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Book Reviews
'African: A Children's Picture Book'
By: Peter Tosh & Rachel Moss - Lyric Pop/Akashic Books, $15.29

Description: 'African: A Children's Picture Book' is a beautiful children's picture book featuring the lyrics of Peter Tosh's global classic celebrating children of African descent.

Verdict: Targeted at an age range of 5-7 year-old's and running at a lush 32 pages, these magnificent, colorful, vibrantly illustrated and harmoniously told (through Pete Tosh lyrics) stories are presented in 8.5"x8.5" glossy hardback books.

Featuring lyrics from songs that you would normally only ever hear on the radio, or coming out of the speakers of a record player (or, these days, computer, iPhone, etc.), each song (within the series) is a pocket of storytelling that spring forth to enlighten the mind or embrace the heart.

Here within 'African: A Children's Picture Book,' which the 'African' lyrics were originally released in 1977 on Tosh's second solo record, Equal Rights, and which was written during a time of civil unrest in Jamaica as a reminder to all black people that they were part of the same community, we not only get abundant views on cultural heritage, but welcome into our minds, hearts and souls new ideas and thoughts about the world and the people who live within it - no matter what your age.

No matter the color of your skin, Moss has explained that if you have the black man’s DNA running through your blood, you are an African.

Indeed, she grew up with this reality in Jamaica, a country mixed with so many different cultures and races that their national motto became, “Out of Many One People.”

Using the lyrics of the man, Peter Tosh (one of the founding members of the iconic reggae group the Wailers), who called for change during his lifetime, embodied within these pertinent lyrics is a voice of uprising and awareness; one that, especially today, still shouts loud and proud to be heard.

Furthermore, Tosh's lyrics and perhaps now more than ever, have such a powerful message for not only Black kids, but children from all races.

Ergo, Moss hopes that if parents read 'African' to their young children, the song lyrics spark conversation about not fearing difference.

For difference is what makes the human race beautiful.

About the Author - Peter Tosh was one of the founding members of the iconic reggae group the Wailers.

'African' is a key song from the classic 1970s era of reggae.

Rachel Moss (illustrator) is a graphic designer in love with the bright colors and vibrant energy of the Caribbean.

She was born in Jamaica and studied animation in England at the University for the Creative Arts.

Moss now lives in Jamaica where she spends her days illustrating children’s books such as I Am a Promise by Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, Abigail’s Glorious Hair, and Milo & Myra Learn Manners with Mr. Mongoose.

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'Don't Stop: A Children's Picture Book'
By: Christine McVie & Nusha Ashjaee - Lyric Pop/Akashic Books, $15.29

Description: 'Don't Stop: A Children's Picture Book' is a beautifully illustrated picture book based on Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac's enduring anthem to optimism and patience.

Verdict: Targeted at an age range of 5-7 year-old's and running at a lush 24 pages, these magnificent, colorful, vibrantly illustrated and harmoniously told (through Fleetwood Mac's lyrics) stories are presented in 8.5"x8.5" glossy hardback books.

Featuring lyrics from songs that you would normally only ever hear on the radio, or coming out of the speakers of a record player (or, these days, computer, iPhone, etc.), each song (within the series) is a pocket of storytelling that spring forth to enlighten the mind or embrace the heart.

From the off, the song was one of the singles on Fleetwood Mac's megahit album Rumours, which spent thirty-one weeks at number one on the Billboard charts and went on to sell over forty million copies worldwide.

Here, and with the gorgeous, yet subtle illustrations from Nusha Ashjaee with every turn of the page, and using a its theme song as the very same one that was used for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, Christine McVie's lyrics paired with woodland creatures in 'Don't Stop: A Children's Picture Book' is truly as wondrous as it sounds.

The story is one that imagines a rabbit willing her hibernating friends out of a long and dark winter and into a joyous spring.

The story about the welcoming a new day, a bigger, brighter day with new possibilities is obviously one we can all relate to these days, and funnily enough, it can actually be read or even sang to your children (and what a great way to introduce them to some of the most classic of classic rock music at the very same time!

About the Author - Christine McVie is a singer/songwriter best known for her tenure as one of the lead vocalists and songwriters for the legendary rock-and-roll band Fleetwood Mac. Christine joined the band in 1970.

Fleetwood Mac became one of the key musical narrators since the 1970s and have sold over 100 million albums worldwide. In 1998, she was inducted, as a member of Fleetwood Mac, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Nusha Ashjaee is an illustrator originally from the Bay Area, now based out of Brooklyn. She received her BA from California College of the Arts in writing and literature. This is her first picture book.

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'Good Vibrations: A Children's Picture Book'
By: Mike Love and Brian Wilson & Paul Hoppe - Lyric Pop/Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: 'Good Vibrations: A Children's Picture Book' uses Mike Love and Brian Wilson’s world-famous song, here gloriously illustrated by Paul Hoppe, with the hope that it will bring smiles to the faces of children and parents alike.

Verdict: Targeted at an age range of 5-7 year-old's and running at a lush 32 pages, these magnificent, colorful, vibrantly illustrated and harmoniously told (through Beach Boy lyrics) stories are presented in 8.5"x8.5" glossy hardback books.

Featuring lyrics from songs that you would normally only ever hear on the radio, or coming out of the speakers of a record player (or, these days, computer, iPhone, etc.), each song (within the series) is a pocket of storytelling that spring forth to enlighten the mind or embrace the heart.

Here within 'Good Vibrations: A Children's Picture Book,' this lively, oh-so colorful and vibrant book based on Mike Love and Brian Wilson’s number one hit (about absorbing positive energy from the people around them) is, quite easily, one of the most welcoming and joyous kids story books that I've come across in a long time.

Often praised as one of the most important compositions in rock, the Beach Boys’ original version of this song was their third number one Billboard hit.

With lyrics by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, and illustrations by Paul Hoppe, this picture book follows a girl and her dog as they make their way down to the beach, sharing good vibrations all along the way!

Parents and children alike can share and enjoy one of rock’s greatest hits through the colorful pages of Good Vibrations, of that you can take my word, but that said, when the lyrics are such as "I love the colorful clothes she wears / And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair,” well, you know you're in for a spectacular visual showcase.

About the Author - 'Good Vibrations' is a lively picture book based on Mike Love and Brian Wilson’s number one hit about absorbing positive energy from the people around them.

Often praised as one of the most important compositions in rock, the Beach Boys’ original version of this song was their third number one Billboard hit.

Paul Hoppe (illustrator) has illustrated various children’s books, including, Neymar: A Soccer Dream Come True and The Woods, which he also wrote.

His work has appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. During the summer, Hoppe teaches sequential art at the School of Visual Arts.

His work has been honored by the Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, and American Illustration, among others.

Originally from Poland and raised in Germany, Hoppe works from a shared studio in the Pencil Factory in Brooklyn, and lives in Queens. Good Vibrations is his latest book.

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We’re Not Gonna Take It: A Children's Picture Book
By: Dee Snider & Margaret McCartney - Lyric Pop/Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: 'We’re Not Gonna Take It: A Children's Picture Book' is a playful picture book echoing 1980s hair band Twisted Sister's most popular antiestablishment anthem.

As part of their triple-platinum album Stay Hungry, 'We're Not Gonna Take It' spent fifteen weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching number twenty-one.

Verdict: Targeted at an age range of 5-7 year-old's and running at a lush 32 pages, these magnificent, colorful, vibrantly illustrated and harmoniously told (through Dee Snider lyrics) stories are presented in 8.5"x8.5" glossy hardback books.

Featuring lyrics from songs that you would normally only ever hear on the radio, or coming out of the speakers of a record player (or, these days, computer, iPhone, etc.), each song (within the series) is a pocket of storytelling that spring forth to enlighten the mind or embrace the heart.

Here within 'We’re Not Gonna Take It: A Children's Picture Book,' we find the story that both parents and children can easily relate to, as we three toddlers are on a mission to defy their parents; whether it be lunchtime, bath time, or bedtime!

Indeed, Snider himself has admitted that he never imagined the song being relative to toddlers and infants and small children, but the realization was that rebellion is one of our first instincts!

"We have many first instincts of course — love, and hunger, things like that — but we also very quickly establish what we want and what we don’t want, and what we like and what we don’t like," Snider further explains.

"Being rebellious is something born in us and bred in us, and it is at our very core, so seeing those pictures was actually an education for me.”

Overall, the story is rather fun and can be spoken or even "gently" sung to your little ones, is my personal thought! Made with lines of humor throughout, it also offers some opportunities for the reader to mull over ideas with their children, and explain just why there are rules in existence: and, perhaps even, why rules should sometimes be questioned!

About the Author - While he is perhaps best known as the lead singer and songwriter of the '80s sensation Twisted Sister, there is so much more to Dee Snider.

He has starred in several reality TV shows and has been a frequent host on MTV. His own nationally syndicated radio show House of Hair will soon celebrate twenty-five years on over 200 stations in North America.

As a voiceover artist, he can be heard in many radio and TV commercials, animated shows, and documentaries. He also served a yearlong stint as the voice of MSNBC.

Margaret McCartney (illustrator) grew up in Washington, DC, where she played flute in the Police Boys & Girls Club Band and guitar in a band called Tuscadero.

