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THE TALENTED RIBKINS: A Novel ~Ladee Hubbard

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Winner of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award

THE TALENTED RIBKINS was, “Inspired by W.E.B. Du Bois’s famous essay “The Talented Tenth” and fuelled by Ladee Hubbard’s marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together. “

Johnny Ribkin has now reached his 70s and life should be much easier and it is not.  His mobster boss is demanding the return of some money that Johnny has been taking for pay and has hidden in buried important spots all over Florida.  As he follows his map of hidey – holes, he discovers that his brother left a 13-year-old daughter, who has a special talent and her mother cannot pay the mortgage.  Johnny ends up sharing his retrieved cash with Eloise’s Mother and then taking Eloise on his adventure to find his funds and introduce her to her family.  Actually, every descendant in the Rib King’s family tree has a special talent and they find themselves happy to use their talent to their best advantage.  The family has some most unusual talents!

Johnny, his brother and his cousins in their youth formed together to create a Justice Committee.  This group protected and assisted folks who were working on civil rights and political action.  They formed a bond that was difficult to break and yet they needed more funds to keep going, which ultimately broke up the group.  Johnny was still trying to create the perfect map for the future – he just needed more money.  He discovered lots of corruption among politicians and that often their word was not true and he got roped into helping a mobster lawyer steal.

Eloise is a bright young woman working out very carefully how her talent might be useful to her and her future.  She enjoys learning about her family and their talents as she travels with her Uncle Johnny.  Her family is very funny and her curiosity creates a backdrop for the story to unfold.  The duo is on a mission and it is wonder full.

“For sheer reading pleasure Ladee Hubbard’s original and wildly inventive novel is in a class by itself.” —Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize-winning author of The Bluest Eye, Beloved, and Song of Solomon

“Crafty and wistful…Hubbard weaves this narrative with prodigious skill and compelling warmth. You anticipate a movie while wondering if any movie could do this fascinating family…well, justice. To describe this novel, as someone inevitably will, as Song of Solomon reimagined as a Marvel Comics franchise is to shortchange its cleverness and audacity.” —Kirkus, starred review

I enjoyed every page, the interesting writing style and the clever story.  The interesting politics and discoveries were just an added bonus.  Ah the bonds of family – THE TALENTED RIBKINS

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“Ladee Hubbard is the winner of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for the Short Story. She holds a BA from Princeton University, an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Talented Ribkins is her first novel.”

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THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD: A Novel ~Kate Brandes

Monday, May 8th, 2017

THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD is a mix of environmental issues and how small town land owners are coping with their reduced circumstances in Pennsylvania.  The tale is wrapped around two brothers who love the same woman and were abandoned by their mother.  I was hopeful about the story and about the premise.  The descriptions were good and one could feel the trauma that the town was experiencing clearly.

The gas company, ironically called Green Energy (What a fraud – like clean coal! Good choice by the author to point out another deception) and they are purchasing lease agreements to drill for gas, pay the landowners and also do fracking within each field.  With the loss of coal production in the area, the town’s people are desperate for income and futures, many sign up for lease agreements right away.  Then occurs an accident and bad weather.

One brother is trying to save his family orchard and his wife is adopting organic measures for her section of the trees.  They want their water to remain clean.  One brother is trying to sell the gas leases.  The boys’ mother, now an environmental lawyer is called upon to help folks understand and provide a solution and reconnect with her sons.  THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD is a warm, sweet story with a bundle of deceptions.  Maybe a good Midwest story but not a very promising educational story for those who have been working on the environment and Greening our world – too wishy, washy.

Several reviewers related the story to Barbara Kingslover’s PRODICAL SUMMER; I can only feel a slight connection.  Whereas SUMMER really did dig deeply into the community feelings and frustrations, it truly added the ballast of how to help minds change and move towards reconciliation of old beliefs, economic frustrations, and the work that needs doing to protect an environmental future that “wins” for everyone – especially the earth.   Then again maybe many readers will enjoy this story because of the “love” story and the infertility issues of the main couple?   Would the story be a helpful teacher towards the environmental issues? I just do not know.

A TLC Book Tours review book.  Definitely in the Women’s Fiction category, a good read – THE PROMISE OF PIERSON ORCHARD

About the Author:

An environmental scientist with 20 years of experience, Kate Brandes is also a watercolor painter and a writer of women’s fiction with an environmental bent. Her short stories have been published in The Binnacle, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Grey Sparrow Journal. Kate is a member of the Arts Community of Easton (ACE), the Lehigh Art Alliance, Artsbridge, the Pennwriters, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Kate lives in a small town along the Delaware River with her husband, David, and their two sons. When she’s not working, she’s outside on the river or chasing wild flowers.

Kate Brandes Facebook
Kate Brandes Web
Kate Brandes Twitter

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ECHOES OF FAMILY: A Novel ~Barbara Claypole White

Monday, September 26th, 2016

“A Brit living in North Carolina, Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness.  Her debut novel, THE UNFINISHED GARDEN, won the 2013 Golden Quill Contest for Best First Book, and THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR was chosen by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as a Winter 2014 Okra Pick.  Her third novel, THE PERFECT SON, was a semifinalist in the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fiction. (Cover)

Marianne is a mature woman who suffers with Bipolar Disorder and other mental health issues.  She also runs a successful recording studio with her husband Darius and her adoptive daughter Jade.  They all work and enjoy music together on Marianne’s property in North Carolina; there is a state of the art studio.  Marianne has not been suicidal for an extended period of time, but due to a recent car accident she is obsessing about another car accident in which her friend Simon died and she lost her pregnancy.  She believes Simon’s brother Gabriel is taking the blame and she wishes to remedy this problem – right now.

The vast majority of the story takes place in a small British town centered on the historic church where Gabriel is the rector.  Marianne stops taking her medications and sneaks out of her house and off to the UK to help Gabriel truly understand that the car accident was her fault and not his.  They were just 16 at the time.  Marianne also needs to understand why her birth mother rejected her and why her adoptive parents did not reject her.  They did move the family to the United States after the accident and after Marianne had a big “incident” in the community, as mental illness was becoming a new problem.

It does not take long for Jade and Darius to figure out where Marianne has gone and they too are soon part of Gabriel’s life as this family takes over his life, his house and all his time.  There are some wonderful, delightful British characters in the story and as Marianne ends up in a private mental hospital there are connections made, which have interesting consequences.

The story holds the reader’s attention with plenty of details and descriptions and one can certainly identify with the frustrations that mental illness brings to situations.  There are several happy endings and one difficult one to bring the story to a good conclusion.  I liked the included book group question section and there is a great interview with the author included.  A very good read and I am going to suggest it to my book group to add it to the list. A sensitive treatment of Bipolar Disorder and an engaging read.

TLC Book Tours  sent me an e-copy for reading and review.

There is a 100 e-copy giveaway on Goodreads for this book!

Barbara Claypole White On Facebook
Barbara Claypole White Twitter

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FAMILY TREE: A Relationship Story ~Susan Wiggs

Monday, August 15th, 2016

“Susan Wiggs is the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of more than fifty novels, with her books in print in thirty countries.  A native of a small town in upstate New York, she now lives with her husband at the water’s edge on an island in Puget Sound, and in good weather can commute to her writers’ group in a twenty-one-foot motorboat.  A former teacher and graduate of the University of Texas and Harvard, Susan is also an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier, and cautious mountain biker – yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. (From the book jacket)

FAMILY TREE is just a lovely read and it was such a pleasure to curl up and enjoy each page on a rainy summers day.  The story unfolds in a small rural community in Vermont, on a farm dedicated to Maple Syrup and healthy lifestyles.  Annie is the girl who drives herself to do everything well and is determined to follow her passion into a big career in the media.  She has learned under the careful tutelage of her Grandmother the ‘Art of Baking’ and she has an innate skill for the craft.

FAMILY TREE is a generational story, which includes the art of creating Maple Syrup to the art of building family relationships that grow and do not consume.  There is considerable wisdom shared in the gentle writing style through the school years, college years and into career building.  Will family patterns repeat and continue into future problems?   What will be success for the family, each character and for the community?

I learned a great deal about the small family farmer, the maple sugar industry, distilling and cooking.  The book came complete with recipe cards for some of the amazing meals served up between the pages.  The book is also about persevering and adapting to change happening to and around each of the characters. A very nice study and I am sure many readers will want this story to come true for them selves.

When I leave the movies it takes a minute or two to come back into the present tense.  It is the same with FAMILY TREE.  The story suspends time and relaxes the reader; taking them away from their own life and problems delightfully.  I am sure it is another bestseller in the making and I can recommend it.  I have not made any of the recipes but I did enjoy FAMILY TREE with several cozy cups of tea.

TLC Book Tours sent me a print copy of this book for review.

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