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.
When people go missing in the sleepy town of Smith’s Hollow, the only clue to their fate comes when a teenager starts having terrifying visions, in a chilling horror novel from national bestselling author Christina Henry.
When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in the town of Smiths Hollow, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won’t find the killer. After all, the year before her father’s body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids.
So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can’t just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realizes that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the center. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.
“Lauren knew Mom didn’t want her and Miranda meeting in the woods. Especially after last year. Especially after Lauren’s dad was found near that old cabin. Mom thought Lauren was macabre for going anywhere near the place where her father was murdered.”
“She and Lauren always met under the ghost tree. They’d done so since they were very small, for so long that Lauren couldn’t remember who’d thought of the idea first.”
So begins the novel THE GHOST TREE.
Something is very wrong in Smiths Hollow.
The story begins a year after Lauren’s father was murdered.
Now the torn-apart bodies of two teen girls have been found in a backyard that connects with the very same forest.
Alex Lopez and his family have only recently moved to Smiths Hollow after he was hired on to the miniscule local police force. It was Alex and his partner who were the first to be called to the scene of the murdered teenagers. He was both shocked and appalled at the horrific violence.
The first order of business was to try to identify the girls. Next up, they needed to determine who murdered and mutilated them, and WHY?
As the story unfolds, secrets are revealed and a secret and widespread conspiracy seems to be taking place in Smiths Hollow.
The bodycount continues to rise, and it becomes more and more apparent that something very sinister is taking place in the small town.
This is the perfect book to pick up today since it is Halloween and spooky stories are the order of the day.
In addition to the main plot, there are several subplots including one that speaks to a major problem facing the current populace of the United States – that of racism – both overt, and systemic.
I enjoyed reading THE GHOST TREE and I recommend it to those who like a bit of spookiness alongside their mysteries. Like I said, this a perfect book to begin reading on this Halloween night.
I rate THE GHOST TREE as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.***
“She hesitated, because she felt that to say what she was thinking out loud would be like crossing the Rubicon. Her sixth-grade social studies teacher, Mr. Connolly, had used that phrase once and when she asked what he meant, he told her it was a way of saying a step that you couldn’t take back.”
“Alejandro Lopez – he preferred to be called Alex rather than Alejandro, because the Americanized name made white folks feel like he was one of them…“
“There is something wrong with this town, Alex thought.”
“Yes, there was something very wrong in Smiths Hollow. And Alex needed to find out what it was before it disappeared from his memory, too. Before he forgot about the girls who’d called to him in dead voices. Before whoever – or whatever – cut those girls to pieces did it again.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
CHRISTINA HENRY is the author of the CHRONICLES OF ALICE series – ALICE, RED QUEEN, and LOOKING GLASS – a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as THE GIRL IN RED, a post-apocalyptic Red Riding Hood novel, and LOST BOY: THE TRUE STORY OF CAPTAIN HOOK, an origin story of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.
She is also the author of the national bestselling BLACK WINGS series (BLACK WINGS, BLACK NIGHT, BLACK HOWL, BLACK LAMENT, BLACK CITY, BLACK HEART and BLACK SPRING) featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle.
She enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with samurai, zombies and/or subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
The tragic and resonant story of the disappearance of eight men — the victims of serial killer Bruce McArthur — from Toronto’s queer community.
In 2013, the Toronto Police Service announced that the disappearances of three men–Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Majeed Kayhan — from Toronto’s gay village were, perhaps, linked. When the leads ran dry, the investigation was shut down, on paper classified as “open but suspended.”
By 2015, investigative journalist Justin Ling had begun to retrace investigators’ steps, convinced there was evidence of a serial killer.
Meanwhile, more men would go missing, and police would continue to deny that there was a threat to the community. On January 18, 2018, Bruce McArthur, a landscaper, would be arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder. In February 2019, he was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of eight men.
