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        

BEAUTY of the BEAST by Rachel L. Demeter RELEASE BLITZ & GIVEAWAY – NOW LIVE 

Beauty of the Beast

by Rachel L. Demeter

Fairy Tale Retellings, #1

Publication Date: March 15, 2017

Genres: Historical Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling, Gothic Romance, Adult


🌹 Special $2.99 sale price through March 19th 🌹

🌹 Buy 🌹


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🌹 Book Blurb 🌹

Experience the world’s most enchanting and timeless love story—retold with a dark and realistic twist.

A BEAST LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF HIS PAST

Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.

A BEAUTY IN PURSUIT OF A BETTER FUTURE

Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more…

Perfect for fans of Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty of the Beast brings a familiar and well-loved fairy tale to life with a rich setting in the kingdom of Demrov and a captivating, Gothic voice.

Beauty of the Beast is the first standalone installment in a series of classic fairy tales reimagined with a dark and realistic twist.

Disclaimer: This is an edgy retelling of the classic fairy tale. Due to strong sexual content, profanity, and dark subject matter, including an instance of sexual assault committed by the villain, Beauty of the Beast is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

🎬 Book Trailer 🎬

🌹 Excerpt 🌹

~ Isabelle bravely takes her papa’s place ~

Quite a while later, as Isabelle relaxed and soaked in the hearth’s warmth, she found herself nodding off to sleep.

Her mind detached from the stress of the past few days and receded to another time and place. She recalled her journeys with Papa when she’d been little more than a girl. All the villages they’d passed through; all the faces they’d seen. She thought of reading fairy tales beneath a bejeweled sky, of leaning against a mountain of crates as Papa pointed out the constellations and their eternal stories—

Rattling seized her attention and ruptured her thoughts. She peered at Papa, who was carefully examining his teacup. Not with his sightless eyes, of course—but with wandering fingertips. The same impressive coat of arms engraved the fine proclaim; Papa ran his weathered fingers over its surface, clearly in awe of the raised gold decorations and studded gems. The thing must have cost a small fortune. Indeed, she’d never beheld such finery. Even the wares Papa had once sold paled in comparison. The faded brim of his top hat hung low and covered his glassy eyes.

Then her mouth went dry as he slipped the teacup inside his coat.

Has he gone mad—or simply grown that desperate? It was completely unlike Papa to steal. How could he—and after being shown hospitality?

Her outcry startled him. He half leapt from the chair—and Isabelle watched in horror as the teacup tumbled out from the coat. It rattled and rolled onto the stone ground, shattering into a million pieces.

A gloved hand broke through the darkness, quicker than a lightning strike. The hooded figure emerged from the shadows and seized Papa by his cravat. His other hand clasped a branch of flickering candles. The illumination flashed across the dark folds of his cloak, soaking him in a pool of light.

“Stealing from me, are you? Breaking my family’s keepsakes?” A sharp jerk forced Papa to his feet. The rough movement sent the top hat tumbling from his head and onto the stone floor. Papa’s waxen features melted into an expression of horror and confusion.

Her heart pounding, Isabelle lunged forward and frantically cried out, “Let him alone! It was an accident. Don’t you see that you’re frightening him?”

“Good.” The simple declaration threw Isabelle into stunned silence. Papa called out for her as the man strode from the sitting room, his solid legs eating up the ground in swift, decisive strides. Mon Dieu, he was physically dragging Papa through the castle.

This isn’t happening. It cannot be…

“Stop it! Stop it now—you monster!” Isabelle picked up her skirts and frantically chased after them. Parts of the castle were dark and unkempt, causing her to trip several times over wayward pieces of furniture. Her heart violently pounded in her ears. The man moved impressively fast; between his agile stride and sweeping cloak, he almost appeared to float through the corridors. Plopping onto the stone floor, his dog gave up trying to keep pace. Dust motes rose and fell in midair like ashes, obscuring her vision. She followed the branch’s illumination, watching as the candlelight threw prisms along the walls and floor.

“Please, monsieur. Have mercy, I beg you! He didn’t know any better. He’s not in his right mind. He would never—”

“No one steals from me.” His low voice echoed in the darkness, steady as a war drum.

Isabelle felt herself descending. She ducked as she crossed a low archway, where she was met with a steep flight of stairs. A mouth into Hell. The ceiling lurked unusually low and was strung with cobwebs. Isabelle hiked up her skirts, which were now a filthy mess, and raced down the decayed steps. The hooded figure kept a swift pace while she desperately pursued Papa’s frightened cries.

Plagued by the darkness, Isabelle tripped and crashed down the stone steps. Pain cascaded through her body, knocking the breath from her lungs. Her skinned knees and elbows throbbed, her heart pounded, her head burned. She spared a moment to catch her breath as she struggled to her feet and resumed her vain quest. Papa’s muffled pleas and the sound of slamming bars ripped at her very soul.

