GHOST BOYS by Multi-Award Winning Author JEWELL PARKER RHODES takes on the issue of unarmed children being shot by the police. A 5 Star Book and one of the best Middle-grade Fiction stories I have ever read.

Title: GHOST BOYS

Author: JEWELL PARKER RHODES

Genre: MIDDLE GRADE FICTION, DIVERSE BOOKS

Length: 224 PAGES

Publisher: LITTLE BROWN PUBLISHING

Release Date: APRIL 17, 2018

ISBN: 9780316262286

Price: $9.99 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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DESCRIPTION:

The #1 Kids’ Indie Next Pick

A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.

Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.

Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

MY REVIEW:

With the current social and political climate in the United States, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the growing list of young, black men being killed in confrontations with police, this book is a timely one. This book was in part based on the police shooting of 12 year old TAMIR RICE.

Jerome, a twelve year old African American boy is shot in the back by a white police officer. Sound familiar? It should. This horrifying situation occurs all-too-often in modern day America.

This book is not only engaging and compelling, it is also necessary. I wish there was no reason for a book like this to be written, but sadly wishing does not make change.

Action makes change.

Knowledge leads to change.

When Jerome (as a ghost) realizes that even though he had always lived in Chicago, he didn’t know much about his city and it’s offerings and opportunities, he thinks: “Wish I’d known the world was so much bigger and better than my neighborhood.” I found this both very telling, and very sad. This may seem a trivial quote from the book and one that is non-essential. I do not see it that way. I see it as just another part of the dysfunctional whole.

Knowledge leads to change.

The first step to changing the fact that young black men are being murdered (yes, murdered – it is murder when a person is shot with no provocation) is to make people aware of what is happening. When people are aware, they can choose to do something about it, even if that something is just making sure to pass the word on to more and more people.

Author Jewell Parker Rhodes has crafted a tale that, while written by a black woman, will resonate with both white and black readers. She has taken her story straight from the headlines of National News agencies. This book is important NOW.

When Jerome dies, his ghost stays in the city he was murdered in. The only living person who can see him is a white girl who is the same age as Jerome. Her name is Sarah. This white girl, however, just happens to be the daughter of the man who shot him.

How is that for a twist in the story?

Jerome should hate her and her whole family right? But, wait a minute.
She is NOT responsible for her father’s actions. She is only twelve years old and she really wants to help Jerome in any way she can.

Both Jerome and Sarah can see other ghosts. One ghost in particular decides to talk to them and to help them with their quest for justice. That lonely spirit is none other than the ghost of Emmett Till. Together maybe they can make a difference.

Adding actual historical figures to this story makes it even more impactful.

Reading this book is also the perfect way for parents to start discussions with their children about what is currently happening to young black boys (and a few girls) in today’s society.

It is sad that this topic is still an issue, and it is also completely unacceptable.

It was 1955 when Emmett Till was abducted, beaten, and murdered by two adult white men. His supposed crime? Whistling at a white woman. In 2017, fifty-two years after Emmett was murdered, the woman in question, admitted she lied about Emmett whistling at her. She tried to justify her actions by saying that it was just the way things were back then. Bull Spit.

I applaud Jewell Parker Rhodes for tackling such an emotional topic and writing about it from multiple perspectives. This could not have been an easy book to write.

I rate GHOST BOYS as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO EVERYONE WHO CARES ABOUT OUR SOCIETY, as well as to everyone who cares about Human Rights. Black, White or Brown; it doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is. All that matters is that you are a living, breathing human. It is EVERYONE’S moral obligation to do whatever is within their power to eradicate racism and discrimination in our society. This may seem like a monumental challenge, but as it says in GHOST BOYS:

“Can’t undo wrong. Can only do our best to make things right.”

To learn more about shootings in the United States, visit FATAL ENCOUNTERS – A website

FATAL ENCOUNTERS is creating an impartial, comprehensive, and searchable national database of people killed during interactions with law enforcement.

QUOTES:

“Uproar. Panic. Stomping. Cameras flashing. ‘No photos,’ asserts the clerk. Reporters are shouting questions. Community action are demanding justice. Ma, Pop, and Gramma huddle, cling and cry.”

“Sarah already sees me. Better than her Dad ever did.”

“When truth’s a feeling, can it be both?Both true and untrue?”

“People tell the dead, ‘Rest in peace.’ I haven’t any. Rest or peace.”

“Wish I’d known the world was so much bigger and better than my neighborhood.”

“Can’t undo wrong. Can only do our best to make things right.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jewell Parker Rhodes has always loved reading and writing stories. Born and raised in Manchester, a largely African-American neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, she was a voracious reader as a child. She began college as a dance major, but when she discovered there were novels by African Americans, for African Americans, she knew she wanted to be an author. She wrote six novels for adults, two writing guides, and a memoir, but writing for children remained her dream.

Now Jewell has published four children’s books: Ninth Ward, Sugar, Bayou Magic, and Towers Falling. Her fifth, Ghost Boys, will be released in spring of 2018. She’s also published six adult novels, two writing guides, and a memoir. When she’s not writing, she’s visiting schools to talk about her books with the kids who read them, or teaching writing at Arizona State University, where she is the Piper Endowed Chair and Founding Artistic Director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. She has won multiple awards for her writing.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

LINKEDIN

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

BARNES AND NOBLE

INDIEBOUND BOOKS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

iTUNES

MORE BOOKS BY JEWELL PARKER RHODES:

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GHOST BOYS was partly inspired by the death of TAMIR RICE.

Who was Tamir Rice? And, what happened to him?

Tamir was at Cudell by midmorning on the Saturday he got shot. Usually he’d play basketball or Ping-Pong or games on an old phone that could connect to the rec-center Wi-Fi. But his friend had an Airsoft pellet gun his dad bought him at Walmart, a replica of a Colt 1911 semi-automatic. It was supposed to have an orange tip on the barrel, except it stopped working once and Tamir’s friend took it apart and fixed it but couldn’t get the orange part back on. They traded, Tamir and his friend, a cell phone for the pellet gun, but only for the day: Tamir knew he’d catch hell if his mom found out he was playing with a toy gun.

He shot BBs at a few car tires in the parking lot, showed his friend how they didn’t go straight. He knew enough to put the gun in his backpack when he went inside the rec center, though. He was there almost every day, never caused a problem and wasn’t going to start.

Samaria gave Tamir and his sister turkey sandwiches and fruit when they came home for lunch, and a few dollars to get chips and juice from the corner store. Then they went back to Cudell. Tamir was inside the rec center for a while, then outside, back and forth for more than an hour. On the sidewalk out front, he played with the pellet gun, drawing and pointing at pretend people and, sometimes, real people. No one seemed alarmed, though. Everyone knew Tamir, knew he was a kid, knew he was playing. Even if they didn’t, Tamir didn’t appear menacing: A man named Joe who was 81 and came to practice with an old-timers’ basketball league saw Tamir pointing his gun at the ground only a few feet away and just ignored him.

A little after three o’clock, a guy with a tall-boy showed up in the park to wait for a 3:30 bus downtown. He didn’t know Tamir. He saw a baby-faced guy, five feet seven, almost 200 pounds—Tamir was a big kid—pulling a gun in and out of his pants. Acting all gangsta, he thought. The man called 911 at 3:22. He was a little slurry, but not frantic. He politely asked the operator how she was, then told her he was sitting in a park. “There’s a guy in here with a pistol,” he said, “and, you know, it’s probably fake, but he’s, like, pointing it at everybody.” The operator asked him where he was, exactly, and the caller repeated what he said the first time: “The guy keeps pulling it in and out of his pants—it’s probably fake, but you know what? He’s scaring the shit out of me.” He described Tamir’s clothes and then reported the guy with the pistol had moved to one of the swings on the playground. “Probably a juvenile, you know?” Finally: “He’s right nearby the, you know, the youth center or whatever, and he keeps pulling it in and out of his pants. I don’t know if it’s real or not.”

