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I Felt a Conviction

Michelle Peach Author Interview

Michelle Peach Author Interview

Gazelle in the Shadows follows Elizabeth as she navigates a dangerous web of lies, betrayal and murder. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?

The inspiration for this book came many years after the events happened in my life. Over the years, I rarely spoke about my former life as a diplomat in Yemen during the Iraq/Kuwait war nor my student life in Damascus but to those I opened up to, I was encouraged to write a book. Then in 2011, the civil war in Syria began and I felt a conviction to let readers know about the traditions and kindness of the Syrian people and the history and beauty of the country I had witnessed before the devastation.

Elizabeth is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character?

Elizabeth’s driving ideals are to make her father proud by proving herself to him and to find love. Once a daddy’s girl, her relationship with her father deteriorates in her teenage years as her father implements stricter rules on her than on her older brother. She had always been an avid reader, dreaming of traveling to foreign lands. Her travels help her to escape her father’s harsh judgment and provide her with an opportunity to prove her worth to him and to herself. Because of her sheltered life, first with a Catholic upbringing and then in a diplomatic bubble, she is both emotionally and physically unprepared for her journey to Syria. She is remarkably naive and trusting of others and lacks rudimentary information about the country in a pre internet era. Her journey opens her up to the harsh realities of life where people are not always as they appear and after a series of innocuous and seemingly unconnected events, she not only discovers love but betrayal too. Facing many dangers, her strengths and courage are put to the test and ultimately she comes to appreciate her family and herself in new light.

You are a former employee of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. How has your experience helped you write this book?

I worked in the Foreign Office between 1986 and 1991, initially in London and then in the British Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen Arab Republic. My experiences undoubtedly helped me to write my novel as the genesis of the story was born from my three years serving in Yemen. As told in the book, I unwittingly met the infamous George Habash, the founder of the PFLP, in Aden. This actual encounter played a crucial part in the story. Other true stories from my service involving MI6, the British secret service and foreign diplomats helped to create the twists and turns in the story arc.

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

After graduating from Durham University, I went to work in Dubai, UAE for an oil shipping company. As I like to write fiction based on reality, the sequel is based in Dubai and my experiences working there. I am currently writing a story which follows Elizabeth who enters the ranks of the MI6. She is sent undercover to Dubai where she unearths an Iranian plot to undermine British and American interests in the region. The question is, will she meet Hussein again?

Author Links: Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Website

Gazelle in the Shadows by [Peach, Michelle]In the mid 90s, Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University. With some travel and work already under her belt, she excels at her studies and is sent to Damascus to immerse herself in the language. Taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the people there, she easy slips into a life in the ancient city. She has friends, her studies, and even a handsome boyfriend. But things aren’t always what they seem. Soon, in a world where mistrust and disloyalty are commonplace, Elizabeth finds herself navigating a web of lies, betrayals, and even murder involving MI6, deadly terrorist factions, and the shadowy Syrian secret police.

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A Lot to Explore

Mallory O'Connor Author Interview

Mallory O’Connor Author Interview

American River: Currents continues the intriguing intertwined stories of three families. Did you want this book to be an extension of book one in the series, or did you want to explore new ideas in this book?

While Currents is a continuation of the story of three California families, I did want to explore some new directions in the book. First, I wanted to let Marian’s story expand, and to have her mature and grow as she faces the problems of trying to break into the New York art scene. So, the early days of the feminist movement emerge in this book. Also, the book spans the time period from 1963 to 1970, a period of enormous change and tumult that included the escalation of the Vietnam War, campus riots, political volatility and the rest of “the sixties” events from the growth of the civil rights movement to the murders of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy and the Kent State massacre. There was a lot to explore in that period.

I enjoyed the deeply emotional relationships the characters had. Is there anything from your own life that you put into your story?

In many ways, the entire trilogy is shaped by my experiences during that time period. I was in graduate school during 1965-69 and getting involved in the women’s liberation movement and joining the Women’s Caucus for Art and writing about women’s art and why it was so important. I also wanted to write about Mexico where I had spent time and came to love and appreciate very much. So, I took Nick and Marian to Valle de Bravo so I could write about the adventures I had there. I also wanted to write about Stefan Molnar whose character was based on a friend of mine and to explore Kate’s problems of trying to find a balance between a romantic and a platonic relationship. And, I was also interested in exploring California politics and the problems between the land owners and the (usually) Mexican workers on whom they relied yet didn’t want to fully recognize.

