American River: Confluence

American River: Confluence: Book Three of the American River Trilogy by [O'Connor, Mallory M.]

One type of story that captivates a large portion of readers is the story of humanity. The author, Mallory M. O’Connor, excels at capturing powerful moments of human interaction in her novel American River: Confluence. O’Connor’s work involves a host of social issues—sexuality, politics, race relations—all disguised in what seems to be a book about artists pursuing their passions.

This book follows three families of different cultures that manage to connect. They are all tied to the same area, and while the young adults have mostly wandered off to different regions of the U.S., this story is about them all finding a reason to come home to celebrate life, art, and diversity which gives the story a greater sense of symmetry. O’Connor filled this book with real-life problems such as racism, mental health issues, sickness, and political confrontations. Therefore, this book can be a guide for helping people navigate their way through similar tragedies in their own life.

The overall story arc is intricate and well thought out. It is a little unclear where the book is going at first and what the focal point will be, but there are exciting turns everywhere that keep the readers’ attention until the end. Several subplots play out to give the book a lot of depth. On the surface, it seems like the McPhalan family is working through their problems with the ultimate goal of setting up a musical festival on Mockingbird Valley Ranch, the family’s ancestral property. Underneath, O’Connor raises awareness of many social issues. These social issues are picked apart one by one to allow the reader to think through different perspectives regarding them. While set in the 1970’s, the problems the characters face are problems that are prevalent in our society today, potentially making this book a timeless classic.

If you did not read the previous books to get familiar with the intricacies of the story you would need to refer to the “Cast of Characters” page at the beginning. The book immerses readers from the start with drama and doesn’t let up until the end, so lacking thorough character introductions early in the story, even though its the last of the series, can detract from the impact of certain events. I highly suggest you read books one and two before confluence.

American society, as well as many others around the globe, could drastically benefit from reading this book. While many authors hide a political agenda in their work, it’s often obvious where they stand on controversial issues; O’Connor, on the other hand, hid her feelings on many of the topics, which requires distinct talent. Ultimately, she encourages discussion and introspection through the characters. If it weren’t for some minor language concerns, this book would be well suited in a high school reading curriculum to expose students to the complexity of the world they live in and the core of human nature.

Pages: 364 | ASIN: B07HL12C8T

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Life Interrupted: It’s Not All About Me

Dealing with a disability or other debilitating disease is hard to begin with. When you don’t get the help that you need to deal with the changes your life is taking, it can cause irreversible harm to your relationships. Self-care is important; and is a burden that should not be placed on the people you love. It is alright to ask for help, but ultimately you are responsible for your own actions, how you deal with your situation, and making sure the people you love know you care about them. Chris Tatevosian gives readers an honest look into his life with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and how he let his attitude destroy his marriage. He shares his insights into what went wrong with his “it’s all about me” mentality; and how he learned to overcome that and build healthy relationships in life.

Life Interrupted, It’s Not All About Me by Chris M. Tatevosian is a short read of less than 150 pages. It is however, filled with deep topics covering depression, anxiety, abuse and recovery. That is a lot of emotional energy packed into a few pages. Chris Tatevosian’s purpose in writing this book is to help others avoid the mistakes he made. He is very honest about the mistakes he made and offers the reader ideas on how to avoid making the same mistakes. There is a good mix of positive and humorous stories mixed in with the challenges, so it is not an all-out depressing book. He talks about the good times and bad with his ex-wife. Hearing about the struggles to get disability and social security is relatable to many with disabilities of all kinds and he explains how the stress impacts both the people in the relationship, not just the one with the disability.

At times the book feels like it is a personal journal where Chris is just writing out bits and pieces of his memories. I feel this is important though to the reader because you see him before MS took away his independence. You see him as he was, and it helps to understand why he became so bitter and fell into the “poor me” attitude that eventually ruined his marriage. Letting others see this makes it more real and relatable. In the end this book is not just about him complaining about all he lost due to MS, it is about how he learned to adapt and how he learned from his mistakes. This is a good book for people that are struggling and feel alone and feel that they can’t ever change the situation they are in. You may not be able to change your disability or disease, but you can change your attitude and how you relate to the people in your life to make your situation a little better.

