A DIFFERENT POND by Phi Bao is one of the most meaningful children’s books I have ever read. 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸย 

Title: A DIFFERENT POND     

Author: BAO PHI  

Illustrator: THI BUI     

Genre: FICTION, CHILDREN’S FICTION, IMMIGRANT FICTION, MULTICULTURAL FICTION    

Length: 32 PAGES

Publisher: CAPSTONE   

Type of Book: JACKETED PAPER-OVER-BOARD   

Ages: 4 TO 8

Received From: NETGALLEY     

Release Date: AUGUST 2017 

ISBN: 978-1-62370-803-0  

Price: $15.95 U.S. / $19.95 CAN 

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ    

FROM THE BACK COVER:

An unforgettable story about a simple event – a long-ago fishing trip. A young boy wakes early, hours before his fatherโ€™s long workday begins, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis.

Unlike many anglers, the boy and his father fish for food, not recreation. A successful catch means a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, the boy’s father tells him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. On these early mornings, the young boy begins the hard work of self discovery. 

MY REVIEW: 

Not only is this book beautifully written and illustrated, but the story within will enchant children while simultaneously evoking a sense of nostalgia in the child’s parents.

Despite the fact that the characters in this gorgeous children’s book are Vietnamese, every child will be able to relate to the main character’s delight in spending time with his father and in the disappointment when he is left behind while his parents go off to work. 

Readers will notice that the father and son are fishing for food, rather than fishing for fun. When they have caught enough fish: 

Dad smiles, his teeth broken and white in the dark, because we have a few fish and he knows we will eat tonight.” 

This line is an opportunity for parents to talk to their children about the immigrant experience and through this discussion, they can help to foster equality and to help eliminate racism in our society. 

Image obtained from http://weneeddiversebooks.org/


It seems trite to say that “Children are our future,” but as clichรฉ as it sounds, it is true.

Books such as this one are important for many reasons. It is important for children of visible minorities to be able to find and read books that show people who look just like them, and that they can relate to. It is equally important that all children are exposed to multicultural books since we live in a multicultural society. 

The illustrations in this book are a cross between a graphic novel and a typical childrenโ€™s book. This unique illustrative style is the PERFECT accompaniment to the story.  

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ and suggest that all parents, teachers and librarians put this book on their “To Be Purchased list” or that they go ahead and pre-order a copy today. I predict this book will win many awards upon its release. 

*I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

BAO PHI was born in Vietnam and raised in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis.

He is an author, a poet, a community organizer, and a father.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

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ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:  

THI BUI was born in Vietnam and grew up in California and New York. Now all these places are a part of her.

She draws, writes, and teaches. She recently completed her first graphic novel, THE BEST WE COULD DO (Abrams, 2017), which is about her mother and father.

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

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IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE by Leah Weiss is a beautifully written novel set in the Appalachian Mountains – A MUST READ – PRE-ORDER NOW!!!


Title: IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE
Author: LEAH WEISS

Genre: FICTION

Publisher: SOURCEBOOKS LANDMARK

Release Date: AUGUST 8, 2017

ISBN: 9781492647454

Price: $15.99 USD

Type of Book: ARC from Netgalley 

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

This is the debut novel written by LEAH WEISS.

Set in the 1970s high in the Appalachian Mountain range sits a small, secluded community struggling to survive and to live their lives as they see fit.

The inhabitant’s lives are not very different from the lives of their ancestors. Down the mountain, people are embracing new technologies and just about everyone has a car, indoor plumbing and telephones are installed in every home. Not so on the mountain. Outhouses are still in use and the mountain folk have no desire for the intrusion that improvements might bring.

In fact, outsiders are treated with scorn and suspicion. Children are taught in a one-room schoolhouse that in theory sounds quaint and idyllic, but in reality is anything but.

Teachers arrive with the best of intentions, but soon run away with their tails tucked between their legs  when they discover the harsh reality of mountain life. Their leaving could also have something to do with the fact that the last teacher’s home mysteriously caught fire in the middle of the night and burned to the ground.

With character names such as Marris, Gladys, Sadie and Otis Blue, the author creates a sense of living in the past. There are too many characters and too many intertwined storylines to mention them here, but Leah Weiss has crafted a complex but believable and haunting tale that will tug at your heartstrings and make you shake your head in both exasperation and disbelief.

IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE is as harsh and unapologetic as the immovable mountains. Leah Weiss has a gift for character building and the people who live on the mountain come alive on every page. Even the way the characters talk comes through as raw and authentic. For example, Sadie’s grandmother Gladys says, “From the start there’s been a film of dingy on my days. I’ve always done woman’s work; man’s work, too. Woke up with work to do, went to bed before it got done … I been chained to an iron life.”

My favourite line in the book was when Gladys says that her friend is as annoying and clingy as chickenshit on shoes.

I rate IF THE CREEK DON’T RISE as 5 out of 5 stars and predict that we will see this book at the top of the Bestseller lists as soon as it is released.  ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ


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


MY FAVOURITE QUOTES:


“Only got the clothes on her back and a backbone that won’t bend.”


“Ugly talk follows Roy like fleas on a mangy dog. He’s a spiteful, small-minded man who drinks hard and plays for keeps.”   


“Truth always hurts and it’s extra hard to look at late in life.”


“She’s got lessons to learn, and life’s one bugger of a teacher.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
(In her own words – copied from her website)

Leah Weiss’s roots are deep, simple and southern. 

They started where my mama Lucy was born on a tobacco farm in the flatlands of eastern North Carolina. She was one of fifteen siblings raised without electricity or indoor plumbing. My daddy, a Marine from Cherry Point, saw my mama a handful of times. Then he married her on her eighteenth birthday in 1944. They settled near her family where my sister and I were born in a farming town, where neighborhoods were divided by train tracks and held together by church and traditions.Just about everybody we knew was kin.

When I was ten, we left Carolina and moved to Virginia when my grandpop died. We moved in with Nana, and on the empty lot next door my parents built us a four-room home, sawing, hammering and painting. They were self-sufficient and hardworking people with humble dreams.

In my childhood days, I fell in love with Nancy Drew mystery books. Every spare moment was spent between the covers of those blue books solving crimes and thinking that could be me. If my name was Nancy. If I had a roadster. If I was five years older. I have nineteen of those early Nancy Drew books on my bookshelf. They hooked me on the pull of imagination.

But my world wasnโ€™t Nancy Drewโ€™s world. I took piano lessons that led to a scholarship that took me to Dunbarton College in Washington DC in the second half of the turbulent sixties. Our Nationโ€™s Capital was in chaos over Vietnam, racial strife and womenโ€™s equality. Marches and sit-ins were the norm in that time of unrest. A year after college, I married, had a son, taught music, and wrote articles for a magazine. Two decades later, I divorced then took the job of executive assistant to the Headmaster at Virginia Episcopal School that lasted my next twenty-four years.

In those years, I wrote memoirs and fiction whose rules werenโ€™t always clear. I attended writing conferences and workshops, haunted bookstores and studied my favorite authors. I cut my writing teeth on a novel that didnโ€™t sell and a string of short stories that did. Eventually, I found.my writing voice. No surprise, itโ€™s southern and musical and best when read aloud. It is always about people who are self-sufficient and hard working with humble dreams.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

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ZENN DIAGRAM by Wendy Brant will pull you in and won’t let you go. A 5 Star Must Read Book!

Title: ZENN DIAGRAM

Author: WENDY BRANT       

Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Length: 328 PAGES

Publisher: KIDS CAN PRESS 

Release Date: APRIL 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77138-792-7 Hardcover

List Price: USD $17.95, CAD $18.95

Grades: 9 To 12 / Ages: 14 to 18  

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ   

Unique. Utterly readable, with awesome characters and a guy that teen girls will have crushes on. Zenn is the latest book-boyfriend of choice.

Eva Walker’s life is unlike anyone elses. She is a loner, a math nerd, an orphan and she feels like a freak. Out of all these labels, the most significant one is Eva’s loner status.

You would think the math nerd status would be the reason she was a loner – not so. Eva is a loner by choice. Why? Well, she has a gift (curse?) Anytime Eva touches someone, or even touches someone’s property, such as a cell phone, she immediately knows all about them – including their secrets and their fears.

Now, some may think that this would be an amazing gift to have, but it never turns off. Imagine going on a date and having to listen to the guy’s dirty thoughts about you the entire time you’re with him. Yuck!

The only time that Eva is thankful for this strange ability is when she is tutoring someone in math. She just has to touch their calculator and she knows exactly what they are struggling with. This makes her an excellent tutor. It is through her tutoring that she meets Zenn.

When she is assigned to tutor Zenn Bennett, she is nervous. Who wouldn’t be? Zenn is absolutely gorgeous and he does it without even trying.

When she accidentally touches Zenn’s jacket she is rocked by what she sees. The violence of the vision is like nothing she has ever seen or felt before.

Eva must decide whether or not to confront Zenn and the horrifying vision or whether to keep it to herself and stay safe; but alone.

This novel has so many twists and turns that readers will never be bored and they will not want to put this book down.

There is romance, there is tragedy, there is guilt, remorse, fear and mystery. This book has it all.

Author Wendy Brant has written a young adult novel that will suck you in from the very first chapter. Both her world-building and her character development are top notch.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in a single sitting. I must warn potential readers that once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop, so you should make sure you set aside some time to curl up with this fantastic book.

I rate ZENN DIAGRAM as 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (In Her Own Words):

So my name alone should give you a clue that I graduated from high school when bangs were big and clothes were baggy. I went to Northwestern University and majored in journalism even though I had no desire to be a journalist. I’ve been married to a great guy for a whole drinking-aged person’s life. I’ve got two amazing and yet very different (and very tall) teenage kids. I like crappy food, pinning inspirational quotes on Pinterest, have a tendency to start paragraphs with “anyway”, and I wish I were funnier. I would love to be one of those really, REALLY funny bloggers (like Insane in the Mom-Brain) that makes you pee yourself a little bit. I am only moderately funny. I admit that. It’s one of my great sadnesses in life.

