This blog is the place where I post reviews of the books I have read. I review audiobooks, regular books and eBooks for authors and publishers as well as any other book or audiobook that catches my eye.
In his first True Crime memoir, undercover operator Norm Boucher recounts eight months spent infiltrating Vancouver’s heroin scene, a world of paranoia, ripoffs, and violence.
It is 1983 and the War on Drugs is intensifying. From his barroom observer’s seat, Boucher candidly reveals the lives of heroin addicts who spend each day looking for their next hit. Their dangerous subculture, centred around three gritty hotels on the Granville Strip, becomes Boucher’s domain as he attempts both to gain acceptance in a world far removed from his own and to keep himself safe.
With Horseplay, decorated RCMP officer Norm Boucher takes readers back to the assignment that shaped his outlook on the role of criminal law enforcement and the human side of addiction as it collides with the ruthlessness of the drug business.
True Crime has become a topic of mainstream interest. What was once only followed by law enforcement and dedicated ‘web sleuths,’ has now become a topic discussed by “regular” people all over the world.
This newfound audience has led to the publishing of myriad numbers of books, and also to the creation of thousands of podcasts, ensuring that every subset crime is being covered. I readily admit that I am a ‘True Crime Junkie’ and have been since I was a young adult (which was a thousand years ago if you ask my kids.)
What is underrepresented in this genre is Canadian stories. Yes, there are some, but most seem to focus on serial killers and/or other sensational and well-known murder cases. That is one of the reasons why I was so interested in reading HORSEPLAY.
In HORSEPLAY we get a glimpse behind the curtain of undercover work in Canada. And, lucky for readers, we get the information straight from the undercover operator himself.
Now retired, Norm Boucher has written about one of the undercover operations he worked on in Vancouver in the early 1980s. He was tasked with befriending the heroin junkies and especially their dealers with the goal of making arrests and trying to determine where the bulk of the heroin was coming from.
In the pages of HORSEPLAY readers will be shown the truth of undercover work — that most of it is not the glamorous lifestyle shown in movies or fiction books.
Spending eight months — day after day and night after night on Vancouver’s Granville Strip with addicts whose entire lives centered around shooting heroin. As soon as they used up their supply, they spent their time hustling to find their next hit. All while trying to avoid being ripped-off, robbed or beaten.
What Author Norm Boucher witnessed during that time profoundly changed how he viewed those he interacted with.
Norm pulls no punches when he writes, but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers from the book. Because of that, I humbly suggest that if you have any interest in True Crime, in Addiction, or in the real operations of Canada’s undercover officers that you pick up a copy of this fascinating memoir. This should be required reading for all up and coming law enforcement personnel and for anyone working with people who have addictions.
I feel that this book is so important and so fascinating, I have no choice but to rate it as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Thank you to the author for providing me with a free copy of this book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Norm Boucher left Montreal at the age of nineteen to begin a long and rewarding career as an RCMP officer mostly dedicated to drugs and organized crime. An active member of the RCMP undercover program for over ten years, his assignments included drug trafficking, money laundering, and homicide. He eventually represented the RCMP as a member of the Canadian delegation to several Regular Sessions of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Commission of the Organization of American States, held in Washington D.C. and Mexico City, where he helped develop a community policing program aimed at drug harm reduction. His varied career included postings on the national anti-terrorist Special Emergency Response Team, as Marine drug enforcement coordinator on Canada’s West Coast, and as liaison officer in Madrid, Spain, and Santo-Domingo, Dominican Republic.
In 1983, Staff-Sergeant Boucher spent eight months infiltrating the heart of Vancouver’s heroin scene. This experience became the subject of his memoir Horseplay: My Time Undercover on the Granville Strip, which he wrote over a period of several years, while continuing to fulfill his RCMP responsibilities in Canada and abroad. In 2012, Norm Boucher retired from the RCMP as a Staff-Sergeant, dedicating his time to writing and his work as a consultant.
Norm Boucher studied literature at the University of Waterloo. He is the recipient of the Governor General’s Medal of Bravery, the Carnegie Medal, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
He is the proud father of four children and now lives in Manotick, Ontario with his wife Sally and their dog Cooper.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
1901. When a train robbery destroy’s Annie’s plans for a quiet life, she reinvents herself as a redheaded daredevil and heads to Niagara Falls, determined to be the first person to survive going over it in a barrel – or to die trying.
But when Annie arrives in Niagara, she unwittingly walks into a turf war between two crime bosses vying to control the illegal gambling, extortion and prostitution that hum below Niagara’s honeymoon veneer.
As Annie comes to realize that water is not the only danger in Niagara, her relationship with a riverman threatens her plans to fall.
Based on the true story of Annie Edson Taylor
Annie Edson Taylor. Does this name mean anything to you? Have you ever heard of her?
I hadn’t. But after reading ‘TIL NIAGARA FALLS, I can guarantee that I will never remember her from this day forward.
I live in Ontario, Canada and have visited the city of Niagara Falls more than fifty times over the years. Yet, somehow the fascinating tale of retired schoolteacher Annie Edson Taylor had never reached my ears. It makes me wonder if Annie had been a man, would I have heard the story? Sadly, I believe the answer to that question is a yes.
Although this is a fictionalized version of her story, the key facts are historically accurate.
Annie was unique. She was not the “typical” woman of her era. Firstly, she was educated in many subjects including mathematics and the sciences which were often seen as the realm of men. She was a retired schoolteacher with a keen mind and she exceptionally good at physics and engineering.
Annie was as unlike the daredevils who preceded her in attempting to survive going over the Falls in a barrel, as night is to day. She applied everything she had learned into figuring out a way she could (hopefully) survive the “Fall.”
The author has included many wonderfully colorful characters into the story, many of whom were based on real people.
This story has everything readers could possibly hope for in a work of historical fiction right down to historically accurate descriptions of outfits of the era and the attitudes as to what was “proper” at the time.
If you have ever been to Niagara Falls, or have even just seen the Falls in photographs, I highly doubt any one of us would ever consider going over that massive waterfall, even with the best safety gear available. To think of the complete lack of availability of safety equipment in 1901, it is little wonder that many people perished in that swirling maelstrom of water. Annie was one very brave and very determined woman and I salute her.
You should pick up a copy of this book at your first opportunity. It is a heart-pumping, thrill ride of a read and you will find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat thanks to the non-stop action.
I have no choice but to rate ‘TIL NIAGARA FALLS as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ It deserves nothing less.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book ***
Katerie Morin is an award-winning playwright whose work has been produced in the U.S., broadcast in New Zealand, and published in China. With musician Pan Morrigan, she created the radio play Castles of Gold, which was later released as a spoken word album on Green Linnet Records, featuring performances by Frank McCourt and Roma Downey.
Katerie received her M.F.A in Playwriting from the University of Washington and her B.A. from Smith College. She lives outside of Boston with her family.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
Annie Taylor’s barrel with an anvil attached to the bottom so she would float through the Rapids Medium Photograph Extent 5″ x 5.75″ black & white photograph Description photograph has diagonal lines running through it Notes The intention of the anvil was to ensure that Annie would go over the Falls head up Date October 4, 1901. Collection General Photograph Collection http://www.nflibrary.ca/nfplindex/show.asp?id=90555&b=1
The barrel and its living freight being towed to the starting-point / Annie Taylor Creator Zahner, M. H. Medium Scan from book Description Scan from book Notes Scanned from Over Niagara in a Barrel by Orrin E. Dunlap. Published by World Wide Magazine, 1902 Provenance Local History Collection Date 1901.
********** Mrs. Annie Edson Taylor ready to start above the Falls Medium Photograph Extent 3.75″ x 3″ black & white ‘ a copy from a stereo image by M. H. Zahner Publisher in the Library of Congress Washington D.C. Description negative A41475 436 Provenance Library of Congress Washington D.C. Collection Niagara Falls Heritage Foundation Collection Old Call Number NFHAP v.6 p.53 Rights Library of Congress Washington D.C. http://www.nflibrary.ca/nfplindex/show.asp?id=89292&b=1
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
“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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
HE CAME IN WITH IT is the legacy of, and for, her son Nick.
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 is an artist, writer, and mental health activist who splits her time between her Los Angeles atelier and her farm in rural Washington state.
She has been married to her husband Craig O’Rourke, also a successful artist, for 34 years and they have four adult children.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Disorganized or catatonic behavior
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.
There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed in several ways.