THE MOONSTONE GIRLS is destined to be One of the Best Books of 2022 – RELEASES TODAY – Get Your Copy Today – You’ll be glad you did

Title: THE MOONSTONE GIRLS

Author: BROOKE SKIPSTONE

Release Date: FEBRUARY 14, 2022

Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION, LGBTQ

Number Of Pages: 397

Publisher: SKIPSTONE PUBLISHING

Received From: NETGALLEY

ISBN: 978-1-73700643-5

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

********************************************

Mount McKinley in Alaska – the name was changed and it is now called Mount Denali – Notice the digging bear on the left side of the photo Photographer Daniel Leifheit

DESCRIPTION:

1968, a seventeen-year-old queer girl traveled to Alaska disguised as a boy.

Tracy should have been a boy. Even her older brother Spencer says so, though he wouldn’t finish the thought with, “And I should have been a girl.”

Though both feel awkward in their own skin, they have to face who they are—queers in the late 60s.

When both are caught with gay partners, their lives and futures are endangered by their homophobic father as their mother struggles to defend them.

While the Vietnam War threatens to take Spencer away, Tracy and her father wage a war of their own, each trying to save the sweet, talented pianist.

At seventeen, Tracy dresses as a boy and leaves her parents in turmoil, with only the slimmest hope of finding peace within herself. She journeys to a girl with a guitar, calling to her from a photo, “Come to Alaska. We’d be great friends.”

Maybe even The MoonStone Girls.

**********************************************

MY REVIEW:

My first thought after reading THE MOONSTONE GIRLS is that it must be somewhat autobiographical. Author Brooke Skipstone has written with such depth of emotion that it is difficult to believe the story is fictional.

Before I get too far into my review I wanted to be sure to mention just how gorgeous the cover of this book is. It is the perfect blend of colors to bring the 1960s to mind. And, the choice to just use silhouettes is 100% inspired. 5 Stars for the cover. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I love that this #book is set in the late #1960s – an era much different than today’s world. So much was different at that time for anyone who was gay, and as hard as it is to fathom, being gay was considered to be against the laws of both God and men. This just highlights how far LBGTQ rights have come (even though society still has a ways to go.)

I cannot fathom the fear and pain experienced by LGBTQ youth at that time in history, especially for men whose arousal is much harder to hide. In the book, both Tracy and her brother Spencer are queer. The good thing is that they have each other to lean on and they have a mother who loves them just the way they are. This is much more than most #queer #youth had in their lives during that period in #history

This book delves into not just LGBTQ history, but also into the #draft and the #VietnamWar #WomensRights #RockAndRoll and the #SexualRevolution

There are some extremely #emotional scenes in The Moonstone Girls and at one point during reading I was literally in tears. It takes a truly talented #writer to be able to evoke so much #empathy and #emotion in their readers. Kudos to Brooke Skipstone for writing such an important and believable book.

Ultimately, this is a tale about hope and about having the courage to fight back in the best way you can against those who would try to stop you from living life on your own terms. It will encourage readers to never settle for second best and to keep trying until they find a place where they belong and where they can live a life of hope and honesty. It also reminds us that there is a person out there for everyone and that everyone has the right to live a happy life on their own terms.

Tracy is a fiery, take-no-prisoners type of young woman. This is the face she shows to the world, but inside, she is suffering and full of shame. This reminds readers that the persona people present to the world is not always accurate and that everyone has an inner world that is invisible. Never judge a book by its cover is a great lesson and one that we often forget.

Although not specifically stated, I get the feeling that the author also wants readers to think about mental health and to realize the depths of despair that people can feel when forced to live a lie just to be “normal.”

All in all I have to say that this book should be on everyone’s Must Read list for 2022 and although it is labeled as Young Adult fiction, this book will appeal to readers of all ages.

I am rating THE MOONSTONE GIRLS by Brooke Skipstone as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ and I highly recommend this book … just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby when you read it.

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

BELOW IS THE MOONSTONE GIRLS PLAYLIST

https://open.spotify.com/embed?uri=spotify%3Aplaylist%3A3FHQ6I55MRmqkIuFhA2mvD

*************************************

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brooke Skipstone lives in Alaska, where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony.

Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again.

Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn.

Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

GOODREADS

AMAZON  

#NetGalley #AmiesBookReviews #BookReview #tbr #BookReviewer  #ReadAndReview #bibliophile #bookstagram #bookstagrammers #AuthorsOfInstagram #author #NewBook #MustRead #BookNerd #book #books #reading #yalit #ya #instagramhub #YoungAdultFiction
#TheMoonstoneGirls #BrookeSkipstone #LGBTQ #DiverseBooks #1968 #Vietnam #DraftCards #Equity #Equality #LoveIsLove

THE MOONSTONE GIRLS is destined to be One of the Best Books of 2022 – Pre-order Now to avoid missing out

Title: THE MOONSTONE GIRLS

Author: BROOKE SKIPSTONE

Release Date: FEBRUARY 14, 2022

Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION, LGBTQ

Number Of Pages: 397

Publisher: SKIPSTONE PUBLISHING

Received From: NETGALLEY

ISBN: 978-1-73700643-5

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

********************************************

Mount McKinley in Alaska – the name was changed and it is now called Mount Denali – Notice the digging bear on the left side of the photo Photographer Daniel Leifheit

DESCRIPTION:

1968, a seventeen-year-old queer girl traveled to Alaska disguised as a boy.

Tracy should have been a boy. Even her older brother Spencer says so, though he wouldn’t finish the thought with, “And I should have been a girl.”

Though both feel awkward in their own skin, they have to face who they are—queers in the late 60s.

When both are caught with gay partners, their lives and futures are endangered by their homophobic father as their mother struggles to defend them.

While the Vietnam War threatens to take Spencer away, Tracy and her father wage a war of their own, each trying to save the sweet, talented pianist.

At seventeen, Tracy dresses as a boy and leaves her parents in turmoil, with only the slimmest hope of finding peace within herself. She journeys to a girl with a guitar, calling to her from a photo, “Come to Alaska. We’d be great friends.”

Maybe even The MoonStone Girls.

**********************************************

MY REVIEW:

My first thought after reading THE MOONSTONE GIRLS is that it must be somewhat autobiographical. Author Brooke Skipstone has written with such depth of emotion that it is difficult to believe the story is fictional.

Before I get too far into my review I wanted to be sure to mention just how gorgeous the cover of this book is. It is the perfect blend of colors to bring the 1960s to mind. And, the choice to just use silhouettes is 100% inspired. 5 Stars for the cover. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I love that this #book is set in the late #1960s – an era much different than today’s world. So much was different at that time for anyone who was gay, and as hard as it is to fathom, being gay was considered to be against the laws of both God and men. This just highlights how far LBGTQ rights have come (even though society still has a ways to go.)

