This blog is the place where I post reviews of the books I have read. I review audiobooks, regular books and eBooks for authors and publishers as well as any other book or audiobook that catches my eye.
Karina Espinosa is the Urban Fantasy Author of the Mackenzie Grey novels and The Last Valkyrie series. An avid reader throughout her life, the world of Urban Fantasy easily became an obsession that turned into a passion for writing strong leading characters with authentic story arcs. When she isn’t writing badass heroines, you can find this self-proclaimed nomad in her South Florida home binge watching the latest series on Netflix or traveling far and wide for the latest inspiration for her books. Follow her on social media!
One of “27 of 2021’s Most Anticipated Historical Fiction Novels That Will Sweep You Away”— Oprah Magazine
One of “The 57 Most Anticipated Books Of 2021” – Elle
“Through one woman’s survival during the harsh and haunting Dust Bowl, master storyteller, Kristin Hannah, reminds us that the human heart and our Earth are as tough, yet as fragile, as a change in the wind.” — Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing
From the number-one bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes a powerful American epic about love and heroism and hope, set during the Great Depression, a time when the country was in crisis and at war with itself, when millions were out of work and even the land seemed to have turned against them.
“My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family.”
Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.
By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.
In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.
The Four Winds a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it—the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.
Kristin Hannah’s books have all been fantastic and they regularly top Best Seller lists around the world. Her new book THE FOUR WINDS is her best book yet. It is being released in only a few days (on Feb. 3rd) and if it is pre-ordered on Chapters, you get it for 30% off. (I do not get a commission, I just wanted to share the savings I discovered.)
Set during the Great Depression, this book will transport you to that time and to the Dust Bowl of the farmlands hit by the multi-year drought.
The protagonist, Elsa is a woman who just wants to survive and to perhaps have a small slice of happiness along the way. Despite not believing there is anything special about her, readers will not be able to stop from investing themselves in her life and hoping that something good will happen for her.
This may be a fictional tale, but Elsa and many real women like her did experience the very same events during the Great Depression. She represents all those bold and courageous women who did anything and everything they could to ensure the survival of their children.
There was a great deal of research done to ensure the events and occurences Elsa and her family go through are based in historical fact.
Kristin Hannah is an artist, her medium is not paint, but words. She has the ability to manipulate her reader’s emotions and to build a relationship between characters and readers. It is exceptionally rare that a book will make me cry, yet THE FOUR WINDS does exactly that.
At 464 pages, you might assume that there would be times where the narrative became dull, but this is just not so. Every page holds the reader rapt with attention. THE FOUR WINDS is UN-PUT-DOWNABLE.
The normal book review rating scale is based on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the very best. Well, a 1 to 5 scale is just not sufficient for Kristin Hannah’s new book. I am choosing to rate “The Four Winds” as 10 out of 5 Stars which I have never done before. That is how highly I recommend this book. People will be talking about this book for a very long time.
There are lessons to be learned from this book. Lessons that can easily be related to the current pandemic facing North Americans today.
TO attend Kristin Hannah’s Virtual Book Launch Tour by clicking HERE to find dates, locations and times.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kristin Hannah is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, Winter Garden, Night Road, and Firefly Lane.
Her novel, The Nightingale, has been published in 43 languages and is currently in movie production at TriStar Pictures, which also optioned her novel, The Great Alone. Her novel, Home Front has been optioned for film by 1492 Films (produced the Oscar-nominated The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to direct.
Kristin is a former-lawyer-turned writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. Her novel, Firefly Lane, became a runaway bestseller in 2009, a touchstone novel that brought women together, and The Nightingale, in 2015 was voted a best book of the year by Amazon, Buzzfeed, iTunes, Library Journal, Paste, The Wall Street Journal and The Week. Additionally, the novel won the coveted Goodreads and People’s Choice Awards. The audiobook of The Nightingale won the Audiobook of the Year Award in the fiction category.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
In an idyllic Los Angeles neighborhood, where generations of families enjoy deep roots in old homes, the O’Rourke family fits right in. Miriam and Craig are both artists and their four children carry on the legacy.
When their teenage son, Nick, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, a tumultuous decade ensues in which the family careens permanently off the conventional course.
