THIS IS NOT MY LIFE: 

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 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟   

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 Canada’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. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Diane Schoemperlen is the Governor General’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 O’Connor International Short Story Award. She is a recipient of the Marian Engel Award from the Writers’ 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        

HILLBILLY ELEGY by J.D.Vance is a brilliantly written memoir that is unputdownable  – Check it out… 

Title: HILLBILLY ELEGY  

Subtitle: A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY AND CULTURE IN CRISIS   

Author: J.D. VANCE     

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY, SOCIAL COMMENTARY  

Length: 257 PAGES

Type of Book: HARDCOVER

Publisher: HARPER COLLINS   

Release Date: JUNE 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-230054-6

Price: $27.99 USD / $34.99 CDN

Rating: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS🌟🌟🌟🌟

There are a plethora of books being written and published that focus on minorities and the struggles they have had to endure both in the past as well as today. But, there is one minority group that seems to have been completely neglected – that group consists of poor white people.

The word “Hillbilly” in this book refers to poor, white people whose ancestral roots come from the Appalachian Mountain region.

This book is in no way a treatise of what every “Hillbilly” family is like. It is a memoir of one man’s family, how he grew up, and how he was able to break the cycle of addiction and poverty that stalked his family tree. He professes to have “escaped” the fate of many of his friends through education.

J.D. Vance also writes about how most of the people in his community lost jobs when manufacturing moved out of the area. This is why it is sometimes referred to as the Rust Belt. 

The author, at times, portrays “hillbillies” as a lot of lazy, law-breaking lowlifes who think the world owes them a living. This may be true of some of these families, but I have a hard time believing that it applies to the majority.

I have to admit that I was fascinated by details of the author’s tales of his childhood and by the various members of his extended family. These people, especially his crazy (and violent)  uncles almost seem too clichéd to be real. His mother is portrayed as an addict who cared little for her children and much of J.D.’s emotional pain seems to trace directly back to her and to her actions.

There are so many shocking and seemingly crazy anecdotes included in this book that at times they seem too insane to be true.

Despite the abuses and the flagrant disrespect for the law, two admirable traits shone through all of J.D. Vance’s stories, and those qualities are; the theme of family loyalty and the sense of community. His family may have been poor, but if they were able to help out a community member in trouble, they would.

The one character who is central to the story is J.D.’s grandmother – or MAMAW (pronounced maam-awe) as she is known. Readers will find themselves drawn to her and despite her rough and tough demeanour, her love for J.D. shines through and becomes a beacon for him to follow when making life choices, even though her own life choices included killing a man.

This is a picture of Mamaw in her younger days.

I enjoyed reading this memoir and I am glad that the author escaped the poverty of his youth and embraced upward mobility. He has since become a successful lawyer (and now a successful author.)

If you want a glimpse into a world that most “outsiders’ never see, then this is the book for you. *** I must warn potential readers that this book does include stories that are NOT suitable for children under the age of sixteen. ***

I rate HILLBILLY ELEGY as 4.5 out of 5 Stars. 🌟🌟🌟🌟 

 

 

//www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?419678-4

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J.D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq.

A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and is a principal at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm.

Vance lives in San Francisco with his wife and two dogs.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE     

GOODREADS     

TWITTER AUTHOR ACCOUNT      

TWITTER BOOK ACCOUNT     

FACEBOOK    

AMAZON   

CHAPTERS        

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE     

J.D. and his beloved Mamaw

The author with his dogs

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. 

