’t help but fall in love with Addison and Gwen.

I listened to the audio version of this book which was 11 hours long. The book was narrated by McCloud Andrews and I thought he did a wonderful job of narrating the story and really brought the characters to life. His tone and his inflections captured the essence of Addison and really made me feel as if I were watching a movie unfold before me. I thought the book translated really well to audio because it is so descriptive which helped to create a visual in the reader’s mind. The pacing was great and I was able to follow along without feeling like I was missing vital parts of the story.

Genre: Suspense (mystical fantasy)

Appeal Factors: Character-drive, fast-paced, atmospheric, creepy, and compelling

Read-alike Titles and Authors:

  • A Sight for Sore Eyes, by Ruth Rendell
  • The Ritual, by Adam Nevill
  • Pig Island, by Mo Hayder

Awards: No awards listed at this time.

Booktalk Ideas:

  • Ask questions to the reader and/or the audience to evoke empathy for Addison or Gwen. Use questions to put them in the character’s shoes. For example, you could ask the question “How would you feel to live isolated from the world around you at such a young age? How would you feel if your mother banished you from your house as a child?

Book Discussion Questions:

  1. Why does Gwen model her goth look after the Paladine’s marionette? What does this reveal about her character?
  2. Why are people unable to stand the sight of Addison? What about him makes people enraged enough to want his “kind” dead?
  3. Do you blame Addison’s mother for banishing him from their cabin when he was 8 years old? Why does she do it? Is her suicide brought about by her guilt/failure as a mother?
  4. How are Gwen and Addison’s fate intertwined? Were they destined to find each other? How are they similar? How are they different?
  5. What are the “Fogs” and the “Clears”? What do these represent about humanity? Do you believe Telford was infected by a “Fog” or is he just a depraved man?

I was looking at free audiobooks on YouTube and stumbled across this book. I had heard of Koontz before but had never read any of his works so I decided to give this book a try. Before I began reading, I read reviews on Goodreads which gave it mixed reviews. People either loved it or hated it. I was curious to see which category I would fall into. I was intrigued that the book was considered suspense and mystical fantasy and wanted to see how Koontz fused the two.

Rise and Shine, By Anna Quindlen

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Quindlen, A. (2006). Rise and shine. New York: Random House.

Paperback $14.95, Kindle $9.99, 269 pages

ISBN: 978-0375502248

Author’s Website and Interviews:

http://annaquindlen.net/

http://www.bookbrowse.com/author_interviews/full/index.cfm/author_number/293/anna-quindlen

Online Reviews:

The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/26/books/26mcge.html?_r=0

Annotation: Meghan Fitzmaurice is the epitome of success until two words destroy the world she has worked so hard to maintain. 

Summary (WARNING-Spoiler Alert): Meghan Fitzmaurice is the beloved talk show host of the morning show “Rise and Shine.”  Bridget, Meghan’s younger sister, is a social worker in the Bronx who deals with abuse, poverty, and drugs on a daily basis. Meghan’s career and life are dramatically altered while interviewing Brian Greenstreet, a man who left his infertile wife to be with their pregnant surrogate, and she drops an obscenity when they go to commercial break. However, her microphone is still live and her misstep is captured for the world to see. This seemingly small “accident” quickly tarnishes Meghan’s persona and she seeks refuge in Jamaica away from the spotlight and her family. Leaving no forwarding phone number or address, Bridget becomes concerned when she is unable to track down her sister. She also learns from Evan, Meghan’s husband, that they have decided to separate, a fact Meghan had failed to share with her sister. Bridget finally learns of her sisters location and after receiving word from her sister via facsimile, she leaves for Jamaica to check on her. When she arrives, she finds that Meghan has been completely transformed and no longer resembles her old self. Meghan hesitates to return to New York, knowing what awaits her upon her return. If she leaves the sanctuary of Jamaica, she must face the harsh truths about her career and her marriage.