You continue to impress me with the exceptional depth of your characters. Who was your favorite character to write for?

I have to confess that I love all of my characters. They’re like my children in that I created them, and I want to care for them and help them grow and flourish, but I can’t always save them from either the obstacles that they face or from themselves. I love Carl even though he can be a real jerk, but he was a fascinating character to write and I enjoyed doing the research into his musical training ad his career. I took classes in conducting and music theory. I interviewed orchestra conductors and tried to understand both Carl’s ambitions and his insecurities. I also had a wonderful time exploring Tommy’s attempt to understand his Japanese heritage by immersing himself in Japanese culture and marrying a Japanese woman. Even though this ultimately led to tragedy, it was an extremely fulfilling experience. I also loved to write about Alex and her profoundly narcissistic view of the world. And Owen’s growth from old style conservative to a more enlightened view was fun to explore.

Where will book three in the American River trilogy take readers and when will it be available?

Book three allows all of the characters to finally come to grips with who they are and what’s most important to them. They all have to grow up and face the consequences of the decisions they’ve made and the relationships they’ve forged. I hope that my readers will themselves learn something about how we can be blinded by our own world view and how we have to take off our blinders and try to learn from our mistakes and seek a wider understanding of ourselves and what we truly can accomplish.

Book three, American River: Confluence, is available on Amazon, from Archway Publishing, on Mallory’s website: mallorymoconnor.com. and in some regional bookstores.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookWebsite | Amazon

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

In the second book of the American River trilogy, a cavalcade of disastersboth personal and publicthreatens to overwhelm the scattered members of the McPhalan, Ashida, and Morales clans during the tumultuous 1960s.

Katestill mourning the death of her brother, Julianfinds herself torn between her love for Carl, now a celebrated conductor who is looking for career opportunities on the East Coast, and her devotion to the West and especially the family ranch at Mockingbird. Also, while attending a music festival in Venice, Italy, she meets Stefan Molnar, a renowned concert pianist, who has become her sister Alexs mentor (and lover). As Kate and Stefans unintentional relationship grows, complications multiply.

Meanwhile, Tommy Ashida, now studying in Japan, falls in love with Emiko Namura, the beautiful, sheltered daughter of a Tokyo businessman. He hopes she holds the key to understanding his Japanese heritage, but will that knowledge lead to happiness or something darker?

Determined to make her mark in the male-dominated art world, Kates mother, Marian, decides to move to New York while Kates father, Owen, becomes involved in local politics. When he is elected to the California Assembly, he finds himself in direct opposition to Jorge Morales, Carls father.

Alliances fray, relationships dissolve, divisive secrets are revealed, and promises are broken as the members of three California families struggle to salvage their shattered dreams.

Set against the natural beauty of Northern California, OConnor weaves a complex tapestry of interrelationships and betrayals that captures the mood and resonance of a decade that began in innocence and ended in despair.

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Distinct Perceptions

Dickie Erman Author Interview

Dickie Erman Author Interview

Antebellum Struggles follows the lives of several characters and shows how they are all intertwined as a result of slavery in the south. What served as your inspiration while writing this book?

I couldn’t comprehend how people could “own” other people and treat them like farm animals. I wanted to “get into their heads” to understand this mentality, from the perspectives of both slaves and owners.

I really enjoyed the depth of each character. What were some driving ideals behind your characters?

In all events, each person has their own unique perspective, feelings, and prejudices. I try to describe these so the reader understands each character’s outlook from their distinct perceptions.

The book delivers a graphic image of life during slavery. How did you go about setting up the backdrop for this story and what were some conscious decisions you made along the way?

A few scenes were difficult to write about. People hear and read about slavery, but rarely choose to envision the actual horror that some slaves suffered. I felt some examples had to be exposed in order to convey that truth.