The dank dungeon was nearly black. She slowed her pace, moving toward a beam of light at the far end. Rats the size of kittens scurried across the stone floor and filled the darkness with their terrible squeaking. Her heart thudding, Isabelle rushed through the maze of cells, following Papa’s voice and that flickering light. Chains and crude-looking objects littered the ground—torture devices from a past age, she realized with a shudder.

She found them.

Papa was grasping the rusted bars; disoriented and frightened, he was murmuring incoherent pleas. Tears fell from his sightless eyes, though Isabelle knew he fought to restrain them. The branch of candles sat in front of the cell, its wavering light illuminating his terrified expression.

“Forgive me. I have wronged you when you showed my daughter and me hospitality and mercy. Please, monsieur!”

The man towered before him, silent and still. His long arms remaining crossed, he stood with his lean torso straighter than a broadsword. His hood was drawn back, though Isabelle couldn’t see his face from her angle.

“Papa, I’m here,” she said beneath the weight of a strained breath.

“I-Isabelle?”

Not sparing a moment, she dashed over to the cell—and the man slowly rotated into sight.

Except he resembled more of a beast than any man she’d ever seen.

Isabelle clamped both hands over her mouth and forced her eyes away. The sight burned—and the inferno in his gaze only kindled that fire.

Half of his face looked monstrously twisted; charred mounds of puckered flesh distorted the features beyond any recognition, draining him of all traces of humanity. Those heaps of burned, leather-like skin gleamed and glistened in the candlelight. His hairline receded on the left side of his face and slanted high above a shriveled ear.

Under the severe scarring, his age was more or less indistinguishable—though Isabelle guessed he wasn’t a day under thirty-five.

But his eyes were breathtaking. Two brilliant sapphires. There was also a great sadness and anger in those eyes, as if he’d suffered more than his share of original sin. Alas, as she gazed into his eyes, all she saw was blue ice—an endless, arctic landscape of cold desolation.

The man turned away, appearing greatly affected by her stare, and hastily rearranged the hood. His scarred hands trembled as he smoothed down the cloak’s thick folds.

“Release him,” she demanded. “He didn’t mean any harm. I—”

“No one meddles with my family’s possessions. He can rot down here as my prisoner. He ought to count himself fortunate that I haven’t taken his hand.”

“Your prisoner? This… this is a mistake! You must believe me. He’d never—”

A deep, husky chuckle cut through her plea. “Even so.”

“Please. Just let him out.”

“It’s too late for that.” Those words seemed to speak volumes. He exhaled a long breath, and Isabelle watched as it unfurled against the darkness in a cloud.

Silence.

“Why… why are you so angry? Why must you be so hateful? So cruel?”

“If I let him go,” he said at length, “what can you offer in return?” Isabelle couldn’t find her tongue. She wandered directly in front of the cell, almost in a lucid trance, and clasped the cold bars. Papa was huddled in the corner now, coughing and shivering. Guilt, unlike anything she’d known before, pulsated through her.

I’m to blame for this. And if Papa stays here, he’ll die well within a fortnight, likely much sooner…

“Get out of my sight.” The man’s voice jarred Isabelle from her inward stupor. She turned to him and stepped forward, raising her chin at a defiant angle.

I am not so easily broken or frightened.

I am a survivor.

She scanned her empty, dank surroundings: the cold stone walls, sweeping cobwebs, and blazing branch of candles. Despair encased her. Stark emptiness. She dared to step closer while a faint trace of pity bloomed inside her heart.

They stood centimeters apart. Heat radiated from the man’s body, surrounding her, immersing her. Isabelle vainly searched for softness him, but only a dark, embittered spirit reached her. She stared up at his towering frame and gestured for him to bow forward. He hesitated, then did as she commanded. Her hands shook, damn her, as she peeled back his hood and met that piercing gaze again.

Half of his face was handsome—devastatingly so. In her twenty-two years of life, she’d never beheld such haunting beauty.

Jet‑black waves, rich and flowing, framed the chiseled lines of his startling features. Stubble peppered the strong curve of his jawline and shadowed a smooth, sculpted cheekbone. The right side of his face was striking, beautiful—a stark contrast to its wrecked counterpart. And within those patrician angles and intense eyes, she encountered his humanity.

His was a face of inconsistencies. Complex. Damaged. Predatory. And more than a bit intriguing.

“I will stay with you,” she heard herself whisper. “In my father’s place.”

“Isabelle—no! I forbid it!”

The man folded long, strong arms across his broad chest. His gaze crawled down her face and settled on the rise of her breasts—planting directly on her silver cross.

“I demand he’s seen by the finest of physicians.”

“Isabelle! Listen to me! I’m an old man. I’m dying. I—”

The man’s dark, strangely erotic voice cut through the cellar, and his eyes whipped back to her own with a startling force. “As my mistress.”

“What?”

“You must stay here as my mistress. For as long as I demand. Perhaps forever.”

Forever.

The word rang with a note of finality.

“Please, Isabelle! I beg you. Don’t do this!”