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 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


“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 father’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 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟    

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 Coram’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 life’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 Coram’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 “Narcs” 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    

GOODREADS   

TWITTER   

FACEBOOK      



OTHER BOOKS BY ROBERT CORAM: 

MY AWARDS FROM NETGALLEY

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BERKELEY TO PARIS AND BACK WITH TWO STOPS IN NEW YORK by Lynn Snyder is a moving read. 4 Stars -🌟🌟🌟🌟

Title: BERKELEY TO PARIS AND BACK WITH TWO STOPS IN NEW YORK

Author: LYNN SNYDER

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER

Genre: MEMOIR, NON-FICTION

Length: 101 PAGES

Publisher: CREATE SPACE

Release Date:

ISBN: 9781530855896

Price: $5.38 USD

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟


* I received a free copy of this book through the 
Goodreads Giveaway program.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Playwright Lynn Snyder had decided to give up looking for love. In fact, she even briefly contemplated moving far away from San Francisco to live out the rest of her life on the edges of the High Sierra mountain range.

Thankfully she realized that idea would be taking things a bit too far.

Not long after making this monumental life decision, she heard an announcement on her favorite classical music radio station regarding personal ads for meeting people with the same interests (this was many years before the invention of online dating.) Lynn decided she wouldn’t mind meeting new people and answered an ad that interested her.

It was the best decision she had ever made. It was how she met and fell in love with Leo, which led to them having twenty years together.

I expected this book to be a chronicle of their lives together and nothing more, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that while it was what I expected, it was also so much more.

Leo is eventually diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and at this point in the story it could have taken a dramatic and sad turn. The author instead chooses to use his diagnosis as a challenge. It is one that Leo will inevitably lose, but at least they had each other and they were deeply in love.

Lynn Snyder is an intelligent and interesting person who loves to travel and who is extremely self-aware. I love that she is unapologetic and firm in her beliefs – many of which I share.

The scene I found the most compelling takes place at a Huntington’s Support Group.

Jane’s eighty-year-old mother, Marilyn tells us that Jane has started to become violent.” Obviously this poses great problems for Marilyn since she is Jane’s sole caregiver. “She says that when her physician suggested Jane be placed in a nursing home, Jane protested loudly, demanding that she be allowed to commit suicide.” Marilyn is deeply religious and does not believe in suicide and the resident social worker tells her to trick Jane into going into a nursing home. She also points out that suicide is illegal. I agree 100% with Lynn’s response to this conversation and I applaud her for voicing her opinion in such an emotional matter. When she says that suicide is a crime, Lynn says:

 
“I’m well aware of that. But deceiving a mentally unstable person should be and isn’t, which doesn’t mean that we, in this group, should be as unenlightened as our society.”

Lynn leaves the support group – never to return. She realizes that she does not fit in, which, in my opinion, is a good thing.

Lynn also does a credible job of articulating the helplessness and despair that is often felt by those who have to watch a loved one deteriorate, knowing there is nothing they can do to save them. This is my favorite quote from the book:

“I want to help him speak and walk. I want to rub strength into his fingers so that he can play the piano. I love him so much, and it seems incredible that I can’t translate my love into restoring what is rightfully his – speech, mobility, everything that allows him to be who he is.”

There is so much emotion in those few short sentences and Lynn’s love for Leo shines like a beacon for the rest of us.

I rate this book as 4 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟 

The one thing that I would have liked to see would have been some photos the couple and possibly some photos of their travels and their homes. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Lynn Snyder was born in Akron, Ohio. After receiving a degree in political science from the University of Michigan, she became a journalist.

She spent time in London, England, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, before moving to Northern California.

It was there that she met her husband, Leo.

In addition to journalism, Snyder has also worked as a playwright, campaign publicity director, and literature teacher.

Visit Lynn Snyder on FACEBOOK    

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TERROR’S END describes the life, crimes and trial of Canadian Serial Killer – Alan Legere

Title: TERROR’S END

Subtitle: ALLAN LEGERE ON TRIAL

Authors: RICK MacLEAN, ANDRÉ VENOIT and SHAUN WATERS

Type of Book: PAPERBACK

Genre: TRUE CRIME, NON-FICTION, CANADIAN CRIME 

Length: 358 PAGES

Publisher: MCCLELLAND & STEWART INC.  