โ€‹โ€‹I started writing fiction when I was 10, but tried to be practical with the whole journalism thing. Didn’t take. Shortly after college, the fiction-writing desire reared its non-practical head and I’ve been writing ever since.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

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AMAZON.COM               

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A New MUST READ Young Adult novel that will have adult readers fondly thinking about growing up in the 80s. THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS is available now!


 
Title: THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS

Author: JASON REKULAK     

Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION, HISTORICAL FICTION  (THE 1980s)

Length: 285 PAGES

Publisher: SIMON AND SCHUSTER 

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER

Received From: SIMON AND SCHUSTER through the Goodreads Giveaway program

Cover Design: WILL STAHLE

Release Date: FEBRUARY 7, 2017

ISBN: 9781501166839

Rating:   5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ     

  

I LOVED THIS BOOK. Although THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS is targeted at young adult readers, anyone who, like me, grew up in the 1980s will find this book a trip down memory lane.

Jason Rekulak may be a debut author, but it is obvious that his years working as an editor for Quark Books embued him with an excellent sense of the proper balance between the plot and character development.

Will Marvin and his two best friends are the ultimate underdogs. It’s 1986 and Vanna White is the ultimate girl next door. When the boys learn that she is featured in Playboy magazine, they are determined to get copies.

Will is a nerd. I can relate. I remember taking classes in Basic Code and doing anything on a computer took hours and hours of entering programming code. But, Will loves it. Hos ultimate life goal is to design video games for a living.

Then he meets Mary Zelinsky. She is a computer nerd too. Will is stunned. He had no idea that there were girls who liked computers. Remember – this was the 80s and women were still battling the secretary stereotype.

Can Will get the girl, perfect his video game called The Impossible Fortress, and get his hands on the dirty pictures of Vanna White?

This novel will have adult readers waxing nostalgic for the less complicated days of their youth and both adults and young adults alike will be able to relate to the terror and elation of discovering the opposite sex for the first time.

THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS is liberally sprinkled with pop culture references and readers will find themselves digging out their old mixed-tapes.

I absolutely loved this book and I will be recommending it to all my friends. I doubt this is the last we have heard from debut author Jason Rekulak and I, for one, can’t wait to read whatever he comes up with next.

I rate this book with an enthusiastic 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Now, I’m off to my basement to try to find my old Atari system. I can’t wait to play Space Invaders – old school style.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

 

JASON REKULAK was born and raised in New Jersey. He has worked for many years at Quirk Books, where he edits a variety of fiction and non-fiction.

He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two children. THE IMPOSSIBLE FORTRESS is his first novel.

To learn more and to play a version of The Impossible Fortress game, visit his website.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

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NEWLY RELEASED – THE PROMISE GIRLS by Bestselling Author MARIE BOSTWICK is worthy of a 5 Star Rating – Check out this review to find out why…

Title: THE PROMISE GIRLS   

Author: MARIE BOSTWICK

Genre: FICTION, WOMEN’S FICTION

Length: 352 PAGES

Publisher: KENSINGTON BOOKS  
Release Date: MARCH 28, 2017 

ISBN: 978-1-4967-0921-9 

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Joanie and her little sisters Meg and Avery were paraded across th5e United States in the 80s as children who were supposedly prodigies.

Their mother, Minerva Promise, had designer engineered them in the UK as test-tube babies before the technology was even available in the United States. A few years later, Minerva then wrote and released a book called THE PROMISE GIRLS, which trumpeted the fact that she was the  mother of three artistic prodigies. Minerva’s book argued that nature and nurture both play equally important roles in fostering genius.

Minerva was a single mother who carefully chose the sperm donors for her children based on what she wanted. And she wanted prodigies – one in art, one in music and one in writing.

Now, twenty years later the Promise Girls have no contact with their mother and do NOT want any. But Minerva has her sights set on the girls participating in a documentary and plans to ride on the girl’s coat-tails once again.

This book is character driven. Marie Bostwick has a gift for creating characters who are so believable and so realistic that as you read the book, you find yourself forgetting that they are not real. In fact, it is impossible not to begin to care for the Promise girls and to hope for them to find happiness and success.

It is not just the characters themselves that will draw readers in. The story is excellent and utterly believable. The events in this book could easily have happened to any family.

So, the characters are amazing, the story believable and compelling – that is all you need, right? Wrong! Added to all the great things I have already mentioned, I need to add that there is much more to this book. Family dynamics, a mystery to wonder about, a past to discover,  romance, tragedy, and emotionally charged scenes all combine to create an extraordinary book that I believe will become a Bestseller.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars. ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free advance copy of this book. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 


(Biography and picture copied from http://www.mariebostwick.com)

On the path to becoming a novelist, Marie Bostwick worked in the bean fields of Oregon, sang and danced in musical productions, acted in TV commercials, taught religion to deaf children, ran an event-planning business, worked as the scheduler for a U.S. Senator and directed womenโ€™s ministries for a large church.

But as diverse and enriching as these experiences were, it was a conversation with a stranger back in 1994 that pointed Marie toward her true calling.

