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

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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.”
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“‘But was it me in there?’ Jericho asked. ‘Or the person I used to be?'”
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“Thinking is a sacred disease. And there’s no cure.”
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“Everything is a song in one way or another.”
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“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

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

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FIVE LITTLE INDIANS by Debut Novelist Michelle Good is a FANTASTIC Book, and One that will resonate deeply with all Canadians who believe in justice. 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I absolutely LOVE the cover of this book. Bravo! The birch trees are significant as are the silhouettes.

Title: FIVE LITTLE INDIANS

Author: MICHELLE GOOD

Genre: FICTION, INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, MULTICULTURAL INTEREST, CANADIAN FICTION, TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION, BASED ON TRUE STORIES

Length: 304 PAGES

Publisher: HARPER COLLINS

Release Date: APRIL 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4434-5918-1 (Softcover)

Price: $22.99 CDN (Softcover)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.

Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn’t want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.

Fuelled by rage and furious with God, Clara finds her way into the dangerous, highly charged world of the American Indian Movement.

Maisie internalizes her pain and continually places herself in dangerous situations.

Famous for his daring escapes from the school, Kenny can’t stop running and moves restlessly from job to job—through fishing grounds, orchards and logging camps—trying to outrun his memories and his addiction.

Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures a secret compulsive disorder as she waits for Kenny to return to the life they once hoped to share together.

After almost beating one of his tormentors to death, Howie serves time in prison, then tries once again to re-enter society and begin life anew.

With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.

MY REVIEW:

FIVE LITTLE INDIANS is a book that everyone in North America needs to read. This may be Fiction, but it is based in reality and the five main characters are a great representation of what happened to the Indigenous children who were forced to attend Residential Schools.

These Residential Schools are a shameful part of Canada’s past and the harm they caused has resonated through multiple generations. That pain is still being felt by Indigenous People to this day. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is attempting to compensate the victims, and to tell their stories, but the hurt and victimization runs deep.

This novel concentrates on a handful of children, all of whom attended the same residential school. It follows them throughout their lives and readers are taken along for the ride.

The difference between this book and the various others that have been published is that FIVE LITTLE INDIANS focuses mainly on what happens to the children once they leave the Residential School system.

As each child reaches the age of release, they are given nothing but a bus ticket to Vancouver. Arriving in the city is sensory overload for these teenagers who have only ever lived either on remote reserves or at the school. I can only imagine how confused and scared they must have been.

It is amazing to me that any of them survived, but, as is demonstrated in the book, there is a huge difference between surviving and thriving.

With succinct yet heartfelt prose, readers will feel a fraction of the pain of the characters in the book, and even though it is only a fraction, it is enough to bring the reader to tears. (I am not ashamed to say that it made me cry.)

Although there are moments of unbelievable sadness and flashes of rage and violence, the story also contains momentous instances of love and inspiring occassions of spirituality. It is during these amazing and wonderous moments that the reader’s heart will soar alongside that of the characters.

I hope to read more books by Michelle Good in the near future. I would like it if she wrote about the generation of children who came from the Residential School Survivors and how their parents and grandparents traumatic experiences affects generation after generation.

I would be doing the world a great disservice if I was to rate FIVE LITTLE INDIANS as anything less than 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I urge every Canadian to purchase a copy of FIVE LITTLE INDIANS asap.

It is imperative that we educate ourselves and our children about our country’s pastincluding the shameful parts.

It is by acknowledging the harm done that we can learn from it so that these mistakes are never repeated.

In addition to avoiding past mistakes, it is my hope that books such as this one will help to foster a better, less adversarial relationship between Indigenous Peoples and other ethnicities.

WE MUST ELIMINATE RACISM NOW!!!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle Good is a writer of Cree ancestry and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

She obtained her law degree after three decades of working with indigenous communities and organizations.

She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at UBC, while still practising law, and won the HarperCollins/UBC Prize in 2018.

Her poems, short stories and essays have been published in magazines and anthologies across Canada.

Michelle Good lives and writes in south central British Columbia.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
https://www.michellegood.ca

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FACEBOOK

TWITTER

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PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

A BIT OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE RED PHEASANT CREE NATION:

**Information Copied From: https://www.batc.ca/member_first_nations/red_pheasant.html

History

Prior to signing treaty, Chief Wuttunee (Porcupine) and his CREE band hunted and fished along the Battle River, and as settlers moved into the Battleford region where they conducted trade.