Evaluation: I thought the author did a great job of portraying the relationship between sisters and how they both coped with hardships. Bridget and Meghan are complex and layered characters and I felt that their dialogue painted a very realistic portrayal of  the role of women as sisters, mothers, and wives and the challenges they face in each of these roles. I did feel at times that Bridget’s flashbacks of her life growing up and the many parties she attended along side her sister were redundant and didn’t really move the story forward. They did provide some insight into why Meghan and Bridget developed the relationship they had but apart from that I found it a bit dry. It was an extremely quick read and I was a little surprised that the author chose to end the book they way she did. It was a tad bit predictable but overall I found the book engaging and well-written.  A must read for those interested in women’s fiction.

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Appeal Factors: Character-driven, leisurely-paced, witty, compelling, and humorous

Read-alike Titles and Authors:

  • Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Home Safe, by Elizabeth Berg
  • Babylon Sisters, by Pearl Cleage

Awards: No awards are available for this book.

Booktalk Ideas:

  • Ask questions that evoke an empathetic response from the reader/audience. Put them in one of the character’s shoes. Ex. Bridget after finding out she is pregnant and Meghan after her incident on live television.

Book Discussion Questions:

  1. Why does Meghan change her appearance in Jamaica? What does this say about her feelings towards her life in New York?
  2.  How does their mother’s death shape their relationship with one another? Does Meghan’s ability to remember more of the past influence her feelings towards New York life?
  3. Do you feel Meghan acted selfishly by retreating to Jamaica? Why did she feel the need to cut off communication from everyone, even her sister Bridget?
  4. Was the Meghan we met in the first part of the story the real Meghan or was it just a persona she adopted? Do you feel she found the “true” her in Jamaica? If so, why?
  5. How did the story change after Leo’s shooting? Did it bring Meghan and Bridget closer? Were you surprised at how the story ended and do you feel like both sisters found true happiness with themselves and each other?
  6. What does the saying “rise and shine” signify for Meghan at the beginning of the story? at the end?

I had never heard of this author or title before I began reading it. I found the book while searching Amazon’s Best Seller’s List under Women’s Fiction. I haven’t read much Women’s Fiction and was excited to read a book that was about sisters and their evolving relationship in the face of adversity. When I read the back of the book it stated that the novel was full of “humor, heartbreak, and drama” and I was immediately drawn to those appeal terms. From the quick excerpt on the back of the book, I got a sense that the two main characters, Bridget and Meghan, were complex and I needed to know how their stories played out.

Gone Girl, By Gillian Flynn

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Flynn, G. (2012). Gone girl. New York: Crown.

Hardcover $25.00, Paperback $15.00, Kindle $8.99, 416 pages or 19 hours via audiobook

ISBN: 978-0307588371

Author’s Website and Interviews:

http://gillian-flynn.com/

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2012/06/26/gillian-flynn-gone-girl-interview/

Online Reviews:

The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/books/gone-girl-by-gillian-flynn.html?_r=0

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/20/gillian-flynn-gone-girl-review

Annotation: Nick knows their annual treasure hunt is not what it seems as each clue brings him one step closer to a shocking truth.

Summary (WARNING-SPOILER ALERT): After both Nick Dunne and his wife Amy lose their jobs as writers, they move from New York City back to his hometown of North Carthage, Missouri after he learns his mother is gravely ill. He uses $80,000 from his wife’s trust fund to open The Bar with his twin sister Margo as a means of supporting his family. Amy is the daughter of well-known authors who capitalized from their Amazing Amy books, a series modeled after their daughter. Amy is used to a life of privilege and struggles with their new move as she begins to feel isolated and the strain of her marriage begins to weigh heavily on her. Amy documents her life pre and post Nick in her diary which often reveals harsh “truth” or rather we learn “untruths” about herself and her life. On the couple’s fiver year wedding anniversary, Nick discovers his wife is missing and comes home to a house that looks as if it has been ransacked. Throughout much of the first part of the book which is told in first person narrative, Nick attempts to clear his name as he is seen as the number one suspect in her disappearance. It is later revealed that Nick has been having an affair with one of his young student’s, Andie who he admits he has fallen in love with. The day of their anniversary, Nick had been planning on revealing to Amy that he no longer loved her and wanted a divorce. In the second half of the book, narration is set in present day and we learn that Amy is very much alive and in hiding at a cabin in the Ozarks. It is revealed that Amy knew all along about Nick’s affair and that the diary she penned in the first half of the book was pure fabrication to make herself likeable and to make Nick look like a cold-hearted monster. She frames him for her “murder” and uses their annual treasure hunt to reveal her twisted scheme to him.

