REALER by David Hewson and Narrated by Gemma Whelan – An Audiobook Review of a Speculative/Dystopian Near Future that could easily become our post-pandemic reality. 5 Terrified Stars

Title: REALER

Author: DAVID HEWSON

Narrator: GEMMA WHELAN

Genre: FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION, SPECULATIVE FICTION, DYSTOPIAN FICTION

Length: 8 HOURS and 35 MINUTES

Publisher: W.F. HOWES LTD. 

Type of Book: AUDIOBOOK

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: OCTOBER 29, 2020

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Audiobook is narrated by Game of Thrones
star Gemma Whelan

DESCRIPTION:

AN AUDIOBOOK EXCLUSIVE, PERFORMED BY GAME OF THRONES STAR GEMMA WHELAN.

‘Life is real…but this is Realer…’

Realer promises a new virtual reality, a safe and sanitised window into a virtual existence without the risks of the real, crumbling, post-pandemic society beyond the door. Sixteen year old Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Mackintosh is a loner whose father works for the company. He gives her Realer for her birthday – only to be murdered as she watches through her high-tech hood at home. Alone in a tense, post-lockdown world, Charlie has to turn to Realer to find his killers. She’s soon trapped in a murderous conspiracy behind a system that’s steadily beginning to take over people’s lives. Charlie comes to understand that she can only hide from outside dangers for so long. In the end, the only way to defeat them is face-to-face, in the real world. A place she fears more than any.

Audie award-winning author David Hewson’s edgy dystopian, near-future thriller gives us a chilling glimpse into what our post-pandemic world could become.

LISTEN TO THIS AUDIBLE INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DAVID HEWSON FOR FREE.
Click on the photograph to get this free Audible interview.
David Hewson joins Robin Morgan in the Audible Studios to discuss Romeo and Juliet: A Novel, the latest in the series of original audiobook adaptations of Shakespeare plays, narrated by Richard Armitage. The audiobooks are imaginative reworkings of the original plays using contemporary language but retaining the original historical settings.
©2016 Audible Ltd (P)2016 Audible Ltd

MY REVIEW:

Not your typical Dystopian fiction tale.

This tale could (and probably should) be taken as a warning.

The story begins not long after a full year of lockdowns because of the Covid19 pandemic. (Although Covid19 is never specifically named.)

A corporation that is eerily similar to the Amazon corporation of today is at the center of this speculative fiction tale.

A new technological gadget has begun to take the world by storm. It is called a “Realer.” The company tagline is:

‘Life is real…but this is Realer…’

This piece of technology allows the user to visit anywhere in the world through a sort-of virtual reality.

Instead of being themselves, users create avatars and when in “Realer World,” it is those avatars that people see and interact with – meaning you could be talking to anyone, from anywhere and their real identity remains secret.

Fears of the Virus coming back have been a boon for the Realer Corporation. Why actually go on holiday and chance catching the virus when you can “visit” anywhere – from the comfort of your own home?

Charlie (short for Charlotte) is attacked while sketching at a nearby lake. After the attack she is terrified to leave her home. She receives a Realer from her father as a birthday present as a way to coax her back outside and to prove it is safe.

Her father goes for a walk in the nearby woods while wearing Realer glasses. Charlie is able to tag along from her Realer in the safety of her home. She starts to enjoy herself and even begins to think her father is right and that there is nothing to be afraid of.

Suddenly, three cartoon devil monsters appear in her father’s path. He is brutally murdered while she could do nothing except watch it happen.

So begins this unique Dystopian/Speculative Fiction story.

Charlie may be only sixteen, but she is determined to find out who killed her Dad.

With the dogged determination of the youthful, Charlie finds herself not only caught up in a murder investigation, but also in what might prove to be life-altering events not only for herself, but for the entire planet.

With non-stop intrigue, believable technological innovations, a pandemic causing long term lockdowns and the detrimental mental health issues it caused, this story could easily be our near future.

There are a variety of social issues tackled in REALER, along with a mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end.

David Hewson has created  characters that readers will recognize as either similar to themselves or to others they know.

If you want to take a look at one of our society’s potential futures, this Audiobook is a must listen.

I will be looking for more audiobooks narrated by GEMMA WHELAN. She is a professional actress and was a member of the award-winning cast of Game of Thrones. Her acting experience shines through in her narration as she knows exactly what intonation to use for each chapter. Her narration deserves a 5 Star review of its own. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It is the combination of great writing, exceptional narration and professional production that combine to make REALER an audiobook not to miss.

A 5 Star rating is exactly what this Audiobook deserves.

5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this audiobook. ***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

David Hewson is a contemporary British author of mystery and thriller novels. His work includes the Nic Costa series and Romeo and Juliet, an expansive and rich retelling of the Shakespeare classic which was awarded Best Original Work at the Audie awards.

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

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AUDIBLE

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INSTAGRAM

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AMAZON  

ABOUT THE NARRATOR:

Gemma Whelan is an actress and comedian, best known for playing Yara Greyjoy in the HBO fantasy-drama series Game of Thrones.

She plays detective Eunice Noon in The End of the F***ing World on Netflix.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

AUDIBLE

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER  

AMAZON

………….

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BECAUSE THEY WERE WOMEN – The Montreal Massacre by journalist Josée Boileau is being released TODAY in advance of the Anniversary of the massacre – December 6th. This is the only book ever written to detail what happened on that horrific day in Montreal in 1989

Title: BECAUSE THEY WERE WOMEN

Subtitle: THE MONTREAL MASSACRE

Author: JOSÉE BOILEAU

Genre: NON-FICTION, HISTORY, TRUE CRIME, CANADIAN NON-FICTION, FEMINIST NON-FICTION, WOMEN’S ISSUES

Length: 308 PAGES

Publisher: SECOND STORY PRESS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: NOVEMBER 10, 2020

ISBN: 9781772601428

Price: $24.95 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Exterior of École Polytechnique de Montréal.
The third floor classroom in the École Polytechnique in which the attack ended.

DESCRIPTION:

Fourteen young university students, murdered because they were women, are memorialized in this definitive account of a tragic day that forced a reckoning with violence against women in our culture.

Each of the victims of what became known as the Montreal Massacre are remembered, their lives cut short on December 6, 1989 when a man entered their school and systematically shot every young woman he encountered, motivated by a misogyny who’s roots go far beyond one man and one day.


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MY REVIEW:

Canada’s first mass femicide took place on December 6th, 1989 when an Anti-Feminist gunman named Marc Lépine rampaged through the halls and classrooms of École Polytechnique de Montréal.