Though Wuttunee was chief at the signing of TREATY 6 on September 9, 1876, he was not in favour of the treaty and appointed his brother Red Pheasant to sign for him.

The department recognized Red Pheasant as the band’s chief from that point. In 1878 the band settled on their reserve in the Eagle Hills, where the land was good and there was enough forest to enable them to hunt.

Red Pheasant day school opened in 1880, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church was built in 1885 on land set aside for that purpose when the reserve was surveyed.

The reserve is located 33 km south of NORTH BATTLEFORD, with an infrastructure that includes a band office, band hall, school and teacherage, public works building, fire hall, and a treatment centre.

The main economic base is agriculture, but the reserve hosts a band-owned grocery store, and in 1997 the band signed an oil and gas agreement with Wascana Energy Inc.

The band’s successful completion of a Treaty Land Entitlement Agreement has enabled them to increase their reserve’s size to 29,345.7 ha, and invest in furthering economic development.

The band has 1,893 registered members, 608 of whom live on the reserve.

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.

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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

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*** 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

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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

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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.
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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 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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*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

IT’S HERE… TODAY IS THE DAY … A QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO SEX & DISABILITY RELEASES TODAY

Title: A QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO SEX & DISABILITY

Author: A. ANDREWS

Genre: NON-FICTION, GRAPHIC NOVELS AND COMICS, DISABILITIES, SEX, YOUNG ADULT, LGBTQ , QUEER AUTHOR, DISABLED AUTHOR, DIVERSITY, MULTICULTURAL

Length: 72 PAGES

Publisher: ONI PRESS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: MAY 5, 2020

ISBN: 9781620106945

Price: $9.99 USD Paperback

Rating: 5+ OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

A quick, easy, and educational comic book guide that will help change the way we talk about sex and sexuality for all bodies.

“This guide can help disabled people (and their partners) on their journey toward self-love, better communication, and confidence.” –– Alice Wong, Founder and Director, Disability Visibility Project

All different kinds of bods want to connect with other bods, but lots of them get left out of the conversation when it comes to

S-E-X.

As explained by disabled cartoonist A. Andrews, this easy-to-read guide covers the basics of disability sexuality, common myths about disabled bodies, communication tips, and practical suggestions for having the best sexual experience possible. Whether you yourself are disabled, you love someone who is, or you just want to know more, consider this your handy starter kit to understanding disability sexuality, and your path to achieving accessible (and fulfilling) sex.

Part of the bestselling and critically acclaimed A Quick & Easy Guide series from Limerence Press, an imprint of Oni Press.

MY REVIEW:

So, why read a book about sex, and specifically disabled sex, by someone who is not an “Expert?”

The answer to that is: To avoid the typically clinical and frustratingly BORING books on this topic written by supposed “experts.” I have read many books and magazine articles written by non-disabled “experts” and those were all so ‘dry’ they even managed to make sex seem boring and much of the information is, at best irrelevant, at worst dangerously flawed. To take the advice of someone who has never had to live with a disability, is unwise in my opinion. Realistically, how could they know anything about it?

As a queer person living with a disability, A. Andrews is much more qualified to discuss issues surrounding sex & disability than any able-bodied ‘expert.’ 

I love that the author acknowledges that many people do not think of disabled people as sexual beings, and that they acknowledge the squeamishness with which some  people react to this topic. It is a ridiculous notion and I am happy that the author confronts it head-on.

According to the author, “All disability presents differently. They are all valid, real, and have unique needs and considerations.”

That said, this book focuses on sex for people with physical disabilities. After all, that is what the author deals with personally, which is why they are qualified to discuss it. It would have been a ridiculously long book if sex for every type of disability were to be discussed.

The emphasis placed on communication is great advice which applies to everyone, disabled or not. Included are some suggestions as to how not to offend a disabled partner. The illustrations depict a person asking or saying something offensive and offers a way to ask/say it in a nonoffensive way. I have never seen such awesome advice so succinctly shown before. I have to say that I am extremely impressed. Kudos to Author/Illustrator A. Andrews for including such valuable advice.

Let’s face it. There are many different types of people and therefore there are many types of sexual partners. This book is designed as a resource for all genders, races, and for any and all sexual persuasions. The illustrations reflect that reality. They depict many different body types, genders, races, as well as different types of physical disabilities.

