Growing Concerns Book Club

When author Rhonda Tibbs told me about Growing Concerns: An Eco-Horror Anthology edited by Alex Hurst, I was more than intrigued.  Halloween being my favorite holiday where dressed as a witch I scare all of the neighborhood children and shriek at the top of my lungs while touring haunted houses, I knew this was a must read.  If looking for fear in the form of words on a page, not an easy task for an author I might add, Growing Concerns, a short story anthology which makes one view plants, flowers, and soil in a whole new phosphorescent light should be the next book added to your reading list.

Beginning with Leahey’s “The Wisteria,” the “hook” begins with the bitter conversation of a married couple:

Charles leaned out the back door and pointed an accusatory finger, “Dammit, Gia, look at this!”

It was obviously my fault.  I had no idea what he was talking about, but still, it was clearly my fault, “What is it Charlie?”

My husband’s scowl twisted his handsome face into an ugly mask.  He hated being called Charlie.  I liked to pretend it just slipped out but really, I did it just to annoy him.  (Loc 62 of 4094)

Thus, the tone of a decaying marriage set the stage against a backdrop of full of life (literally) purple blooming wisteria.  So, I can now with all certainty type, any notion of planting wisteria near our own deck in the hopes of a shade canopy have withered. 

Furthermore, reading the tales of these devout gardeners made me second guess any thought I ever had of joining a garden club.  In Magas’ “Journal 6 of 8:  Techniques in Grafting,” gardening takes on a new level of commitment, “He bled a little where his scalp split, but blood is good.  The plants like blood  (Loc 382 of 4094). . . It’s a strange realization to come to- finding that you feel more for a dying plant than you do for a dying human being”  (Loc 487-8 of 4094).

In addition, the vivid descriptions in Cady’s “Those Were Days of Roses,” enchants all of a reader’s senses:

The front lawn yawned open like a bloated black tongue, thick tufts of black and green weeds spiking out of oozy quicksand and steaming black mud, the hiss of snakes and the gurgle of swamp gas as a slow, foul breeze blew out of the innards of the estate . . ..”  (Loc 2339 of 4094).

Growing Concerns, beyond a shadow of a doubt, would have matured to a five out of five rating from me if it were not for the missing articles sprinkled throughout the anthology as well as incorrect verb tenses as in “choose” (Loc 893 of 4094) instead of “chose.”

Nevertheless, for the purposes of book club, tomato pie comprised of     “. . . late-planted heirlooms.  Followed by sauteed bell peppers and squash, white corn, and a fresh mint tea” (Loc 3594 of 4094) would be sure to satisfy the herbivore within us all.  However, bear in mind, a restful night’s sleep after such a feast may not come to fruition.

Season of Hope Book Club

Feigning denial no longer, I must move on to the next step, acceptance;  acceptance I must either reread Rhonda Tibbs’ latest novel, Season of Hope in order to reconcile with protagonist Danny or impatiently wait to reunite (absence does make the heart grow fonder) with him in her next installment of the Coulter family saga.  Season of Hope continues with Danny (much to my delight), an art student attending the University of Tulsa, where author Tibbs’ first novel in the series, Shadow leaves off.

True to her style of writing, Tibbs is able to transport the reader to places never before seen through her descriptive writing:

A few hours after leaving Sarah and Tulsa behind, Danny passed through the quiet center of Shadow, a little town nestled in the Kiamichi Valley in the western Ouachita Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma.  At the edge of town, he turned onto the two-lane blacktop that led to his family’s ranch.  The air was chilly, but he pulled over and put the top down for the last few miles of his journey.  He cruised along, inhaling the scent of the rich earth while his eyes feasted on familiar land.  (9)

The careful selection of vocabulary such as “nestled” and “feasted” brings to fruition an English teacher’s dream of active verb choices in writing.  Aaaaaah!  Wiping the drool from my mouth, Tibbs also makes use of the literary device allusion as in “When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew”  (11).  This quote by poet, journalist, novelist, and composer Arrigo Boito was inspired by none other than Shakespeare.  Be still my heart;  I am using this quote on the hub come Valentine’s Day.

Furthermore, Tibbs’ ability to capture raw passion makes its presence throughout Season of Hope:

She looked up at him, light dancing in her eyes.  He leaned down and kissed her with lingering tenderness.  She pressed closer and his youthful body relished the contact.  Heat flashed between them and he stepped away.  (12)

No (I pleaded as I read), do not step away . . .

Ahem, for the purposes of book club, avoidance of Grandma Sarah’s experimentation in cooking might be a wise choice.  Instead, Mama Rose’s cinnamon rolls, “the most delicious cinnamon rolls I’ve ever eaten”  (264) and Caroline Coulter’s homemade biscuits would provide much needed comfort when discussing Danny and Season of Hope.

Rhonda Tibbs’ Shadow Book Club

Ooops!  She did it again . . .  Rhonda Tibbs’, author of her fourth novel, Shadow, reeled me in yet again.  Shadow, is a coming-of-age novel about Danny Coulter, a budding artist, and his affinity for the Kiamichi River.  A fan of her writing, I was anxiously awaiting the first installment of her latest series.  Yet, upon receiving my copy, I read slowly and methodically, taking forced breaks, knowing that if I dived in head first, there would be no stopping me until the last page was turned.  Alas, though, a stretch of a few hours on a rainy afternoon drew me into the novel, and there was no point of return.
Tibbs’ ability to harness the turbulent emotions of young love and then deliver them on paper is not only addicting, but nostalgic.  In fact, my own sixteen-year-old self- long a memory- manages to come alive again at the turn of every page.
For the purposes of book club, weather permitting, an informal picnic complete with a blue and white checkered tablecloth at the local park would be ideal.  A basket bearing ham and cheese sandwiches, potato salad, pickles, and bottled soda would recall Danny and the female protagonist, Isabelle‘s reunion after a summer spent apart in 1967.  For the matter of dessert, this meal would not be complete without Mama Rose’s chocolate chip cookies.

Rhonda Tibbs

Purdie Magee Book Club

    I am not sure why I continually do this to myself, but I cannot help myself.  Rhonda Tibbs’ written works are addicting even though they cause me much anxiety during the reading and much sorrow after the reading of her novels.  With the release of her third novel Purdie Magee, I, in essence, had no choice but to immediately download the e-version.  Yes, my name is Courtney, and I am a Tibbsaholic. . .
     Intrigued by the backstory of the main character, Purdie Magee, there was no turning back once I turned the page to chapter six and met Gabe Austin, the green-eyed, Camel-smoking man with a “cat-like walk”  (33).   Not simply due to the “va va voom” effect of this character description does Tibbs entice the reader, but because of Tibbs’ ability to create in the reader a true empathy for her characters.  Two souls literally and metaphorically abandoned by their families cross paths, and what evolves are two complex histories interwoven with plot twists which keep the reader on the edge of her seat throughout Purdie Magee’s entirety.
     For the purposes of book club, a field trip to a local pottery studio would be ideal.  An English teacher’s dream, Purdie Magee revolves around the theme of creating beauty from what was once deemed ordinary or imperfect.  Thus, The Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois, offers such classes where one may manipulate clay into an object with aesthetic value.

Rhonda Tibbs