This extraordinary book tells the complete story of the McArthur murders. Based on more than five years of in-depth reporting, this is also a story of police failure, of how the queer community responded, and the story of the eight men who went missing and the lives they left behind. In telling that story, Justin Ling uncovers the latent homophobia and racism that kept this case unsolved and unseen. This gripping book reveals how police agencies across the country fail to treat missing persons cases seriously, and how policies and laws, written at every level of government, pushed McArthur’s victims out of the light and into the shadows.
MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE is destined to become a National Bestseller.
Investigative Reporter Justin Ling, himself a member of Toronto’s LGBTQ community – the very same community from which McArthur chose his victims – is uniquely qualified to author this book.
I say this, NOT based on his sexuality, I say this because he seems to have been the only person, and definitely the only reporter, who was interested in finding out what was happening in Toronto’s Gay Village YEARS before the police even considered the men’s disappearances to be connected. Not only that, but because Justin knows the area, and is a reporter with a heart who cares (sometimes too much) about each victim as a person, not as just another face in the lineup of victims. Justin is the only person who could tell this story without sensationalism getting in the way.
I have read numerous true crime books over the span of many years, but MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE is unique. It is superbly told so that the focus is not on the gruesome crimes themselves, but is on the story as a whole. I love that the author was so wrapped up in the story that, at times, he had to fight back tears.
Canada has its fair share of crimes, including murder, but Canadian serial killers are rare. These killers seem to focus on marginalized populations, seeing those victims as disposable. The problem is that they seem to be right. It took way too long for the police to catch this POS.
Sex, murder and secrets are the basis for this horrific true crime story that, if I didn’t know better, I would never have believed to be true, especially not here in Ontario, Canada.
MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE is a MUST READ if you want to know the entire story, not just of Bruce McArthur and his victims, but also the history of Toronto’s gay village and the fight for LGBTQIA2S rights, and why Bruce McArthur was able to go on killing over the span of several years and remain undetected.
In this era of the #metoo movement and the calls to #defundthepolice and, of course, #blacklivesmatter we all need to remember that many people are still seen as unimportant. THIS NEEDS TO STOP.
For decades people who are queer, who are sex workers, who are black, who are brown, who are Indigenous, who are homeless, and many more, have been treated as if their lives do not matter. It is up to each and every one of us to make sure we see, REALLY SEE, every life as equal and as precious. This book will open people’s eyes, it is up to us to ensure our eyes stay open.
If we can do this, maybe, just maybe, we can stop the next Bruce McArthur from being able to choose victims at will.
I rate MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I will be watching for Justin Ling’s byline, and hopefully another book.
I just discovered that you can Pre-order the hardcover version of this book on the Chapters/Indigo website for a reduced price. It is currently 25% off, but I am not privy to when this offer ends, so I suggest you pre-order your copy ASAP.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
“The bar changed colour like a drag queen trying on new shades of lipstick.”
“The contrast between the bright paint and the rest of the dour building gave Zipperz the particular quality of being a portal into another world, a secret passageway.”
“The campaign to find a missing loved one sits exactly between hope and dread.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
JUSTIN LING is an investigative journalist whose reporting has focused on stories and issues undercovered and misunderstood.
His writing has appeared in Vice News, BuzzFeed, Foreign Policy, Motherboard, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the Guardian.
Publisher: G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS – An Imprint of PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE
Release Date: AUGUST 18, 2020
Price: $27.00 USD / $36.00 CDN
Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Acclaimed author and “remarkably gifted storyteller” (The Charlotte Observer) David Joy returns with a fierce and tender tale of a father, an addict, a lawman, and the explosive events that come to unite them.
When his addict son gets in deep with his dealer, it takes everything Raymond Mathis has to bail him out of trouble one last time. Frustrated by the slow pace and limitations of the law, Raymond decides to take matters into his own hands.
After a workplace accident left him out of a job and in pain, Denny Rattler has spent years chasing his next high. He supports his habit through careful theft, following strict rules that keep him under the radar and out of jail. But when faced with opportunities too easy to resist, Denny makes two choices that change everything.
