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

Title: GHOST BOYS

Author: JEWELL PARKER RHODES

Genre: MIDDLE GRADE FICTION, DIVERSE BOOKS

Length: 224 PAGES

Publisher: LITTLE BROWN PUBLISHING

Release Date: APRIL 17, 2018

ISBN: 9780316262286

Price: $9.99 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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DESCRIPTION:

The #1 Kids’ Indie Next Pick

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

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

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

Action makes change.

Knowledge leads to change.

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

Knowledge leads to change.

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

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

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

How is that for a twist in the story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

LINKEDIN

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

BARNES AND NOBLE

INDIEBOUND BOOKS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

iTUNES

MORE BOOKS BY JEWELL PARKER RHODES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nah, just the one so far.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garmback did not stop.

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

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

Tamir collapsed.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Still, no decision from McGinty.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You don’t know that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when he fired twice.

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

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

That could not possibly have been unexpected.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He asked her where he got that toy.

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

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

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

What does any of it matter now?

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

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

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

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

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REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE by Anna Mainwaring RELEASES TODAY

TODAY is the day YA readers have been waiting for.

REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE by Anna Mainwaring comes out today.

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

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

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

BLUE MOON LUCK by Linda Collison AUDIOBOOK REVIEW

Title: BLUE MOON LUCK

Author: LINDA COLLISON

Narrator: JOSEPH JOHN RAYMOND ROCCA

Genre: FICTION

Length: 4 HOURS, 26 MINUTES

Publisher: FICTION HOUSE, LTD.

Type of Book: AUDIOBOOK

Received From: THE AUTHOR

Release Date: FEBRUARY 19, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

For his entire life, twenty-two-year-old Chance Lee has been dreaming of greatness — something far beyond getting high in his mother’s old farmhouse, and much more prestigious than playing in a twangy West Virginia country band on the weekends. Unlike many other small-town boys with lofty dreams, Chance see his future of musical greatness, with his best friend Tollie by his side, as an undeniable fact. And when a reading from a local fortune-teller seems to affirm his unstoppable luck, it’s not long before he’s ready to break out of Falling Waters and put his plans in motion. But when creative differences and the undeniable pull of home begin to get in the way, Chance is finally given reason to doubt his lucky star — at least, until he finally hits the road alongside an unexpected companion.

MY REVIEW:

Sometime in the 1980s, Chance and his best friend and band mate, Tully, visit a fortune teller on the night of the full moon. That night changes everything. Of course, they were unaware of the changes at the time.

Young men, a bit of weed, raging hormones, a lot of music, women, sex, rock’n’roll, friendship and a desire for something more all come together in the mish-mash of indecision which faces all youth.

Witty and engaging, this fictional memoir will have readers reminiscing about their own youth.

The narrator for this audiobook may be new to the profession, but he did an commendable job and his accent made the scenes come alive. The only issue with the narration was that at one point you hear him grunt which actually provided a bit of comic relief. Also, the pauses between chapters are a bit too long for my taste.

I rate the book itself as 5 out of 5 Stars, but the Audiobook as 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

*

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Linda Collison’s fiction, nonfiction, and articles have appeared in a variety of publications. Her debut novel, “Star-Crossed,” was chosen by the New York Public Library as a Book for the Teen Age-and her writing has received awards from the “Literary Fiction Review,” “Foreword Reviews,” “Honolulu Magazine,” and more.

In addition to her career as an author and freelance writer, Collison has worn many other hats-including mother, registered nurse, volunteer firefighter, skydiving instructor, and restauranteur.

Born and raised in Maryland, she lived in Hawaii for many years with her husband Bob Russell. Currently, the couple resides in Colorado.

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

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DAUGHTER OF DEATH BLOG TOUR and GIVEAWAY

Daughter of Death

by Lexi C. Foss
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Paperback Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

A dead body.

A missing daughter.

A silver blade.

All the clues point to one person: Me.