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

The second book (“Keeper of Slaves”) was published through Amazon on April 11, 2019. It’s a continuation of the characters revealed in “Antebellum Struggles”.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

Antebellum Struggles: Slavery, Lust and Suspicion (BOOK ONE) by [Erman, Dickie]After toiling in the Colonel’s sugar cane fields, Amana’s brought into his mansion as a house servant for the Colonel and his wife, Collette. Collette’s suspicions and jealousies arise, but are tempered from the guilt of her own infidelity. The field slave, Tabari, finally escapes but is hunted by two saddle tramps and the law. Throughout it all, the scalawag Doctor disrupts everyone’s lives, managing to line his own pockets all the while. Set in and around New Orleans, this deeply moving tale of scandal, sex, and suspense follows the voyages of these very different characters in the 1850s.

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A Symbol Of New Beginnings

Lili Naghdi Author Interview

Lili Naghdi Author Interview

On Loving follows Rose who must deal with a storm of emotional chaos involving family, secrets and another man. What was the source of inspiration for the journey that Rose goes on in this book?

As a family physician, I’ve had a true chance to work with different people, men or women, at different stages of their lives and this gave me a chance to get more familiar with humans’ emotional changes and the way they affect people’s lives. People that I’ve come to know and worked with always inspire me. An important lesson I’ve learned during all these years of practicing was that self-awareness and self-scrutiny are the hardest tasks to get through in life and people who have the chance to achieve them are, indeed, the luckiest people alive. Rose is an accomplished woman, modern and respected. A woman with a good career and education who has a wealthy family with all the possibilities in front of her, but she is still missing something, and she doesn’t feel complete. She needs to know her roots and she needs to go through her personal growth to become satisfied with herself. Falling in love and what comes next gives her this opportunity to know herself, her strengths, her weaknesses and how to overcome her fears and open her heart to embrace her life at every stage of it. She learns that being a woman is a privilege and something to be proud of.

Rose is an intriguing and thoroughly developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character?

“Rose”, a symbol of new beginnings, hope and resilience, was the name I chose for this main female character. The year is 1972 and the world is changing. She is a modern and educated woman with the respect for her fellow human beings. She is a strong-willed character, but weak and fragile at the same time during the challenges she faces while taking many steps of her love-driven life journey. As in real life, being a professional particularly being a physician, doesn’t protect her from the devastating and destroying effects of tragedies she endures in her turbulent life. She is a human being with all the flaws and faults, beauties and capabilities possible. She falls, she breaks into pieces, but she stands up again and moves on in her own ways. The title is chosen in a loving memory of the late, controversial Iranian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad, who was also a modern woman with her modern ideas much ahead of her time in a society that discriminated woman and criticized her for her ideas and the way she expressed her emotions. Just like Rose, she was a free spirit who explored her emotions and as a poet she brought them to life by writing beautiful poetry that showed the delicate soul of a young woman in a modest and pure manner. I intended Rose to represent such a woman, but in another type of setting, a surgeon with a good knowledge about literature who learns how to analyze her emotional journey and connect to her inner being to become a better person.

This novel is emotional and explores the meaning of love in new ways. What were some ideas that were important for you to explore in this book?

“On Loving” is a love story, but more importantly it is a story about love itself: its psychology, its physiology and the research behind it. The concept of conditional versus unconditional love has been explored in depth in this story. Both main male characters were following their own agendas representing these two concepts from the beginning till the end. Valuing and getting to know your emotions (including love, anger, fear, jealousy, etc.) by working to achieve self-awareness was another main point I was intending to explore. Unfortunately, unknown or miscomprehended emotions can make us vulnerable in life and be the main source for depression and anxiety disorders. Rose, on the other hand, explored the real meaning of love (both of the above concepts), depression, bereavement and their inevitable consequences all through this story. Being a physician with the knowledge of these mental health issues never made her immune to these unfortunate consequences. In fact, she was missing the signs for years and this is what we see in real life of many people including health care professionals.

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

I am working on a new story which is also about women’s related issues and the issues I work with as a physician. The title, “Greeting the Sun Again”, has also been chosen to honor Forugh Farrokhzad, the late Iranian poet, and it has been taken from the title of her popular and famous poem called, “I will Greet the Sun Again”. Just like “On Loving”, It is a love story twisted with literature, history and everyday life realities. I’m expecting it to be out by next year.

