Publishers Weekly on People and Peppers: A Romance

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly

James (Fling with a Demon Lover) turns a love letter to Trinidad into this stylish literary novel filled with sensuous prose and colorful setting. Twenty-something ex-athlete Vivion K. Pinheiro, now a farmer in Trinidad, cultivates a five-acre patch of specialty spicy peppers called Moruga Red Scorpion. He flies off to New York City in search of a distributor to market and sell his prized pepper crop to restaurants. Meantime, his live-in girlfriend, Shanika “Nikki” Grant-Ali, discovers she is pregnant with their child while she’s pursuing her lucrative career as a much sought-after portrait painter. The other strong, independent woman in Vivion’s life is his wealthy mother, Andaluza Ashaki Pinheiro, a real estate mogul, who spoils her only son by deeding him a former cocoa plantation. She also indulges Vivion’s other whims by bankrolling the construction of his “dream palace,” where he grows his hot peppers. While in New York City, Vivion meets and befriends jolly Hideo Arata, “the hot pepper baron of Japan,” and invites him to come and inspect his pepper-growing project. The protagonist’s passion for agriculture and ecological issues help to add the needed character depth to the rich-kid stereotype. (Mar.)

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A Novel Relationship – WMRA interviews Erika Raskin

By Martha Woodroof

On this edition of The Spark, Martha Woodroof speaks with writer Erika Raskin. Erika grew up the child of Marcus Raskin (a human rights activist whom Dennis Kucinich called, “the dean of the American Left”) and novelist Barbara Raskin. Her own first novel, Close, came out in October. Erika, along with a host of other writers, is set to participate in next week’s Virginia Festival of the Book.

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JL Morin’s Nature’s Confession Blog Tour


HuffPo – A Mountain of Beans

HuffPo – Universities Make Cli-fi Dreams Come True

Offbeat YA – Science Fiction Grew a Conscience: “We Have Been Fighting the Wrong War”

Sustainable Cities Collective – The Sustainable Growth Oxymoron

Huffington Post – There’s More to the Oil Crash Than Meets The Eye

LitPick – Six Tips on Writing Reviews – The Veil
Included in the Guardian’s ‘What are the best eco books for children and teens?’:


Next stops:

June 15 – Working Mommy Journal – review / giveaway
June 15 – Book Stop Corner – review / author interview / giveaway
June 16 – Coffee, Books & Art – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
June 17 – Svetlana’s Read and Views – review
June 18 – fuonlyknew – review / giveaway
June 19 – The Autistic Gamer – review
June 22 – Nighttime Reading Center – review / author interview / giveaway
June 24 – 3 Partners in Shopping – review / giveaway
June 25 – Library of Clean Reads – review / giveaway
June 26 – Deal Sharing Aunt – review / author interview / giveaway

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Get Yang Huang’s Book Club Kit

Click to get your Living Treasures

Book Club Kit


What do a law student and a panda have in common? When Gu Bao falls in love with a handsome, young soldier only to be hunted by one-child policy enforcers, she finds out what it feels like to be an endangered species.

Set in China during the tumultuous Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, Living Now Award Winner, and Bellwether Prize finalist Living Treasures portrays the crusade of Gu Bao, a girl who grows up under the Chinese government’s one-child policy. The Chinese government has enforced strict controls to keep the country from environmental destitution and poverty ever since Mao’s ban on family planning left China a legacy of 1.1 billion people, 20% of the population on earth. Bao searches for her inner strength while exploring the Sichuan mountain landscape. She befriends a panda mother caught in a poacher’s snare, and an expectant young mother hiding from villainous one-child policy enforcers bent on giving compulsory abortions. All struggle against society to preserve the treasure of their little ones. Bao devises a daring plan that changes the lives of everyone around her. Will Bao earn a second chance to save a family from destruction? What price will Bao pay to prevent a full-term abortion and save a panda cub?

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Midwest Book Review, LOVE’S AFFLICTION

Love’s Affliction by Fidelis O. Mkparu is the story of love across racial and cultural boundaries, when a young Nigerian premed student, Joseph Fafa, falls for Wendy Crane. Coming to North Carolina at seventeen to attend college, Joseph is forced to fight racial prejudice daily while pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor. He meets Wendy Crane, whose wealthy father opposes their relationship. It is said that young love rarely reaches its full potential, but Joseph and Wendy are determined to prove everyone wrong. Love’s Affliction captures the weakness and heartbreak of forbidden love. Will their romance endure the scrutiny of a racially-charged small college town?

Critique: An exceptionally well crafted work, Love’s Affliction is an engaging and extraordinary multi-cultural novel that documents author Fidelis O. Mkparu as a talented, first class storyteller. Love’s Affliction is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and would prove to be a valued addition to community library Contemporary Fiction collections.

Midwest Book Review, Clint’s Shelf

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‘I Love Books’ Viddy Review: NATURE’S CONFESSION


” . . . I have to say it’s one of the best books I have ever read.”

I Love Books video reviews by Louise Colclough

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Eco-Fiction Honorable Mention: NATURE’S CONFESSION

Artists and authors are among those working to send a message about climate change, and among them, an excerpt of JL Morin’s upcoming cli-fi novel, Nature’s Confession, received an Honorable Mention.

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Mail & Guardian: ‘Nature’s Confession’ – climate fiction everybody should read

This article by Bert Olivier first appeared in the Mail & Guardian

Award-winning novelist JL Morin’s latest novel, Nature’s Confession (Harvard Square Editions, 2014/15), is a newcomer to the stable of the newly named genre (or perhaps sub-genre) of cli-fi (climate fiction, associated with sci-fi) novels, and is a rollercoaster of a story that valorises creativity and imagination in the face of the imponderable climate catastrophe looming on the not-too-distant horizon. My recent post on Peter Paik’s paper concerning Michel Houellebecq’s novel, The Possibility of an Island, also resorted under this category of cli-fi, although I was not familiar with the term then.

The term “cli-fi” is the brainchild, apparently, of journalist and climate activist Dan Bloom, who created the sub-genre as a “wake-up call”, with Margaret Attwood as his inspiration (read her Oryx and Crake, and you will understand why). (You can find out more about Bloom here.) JL Morin does the genre proud with her new novel, which combines cli-fi and sci-fi in a gripping narrative of planet-saving, galactic proportions, while delivering corporate short-sightedness, born of unmitigated greed, a merciless critical blow.

A word of warning is called for here. Don’t think for a moment that …(more Mail & Guardian)

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Slip and bawl

From Erika Raskin’s Blog

Yesterday started off as a seriously crap day. I’d just made my favorite bowl of instant oatmeal (slash sugary soup) and was walking over to the kitchen table (which I also use as my desk ) when I tripped on something (invisible) and dumped two cups of hot runny cinnamon spice mixture INTO my keyboard (slash computer). I tried to tell myself that with patience and denial I’d be able to deal. I got paper towels and Q-tips.

Then the caps locked. And the space bar didn’t.

And I called the Apple store and explained, in roughly the same tone of voice I might use for a bone protruding from my ankle, what had happened. They basically told me to call an ambulance.

I flew across town.

reduced to one blinking question mark. hm.

The techies were able to save the hard drive (whatever that means) and the three novels housed inside. But the rest of the machine was toast.

Suffice it to say that I may have won the prize for spending the most money ever on a packet of instant cereal. My new computer is beautiful (with letters still on the keys) and no old meals between them. But I definitely learned my lesson.

I am so over oatmeal.


Erika Raskin is the author of CLOSE


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Midwest Book Review, LIVING TREASURES

Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

Living Treasures was a Bellwether Prize finalist and is a powerful novel set in China and centered on a young law student who finds her life changed by the violence in Tiananmen Square, which kills one of her friends. Her reaction (since she eschews violence) is to fall in love with a charismatic young soldier: the only problem is, she becomes pregnant.

Her parents arrange for her abortion and she flees school and home in disgrace, ending up at her grandparents’ house in China’s remote Sichuan mountains.

For all intents and purposes this story could have ended here; but Bao’s saga continues in an unexpected direction when she helps a panda and a pregnant young mother (who is hiding from China’s one-child policy enforcer).

Here Bao’s own background comes into play as she sides with family and survival and finds herself simultaneously immersed in a dual struggle to save a young woman and a panda cub.

Living Treasures is nothing short of spectacular; especially for readers who want a story steeped in Chinese culture, tradition, and politics but cemented by a powerful young woman who emerges as a savior to others. Equally notable are passages filled with a sense of rural place, which engage all one’s senses in the sounds, smells, and feel of Sichuan province:

“She hiked up the mountain. Wild azalea leaves glistened, their buds swollen and pink, ready to burst into flower. The red bark of birch trees caught the sun’s slanting rays, and lichens drooped in luminous strands from their boughs…Never in her life had she imagined fawning over a peasant who tried to circumvent the one-child policy. Bao was a university student, the elite of Chinese youth, and a law student at that!”

Any who want a slowly-building sense of place and purpose and who want to better understand Chinese culture, history, and heritage will find Living Treasures is all about the nation’s changes, reflected in the life of young Bao as she learns how and when to take stands for her changing beliefs.

Literary and lyrical, Living Treasures is a lovely, absorbing story steeped in Chinese tradition.

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San Francisco Book Review of LIVING TREASURES

San Francisco Book Review

The year is 1989. Eighteen-year-old Bao, a first-year law student, finds herself smitten with Tong, the commanding officer she met during her required college military training camp. Bao knows better than to date (let alone engage in sexual relations) because that would mean expulsion from school. Nonetheless, Bao’s covert meetings with Tong eventually lead to intimacy followed by an unexpected pregnancy. Dutifully submitting to her parents, Bao goes to live with her grandparents after her abortion. Her one-month stay turns out to be more eye opening than her own personal trauma when she learns of a pregnant woman who is hiding from China’s One-child policy workers.

Bellwether Prize Finalist Yang Huang has penned a poignant love story whose roots run deeper than the bond between two lovers. Centering much of her attention on Bao, who is fearful to spread her wings, Huang attentively interweaves various themes throughout the plot. Using historical situations from the time period as well as one of China’s national treasures – the Giant Panda – Huang contrasts between those who are willing to defy authority and Bao’s timidity. Such examples include the bold student activists at Tiananmen Square against Bao’s lack of involvement, and the audacious pregnant “guerrilla women” against Bao’s complaisant attitude toward her parents’ wishes for her to get an abortion. Obviously, there is another theme that contrasts life and death, which is not only prevalent with the guerrilla women, but also the brazen starving female pandas desperately searching for food so they can nurse their cubs.

Amid these themes, Huang’s third-person narrative is replete with incredibly powerful metaphorical imagery of life, in particular, the yellow-rafter tree and the lotus flower. Scenes also include detailed descriptions of the delicately captured, incredible sights and sounds Pingwu County countryside and the bustling city of Nanjing. Her depictions are tightly interlaced throughout the riveting modulated dialogue (back-and-forth conversation) Huang has so deftly incorporated, allowing readers to experience the tension associated with those who live in a non-democratic society.

Bao definitely fits the description of a dynamic character. Huang gracefully handles Bao’s development from chapter to chapter as she gradually breaks out of her protective emotional shell. Indeed, there is a sense of anticipation that Bao will be able to face her fears at some point. Yet Huang carefully balances her storyline with a host of supportive characters intermixed with antagonists that provide enough unforeseen situations to leave readers to wonder what will be the next phase in Bao’s journey. High on the chart of antagonists is the notorious Childless Du, whose involvement with the One-child policy is disturbingly chilling.

Huang’s winning novel is more than another work of historical fiction. Living Treasures is endearing, extraordinarily moving, and its timely message about life makes it a must read for young and old readers alike.

Reviewed by Anita Lock

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Library Journal review of Yang Huang’s LIVING TREASURES

Library Journal

In this debut novel, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize in 2008, 18-year-old Gu Bao is a first-year law student facing some difficult life decisions during the tumultuous period of the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989. When she loses her virginity to her boyfriend, an officer and graduate of the Army Commander College who reassures her that she can’t get pregnant the first time she has sex . . . (more)

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