Evaluation: I really enjoyed this book! I thought everything about this book was good except for the ending. The writing was excellent, very descriptive, suspenseful, and helped to paint a vivid picture of Amy and Nick’s marriage. I enjoyed that the book was fast-paced and there were twists and turns throughout that I never saw coming. It was thriller writing at its best as it worked to talk around and hint at secrets yet never fully revealed them until the right moment and them, BAM, you were hit in the face with one explosive shocking reveal after another. Flynn’s writing really captures the essence of marital discord and its impact on both Amy and Nick over the course of their marriage. I loved that the book left me shaking my head and wondering what the heck I just read. I definitely had more questions and answers but that just added to the suspense and thrill of it.

I listened to the first half (9 hours) of the audiobook version which was read by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne. Right away I did not like the male narrator’s voice and found it quite irritating. I didn’t think he was a great fit for Nick’s character and it was distracting at times. His pace was very slow at times and I found myself wanting to hurry him along. He sounded very theatrical at some points and tended to over enunciate his words making it sound very fake. However, I thought Julia Whelan did a great job as narrator and she really brought Amy’s character to life. I preferred to read this book rather than listen to it as an audiobook because I was able to move at my own pace and imagine the character’s voices in my head the way I thought they should sound. I always find audiobooks a bit distracting and usually can only listen to them as I read along with the book .

Genre: Thriller (Psychological)

Appeal Factors: Intricately plotted, character-driven, fast-paced, bleak, disturbing, suspenseful, compelling, and sharp-witted

Read-alike Titles and Authors:

  • Let the Dark Flower Blossom, by Norah Labiner
  • Before I Go To Sleep, by S. J. Watson
  • The Burning Air, by Erin Kelly

Awards: 2012-Good Reads Choice Awards, 2012-Library Journal Best Books, 2012-Romantic Times Reviewers’  Choice Award-Best Mystery & Suspense

Booktalk Ideas:

  • Use a cliffhanger to grab the reader’s/audience attention by reading a passage about Nick and the last clue of the 5th anniversary treasure hunt.
  • Talk about and around a secret but don’t reveal it right away. For example, Amy’s big reveal in her first diary entry in part 2.

Book Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you sympathize with either Amy or Nick’s character? Do you feel either were justified in their actions throughout the book?
  2. Did you believe Amy character’s/diary entries in the first part of the book were true? Were there any parts that raised a red flag and made you begin to question her story?
  3. What is Amy’s true relationship with her parents? Thoughts on the Amazing Amy series? Can this be seen as one of the motivations of her actions?
  4. Who do you think is the bigger liar, Amy or Nick? Are the lies told in the story justifiable? Do you think Amy and Nick have changed by the end of the book? How so?
  5. Were you shocked when the truth about Amy’s past with Desi, Hillary Handy, and Tommy was revealed? What did this reveal about her as a character?

This book was selected by my classmate’s for a book discussion but I had heard of it prior to that. The fact that it was a “psychological thriller” intrigued me and I was curious to know what the title of the book referred to. I read numerous reviews before I started reading it and everyone seemed to rave about it. I haven’t read very many thriller novels so I was curious to see what twists and turns both the plot and the characters took as the book progressed.

The Last Runaway, By Tracy Chevalier

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Chevalier, T. (2013). The last runaway. New York: Dutton.

