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MIRRORS OF LIFE: What is your life in the mirror?

MIRRORS OF LIFE: What is your life in the mirror? by [Neal Owens]

Mirrors of Life vividly explores contemporary experiences of black people in America through the emotional tale of a mother and her children. Yvonne is a single mother who is stuck between tragedy and poverty. She finds a release for her pain through her religion and focus on her children. Yvonne’s children are all motivated individuals, though each in their own direction. Each blaze their own path in life, but Derrick is the one that seeks economic equality for his community and finds opposition coming from surprising places. Can Derrick overcome these challenges and change the social and economic fabric of a community set in their ways?

What I found most striking about this novel was the unique way in which it broached sadly common economic and educational deficiencies in minority groups and their communities. Derrick seeks substantial change to address racial inequalities and social justice and does so through his own drive and faith. In a time where black men are killed regularly at the hands of law enforcement, and vigilantes, this novel speaks volumes in its ability to keep the conversation on these topics civil and focused on human experiences.

Derrick, I think, is the main focus of this story. He’s a character that was slow to build but was well developed and stirring. The challenges he faces, they are numerous and varied, and the way he handles them, propels this novel forward at a delightful pace. His mother, Yvonne, is an equally captivating character that I wanted to learn more about. She could have easily had her own novel.

This is a thought-provoking novel that uses compelling characters to bring life to an otherwise familiar story. Mirrors of Life explores themes of family, faith, and love while waxing philosophical, occasionally, on a few topics. If your looking for an intriguing contemporary urban fiction story that addresses many societal issues in a heart-felt yet engaging way then Neal Owens has a novel for you. Mirrors of Life: What is your life in the mirror? is an inspirational novel that made me smarter, if not more aware.

Pages: 304 | ASIN: B07VGLQKTS

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Thirst Trap

It can be hard to travel this journey called life. There are so many things beyond our control that we take responsibility for, and so many things within our control that we just can’t. In Thirst Trap we are privileged to peek into the lives of four good friends who are internally falling apart. This book is an emotional roller-coaster as we jump from one protagonist to the other and delve into their broken dreams. All four are gay men who are dealing with the curve balls life throws at them: domestic abuse, suicide, broken marriages and loss. It is raw, emotional and gritty.

The book is broken into small chapters where it jumps from character to character. This can be a bit hard to follow at times as it switches so rapidly, but it is a useful tool when you have this many protagonists. The language can be crude and brash at times, but it doesn’t detract much from the story itself.

Buried within are four friends who have all suffered, or are still suffering, devastating blows. While they are all suffering from different issues, they are all dealing with it in similar ways: by ignoring or avoiding it. This can be a bit aggravating at times, but readers need to keep in mind that this is a very realistic representation of what many people go through when they are faced with such loss.

At the core, Thirst Trap by Zachary Ryan is a story about four men who have all been dealt a hard hand in life. These four friends are available to each other as a source of support, but they are not willing in the beginning to allow themselves to be unreserved with each other. The evolution of their relationships with each other and their individual demons dramatically unfolds as you keep reading. This is an emotional story that exceptionally captures the human experience and all it’s ups and downs in one thought-provoking novel.

Pages: 212 | ISBN: 1645332187

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Cloud Cover

Cloud Cover: A Novel by [Sotto, Jeffrey]

Cloud Cover by Jeffrey Sotto starts off with a warning so intense that it grabs your attention and you just have to continue reading. Like on the news when they say “these images may be disturbing… viewer discretion is advised.” Indeed, the books’ graphic exploration of eating disorders (from an in-depth exploration of a violent binging and purging episode to hair loss and bleeding gums) is slightly terrifying for anyone who isn’t aware of the very real consequences of anorexia and bulimia. But in addition to being horrifying, it is fascinating like seeing a horrific car accident.