She has met both Bill Clinton and Jimmy Walker. She studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Her work has appeared on everything from garden gloves to comics to her own line of children's wear, Winter Water Factory. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

She enjoys fiction and dumplings and her "crimes" include wrecking a moped in Thailand and opening for Cheap Trick!

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'The Psychic Soviet: Expanded Edition'
By: Ian F. Svenonius - Akashic Books, $18.95

Description: A new, expanded collection of essays and articles from one of the mainstays of the Washington, DC, underground rock and roll scene, 'The Psychic Soviet' is Ian F. Svenonius’s groundbreaking first book of writings.

Verdict: Simply put, Ian F. Svenonius has a unique, post-modern style that transcends, even today, quite a considerable amount of idealisms and so-called contemporary indie-chic hipster views - and all contained within a formidable little pink, removeable plastic-covered book that you can carry around in your pocket!

Containing a selection (now expanded) of essays, music and "faction," The Psychic Soviet is as entertaining as books come, meticulously layered with, at times, skewered observations that are both ironic and paranoid in equal measure.

The selections are written in a lettered yet engaging style, filled with parody and biting humor that subvert capitalist culture, and cover such topics as the ascent of the DJ as a star, the “cosmic depression” that followed the defeat of the USSR, how Seinfeld caused the bankruptcy of modern pop culture, and the status of rock and roll as a religion.

As aforementioned, the pocket-sized book is bound with a durable bright-pink (albeit in some light, red-tinged) plastic cover, recalling the aesthetics of Mao’s Little Red Book, and perfect for carrying into the fray of street battle, classroom, or lunch-counter argument.

So what we get here is a book much in the tradition of politically inspired trickster/poet types, such as Bob Dylan, where Svenonius can be obscure, self contradicting, non-committal and at times ridiculous, all within the same sentence structure!

In truth, Svenonius' political approach is more that of a poet rather than that of a true ideologue. In other words he plays at political ranting to paint a picture which isn't really propaganda, although it uses Marxist/ proto-Marxist language and analysis at times.

Furthermore, at times, his writing is more like a wild abstract painting of 20th century pop culture than a functional call to action.

In closing, I would implore people to read 'The Psychic Soviet' like an obsessed teenager consumes rock & roll, not like a political adherent consumes rhetoric. For this is pure madness imbued with total genius from start to finish!

Table of Contents:
Instructions - The Psychic Soviet - Vampirism & Vampirology - The Bloody Latte - Beatles vs. Stones - Rock ’N’ Rolligion - The Responsible Use of Rock ’N’ Roll - Eat the Rocument - Time As Money - Seinfeld Syndrome - Rock ’N’ Roll As Real Estate - Warning to Swedish Girls - Scion-tology - Mordor Dearest - Camp Exploitation - The Stilyagi - The Seduction of Paolo Hewitt - The Mix Master Race - You Can’t Always Get No Satisfaction - Personal Inscription - Afterword (to the second edition) - Epilogue: The Psychick Psketchbook.

About the Author - Ian F. Svenonius is the author of the underground best sellers Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock 'n' Roll Group and Censorship Now!!

He was also the host of's Soft Focus, where he interviewed Mark E. Smith, Genesis P. Orridge, Chan Marshall, Ian MacKaye, and others.

Living in Washington, DC, as a musician he has created more than twenty albums and countless singles in various rock and roll combos (Chain & the Gang, Weird War, The Make-Up, The Nation of Ulysses, etc.).

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'Long Story Short'
By: Mr. Fish and Friends - Akashic Books, $15.95

Description: The Catcher in the Rye. Lolita. Moby-Dick. Infinite Jest. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. A Room of One’s Own. Native Son.

These are but a handful of classic works spectacularly distilled by Mr. Fish and a very talented group of painters, illustrators, graphic designers, and political cartoonists into succinct snapshots that are at times funny, sad, inspiring, rude, crude, beautiful, profound, stomach-turning, and mind-blowing.

Verdict: Inclusive of original artwork from: Mr. Fish, Ted Rall, Stephanie McMillan, Sarah Awad, Eli Valley, Wes Tyrell, Tamara Knoss, Keith Henry Brown, Sam Henderson, Lodi Marasescu, Surag Ramachandran, Tami Knight, Eric J. Garcia, Marissa Dougherty, Siri Dokken, John G., Andy Singer, Tara Seibel, Gary Dumm, Clare Kolat, Nate Ulsh, Benjamin Slyngstad, Ron Hill, JP Trostle, John Kovaleski, and Beth McCaskey, 'Long Story Short: Turning Famous Books into Cartoons' is, quite easily, one of the most fascinating books I have had the pleasure to "flip through" in the past decade or more!

For those not in the know, and so taking it from the top, Dwayne Booth (Mr. Fish) is a cartoonist and freelance writer whose work can most regularly be seen on and

Indeed, he has been a cartoonist and freelance writer for twenty years, publishing under both his own name and the penname of Mr. Fish with many of the nation’s most reputable and prestigious magazines, journals and newspapers. He has also published with Information for Social Change (British journal), Internazionale (Italian magazine) and Umanita Nova (Italian newspaper).

He was recently the subject of a two-page spread in the Sunday edition of the leading daily independent Croatian newspaper, Novi list, where he was described as Croatia’s favorite American cartoonist.

For those of you expecting a quaint, un-feather ruffling picture book of politically incorrect satirical cartoons to review, trust me when I say that instead what you will be presented with is an over spilling amount of pure, unadulterated, thought-provoking, confusion-abounding, deeply disturbing at times, and yet magnificently unearthed artistic decadence from one very talented journalist, cartoonist, and satirist.

Others have said that "Mr. Fish’s ingenious collection of cartoon distillations of famous books shows why print editors so fear the art form," and you really cannot argue with that at all.

Furthermore, these crisply sardonic drawings by Mr. Fish and his artist collaborators really are worth the time invested in them - not only the price of the book, but your own time spent reading them (over and over and over again!).

About the Author: MR. FISH lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Occasionally, he laughs his head off. His mother has no idea what he's up to. She cries easily. For more information, date him!

Table of Contents:
Introduction - The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, illustrated by Tamara Knoss; Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov; Native Son, by Richard Wright, illustrated by Keith Henry Brown; Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, illustrated by Eli Valley; The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe, illustrated by Wes Tyrell; The New Testament, by Paul the Apostle; Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut; Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville; The Rings of Saturn, by W. G. Sebald, illustrated by Sarah Awad; Hamlet, by William Shakespeare; The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Sam Henderson; The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka; The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, illustrated by Ted Rall; Roget’s Thesaurus, by Peter Mark Roget, illustrated by Lodi Marasescu; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Surag Ramachandran; Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, illustrated by Stephanie McMillan; “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Horace Smith, illustrated by Tami Knight; How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie; I am JoaquÍn / Yo soy Joaquín, by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, illustrated by Eric J. Garcia; The Anarchist Cookbook, by William Powell, illustrated by Marissa Dougherty; A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking; Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain; One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez, illustrated by Siri Dokken; Understanding Media, by Marshall McLuhan; Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, illustrated by John G.; The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami, illustrated by Andy Singer; Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare; Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes; Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling; Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, illustrated by Tara Seibel; Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, illustrated by Gary Dumm; A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn; The Stranger, by Albert Camus; A Boy’s Own Story, by Edmund White; A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole; Animal Farm, by George Orwell, illustrated by Clare Kolat; Paradise Lost, by John Milton; Howl, by Allen Ginsberg Metamorphoses (Pygmalion), by Ovid; The Man Who Died, by D. H. Lawrence; Tales of Ordinary Madness, by Charles Bukowski, illustrated by Nate Ulsh; Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles; Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Benjamin Slyngstad; Catch-22, by Joseph Heller Civilization and its Discontents, by Sigmund Freud; 1984, by George Orwell; Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace; The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, illustrated by Ron Hill; The Armies of the Night, by Norman Mailer; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou; Notes from Underground, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank; The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, illustrated by J. P. Trostle; On Narcissism, by Sigmund Freud; A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf; The War Prayer, by Mark Twain; On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin; The Invisible Man, by H. G. Wells, illustrated by John Kovaleski; American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis; Why I am Not A Christian, by Bertrand Russell; On the Road, by Jack Kerouac; Fear of Flying, by Erica Jong, illustrated by Beth McCaskey; Wikipedia, by Everybody; and, finally, War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.

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'Bob Gruen: Right Place, Right Time'
By: Bob Gruen - Abrams Press, $32.50

Description: Bob Gruen is one of the most well-known and connected photographers in rock and roll. For almost 50 years, he has documented the music scene in pictures that have captured the world’s attention.

'Right Place, Right Time: The Life of a Rock & Roll Photographer' is Gruen’s first written account of his winding, adventure-filled journey.

He takes us on visits to John and Yoko’s apartment, on a cross-country road trip with the Ike and Tina Turner band, to Glasgow with Debbie Harry, backstage with KISS, inside CBGB, and on the bus as he swaps steel-toed boots with Sid Vicious.

In wildly entertaining stories and iconic images, Gruen gives the reader a unique window into the evolution of American music culture over the last five decades.