The illustrations are not sexually explicit, but sex positions are depicted. When positions are shown, there are no views of genetalia. In most illustrations, the people depicted are wearing underwear or are fully clothed. There is a single page containing illustrations of sexual aids, some of which are shaped like male genetalia (but in a tasteful way.)

In my humble opinion, I believe every physically disabled person who is thinking about and/or planning to become (or continue to be) sexually active needs to purchase one or more copies of this graphic novel. It could be casually placed on the coffee table where the potential partner(s) is sure to see it, thus creating the perfect opportunity to begin the dialogue necessary. It would also be an amazing resource to share with anyone who participates in your care. This graphic novel should be available in every local library and every physical rehabilitation center in North America and beyond. In fact, I am planning to speak to my local library as well as at the few physiotherapy clinics near my home.

I rate A QUICK & EASY GUIDE TO SEX & DISABILITY as

5+ Out Of 5 STARS (The highest rating I Can Give.) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A. Andrews is a queer and disabled cartoonist living and working in Minneapolis, Minnesota after a near decade stay in New York City.

They grew up in the Pacific Northwest sketching in hospitals, and are the creator of the Autostraddle webcomic Oh, Hey! It’s Alyssa!

When they’re not drawing their guts out, they are hanging out with their dog, George, and drinking too many coffees.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Oni Press is a premier comic book and graphic novel publisher located in Portland, Oregon.

Established in 1997, Oni Press’s curated line includes a variety of award-winning original and licensed comic books and graphic novels, including: Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty™, Nickelodeon’s Invader ZIM, Scott Pilgrim, Queen & Country, Courtney Crumrin, Wasteland, The Sixth Gun, Stumptown, Wet Moon, Letter 44, The Bunker, The Life After, The Coldest City, and Kaijumax.

To learn more about Oni Press, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TUMBLR

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

TWITTER – LIMERENCE PRESS

YOUTUBE

PINTEREST

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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.

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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

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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.
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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

SAVAGE APPETITES: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Author and Journalist Rachel Monroe will enthrall readers!

Title: SAVAGE APPETITES

Subtitle: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession

Author: RACHEL MONROE

Genre: TRUE CRIME, NON-FICTION

Length: 272 PAGES

Publisher: SIMON AND SCHUSTER CANADA – SCRIBNER

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: AUGUST 20, 2019

ISBN: 9781501188909

Price: $11.99 USD

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

A provocative and original investigation of our cultural fascination with crime, linking four archetypes—Detective, Victim, Defender, Killer—to four true stories about women driven by obsession.

In this illuminating exploration of women, violence, and obsession, Rachel Monroe interrogates the appeal of true crime through four narratives of fixation. In the 1940s, a frustrated heiress began creating dollhouse crime scenes depicting murders, suicides, and accidental deaths. Known as the “Mother of Forensic Science,” she revolutionized the field of what was then called legal medicine. In the aftermath of the Manson Family murders, a young woman moved into Sharon Tate’s guesthouse and, over the next two decades, entwined herself with the Tate family. In the mid-nineties, a landscape architect in Brooklyn fell in love with a convicted murderer, the supposed ringleader of the West Memphis Three, through an intense series of letters. After they married, she devoted her life to getting him freed from death row. And in 2015, a teenager deeply involved in the online fandom for the Columbine killers planned a mass shooting of her own.

Each woman, Monroe argues, represents and identifies with a particular archetype that provides an entryway into true crime. Through these four cases, she traces the history of American crime through the growth of forensic science, the evolving role of victims, the Satanic Panic, the rise of online detectives, and the long shadow of the Columbine shooting. In a combination of personal narrative, reportage, and a sociological examination of violence and media in the twentieth and twenty-first century, Savage Appetites scrupulously explores empathy, justice, and the persistent appeal of violence.

MY REVIEW:

Rachel Monroe is a woman after my own heart. As she described her visit to the premiere True Crime Conference called CrimeCon in 2018, I was green with envy. Living outside the city of Toronto, Ontario in Canada, there was just no feasible way for me to attend such an event, especially since it takes place quite a distance from my home.

Rachel Monroe has taken it upon herself to dig into the “why” of the appeal of True Crime to women and to explore the possible reasons.

Any female of my generation (I am 47) who are interested in this subject probably grew up reading Nancy Drew and maybe even The Hardy Boys. Rachel states that: “This detective impulse first burbled up in [her] early, say around age eight.” Reading these words, I wanted to shout out loud, “Me too!”

The book focuses on four very different women, from different times, but, who all had an interest in crime and murder. Their reasons are as varied as possible, yet they are all tied together by the singular theme of True Crime.

I couldn’t believe I had never heard of France’s Glessner Lee. Sure, she was a child of the 1890s, and grew up “… Living in a mansion on Chicago’s ‘Millionaire’s Row.” But still, she was a role model for other women in adulthood and smashed through gender barriers that would have seemed impenetrable to other women of her time. I am impressed and glad that I now know about her. Thank you Rachel Monroe!

The author talks about the Manson murders which have been excessively covered, and yet the way she presents this crime is less about Manson, and more about how the crime changed so many things and so many people.

She speaks about the murder of Taylor Behl in 2005 which happened in her town. Rachel says “Part of what I was looking for, I realized, was overlap, all the ways she and I were similar. There was a troubling pleasure in thinking about how I could have been her, or she could have been me… It felt good, in a bad way, to think about my own proximity to violence. To imagine my life as a near miss.”

Rachel also addresses a phenomenon that has always perplexed me – that of women who “date” and/or marry men serving life sentences in prison. This section is a must read.

I even learned a new word:

HYBRISTOPHOLIA – the attraction to someone who has committed murder.

I never knew there was a word for it, but, in this day and age, I should not have been surprised.

All in all, Author Rachel Monroe has gone deep down many rabbit holes in her research for this book. She extensively studied so many factors that it is amazing she was able to whittle them down into a cohesive and compelling whole.

I rate SAVAGE APPETITES as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐ and because of it’s subject matter, I forsee it becoming a book that is widely read. Perhaps she will have her own following at CrimeCon 2020.
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*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Photograph by Emma Rogers

Rachel Monroe is a writer and volunteer firefighter living in Marfa, Texas.

Her work has appeared in The Best American Travel Writing 2018, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

AUDIBLE

FACEBOOK – PUBLISHER

INSTAGRAM – AUTHOR

INSTAGRAM – PUBLISHER

TWITTER – AUTHOR

TWITTER – PUBLISHER

YOUTUBE – PUBLISHER

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

WARNINGSPOILERS AHEADSTOP READING THIS POST NOW IF YOU DO NOT WANT ANY EXTRA INFORMATION ABOUT THIS BOOK!!!

SUBJECT # 1 OF SAVAGE APPETITES is FRANCIS GLESSNER LEE.

The following is copied from a 2017 Washington Post article written by Sadie Dingfelder

Frances Glessner Lee trained homicide detectives with her miniature murder scenes. Scroll down to try your hand at one.

At first glance, the grisly dioramas made by Frances Glessner Lee look like the creations of a disturbed child.

A doll hangs from a noose, one shoe dangling off of her
stockinged foot.
Precise down to the smallest detail.

Another doll rests in a bathtub, apparently drowned.

A third lies in bed peacefully … except for her blood-splattered head.

There’s no need to call a psychiatrist, though — Lee created these works in the 1940s and ’50s as training tools for homicide investigators. 19 of the dollhouse-size crime scenes are on display in the Renwick Gallery exhibit “Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.”

Lee, who died in 1962, called her miniatures “nutshell studies” because the job of homicide investigators, according to a phrase she had picked up from detectives, is to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent and find the truth in a nutshell.”

“She became the first female police captain in the country, and she was regarded as an expert in the field of homicide investigation,” exhibit curator Nora Atkinson says.

When Lee was building her macabre miniatures, she was a wealthy heiress and grandmother in New Hampshire who had spent decades reading medical textbooks and attending autopsies. Police departments brought her in to consult on difficult cases, and she also taught forensic science seminars at Harvard Medical School, Atkinson says. Lee painstakingly constructed the dioramas for her seminars, basing them on real-life cases but altering details to protect the victims’ privacy.

“She was very particular about exactly how dolls ought to appear to express social status and the way [the victims] died,” Atkinson says.

“If a doll has a specific discoloration, it’s scientifically accurate — she’s reproducing the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and positioning them based on when rigor mortis took effect.”

Tiny details in the scenes matter too. For example, fibers on one doll’s wounds match those on a nearby door frame.

At the Renwick exhibit, visitors will be given magnifying glasses and flashlights to conduct their own homicide investigations, but don’t ask museum staff for help — the scenes are still used in annual training seminars, so their secrets are closely guarded.

TRY TO DEDUCE WHAT HAPPENED IN THE 11 ITEMS POINTED OUT BELOW …

Frances Glessner Lee built the miniature rooms pictured here, which together make up her piece “Three-Room Dwelling,” around 1944-46. This is a puzzling case – – – – A beautiful woman lays shot to death in her bed, her clean-cut, pajama-clad husband lies next to the bed, also fatally shot.
– Their baby was shot as she slept in her crib.
– Blood is spattered everywhere. -All the doors are locked from the inside, meaning the case is likely a double homicide/suicide.
– But something isn’t right. The murder weapon is nowhere near the doll corpses – instead the gun is in another room???

1. Lee used red nail polish to make pools and splatters of blood.

What details can you discover?

2. Lee crocheted this tiny teddy bear herself, so that future investigators might wonder how it landed in the middle of the floor.

3. The pattern on the floor of this room has faded over time, making the spent shotgun shell easier to find.

4. Lee knit this runner and sewed the toy chairs on it in this exact state of disarray.

5. The bedroom window is open. Could it be a sign of forced entry?

6. Lee would paint charms from bracelets to create some prop items. Others she bought from dollhouse manufacturers.

7. The table settings are sewn into place to indicate an orderly, prosperous family.

8. There’s one big clue in clear view in this room

9. Lee sewed the clothes worn by her figurines, selecting fabrics that signified their social status and state of mind. In some cases, she even tailor-made underwear for them.

10. The doll heads and arms were antique German porcelain doll parts that were commercially available. Lee would create the bodies herself, often with lead shot in them.

11. How did blood end up all the way over here?

Renwick Gallery, 1661 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SOLUTION IS?

Leave your guess in the comments and I will come back and discuss it with you. In your comments post any clues or abnormalities in the scenes that you find.

A FEW MORE PICTURES OF THE “NUTSHELL” MINIATURE CRIME SCENES:

Every element of the dioramas—from the angle of miniscule bullet holes, the placement of latches on widows, the patterns of blood splatters, and the discoloration of painstakingly painted miniature corpses—challenges trainees’ powers of observation and deduction. The Nutshells are so effective that they are still used in training seminars today at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore.

Showcasing the Nutshells at the Renwick allows visitors to appreciate them as works of art and material culture in addition to understanding their importance as forensic tools, and to see Lee’s genius for telling complex stories through the expressive potential of simple materials. While the Nutshells represent composites of real and extremely challenging cases featuring homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths, Lee imagined and designed each setting herself. She was both exacting and highly creative in her pursuit of detail—knitting tiny stocking by hand with straight pins, hand-rolling tiny tobacco-filled cigarettes and burning the ends, writing tiny letters with a single-hair paintbrush, and creating working locks for windows and doors.

The exhibition also highlights the subtly subversive quality of Lee’s work, especially the way her dioramas challenge the association of femininity with domestic bliss and upend the expected uses for miniature making, sewing, an other crafts considered to be “women’s work.” Also evident is her purposeful focus on society’s “invisible victims,” whose cases she championed. Lee was devoted to the search for truth and justice for everyone, and she often featured victims such as women, the poor, and and people living on the fringes of society, whose cases might be overlooked or tainted with prejudice on the part of the investigator. She wanted trainees to recognize and overcome any unconscious biases and to treat each case with rigor, regardless of the victim.

As the Nutshells are still active training tools, the solutions to each remain secret. However, the crime scene “reports” (written by Lee to accompany each case) given to forensic trainees are presented alongside each diorama to encourage visitors to approach the Nutshells the way an investigator would.

Nutshell “Kitchen” Picture # 1
Nutshell “Kitchen” Picture # 2 Even the curtains perfectly match the original crime scene
Nutshell “Kitchen” Picture # 3 The tiny rolling pin, the clock on the window sill and even miniature tea towels hang in this precise representation of the original scene

Dioramas or “Nutshells” as the creator of them referred to them, photographs were obtained from the website of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Want to learn more about Frances Glessner Lee?

Here is a preview of the original documentary

Watch this documentary “OF DOLLS AND MURDER” when you have a spare hour

This documentary was followed by another with newly discovered material called MURDER IN A NUTSHELL

THE MURDER OF TAYLOR BEHL

Taylor Behl was a 17-year-old freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, left her dormitory room Sept. 5, 2005 to give her roommate some privacy with her boyfriend. She took with her a cell phone, some cash, a student ID and her car keys. She was never seen alive again.