My name is Evangeline, and I’m a retired assassin who wants nothing to do with the underworld. But an edict from a Demonic Lord forces me to return to the man and the life I left behind.

I have seven days to prove my innocence.

Whoever set me up is going to die.

About the Author

Lexi C. Foss is a writer lost in the IT world. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and their furry children. When not writing, she’s busy crossing items off her travel bucket list. Many of the places she’s visited can be seen in her writing, including the mythical world of Hydria which is based on Hydra in the Greek islands. She’s quirky, consumes way too much coffee, and loves to swim.

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BECOMING ANIMALS by Olga and Christopher Werby

Title: BECOMING ANIMALS

Authors: OLGA & CHRISTOPHER WERBY

Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION, SPECULATIVE FICTION

Length: 417 PAGES

Publisher: SELF-PUBLISHED

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER

Received From: THE AUTHOR

Release Date: DECEMBER 27, 2017

ISBN: 9781981404148

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Humans have always wanted to know what goes on inside the minds of other animals. But what if humans could become animals? Toby’s father leads a team of neuroscientists directly connecting the brains of humans with those of animals. And Toby is a prodigy at throwing her mind into the animal subjects in his lab – she’s the best there is.

But Toby suffers from cystic fibrosis and she’s not likely to live into adulthood. Could a radical plan to embed her consciousness into an animal allow Toby to survive? And what does it mean to live without a human body?

Can Toby and her father solve the problem of fully merging two beings before she takes her last breath? Will the government succeed in stopping their efforts before they are done? It’s a race against death and into the minds of animals.

MY REVIEW:

Technology is advancing so quickly that books once considered science fiction are now reality.

This book contains scientific ideas that are probably, even now, being worked on in labs across North America. No matter how interesting the idea of being able to connect human brains with animal brains, that idea alone is not enough to keep a reader interested or invested in a book.

This is where Toby and her father come in. Toby’s father is a brilliant neuroscientist. It is due to his vision and incredible work ethic that brings about the first way to connect animal and human brains.

Toby is young at the beginning of this book (only 10 years old) but it is her that gets to try her father’s invention first. Using her pet rat, Rufus, Toby connects their minds and is instantly enamoured with the process. Imagine being able to see through the eyes of another creature, to taste what they taste and even to feel their emotions as if they were still your own; what a life-altering experience it would be.

This is exactly what Toby experiences and for her it feels like freedom. Toby has Cystic Fibrosis and isn’t able to do everything her peers can do. Her mother also has the disease, and Toby watches her mother fight for every single breath of air – until the end when her body finally gives out on her. Toby knows that because of her Cystic Fibrosis, she will probably not live to see adulthood.

According to Cystic Fibrosis Canada,
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults. At present, there is no cure.

CF causes various effects on the body, but mainly affects the digestive system and lungs. The degree of CF severity differs from person to person, however, the persistence and ongoing infection in the lungs, with destruction of lungs and loss of lung function, will eventually lead to death in the majority of people with CF.

As the novel progresses and Toby gets older and more frail, she comes up with an idea. She wants her father to figure out a way to download Toby’s brain into the brain of a whale.

But, ideas are easy to come up with. It is translating that idea into reality that is difficult – maybe even impossible.

Both Toby and her father know they are racing against the clock. Will he figure out how to transfer Toby’s consciousness into that of a whale? Should he do it if he figures out how? What are the ethical implications?

I love it when I not only enjoy the plot of a story, but also when I learn something from reading a book. I realize that BECOMING ANIMALS is Science-Fiction, but so were cell phones at one point.

Another reason I am rating this book highly is that it informs readers about cystic fibrosis which is not often the case with popular fiction. Raising awareness of any disease is terrific and although reading about Toby’s mother’s death as well as Toby’s daily struggle just to breathe is eye-opening. Most people have heard of Cystic Fibrosis, but do not have any idea of what it means to be diagnosed with it, or worse, to have your child be diagnosed.

I encourage all of the people who follow my reviews to purchase this book and to see for themselves what I am talking about.