Verdict: Being myself a "rock 'n' roll photographer" for close to 30 years now, I was oh-so very interested in reading another man's tale on what I myself have been witnessing from 1990-2020; albeit Bob Gruen's timeframe is obviously tales told from an earlier time.

Opening with an Introduction that begins with one sunny day back in 1979, when a wee Bob was crammed into a small rental car with a young heavy metal band called Riot, driving across Texas from one show to another.

He further explains that he took his first concert photos at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival - where Bob Dylan famously shocked the world by going electric - camped out at the Woodstock Music Festival with thousands of others, and amongst many other stories, met John and Yoko at an Aretha Franklin concert and became their friend and personal photographer thereafter!

' Further learning that he drove Tina Turner's Jaguar down the Pacific Coast Highway in a thick pea soup fog, and was also at CBGB for the birth of the New York punk scene, just goes to show you what to expect from this incredible near-400 page book, chock full of stories aplenty and some quite wondrous nostalgic black and white photos too!

Over the run of this engrossing book, it is very obvious that Bob has led one of the most fascinating lives as a rock 'n' roll photographer, and more, pioneering his own brand of work to ensure he became one of the foremost, and therein influential photographers of the genre.

His stories of musical journeys undertaken down the years combined with his heartfelt passion and commitment to the job, freely flows through to us on each and every page, and with some stories visually backed by some delightful flashback photographs, it shows us just why Bob has been one of the most famous names in the music industry for so long.

Sure, it's hard to distill down six decades within the music industry into one 400 page book, but when he recounts his relationship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, well, that not only takes up a rather significant chunk of the book (and rightly so), but it almost felt like he could have written a whole other book devoted to just that period of his life.

With oh-so many photographs, and ALL iconic, at that, showing us exactly what Bob was up to, how these stars were at ease with him, showing many "stars" smiling broadly backstage when being alongside him, there are many photos of "stars" that we all knew back then, but many of "stars" that weren't that big then; but who have since gone down in musical history as of today.

In closing, at no point does 'Right Place, Right Time: The Life of a Rock & Roll Photographer' come across as a name-dropping experience, moreover a fly on the wall viewpoint of the '60s and '70s and beyond within the NYC music scene.

A time and place that could never ever be replicated again, if you missed it, and/or if you are someone like myself - still working the business and wondering what it was like back then - then this is the one and only book on the subject for you, my friends!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob Gruen is a world-renowned rock and roll photographer. For almost 50 years, his images have appeared around the world in every form imaginable.

He is the author of John Lennon: The New York Years, Rock Seen, New York Dolls, and Green Day: Photographs by Bob Gruen, among others. He lives in New York City.

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'Miami Noir: The Classics'
By: Les Standiford (Editor) - Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: 'Miami Noir: The Classics' is the long-awaited sequel to 2006’s best-selling 'Miami Noir' and highlights an outstanding tradition of legendary writers exploring the dark side of paradise.

Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each volume comprises stories set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city.

Verdict: Highly anticipated and now readily available, the 19 selections in this reprint anthology in Akashic’s noir series enshrine the dark side of Miami oh-so perfectly!

The earliest entries, from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas (“Pineland”), Zora Neal Hurston (an excerpt from Their Eyes Were Watching God), and Damon Runyon (“A Job for the Macarone”), evoke a backwater on the verge of becoming a metropolis.

These early stories command the most interest as they reach into history and pull out long-lost regional speech patterns.

Late 20th-century classics are well represented, including “Saturday Night Special,” a spare, tough piece from Miami crime-writing godfather Charles Willeford, and the wry “The Odyssey” from Elmore Leonard, whose ear for a hustler’s speech is as sharply tuned in South Florida as it is in Detroit.

David Beaty’s chilling “Ghost” shows how dreamers, scammers, and violent criminals exist side-by-side in Miami, separated by the thinnest of lines.

Carolina Garcia Aguilera’s observant “Washington Avenue,” a detective procedural, tracks the city’s evolution as it becomes an international tourist destination and the impact of that change on the locals.

In short, all these stories embedded within this historical survey, make a fine case for Miami as a timeless setting for great crime fiction.

Table of Contents:
Part I: Original Gangsters
“Pineland” by Marjory Stoneman Douglas (Goulds, 1925)
“Luck” by Lester Dent (City Yacht Basin, 1936)
“Their Eyes Were Watching God (excerpt)” by Zora Neale Hurston (Belle Glade, 1937)
“A Job for the Macarone” by Damon Runyon (Miami River, 1937)
“A Taste for Cognac” by Brett Halliday (Homestead, 1944)

Part II: Perilous Streets, Lethal Causeways
“Street 8 (excerpt)” by Douglas Fairbairn (Little Havana, 1977)
“Saturday Night Special” by Charles Willeford (Kendall, 1988)
“The Works” by T.J. MacGregor (South Beach, 1990)
“Small Times” by James Carlos Blake (Flagler Dog Track, 1991)
“The Odyssey” by Elmore Leonard (Miami Beach, 1995)

Part III: Miami’s Vices
“To Go” by Lynne Barrett (Hialeah, 1996)
“Lemonade and Paris Buns” by John Dufresne (Aventura, 1996)
“The Red Shoes” by Edna Buchanan (Downtown, 1999)
“Tahiti Junk Shop” by Les Standiford (North Miami Beach, 1999)
“Ghosts” by David Beaty (South Miami, 1999)

Part IV: Gators & Ghouls
“Gators” by Vicki Hendricks (The Everglades, 2000)
“Washington Avenue” by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera (Washington Avenue, 2001)
“Superheroes” by Preston L. Allen (Opa-Locka, 2006)
“The Monkey’s Fist” by Christine Kling (Straits of Florida, 2006)

Les Standiford, who edited 2006's Miami Noir, is the author of twenty-four books and novels, including the award-winning John Deal thriller series.

His nonfiction publications include Last Train to Paradise, the One Read choice of a dozen public library systems, and Bringing Adam Home, a Wall Street Journal number one true crime best seller.

He is director of the MFA program in creative writing at Florida International University in Miami.

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'Particulate Matter'
By: Felicia Luna Lemus - Akashic Books, $19.95

Description: 'Particulate Matter' is the story of a year in Felicia Luna Lemus’s marriage when the world turned upside down.

It’s set in Los Angeles, and it’s about love and crisis, loss and grief, the city and the ocean, ancestral ghosts and history haunting.

Nature herself seemed to howl. Fires raged and covered the house Lemus and her spouse shared in ash. Everything crystallized.

Verdict: A moving book, part memoir, part a collected stream of thoughts, all gelled together with ideas taken from one of her very trying years on Earth, 'Particulate Matter' by Felicia Luna Lemus is a quite wondrous work of written prose.

Furthermore, and in what turns out to be an undeniable, and for the most part, unforgettable meditation on her life and experiences (let alone those brought to the fore here, Lemus' words, experiences and conceptual thoughts really to hyper resonate when read aloud.

Relatable in more than one way, when read by more than one person - this is actually a proven fact, as two of us have now read the book and we have had quite a few discussions on certain experiences within it that have taken two different discussional stances between us now - some may well go down a rabbit hole, but most others have a way of working themselves out for the better.

Trust me when I say that from the author who has already brought us the novels 'Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties' and 'Like Son,' Lemus' writing is intelligently, and easily relatable, whilst at the same time allowing the reader extended periods of time (whilst still reading) to empathize with her.

In closing, 'Particulate Matter' is a woven together tapestry of emotive experiences, from the heart and soul of the One, that, taken as a whole, are incredibly heartfelt and honest entries that paint a picture of how we get through times that can seem completely soul crushing.

Felicia Luna Lemus is the author of Particulate Matter (Fall 2020), and the novels Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties and Like Son.

Her writing has been anthologized in numerous collections, and has appeared in publications including BOMB, the Believer, ZYZZYVA, and the California Sunday Magazine.

She is currently the Visiting Writer at Pitzer College. Sharpie Ultra Fine black markers and crossword puzzles are among her favorite things. She lives in Los Angeles with her spouse and their wild one.

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'A Million Aunties'
By: Alecia McKenzie - Akashic Books, $14.95

Description: After a personal tragedy upends his world, American-born artist Chris travels to his mother’s homeland in the Caribbean hoping to find some peace and tranquility.

He plans to spend his time painting in solitude and coming to terms with his recent loss and his fractured relationship with his father. Instead, he discovers a new extended and complicated “family.”

Verdict: In this quite exhilarating, at times, fraught and internally motivated at others, new book from Alecia McKenzies, we first meet Chris, an artist traveling to Jamaica for the first time as an adult.

His mother is from Jamaica, but it seems he didn't visit her much due to a traumatic experience, and so his friend (and art dealer) Stephen, has encouraged him to actually visit her, and the country, to recuperate, paint, and relax.

As the story unfolds, and not to give too much away, just simply set a scene, Chris ends up staying with Stephen’s Aunt, who takes him around the village, introducing him to everyone.

He likes it. He feels at home there. He is calm and collected. He is smiling. Furthermore, Chris starts imagining what it would be like to turn Stephen's Aunt's home into a bed and breakfast!