How could I endure it?

“Do as I say and your father shall safely return home.” He waved his cloaked arms with a magician’s delicate grace. “Your father—whatever family you may have—shall want for nothing. A house, clothing, anything they require. You only need to say the word. Your father will be under my protection—under the care of nurses and physicians—until his last breath.”

Isabelle briefly recalled what—and who—was waiting for her back in Ruillé. This fate wouldn’t be much worse. This desolate castle could serve as the perfect hideout. Papa would live in France, free from Raphael’s clutches and in the hands of the world’s greatest physicians…

“How… how can I trust you?” And does he even have the wealth to uphold such a promise?

“You cannot.”

She had faith Papa would send help once his health recovered. Or she’d find a way out, means of escape. In the interim, she would survive this grim castle and whatever horrors it concealed.

Papa would not. The castle would crush him beneath its dark heel in a matter of days.

Isabelle glanced at Papa again, then stared into the man’s brilliant eyes. There, lurking within those expressive depths, she found the softness she’d pursued minutes before.  

She sucked in her breath and nodded her agreement.

“It is done.” The man swept backward. “He’s to remain down here till first light. Then our agreement shall be carried out. In the meantime, I will bring blankets and food—”

“But it’s so cold! He—”

“Stole from me while he was a guest in my castle.”

He would not compromise. That much was certain.

“I demand to stay with him.”

“As you please.” He unlocked the cell. “Beyond the dungeon lies a labyrinth. Try to escape, and you’ll be lost forever.”

He tapped the wall with his booted heel. It swiveled, spun, and rotated, sweeping her captor to the other side…

🌹 Excerpt 🌹

~ Adam gives Isabelle his library ~

“Close your eyes, ma belle.”

Strong hands cupped either side of her face. She felt as Adam’s thumbs tentatively brushed back and forth, stroking her cheeks in reverent caresses. Isabelle shut her eyes and slipped beneath his spell… leaned closer in the darkness until they stood heartbeat to heartbeat. The warmth of his breaths teased her hairline, bringing with them a minty scent. His thumbs descended to just below her chin. She lowered her face… felt a featherlight kiss land on her brow. It happened so subtly and gently—Isabelle wasn’t sure whether she’d imagined it.

She was allowing herself to feel too much. A stab of guilt penetrated her chest as her thoughts crept inward. Yet instincts told her to trust in her gut—to allow her heart to speak over her tumultuous thoughts. So she shoved away her guilt and allowed herself to simply feel.

Pounding footfalls echoed in the room, attesting to its sheer size. Isabelle waited in anticipation under the veil of darkness, her small hands knotted in Stranger’s wiry coat. The steady beat of Adam’s boots floated away from her. A loud whipping noise and a burst of light illuminated the room as he tugged a heavy damask curtain aside.

“Open your eyes, Isabelle.”

She did as he commanded. Shafts of sunlight tore inside, dancing across the marble floor in blaring prisms—though the darkness still obstructed the room’s contents. Isabelle’s imagination soared as she fantasized about what lay in those clotted shadows. Pale light fringed Adam’s formidable shape, contrasting his silhouette against the dim atmosphere.

He paused in front of the opened window and folded both arms behind his ramrod-straight back. Isabelle gazed at the line of his body, unable to tear her eyes away. Indeed, light from the window set him aglow, shrouding him in a cloak of gold. He wore black trousers and a white silk shirt, which fluttered lightly when he moved. Over the past several days, he’d made a habit of abandoning the cloak and hood. Isabelle had become accustomed to the mismatched sides of his face; where she once felt horror and revulsion, she now tingled with curiosity and budding admiration. Alas, the only true revulsion that remained was the memory of that night…

Adam was an undeniably prideful man, and she knew he’d only scorn her pity. Even his stance exuded a sense of importance and authority. Strange, how he was so often shy and almost childlike; then, as if by a flip of a coin, he’d turn regal, confident. It was as though he was battling two separate halves… as if an intricate part of himself kept fighting to emerge.

Not unlike the two contrasting sides of his face, Isabelle mused.

For a suspended moment, he stood in front of the conservatory window, his scarred hands planted on his lean hips as he surveyed the distant gardens. Then he crossed the room, his footfalls amplified by the medallion flooring, and thrust open another curtain.

Whoosh. Light flooded the space and chased away the shadows, and the room’s contents were ushered into view.

Isabelle nearly lost her breath at the sight.

It was a beautiful library—the most stunning sight she’d ever beheld. Ornate, intricately carved shelves towered against the painted walls and reached for a gilded ceiling. A baroque chandelier hung in the heart of the room; its crystals sparkled like diamonds as they drank in morning’s light. Isabelle fought to temper her racing heart as she gaped at the sweeping shelves. An intimate reading nook lined a curved window; lush pillows decorated the chaise, and a brass candelabra towered beside it.