I should also mention that even though this book is targeted at adults, the author has included many photographs into this book which assist the reader in visualizing what is happening in the story.

I rate BECOMING ANIMALS as 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Christopher Werby, J.D., has had a varied career as a lawyer, businessman, technologist, filmmaker, journalist, and new media creator. He has been active with computers since 1975, and taught computer programming at Sarah Lawrence College. He is a commercial photographer and videographer who has contributed to a number of projects. He received a B.A. degree in Physics from Sarah Lawrence College and a Juris Doctor degree from U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. He is admitted to practice in the State of California and is an active member of the California State Bar (member 124299). Christopher serves on the board of directors of Grosvenor Properties, Ltd., a real estate investment company. Since 1994, when he formed Pipsqueak, he has been focused on web work, technology, programming, and creating digital assets.

OLGA WERBY

Olga Werby, Ed.D., has a Doctorate from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on designing online learning experiences. She received a Master’s degree in Education of Math, Science, and Technology from U.C. Berkeley and a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics from Columbia University. She has been creating computer-based projects since 1981 with organizations such as NASA (where she worked on the Pioneer Venus project), Addison-Wesley, and the Princeton Review. She conceived, designed, and illustrated the award-winning “Field Trips” series of programs distributed by Sunburst Communications. Olga currently teaches interaction design and cognitive theory at the American University in Paris and the University of California at Berkeley Extension Program. She was part of the faculty of San Francisco State University’s Multimedia Studies Program, the Bay Area Video Coalition, and the campus of Apple Computers. Olga is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. She also holds a California teaching credential and is part of the San Francisco Unified School District where she often tests science-related curriculum materials in public elementary and middle schools.

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

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AMAZON

ISFD – INTERNET SPECULATIVE FICTION DATABASE

THE GRAVEYARD GIRL and the BONEYARD BOY is a YA Enthralling Page Turner Everyone Will LOVE!!!

Title: THE GRAVEYARD GIRL AND THE BONEYARD BOY

Author: MARTIN MATTHEWS

Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION, CONTEMPORARY FICTION

Length: 366 PAGES

Publisher: BLACK ROSE WRITING

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: DECEMBER 7, 2017

ISBN: 9781612969749

Price: $6.99 (EBOOK)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

16-year-old albino Drake Stevenson lives a life alone in his world of video games and comic books, dreaming of one day saving a real princess. But fantasy becomes reality when his lawyer father suffers a heart attack, and the Stevensons are forced to move to flyover country in order to take up the family business: Stewardship of the oldest and largest cemetery in the state.

There, among the weeping angels and willows of Centralia Cemetery, Drake meets Scarlet, an unusual girl who needs his help to find her killer.

Complicated by his albinism, a mentally unstable sister bent on high school domination at any cost, and a jock with a deadly secret, Drake sets out to find the shattering truth about a murder no one will speak of, to help a girl no one can see.

MY REVIEW:

What drew me to this book initially was the intriguing title: THE GRAVEYARD GIRL AND THE BONEYARD BOY. Then I read the first paragraph and I was captivated. The book begins like this:

“The first time my sister Brie tried to kill me, I’d been six-years-old. A budding sociopath, Brie’s murder attempt had been to lock me outside of the house at noon during a summer heatwave. She had been eight. Now a senior in highschool, Brie’s still two years older than me, and she’s since graduated to full psychotic, cum laudé.”

Hmmm. How would locking someone out of the house be a murder attempt? My interest was definitely piqued.

The story is about a teenage boy who has Oculocutaneous Albinism, which means Drake Stevenson is an albino. He also has a condition that often goes hand in hand with albinism which is: hyper-photophobia. This means that light of any kind, but especially sunlight, burns his eyes. Too much light exposure could lead to permanent blindness. This condition forces Drake to have to wear wrap-around sunglasses. His skin is very pale and he describes his appearance like this:

“And my hair isn’t blonde, it’s the color of freshly fallen snow in the Alps on a cloudless, moonlit night. And no, my eyes are not that pink color…They are, however, a rather striking shade of blue-collar.”