Then the mother to three active young sons, Marie went on a much-needed vacation to a resort with some girlfriends. While there, she decided to attend a writerโ€™s workshop, โ€œnot from any desire to become a writer,โ€ she said, โ€œbut as a way to avoid playing tennis with my friends. Iโ€™m hopelessly unathletic.โ€ At the end of the week the instructor approached her, and thinking she was a professional writer, asked what sheโ€™d published.

โ€œI just laughed. I told him that I was a mom, and the only thing I wrote was grocery lists.โ€ The instructor insisted that whether Marie knew it or not, she was a writer. Marie thanked him for the compliment, saying she wasnโ€™t a writer, just someone who hadnโ€™t fired her imaginary friends when she grew up. โ€œThen he leaned toward me and said, โ€˜Well, what do you think writers are?โ€™ That got my attention. I think I realized then that he was onto something, that my secret identity had finally been unmasked.โ€

The signs were there from an early age. A voracious reader by the age of three, Marie said one of her first literary endeavors was a screenplay she wrote for โ€œCamelotโ€ before she was old enough to attend public school. The musical was a favorite of Marieโ€™s, and, not having seen the movie, she wrote her own story to go with the music sheโ€™d heard on her grandmotherโ€™s record player. In high school, Marie wrote short stories and โ€œa lot of sad, self-absorbed teenage poetry,โ€ which earned her the school English award.

Born in Eugene, Oregon, the youngest of four sisters experienced a life of comfort in her early years, then financial hardships after her parentsโ€™ divorce. But childhood summers spent working in the fields taught her industry and the dignity of good, hard work. They also provided the insight into the hearts and minds of small communities, the settings for her novels.

Marie dedicated four years to writing FIELDS OF GOLD. Published in 2005 by Kensington Books, FIELDS OF GOLD was a finalist for the prestigious Oklahoma Book Award and for RT BOOKclub magazineโ€™s Best Historical Saga Award. RIVERโ€™S EDGE won the Golden Quill Award, was a finalist for a National Readersโ€™ Choice Award and was an alternate selection of the Literary Guild. Her novellas, A HIGH-KICKING CHRISTMAS and THE PRESENTS OF ANGELS, which were included, respectively, in the holiday anthologies COMFORT AND JOY and SNOW ANGELS, appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Drawing on her lifelong love of quilting and themes of special relevance to modern women, Marieโ€™s Cobbled Court Quilt series has gained a dedicated following among quilters as well as those whoโ€™ve never threaded and needle and donโ€™t plan to try. The first book in the series, A SINGLE THREAD, published in 2008, is now in its sixteenth printing. That book, as well the third book in the series, A THREAD SO THIN, were included in Readerโ€™s Digest Select Editions. A THREAD OF TRUTH (2009) was named an โ€œIndie Next Notableโ€ book by the members of the Independent Booksellerโ€™s Association. TIES THAT BIND has been nominated as Best Mainstream Novel of 2012 by RT BOOK Reviews Magazine. In 2014, Marie was recognized for Career Achievement in Mainstream Novels award by the same organization.

Marie enjoys volunteering to help others. When she was twenty-five, she became the first president of a new chapter of Habitat for Humanity in Georgia. When living in Mexico, she served as the volunteer director of development for Manos de Ayuda (Helping Hands), a medical mission to the poor. She continues to volunteer her time to various church and community organizations today and was proud to serve a three-year term on the board of the Quilt Alliance.

โ€œIt feels like the rest of my life and experiences were the lessons that I had to master so I could do this thing I was truly meant to do,โ€ Marie said, adding, โ€œI canโ€™t imagine being anything but a writer.โ€

Marie lives in Oregon with Brad, her husband of thirty-five years. When not writing, she enjoys quilting, reading, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and especially playing with her grandsons. Marie travels extensively, speaking at libraries, bookstores, quilt guilds, and at quilt shows. She has been a featured speaker at the Paducah Quilt Festival and the Houston International Quilt Festival and has given keynote addresses at both the Florida Writers Association and La Jolla Writers conferences.

To find out more about this amazingly talented and prolific author, visit the following links: 

OFFICIAL WEBSITE  

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CHAPTERS      

THIS IS NOT MY LIFE:ย 

Title: THIS IS NOT MY LIFE

Subtitle: A MEMOIR OF LOVE, PRISON, AND OTHER COMPLICATIONS    

Author: DIANE SCHOEMPERLEN

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY, MEMOIR, CANADIAN NON-FICTION

Length: 351 PAGES   

Publisher: HARPER COLLINS 

Release Date: FEBRUARY 7, 2017

ISBN:  978-1-44343-420-1  

Price:  $24.99 CDN

How I Received This Book: This book was one I purchased for myself at CHAPTERS

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ   

Any memoir that begins with the words this one does is bound to be both interesting and shocking. Author Diane Schoemperlen is NOT the type of woman who I pictured as one that would fall in love with a man in prison – especially one who had been convicted of murder. I’m not sure who I thought of as the type to fall for a prisoner, I just know that a well-known author and journalist would be the furthest choice from my mind.