The 911 operator’s notes were passed to a dispatcher, who requested a squad car respond to Cudell park. She said there was a black male sitting on the swings, and she described his clothing. “So he keeps pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people,” she said.

Another dispatcher cut in. “How many calls are we getting for that?”

“Nah, just the one so far.”

She left out the words probably fake and probably a juvenile, and categorized it as a Code 1 call, the highest priority.


At a church a mile south of Cudell, officer Frank Garmback was finishing up a false-alarm call with his partner, Timothy Loehmann, a probationary rookie who’d been on the force for about nine months and only patrolling the streets for about three. Garmback, in fact, was Loehmann’s field-training officer, responsible for teaching him how to become a proper police officer.

That was something at which Loehmann had failed multiple times. Almost two years earlier, he’d resigned from the police department in suburban Independence, which was going to fire him if he didn’t. In less than five months—most of which he’d spent at the academy—he’d been caught twice lying to his superiors, and he’d had his weapon taken away after a weepy breakdown on the shooting range. That was about a woman.

Being unable to separate his personal problems from the job, Deputy Chief Jim Polak wrote, “leads one to believe that he would not be able to substantially cope, or make good decisions, during or resulting from any other stressful situation.”

Emotional immaturity is the phrase Polak used in a five-page memo listing all the reasons Loehmann shouldn’t be a cop. “I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies,” he wrote.

But Loehmann kept at it. He applied to four other departments but got no offers. In September 2013, he failed the written exam for the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department. Three months later, the Cleveland Division of Police gave him a conditional appointment. On March 3, 2014, he was hired as a patrolman.

Garmback drove. Cudell was a straight shot north on West Boulevard, across Madison, and into a parking lot separated from the playground by knee-high wooden posts. But Garmback took a different route, to a narrow block that dead-ends at the park. There were no posts there, only a few spindly trees.

The squad car bumped over the curb. The swings were empty. The only person anywhere nearby, in fact, was sitting at a concrete picnic table under a gazebo a few yards beyond the swings. He was not fiddling with a gun. He wasn’t doing anything at all.

Garmback did not stop.

Tamir stood up, took a few casual steps around the table.

Garmback braked. The squad car slid on wet grass dusted with snow. When it was even with Tamir, before it had stopped, Loehmann got out and fired. The muzzle of his gun was less than seven feet away.

Tamir collapsed.

Garmback radioed that shots had been fired. Black male down. Send an ambulance.

He and Loehmann did not help the boy on his back on a slab of cement, his small intestine spilling out of the hole in his abdomen. For four minutes, Tamir lay bleeding alone.


Survillance cameras recorded the entire encounter. Had Garmback and Loehmann been a couple of local gangbangers in a Toyota, that video would have been enough to convince a grand jury that there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed, most likely aggravated murder. It happened so quickly, and with the shooter approaching the victim, that a claim of self-defense would have been laughable.

But police officers are not held to the same standards as civilians, nor should they be. They are expected to insert themselves into potentially volatile situations, to confront bad guys with weapons, to stand between chaos and public order. They will at times, even if only for a heartbeat, genuinely fear for their lives or the lives of others. There is a library of case law giving officers wide leeway on the use of deadly force. But these two guys drove up and shot a kid. And it’s on video. “What we have is objective evidence that they summarily executed this child as fast as humanly possible,” says Jonathan S. Abady, one of the attorneys representing Tamir’s estate, mother, and sister. “There is nothing Tamir could have done to not get shot that day.”

“It was almost like they were trying to blame me,” Samaria Rice said. “They were talking to me like I was a bad mother, like I gave him that BB gun.”

Maybe a jury would never convict them, and maybe McGinty would somehow believe the shooting was justified. But the major evidence to make that initial decision—whether to seek an indictment or not—was plainly visible. Weeks passed and McGinty did not make a determination one way or the other. Winter came and went and then most of spring. In early June, the sheriff’s department gave McGinty’s office a 211-page summary of its investigation. A week later, a sitting judge, ruling on a petition from eight perturbed citizens, issued a non-binding opinion that there was probable cause to charge both officers with crimes, including murder (Loehmann) and negligent homicide (Garmback). “After viewing [the video] several times,” Judge Ronald B. Adrine wrote, “this court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly.”

Still, no decision from McGinty.

Finally, at a meeting in the beginning of summer, almost seven months after Tamir was killed, Abady and his colleagues asked what was taking so long. An assistant prosecutor, according to Abady, said McGinty was trying to be “fair and thorough.” He also said he was trying to find experts who could tell a grand jury whether the shooting was justified.

That is highly irregular. For one, experts rarely testify before grand jurors. The bar for an indictment is so low that any prosecutor with a functional ability to speak in complete sentences can clear it. Two, if an expert believes killing Tamir was legally permissible, what’s the point? If the prosecutor agrees, why waste the grand jury’s time?

But set all that aside. Stipulate that fairness and thoroughness require experts to testify. There are many well-credentialed and prominent scholars who study police procedure; credible ones are not difficult to find. Who, Abady wanted to know, are those experts upon whom McGinty would be relying?

“People,” Abady was told, “who you’ve never heard of.”


The first two experts McGinty hired were a prosecutor from Colorado and a former FBI agent wh ko now an associate professor.

S. Lamar Sims, the prosecutor, was familiar to McGinty already: He’d spoken at a March 12, 2015, forum on deadly force hosted by McGinty’s office, focusing specifically on how difficult it is, legally, to indict officers. Two months after that, in May, Sims had explained on a local Denver TV channel how he believed killings by police should be evaluated. “Often we will learn things, facts, after the incident that a reasonable officer did not know, or could not have known, at the time,” he said. “The community may react to facts learned later. For example, looking around the nation, say you have a 12- or 13-year-old boy with a toy gun. We learn that later. The question is, what did the officer know at the time? What should a reasonable peace officer have known at the time when he or she took the steps that led to the use of physical force or deadly physical force?” That, he said, “is a difficult thing for a lot of people to understand.”

Kimberly A. Crawford, the professor, was a supervisory special agent in the legal instruction unit at the FBI academy for 18 years. In that role, she co-authored a report that defended a sniper in the shooting of a fleeing woman during the Ruby Ridge standoff in 1992, which a Department of Justice task force later criticized in part for interpreting legal standards on deadly force in a manner too favorable to law enforcement.

Both Sims and Crawford focused only on the instant immediately before Loehmann fired, which, in their view, was the only legally relevant issue. Neither spoke to Loehmann or Garmback, but how was either officer supposed to know Tamir was a kid and the gun he might have had was a toy? Of course, stopping a few feet from Tamir gave them no time to learn either of those facts. But since they did, Crawford reasoned, “it becomes apparent that not only was Officer Loehmann required to make a split-second decision, but also that his response was a reasonable one.” Meanwhile, to question that tactical decision, Sims argued, “is to engage in exactly the kind of ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’ the case law exhorts us to avoid.” (Crawford called it “armchair quarterbacking.” In her analysis, “Whether the officers’ actions were courageous or foolhardy is not relevant to a constitutional review of the subsequent use of force.”)

McGinty released both of those reports to the public by posting them on his office’s website at eight o’clock on the Saturday night of Columbus Day weekend. Zoe Salzman, an attorney who works with Abady, remembers the time because she got her first phone call from a reporter at 8:01. That would suggest the reports were shared with the media before they were posted. They were not, however, shared with Samaria Rice or her attorneys. “They gave us no heads-up that those reports were coming,” Salzman says. And by the time they returned from the holiday weekend and began to adequately critique the reports, the news cycle had moved on.