I LOVE THIS BOOK. It is a impressive novel by Indie Author Martin Matthews. It is the first time I have read anything of his and I know now that I will be seeking out more of his work.

When Drake’s lawyer father has a heart-attack, the family moves away from the city and back to the small town of Centralia where his father has agreed to take over the family business. Just what is that business? Well, they are the caretakers/owners of the largest and oldest cemetery in the entire state.

Shortly after arriving at their new home Drake meets a beautiful girl the same age as he is. Usually he has a hard time talking to girls, but for some reason this girl is different. At first he does not realize why she seems so different, but eventually realizes she is a ghost and she needs his help bringing her murderer to justice.

With so many fantastic twists and turns this book is an enthralling page turner and is populated with marvelously realistic characters. This book surpasses the typical Young Adult novel and rises above – WAY ABOVE.

I rate this book as highly as is possible which is 5 out of 5 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ If I could rate it higher I would. I am willing to put my reputation as a reviewer on the line to say that this is a MUST READ novel. In fact, I am hoping that the author continues on with these characters and turns this book into a series. If he does, I will be first in line to buy my copy.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Martin Matthews is an expat from England, Great Britain. After living in California for many years, he now lives in Central Illinois with his beautiful wife, amazing son, and a grumpy, old cat named Winston.

Martin began his writing career as a child, storyboarding Sonic the Hedgehog comic books for his family. Later, he progressed to writing Star Trek fan-fiction before attempting his first novel Merlania at 16 — a 200,000 word science-fiction epic. He’s been writing novels and short stories ever since.

Martin holds degrees in Art and Design, Graphic Design, and Computer Information Science. When he’s not writing, he can be found producing music, art, and fried rice.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Black Rose Writing is an independent publishing house that strongly believes in developing a personal relationship with their authors. The Texas-based publishing company doesn’t see authors as clients or just another number on a page, but rather as individual people… people who deserve an honest review of their material and to be paid traditional royalties without ever paying any fees to be published.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

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*

Graveyard Pictures Obtained From www.ghoststoriesandpictures.com

*

#TheGraveyardGirlAndTheBoneyardBoy #NetGalley

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

Title: SNOWSISTERS

Authors: TOM WILINSKY and JEN STERNICK

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

Length: 256 PAGES

Publisher: INTERLUDE PRESS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Cover Art: C.B. MESSER

Release Date: FEBRUARY 15, 2018

ISBN: 9781945053528

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

**************************

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

ADDITIONAL WARNING:

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

**************************

DESCRIPTION:

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

**************************

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

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

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

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VALENTINE’S DAY ROMANCE – 12 Days of Clean Romance Books – Blog Tour & Giveaway

Ines Bautista-Yao is the author of One Crazy Summer, What’s
in your Heart, Only A Kiss, When Sparks Fly, All That Glitters, and Someday
With You. She has also written several short stories. Among them are “Plain
Vanilla,” “A Captured Dream,” one of the four short stories in Sola Musica:
Love Notes from a Festival, “Things I’ll Never Say,” part of the Summit Books
anthology Coming of Age, and “Before the Sun Rises,” part of the Ateneo
University Press anthology Friend Zones.

She is the former editor-in-chief of Candy and K-Zone
magazines and a former high school and college English and Literature teacher.
She is also a wife and mom who lives in the Philippines with her husband and
two little girls. Her books are available digitally on Amazon and Buqo.ph.

Connect with the Author here:

Twenty-four-year-old photographer’s
apprentice Regina has always felt like the plain, dull orange next to the shiny
red apple that is her best friend Lana. But then she meets Ben—the first guy to
ever break Lana’s heart, and the first guy to ever make Regina feel that he
only has eyes for her.

As Regina finds herself falling hard for Ben, she also
finds herself breaking all the rules of best-friendship. Will she give up the
love of her life for Lana, or will she finally realize that she deserves her
share of the spotlight, too?

~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~

~ Amazon Canada ~ Amazon Australia ~

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Regina Salvador wasn’t too sure what she
was doing at El Tomador on a work night. She had to be up and on location early
the next morning, which was going to be in, oh, maybe three hours—the Philippine
sun did have a habit of rising before six a.m. But she had promised her best
friend Lana Lucero she’d be there to support her. To support her as she drank
three boys under the table in a freaking drinking contest. Which just so
happened to take place in a dark bar, hidden along one of the shadier streets
of Makati, reeking of smoke and blasting grunge. What was this? A throwback to
their college days?

Through narrowed
eyes, she watched Lana chug down another tumbler of beer, the frothy amber liquid
dribbling down the sides of her mouth, running down her neck, and soaking
through the neckline of her white tank top, probably staining it forever. Why
her friend thought she had to do these things, she would never know. When Lana
triumphantly held the tumbler up and turned it face down to the whoops and
cheers of the thickening crowd, Regina felt someone jostle her arm, causing her
to lose her balance.

“Watch it!” she
snapped, feeling the beginnings of a tirade gathering in the middle of her
chest, just waiting to be released. She was tired and worried about Lana. She
didn’t want to acknowledge it, but she thought she knew why her best friend was
there. Regina didn’t even want to admit it to herself because that would mean
her best friend had it really bad, but at the back of her mind, there was a
nagging voice whining for attention, chanting one name: Ben. Ben. Ben. Ben
Marquez who didn’t call her back after turning her world upside down and making
her believe that she was the one—the one who was going to change him, the one
who was going to make him forget about all the other girls in his life, the one
he was finally going to settle down with—at their ripe old age of twenty-four.
Right.

Regina had no
idea who this Ben Marquez was. She had been out of town on another shoot when
it apparently had all taken place. She was training to be a photographer under
Paulo Javellana, one of the most sought-after lensmen in Manila. When she had
gotten back from a beach shoot in Boracay, a gorgeous island of powdery white
sand and clear blue water that was gaining popularity, Lana was already in
tears. She had fallen in love, she said. She had finally found him. The one.
The guy she was going to give up her wild, carefree days and take up an apron
and a spatula for. Regina was sure Lana didn’t even know what a spatula was.

Lana had met him
at this very bar, El Tomador, where their college friends hung out every
Wednesday night after work. He was someone’s friend from high school and had
wanted a change of scene. They’d had a drinking contest and he’d won. Lana was
smitten. No one had ever beaten her before. That was all it took. She was his.
But a few days later (“Days? How can you know you’ve found forever in a few
days?” Regina was incensed. Her irresponsible best friend had always been
flighty but this was the worst she’d seen her), he was gone. Not a call, not a
text message, not an email. She actually began stalking him, driving by his
apartment and dropping by places she thought she’d find him in. This was one of
those places. And when Regina heard what she was planning to do, she insisted
on coming along. No way was Lana going to make an utter fool of herself without
backup, without someone to take her home at the very least.

So here she was,
ready to snap someone’s head off just because he had bumped into her. “I’m so
sorry. Did I hurt you?” He had puppy dog eyes. Round, dark brown, and piercing.
Regina blinked, imagining herself getting lost in those warm pools, the angry
words fizzling out on her tongue.

“Uh, no, I…” she
stammered, unable to tear her gaze away. Well, he didn’t seem to be looking
anywhere else either.

When he broke
into a relieved grin, she found herself smiling too, the tirade all but a
distant memory. What was wrong with her? She’d seen cute guys before, kissed a
few of them too. But this one’s eyes made her feel as if she weren’t in a noisy
bar worrying about her best friend drowning her brain cells in alcohol.

“Did you want
another drink?” He gestured toward her empty glass. Which had been filled with
water earlier.

Regina twisted
her lips in a grimace. “No, I can’t. I have to be at the bus terminal at five.”

“Five this
morning?” His eyebrows shot up. “That’s like three hours away.”

