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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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Conservative Views 101 Plus

Conservative Views 101 Plus by [Gall, Alex]

Life is more difficult now than it was a few years ago. More and more people have to work multiple jobs just to stay above water. Utilities cost more than they used to and money is losing value. By the time one receives their salary, it’s already spent. With high trade deficits and national debts, people have much less purchasing power. What is happening now that was not happening before? How have we gotten to this point? What conversations do we need to have to change things? How can there be more employment opportunities? How can the citizens live to work as opposed to working to live?

Alex Gall has produced a well-written account of everything people should be saying but will not. The language used in the book is strong but not abrasive and drives the point home effectively and firmly. The authors passion and commitment to the subject matter is commendable and infectious. I consider myself to be an average citizen, I read the occasional hot headline. But this book made me look a little further, and a little deeper, and find something that was shocking and appealed to the citizen in me. This book is delivered from the point of view of a concerned citizen painting a picture, a person who is inviting others to a well thought out and open conversation.

I would appreciated more references of source material because, as stated previously, this book will leave you digging for more information and getting more involved in politics. Some statistics or studies to back up the subject matter would have been appreciated. This book is well researched and is laid out in an easy to follow manner in a compact and readily available format. At times I felt the content a bit dense, or maybe the topics overwhelming. I had to put the book down and think about what I just read. This book certainly causes one to reflect. But once you come out of your reflection, once you put the book down, you will come away with an overriding need to do something.

There are some sensitive topics covered but the author uses a neutral approach which is inviting. His approach to the subjects is completely ‘take it or leave it’. This is one of the best qualities of this book. The fact that the author lays out his position without dragging people with him. The intensity of the book and the truth in the subject matter will carry you effortlessly.

This book does a fantastic job of starting a serious and necessary conversation. This is necessary for anyone who wants to be an informed citizen.

Pages: 260 | ASIN: B079YP7LGM

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Book of Matthew: House of Whispers

Book of Matthew: House of Whispers by [DuBois, Catalina]

Catalina DuBois’s Book of Matthew: Part I. House of Whispers is a tale of forbidden love that, at times, seems Shakespearian in its delivery. The story begins in rural Missouri in 1850, a tumultuous time in the United States. Slavery was still very much in practice at southern plantations. Along with the master/slave dynamic came secret, taboo romances between captive slaves and free, white plantation owners and their family members. Matthew, the plantation owner’s son and heir, and Sarah, a slave owned by Matthew’s father, are two star crossed lovers trying desperately to navigate through social stigma, away from the plantation-dominated south, and toward freedom.

Barely a few pages into the first chapter, Matthew’s lust for the slave girl, Sarah, is evident. This is shown through a very sexually explicit scene that turns out to be a dream. There are a few of those scenes like this scattered throughout the book. Over all, I didn’t feel they detracted from the book, but might be a little too graphic for some readers.

The book seems accurate in its depiction of slavery. Slaves are subjected to unwanted sexual advances, beatings, whippings, and, in some cases, death. Families are ripped apart. Mixed race children are born in slave quarters. Secrecy is rampant. Slaves aren’t legally recognized as people. They are merely property. They are bought and sold as simply stock on store shelves. They are forced into unwanted marriages. They are denied a proper education, and are often punished if they find a way to become literate. They have no rights. They have no choices. This is a grave, but important reminder of America’s past.

Thank goodness for the few characters besides Matthew and Sarah who seem to have some common sense about them. A handful of characters, even during that timeframe, believed in equality. They are reminded at a point that race didn’t matter at all in God’s eyes, even if men’s eyes had such skewed filters. They find help from some unlikely sources as they try to outrun those who would rather see them dead than together.

The book keeps interest piqued through all the obstacles that Matthew and Sarah overcome to try to be together. There are similar story lines that play along parallel to theirs. Other pairs of seemingly mismatched lovers run and hide and jump through hoops to be together as well. This story based on love is not without its hindrances. Villains walk amongst them in their treks toward love. Menacing characters sabotage, violate, abuse, and even murder their victims throughout the story. They still don’t give up on each other. Even in such dire circumstances, love finds a way to unite. Ultimately, love conquers all.