Author Links: GoodReads | FacebookWebsite

On Loving by [Naghdi, Lili]In 1972, Dr. Rose Hemmings has just finished her general surgery residency when a haunted stranger is shot in front of her in a New York City bar, and their lives become forever intertwined. And when, having been given the blessing of her adoptive father on his deathbed, Rose travels to prerevolutionary Iran to discover the past her American family kept secret from her, she finds a true Pandora’s box. It is a world both foreign and familiar, in which her primary place is as the heiress to a great tribe. In Iran, Rose will find family she never dreamed of, her own people, and a man who loves her as passionately as he does the rare black roses of his garden. She will return to the United States carrying a new secret and torn between two men: the one she loves helplessly, and the one who loves her unconditionally.

Woven throughout with Persian poetry ancient and modern, On Loving is the story of one woman’s lifetime of love and loss, of societal change in a nomadic people, and of overcoming personal challenges, including mental and physical health, to find true contentment. Above all, it is a story of love: its physiology, psychology and philosophy; the many forms it takes; its myths and truths; its challenges, its joys and its gifts.

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The Darkness Within Him

Michael A. Greco Author Interview

Michael A. Greco Author Interview

Project Purple follows volunteers on a broadcasted experience to recreate American colonization that turns deadly. What was the inspiration behind this unique idea?

“Project Purple” Is about thirteen Americans who recreate the lives of the early colonials for a worldwide on-line audience. They don’t know their ordeal has been gradually, brutally altered by their organizers, and a struggle for food, shelter, and survival turn deadly as an Arctic winter approaches.

The seed of this idea emerged from a conjoining of two mediums—the first being a PBS TV series called Colonial House back in 2003, and the second being an extraordinary novel about the harrowing saga of the Donner party called “The Indifferent Stars Above.” Somehow, the ordeals of these people from different centuries fused.

I think “Project Purple” seeks to understand what it takes to draw on one’s inner survivor. I just started thinking: What could a writer do to give this story more adversity and more propulsion?

Rigor is a detective from Las Vegas who sets out to help the volunteers. What were some driving ideals behind his character?

I wove Rigor into the story to give it another layer of depth. On the surface he’s an upstanding guy. He’s initially driven by noble ideals, but as his story unfolds, we see the darkness within him, too, and that’s why he’s been selected for new “projects”. The Rhizome, the shadowy multi-national underground faction, knows his history.

This novel is able to capture the history of American colonialism and modern dystopian ideals. What were some ideals you wanted to explore in this book?

I guess I wanted to capture the idea that civilization is a thin veneer we lay across the bubbling magma of nature, including human nature. Occasionally, like a volcano, the magma erupts, and we fall through the crust, scratching and gouging for our lives. Then a new world order begins, with an entirely new language, and with an entirely new taxonomy: a new way of ordering and naming things in life—the Rhizome.

The thirteen Americans are under the impression they’re showcasing the early seventeenth century colonial way of life for a worldwide audience; that they can teach others by reenacting “a simpler, purer time in their national experience, to the roots of the nation they are today, to the infant of America.” Of course, the Rhizome isn’t impressed by any of that. What it wants to learn from the Americans is all together different.

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

The project I’m on now, “Assunta” is a three-part trilogy about a man who comes to believe in the divine. It’s a physical and spiritual journey from the gates of Hell to the highest portion of Heaven. The story is built on a framework of references to the great poem “The Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri. There are three books: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. I’ve just finished Book 3, and will publish them in one month intervals, starting in early March with the first Book, Assunta: Inferno.

After I finish the Assunta trilogy, I’m returning to sequels of The Cuckoo Colloquium —about six teens lost in the rain forest of Borneo, because the characters have so much depth and the story so much fuel remaining. I hope to have book #2 of what I’m calling the Cuckoo series out by autumn, 2019.

I believe that memorable characters make memorable tales. One of my favorite writers, Samuel Becket, for example, shows us lunatics in trashcans, or characters who set themselves on fire. He had great insights into what is true, and he makes it funny. I think that’s my job, my goal—to write characters and stories that are absurd, violent, childish, but that resonate with truth.

