MONSTRE by Duncan Swan – Introducing a New Master of Horror and a MUST READ – Release Is Only 5 Days Away…

Title: MONSTRE

Series: MONSTRE: VOLUME ONE

Author: DUNCAN SWAN

Genre: FICTION, HORROR

Length: 388 PAGES

Publisher: SUPER HOOT PUBLISHING

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7345740-0-5 (Paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-7345740-1-2 (eBook)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

There is no stopping it.

The Cloud is armageddon, steamrolling the world at a walking pace.

In his thrilling debut novel Monstre, author Duncan Swan crafts a relentless, terrifying, genre-bending tale of courage, desperation, and redemption that shows just how fragile our civilization is… and how far we will go to survive.

Day 0. From the wreckage of a research facility in Switzerland, a plume of toxic smoke and ash pours into the sky, forming an impenetrable cloud that is slowly smothering the world in darkness. As Europe disappears beneath the Cloud, a squad of United States Marines are sent on a desperate mission to find out what went wrong, and how to undo it before it’s too late. Venturing into a cold, dark world, the Marines must travel deep under the Cloud, with no comms, no backup, and no idea of what they will face.

Day 89. Half a world away, the Cloud has reached the East Coast of the U.S. With nowhere to run and no hope of survival, the American people have descended into madness, turning on themselves and each other. From the sidelines, an old Tennessee sheriff watches as his country unravels. But he can’t bring himself to take the easy way out. Quitting isn’t in his DNA. So when one of his deputies asks him to help protect her family, he leads them west, chasing a miracle-a rumor of an old nuclear bunker that just may be their only hope for survival.

Because if the Cloud doesn’t kill them, what’s hiding in the dark will.

“Nothing got through it from above, not even radio waves, and anything that tried to fly through it suffered so many lightning strikes that it came out the other end looking like charcoal with all the aerodynamics of a brick.⁠”
Monstre, Vol I, Exc. III⁠
(Art: Chris Cold)

MY REVIEW:

Move over Stephen King, there is a new Master of Horror!!!

If Michael Crichton was still around, even he would feel threatened by Duncan Swan’s writing and imagination.

There are a zillion books out there that talk about the end of civilization as we know it, but none like MONSTRE by Duncan Swan. In the apocalyptic genre there are few storylines that can be considered original, yet Duncan Swan has achieved that goal.

I do not want to give away any of the plot, nor do I want to lessen the enjoyment of potential readers. I do however want to ensure that anyone who reads this review understands that I am giving MONSTRE the highest possible rating allowable.

In scope, this book takes on a mammoth task. After all, it is about the end of all human life on the planet that is being threatened.

The story begins in Europe and at the end of Book One, readers realize that what began half a world away has now come to North America and threatens to wipe out everything and everyone we hold dear.

If you are a fan of horror, this is a MUST READ.

If you are a fan of science fiction, this is a MUST READ.

If you are a fan of apocalyptic fiction, you do not want to miss this book.

If you are a fan of great dramatic fiction, you just can’t afford to miss this novel.

If you love character driven, multifaceted, fast paced stories that grab your attention and are so engrossing that you can immerse yourself for hours at a time, and yet still not want to stop reading, MONSTRE is the book for you.

At 388 pages, this first book in what promises to be an amazing series, is long enough to ensure that readers get their money’s worth and then some.

Duncan Swan has crafted a winner of a book. If he does not win multiple awards for MONSTRE I would be very surprised. 

I rate MONSTRE as 5++ OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book. The only good thing about having to wait is that it will give me a chance to read MONSTRE again.

*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***

Footprint
Artist: Laurie GREASLEY



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

South African born and raised, Kiwi immigrant, Australian citizen, and now a U.S. Permanent Resident, Duncan Swan holds a degree in Aerospace Engineering and a Master of Commerce. He originally wanted to be an astronaut, but somehow wound up working in finance as a portfolio analyst and making fancy spreadsheets.

Now, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter and tells stories, working with amazing artists, editors, publishers, and marketing geniuses to create something new.

Duncan’s debut novel, MONSTRE – a story about survival and mad desperation, described as “sci-fi with teeth” – will be released in two parts, with Volume 1 due in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats on September 15, 2020, and Volume 2 to follow in Summer 2021.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

PINTEREST

AMAZON

MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE by Investigative Reporter JUSTIN LING is available for pre-order NOW. This 5 STAR Read is destined for the National Bestseller list.

Title: MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE

Subtitle: The Story of Serial Killer Bruce McArthur, the Search for Justice, and the System That Failed Toronto’s Queer Community

Author: JUSTIN LING

Genre: NON-FICTION, LGBTQIA2+, LGBTQQ, QUEER NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME, DIVERSITY, MULTICULTURAL INTEREST, SERIAL KILLERS, TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA,  CANADIAN AUTHOR

Length: 304 PAGES

Publisher: MCCLELLAND AND STEWART – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE CANADA

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 29, 2020

ISBN: 9780771048647

Price: $32.95 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty to killing these eight men.
Top row, from left to right: Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen and Abdulbasir Faizi.
Bottom row, from left to right: Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi and Majeed Kayhan.
(John Fraser/CBC)

DESCRIPTION:

The tragic and resonant story of the disappearance of eight men — the victims of serial killer Bruce McArthur — from Toronto’s queer community.

In 2013, the Toronto Police Service announced that the disappearances of three men–Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Majeed Kayhan — from Toronto’s gay village were, perhaps, linked. When the leads ran dry, the investigation was shut down, on paper classified as “open but suspended.”

By 2015, investigative journalist Justin Ling had begun to retrace investigators’ steps, convinced there was evidence of a serial killer.

Meanwhile, more men would go missing, and police would continue to deny that there was a threat to the community. On January 18, 2018, Bruce McArthur, a landscaper, would be arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder. In February 2019, he was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of eight men.

Canadian Serial Killer
Bruce McArthur
Ho / THE CANADIAN PRESS

This extraordinary book tells the complete story of the McArthur murders. Based on more than five years of in-depth reporting, this is also a story of police failure, of how the queer community responded, and the story of the eight men who went missing and the lives they left behind. In telling that story, Justin Ling uncovers the latent homophobia and racism that kept this case unsolved and unseen. This gripping book reveals how police agencies across the country fail to treat missing persons cases seriously, and how policies and laws, written at every level of government, pushed McArthur’s victims out of the light and into the shadows.