Indeed, after only a week Chris finds himself taken with the villagers and their lives and soon thereafter he visits his Mother’s childhood home, meets his uncle and is given a look into his family history.

But, and whilst enjoying all that Jamaica and the villagers and his family he has has to offer, he is urgently called back to America to handle a difficult situation.

Told from different view points all the way along, and chock full of wondrous tales of how simple acts of kindness can bring us all together, 'A Million Aunties' is a compelling book about unlikely love, friendship, and community, sprinkled with delightful surprises along the way.

Alecia McKenzie is a Jamaican writer currently based in France. Her first collection of short stories, Satellite City, and her novel, Sweetheart, have both won Commonwealth writers prizes.

Sweetheart has been translated into French and was awarded the Prix Carbet des lycéens in 2017. Her other books include Stories from Yard, Doctor's Orders, and When the Rain Stopped in Natland.

McKenzie's work has appeared in a range of literary magazines and in anthologies such as Stories from Blue Latitudes, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, Bridges, Global Tales, Girls Night In, and To Exist Is to Resist.

She has edited two collections of contemporary short stories, and her poetry has been published in various international journals including The Caribbean Writer and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. Her most recent novel is this one, 'A Million Aunties.'

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'Black Lotus 2: The Vow'
By: K'wan - Akashic Books, $6.95

Description: It’s been months since Kahllah El-Amin, aka the Black Lotus, hung up her pistols, retired from the murder-for-hire business, and finally found peace.

But when a police officer is murdered and a familiar flower is left at the crime scene, all signs point to it being the work of the Black Lotus. Someone is trying to frame her.

Things get more complicated when the case is handed to Detective James Wolf, a former adversary who has since become a friend.

Verdict: With the first release having been named as one of Library Journal's Best African American Fiction Books of 2014, it was only to hoped, and maybe a little expected, that the follow-up, The Vow' was going to continue with the heart-thumping thrills and spills of it predecessor - which admirably does.

With K'wan, once again performing a masterful job of keeping readers on their toes right up to the very last page, 'Black Lotus 2: The Vow' continues on with the origin storyline, expanded within the first book, but now with an extended story line and further character development.

One of hip-hop fiction's hottest authors, K'wan's 'Black Lotus 2' is an absolutely spot on, riveting read from start to finish, and much like its predecessor, is extremely well written, with a fast pace to match its ultra fine suspenseful moments.

To clear her name, Kahllah is forced out of retirement and once again must don the mask of the "Black Lotus." She races against time to catch the real killer while trying to outrun her most formidable rival.

Their deadly game leads to a shocking truth buried under a mountain of lies, as Kahllah attempts to find justice in a world devoid of light.

A business woman by day and an assassin by night, even though she belongs to a secret society, there is seemingly nothing that Kahllah aka "Black Lotus" can, or will not do in the name of justice.

A choice murder thriller with a strong, but likable female lead, it had me engrossed from the very first page. I mean, I enjoy a good mystery as much as the next person, and thus was very satisfied with the execution of this second story in the series.

Nothing dragged on, no loose ends were left, and a very satisfying ending was brought forth. In closing, 'Black Lotus 2' is an insanely excellent book for anyone who enjoys mysteries and/or urban fiction.

K'wan is the best-selling, award-winning author of more than thirty novels, including the wildly popular Animal series, Black Lotus, Gangsta, Road Dawgz, Street Dreams, Hoodlum, and Section 8.

He has been featured in Vibe, King, Entertainment Weekly, and Time magazine. K'wan was the recipient of the 2012 and 2013 Street Lit Book Award Medals (SLBAM) in adult fiction for Eviction Notice and Animal.

His credits also include featured commentary in the documentary Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp (produced by Ice-T) as well as a recurring role as an analyst on TV One's Celebrity Crime Files.

K'wan resides in New Jersey, where he spends his time writing, cooking, and binge-watching reruns of The Vampire Diaries with his teenage daughters.

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'Move The Crowd'
By: Eric Barrier, William Griffin - Lyric Pop/Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: Innovative illustrator Kirk Parrish brings the iconic song 'Move the Crowd' to life for the first time as a children’s picture book.

The lyrics to Eric B. and Rakim’s hit song provide the inspiration for this instant classic.

Verdict: Targeted at an age range of 5-7 year-old's and running at a lush 32 pages, this magnificent, colorful, vibrantly illustrated and harmoniously told (through Eric B. & Rakim's classic) story is presented in 8.5"x8.5" glossy hardback book.

Featuring lyrics from songs that you would normally only ever hear on the radio, or coming out of the speakers of a record player (or, these days, computer, iPhone, etc.), each song (within the series) is a pocket of storytelling that spring forth to enlighten the mind or embrace the heart.

From the off, we eagerly follow along as Parrish pairs the lyrics with colorful illustrations about a boy being absorbed into his stereo and dropped into a colorless world where the music is dull and the people uninspired.

The ensuing transformation he brings to the crowd with his music is one that the whole family can enjoy together.

Here, and with the gorgeous, yet subtle illustrations from Parrish highlighting the subtle, and less subtle nuances of the lyrics just perfectly, and all using some expertly chosen colors schemes, 'Move The Crowd' as a children's picture book' is truly as wondrous as it sounds.

Inspiring young readers to try their own hands at creativity, and to listen to the works of others for inspiration, the best way to view Parrish's artwork, to my mind, and given the musical subjects, of course, is as if these wonderful drawings were a cultured version of graffiti.

About the Authors - Eric B. & Rakim are an American hip hop duo formed in Long Island, New York, in 1986, composed of DJ Eric B. (born Eric Barrier) and MC Rakim (born William Michael Griffin Jr.).

AllMusic wrote that "during rap's so-called golden age in the late '80s, Eric B. & Rakim were almost universally recognized as the premier DJ/MC team in all of hip-hop."

Tom Terrell of NPR called them "the most influential DJ/MC combo in contemporary pop music period."

The editors of ranked them as No. 5 on their list of the 10 Greatest Hip-Hop Duos of All-Time, and Rolling Stone ranked them No. 5 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.

Kirk Parrish grew up on a little island just outside of Seattle. As a youngster, he developed a fondness for scribbling caped superheroes and yearned to one day become a grand-master ninja.

Today, Parrish has (mostly) put down his ninja aspirations and is an illustrator and designer, currently based in Seattle.

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'Respect: A Children's Picture Book'
By: Otis Redding - Lyric Pop/Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: Otis Redding’s classic song 'Respect' — as popularized by Aretha Franklin — becomes an empowering picture book exploring the concept of mutual respect through the eyes of a young girl.

Verdict: Targeted at an age range of 5-7 year-old's and running at a lush 24 pages, this magnificent, colorful, vibrantly illustrated and harmoniously told (through Otis Redding's classic) story is presented in 8.5"x8.5" glossy hardback book.

Featuring lyrics from songs that you would normally only ever hear on the radio, or coming out of the speakers of a record player (or, these days, computer, iPhone, etc.), each song (within the series) is a pocket of storytelling that spring forth to enlighten the mind or embrace the heart.

With the simply enormous song 'Respect' now being a children's picture book based - based on lyrics originally recorded by Otis Redding in 1965, Aretha Franklin's iconic rendition of the song later peaked at #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1967.

With lyrics by Otis Redding and illustrations by Rachel Moss, this irresistible book shows a young girl, her brother, and her parents conjuring as many positive futures for each other as they can dream.

Packed with playful vignettes as they imagine a life full of possibility, Respect provides families an opportunity to explore themes of mutual respect - while revisiting one of the greatest songs ever written.

With Redding's lyrics continue to resonate with listeners today, Respect; A Children's Book' is, without shadow of a doubt, one of pure exuberant joy, and delivers a message so profound and just so sweetly timed, for the times we are currently living.

You will even find a set of ten (10) questions to ask your kids at the back of the book, such as How does respecting others make you feel? Can you respect someone even if you are made at him or her? and, amongst others, What's the difference between "respect" and "mutual respect"?

About the Authors - Otis Redding (1941–1967) was a singer, songwriter, and producer often referred to as the King of Soul™.

Known for releasing such acclaimed songs as 'These Arms of Mine,' 'Try a Little Tenderness™,' 'Hard to Handle,' and '(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,' Redding is considered to be one of the most influential singers and songwriters of all time.

He received two GRAMMYs as well as a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Rachel Moss is a graphic designer in love with the bright colors and vibrant energy of the Caribbean.

She was born in Jamaica and studied animation in England at the University for the Creative Arts.

Moss now lives in Jamaica where she spends her days illustrating children’s books such as 'African' with song lyrics by Peter Tosh, 'I Am a Promise' by Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, 'Abigail’s Glorious Hair,' and 'Milo & Myra Learn Manners with Mr. Mongoose.'

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'We Got the Beat'
By: Charlote Caffey - Lyric Pop/Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: An exuberant celebration of dance and play in picture book form, based on Charlotte Caffey’s joyful classic made famous by the Go-Go’s.

Verdict: Targeted at an age range of 5-7 year-old's and running at a lush 24 pages, this magnificent, colorful, vibrantly illustrated and harmoniously told (through Charlotte Caffey's classic) story is presented in 8.5"x8.5" glossy hardback book.