To learn more about the murder of Taylor Behl, click HERE.

Photograph Obtained from Taylor Behl’s Memorial Page

THE LAST HIGH by Canadian Bestselling Author and ER Doc DANIEL KALLA is a timely book. Although THE LAST HIGH is fiction, it is based on what is currently happening in Vancouver, BC. His first hand knowledge makes this story come to life and be felt viscerally by the reader.

Title: THE LAST HIGH

Author: DANIEL KALLA

Genre: FICTION, THRILLER, CANADIAN AUTHOR, OPIATE CRISIS, ADDICTION, SOCIAL THEMES

Length: 320 PAGES

Publisher: SIMON AND SCHUSTER CANADA

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: MAY 12, 2020

ISBN: 9781501196980

Price: $22.00 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Dr. Julie Rees, a toxicologist and ER doctor, is stunned when her emergency room is flooded with teenagers from the same party, all on the verge of death. Julie knows the world of opioids inside and out, and she recognizes that there’s nothing typical about these cases. She suspects the teens took—or were given—fentanyl. But why did they succumb so quickly?

Detective Anson Chen is determined to find out. He and Julie race to track down the supplier of the deadly drugs. But the trail of suspects leads everywhere, from unscrupulous street dealers to ruthless gang leaders who hide behind legitimate business fronts and the walls of their mansions.

As Anson and Julie follow clues through the drug underworld, Julie finds herself haunted by memories of her troubled past—and the lover she lost to addiction. When other overdoses fill the ER—and the morgue—Julie realizes that something even more sinister than the ongoing fentanyl crisis is devastating the streets. And the body count is rapidly rising.

A gripping thriller, The Last High explores the perfect storm of greed, addiction, and crime behind the malignant spread of fentanyl, a deadly drug that is killing people faster than any known epidemic.

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MY REVIEW:

Eerily plausible. THE LAST HIGH takes readers inside today’s headlines into the world of both opiod addiction and the current rates of overdose deaths due to drugs being laced with the extremely powerful painkiller, fentanyl.

According to Wikipedia, “The Downtown Eastside is a neighbourhood in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The area, one of the city’s oldest, is the site of a complex set of social issues including high levels of drug use, homelessness, poverty, crime, mental illness, and prostitution.”

The East side of Vancouver, is notorious and holds onto its reputation as the epicenter of hopelessness. This area was not only the hunting ground of prolific serial killer Robert Picton, but is also known for the number of junkies and drug addicts who live there.

Overdoses are not uncommon in East Van, and Author Daniel Kalla works as an Emergency Room doctor, so he sees, and tries to save, many of the unfortunate victims of overdose – mainly due to fentanyl being added to the drugs users usually buy unbeknownst to the buyer.

The terrifying plausibility is what makes this book so very realistic. It is this realism that will grip readers from the very first page.

This book is fast paced and the characters seem so real that is impossible not to get caught up in the story. Readers of this book are in for quite a ride. I found myself wanting to jump into some of the scenes and just shake the people involved.

I have no choice but to rate this book as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE LAST HIGH is due to be released on May 12th but is already available for Pre-Order. I am fairly certain that this book will hit the bestseller lists shortly after it’s release. Because of this I highly recommend pre-ordering THE LAST HIGH so that you don’t miss out.



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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Photography by Michael Bednar

Born, raised, and still residing in Vancouver, Kalla spends his days (and sometimes nights) working as an ER Physician in an urban teaching hospital.

The idea for his first medical thriller, PANDEMIC, sprang from his clinical experience in facing the SARS crisis of 2003. He has written five science thrillers and or medical mysteries, delving into themes and topics as diverse as superbugs, drug addiction, prions, DNA evidence, pandemics and patient abuse.

Kalla’s last book, THE FAR SIDE OF THE SKY, is a historical novel set in Second World War Shanghai against the dramatic backdrop of converging cultures and ideologies. RISING SUN, FALLING SHADOW continues the story of the Adler family through 1943, the bleakest year in war-torn Shanghai.

His books have been translated into eleven languages, and two have been optioned for feature films.

Daniel received his MD from the University of British Columbia. He is married and the proud father of two girls in a home predominated by the XX chromosome (even his beloved Labrador retriever, Lola, is female.)

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
https://danielkalla.com/

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Vincent Lam and Daniel Kalla