MY REVIEW:

MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE is destined to become a National Bestseller.

Investigative Reporter Justin Ling, himself a member of Toronto’s LGBTQ community – the very same community from which McArthur chose his victims – is uniquely qualified to author this book.

I say this, NOT based on his sexuality, I say this because he seems to have been the only person, and definitely the only reporter, who was interested in finding out what was happening in Toronto’s Gay Village YEARS before the police even considered the men’s disappearances to be connected. Not only that, but because Justin knows the area, and is a reporter with a heart who cares (sometimes too much) about each victim as a person, not as just another face in the lineup of victims. Justin is the only person who could tell this story without sensationalism getting in the way.

I have read numerous true crime books over the span of many years, but MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE is unique. It is superbly told so that the focus is not on the gruesome crimes themselves, but is on the story as a whole. I love that the author was so wrapped up in the story that, at times, he had to fight back tears.

Canada has its fair share of crimes, including murder, but Canadian serial killers are rare. These killers seem to focus on marginalized populations, seeing those victims as disposable. The problem is that they seem to be right. It took way too long for the police to catch this POS.

Sex, murder and secrets are the basis for this horrific true crime story that, if I didn’t know better, I would never have believed to be true, especially not here in Ontario, Canada.

MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE is a MUST READ if you want to know the entire story, not just of Bruce McArthur and his victims, but also the history of Toronto’s gay village and the fight for LGBTQIA2S rights, and why Bruce McArthur was able to go on killing over the span of several years and remain undetected.

McArthur’s victims were real people who had loved ones and friends who still miss them.

In this era of the #metoo movement and the calls to #defundthepolice and, of course, #blacklivesmatter we all need to remember that many people are still seen as unimportant. THIS NEEDS TO STOP.

For decades people who are queer, who are sex workers, who are black, who are brown, who are Indigenous, who are homeless, and many more, have been treated as if their lives do not matter. It is up to each and every one of us to make sure we see, REALLY SEE, every life as equal and as precious. This book will open people’s eyes, it is up to us to ensure our eyes stay open.

If we can do this, maybe, just maybe, we can stop the next Bruce McArthur from being able to choose victims at will.

I rate MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I will be watching for Justin Ling’s byline, and hopefully another book.

I just discovered that you can Pre-order the hardcover version of this book on the Chapters/Indigo website for a reduced price. It is currently 25% off, but I am not privy to when this offer ends, so I suggest you pre-order your copy ASAP.

Pre-Order NOW and Save 25%

*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***

QUOTES:

“The bar changed colour like a drag queen trying on new shades of lipstick.”

“The contrast between the bright paint and the rest of the dour building gave Zipperz the particular quality of being a portal into another world, a secret passageway.”

“The campaign to find a missing loved one sits exactly between hope and dread.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

JUSTIN LING is an investigative journalist whose reporting has focused on stories and issues undercovered and misunderstood.

His writing has appeared in Vice News, BuzzFeed, Foreign Policy, Motherboard, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the Guardian.

In 2019 he hosted “The Village,” the third season of the CBC podcast Uncover, which examined cold cases from the 1970s that were reopened as a result of the McArthur investigation.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

LINKEDIN

CBC

UNCOVER – THE PODCAST

MUCKRACK

TWITTER

VICE

TALENT BUREAU

GOOGLE BOOKS

AMAZON  

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

https://insight.randomhouse.com/widget/v4/?width=600&isbn=9780771048647&author=Justin%20Ling&title=Missing%20from%20the%20Village

ICE WALKER by Bestselling Author and Award Winning Photographer

Title: ICE WALKER

Subtitle: A POLAR BEAR’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE FRAGILE ARCTIC

Author: JAMES RAFFAN

Genre: NON-FICTION, CANADIANA, POLAR BEARS, CLIMATE CHANGE, GLOBAL WARNING, HUDSON BAY

Length: 163 PAGES

Publisher: SIMON AND SCHUSTER

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5538-3 (ebook)

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5536-9 (Hardcover)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

From the top of the world, Hudson Bay looks like an enormous paw print on the torso of the continent, and through a vast network of lakes and rivers, this bay connects to oceans across the globe. Here, at the heart of everything, walks Nanurjuk, or Nanu, one polar bear among the six thousand that traverse the 1.23 million square kilometers of ice and snow covering the bay.

For millennia, Nanu’s ancestors have roamed this great expanse, living, evolving, and surviving alongside human beings in one of the most challenging and unforgiving habitats on earth. But that world is changing. In the Arctic’s lands and waters, oil has been extracted—and spilled. As global temperatures have risen, the sea ice that Nanu and her young need to hunt seal and fish has melted, forcing them to wait on land where the delicate balance between them and their two-legged neighbors has now shifted.

This is the icescape that author and geographer James Raffan invites us to inhabit in Ice Walker. In precise and provocative prose, he brings readers inside Nanu’s world as she treks uncertainly around the heart of Hudson Bay, searching for nourishment for the children that grow inside her. She stops at nothing to protect her cubs from the dangers she can see—other bears, wolves, whales, human beings—and those she cannot.

By focusing his lens on this bear family, Raffan closes the gap between humans and bears, showing us how, like the water of the Hudson Bay, our existence—and our future—is tied to Nanu’s. He asks us to consider what might be done about this fragile world before it is gone for good. Masterful, vivid, and haunting, Ice Walker is an utterly unique piece of creative nonfiction and a deeply affecting call to action.

MY REVIEW:

“In Canada, the Cree, to the south, call her Wabusk. The Inuit, to the north, call her Nanuq or Pihoqahiak, the Ever Wandering One… The Sami in Scandinavia and western Russia call her God’s Dog, never mentioning her name. In Greenland, she is Tornassuk, the master of helping spirits… Science calls her “Ursus maritimus,” meaning ‘sea bear’ in Latin.

Known to most of us as simply the “polar bear,” this majestic creature is losing her home. In “ICE WALKER,” we are taken on a journey in the Arctic told from the perspective of a fully grown female polar bear.