Featuring lyrics from songs that you would normally only ever hear on the radio, or coming out of the speakers of a record player (or, these days, computer, iPhone, etc.), each song (within the series) is a pocket of storytelling that spring forth to enlighten the mind or embrace the heart.

'We Got the Beat' is a children’s picture book based on the hit song by the 1980s new wave group the Go-Go’s. Their hit song of the same name spent three weeks at #2 on the Billboard 100 and became their signature song.

Says the New York Times: the Go-Go’s “... taught a new generation the power of the girl gang,” and here in this colorful, buoyant and super cute new book, all that high spiritedness and adventurous desires to seek out the beats of music that the band had, free flow here beautifully.

With lyrics by Go-Go’s member Charlotte Caffey and illustrations by Kaitlyn Shea O’Connor, this picture book tells the story of what it is like to live life dancing to the beat, while enjoying friends, nature, and the fun that surrounds you.

Furthermore, 'We Got the Beat' will make both parents and children get their groove on and show off their best dance moves!

A totally fun, vibrantly illustrated book to share with kids, just watch as they take leave of their everyday, lockdown doldrums and start bopping and singing along to the song!

Trust me, the kids who read this are going to bring you so much enjoyment in watching them have those moments of fun, whilst you go back the next day and read it to them all over again!

About the Authors - Charlotte Caffey CAFFEY is a singer-songwriter best known for being a member of the all-female new wave group the Go-Go’s.

Caffey wrote the hit single 'We Got the Beat' and has co-written songs for other artists such as Keith Urban and the theme song for the television series Clueless.

The Go-Go’s became one of the foundational bands of the 1980s, with their 1982 debut album Beauty and the Beat going double platinum and topping US Billboard charts for six weeks.

The band has sold more than seven million records across the world. Caffey continues to write and perform.

Kaitlyn Shea O'Connor is an illustrator and designer hailing from Atlanta, Georgia. She combines traditional skills with digital media to create vibrant, whimsical worlds.

She’s a rare hybrid of dog and cat lover, an avid whistler, and she enjoys exploring the great outdoors, trying new cheeses, and cozying up in a nook with a book.

O’Connor illustrated the children’s picture book, '(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,' with song lyrics by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper.

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These Boots Are Made for Walkin': Children's Book
By: Lee Hazlewood - Lyric Pop/Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: An exuberant celebration of dance and play in picture book form, based on Charlotte Caffey’s joyful classic made famous by the Go-Go’s.

Verdict: Targeted at an age range of 5-7 year-old's and running at a lush 24 pages, this magnificent, colorful, vibrantly illustrated and harmoniously told (through Charlotte Caffey's classic) story is presented in 8.5"x8.5" glossy hardback book.

Featuring lyrics from songs that you would normally only ever hear on the radio, or coming out of the speakers of a record player (or, these days, computer, iPhone, etc.), each song (within the series) is a pocket of storytelling that spring forth to enlighten the mind or embrace the heart.

'These Boots Are Made for Walkin’' is an adorable story of friendship and family set against the backdrop of Lee Hazlewood’s iconic song.

While there have been numerous recordings over the past several decades, 'These Boots Are Made for Walkin’' was originally recorded by Nancy Sinatra and released in early 1966 to instant success.

A #1 Billboard hit in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia that was nominated for three GRAMMYs, Hazlewood’s song continues to be embraced to this day. The funny story line and delightful images are sure to have the entire family curled up and laughing together, pets included!

A quite perfect kids picture book for the entire family of wee ones, let alone their pet-loving parents, the song 'These Boots ...' may well now feature a certain country and western swagger to it, but ultimately ends up being one very cultured, and even feisty at times, and, oh ok, I'll say it, simply adorably purr-fect cat story!

As we read along, we learn that the cat in question isn't going to let the family dog take all of her human's attention and so, as the lyrics inform us beforehand, one of these days, these boots (and possibly her claws!) will walk (and pounce, one assumes) all over the oblivious dog!

Simply adorable from start to finish, not to mention highly creative and pure joy to read aloud (as they all are in this series), if you are an animal lover, both the reader and the listener will automatically begin to root for one or other of the animals along the storyline; and that's just (oh dear, sorry, here it comes again) purr-fectly fine!

About the Authors - Lee Hazlewood (1929-2007) was an American country and pop singer, songwriter, and record producer, most widely known for his work with guitarist Duane Eddy during the late 1950s and singer Nancy Sinatra in the 1960s and 1970s.

Hazlewood had a distinctive baritone voice that added a resonance to his music. His collaborations with Nancy Sinatra as well as his solo output in the late 1960s and early 1970s have been praised as an essential contribution to a sound often described as "cowboy psychedelia" or "saccharine underground".

Indeed, Rolling Stone ranked Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra No. 9 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.

Rachel Moss (illustrator) is a graphic designer in love with the bright colors and vibrant energy of the Caribbean. She was born in Jamaica and studied animation in England at the University for the Creative Arts.

Moss now lives in Jamaica where she spends her days illustrating children’s books such as 'Respect' with song lyrics by Otis Redding, 'African' with song lyrics by Peter Tosh, 'I Am a Promise' by Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, 'Abigail’s Glorious Hair,' and 'Milo & Myra Learn Manners with Mr. Mongoose.'

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'Accra Noir'
By: Nana-Ama Danquah (Editor) - Akashic Books, $15.95

Description: Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city.

Accra is the perfect setting for noir fiction. The telling of such tales — ones involving or suggesting death, with a protagonist who is flawed or devious, driven by either a self-serving motive or one of the seven deadly sins — is woven into the fabric of the city’s everyday life.

Verdict: The quietly compelling short story collection 'Accra Noir' features brand new stories by: Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, Kwame Dawes, Adjoa Twum, Kofi Blankson Ocansey, Billie McTernan, Ernest Kwame Nkrumah Addo, Patrick Smith, Anne Sackey, Gbontwi Anyetei, Nana-Ama Danquah, Ayesha Harruna Attah, Eibhlín Ní Chléirigh, and Anna Bossman.

'Accra Noir' - a book that leaves an indelible impression on you from just the opening sentences of the very first story - has four parts: One Day for Master, Heaven Gate, No Bribe, All Die Be Die and Sea Never Dry.

Each story within each section takes place in a microcosm of Ghana, Accra. More than just a capital city, it is a virtual map of the nation’s soul, a complex geographical display of its indigenous presence, the colonial imposition, declarations of freedom, followed by coups d’état, decades of dictatorship, and then, finally, a steady march forward into a promising future.

Much like Accra, these stories are not always what they seem. The contributors who penned them know too well how to spin a story into a web.

Within this new book, the authors who share their many stories do so in a much revealing way about Accra, a city of allegories, one of the most dynamic and diverse places in the world.

Amongst many gripping stories, stand outs for me personally include a memorable Adjoa Twum's 'Shape-Shifters,' where the pig farm-told tale is brought forth via the investigation by police into a large storm drain - a corpse, with a slit throat is subsequently discovered and a cocaine-smuggling operation is revealed.

Another is the gripping 'Tabilo Wuɔfɔ' from Gbontwi Anyetei which focuses on, and acts as a rather casual introduction to the nuances of Ghanaian culture; and the stellar work from Eibhlin Ni Chlerigh 'The Boy Who Wasn't There,' which set amongst the stark contrasts of landscape and population of East Legon, is a tale that will resonate close to a lot of people's hearts around the world.

In the more traditional noir tale settings we get Nana-Ama Danquah’s 'When a Man Loves a Woman,' which opens on one of the most memorable lines I think any book has ever done, "Every day for the past five days, Kwame had woken up next to a corpse” - and subsequently runs into a terrifically-proposed spousal murder plot.

If you read this and love it as much as I think you will, please check out other Akashic Noir books, including 'Belgrade Noir,' 'Montana Noir,' 'Vancouver Noir,' 'Lagos Noir,' 'Milwaukee Noir,' and all the others!

Nana-Ama Danquah Nana-Ama Danquah was born in Accra, Ghana, and raised in the United States. She is the author of the memoir Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman's Journey Through Depression, and the editor of three anthologies: Becoming American, Shaking the Tree, and The Black Body.

Her essays, fiction, and poetry have been widely anthologized, and she has written for numerous magazines, journals, and newspapers, including Essence, Allure, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.

During her tenure as an international speechwriter for the president of Ghana, the addresses she penned were delivered at the United Nations General Assembly, the African Union, the Palace of Westminster, the University of Oxford, and Harvard University.

She has taught at Otis College of Arts and Sciences, Antioch University, Los Angeles, and the University of Ghana, Legon. She splits her time between Accra and Los Angeles, and has one daughter, the actress and writer Korama Danquah.

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'Belgrade Noir'
By: Milorad Ivanović (Editor) - Akashic Books, $15.95

Description: Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city.

Belgrade, meaning “White City,” is located in Southeast Europe at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Alfred Hitchcock once said that certain creepy parts of Belgrade unnerved him and would be ideal settings for thrillers.

Thieves, traitors, spies, corrupt doctors, psychiatric patients, former policemen, mafia clans — they all appear in the pages of this book!

Verdict: The intensely magnetic short story collection 'Accra Noir' features brand new stories by: Oto Oltvanji, Misha Glenny, Kati Hiekkapelto, Vesna Goldsworthy, Mirjana Đurđević, Vladan Matijević, Muharem Bazdulj, Vladimir Arsenijević, Dejan Stojiljković, Miljenko Jergović, Aleksandar Gatalica, Vule Žurić, Verica Vincent Cole, and Goran Skrobonja.

'Belgrade Noir' - a book that leaves an indelible impression on you from just the opening sentences of the very first story - has four parts: While the City Sleeps, The Dark Corner, Once Upon a Time and Kiss Me Deadly.

Even in the worst periods of its history, Belgrade was always a multicultural, multi-religious, and multinational city. This anthology illustrates that.

Indeed, alongside Serbian authors, there are stories written by Croatian, Bosnian, British, and Finnish writers. The same is true for our great team of translators, which include Americans, Serbians, Bosnians, and an Albanian.

Right now, you likely believe there are a number of cities throughout the world that would make better settings for good noir stories, but I am quite certain that after reading this book, you will find yourself seduced by the dark charm of the White City.

For me personally, some of the stronger standouts include Mirjana Durdevic's breathtaking 'Undermarket,' Muharem Bazdulj’s tantalizing 'Black Widow, White Russian' and Vladimir Arsenijevic’s enthralling 'Regarding the Father.'

Whilst the latter two feature the thread of women seeking revenge on Serbian war criminals responsible for the murder of their parents during the region’s 1990s ethnic conflicts, the former is a woman coming face to face with a Doctor, some time after a series of oncology murders.

Contemporary crime is also well represented here, especially by Kati Heikkapelto’s 'An Ad in Vecernje Novosti,' which brings forth a tale of a sexual sadist who takes advantage of a naïve middle-aged man and his scheming mother. A tale not for the faint of heart, trust me.

One of the more intriguing, and that goes for the title inward, is Vesna Goldsworthy’s 'How to Pickle a Head of Cabbage,' which tells the tale of a predatory caretaker who systematically hastens the deaths of her elderly charges in order to inherit their Belgrade real estate!

If you read this and love it as much as I think you will, please check out other Akashic Noir books, including 'Belgrade Noir,' 'Montana Noir,' 'Vancouver Noir,' 'Lagos Noir,' 'Milwaukee Noir,' and all the others!

Milorad Ivanović Is a Serbian investigative reporter and editor. He was editor in chief of the Serbian edition of Newsweek, and executive editor of the daily paper Blic and the weekly publication Novi Magazin.

Presently he is an editor at BIRN Serbia in Belgrade. He has a special interest in cross-border journalism and is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

His investigations have included work on human trafficking, Balkan mercenaries in Iraq, and clinical trials.

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'Retrograde: The Darkness'
By: A. O. Godmasch - Sunlight Casting LLC, $28.99

Description: Life on Damara stands on the brink of destruction. Isis Pnina Mahmoud, daughter of the President of Cairo, leads a privileged life, but it's not what she wants.

She longs for purpose. Purpose finds her when the mighty Retrograde threatens to destroy her planet. To fend off a devastating attack, Isis defies her mother's wishes and joins the army.

Joined in battle by the mysterious and enigmatic Khalfani Abaza, she finds herself drawn to him in inexplicable ways. As the Retrograde barrels down on them, the force that pulls her closer grows stronger.

When they join forces with Aurora, a fearless military brigade leader, the mystery behind their magnetic connection slowly unfolds, but only at Aurora's will and on her terms.

The trio must rely on each other to survive a near-impossible mission. If they fail, Damara's very existence will be no more.

Verdict: Veteran Film Producer, Writer and Location Manager Alicia (A. O.) Godmasch (upcoming Quake, Married At First Sight) brings forth her quite magnificently enthralling debut novel, 'Retrograde: The Darkness' this coming December 8th, 2020 via Sunlight Casting LLC.

In the spirit of page-turning epics The Hunger Games, the wholly under-rated Starship Troopers and World War Z, 'Retrograde' is her first in a duology series targeted at young adult readers and sci-fi/fantasy/horror fans of all ages.

Dedicated to her late father, Bobby, "who would have been proud", without a doubt, 'Retrograde' is an engrossing 366 page, albeit slow-building, but ultimately fast-paced, sci-fi adventure, that brings forth a dutiful heroine set to undertake the battle mantel of Good vs. Evil.

Godmasch's story is set on the far-off planet of Damara, a celestial body that is on the brink of destruction from the mighty Retrograde, a dark mist that looms and feeds its way through the streets, infecting everyone in its path.

Isis Mahmoud is the President’s daughter, and like most kids her age, she doesn't conform to all that is asked of her. Sure she doesn't take her privilege for granted, but she also rebukes her mother’s wishes that she should be more "ladylike" and stay at home.

Instead, Isis chooses to take on the fight for the underprivileged face-to-face and thus she trains as a soldier at Cairo’s elite military unit and sets out to save as many lives as she can from the oncoming Copper Moons (a foreboding symbol of oncoming death and destruction to come) and that serve to bring into being the dreaded Retrograde.

As with any global television-connecting-planet system, once those on Damara see how the Retrograde has been annihilating neighboring planets, knowing this would be the worst their own civilization had ever experienced, those with money and standing amongst the people set out to install protective measures in their houses, whilst inoculating themselves against what is to come.

But, for all intents and purposes, that aforementioned looming dark mist (one where daylight never gets its time to appear) always looks formidable, growing hour by hour, rapidly infecting all in its wake; turning most everyone into zombies, known as Changelings.

Well, I say most all, as the "lucky" ones simply either spontaneously combust, melt, or disappear altogether!

To Isis's mind, this simply cannot happen as if she has any chance of a future with Khalfani Abaza, a handsome soldier (who is also battling his own inner demons of family trauma), and who has moreover become a generalized surrogate son to her father, not only she, but her planet has to defeat the impending Darkness.

These two also, unknowingly, have yet to find Aurora, a fearless Army Brigade leader, and part of an unknown puzzle that involves them both, but which has to be unearthed - and quickly.

Not to give too much away here, but Khalfani’s father also plays a mighty big role here, in as much as he may well have been "chosen" by said Darkness to help propagate a means to an end for the unknown entity.

This first installment of A.O. Godmasch’s duology is absolutely tremendous and is a delightful fly-by of a read (even at nearly 400 pages). And what makes it so, are the genuine-sounding conversations that are had between the characters.

Trust me, there are many conversations being had here, involving main and incidental characters that all come together admirably, indeed seamlessly to evoke a sense of both impending dread laced with genuine compassionate intrigue for what will become of our lead souls.

In closing, 'Retrograde: The Darkness' is a page-turner of the highest order and comes complete with a relatable lead in Isis, whilst featuring a "villain" that spreads its fog-imbued, death-enhanced tentacles quickly and purposely.

About the Author: Alicia Godmasch grew up in Rockaway Township, New Jersey. Her upbringing and the influence by esteemed loved ones gave her a profound respect and affinity for business and the entertainment industry.

Her love of both industries paved the way for a career that encompassed both of her passions. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey, where she spent many a night, weekend, and her free time on sets, learning the trade from the ground floor up, while she earned a degree in Business Management.

Today, she is the Co-Owner of Maswell Films, an Atlanta based film production company. She's also the Executive Producer of The Bigger Picture Films, based out of Los Angeles and the CEO of Sunlight Casting, an Atlanta based talent casting agency.

When she's not hard at work on her film projects, Alicia enjoys traveling the globe, reading, writing, stargazing, the great outdoors, and spending as much time as possible with her loving husband of eleven years and her stepdaughter near their Metro Atlanta area home.

For more information about her and her books, visit her websites below.

'Time Between: My Life as a Byrd ...'
By: Chris Hillman - BMG Books, $26.99

Description: As a co-founder of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Hillman is arguably the primary architect of what’s come to be known as country rock.

He went on to record and perform in various configurations, including as a member of Stephen Stills’s Manassas and as a co-founder of The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band.

In the 1980s he formed The Desert Rose Band, scoring eight Top 10 Billboard country hits. He’s released a number of solo efforts, including 2017’s highly acclaimed Bidin’ My Time—the final album produced by the late Tom Petty.

In 'Time Between,' Hillman shares his quintessentially Southern Californian experience, from an idyllic, rural 1950s childhood; to achieving worldwide fame thanks to hits such as “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Eight Miles High”; to becoming the first musician to move to Laurel Canyon.

Verdict: After a Forward and an Introduction, both of which reestablish who Hillman is, what he did, what he aspired to be and what he achieved for all those less informed, it opens with a young Hillman having his rifle (a Daisy Red Rider BB Gun, to be more exact) snatched out of his hands by his father, after having just shot the family beagle in the butt!

It was 1952 and Hillman was only 8-years old, but growing up there in Rancho Santa Fe, California, even then (aside from the BB Gun incident) there was something magical as he himself puts it, about growing up in a Post-World War II, American small town of population just 750.

From there we follow Hillman's trail through his school days, how a Hopalong Cassiday (the fictional cowboy hero created in 1904) hat had him quickly fall in love with all-things Cowboy on screen, his Christian Science encounters, and amongst a host of other things how artists such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry first opened his eyes to rock 'n' roll!

It details how Hillman became known in San Diego's folk music community as a solid player which ultimately led him to join his first band, the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. The band lasted barely two years, recording only one album (Blue Grass Favorites, which was distributed in supermarkets), however, it has a posthumous reputation as the spawning ground for a number of musicians who went on to play in the Eagles, the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds, Hearts & Flowers, and the Country Gazette.

We also learn that a frustrated Hillman actually considered quitting music and enrolling at UCLA when he received an offer from The Hillmen's former manager and producer, Jim Dickson, to join Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke in a new band, The Byrds.

Hillman was recruited to play bass guitar, although he had never picked up the instrument before. Thanks to his bluegrass background, he quickly developed his own melodic style on the instrument.

As we all know by now, The Byrds' first single, a jangly cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", was an international hit and marked the birth of folk rock; and during the mid-1960s the Byrds ranked as one of the most successful and influential American pop groups; they recorded a string of hits.

Loving full of behind-the-scenes insights on his time in The Byrds, his productive but sometimes complicated relationship with Gram Parsons, his role in launching the careers of Buffalo Springfield and Emmylou Harris, and the ups and downs of life in various bands, music is only part of his story here, trust me.

For within the pages of 'Time Between: My Life as a Byrd, Burrito Brother, and Beyond,' Hillman reveals the details of his personal life with candor and vulnerability, writing honestly about the shocking tragedy that struck his family when he was a teenager, his subsequent struggles with anger, and how his spiritual journey led him to a place of deep faith that allowed him to extend forgiveness and experience wholeness.

Simply put, Chris Hillman is much more than a rock star. He is truly a founding father of American music and a man who has faced down the challenges of life to discover what really matters.

About the Author: Chris Hillman is a four-time Grammy nominee, three-time CMA award nominee, three-time ACM award winner, and inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a found member of The Byrds.

The recipient of both the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Mojo magazine’s Roots Award, the country rock pioneer has been making music for nearly six decades.

He lives in Ventura, California, with his wife Connie.

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'Here Lies a Father'
By: McKenzie Cassidy - Akashic Books, $15.95

Description: When Ian Daly and his sister Catherine arrive for their wayward father’s funeral in his small and desolate upstate New York hometown, a secret that was kept from them their entire lives emerges: their father Thomas abandoned two other families, leaving behind two furious wives and several children who never knew their father.

Ian wants to know more of the truth, but his sister and mother want to preserve the carefully constructed myth they’ve created around who Thomas really was.

In the cold, lonely winter landscape of small-town New York, fifteen-year-old Ian sets out alone to learn the truth about his father’s past and the families he left behind.

Here Lies a Father examines the long-term effects shameful secrets have on a family, and how difficult it is for a young man to reconstruct his own sense of right and wrong, when every value and moral principle he was ever taught was based on a lie.

Verdict: In what is a rather compelling read from start to finish (256 pages), 'Here Lies a Father' is the debut novel from a writer bound (unintentional, sorry) for great things, McKenzie Cassidy.

Opening with quotes from both Neil Young and Cat Stevens, from the very off you become invested in Ian, himself the genuine heart and soul of this book.

A coming of age story chock full of family secrets and poisonous lies, what Cassidy manages to do is perfectly capture all the wonder and confusion of a teen’s rites of passage through the world; and, moreover, the truth about his parents and the cloudy mystery of his/their past.

"Thinking back, there had been so many signs, clues that for a less gullible person would’ve shown the man behind the curtain pulling the strings, but I either failed to notice or wasn’t able to,” Ian states, which to my mind either makes him head and shoulders above his young age in maturity, or someone of his age just beaten down by life, and yet not willing to admit defeat.

Either way, Ian is wise above his years and for that, the storyline and subsequent plot lines are all the more plump. As he accompanies his older sister to his father’s funeral they immediately discover that their lauded fathers first wife is also in attendance.

With more shock and twists aplenty to follow though, that doesn't even come close to being the most eye-opening. Whilst staying at his aunt’s house for the weekend, Ian flashes us back to times in his young life where things either went very well for him, or ended in complete disaster, whilst at all times delivering them with a dry wit and droll sense of humor.

Set amongst the scenery of a blue collar upstate New York neighborhood, Ian wrestles with the flashbacks, trying to make sense of some now his father has gone and the odd bits and pieces of life that now seem to permutate his young life.

Equally balanced by both beauty and sadness, 'Here Lies a Father' is amass with some truly exquisitely crafted sentences, detailing perfectly Ian’s surroundings, what he wears, his insecurities, his sexuality and oh-so much more.

In conclusion, 'Here Lies a Father' is a fantastic, page-turning read, chock full of surprises and deeply manifesting home truths and their layered meanings, and so clearly points to the fact that even after just the one book, McKenzie Cassidy has hit a literary home run.

McKenzie Cassidy is a writer, journalist, marketer, and professor living in Fort Myers, Florida. His work has appeared in the anthology Walk Hand in Hand into Extinction: Stories Inspired by True Detective, Flash Fiction Magazine, Florida Weekly, and in multiple newspapers throughout southwest Florida.

He holds an MFA from Wilkes University and is a regular blogger for the Florida Writers Association. 'Here Lies a Father' is his first novel. Learn more at

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'Planet Claire'
By: Jeff Porter - Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: 'Planet Claire' is the story of the untimely death of the author’s wife and his candid account of the following year of madness and grief.

As his life unravels, Porter analyzes his sadness with growing interest. He talks to Claire as if to evoke a presence, to mark a space for memory. He reports on his daily walks and shares observations of life’s sadness, while reminiscing about various moments in their life together.

Like Orpheus, the author searches for a lost love, and what he finds is not the dog of doom but flashes of an intimate symmetry that brighten the darkest places of sorrow.

Verdict: Simply put, in 'Planet Claire' English professor Jeff Porter brings forth a just incredible warmly rich, wholly enveloping and vividly ambient memoir, nay love letter to his deceased wife, whilst weaving his way delicately through the prose of an autobiography of love once had, and now sadly (physically, at least) lost.

In 'Planet Claire: Suite for Cello and Sad-Eyed Lovers' (to give it it's full title), a book dedicated to his late wife, and one that opens with a Franz Kafka quote, the 14 chapter book immediately opens the door into the day she passed and carries you lovingly away on Porters journey every 269 pages thereafter.

Via some deeply intrinsic paragraph reveals, Porter doesn't hide behind or shirk the details of his wife and her passing in away way, opting instead to detail his gut-wrenching emotions and constant head sways to the tee.

He recounts, in detail, the circumstances surrounding the untimely death of his wife, even choosing to describe how, after 27 years of marriage, his wife collapsed on an otherwise normal Wednesday, the victim of a brain aneurysm.

“Young and resilient, the needle on her life span hardly past midway, Claire died abruptly, as though I had been absentminded or had left the gas stove on or the door open,” he writes, somewhat apologetic for something that he had no say in.

"I looked up from the morning paper and she was gone,” he follows, and whereas he obviously continues to self-lambaste himself for something that he, quite literally, had no hand in, the author barrels helplessly into the deep well of grief, depression and a whole bunch of What-If's.

Ergo, 'Planet Claire' is his recounting of an endearing individual's life within his own sphere, and his deep, never-ending love for his wife, Claire, and yet still manages to become something for us all to learn from.

A book, obviously, about death and grief, confusion and understanding, anger and pockets of calm, 'Planet Claire' is undoubtedly, at its core, a very personal tale of tragedy within the confines of the death of a loved one, but also details what comes after for those left behind.

In conclusion, the second title from Ann Hood’s Gracie Belle imprint, 'Planet Claire' takes readers on a journey of sorrow that recalls memorable works by C.S. Lewis (A Grief Observed), Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking), and Julian Barnes (Levels of Life).

Porter’s memoir, however, is also playful, quirky, and self-ironic in a way that challenges the genre’s traditional solemnity. Like the novel Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, this is an unpredictably funny account of heartbreak, as if to say there’s something about the magnitude of loss that troubles even earnestness.

Jeff Porter the author of 'Lost Sound: The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling', the memoir 'Oppenheimer Is Watching Me', and coeditor of 'Understanding the Essay'.

His essays and articles have appeared in several magazines and literary reviews, including the Antioch Review, Northwest Review, Shenandoah, Missouri Review, Hotel Amerika, Wilson Quarterly, Contemporary Literature, and the Seneca Review.

He loves cameras, dogs, and guitars―though not in that order. He lives in Iowa City and teaches English at the University of Iowa.

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'Speculative Los Angeles'
By: Denise Hamilton (Editor) - Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: This debut title in a new city-based anthology series, features all-new stories with speculative, sci-fi, and paranormal themes - each using distinct neighborhood settings as a launching pad.

Verdict: As an incubator of the future, Los Angeles has long mesmerized writers from Aldous Huxley to Octavia E. Butler. With its natural disasters, Hollywood artifice, staggering wealth and poverty, and urban sprawl, one can argue that Los Angeles is already so weird, surreal, irrational, and mythic that any fiction emerging from this place should be considered speculative.

So, bestselling author Denise Hamilton commissioned fourteen stories (including one of her own) and did exactly that. In 'Speculative Los Angeles,' some of the city’s most prophetic and diverse voices reimagine the metropolis in very different ways.

In this totally enthralling, and of course, wholly speculative collection of tales set in, and around Los Angeles, CA, we get to delve into all manner of city wonderments.

Indeed, those overly familiar with the area might well be able to narrow in on some landscape they themselves are local too, but never had seen it in quite the same literary light as the ones being shone here.

That said, those very same city inhabitants might also find that not only has their current landscape changed from what it was before, but has also been somewhat changed to fit the narrative.

Regardless, and whether it be back in the day, the here and now or future envisions, set within alternate realities, there is something for everyone here, young and old, based in Los Angeles.

Indeed, within these pages you’ll encounter twenty-first-century changelings, dirigibles plying the suburban skies, black holes and jacaranda men lurking in deep suburbia, beachfront property in Century City, walled-off canyons and coastlines reserved for the wealthy, psychic death cults, robot nursemaids, and an alternate LA where Spanish land grants never gave way to urbanization.

My own personal favorite is the totally believable "Where There are Cities, These Dissolve Too" which sees a future where those less fortunate collect bits of garbage from a landfill by day, later turning it into fighting machines by night.

As with our city-based Akashic Noir Series, each story in 'Speculative Los Angeles' is set in a distinct neighborhood filled with local color, landmarks, and flavor. Since the best speculative fiction provides a wormhole into other worlds while also commenting on our own, that is exactly what you’ll find here.

In closing, this book us highly recommended, especially for fans of Sci-Fi shorts and as much as it scans a lot of LA time and space, it always feel naturally grounded in the here and now, so to speak.

About the Author: Edgar Award finalist Denise Hamilton is the author of seven crime novels and the editor of the best-selling anthology Los Angeles Noir (which includes the Edgar Award-winning short story "The Golden Gopher" by Susan Straight) and Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics.

She is a former Los Angeles Times journalist, a Fulbright Scholar, a noir and sci-fi/fantasy geek, and a proud LA native who refuses to speak only in English.

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'Prayer for the Living'
By: Ben Okri (Author) - Akashic Books, $24.95

Description: Playful, frightening, shocking—these stories from a writer at the height of his power will make you think, or make you laugh. Sometimes they’ll make you want to look away, but they will always hold your gaze.

These are stories set in London, in Byzantium, in the ghetto, in the Andes, and in a printer’s shop in Lagos. Characters include a murderer, a writer, a detective, a woman in a dream, a man in a mirror, a little girl, a prison door, and the author himself.

Each one of these twenty-four stories will make you wonder if what you see in the world can really be all there is.

Verdict: Here in in Prayer for the Living, renowned Nigerian author Ben Okri brings forth an examination of is what we take for granted really all there is out there; or can the relative boredom of our daily lives be changed if we only knew of the existence of some form of alternate reality?

This career-spanning story collection from the Booker Prize-winning writer is easily structured as a grouping of short fiction and contains 25 separate works, each one contemplating a diverse set of themes.

Such themes include the brutality of war and civil unrest, the longing to be somewhere else in the world, the power of the written word, the metaphysics of detective work, the travails of seeking a better life, and even the hidden horrors residing in a child’s doll house and an evil mirror toboot!

At times a wee bit too brief - like, you're knee deep into his prose, loving every corner turn, every rut in the literary journey, but then he seemingly dead ends and just puts a cap on proceedings - but at others so engrossing, so alive that once read you don't move forward you simply re-read that last vignette, 'Prayer for the Living' is a book that may well bring to light the harshness of the subject matter with both hands open, but always imbues it with just the right amount of bluntness and dreamlike state to ensure it remains engaging and thought-provoking.

About the Author: Ben Okri was born in Minna, Nigeria. His childhood was divided between Nigeria, where he saw firsthand the consequences of war, and London.

He won the Booker Prize in 1991 for The Famished Road, and his novel Astonishing the Gods was selected as one of the BBC’s "100 Novels That Shaped Our World."

His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. He also writes plays and screenplays. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a vice president of English PEN, and has been awarded the OBE as well as numerous international prizes and honorary doctorates.

His latest novel, The Freedom Artist, was published by Akashic Books.

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'Face: One Square Foot of Skin'
By: Justine Bateman - Akashic Books, $27.95

Description: 'Face' is a book of fictional vignettes that examines the fear and vestigial evolutionary habits that have caused humans to cultivate the imagined reality that older women’s faces are unattractive, undesirable, and something to be “fixed.”

Writer/director/producer/actor Justine Bateman examines the aggressive ways that society reacts to the aging of women's faces.

Verdict: Ms. Bateman was always known to me as an Actor, from a quite wonderful acting family, and not someone who I would expect to have the time to sit and write a book, in all truth.

But here in the totally enthralling and wholly engrossing from start to finish 'Face: One Square Foot of Skin,' her distinctive voice can be heard throughout, delving into the fascinating psychology of present-day "fame".

Via a series of fictional vignettes (which, for the record, once you start reading you immediately start to create faces and bodies for of those speaking), Bateman takes this topic for discussion back to its roots, where, within the injured psyche of every human, lies the perpetual need for an "upgrade" as they travel through this world.

In this book, Bateman gives many a sobering viewpoint, taken from many a differing social media landscape, about how the need for overlook has to be brought forth about most decisions we undertake as life moves on.

Seemingly encouraging herself to go deeper at all times, to exhibit some fearlessness within her own self-examination, Bateman undertakes what can only be described as some brutally honest, often times assumingly cathartic acts of illumination for us, in an attempt to navigate the trials and tribulations of being a "celebrity".

In closing summary, based on “older face” experiences of the author, Bateman, and those of dozens of women and men she interviewed, the book presents the reader with the many root causes for society’s often negative attitudes toward women’s older faces.

In doing so, Bateman rejects those ingrained assumptions about the necessity of fixing older women’s faces, suggesting that we move on from judging someone’s worth based on the condition of her face.

Justine Bateman is a writer/director/producer/author with an impressive acting résumé that includes Family Ties, Satisfaction, Arrested Development, and many more.

She has earned a Golden Globe nomination and two Emmy nominations. Bateman wrote and produced her directorial film short debut Five Minutes, which premiered at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival and was chosen by seven more festivals, including the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Violet, Bateman’s directorial feature film debut of her own script, stars Olivia Munn, Luke Bracey, and Justin Theroux, and was an official selection at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.

Her best-selling first book, Fame: The Hijacking of Reality, explores society’s need for its presence, and was published in 2018 by Akashic.

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'A River Called Time'
By: Courttia Newland - Akashic Books, $28.95

Description: The Ark was built to save the lives of the many, but rapidly became a refuge for the elite, the entrance closed without warning.

Years after the Ark was cut off from the world—a world much like our own, but in which slavery has never existed — a chance of survival within the Ark’s confines is granted to a select few who can prove their worth.

Among their number is Markriss Denny, whose path to future excellence is marred only by a closely guarded secret: without warning, his spirit leaves his body, allowing him to see and experience a world far beyond his physical limitations.

Once inside the Ark, Denny learns of another with the same power, whose existence could spell catastrophe for humanity. He is forced into a desperate race to understand his abilities, and in doing so uncovers the truth about the Ark, himself, and the people he thought he once knew.

Verdict: Wow! Simply wow! The award-winning playwright and screenwriter for Steve McQueen's Small Axe, Courttia Newland has created one of the Top 5 books (already) for me in 2021!

For what Newland has created here over the 462 pages is nothing short of a richly imagined, layered, textured, and magnificently ornate, parallel London where colonialism and slavery never existed; whilst exploring timely themes of social inequality and more.

A quite splendid tale, and at the same time, a rather intimate portrait, that embodies the spirits of both love and loss, his characters delve deep in the psyche of these magical visions of his unbounded past, present and future.

A wholly immersive, and totally mesmerizing reimagining of the city from a grown formidable British voice, 'A River Called Time' not only features so much within it to love, to admire, to breathtakingly imagine as if it could really have happened, but at the same time brings forth a hero, an Everyman of the people, who discovers his abilities are anything but ordinary.

Someone to root for, no matter color or creed, with him thrown into the parallel cities drawn out before him, across a multiverse of colors and shapes and ordinances, African cosmology belief systems ahoy, for what the pages finally reveal are quite an amazingly inspired achievement.

In closing, 'A River Called Time' perfectly showcases Newland's firm grip on the mystical, the magical, and that tiny spark of wonderment that lies within all of us to see what else is out there: real or imagined.

He is, simply out, a masterful storyteller of the highest order and has brought forth a quite extraordinary tale, not only of astonishing speculative fiction, but one that embodies interrogating social inequality, the complexities of truth and the very essence of what it is to be human, all under the same book cover!

Courttia Newland is the author of seven books including his much-lauded debut, The Scholar. His last novel, The Gospel According to Cane, was published by Akashic in 2013.

In 2016 he was awarded the Tayner Barbers Award for science fiction writing and the Roland Rees Bursary for playwriting.

As a screenwriter, he has written two episodes of the Steve McQueen BBC series Small Axe.

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