Diane’s memoir begins in 2006 with the following sentence:


“It is safe to say that never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer, let alone one with his teeth in a margarine container in the kitchen, his mother in the next room, and the word HI! tattooed in tiny blue letters on his penis.”

Now, if that sentence does not make you want to read more, then, this review is probably not for you either.

I was intrigued.

What would an educated and highly intelligent woman find attractive about a convicted killer? What the heck was wrong in her life that she would see prison as a viable dating venue? How could she ever feel safe around him?

Diane met Shane at a soup kitchen where they both volunteered. He was still incarcerated, but he was allowed out while escorted by a nun to work at the soup kitchen. No one, Diane least of all, had any idea what his crime had been or how long he had been in jail. In fact, at first, she thought he was just another volunteer.

Eventually Diane and the rest of the volunteers learned the reason he was in prison. Diane describes the moment like this:


“This was when we finally learned why he’d ended up in prison in the first place and that he’d been there for almost thirty years. Now we understood that in the language of tattoos, the tear-drop below his left eye meant he had killed someone. Now we knew he was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. Whatever initial alarm we might have felt about this was tempered by the fact that it had happened so long ago and that he had become an essential and popular part of the kitchen crew. We saw him as a person who had paid his debt to society and deserved a second chance.”

This blows me away. I cannot say for sure what my reaction would have been, but I doubt that learning Shane had killed someone is something that I would have been able to overlook. But, that is the exact reason why I wanted to read this book. Well, that and the fact that author Diane Schoemperlen is not only Canadian, but she and I live in the same province (Ontario) and our homes are only a three hour drive apart.

I found this memoir to be compelling reading. Diane does not shy away from difficult topics. She opens the readers eyes to what life is like for those incarcerated in Canadaโ€™s prisons and how these prisoners become institutionalized. What I had never considered before was how the loved ones of these inmates end up institutionalized as well.

Yes, this book contains details about the often ridiculous world that is Canada Corrections, but it is ultimately a story about the desire for love and acceptance and to the lengths people will go in their quest to achieve those feelings and the seemingly bizarre choices they make that they normally would not. 

Diane Schoemperlen’s memoir is beautifully written and well thought out. Since it is written after the relationship ended I do however believe that she has glossed over many of the events. But I also believe that she did not do so with the intention of deceiving readers, rather because, in her own mind, she didn’t want to sensationalize her fear. It is human nature to downplay fear-filled moments after the fact – I believe this is an unconscience psychological defense mechanism. 

Clipping from THE TORONTO STAR



MORE THOUGHTS ON THIS BOOK


*** Caution – This section may contain spoilers ***

I have done some research and I believe I know exactly who “Shane” is and if I am right, he committed multiple murders, multiple prison escapes and multiple robberies. However, whether he killed one person or three people, he is still a murderer who was sentenced to life in prison. I also do not believe the bit about his “teardrop tattoo.” I think this was included to throw off those who might be curious as to “Shane’s” actual identity. 

Despite the sentence of life in prison, somehow “Shane” is now allowed to live and work amongst the rest of us. WHY?

Personally, I used to naively believe that when someone was sentenced to life in prison, that they would actually remain in prison until they died. SILLY ME!!! I guess I should have known better. I could probably rant for many, many more paragraphs about why I think it is wrong to allow murderers to be free to walk the streets of my home  province, but I will refrain from doing so here in my review of THIS IS NOT MY LIFE by reknowned author Diane Schoemperlen.

Suffice it to say that Diane’s book/memoir is a MUST READ. This is true not only for those who love a good read, but also for everyone who has even a passing interest in Canada’s jail system and what I perceive to be its fallibility (which should be every Canadian of voting age.)


I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars. ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Diane Schoemperlen is the Governor Generalโ€™s Award winning author of twelve works of fiction and non-fiction, most recently By the Book: Stories and Pictures, a collection illustrated with her own full-colour collages, which was longlisted for the Frank Oโ€™Connor International Short Story Award. She is a recipient of the Marian Engel Award from the Writersโ€™ Trust of Canada.


ACCOLADES, MEDIA AND PRIZES won by “THIS IS NOT MY LIFE” 



– One of five finalists for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize 

  
 – Mar 02, 2017 – 41 minute video

About this Video: 

Three memoirs and two biographies are nominated for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize. Max Eisen writes about surviving Auschwitz; Matti Friedman recounts his combat experience in Lebanon in the mid-1990s; Ross King examines Claude Monet’s fascination with painting water lilies; Marc Raboy reveals Guglielmo Marconi as a global communications pioneer; and Diane Schoemperlen remembers her six-year relationship with a convicted murderer. The Agenda welcomes the five non-fiction finalists to discuss what impelled them to write their books.

Dianne Schoemperlen’s book has been nominated as part of the #ygkChallenge    


MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE ARTICLE with video interview        

LILA and the CROW by Gabrielle Grimard is a 5 Star feast for the eyes and the heart – Childrenโ€™s Fiction at its finest ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

โ€‹


Title: LILA AND THE CROW    

Author: GABRIELLE GRIMARD  
Genre: CHILDREN’S FICTION, CANADIAN FICTION, BULLYING, PREJUDICE

Length: 32 PAGES  

Publisher: ANNICK PRESS    
Release Date: OCTOBER 11, 2016 

ISBN: 9781554518586  

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ  

I think this children’s book has been released at a time when our world really needs to absorb and to believe in the message it contains. We need to embrace the diversity that makes North America so special and it is especially important that we teach our children love rather than hate and tolerance rather than judgement.

In this story Lila experiences both discrimination and bullying based solely on her appearance.  Unfortunately, this is often what happens in real life and the children who are targeted are often unsure as to how to deal with it. This is also true of Lila.

Although Lila’s race is never specifically mentioned, it is clear to me that her ancestry is aboriginal and  this story is a fable in the style of all aboriginal tales going back hundreds of years. As with those tales of old, this story features an animal who is central to the plot.

When Lila’s family moves to a new town, she is excited about meeting and making new friends when school begins. However, her hopes are shattered when on her first day of school when a boy points at her and shouts: โ€œA crow! A crow! The new girl’s hair is black like a crow!โ€ On her way home she is upset and barely notices the crow that tries to get her attention.

The next day she covers her hair, thinking this will stop the bullying. However, the boy points at her dark skin and taunts her about that instead. When she covers her face, he makes fun of her dark eyes. From that day on, Lila hides under a turtleneck, dark glasses, and a hat, but the taunting and bullying continue.

Every day on her way home, she sees a crow who seems to want to tell her something. Lila ignores the bird and even throws rocks at it, but it won’t go away.

Meanwhile, the great autumn festival is coming up soon. While the other kids prepare their costumes, Lila is sadder and lonelier than ever.

At her lowest point of despair, she has a magical encounter with the crow who opens Lila’s eyes to the beauty of being different. This gives Lila the courage to proudly embrace her true self. And the kids at school learn a powerful lesson.

We, as parents and as members of a diverse society sometimes need to be reminded that words can hurt and that our children are vulnerable. We need to teach our children to judge people not on their religion or on the colour of their skin, but rather on their character and on their actions. This book will open their eyes and reinforces the beauty of diversity.

I love the message contained within this book and I believe it is important.


I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ and I think every parent, every school, and every library should own a copy of this book.


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

   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

After studying Fine Arts at Concordia University, Art Education at the University of Quebec in Montreal, and a few years as a painter and muralist on the island of Montreal, Gabrielle  took a more solid direction towards youth-illustration with the birth of her son in 2001.

In recent years, she has mainly been involved with publishing geared towards a youth audience, educational publishing and a bit of advertising as well.

She has worked with several Quebec publishers, including Dominiqueet Cie., Imagine,la Bagnole and HMH.

She has also worked with such Canadian publishers as Orca Books and AnnickPress. Since 2007, she has worked with Painted-Words which is a New York-based agency for Illustrators. This opportunity has given her access to the U.S. and British markets within the children’s publishing industry.

If her style remains traditional, it is mostly full of poetry. She loves being able to translate through drawing the world in which she wants to live.

She loves working light, and different levels and patterns. To create an album, her research work  involves various media and itโ€™s a process that she loves, but her favourite aspect will always  be colour. She uses mainly watercolours, gouache and oil, which she combines together on watercolour-cardboard. She likes watercolour for its lightness, gouache for its intensity of colours, and oil for the depth it offers within which I delve with happiness every time. In all, I add a touch of wooden pencil for the details which fly in the wind.

 To find out more about this wonderful author/illustrator visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE     

GOODREADS      

FACEBOOK      

PINTEREST          

AMAZON      

CHAPTERS    

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE    

PAINTED WORDS LITERARY AGENCY   

5 STARS for NEW YORK CITY MONSTERS Search-And-Find Board Book by Anne Paradis. ADORABLE!!!ย 

Title: NEW YORK CITY MONSTERS  

Series: Monsters Search-and-Find Books         

Author: ANNE PARADIS      

Illustrator: LUCILE DANIS DROUOT 

Genre: CHILDREN’S FICTION, TRAVEL, ACTIVITY BOOKS, BOARD BOOKS 

Length: 22 BOARD BOOK PAGES

Publisher: CHOUETTE PUBLISHING    

Release Date: MAY 16, 2017

ISBN: 9782924734025

Price: $9.99 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

The setting is New York City, and hiding amongst the city’s important landmarks are monsters. The goal is to find all the monsters hiding at each location. The author has included the number of monsters to be found on each layout which is a bonus for both children and their parents. This way they know they didn’t miss any.

This book is beautifully illustrated and the bright colours are sure to grab any child’s attention.

 I am 100% sure that children will fall in love with the cute little monsters hiding all over New York City.

It doesn’t matter where you live, this book is still guaranteed to be a hit. Of course, for residents and visitors to New York City it provides even more fun as they can visit all the locations shown in the book.

Adults will also have fun finding the monsters (even if they don’t admit it.)

I give this book 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Anne Paradis is the new publisher of Chouette Publishing.

She is the author of Caillou: Little Artist, Caillou: Search and Count, and Caillou: My Body and many more Caillou books.

Visit CHOUETTE PUBLISHING to learn more.


ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

To learn more about this amazing illustrator visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE    

GOODREADS   

TWITTER   

LINKEDIN    

FACEBOOK   

AMAZON    

NEW RELEASE — GULLY DIRT: A MEMOIR by Robert Coram will make you laugh, it will make you cry and you won’t want to put it down.ย 

Title: GULLY DIRT

Subtitle: On Exposing the Klan, Raising a Hog, and Escaping the South: A Memoir

Author: ROBERT CORAM

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY, MEMOIR

Length: 266 PAGES

Publisher: FIVE BRIDGES PRESS 

Release Date: JANUARY 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9983820-0-5

Price: $15.99 (Softcover on Amazon)
Price: $6.05 (EBOOK on Amazon)

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ


“A lot of romantic claptrap has been written about the South. I was born in rural Georgia and grew up there during the 1950s, and I never saw the romance. All I ever saw were people who were as mean as uncovered cat shit, people who took pride in being on the losing side of just about everything, people who could quote the Bible one minute and go into a violent rage the next.”    

Paragraph one and I was hooked.

This is a pull-no-punches memoir that does not shy away from the ugly truths about growing up dirt poor in the South in the 1950s. 

GULLY DIRT is cleverly written and filled with vignettes of his pre-teen and teen years beginning at the age of 12.  Robert Coram has achieved an excellent balance between humor and drama and readers will swing between wanting to laugh and wanting to cry.

Growing up in the deep South in a tiny town, Robert dreamed of escaping his retired military father and the blatant favoritism of Robert’s younger brother. He may have despised his father, but like all boys on the cusp of adulthood, he both needed and craved his fatherโ€™s love and attention.

Author Robert Coram describes his birthplace as “… a place that has always been separate from the rest of the world.” The stories in this book prove that to be true.

Because Robert grew up in the 1950s, he grew up in a time that is completely foreign to how we live today. His hometown of Edison had its own prejudices and they held onto them as tightly as possible.

I read this book in a 24 hour period because I did not want to put it down. Some of the phrases the characters say in the novel will make you chuckle audibly. For example, saying that he was as “…mean as uncovered cat shit…” I mean, really, who talks like this? The answer is that in the 50s, that is exactly how the residents of Robert’s town spoke.

If you are: 

A) Easily offended by books that contain swearing or if 

B) you are offended by the word “nigger” then you might want to skip this book. However, the only reason the “n” word is used in the book is because that was what Robert’s parents called black people and so he called them the same. It is historically accurate speech and it is not meant to be offensive. 

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ    

If you are interested in an authentic accounting of growing up in the deep South with an overbearing and uncaring father and yet somehow turning out normal, then this is a must read. 

* I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley


MY FAVOURITE QUOTES:


“…mean as uncovered cat shit…”

“This land, this place, this searing furnace, marks its children more indelibly and more visibly than does any other part of America.”

“Once this land was sea bottom. But not even the ocean liked this place …”

“Gully dirt ain’t good for nothing.”


“…that August I discovered the MAGIC of books, how words on a page could bring tears to my eyes or fill my heart to overflowing.”

“That summer I learned that the contents of a book could resonate in the heart and linger in the memory.”


“I realized at some subliminal level that a book is more than pages covered with printed words. A book is a package of wonder, a container of bliss, a vale of emotion, an unexploded bomb. A book can not only draw the reader into a new world and toward new friends but also separate him from the old world and old friends.”

“One book can change a person’s life. A library can change the world.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robert Coramโ€™s career as a writer began in Edison, GA, a town of about 1200 located deep in the southwestern part of the state. Edison is a farming town. Most young people leave as soon as possible. Coram is the only person from Edison ever to become a writer.

Coram was hired as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal when he was a sophomore in college. Like many who suddenly discover their lifeโ€™s work, he was enthusiastic and prolific. He was a general assignment reporter & also wrote features, book reviews, travel stories, & aviation stories. He covered the civil rights movement in Atlanta during the 1960s and he wrote freelance articles for the Atlanta Magazine, for aviation publications, and for national magazines.   

For several years Coram wrote for McGraw-Hill publications out of the Atlanta bureau. He covered the early days of the environmental movement and he covered the civil war in Biafra.

Coram spent four years as a staff writer for Atlanta Magazine. Then he moved to Cumberland Island, an island off the Georgia coast. The first year he was a house sitter & the second year he was a ranger for the National Park Service. Thus, he is one of the few writers who also has been a federal officer. During his two years on Cumberland he wrote for Sports Illustrated and did several travel pieces for the Sunday New York Times.

He returned to Atlanta in the mid-1970s and resumed his freelance career. He wrote a media column, the first in Atlanta, for the weekly Atlanta Gazette.

A piece he wrote for Esquire in 1976 was the first piece about narcotics trafficking in a national magazine. The latter part of the 1970s he traveled extensively in Colombia, Jamaica, the Turks & Caicos Islands, the Bahamas, and south Florida, writing about narcotics trafficking.