Like the ten Biblical plagues, they are hit by one catastrophe after another, violence, evictions, arrests, a suicide attempt, a near-drowning…even cancer and a brain tumor…play against the backdrop of a wild teenage bacchanal of artmaking and drugs. With no time for hand-wringing, Miriam advances, convinced she can fix everything, while a devastated Craig retreats to their property in rural Washington State as home becomes a battlefield.
It is while cleaning out a closet, that Miriam discovers a cache of drawings and journals written by Nick throughout his spiral into schizophrenia. She begins a solitary forensic journey into the lonely labyrinth of his mind.
This is the story of how mental illness unspools an entire family. As Miriam fights to reclaim her son from the ruthless, invisible enemy, we are given an unflinching view into a world few could imagine.
It exposes the shocking shortfalls of our mental health system, the destructive impact of stigma, shame and isolation, and, finally, the falsity of the notion of a perfect family.
Throughout the book, it is the family’s ability to find humor in the absurdities of this life that saves them. It is a parable that illustrates the true definition of a good life, allowing for the blemishes and mistakes that are part of the universal human condition.
HE CAME IN WITH IT is the legacy of, and for, her son Nick.
Miriam and Craig seem to have it all. Fulfilling and rewarding careers as successful artists, four amazing kids and a beautiful home in a great area of L.A. Their lives are blessed … at least, that was how it seemed until suddenly their son, their beautiful, artistic, intelligent and sociable son, Nick, started behaving strangely.
Thus began a multi-year odyssey into the world of mental illness and the search for someone, anyone, who could help Nick, and the rest of the family cope with his Schizophrenia.
In HE CAME IN WITH IT, Nick’s mother Miriam, learns just how terribly flawed the U.S. Mental Health system is, and how profoundly the lives of not just Nick, but the rest of his siblings are irrevocably changed by his new reality.
While Miriam tries to maintain her successful art and mural painting career with its exclusive clientele, Nick’s behavior rapidly worsens and it soon becomes apparent that Nick’s suffering will not end anytime soon (if ever.)
Once when talking with a friend, Miriam admitted to having a brief fantasy of driving herself and Nick off a cliff together. “The swath of maternal pretending fell away. We sat with the truth of what it means to be a mother.”
I was thoroughly drawn into her story. I too have a son with mental illness (bi-polar, not Schizophrenia) and I empathize with her struggles. At one point she mentions how difficult it is “To see the unspooling of your son’s mind, like fine wire….” A statement loaded with so much emotion.
Although we live in separate countries (Miriam in the United States and I in Canada) I see many parallels and similarities in our lives.
A touching and real view into the life of a mother, a family, and a country and how a single person’s mental illness touches the lives of all those around them. It is not always pretty (in fact it rarely is) but in the midst of anguish there are moments of redemption that are just enough to keep hope alive.
I listened to HE CAME IN WITH IT as an audiobook and I highly recommend this as the way to experience Miriam and Nick’s story. Narrator Ann Richardson is a phenomenal talent. Her pacing is sheer perfection and the way she emotes will have readers feeling as if it is the author herself speaking. Her narration rates a ten out of ten and it is easy to see why she continuously wins awards for her voice.
I rate HE CAME IN WITH IT – the Audiobook – as a solid 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I highly recommend this memoir to anyone who wants to learn more about the realities of loving someone who is profoundly mentally ill through no fault of their own.
Thank you to #NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of #HeCameInWithIt
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Miriam Feldman is an artist, writer, and mental health activist who splits her time between her Los Angeles atelier and her farm in rural Washington state.
She has been married to her husband Craig O’Rourke, also a successful artist, for 34 years and they have four adult children.
Their 33- year-old son, Nick, has schizophrenia.
With an MFA in painting from Otis Art Institute, Miriam founded Demar Feldman Studios, Inc., a wildly successful mural and decorative art company, in 1988. With a clientele of business and entertainment elite in Los Angeles and abroad, her work can be found everywhere from Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Beverly Hills to Jay Leno’s Beverly Hills home. Her work has been commissioned by William Shatner, Faye Dunaway and Patricia Heaton, among others. DFS’s work has been published in Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, Harper’s Bazaar, and People Magazine.