In all her life, she’d never seen so many books. There were far too many to count. Too many books to read in one lifetime. Isabelle couldn’t help but think of the little storekeeper from Ruillé’s bookshop; she imagined his astonishment, how his bushy white brows would rise at the sight of Adam’s vast library. He’d run his wrinkled fingertips over the bindings and spines, reverently caressing each one. Her heart twisted with nostalgia at the thought of her former home. Once Raphael had entered her life, however, Ruillé had transformed into a prison.

This castle should have been just that. A jail cell. Yet she’d never felt more free than in that moment.

The library was larger than her whole cottage; several book-filled rooms connected to it, each one built with floor-to-ceiling shelves. Three sliding ladders were nestled against the circular walls, soaring to the very top of the domed ceiling.

She spun on her heels, twirling in place—watching as the immense collection flurried by in a fantastic mosaic of colorful spines and intricate woodwork.

Her eyes planted on Adam, who stood in front of the large row of glowing, arched windows. His arms were still folded behind his body, his sleek back straighter than an arrow. She couldn’t find her voice, couldn’t move forward, although she ached to reach out and embrace his solid body.

How would it feel to be enveloped inside that commanding strength?

A devastating smile spread across his misshapen features and cut her thought short. He ran a shaky hand through his hair, which was highlighted by the sun’s rays, and then hesitantly strode toward her. His boots rapped against the floor, and the sound swelled through the library. Stranger barked as he approached, the loud noise echoing in the room and jarring Isabelle from her trance.

“Do… do you like it?”

Finally he stood before her, silent and still. Isabelle inhaled a long breath, then laid her palm on the left side of his face. Her fingertips danced over the raised ridges and welts, the reddish scars and shriveled ear. His eyes shuttered closed, and she felt a shudder rake through his tense body.

“Yes. I love it.” And I’m starting to fall in love with you, too…

 

🌹 Meet the Author 🌹

Rachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and her high school sweetheart of fourteen years. She enjoys writing poignant romances that challenge the reader’s emotions and explore the redeeming power of love.

Imagining dynamic worlds and characters has been Rachel’s passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mother would record them for her. She holds a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances. Whether crafting the protagonist or antagonist, she ensures every character is given a soul.

Rachel endeavors to defy conventions by blending elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness.

Her dream is to move readers and leave an emotional impact through her words.

Don’t be a stranger! Rachel loves to connect and interact with her readers:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter | Amazon Author Profile | Instagram

🌹 Enter the Giveaway 🌹

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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:

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OTHER BOOKS BY ROBERT CORAM: 

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

Title: WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO

Author: DAVID JOY    
Genre: FICTION  

Type of Book: SOFTCOVER

Length: 260 PAGES

Publisher: PUTNAM – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE   

Release Date: 2015 

ISBN: 978-0-425-27979-3  

Price:  $16.00 USD / $21.00 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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

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An Amazing Book Coming Soon – THE LAURAS by Sara Taylor 5 out of 5 Stars just is not enough – LOVED THIS BOOK 

Title:  THE LAURAS   

Author: SARA TAYLOR

Genre: FICTION, LGBTQ

Publisher: CROWN PUBLISHING, HOGARTH  

Release Date:  AUGUST 1, 2017  

EDITION: HARDCOVER

ISBN: 9780451496850

Price: $26.00 (USD)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟    

Wow! I have just finished reading the final page of THE LAURAS and I can already tell you that this book is going to be on my list of the BEST BOOKS OF 2017.

Although this book will not be officially released until August, I urge everyone that reads this review to put the date on your calendar and not to miss out.

This is one of those extremely rare books that is worth standing in line for  – at midnight, on the eve of its release. Yes, IT IS THAT GOOD.

THE LAURAS is a tale that will take readers on a journey of dual-discovery. It is a tale of a mother and child who set out on a cross country trip during which the mother makes multiple interesting side-trips.

These trips could last a day, a month, or even several months. They could be boring (in Alex’s opinion), they could be strange, and sometimes they were even downright terrifying.

Alex is a child (less due to her age, and more due to her limited life experience) when this story begins, but as the cross-country Odyssey continues Alex grows into a young adult. Thanks to the fact that Alex is the narrator, readers are brought along on Alex’s unique journey into the perils and delights of becoming the person who was always meant to be. And, trust me – this is a coming of age story unlike any other.

I wish there was a way to give more than 5 out of 5 stars, because this book is a masterpiece of fiction and I have no doubt that it will win many awards and will end up on Bestseller Lists everywhere. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

THE CHARACTERS:

How do I describe Alex’s mother? It’s a dilemma, but perhaps I will let Alex  describe her since that expanation will be so much better than mine.

“Ma’s mood had perked up; I could see the happy on her face and the weight was rolling off her shoulders like stones … and it looked like she might start singing at any moment. If she’d been the kind of person that sang. Really, she’d be more likely to start spontaneously handing around shots of tequila as an expression of happiness, but singing sounds better.”

Some people might think that having a Mom like that would be fun – and maybe it would be; for a little while, anyway. But, a parent is meant to take care of their child, not act like a child herself.

