Cover Image: River, Sing Out

River, Sing Out

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Member Reviews

I enjoyed this book so much. This author has an incredible writing style. My heart went out to Jonah and the life he grew up in.
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Thank you Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for the gifted book!

Two things about this book drew me in. This GORGEOUS cover and the fact that it's set in East Texas. As an East Texas girl, I could not resist. However, I should have paid more attention because this book is set in Deep East Texas not the Northeast Texas that I call home. Now, it will transport you to those forested river bottoms. It has a very strong sense of place. Also this book is described in one blurb as Southern noir, which is not my personal cup of tea. And describing this book and the structure is very hard to do, but here is the good and bad of it from my perspective. The good: the prose is gorgeous. Set apart from the rough content (which I will get to momentarily) this book is incredibly beautifully written. Some sentences I would hear and just repeat to myself because they were really that special. Now the bad: the content. This book is ROUGH. Yes, it revolves around the meth trade and poverty and abuse that affect the setting, but it does not pull any punches describing the tortures people can inflict on one another. I was not infrequently grimacing while listening. And the book is pretty slow and meandering to get from major plot point to major plot point. 

Overall I think the book is well written and my friends who love lyrical prose and a slower character driven novel will probably enjoy this one. But it just was not for me. 

Content Warning: Drug use, Abuse, Murder, Violence (this book has some very dark content, contact me if you want more information)
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This was really lovely. I was immersed in the story and loved the characters. It was poetic and lovely and I recommend!
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James Wade delivers as many twists as an East Texas river in "River, Sing Out," a coming-of-age novel filled with mystery, murder and mercy. Described as a southern gothic odyssey, it is filled with darkness, drugs and desperation. 

Living along the East Texas river bottoms, a boy name Jonah basically lives alone in a rundown trailer as he waits for his drunk, abusive dad to show up now and then. When a teenage girl stumbles into view, Jonah is determined to help her. She's on the run from local drug dealers after she makes off with a backpack full of methamphetamine. Chasing the dopers are the Mexican cartel and an assassin known as the Thin Man.

These may sound like stereotypical characters, but Wade gives them a sense of humanity and humility through his words. They are pitied, yet admired. Strong, yet weak.

The river is at the heart of Jonah's life. It's the only thing he can count on despite its flooding and dangers.  It's his only escape from the violence and poverty that surrounds him. Through its power, Jonah comes to terms with living and loving within himself. Listen to the river; it has a lot to say. Life, just like the river and never-ending rains, is brutal, yet survivable,
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

I had ARC for both the book and the audiobook. I listened to 85% and read the last 15%. I think the story is better as a book vs. audio.

Parts of the book were very poetic but overall the book didn’t grab my attention.
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River, Sing Out
James Wade 

This book was a journey.  Dark and troubled at times, but what journey isn’t?  The author is very descriptive - when I close my eyes even now I can easily see the characters and their background.  I was transported to East Texas.  I can already tell this will be a book I will look back on and for an instant I won’t know if I watched the movie or read the book.  

There were definite moments in this book where I felt plagued that “this is what is wrong with world” but it had its redeeming moments as well.  

If you’re up for a very well written, gritty, powerful novel, this is your read.  

Many thanks to Blackstone Publishing, James Wade, and NetGalley for a digital copy of this book.  I read and reviewed this voluntarily and opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.  This book is available for purchase now!
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Rating :★★★★★
Disclaimer: This review is solely my opinion. I was provided a copy of a finished book from Lone Star Literary Life partner in exchange for my honest review. The comments in this review do not reflect the views of the author or the publisher. The copy used in this review is an advanced reader copy sent to me in exchange for my honest review. #partner #LSBBT
River, Sing Out is a recently published novel that takes you on a journey through drugs, poverty, abuse, and relationships. This high-stakes novel is based in East Texas River bottoms. The story begins with a thought-provoking epilogue before diving into the introduction of John Curtis and his act of redemption. We then are introduced to Jonah Hargrove and later Cade and River. We get a chance to get to know each character as their stories are written from their perspective. As the novel progresses, you feel as though you are transported into the mind of each character, noting that the narrators are the characters themselves. The story continues to unfold in a method that has you both feeling sad and sorry for the characters involved. We get to watch as each character's lives start to entangle and secrets start to be revealed. Who will leave this situation unscathed and will they ever truly escape? You are left with many thoughts after reading this book.
The author's writing style continuously allowed the reader to be encapsulated by the total storyline and engaged from page to page. The book gives off a gritty, motel 6, a drug deal gone bad vibe that has you hoping it gets adopted as a tv show. The twists and turns have you on the edge of your seat waiting to find out the outcome of the souls who were mixed up with the wrong crowd. Surprisingly, this book reminded me a bit of my childhood and the challenges that can arise when children get mixed up in Adult choices. My father was a drug addict and no one ever depicts the humanistic aspect of the addict itself and focuses on describing their characteristics. For me, this novel brought back a bit of nostalgia. The author does a great job with the descriptive text, writing style, transitional scenes, and character development. I highly encourage everyone to pick up this novel. You won't regret it. One being, for every action there is a reaction and for every reaction, there is a potential consequence.
I highly encourage this fast-read novel for any adult interested in a gritty, Texas-sized, high-stakes, action-packed novel that will keep you both entertained and on the edge of your seat awaiting the next move. Due to the violent scenes, sexual content, and language, I recommend this book for Young Adults and up. This book may contain content that could potentially be triggering for those who have experienced drug abuse in their past.
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From the opening lines, readers can’t help but be struck by the symbolism of the river that rages across these lyrical, yet blistering pages. As not only a source of drinking water and transportation, the river showcases the incredible strength and beauty of nature; however, follow its course long enough and the descent can quickly spell disaster.

Alternating between plot points, readers follow Jonah, a 13-year-old boy, as he attempts to help a young woman, aptly named River, who is on the run from a drug kingpin named John Curtis and his dangerous enforcer, Cade, after she made off with tens of thousands of dollars worth of meth. Despite battling his own demons of parental abuse and abject poverty, Jonah finds a calling in trying to save her even though she is only desperately treading water. The author’s humble hand sculpts the slow and gentle sway that unfortunately delivers these young kids toward hard punch after punch. Their memories will remain long after the book is closed, yet in a sense, that is exactly where “the story begins and ends and begins again, as each rhythm of the earth’s turning draws the water darker still.” This lyrically profound contemplation on the course of choice refuses to avert its eyes from the darkness.

Men like Curtis and Cade reinforce how difficult it is to know whether to stay and fight or flee quickly from this violent existence. And honestly, there is no right answer. It is through the author’s masterful storytelling that the river in its natural setting becomes the symbol for this powerful and all too common human narrative. Atmospheric is an understatement because in this place, the river permeates everything that is meaningful in this story. These waters have the ability to drag you under or pull you in from the shore and chew you up anyway.

"The river and the world together, and both giving life and both swallowing it whole, and neither caring which, and neither having a say in the matter."

Life is depressingly tough for everyone involved in this story, and the author paints a ruthless portrait of that raw reality against the breathtaking backdrop of the native landscape. Like the author’s debut, readers are placed in the unique perspective of walking alongside these characters in such an oppressive and corrupt setting. And quite obviously, it’s not an easy sojourn to take. Emotionally provocative, I remain fascinated by the author’s ability to masterfully allude to how tragic this setting is without ever directly telling readers what to think. We are carried by his words to discover and examine all on our own such devastatingly bleak environments. For all it’s cruelty and callousness, there is magic between these pages that evokes the swagger needed to survive and the sensitivity required to not lose all sense of humanity. A reminder of the journey that each of us makes every day.

