Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

In a small town in Eastern Texas the body of white woman and black lawyer from Chicago are found. The presumption is that Michael killed the poor white girl, and hey he must be guilty because he is black and in the same tiny town, hence him also ending up dead.

Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger, is asked to take a look into the situation, despite being on suspension, and ends up in a nest full of racists with no regard for his authority. Darren puts his life on the line to discover the truth, in a town living in the past ruled by men with secrets and men who believe being black equates to being sub-human.

Considering the rise of racial tensions in America in the last few years this story is quite poignant. When I say rise I think the correct term would be a resurfacing and less denial of the racial problems in the States. Issues, which have always existed, but the inhabitants and the media like to downplay and minimise. Now black people are standing up and roaring their outrage loud enough for the world to hear.

Reading the reality of the racial tension and segregation suggests that nothing has changed since the days of Jim Crow laws, and how can they when racist institutions like the KKK are accepted under the guise of freedom of speech and democracy. A complete paradox when white supremacists call for discrimination, oppression and lack of freedom for any person who isn’t white.

It is hate speech, hate crimes and a perfect example of autocratic rule. Racists do not really understand democracy, you can’t advocate for the opposite of that political system, and yet want to profit from the freedoms that come with democracy at the same time.

Locke incorporates important civil rights issues in this well-written story about racism and hatred. She is definitely an author to keep an eye out for.

Buy Bluebird, Bluebird at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Follow @atticalocke @serpentstail Visit

The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise

emperorIf this isn’t on the Not the Booker list then it should be.

It’s hard to say which character should really have been in the spotlight in this book. In this case it is Alex, but I would love to hear the story from Ivy’s perspective and delve deeper into her life. Perhaps even go back to Tiananmen Square, the story of her sister and the massacre.

Ivy shows Alex the reality of living as immigrants and worker bees in and under the oppressive regime of the Chinese government. She opens his eyes to the injustices happening on a daily basis all around them.

Alex struggles with fitting in the way his father expects him to, and he dislikes the hypocrisy his father displays. After experiencing oppression, genocide and hatred because of their faith it seems a paradox that their family be involved in the oppression of other human beings.

Towards the end I think it is fair to say that Alex begins to doubt whether Ivy has pure motives. Did she intentionally target and manipulate the privileged heir? Is the scent of freedom stronger than her conscience or is it her guilty conscience driving her actions and words?

The relationship between Alex and his father is the catalyst that propels the young man forward and helps him to discover his backbone. The old man is one of the dinosaurs, the old boy capitalist brigade who detest change and put money over everything else.

This story encompasses a lot of genres including history, politics, civil and human rights. It’s important to remember the modern era in which this takes place and take note of the injustices. It’s ironic, actually it is ruthless and tragic, that capitalists who profit from democracies in their native countries profit financially from having factories and using workforces in countries run by autocratic regimes and/or oppressive communist regimes.

This is a story of awakening and also about acknowledging the corruption hidden in the guise of employment and development. I look forward to reading more by Wise in the future.

Buy The Emperor of Shoes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: No Exit Press

Follow @SpencerWise10 @noexitpress on Twitter


The Second Mrs Hockaday by Susan Rivers

hockadayI really enjoyed this book, and I know it seems as if I say that a lot, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi. In my defence I do have a nose for picking good reads and in general authors seem to have upped the ante just a wee bit.

Placidia, also known as Dia throughout the book, is the main character and the entire story evolves around a traumatic event that happens to her. Rivers has actually based the story on a true event, which took place during the same era. The birth, death and burial of a baby born to a woman of good social standing, during a time when her husband was at war. He was also at war during the conception of said child, hence his automatic response on his return being a trip to the local magistrate to report his wife. She was arrested and put on trial.

Rivers has taken that particular moment in time and turned it into a wonderful and captivating read.

Often when authors use correspondence to move a story along it doesn’t work. In this case it is exactly the right way to have the characters interact, despite not being in the same vicinity of one another.

The only negative for me was when the story and correspondence leapt nearly 30 years ahead. I had to go back and re-read more than once to understand why there was a jump from Dia to a new character. It wasn’t until I looked closer at the dates on the letters or correspondence that I noticed the huge leap in the dates.

I enjoyed the way the author kept the tone and voice of the story entirely as era accurate as possible. Of course that includes slavery and the treatment of men, women and children who fell into those brackets. For example there is a sexual assault at the very beginning, which is merely noted as a small incident due to the dirt on the knees of the white man in question. No outrage, no mention, just an overall acceptance of this tragic status quo. Throughout the story this treatment of slaves as chattel or animals is noted merely as normal and part of society.

In a really subtle way Rivers points out both the parallels and the paradox between the treatment of slaves and white women when it came to being treated as a sub-species in the eyes of white men. This includes domestic abuse and sexual violence. It’s rather ironic that white women, and indeed even Dia, do not recognise the similarities between all of them.

The reality and horror of war is woven into the fabric of the story and the steady but achingly slow advancement of civil rights, all while this personal family drama and heartache plays out. As I said I really enjoyed the read.

Buy The Second Mrs Hockaday at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks

the-orphan-motherHicks portrays the contentious political atmosphere in 1867 quite well. Despite the Civil Rights Bill and the Freeman’s Bureau, there was still great opposition to the rights and freedom of ex-slaves.

Many of the white people find it difficult to accept the fact the former slaves now have a voice and aren’t afraid to use it. Those that weren’t born into a life of slavery view the ex-slaves as different to themselves, there is even a hierarchy amongst the slaves.