Alex is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma. When the reader learns more and more about Alex’s life and personality, it is impossible not to root for this interesting and inscrutable character. Readers will find themselves second guessing what they think they know about Alex and this mystery remains until the very end of the book.

MORE

This would be a terrific book to feature in a Book Club setting since there is just so much in it that readers will want to talk about.

I also think that this book just might have some people questioning their own stances on many issues. I would love to say more here, but I refuse to ruin this story for anyone.

FAVORITE QUOTE:
“But I didn’t have the child’s blind trust in the omnipotence of parents anymore: I had eaten the apple, knew that Ma was no different from me, that she probably didn’t know what to do right now anymore than I would, that her only advantage was a rapidly narrowing gulf of experience.”

IN CONCLUSION:

ADD THIS BOOK TO YOUR TBR (TO BE READ) LIST AND MARK AUGUST 1st, 2017 ON YOUR CALENDAR. You will be glad you did.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

SARA TAYLOR is a product of Virginia and the homeschooling movement. She traded her health for a BFA from Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and her sanity for an MA in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

Following the MA her supervisor refused to let her leave, so she remains as a PhD candidate at the UEA where she researches censorship, writes fiction, and is occasionally entrusted with the teaching of undergraduates.

 She spends an unprecedented amount of time on delayed trains between Norwich and her husband’s house in Reading, and tends to get lost, rained on, and chased by cows with unsettling frequency.

Her short fiction has been published electronically and in print in The Fiddlehead, The Fog Horn, and Granta, among other places. Her novels are published by William Heinemann in the UK, Hogarth in the US, and Bond Street Books in Canada.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

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Read an interview with Sara Taylor HERE.


  

TRAPPED IN ICE by Canadian Author Eric Walters – A 5 Star YA Historical Fiction Thriller based on a true story. A MUST READ.

Title: TRAPPED IN ICE

Author: ERIC WALTERS 

Genre: FICTION, HISTORICAL FICTION, YOUNG ADULT FICTION, MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION, CANADIAN FICTION

Length: 225 PAGES

Publisher: PUFFIN CANADA – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE 

Release Date: 1997

ISBN: 978-1-77049-994-2 (Softcover)

Price: $12.99 CDN ($8.91 on the Chapters.ca website)   

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I sometimes wonder why we don’t learn more Canadian history in high school. I am 100% sure that if TRAPPED IN ICE was read in history class, not one student would complain of boredom.

ERIC WALTERS has taken the tale of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition and fictionalized it into a tale that everyone should read.

It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of historical fiction or not, this book will draw you in and you will find it nearly impossible to put down.

Thirteen year old Helen lost her father and her home all within the span of a single year. Her mother accepted a job as a seamstress on the Canadian Arctic Expedition and arranged for Helen and her younger brother to join the expedition as well.

Up until this trip, Helen has only ever experienced adventure through the many books she has read. What should have been a moderately scary trip becomes a nightmare when the ocean unexpectedly freezes over early. This catches everyone on board The Karluk by surprise, even the experienced and tough Captain Robert Bartlett. The ship becomes locked in the ice with no chance of a thaw for many months.

Actual photo of the Karluk stuck in the ice in 1913

In fact, it is likely that the ship will sink before the ice thaws enough for it to be released. What follows is a true tale of the ship’s Captain, crew and passengers and their terrifying trek across the ice flow to try to reach land.

Photo of Captain Robert Bartlett at home in Newfoundland before leaving for the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition

Readers will find themselves drawn into this harrowing tale of how Helen and the others push themselves beyond human endurance based solely on their will to survive.

This book is not very long, it consists of only 225 pages and readers will become so swept up in the story that they will want to read it in a single day.

I love the fact that author Eric Walters has chosen to bring to light a part of Canadian history that is largely unknown and I hope that he continues to write more books like this one.


I rate TRAPPED IN ICE as 5 out of 5 Stars and I highly recommend this book to all readers aged ten and older. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

To learn more about The 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition and it’s true story click here

TRAPPED IN ICE won the 1999 Silver Birch Award. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

It all began in 1993 when Eric was teaching a Grade 5 class.  His students were reluctant readers and writers and Eric began to write to encourage them to become more involved in literature.  His first novel, Stand Your Ground, was created for this class.  It is set in the school where Eric was teaching, Vista Heights Public School, and some of the features of the community of Streetsville and many of the names of his students were incorporated into the story.

  

Since his first novel Eric has exploded on the children’s and young adult scene.  Over the following years he has published over 94 more novels and picture books with more than ten scheduled for the coming years.

These novels have been enthusiastically received by children and young adults and critically acclaimed by teachers, reviewers and parents.  Eric’s novels have won more than 100 awards including eleven separate children’s choice awards. 