A third report, from a former Florida sheriff and consultant named W. Ken Katsaris—whom McGinty had hired to testify against a police officer in a previous case—was released on a Thursday in November. He, too, found the shooting justified. That perspective was not shared with Samaria Rice or her attorneys before it was posted. McGinty, in a statement released with the Katsaris report, said that he was being open and transparent and most definitely wasn’t drawing any conclusions but rather laying off that responsibility on the grand jurors. “I have faith in the people of this county,” he said, “to fulfill their sworn duty to make a correct and honorable decision.”


By the middle of November 2015, almost a year after Tamir was killed, McGinty still wouldn’t say whether he thought either officer should be charged with a crime. But he had presented to the grand jury—and released to the public—the opinions of three experts that, in clear and confident language, absolved Garmback and Loehmann.

At a political forum on November 5, McGinty had also introduced another element into the public narrative his office was crafting: Samaria Rice was trying to make a buck off her dead boy. When he was asked about criticisms Abady and others had made of the Sims and Crawford reports (Katsaris wouldn’t be released for another week), he answered, “Well, isn’t that interesting. They waited until they didn’t like the reports they received. They’re very interesting people, let me just leave it at that. They have their own economic motives.” He later tried to walk that back, saying he’d meant Samaria’s representatives were gold diggers. In a way, that was even worse, as it implied she was too stupid to realize she was being manipulated by greedy lawyers.

At that same forum, McGinty also invoked the sacred secrecy of the grand-jury process. “We want to encourage people to come in, be able to tell the truth, without intimidation, in the search for the truth,” he said. That would seem in obvious conflict with his vows of transparency, but no matter. As part of that search, he’d invited Samaria’s attorneys to go find their own experts on police shootings.

That’s how Roger Clark, the retired cop who got the toy gun stuck in his face, became involved. If a prosecutor presenting his own experts to a grand jury is uncommon, bringing in experts hired by the victim of a shooting is unprecedented. “It puts the victim in the unusual position of having to be the advocate,” says Earl Ward, one of the lawyers for Tamir’s family. “No, unusual is too light: I’ve never heard of it. In my 30 years of experience, this is the first time.”

In more than 20 years, Clark had testified once as an expert before a grand jury, but never as one retained by the dead person’s family. And Jeffrey J. Noble, another consultant hired on behalf of Tamir, had never done so at all. He was a cop for 28 years, retiring as deputy chief of the Irvine, California, police department in 2012. He wrote chapters for police textbooks on tactical recklessness and the notorious code of silence among officers; co-wrote a book on internal-affairs investigations; and, as a consultant, has reviewed hundreds of use-of-force cases. As a cop, he also used deadly force.

Noble knew Clark only by professional reputation and in fact had disagreed with him in another use-of-force case. But he agreed that the shooting of Tamir was unjustified, and for the same reasons. McGinty’s experts focused only on the fraction of a second when Loehmann fired: a police officer only a few feet from a five-foot-seven 195-pound person who matched the description of a man reported to have a gun who was reaching into his waistband. If all of that were true—though the part about where Tamir’s hands were and what they were doing is in legitimate dispute—it was reasonable for Loehmann to fear for his life, according to Sims, Crawford, and Katsaris.

But the few seconds before that, Noble argued, were just as important, both legally and practically. Under accepted police standards, Loehmann never should have been that close to Tamir that quickly. When they entered the park, the officers saw, or should have seen, one person, alone, not threatening anyone. There was no need for Garmback to rush him. “Reasonable police officers responding to a man-with-a-gun call,” Noble wrote in his report, “would have stopped their vehicle prior to entering the park to visually survey the area to avoid driving upon a subject who may be armed. This serves not only to protect the officers, but also serves to protect others who may be in the area and provides both time and distance for the officers to evaluate the situation and develop a plan.”

Noble’s function, admittedly unusual, was simply to give the grand jurors another learned perspective. Neither his opinion nor those of Clark, Sims, and the others could be used to convict or acquit anyone. “As an expert,” Noble says, “my job is to educate.” A grand jury is not contentious. Witnesses are almost never cross-examined, and normally there’s no time, anyway. A typical grand jury in Cuyahoga County churns through 50 cases a day, mostly on little more than the word of a police officer. Noble expected to present his findings, answer a question or two, and be done.

Noble was retrieved by assistant prosecutor James Gutierrez and led to the grand-jury room, where 14 jurors sat in comfortable chairs around tables arranged in a U. Gutierrez took a seat in the center. Matt Meyer sat on Noble’s right. Noble was sworn in. Then, he says, “it devolved pretty quickly. It was an attack from the minute I walked into the room.” Noble says Gutierrez and Meyer tag-teamed him with questions, talking over each other and him. Early on, one of them declared more than asked, “You’re getting paid to be here, right?”

“Hey, wait, your experts are getting paid, too,” Noble said.

“You don’t know that.”

He says he was asked if it “would be in the family’s best interest if there was an indictment.” He was reminded, as if he were a simpleton, that the grand jury had to be exceedingly conscientious. “Justice is about proving that some are not guilty,” Meyer said. “These officers have rights, too.”

Well, yes, but it’s not the prosecutors’ job to prove that to a grand jury. “I’ve never had to fight so hard to defend myself in the midst of a presentation,” Noble told me. “And I’ve definitely never seen two prosecutors play defense attorney so well.”

The hostility toward Noble, he realized, was part of a piece, reducing him to a character—hired gun for vengeful family and greedy lawyers trying to ruin brave cops—in a story that had already been laid out for the grand jurors. Tamir, as would later happen with Clark, repeatedly was referred to as an active shooter. Sandy Hook and San Bernardino (which had happened five days earlier) were both invoked. Video was projected of Tamir playing with the pellet gun earlier in the day, juxtaposed with video of kids playing basketball inside the rec center. For Loehmann and Garmback, only what they knew in a single blink of time was relevant. But for the dead kid, his entire day was fair game, as was what other people were doing inside a nearby building.

It was not difficult to figure out the prosecution’s theory of the case, which was really a defense theory. Near the end of Noble’s testimony, one of the grand jurors, a white lady he guessed was in her late 50s, had a question. “You’re from California, and maybe they do things differently out there,” she began. “But I’m a mom, and I would have wanted the police to protect my kid if he was playing in the rec center that day. He could have gone in there and killed all those people playing basketball.”

The woman was very sincere. “She was not being mean-spirited at all,” Noble said. “What I got out of that was the emotional level they’d been brought to.”

That Tamir could not possibly have killed anyone seemed beside the point.


Loehmann and Garmback were not required to testify or answer any questions from prosecutors. No target of a grand jury can be forced to do so. Even if he was ordered to appear, he could still invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at any time. As a practical matter, then, a prosecutor won’t invite a grand-jury target to appear. Why allow him to make a self-serving statement if the prosecutor can’t cross-examine, can’t poke holes in his story, can’t point out contradictions and inconsistencies, can’t pick at his credibility? How could the grand jurors realistically judge the veracity of those statements? On the other hand, a target has no real incentive to appear, either: Why risk saying something stupid that can be used against him later?

But at the beginning of December, both Loehmann and Garmback agreed to testify—sort of. Each man brought with him a written statement dated November 30, 2015, more than a year after Tamir was shot dead. Each officer read his statement to the grand jury.

Garmback’s was self-serving, Loehmann’s was self-aggrandizing, and both raised serious questions. For instance, both said they did not see Tamir seated at the picnic table until they were at least even with the swing set—that is, until they were a few yards away from the supposedly armed suspect they’d been sent to investigate. Were they always so lax in their visual surveillance? Both also agreed Garmback said, “Watch him, he’s going to run,” and that they were afraid Tamir was going to run toward the rec center. What, exactly, made them think Tamir would run? And if they believed that, why did Garmback approach from an angle that would almost force Tamir to bolt in that direction? Why not position the cruiser between Tamir and the rec center? Why stop next to him at all, instead of driving away from what might be a mortal threat?

Loehmann, meanwhile, testified that in his few months on the job, he’d already been “involved in many active-shooter situations.” Really? How loosely does Loehmann define “active-shooter situation”? Do shots actually need to be fired? By the common definition, the last active shooter in Cuyahoga County was a man who shot his wife and daughters in a Cracker Barrel in 2012.

Loehmann said he and Garmback repeatedly yelled “Show me your hands” as they approached Tamir. (Garmback acknowledged the windows were up, which would have made shouting orders pointless.) “As car is slid [sic], I started to open the door and yelled continuously ‘show me your hands’ as loud as I could,” he said. “The suspect lifted his shirt reached [sic] down into his waistband. We continued to yell ‘show me your hands.’ I was focused on the suspect. Even when he was reaching into his waistband, I didn’t fire. I still was yelling the command ‘show me your hands.’ ”

Loehmann said he’d been trained to leap out of the car “because ‘the cruiser is a coffin.’ ” He said he tried to get to the back of the cruiser. He said he and Garmback “were still yelling ‘show me your hands.’ With his hands pulling the gun out and his elbow coming up, I knew it was a gun and it was coming out. I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active.”

That’s when he fired twice.

The most obvious of the many questions Loehmann’s testimony raised was: How does that version square with a video showing that Loehmann pulled the trigger almost immediately after opening the car door? How fast can he yell “Show me your hands,” and how much time will he give a suspect to comply?

There may be plausible, even credible, answers to those questions. But none of them were asked. Instead, after reading his statement, each officer invoked his Fifth Amendment rights.

That could not possibly have been unexpected.


Thanksgiving Weekend 2015, Earl Ward was told by Meyer that McGinty’s office had hired a video expert to enhance and analyze footage from cameras around Cudell park, and that his report was going to be released—once again, the Saturday of a holiday weekend. But there was nothing new in the analysis, Meyer said, nothing of any consequence revealed in the enhancements.

That appeared to be true. The two videos weren’t so much enhanced as synced and broken down into stills. The images were still grainy. They did not show Tamir pointing anything at the police, or even getting anything out of his trousers. But to McGinty’s expert, who specializes in the software used to record video and in teasing out information hidden in the small variances between pixels, they clearly showed Tamir reaching into his waistband an instant before Loehmann shot him.

To Jesse Wobrock, an expert in biomechanics hired by Abady’s firm, they showed that Tamir had his hands in his pockets when Loehmann fired, and that the upward movement of the boy’s arms was a reaction to getting hit with a bullet, not a prelude to it.

To a layman, they are Rorschach blots. Stare at a still image long enough—as opposed to watching it flash past in a half a second as part of a moving series—and the brain can be convinced either way. But McGinty’s version requires believing that a 12-year-old child rushed by two police officers reflexively reached for his toy gun. Wobrock’s version requires only accepting that a body will jerk when it gets shot.

And there was, to Wobrock, one new thing in the enhancement. When others had reviewed the raw video, they’d calculated that 1.7 seconds elapsed between Loehmann getting out of the cruiser and firing. After seeing the individual images, Wobrock cut that to less than one second.

Wobrock appeared before the grand jury after Abady publicly complained about the way Noble and Clark had been treated. “My experience was probably more gentle than the others’,” Wobrock says. “But they were acting in a way like they were defense attorneys for the cops. Their line of questioning had to do with attacking me professionally.”

Meyer asked the questions. He showed images from the shooting, and videos that demonstrated that a person can pull a gun and shoot in less than half a second. He controlled those with a remote he’d stuck in his pants. “Today I have a remote in my waistband,” he joked with the grand jurors, “and not a gun.”

Mostly, Wobrock says, he was asked about his background in deciphering video code. He does not have any. Wobrock is an expert in forensic biomechanical engineering and kinematic analysis—how the body moves and reacts, particularly when it is being shot, beaten, or otherwise traumatized. “But if you have two eyes,” he says, “you can see what was going on in the video.”

Meyer brought up the civil suit pending in federal court—“Basically,” Wobrock says, “that the mom was looking for money out of this thing”—which cast Wobrock as just another hired gun for the money-grubbers. Who could trust his opinion, this academic who didn’t understand video-compression coding?

On the Monday after Christmas, McGinty announced that the grand jury had declined to indict either officer and that he had recommended no charges be brought.

The key evidence, both McGinty and Meyer said, was the enhanced video.

“You could actually see him draw his gun on this film,” McGinty said.

Meyer, meanwhile, focused on a gray dot on the gazebo floor after Tamir had collapsed. That was the gun, he said. “For it to have fallen on the ground, it would have had to have been in Tamir’s hand,” he said. “Which means he would have had to have pulled that gun out.”

Those are both extremely debatable assertions. And neither, curiously, was mentioned when Meyer contacted Earl Ward a month earlier. Back then, there was nothing of any significance at all in that enhanced video.

Samaria Rice was the last witness to appear before the grand jury. She waited in the hallway of the courthouse while her daughter answered questions. Samaria didn’t want to tell me what her daughter was asked or how she answered, only that she was shaking when she came out. Her daughter had been there that day. Look at the video: Garmback and Loehmann watching a boy bleed to death, and she enters from the left. There’s no sound, but she’s screaming. “They killed my baby brother,” she shrieks. Garmback grabs her, takes her to the ground, handcuffs her, puts her in the back of the cruiser that’s next to her dying brother.

Samaria was still at home then. She was putting groceries away when two kids from the neighborhood banged on her door. “The police just shot your boy in the stomach,” they told her. She ran to the park, and the police told her she could stay with her daughter or go to the hospital with her son.

What could she do? She rode in the passenger seat of the ambulance.

The last time she saw Tamir alive, he had tubes stuck in his arms and his tongue lolled out of his mouth. And then he was dead. He was wrapped up like a tamale, she remembers, only his face showing, and she wailed and she sobbed and she tried to kiss him good-bye, but a police officer held her back. Her boy’s body was evidence and couldn’t be contaminated.

She sat before the grand jurors as a character in a script already written: Tamir had been acting all gangsta that day, Tamir had pulled a gun on the cops, Tamir could have killed everyone in the rec center. Any mom would have wanted the police to protect the children playing in the rec center and the park. Three experts said the police had no choice, said killing Tamir was a reasonable thing to do.

And Samaria? She was suing the city for wrongful death. Samaria wanted money. Samaria had a record: The day the police killed her son, she was on probation for selling weed. It didn’t matter that Samaria refused to ever live in the projects, that she’d moved to a white suburb so her kids could go to better schools and only moved back so her kids wouldn’t be the only black ones in class. It didn’t matter that she worried so much about her youngest two that she’d only recently let them off the porch to play.

The prosecutor asked her if she knew Tamir had a toy gun that day.

He asked her where he got that toy.

“The look he had on his face, it was almost like they were trying to blame me,” she said. “I’m saying in my head, Why are they talking to me like that? They were talking to me like I was a bad mother, like I gave him that BB gun.”

One of the grand jurors asked her what Tamir had been like. It was not an insincere question. But what does a mother say about the boy the police thought needed shooting? That he liked to draw and paint and make pottery at the rec center? That he helped his mother sweep and mop? That he liked the ice cream and French fries at McDonald’s and Cool Ranch Doritos and cereal, even if Samaria wouldn’t buy him the sugary ones?

Or that he wasn’t allowed to play with toy guns? Not even that cheap bright plastic one at the Dollar General?

What does any of it matter now?

Samaria wasn’t surprised that Garmback and Loehmann weren’t indicted. A prosecutor doesn’t spend a year laying the groundwork only to screw it up at the end. Maybe it wouldn’t sting as badly if McGinty had been forthright about it, if he’d made a decision and owned up to it and explained it, instead of dribbling out some parts and burying the rest in legal secrecy and ducking behind anonymous citizens, muddying rather than clarifying. But maybe not. No one was indicted, and no one would be.