“Yeah. I like
living dangerously.” She felt her lips twitch.

He laughed. And
she felt as if she had hit all three cherries on a slot machine. She usually
didn’t talk to strange guys in a bar, especially those with eyes that pulled
you in like magnets. But then again.

“I think a cup of
coffee is your best bet.” He didn’t even wait for her to agree. He wove his way
through the heated bodies cheering someone else on and asked the bartender for
the unexpected drink.

Regina watched
him walk away. He was in a long-sleeved blue shirt and dark pants. He probably
worked in an office or something boring like that. She rebelled against what
she called the corporate life. She hated dressing in clothes people wore to an
office. She had no idea what they consisted of anyway, unless Paulo had to
shoot them for a magazine spread. But otherwise, she lived in jeans, oversized
t-shirts, and Doc Martens. With the ease in his movements, this guy looked like
he lived in office clothes. She could easily picture him in jeans and a tee
though. And that made her smile.

“Reg! What are you
smiling at? Why weren’t you watching me?” a slightly slurry Lana yelled in her
ear.

Regina’s smile
dropped from her face and she grabbed her best friend’s upper arms, shaking her
slightly. “Are you okay?”

“God, Reg, what’s
wrong with you? Of course, I’m okay!” Lana swung herself free from Regina’s
grasp. “I won! And you didn’t even see!”

That’s right. She
didn’t. She was too busy being charmed by… where was he anyway? She looked
behind her, convinced that Lana would understand once she met him. But he
seemed to have disappeared. Was she that exhausted that she had imagined him?

“You!”

“Hi, Lana.
Congratulations.”

Regina spun
around to see who Lana was shooting daggers at with her wide, flaming eyes. Her
heart sank to her stomach when she saw who it was. He was smiling at her best
friend, holding coffee in a paper cup.

“Is that for me?”
The anger in Lana’s face was receding, as if she was willing to accept a peace
offering from him. Any peace offering.

But he didn’t
take the hint. Or maybe, wouldn’t.

“No, this is
for…” He turned to Regina and smiled again. “I’m sorry, we never introduced
ourselves. I’m Ben.”

Holy Crap.

“Regina.” She
felt her face closing, her heart shutting its doors. It was just as well. She
didn’t have time or space in her life for a guy. Much less Lana’s one true
love.

Lana was looking
at her as if she’d all of a sudden announced she was going to move to the
far-flung island of Tawi-Tawi. “You know him?” she demanded, her hands on her
hips.

“I just met him
two seconds ago.” But Regina didn’t even try to defend herself. She kept her
voice calm and steady, knowing that none of this mattered. What did matter was
that Lana would now be angry, stop talking to her, and accuse her of stealing
her future husband. It was time to get her home and in bed. No amount of reason
or caffeine was going to fix this. She thanked Ben for the coffee and took Lana
by the arm, dragging her out of the bar.

“Reg! What the—”
Lana tried in vain to yank her arm free but months of hauling heavy camera
equipment gave Regina a strength she didn’t know she had until now.

“We are going
home. I have a five a.m. call time and you don’t need this stress in your
life.” Regina hauled her a few cars away from the busy bar entrance and dug her
keys out of her pocket. She shoved her best friend into the passenger’s seat
and slammed the door. Taking a few deep breaths, she looked up to see a tall,
masculine form waving, walking toward her.

“She forgot
this.” Ben handed her a small, studded black bag. “And this is yours.” Before
Regina could say she didn’t bring anything into the bar but her car keys, he
gently placed the thick paper cup in her hand. Her coffee. “Have a safe trip.”
Then he smiled again. That smile that seemed to reach in and tug at the doors
she had shut on her heart earlier.

As she felt
herself turn toward the car to see if Lana was about to jump out and attack
him, Ben said, “She’s asleep. Too much partying tonight.”

Finally finding
her tongue, Regina blurted out, “Why didn’t you call her?”

His brow furrowed
and he took half a step back. “Call her? When?”