This cowardly “man” separated the men from the women and opened fire, killing fourteen and wounding several others. He was not “man enough” nor “woman enough” to face up to the consequences of his actions and took his own life.

Journalist and author, JOSÉE BOILEAU has written the only book to ever examine this crime and it’s aftermath.

Not only does this book discuss the day of the Massacre, it also details the political and societal norms of the times and the specific challenges facing women in 1989.

By outlining the massacre and the changes that came about as a result, the author gives this important event the respect it is due.

The murdered women, many of whom did not specifically self-identify as “feminists,” have been honored with a Day of Remembrance that is still celebrated today – over three decades later.

In my opinion, it is about time that an accurate historical accounting of this hate crime has been written. This book needs to be incorporated into every high-school History and Civics curriculum Canada-wide. This MUST be required reading.

It is fitting that BECAUSE THEY WERE WOMEN is being released the day before November 11th, which is Remembrance Day here in Canada. Even though Remembrance Day is a day to honor the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice during their military service, the fourteen mass murder victims were unwitting pawns in a war they were unaware they were involved in. WE MUST REMEMBER THESE WOMEN.

In 1905, George Santayana, a philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We CANNOT allow these women to be forgotten. With the writing of this book, Josée Boileau has ensured that their memories will live on.

I rate BECAUSE THEY WERE WOMEN as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I highly recommend this book to every single Canadian, male and female. I will be recommending this book to everyone I know.

With the 31st Anniversary of the shooting rapidly approaching, I will definitely be giving copies of this book to all of my local women’s shelters for their libraries.

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

THE VICTIMS:

Lépine killed fourteen women (twelve engineering students, one nursing student, and one employee of the university) and injured fourteen others, ten women and four men.

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student

Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student

Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student

Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department

Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student

Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student

Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student

Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

The Quebec and Montreal governments declared three days of mourning. A joint funeral for nine of the women was held at Notre-Dame Basilica on December 11, 1989, and was attended by Governor General Jeanne Sauvé, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, and Montreal mayor Jean Doré, along with thousands of other mourners.

THE SURVIVORS:

Brought together by tragedy: From left, Jocelyne Dallaire Légaré, Heidi Rathjen, Nathalie Provost and Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire have developed a close bond since the 1989 massacre. The four of them are shown above at the École Polytechnique in 2014. 
PHOTO BY DARIO AYALA /Montreal Gazette CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EACH OF THESE OUTSTANDING WOMEN AND HOW SURVIVING THE MONTREAL MASSACRE CHANGED THE TRAJECTORY OF THEIR LIVES.

Who was that gutsy young woman who stood up to a cold-eyed killer?

Twenty-five years after surviving the Polytechnique massacre, Nathalie Provost mused about her younger self.

On Dec. 6, 1989, moments before Marc Lépine began a shooting rampage that killed 14 women at Quebec’s largest engineering school, Provost, then a 23-year-old mechanical engineering student, tried to reason with the gunman.

Lépine’s response was a hail of bullets that killed six of her classmates and wounded Provost in the head and leg.

“There’s a lot of tenderness for the young woman I was then, for her naïveté,” said Provost, now a 48-year-old mother of four who works as a senior manager for the provincial government.

“The wounds to your body, you see right away. For the wounds to your soul, it takes longer. You don’t understand them right away. It took me years to grasp what I had lived through.”Nathalie Provost

Marker of Change, memorial consisting of 14 coffin-like benches in Vancouver by artist Beth Alber.
On the 25th anniversary, fourteen light beams representing the 14 victims shine from Mount Royal.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Josée Boileau has been a journalist for more than thirty years, many of those for Quebec’s Le Devoir newspaper, where she became Editor in Chief.

Today, she is a current affairs commentator for CBC/Radio Canada and Chatelaine, and a book columnist for Journal de Montréal.

She has received a number of honors, including the Hélène-Pednault prize in recognition of her feminist activism.

She lives in Montreal.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

MUCKRACK

TWITTER

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

//www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?mediaId=1110153283614

THE MURDERER:

Marc Lépine – the Mass Murderer in a 1989 photograph.


CBC Archives of the Massacre
https://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/society/crime-justice/the-montreal-massacre/topic-the-montreal-massacre.html
…………………


A play about the shootings by Adam Kelly called “The Anorak” was named as one of the best plays of 2004 by the Montreal Gazette.

Colleen Murphy’s play “December Man” was first staged in Calgary in 2007.

The movie Polytechnique, directed by Denis Villeneuve was released in 2009, and sparked controversy over the desirability of reliving the tragedy in a commercial film.

Several songs have been written about the events, including “This Memory” by the folk duo the Wyrd Sisters, and “6 December 1989” by the Australian singer Judy Small.

VIDEOS ABOUT THE MONTREAL MASSACRE:

SKY SEED by Bill McGuire is a book that everyone needs to read. This book is so terrifyingly realistic that even though it is fiction, it should serve as a warning to anyone who might decide to interfere with Mother Nature.

Title: SKY SEED

Author: BILL MCGUIRE

Genre: FICTION, SPECULATIVE FICTION, THRILLERS

Length: 330 PAGES

Publisher: THE BOOK GUILD – a subsidiary of Troubador Publishing Ltd.

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 28, 2020

ISBN: 9781913208882 (Paperback)

Price: £8.99 GBP (Paperback)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Sometimes, when you’re in a hole, it’s best to stop digging. This applies as much to messing with the climate as anything else, except even more so.

Jane Haliwell put her head in her hands. To tell the truth, she was still in shock. All the samples she had taken from inside and around the lab contained the enigmatic spheres in huge numbers. She had only had a brief time to think about the implications, but she was pretty sure already what was going on.

For the first time in the history of the world, it was literally raining carbon. Long before it stopped, the guilty would pay, but so would the innocent…

MY REVIEW:

Absolutely, terrifyingly, utterly realistic and in my opinion this is probably an idea that has already occurred to many world governments. We can only hope that nothing like SKY SEED is ever implemented. This is speculative fiction that will keep you up at night with its plausibility.

In fact, the character in SKY SEED of President Gort reminds me of a certain highly placed U.S. government official. Her gender and utter devotion to religion are just about the only major differences between the fictional character and the one currently in office. Her disregard for the opinions of others, and her complete confidence in her own superiority will be traits many readers will recognize in today’s political leadership. As will her disregard for the potential ramifications of her actions.

Heaven forbid anyone ever acts on a plan such as “Sky Seed,” or “The Fix,” which is the other name for the covert operation spearheaded by the fictional U.S. President. If this were to happen, it could easily lead to the end of humanity as we know it.

Written with superb awareness of the current climate crisis, the author is currently Professor Emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London, a Co-director of the New Weather Institute and a Patron of Scientists for Global Responsibility. With qualifications such as this, he is more than qualified to tackle this topic and has created a plausible and highly believable scenario. Believable and, as I said above, utterly terrifying.

If you love speculative fiction, science fiction, drama, and thrillers, this book is one that needs to be at the top of your “Must Read” List for 2020 and 2021.

I rate SKY SEED as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I will be watching for more books by author BILL MCGUIRE.

QUOTES:

“Some other mug could take a turn at saving the sinking ship that was the British economy. It had been in deep recession ever since the coronavirus pandemic and, as far as he was concerned, it was a basket case.”

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bill McGuire is an academic, blogger, broadcaster and established popular science and speculative fiction writer. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London, a Co-director of the New Weather Institute and a Patron of Scientists for Global Responsibility. He writes regularly for Prospect magazine and The Guardian, and has also written for many other newspapers and science magazines including The Times, The Observer, The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, New Scientist and Science Focus. He blogs for Extinction Rebellion, the New Weather Institute, Scientists for Global Responsibility and Operation Noah. He has contributed to many television and radio programmes and presented two BBC Radio 4 series, Disasters in Waiting and Scientists Under Pressure, and the End of the World Reports on Channel 5 and Sky News. Most recently, he was Series Consultant for National Geographic’s X-Ray the Earth. Bill lives in the Peak District.

Bill McGuire says, “I am a long-established and successful writer of popular science books and a climate scientist. Having started writing speculative short stories a few years back, a novel seemed to be the obvious next step. A narrative combining geoengineering and conspiracy felt like a good way to go. There is also the added intrigue of the book sounding a salutary warning at a time when geoengineering our way out of the climate emergency is gathering support.”

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTERAUTHOR

TWITTER – BOOK GUILD

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CHAPTERS

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MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE by Investigative Reporter JUSTIN LING is available for pre-order NOW. This 5 STAR Read is destined for the National Bestseller list.

Title: MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE

Subtitle: The Story of Serial Killer Bruce McArthur, the Search for Justice, and the System That Failed Toronto’s Queer Community

Author: JUSTIN LING

Genre: NON-FICTION, LGBTQIA2+, LGBTQQ, QUEER NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME, DIVERSITY, MULTICULTURAL INTEREST, SERIAL KILLERS, TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA,  CANADIAN AUTHOR

Length: 304 PAGES

Publisher: MCCLELLAND AND STEWART – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE CANADA

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 29, 2020

ISBN: 9780771048647

Price: $32.95 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty to killing these eight men.
Top row, from left to right: Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen and Abdulbasir Faizi.
Bottom row, from left to right: Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi and Majeed Kayhan.
(John Fraser/CBC)

DESCRIPTION:

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.

Canadian Serial Killer
Bruce McArthur
Ho / THE CANADIAN PRESS

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.

MY REVIEW:

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.

McArthur’s victims were real people who had loved ones and friends who still miss them.

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.

Pre-Order NOW and Save 25%

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

QUOTES:

“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.

In 2019 he hosted “The Village,” the third season of the CBC podcast Uncover, which examined cold cases from the 1970s that were reopened as a result of the McArthur investigation.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

LINKEDIN

CBC

UNCOVER – THE PODCAST

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TWITTER

VICE

TALENT BUREAU

GOOGLE BOOKS

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

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SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD by Canadian Literary Phenom SALEEMA NAWAZ is available now as an Ebook – Coming Soon to bookstores. THIS BOOK IS BEING CALLED “EERILY PRESCIENT” in the wake of the Covid19 Pandemic

Title: SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD

Author: SALEEMA NAWAZ

Genre: FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, SPECULATIVE FICTION

Length: 438 PAGES

Publisher: McCLELLAND & STEWART – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE CANADA

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: AUGUST 25, 2020EBOOK AVAILABLE NOW

ISBN: 9780771072574

Price: $24.95 CDN

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

From the award-winning, Canada Reads-shortlisted author of Bone and Bread comes an immersive and eerily prescient novel about the power of human connection in a time of crisis, as the bonds of love, family, and duty are tested by an impending pandemic.

How quickly he’d forgotten a fundamental truth: the closer you got to the heart of a calamity, the more resilience there was to be found.

This is the story of a handful of people who find themselves living through an unfolding catastrophe.

Elliot is a first responder in New York, a man running from past failures and struggling to do the right thing.

Emma is a pregnant singer preparing to headline a benefit concert for victims of the outbreak–all while questioning what kind of world her child is coming into.

Owen is the author of a bestselling plague novel with eerie similarities to the real-life pandemic. As fact and fiction begin to blur, he must decide whether his lifelong instinct for self-preservation has been worth the cost.

As the novel moves back and forth in time, we discover these characters’ ties to one another and to those whose lives intersect with theirs, in an extraordinary web of connection and community that reveals none of us is ever truly alone.

Linking them all is the mystery of the so-called ARAMIS Girl, a woman at the first infection site whose unknown identity and whereabouts cause a furor.

Written and revised between 2013 and 2019, and brilliantly told by an unforgettable chorus of voices, Saleema Nawaz’s glittering novel is a moving and hopeful meditation on what we owe to ourselves and to each other.

It reminds us that disaster can bring out the best in people–and that coming together may be what saves us in the end.

MY REVIEW:

I was surprised to learn that the writing of this book took place before the Covid19 Pandemic. In fact, this book was begun six years ago.

SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD centers around a coronavirus disease called ARAMIS which is eerily similar to COVID19. There are other things in this story that are extremely similar to what is happening in the world today.

In fact, one of the main characters is an author who had written  fictional account of a plague similar to ARAMIS. Little did Saleema Nawaz know that she was going to experience firsthand what her character went through.

The main difference between this book and other sci-fi / post apocalyptic /dystopian / speculative fiction novels is the outlook of the characters. What I mean by this is that in most of the books of this genre, the actions of the populace devolve into violence over the course of the story. In fact, in most post-apocalyptic books, the plague ends up being less dangerous than  the people.

In SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, the majority of the characters act for the good of society rather than simply taking care of themselves and their families. Of course, they do not take reckless risks, but they are somehow able to hang onto their humanity. This is a refreshingly optimistic view of how people act during a catastrophe.

Although I said this book is optimistic, don’t think that every character is perfect; they are far from it. There are also characters that act like self righteous jerks, as well as a few characters you will want to smack upside of their head for how they behave. In short, just as in real life, there are good people, bad people, and people who fall somewhere in the middle.

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a unique science fiction novel with characters that are so relatable that you will feel like they are friends of yours by the end of the book.