For months, the DEA has been chasing the drug supply in the mountains to no avail, when a lead–just one word–sets one agent on a path to crack the case wide open . . . but he’ll need help from the most unexpected quarter.
As chance brings together these men from different sides of a relentless epidemic, each may come to find that his opportunity for redemption lies with the others.
I had only read a single paragraph and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt that I was going to love this book.
Judge for yourself. Here is Paragraph One of “When These Mountains Burn.”
“Rain bled over the dusty windshield. Raymond Mathis wrung the steering wheel in his fists trying to remember if there was anything left worth taking. The front door of his house stood open and from the driveway he knew who’d broken in. Fact was, if it wasn’t nailed down, it was already gone. What pawned easily went first and now the boy stole anything that looked like it might hold any value at all.”
The boy referenced above is Ray’s son. And, just like thousands, nay, tens of thousands, of young men and women in America today, Ricky is an addict. His father, Ray has spent every dime he has, and then some, paying for rehabs that do nothing, once even paying off a drug dealer so that his son would not have to pay the debt with his life.
But, this is NOT just another book about addiction and the opiate epidemic. It is so much more than that.
The first experience I had with author David Joy was his debut book “Where All Light Tends To Go” which was published in 2015 and I absolutely loved.
David Joy is not only an author, he is an artist, painting with words rather than pastels and oils, but the result is just as vivid.
WHEN THESE MOUNTAINS BURN takes on several social issues including the Opiate Crisis, forest wildfires, and the residual and ongoing effects of colonization on Indigenous Peoples and Communities.
David Joy is somehow able to call into existence characters that feel so real that readers will wonder if they are based on actual people.
David Joy’s gift for conceiving of plausable scenarios makes reading his books a true experience. In particular, David’s books are set in areas that he knows well. This lends a further air of authenticity to When These Mountains Burn.
I can easily imagine the film rights for this book being snatched up rather quickly and I will be first in line to see the movie if this happens.
David’s books are perfect for book clubs and he even offers Discussion Guides on his website.
I rate this book as 5+ out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
If you have not yet read any of David Joy’s books, you are missing out on a true literary experience.
WHEN THESE MOUNTAINS BURN was released TODAY!!!
**Thank you to the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book.**
Release Date: AUGUST 25, 2020 – EBOOK AVAILABLE NOW
Price: $24.95 CDN
Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
From the award-winning, Canada Reads-shortlisted author of Bone and Bread comes an immersive and eerily prescient novel about the power of human connection in a time of crisis, as the bonds of love, family, and duty are tested by an impending pandemic.
How quickly he’d forgotten a fundamental truth: the closer you got to the heart of a calamity, the more resilience there was to be found.
This is the story of a handful of people who find themselves living through an unfolding catastrophe.
Elliot is a first responder in New York, a man running from past failures and struggling to do the right thing.
Emma is a pregnant singer preparing to headline a benefit concert for victims of the outbreak–all while questioning what kind of world her child is coming into.
Owen is the author of a bestselling plague novel with eerie similarities to the real-life pandemic. As fact and fiction begin to blur, he must decide whether his lifelong instinct for self-preservation has been worth the cost.
As the novel moves back and forth in time, we discover these characters’ ties to one another and to those whose lives intersect with theirs, in an extraordinary web of connection and community that reveals none of us is ever truly alone.
Linking them all is the mystery of the so-called ARAMIS Girl, a woman at the first infection site whose unknown identity and whereabouts cause a furor.
Written and revised between 2013 and 2019, and brilliantly told by an unforgettable chorus of voices, Saleema Nawaz’s glittering novel is a moving and hopeful meditation on what we owe to ourselves and to each other.
It reminds us that disaster can bring out the best in people–and that coming together may be what saves us in the end.
I was surprised to learn that the writing of this book took place before the Covid19 Pandemic. In fact, this book was begun six years ago.
SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD centers around a coronavirus disease called ARAMIS which is eerily similar to COVID19. There are other things in this story that are extremely similar to what is happening in the world today.
In fact, one of the main characters is an author who had written fictional account of a plague similar to ARAMIS. Little did Saleema Nawaz know that she was going to experience firsthand what her character went through.
The main difference between this book and other sci-fi / post apocalyptic /dystopian / speculative fiction novels is the outlook of the characters. What I mean by this is that in most of the books of this genre, the actions of the populace devolve into violence over the course of the story. In fact, in most post-apocalyptic books, the plague ends up being less dangerous than the people.
In SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, the majority of the characters act for the good of society rather than simply taking care of themselves and their families. Of course, they do not take reckless risks, but they are somehow able to hang onto their humanity. This is a refreshingly optimistic view of how people act during a catastrophe.
Although I said this book is optimistic, don’t think that every character is perfect; they are far from it. There are also characters that act like self righteous jerks, as well as a few characters you will want to smack upside of their head for how they behave. In short, just as in real life, there are good people, bad people, and people who fall somewhere in the middle.
I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a unique science fiction novel with characters that are so relatable that you will feel like they are friends of yours by the end of the book.
I rate SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“It was the first time in his life he had encountered thinking – the deliberate thinking of difficult thoughts – as a thing to be encouraged, rather than staved off or endured.”
“The way she leaned into him, Stu realized that marriage had strength embedded in its very architecture, a resilience that beat back the usual threats. Given his parents’ union, he’d always thought of marriage as something more like resignation, a contractual obligation of last resort. But he now saw the hope of it, the faith in the promise itself.” . “‘But was it me in there?’ Jericho asked. ‘Or theperson I used to be?'” . “Thinking is a sacred disease. And there’s no cure.” . “Everything is a song in one way or another.” . “As time went on, he began to think of his declarations of love as an ill-conceived engineering project, like digging graves along a shoreline; they could neither withstand nor contain her sorrow, nor his growing sense that he was no longer enough for her.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Saleema Nawaz’s first novel, Bone and Bread, won the Quebec Writers’ Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2016 Canada Reads competition.
She is also the author of the short story collection Mother Superior, and a winner of the Writers’ Trust of Canada / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, she currently lives in Montreal, Quebec.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
Penguin Random House Canada is a full service Canadian publisher and distributor of books in hardcover, trade paperback, mass market and digital formats.
Imprints of Penguin Random House Canada include Anchor Canada, Bond Street Books, Doubleday Canada, Knopf Canada, Penguin Canada, Puffin Canada, Random House Canada, Razorbill Canada, Vintage Canada, McClelland & Stewart, Tundra Books and Appetite by Random House.
To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:
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.
Twelve-year-old Emily Calby was a good girl from a religious family in rural Georgia. She loved softball, her little sister and looking up words to get her allowance. Then two men came and murdered her family. Somehow Emily escaped. Only the killers know she survived.
On the run in a fugue, she makes an unlikely ally in a ruthless former gang member who takes her in. Overwhelmed by guilt, she persuades him to train her to kill before setting out alone on a terrifying search for justice.
Nothing will stop her—not cops or creeps, not even her own splintering mind. Through it all, Emily fights to hold onto hope and the girl she once knew, kept buried deep inside.
A testament to the boundless limits of love, sacrifice and will to survive, The Hiding Girl is the first book in the Emily Calby Series.
Twelve year old Emily Calby is desperate, scared, and all alone. She’s on the run from the men who tortured and killed her entire family; men from whom she just barely escaped.
Emily is a white girl, with blonde hair who grew up in a middle class family and who has never had to experience racism or classism. Even though she has never thought of herself as privileged, she starts to realize just how good she had it when she meets Lucas.
Lucas is an adult, black male who lives in a poverty stricken neighborhood that experiences way too much gang violence. A previous gang member himself, Lucas knows exactly how dangerous it can be for a young, white girl to be homeless in the city. Despite his reservations, Lucas takes Emily under his wing. (This relationship is a huge part of the plot, but the way the two met and his decision to befriend Emily is extremely far-fetched. I reduced the number of stars I gave THE HIDING GIRL because of this.)