Regina was
confused now too. “When? You just swept her off her feet and then disappeared.
Who does that?”

“Oh, boy.” He ran
a hand through his thick, straight hair, looking away from her. Regina took
this as a sign of guilt and pressed further.

“Why did you make
her believe there was more to your relationship when you didn’t have any plans
of seeing her again? That’s not just despicable, it’s cowardly.” She was on a
roll.

“There was no
talk of a relationship.” Was that a
shudder he gave when he said the word? “That’s the last thing I want.” He
laughed. But this time, Regina didn’t feel as if she’d won a prize. She shook
her head, raised her cup of coffee, and decided she had had enough of him.
“Thanks again for this. Goodbye, Ben.”

“Wait! Can we
just talk a little longer? Hang for a while?” He reached for her free hand.

Regina yanked it
free when she felt a jolt of energy pass through. It wasn’t static electricity
nor was it anything she’d ever felt before. And she could still feel his hand
on hers even if he had already let go. Warm, soft, inviting. Was this how he
reeled girls in? Was this how he had won Lana’s heart? Persistent bugger,
wasn’t he?

“Ben,” she said
with a frustrated sigh, trying to keep her voice level. “I don’t want to talk
to you. I don’t want to hang for a while.
I want to get my best friend home and show up on time for work.”

He nodded,
chastised. “All right. I’m sorry. I thought you felt the connection between us
too.”

What a line.

And she said it
out loud.

His eyes widened
in what looked like slight panic. “No, it’s not, I swear.”

“Well it sounds
like one. And besides,” she threw a glance at her car, “your reputation doesn’t
exactly do you any favors now, does it?” Before her bravado could crumble
against those disappointed dark brown eyes, she spun on her rubber-soled heel
and entered her car.

She stuck the
coffee in the car’s cup holder and pressed down on the gas before she could
change her mind. After a few seconds of staring straight ahead, she allowed
herself to sneak a glance at her side mirror and wasn’t surprised to see him
still standing there, watching her drive away.

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

Title: REBEL WITH A CUPCAKE

Author: ANNA MAINWARING

Genre: FICTION, YOUNG ADULT FICTION, DIVERSE BOOKS

Length: 216 PAGES

Publisher: KIDS CAN PRESS

Type of Book: ARC – SOFTCOVER

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

Release Date: APRIL 3, 2018

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

Price: USD $17.99 / CAD $18.99

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS

DESCRIPTION:

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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

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

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

TWITTER

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

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

– This is my 12th Book Review of 2018

BOOK OF SOULS by NADINE NIGHTINGALE – A 4 STAR YA NOVEL COMING SOON

Title: BOOK OF SOULS

Series: GODS OF EGYPT – BOOK ONE

Author: NADINE NIGHTINGALE

Genre: FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION/ FANTASY, YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Length: 298 PAGES

Publisher: SELF-PUBLISHED

Type of Book: EBOOK

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: FEBRUARY 9, 2018

ISBN: 9781979087650

Price: $2.99 USD

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

They call me Angel of Death, but my name is Nisha Blake. I am Shepherdstown’s living urban legend. My life, a tale of the macabre.

People avoid me like the plague. Well, everyone but my friends. They don’t see the Angel of Death when they look at me. They see poor, broken Nisha—the bully victim, suffering from vicious night terrors and vivid hallucinations.

Things take a turn for the worse when Blaze shows up. He’s a too hot, tattooed, bad-ass MMA fighter from London, hell-bent on getting to know me. Since he walked into my miserable life, my hallucinations graduated to a point where I can no longer differentiate between fiction and reality.

I am insane.
Broken beyond repair.
Or so I think until—

I uncover a secret form the past—a link between all the deaths, my hallucinations, and my night terrors. It’s then I understand I’m not the Angel of Death.

I am something else.
Someone else.

MY REVIEW:

THE BOOK OF SOULS is the first book in a new Young Adult series called; THE GODS OF EGYPT. This is set in the Present Day and features regular teenagers. At least we think they are normal teens.

Nisha Blake wishes she was a regular teenager, one who could fade into anonymity. However, Nisha has quite a sinister reputation. Students and even some teachers and other adults refer to her as “The Angel of Death.”

Why would anyone make up a nickname like that? Well, Nisha has had the unfortunate experience of witnessing multiple deaths, starting from a very young age. This includes the murder of her parents a year before the story begins.

Fortunately, Nisha has a few terrific friends that she can always count on. If not for them, her Aunt and her boss at the local bookstore, Nisha would probably have been committed to the local Insane Asylum.

The story contains: visions, hideous monsters, a super sexy MMA fighter, magical spell-books, murder, nasty teenagers, popularity contests, mob mentalities, a wicked simmering romance, ancient Egyptian artifacts and an epic battle between good and evil.

I enjoyed the story but I have to admit that there were a few things that bothered me:

1. There were multiple typos throughout the book. (Since the copy I received was an ARC – Advance Reader Copy, I am hoping and assuming these will be fixed before the actual release date.)

2. In this age of anti-bullying, I found it difficult to believe that some of the teachers openly bullied Nisha. I am not naive, I know that teachers can be bullies, but they are not usually so blatant about it. In almost every school, a teacher who bullied a student would be fired immediately.

3. This one is probably just me, but each time someone plopped down on a bed, the author said they “plummeted” on the bed. Every time I read that phrase it made me think of someone jumping out of an airplane and plummeting through the sky and landing on Nisha’s bed. Ok. Ok. I know that is weird, but I can’t help what is conjured in my mind when reading.

Other than those few items listed above I enjoyed the story. It starts out quickly and the tension never lets up. Even on the final page, readers will find themselves on the edge of their seat. The ending is a cliff-hanger that will have readers signing up for the author’s newsletter to find out when Book Two of the Gods of Egypt series will be released.

My favorite character is Izzy. Izzy is Nisha’s cousin and they have grown up more like sisters than cousins. In fact, Nisha and Izzy now live together with Izzy’s Mom & her boyfriend in Nisha’s parents house. This arrangement only came about as a result of the death/murder of Nisha’s parents. If I had to choose a single word to describe Izzy, that word would be “loyal.” Izzy is gorgeous, she’s popular, she’s in love with an amazing guy, and yet she always has time for Nisha. Not only does she make time for her, but when someone is bullying Nisha, Izzy’s protective and fierce side comes out. When that happens, it even causes the captain of the football team to take a step back.

To sum up my feelings about this book, I think it was an easy, fun read that teens looking for an escape from reality for a little while will very much enjoy. Not only that, but they will learn about Egyptian mythology along the way.

I rate this book as 4 out of 5 Stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nadine aka Dini is a Traveler at heart. She considers the world her home and practically lives out of her suitcases. When she’s not glaring at a blank page or abusing her poor keyboard, she spends her time reading, watching movies (preferably horror), pretends to work out, and hangs out with friends and family. Poor girl also suffers from a serious Marvel superhero addiction. So, if you run into her at night, wearing black, know she’s secretly dreaming of being the infamous Black Widow.

Her love for writing started in the sixth grade where she annoyed her classmates with a short story featuring Sailor Moon characters, a cemetery, and creepy ghosts. Yes, she’s always been addicted to the dark side. Nadine writes paranormal romance. Her debut novel “Karma” the first book in her paranormal romance series Drag Me To Hell is published by the Wild Rose Press and was released May 2016. She has a serious girl crush on her protagonist Amanda Bishop.

Nadine has a BA in Comparative Religions and studied Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.

She would love to hear from you. So, if you have any questions about her books, would like to set up an interview, book signing, etc, please use the email address below.

To contact Nadine directly, please email dinilovesh@gmail.com

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

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This book is also part of the #2018AtoZChallenge being run by GINGERMOMREADS

With this review I have reached a new level of this challenge and am now a FLAMINGO (11 to 15 Books Reviewed in 2018)