I rate SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A READER’S GUIDE CAN BE FOUND HERE

QUOTES:

“It was the first time in his life he had encountered thinking – the deliberate thinking of difficult thoughts – as a thing to be encouraged, rather than staved off or endured.” 

The way she leaned into him, Stu realized that marriage had strength embedded in its very architecture, a resilience that beat back the usual threats. Given his parents’ union, he’d always thought of marriage as something more like resignation, a contractual obligation of last resort. But he now saw the hope of it, the faith in the promise itself.”
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“‘But was it me in there?’ Jericho asked. ‘Or the person I used to be?'”
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“Thinking is a sacred disease. And there’s no cure.”
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“Everything is a song in one way or another.”
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“As time went on, he began to think of his declarations of love as an ill-conceived engineering project, like digging graves along a shoreline; they could neither withstand nor contain her sorrow, nor his growing sense that he was no longer enough for her.”

Photo credit: Thomas Blanchard

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Saleema Nawaz’s first novel, Bone and Bread, won the Quebec Writers’ Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2016 Canada Reads competition.

She is also the author of the short story collection Mother Superior, and a winner of the Writers’ Trust of Canada / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize.

Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, she currently lives in Montreal, Quebec.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
https://www.saleemanawaz.com/

GOODREADS

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

WIKIPEDIA

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

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

Penguin Random House Canada is a full service Canadian publisher and distributor of books in hardcover, trade paperback, mass market and digital formats.

Imprints of Penguin Random House Canada include Anchor Canada, Bond Street Books, Doubleday Canada, Knopf Canada, Penguin Canada, Puffin Canada, Random House Canada, Razorbill Canada, Vintage Canada, McClelland & Stewart, Tundra Books and Appetite by Random House.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
http://penguinrandomhouse.ca

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

PINTEREST 

THE ALGONQUIN READER – Spring/Summer 2020 Edition is AVAILABLE NOW. Want to know what books you simply need to read this season? This magazine tells you all about them and even offers Sneak Peeks, Book Club Discussion Guides, and much more.

Title: THE ALGONQUIN READER 

Issue: SPRING 2020

Cover Illustrator: CURTIS PARKER

Genre: FICTION, LITERARY FICTION

Received: NETGALLEY 

ISBN: 9781643751290

RATING: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

ABOUT THE SPRING 2020 ISSUE:

The Spring/Summer 2020 Algonquin Reader.

Discover the inspiration behind each book listed in this season’s issue through an original essay by the author.

Then enjoy an excerpt from each novel or short story collection.

The books featured in this issue are:

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
On Sale April 2020

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
On Sale March 2020

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle Dr
On Sale June 2020

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
On Sale June 2020

The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson
On Sale July 2020

A House Is a Body by Shruti Swamy
On Sale August 2020

With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt
On Sale August 2020

MY REVIEW:

THE ALGONQUIN READER is a literary fiction magazine. I received an ARC (Advance Review Copy) of the SPRING/SUMMER 2020 issue.

In this issue, a selection of authors who have books being published between March and August of 2020, each wrote an essay and include an excerpt from their upcoming book.

The first author to be included was Julia Alvarez whose book AFTERLIFE was published in April of 2020. Her essay speaks of the evolution of her writing style as well as her writing routine. The excerpt from AFTERLIFE had the intended effect on me, as I have now added it to the list of books I want to read this year.
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Next up was the incredibly talented author of THE MOUNTAINS SING –  Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai. In her essay titled “Climbing Many Mountains,” she writes about her life in Vietnam and how winning a writing competition at the age of ten, which she had secretly entered, led her to spend her teen years talking to relatives and elders about their lives. This inquisitiveness (unknownst to her at the time) was the beginning of her research for THE MOUNTAINS SING. Also included is an excerpt from her amazing book which I have already read and will be reviewing soon. She ends her essay with the following quote:

“I hope the story of Huóng and Diêu Lan helps international readers discover our common humanity, as in the words of Huóng: ‘Somehow I was sure that if people were willing to read each other, and see the light of other cultures, there would be no war on earth.'”

The third included author is JILL McCORKLE whose book: HIEROGLYPHICS is due for release in June. Her book is based around two historic tragedies, a train derailment in 1941 and a nightclub fire in 1942. At the conclusion of her essay, author Jill McCorkle states:

“My hope is that the readers of Hieroglyphics will be entertained by these characters and their lives, but I also hope it will lead them to think of various fragments and images from their own lives and to experience the oldest and purest form of time travel – memory.”

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. The essay, as well as the excerpt included in the Spring issue of THE ALGONQUIN READER has succeeded in piqueing my interest.

THE FALLING WOMAN by Richard Farrell is a tale of suspense. A plane crashes and the sole survivor is a woman, and the story is about her, as well as the young agent whose job it is to find her. THE FALLING WOMAN is being released in June. In his essay, author Richard Farrell says:

We all are haunted by something – something we did or didn’t do – and the passing years either add to the weight or diminish it.”

I agree and identify wholeheartedly with this quote.

The final three books highlighted in the Spring 2020 Issue of THE ALGONQUIN READER are:

1. The Lives of Edie Pritchard by Larry Watson which hits bookstore shelves in July of 2020.

2. A House Is a Body by Shruti Swamy
is set for release in August of 2020

and

3. With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt which goes on sale August 2020.

Out of all the books highlighted, I most want to get my hands on a copy of AFTERLIFE by Julia Alvarez.

Courtesy of ALGONQUIN BOOKS, you can read an excerpt from AFTERLIFE by clicking HERE

You can also read an essay by the author HERE

And, last but not least, you can download a FREE BOOK CLUB KIT for Afterlife HERE

I rate the Spring 2020 Issue of THE ALGONQUIN READER as a hearty 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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*Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book.*

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Founded in 1983, Algonquin Books started as a small Southern house but quickly garnered national attention for publishing authors such as Julia Alvarez, Kaye Gibbons, Robert Morgan, and Lee Smith. In 1989, Algonquin was acquired by Workman Publishing. Algonquin is recognized internationally as a literary publishing house with numerous fiction and nonfiction bestsellers and award winners. Algonquin Young Readers is a new imprint that features books for readers seven to seventeen.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

#TheAlgonquinReaderSpring2020  #NetGalley

MS-13 The Making of America’s Most Notorious Gang By STEVEN DUDLEY is a fascinating read and was a complete eye-opener to me Check it out here

Information obtained from INSIGHT CRIME

Title: MS-13

Subtitle: The Making of America’s Most Notorious Gang

Author: STEVEN DUDLEY

Genre: NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME

Length:  352 PAGES

Publisher: HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada) – HANOVER SQUARE PRESS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: MAY 12, 2020

ISBN: 9781788703147

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

The definitive account of the most notorious street gang in America—the MS-13—as seen through the lives of gang members and their families caught in its malicious web.