I cannot fathom the fear and pain experienced by LGBTQ youth at that time in history, especially for men whose arousal is much harder to hide. In the book, both Tracy and her brother Spencer are queer. The good thing is that they have each other to lean on and they have a mother who loves them just the way they are. This is much more than most #queer #youth had in their lives during that period in #history

This book delves into not just LGBTQ history, but also into the #draft and the #VietnamWar #WomensRights #RockAndRoll and the #SexualRevolution

There are some extremely #emotional scenes in The Moonstone Girls and at one point during reading I was literally in tears. It takes a truly talented #writer to be able to evoke so much #empathy and #emotion in their readers. Kudos to Brooke Skipstone for writing such an important and believable book.

Ultimately, this is a tale about hope and about having the courage to fight back in the best way you can against those who would try to stop you from living life on your own terms. It will encourage readers to never settle for second best and to keep trying until they find a place where they belong and where they can live a life of hope and honesty. It also reminds us that there is a person out there for everyone and that everyone has the right to live a happy life on their own terms.

Tracy is a fiery, take-no-prisoners type of young woman. This is the face she shows to the world, but inside, she is suffering and full of shame. This reminds readers that the persona people present to the world is not always accurate and that everyone has an inner world that is invisible. Never judge a book by its cover is a great lesson and one that we often forget.

Although not specifically stated, I get the feeling that the author also wants readers to think about mental health and to realize the depths of despair that people can feel when forced to live a lie just to be “normal.”

All in all I have to say that this book should be on everyone’s Must Read list for 2022 and although it is labeled as Young Adult fiction, this book will appeal to readers of all ages.

I am rating THE MOONSTONE GIRLS by Brooke Skipstone as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ and I highly recommend this book … just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby when you read it.

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

BELOW IS THE MOONSTONE GIRLS PLAYLIST

https://open.spotify.com/embed?uri=spotify%3Aplaylist%3A3FHQ6I55MRmqkIuFhA2mvD

*************************************

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brooke Skipstone lives in Alaska, where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony.

Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again.

Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn.

Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

GOODREADS

AMAZON  

#NetGalley #AmiesBookReviews #BookReview #tbr #BookReviewer  #ReadAndReview #bibliophile #bookstagram #bookstagrammers #AuthorsOfInstagram #author #NewBook #MustRead #BookNerd #book #books #reading #yalit #ya #instagramhub #YoungAdultFiction
#TheMoonstoneGirls #BrookeSkipstone #LGBTQ #DiverseBooks #1968 #Vietnam #DraftCards #Equity #Equality #LoveIsLove

BLOODSUCKER CITY RELEASES TODAY!!! Get your copy now

Title: BLOODSUCKER CITY 

Author: JIM TOWNS

Genre: FICTION, HORROR, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS

Length: 121 PAGES

Publisher: CASTLE BRIDGE MEDIA

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: NOVEMBER 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-17364726-7-5

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Like a female Shawshank Redemption — with vampires.

1933

Falsely convicted of murdering her own boy, Lena—a poor young widow—is sentenced to life imprisonment in the infamous Steelgate Women’s Prison: an ancient stone fortress perched atop a jagged mountain in the middle of nowhere.

Abused by guards and her fellow prisoners alike, Lena is soon introduced to the Wardens of Steelgate. Strange and aloof, these seven men control everything and everybody within the prison. To break their rules brings severe punishment, as Lena soon learns when a misunderstanding sends her to the Hole for three days. There, in the darkness under the prison, she learns the true horror of Steelgate: the Wardens are all vampires, feeding off their women prisoners one by one: forgotten women, whom no one will ever miss.

Aware now that doing life in Steelgate is actually a death sentence, Lena decides she must form a plan to not only escape the prison, but to also bring down the evil that dwells there.

Obtained from the Author’s Facebook Page

MY REVIEW:

I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant to read another story with vampires as the central theme. However, I am VERY HAPPY I decided to go ahead and read BLOODSUCKER CITY by Jim Towns. The fact that he is a horror movie director definitely swayed my interest. The first line of the book’s synopsis also grabbed my attention and piqued my interest. It reads:

“Like a female Shawshank Redemption— with vampires.”

What self-respecting horror fan could pass up a book with that plot?

100% I was in!!!!

I was not disappointed. Jim Towns has crafted a fabulous story of risk, reward, and redemption. This novella has everything required of a great story. There is a gutsy heroine who has been trampled on simply by virtue of being a woman in 1933. There is a story of deep familial bonds, ones that transcend death. There is a women’s prison where those who could not (or would not) conform to society’s expectations of who and what and how a woman should behave.

I don’t want to ruin the story for any potential readers, but if you are a fan of horror and/or historical fiction, this is one book that you should pre-order now. It will be officially released on November 2, 2021 and I predict that it will obtain a dedicated cult following. I can’t wait to see how people react to BLOODSUCKER CITY.

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jim Towns is a writer, director and visual artist. His films include the silent expressionist feature Prometheus Triumphant: a Fugue in the Key of Flesh, the award-winning haunted heist film House of Bad, the post-apocalyptic drama State of Desolation, and the streaming series Immortal Hands.

His short fiction has been published in print and online by Burial Day, Switchblade Magazine, Pulp Modern, Castle of Horror, and many more. He is the author of the non-fiction book American Cryptic, and his collection of poems, writings and photographs, Whiskey Stories, was recently released by Uncle B Publications.

His paintings and mixed media artwork have been exhibited in galleries in Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles.

He currently lives in San Pedro, CA with his wife and two mysterious cats.

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

WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

LINKEDIN

TWITTER

AMAZON  

THE TEACHING – A Thriller Based on the Author’s True Life Experience of Living In A Cult by T.O. PAINE is Coming Soon

Title: THE TEACHING

Author: T.O. PAINE

Genre: FICTION, MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS, BASED ON THE AUTHOR’S EXPERIENCE OF LIVING IN A CULT

Length: 381 PAGES

Publisher: DARK SWALLOW BOOKS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: MARCH 3rd, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-9992183-2-7 (PAPERBACK)
ISBN: 978-0-9992183-3-4 (HARDCOVER)
ISBN: 978-0-9992183-4-1 (EBOOK)

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Based on the author’s true-life experience living in a cult . . .

Raine Harkins believes everything the Teaching tells her—forgiveness is freedom, there are no dead, and there is no dying. She has lived her entire life in the Haven, a small religious community buried in the hills of northern Nevada, and it’s been a good life.

But when she discovers a frightened teenage girl hiding in the forest, everything changes. Raine offers to help the girl, but gunshots ring out, and the girl runs away, never to be seen again. A week later, Raine finds a letter pinned to her cabin door—God doesn’t want you here. Leave the Haven now, before he runs you down.

Raine can’t bear the thought of leaving the only life she’s ever known, but the threatening letters keep coming, and her search for the missing girl leads her down a twisted path, unraveling the truth behind the Teaching. It’s not a good life—there are dead, and people do die.

