A Different Generation – Listen to the Wisest of All by Rita Blockman and Kimberly Morin. Photography by Charles Mercer. Book Review.

Listen to the Wisest of All is a collection of interviews with men and women aged 88 to 104 years old.

One thing that impressed me was the positive attitude many of the interviewees had toward their childhood even if they were raised in difficult circumstances, even poverty. They were proud of their own contributions to their families sustainability. They enjoyed simple things and appreciated what they had. Family, religion, and country were the three predominantly important influences on them. Gathering wealth, collecting expensive items, or garnering attention or a following was not of interest. Most importantly was contributing and acquiring independence and skill. These values are what a bold this generation to survive a world war and the Great Depression.

 Click on the cover to buy a copy.

There were sweet stories of romance, some with happy endings, some with un-requited love.

The best part of the book was when we were reading the direct quotes. Biography is so much better when told directly from the source. However, the authors have done a wonderful job of helping the reader connect to the 14 people featured in this little book. Their observations, emotional responses, and interpretations have made this more than a factual account of events.

Each interviewee was asked what advice he would share with the younger generation. Many recommended showing respect for everyone. Pay attention to the little things. Don’t judge others. Health and contribute when you can, no matter how old you are.

Recurring themes were the concern over what seems to be eroded values in society. Many of the elderly frowned on overly revealing clothing, lack of personal communication between people, and undisciplined children.

The loss of innocence at such a young age due to the media was mentioned more than once. I share this concern. Childhood has shrunk to the blink of an eye. This is all the more apparent when listening to elders’ stories about the simple fun they had as children.

A book like this makes me wonder what kind of stories will be collected for my generation. It would be wonderful if this could be repeated every 20 years. What a fascinating chronology that would be.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Canada Celebrates Multiculturalism by Bobby Kalman. The Lands, Peoples, and Cultures Series. Book Review.

Canada Celebrates Multiculturalism (Lands, Peoples, & Cultures) buy link

The topics covered in this nonfiction book are:

  • Beginnings of multiculturalism
  • Celebrating Canada’s history
  • Heritage days
  • Caribana
  • Cross-cultural festivals
  • Harvest festivals
  • Christmas customs
  • New year celebrations
  • Religion
  • Holidays
  • Family days
  • Festivals
  • Recipes

It also Includes a Glossary and an Index.

This is a lot of things to tackle in such a small book of 32 pages. Basically, it just whets the appetite.

The beginnings of multiculturalism is a two-page spread, three-quarters of which is a photograph. In the text bar there is a short paragraph written on native cultures, French and British, more people came, and celebrating multiculturalism. At the bottom, in italics, is a caption for the picture that reads, “Many cultures can be found in Canada. People in this picture represent the Native, German, Ukrainian, Filipino, and Engine populations in Canada. Can you identify them by their costumes?” I’m not sure about the other cultures, but First Nations people do not like their regalia to be called a costume. This is a disrespectful term.

In the “Celebrating Canada’s history”, there are paragraphs on Canada Day, Victoria day, Labor Day, and Remembrance Day. It does mention the alternative holiday celebrated by the French Canadians in Quebec. There is a small text box below the fireworks picture and a sketch about Louis Riel. It is entitled “remembering a hero.”

Under heritage days, the author gives a short blurb on the powwow. The entire second part of the two-page spread is about African Canadians. Turn the page and you’ll find paragraphs on the national Ukrainian Festival, Fete National, Festival du Voyageur, Klondike Days, Oktoberfest, Highland games, and Icelandic Festival. The entire next double-page spread is devoted Caribana.

Under harvest vegetables, Canadian Thanksgiving is described. The Green Festival celebrated by the Iroquois, harvest fall fairs, and the wild rice harvest by the Algonquin, Cree, and Ojibwa are explained. There is a flashback about the order of good cheer. A short paragraph explains the Chinese Moon Festival.