The thing I really loved (and I am not sure if “loved” is the right word, but I definitely couldn’t put it down) about this book was its reality and Sotto’s ability to accurately portray the struggles that people who see themselves as “different” go through hundreds of times a day. Though Tony (the main character) isn’t actually all that different from those around him, being a gay man with severe mental health issues is enough for anyone to feel like an outsider among the masses. Anyone who struggles with any mental illness will immediately empathize with Tony as he runs the exhausting race of attempting to navigate a life fraught with the invisible pain of mental illness. And really, who can’t relate to that on some level? We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of mental health issues, whether it is simply never being happy about how we look in the mirror or feeling dissatisfied with our current status in life and feeling like we are missing something.

The book delves into so much of the human experience in one fiction novel. So much so that I could not believe this was Sotto’s first book. Throughout the book we explore how those with mental health issues interact with the people around them. Tony’s blossoming romantic relationship with Antonio provides insight into how someone with the dark secrets of mental health navigates between the pain of their lives alone with the hope of happiness that new love provides. The constant juxtaposition of how Tony is living with how Tony could live is regularly portrayed through scenes like an episode of what should be a happy couple indulging in a delicious meal ruined by Tony’s ongoing inner monologue about how he plans to purge himself of the calories the very second he is able.

This book will be an excellent read for anyone, though those who can relate more closely to Tony’s issues will probably get even more from the book. In all, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in taking an unfiltered view of the things that some people hide inside them which they may otherwise go their whole lives without otherwise being introduced to. It is a book for those who long to understand humans and their experiences.

Pages: 339 | ASIN: B07ZRTJ255

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Social Work

In Social Work author Thomas Duffy, follows his characters through their everyday lives as they work toward their respective goals. Marc attends counseling sessions with his social worker, Lauren. Marc has a rocky past to work through as Lauren has a budding relationship with her boyfriend, Ahmad, that she is building simultaneously.

Both main characters are so relatable. Duffy doesn’t shy away from Marc’s struggles or the struggles of those in his counseling group. Marc had taken some less than savory paths and ended up in a very dark place, eventually attempting to take his own life. Lauren shows him that there is hope and that life is worth living. Readers will identify with Marc’s lows and many will also identify with stepping into the shoes of those who help to lift others out of the abyss.

Lauren is an excellent social worker, and seems to really follow the rule book. She keeps counselor/patient boundaries very clear, at first anyway, but does seem to struggle with letting Marc go once she decides to leave her job. The two had developed a close but appropriate working relationship. She feels guilty when she decides to leave, and struggles with being another person in a list of those who have deserted Marc. Handing Marc over to another social worker felt like giving up on him or throwing him away to both parties involved.

Duffy also delves into relationship complications that both main characters experience. Both Marc and Lauren have their own problems in love. Marc falls for a series of girls who are never quite fitting for what he needs. Lauren hints that her now fiance, Ahmad, isn’t her type but provides her with stability and prospects for the future. Admittedly, Marc is her type, but that doesn’t seem to be an option.

Thomas Duffy also examines a predicament that many of us find ourselves in. Marc is ambitious. He has big dreams, but not a big bank account. Instead of following his dreams, he is forced at times to settle. He wants to get into the entertainment industry, but isn’t independently wealthy. This means he can’t afford to put his job to start up any projects. This leaves him to work in a job that is unfulfilling.

This is the second Duffy book I have read. His style is simple, including lots of back and forth conversation between characters that gives readers a fly-on-the-wall sort of feeling. We hear what the characters say to one another, but we are also privy to their internal dialogue. This gives a unique perspective into how people feel verses what they show to the world. He gives a glimpse into humanity’s dynamic that we are all familiar with but don’t often talk about.

Social Work flows well and is easy to understand. The characters are endearing and relatable which got me invested in the characters.

Pages: 272 | ISBN: 1694404684

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Lost My Sense of Morality

Dave Matthes Author Interview

Dave Matthes Author Interview

No Old Souls at Fury Tavern follows the trials and tribulations of the general dive-bar-going populace. What pulls you towards telling the story of the people many others seem to use only as background characters?