Samaria knew the settlement was coming, and she wished it wouldn’t be public, thought maybe she should move away, to Charlotte or Lexington, another city where people won’t bother her at the gas station, at the store, on the street. People—strangers, a Cleveland police dispatcher—want to take selfies with her. “Once they recognize my face, it’s ‘Oh, let me give you a hug,’ ” she says. “Throwing themselves on my body, getting all in my personal space.”

They mean well. But still. Sometimes they say, “Oh, you’re that boy’s mom.”

Sometimes they say, “Oh, you’re Rice’s mom.” And sometimes, because enough time has passed and memories have gotten foggy and all the stories begin to blur together, people stop and stare and try to remember. “Oh,” they’ll say, certain but not really, “you’re Trayvon Martin’s mom.”

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REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE by Anna Mainwaring RELEASES TODAY

TODAY is the day YA readers have been waiting for.

REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE by Anna Mainwaring comes out today.

Check out my 5 STAR REVIEW of this book by clicking HERE.

When you go to the review page, you will also be able to read the book’s synopsis and find out all about the author.

Come back to this page and let me know what you think about this book.

SNOWSISTERS – A New LGBTQ Young Adult Novel by Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick Releases in 8 Days

Title: SNOWSISTERS

Authors: TOM WILINSKY and JEN STERNICK

Genre: FICTION, LGBTQ, YOUNG ADULT FICTION, DIVERSE FICTION

Length: 256 PAGES

Publisher: INTERLUDE PRESS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Cover Art: C.B. MESSER

Release Date: FEBRUARY 15, 2018

ISBN: 9781945053528

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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CONTENT WARNINGS:
***Some of the characters in this book are unreliable narrators. Some have opinions and information about the world which are not well-informed. Others are subjected to that ignorance.***

ADDITIONAL WARNING:

***This book contains transphobic and homophobic language and descriptions of transphobic bullying. It also contains misgendering of a transperson and a description of violent, homophobic child abuse.***

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DESCRIPTION:

High school students—Soph, who attends private school in Manhattan, and Tess, a public school student who lives on a dairy farm in New Hampshire—are thrown together as roommates at a week-long writing conference. As they get to know each other and the other young women, both Soph and Tess discover unexpected truths about friendship, their craft, and how to hold fast to their convictions while opening their hearts to love.

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MY REVIEW:

Tess is thrilled when she learns that her application to attend the Young Women’s Writing Conference has been accepted. Tess’s life on a dairy farm in a small town in New Hampshire is a far cry from the life led by fellow conference attendee Sophonia. Soph leads a life of privilege and luxury in New York City. In fact, her parents are some sort of exiled European royalty.

The two young women are almost complete opposites in every way. Tess is straight. Soph is gay. Tess writes anonymous Fan Fiction online and Soph writes rhyming poetry. Tess is an introvert and extremely shy. Soph is an extrovert who is a social butterfly. Tess plans to go into the army while Soph is applying to the prestigious Minerva College.

So, when these two girls are thrown together as roommates, neither one is sure of how to befriend the other, but both are determined to try.

Meanwhile, next door to their room are Chris and Orly. The tension between them is thick enough to cut with a knife. Chris fancies herself a feminist and a journalist, while Orly is planning to write a memoir about growing up in a small town. Chris may believe she is a feminist, but she is NOT. Orly is a trans girl which would not bother any true feminist, but Chris constantly refers to as her as “him.” She wants Orly banned from the retreat and her prejudice and discrimination are horrible.

How in the world are these young women all supposed to get along?

I have read some reviews of SNOWSISTERS in which people are upset by the inclusion of misgendering and discrimination in this story. However, it is the character they should be upset with, NOT the authors. This behaviour was included in the story because, unfortunately, there are still many people in the world that act just like Chris (or worse) when it comes to trans people. It is necessary to inform readers of the existence of this type of prejudice so that we can do everything possible to eradicate it. Tess says it best when talking to Soph: “It’s-it’s a hard world, Soph. It’s hard for everyone in different ways.”

As the Writing Conference progresses, so does the bonding between the attendees. Not only do they learn to improve their writing, they also improve their relationships and some form bonds that may last a lifetime.

This book is a glimpse into the lives of young women struggling with their identities and trying to decide what they want for their future. This applies to every teenager, whether gay or straight. They all need to find their place in the world and to do so while dealing with the massive changes in their bodies and minds that comes with adolescence.

The only issue I had with this story was with Soph’s diary entries. They are written in short verse and they seem very juvenile to me and as if they were written by a younger person. They definitely do not seem like they would have been good enough to gain her admittance to an elite writing workshop. Here is just one example of Soph’s diary entries:

“A powerless night with
three turns messy.
I’m surprised what comes
out with Hennessy.”

I believe that more books discussing being gay, trans, or pan and about coming out are necessary, but I look forward to the day when they are no longer needed. #WeNeedMoreDiverseBooks

I rate SNOWSISTERS as 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can pre-order this book now by clicking HERE.

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ENTER TO WIN ONE OF FIVE Multi-Format eBook Editions of SNOWSISTERS by Tom Wilinsky & Jen Sternick + $25 IP Web Store Gift Card Grand Prize

CLICK HERE TO ENTER!!! Hurry! Giveaway Ends February 27th, 2018

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

JEN STERNICK and TOM WILINSKY met in high-school where they started a conversation which, years later, is still ongoing.

ABOUT TOM: Tom lives in New York with his partner and the world’s most beloved orange tabby cat, Newky.

He likes cold weather, anything with zombies in it and old cars. Never has he ever…been picked first for a team in Phys. Ed… used a selfie-stick… gotten Jen to watch an episode of South Park….

ABOUT JEN: Jen lives in Rhode Island with her husband, two kids and a cranky seven-toed cat named Sassy.

She likes live theater, visiting any place she’s never been before, and admits to a mild Twitter addiction. Never has she ever…won a game of Scrabble…remembered the lyrics to the The Big Bang Theory theme song… been able to convince Tom to read a self-help book…

To learn more about these authors, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

TUMBLR

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Interlude Press is a boutique publisher of award-winning LGBTQ fiction. We publish fiction for Young Adult readers through our imprint Duet.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

PINTEREST

TUMBLR

REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE by Anna Mainwaring is a delicious YA novel destined to be a Bestseller.

Title: REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE

Author: ANNA MAINWARING

Genre: FICTION, YOUNG ADULT FICTION, DIVERSE BOOKS

Length: 216 PAGES

Publisher: KIDS CAN PRESS

Type of Book: ARC – SOFTCOVER

Received From: A YABC – YOUNG ADULT BOOK CENTRAL – GIVEAWAY

Release Date: APRIL 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77138-826-9 (HARDCOVER)

Price: USD $17.99 / CAD $18.99

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS

DESCRIPTION:

Jesobel Jones is bold and brash, the daughter of a hand model and a washed-up rock star. Jess sees no need to apologize for her rambling house, her imperfect family, her single status … or her weight. Jess is who she is. She makes her own cupcakes and she eats them, too. No regrets.

That is, until Own Clothes Day rolls around at school. Jess and her friends dedicate the requisite hours of planning to their outfits, their hair and their makeup for the one day they are free from school uniforms. But a wardrobe malfunction leaves Jess with a pair of leggings split open at the worst spot, and a mean girl calling her the one thing that’s never bothered her before: fat.

The encounter shakes Jess’s formerly iron-clad confidence, and she starts to wonder if she’s been just a little too comfortable in her own skin. When the boy of her dreams invites her to a party, she must decide whether to try to fit in for the first time in her life, or remain true to herself — whoever that really is.

MY REVIEW:

I LOVED THIS BOOK. The main character is a “real” teenager. What I mean by that is that Jesobel or “Jess” is not some perfect specimen of femininity.

Jess has opinions. She has a real body. Ok, she is actually F-A-T, but she owns it. She prides herself on her feminism. She is honest with herself and others. She doesn’t care what others say about her … well, that is until she has a chance at a date with her secret crush. Jesobel proves that no matter how strong a person is, their insecurities often trump logic.

REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE has the potential to be this generation’s BRIDGET JONES DIARY. With irreverent humor and marvelous characters, debut author Anna Mainwaring has accomplished the truly significant. She has crafted a book that will not only entertain young adult readers, but will also enlighten them and make them feel that they are not alone.

It is simple to tell someone that all teen girls have issues with self-esteem, it is quite another to have them believe you. Anna Mainwaring’s talent in understanding the mind of teen girls is unparalleled and shines through on every page of this novel.

Her gift for crafting an unforgettable story while also penning truly realistic and believable characters will have this book in high demand. In fact, I predict it will become a Bestseller. For this reason I rate REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE as a perfect 5 out of 5 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

*** Thank you to YOUNG ADULT BOOK CENTRAL for running the giveaway and for choosing me as the winner of one of the ARCs of this remarkable book.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Anna Mainwaring studied English Literature, which led to a career in banking. She left that career to travel and then to train as a teacher.

Anna took part in NaNoWriMo in 2012, and after endless drafts, Rebel with a Cupcake was born.

When not writing, Anna can be found walking up hills or in cafés.

She lives in Cheshire, England, with her family, including a murderous gold fish called Moriarty.

To learn more about this author, or to PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY of REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

TWITTER

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

This book review is also one of my contributions to the #2018AtoZChallenge being hosted by GINGERMOMREADS

– This is my 12th Book Review of 2018

FRIENDS & OTHER LIARS by KAELA COBLE is a fantastic story about what friendship really means. This 5 Star Read releases on February 6th so MARK YOUR CALENDAR – You will be glad you did.

Title: FRIENDS & OTHER LIARS

Author: KAELA COBLE

Genre: FICTION

Length: 361 PAGES

Publisher: SOURCEBOOKS LANDMARK

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER

Received From: THE AUTHOR

Release Date: FEBRUARY 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5116-1

Price: $15.99 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

To all my old friends:
So here you all are. Nice to see you can show up for a person once he’s dead.

When Ruby St. James returns to her hometown, it is to the grave of her old friend Danny, a member of a group that was, ten years ago, Ruby’s whole world. The crew made a pact back then: stay together, stay loyal, and stay honest. But that was before all of the lies.

Because even friends keep secrets. They just don’t stay secret for long.

Now Danny has left behind a letter for each of them, issuing one final ultimatum: share your darkest betrayal to the group, or risk it coming out in a trap he has created. When past mistakes resurface, the lines of friendship blur, and four old friends are left trying to understand what it means to lie to the ones you love best.

MY REVIEW:

Beautiful Vermont

This picture is of Church Street in Vermont. This is just like the Main Street in the novel.

Set in the small town of Chatwick, Vermont, the setting of this story is much like the small town I grew up in. And the circle of friends at the center of the plot, remind me of my group of friends from early middle and high school. In fact, Kaela Coble has somehow managed to capture the essence of the universal highschool experience, as well as to accurately convey the intensity of highschool friends and romantic experiences.

New author, Kaela Coble, has a gift for understanding the complicated dynamics that often exist amongst a group of friends. Her insight into the secrets that people keep, even from those closest to them is spot on. She writes based on her own youth which I am sure is the key to the believability of the story.

Having one of the main characters die before the book even begins was a stroke of brilliance. In this way the entire story revolves around Danny (who died of a purposeful heroin overdose.) Before his death he wrote a letter and had his mother read it to his friends (during highschool they referred to themselves as “The Crew.”) Included with his final goodbye, Danny has included an envelope for each of his friends. Inside those envelopes, Danny has revealed that person’s most hidden secret along with a threat that if they don’t reveal their secrets to each other, the secret would be told through a trap Danny had engineered before his suicide.

Think about that for a minute. Do you have to tell your friends everything about you? Are you not entitled to keep some things private?

In this story, readers will find themselves pondering friendship and what it truly means to be a “good” friend.

This book is chock-full of lies, deception, anger, betrayal, love and desire, as well as moments of extreme comfort and ease, all tempered by moments of hatred and extreme violence.

Kaela Coble’s gift is both impressive and undeniable. I have read other book reviews that say things like: ‘The characters jumped off the page,” and I always thought that was a ridiculous statement to make, but now that I have finished reading this book, for the first time ever I completely understand what they mean. The characters in this book never seem like written characters, they come across as real people and long after the final page, readers will still be thinking about them.

FRIENDS AND OTHER LIARS is one of the best Coming-of-Age stories I have had the pleasure of reading. I truly hope to read more books featuring these characters and the beautiful setting of small-town Chatwick, Vermont.

Kaela has also included a Reader’s Group Discussion Guide in the back of the book. It is also available online by clicking HERE.

Aside from the plot being completely spell-binding, this book also tackles some very real and deadly serious social issues, including but not limited to: suicide, addiction, child abuse, losing your virginity, opiate addiction and the rising number of Fentanyl related deaths. The fact that Kaela Coble has been able to include these issues seamlessly into her story is just one more indication that she is an author on the verge of becoming a very big deal in the publishing world.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and would have rated it even higher if it was possible.

Kaela Coble has made me a fan and I am fervently hoping she is hard at work on her next book.

*** I received a free copy of this book from the author. **

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kaela Coble is an author of women’s fiction, represented by Stephanie Kip Rostan of Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. Friends and Liars is her debut novel.

Kaela earned her B.S. in Communications and completed short stints in marketing, public relations and copywriting before switching to assistant work to free up creative energy for writing. She is a member of the League of Vermont Writers and a graduate of the Womentoring Project.

She is also a voracious reader and a hopeless addict to bad television and good chocolate. She lives with her husband in Burlington, Vermont, and is a devoted mother to their rescued chuggle, Gus.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

PINTEREST

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

LINKEDIN

VERMONT SCENERY

VERMONT MAP

Funeral Pictures

This book review is one of my contributions to the #2018AtoZChallenge on the GingermomReads Blog.

As an aside, here are some pictures I found on the web showing what heroin can do to a person’s physical appearance:

If you or anyone you know are thinking about suicide, please reach out to someone. You’ll be surprised at how many strangers will care about you.

Not suicidal, but are having a hard time with anxiety or depression, or with any other problem in your life, reach out anonymously.

Here is one of the places you can visit for help:

KIDS HELP PHONE – WEBSITE

KIDS HELP PHONE on Instagram

Kid’s Help Phone’s professional counsellors are available to talk 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868

– YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GIVE YOUR NAME – It is completely anonymous and FREE.

FEEDING MY MOTHER by Jann Arden – A MUST READ by this multi-talented Canadian Icon

Title: FEEDING MY MOTHER

Subtitle: COMFORT AND LAUGHTER IN THE KITCHEN AS MY MOM LIVES WITH MEMORY LOSS

Author: JANN ARDEN

Genre: NON-FICTION, MEMOIR, FAMILY, ALZHEIMERS

Length: 210 PAGES

Publisher: RANDOM HOUSE CANADA

Type of Book: HARDCOVER

Received From: MY HUSBAND AS A CHRISTMAS GIFT

Release Date: NOVEMBER 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-7392-4

Price: $26.00 USD / $35.00 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Jann Arden moved into a house just across the way from her parents in rural Alberta to be close to them but also so they could be her refuge from the demands of the music business and a performing career. Funny how time works.

Since her dad died in 2015, Jann cooks for her mom five or six times a week. Her mom finds comfort in her daughter’s kitchen, not just in the delicious food but also just sitting with her as she cooks. And Jann finds some peace in caring for her mom, even as her mom slowly becomes a stranger.

“If you told me two years ago that I’d be here,” Jann writes, “I wouldn’t have believed it. And yet we still fall into so much laughter, feel so much insane gladness and joy. It’s such a contrast from one minute to the next and it teaches me constantly: it makes me stronger and more humble and more empathetic and caring and kind.”

The many people who are dealing with a loved one who is losing it will find inspiration and strength in Jann’s wholehearted, loving response and her totally Jann take on the upside-down world of a daughter mothering her mother. Feeding My Mother is one heck of an affirmation that life just keeps on keeping on, and a wonderful example of how you have to roll with it.

MY REVIEW:

I was drawn to this book initially by the beautiful cover and once I read the blurb inside the cover, I knew this was a book I just had to read. After reading the small poem that starts the book, I was enchanted.

“Another year, another page.
A million moments melt away.
The ticking-tocking hands of time,
what’s found and lost, remains sublime.
The details that we hold so fast,
are nothing more than memories past.
For love is all that lingers true,
the bond that ties my heart to you.”
– Jann Arden (2013)

Jann Arden is a Canadian icon and the fact that she is now dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s Disease makes her seem less like an untouchable superstar and more like just another person of my generation who is dealing with aging parents. I can relate to her struggle.

Filled with gorgeous photography and touching moments, this book is one that everyone will want to read.

Jann may disagree, but her unflinching honesty and relentless positivity are inspiring. When discussing social media, she writes:

“Words are big. They define who you are. They are permanent… What you say is who you are. So try to be gentle on social media. Lift others up … Don’t always turn your words into weapons when you can just as easily make doves.”

She has articulated my exact feelings in a much more poetic and lyrical way than I ever could. I guess that’s why she is such an accomplished singer and songwriter.

The book is written in diary entry format beginning in June of 2014 with the final entry having been written in February of 2017. Jann has also included many of the recipes that she cooks for herself and her mother.

The recipes are written as if they had been noted down for you by a good friend after an enjoyable dinner party and yet they are also easy to follow and detailed enough that anyone and everyone should be able to recreate them in their own kitchen.

It would be impossible for me to rate this heartwarming and inspirational memoir as anything other than 5 out of 5 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jann Arden’s latest book has kindled my interest in her, not only as a singer/songwriter, but also as an author and I plan to pick up her previous books as well. In short, BUY THIS BOOK – You will not be disappointed.

To see a terrific video interview where Jann Arden talks about this book, visit the CBC Website.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

PHOTO BY: ALKAN EMIN

JANN ARDEN is a singer, songwriter, broadcaster, actor, author and social media star. The celebrated multi-platinum, award-winning artist catapulted onto the music scene in 1993 with her debut album, Time for Mercy, featuring the hit single “I Would Die for You.” A year later she had her international break-out hit, “Insensitive.”

She has written three books, the most recent being the #1 bestselling memoir Falling Backwards.

She is much in demand as a public speaker, and a favourite frequent guest on CBC’s Rick Mercer Report and a guest host on CTV’s The Social.

To learn more about this Jann Arden, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

SPOTIFY

YOUTUBE

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

ONE OF MY FAVORITE QUOTES FROM THIS BOOK:

“The cliché is that we are supposed to live our lives in ‘gratitude.’ But gratitude is not something you acquire like a Happy Meal from McDonalds. It’s something you have to slowly create in your daily life through intention and sincere acts of goodness and kindness.”

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This book is also part of a Reading Challenge that is being hosted by GINGERMOM READS BLOG where I have committed to reading at least one book title from every letter of the alphabet in 2018. It is the #2018AtoZChallenge

ALL INCLUSIVE by Farzana Doctor is a phenomenal read.

Title: ALL INCLUSIVE

Author: FARZANA DOCTOR

Genre: FICTION

Length: 294 PAGES

Publisher: DUNDURN PRESS

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER

Release Date: 2015

ISBN: 9781459731813

Price: $22.99 CDN (SOFTCOVER)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

A story about one all-inclusive resort, the ghost of an unknown father, and the tragedies we can’t forget.

What’s it like when everyone’s dream vacation is your job? Ameera works at a Mexican all-inclusive resort, where every day is paradise — if “paradise” means endless paperwork, quotas to meet, and entitled tourists. But it’s not all bad: Ameera’s pastime of choice is the swingers scene, and the resort is the perfect place to hook up with like-minded couples without all the hassle of having to see them again.

Despite Ameera’s best efforts to keep her sideline a secret, someone is spreading scandalous rumours about her around the resort, and her job might be at stake. Meanwhile, she’s being plagued by her other secret, the big unknown of her existence: the identity of her father and why he disappeared. Unbeknownst to Ameera, her father, Azeez, is looking for her, and they both must come to terms with the reason why he abandoned her.

A moving new work from award-winning author Farzana Doctor, All Inclusive blurs the lines between the real world and paradise, and life and death, and reminds us that love is neither easily lost nor found.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:

MY REVIEW:

ALL INCLUSIVE was released in 2015 and won the Kobo Best Book of the Year — Canadian Favourites Category; a wonderful achievement.

Canadian author Farzana Doctor also won the NOW Magazine Best Author of 2015. Upon reading ALL INCLUSIVE, I can certainly see why it won so many awards.

The subject matter of ALL INCLUSIVE firmly places it in 18+ readership category.

The main character is Ameera who has a white mother and a Middle Eastern father, a father she has never met and knows almost nothing about.

The narration of the tale swaps between two points of view. One is Ameera’s and the other is that of her father, Azeez.

Despite never having met, Ameera and Azeez are connected. Ameera decides to search for him at the same time as he begins to search for her.

The main story is about Ameera and her job at an All-inclusive resort. Someone is trying to sabotage her and the promotion she thought she had in the bag.

While trying to figure out who is out to get her and why, there is an entire other story happening which is just as complicated as the main storyline, maybe even more so.

With vividly realistic characters and descriptions that will paint brilliant pictures in the reader’s mind, ALL INCLUSIVE is a delightful read. Readers will feel immersed in the story and feel sad when the book ends – they will not want to stop reading. It’s a good thing that Farzana Doctor has more books available because I do not believe it is possible after reading this book to not become an instant fan of hers. I know that I for one am hooked. I plan to read her novel SIX METRES OF PAVEMENT next.

I rate ALL INCLUSIVE as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

FARZANA DOCTOR was the WINNER of the NOW Magazine Best Author of 2015.

Farzana Doctor is the author of Stealing Nasreen and Six Metres of Pavement, which won the 2012 Lambda Literary Award and was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award.

Farzana is one of CBC BooksTen Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now and the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Grant.

She co-curates the Brockton Writers Series and lives in Toronto.

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

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FRED’S FUNERAL by SANDY DAY is a fascinating tale of one man who returned from WWI only to be locked up in an insane asylum for “Shell Shock”

Title: FRED’S FUNERAL

Author: SANDY DAY

Genre: FICTION

Length: 114 PAGES

Publisher: SELF-PUBLISHED

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER

Received From: THE AUTHOR

Release Date: DECEMBER 2, 2017

ISBN: 9781979556163

Price: $22 CDN for an autographed book through the author’s website.

Price: Ebook $2.99 CDN

Price: Softcover for $14.95

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:
(From the Back Cover)

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and his ghost hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

MY REVIEW:

FRED’S FUNERAL is based on a true story. The details came from the letters, journals and recollections of the author’s Uncle Fred who, like the title character, fought in World War One and returned as a changed man.

This story begins upon Fred’s death in a Nursing Home. Fred finds himself floating above what was bed for years. He watches as his brother’s widow paws through his most cherished mementos. Fred is not happy about this since he never could stand Viola, and he never understood what his brother saw in the shrewish woman.

Fred finds that he is stuck between death and heaven and is somehow tied to his estranged family. He floats, invisible, to his own funeral and the reception afterward.

The rest of Fred’s relatives are eager to learn more about this Uncle they never knew and it is Viola who begins to tell the tale of Fred’s life.

Fred’s time as a soldier in World War One had a profound affect on him and after being home from the war for several years and not meeting his father’s expectations, Fred’s family has him involuntarily admitted to the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital, also known as Ontario’s Hospital for the Insane.

The above pictures are from the website Invisible Threads

This hospital actually existed. It was constructed between 1913 and 1916 to serve as a military convalescent hospital for soldiers wounded in the First World War. The hospital was considered a model of mental health care for its era. However, patients like Fred were forced to undergo treatments that we know now as cruel and barbaric such as shock treatment.

The more readers learn about Fred and his life, the more they will be forced to think about how veterans have been treated in the past, and how they are treated today. It will also bring awareness to mental health issues which is much needed.

Did Fred actually have “Shell Shock?” (What was once called Shell Shock is now know as PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.) We, as a society, are only just now beginning to recognize and treat PTSD sufferers with the dignity they deserve. But, we still have a long way to go to completely remove the stigma that is wrongfully attached to mental health issues. To learn more about PTSD, visit CMHA – The Canadian Mental Health Association.

The story jumps around in time, which I normally am averse to, but in this case it actually works.

FRED’S FUNERAL contains a mere 114 pages which makes it an ideal weekend read. I was so absorbed in the story that I read it cover to cover in less than 24 hours.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good family drama with a dose of history thrown in. In fact, this little book really packs a punch when you consider just how many topics and timelines are contained within.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sandy Day is a recovering chatterbox living in Georgina, Ontario, Canada. She graduated from York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy then took 20 years off from writing to run a gift store and raise a family. Now relationship-free and un-self-employed she finally has time to write and publish.

Sandy is a trained volunteer facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and writing teacher who sells dog halters on the side. Tech savvy, a born marketer, entrepreneurial, and a big picture thinker, Sandy is a dedicated indie author, publisher, and book coach.

If you enjoy Sandy’s writing please sign up on the email list – she promises to write. Contact her via her website.

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

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WE CARE FOR YOU by Debut Author Paul Kitcatt will leave you thinking about this book long after reading the final page. 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Title: WE CARE FOR YOU

Author: PAUL KITCATT

Genre: FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

Length: 240 PAGES

Publisher: UNBOUND DIGITAL

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: NOVEMBER 14, 2017

ISBN: 9781911586296

Price: £10.99 (PAPERBACK)

Rating: 4 out of 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Margaret Woodruff is slowly dying in a care home. When her son is presented with the chance of exceptional care in her final months, he finds the offer hard to resist.

Winifred is assigned to Margaret’s care. She’s a Helper: a new kind of carer that’s capable, committed and completely tireless – because she’s a synthetic human being.

Under Winifred’s care Margaret’s health improves beyond everyone’s expectations, and Winifred begins to learn from Margaret what it means to be alive. After all, she has a lifetime of experience to pass on – and in a world where youth is the ultimate prize, perhaps it takes a robot to recognise the value of old age.

But how will Winifred use what she learns from Margaret – and what does she truly want from her?

MY REVIEW:

“All advances in technology are foreseen or understood by a small group of people. Those who imagine them, and those who make them happen. To the rest of us, these advances are like magic.”

Paul Kitcatt is one of those people who foresees technology’s future and the ramifications of artificial intelligence.

I love the fact that he chose an Old Age Home as the setting for this novel. He is 100% correct when he says that we do not treat our elderly population very well. He also mentions that the carers at these Retirement Homes are underpaid and overworked. These facts become the basis for the residents families allowing the “robot” helpers to take over the care of their loved ones.

As the older resident’s health improves, we start to learn more about the ultimate agenda.

This book will not only grab and hold your attention, but it will make you question our world and how we treat others, especially the elderly.

This book was crowdfunded and it goes to show that there is very much a place for this type of publishing. Without crowdfunding this book would not existed, which would be a shame.

I recommend this book to fans of science fiction as well as to those who are interested in societal issues.

I rate WE CARE FOR YOU as 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

QUOTES:

“You could say a human is defined by what they’ve forgotten. And when all their memories fade, they do too,like old photographs in the sun.”

“Humans are also creatures of hopes and fears, disappointments and regrets, and desires. They almost always want something, whether it’s reasonable or not.”

“Seeing, standing, walking. Whatever they gave me, it’s marvellous.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Paul Kitcatt was a bookseller and an English teacher before being lured into the world of advertising.

He started as a copywriter and then became creative director, and in 2002 founded his own agency with three partners. It did well, with clients such as Waitrose, VSO, Lexus, the NSPCC, AXA, Virgin and WWF.

Throughout his career, he continued to write – for clients, for the trade press, and when possible, for himself.

He left his agency last year, and wrote his first novel, We Care For You.

During his time in advertising, the digital revolution transformed his business and the entire industry, as it has everything, everywhere.

Technology is changing the world, and us with it, and the journey has only just begun. Paul’s novel is about where it might take us next.

Paul is married with four children and lives in London, England.

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

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DADDY DARKEST by ELLERY KANE is a dark & twisted YA thriller worthy of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: DADDY DARKEST

Series: BOOK ONE OF THE DOCTORS OF DARKNESS SERIES

Author: ELLERY KANE

Genre: FICTION, YOUNG ADULT, PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER

Length: 358 PAGES

Publisher: SELF-PUBLISHED

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: JUNE 1, 2018

ISBN: 9780692880968

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“I wish my first plane ride had ended in a crash. An unforeseen plunge to Earth. A few minutes of white-hot terror, followed by a rising ball of fire. And no survivors.”

Samantha is a small town girl who just graduated from high school. She has her entire future ahead of her and she can’t wait. Her best friend, Ginny surprises her with a weekend in San Francisco.

Samantha knows her Mom would not approve so she waits until she is already on the plane before answering her mother’s texts and calls.

Samantha and Ginny may be best friends, but they are polar opposites of each other (except in physical appearance since they look so much alike, they could be sisters.

Samantha is quiet. Ginny is loud. Samantha does not like to flirt. Ginny seems to have learned to flirt in the womb. Samantha is careful, Ginny is not. Ginny likes to go with the flow, Samantha would rather have a plan. But, despite their differences, or maybe because of them, they compliment each other and their trust in each other is complete.

What neither of the girls know is that the amazing and fun weekend they’d planned is about to turn into a nightmare. One in which Samantha will discover that everything she thought she knew about her life, has been a lie.

Fast paced, heart-thumping action that will appeal to her new target readership of Young Adults and will not disappoint her adult fanbase.

This book, however, should come with a warning and could be a trigger for survivors of violent crime; including, but not limited to, stalking, mugging, domestic violence and especially to survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

I enjoyed most every part of this book and am glad author Ellery Kane has chosen to bring the issue of childhood sexual abuse into the light. She has included a description of one of the ways that pedophiles groom their victims. I believe this is important. The more information that is distributed to people, the less likely they or their loved ones will fall victim to this type of crime.

Tackling a sensitive subject while crafting an unforgettable thriller could not have been easy, but Ellery Kane has done exactly that. It is for that reason that I chose to rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Forensic psychologist by day, novelist by night, Ellery Kane has been writing–professionally and creatively–for as long as she can remember. Just like many of her main characters, Ellery loves to ask why, which is the reason she became a psychologist in the first place. Real life really is stranger than fiction, and Ellery’s writing is often inspired by her day job. Evaluating violent criminals and treating trauma victims, she has gained a unique perspective on the past and its indelible influence on the individual. And she’s heard her fair share of real life thrillers. An avid short story writer as a teenager, Ellery recently began writing for enjoyment again, and she hasn’t stopped since.

Ellery’s debut novel, Legacy, has received several awards, including winning the Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, young adult, e-book category, and the Gold Medal in the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards, teenage category. In 2016, Ellery was selected as one of ten semifinalists in the MasterClass James Patterson Co-Author Competition.

To learn more about Ellery Kane, visit the following links:

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