Emily is terrified that the two men from whom she had barely escaped will track her down and finish what they started. Because of this, she convinces Lucas to teach her how to kill.
Readers learn about Lucas and his past, including the fact that he used to be in a gang, and he also talks about the death of someone close to him. It is this death that is used to explain why Emily keeps seeing teddy bears attached to hydro poles in his neighborhood. The inclusion of this tidbit is based on fact. Author Dorian Box has seen these Memorial Teddy Bears in real life.
This book is a testament to the resiliency of youth, as well as the power of fear, grief, and a hunger for justice. I enjoyed the inclusion of the conversations between characters in regard to exactly what is justice, and who has the right to extract that justice. Emily must decide whether she is willing to kill the monsters who had obliterated her entire family.
There are a multitude of social themes in this book and the plot has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. It is an enjoyable story with characters you will come to love.
THE HIDING GIRL is the first book in a brand new EMILY CALBY SERIES. The second book is due for release within the year.
I rate this book as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
*** Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***
I feel that I have to mention and give kudos to @Herabooks
Hera is a FEMALE-LED Publisher.
It is about time that women were not only in positions of power, but are also the owners and CEOs. I have bookmarked and am following Hera Books.
It is important to me to celebrate and support women-led Indie businesses, especially in this unprecedented time in history when everyone on the planet is trying to #flattenthecurve and to #eradicate #Covid19
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
“Dorian Box” is a professor and author of eight nonfiction books, one an Amazon Editors’ Favorite Book of the Year.
Psycho-Tropics, his first novel, received a Writer’s Digest Award in Genre Fiction.
Kirkus called it “[a]n engaging thriller with plenty of humor, good characterization, and a memorable villain ….”
The Writer’s Digest judge said, “Marrying humor with suspense is not easy, but it comes across masterfully. … A truly enjoyable read.”
His second novel, The Hiding Girl–scheduled for release on June 15, 2020–is the first entry in the Emily Calby Series, which follows twelve-year-old Emily’s perilous, traumatized life forward from the day two men invade her rural Georgia home and kill her family. The unpublished manuscript was named a semifinalist for the Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize out of more than 700 entries.
The Critic’s Report described it as: “Dark and gritty … an exceptional, heart-pounding story full of raw emotion, deep-seated fear, and an undercurrent of hope and innocence. Deeply atmospheric … without peer in contemporary mysteries/thrillers.”
Book 2 in The Emily Calby Series is also complete and Book 3 is underway.
In his regular life, Box has received numerous awards for teaching and research, written thousands, possibly millions, of scholarly footnotes, and been interviewed by sources such as National Public Radio, the PBS Newshour, and the New York Times.
Box lives out his childhood fantasies singing and playing guitar in rock cover bands that earn tens of dollars sweating it out until two a.m. in smoky dive bars.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
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.
Thank you to everyone who entered my Giveaway to win an autographed copy of FROM THE ASHES by JESSE THISTLE.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
#1 National Bestseller Finalist, CBC Canada Reads A Globe and Mail Book of the Year An Indigo Book of the Year A CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year
In this extraordinary and inspiring debut memoir, Jesse Thistle, once a high school dropout and now a rising Indigenous scholar, chronicles his life on the streets and how he overcame trauma and addiction to discover the truth about who he is.
If I can just make it to the next minute…then I might have a chance to live; I might have a chance to be something more than just a struggling crackhead.
From the Ashes is a remarkable memoir about hope and resilience, and a revelatory look into the life of a Métis-Cree man who refused to give up.
Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, whose tough-love attitudes quickly resulted in conflicts. Throughout it all, the ghost of Jesse’s drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling with all that had happened, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. Finally, he realized he would die unless he turned his life around.
In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education—and newfound love—he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family.
An eloquent exploration of the impact of prejudice and racism, From the Ashes is, in the end, about how love and support can help us find happiness despite the odds.
The Winner is…
I have emailed the winner. Again, thank you to everyone who entered.
Keep watching my blog for more Giveaways coming soon.
From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before, a fierce, tender, heartbreaking story unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
Fact can be as strange as fiction. It can also be as dark, as violent, as rapturous. In the end, there may be no difference between them.
A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy and friendship and parents’ love. She knows boredom and listlessness and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday world and the raw, amoral power of the ice and sky, the seductive energy of the animal world. She knows the ravages of alcohol and violence at the hands of those she should be able to trust. She sees the spirits that surround her and the immense power that dwarfs all of us.
When she becomes pregnant, she must navigate all this.
Veering back and forth between the grittiest features of a small arctic town, the electrifying proximity of the world of animals and ravishing world of myth, Tanya Tagaq explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil, animal and human, victim and transgressor, real and imagined lose their meaning, but the guiding power of love remains.
Haunting, brooding, exhilarating, and tender all at once, Tagaq moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir, myth and reality, poetry and prose, and conjures a world and a heroine listeners will never forget. . . ….. https://player.vimeo.com/video/348888772 ………
**TRIGGER WARNING ** This book contains descriptions of child sexual abuse. If this topic is a trigger for you, I suggest you give this book a pass. ***************************
I purchased a copy of this audiobook from Audible and now that I have finished listening to it, I believe audio is the best way to experience SPLIT TOOTH.
I feel so privileged to have listened to author Tanya Tagaq read her book aloud. Traditionally, the Inuit people passed down their stories and traditions in exactly this manner. Oral storytelling was the norm.
Not only does the author read this book with emotion and depth of experience, she also includes quite a bit of Throat Singing which is incredible to listen to. The sounds are somehow both ethereal and haunting and despite the lack of lyrics, or maybe because of it, the meanings behind the sounds are quite clear.
Poignant. Visceral. Heart-breaking and real. Tanya Tagaq manages to convey her story in such a unique fashion that it is impossible to ever forget. Despite the heaviness of some of the subject matter, there are many moments of joy, happiness, peace, and a sense of belonging to something greater than herself.
The unfortunate details of abuse, both physical and sexual that Tanya endured as a child were perpetrated by those who should have been her protectors.
No matter what she endured, she knew that she was capable of survival.
The evils of the Canadian Residential Schools had so thoroughly erased her native language that hardly anyone in her ‘town’ knew how to speak it anymore. Not only that, but unthinkable abuses – sexual, physical, cultural and mental were forced upon Residential School “students,” (who were actually prisoners, since neither the children, nor their parents had any choice about attending.)
Make no mistake – these “schools” were an attempt at genocide of the Inuit and of all Indigenous people. There is no excuse or apology that can be adequate enough to erase the damage they caused. And, that damage has reached across the hands of time and affected many children of subsequent generations, including Tanya herself.
Don’t mistake my description to mean that Tanya Tagaq’s memoir is a litany of anger and complaint. It is anything but. Her writing is akin to reading her diary. Listening to the audiobook, I feel as though I have seen inside her very soul. If that sounds over dramatic, I apologize, it is truly the way I feel.
This audiobook is not to be missed. I am sure that just reading the book would be a terrific experience, but as I said above, audio format makes this book not just a story, but also an experience.
I am rating SPLIT TOOTH by TANYA TAGAQ as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Tanya also has many music albums available for purchase and after hearing some of her traditional throat singing, I will be downloading her music as well. .
“… pain is to be expected, courage is to be welcomed. There is no choice but to endure. There is no other way than to renounce self-doubt. It is the time of the Dawning in more ways than one. The sun can rise, and so can I.” . “In the spring you smell last fall’s death and this year’s growth as the elder lichen shows the young how to grow.” . “We are product of the immense torque that propels this universe. We are not individuals but a great accumulation of all that lived before.” . . . ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Author, Throat singer, artist. Tanya Tagaq is multi-talented.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links: