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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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Barbara Claypole White Twitter

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The Passage: A Novel ~Michael Hurley

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Give a middle aged American Irishman a bar fight, put him on his sailboat headed to Ireland to find the true taste of Guinness and an amazing story emerges from Hurley’s imagination.   I could not put this book down, I was possessed by the story and the frame and range of the surface right to the depth the heart can reach.

I am so very happy Mr. Hurley asked me if I wanted to read it and that he sent me a PDF copy.  WOW.  Lucky ME!

I even read THE PASSAGE on two 4-hour car rides.  I could totally identify with the main character’s life – “Fitz” was just right and complete and steadfast and I just wanted to know how he was fairing on his path to salvation, redemption and his progress to shore up his self-worth.  The tragedies and mistakes were sublime and the droplets of humor and descriptions just tickled and delighted my imagination – holding my attention steadfastly.

Several years ago I reviewed another of Hurley’s books – THE VINEYARD.  The story was interesting and well written, but I could not identify with any of the 3 women characters.  None of them became real.  The book went on to win awards and I just thought “Oh well, we all have different tastes in reading.”

The twists and turns in the writing of this novel, were remarkably paced and just slid into this readers psyche with sometimes a sigh, a laugh or a didn’t see that coming.  It is so like life – no matter the taste of Guinness – no matter where.

“Do you believe in everlasting Love?”

My favorite quote came at PDF page 146: “Genre fiction uses plot to tell you a story about someone else’s life.  Classic fiction uses characterizations to tell you a story about yourself.”

What is holding onto you?  What is making you define yourself incorrectly?  How do you care and like yourself?  What pieces/peaces are you missing in your own journey?  What are the meanings you hold dear? And are those things, which you value – programed at age 10 true or false?

Life is definitely a journey and a process and so many of us have a middle-aged change of heart and endeavor.  It would be hard not to relate to this character and his story.  Irish magic just short of leprechauns and fairies adds just the right leverage to this tale.  I am passing this on to several friends for sure.

A remarkable read and I would give it a “10” and hope that it might reach the award phase and become a best seller.

About the Author (from book cover)

“Michael Hurley is the author of three novels and several works of nonfiction.  His debut novel, THE PRODIGAL, won the Chanticleer Reviews Grand Prize for Book of the Year in 2013.  This second novel, THE VINEYARD, won the 2015 Eric Hoffer Award for General Fiction.  A memoir, ONCE UPON A GYPSY MOM, was published in 2013 by Hachette Book Group.  His essay collection, LETTERS FROM THE WOODS, was shortlisted for Book of the Year in 2005 by ForeWard Reviews.  Between 1995 and 2003, he published a quarterly literary journal on wilderness canoeing, now collected in single hardcover volume entitled HURLEY’S JOURNAL.  He wrote THE PASSAGE while living in England and Wales.  He keeps a journal and stays in touch with readers on his website, www.mchurley.com

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LIAR: A Memoir ~Rob Roberge

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Very happy to be asked by Net Galley to read this memoir, which pulled no punches about the read being dark and humorous at the same time.  It was just that, as the author is Bipolar (Manic Depression), suffers with alcoholism, and has been a junkie for most of his 43 years.

Hindsight is so 20/20.  It was amazing that Roberge could write, finish school, sing and teach as he worked his way through self-medication and mental health workers offering up loads of mediations and lock-up stints.

Roberge has recently discovered that he has a concussion illness and he will slowly loose his mind. After 15 years of being sober and not doing drugs he had a relapse with this new diagnosis and is motivated to write the memoir and tell his side of the story.  I want to go see the movie Concussion, which has just been released in the theaters because of reading this book.   As a counselor by training, the book touched me deeply to understand the process of mental illness from the inside and the experience.  I was upset that his supportive parents would never talk or explore with him about his mental illness and what he could do to find relief in more positive ways.

The book is due to be released on February 9th 2016, and Roberge must have a good following as the pre-orders are growing steadily.

We truly need to work on remedying our mental health coverage and understanding in this country and hopefully this read will be popular enough to bring about more action and understanding in our communities and our states.  It is a hard read and a good read and I am very pleased to have been asked to review it. LIAR is an important communication to our world.

“A darkly funny, intense memoir about mental illness, memory and storytelling, from an acclaimed novelist.” (Amazon page)

The writing is quite good and does not leave the reader wanting; it pulls one into the story and the sadness that accompanies the confusing and difficult circumstances, which are part of this life story.  The words move at a fast paced with a clarity that many of us do not see.   It is a 40 year old interpreting what he experienced when he was young; looking for resolutions still for what may not yet have answers for those who wish to understand and know.

“Rob Roberge is the author of four books of fiction, most recently The Cost of Living. He teaches creative writing, and his work has been widely anthologized. He also plays guitar and sings with the Los Angeles –based band the Urinals.” (From Book)

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SING THEM HOME: A Wonderful and Restorative Novel ~Stephanie Kallos

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

I have just finished reading LANGUAGE ARTS by Stephanie Kallos and just wanted more of her writing to explore, so I treated myself to an e-copy of her novel SING THEM HOME.   I was not disappointed.  The read was delicious and it is going to challenge me to share just 500 words about it.  I am definitely going to read this book again.

I could approach this book by saying the Jones Family was the main characters of the story and I would be right.  Each member was well described and had enough story to make you feel as though you knew them well.  Dad was defined by the other members of the family and did not have long chapters of his life on his own merit but rather how he related to his family and community.

I could say that the community of Emelyn Springs, Nebraska was the main character of this story.  What is life in a small village, which is suffering from a demise of business supposed to do to prop themselves up and keep going?   It is a community with strong roots and traditions – it is Welsh, and the men all enjoy singing.  The folks spend a week singing the dead “home” and truly celebrate a life.  Music is vital to these people and they start singing as to give voice to problem solving and to call all to come together.

Actually, I think the weather in this part of Nebraska is the primary villain in the story.  Too hot and then again right in a Tornado Alley.  What they must contend with and the ways they must be safe are a tremendous part of the towns experience and it’s crucial to the Jones family and the lives that are shared.  Bonnie and her mother, Hope, are carried away by the storm and this changes the family forever.  The town finds Bonnie is a fallen tree and sings to her until a fire truck can arrive from a neighboring city to rescue her.  They keep her alive and now years later she is obsessed with picking up interesting finds and discoveries, riding her bike everywhere and talking to the dead.  Hope, who has MS completely disappears and is presumed dead.  The house is gone.

“When grounded, the dead mothers feel every footstep of every human being all over the world.”  (page 16)

Dad is the local doctor for the community, Larken is the oldest daughter and teaches Art History at the University, and Gaelan, the son, is now the weatherman at the big city TV station.  What happens to a family when their mother is ill and then gone? How are they changed?  How do they love again and what brings them home?

I could not put the book down, I was so transported into the story and the lives of each character.  I did not want to live in their town or even go for a visit, but I so enjoyed the way they used traditions and song to keep in touch and to sing each person “home”.  There was so much meaning and connection.

The writing weaves the story home and the weird keeps a twinkle in the reader’s eye all the way through until the plot straightens out and one finds restoration of the narrative to complete the picture.  It was just a perfect length and had a great ending and I was able to say; “Now the story is complete.”   It was just right.

Stephanie Kallos lives in Seattle, Washington with her big family and works at her art of storytelling.  BROKEN FOR YOU was her first novel and that was quite the wonderful read also.

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