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About the Reviewer: Kathy Larabell, Volunteer Book Reviewer and Friend of the San Benito County Free Library. “I am an educator who recently retired from an extensive career in teaching. Most of my teaching time was spent in middle school teaching language arts which I love.  Reading has been my passion along with music and travel since I was a young girl.  I hope you enjoy these reviews and these wonderful, creative books”.

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (Adult Fiction)

The Last Runaway is a gripping novel about a young Quaker woman’s experiences in America in the 1850’s.  The protagonist, Honor Bright, comes to Ohio from England leaving behind a major disappointment in hopes of finding a new life.  After arriving in America, a family tragedy forces Honor to rely on strangers to help her survive in this new environment. 

 Along with her personal problems, Honor must grapple with her convictions regarding human equality in a country divided by slavery.  Her eventual involvement with the Underground Railroad helps Honor make new friends as well as powerful enemies.  Faced with the dilemma of following her ethics or fitting into a community divided by this national problem, Honor must make a decision that will ultimately change her life forever.

 Tracy Chevalier, author The Girl With a Pearl Earring, has created another novel that keeps you interested and wondering what will happen next.  The Last Runaway explores a part of America’s history that continues to be a statement of standing up for your convictions in the face of powerful opposition.The Last Runaway/Adult Fiction


Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Young Adult novel)

Cinder is the first book in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series.  Reminiscent of Cinderella, Cinder is the adopted stepchild of her malicious stepmother, Adri.  Cinder is also a cyborg who is a gifted mechanic.  Cinder’s life is changed dramatically by the course of events in one fateful day.  Meeting Prince Kai in the marketplace and her stepsister’s contraction of the plague set in motion the extraordinary events of this novel.

Set in New Beijing, this is a tale of the human beings, cyborgs, and androids which exist in this dystopian society.  New Beijing is threatened with letumosis, the plague, and a frantic search is on to find a cure for this illness.  Cyborgs are being used as subjects to further this research which proves to be a problem and a possible answer to all of Cinder’s questions about her identity and her special talents that she has not revealed to anyone.  In addition to the plague, the society is also threatened by the Lunars who watch the plague slowly destroy this area that they covet.

Cinder’s stepmother, prompted by greed and anger at Cinder, sells Cinder to the lab to be used for experimentation.  Dr. Erland, the head of the lab, finds Cinder to be immune to the disease and so the plot becomes even more involved.  Cinder’s new found knowledge that she is indeed part Lunar causes her to be even more conflicted as she has one more piece of information to keep hidden from those around her.

An intergalactic struggle coupled with a society’s fear of disease and death present Cinder with what appears to be an impossible struggle for an answer.  Will Cinder’s secret identity save the society and dispel the intruders?

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold (Grades 2-4)

Facing your fears and not magnifying them is a theme in Black Dog.  Almost everyone in the Hope Family is frightened by what they think is a big, dangerous, black dog.  The youngest member of the family, Small Hope, is not afraid.   Small isn’t intimidated by the dog and eventually proves that sometimes fears aren’t realistic.  This book has a good story line and uses advanced vocabulary in an understandable context.  It is well-illustrated and effectively uses action and humor.