Hardcover $26.95, Paperback $16.00, Kindle $9.00, 320 pages, Audio book 10 hours

ISBN: 978-0142180365

Author’s Website and Interviews:

http://www.tchevalier.com/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/mar/17/tracy-chevalier-interview-last-runaway

Online Reviews:

NPR: http://www.npr.org/2013/01/17/169068068/new-world-old-evil-in-tracy-chevaliers-runaway

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/mar/08/the-last-runaway-tracy-chevalier-review

Annotation: Honor Bright never imagined facing this unfamiliar landscape alone and  hoped her faith would be enough to see her through.

Summary: Set in 1850, Honor Bright, an English Quaker journeys to America aboard the Adventurer with her sister Grace who is betrothed to Adam Cox, a fellow Quaker who resides in Faithwell, Ohio. During the month long voyage, Honor is overcome with sea sickness and vows never to return to England out of fear of becoming sick again. Five months after arriving in America, Grace dies from Yellow Fever and Honor blames herself for making them travel by wagon instead of boat. She heads to Faithwell in a wagon driven by Thomas with the intent of informing Adam about Grace’s death. She soon encounters Donovan, a slave hunter, who insists on checking their wagon for fugitive slaves. After a quick stay with Belle Mills, a milliner who aids slaves in the Underground Railroad, she settles into Adam’s home to live with him and his sister Abigail. This new living arrangement does not sit well with the Quaker community and Honor soon finds herself betrothed to Jack Haymaker, a local farmer whose mother is a Quaker elder. Honor believes in the abolishment of slavery and is conflicted when she learns that her new family the Haymakers do nothing to help slaves, even though the Quaker faith  opposes slavery. She learns that their unwillingness to help slaves is out of fear of losing their farm and their livelihood which makes Honor question her Quaker beliefs as she must chose between doing what is morally right and abiding by her new family’s rules and beliefs.

Evaluation: I enjoyed the book and the quality of writing but I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters, especially Honor Bright. I did appreciate Chevalier’s attention to detail concerning domestic  life as well as her comparison of American versus English Quaker culture. I did feel the story moved rather quickly and it was very descriptive. I do feel that Chevalier created strong female characters, especially Belle Mills who embodied courage and defiance and felt like these characters really helped move the story and Honor forward. I listened to the audio book version of this novel and enjoyed the narration by Kate Reading as she has narrated other audio books I have recently listened to and I felt like she did a nice job of narrating the story. I thought this book translated fairly well to audio although at times I felt Reading’s narration was a bit too slow for me and I felt like I could have read at a faster pace. The quality of Reading’s narration was great and I thought she did a nice job of voicing both the male and female characters and really brought life to the story.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Appeal Factors: Leisurely paced, dramatic, strong sense of place, descriptive, and lyrical

Read-alike Titles and Authors:

  •  The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Rebellion of Jane Clark by Sally Gunning
  • Look Away by Harold Coyle

Awards: Did not find any awards available

Booktalk Ideas:

  • Ask questions that put the reader/audience in Honor’s shoes. Discuss the theme of isolation, defiance, and faith using rhetorical questions to evoke a sense of empathy for the plight of one of the characters.

Book Discussion Questions: http://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/13-fiction/9074-last-runaway-chevalier?start=3

  1. How does Honor’s friendship with Belle Mills impact her stay in Ohio? What role do female relationships play in the novel, especially relationships Honor develops with non-Quaker women?
  2. What is the real reason Honor does not wish to return to England? Is it more to do with the treacherous journey or her relationship with Samuel?
  3. What is the significance between Ohio quilting and England quilting? Is this representative of Honor’s feelings towards both her new home and her old one?
  4. How does Honor cope with loss throughout the book? Does she grieve differently than Americans?

A group of my peers selected this book for a book discussion and I was interested in reading it because I enjoy historical fiction. After reading the back of the book, I was interested to see what role Honor Bright played in the Underground Railroad and how her faith was tested in America.