MY REVIEW:

Debut author T.O. Paine did exactly what authors are supposed to do: he wrote about what he knows. Since he has lived in a cult, he was able to create a community that is believable and is populated by inhabitants that are so realistic that I had to wonder if they were based on people he had known in his past.

If readers are approaching this story hoping to discover that all the people in Haven are evil, they will be disappointed. However, this is exactly what makes this book all the more believable; it’s acknowledgement that not everything in life is easily classified into simple categories.

The mystery that is the main plot will keep readers guessing and has multiple twists and turns. There are also several other sub-plots that the author seamlessly weaves together which will intrigue readers just as much as the main plot does.

There are five novels planned, of which THE TEACHING is only the first. I have added myself to the Author’s mailing list and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

I rate THE TEACHING as 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book can be pre-ordered now and the official release date is set for March 3rd of 2022.


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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

T.O. Paine is a suspense novelist whose authentic characters triumph over extreme situations in challenging, true-to-life settings. He enjoys delving into the emotional consequences of his character’s choices and taking his readers along for the ride. Though his novels are contemporary, things always get out of control. Cults are real, anger is a disorder, and everyone loses when a friendly competition becomes an obsession.

His first of five novels, THE TEACHING, is set for publication Spring of 2022.

T.O. holds a master’s degree in information systems, and when he is not writing, you can find him running or cycling through the mountains of Colorado, USA. He has run over thirty marathons, ridden over twenty 100-mile cycling events, and completed an IRONMAN.

T.O. resides with his wife, two children, and a Boston terrier who stares at himself in the mirror, questioning his existence.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK   

TWITTER

AMAZON

APPLE BOOKS

BARNES AND NOBLE

MOVING FORWARD – A Novella of Life After Zombies by Uber-Talented Sci-Fi Author JAMIE LACKEY is Available Now. This is like no other zombie book you have ever read. It is a 5 Star Read ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Click on the book cover to find out more!

Title: MOVING FORWARD

Subtitle: A Novella of Life After Zombies

Author: JAMIE LACKEY

Genre: FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, ZOMBIE FICTION

Publisher: SELF-PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: 2016

ISBN: 978-0-6926436-5-5

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Corinne survived the zombie apocalypse 30 years ago. After the dust settled, she got married, had kids, built a life.

All of that is gone in an instant when a zombie attacks a city park. Corinne manages to protect her family, but the zombie bites her before it is taken down.

She wakes up in one of the infected sanctuaries, where she’ll have to build her life over again, knowing that at any moment she, or anyone around her, could become a monster.

Thank you to #NetGalley and the #author for providing me with a free copy of this #novella

MY REVIEW:

It is fascinating to me how a skilled author is able to pack in as much story as a full-length novel into a novella. This ability only occurs in truly talented authors … of which, Jamie Lackey is one.

This tale is an original take on the zombie fiction theme. It takes place thirty years after the zombie apocalypse. Zombies are still around but security is such that they rarely pose a problem for the general public.

One day, Corinne is enjoying a lazy picnic in the park with her daughter and infant granddaughter when she spots a single zombie coming into the park. Most of the residents of the city were born after the zombie war and have had the privilege of growing up in relative safety. Because of this they are not alert and none of the other families enjoying the sunshine notice the impending attack.

Corinne doesn’t think. She acts purely on instinct. That instinct propels her toward the zombie while warning everyone else to escape to safety. Unfortunately, Corinne ends up bitten before the security forces are able to nullify the threat.

Corinne sees none of this and the next thing she is aware of is waking up in one of the many infected sanctuaries. This is where people who are zombie-bitten but who did not immediately become a zombie themselves.

It is this idea of infected sanctuaries that is such a unique take on the zombie genre. I bought in completely and I was 100% absorbed in the story.

The lead character – Corinne – is not the typical heroine. Firstly, she is older than the characters that usually populate zombie fiction. Plus, not only is she a mother, she is also a grandmother. She is not perfect and doesn’t pretend to be. I thoroughly identified with her plight. All she wants is to live and love, it was not her fault she was bitten. She was trying to do something good and ended up paying for it with her freedom.

I also loved the idea of shelters for the Infected. What a fascinating place Author Jamie Lackey has brought to life in vivid prose.

In fact, I enjoyed this novella so much that I am hoping to discover the Author has decided to turn this novella into the first book in a series. If she does continue this tale in additional volumes, I will be the first to purchase a copy.

The setting is familiar and yet not, the characters are compelling and utterly believable. I can’t imagine enjoying a story anymore than I enjoyed MOVING FORWARD. I have added all the other titles written by Jamie Lackey to my TBR (To Be Read) list.

I rate MOVING FORWARD as a solid 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to #NetGalley and the #author for providing me with a free copy of this #novella

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cats. She has over 160 short fiction credits, and has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Escape Pod. She has a novella and two short story collections available from Air and Nothingness Press. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading, playing tabletop RPGs, baking, and hiking.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
www.jamielackey.com

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

GOOGLE BOOKS

YOUTUBE

INSTAGRAM

AMAZON

MORE BOOKS BY JAMIE LACKEY:

UNSILENCED: A Teacher’s Year of Battles, Breakthroughs and Life-Changing Lessons at Belchertown State School by HOWARD C. SHANE is an unforgettable and compelling story of finding hope and inspiration in the most unlikely of places – THE MOST IMPORTANT MEMOIR YOU WILL READ IN 2021 – 5+ STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: UNSILENCED

Subtitle: A Teacher’s Year of Battles, Breakthroughs, and Life-Changing Lessons at Belchertown State School 

Author: HOWARD C. SHANE   

Genre: NON-FICTION, DISABILITIES, HISTORY, MEMOIRS, DISCRIMINATION

Length: 254 PAGES

Publisher: BROOKES PUBLISHING

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: NOVEMBER 1, 2021

ISBN: 9781681255156

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

https://m.facebook.com/watch/?v=898640163601782&_rdr

DESCRIPTION:

The year is 1969, and fresh-out-of-college smart-aleck Howard Shane has just landed his first teaching job—at Belchertown State School, a bleak institution where people with disabilities endure endless days of silence, tedium, and neglect.

Howard is stunned by the conditions at Belchertown and the challenges of his new job, but as he gets to know his diverse, endearing, and intelligent students, he becomes consumed with a mission: to unlock their communication skills and help them reach their full potential. Pitting his youthful idealism and passion against the rigidity of a rule-bound administrator, Howard battles his way to small joys and victories with his students—and, along the way, learns just as much as he teaches.

A stirring and spellbinding memoir from internationally renowned AAC expert Howard Shane (Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School), Unsilenced is a candid look at a pivotal era in disability history and a deeply personal account of how all human beings can flourish when we care for each other and fight for change.

***************************

MY REVIEW:

“It began in 1969, at a school with a name that’s repellent to modern ears: ‘Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded.’ Located in the sleepy town of Belchertown, Massachusetts, it was a grim institution where children with a wide range of disabilities were warehoused for nearly a century. At that time, parents of children with disabilities had few alternatives when it came to raising and educating their children.”

This fantastic memoir is an important addition to the history of people with disabilities. This is a story that MUST be told.

A scan of a 35mm slide taken of one of the dorms at BSS likely in the late 1970s.

Howard Shane was only 22 when he took a teaching position at the Belchertown State School. Much has been written about the institutions where “disabled” people were warehoused in the past. However, this book is completely unlike any other.

Ruth Sienkewicz-Mercer – Born in Northampton, MA, Ruth suffered a severe bout of encephalitis at five weeks old and at 13 months was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Ruth was admitted to Belchertown as a teen and spent the next 8 years in a bed on a ward for schizophrenics. In 1969, Ruth was introduced to a new teacher, Howard Shane, who, with the help of the physical therapist, created the first alternative communication device that allowed Ruth to communicate more widely. By then, the nurses on the ward had already figured out that Ruth communicated using eye movements and facial expressions.

Institutions such as the Belchertown State School were not places of learning as one would expect from the name. It’s full name says much about the commonly held attitudes of the time: The Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded. These were NOT places where hope or inspiration could be found. Instead, the residents were taught either only the basics of self-care, or were taught nothing at all.

Residents (patients) were often left with little or no access to external stimuli and had little access to educational materials.

When Howard Shane arrived to begin his teaching position, he had no idea that it would shape his entire future.

With A and K Building demolished, the worst conditions could be found in the other two large scale residential buildings: G Building and the Infirmary shown here where residents far outnumbered staff and there was little day to day activity on the wards to enrich the residents’ time there. The residents of the infirmary rarely left their beds unless it was to spend time on mats that were spread out on the floor. From Instagram.

Determined to actually educate his students, who were the most severely physically disabled residents of the “school,” Howard devised a way for the non-verbal students to actually communicate. This invention changed the lives of his students in untold ways.

In the early 1940s the residents attended the Belchertown fair and enjoyed riding the carousel so much that the administration decided to purchase one for the school. In 1948 they purchased a c. 1912 Stein & Goldstein Carousel from Forest Lake Park in Palmer. Obtained from the Belchertown State School Friends on Instagram

His dedication to actually educating his students caused him to butt heads with the administration continuously. His views were seen as radical and his goals for his students were seen as unrealistic and a waste of time.

This book will grab your attention and is 100% unputdownable. Readers will find themselves rooting, not only for Howard Shane, but also for the students in his unconventional classroom.

This book is important. We need to remember the past and how people with disabilities were viewed and treated. This knowledge is essential so that society is never allowed to slip back into believing the uneducated views of the past.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who believes that every person, despite their physical and mental disabilities, are important and deserve the chance to be happy and to live a fulfilling life.

I am very much hoping that Dr. Howard Shane decides to write a follow up to this memoir. I would be extremely interested in hearing more about his career and the devices he helped to create. In my view, Howard C. Shane is an exceptional human being and his life and work need to be celebrated.

I rate this book as 5+ OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I will be eagerly awaiting the next volume of his memoirs.
.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. ***

* Hear an Excerpt Read by Howard Shane, Ph.D. here: 

https://products.brookespublishing.com/Unsilenced-P1285.aspx

*

From: AsylumProjects.org

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Howard Shane, Ph.D.,is an associate professor of otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Center for Communication Enhancement and the Autism Language Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

He has designed more than a dozen computer applications used widely by persons with disabilities and holds two U.S. patents.

Dr. Shane has received Honors of the Association Distinction and is a fellow of the American Speech and Hearing Association.

He is the recipient of the Goldenson Award for Innovations in Technology from the United Cerebral Palsy Association and has authored numerous papers and chapters on severe speech impairment, lectured throughout the world on the topic, and produced numerous computer innovations enjoyed by persons with complex communication disorders.

https://images.app.goo.gl/WfN2yAadxXCmtzgi8

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

WIKIPEDIA

BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

BROOKES is the premier publisher of practical, research-based resources that support children’s healthy development and boost the learning and success of all people, with and without disabilities. We partner with pioneers and fresh voices to inspire readers and provide them with the tools needed to help all learners achieve academic success and work toward a bright future.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

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PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE BELCHERTOWN STATE SCHOOL:

Photograph obtained from http://www.asylumprojects.org
This photo shows dinner being served in one of the women’s buildings at the Belchertown State School in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Food was prepared for residents at a central kitchen and delivered to the various dormitories.
Note the Buster Brown haircuts on most of the women–the preferred style because it was said to be easier for the staff to do than anything else. (Photo courtesy of the Clapp Memorial Library)
In this 1972 photo, empty beds at the Belchertown State School are pictured. James Shanks reported in his 1970 expose on the conditions at Belchertown State School where men slept in large barracks, beds touching head to foot, with only a narrow twelve-inch aisle separating rows. Sometimes residents had to climb over one another to get to and from their beds. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Albertson/CORBIS)

The Following Photos and Links have nothing to do with Dr. Howard Shane’s memoir. They are included here as additional content I found interesting:

INFORMATION ON THE BELCHERTOWN STATE SCHOOL

From: The ATLAS OBSCURA WEBSITE

THE BELCHERTOWN STATE SCHOOL FOR THE FEEBLE-MINDED was founded in 1922.

The 845 acre campus comprising some 57 buildings must be called scenic, if nothing else—the Holyoke Range is visible from the campus, and many of the original structures were old farmhouse cottages (five farms were purchased to build the school).

After its establishment, the school became the only institution for developmentally disabled children in Western Massachusetts. Conditions deteriorated over the next few decades. Wards were overcrowded and attendants overworked. As a result, patients were often left to soak for hours in their own excrement. Sometimes, handicapped patients had their teeth removed to facilitate feeding.

In 1992, the school was finally closed after decades of reported human rights violations. In 1994, the campus was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the buildings are all boarded up. Graffiti and vandalism are rampant. Many of the ward rooms have been destroyed. Weather has also done its fair share of damage. The buildings have asbestos and, while possible to walk in, aren’t structurally sound.

However relics remain of the old school. One room in a large dormitory building still has plastic mats nailed to the walls—a padded cell. Large recreational rooms on either side of the dormitory halls get the most sun. The light is fractured by old-fashioned wheelchairs. In the basement of one building, a piano is lying on its back like a sleeping horse.

And, while the town of Belchertown may have forgotten this nasty piece of its history in the few decades since the state school was closed, it is possible the former residents still remember. In an upper floor, a note was scrawled on the floor, on top of which were human feces. “We were here. Now we’re gone,” it read. “Clean this place up. It’s a mess!”

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

The grounds are conveniently located right behind the Belchertown Police Department. There are No Trespassing signs, and the local paper reports trespassers being arrested on a weekly basis.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, you might find the following links interesting:

ARTICLE: Abandoned New England: Photos from inside the old Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded by Matt Hester, Freelance Photographer on MASSLIVE website

Book: Crimes Against Humanity: A Historical Perspective. It was written by Benjamin Ricci, who sent his six-year-old son Bobby to live there not knowing what the conditions were like, and who was involved in the initial 1972 lawsuit.

Another book with vivid descriptions of Belchertown is Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer’s I Raise My Eyes to Say Yes. She was a resident of the school in the 1960s and 1970s. Ruth was one of Howard Shane’s students.

BOOK: THE BOYS AND GIRLS OF BELCHERTOWN by Robert Hornick

WIN, WIN, WIN. The 18 Inclusion-isms You Need to Become a Disability Confident Employer by TED Talker Tova Sherman is available NOW. This book will change your outlook and maybe even change your life…

Back Cover

Title: WIN, WIN, WIN!

Subtitle: The 18 Inclusion-isms You Need to Become a Disability Confident Employer

Author: TOVA SHERMAN

Genre: NON-FICTION, DISABILITY, BUSINESS PRACTICES, INCLUSION, DIVERSITY

Length: 58 PAGES

Publisher: REACHABILITY

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: JANUARY 26, 2021

ISBN: 9780981323145

Price: $15.95 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

TOVA SHERMAN—a TED Speaker and thought leader with more than 25 years of experience in diversity and inclusion—is the award-winning CEO of reachAbility, an organization which provides supportive and accessible programs dedicated to workplace inclusion for anyone facing barriers.

As the winner of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Canada Law Leadership Award, Tova is a highly sought-after resource on the laws and challenges of inclusion within today’s swiftly changing employment landscape.

Upon noticing a gap in the arts community, Tova co-founded the Bluenose Ability Arts and Film Festival (BAAFF) in 2015. BAAFF is a festival dedicated to providing the disability arts community a clear voice. Her personal challenges associated with living on the ADHD Spectrum inform her empathy and commitment to equalizing the playing field for those with physical, cognitive, sensory, and mental disabilities.

I LOVE the title of this page

MY REVIEW:

Perfection. This should be required reading not only for business people, but also for everyone serving in any elected position whether in government or in any other organization.

Because it is a mere 54 pages in length, there is little excuse not to read this book.

Disability is finally being discussed and addressed. Today’s society is slowly beginning to cast off its outdated and uninformed opinions around the topic of disAbility. This book is a perfect first step for businesses and organizations who want to become more inclusive, but don’t know how to go about creating that change.

Written in a clear and concise manner, this guide offers practical ways to immediately put inclusive practices to use in their business or organization.

Each of the eighteen “Inclusion-isms” have on the opposite page a theme specific work of art by a disabled artist. For example:

This is the book that the Disability community has been hoping for.

A 5 Star Rating is deserved – with a caveat – If you are looking to delve deeply into the subjects of inclusion and Disability, this is not that type of book. This is the perfect starter/primer and is intended to supply businesses with actions they can implement immediately.

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

*

*

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

TOVA SHERMAN

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE  

GOODREADS

INSTAGRAM

INSTAGRAM – REACHABILITY

LINKEDIN

FACEBOOK 

AMAZON   

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

Coming February 2nd – THE FOUR WINDS by Bestselling Author KRISTIN HANNAH – Her Best Book Yet plus a sneak peek at the the new Netflix series based on one of her books

Title: THE FOUR WINDS   

Author: KRISTIN HANNAH

Genre: FICTION, HISTORICAL FICTION

Length: 464 PAGES

Publisher: ST. MARTIN’S PRESS

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: FEB. 2, 2021

ISBN: 9781250178602

Price: $28.99 USD 37.00 CDN

Rating: 10 OUT OF 5 STARS  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

One of “27 of 2021’s Most Anticipated Historical Fiction Novels That Will Sweep You Away” Oprah Magazine

One of “The 57 Most Anticipated Books Of 2021” – Elle

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“Through one woman’s survival during the harsh and haunting Dust Bowl, master storyteller, Kristin Hannah, reminds us that the human heart and our Earth are as tough, yet as fragile, as a change in the wind.” — Delia Owens, author of Where the Crawdads Sing

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library/National Records and Archives Administration
The dust storms filled the air, making it hard to breathe, and destroyed what few crops existed. These dust storms turned the area into a “Dust Bowl.” Picture from the FDR Library, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

From the number-one bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes a powerful American epic about love and heroism and hope, set during the Great Depression, a time when the country was in crisis and at war with itself, when millions were out of work and even the land seemed to have turned against them.

“My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family.”

Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.

By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.

In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.

The Four Winds a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it—the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

MY REVIEW:

Kristin Hannah’s books have all been fantastic and they regularly top Best Seller lists around the world. Her new book THE FOUR WINDS is her best book yet. It is being released in only a few days (on Feb. 3rd) and if it is pre-ordered on Chapters, you get it for 30% off. (I do not get a commission, I just wanted to share the savings I discovered.)

Set during the Great Depression, this book will transport you to that time and to the Dust Bowl of the farmlands hit by the multi-year drought.

The protagonist, Elsa is a woman who just wants to survive and to perhaps have a small slice of happiness along the way. Despite not believing there is anything special about her, readers will not be able to stop from investing
themselves in her life and hoping that something good will happen for her.

This may be a fictional tale, but Elsa and many real women like her did experience the very same events during the Great Depression. She represents all those bold and courageous women who did anything and everything they could to ensure the survival of their children.

There was a great deal of research done to ensure the events and occurences Elsa and her family go through are based in historical fact.

Kristin Hannah is an artist, her medium is not paint, but words. She has the ability to manipulate her reader’s emotions and to build a relationship between characters and readers. It is exceptionally rare that a book will make me cry, yet THE FOUR WINDS does exactly that.

If you are only going to read one book this year, I cannot stress enough that you must read this book.

At 464 pages, you might assume that there would be times where the narrative became dull, but this is just not so. Every page holds the reader rapt with attention. THE FOUR WINDS is UN-PUT-DOWNABLE.

The normal book review rating scale is based on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the very best. Well, a 1 to 5 scale is just not sufficient for Kristin Hannah’s new book. I am choosing to rate “The Four Winds” as 10 out of 5 Stars which I have never done before. That is how highly I recommend this book. People will be talking about this book for a very long time.

There are lessons to be learned from this book. Lessons that can easily be related to the current pandemic facing North Americans today.

In closing, I say: BUY THIS BOOK.

TO attend Kristin Hannah’s Virtual Book Launch Tour by clicking HERE to find dates, locations and times.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Photo Credit: Kevin Lynch

Kristin Hannah is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, Winter Garden, Night Road, and Firefly Lane.

Her novel, The Nightingale, has been published in 43 languages and is currently in movie production at TriStar Pictures, which also optioned her novel, The Great Alone. Her novel, Home Front has been optioned for film by 1492 Films (produced the Oscar-nominated The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to direct.

Kristin is a former-lawyer-turned writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. Her novel, Firefly Lane, became a runaway bestseller in 2009, a touchstone novel that brought women together, and The Nightingale, in 2015 was voted a best book of the year by Amazon, Buzzfeed, iTunes, Library Journal, Paste, The Wall Street Journal and The Week.  Additionally, the novel won the coveted Goodreads and People’s Choice Awards. The audiobook of The Nightingale won the Audiobook of the Year Award in the fiction category.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
https://kristinhannah.com

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

AMAZON  

CHAPTERS

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ACADIAN DRIFTWOOD by Debut Acadian Author Tyler LeBlanc details one family’s experience during the Acadian Expulsion. This is a book not to be missed. 10 out of 10 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 🇨🇦 🇨🇦 🇨🇦 🇨🇦 🇨🇦

Title: ACADIAN DRIFTWOOD

Subtitle: ONE FAMILY AND THE GREAT EXPULSION

Author: TYLER LeBLANC

Genre: NON-FICTION, CANADIAN NON-FICTION, HISTORY, ACADIAN NON-FICTION

Length: 240 PAGES

Publisher: GOOSE LANE PUBLISHING  

Release Date: JUNE 2, 2020

ISBN: 9781773101187

Price: $19.95 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 🇨🇦 🇨🇦 🇨🇦 🇨🇦 🇨🇦

What a fabulous accomplishment!!!

DESCRIPTION:

– A Hill Times’ 100 Best Books in 2020 Selection

– On Canada’s History Bestseller List

Growing up on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Tyler LeBlanc wasn’t fully aware of his family’s Acadian roots — until a chance encounter with an Acadian historian prompted him to delve into his family history.

LeBlanc’s discovery that he could trace his family all the way to the time of the Acadian Expulsion and beyond forms the basis of this compelling account of Le Grand Dérangement.

Piecing together his family history through archival documents, Tyler LeBlanc tells the story of Joseph LeBlanc (his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather), Joseph’s ten siblings, and their families.

With descendants scattered across modern-day Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the LeBlancs provide a window into the diverse fates that awaited the Acadians when they were expelled from their homeland.

Some escaped the deportation and were able to retreat into the wilderness.

Others found their way back to Acadie. But many were exiled to Britain, France, or the future United States, where they faced suspicion and prejudice and struggled to settle into new lives.

A unique biographical approach to the history of the Expulsion, Acadian Driftwood is a vivid insight into one family’s experience of this traumatic event.

Review from Atlantic Books Today

MY REVIEW:

In the introduction of Acadian Driftwood, author Tyler LeBlanc writes:

“As a longtime fan of reconstructed historical non-fiction and its ability to take readers to the time and place in question and bring history alive, I have tried in these pages to give the [Acadian] Expulsion a similar treatment. This book looks at the event from the point of view of those who experienced it. It is not a grand history of the Acadian experience. I’m not a historian, and I have no thesis to advance. This is a personal book about ten siblings, all ancestors of mine, who found themselves tossed from their quiet pastoral lives into the turbulent world of eighteenth-century geopolitics… The Expulsion of the Acadians from their homeland had a direct effect on over fifteen thousand people, yet we know very few of their personal stories.”

As a person born in Ontario, Canada, I am embarrassed to admit I knew almost nothing about the expulsion of the Acadian people from Canada’s East Coast during the mid 1700s. This is a reprehensible failing of the Canadian educational curriculum. I remember taking classes in American history, but the history of our own country was skimmed over. And (of course) any shameful or negative history was ignored or “whitewashed.”

When I met my husband (an Acadian from Prince Edward Island) and in the years since, I have been fascinated by the plight of the Acadian people as well as their grit and tenacity which has allowed their community to grow and thrive to this day. My husband’s last name is Gaudet and what initially drew me to this particular book was the fact that one of the author’s ancestors was “Françoise Gaudet” who was born way back in 1623 and was married to “Daniel LeBlanc.” Further research on my part will have to take place before I can confirm whether or not this is a common ancestor.

ACADIAN DRIFTWOOD is a remarkable work of creative nonfiction. Author Tyler LeBlanc has researched his genealogy and through extensive investigation into historic documents, he has been able to write a narrative of what real people went through during the time period of the Acadian Expulsion in the 1700s.

I have read several books about the Expulsion and have even visited the Acadian Museum in Miscouche, on Prince Edward Island, and ACADIAN DRIFTWOOD is unique in the very best way.

Most books and historic documents concentrate exclusively on the lives and actions of the people in power and their lives. What has been missing, until now, is an account of the lives of ordinary people and the hardships they endured.

Tyler LeBlanc brings his ancestors to life and allows readers a look into what happened to them and how ordinary people were affected by the decisions made by politicians and military leaders. Most of these decisionmakers were people who were never seen by the Acadians whose peaceful lives were shattered and whose families were scattered over thousands of miles.

“Though this narrative is full of pain and suffering, it is a story of survival.” I am in awe of the grit and the tenacity of the Acadian people. It would have been easy to allow themselves to be assimilated into the English culture.  Despite the attempted genocide of their people, the Acadians held fast to their beliefs and their culture and are still practicing those same values today. Their belief in the power of family and faith has created a group of people who are some of the best, most honest, honorable and  hardworking people I have ever met. Although I only married into this culture, I am proud to be a part of the Acadian community.

The Acadian Flag
Photo obtained from: The Canadian Encyclopedia

Whether you already have a firm grasp on the history of the Acadian people, or know absolutely nothing about them, this book will inform and inspire you. By mixing together personal stories with the actions of historic figures, and events, the author has written a compelling narrative that is not to be missed.

I rate ACADIAN DRIFTWOOD by Acadian-Canadian, Tyler LeBlanc as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tyler LeBlanc was born and raised in a tiny fishing village on Nova Scotia’s south shore. He studied history and journalism as an undergraduate and holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction.

His writing has appeared in This Magazine, Modern Farmer, Explore, Dal Magazine, and the Coast.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
https://www.tylerleblanc.ca

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

lNSTAGRAM

TWITTER

AMAZON 

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

GOOSE LANE PUBLISHING

Based in Fredericton, New Brunswick’s capital, Goose Lane Editions is a vital part of Canada’s ever-morphing publishing landscape.

Whether it’s homegrown Canadian fiction, singular collections of poetry, books on contemporary art, or courageous stances on environmental issues and global politics, we provide book lovers with great reads that inspire, spur conversation, and stimulate minds.

We seek to represent a balance of voices and proudly embrace Queer Lit as well as First Nations and Inuit authors and artists who are shaping & transforming our perspectives.

Goose Lane’s backlist includes:

Douglas Glover’s novel Elle, Winner of the 2003 Governor General’s Award

Reading by Lightning by 2019 Governor General Award winner Joan Thomas

Strange Heaven by 2013 Giller Prize winner Lynn Coady

Riel Nason’s The Town That Drowned, winner of the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize (Canada and Europe)

and

Marcello Di Cintio’s Walls: Travels Along the Barricades, the recipient of the 2013 Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing.

And oh yes, there are also a few image-laden CMA Award winners, including Catherine Coles’s GWG: Piece by Piece

Sarah Milroy and Ian Dejardin’s From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia

Heather Igloliorte’s SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut

and Anthropocene: Baichwal, de Pencier, Burtynsky.

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, Goose Lane Editions will continue to embrace diversity, fresh voices and novel perspectives. We will keep on sharing stories that challenge, startle, and enlighten — and enhance our ability to be surprised and to be inspired.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

GOODREADS

Acadian Lighthouse
Photo by Pierre Forgues

HE CAME IN WITH IT – AUDIOBOOK REVIEW Authored by Miriam Feldman and narrated by the talented voice actress Ann Richardson will grab you by the feels and never let you go…

Title: HE CAME IN WITH IT

Subtitle: A Portrait of Motherhood and Madness

Author: MIRIAM FELDMAN

Narrator: ANN RICHARDSON

Genre: NON-FICTION, MEMOIR, MENTAL HEALTH, SCHIZOPHRENIA, PARENTING

Length: 11 HOURS and 4 MINUTES

Publisher: DREAMSCAPE MEDIA

Type of Book: AUDIOBOOK

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: JULY 21, 2020

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Self-portrait by Nicholas O’Rourke, age sixteen.

DESCRIPTION:

In an idyllic Los Angeles neighborhood, where generations of families enjoy deep roots in old homes, the O’Rourke family fits right in. Miriam and Craig are both artists and their four children carry on the legacy.

The quote in Nick’s drawing seems to be a hybrid of one attributed to Albert Einstein, and another to Goethe. I am not sure which is correct. I chose it for the blog because it was so prescient, he drew the picture long before we knew what was happening quietly within him.” -Miriam Feldman

When their teenage son, Nick, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, a tumultuous decade ensues in which the family careens permanently off the conventional course.

Like the ten Biblical plagues, they are hit by one catastrophe after another, violence, evictions, arrests, a suicide attempt, a near-drowning…even cancer and a brain tumor…play against the backdrop of a wild teenage bacchanal of artmaking and drugs. With no time for hand-wringing, Miriam advances, convinced she can fix everything, while a devastated Craig retreats to their property in rural Washington State as home becomes a battlefield.

Photograph from Miriam Feldman’s Facebook Page

It is while cleaning out a closet, that Miriam discovers a cache of drawings and journals written by Nick throughout his spiral into schizophrenia. She begins a solitary forensic journey into the lonely labyrinth of his mind.

This is the story of how mental illness unspools an entire family. As Miriam fights to reclaim her son from the ruthless, invisible enemy, we are given an unflinching view into a world few could imagine.

It exposes the shocking shortfalls of our mental health system, the destructive impact of stigma, shame and isolation, and, finally, the falsity of the notion of a perfect family.

We do not stigmatize people with cancer, so why do we do it to those with mental illness. Neither the cancer patient, nor the mentally ill have control over contracting their illnesses.

Throughout the book, it is the family’s ability to find humor in the absurdities of this life that saves them. It is a parable that illustrates the true definition of a good life, allowing for the blemishes and mistakes that are part of the universal human condition.

One of Miriam’s paintings

HE CAME IN WITH IT is the legacy of, and for, her son Nick.

MY REVIEW:

Miriam and Craig seem to have it all. Fulfilling and rewarding careers as successful artists, four amazing kids and a beautiful home in a great area of L.A. Their lives are blessed … at least, that was how it seemed until suddenly their son, their beautiful, artistic, intelligent and sociable son, Nick, started behaving strangely.

Thus began a multi-year odyssey into the world of mental illness and the search for someone, anyone, who could help Nick, and the rest of the family cope with his Schizophrenia.

In HE CAME IN WITH IT, Nick’s mother Miriam, learns just how terribly flawed the U.S. Mental Health system is, and  how profoundly the lives of not just Nick, but the rest of his siblings are irrevocably changed by his new reality.

While Miriam tries to maintain her successful art and mural painting career with its exclusive clientele,  Nick’s behavior rapidly worsens and it soon becomes apparent that Nick’s suffering will not end anytime soon (if ever.)

Once when talking with a friend, Miriam admitted to having a brief fantasy of driving herself and Nick off a cliff together. “The swath of maternal pretending fell away. We sat with the truth of what it means to be a mother.”

I was thoroughly drawn into her story. I too have a son with mental illness (bi-polar, not Schizophrenia) and I empathize with her struggles. At one point she mentions how difficult it is “To see the unspooling of your son’s mind, like fine wire….” A statement loaded with so much emotion.

Although we live in separate countries (Miriam in the United States and I in Canada) I see many parallels and similarities in our lives.

A touching and real view into the life of a mother, a family, and a country and how a single person’s mental illness touches the lives of all those around them. It is not always pretty (in fact it rarely is) but in the midst of anguish there are moments of redemption that are just enough to keep hope alive.

I listened to HE CAME IN WITH IT as an audiobook and I highly recommend this as the way to experience Miriam and Nick’s story. Narrator Ann Richardson is a phenomenal talent. Her pacing is sheer perfection and the way she emotes will have readers feeling as if it is the author herself speaking. Her narration rates a ten out of ten and it is easy to see why she continuously wins awards for her voice.

I rate HE CAME IN WITH IT – the Audiobook – as a solid 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I highly recommend this memoir to anyone who wants to learn more about the realities of loving someone who is profoundly mentally ill through no fault of their own.

Thank you to #NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of #HeCameInWithIt

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Miriam Feldman

Miriam Feldman is an artist, writer, and mental health activist who splits her time between her Los Angeles atelier and her farm in rural Washington state.

Miriam and her husband Craig

She has been married to her husband Craig O’Rourke, also a successful artist, for 34 years and they have four adult children.

Nick

Their 33- year-old son, Nick, has schizophrenia.

With an MFA in painting from Otis Art Institute, Miriam founded Demar Feldman Studios, Inc., a wildly successful mural and decorative art company, in 1988. With a clientele of business and entertainment elite in Los Angeles and abroad, her work can be found everywhere from Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Beverly Hills to Jay Leno’s Beverly Hills home. Her work has been commissioned by William Shatner, Faye Dunaway and Patricia Heaton, among others. DFS’s work has been published in Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, Harper’s Bazaar, and People Magazine.

At the same time, Miriam built a strong career as a fine artist. She is represented by Hamilton Galleries in Santa Monica, CA and has a long list of collectors including Tony Shalhoub and Samuel L. Jackson.

From the author’s Facebook page

When Nick was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2004, Miriam became an activist and a writer. With first-hand knowledge of the woeful state of our mental health system, she decided to be an advocate for those who have no voice.

She serves on the advisory board of Bring Change 2 Mind, Glenn Close’s organization, and writes a monthly blog for the website bringchange2mind.

Miriam is active in leadership at NAMI Washington and her story is featured on the cover of their current national newsletter.

She is a frequent guest on mental health podcasts and is active on Instagram where she is building a community of family and loved ones dealing with mental illness.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

AUDIBLE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

INSTAGRAM – TURNER PUBLISHING

TWITTER

AMAZON    

Narrator Ann Richardson

ABOUT THE NARRATOR:

Overview:

  • Excellent home studio (with a snazy AT4047); I’ve recorded in it for Audible, Bee, Blackstone, Christian Audio, Deyan Audio, Dreamscape, Harper, Oasis, Tantor and more.
  • Speaks conversational Swedish.
  • Excels at non-fiction (several Earphones Awards) but also delights in fiction.
  • Adept at several accents, children’s voices, male/female dialog.
  • Originally from Nebraska, has broad knowledge base including all things Midwestern, rural, 4-H, fishing, hunting, wildlife management, horse stuff…
  • Now residing in Northern California and enjoys long-distance running, wine tasting, local history and all kinds of touristy-fun things.

Ann has been narrating since 2008, from her state of the art, in-home recording booth. She has been awarded three AudioFile Magazine’s Earphones Awards, and has also been a multi-time finalist for the Society of Voice Arts Awards (2016, 2017, 2018).

Connecting with the story and characters is of paramount importance to Ann, and whether narrating professionally or volunteering her narration services for those with print disabilities, she breathes life into the text with a fierce devotion to authenticity.

Ann’s clients include: Audible, Blackstone Audio, Beacon Press, Bee Audio, Christian Audio, Deyan Audio, DreamScape Audio, Oasis Audio, Harper Audio, Mosaic Audio, PostHypnotic Press, Penguin Random House, Recorded Books, Tantor, and several independent authors.

Ann is an active member of both the Audio Publisher Association and World-Voices Organization.  She gives presentations to author groups on how to make an audiobook, and for two years, was a columnist for InD’tale Magazine, writing all about audiobooks, narrators, and the audiobook industry.

What does Ann enjoy when she’s not narrating?  Running half-marathons, wine-tasting, playing with her giant drooly dogs, visiting her father’s homeland of Sweden, painting, sculpting, amateur photography, and is currently writing her second novel.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

LINKEDIN 

AUDIBLE 

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

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WHAT IS NAMI?

NAMI can be found online at http://www.nami.org

WHAT IS SCHIZOPHRENIA?

According to NAMI, Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others.

It is a complex, long-term medical illness. The exact prevalence of schizophrenia is difficult to measure, but estimates range from 0.25% to 0.64% of U.S. adults. Although schizophrenia can occur at any age, the average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men, and the late 20s to early 30s for women. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed in a person younger than 12 or older than 40. It is possible to live well with schizophrenia.

Symptoms

It can be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia in teens. This is because the first signs can include a change of friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems, and irritability—common and nonspecific adolescent behavior. Other factors include isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, an increase in unusual thoughts and suspicions, and a family history of psychosis. In young people who develop schizophrenia, this stage of the disorder is called the “prodromal” period.

With any condition, it’s essential to get a comprehensive medical evaluation in order to obtain the best diagnosis. For a diagnosis of schizophrenia, some of the following symptoms are present in the context of reduced functioning for a least 6 months:

Hallucinations. These include a person hearing voices, seeing things, or smelling things others can’t perceive. The hallucination is very real to the person experiencing it, and it may be very confusing for a loved one to witness. The voices in the hallucination can be critical or threatening. Voices may involve people that are known or unknown to the person hearing them.

Delusions. These are false beliefs that don’t change even when the person who holds them is presented with new ideas or facts. People who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confused thinking, or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.

Negative symptoms are ones that diminish a person’s abilities. Negative symptoms often include being emotionally flat or speaking in a dull, disconnected way. People with the negative symptoms may be unable to start or follow through with activities, show little interest in life, or sustain relationships. Negative symptoms are sometimes confused with clinical depression.

Cognitive issues/disorganized thinking. People with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle to remember things, organize their thoughts or complete tasks. Commonly, people with schizophrenia have anosognosiaor “lack of insight.” This means the person is unaware that he has the illness, which can make treating or working with him much more challenging.

Causes

Research suggests that schizophrenia may have several possible causes:

  • Genetics. Schizophrenia isn’t caused by just one genetic variation, but a complex interplay of genetics and environmental influences. Heredity does play a strong role—your likelihood of developing schizophrenia is more than six times higher if you have a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with the disorder
  • Environment. Exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, particularly in the first and second trimesters has been shown to increase the risk of schizophrenia. Recent research also suggests a relationship between autoimmune disorders and the development of psychosis. 
  • Brain chemistry. Problems with certain brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia. Neurotransmitters allow brain cells to communicate with each other. Networks of neurons are likely involved as well.
  • Substance use. Some studies have suggested that taking mind-altering drugs during teen years and young adulthood can increase the risk of schizophrenia. A growing body of evidence indicates that smoking marijuana increases the risk of psychotic incidents and the risk of ongoing psychotic experiences. The younger and more frequent the use, the greater the risk.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing schizophrenia is not easy. Sometimes using drugs, such as methamphetamines or LSD, can cause a person to have schizophrenia-like symptoms. The difficulty of diagnosing this illness is compounded by the fact that many people who are diagnosed do not believe they have it. Lack of awareness is a common symptom of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and greatly complicates treatment.

While there is no single physical or lab test that can diagnosis schizophrenia, a health care provider who evaluates the symptoms and the course of a person’s illness over six months can help ensure a correct diagnosis. The health care provider must rule out other factors such as brain tumors, possible medical conditions and other psychiatric diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder.

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person must have two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently in the context of reduced functioning:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech
  • Disorganized or catatonic behavior
  • Negative symptoms

Delusions or hallucinations alone can often be enough to lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Identifying it as early as possible greatly improves a person’s chances of managing the illness, reducing psychotic episodes, and recovering. People who receive good care during their first psychotic episode are admitted to the hospital less often, and may require less time to control symptoms than those who don’t receive immediate help. The literature on the role of medicines early in treatment is evolving, but we do know that psychotherapy is essential.

People can describe symptoms in a variety of ways. How a person describes symptoms often depends on the cultural lens she is looking through. African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be misdiagnosed, potentially due to differing cultural perspectives or structural barriers. Any person who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia should try to work with a health care professional that understands his or her cultural background and shares the same expectations for treatment.

Treatment

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed in several ways.

Related Conditions

People with schizophrenia may have additional illnesses. These may include:

Successfully treating schizohprenia almost always improves these related illnesses. And successful treatment of substance misuse, PTSD or OCD usually improves the symptoms of schizophrenia.