He is the only three time winner of both the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch and Red Maple Awards – in which over 250,000 students participate and vote the winner.  In November 2013 he received the prestigious Children’s Africana Book Award – Best Book for young children – for his book The Matatu.  This American award was presented to Eric in a ceremony at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

 https://youtu.be/yheY6Lut3iU   

Eric’s novels are now available in places as far award as New Zealand, Australia, India and Nepal and have been translated into more than a dozen languages including French, German, Japanese, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese.

Eric has presented to more than 1,500,000 students across North America and internationally in Japan and Germany.  His presentations blend drama, storytelling, audience participation and interaction.  He presents to students from K – Grade 12 as well as adult groups and keynote speeches.

 June 2013 Eric became ‘Dr. Walters’ when he was granted the honorary degree of Literarum Doctorem by Wilfred Laurier University.  He gave the address to graduating  B.Ed., B.A. students in the spring convocation.

Eric, along with his wife Anita, and Ruth and Henry Kyatha, are the co-founders of The Creation of Hope which provides for over 400 orphans and disadvantaged children throughout the Mbooni District of Kenya.

100% of money donated by schools goes directly to serve and through the website these schools are shown – school by school, dollar by dollar, item by item – how their donations are spent.

Eric is the father of three (Christina – born 1985, Nicholas – born 1988, and Julia – born 1992) and he and his wife live in Mississauga with their two dogs – Lola and Winnie the Poodle.  In his free time (what little of it he has) he walks, hikes, and plans his next adventure.  He spends time every summer in Kenya at his orphanage.

To learn more about Eric and his phenomenal books visit the following links:

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DISCORD by Katy Haye is a YA Novel that defies categorization. 4 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟 

Title: DISCORD    

Series: BOOK ONE OF THE ECHOES OF THE EARTH SERIES

Author: KATY HAYE 
Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION, SCIENCE FICTION

Length: 250 PAGES

Publisher: PLUMSHINE BOOKS

Release Date: DECEMBER 8, 2016

ISBN: 9781540412430

Price: $3.99 USD (EBOOK)

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS🌟🌟🌟🌟

Seventeen-year-old Beth has brain damage. She lives in a Steptoe House – a hospital in the English countryside that specializes in helping youths recover from brain trauma.
Her life consists of school classes, medical tests and of playing and  listening to therapeutic music.

Some days she feels great and better yet, she feels almost normal. On those days she contemplates going home and returning to her life. But, what kind of life will she be returning to? She has no memories of her family or her friends, in fact, she remembers nothing of her life before waking up at Steptoe House.

Beth’s bad days are REALLY BAD. On those days she sees and hears ghosts and other shadows. On those days she acknowledges that she is NOT ready to go home after all.

When a boy named Toby arrives at the Institute, Beth’s life will never be the same.

Toby encourages Beth to confront her fears instead of hiding from them. But when strange things begin to happen and Beth’s sense of deja vue starts running overtime, both Beth and Toby set out to discover what exactly it is that is wrong with Steptoe House.

I have to admit that I was pretty sure I had this novel completely figured out by the halfway point of the novel. I also haveto admit how very wrong I was.

What starts out as teen romance novel ends up morphing into a completely different book. In fact, this book is hard to classify into a single genre. It is clearly a Young Adult novel, but it is so much more. It is romance. It is horror. It is science fiction. It is mystery. It is drama. It is even speculative fiction. Whatever the official genre, I enjoyed it immensely. 

The cast of characters are diverse and they all seem like ordinary teenagers doing their best to recover from brain injuries so that they can return home to see their families. Families that never visit. According to the doctors, it would be detrimental to their recovery to have visitors. But, it all seems very strange to lead character, Beth. (And to the reader.)

I do not want to include any spoilers in this review, but suffice it to say that if you enjoy books that keep you in suspense and that keep you guessing, then this is a MUST READ.

The author has done a phenomenal job in setting up the story for the next book in the series, and I, for one am excited to read it. Rumour has it that Book Two will be released in March 2017.

I rate DISCORD as 4 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟  

   


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Katy Haye – In Her Own Words:

I spent most of my childhood and adolescence lost in a good book. Even now, and given the tedious necessity to earn a living in order to eat, I spend as much time as possible running around either my own or someone else’s imaginary world.

I’m fascinated by what makes books work – what makes a story so vivid the words themselves melt away and I’m living the character’s life with them?

I’ll be pondering (and very probably ranting) about the nuts and bolts of a good story on my Add More Narrativium blog – please join in. Also on this website, you can find out more about my books, including extracts and where to buy.

You might also like to check out my video of how I became a writer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o03uWBH7bBE 

5 Roaring Stars for THE LOST GIRL OF ASTOR STREET by Stephanie Morrill – A mystery thriller set in 1920s Chicago – Fashion, Mobsters, Flappers and Speakeasys will enthrall readers.

Title: THE LOST GIRL OF ASTOR STREET

Author: STEPHANIE MORRILL

Genre: FICTION, HISTORICAL FICTION, MYSTERY

Length: 352 PAGES

Publisher: BLINK by HARPER COLLINS   

Release Date: FEBRUARY 7, 2017

ISBN: 9780310758389   

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

SYNOPSIS 

Piper and her best friend Lydia attend the prestigious Presley’s School for Girls located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois.

The year is 1924 and Piper has  embraced the new freedoms that women are experiencing. “This is 1924, after all. A girl has the right to be heard.”

 

Of the best friends, Lydia is the more reserved of the two. “Lydia is a darling of the Astor Street district. Not just wealthy and well-bred, but sweet too.” 

This photo is similar to what I think Lydia would have looked like.

So, when Lydia goes missing it is a shock to everyone in the neighborhood – in fact, her disappearance shocks the entire city.  The police are called in and do the best they can to find Lydia before the unthinkable happens.

But, Piper knows that the police are not being given all the information. She has grown up on Astor Street and is well aware that the residents will keep secret any information that might damage their reputation – despite the fact that it may mean Lydia is never found.

So, Piper sets out to find Lydia on her own. She does not care that she might be placing herself in danger. All she cares about is finding her best friend – alive. 
MY REVIEW 

This story is superbly researched. The author has included the prejudices of the era, the way people spoke, the fashions of the day and even the social and societal norms of the 1920s and has done so in a way that comes across as completely natural.

With multiple twists and turns and a varied cast of interesting and compelling characters, THE LOST GIRL OF ASTOR STREET is a must read novel.

For anyone who has ever viewed the ‘Roaring Twenties’ as an era of freedom and has thought about it with romanticized notions, this book will both reinforce and shatter those notions. 

The central mystery of this book will have readers guessing who and why Lydia was taken and every time they think they have it all figured out, a new twist or piece of evidence will be discovered and readers will have to rethink their views.

This is literally a page-turner that will not only keep readers guessing but will also be impossible for them to put down. If you decide to read this book (and you really should read it) then you had better set aside an entire afternoon since you will NOT be able to put it down. 

I do not think this book will be the last we hear about Piper and I can’t wait to read more of her adventures.

I rate THE LOST GIRL OF ASTOR STREET as 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟  

 

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

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 


 

Stephanie Morrill lives in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and three kids.

She is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book, and the Ellie Sweet series.

She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, www.GoTeenWriters.com 

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

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The Lost Girl of Astor Street hits shelves:February 7th!

Those who pre-order gain access to fun extras, including a bonus chapter that isn’t included in the book! You can get more details aboutpre-order perks by clicking here.


   


A Chicago Speakeasy – Photo obtained from www.timeout.com 

I loved this image of a 1920s flapper with her cigarette looking glamorous so I just had to include it. 

Flapper with smoke

VIRAL by M.A. Barrett is one of the best books of 2016 and is an absolute MUST READ. 

Title: VIRAL

Author: M.A. BARRETT

Genre: FICTION, CONTEMPORARY FICTION, LGBTQ, SOCIAL COMMENTARY

Length: 260 PAGES

Publisher: KIN(D) PRESS

Release Date: NOVEMBER 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9983602-5-6

Price: $15.99 USD (SOFTCOVER)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

This may not be a very professional way to start a book review, but HOLY CRAP!!!! This book is AWESOME!!!

Scarlet Battell, an ex-reality television show producer is not only an anti-heroine, but she is a hopelessly flawed and ultimately believable character.

Scarlet, or Scar as she is known may have once been an up and coming hotshot tv producer, but now she lives a hardscrabble life as a waitress – barely making enough money to pay the rent on her crappy little apartment.

Trying to find some way to reclaim her previous persona and her position behind a camera, Scar comes up with the idea to do a bit of investigative reporting. However, when she is confronted with the choice between intervening to save a coworker from a horrific attack or recording the event as evidence, Scar chooses the more cowardly option.

That action (well, inaction actually) begins to haunt Scarlet whose conscience begins to scream at her – eventually leading to an all-out breakdown.

This book flashes between two timelines; Scar’s past life as a story producer on the reality show The Real Real Life and her new reality as a waitress struggling just to pay her re t, which is as far away from her old life as it is possible to get.

VIRAL is one of the best examples of exactly what to do right when using flashbacks in a story. M.A. Barrett has some serious writing chops and they are used to perfection in this book.

My favorite quote from the book is:

 “…there is no truth, unless I tell it.”

 The reason I picked this quote as my favorite is because it speaks not only to the book itself, but also to the way people seem to view the world today.

 The invention of cell phone video, combined with the public’s strange fixation and fascination with reality television is, in my opinion, NOT a good thing. People seem to try to experience their ’15 Minutes of Fame’ through videotaping events (usually they are taping something rather than actually helping the victim). I was raised better than that.

This book touches on so many topics relevant to today’s readers that it is almost eerie in its ability to inspire the desire to talk about it with other readership. If I could pick any book that I have read in the past year as a Book Club selection, VIRAL would be my choice.

There are a multitude of “What would you have done?” scenerios that will bring out lively discussions, as well as many other talking points which include (but are not limited to):

* The videotape everything phenomenon that is sweeping our world

* Money and the fact that those who have a lot of it seem to be able to get away with saying and doing just about anything they want to (just ask Donald Trump if you disagree with me)

* The value of “Spin” and how putting the right spin on a situation can sway public opinion and can even create reality from nothingness

* What would you have done in Scar’s situation? Would you have helped if you knew that it would likely have not done any good and would probably have ended up with you becoming a victim as well?

I could go on and on with more discussion ideas, but I think you get the point.

The character of Scar is brilliantly rendered. She is complex and at times she makes the wrong choices in life. But, this just makes her seem more real. At times readers will find themselves angry with her, but ultimately it is difficult not to cheer her on.

This book should be added to every adult’s TO READ list.

I rate it as 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I will be adding VIRAL to my list of the Top 25 Books of 2016. The fact that this is author M.A. Barrett’s debut novel is astounding and I can’t wait to read her next book.


**Due to scenes and situations of an adult nature, I recommend that VIRAL be read by those 18 and older.**

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

 

 M.A. Barrett is a writer, photographer, screenwriter, and poet. Her works have appeared in the New York International Film Festival, The Academy Awards, and in publications such as the Huffington Post, The April Perennial, Visibilities Magazine and IN OUR OWN WORDS: A Generation Defining Itself. She lives in Boston with her wife and French Bulldog.

Her debut novel, Viral, is now available anywhere books are sold online.

To learn more about this amazing Indie author, you can click on the following links:

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STUPID by Kim Firmston is a Young Adult book that will get you talking

Title: STUPID

Series: SIDESTREETS NOVELS

Author: KIM FIRMSTON

Type of Book: PAPERBACK

Genre: YOUNG ADULT CONTEMPORARY FICTION

Length: 208 PAGES

Publisher: LORIMER & COMPANY LTD.

Release Date: 2014 

ISBN: 978-1-4594-0611-7

Price: $9.95 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Martin wishes that everyone would quit calling him stupid.

Just because he isn’t on the honour roll like his younger sister doesn’t mean he’s stupid.

No matter how hard he tries, Martin just can’t seem to improve his grades at school.

Martin’s father constantly belittles him; calling him lazy and stupid. As it would with any teenager, this devastates and frustrates Martin.

Out one night videotaping he captures surprising video of someone jumping from roof to roof at an abandoned brewery. When security spots the person on the roof, the two teenagers  team up to help each other escape.

From that night on, Martin and Stick becomevgood friends. Asking Stick what he had been up to that night introduces Martin to the world of parkour (free running).

Seeing correlations between Stick’s jumps, flips and tricks and the way words move around the page when he tries to read, Martin decides to make a movie that will prove he isn’t so stupid after all.

I love the fact that this book addresses issues that other authors are afraid to take on – like the fact that parental verbal abuse can be as bad (and sometimes worse than) physical abuse.

That topic alone would be enough to tackle in a single book, but not for Kim Firmston. Her writing is absolutely fearless (kind of like Stick when he is doing parkour.)

Additional topics talked about in very realistic ways include: learning disorders, dyslexia, ADHD, the foster system, the sale of ritalin in high schools, depression and the frustration of giving something your absolute best effort and still coming up short.

If a reader cannot find a way to relate to either Martin or Stick then they must have been brought up in complete isolation from others.

This is the second book I have read by KIM FIRMSTON and I am now officially a fan. I love the realism in her books and I love that she is not afraid to bring up hard topics. Her books are perfect for Young Adult Reading Groups and in fact, I think that it sbould be required reading for parents of teenagers.

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

* I received a free paperback copy of this book from the author but this in no way influenced my rating or my review. All opinions are 100% my own and 100% honest.

I am looking forward to reading Kim Firmston’s next book called BOILED CAT which is to be read while also experiencing it’s website at the same time. It sounds like a lot of fun. (Don’t worry, its not a horror. BOILED CAT is the name of a rock band.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

WHO is this so called KIM FIRMSTON?

Kim says she is a real life mutant – though one without any cool powers. When she is not writing or cursing obvious villain mistakes, she warps young minds in her Reality is Optional Creative Kids’ Programming, at WordsWorth Writing Camp and through the ACS Dramantics Theatre Camp, among other places. 

Her short story, Life Before War, was short listed in the 2008 
CBC Literary Award and published in FreeFall MagazineReturning Home, was published in the Alexandra Reader Anthology. Her children’s plays (many of which were co-written with children) have been produced across North America, the Calgary Fringe Festival, and as far away as the UK and Egypt. She has published six YA books which can be seen here, has been the Writer in Residence for Open Book Toronto, toured Labrador as part of TD Book Week, and was even interviewed on CJSW.


Kim is dedicated to sharing writing with children of all ages including those not able to write yet and promoting youth who wish to make it their career. 

Other websites where you can find Kim: 


http://www.boiledcat.com/

amazon.com/author/kimfirmston