Pages: 148 | ISBN: 1606045636

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Kumite For Love

Kumite For Love by [Malcolm, Judy]

Kumite for Love is a compelling story about Aiyana Amari. A Japanese-American that learned martial arts from her father before he died in a tragic accident. Aiyana is obsessed with winning an international Kumite, a type of Japanese martial arts, tournament in Japan to save their families gym. Once she arrives in Japan, she encounters genuine artifacts in the back of a souvenir shop. She leaves the shop with a beautiful comb at the insistence of the shop owner, and after placing it in her hair, finds herself transported to 1850’s Japan. Aiyana meets an intriguing ship Captain, has a hand in a few historical events, and struggles to find her way back to the present, while wondering if she’d rather stay in the past.

Kumite for Love by Judy Malcom is a very well written romance novel with a lot of depth and historical intrigue. The book had a background setting that is more interesting than you’ll find in a lot of romance novels. It was really interesting to read about Japanese culture and historical events and to journey with Aiyana as she is mistaken and subsequently becomes a geisha in the 1850’s. Captain Blackburn is an American ship captain posing under a Dutch flag in 1853 Japan where American traders are not welcome. He seeks out a geisha at a local establishment and there he finds Aiyana. The romance and building of the two main characters is done really well and I was rooting for, and very attached to, their love by the end of the book. Not to mention, the love scenes are hot.

The beginning of the book starts off with Aiyana and her friend Peter at the gym practicing karate. There are only a few pages of discussion about Aiyana’s present-day life before she flies to Japan and ends up thrust back in time. I wish there had been a little more build up and description of her current life and background before she flies to Japan and jumps into the story line from the past. I think it would have helped tie the book together better and would help you become more invested in Aiyana’s struggle when she is stuck in the past with no way out.

Throughout the book, Aiyana struggles with indecision as she becomes more entrenched in the world of Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Captain Blackburn. She wants to get back home, so she can compete in the Kumite tournament and win the money her family needs to save their gym. She also worries about never seeing her mother again, whom she had a fight with and left on a sour note before she flew to Japan. At the same time, she is enjoying this new life, the time she gets with Captain Blackburn, and sharing her knowledge of history as its occurring. She doesn’t know what the right answer is or what to do. Should she keep fighting to return to the present? Or embrace this new life in the past?

Pages: 179 | ASIN: B073YKFCZV

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Sunken Spanish Treasure Quest

Sunken Spanish Treasure Quest by [Johnson, Richard Joseph]

Sunken Spanish Treasure Quest by Richard Joseph Johnson is an adventure story about four friends who go in search of an 18th century Spanish galleon, the San de Cristo, that sunk off the coast of Florida during a hurricane in 1733. Brad, a commodities trader, finds a journal at an estate sale in Chicago. The journal is written in Spanish, and Brad gives it to his friend, Maximo to read. Max, the owner of a men’s clothing store, has a degree in world history and discovers a reference in the journal (written in hidden code) to the location of the San de Cristo and the lost Spanish treasure–gold and silver coins and ingots–that had been aboard when it sank. Brad and Max enlist two other friends–George, an electronic engineer, and Lou, a former boiler technician on an aircraft carrier and current restaurant owner–to help in the search. Although the four men have no experience or knowledge of maritime salvage, they set off to find this sunken treasure. Will they locate the lost vessel and discover riches beyond their imagining? Will their friendship survive this quest for lost Spanish treasure?

I liked the historical aspects of the story. The history imbued in this story is something that any history buff will surely enjoy. References to the 1700’s were very intriguing and lends an air of mystery to this story that doesn’t dissipate and was one of my favorite parts of the book.

The story started out slow, with a lot of lead up and back story before Brad, Max, George, and Lou actually begin their quest. I felt that there were a lot of unnecessary details (such as what the men ate during their meals together). Eliminating some of the details describing their day to day lives would have improved the pace of the story. The first quarter of the book is filled with the planning and preparing for the trip, including almost two chapters about the drive from Chicago to Florida.