Author Links: Goodreads | Facebook | TwitterWebsite

Thirteen Americans volunteer for a unique three-month project to recreate America’s early colonial experience for a worldwide on-line audience. The colonists have been deceived. They don’t know their ordeal has been gradually, brutally, altered by their organizers, and a genuine struggle for food, shelter and survival turns deadly as an Arctic winter approaches. Is there some point to this insanity? The besieged Americans (including a police detective who throws his world away to rescue a colonist he knows only as the Goatwench) must find the primal survivor within themselves to counter the ever-increasing violence they face—all to the attentive schooling of their multi-national audience.

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Her Stories Are Universal

Sylvia Sanchez Garza Author Interview

Sylvia Sanchez Garza Author Interview

Cascarones follows the life of a Mexican American girl in Texas that must balance her culturally rich heritage in a whitewashed school. Why was this an important book for you to write?

It was important for me to write and share my story since I believe that diversity is so important to all of us. Everyone needs to know that being different is a gift― especially our young readers. They need to be able to see themselves, their culture, and their traditions in books, music, and movies. Since reading has always been one of my passions, I realized that there was a lack of published stories that reflected Mexican American families such as mine.

When I was growing up, I loved it when our teachers would take us to the library to check out books. As I grew older, I started to realize that most of those books were about people that I couldn’t relate to. The characters weren’t anything like my family or friends. They didn’t look like us and definitely didn’t talk like us. When I started visiting bookstores, the same seemed true. Even today, it is still difficult to find books written by Mexican American authors in libraries or bookstores. I felt it was important to write about my beautiful culture and traditions so that readers would be able to experience the rich and colorful experiences that I was so privileged to grow up with.

We get to explore Suzy’s character all the way to adulthood. What were some driving ideals behind her character?

Cascarones is about a Mexican American girl growing up in South Texas always surrounded by family and friends. Love, faith, and simple fun are seen through her character. In a way, her stories are universal because everyone has their own version of Suzy’s story.

She grew up surrounded by people who left a huge impression on her just by being in her life. Her character is able to change and adapt to the situations that change in her life. Many of the characters in Cascarones are based on people who passed away at a very young age. They are vital to Suzy’s life and helped to shape who she becomes. Since Suzy grows up in a large extended family that is surrounded by love, she realizes that everyone in her life is important even though she is faced by challenges.

Each story gives more insight into the family as well as their culture and history. What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?

The title Cascarones represents the cycle of life. The cascaron starts out as an egg with so much promise for life. The gold yolk inside symbolizes the life that we all have since we all start our journey as an egg. However, in order to make a cascaron the egg is removed, and the shell is then decorated in the most beautiful and artistic way possible. It is then cracked, falls to the ground and becomes part of the earth. It fertilizes the dirt and is reborn with the grass, trees, and flowers. That is what happens to us. Our life begins as an egg. We all have a gold yolk that represents our inner soul, but at the end our body goes back to the ground. The shell or the cascaron represents us, for we are all here only temporarily. In an instant we could be gone, for we do not know when our time will come. Life is fragile, just like a cascaron.

Everyone has a story inside of them waiting to be written. If there is not anything out there that reflects who you are, then it’s up to you to do something about it. Whether it’s about one’s religion or no religion, culture, or even sexual orientation it’s important to share one’s own story. Start writing and get the message out to everyone else. Once the writing starts, the rest will fall into place.

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

My next book is titled The Golden Egg and should be released next month. I’m really excited about it because it will be a bilingual chapter book. One page will be in English and the following page in Spanish. Even though Cascarones has some Spanish in it, many people have asked about a bilingual version.

I also have a poetry book that is forthcoming. Poetry is something that I truly enjoy, and it’s a beautiful way to express feelings in an artistic way. I have several selections that I’m excited to share with readers.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Cascarones is a young adult bildungsroman, a coming of age story narrated in a non-linear fashion that revolves around the life of a Mexican American family living in the Rio Grande Valley in Deep South Texas. The main character, Suzy, as well as her family and friends are encircled by rich traditions and culture of the region, shaping who she becomes. There are many beautiful people depicted in this novel who helped transform Suzy. The narrative shifts from present to the past to connect the reader with cultural traditions that changed through the years. It exposes how Easter was and is currently celebrated in the Rio Grande Valley and growing up during the sixties and seventies as a Mexican American amidst discriminatory undertones.

Sylvia Sánchez-Garza was born in Mercedes, Texas and raised in Weslaco, Texas. As a young girl, her family moved to Houston, Texas for a few years while her father worked on his doctorate at the University of Houston. She returned to and settled in the Rio Grande Valley. “I knew that it would always be my home,” Dr. Sánchez-Garza confessed. She and her husband live in Edinburg, Texas and own a real estate business. She has four sons, who make her very proud. She holds a B.A. in English, an M.A. in School Administration, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies. Cascarones is her first novel.

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Project Purple

Project Purple by [Greco, Michael]

Project Purple by Michael Greco is a fictional story about thirteen Americans who agree to take part in a social experience (called Project Purple), with their every action filmed and viewed live for the entertainment of the world. The thirteen people will relive an authentic colonial life of American pilgrims (in the year 1613) for four months, with the viewers as the ‘fourteenth colonist.’ The thirteen colonists must build a colony with twelve other strangers, figuring out how to work together. One of the colonists is Henrietta Dobie, known in the colony as Goatwench. But the colonists were lied to and none of them know the truth about the real purpose of the Project. When Rigor, a detective in Las Vegas, is sent a video of the horrific circumstances Goatwench is forced to endure, he’s determined to put a stop to the Project. But the organizers of the Project will stop at nothing to reach their own ends.

The premise of the book was intriguing, and the story kept my interest. I wanted to know what would happen next for the colonists–would any of them survive? It was interesting to see how human nature played out as the different characters reacted to the difficult–and then deadly–situation they found themselves in. I liked that the author told the story from the point of view of several different colonists, which gave much more insight into the individual characters.

I liked the historical aspect of the story. I enjoyed reading details about the clothing, daily tasks, and customs of American colonial life.

The sadistic actions of the people who created Project Purple were detestable; putting thirteen wholly unprepared people into that situation without their full knowledge and consent for the sole purpose of so-called entertainment for the viewing audience and to further the organization’s own agenda.

The story started out slow, with a lot of set up about the detective’s life in Las Vegas and leading into the beginning of Project Purple. The book felt a bit disjointed, jumping back and forth in time, and jumping between the detective and the colonists. It might have improved the flow of the story if the author had started out with the colonists embarking on Project Purple, and once things started to go wrong, then the detective could have been introduced when he received the first video. In the end this is an intriguing exploration of human motivations that plumbs the depths of humanity.

Pages: 351 | ASIN: B07K7N5M2D

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Cascarones

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is a book that feels more like a conversation between friends. Garza follows the life of a Mexican American girl living in Texas and straddling the world of her culturally rich family and a whitewashed school she winds up going to in Houston. This isn’t the only aspect of her life that Garza delves into. She also explores the girl’s relationship with family members, her church, family traditions, and general everyday life. The book is a nice collection of individual stories about the same family with the same cast of characters.

This was a nice, easy read. It is simple without being boring. The individual stories make nice bite-size sections. This made it a fun, leisurely read. The book feels light. It doesn’t have that heavy, daunting feeling that some books do.

As previously stated, the book feels like a conversation. It feels like sitting and listening to someone reminisce about their childhood. I prefer first-person writing as a rule, and this book delivers. It makes it feel so much more personal and relatable. Readers will identify with pieces of Suzy’s stories and may see themselves in her experiences. Reading this book felt like getting to know a new friend.

I feel like I got to know the characters better through each story. Each story gave a better feel for the family. Even with short stories that could stand alone, the characters were well developed. It also gave a lot of insight into the culture of Mexican American families. It showed their strength and pride in their clinging to their traditions. There were quite a bit of Spanish words and dialogue in the book. I know very little Spanish and looked up a few words, but the vast majority of the meaning comes out in the context.

My only complaint is that I might have liked the stories better in a different order. I think I would have liked them to be in chronological order rather than jumping back and forth in time. It threw me the first time I realized Suzy was speaking as an adult. It took me a second to understand what was happening since it jumped from her being a kid to having kids, and back to a kid again. I lost my bearings a little but recovered quickly.

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is very well-written. There are very few errors, if any. It had a nice pace and flow. I liked following Suzy navigate between two worlds as she is pulled between her large Mexican family and living in America. It taught me a lot about the Mexican American culture that I didn’t know. I’d like to read more by Garza.

Pages: 162 | ISBN: 1724622889

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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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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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