Overall, this is a compelling and affecting story, spectacularly written and richly detailed with a descriptive atmosphere and realistic characters that will not easily be forgotten. A brooding and brutal coming of age story as enlightening in its harshness as it is in its wonder and beauty.
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RIVER, SING OUT is a gripping and intricate story set in East Texas, where life is difficult and brutal, even to children.

This novel is chock-a-block full of characters, literarily and figuratively. Each character, without exception, is wholly developed and a clear individual, from the characters who may only been in one or two scenes, to the main characters of Jonah, River, and John Curtis. My heart went out to Jonah, who at 13 years old, is basically left to raise himself by his absent father. Jonah counting how many days of food he has left at one egg per day was pure anguish for me and my daily eggs for breakfast habit. I didn’t connect with River, to be perfectly honest. She’s making decisions and living a life I cannot begin to understand. But through Mr. Wade’s writing, I can begin to see how difficult her life has been. John Curtis is one of the most distinct characters I’ve ever read. He’s an orator, a snake-oil salesman, and an apex predator. It doesn’t pay to cross him. Or to be a trusted friend, either. His character gave me goose bumps every time he was in a scene.
Mr. Wade’s writing style is lyrical, visual, and a pleasure to read. From the mundane (a haircut for Jonah) to the extreme (River’s detox), each word is in its proper place, carefully thought out and planned. Descriptions are riveting; dialog is emotional and heart-felt. (Mr. Wade uses the word tarpaulin, instead of tarp. That’s an example of writing that I would have never even considered.)
The different plot lines flow along like smaller tributaries until they all converge into the larger river. Two scenes in the novel really stood out for me. The first is a dog fight scene and the second is a frog gigging scene. Both scenes read like Mr. Wade has had personal experience in these subjects. Or did some serious interviewing and\or research. I could hear all the dogs barking and frogs croaking in my mind while I listened to the narration. I was also squirming from the graphic details. As Bud, one of the giggers, states while his slicing up the frogs:
“Like taking his little ole pants off, ain’t it?”
I’ll spare you the pliers and other details of that quote!
Make no mistake, RIVER, SING OUT is gritty. If you are triggered by subject matters in books, this book probably has them (violence, drugs, and murder amongst the subjects here). I wouldn’t so much say I enjoyed reading this (it’s no LOL romantic comedy, that’s for sure!). But I listened attentively, anxious for the next twist of the plot, hopeful that Jonah and River get out of the messes they are in and get to see the ocean at the end of their trip.
The audio narration by Mr. Clark was captivating, sonorous, and a proper accompaniment to Mr. Wade’s writing. The character voices are distinct and easy to follow. Mr. Clark shines, though, as the narrator of the novel. (I’d listen to Mr. Clark reading the dictionary!) I’ll certainly be looking for other books he’s narrated. The production is smooth and enjoyable. There were no quality issues with the recording.
Overall, RIVER, SING OUT is engrossing and compelling, especially with Mr. Clark’s narration. The realistic characters, amazing descriptions, and absorbing dialog are worth investing the time in this novel.
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Most reviews of this book mention the two storylines running parallel.  I however feel like there is a third – water/river.  The influence of water and the impact it has on all the characters, as well as the changes it makes to the environment, plays a major role.  It is a constant and persistent character and action throughout the entire work.  

Interspersed with the gritty storylines is an almost lyric approach to the background.  The author worked hard and was largely successful in transporting the reader into the area and all of the environmental aspects.  You could smell the river, hear the rain and feel the dampness that gets into your bones when trying to survive those conditions. You could feel the fatigue and the slight glimpses of joy.

With a majority of the story centering around Jonah, a thirteen year old boy/man, the other characters are an authentic response to his life.  Jonah has a hard life.  There are glimpses of nurturing and care but mostly, he is in survival mode.  Even so, he manages to have a kind heart.  Unfortunately, kindness can cause pain and Jonah will endure a lot.  

I enjoyed the loops of plot lines all centering back to Jonah and his life.  The side stories of drug dealers, con men, killers and other people living on the edges of society gave the story a singular feel of real life.  

I rarely comment on covers but this one stands out.  The grace of the scene depicted is a direct contrast to the awkward intensity of the characters' lives.  Perfect juxtaposition.
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River, Sing Out is a poetic, exceedingly descriptive gothic fiction of place and time, and even more pictorial of living a poor life in the deep East Texas woods. Author, James Wade nailed this story with his descriptions of the place and the people. I can say that with authority because of family ties and living for many summers in East Texas, as well during Christmas breaks.

The story is atmospherically cemented in East Texas. It is a region in Texas that has its own essence of people, culture, and nature. The setting of any book is critical. The setting of River, Sing Out is brought to life exquisitely.

The first chapter of this book caught me surprisingly off guard with graphic language and violence. Violence is a big part of this story around drugs and murder, along with characters questioning the existence of God. It is also a story about a young boy needing to escape the life he’s been dealt. The tone of the violence became softened by the lyrical poeticness of Wade’s shaping of words around the setting of East Texas and its people.

Roger Clark, the narrator, has a voice that is rich and expressive. A richness that makes a girl like me swoon. Clark’s changing from the various characters even to a girl to a boy never broke its cadence. Without a doubt, Clark’s voice conveys River, Sing Out into a phenomenally memorable story. Through the Downpour app, I was able to hear the story perfectly well at 1.25 speed.

I highly recommend River, Sing Out as an audio book. It is a story that can take miles off your long drives or commutes. It is a galvanizing story written by Wade and brought to life by Clark that simply brings East Texas closer to my heart and makes me long to be back.
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River, Sing Out certainly lives up to the praise it has received so far. The beauty of the language is stunning, and the author’s ability to reflect the minds of the various characters with such precision was one of the best parts of the book for me. From the young boy, Jonah, to John Curtis, and to the old man at the cabin, the differences in voice and characterization were sharp and each came across as such a believable person.

I enjoyed the narrator’s voice, as well. His section always presented in italics. And this quote was so revealing as to the mind of an old man experiencing his last days upon the earth as he lies in bed, listening to a young man building a coffin. “And to awaken each day is to be reborn as an old man, and to have a life lived over in the split second it takes to wipe away at half-flung eyes. And such eyes offering a bleak recounting of the world – a reminder of what waits outside of dreams. As if in some immeasurable flash, the brain must give an accounting of every breath ever taken, so as to bring to consciousness those memories lost each night.”

Going into that goodnight, is perhaps the hardest thing, and the essence of that is captured so profoundly in the mind of this old man. At first, the reader doesn’t know who this narrator is. Could it be the River itself? Is it the man who helps Jonah? That not knowing, and wanting to know, kept me reading long past times when I should have stopped, and when it finally becomes clear, that understanding is sweet.

In addition to great narrative, the dialogue in the story is terrific. I highlighted many sections that had made me smile when reading, including this exchange between Jonah and River. This is about mid-way into their quest to find the lost drugs, and River is lamenting about some of the bad choices she’s made. “God I’m an idiot.” she says.

“No you’re not.”

“Well then I’ve been acting real convincingly like I am.”

Jonah is a tragic hero, but also the one true “good” in this story, despite the things he does to survive. He captured my interest right away when I started reading the book, and that interest never faltered. I worried with him about the constant rain and the river rising, adding a another sense of impending doom just below the surface of the other dangers from his father and John Curtis. The threat of being taken out by the river, heightened the suspense and the drama, and I was always waiting for the next terrible thing that would happen to Jonah.

I loved this book and recommend it to readers who like to be entertained by lyrical writing, as well as have a story with depths of characterizations and truths to ponder.
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This bittersweet story of southern noir swims through familiar waters, with obvious echoes of modern classics like Winter’s Bone. In East Texas, a young lad reaches beyond the loveless boundaries of his white-trash background. But his initial exploration of the bigger world beyond the backwoods might turn out to be his last – he risks everything by sheltering a young woman on the run from a gang of drug dealers.

She’s an opportunistic thief and a junkie; the men hunting her are strung-out scum. Their boss is a manipulative monster, a clear-eyed killer, and he’s in thrall to a remorseless cartel. Addicted and abused, she stole her chance for freedom… which happens to look a lot like a backpack stuffed with crystal meth. And now both she and young Jonah may have to pay in blood for her desperate dash into the bayou.

All of which is pretty much run-of-the-mill for an everyday tale of hardscrabble noir. What lifts River Sing Out far beyond the ordinary is its exquisite, elegant writing which concisely confronts the ugly truth of rural poverty in American society. Souls are stripped bare with mesmerising intensity. The incessant rain, the oppressive heat and the river itself saturate the story. Author James Wade eloquently captures the brutal, beautiful reality of coming of age; first love, deceit, betrayal and rejection, and he weaves all these themes into a nail-biting plot that would do Hollywood proud.

It can be hard-going at times as Wade explores just how bleak and brutal this world can be. Yet ultimately this is a celebration of the strength of the human spirit. It is relentless at times and it should be shocking, but River Sing Out also illustrates the strength of quiet conviction with poetic grace and understated compassion. If you admire the writing craft of James Lee Burke, Cormac McCarthy or Tim Gautreaux – their ability to immerse the reader in a vivid landscape so powerful you can smell it – then Wade is an exciting author to watch.
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If I could only use one word to describe this book, I think it would be poetic. The words flow seamlessly from one subject to another and the imagery fits East Texas to a T.

There are several plots in this story that meld together. There is a young boy, Jonah, that is just trying to survive despite abject poverty. River, a young woman that has lost her way but is determined to find her path, and John Curtis and Cade, local drug dealers and thugs who believe they are above the law. This novel is gritty and while has some happy moments, shows us the true underbelly of the drug world and the ruthlessness of those involved.

"How much of this life is truly your choice?"

This line resonated with me because I believe that we all make choices in our lives. Those choices may not always be the right ones, but every situation can be a learning experience. Of course, there are people and circumstances that create situations not of our choosing or making, but those are the times that one can learn from it and I think that is what happens with River and Jonah at different times throughout the book.

"You've made yourself the world's victim and you'll do the same with this."

Jonah may be just 13, but he has seen a lot in his young life. His mother left him and his father is not a kind man. Plus his living situation isn't wonderful but thankfully there is the kindness of a neighbor that looks out for him and gives him food when Jonah visits. This may be Jonah's saving grace in life from a horrible life and abusive father. Jonah realizes that he wants more from life than what he has and seeks to find a better life for himself.

"He was her lifeline in so many ways. And he was kind to her. More kind than any human had ever been."

I think my favorite character might have been River. She realized (albeit a bit too late perhaps) that a life wrapped up with drugs and thugs may not be the best for her. There was quite a little twist near the end that was quite the surprise. Her life was possibly never going to be all her own. However, her time with Jonah helped her see the good in people and strive harder to change her circumstances.

"We all come to appreciate those things lost to us. The sweetest breath of the day not realized until the night. Such is our reckoning as men. And how do you keep going, when something so meaningful is taken from you? How do you move forward? How do you move at all?"

This introspective quote gave me a lot to ponder. We all have losses in our lives and it is the hope for a better tomorrow that keeps us moving forward. I think that is what River and Jonah discover in their short time together. There is even a moment for John Curtis where I thought that he might want to change his life but it might have been too late for him.

This book will paint a picture of a world many of us are not subjected to but it gives us a glimpse into the lives of these characters and how they adapt and adjust to what life has thrown at them. The ending is both sad and joyful at the same time.

We give this book 4 paws up.
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As soon as I finished reading River, Sing Out, I sat there completely awash in the journey I just took.  The end is as the beginning, and the beginning is as the end. And for this reader, the bar for poetic prose excellence was just raised to heights unknown.

Describing this story, or even the style of this story, is going to be difficult.  I can still feel the story as much as I can feel my most vivid dream. But trying to describe it? I’ll do my best.

The storyline is complex simplicity. The story follows Jonah, a teen in East Texas. The time is the year of record rainfall and flooding. Jonah lives in a trailer out in the boonies near the river - the Neches River - with his father, an oil rigger. His father is gone to work for weeks at a time, leaving Jonah on his own. 

One day, a twenty-something women, River - she called herself, happens upon Jonah’s trailer. She is running for her life from drug runners. Jonah ultimately makes it his mission to keep River safe.

The two plot lines - one being Jonah and the other being the drug runners - are apparent from the very beginning.  They stay separate for most of the story, except for a few quick skirmishes when they intersect, but finally come fully together in the climax.

The river is like a mysterious character in the story.  We know it’s there, but what lurks above or below it remains in darkness until the story is ready to reveal it.

What really impressed me in this book is how James Wade told the story.  The whole story reads almost like poetry.  If it is possible for a book to have feng shui - as in the balance of yin and yang - it would have to be this book.  Practically every paragraph seems to be balanced in some type of perfect way.  I can just imagine author James Wade jumbling the words of a paragraph in his mind, teasing the words and the meanings until they are all perfectly blended and balanced.  I don’t know how else to describe it.

This story is not just a story to be read.  It is a story to be experienced.  By the time you’re finished reading, you will indeed feel the humidity of the Texas heat as rain comes and goes, yet the heat remains.  You will feel the mud of the river between your toes.  You will hear the raindrops on a tin roof. This author knows how to open a reader’s being and flood it with description that plucks on the senses like a harpist plucks the strings, and also fills the void with an abundance of so many emotions.

The imagery used is just stellar.  “The old man watched a memory as it bobbed atop the surface of the river then disappeared.”  If I provided all of these examples, I’d pretty much be giving you the entire story.

Technically, the book sits on a high shelf with few peers.  The pacing of the story is slow and deliberate, like the current of the river. But it never stalls.  The character arcs are also slow to form, but form they do.  The editing is flawless.

Although this is the first book by James Wade that I’ve read, he has immediately become one of my favorite and most respected authors.

If you believe in the magic of the written word and what can become of it, you need to read this story.  You need to read this author. You will enjoy both very much!
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River, Sing Out is set in fictional Neches County, Texas, in the East Texas bottomland. It's a hardscrabble existence for many folks, and Jonah Hargrove is no exception. His father works on an oil rig, so the days he's gone on the job are days Jonah doesn't have to duck his blows. In spite of his seemingly bleak existence, though, Jonah has a good heart. So when River, a teenage girl, stumbles into his sphere, injured and running scared after stealing a backpack full of meth from local drug lord John Curtis, Jonah feels like he should help her.

This book is a fascinating contrast. On the one hand, you've got the violent life of the drug trade and the grinding poverty in which Jonah lives. On the other, you've got the author's lyrical turns of phrase like, "That night he dreamt the earth was water alone and he floated atop it and from the center of the endless sea rose enormous a single oak and upon its bark and branches clung thousands of gray and green tree frogs and none moving or trilling yet all somehow calling to him and the boy spoke in a voice they understood." As an editor and proofreader, that really, really long sentence makes me a little crazy. But what amazing imagery. Can't you just see that lone oak in your mind's eye? The book is full of vivid, musical word pictures that make you feel almost like you're right there with Jonah and River.

As the title would suggest, the river is an important part of the story. It offers Jonah and River shelter and a means of escape at times. It rises and falls, and sometimes floods, bringing destruction as the waters crest and then recede. The river may not be alive in the sense of a sentient existence, but it has its mysteries and changes and moods, much like a person would.

Ultimately, I thought the book was about the resilience of the human spirit and the struggle to maintain faith, even in the face of indifferent nature and the sometimes brutal realities of life. And here, it felt like indifferent nature maybe cared just a little, that nature thought it time to wash a few old wounds clean, and perhaps make room for, if not complete healing, then at least growth. Given the difficult subject matter, it wasn't always an easy read, but it's a story I'm glad I read.
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This book has quite the cast of characters in it with most of them having bad intentions. This story takes place in Neches County, Texas. There is Jonah Hargrove a 13 year old boy who is someone who is pure and with no friends from a broken home and lives out in the sticks in a dump of a trailer with a father that is rarely there who is also abusive and a drunk. There is a girl that has the nickname of River who decides to steal something that does not belong to her but may provide a way out of the current situation she is in. She is being chased by a couple of war time buddies who along with their minions are the biggest dealers in the the Neches County who have their own troubles with their business partners in Mexico. This is a quick read with plenty of turns follow along to see if a young boy who thinks he's learning about love can save the girl. Can the girl get away ? Or will the bad guys who run rough shod over the area will win. There are some triggers in this book if you might have missed somethings in the description. There is drug use, brief description of dog fighting to name a few. But overall this is a solid read. Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for an ARC for a fair and honest review.
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3.5 stars

I enjoyed this book for the most part, but mainly because of characters like Jonah and River. For someone who had been shown so little love by the mother who abandoned him and the abusive father who stuck around, I was amazed by how resilient and kind hearted Jonah became. The world needs more people like him!

I thought the premise of the book was good but ended up not enjoying the chapters that focused on John Curtis and Dakota Cade. I know they were needed for the progression of the plot, but they didn’t grab my attention as much as I had hoped they would. I’m also not one to expect a perfect or happy ending, but I was so brokenhearted by the end of this book that it just didn’t sit well with me. 

Not sure if I would recommend this one, but I’m sure there are others who would enjoy it more than I did.
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onah is a 13 year old who has not had a good life. Then it gets really complicated when River shows up with a tale of meth stolen from Dakota, her abusive boyfriend, who works for John Curtis.  She lost the meth in the Neches River and she's got to find it.  This is a chase/quest novel told from multiple perspectives.  These are not good people (except for Jonah and his neighbor Mr. Carson) and this is a dark novel.  There's bad choices, violence, and despair.  Wade has a way of describing the landscape- as gritty as it is- in a way that makes it come alive.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  It's more thoughtful than you might think on the face of it and more urgent.  A very good read.
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River, Sing Out by James Wade is a highly recommended, grim, violent novel set in the East Texas river bottoms.

In an area plagued by poverty and abuse, River, Sing Out follows young Jonah Hargrove as he helps a teenage girl, River. River shows up at his trailer in bad shape. She had stolen a backpack full of crystal meth from John Curtis, head a local meth distribution empire and dogfighting ring. The two end up running from Curtis and Dakota Cade, his murderous enforcer, who, along with all their henchmen, are looking for her. At the same time Curtis is having problems with the cartel that controls his supplies. Jonah and River what they can to flee so River can sell the drugs for the money but their outlook for survival looks bleak.

This is a very ominous, violent, bleak narrative where right from the start it is clear that there can be no redemption or good ending based on the characters. Everyone in this novel has secrets they are keeping from the other characters. Jonah is the only character, because of his age, that you will hope has a chance to overcome his situation and rise above his circumstances. Mr. Carson, an elderly neighbor who is Jonah's only real friend and support system helps Jonah as much as he can. It is better to enter into reading this novel knowing it depicts extreme poverty, brutality, and ruthlessness.

The prose is almost lyrical at times, with discussions of nature, eternity, and God juxtaposed with the severity of their circumstances. The pace is measured at the beginning and slowly picks up as the threat to Jonah and River increases. The chapters switch points-of-view from different characters, mainly Jonah, Curtis, and a mysterious man. River, Sing Out is a hard book to read due to the haunting subject matter and the cruelty presented, which will need to be taken into consideration when you start it, however, it is definitely worth reading.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, and submitted to Amazon.
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