While watching movies or reading books, like many other people I’m sure, I take note of as many background details as I can, including the people populating the background. I get to thinking, I wonder what that person’s story is, I wonder what they do for a living, what their troubles are and all that juicy stuff that we’re supposed to wonder about the main characters. No Old Souls at Fury Tavern most definitely has a story that follows the main character, but it’s also largely about the other characters and how all their pieces fit together to form the overall picture. In a way, Rocko Pitts wouldn’t be who he is without the other characters, and vice versa.

I always enjoy how you bring your characters to life and make them seem real. Were you able to use anything from your own life in this book?

Every one of the people populating Fury Tavern and Grocer Junction in the book were inspired by people I’ve worked with, drank with, had relationships with, and lost my sense of morality alongside of.

What were the driving ideals behind Rocko Pitts character development throughout the story?

Rocko Pitts, if he can be, while compared to most everyone else in the story, really has no particular drive. He’s a wallflower and he’s okay with that. But while the book progresses, he starts to wonder if he’s going to be okay with that lack of purpose for the remainder of his life, or if he’s just going through a phase of apathy. The main story of “Fury Tavern” is his coming-to-the-realization that while everyone else around him has their own lives, he really doesn’t have much of a life at all.

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

Currently I’m working on the follow up to “Fury Tavern”, titled “A Scorched and Mystified Wilderness”. It continues the story of Rocko Pitts and the other denizens of Fury Tavern. I can’t really say too much about the plot without spoiling the end of Fury Tavern. But there will be chaos of all kinds, and I’ll be exploring deeper into the characters introduced in the first book. I am also working on Book II in a western/post-apocalypse trilogy, and my seventh collection of poetry. All three of those books I’m hoping to have released at various times next year.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookTwitter | Website

Rocko Pitts is a low-ranking receiving clerk at Junction Grocer Supermarket. He doesn’t like going to Fury Tavern with his coworkers, but he does it anyway. He likes the woman at Register 4 but everyone says she’s ugly. He doesn’t have any interest in politics, but the Mayor wannabe, Rand Sleeman, will do whatever it takes to get his vote. Rocko lives a quiet life and likes it that way but doesn’t seem to know why he likes it that way. In fact he doesn’t seem to have any purpose at all, and he’s okay with that. But travesty begets travesty, forcing the simple-pleasure-seeking Rocko to complicate his life just a little bit more than he’d normally be comfortable with. “No Old Souls at Fury Tavern” is a story about the seemingly meaningless meanderings of the dredges and sloths of society who exist in the background and behind closed doors, the denizens who populate the barstools at Fury Tavern, and more importantly, the very soul of Fury Tavern itself.

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No Old Souls at Fury Tavern

No Old Souls at Fury Tavern by [Matthes, Dave]

No Old Souls at Fury Tavern, written by Dave Matthes is a must read for anyone entertained by the trials and tribulations of the general dive-bar-going populace. In the story, we meet a regular guy, working in a regular place, who deals with a series of seemingly mundane problems. The ways in which the characters interact with their world, however, is much more interesting than what you would find in your rundown neighborhood dive bar.

Despite a few typos and minor grammatical errors, the writing is excellent. The author’s style is unapologetic and rich, with plenty of depth worked into his narrative to keep you hooked throughout the book. Never too simplified or overly complex, the short, bite-sized chapters keep the pace moving at a quick beat which is obviously what the intention was.

Characterization and world-building are areas that Dave Matthes excels at. While reading No Old Souls sat Fury Tavern, it is impossible not to relate with either the protagonist, Rocko Pitts, or any of the other inhabitant of his world. Each character is carefully crafted and comes with his or her own set of idiosyncrasies and personality. And, each of the characters seems to be placed very well within the world that Matthes creates.

From the descriptions of the physical attributes of Pitts’ world to the imagery – and empathy – that gets drummed up as the characters interact with their world, it is no difficult task to forget that you are reading a work of fiction. The world surrounding Pitts seems as real as the one we all inhabit and that makes identifying with and relating to him a satisfying experience, indeed.