These articles resulted in his being asked to become a reporter for The Atlanta Constitution. The first year he received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his stories about drug smuggling. The second year he covered the war in El Salvador. He received another Pulitzer Prize nomination for a series of articles that stopped the National Park Service from developing Cumberland Island. The third year he was fired by a new assistant managing editor who said Coramโ€™s interviewing techniques were too aggressive.

Coram now had the unique distinction of having been fired from both The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. The two papers later merged, so his feat can never be duplicated.

While he was at the paper he became a part-time instructor at Emory University and taught writing courses there for 12 years.

He also resumed his freelancing and, at the same time, began writing books. He wrote five books before he published his first one. The five were not proposals nor were they a few chapters; they were 400-page manuscripts. That they were not published he considers proof God is sometimes merciful toward the reading public.

Signet published his โ€œNarcsโ€ series. These three books were based on his experiences writing about drug smuggling. Then came four police novels based in Atlanta. Woven among the novels were three non-fiction books: an investigative book about Antigua, a book about an Irish woman who works in Saigon with street children, and a fishing book for National Geographic.

As the 1990s drew near the end, Coram looked back over his books. He said that writing 10 books in 10 years was both good and bad: good in that it showed a certain professionalism, bad in that rarely are lasting books written at such a speed.

Today Coram lives in Atlanta with his wife, business owner Jeannine Addams, president of J. Addams & Partners, a public relations company.

When Coram is not writing, he is fly fishing on the Georgia coast.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE    

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TWITTER   

FACEBOOK      



OTHER BOOKS BY ROBERT CORAM: 

MY AWARDS FROM NETGALLEY

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WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO by David Joy – A masterful tale of living in the backwoods and the chance of escape 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸย 

Title: WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO

Author: DAVID JOY    
Genre: FICTION  

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER

Length: 260 PAGES

Publisher: PUTNAM – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE   

Release Date: 2015 

ISBN: 978-0-425-27979-3  

Price:  $16.00 USD / $21.00 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

This story is set in the beautiful, and wild Cashiers Mountains in a remote corner of North Carolina.

Jacob McNeely is the son of the meth kingpin of the area. He is not like his father, but because his lastname is McNeely, most of the people in the area have him pegged as a no-good criminal.

All kinds of people inhabit the mountains and many of them can be considered ornery, but Jacob’s father is more than just ornery, he is downright mean. To add to his charm, he is violent, demeaning to women and completely terrifying when someone crosses him.

Jacob describes the area in which he lives by noting; “The Creek was a beautiful place, but it was lawless and always had been. The land was of little use for farming, so the folks who settled way back when were mostly drunkards and thieves. I was generations away from those earliest outlaws, but things like that have a way of staying in the blood.”

Jacob feels like he has no choices in the way his life will turn out. But, as sure as he is that he is stuck in The Creek forever, he is equally sure that his girlfriend is destined for bigger and better things.

You will have to read this novel to discover if one of them escapes or if they both do, or if, in the end, neither of them are destined to leave the clutches of their pasts.

The language that author David Joy uses in this book is beautifully written prose that somehow continuously has the ability to strike a chord with his readers.

It doesn’t matter what it is that author David Joy describes, he does it with such vividness that the reader is instantly able to form a picture in his or her mind. For example, when writing about the paint in the jail, he describes it as follows:

“The concrete was painted a warm kind of gray, something not so depressing as snow clouds but more of a gray like an old woman’s perm.”

If David Joy can make the description of the crappy, gray paint in a jail cell into something I actually quote in my review, than as far as I am concerned, he has some serious writing chops.

The characters come alive through David Joy’s skillful writing and even though the vast majority of those who read this book will have nothing in common with them, readers will find themselves hoping for a happy ending for the two lovers.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ and recommend it to those readers who enjoyed “Hillbilly Elegy” or who are fans of character driven fiction that seems so real that even after the final page, a small part of you will wonder if these are actually true events rather than fiction.

Critically acclaimed author David Joy, whose debut,Where All Light Tends To Go, was hailed as โ€œa savagely moving novel that will likely become an important addition to the great body of Southern literatureโ€ (The Huffington Post), returns to the mountains of North Carolina for his second novel, a powerful story about the inescapable weight of the past.

The Weight Of This World is set for release on March 7, 2017 from Putnam Books and I am very much looking forward to reading it.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

David Joy is the author of the Edgar nominated novel Where All Light Tends To Go (Putnam, 2015), as well as the novelsThe Weight Of This World(Putnam, 2017) and The Line That Held Us(Putnam, TBD). He is also the author of the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award.
His work is represented by Julia Kenny of Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency, with film rights by Dana Spector at Paradigm.

Joy is the recipient of an artist fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, and has been nominated for awards such as the Pushcart Prize. His latest short stories and essays have appeared in The Good Men Project, Still: The Journal, and The Pisgah Review.

Joy lives in Webster, North Carolina. For a full curriculum vitae click here

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE    

GOODREADS    

TWITTER    

FACEBOOK    

INSTAGRAM    

AMAZON    

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE   
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