At the same time, Miriam built a strong career as a fine artist. She is represented by Hamilton Galleries in Santa Monica, CA and has a long list of collectors including Tony Shalhoub and Samuel L. Jackson.
When Nick was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2004, Miriam became an activist and a writer. With first-hand knowledge of the woeful state of our mental health system, she decided to be an advocate for those who have no voice.
She serves on the advisory board of Bring Change 2 Mind, Glenn Close’s organization, and writes a monthly blog for the website bringchange2mind.
Miriam is active in leadership at NAMI Washington and her story is featured on the cover of their current national newsletter.
She is a frequent guest on mental health podcasts and is active on Instagram where she is building a community of family and loved ones dealing with mental illness.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
Excellent home studio (with a snazy AT4047); I’ve recorded in it for Audible, Bee, Blackstone, Christian Audio, Deyan Audio, Dreamscape, Harper, Oasis, Tantor and more.
Speaks conversational Swedish.
Excels at non-fiction (several Earphones Awards) but also delights in fiction.
Adept at several accents, children’s voices, male/female dialog.
Originally from Nebraska, has broad knowledge base including all things Midwestern, rural, 4-H, fishing, hunting, wildlife management, horse stuff…
Now residing in Northern California and enjoys long-distance running, wine tasting, local history and all kinds of touristy-fun things.
Ann has been narrating since 2008, from her state of the art, in-home recording booth. She has been awarded three AudioFile Magazine’s Earphones Awards, and has also been a multi-time finalist for the Society of Voice Arts Awards (2016, 2017, 2018).
Connecting with the story and characters is of paramount importance to Ann, and whether narrating professionally or volunteering her narration services for those with print disabilities, she breathes life into the text with a fierce devotion to authenticity.
Ann’s clients include: Audible, Blackstone Audio, Beacon Press, Bee Audio, Christian Audio, Deyan Audio, DreamScape Audio, Oasis Audio, Harper Audio, Mosaic Audio, PostHypnotic Press, Penguin Random House, Recorded Books, Tantor, and several independent authors.
What does Ann enjoy when she’s not narrating? Running half-marathons, wine-tasting, playing with her giant drooly dogs, visiting her father’s homeland of Sweden, painting, sculpting, amateur photography, and is currently writing her second novel.
To learn more about this Narrator, visit the following links:
According to NAMI, Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others.
It is a complex, long-term medical illness. The exact prevalence of schizophrenia is difficult to measure, but estimates range from 0.25% to 0.64% of U.S. adults. Although schizophrenia can occur at any age, the average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men, and the late 20s to early 30s for women. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed in a person younger than 12 or older than 40. It is possible to live well with schizophrenia.
It can be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia in teens. This is because the first signs can include a change of friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems, and irritability—common and nonspecific adolescent behavior. Other factors include isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, an increase in unusual thoughts and suspicions, and a family history of psychosis. In young people who develop schizophrenia, this stage of the disorder is called the “prodromal” period.
With any condition, it’s essential to get a comprehensive medical evaluation in order to obtain the best diagnosis. For a diagnosis of schizophrenia, some of the following symptoms are present in the context of reduced functioning for a least 6 months:
Hallucinations. These include a person hearing voices, seeing things, or smelling things others can’t perceive. The hallucination is very real to the person experiencing it, and it may be very confusing for a loved one to witness. The voices in the hallucination can be critical or threatening. Voices may involve people that are known or unknown to the person hearing them.
Delusions. These are false beliefs that don’t change even when the person who holds them is presented with new ideas or facts. People who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confused thinking, or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.
Negative symptoms are ones that diminish a person’s abilities. Negative symptoms often include being emotionally flat or speaking in a dull, disconnected way. People with the negative symptoms may be unable to start or follow through with activities, show little interest in life, or sustain relationships. Negative symptoms are sometimes confused with clinical depression.
Cognitive issues/disorganized thinking. People with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle to remember things, organize their thoughts or complete tasks. Commonly, people with schizophrenia have anosognosiaor “lack of insight.” This means the person is unaware that he has the illness, which can make treating or working with him much more challenging.
Research suggests that schizophrenia may have several possible causes:
Genetics. Schizophrenia isn’t caused by just one genetic variation, but a complex interplay of genetics and environmental influences. Heredity does play a strong role—your likelihood of developing schizophrenia is more than six times higher if you have a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with the disorder
Environment. Exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, particularly in the first and second trimesters has been shown to increase the risk of schizophrenia. Recent research also suggests a relationship between autoimmune disorders and the development of psychosis.
Brain chemistry. Problems with certain brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia. Neurotransmitters allow brain cells to communicate with each other. Networks of neurons are likely involved as well.
Substance use. Some studies have suggested that taking mind-altering drugs during teen years and young adulthood can increase the risk of schizophrenia. A growing body of evidence indicates that smoking marijuana increases the risk of psychotic incidents and the risk of ongoing psychotic experiences. The younger and more frequent the use, the greater the risk.
Diagnosing schizophrenia is not easy. Sometimes using drugs, such as methamphetamines or LSD, can cause a person to have schizophrenia-like symptoms. The difficulty of diagnosing this illness is compounded by the fact that many people who are diagnosed do not believe they have it. Lack of awareness is a common symptom of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and greatly complicates treatment.
While there is no single physical or lab test that can diagnosis schizophrenia, a health care provider who evaluates the symptoms and the course of a person’s illness over six months can help ensure a correct diagnosis. The health care provider must rule out other factors such as brain tumors, possible medical conditions and other psychiatric diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder.
To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person must have two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently in the context of reduced functioning:
Disorganized or catatonic behavior
Delusions or hallucinations alone can often be enough to lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Identifying it as early as possible greatly improves a person’s chances of managing the illness, reducing psychotic episodes, and recovering. People who receive good care during their first psychotic episode are admitted to the hospital less often, and may require less time to control symptoms than those who don’t receive immediate help. The literature on the role of medicines early in treatment is evolving, but we do know that psychotherapy is essential.
People can describe symptoms in a variety of ways. How a person describes symptoms often depends on the cultural lens she is looking through. African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be misdiagnosed, potentially due to differing cultural perspectives or structural barriers. Any person who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia should try to work with a health care professional that understands his or her cultural background and shares the same expectations for treatment.
There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed in several ways.
Two years after her mother’s death from breast cancer, Caitlin, then 20 years old, was admitted to a psychiatric facility after a suicide attempt. In the wake of this enormous loss, Caitlin questions her religion, comes to terms with her sexuality, and searches for a way to live with severe depression and anxiety.
Years later, unable to come to terms with her mother’s death, Caitlin decides to embark on a “grief journey,” interviewing the people involved in her mother’s dying process: a hospice nurse, a priest, an estate planner, a hairstylist, and a funeral director. If she figures out how they can function after being so close to her mother’s death, then maybe she can learn how to navigate her own life. Each chapter of The Mourning Report is centered on each interview and the memories, anxieties, and reflections that is stimulated. It asks what it means to “move on.”
*** TRIGGER WARNING ***
This book contains talk of depression, grief, a suicide attempt and suicidal ideation. If any of these topics are triggers for you, I suggest you either skip this book, or proceed with caution.
“I’m scared to live, and I envy those who aren’t…”
Caitlin Garvey lost her mother to Breast Cancer when Caitlin was only twenty years old. Unable to find her way through her grief, she attempted suicide and ended up in a locked psychiatric facility.
Caitlin was depressed and her anxiety levels were off the chart. Her time in the hospital was helpful, but even after she was released, she was still suicidal.
“[She] began this book out of desperation to feel unbound, to feel a comfort that could allow [her] to move forward in [her] life. [She] wanted to revisit [her] memories of the few days before and after [her] Momma died, the moments when [Caitlin] felt the smallest and the most detached from the world. [She] hoped that [she] could pick up the pieces of [herself] that [she] left behind. [Caitlin] hoped to feel whole, not fragmented, and that [she] could remember more of [her] Momma and get a fuller version of her story.”
“[Caitlin] interviewed five people, all of whom were a part of [her] Momma’s dying process:”
Those five people were:
1. Her mother’s hairstylist who was also her close friend. In fact, it was this woman who styled her mother’s hair for the wake.