The author is able to transport you into his world and the ride couldn’t be more believable. Add that to the fact that the story is entertaining, and you have yourself a highly-rated book that should be on your must-read list.

Pages: 220 | ASIN: B07R881T6Y

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The Confessional: A Peerless Short Story

The Confessional: A Peerless Short Story by [Kuykendall, A.K.]

Reinhold Commons Webster likes being in church. His family hopes he will follow the priesthood path, and his only desire is to be an altar boy. However, he is thrust into an abyss of sadistic abuse. He watched his friend penetrated with impunity until he could no longer hold on to life. The same end awaited him. Therefore Reinhold makes a deal that provides him with a little reprieve. With no one else willing to help him or the others, this deal is his only hope. The deal does nothing to erase what has already happened but what comes next will have to be enough.

This story, albeit short, is aggressively evocative. Written in such detail, the candor of it is well justified by the desire to shine a light on this abomination. The author also puts a spotlight on the role of parents and other authority figures in all of this. Their adverse reactions to the damaging situations the victims are plunged into. Figures who choose to ridicule these children rather than save them from their plight.

This is a very purposeful book. It might seem a bit crass, but the painful detail in this story is very necessary and intentional. It works to ingrain an image that would potentially start a movement for the rescue of actual victims. The end is quite alarming and should serve as a warning to perpetrators.

The confessional is a place where people go to seek solace and relief from the burden of sin. However, in this instance the title serves as a reminder that these places represent personal hells for some people. As a reader, one cannot help but weep for the poor boys. One cannot help but advocate for the punishment of the perpetrator. This is the extent of the writer’s to appeal to the reader’s soul by use of words and language.

This story should be used as a rallying call against child abuse everywhere and especially of the sexual sort. It should stand as a war cry for abused children everywhere to appeal to their parents for help. It is evocative and stern in no uncertain terms. The author’s passion for this cause is obvious and this story is engaging and thought provoking.

Pages: 49 | ASIN: B07PGTS8LC

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RISKING FOREVER

RISKING FOREVER: Vol 1 (The Forever Series): New adult college romance by [GALLINA, TARA]

Ainsley Belle is the 21-year old college student who provides the first person narrative in this story. She’s a funny, sweet and innocent girl in the prime of her life. She and her best friend, Harper Gentry, are students at Ryland. Unlike most of her classmates, Ainsley wasn’t born into a wealthy family and works hard to afford her education. She is desperately seeking independence from her controlling mother. When she loses her employment and an enticing job opportunity presents itself she is more passionate than intrigued. The fact that the job comes from a handsome older classmate makes it all the more intriguing. The reader joins Ainsley as she enters in to a world much bigger than the one she’s known.

The flirtatious build-up between Sebastian and Ainsley is enticing. It’s almost a little irritating how Ainsley doesn’t realize Sebastian is coming on to her or why he might be interested. She’s clearly an attractive girl and playful. She’s written as a virgin which is a little cliche but because we experience it through her eyes it helps define it a bit more.

I love that this book is a serial novel. I haven’t read many serial novels but the idea that’s it made for people who don’t have time to sit through a full length book is very desirable to me.

This was easy to digest and flirtatious throughout. It had a youthful sexy vibe that made me feel young and flirty. I enjoyed the time the author took to organically grow the relationship between Sebastian and Ainsley, although sometimes I wanted it to move faster. I also loved the friendship between Harper and Ainsley. It was very believable and playful.

I think the author could have given us a little more grit outside of the innocent flirting between the two main characters. Maybe this will come out more in the next books in the series. I also look forward to more levels as far as the romance! In all this book was entertaining with endearing characters and an intriguing plot line. I’m definitely interested in reading more about these characters and seeing where the story goes. Serial novels have a way of drawing you in! There are some adult themes so this is better for the older set. Smooth writing helps with a somewhat slow story. Enjoyable book

Pages: 149 | ASIN: B07NQ99MGF

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