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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!

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Related:
A Piece of Sand, A Grain of Rice
The Isolation Door
Mind Without A Home

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.

Related:
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FOLLOW THE RIVER HOME: A Novel ~Corran Harrington

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

“Daniel Arroyo has suffered a lifetime of guilt over the sudden death of his infant sister, who died when he was eight years old.  He now lives his middle years between that guilt and worsening episodes of PTSD from a Vietnam he left thirty years ago.  When a violent encounter on a dusty highway forces Daniel to face what haunts him, he finds himself pulled back to the neighborhood of his youth. Where old houses hold tired secrets.  What really happened on that steamy August afternoon?  The answer comes spilling from the old neighborhood, and Daniel begins to find his way home.  Corran Harrington takes the reader along the Rio Grande, from its headwaters to the sea.” (Cover)

Each chapter of this book flowed a segment of Daniel’s life and each was a collection of tight, incredible, descriptive words, which just held the readers attention.  One knew the wild asparagus and the movement of water in the irrigation ditch.  This was the place where Daniel value programmed, of his best friend, of his siblings and parents.  There are roots here – deep roots.  Wild roses tapped the window and the basketball bounced on the court, it was supposed to be safe.  I think on purpose the next chapter did not flow from the last, rather it was a jump into another memory and experience and at first I found this disconcerting until I began to expect it.  I think this was to show the confusion in Daniel’s mind and it succeeded.  The psychological dimensions of the story were revealed and explained out of sequence and made the reader work a bit to integrate the life being told.

By coming back home, drawn in by the wonderful next-door neighbor, Daniel is able to find himself and his own truth and it will free his life and propel him forward.

FOLLOW THE RIVER HOME is quite the read and I think I will keep my advanced reading copy on my shelf for a future read.  At this time in my life the “death” theme was a bit tough to take and I felt sadness as I read – a loneliness that made finishing the story a release.

TLC Book Tours sent me a copy of this book for review.  If you go to the link you can see all the other reader’s reviews of this book.

From the Cover:

“Corran Harrington is a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Santa Fe Writing Project finalist, a Hidden River Arts Eludia Award finalist, a Bosque Fiction contest finalist, and a New Millennium Writings award semi-finalist who short fiction (written also as Connie Harrington) has appeared in number literary journals.  A former lawyer, Harrington also has a background in cultural and linguistic anthropology.  She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

NOTE: This review is several days late, I am so sorry I had a sudden illness and could not get to my computer to get the post into the schedule.  I hope this will prove to be a fine posting and not cause problems for TLC or the author.

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DIG TWO GRAVES: Suspenseful Mystery ~Kim Powers

Monday, December 7th, 2015

DIG TWO GRAVES came at me like a ton of bricks and I wasn’t ready.  I knew from the title that it was going to be about a murder but I did not figure out it was about lots of murders, a kidnapping or two, and a series of trials/tasks which needed to be completed to save a child’s life. The mystery begins right after the birthday party opening and father – daughter disagreement, we were dropped into the kidnapping scenario and the book was relentless with puzzles and actions, which needed to be solved and completed.

I had to put the book down several times as I could fall into the feeling the emotions of having a daughter kidnapped and of not being able to figure out the puzzle or meaning of the poem.  I was not familiar with the trials of Hercules although the main character was a teacher of ancient history and Greek Mythology at a college and that connection made it very interesting and piqued my curiosity a number of times.

Ethan Holt had done the Decathlon in the Olympics and won the gold.  He father had pushed and pushed him to compete and win.  After the win and being on the Wheaties Box, Ethan was allowed to disappear into his own life and he got his degrees in Ancient History and began teaching, he married and shared life with a child.  His life was full of loss as his parents died in a house fire and years later his wife was killed in a car accident, leaving Ethan to single parent his daughter “Skip”.

At thirteen, Skip was confident but going through a number of disagreements with her father that included her upset with a girl friend recently arrived in their lives.  Wendy is the new vet at the zoo.  Ethan and Skip go running early one morning to resolve a recent disagreement and when Ethan arrives home after work, he discovers that Skip has been kidnapped.  The kidnapper arranges a series of trials for Ethan to complete to keep his daughter from death and each involves more and more danger and brings into plain view another aspect of his life.

What is it that we learn from Ancient History and Mythology that teaches us in the present context of our life?   What has been abandoned or forgotten along the way and yet is relevant and important?  What is the truth of our past and how does it apply to our future?  Are we strong and will we survive?  Lots of questions posed within this story and the feelings are on high alert.   We all know someone who will find this read fascinating and the book hard to set aside.  The writing is steady and not complicated and it truly touched my emotions on several levels.  An intelligent read – interesting.

TLC Book Tours sent me the e-copy of this book for review and it was quite the read.

About the author: (From the cover)

“Kim Powers is the author of the novel Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story as well as the critically acclaimed memoir The History of Swimming, a Barnes and Noble ‘Discover’ Book and Lambda Literary Award finalist.  He is currently the senior writer for ABC’s 20/20, and has won an Emmy, Peabody, and Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence ruing his time at ABC News and Good Morning America.  A native Texan, he received an MFA from Yale School of Drama, and also wrote the screenplay for the indie-favorite film Finding North.  He lives in New York City and Asbury Park, NJ, and may be reached at kimpowersbooks.com.”

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