Release Date: 1992

ISBN: 0-7710-5595-1

Price: $6.99 CDN (IN 1992) 

Rating: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟

Serial killer Allan Legere, who was already in prison for one murder, escaped from custody in May 1989 and killed four more people during a 201-day manhunt. (CBC)


When we think of serial killers, we generally think of them as being a United States problem. ( I apologize to my US based readets, but it is true).

Most people (especially Canadians) would  NOT think of Canada, which is famous all over the world for its friendliness and peaceful nature, as a hotbed of criminal depravity  – a fact that I am immensely proud of being a born and bred Canadian.

Until reading this book, I would have said that there were only two Canadian Serial Killers that I could think of; those being Robert Pickton from British Columbia who murdered prostitutes that he picked up on the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia and the disgusting piece of filth that is Paul Bernardo who definitely deserved the death penalty (if it had been available in Canada.) So, when I began reading this book and learned of Alan Legere I was very surprised.

When I think of New Brunswick and the people who live there, I think of gorgeous scenery, lakes, the ocean, and amazingly courteous and helpful people. I have visited New Brunswick many times and I love it. Even in the cities, people are friendly and accommodating. It is difficult to fathom that a serial killer was born and bred in such a wonderful province. However, that is exactly what happened.

MIRAMICHI REGION, NEW BRUNSWICK – Photo Credit = Don Richard – Obtained from http://www.mightymiramichi.com

Allan Joseph Legere was born and raised in the Miramichi area of New Brunswick. His reign of terror over the people of that area took place in and around 1986. 

One of the mugshots taken of Serial Killer Alan Legere

 This book contains so many spelling and grammatical errors that I feel like the publisher of this book should be ashamed of themselves. I assume that the reason for these errors was that they rushed the book through the publication process in order to get it onto newsstands and into bookstores as quickly as possible so as to take advantage of the public’s intense interest in the case at the time. However, in my opinion, there is simply no excuse for the sheer number of typos and spelling errors. It is RIDICULOUS.

Aside from the errors, the book seems to encompass the complete details of the crimes themselves, as well as what took place in the courtroom.

Official courtroom sketch made during Legere’s trial

Official Jury Sketch from the trial

The authors also managed to adequately convey the feelings of fear that the residents of the Miramichi area felt at the time the crimes were occurring as well as the anger and outrage citizens felt once the horrific details were released.

I also want to mention my disdain for Alan Legere on a personal note. Yes, he killed multiple people, but in my opinion he was / is a cowardly piece of scum. He chose elderly people as easy targets (probably because he knew he might be overpowered by younger, stronger opponents. He even murdered a elderly priest who had never wronged anyone in the ultimate act of cowardice. 

All in all, the book did hold my interest most of the time, but the details were so tediously described in some passages that I felt my attention wandering and set the book down for days on end.


It is for the reasons outlined above that I have chosen to give this book only 3 out of 5 stars. 🌟🌟🌟

To view the YouTube video of Alan Legere – THE MONSTER OF THE MIRAMICHI click on the link below:

  http://youtu.be/mxogJzNr3dM     

A Must Read – THE SHIP TO NOWHERE by Rona Arato – COMING OCTOBER 4th, 2016 

Title: THE SHIP TO NOWHERE

Subtitle: ON BOARD THE EXODUS 

Series: THE HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE SERIES FOR YOUNG READERS

Author: RONA ARATO

Type of Book: PAPERBACK

Genre: MIDDLE GRADE CHILDREN’S NON-FICTION (AGES 9 – 13)  

Length: 176 PAGES

Publisher: SECOND STORY PRESS

Release Date: OCTOBER 4, 2016

ISBN: 9781772600186

Price: $14.95 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟   

* I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

THE SHIP TO NOWHERE is the true story of the voyage of the ship THE EXODUS 1947 from Sète, France to Palestine.

Eleven year old Rachel Fletcher has survived the Holocaust along with her mother and older sister. Sadly, her father was killed along with so many other Jewish people during World War II.

Emancipated from captivity, there are many displaced Jews who no longer feel that they are welcome back to their old lives. Many of them dream of returning to the Jewish Biblical Homeland of Palestine.

The people of Palestine are ready to receive any and all Jewish people who arrive on their shores.

Rachel and what is left of her family decide to join 4500 other Jews aboard the ship THE EXODUS 1947.

“They were going to Eretz Yisroel, the ancestral land of the Jewish people. There, for the first time in their lives, they could live freely and safely as Jews.” 

The conditions aboard the ship are crowded, but the refugees are hopeful of reaching their destination and finally feeling safe and welcome in a new land where they will be allowed to freely and openly practice their religion without fear of persecution.
Told in sparing prose that will appeal to the target readership  (ages 9-13) and filled with actual photographs from the harrowing voyage, this is a book worth buying.

 The photographs bring home the reality of the voyage much more vividly than words could possibly convey.

Middle-grade readers will be able to relate to the tale as it is told from the perspective of an eleven year old child. Adults who have yet heard this story will enjoy this book as well.

This story may seem not to be relevant to today’s world, but due to the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria, this story is exceedingly relevant. Millions of Syrian refugees are fleeing their war-torn homeland in search of a better, safer life for themselves and for their children – much the same as the Jews aboard THE SHIP TO NOWHERE.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 and I highly recommend it to all parents and educators. 

Purchase THE SHIP TO NOWHERE ON INDIGO ONLINE 

Purchase online  

Find out more about this book on GOODREADS  

To listen to the author read an excerpt from her book The Last Train click here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

RONA ARATO was born in New York and grew up in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in magazines and newspapers in Canada and the United States. Rona is the award-winning author of 20 children’s books including The Last Train, a Holocaust Story.

She taught elementary school in Los Angeles and Toronto, adult creative writing for the Toronto District School Board, and has conducted business writing workshops for profit and non-profit organizations.

From 1994-1998, she was an interviewer for SURVIVORS OF THE SHOA, a Steven Spielberg project that recorded the histories of Holocaust survivors.

Rona Arato lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her husband, Paul.

To learn more about this author visit her online at the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

GOODREADS   

A HOUSE OF STICKS by Belinda Vasquez Garcia – A Memoir wothy of 5 Stars and One you won’t soon forget

Title: A HOUSE OF STICKS: MEMOIR OF AN AUTHOR

Author: BELINDA VASQUEZ GARCIA

Type of Book: EBOOK

Genre: MEMOIR, NON-FICTION

Length: 222 PAGES

Publisher: SELF-PUBLISHED

Release Date: JULY 6, 2016

ISBN: 9781534732049

Price: $13.99 USD (PAPERBACK)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

* I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I found this memoir completely engrossing and utterly fascinating.

I grew up in a white middle-class neighborhood in a small town in Ontario, Canada. The author’s childhood may have taken place during the same time period as my own, but they could not have been more different.

Author Belinda Vasquez grew up poor. Now, when I say “poor” I do not mean that her family just did not get the latest toys, I am talking about actual poverty. The kind of poverty that meant they often went without ANY food. Fortunately for myself, I have never experienced true hunger, but Belinda woke up every morning with a gnawing hunger that would have made a grown man cry – nevermind a small child who did not know that there was any other way to live.

The summer before entering Grade 3, Belinda was given a copy of TOM SAWYER. She says that the book enchanted and mesmerized her. It was at that moment that she fell ” …madly in love with novels.” She writes: “What a revelation that anyone can write by painting images in people’s heads.” Before receiving the precious and life-changing novel, Belinda had only ever had access to two books – those books were a dictionary and the A/B copy of the encyclopedia.

It is not long after that that her brother, “Danny tells [her] about a magical place called a library with wall to wall books… [She becomes] as hungry for fiction as for food.”

Her family’s poverty and her mental and emotional escape through her love of reading are only small portions of the hard-knocks-life that Belinda lived during her formative years. This exceptionally well written book is her story.

The only complaint I have regarding A HOUSE OF STICKS is that it was over too soon. To my delight, I have discovered that there is to be a next installment and I can happily confirm that another book of Belinda’s memoirs is set to be released soon. The title to be-on-the-lookout-for is titled AFTER DADDY LEFT US and A HOUSE OF STICKS contains the cover reveal of that book as well as a short sneak peek at what it contains.


I rate A HOUSE OF STICKS as 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 and I believe that anyone and everyone will enjoy this fascinating memoir that will grab you by the heartstrings and firmly take hold
.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Belinda was born in the Los Angeles area and, also, grew up in the Land of Enchantment in Albuquerque. She, also writes under the pen names Belinda Austin and/or B. Austin. She chose “Austin” because it was her mother’s maiden name.

She says that she has always been a nerd. She has a degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of New Mexico and worked as a Software Engineer and Web Developer for many years. The only tech work she does now is on her own website, along with graphics for her books. 

She has mixed her extensive knowledge of technology with her  novelist skills to write a fantastical book entitled “Alicia’s Misadventures in Computer Land.”

Belinda has a strong Native American influence from her youth.

To learn more about this amazing and eminently talented author visit her online at the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE   

AUTHOR’S BLOG     

GOODREADS   

TWITTER 

FACEBOOK    

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE  

LIFE WITH BILLY by Brian Vallée is the true story of the horrific abuse suffered by Jane Stafford at the hands of her spouse – 5 Stars 

Title: LIFE WITH BILLY

Author: BRIAN VALLÉE

Genre: NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME, CANADIAN BOOKS

Length: 238 PAGES

PUBLISHER: A SEAL BOOK – FROM MCCLELLAND-BANTAM INC.

RELEASE DATE: JULY 1986

ISBN: 0-7704-2239-X

PRICE: $6.99 CDN

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

This book is one I picked up many years ago and has been sitting on a shelf for years. My husband picked it up and read it which prompted me to do the same.

This book was published in 1986 and the version I have is that 1986 book. It reflects the attitudes of that time period and even some of the desvriptive words that are included would NEVER appear in books written nowadays. For example, when describing one of the people who knew Billy Stafford, it says: “Warrington, a black, channels his energies into improving race relations in his province.” No modern author would ever describe a person as “a black” since it sounds derogatory, but in 1986 there was nothing wrong with using those words as descriptors.

In LIFE WITH BILLY, the reader learns early on in the book that Billy Stafford was killed by a shotgun blast and that the “murderer” was his wife, Jane.

As you continue to read, you realize that Jane Stafford was more of a victim than the person she killed.

This is the true story of an abused wife who just could not take another beating and who in desperation and fear did the only thing she could think of to stop the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse once and for all.

The location of the isolated hamlet of Bang’s Falls, Nova Scotia where Jane and Billy lived.

This story is NOT for the faint-of-heart. The descriptions of the abuse Jane suffered are truly horrific and her husband, Billy was a true sadist and in my opinion, was as evil as it is possible to be.

Billy Stafford was a man who was basically a bully and a sadist. He forced Jane to commit many acts of sexual depravity and who abused not only her but their son as well.

One of the police officers who arrested Jane was overheard saying that she deserved a medal. It is my belief that Billy damaged her psyche so severely that she became a shell of a person who was not living – she and her son were merely existing.

This book was published at a time when spousal abuse was treated as a matter between husband and wife and was not a problem that law enforcement wanted any part of. The killing of Billy Stafford shone a spotlight on this issue in Canada and the United States. The media coverage was extensive and battered wives who thought they were alone finally realized that they were not alone at all.


I rate this book as 5 out of 5 stars. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

PURCHASE “LIFE WITH BILLY” ONLINE 

UNOFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE TO DISCUSS THE BOOK & THE MOVIE   

MORE INFORMATION


WHAT HAPPENED TO JANE AFTER HER TRIAL AND PROBATION ENDED  

1991 – Jane with her new husband on their honeymoon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

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Brian Vallée, 70: ‘Terrific journalist’ was everyone’s best friend

Award-winning journalist and passionate campaigner against domestic violence, Brian Vallée, dies at 70.

Combatting domestic violence was a consuming passion for Brian Vallée. He is seen here at a 2008 book signing for The War on Women, which chronicled cases of women murdered by their male partners, and the failure of the justice system to protect them.

Combatting domestic violence was a consuming passion for Brian Vallée. He is seen here at a 2008 book signing for The War on Women, which chronicled cases of women murdered by their male partners, and the failure of the justice system to protect them.  (COURTESY OF NANCY RAHTZ)  

A tireless voice against domestic violence.

A master of the tourtière meat pie.

But above all else Brian Vallée “was a terrific journalist,” said Ron Base, Vallée’s best friend of 40 years and former colleague at the Star.

“He strongly believed in accuracy. He would go after a story with a doggedness I always found quite remarkable.”

The former Toronto Star reporter died from cancer in St. Michael’s Hospital on Friday morning.

NEW RELEASE – 4 BRAVE STARS FOR BEING JAZZ: MY LIFE AS A (TRANSGENDER) TEEN by Jazz Jennings – BOOK REVIEW

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4 Stars for CARING FOR NIGEL by Eileen Murray – BOOK REVIEW


Title: CARING FOR NIGEL

Subtitle: Diary of a Wife Coping With Her Husband’s Dementia 

Author: Eileen Murray

Type of Book: EBook

Length: 73 pages 

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Health, Medical, Dementia 

Release Date: October 8, 2013

ASIN: B00FPKUTGK 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I saw this book on Amazon and when I realized that it was being offered for free, I knew that I had to read it. 

Dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as many other age-related medical conditions are not receiving the recognition that they deserve here in Canada. Obviously, Scotland is the same. 

The population of the world is rapidly changing. 

As more, and better, medicines are being discovered, people are living longer now than at any other time period in history. 

The Baby Boomer generation has reached retirement age and are beginning to require medical care for diseases and ailments related to aging.

This EBook is a true accounting of one woman’s struggle to accept and to cope with her husband after he is diagnosed at the age of 69 as having dementia. 

For four years following the diagnosis Nigel’s wife, Eileen, kept a diary. This became her ‘safety valve’ – {an outlet for letting off steam}. She wrote this diary for her own purposes. It was not written with the idea of publication in mind. She wrote this as “… an outlet for the daily stresses of caring for Nigel at home, as his mental and physical health slowly deteriorated.” In it she gives a frank and detailed account of the endless disturbed nights, his challenging and erratic behaviour, and the relentless struggle with his incontinence.” 

Readers and potential readers need to know that this book is not a ‘self-help’ book, nor is it a book that will help you to diagnose dementia. 

Now that you are aware of what the book is not, now I will tell you what the book is. CARING FOR NIGEL is a book that will let other people, who are caring for loved ones with dementia, know that they are NOT alone. That simple fact can be quite powerful. Caregivers may recognize themselves in some of Eileen’s descriptions. They can see that it is ok to be mad sometimes and ok to be sad sometimes. 

This book should be read by as many people as possible, not just those currently dealing with dementia. This issue is something that will become increasingly common as the population ages and knowledge is a powerful thing. 

I rate this book as 4 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
FAVOURITE QUOTES:  

“I feel quite lonely and can’t help wishing his admission hadn’t been necessary or that I hadn’t been instrumental in it.”

“I hope the Eastfield has a place soon but there seems to be a long waiting list and entry is dependent, unfortunately, on the obituary rate.”

“…if his last years were spent in a well-appointed and peaceful environment like the Eastfield, I would feel that the best was being done for him even if I have to sell the house to finance it. After all, all the possessions we have are due to his very hard work and, as a good caring husband in the past, he deserves the best care.”


To learn more about dementia visit 

 DEMENTIA.com – This site also contains links to worlwide dementia sites. 

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