For such a short book, it shares a great of information on unfamiliar holidays. Well worth a read or for stocking your class library.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

buy link American Girl – Beforever Josefina – Josefina’s Festival Outfit for 18-inch Dolls

buy link Fall Leaf Window Clings (4 Sheets with 10 Stickers Each – Total of 40 Stickers)

buy link – Amscan Festive Kwanzaa Celebration Table Cover, Multicolor, 54″ x 102″

buy link – 25 Fortune Teller Fish, Old Time Party Favorite

buy link – Marionette Style Puppet – Chinese New Year Dragon – For Play or Display Any Time of Year! by Asia Overstock

All Fall Down: The Landslide Diary of Abby Roberts – Frank, District of Alberta, 1902 by Jean Little. Book Review.

Jean Little is a national treasure. Her body of work is phenomenal and this is up there with the best of them. You don’t have to be Canadian to enjoy this book, or the series, which is told in diary format.

The story of the landslide that buried part of the town in the coal mining area of Alberta, Canada, is told through the eyes of a young girl, Abby. Her father has recently died and her family has moved to Frank to live with relatives who run a hotel. The family dynamics are as complex and intriguing as real life drama. Abby, is a sensitive and loving child, the only one of her siblings willing to care for her Down Syndrome brother. The story is told through her diary entries.

This moment in Canadian history is relatively unknown by people living outside of Western Canada. The book is based on the true events and the deaths and near misses resulting from the landslide are taken from actual historical incidents. There are black and white photographs at the back of the book which show the size and extent of the mountain’s partial collapse. An explanation is given in the afterword as to the possible causes of the enormous landslide.

This book is both an engaging story of a family around the turn of the century and a stunning example of the power of nature. Abby, and her family, are based on a number of people Jean Little researched. Although it is written for tween readers, anyone from 9 to 90 will be intrigued by the story and touched by the impact of this tragedy on the community and individuals.

This book is part of the Dear Canada series which features a number of remarkable books. Some speak of heroism and sacrifice while some examine our most shameful moments.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Coming to Canada: Building a Life New Land by Susan Hughes. Book Review.

 

This is a nonfiction history book is organized into easy-to-read sections. Is quite up to date and inclusive. It begins with the arrival of the aboriginal peoples. It follows through with the Acadians and the Great Expulsion, an example of how prejudice and politics can destroy the lives of ordinary people.

Throughout the book, it honestly shows the cruelties and failures done while building our country. Many people know generally about the loyalists’ tribulations but few know how badly the emancipated slaves were treated. For example, “of the 30,000 Loyalists who came north to Nova Scotia in 1783 in 1784, roughly 10%, or 3000, were black.” Many didn’t get their land grants and if they did it was soil that could not be farmed. They were treated worse than second-class citizens. “And what about the other resources promised by the British – the lumber, the money, the tools? Again, the black Loyalists were always at the end of the line. Many suffered through their first winters in the inadequate temporary structures they put up just for shelter.” They were not given the same rations as the whites. But in spite of all this, the black loyalists built several strong communities of their own. While some may think it is shameful to bring forth the treatment of groups such as this, I think that their descendents would be proud of their resilience and ability to overcome such blatant racism. There may be inspiration in their suffering. I wish I could say that these inequalities were quickly corrected, but in fact the people of Halifax’s Africville were appalling victims of entrenched systematic abuse and neglect for 150 more years. For those of us who are not black, seeing the truth is a reminder that we must be vigilant against prejudice toward immigrants and minorities. A timely topic.

The book covers the arrival of the Irish immigrants in the 1600s aboard the coffin ships. It follows these people through the building of the railroad where it also connects up with the experiences of the Chinese immigrants.

You will find historical tidbits you may not have known. For example, have you heard of New Iceland?

In the late 1800s, many Ukrainian immigrants arrived and most settled around Winnipeg. The book explores the premises made by the Canadian government to potential immigrants. It examines the prejudices and false assumptions towards southern Europeans. I was surprised to learn that, next to the Chinese, the Italians “played the biggest role in pushing the Canadian Pacific Railway through the diamond-hard mountain rocks and steep-sided river valleys of Western Canada.”

Hughes discusses the treatment of Italians in the first world war, the creation of ethnic neighborhoods, and, again, the mistreatment of immigrants. The most shocking is the refusal of the Canadian government to allow most of the east Indians on board the Komagata Maru to disembark even though they were not being supplied with food or water. Eventually, they were forced to return to their places of origin.

Of course, you cannot speak of immigration without discussing the treatment of Japanese immigrants and their descendents, especially during the second world war. It is one of Canada’s most dishonourable moments.

After the Second World War, 165,000 refugees came to Canada. Those countries that came under Soviet control did not experience true freedom. 1956, Hungarians rose up with nothing more than kitchen utensils and makeshift weapons. The Soviets sent in tanks. 2500 Hungarians were killed and 37,000 were admitted to Canada as refugees.

Although not refugees, there was a surge of Americans moving to Canada during the Vietnam conflict in order to avoid being drafted. Approximately 50,000 to 225,000 Americans came to Canada. When they were offered a pardon in 1974, few were willing to take the risk to return. Of course, many Vietnamese immigrated to Canada during this time as well. They were followed by refugees from Afghanistan, Somalia, and more. Between 1991 and 2001 almost two million immigrants have arrived in Canada.

Canada is a nation of immigrants and refugees. Most of us know someone from each of these groups. We do not consider ourselves a melting pot but strive to be a mosaic wherein people keep the parts of their culture that do not contradict Canada’s laws or strong social norms. This can be difficult at times, but it is also enriching. The first time I went to Europe in 1977, I was surprised at how each country seemed culturally isolated from the next. If you wanted spaghetti, you’d have to go to Italy. The last time I went, in 2015, this had changed greatly. Countries had become multi-ethnic and food, music, and entertainment had spread from one country to the next. It felt closer to Canada where my typical Christmas dinner had always included Ukrainian periogies, Chinese fried rice, Italian lasagna, French bread, English pudding, Jamaican jerk chicken, Japanese sushi, Canadian wild blueberry pie and more. Multiculturalism at it’s best.

This book would be a marvelous addition to a family library. Adults and young people alike will find much to attract their attention. There are photographs and illustrations on every page. These include copies of important telegraphs, tickets, maps, numerous photographs and drawings, and more. It is written in sections just right for short periodic reads. An outstanding book.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Women in War and More – Author Joan Leotta Three Random Questions Interview

Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood in Pittsburgh. She is a writer, story performer and lifelong beachcomber whose own dad got up early to hunt shells with her.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Joan. You seem to be a rather eclectic author, romance, mystery, essay, poems, short stories, and children’s books. Do you have a favorite type of writing?

Joan Leotta:  My favorite kind of writing is the one I am doing at the time. That’s not very informative, except to say I simply love to write. However, I write for children as a high calling—what is done for children, lasts. Poetry, the same. Touches the heart. I also read just as widely as I write—more so. I write non-fiction in the form of journalism (health and food) though I have , in the past,  written a travel book and many travel articles as well.

Ferrante: How do you decide what type of writing you going to do next? Does the topic choose the style or vice versa?

Leotta: The topic and the style need to be on the same track. I look at a topic and say—wow! Then my head begins to shape that WOW into a story or a poem, or perhaps I want to track it as an article. The idea is that WOW is something I want to share with others.

Ferrante: This blog focuses on children’s books so let’s talk a little about your picture books, Whoosh!, Summer in a Bowl, Rosa and the Red Apron, and Rosa’s Shell, which celebrate food and family. Why did you decided to focus on that topic? What do you hope to get across to your readers?
  

Leotta:  I want readers to see that ordinary family moments bring great joy. Of course, with my own background (Italian-American) food is often a part of that. My dad is the dad in stories, my Aunt Mary, the Aunt in Summer, a version of my Mom (she was a bit complex) is the Mom in Rosa and the Red Apron and while my Grandma could not sew, she gave me many intangible gifts, including a love of story, that have enriched my entire life.

Ferrante: The family in Rosa and the Red Apron are of African descent but you don’t seem to be. Did you choose this or did the illustrator? Do you try to include diversity in all of your books?

Rosa and the Red Apron was reviewed on this blog April 28, 2017 LINK

Leotta: Actually, they are not supposed to be of African descent in particular—the idea was to make them ethnically ambiguous. They could be anyone whose coloring is deep olive or brown: Some Hispanics, some East Asians, some African-Americans, some Middle Eastern folks and some Italian-Americans(old family photos of  mine show people of that coloring ). I am often asked, “What are you?” and I occasionally answer, “human, how about you?”

These ordinary experiences are not the particular “property” of any one ethnic group—all want, need and take joy in loving families. Yet, there are not many books out there showing such for anyone not blonde unless the characters are animals. I hoped Rosa would fill that gap. As a story performer, I often tell tales from many ethnicities, but on the same topic, subtly showing my audiences that each group has an interest in same basic things and each has value.

Ferrante: Your Legacy of Honor for book romance/mystery series features strong Italian-American women during the time of war. Tell us a little about the series. Why did you choose this topic?

Leotta: I grew up hearing stories of things my family did during wartime to support the efforts of the USA—both in combat (my father and uncles) and on the home front. I wanted to tell the stories of the valiant women. Desert Breeze wanted a set of four stories, so I started with WWII, then Korea, then Vietnam (where the woman serves in the war zone as a nurse!) and then Desert Storm (where women hold several roles, Journalists, home support and more). These stories are very close to home for me.

 

 

Ferrante: What kind of research did you to in order to write the books with authenticity?

Leotta: Research, research, research! I love research. As I shaped each story, I combed through books, newspaper articles, and sought first person accounts from people who lived through the eras in question so that details of things going on, places, would be accurate. For the first one, Giulia is the Italian spelling of a friend, named “Julia” who told me her story of leaving home and marrying a man who was not Italian-American. The research on the Wilmington shipyards—well, that was a lot of fun and I was already familiar with the resources. I had written several short stories about Wilmington history that took prizes from the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. An elder in my church provided me with his slides of Korea from when he was stationed there and a lot of anecdotes that appear in the book as things that happen to my main characters. For A Bowl of Rice, the Vietnam tale, I drew on the experiences of my former roommate,  who was a nurse in Vietnam. I read about the ways in which women journalists were working during the 90s and then also drew on Civil War history for the last book as well as lots of maps and a couple of recent visits to Rome to craft that tale.

Ferrante: What type of essays do you write? Are they about personal experiences or current events?

Leotta: I write personal experience essays. My work has been published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, Sassee magazine and SKIRT.

Ferrante: Are you working on more than one thing at a time? Or do you like to focus intently on a single piece of writing?

Leotta: I have a short attention span so I am always working on more than one thing. Often I am preparing something for a performance while writing as well. I used to write a lot of business articles. I kept only one client when we moved to North Carolina (that was my version of retirement) and now fill my time with poems (am revising at least one or starting one or both at all times). I am deadline driven (journalist habit) so my large projects are spaced out. When I get “stuck” I take a walk and tackle something in another genre.

Ferrante: You identify as a “story performer.” Tell us a little about what you do.

Leotta: I go to schools, libraries, and festivals and perform stories (often folk tales, sometimes notable women from history) as one woman shows. I love interaction, so I try to include my audience as much as possible. Even if the main stories are serious, I try to find places for humor too.

Ferrante: What is your latest publication and why do you think it’s worth buying?

Leotta: Rosa’s Shell is the latest—buy it for a good beach week tale for little ones. Great father-child bonding too.

Ferrante: What is the best advice you could give to a beginning writer based on your own experiences?

Leotta:  Pay attention to craft, look at rejections as stepping stones, and persist.

CLICK ON THE BOOK COVERS FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO BUY THE BOOK.

Ferrante: If you could invent a brand-new flavor of ice cream or sorbet, what would you choose?

Leotta: Lime vanilla swirl

Ferrante: If you could learn any dance perfectly, traditional or ethnic, which one would you choose?

Leotta: I can’t do any dance at all—I am without rhythm. Hmm, that makes this one soooooo tough. Anything I can dance with my husband maybe just the simple waltz so I wouldn’t step on him. (He is a good dancer)

Ferrante: If you were a colour what colour would you be? Why?

Leotta: I like blue the best, it’s my favorite. So I guess the blue of the sky so I could bask in the love of the sun and make my lap a play space for clouds

Ferrante: Thank you for participating in this interview series. Good luck with your new publications.

Joan Leotta’s Social Media links.

www.joanleotta.wordpress.com  (A series there on the birth of a picture book and photos of  the real Aunt Mary)

@beachwriter12 , Joan’s twitter handle

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet by Anthony D. Fredericks. Illustrated by Laura Regan.

This is not an alphabet book for preschool or kindergarten children. In fact, calling it an alphabet book could be misleading. It is, in fact, an extensive resource book for information about rainforests. For example, a is for anaconda. Most letters receive a two-page spread. The detailed and realistic illustration of the anaconda fills one page and two thirds of the other. A four-line rhyme is imposed on the picture. It reads:

A is for Anaconda,
its size – a scary feature,
It swims and slips through rivers deep,
and eats most any creature.

For such a short little poem, it packs a lot of punch.

But that is just the beginning. a text bar down the side of the page explains how the anaconda is the longest snake in the world. It tells us that anacondas belong to a group of snakes known as constructors and relates in detail how they kill. Then it adds a little tidbit adding that A also stands for Australia, home to some of the most distinctive rainforest animals and plants in the world.

The letters are represented as follows:
B is for Brazil and bromeliads (plants).
C is for canopy and chicle (a gum).
D is for dispensers. (I bet you never saw that coming.) It is also for deforestation.
E is for epiphytes (a plant) and endangered.

And so on.

It is great to see an entire two-page spread dedicated to the medicines we have received from rainforests and could receive in the future , if there’s anything left. Also included are the Yanomamo people. The last page is the most powerful.

Z is for the number zero.
I hope you’ll understand –
it’s all the species that are left,
if we don’t preserve this land.

It states such facts as “The number of fish species in the Amazon exceeds the number in the entire Atlantic Ocean.” And finishing off with, “By some estimates at least one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second of every day.”

The last text before the ending bullets and answers to questions reads, “Some experts estimate that more than 130 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every single day due to rainforest deforestation (that’s about 50,000 species a year)! If deforestation continues at current rates, some scientists figure that nearly 80 to 90% of tropical rain forest ecosystems may be destroyed within the next 25 years.” (published in 2009)

Click on the picture to buy the book.

It is unfortunate that it doesn’t cite the biggest contributing problem – the massive intake of meat by an exploding population. According to my research, more than half of deforestation is done to create cattle ranches or, more often, to grow food to feed farm animals. The worst part is, the land can only sustain this for a few years and then they must move on leaving decimation behind them.

The fact “if deforestation continues at current rates” is misleading. The population of earth is presently at 7.5 billion people. Every day, meat producers are expanding their market into new countries and cultures. Because of this, and other more minor factors, the rate of deforestation of rainforests is increasing. Environmentalists and human rights advocates who have opposed cattle ranchers and big corporations have been murdered. Fewer people are willing to speak out. As a result, we will continue to the loose potential cures, trees that provide clean air, unique and wonderful animals, and stunningly beautiful ecosystems. For more information on this, watch the documentary Cowspiracy.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

My First Bundle and My Fav Series Reads

I seldom read a series of books until it is complete. I often don’t remember the first book by the time the last one comes out. I started R. R. Martin’s books a while back and realized I would never remember all the characters and complex plots by the time he ended the series. Now, though, we have the TV series to help, although the plot has varied from the books.

I love getting a whole series at once and binge reading. So, I decided to provide a bundle of my Dawn’s End trilogy for like-minded readers. “A bundle of the three Dawn’s End fantasy/adventure/romance/apocalypse novels. Two generations of women are called upon to save a fantastical land but, in the end, they may need saving themselves.”

Buy Link – Dawn’s End Trilogy: Nightfall – Poisoned – Outworld Apocalypse

For those unfamiliar with the series, I have book trailers on youtube. Click on the covers to watch.

     

It’s a steal at the price and I hope to reach a new audience. It will be interesting to see how bundled sales compare to individual.

Some of my favorite binge sets are: (Click on the covers if you want more info.)

What are your favorites?

    

              

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth. Book Review.

If you enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or House Rules you will love this book. Told from the points of view of Perry and his sister and caretaker Justine, the book focuses on the strong bond between siblings whose mother abandoned them as children and whose father recently died. I don’t want to talk too much about the story. It is basically about relationships and how we assume things about the other person that may or may not be true.

Both the major characters are engaging, complex, and selfless. I read this book in one night as I could not put it down. I loved both Justine and Perry. Both have big hearts, protective natures, a sense of humor, and courage.

We are never exactly told that Perry has autism but Justine repeats a speech that sums up his challenging life in a single paragraph, “My brother has a brain condition that causes him to feel anxious or different places and circumstances. He has trouble with people – mixing with them and communicating with them – and it sometimes results in inappropriate behaviors. I appreciate your understanding and patience.” It sounds so simple, but it is incredibly complex. Perry struggles with all his strength to behave appropriately and to be a good brother in spite of his brain condition.

When Justine takes Perry all the way from Australia to Canada, her brother must cope with sensory overload, the vastly unfamiliar, and breaks in his routine. Her reason for doing this opens a whole new Pandora’s box.

This is a story about sibling love, a broken family, redemption, sacrifice, and devotion. This book was a well deserving Governor General Award Finalist. A beautiful book that will seize your emotions and tug at your heart. I highly recommend it for all ages.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Second Jezebel by Peter Mowsbray. Book Review.

 

 

It is interesting that I should receive this book for review just as one of my favorite television series, Reign, is ending. I was interested to know what would happen to Catherine de Medici later in life. The portrayal of Catherine, the second Jezebel, is much harsher in the novel than the television series. I suspect the book is more true to life as the research seems extensive and detailed.

The novel begins with the slaughter of the Huguenots and is quite difficult to read through. Be prepared for a lot of gore and savagery. We learn that Catherine is responsible for the massacre and that her motives questionable . She is of the strike first and worry about the consequences later mindset.

The book is a thorough recount of the actions of Catherine and her less than likable children. Their brutish, selfish ambition and thoughtless extravagance is stunning. Although hated by all of France, Catherine does seem to be the only one in her family who truly cares about the country. Not from a sense of patriotism or responsibility but for the preservation of her family and Royal position.

At times I had difficulty keeping the characters organized in my head and was grateful for the cast of characters listed in the front of the book. But even though I sometimes lost the thread of who was who, the story was fascinating and occasionally cringe worthy. The villains far out numbered the heroes.

Although I prefer a book with a protagonist I can admire, the story of Catherine de Medici and her repellent family was compelling in a different way. One wonders how any country survived at all with rulers like these. Admittedly, Catherine’s machinations were brilliant and she had a much better understanding of diplomacy than those in power.

Peter Mowbray writes with authority and sensory detail. He gets into the head of a severely dysfunctional woman and somehow manages to make us feel sympathy, if not empathy, for her. Aside from the occasional punctuation error, the book is flawless and professional. If you like historical fiction written with power and accuracy, you will enjoy this book.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Click on any book cover for more information or to buy the book.

Don’t Go Out in the Dark by Philip Cox. Book Review.

If you like suspenseful murder mysteries with a mixture of suspects and an interesting protagonist, you’ll enjoy this book. The plot has a variety of branches that crisscross and intertwine and finally lead to a satisfying conclusion. I don’t like to post spoilers which makes reviewing a suspense pretty tricky.

Jack’s ex-girlfriend has been killed while driving his car. Is it an accident? Is it murder? Was she the target or was he? Jack is investigating this without much support while trying to adjust to a divorce and weekend fathering.

The story involves a possible miracle cure, a broken relationship, a newspaper investigation, a murdered friend who may have been the wrong target, a sex offender, a Russian Mafia’s son with a grudge, a mysterious hitman for hire, missing files, and more. Cox keeps the mystery fresh with every chapter.

The book is easy to read and also shares some interesting information about cancer research. The character is likable and the violence isn’t over the top. The only question I have is, why that title? “Don’t Go Out in the Dark” sounds like a teenage horror book and not a classic intriguing murder story. The picture on the cover seems to be of a fire which I guess represents the crashed car but I think it doesn’t do this terrific book justice.

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Click on the cover to buy the book.

Interview with the author.

A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages