Official Review: Of Ashes and Dust by Marc Graham

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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Official Review: Of Ashes and Dust by Marc Graham

Post by cpru68 » 15 Jul 2018, 12:11

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Of Ashes and Dust" by Marc Graham.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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In his historical fiction novel Of Ashes and Dust, Marc Graham takes his readers back in time to the mid-1880's in the United States where slavery existed and a war was about to erupt between the North and the South.

The main character, James Douglas Robbinson, also known as J.D., is a child of six when the story unfolds. Everything is recounted from his perspective as the years leap by and tragedy seems to find him. It's through his experiences and observations that we get a glimpse into the battlefield where men fought each other, even if they had once been friends, at the orders of others.

At first glimpse, a person might assume that this is a story about the Civil War, but there is much more depth to it than that. It's about J.D's relationships and his drive to find significance in life along with the fulfillment of love. Spanning over many years besides the war, J.D. finds himself in conflict with Indians, evil white men and even himself. Intermixed are references to the Bible's account of Job who lost everything in life. What does one do with those feelings? Do you lay down and give up, or do you carry on?

The major framework surrounding this story is that of life and death. What is the meaning of it all? In one scene, a character makes this statement: "'The point is, it's not just the good or bad a man does that defines him. Everything he does, every choice he makes, makes him a new man every day, every minute.''' From this quote, it is quite apparent that this novel's intent is not only to educate on historical events but to make the audience think about their actions and the impact it has on those around them. In J.D.'s case, how does he reconcile the fact that he has killed men in acts of war and other situations? How does he find inner peace after participating in ending the lives of others?

Very rarely does a book impact me emotionally the way that this one did. As I was reading and taking notes early on, I suddenly found myself at one point saying, "Oh. My. Gosh!" to an empty room. That is a sign that the author has done an excellent job in crafting a surprise you don't see coming until it is right before your eyes. I enjoyed that aspect of the storytelling throughout, and even up until the end, I had no idea how it was all going to conclude.

There are scenes of violence in this book, but that is to be expected when a war is underway. Also, there are adult situations regarding sexual relationships. However, I must say that the author did not go into graphic detail about either of these subjects. He makes suggestions toward them and leaves it up to the reader's imagination to fill in the rest. I found that refreshing because he didn't use any of this to try and 'sell' his story. For those who are offended by slight language or minor graphic scenes, then you probably need to stay away from this one. However, I do not generally like these topics either, but the author handles them delicately, and I was not turned off in the least.

I found slight punctuation errors along the way, but it was mainly regarding compound sentences. For example, there is a missing comma after the word moment: 'My spine stiffened in that moment and I was about to go after the men.' Punctuation is needed to set apart the two complete sentences. I would suggest another look at these types of sentences to be sure all is in order.

None of those mistakes I mentioned was enough to take away from the quality of the writing. I found myself wondering how I could acquire this author's autograph now before he becomes famous as this is his debut novel, and he writes like a veteran. For the outstanding retelling of American history wrapped up in an enthralling story, I am awarding this book a 4 out of 4 stars.

******
Of Ashes and Dust
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Post by cpru68 » 16 Jul 2018, 00:14

****Reviewer note: the main character’s name is James Douglas Robbins not Robbinson. I realized this typo after my review was approved.
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Post by inaramid » 16 Jul 2018, 01:30

Wow. What a ringing endorsement! I can't wait to check this out. I loved that line you quoted from the book, and I found myself reflecting on a lot of things after reading your review. Thank you for this wonderful introduction to Mr. Graham's work.

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Post by Dahmy 10 » 16 Jul 2018, 03:25

A book with very little errors. Having lots of lessons from history and drawing life's lessons. I think I am going for this book. Mr. Marc has done a great work!

Thanks for the information!!!

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Post by Lunastella » 16 Jul 2018, 06:05

Your enthusiasm for this book is really contagious! And I love your candid review.
It sounds like a really meaningful book and thinking about the consequences of our actions is very important.
I´m not especially into battle stories, but apparently, there´s much more to this book than that so I´ll definitely add it to my to-read shelf.
Thank you!

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Post by Britty01 » 16 Jul 2018, 08:48

This descriptive review certainly encourages me to check this book out.

Stories about the Civil War, especially when they take on a personal tone by allowing the reader to see events unfold through the life of one person. If the violence and adult situations are handled in a subdued manner as the review suggests, I do not think that will spoil my enjoyment of this story.

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Post by OrlaCarty » 16 Jul 2018, 11:48

This book sounds incredible! I love the detail you've included in the review. Also your sentence about men who may have previously been friends fighting one another really grabbed me.

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Post by daydreaming reader » 16 Jul 2018, 13:23

Sounds very interesting, certainly looking forward to getting my hands on this. Thank you for the review.
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Post by Cecilia_L » 16 Jul 2018, 13:42

It sounds like you really connected with this book. I love reading a book that evokes the kind of emotional response you described. I also like the deeper issues the author explores in addition to the historical content. Thanks for the wonderful review!

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Post by kfwilson6 » 16 Jul 2018, 14:08

This sounds like quite the story. There seem to be quite a few themes intertwined in this emotional saga. I hope you are able to acquire that autograph soon :)

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Post by cpru68 » 16 Jul 2018, 14:44

inaramid wrote:
16 Jul 2018, 01:30
Wow. What a ringing endorsement! I can't wait to check this out. I loved that line you quoted from the book, and I found myself reflecting on a lot of things after reading your review. Thank you for this wonderful introduction to Mr. Graham's work.
It's a good one for sure! I am so grateful that I can read such grand books by new authors. I can't wait to see what he does next with his writing! Thanks for reading my review.
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Post by cpru68 » 16 Jul 2018, 14:46

Dahmy 10 wrote:
16 Jul 2018, 03:25
A book with very little errors. Having lots of lessons from history and drawing life's lessons. I think I am going for this book. Mr. Marc has done a great work!

Thanks for the information!!!
Thank you for reading my review. I love that he is a new author and has such a skill for making history enjoyable! Like, where was he when I was in school and NOT listening in my history classes because I was bored?! Thanks again for stopping by! :)
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Post by cpru68 » 16 Jul 2018, 14:49

Lunastella wrote:
16 Jul 2018, 06:05
Your enthusiasm for this book is really contagious! And I love your candid review.
It sounds like a really meaningful book and thinking about the consequences of our actions is very important.
I´m not especially into battle stories, but apparently, there´s much more to this book than that so I´ll definitely add it to my to-read shelf.
Thank you!
Before I take on any book for reviewing, I put it through quite a tedious process of looking up all the information on that author that I can, and I will read a sample if I available. I am not at all into war books and such, but this one just grabbed me from the get-go. He is a talented writer. Thanks for reading my review, and maybe give the sample on Amazon a try and see what you think.
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Post by cpru68 » 16 Jul 2018, 14:51

Britty01 wrote:
16 Jul 2018, 08:48
This descriptive review certainly encourages me to check this book out.

Stories about the Civil War, especially when they take on a personal tone by allowing the reader to see events unfold through the life of one person. If the violence and adult situations are handled in a subdued manner as the review suggests, I do not think that will spoil my enjoyment of this story.
Yes, usually, I am turned off by long graphic scenes of violence or sex. I am not that kind of reader. I guess I am old fashioned in a way that if the story is good, it should be able to stand on its own merit without being surrounded by a slew of cursing or sexual situations. And, that is what I did find here. I think that and his way of writing just drew me right in. Thanks for reading my review.
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Post by cpru68 » 16 Jul 2018, 14:53

OrlaCarty wrote:
16 Jul 2018, 11:48
This book sounds incredible! I love the detail you've included in the review. Also your sentence about men who may have previously been friends fighting one another really grabbed me.
Isn't that so true in this day and age? I am so tired of watching people who were once good friends get swept up in the 'political' of today and lose one another. The Civil War that this character fought in within the pages of this book is much like our landscape of America today..too much fighting and not enough handshaking! Thanks for reading my review.
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