The story picks up once Brad, Max, George, and Lou arrive in Florida and begin their search, and the adventure truly begins when we are introduced to a group of pirates that the four men must battle. Their adventure continues when they return to their lives in Chicago, and trouble follows them home. I liked that although many things changed for them in their lives after their quest for treasure, some things remained the same.

This was an enjoyable read that gets better and more interesting as the story progresses. The bond between the characters is something that I enjoyed watching develop as they pieced together their trip and battled pirates.

Pages: 434 | ASIN: B079437WVB

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Addicted to You

Addicted to You: Book 2 (SAPD SWAT Series) by [Mays, Nikki]

Michelle has known Damon for years. For years, Damon has known what Michelle could not possibly know–she belongs to him. When Damon’s stalking and pursuit of Michelle finally reaches its peak, Michelle can longer deny her attraction to Damon, and she gives in to her own curiosity. As Michelle and her best friend, Mellie’s, luck would have it, Damon is not the only one who has pursued and admired Michelle from afar for years. When what began as admiration turns to full-fledged obsession, Damon and his team are there for Michelle and Mellie when seconds count.

Addicted to You is the second book in the SAPD SWAT Series by author Nikki Mays. This second installment focuses on Michelle, co-owner of The Sweet Grind and best friend of Mellie. Mellie and her love affair with Morris were the primary focus of book one, and Mays has taken the same slant with book two shifting the perspective to Michelle. Written in first person and swapping between the two main characters, Michelle and Damon, the book hits on some particularly comedic moments as well as intensely romantic and sensual scenes.

As with book one, I enjoyed the shift in points of view between the two characters. Mays is adept at writing from each one’s perspective and helping the reader see each one’s thought processes. Damon, while intense, is a lovable character in his own right. Michelle’s reflections on his love for her further serve to build him as a favored character for readers. In turn, as Damon explains the passion with which he pursues Michelle, the reader is taken from wondering about his frame of mind to understanding his love for Michelle. Mays writes in a unique style that succeeds in quickly drawing in the readers and keeping them enthralled with the plot.

In both of the first two installments in the SAPD SWAT series, Mays steers the plot away from romance long enough to include an element of mystery. In Addicted to You, however, Mays seems to get to the point rather quickly. Even though I enjoyed and appreciated the mystery surrounding the drawings of Michelle left in the bake shop, it seemed the mystery was solved too quickly. I would have liked to have seen that aspect of the plot stretched out.

There is an undeniable quality of humor in Mays’s writing. She details a fantastic dynamic between her characters, both main and secondary. They have a rapport that is undeniable, and the entire group banters back and forth as true friends and siblings. Even their fights turn into comedic memories.

It is worth noting that there seem to be numerous punctuation and grammar errors in the reading. Only in a few places do these errors impact or interfere with the flow of the reading.

Author Nikki Mays writes an entertaining romance novel geared toward the new adult genre and succeeds in shaping lovable and memorable characters. Any fan of the romance genre will be pleased with the engaging plot and the sensuous visuals.

Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07J23W7JN

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Destiny Revisited

Destiny Revisited by [Tremayne, Eleanor Tremayne]

Destiny Revisited by Eleanor Tremayne is the story of the life of Gabriella Girard. The book starts with Gabriella attending the funeral of Jake Chevalier who she had not spoken to for thirty-three years. After the memorial service, she receives a ‘death box’ from Jake’s wife. It is the same box Gabby gave to Jake on New Year’s Eve in 1967, the last time they had seen each other. Gabby’s mind goes back to the first day she met Jake, and the next section of the story takes place in Savannah, Georgia, in the 1960s, during the three years Gabby and Jake spent together as teenagers in love. They had promised to stay together forever and were planning their lives together after high school. But then Jake joins the marines and goes off to war, to fight in Vietnam. And everything changes for them, and Gabby’s life spirals off course.

I immediately became involved with the characters, which is why I didn’t like the way Jake treated Gabby after he made the decision, without even talking to her, that they could no longer be together. He claimed he still loved Gabby, but he didn’t contact her to tell her the relationship was over. Instead, he returned home engaged to another woman. Though I understood his motivations, I would have liked to see him handle the situation in another way, since his actions not only affected him, but Gabby, as well, for the rest of her life. Although Gabby had relationships with other men, she never again found the happiness and love she’d known with Jake.

I really liked the part where Gabby traveled to Europe after she finally opened the ‘death box.’ This section of the story was so sweet, but also very sad. Especially the part about the proposal. It was a very emotional remembrance of lost love and regret for all the things they had planned to do, which never happened.

The story ends abruptly, without showing what exactly happens to Gabby which left me anxious to know what happened after that point. I wanted her to have a happy ending after everything she had gone through in her life.

I enjoyed the poems and quotes that were included at the start of each chapter. But there were some grammatical issues that distracted from the flow of the story. Although it became less noticeable as I continued reading and was pulled into the story of the young love Gabby shared with Jake.

This book is a fantastic emotional roller-coaster with twists I certainly didn’t see coming. This is a character driven story that delivers intrigue by getting you invested in some dynamic and well developed characters.

Pages: 390 | ASIN: B073QFZF98

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Skeins

Skeins by [Richa Gupta]

Skeins by Richa Gupta is the story of a large group of globe-trotting Indian women who take a trip to see the sights in Spain and Portugal. The women are similar in heritage, but vary widely in age and experience. Even though they are from the same general area, they also differ in culture and socio-economic status. As the women grow closer, they let each other into their personal lives. They confide in each other and share secrets, regrets, hopes, and dreams. However, it’s not one big happy slumber party. Some of the women find some serious trouble along their journey.

Overall, Skeins was a pretty easy read. The grammar and sentence structure is impeccable. I didn’t find any errors at all. If anything, there were only a few turns of phrase that only suggested that the author’s roots were different than my own. That’s not a bad thing.

If I have any complaint, it’s that the cast of characters was very large. I found it hard, at times, to keep the names of characters and their story lines straight. There seemed to be so much going on at once between all of the background stories.

I enjoyed the diversity of the characters. I especially enjoyed the diversity paired with the camaraderie that the women enjoyed. They came from all walks of life, different social classes, and different customs to form one big, instant family. They seemed to get along very well. They will make readers hope for these kinds of quickly formed but long lasting friendships.

Readers will also identify with the problems that the women face. They discuss the not-so-perfect aspects of their lives without giving the story too heavy of a feel. The story doesn’t bog down or get lost in their troubles. They simply state what’s going on in their lives, but characters don’t seem to dwell too much for the most part. For a story that deals with adultery, a crime ring, decades old grudges, etc., it is a decidedly uplifting tale. The women tackle their problems instead of becoming victims of circumstance.

I liked that Gupta showed the women as strong, powerful, and independent. None of them were “just a wife” or “just a mother.” None of them were leaning too hard on anyone but themselves. In a country where women aren’t generally in hierarchical positions, it was refreshing to see these women being so self-sufficient. Still, they walked the line between traditional arranged marriages and living their dreams, while sometimes doing both with one foot in each world. They seek out independence, their wildest dreams, and love all at once.

The book feels light-hearted in nature. I enjoyed that combination woven with real-life issues. I enjoyed the cultural journey following the women from India touring the Iberian Peninsula. The characters felt real. I’d love to see one of the characters step forward to star in a sequel.

Pages: 312 | ASIN: B07HP6ZPYM

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Damnation

Damnation: A Grimdark Fantasy Political Drama by [Valec, Igor]

I immediately liked Asuf the moment I started reading the book. On their hunting spree with Valhelm, the latter confessed how scared he was to hunt. He mentioned that he had heard stories, unpleasant of course and that something could be lurking around the part of the caverns the two were hunting. Asuf shut his partner down, Saying that whatever Valhelm was on was weakness and unacceptable. I like bold characters in books; Characters like Asuf, who are not frightened by minute issues. Though a little bit aggressive, I admired how Asuf demanded respect. He instilled a little fear in Valhelm when speaking, in that Valhelm felt inferior in his presence.

The book gets to be more interesting as one reads on. I like how the society in Igor Valec’s book held authority in high regard. A subject could not address the king in any manner. They had to use the appropriate title when speaking to those at the throne. One could also tell the mood and tone of the subjects Vis a Vis the king.

King Lortar’s reaction to discovering that there was a heathen cult in the kingdom was priceless. How and where was that? I appreciated Valhelm for informing Lortar about this cult. As they were speaking, one could feel Lortar’s concern in his words. He was worried that Valhelm had gone on his own to do the hunting. I enjoyed the conversation that followed as everyone was given a chance to air their views.

Damnation: A Grimdark Fantasy Political Drama is not your average book. Through the story, the author incorporated themes of leadership, family relations, and infighting among members of the same society, politics, and fantasy. Every chapter built on the story and tension of the last chapter, so as you read you always felt like something was about to happen.

Igor Valec’s character choice was marvelous. Looking at how the characters were distributed across the book, I have to admit that the author took his time to select which traits to give who. Hirr Valhelm remained my favorite character. Other characters I found interesting include Vost Kon Schmitt, Wiktor Kon Oydrich and Lady Eidi Kon Huss and of course King Lortar. I found the kingdom’s way of dealing with criminals and those who went against the king intriguing.

I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a good story. The characters in the book are fascinating. The plot is superb and the writing style is amazing. I loved every page of Damnation. The book is action-packed, with suspense, adventure, drama, twists, and turns.

The book is fairly long, at 600+ pages, but this story does not feel overwhelming. I felt that opposite actually, the ending leaves you on a cliffhanger and I wanted more. This leaves the book open for a followup book to start, what could be, a fantasy series with a deep backstory and dynamic characters.

Pages: 644 | ASIN: B07HVHVDDY

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The Journey Down South

Mia Kingslie Author Interview

Mia Kingslie Author Interview

Survivors of the Sun is a thrilling post-apocalyptic adventure story following Georgia as she struggles to keep her family safe in a new dangerous world. What was the inspiration for the setup to this novel?

Inspiration for the book came while I was living in an isolated farming community sixteen miles from the township where I had my Jewelry Studio. At one point I was cut off, with one other family, for ten days by raging flood waters. We were not prepared. None of us were able to get into work or school. There was no internet, no phone, no electricity and absolutely no means of communication with the outside world. Both households pooled their food and the kids and dogs ran wild. Even so, it was a wonderful time and it led me to think of how different it would have been if something similar had occurred in a large city.

Georgia starts the story as a happy wife and mother, and manages to survive several obstacles by her will and determination. What were some themes you wanted to capture in her character?

Firstly that she was not a well prepared, gun totting superhero. She was a normal woman, in an average household confronted with the unexpected and the unthinkable. I wanted her to have her failings, insecurities, and self-doubt; as well as a strong set of values, showing her inner need, despite the situation, to remain honest. I also wanted to reveal her developing relationship with the children and how her steadfast influence, determination and loyalty encouraged the positive development of those around her.

This is an entertaining post-apocalyptic story; did you start writing with this in mind or did the story develop organically as you wrote?

It was always going to be a post-apocalyptic story, but I did not have a plot. When I started writing I knew about as much as the characters did, and it seemed to me that they took over and led me on the journey down South.

What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?  

It is a sequel to Survivors of the Sun and I am planning to have it ready by May 2019.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter

Survivors of the Sun: A post-apocalyptic thriller by [Kingslie, Mia]Georgia was not a survivalist and she did not have a bug out plan. She was a happily married woman, at home with three children and their Boston Terriers. In an instant everything changed. The power went off, and no-one knew why. By nightfall, Nathan, her husband had still not returned. In time, the water stopped running. With only three days of food left in the house and dwindling water supplies, she has no choice but to flee Kansas City.

Their world changes dramatically, entering a post-apocalyptic age, with looting, rioting and violence becoming the norm. As they escape across country, Georgia has to overcome her fears and keep her loved ones safe. Together they face heart wrenching decisions as they encounter the inconceivable.

Their journey leads them through a harsh new reality. The struggles and hardships that they endure, threaten their very existence, testing their loyalty, fortitude and love for each other in ways they could never have imagined.

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A Special Connection

Jennifer LeBlanc Author Interview

Jennifer LeBlanc Author Interview

The Tribulations of August Barton follows college freshman Augie as he navigates many precarious situations with the help of his grandmother. What was the inspiration for the setup to this entertaining novel?

I remembered how truly alone I felt when I turned eighteen and first left home. How hard it was to realize that the world was so vast and full of uncertainty, that if I let it, it could just swallow me whole. Augie is essentially a figment of the inner me and a reflection of how I felt at that time in my life. Doing things on your own without anyone’s help or guidance for the first time is scary.

The funny thing is, Augie wasn’t the first character to pop into my head for this story. It was his grandma Gertie. I was surfing on the web for writing prompts one day and came across some comical ones like, the pizza guy, a hug that goes too far, and something unexpected under the bed, or something to that effect. At some point looking through them all Gertie popped into my head. She wasn’t a character I really had to come up with, she was just already there in my head. Gertie is a combination of different people all in one person. I used to work with an older waitress named Pickles. Her personality was really flirty and fun and all the customers knew her by name. That’s where a lot of Gertie’s mannerisms came from. She is also parts of my own grandmother with some Betty White mixed in. I thought to myself “hmm I’ve never read anything like that, this could be interesting.” The story took off from there and her and Augie led the way.

There are things in life that we all have to face like this at one point or another that will test our morals or sanity, but the people who inspire me most are the ones who overcame those obstacles. Augie is a great example of how facing your fears and overcoming things that hold you back can help you grow as a person.

The world seems like it’s crashing down on Augie, but he manages to hang on with the help of his free spirited grandmother. What were some themes you wanted to capture in these characters and their relationship?

The main ones are that it’s okay to have friends that aren’t your age, that family isn’t always blood, and accepting people and loving them for who they are is the greatest gift you can give to anyone. One that’s a little more subtle throughout the story is that people can surprise you and misconceptions that are assumed about someone right away, can turn out to be completely unfounded once you get to know them.

I have always felt a special connection to my grandmother. Much like Augie does in the book with Gertie. In a lot of ways, I connected more with her than with my own mother, and despite this, I was still very close to both of them.

The relationship between Augie and Rose was heartfelt and certainly tugs at the heart strings. What did you want to do differently with their relationship than what’s portrayed in other novels?

One thing I wanted to stray from was insta-love as well as their relationship revolving solely around sex. While there are a lot of sexual themes throughout the book and some good laughs about it, I also wanted to show readers that a relationship is built on more than just physical intimacy. I wanted to create likeable, yet flawed characters that almost anyone could relate to, because in real life we all have problems and none us is perfect or really ever gets it right. We stumble through life and make mistakes that we learn from, which is what both Augie and Rose do as their relationship blooms. They make mistakes and they don’t get it right the first time.

Augie see’s that there’s more to Rose than she’s willing to show other people. It’s rare to meet someone who sees who you really are right from the start. He’s also willing to let her go to ensure that she doesn’t spiral out of control, even though he desperately just wants to hold on to her. In turn Rose accepts Augie just the way he is, quirks and all. The more she sees who he is, the more she opens her eyes to what she really wants in life and decides to make a change.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Augie’s story continues in the sequel titled The Revelations of August Barton which is currently available on Kindle. The paperback will be available hopefully within the next month or two.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterTumblrInstagramFacebook | Website

The Tribulations of August Barton by [LeBlanc, Jennifer]August Barton could never have mentally prepared himself for his freshman year of college: not only has his anxiety increased, but his parents are divorcing, his new roommate thinks Augie is the biggest nerd in existence, and his grandma, a retired prostitute named Gertie, has taken to running away from her nursing home.

Augie just wants to hole up in his dorm room with his Star Wars collectables and textbooks, but Gertie is not about to let that happen. What ensues is a crazy ride including naked trespassing, befriending a local biker gang, and maybe-just maybe-with Augie defeating his anxiety and actually getting the girl.

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