DuBois’s story reads easily and quickly. I didn’t want to put it down. I found myself cheering for the more righteous characters, and hating the more deviant of them. The plot flows nicely, and loose ends are tied up neatly by the end. I’d love to read a Part II and see where DuBois takes Matthew and Sarah’s journey.

Pages: 233 | ASIN: B076ZS21T6

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Dare to Be the Change

Dare to Be the Change by [Metoyer, Annella]

Dare to Be the Change, written by Annella Metoyer, tells the story of Annella’s life and how she overcame adversities to be the change she wished to see in the world. Annella faces a world of segregation and judgement based on the color of her skin, but is determined to push through the racism and have people see her for who she truly is. This begins a world of firsts for Annella, from being the first colored cheerleader to the first woman of color to work in her local bank. Her life journey will inspire, and enlighten you as you learn what it takes to make a difference in the world.

Growing up in a small town of Louisiana, Annella lives in a time where racism was prevalent in the community. With society segregating everyone into two groups of “colored” and “white”, Annella struggles with her identity. This segregation continues throughout all of her schooling years; however, it was several teachers and adults in her life that showed her that she didn’t need to accept the injustice and inequality that society expected her to endure.

I admired the relationship Annella had with her parents and in particular the strength and support her father showed her throughout her life. Rather than allowing racism to control their lives, he would take a stance and voice his concerns about the unfairness of how children were treated due to the colour of their skin. He was also the instigator of her career as the first woman of color at a bank, forming the pathways of her strength and persistence for change.

Dare to Be the Change enlightens the reader with racial situations or expectations that show an unfair and unjust part of our history. Conditions such as separate school buses or being unable to enter a cafe through the front door if you were colored seem like a preposterous idea, but sadly they were the real-life situations that people had to endure every day.

Throughout the story, you can tell the author Annella Metoyer radiates a certain positivity and gratitude that I believe led her to achieve so many significant changes. There are times where she could have relished in the negativity, but instead, she talks about the positive people in her life that helped her grow and become more confident as a woman. Annella’s endurance and strength to stand up for what is right is a trait to be admired and one that we don’t often see in the world. Annella’s hard work ethic and ability to prove herself in her career is just one way she initiates change as she begins to show others that there is more to a person than the color of their skin.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for an inspirational story that will motivate you to be the change you wish to see in the world.

Pages: 91 | ASIN: B079QM5MNC

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Weird, right?

Bruce McCandless Author Interview

Bruce McCandless Author Interview

Sour Lake follows Sheriff Reeves as he tries to solve a brutal murder while navigating the towns racial tensions and economic despair. What was the the inspiration behind the setup to this interesting novel?

It started as a more or less straight horror story, based on legends and tall tales I heard growing up about Texas at the turn of the 20th Century. My wife’s family is from the Big Thicket area, and the more I started talking and writing, the more interested I became in the social history and mores of the people in the area.

The story takes place in 1911 in a small Texas town. Why did you choose this setting for your story?

1911 was something that came to me in a dream, about halfway through the story. In the dream, I was searching through old newspapers for clues about the central mystery in the book. I looked down to turn the page, and I saw the date: October 17, 1911. Weird, right? So I just went with it.

Sheriff Reeves Duncan lost his wife, is a recovering alcoholic, but manages to keep a level head in intense situations. What obstacles did you feel were important to push his character development in the story?

Reeves Duncan is a fun character. I think what I like most about him is that he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows his own limitations, but at the same time he has a pretty fierce streak of stubbornness that compels him to do the right thing, even if he knows he’s going to be disliked for it. Apart from having to wrestle with the bizarre nature of the crimes he is investigating, the biggest obstacle he faces is having to stand up to his own friends and neighbors in order to protect an innocent man and, ultimately, bring the true killer to justice.