However they do agree on their common enemy. Those that hate all of them, because of the colour of their skin.

There are also the beginnings of the structure of organised disruption and attacks on blacks and white sympathizers. White men banding together to commit murder, arson and torture.

The story wanders from the future into the past and the atmosphere above. Mariah’s tale is slowly woven one, but certainly one worth staying with until the end. The loss of her son determines the rest of her life. His death is the catalyst to the entire events that unfold.

Hicks hits upon so many important issues during that era, but they never overshadow the actual main plot. From Mariah’s strange bond between herself and her former owner, and her quest for answers, which isn’t about vengeance, although Tole mistakenly thinks it is.

I could go on for quite a while about this book, it is a good read, and I just have to add that the author’s note was an interesting conclusion to the read. I really enjoyed the way the author kept a comfortable pace and took his time to let the characters grow, feel and explore within the narrative.

Buy The Orphan Mother at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

P.S: I adore the cover!

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley


Not many books make me seethe with anger. The injustice and blind ignorance in this story does, especially because the main plot is based on historical fact. Unfortunately the issue of civil rights is still relevant, alive and kicking even after all theses years.

I cannot even fathom treating others with such a level of contempt, hate and anger, just because they have a different skin tone to my own. Perhaps because I was raised to treat all people equally and base my interactions or judgements about them on their person, their words and their actions, and not on their race or religion. Children are not born hating others. They are taught to hate. Racism is indoctrinated into generations of people and they in turn repeat the insane cycle with their own offspring.

Again, I just have to repeat, I cannot comprehend how any person could think they are superior to another person based on the shade of their skin. It really does boggle my mind.

I wonder how many of these ‘white’ people read or watch history programmes or read books like this and recognise themselves in the role of the racist? Many of the teens, children and even adults involved in the events surrounding the civil rights movement are still alive. Do they still believe the mantras of the bigots or have they acknowledged any wrong doing on their part?

Talley has fed some of the frankly quite ignorant and insane statements people believed and repeated, during that time, into the story. For instance, ‘Negro brains are naturally predisposed to be submissive.’ Very reminiscent of eugenics during the Nazi era.

When you read the dates of events and realise that on the grand scheme of time we aren’t talking about very long ago. Based on recent events I would say there is still a huge underlying issue regarding civil rights bubbling beneath the surface of the US.

Talley has mixed two controversial topics together to create a firecracker of a story, which is meant to stretch the boundaries of your understanding of these issues. The reader practically sits inside the heads of both Linda and Sarah , thereby giving a complete view of the issue from both sides.

The events take place during the desegregation in schools in the late 50’s early 60’s. Talley has added the element of not only an interracial relationship, but also that of two girls. A triple whammy for the period of time we are talking about. Just so we are clear none of them should be controversial or a problem. Not race, skin colour or sexual orientation.

I can only imagine how scared the children and young teens must have been at the time. Walking through crowds of violent, abusive people, who were bent on getting rid of them no matter the cost. Being subjected to torrents of verbal and physical abuse, being spat on and called an assortment of demeaning names. Day in and day out, a war on the front-lines.

Within this story it becomes apparent that some of the children or teens being integrated into the school, feel as if they are being pushed into the part of role model and spearhead for the movement. Making a point on behalf of their parents, for the world and the future children to come. Under those difficult circumstance anyone would have crumbled and given in, however I am glad they didn’t. It also puts the civil rights movement into perspective. How courageous these people must have been to stand up for their rights and to weather this unfathomable hatred from each corner.

Sarah is a girl just like any other girl in the process of discovering her sexual identity. Her confusion, her guilt, her shame, all emotions that Linda shares, which shows the identical nature of the human beast, regardless of skin colour.

Linda fights with her own belief system, the reader gets a keen insight into her internal battles. She likes Sarah, more than likes her, which must mean Sarah is different from the rest, right? Of course eventually she comes to the conclusion that perhaps what she has been taught her entire lifetime is wrong. Wrong on every single level, and in turn that realisation makes her regard the people around her in a completely different way.

This is a book I would recommend as scholastic material to teach children what it is like to be confronted with racism, bigotry and hate. It will also give a good insight into the doubts of the indoctrinated few, who manage to free themselves from the repetitive cycle of hatred.

I could go on for hours and pages about how good I think this book is, which of course I recommend you read for yourself.

Buy As I Descended at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read As I Descended by Robin Talley

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles


This is certainly a book of epic proportions. It is roughly double the length of a normal novel. The story reaches far back into the past and takes the reader on a long path towards the truth. The tragic events of the past cast their wicked tendrils far into the present.

Even now after all these years many murders and disappearances related to the civil rights movements during the 60’s, remain cold cases.Close knit communities are still reluctant to point the finger at bigots and racists, who committed heinous crimes to prevent equality between different races.

A fictional tale based on historical facts and events, it is often a read that might upset or anger, which is only understandable considering the content. I think you can actually feel Iles frustration at the apathy directed towards solving these crimes and the level of corruption at that point in time.

Even now it seems as if many people just don’t want to muddy the already really dirty waters. Who knows how many bodies are still buried or how many people are still alive and able to reveal the fates and resting places of the remaining victims?

I think in a way the length of the novel subconsciously represents the time span between crimes and culmination of the events resulting from those crimes. This isn’t just a crime story for the author, this is making readers remember an incredibly difficult passage in history.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of William Morrow via Edelweiss.