2. The family priest
3. A nurse/administrator at Heartland Hospice Care
4. The author’s parent’s estate planner AND
5. An embalmer/funeral director
“[She] thought that if [she] could figure out how these five people functioned after being so close to death, [she] could better navigate [her] own life. [She] hoped they could give [her] some guidance.”
Each chapter focuses on the interviews between Caitlin and the person she was interviewing. Each time, she discovered more, not only about her mother, but about herself as well. Personally, I found these conversations both fascinating and insightful.
THE MOURNING REPORT is probably the most raw and honest grief/depression memoir I have ever read. Caitlin does not shy away from the truth and admits that “[She was] mad at myself for wanting to die when all [her] Momma wanted to do was live.”
Caitlin’s honesty and integrity left me with a feeling of having peeked inside her psyche and having gone along on her journey of healing.
There is just no rating other than 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ that would be truthful. In fact, I plan to go back and read THE MOURNING REPORT again in a few weeks.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever lost someone close to them. As well, anyone who has an interest in mental health, depression and suicide prevention should be sure to read The Mourning Report.
Thank you to #NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this #memoir
“I wished to trade bodies with her so that I could swallow her sickness, and she could be healthy and take care of me.”
“Since 2010, I’ve tried 13 different medications, a mix of anti-depressants, antipsychotics, anti-anxieties, and ADHD medications. I’ve had five different therapists. Still I feel trapped in my body and trapped by a brain that constantly tells me I’m not good enough, or significant enough.”
“I feel dead, but I can still hear my heartbeat.”
“I stare at the people in the cars next to me, and I wonder how it feels to be them, and I wonder how freeing it must feel to be able to drive to work without considering crashing the car.”
For readers of Jon Krakauer and Douglas Preston, the critically acclaimed author and journalist Jon Billman’s fascinating, in-depth look at people who vanish in the wilderness without a trace and those eccentric, determined characters who try to find them.
These are the stories that defy conventional logic. The proverbial vanished without a trace incidences, which happen a lot more (and a lot closer to your backyard) than almost anyone thinks. These are the missing whose situations are the hardest on loved ones left behind. The cases that are an embarrassment for park superintendents, rangers and law enforcement charged with Search & Rescue. The ones that baffle the volunteers who comb the mountains, woods and badlands. The stories that should give you pause every time you venture outdoors.
Through Jacob Gray’s disappearance in Olympic National Park, and his father Randy Gray who left his life to search for him, we will learn about what happens when someone goes missing. Braided around the core will be the stories of the characters who fill the vacuum created by a vanished human being. We’ll meet eccentric bloodhound-handler Duff and R.C., his flagship purebred, who began trailing with the family dog after his brother vanished in the San Gabriel Mountains. And there’s Michael Neiger North America’s foremost backcountry Search & Rescue expert and self-described “bushman” obsessed with missing persons. And top researcher of persons missing on public wildlands Ex-San Jose, California detective David Paulides who is also one of the world’s foremost Bigfoot researchers.
It’s a tricky thing to write about missing persons because the story is the absence of someone. A void. The person at the heart of the story is thinner than a smoke ring, invisible as someone else’s memory. The bones you dig up are most often metaphorical. While much of the book will embrace memory and faulty memory — history — The Cold Vanish is at its core a story of now and tomorrow. Someone will vanish in the wild tomorrow. These are the people who will go looking.
This book is unique. It is part memoir, part dissertation on the numbers of missing people who have “cold vanished.”
Exactly what is a “cold vanish?”
A cold vanish is when a person goes missing, usually in the wild, leaving no clues. These people are often never found, and those who are found, are most often not found alive, and are usually discovered accidentally by other wilderness visitors, not by those who have searched for them.
“If you Google “missing person” and the name of your nearest national park or national forest, you will find clusters of the disappeared.”
“The National Institute of
Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice, calls missing persons (and unidentified remains) ‘the nation’s silent mass disaster.’ They estimate that on any given day there are between 80,000 and 90,000 people actively listed with law enforcement as missing.”
“The Department of the Interior knows how many wolves and grizzly bears roam its wilds, but has a hard time keeping track of visitors who disappear. The Department of Justice keeps a database, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, NamUS, but reporting missing persons is voluntary in all but ten states, and law enforcement and coroner participation is voluntary as well. So a lot of the missing are also missing from the database.”
THE COLD VANISH is required reading for those of us who are fascinated by true crime and for those who follow such podcasts as “Missing,” and “The Vanished.”
“According to NamUS, more than 600,000 persons go missing in the United States each year; thankfully, many of these are quickly found alive. Sixty percent of the missing are male, 40 percent are female. The average age for a missing person is thirty-four.”
Those statistics surprised me. I knew that many people go missing, but 600,000 in a single year? That is a staggeringly high number. With budgetary constraints and other logistical issues, it proves that those who volunteer their time and resources to locating the lost are an invaluable resource for the families of those who have cold vanished.
Jacob Gray went missing in Olympia National Park in April of 2018. His father put all other obligations aside and spent innumerable hours, days, weeks and months searching for his son. The author was able to tag along on his search and this is the story around which this book is designed. More than just a reporter, it became clear as the search dragged on without resolution, that Randy Gray (Jacob’s Dad) and author Jon Billman became friends.
Although the author occasionally goes off a bit of a tangent, all in all, the story is well-written and has certainly opened my eyes to the issue of people missing in the wilds of North America. I am thrilled that the Author has chosen to donate 20% of all author royalties to the Jon Francis Foundation.
I rate THE COLD VANISH as 3.5 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Billman is a former wildland firefighter and high school teacher. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Eastern Washington University. He’s the author of the story collection When We Were Wolves (Random House, 1999).
Billman is a regular contributor to Outside and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, and Zoetrope: All-Story.
He teaches fiction and journalism at Northern Michigan University in the Upper Peninsula, where he lives with his family in a log cabin along the Chocolay River.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, reaches a diverse audience through hardcover, trade paperback and mass market imprints that cater to every kind of reader.
Our imprints are Twelve, Grand Central Life & Style, Forever and Forever Yours. Our authors include Nicholas Sparks, David Baldacci, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robin Roberts, Sandra Brown, Brad Meltzer, Preston & Child, Nelson DeMille, Mario Batali, Jodi Ellen Malpas, Seth Grahame-Smith, Candace Bushnell, and many more.
To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:
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.
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 past – including 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.
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 ALGONQUIN READER is a literary fiction magazine. I received an ARC (Advance Review Copy) of the SPRING/SUMMER 2020 issue.
In this issue, a selection of authors who have books being published between March and August of 2020, each wrote an essay and include an excerpt from their upcoming book.
The first author to be included was Julia Alvarez whose book AFTERLIFE was published in April of 2020. Her essay speaks of the evolution of her writing style as well as her writing routine. The excerpt from AFTERLIFE had the intended effect on me, as I have now added it to the list of books I want to read this year. . Next up was the incredibly talented author of THE MOUNTAINS SING – Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai. In her essay titled “Climbing Many Mountains,” she writes about her life in Vietnam and how winning a writing competition at the age of ten, which she had secretly entered, led her to spend her teen years talking to relatives and elders about their lives. This inquisitiveness (unknownst to her at the time) was the beginning of her research for THE MOUNTAINS SING. Also included is an excerpt from her amazing book which I have already read and will be reviewing soon. She ends her essay with the following quote:
“I hope the story of Huóng and Diêu Lan helps international readers discover our common humanity, as in the words of Huóng: ‘Somehow I was sure that if people were willing to read each other, and see the light of other cultures, there would be no war on earth.'”
The third included author is JILL McCORKLE whose book: HIEROGLYPHICS is due for release in June. Her book is based around two historic tragedies, a train derailment in 1941 and a nightclub fire in 1942. At the conclusion of her essay, author Jill McCorkle states:
“My hope is that the readers of Hieroglyphics will be entertained by these characters and their lives, but I also hope it will lead them to think of various fragments and images from their own lives and to experience the oldest and purest form of time travel – memory.”
I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. The essay, as well as the excerpt included in the Spring issue of THE ALGONQUIN READER has succeeded in piqueing my interest.
THE FALLING WOMAN by Richard Farrell is a tale of suspense. A plane crashes and the sole survivor is a woman, and the story is about her, as well as the young agent whose job it is to find her. THE FALLING WOMAN is being released in June. In his essay, author Richard Farrell says:
“We all are haunted by something – something we did or didn’t do – and the passing years either add to the weight or diminish it.”
I agree and identify wholeheartedly with this quote.
The final three books highlighted in the Spring 2020 Issue of THE ALGONQUIN READER are:
1. The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson which hits bookstore shelves in July of 2020.
2. A House Is a Body by Shruti Swamy is set for release in August of 2020
3. With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt which goes on sale August 2020.
And, last but not least, you can download a FREE BOOK CLUB KIT for Afterlife HERE
I rate the Spring 2020 Issue of THE ALGONQUIN READER as a hearty 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ . *Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book.*
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:
Founded in 1983, Algonquin Books started as a small Southern house but quickly garnered national attention for publishing authors such as Julia Alvarez, Kaye Gibbons, Robert Morgan, and Lee Smith. In 1989, Algonquin was acquired by Workman Publishing. Algonquin is recognized internationally as a literary publishing house with numerous fiction and nonfiction bestsellers and award winners. Algonquin Young Readers is a new imprint that features books for readers seven to seventeen.
To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:
“Now, nothing else mattered. She had found the place her mother had whispered of, the place sewn into the fabric of her dreams.”
In the enchanted world of Aeolia, fifteen-year-old Esme Silver is faced with her hardest task yet. She must master her unruly Gift – the power to observe the past – and uncover the secrets she needs to save her mother, Ariane.
In between attending school in the beguiling canal city of Esperance, Esme and her friends – old and new – travel far and wide across Aeolia, gathering the ingredients for a potent magical elixir.
Their journey takes them to volcanic isles, sunken ruins and snowy eyries, spectacular places fraught with danger, where they must confront their deepest fears and find hope in the darkest of places. Esme’s Gift, the second instalment in the Esme trilogy, is an enthralling fantasy adventure for readers 12 years and over.
ESME’S GIFT is the perfect book to sit, and read right now. You can immerse yourself in the unforgettable world of. Esperance.
Currently, our entire world is on ‘pause.’ The Coronavirus dubbed Covid19 has caused a worldwide phenomenon called “Social Distancing.’ Health authorities all over the planet are asking (or demanding) people stay home to avoid catching and/or spreading the virus. The one good thing that has happened because of Covid19, is that we now have the time to read those books that we have all been wishing we had time for.
Physical bookstores may be closed right now, but just about every bookseller is allowing customers to order online and have your books delivered straight to your door. My suggestion is that you place an order for ESME’S WISH and ESME’S GIFT written by the Mega-Talented Author, Elizabeth Foster. I guarantee you will love these books and will find that time flies by because you will become immersef in this tale of magic, mystery, family ties, dragons and the fascinating and scintillating world of Aeolia.
Elizabeth Foster truly has a talent and a gift for creating fantastic worlds that readers will wish they were able to experience firsthand. Elizabeth does for water what J.K. Rowling did for Platform 9 3/4 at the train station.
In “Esme’s Gift,” the fifteen year old title character returns from the magical world of Aeolia with the intention of convincing her father that his wife, Esme’s mother, Ariane, is alive (although currently in a magical coma) in the enchanted city of Esperance. She wants to convince him to travel to Aeolia with her so that he can see for himself.
He reacts the way most of us would react if told that our daughter who had been missing for weeks, shows up one day and says that she had been in a magical city that exists only through an underwater portal. He does not believe her (can you really blame him?) Esme overhears the plan to have her checked out by doctors at a mental hospital and flees back to Aeolia.
Upon her early return, she discovers that there has been no change in her mother’s condition. But, there is hope. If she can procure the ingredients necessary for a special potion, then maybe, just maybe, her mother will awaken from her coma.
The rest of the story follows the quest for the potion’s ingredients. Esme and her friends have several crazy adventures along the way … even including a mistakenly cast spell with harrowing consequences.
Anyone who loved the Harry Potter series will enjoy this book series. It is planned as a trilogy and I am going to be eagerly awaiting the next and final installment.
The descriptions of the magical city of Esperance are so vividly rendered that it is easy to picture it in your mind. The characters are not just superficial, they are realistic and have flaws and foibles just like everyone does. These characters will draw you in and you will find them 100% unforgettable.
If you choose to read only one young adult fantasy fiction series this year, you need to ensure it is THE ESME SERIES.
Without hesitation, I rate ESME’S GIFT AS 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
*** Thank you to the Author for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ELIZABETH FOSTER was born in Brisbane, Australia. She read avidly as a child, but only discovered the joys of writing some years ago, when reading to her own kids reminded her of how much she missed getting lost in other worlds.
Once she started writing, she never looked back. She is at her happiest when immersed in her stories and plotting new conflicts and adventures for her characters.
Elizabeth now lives in Sydney, Australia where she can be found scribbling in cafés, indulging her love of both words and coffee.
Her first novel, Esme’s Wish, a fantasy-mystery for younger teens, was released by Odyssey Books on October 30, 2017. Esme’s Gift, the second in the trilogy is AVAILABLE NOW!!!
To learn more about this author visit the following links:
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.
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.
************************** TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains violent scenes, both physical and sexual, and should not be read by individuals who might find themselves triggered by vivid descriptions of violence and murder.
This book is NOT for the Faint of Heart. Please exercise caution when reading and if at any time you feel you need to stop reading, I encourage you to put this book down and walk away. **************************
MS-13 IS A CRIMINAL GANG. They are well known for their violence and brutality.
Journalist and author Steven Dudley has spent years reporting on gangs, government and violence in Central America. In writing MS-13: The Making of America’s Most Notorious Gang, he has written a comprehensive account as to how MS-13 was formed and how that gang spread from Central America to the United States.
What this book achieved for me was that it dispelled the notion that MS-13 is a strictly structured unit and that there is one singular person at the top and that all other members were co-ordinated and part of a whole. This is simply not true. Each clique of MS-13 essentially acts on its own and sometimes cliques will war with other MS-13 cliques.
What does seem true of almost every MS-13 gang member, who spoke to the Author, is that that person grew up surrounded by violence and chaos, and had joined the gang (at least initially) as a way to protect themselves from outside forces.
President Donald Trump seems woefully misinformed about this gang and in fact gives them more credit than they deserve. By labelling MS-13 as Public Enemy Number One, all the President has done is that he has given potential gang recruits an additional reason for joining the gang. Many (even most) of the current MS-13 gang members living in the United States have fled their war-torn homelands to seek a better way of life. The problem is that when they arrive in the States, they realize that their lives are not much better than the lives they had fled.
MS:13 has been added to the list of Most Dangerous Gang Organizations in the United States.
I believe that anyone who wants to work with gang members on finding a new way of life should view this book as required reading. It is impossible to effect change if the history and dynamics of life as part of an MS-13 mara are not understood.
I rate this book as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
It is a fascinating read, but I also need to warn potential readers that the violence and brutality detailed in this book may be triggering for some people.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steven Dudley is the co-director of InSight, a joint initiative of American University and the Fundación Ideas para la Paz in Colombia, South America, aimed at monitoring, analyzing and investigating organized crime in the Americas. Based in Washington D.C., Dudley works with a team of five investigators and various contributors throughout the region to give the public a more complete view of how organized crime works in the Americas, as well as its impact on public policy and communities from the Rio Grande to Patagonia.
Before launching InSight, he worked as the Bureau Chief for The Miami Herald in the Andean Region and wrote a book: Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia (Routledge 2004). Dudley has also reported from Haiti, Brazil, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Miami for National Public Radio, The Washington Post, and the BBC’s The World; and written feature articles for The Washington Post Magazine, The Economist, Columbia Journalism Review, The Progressive, and The Nation. His current projects include a documentary film, which aired on Colombia’s RCN Television in September 2010.
Dudley has a BA in Latin American History from Cornell University and an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese fluently. He has taught high school as well as worked in Human Rights.
His range of experience, languages and reporting skills give him the tools to perform in any environment.
Honors and Awards:
Knight Fellowship: Stanford University : In 2007, Dudley was awarded the prestigious Knight Fellowship for professional journalists.
Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Award : Dudley was part of a team that won second place for international reporting in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists at its Sunshine State Awards for a series on land mines in Latin America.
Overseas Press Club Malcolm Forbes Award for Best Business Reporting from Abroad
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
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.
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. . *** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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:
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 …
1. Lee used red nail polish to make pools and splatters of blood.
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.
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.
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.