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

I’m actually working on a prequel to Sour Lake, but I can’t say much about it because it’s still in its very early stages. If anyone’s interested in reading something that, like Sour Lake, combines horror and history, please check out my novel The Black Book of Cyrenaica. Or, if you’re not interested in horror, please try my coming-of-age story Color War, which is also set in East Texas, this time though in 1974.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

Sour Lake by [McCandless, Bruce]It’s 1911. Someone, or something, is leaving the good citizens of East Texas’s Ochiltree County savagely mutilated and drained of blood. Slow-talking Sheriff Reeves Duncan needs to put an end to the murders, and soon. But it won’t be easy. This is the Big Thicket, dark and brooding, haunted by racial tensions and economic despair. Fortunately, Sheriff Duncan can count on the assistance of an undersized but tough-as-rawhide Texas Ranger, two physicians, a mechanical wunderkind, and a soft-spoken idiot savant who knows the sloughs and baygalls of the Thicket like his own backyard. This league of unimpressive gentlemen is about to be tested by the cunning and ferocity of an enemy that walks by night–and the tentacles of a desperate sectarian plot that threatens the very survival of the human race.

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Sour Lake Or, The Beast

Sour Lake: Or, The Beast

Keep the lights on when you read this book! Sour Lake Or, The Beast will transport you back in time to East Texas, 1911. Chapter one is called Pray, and that is your only warning of what is to lie ahead. A brutal and gruesome death of the young school teacher Lenard Dalchau leads you into the world of this small Texas county of Ochiltree. Prejudice and racism run high and the locals want this death solved and forgotten quick. Reeves Duncan, the sheriff however isn’t one to just jump to conclusions and hang the wrong man. Agreeing with the sheriff that this is no ordinary murder case is “Doc” Walter McDivitt that has seen enough brutality for a lifetime. These two take the lead in discovering the truth. Together they discover a truth that no one wants to hear, and no one would believe if they did.

Bruce McCandless III is a talented author that is a cross between Steven King and the voice actor Robert Clotworthy. The historical descriptions and language are offensive to modern society but are accurate for 1911. It is so clear you feel like you are really back in Texas in the early 1900’s and living with this society. I’m not typically a person that enjoys horror novels because my imagination will just keep me up all night with every bump in the dark. McCandless however has written a story so engaging I couldn’t put it down. There are so many surprises in the pages it is hard to reveal much for fear of giving away the next piece of the plot. I can say I fell in love with the character of Sheriff Duncan. A man that lost his wife, became an alcoholic and overcame it. A mild mannered man that wants to be fair and not rock the boat. He does have a conscience and uses that to guide him as the story progresses, that inner instinct and unwillingness to follow a mob mentality. Sheriff Duncan believes in facts, and even when those facts point to things that should not be real he doesn’t discredit it. When all is said and done, he just wants to walk away. But how can you walk away from the nightmares he endured?

This is a novel you just can’t put down, it will draw in readers that like historical fiction, horror, a little sci-fi and a lot of action and gore. All the main characters are given rich back stories so you feel you really know who they are and how they ended up in Ochiltree County. The story line is unique and completely original probably because of when it takes places. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone that needs an escape from modern drama, this book will take you away and make you think, as well as surprise you from one chapter to the next.

Pages: 228 | ASIN: B06XR9T91W

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A Dialogue For Change

Ben Burgess Jr. Author Interview

Ben Burgess Jr. Author Interview

Black and White is contemporary novel focused on interracial couples and the stigma they endure. Why was this an important novel for you to write?

I felt with everything going on in the world today, this book was needed. I want this book to help improve the world or at least get people to start talking and create a dialogue for change. The world can be an ugly place and I wanted to show that ugliness so that people can also appreciate the beauty.

The story is set in a city filled with crime and focuses on the animosity between black communities and the police. You take a balanced perspective in your story, do you feel that is something that is lacking today?

I feel there is mistrust on both sides when it comes to the Black Communities and the Police. I feel that both sides need to work on change and the only way that can happen is with dialogue. I want this book to help. I’m an NYPD Detective and I feel that it’s important that Cops acknowledge that there are some cops who are prejudice and pray on minorities but at the same time it’s important that minority communities don’t assume that every cop is corrupt and prejudice. I feel society forgets that cops are people too. I feel that sometimes some cops become so calloused from the job that they began to see minorities as bad. Balance is the key to everything. Understanding each other helps also. I talk to communities often and sometimes after I explain certain situations to the crowd, they understand things better and have less animosity. Sometimes the community members help me see things differently than I do through the lenses of being a cop. In order for the world to get better, we all have to change.

Did you put any personal life experiences in this book?