The MS-13 was born from war. In the 1980s, El Salvador was enmeshed in a bloody civil conflict. To escape the guerrilla assaults and death squads, many fled to the US and settled in Los Angeles. Among them were Alex and his brother.

There, as a survival instinct, Alex and a small number of Salvadoran immigrants formed a group called the Mara Salvatrucha Stoners, a relatively harmless social network bound by heavy metal music and their Salvadoran identity. But later, as they brushed against established local gangs, the group took on a harder edge, selling drugs, stealing cars and killing rivals who threatened their territories. As authorities cracked down, gang members like Alex were incarcerated and deported. But in the prison system, the group only grew stronger, and in Central America, the gang multiplied, eventually spreading to a half-dozen nations in two continents.

Today, MS-13 is one of the most infamous street gangs on earth, with an estimated ten thousand members operating in dozens of states and linked to thousands of grisly murders each year in the US and abroad. But it is also misunderstood—less a drug cartel and more a hand-to-mouth organization whose criminal economy is based mostly on small-time extortion schemes and petty drug dealing. Journalist and longtime organized crime investigator Steven Dudley brings readers inside the nefarious group to tell a larger story of how a flawed US and Central American policy, and the exploitative and unequal economic systems helped foster the gang and sustain it. Ultimately, MS-13 is the story of the modern immigrant and the perennial battle to escape a vortex of poverty and crime, as well as the repressive, unequal systems that feed these problems.

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AWARDS SO FAR:

Winner of  the 2019 J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Award from The Columbia School of Journalism Winners MARA: The Making of the MS13

Judges’ citation: This timely and incisive work, speaking directly to the mission and purpose of the Lukas Work-in-Progress Awards, centers on one immigrant Salvadoran family that represents the complexities of the story of Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), the notorious gang that is the U.S. government’s number one target in its efforts to rid the country of “criminal aliens.”

Without ever minimizing the brutality of this gang, the book dispels many of the myths surrounding its history and power. More important, MARA is the story of flawed U.S. and Central American policies over many years and the exploitative and unequal systems they create.


MY REVIEW:

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TRIGGER WARNING:
This book contains violent scenes, both physical and sexual, and should not be read by individuals who might find themselves triggered by vivid descriptions of violence and murder.


This book is NOT for the Faint of Heart. Please exercise caution when reading and if at any time you feel you need to stop reading, I encourage you to put this book down and walk away.
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MS-13 IS A CRIMINAL GANG. They are well known for their violence and brutality. 

Journalist and author Steven Dudley has spent years reporting on gangs, government and violence in Central America. In writing MS-13: The Making of America’s Most Notorious Gang, he has written a comprehensive account as to how MS-13 was formed and how that gang spread from Central America to the United States.

What this book achieved for me was that it dispelled the notion that MS-13 is a strictly structured unit and that there is one singular person at the top and that all other members were co-ordinated  and part of a whole. This is simply not true. Each clique of MS-13 essentially acts on its own and sometimes cliques will war with other MS-13 cliques.

What does seem true of almost every MS-13 gang member, who spoke to the Author, is that that person grew up surrounded by violence and chaos, and had joined the gang (at least initially) as a way to protect themselves from outside forces.

President Donald Trump seems woefully misinformed about this gang and in fact gives them more credit than they deserve. By labelling MS-13 as Public Enemy Number One, all the President has done is that he has given potential gang recruits an additional reason for joining the gang. Many (even most) of the current MS-13 gang members living in the United States have fled their war-torn homelands to seek a better way of life. The problem is that when they arrive in the States, they realize that their lives are not much better than the lives they had fled.

MS:13 has been added to the list of Most Dangerous Gang Organizations in the United States.

I believe that anyone who wants to work with gang members on finding a new way of life should view this book as required reading. It is impossible to effect change if the history and dynamics of life as part of an MS-13 mara are not understood. 

I rate this book as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It is a fascinating read, but I also need to warn potential readers that the violence and brutality detailed in this book may be triggering for some people.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Steven Dudley is the co-director of InSight, a joint initiative of American University and the Fundación Ideas para la Paz in Colombia, South America, aimed at monitoring, analyzing and investigating organized crime in the Americas. Based in Washington D.C., Dudley works with a team of five investigators and various contributors throughout the region to give the public a more complete view of how organized crime works in the Americas, as well as its impact on public policy and communities from the Rio Grande to Patagonia.

Before launching InSight, he worked as the Bureau Chief for The Miami Herald in the Andean Region and wrote a book: Walking Ghosts: Murder and Guerrilla Politics in Colombia (Routledge 2004). Dudley has also reported from Haiti, Brazil, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Miami for National Public Radio, The Washington Post, and the BBC’s The World; and written feature articles for The Washington Post Magazine, The Economist, Columbia Journalism Review, The Progressive, and The Nation. His current projects include a documentary film, which aired on Colombia’s RCN Television in September 2010.

Dudley has a BA in Latin American History from Cornell University and an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese fluently. He has taught high school as well as worked in Human Rights.

His range of experience, languages and reporting skills give him the tools to perform in any environment.

Honors and Awards:

Knight Fellowship: Stanford University : In 2007, Dudley was awarded the prestigious Knight Fellowship for professional journalists.

Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Award : Dudley was part of a team that won second place for international reporting in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists at its Sunshine State Awards for a series on land mines in Latin America.

Overseas Press Club Malcolm Forbes Award for Best Business Reporting from Abroad

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

WILSON CENTER

CONVERSATION.COM

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

LINKEDIN 

TWITTER

AMAZON  

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

GOOGLE BOOKS

SOME INFORMATION ABOUT MS-13 FROM INSIGHT CRIME:

An MS13 linked gang in El Salvador known as the Black Widows has been convicted of forcing women to marry men and then killing their new husbands as part of a complex life insurance scheme — a case which helps shed light on women in organized crime in Central America. – Photograph and Information Obtained from INSIGHT CRIME.
The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, is perhaps the most notorious street gang in the Western Hemisphere. While it has its origins in the poor, refugee-laden neighborhoods of 1980s Los Angeles, the gang’s reach now spans from Central America to Europe.
While they are largely a predatory criminal organization, living mostly from extortion, the gang’s resilience owes to its strong social bonds, which are created and strengthened via acts of violence against mostly their rivals and one another.
Their activities have helped make the Northern Triangle — Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — the most violent place in the world that is not at war. In October 2012, the US Department of the Treasury labeled the group a “transnational criminal organization,” the first such designation for a US street gang, but their criminal proceeds do not even approach those of their counterparts on that list. Photograph and Information Obtained from INSIGHT CRIME.
Marvin RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images – National Post June 2018
Marvin RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images – National Post June 2018 Toronto man’s boast of being in notorious MS-13 gang leads to deportation order

SMACKED – A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction and Tragedy by Award-winning Journalist EILENE ZIMMERMAN Coming Soon – A Story That Will Open People’s Eyes to the fact that Addiction Effects all Socioeconomic Classes and is NOT simply a ‘Poor People Problem’ – AN IMPORTANT AND TIMELY MEMOIR THAT IS A MUST READ FOR US ALL

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Title: SMACKED

Subtitle: A STORY OF WHITE-COLLAR AMBITION, ADDICTION, AND TRAGEDY

Author: EILENE ZIMMERMAN

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS, ADDICTION

Length: 272 PAGES

Publisher: RANDOM HOUSE

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: FEBRUARY 4, 2020

ISBN: 9780525511007 (Hardcover)

Price: $27.00 USD (Hardcover)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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DESCRIPTION:

A journalist pieces together the mysteries surrounding her ex-husband’s unexpected death from drug abuse while trying to rebuild a life for her family, taking readers on an intimate journey into the white-collar drug epidemic

Something was wrong with Peter. Eilene Zimmerman noticed that her ex-husband looked thin, seemed distracted, and was frequently absent from activities with their children. She thought he looked sick and needed to see a doctor, and indeed, he told her he had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Yet in many ways, Peter seemed to have it all: a beautiful house by the beach, expensive cars, and other luxuries that came with an affluent life. Eilene assumed his odd behavior was due to stress and overwork—he was a senior partner at a prominent law firm and had been working more than sixty hours a week for the last twenty years.

Although they were divorced, Eilene and Peter had been partners and friends for decades, so when she and her children were unable to reach Peter for several days, Eilene went to his house to see if he was OK.

So begins Smacked, a brilliant and moving memoir of Eilene’s shocking discovery, one that sets her on a journey to find out how a man she knew for nearly thirty years became a drug addict, hiding it so well that neither she nor anyone else in his life suspected what was happening. Eilene discovers that Peter led a secret life, one that started with pills and ended with opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine. He was also addicted to work; the last call Peter ever made was to dial in to a conference call.

Eilene is determined to learn all she can about Peter’s hidden life, and also about drug addiction among ambitious, high-achieving professionals like him. Through extensive research and interviews, she presents a picture of drug dependence today in that moneyed, upwardly mobile world. She also embarks on a journey to re-create her life in the wake of loss, both of the person—and the relationship—that profoundly defined the woman she had become.

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ADD ON GOODREADS

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MY REVIEW:

Part memoir, part exposé, SMACKED takes readers on a journey into the white-collar world of drug and work addiction.

When most people think about the Opiod Epidemic and even addiction in general, they incorrectly assume that the people involved must come from low-income communities and/or broken homes. This book proves just how wrong that assumption is.

Author EILENE ZIMMERMAN thought she knew everything there was to know about her ex-husband. After all, just because they had ended their marriage, didn’t mean they had ended their friendship. They were committed to providing as stable an environment as possible for their two teenage children. They were in constant communication and even attended important events, such as graduations, together.

So, when neither herself, nor the children, had heard from Peter for several days, Eilene went to check on him. What she found upon entering his home permanently changed her life and the lives of her children.

As a journalist, it was not surprising that her reaction to discovering her ex-husband’s drug addiction was to do research. What was surprising is what she uncovered. To find out all the details, you need to read SMACKED.

I am impressed with the writing style and how well the author is able to convey the details, including the emotions both she and her children were experiencing.

It is often difficult for memoir writers to be brutally honest about their experiences. Often, the desire to sugarcoat certain facts is given in to. EILENE ZIMMERMAN does NOT sugarcoat any details. This makes for a much more realistic and believable tale. She articulates her anguish with heart-wrenching clarity.

The fact that Eilene had believed all of Peter’s excuses for the changes in his behaviour in hindsight can clearly be seen as being caused by addiction. However, Eilene, as with others of a high socioeconomic status, had no experience with drug addiction and as such, the idea of it had never crossed her mind.

The more Eilene researched, the more she learned and what she was uncovering shook her worldview. She knew she needed to let other people know just how prevalent addiction is in high achievers. This discovery led to her writing an article for the New York Times which in turn, led to the writing of SMACKED.

Everyone should read this book and it should be required reading for new lawyers, stock brokers, and others who occupy high stress jobs.

I rate SMACKED as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eilene Zimmerman has been a journalist for three decades, covering business, technology, and social issues for a wide array of national magazines and newspapers.

She was a columnist for The New York Times Sunday Business section for six years, and since 2004 has been a regular contributor to the newspaper.

In 2017, Zimmerman also began pursuing a master’s degree in social work.

She lives in New York City.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK – PUBLISHER

ABOUT ME WEBSITE

TWITTER – AUTHOR

TWITTER – PUBLISHER

TWITTER – PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

MEDIUM.COM

LINKEDIN

MUCK RACK

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

LIBRO FM AUDIOBOOKS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

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“Addiction is a pervasive problem among lawyers,” says Doron Gold, a Toronto-based psychotherapist and former practising lawyer who helped develop the CBA’s online course on mental health and wellness in the legal profession.

– Obtained From THE NATIONAL MAGAZINE

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“The most important thing I want everyone to know is that addiction does not discriminate. What happened to me can easily happen to anyone of you. Guaranteed, someone close to you is struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse.”

Corey Phair

Quote Obtained From: THE POST ARTICLE FOUND HERE

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Click HERE to listen to a short interview with the Author describing her story.

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THE QUEST by Lara Kellett-Smith is Young Adult Fantasy Fiction at it’s Very Best

Title: THE QUEST

Series: FIRST SNOW – BOOK ONE

Author: LARA KELLETT-SMITH

Genre: FICTION, YOUNG ADULT FICTION, FANTASY FICTION, SOCIAL THEMES

Length: 392 PAGES

Received From: THE AUTHOR

Release Date: DECEMBER 30, 2018

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

*

DESCRIPTION:

Hashtag tricked.

Hashtag coerced.

Hashtag there are no hashtags here…wherever here is.

Seventeen-year-old Jemma Alder is easy prey for her classmate. Tricked into crossing to another world and coerced into going on a dangerous Quest, Jemma must quickly learn how to survive in an 18th-century-like land against an unknown enemy. By her side is Aaron Norling…but tribal laws, ancient prejudices, and family secrets soon threaten their fragile love.

Suitable for ages 13+

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MY REVIEW:

THE QUEST is a FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC young adult novel and the beginning of what promises to be an awesome new series.

The official description of this book just does not do it justice. Although the beginning takes place in the real world, it is a small part of the overall tale.

With exquisite prose, an epic journey, adventure, a battle between good and evil, a budding romance, magic, shapeshifters, and a beautifully described new world, this book is not to be missed.

What reader hasn’t dreamed of being swept up, away from their everyday lives and into the adventure of a lifetime? One of the reasons the fantasy genre is so popular is our desire to live vicariously through the characters in a book. THE QUEST embodies this desire perfectly.

QUEST begins in present day Yorkshire, England, but soon moves to a parallel world with almost nothing in common with the modern world. At Jemma’s “home” in England, it is winter, however, when she arrives in the strange, new land of Terran, she realizes the seasons have changed in an instant. It is now spring (or maybe summer – at first she is unsure.) The landscape is completely different as well. Gone are the fields of Yorkshire. In their place, is a lush valley with mountains in the distance.

Jemma is a character that most teens (as well as most adults) can relate to.

Jemma somehow fits in beautifully with Aaron Norling’s family, and they take her into their home, and eventually, into their hearts. The clan of which Aaron and his family are part of are the Loukyn Clan – shapeshifters who turn into wolves. Jemma does not discover their magic for some time, but once she is finally able to wrap her mind around the fact that shapeshifters are real, and that they are a reality in Terran, she learns more and more about her adoptive land and it’s inhabitants.

She discovers that there are many different clans and that each clan shapeshifts into a unique animal. There is a Bear clan, an Eagle clan, a horse clan, etc. Jemma soon learns that racism and classism are rampant in Terran and that exile is the punishment for falling in love and mating with a member of a different clan. This bothers her immensely and rightly so.

However, trying to change their culture is secondary to the fact that she is to take part in a dangerous quest to retrieve a special plant from high up on a glacier.

THE QUEST is the story of their travels and all the obstacles that the six Questers must overcome. To make their journey even more difficult, it seems that someone, or something, is doing its best to ensure the failure of their task even if that means they all must die.

The story moves at a pulse-pounding rate and readers cannot stop themselves from becoming engrossed in the story. In fact, this book is UN-PUT-DOWNABLE!!!

Add in the fact that Jemma and Aaron are drawn to each other by an inescapable attraction and a mutual respect that causes their feelings of friendship and admiration to turn into so much more. But, this budding romance faces challenges at every turn, some of which might be impossible to overcome.

I hope I have intrigued potential readers to pick up a copy of this Indie authored Young Adult Fantasy novel. It will not disappoint you. This author has a true gift for characterization, world building as well as an intuitive sense for pacing.

I rate THE QUEST as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I am eagerly awaiting the second and third books in this series and I now a dedicated Lara Kellett-Smith fan.
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****Thank you very much to Author Lara Kellett-Smith for providing me with a free copy of this amazing, new, Young Adult Fiction novel.****

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hi, I’m Lara…teacher, avid reader, and author of books for children and young adults. My stories have an adventurous element, and I’m a huge romantic so you’ll find plenty of this in my YA work.

I’m from the island of Guernsey, Channel Islands (Uh, huh…as in ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society’ by Shaffer and Barrows), but also spent my childhood on the tiny Scottish island of Tanera Mhor (no roads or shops, and we had to go to school by boat), and the Scottish Highlands of Glencoe (the region where they filmed Harry Potter…and Braveheart, Rob Roy, The Highlander, and The Loch series, to name a few. Popular scenery!).

It was an adventurous upbringing with lots of freedom, spent at the beach, on boats, and in the forests and mountains (with my dog, Heidi). My love of outdoor swimming and skiing were developed from an early age; I learned to swim in a rockpool, and to ski on the rugged slopes of White Corries, Glencoe. I confess, though, that having lived in a Swiss ski resort for twenty years, I’m a bit spoilt now for long, wide pristine slopes and lots of cafes!

I spent three months of my gap year in remote parts of northern Australia, with Operation Raleigh and continued my travels with a year’s university exchange to SUNY Plattsburgh, USA – then taught in primary/elementary school in Aviemore, Scotland, and Prague, Czech Republic. I’ve been settled, as a teacher, in Switzerland for twenty years.

Fun fact: My home base for twenty-five years was Glencoe and I now live in the Swiss canton of Vaud. The father of Ian Fleming’s character, James Bond, was from Glencoe, and Bond’s mother was from the Swiss Canton of Vaud!

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
http://www.larakellettsmith.com

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

PICTOSEE

AMAZON

HYPEHUB

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HOW IT ALL BEGAN:

This entire series stemmed from a single quote by J.B. Priestley, that I spotted in a magazine…however, I’m still awaiting updated permission to use it, so you’ll have to try and figure it out for yourself!

But here’s a clue: I’m a huge fan of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and always wanted to write a two-world fantasy story. This quote sparked an idea, then another, then another, until I had characters and countries, and worlds.

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CAST OF CHARACTERS:

THE EARTHENS:

Jemma Alder-Norling: (17) Orphaned at thirteen and raised by her stepfather.

Lord Robert Clayworth: Jemma’s stepfather.

Captain James Cook: An earthen, who sailed as a cabin boy with Captain James Cook.

Grace: Jemma’s feisty best friend, currently dating Ben. Her mum is a paramedic.

Ben: Jemma’s friend and recently Grace’s boyfriend.

Yash: Jemma, Grace and Ben’s friend.

Octavia: Part of Veronika’s ‘Elite’ clique.

Miranda: Part of Veronika’s ‘Elite’ clique.

Florence: Part of Veronika’s ‘Elite’ clique.

Charles: Captain of the football (soccer) team. Veronika’s boyfriend.

Henry: Friend of Charles.

THE LOST VALLEY LOUKYN CLAN:

Isaac Norling (father): Missing, presumed captured by slavers.

Amos Isaac Norling: (21) betrothed to childhood sweetheart, Bronwen Allan.

Aaron Finlay Norling: (17) First met Jemma on Earth at Gunnar High. Leader of the questers.

Olaf Reistad (father): Missing, presumed captured by slavers.

Mary Reistad (mother): Known for her gentle demeanour and homemaking skills.

Yari Reistad: (17) Twin brother to Rose. One of the six questers.

Rose Reistad: (17) Twin sister to Yari. Whereabouts unknown.

Poppy Reistad: (13) Feisty, adventurous identical twin sister to Daisy.

Daisy Reistad: (13) Creative, thoughtful identical twin sister to Poppy.

Bryn Allan (father): Missing, presumed captured by slavers.

Clara Killin-Allan (mother): A ‘tough cookie’ responsible for the farm animals.

Bronwen Allan: (20) Betrothed to Amos Norling.

Bree Allan: (17) One of the six questers. Skilled with a bow and arrow.

Bess Allan: (10) Adores dressing in frilly, girly clothes.

Shaun Allan: (2 ½ )

Edwyn Killin: Clara Allan’s father.

Nora Killin: Clara Allan’s mother.

Elgan Killin: Edwyn’s brother. Shared his cabin with James Cook.

Anders Killin: Cousin to Edwyn and Elgan. Married to Dena.

Dena Killin: Wife to Anders.

(The Killins are guardians of the warning beacon at Killin’s Post)

Hendrik Karloff (father): Loukyn Clan Chief and voted as next Righnar of Alligand.

Gwyn Karloff (mother)

Landon Karloff: (19)

Veronika Karloff: (17) Studying on Earth, she tricked Jemma into using the ring and crossing to Terran in her stead.

Felix Jensen: (father) Missing, presumed captured by slavers.

Oskar Jensen: (17) One of the six questers. Engaged to Wanda. Has younger triplet brothers.

Doctor Falk: Local doctor.

Wanda Falk: (17) One of the six questers. Engaged to Oskar.

Aldora Judd: Like a grandmother to Aaron and true mate/girlfriend of Captain James Cook.

Konselor Enid: Clan elder / member of the Loukyn Konsul.

Konselor Kaisa: Clan elder / member of the Loukyn Konsul.

Konselor Jonah: Clan elder / member of the Loukyn Konsul.

Joseph: Farmer and neighbour to the Reistads/Allans.

Carrig: (18) Landon’s friend. Demi-kyn whose wolf is dominant. Mother is Merkyn.

Garth: (19) Landon’s friend.

Rhys Evans (father): An excomunicated loukyn from the Fern Valley Clan. Lives in the Ukyent.

Alice Evans (mother / wife): A domaren from Novitalia

Reanna Evans: (16)

Deri Evans: (15) Demi-kyn, wolf shifter.

Idelle Evans: (14)

THE AIKYN TRIBE:

Kirill Orel: (father) Elder in the Aikyn Tribe.

Darina Orel: (mother)

Yerik Orel: (18) Befriended Aaron when he lived up north during his ‘Finding’.

Kristina Alexeev: (18)

THE WHYTIE TRIBE

THE EQUOSKYN TRIBE

Nikolas Duke: A horse shifter, lawyer and friend to the Yenti chieftains.

THE YENTI:

Prifar Vandar : Ourskyn – Chieftain of the Yenti Tribe. Twin brother to Bard, chief of an Ourskyn clan. Exiled from his clan when he married Emmeline.

Primor Emmeline: (Omnishifter) Chieftain of the Yenti Tribe.

Liv: (24) ourskyn – daughter of the chieftains.

Fergal: (19) omnishifter – son of the chieftains. Bonded to Aaron.

Valda: (18) lynxkyn – daughter of the chieftains.

Halvard: ourskyn – Chief of the Yenti guard.

Hadwin (Serpentine): Member of the guard. Penelope’s father.

Helga (Demi-kyn, wolf/skallert parents): Penelope’s mother.

Penelope (Demi-kyn, skallert): Daughter of Helga and Hadwin

HANDS UP by Stephen Clark has been released and is a story that seems ripped from the headlines. You NEED to check out this book

Title: HANDS UP

Author: STEPHEN CLARK

Genre: FICTION, MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS, SOCIAL THEMES

Length: 290 PAGES

Publisher: WiDō PUBLISHING

Received From: THE AUTHOR

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947966-20-8

Rating: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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DESCRIPTION:

Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.

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MY REVIEW:

This is a timely novel because of the very real increase in the number of police shootings of unarmed, young black men in the United States.

HANDS UP begins with Tyrell Wakefield being shot by rookie police officer Ryan Quinn. According to the police, the young man had punched Ryan’s older partner and was attempting to grab his gun.

However, Tyrell’s sister, Jade, finds that story very unlikely, as does her mother. So, Jade is determined to find out what really happened.

When Jade’s maternal Aunt turns Tyrell’s death into a #BlackLivesMatter rallying cry, the press get ahold of the story and it becomes bigger than Jade ever expected. It also brings an unexpected person back into the lives of Jade and the rest of her family and he is definitely NOT welcome.

Meanwhile, Ryan Quinn is horrified with what he has done. He never wanted to shoot anyone and he has never thought of himself as the racist monster he is being portrayed as. In fact, his police officer father was killed in the line of duty when Ryan was young, so he is accutely aware of the pain caused by losing a loved one to gun violence. Now, Ryan has a decision to make. Should he be loyal to the police and his partner? Or should he follow his heart and his conscience?

I enjoyed this book even more than I had anticipated. I had some idea of how the tale would unfold, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is not a predictable read and author Stephen Clark has created characters of depth and complexity.

In addition to the obvious issue of police shootings, several other social issues are also part of this story. In my opinion, this makes the story seem even more realistic. Police shootings do not happen in a vacuum and there are almost always several factors that contribute to the tragedy.
In DON’T SHOOT, racism by the police is not the only problem. The area in which the shooting takes place is poverty-stricken due to lack of education and employment opportunities, gang violence, a lack of social programs and much more.

On top of the above problems, this story also talks about homelessness, single parenting, divorce, abandonment, addiction, cutting, and even suicide. The author does a fabulous job of describing these issues and how each of them has affected the lives of the characters, and how a single issue can affect different individuals in different ways.

With non-stop action, current events, exquisitely complicated characters and a twisting plot, HANDS UP is a fantastic and must read, newly released novel.

This IS most definitely a book worthy of being on your “To Read” list. In fact, I will not be surprised when HANDS UP becomes an award-winning novel.

I rate this book as 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐ and would like to thank the author for sending me a copy of this book.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Stephen Clark is a former award-winning journalist who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington, D.C. bureau of FoxNews.com. As a reporter for the Utica Observer-Dispatch, he won a New York Newspaper Publishers Association Award of Distinguished Community Service for his investigation into the financial struggles of nonprofit services.

He also won a Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting at the Stamford Advocate for his series exposing an elderly grifter’s charity organization.

Stephen grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and now lives in North Jersey with his wife and son.

He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Arcadia University and a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

LINKEDIN

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE