Length: 351 PAGES   


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


*** 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. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


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.


– One of five finalists for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize 

 – Mar 02, 2017 – 41 minute video

About this Video: 

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

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

MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE ARTICLE with video interview        

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



Author: J.D. VANCE     


Length: 257 PAGES

Type of Book: HARDCOVER

Publisher: HARPER COLLINS   

Release Date: JUNE 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-230054-6

Price: $27.99 USD / $34.99 CDN

Rating: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS🌟🌟🌟🌟

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a picture of Mamaw in her younger days.

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

To learn more about this author visit the following links:









J.D. and his beloved Mamaw

The author with his dogs

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


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



Length: 266 PAGES


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


“…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.”

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




Length: 225 PAGES


Release Date: 1997

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

Price: $12.99 CDN ($8.91 on the 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. 


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 β€“ 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.   

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 β€˜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:







The absolutely hilarious book I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY BUTT is a MUST READ for anyone who needs a bright spot in their day.





Length: 224 PAGES


Release Date: APRIL 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8914-5

Price: $12.95 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟  

Absolutely gut-bustingly hilarious.

I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY BUTT is a collection of sayings and phrases that have come from the mouths of children.

If you are a parent or even if you aren’t, but have spent any amount of time around small children, then you are aware that sometimes kids say things that make you laugh. These sayings and phrases can be incredibly entertaining. At other times, kids say things that are so incredibly perceptive that listeners find themselves completely dumbfounded at what they hear.

Illustrator Martin Bruckner found himself amused quite often by the things his daughter said. He decided to illustrate some of her more humorous quotes and to put them together in book form as a Mother’s Day present for his wife.

That Mother’s Day present has since changed his life and launched a new brand. He now accepts orders from other people who wish to have their own children’s sayings illustrated as well as including some of them in this book.

Humor books are too often short and can sometimes be comprised of less than 100 pages. I was happy to find that this book is much more substantial, having 224 pages of quotes and illustrations.

Some of my favorite quotes are:

“Volcanoes are the Earth’s butt. That’s how the Earth gets the gas out.”

“I’m not done being bad yet.”

“I can’t have milk. I’m black toast and tolerant.”


“My dinner tummy is full, but my dessert tummy is waiting.”

But, it is not just the quotes that make this book so funny, it is also the accompanying illustrations that take the quotes to new heights of laughability.

So, if you need a good chuckle, or if you need a gift for an upcoming event, or if you just want to put a smile on someone’s face, buy this book. Anyone who does not find at least a few of the included illustrations and quotes to laugh it just isn’t human.

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


Martin Bruckner is an illustrator whose now 4 year old daughter inspired him to create his new brand: SpaghettiToes.

In fact, the name came about one night when Martin, his wife and daughter (who was 2 at the time) were having dinner together. His wife turned to their daughter and said, ” Please don’t put spaghetti between your toes.” And in that instant their new brand was born.

You can shop at his wife’s shop on ETSY where along with her own creations, she also sells SpaghettiToes artwork and even takes requests for custom orders.

Visit any or all of the following links for more information about the author, his family and his brand:




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



Type of Book: SOFTCOVER


Length: 101 PAGES


Release Date:

ISBN: 9781530855896

Price: $5.38 USD

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

It was there that she met her husband, Leo.

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

Visit Lynn Snyder on FACEBOOK    

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





Type of Book: PAPERBACK


Length: 176 PAGES


Release Date: OCTOBER 4, 2016

ISBN: 9781772600186

Price: $14.95 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Purchase online  

Find out more about this book on GOODREADS  

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


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

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

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

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

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



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



Type of Book: EBOOK


Length: 222 PAGES


Release Date: JULY 6, 2016

ISBN: 9781534732049

Price: $13.99 USD (PAPERBACK)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

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

I found this memoir completely engrossing and utterly fascinating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Belinda has a strong Native American influence from her youth.

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







In 10 days THE JOYS OF LIFE by Michelle Hoppe – A hilarious memoir about parenting is being released. Check out my 4 Star Review NOW!!!




Type of Book: EBOOK


Length: 124 PAGES


Publisher: BOOK BOUTIQUES   

Release Date: AUGUST 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944003-49-4

Price: $ 3.99 USD
Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 

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

“In 1995, my husband and I uprooted our three children, much to their disgust, and moved them to the state of Washington. Our oldest daughter, Nicole, age 13, was convinced we’d lost our minds and ruined her life. The middle child, also a daughter Renae, age 11, was at least open to the possibility that things might be okay as long as she got her own room in the new house. The youngest, a son James, age 3, didn’t really express his feelings in full sentences, he just wanted the front seat for the drive to our new home.”

Thus begins THE JOYS OF LIFE. This first paragraph had me smiling and immediately nodding my head. Anyone who has ever had a thirteen year old child knows how dramatic everything seems to them at that age. Author Michelle Hoppe has nailed the reactions of each of the three age groups perfectly. And just like that, I was hooked.

The author states that “It is [her] hope that by sharing these stories, people will see that humor can be found in most of the oy veys life dishes out; and if not, at least you can enjoy [hers]”

The author then goes on to talk about events that have happened in her everyday life. She writes about moments with her husband, son, granddaughter, daughters and even her son-in-law.
Somehow she is able to see the humor in almost every situation, even if it is often in hindsight.

What I loved most about this book is that I can totally relate to many of the scenarios she describes. In fact, if I wasn’t 100% sure that she doesn’t know me or my husband, I would wonder if she has been spying on my life. (Not really, but many moments in her life mirror my own).

For example, while shopping for a new mattress she “… got into a conversation with [her] mother about which of the beds would be best for sex. The color of the salesman’s cheeks set off the blue of his eyes very nicely.” This made me laugh as I could easily envision the shock the salesman felt.

This book is full of more and more humorous moments. It will put a smile on the face of every reader. This is a GOOD THING. This world can definitely do with more laughter because, after all,  as the saying goes, LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE.

It is for this reason that I rate this book as 4 out of 5 Stars.

I almost forgot to mention how much I like the cover of this book. The Mom juggling a bunch of things at once is both humorous and true-to-life. Every Mom will be able to relate to the illustration by Valerie Tibbs of Tibbs Design. 

This book is set to be released on Thursday, August 25th, 2016
which is less than two weeks away. I suggest adding that date to your calendar along with a reminder to be sure to pick-up a copy of this ebook as soon as it is available for sale.



Michelle Hoppe first discovered a love of writing in a high school creative writing class and has been putting fingers to keyboard ever since. From romantic comedy and chic lit to paranormal and contemporary, her novels tend to be hot, sexy, erotic romances with a few twists and turns. She also writes poetry as well as this book which is based on her crazy life.

She lives in a quiet little town on the coast of Washington with a beautiful beach close by.

Visit the author online at any of the following links:







Valerie Tibbs is a military veteran and aspiring writer who currently works as a network administrator by day and who owns and operates Tibbs Design and Consulting. 

To learn more about Illustrator Valerie Tibbs visit her online at any of the following links: 





THE FACTS OF LIFE by Rehana Shamsi – POETRY BOOK REVIEW – 4 out of 5 Stars




Type of Book: SOFTCOVER


Length: 190 PAGES


Release Date: JUNE 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9950082-0-5

Price: $22.99 CDN

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟

I was contacted by the author’s son who asked if I would be willing to read his mother’s book of poetry and post a review of it on my blog.

With his request, he gave me a brief description of the book and the poems as well as a bit of his mother’s history.

Rehana Shamsi was born in India, but her family moved to Pakistan in 1947. The society she was born into is one where male dominance and male supremacy are a fact of life. Women have no rights. They start out life as a possession of their fathers and this “ownership” only ends when the woman is married.

However, even though their fathers no longer own them, this does not mean that they achieve freedom. No, the only difference is in who owns them – they become property of their new husband.

For those of us who grew up in Canada, this is difficult to fathom. I grew up with a family who prized education for all children – not just males.

In Rehana’s society, girls were not sent to school. “Gender disparity was the rule of society. Before marriage women were under the strict control of their fathers or elder brothers and after an arranged marriage, husbands were their absolute masters. Women were not allowed to make any decisions or leave home without their husbands’ permission.”

Luckily for her, Rehana’s family did not believe in gender inequality and Rehana was the first girl in her family to attend school. She was even afforded the same freedoms as her brothers. However, all around her she saw gender discrimination and was powerless to do anything about it. She saw young women forced into unwelcome and unwanted marriages with men often double or triple the bride’s age.

In her introduction, Rehana states “These poems focus on my relationship with my former society. I voice the nearly ineffable emotional trauma that South Asian women suffer under male sovereignty – the ignominy of extreme oppression.”

So, why did Rehana write and publish this book of poetry? She answers that question in her introduction.

“I have tried to bring these issues to the forefront and have juxtaposed some poems to make it clear that to unshackle ourselves from unfair restraints, women have to try audaciously to achieve their rightful place in society. In my writing, I want women to realize that suppression is not our destiny if we learn to stand up for ourselves.”

I sincerely hope that Rehana’s poetry reaches far and wide and that upon reading it, women (especially those currently living under the thumb of a man) recognize that they are NOT powerless and that they are not alone.

I may be a white Canadian woman of Irish descent who grew up in a middle-class household, but I care. I care about women’s rights in India, in Pakistan and elsewhere in the middle-east.

I say to those women – Look at Rehana. Read her poems. See that she understands your despair. Now, take courage from her words and do whatever you can to escape your current situation. You are not cattle. You are not a possession. You are a person worthy of happiness. You just need to reach out and grab it.

The poetry in this book is thought-provoking and full of emotion. Through her words you can feel Rehana’s passion for justice.


* Even though I already stated this fact above, by law I must mention that I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The fact that I received this book for free has no influence on the rating I chose to give it. My rating is 100% my honest opinion.

Buy this book online at:


Rehana Shamsi was born in India and grew up in Pakistan. She graduated from University of Karachi, majoring in Political Science, and Urdu Literature. She immigrated to the United States in 1995 and after studying nursing in New York, worked at Staten Island University Hospital as a clinical associate. While in New York, she studied English Literature at College of Staten Island, The City University of New York. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada.
To learn more about the author visit her on FACEBOOK