I put some personal life experiences in all of my books. “Ben”, “Ebony”, and even “Bill” and “Becky” are all parts of me. At times I felt like Ben where I felt my own race believed I wasn’t “Black” enough and I was too “Black” for some White people. I know the struggle of dealing with the public at protests like Ebony. I’m an NYPD Detective. Like Ebony, before I became a Cop, I hated cops and I became one to make a difference in the world. I’m heavily involved in urban communities and I’m in an interracial relationship. I’m similar to Becky because I wrote this book to change the world. I wouldn’t want to alter it or tone it down. I love this story the way it is and my writing is important to me. I’m similar to Bill because I grew up in Queens Bridge. Despite growing up in a low-income family, I didn’t let my environment hold me back. I’m also a huge basketball fan and play regularly. Some of the situations and even dialogues in the book I have actually had or have been involved with. I like to put some of my real experiences in my stories because I believe it helps them feel more authentic.

What is one thing that you hope readers take away from Black and White?

I want readers to understand that we all have biases, we all have assumptions and stereotype, but it’s important not to base our actions and decisions on these things. It’s important to get to know people and not assume that a certain race is all the same. I want people to read this book and understand that love is love. It doesn’t matter what race your partner is, be with anyone you love. I also want people to feel comfortable in their own skin. Ben and Simone were examples of two characters that struggled with that and it’s important to know that until you have love and appreciation for yourself, you can’t truly do the same for someone else.

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

My next novel will be a story celebrating the strength of Mothers. I’m writing a story about three different types of Mothers in three different situations and I’m calling it “Mothers.” I hope to have the novel out in time for Mother’s Day.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | GoodReads

Black and WhiteWhen the prestigious law firm of Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln catches two major cases—a rape case where a White NBA star allegedly raped a Black stripper, and a murder case where a Black rapper allegedly killed a gay couple and two policemen—Bill O’Neil and Ben Turner are tasked to handle these racially charged litigations. The cases hit emotional chords with the two lawyers and force them to reckon with their interracial relationships and families. Will the racial tension of their cases destroy them or make them stronger?

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Black and White

Black and White by [Burgess Jr., Ben]

This is a drama filled novel following the lives of four main characters who are all connected in different ways and share similar struggles. A modern day Romeo & Juliet novel but focused on interracial couples and the stigma and struggles they are forced to endure despite racism being a supposed thing of the past.

Set in a city filled with violent crime and heavily focused on the animosity that exists between black communities and the police, this story explores the stories from all points of views. From the courtroom of a major murder trial to a high-profile rape case and the subtle racism that exists in big city law firms, you will learn how to respect other people’s points of view after reading this compelling story.

Ben Burgess Jr. has written a fantastic book that makes you feel you are a fly on the wall of all the scenes. The author makes you feel like you are in the outcast communities actually feeling the struggle young black people feel on a daily basis. You can’t help but feel disgusted towards police at points in the story but then the next chapter has you feeling empathy for the police as you hear the same story from their point of view.

This all leads to a roller coaster of emotions as you watch the story unfold from different characters perspectives and you feel yourself torn between which person you should root for. The undertone throughout all sides of the story is the huge amount of prejudice both sides of an interracial couple have to deal with which is a sad reality that despite how far we have come as a society, we are still so judgmental of others even when it has no affect on us at all.

There are some graphic sexual scenes that, for this story, are necessary to make the story truly feel real and believable. Although you feel uncomfortable reading them, I think that is the exact feeling the author was hoping because the truth of sexual crime is harsh and hard to swallow.

This is a novel begging to be turned into a movie or TV show or at the very least will have many novels written in the series because once you reach the end of the book you have become so enthralled by the tale you don’t want to say goodbye to your new found friends and want to see where their journey through life takes them next. The world needs more stories like this to continue to bridge the gap between races.

Pages: 340 | ASIN: B0732MBZQB

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Angie Brown: A Jim Crow Romance

Angie Brown: A Jim Crow Romance5 Stars

Our tale centers around the life of one woman, Angie Brown, as she struggles to live and love in an unforgiving world. Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance was originally written by Lillian Jones Horace 68 years ago. Angie Brown is a window to the past: a look at what life was like for black people during the Jim Crow era. It opens with heartbreak as Angie is denied medical care for her ailing child. Angie is at a disadvantage for her entire life simply for being black. Her child is black. Therefore, they are treated as less than second-class citizens. The beginning of Angie’s heartbreak occurred before that moment, but is amplified as her child dies in her arms: denied a potentially life-saving treatment solely based on the color of his skin.

Many books about this subject can feel like textbooks, but this book is beautiful and heartfelt. Wrapped up in an emotional love story, Angie Brown will teach its readers about life from the point of view of a young woman. She has loved, she has lost both her husband, Jim, and her son. She finds herself abandoned with no way to return home. Her religious mother has forsaken her and Angie must persevere if she wants to survive. Through her sorrow and her uncertainty Angie rises above the hand that life has dealt her. She works her hardest to become someone she can deem as worthy.

While there is activism in this book on Angie’s part, it doesn’t overshadow the romance. It is important to understand that Angie is not going to take her fate lying down. As she learns and exposes herself to the world she begins to understand that she can make a difference if she wants to. Her eyes are opened to the trappings of the world and she realizes that someone must stand up for the young black children who are disadvantaged solely because of their skin color. Described with powerful words the reader may feel as though they are there as Angie involves herself with politics and does her best to support Roosevelt in his bid for president. He desires to be a president for all people, something that Angie believes in.

Angie loves. She loses and she finds herself in sorrow. She sees the disgusting side of the world and she sees the beauty in it as well. She builds herself up from the timid young girl to the successful woman at the end of our tale. Angie Brown, A Jim Crow Romance by Lillian Jones Horace will show readers the beauty and agony of love against the backdrop of a time where injustice was rampant in the South. There are reading comprehension questions at the end of the book which make this an excellent selection for further classroom reading or even as an addition to a book club roster. The romance is beautiful in this tale but the underlying message is just as important. Whether you’re reading for fun or reading to learn more, you will not be disappointed with this book. Even though so much time has passed, this timeless piece remains poignant and elegant.

ISBN: 1478773030

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Another Tribe: Our Eternal Curse

Our Eternal Curse: Another Tribe by [Rumney, Simon]5 Stars

Heartache and pain follow our protagonist, Julii, as she makes her way through the life she is living in America during the 1860’s. Our Eternal Curse – Another Tribe by Simon Rumney shows Julii as a young, naïve Aboriginal woman living with her small tribe and ignorant of the world. She does not know about war on the scale of what the white American’s are fighting. She doesn’t understand racism and slavery in the way we have learned about. She lives carefully and quietly with her family. She is extremely intelligent and takes her small world for granted. Then she meets a man who is gravely injured at the side of a river she has always gone to. A man who does not look like the men she knows. A man who may never wake up from the coma he slips into. This man is Robert, and he will change the very way she lives.

While this book is part of a series, it’s easy to read on its own. Required knowledge of the previous books is not necessary, although it may heighten the experience. This book is overflowing with raw, human emotion while not being afraid to look at the disgusting parts of colonial history. Rumney certainly knows how to spin a tale. While told in the third person we see the tale from Julii’s point of view: we hear her thoughts, and we begin to understand and learn about the world through her eyes. It’s a clever way to do it, especially for those who may not be aware or understand this point in history.

As Julii learns about the reality of the outside world, we learn about it as well. Her confusion and the struggle with a foreign language are easily portrayed and the reader feels as though we are Julii: we are also the ones who are seeing this world for the first time and learning this language for the first time. The world of 1860’s America is cruel. To understand how an Aboriginal person, a woman for that matter, would have felt during this time is difficult. This is a time of rampant racism, of distrust and the inability to treat all human beings with respect and dignity. It can be painful to read, as it is important to realize that these thoughts and attitudes still exist almost 200 years later. Rumney does a great job of making the reader identify with Julii, the marginalized main character in our tale.

With a story so beautifully crafted it’s hard not to get immersed while reading it. Julii goes through so much in her life: she experiences things so rapidly that it’s hard not to feel for her. If you are looking for a heart-tugging story with excellent character development and a subliminal message, Our Eternal Curse – Another Tribe by Simon Rumney is definitely worth a pick up. Readers won’t go wrong by potentially stepping outside of their comfort zone and reading about the fantastical life of Julii.

Pages: 314 | ASIN: B00TI01JH6

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