We journey alongside her as she hunts for the fat-rich seals which make up the majority of her diet. We feel her fear when she isn’t able to put on enough weight to sustain her while she is pregnant and then nursing. We feel her triumph when she sees her cubs for the first time.

Author JAMES RAFFAN has created Nanu based on years of study and research. You will NOT find any talking bears in this tale of subsistence survival in a land that is slowly disappearing.

ICE WALKER is destined to become the go-to book for those who want to understand the threat of global warming on these majestic creatures.

Without any lectures, or even not-so-subtle hints, readers will become invested in the plight of Nanu, the polar bear.

ICE WALKER is the “Gorillas In the Mist” for a new generation. What Jane Goodall did for the Gorilla, James Raffan has now done for the Polar Bear.

Sprinkled throughout the book are stunningly beautiful photographs of polar bears in their natural habitat. The author is also the photographer of these incredible images.

ICE WALKER contains the following extras:

* AFTERWORD: An Arctic World in Peril
* AUTHOR’S NOTE
* A NOTE ON THE TEXT
* FURTHER READING
* GLOSSARY and a
* READING GROUP GUIDE

I will be recommending this fabulously written tale to everyone I meet. Not only is ICE WALKER an entertaining story, it is also an important one. The plight of the polar bears and the warming of their habitat have worldwide implications.

Fabulous, Exceptional, with writing of the highest caliber.

I rate ICE WALKER as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

James Raffan is a prolific writer, speaker, and geographer, and the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Circling the Midnight Sun; Emperor of the North; Bark, Skin and Cedar; and Fire in the Bones. He has written for a variety of media outlets, including National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, Up Here, Explore and The Globe and Mail, and produced radio and television documentaries for CBC Radio and the Discovery Channel. His work has taken him all over the world. He is an international fellow of the Explorers Club, a past chair of the Arctic Institute of North America, and a fellow and past governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, service for which he was awarded many medals, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. From 2010 to 2013, he traveled through the Arctic Circle, spending time in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, as he researched and wrote on culture and climate change in the North. He lives in Seeley’s Bay, Ontario.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

LINKEDIN

YOUTUBE

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE
…………………

THE BARREN GROUNDS – Book One of THE MISEWA SAGA by Award-winning Canadian Indigenous author DAVID A. ROBERTSON

Title: THE BARREN GROUNDS  

Series: THE MISEWA SAGA – BOOK 1

Author: DAVID A. ROBERTSON

Genre:  MIDDLE GRADE FICTION, INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, MULTICULTURAL INTEREST, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Length: 256 PAGES

Publisher: PUFFIN CANADA – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE CANADA

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 8, 2020

ISBN: 9780735266100

Price: $17.99 USD

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them.

MY REVIEW:

THE BARREN GROUNDS is the first in a series of Middle-Grade Indigenous/Fantasy novels. The series is titled THE MISEWA SAGA and has a Narnia-esque theme.

The story begins with Morgan, an angry preteen Indigenous girl who was placed into the foster care system as a toddler. That system is all she knows, and, as is often the case in real life, her experiences in foster care have not been pleasant.

Placed with a young couple who are new to foster parenting, Morgan resists all attempts at bonding because she is extremely cognizant of the fact that she can be sent back to an orphanage or on to another foster home at any time. “You’ll see. The world will harden you.” This seems to be Morgan’s issue. She has been thrown away all her life – even her biological mother didn’t want her. 

Her foster parents bring a boy into their home who is a year younger than Morgan, named Eli. Eli is Indigenous, as is Morgan, but because she was placed into the system as a toddler, she knows nothing about her rich cultural background. But, Eli does.

When Eli draws a detailed scene, it somehow opens a portal to another reality. When Eli goes into the portal, Morgan goes after him to bring him back.

What they discover is a land out of Indigenous lore. With talking animals who walk on two legs, and a land stuck in perpetual winter, Morgan and Eli learn about their heritage.

Eli and Morgan set out on an epic quest to save the “two-leggeds” and their world from perpetual winter.

The adventures they have teach them that it isn’t always blood that creates a family.

They also learn that whether they are aware of their Indigenaity or not, it does not matter. That does not make them any less Indigenous than those who are aware of their heritage.

This story brings attention to the fact that too many Indigenous children are being removed from their parents and placed into foster care, often with non-Indigenous foster parents who are more interested in the money provided to them by government than in having the child become a true member of their family. There are definitely some amazing foster parents, but, unfortunately, the majority of foster kids tend to have multiple negative experiences before finding an acceptable placement. Many foster kids learn almost nothing about their heritage and culture and there is a vast difference between growing up in a white culture and growing up in an Indigenous culture.

All in all, this book has everything a Middle-Grade reader can possibly want and I think the MISEWA SAGA will be a hit.

I rate this book as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

** Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book. **


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

DAVID A. ROBERTSON is the author of numerous books for young readers including When We Were Alone, which won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award and was nominated for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.

Strangers, the first book in his Reckoner trilogy, a young adult supernatural mystery, won the 2018 Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction (Manitoba Book Awards).

David educates as well as entertains through his writings about Indigenous Peoples, reflecting their cultures, histories, communities, as well as illuminating many contemporary issues.

A sought-after speaker and educator, Dave is a member of the Norway House Cree Nation and currently lives in Winnipeg.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
http://www.darobertson.ca

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

YOUTUBE

AMAZON  

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

.


.

DAVID A. ROBERTSON is also the author of several important Indigenous Peoples books and now has a podcast about his life.

SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD by Canadian Literary Phenom SALEEMA NAWAZ is available now as an Ebook – Coming Soon to bookstores. THIS BOOK IS BEING CALLED “EERILY PRESCIENT” in the wake of the Covid19 Pandemic

Title: SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD

Author: SALEEMA NAWAZ

Genre: FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, SPECULATIVE FICTION

Length: 438 PAGES

Publisher: McCLELLAND & STEWART – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE CANADA

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: AUGUST 25, 2020EBOOK AVAILABLE NOW

ISBN: 9780771072574

Price: $24.95 CDN

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

From the award-winning, Canada Reads-shortlisted author of Bone and Bread comes an immersive and eerily prescient novel about the power of human connection in a time of crisis, as the bonds of love, family, and duty are tested by an impending pandemic.

How quickly he’d forgotten a fundamental truth: the closer you got to the heart of a calamity, the more resilience there was to be found.

This is the story of a handful of people who find themselves living through an unfolding catastrophe.

Elliot is a first responder in New York, a man running from past failures and struggling to do the right thing.

Emma is a pregnant singer preparing to headline a benefit concert for victims of the outbreak–all while questioning what kind of world her child is coming into.

Owen is the author of a bestselling plague novel with eerie similarities to the real-life pandemic. As fact and fiction begin to blur, he must decide whether his lifelong instinct for self-preservation has been worth the cost.

As the novel moves back and forth in time, we discover these characters’ ties to one another and to those whose lives intersect with theirs, in an extraordinary web of connection and community that reveals none of us is ever truly alone.

Linking them all is the mystery of the so-called ARAMIS Girl, a woman at the first infection site whose unknown identity and whereabouts cause a furor.

Written and revised between 2013 and 2019, and brilliantly told by an unforgettable chorus of voices, Saleema Nawaz’s glittering novel is a moving and hopeful meditation on what we owe to ourselves and to each other.

It reminds us that disaster can bring out the best in people–and that coming together may be what saves us in the end.

MY REVIEW:

I was surprised to learn that the writing of this book took place before the Covid19 Pandemic. In fact, this book was begun six years ago.

SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD centers around a coronavirus disease called ARAMIS which is eerily similar to COVID19. There are other things in this story that are extremely similar to what is happening in the world today.

In fact, one of the main characters is an author who had written  fictional account of a plague similar to ARAMIS. Little did Saleema Nawaz know that she was going to experience firsthand what her character went through.

The main difference between this book and other sci-fi / post apocalyptic /dystopian / speculative fiction novels is the outlook of the characters. What I mean by this is that in most of the books of this genre, the actions of the populace devolve into violence over the course of the story. In fact, in most post-apocalyptic books, the plague ends up being less dangerous than  the people.

In SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, the majority of the characters act for the good of society rather than simply taking care of themselves and their families. Of course, they do not take reckless risks, but they are somehow able to hang onto their humanity. This is a refreshingly optimistic view of how people act during a catastrophe.

Although I said this book is optimistic, don’t think that every character is perfect; they are far from it. There are also characters that act like self righteous jerks, as well as a few characters you will want to smack upside of their head for how they behave. In short, just as in real life, there are good people, bad people, and people who fall somewhere in the middle.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a unique science fiction novel with characters that are so relatable that you will feel like they are friends of yours by the end of the book.

I rate SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A READER’S GUIDE CAN BE FOUND HERE

QUOTES:

“It was the first time in his life he had encountered thinking – the deliberate thinking of difficult thoughts – as a thing to be encouraged, rather than staved off or endured.” 

The way she leaned into him, Stu realized that marriage had strength embedded in its very architecture, a resilience that beat back the usual threats. Given his parents’ union, he’d always thought of marriage as something more like resignation, a contractual obligation of last resort. But he now saw the hope of it, the faith in the promise itself.”
.
“‘But was it me in there?’ Jericho asked. ‘Or the person I used to be?'”
.
“Thinking is a sacred disease. And there’s no cure.”
.
“Everything is a song in one way or another.”
.
“As time went on, he began to think of his declarations of love as an ill-conceived engineering project, like digging graves along a shoreline; they could neither withstand nor contain her sorrow, nor his growing sense that he was no longer enough for her.”

Photo credit: Thomas Blanchard

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleema Nawaz’s first novel, Bone and Bread, won the Quebec Writers’ Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2016 Canada Reads competition.

She is also the author of the short story collection Mother Superior, and a winner of the Writers’ Trust of Canada / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize.

Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, she currently lives in Montreal, Quebec.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
https://www.saleemanawaz.com/

GOODREADS

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

WIKIPEDIA

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

.
https://www.theloop.ca/watch/entertainment/fun/this-fictional-story-about-a-pandemic-is-eerily-similar-to-covid-19/6153152480001/1665407062388927200/your-morning
.

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Penguin Random House Canada is a full service Canadian publisher and distributor of books in hardcover, trade paperback, mass market and digital formats.

Imprints of Penguin Random House Canada include Anchor Canada, Bond Street Books, Doubleday Canada, Knopf Canada, Penguin Canada, Puffin Canada, Random House Canada, Razorbill Canada, Vintage Canada, McClelland & Stewart, Tundra Books and Appetite by Random House.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
http://penguinrandomhouse.ca

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

PINTEREST 

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING by Award Winning Hmong-American Children’s Author KAO KALIA YANG and Illustrated by the Incomparable KHAO LE – a multi-award-winning Vietnamese artist is based on the author’s own childhood. This Family may not have much money, but they have something better – A LOT OF LOVE – Available to Pre-Order Now!!!

One of the most beautiful children’s book covers

Title: THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING

Author: KAO KALIA YANG 

Illustrator: KHOA LE

Genre: CHILDREN’S NON-FICTION, MULTICULTURAL INTEREST, FAMILIES, MULTIPLE GENERATIONS

Length: 32 PAGES

Publisher: CAROLHODA BOOKS – A Division of LERNER PUBLISHING GROUP

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: OCTOBER 6, 2020

ISBN: 9781541561915 (Hardcover)

Price: $17.99 USD (Hardcover)

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Drawn from author Kao Kalia Yang’s childhood experiences as a Hmong refugee, this moving picture book portrays a family with a great deal of love and little money.

Weaving together Kalia’s story with that of her beloved grandmother, the book moves from the jungles of Laos to the family’s early years in the United States.

When Kalia becomes unhappy about having to do without and decides she wants braces to improve her smile, it is her grandmother―a woman who has just one tooth in her mouth―who helps her see that true beauty is found with those we love most.

Stunning illustrations from Vietnamese illustrator Khoa Le bring this intergenerational tale to life.

.

.

MY REVIEW:

MOST BEAUTIFUL REVIEW & LINKS

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL is a gorgeously illustrated,  intergenerational, story about a Hmong-American family who left their ancestral homeland in hopes of a better life.

The story is told from a young girl’s point of view. Her family home includes her parents, her siblings and her grandmother.

As the child gets older, she will occasionally ask for something expensive from her parents. However, despite the fact that they worked hard, there was no money left over for extras. Her Grandmother is always around and tells stories of her own childhood and the hardships she faced. Obviously, the grandmother’s situation was much more dire than that of the narrator.

The author has perfectly captured the aging of both the young girl and her grandmother. She also conveys the child’s emotional intelligence and her maturity levels with perfect ease.

The illustrations in this book are nothing short of brilliant. In fact, I would love it if the artist offered prints of each of her layouts. I, for one, would 100% purchase them.

I should rate this book as 5 Stars, however I felt the ending could have been better. However, please DO NOT let this deter you from buying this book. We need more books from diverse and multicultural authors. It is imperative that children have access to books they can personally relate to. Also, children from other cultures should be exposed at a young age to books from diverse backgrounds.

Books such as THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING are important in a multitude of ways. I am rating this book as 4.5 out of 5 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American writer. She holds degrees from Carleton College and Columbia University. Yang is the author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir winner of the 2009 Minnesota Book Awards in Creative Nonfiction/Memoir and Readers’ Choice, a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Creative Nonfiction, and the Asian Literary Award in Nonfiction.

The book is a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read title and on the roster of the American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life Program.

Her second book, The Song Poet won the 2016 Minnesota Book Award in Creative Nonfiction Memoir, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, a PEN USA Award in Nonfiction, and the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize. The story has been commissioned as a youth opera by the Minnesota Opera and will premiere in the spring of 2021.

Yang’s debut children’s book, A Map Into the World is a American Library Association Notable Book of the Year, a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, winner of the Northstar Best Illustrator Award, and now a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award.

Her co-edited collection titled What God is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Indigenous Women and Women of Color is a groundbreaking work that centers the poetry and prose of women whose voices have been neglected and silenced on the topic despite the fact they experience these losses disproportionately. The book was one of the ten best books of the fall of 2019 by the Star Tribune and forty other national papers.

In 2020, Yang will publish her second children’s book The Shared Room, a collective memoir about refugee lives, Somewhere in the Unknown World, and another book for children, The Most Beautiful Thing.

Kao Kalia Yang is also a teacher and a public speaker.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
https://kaokaliayang.com

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

LINKEDIN

AMAZON  

CHAPTERS

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

Khoa Le has illustrated picture books published in a number of different countries.

She is also an author, a graphic designer, and a painter. Khoa has a passion for travel, an eagerness to learn about different cultures, and a desire to discover the beauty of the world.

Her inner moth makes her attracted to any source of light, but her dream is to one day see the northern lights.

She lives in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, with her five cats.

She is the winner of the Grand Prize Samsung KidsTime Authors Award 2015 (Singapore) and the second runner up of The Scholastic Picture Book Award 2017 (Singapore).

Khoa also has a passion for travel, an eagerness to learn about different cultures, and a desire to discover the beauty of the world.

To read an interview with Khoa Le click HERE.

Freelance illustrator, graphic designer and painter based in HCMC, Vietnam

Graduated from HCMC University of Fine Art, Graphic design department

Exhibitions:

Exhibition of Graphic Design Department, HCMc University of fine art 2008 -Group exhibition Myth and sleepwalker, digital art 2008

Group exhibition Small 2009 -Biennale of the young artist 2009 (group exhibition)

Solo exhibition Unravel 2010

Group exhibition Cyber space 2010

Group exhibition My sister, San art 2011.

Group exhibition Eperantopolis 2011 – Group exhibition Art Expo Malaysia 2012

Asia Contemporary Art Show, Hong Kong 2012, group exhibition

To learn more about this highly talented Illustrator visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
http://khoale.daportfolio.com

GOODREADS

…….

Artwork by Khoa Le
Artwork by Khoa Le

THE ALGONQUIN READER – Spring/Summer 2020 Edition is AVAILABLE NOW. Want to know what books you simply need to read this season? This magazine tells you all about them and even offers Sneak Peeks, Book Club Discussion Guides, and much more.

Title: THE ALGONQUIN READER 

Issue: SPRING 2020

Cover Illustrator: CURTIS PARKER

Genre: FICTION, LITERARY FICTION

Received: NETGALLEY 

ISBN: 9781643751290

RATING: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

ABOUT THE SPRING 2020 ISSUE:

The Spring/Summer 2020 Algonquin Reader.

Discover the inspiration behind each book listed in this season’s issue through an original essay by the author.

Then enjoy an excerpt from each novel or short story collection.

The books featured in this issue are:

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
On Sale April 2020

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
On Sale March 2020

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle Dr
On Sale June 2020

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
On Sale June 2020

The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson
On Sale July 2020

A House Is a Body by Shruti Swamy
On Sale August 2020

With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt
On Sale August 2020

MY REVIEW:

THE ALGONQUIN READER is a literary fiction magazine. I received an ARC (Advance Review Copy) of the SPRING/SUMMER 2020 issue.

In this issue, a selection of authors who have books being published between March and August of 2020, each wrote an essay and include an excerpt from their upcoming book.

The first author to be included was Julia Alvarez whose book AFTERLIFE was published in April of 2020. Her essay speaks of the evolution of her writing style as well as her writing routine. The excerpt from AFTERLIFE had the intended effect on me, as I have now added it to the list of books I want to read this year.
.
Next up was the incredibly talented author of THE MOUNTAINS SING –  Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai. In her essay titled “Climbing Many Mountains,” she writes about her life in Vietnam and how winning a writing competition at the age of ten, which she had secretly entered, led her to spend her teen years talking to relatives and elders about their lives. This inquisitiveness (unknownst to her at the time) was the beginning of her research for THE MOUNTAINS SING. Also included is an excerpt from her amazing book which I have already read and will be reviewing soon. She ends her essay with the following quote:

“I hope the story of Huóng and Diêu Lan helps international readers discover our common humanity, as in the words of Huóng: ‘Somehow I was sure that if people were willing to read each other, and see the light of other cultures, there would be no war on earth.'”

The third included author is JILL McCORKLE whose book: HIEROGLYPHICS is due for release in June. Her book is based around two historic tragedies, a train derailment in 1941 and a nightclub fire in 1942. At the conclusion of her essay, author Jill McCorkle states:

“My hope is that the readers of Hieroglyphics will be entertained by these characters and their lives, but I also hope it will lead them to think of various fragments and images from their own lives and to experience the oldest and purest form of time travel – memory.”

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. The essay, as well as the excerpt included in the Spring issue of THE ALGONQUIN READER has succeeded in piqueing my interest.

THE FALLING WOMAN by Richard Farrell is a tale of suspense. A plane crashes and the sole survivor is a woman, and the story is about her, as well as the young agent whose job it is to find her. THE FALLING WOMAN is being released in June. In his essay, author Richard Farrell says:

We all are haunted by something – something we did or didn’t do – and the passing years either add to the weight or diminish it.”

I agree and identify wholeheartedly with this quote.

The final three books highlighted in the Spring 2020 Issue of THE ALGONQUIN READER are:

1. The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson which hits bookstore shelves in July of 2020.

2. A House Is a Body by Shruti Swamy
is set for release in August of 2020

and

3. With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt which goes on sale August 2020.

Out of all the books highlighted, I most want to get my hands on a copy of AFTERLIFE by Julia Alvarez.

Courtesy of ALGONQUIN BOOKS, you can read an excerpt from AFTERLIFE by clicking HERE

You can also read an essay by the author HERE

And, last but not least, you can download a FREE BOOK CLUB KIT for Afterlife HERE

I rate the Spring 2020 Issue of THE ALGONQUIN READER as a hearty 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
.
*Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book.*

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Founded in 1983, Algonquin Books started as a small Southern house but quickly garnered national attention for publishing authors such as Julia Alvarez, Kaye Gibbons, Robert Morgan, and Lee Smith. In 1989, Algonquin was acquired by Workman Publishing. Algonquin is recognized internationally as a literary publishing house with numerous fiction and nonfiction bestsellers and award winners. Algonquin Young Readers is a new imprint that features books for readers seven to seventeen.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

#TheAlgonquinReaderSpring2020  #NetGalley

THE HIDING GIRL by Award-winning Author DORIAN BOX is available for Pre-Order now. This book is truly unique, it is a MUST READ.

Title: THE HIDING GIRL

Series: EMILY CALBY SERIES: BOOK ONE

Author: DORIAN BOX

Genre: FICTION, MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS

Length: 314 PAGES

Publisher: FRICTION PRESS 

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: JUNE 15, 2020

ISBN: 9781734639902 (Paperback)

Price: $12.99 USD (Paperback)

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Twelve-year-old Emily Calby was a good girl from a religious family in rural Georgia. She loved softball, her little sister and looking up words to get her allowance. Then two men came and murdered her family. Somehow Emily escaped. Only the killers know she survived.

On the run in a fugue, she makes an unlikely ally in a ruthless former gang member who takes her in. Overwhelmed by guilt, she persuades him to train her to kill before setting out alone on a terrifying search for justice.

Nothing will stop her—not cops or creeps, not even her own splintering mind. Through it all, Emily fights to hold onto hope and the girl she once knew, kept buried deep inside.

A testament to the boundless limits of love, sacrifice and will to survive, The Hiding Girl is the first book in the Emily Calby Series.

.
.

MY REVIEW:

Twelve year old Emily Calby is desperate, scared, and all alone. She’s on the run from the men who tortured and killed her entire family; men from  whom she just barely escaped.

Emily is a white girl, with blonde hair who grew up in a middle class family and who has never had to experience racism or classism. Even though she has never thought of herself as privileged, she starts to realize just how good she had it when she meets Lucas.

Lucas is an adult, black male who lives in a poverty stricken neighborhood that experiences way too much gang violence. A previous gang member himself, Lucas knows exactly how dangerous it can be for a young, white girl to be homeless in the city. Despite his reservations, Lucas takes Emily under his wing. (This relationship is a huge part of the plot, but the way the two met and his decision to befriend Emily is extremely far-fetched. I reduced the number of stars I gave THE HIDING GIRL because of this.)

Emily is terrified that the two men from whom she had barely escaped will track her down and finish what they started. Because of this, she convinces Lucas to teach her how to kill.

Readers learn about Lucas and his past, including the fact that he used to be in a gang, and he also talks about the death of someone close to him. It is this death that is used to explain why Emily keeps seeing teddy bears attached to hydro poles in his neighborhood. The inclusion of this tidbit is based on fact. Author Dorian Box has seen these Memorial Teddy Bears in real life.

This book is a testament to the resiliency of youth, as well as the power of fear, grief, and a hunger for justice. I enjoyed the inclusion of the conversations between characters in regard to exactly what is justice, and who has the right to extract that justice. Emily must decide whether she is willing to kill the monsters who had obliterated her entire family.

There are a multitude of social themes in this book and the plot has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. It is an enjoyable story with characters you will come to love.

THE HIDING GIRL is the first book in a brand new EMILY CALBY SERIES. The second book is due for release within the year.

I rate this book as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

*** Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***

I feel that I have to mention and give kudos to @Herabooks

Hera is a FEMALE-LED Publisher.

It is about time that women were not only in positions of power, but are also the owners and CEOs. I have bookmarked and am following Hera Books.

It is important to me to celebrate and support women-led Indie businesses, especially in this unprecedented time in history when everyone on the planet is trying to #flattenthecurve and to #eradicate #Covid19

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

“Dorian Box” is a professor and author of eight nonfiction books, one an Amazon Editors’ Favorite Book of the Year.

Psycho-Tropics, his first novel, received a Writer’s Digest Award in Genre Fiction.

Kirkus called it “[a]n engaging thriller with plenty of humor, good characterization, and a memorable villain ….”

The Writer’s Digest judge said, “Marrying humor with suspense is not easy, but it comes across masterfully. … A truly enjoyable read.”

His second novel, The Hiding Girl–scheduled for release on June 15, 2020–is the first entry in the Emily Calby Series, which follows twelve-year-old Emily’s perilous, traumatized life forward from the day two men invade her rural Georgia home and kill her family. The unpublished manuscript was named a semifinalist for the Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize out of more than 700 entries.

The Critic’s Report described it as: “Dark and gritty … an exceptional, heart-pounding story full of raw emotion, deep-seated fear, and an undercurrent of hope and innocence. Deeply atmospheric … without peer in contemporary mysteries/thrillers.”

Book 2 in The Emily Calby Series is also complete and Book 3 is underway.

In his regular life, Box has received numerous awards for teaching and research, written thousands, possibly millions, of scholarly footnotes, and been interviewed by sources such as National Public Radio, the PBS Newshour, and the New York Times.

Box lives out his childhood fantasies singing and playing guitar in rock cover bands that earn tens of dollars sweating it out until two a.m. in smoky dive bars.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
https://dorianbox.com

GOODREADS

AMAZON  

THE MULBERRY TREE by ALLISON RUSHBY is Middle Grade Fiction at it’s Best.

Title: THE MULBERRY TREE

Author: ALLISON RUSHBY

Genre: MIDDLE GRADE FICTION

Length: 304 PAGES

Publisher: CANDLEWICK PRESS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: JULY 14, 2020

Pre-Order: AVAILABLE NOW

ISBN: 9781536207613

Price: $17.99 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Is the eerie tree beside their bucolic cottage really a threat to ten-year-old Immy? Legend and hearsay give way to a creepy series of events in a captivating mystery.

Do naught wrong by the mulberry tree, or she’ll take your daughters . . . one, two, three.

Ten-year-old Immy and her family have run away from their storm cloud of problems to a tiny village in Cambridgeshire, England, where her depressed physician father can take a sabbatical and get back on his feet. Luckily, they find an adorable thatched cottage to begin a new life in. But their new home comes with one downside: in the backyard, there is an ancient, dark, and fierce-looking mulberry tree that has ceased bearing any fruit. There’s a legend that the towering tree steals away girls who live in the cottage on the eve of their eleventh birthday, and villagers even cross the street when they pass by the house. Of course, Immy thinks this is all ridiculous. But then she starts to hear a strange song in her head. . . . In a page-turner perfect for middle-graders, Allison Rushby folds themes of new-school travails, finding friends, being embarrassed by parents, and learning empathy into a deliciously goose-bumpy supernatural mystery.

MY REVIEW:

“Do naught wrong by the mulberry tree, or she’ll take your daughters … one, two, three.

In the dead of night, spirited away, never to see an eleventh birthday.”

How can any potential reader not want to keep reading with an intro like that?

I know that it instantly piqued my interest, and at 304 pages, THE MULBERRY TREE is a substantial length which means that readers will be able to lose themselves in the story the same way I did. 

Imogen (Immy) and her parents have moved to England from Australia. They are moving in order to seek a fresh start after her father experienced a trauma. In fact, since that fateful day, her father’s personality has completely changed and not in a good way. Immy doesn’t understand what has happened to her father and finds it extremely frustrating to feel so powerless. She wants her Dad to go back to the way he was, but she is starting to believe that this is his new normal.

As with all children, Immy had no say in the plans to relocate, and she is  unhappy about leaving behind all her friends and everything else familiar. 

Immy’s mother is a heart surgeon, her father was a Family Doctor, well, I guess he technically still is, but he isn’t currently practicing. He is depressed and blames himself for the actions of one of his patients.

The family decides to rent a cottage style house known to locals as “Lavender Cottage.” In the backyard of their new home is a huge mulberry tree. Little do they know this tree is at the center of a local superstition and the rhyme at the beginning of the book is about this same tree.

The locals all believe that the tree is evil, which is patently ridiculous … Or is it?

THE MULBERRY TREE has everything a middle grade reader could possibly want. The characters are believable, and most readers will find parts of  themselves in Immy’s personality. I can still vividly remember my father doing embarassing things when I was Immy’s age, just like her father does to her. (As an adult, now I am the one embarassing my own kids.)

The story is fast paced and readers may just find themselves unable to put this book down. At night, I kept saying to myself that I would just read one more chapter before going to bed, but ended up staying awake until I finished the entire book.

So, since the plot is terrific, the story  engaging, the characters relatable and believable, and the writing is nothing less than fantastic, I have no choice but to rate this book as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram and keep an eye out for several upcoming book giveaways on both here my blog and on my Instagram account at: http://www.instagram.com/Amiesbookreviews

Thanks to #NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Allison Rushby, an Australian author of a whole lot of books. I’m crazy about cities with long, winding histories, wild, overgrown cemeteries, red brick Victorian museums, foxes and ivy. When I’m not writing about these things, you can often find me falling down the rabbit hole of Social Media. of . Most days I’m helped (read: distracted) by my small, warm, wrinkly assistant, Claudia the Devon Rex cat who kindly allows me to live in her home.

If you’d like to try one of Allison’s books for free, Diamonds are a Teen’s Best Friend is free on Kindle or Smashwords.

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

PICUKI

TWITTER

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE



ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Candlewick Press, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, publishes outstanding children’s books for readers of all ages.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

INSTAGRAM

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

PINTEREST
.

MORE BOOKS BY ALLISON RUSHBY:

MS-13 The Making of America’s Most Notorious Gang By STEVEN DUDLEY is a fascinating read and was a complete eye-opener to me Check it out here

Information obtained from INSIGHT CRIME

Title: MS-13

Subtitle: The Making of America’s Most Notorious Gang

Author: STEVEN DUDLEY

Genre: NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME

Length:  352 PAGES

Publisher: HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada) – HANOVER SQUARE PRESS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: MAY 12, 2020

ISBN: 9781788703147

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

The definitive account of the most notorious street gang in America—the MS-13—as seen through the lives of gang members and their families caught in its malicious web.

The MS-13 was born from war. In the 1980s, El Salvador was enmeshed in a bloody civil conflict. To escape the guerrilla assaults and death squads, many fled to the US and settled in Los Angeles. Among them were Alex and his brother.

There, as a survival instinct, Alex and a small number of Salvadoran immigrants formed a group called the Mara Salvatrucha Stoners, a relatively harmless social network bound by heavy metal music and their Salvadoran identity. But later, as they brushed against established local gangs, the group took on a harder edge, selling drugs, stealing cars and killing rivals who threatened their territories. As authorities cracked down, gang members like Alex were incarcerated and deported. But in the prison system, the group only grew stronger, and in Central America, the gang multiplied, eventually spreading to a half-dozen nations in two continents.

Today, MS-13 is one of the most infamous street gangs on earth, with an estimated ten thousand members operating in dozens of states and linked to thousands of grisly murders each year in the US and abroad. But it is also misunderstood—less a drug cartel and more a hand-to-mouth organization whose criminal economy is based mostly on small-time extortion schemes and petty drug dealing. Journalist and longtime organized crime investigator Steven Dudley brings readers inside the nefarious group to tell a larger story of how a flawed US and Central American policy, and the exploitative and unequal economic systems helped foster the gang and sustain it. Ultimately, MS-13 is the story of the modern immigrant and the perennial battle to escape a vortex of poverty and crime, as well as the repressive, unequal systems that feed these problems.

……

AWARDS SO FAR:

Winner of  the 2019 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Award from The Columbia School of Journalism Winners MARA: The Making of the MS13

Judges’ citation: This timely and incisive work, speaking directly to the mission and purpose of the Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards, centers on one immigrant Salvadoran family that represents the complexities of the story of Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), the notorious gang that is the U.S. government’s number one target in its efforts to rid the country of “criminal aliens.”

Without ever minimizing the brutality of this gang, the book dispels many of the myths surrounding its history and power. More important, MARA is the story of flawed U.S. and Central American policies over many years and the exploitative and unequal systems they create.


MY REVIEW:

**************************
TRIGGER WARNING:
This book contains violent scenes, both physical and sexual, and should not be read by individuals who might find themselves triggered by vivid descriptions of violence and murder.


This book is NOT for the Faint of Heart. Please exercise caution when reading and if at any time you feel you need to stop reading, I encourage you to put this book down and walk away.
**************************

MS-13 IS A CRIMINAL GANG. They are well known for their violence and brutality. 

Journalist and author Steven Dudley has spent years reporting on gangs, government and violence in Central America. In writing MS-13: The Making of America’s Most Notorious Gang, he has written a comprehensive account as to how MS-13 was formed and how that gang spread from Central America to the United States.

What this book achieved for me was that it dispelled the notion that MS-13 is a strictly structured unit and that there is one singular person at the top and that all other members were co-ordinated  and part of a whole. This is simply not true. Each clique of MS-13 essentially acts on its own and sometimes cliques will war with other MS-13 cliques.

What does seem true of almost every MS-13 gang member, who spoke to the Author, is that that person grew up surrounded by violence and chaos, and had joined the gang (at least initially) as a way to protect themselves from outside forces.

President Donald Trump seems woefully misinformed about this gang and in fact gives them more credit than they deserve. By labelling MS-13 as Public Enemy Number One, all the President has done is that he has given potential gang recruits an additional reason for joining the gang. Many (even most) of the current MS-13 gang members living in the United States have fled their war-torn homelands to seek a better way of life. The problem is that when they arrive in the States, they realize that their lives are not much better than the lives they had fled.

MS:13 has been added to the list of Most Dangerous Gang Organizations in the United States.

I believe that anyone who wants to work with gang members on finding a new way of life should view this book as required reading. It is impossible to effect change if the history and dynamics of life as part of an MS-13 mara are not understood. 

I rate this book as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It is a fascinating read, but I also need to warn potential readers that the violence and brutality detailed in this book may be triggering for some people.

*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Steven Dudley is the co-director of InSight, a joint initiative of American University and the Fundación Ideas para la Paz in Colombia, South America, aimed at monitoring, analyzing and investigating organized crime in the Americas. Based in Washington D.C., Dudley works with a team of five investigators and various contributors throughout the region to give the public a more complete view of how organized crime works in the Americas, as well as its impact on public policy and communities from the Rio Grande to Patagonia.

Before launching InSight, he worked as the Bureau Chief for The Miami Herald in the Andean Region and wrote a book: Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia (Routledge 2004). Dudley has also reported from Haiti, Brazil, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Miami for National Public Radio, The Washington Post, and the BBC’s The World; and written feature articles for The Washington Post Magazine, The Economist, Columbia Journalism Review, The Progressive, and The Nation. His current projects include a documentary film, which aired on Colombia’s RCN Television in September 2010.

Dudley has a BA in Latin American History from Cornell University and an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese fluently. He has taught high school as well as worked in Human Rights.

His range of experience, languages and reporting skills give him the tools to perform in any environment.

Honors and Awards:

Knight Fellowship: Stanford University : In 2007, Dudley was awarded the prestigious Knight Fellowship for professional journalists.

Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Award : Dudley was part of a team that won second place for international reporting in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists at its Sunshine State Awards for a series on land mines in Latin America.

Overseas Press Club Malcolm Forbes Award for Best Business Reporting from Abroad

To learn more about this author, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

WILSON CENTER

CONVERSATION.COM

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

LINKEDIN 

TWITTER

AMAZON  

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

GOOGLE BOOKS

SOME INFORMATION ABOUT MS-13 FROM INSIGHT CRIME:

An MS13 linked gang in El Salvador known as the Black Widows has been convicted of forcing women to marry men and then killing their new husbands as part of a complex life insurance scheme — a case which helps shed light on women in organized crime in Central America. – Photograph and Information Obtained from INSIGHT CRIME.
The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, is perhaps the most notorious street gang in the Western Hemisphere. While it has its origins in the poor, refugee-laden neighborhoods of 1980s Los Angeles, the gang’s reach now spans from Central America to Europe.
While they are largely a predatory criminal organization, living mostly from extortion, the gang’s resilience owes to its strong social bonds, which are created and strengthened via acts of violence against mostly their rivals and one another.
Their activities have helped make the Northern Triangle — Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — the most violent place in the world that is not at war. In October 2012, the US Department of the Treasury labeled the group a “transnational criminal organization,” the first such designation for a US street gang, but their criminal proceeds do not even approach those of their counterparts on that list. Photograph and Information Obtained from INSIGHT CRIME.
Marvin RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images – National Post June 2018
Marvin RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images – National Post June 2018 Toronto man’s boast of being in notorious MS-13 gang leads to deportation order