Celebrate PRIDE Month by entering a GIVEAWAY to WIN a copy of the memoir – ANY KIND OF LUCK AT ALL by LGBTQ Canadian Author Mary Fairhurst Breen

Title: ANY KIND OF LUCK AT ALL

Author: MARY FAIRHURST BREEN
https://maryfairhurstbreen.ca/

Release Date: OCTOBER 12, 2021

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS, CANADIAN NON-FICTION, DIVERSE BOOKS, LGBTQ

Number Of Pages: 193

Publisher: SECOND STORY PRESS
http://www.secondstorypress.ca

Received From: THE AUTHOR

ISBN: 978-1-77260-201-2

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

What was it like growing up as a smart girl in a world of 1970s suburban conformity?

What family secrets were hidden behind the vertical blinds and sliding glass doors, or swept under the orange shag carpets?

Is it possible to move from married mother-of-two to lesbian feminist activist without passing heartache?

In her bittersweet memoir, Mary Fairhurst Breen sketches scenes from a life darkened by four generations of mental illness and addiction.

Despite the odds, Mary’s sense of humor and willingness to practice “radical acceptance” see her through the chaos to a life full of friends, art, and the joys of being a grandmother.

Ultimately, she must face her greatest challenge of all when her daughter becomes one of the tens of thousands of people every year to die of an opioid overdose.

This is a journey of awakening and activism, and a portrait of a life to be celebrated in all its complexity.

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Watch Mary Fairhurst Breen on
The Social:

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MY REVIEW:

ary Fairhurst Breen may be a translator by trade, but she missed out on her true calling … until now. 

I believe she was always destined to be a writer, and not just any ordinary, run-of-the-mill kind of writer. Her writing has the potential to change lives for the better.

Mary’s life experiences are vast and varied. The lessons she has learned throughout her unconventional life contain wisdom that can be applied to every one of us.

The title of this memoir offers readers a clue as to exactly what kind of luck the author has had in her life. The title of her memoir is based on the saying:

If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any kind of luck at all.

What could easily have been a book filled solely with times in Mary’s life when she experienced grief and pain, is instead, filled with poignant moments and life events.

Some moments are sad, some happy, and some downright hilarious. Somehow author Mary Fairhurst Breen has hit on the perfect formula to appeal to a wide variety of readers. 

Mental illness and addiction have gripped members of Mary’s family for generations. Her most devastating loss to date is the death of her beautiful, creative, and special adult daughter Sophie to opioid poisoning.

We all like to think our generation will be the one to set old family patterns ablaze, to toss the whole damned drafting table onto the bonfire and dance around the ashes completely cleansed. But we instinctively gravitate toward the familiar, for better or worse. New research into intergenerational trauma, and the Indigenous understanding that our decisions affect the next seven generations, can at least shed light onto what’s going on in the present. We can’t eliminate the pain we are bequeathed; we can only deal with it better as time passes.”

The author could easily be forgiven for curling up into a ball of depression and spending her days in bed; but she doesn’t do any such thing. Instead, her determination and will to survive the many traumas she has endured allows her to continue living her life with “radical acceptance.” She has channeled her grief into a call for action.

Author Mary Fairhurst Breen has written a beautifully written and exquisitely honest memoir of a life that has been anything but easy. She documents her life and the moment she chose to admit what had always been inside her.

I rate ANY KIND OF LIFE AT ALL as a solid 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The fact that June is Pride Month means this is the perfect time to pick up a copy of this book. Also, don’t forget to enter to win a paperback copy on my blog and social media sites.

HOW TO ENTER TO WIN:

1. Leave a comment below to earn one entry into the giveaway.

2. Visit my Instagram page and click FOLLOW to gain a second entry.

3. Earn an additional entry by commenting on the giveaway post on my Instagram page.

Giveaway starts today

Ends on June 30th, 2022

QUOTES I LOVE:

“… I see not a wrinkly, plump, postmenopausal woman in the mirror, but rather someone fortyish, of average build. I have conceded that my breasts no longer point straight ahead, but instead indicate a spot on the floor a couple of metres in front of me, where I have perhaps dropped something important.”

“[Mary and her mother] never talked about orgasms, whereas my daughters were quite unselfconscious about discussing theirs with me. I remember my daughter Sophie cheerfully bringing up the topic of female ejaculation at breakfast one morning. She asked, ‘Which hole does the stuff come out of?’ I helpfully spurted coffee from my nose.”

“There are so many things one has to let go of past fifty, but an equal number of things one gets to let go of at the half-century mark. It is fantastically liberating to cease giving a fuck as one ages. I’ve been giving ever fewer fucks since my early forties, but why must it take so long to get to this place?”

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo by: Maggie Knaus

A translator by training, I spent thirty years in the not-for-profit sector, managing small organizations with big social change mandates. During those decades, I wrote innumerable newsletters, policy documents and outreach materials, and more grant proposals than I would care to count. After multiple lay-offs due to funding cuts, I launched my own arts business, indulging my passion for hand-making. It was a colossally enjoyable and unprofitable venture. While running the business, I supported myself with extra writing and editing jobs. Its demise gave me the time and impetus to really focus on my own artistic practice. I began with the goal of sharing my family history with my daughters, went on to publish some autobiographical stories, and wound up with my first book, Any Kind of Luck at All.

I had a father incapacitated by bipolar disorder and OCD, and a strong, smart, loving mother who died too young. I had to develop my own strategies to cope with my father’s needs, an alcoholic husband, two traumatized children, ever-worsening financial insecurity, and my shifting sexual identity. I supported my younger daughter through the debilitating mental illness that ultimately led to her death by fentanyl poisoning in 2020. Now a (young) grandmother, I want to pursue art for so many reasons: to support myself, to maintain my mental health, to help others with similar challenges, and to honour those I have lost and those I hold dear.

I am currently working on an oral history-based series of books for middle-grade readers.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 
https://maryfairhurstbreen.ca

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK 

GOOGLE BOOKS  

INSTAGRAM 

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Second Story Press is dedicated to publishing feminist-inspired books for adults and young readers.

Second Story Press is proud to have been publishing award-winning books that entertain, educate, and empower for over 30 years. 

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 
https://secondstorypress.ca s

FACEBOOK 
https://www.facebook.com/SecondStoryPress/

TWITTER 
https://twitter.com/_secondstory

INSTAGRAM 
https://www.instagram.com/_secondstory

LINKEDIN
https://www.linkedin.com/company/second-story-feminist-press

PINTEREST 
https://www.pinterest.com/secondstorypres

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Poem written for the launch of
Any Kind of Luck At All
by Everyday People Typewriter Poems

More Writing by Mary Fairhurst Breen can be found at the links below:

Mary’s article Gigging Toward My Golden Years appeared in the summer 2021 issue of This Magazine, accompanied by this wonderful illustration by Matthew Daley (shinypliers). 
https://this.org/2021/07/12/gigging-toward-my-golden-years/

My First Person essay, A Helping Hand, appeared in the Globe and Mail February 16, 2021. 
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/first-person/article-i-can-live-in-the-moment-when-my-granddaughter-takes-my-hand/

A personal radio essay called Grievous Injuries was published and aired on CBC’s The Sunday Edition on May 3, 2020.  

Mary’s autobiographical essay called Graywood Drive won an emerging writer award through Open Book, Arts Etobicoke and the Toronto Arts Council in 2018 and was published in an anthology as part of the project. 


http://open-book.ca/News/What-s-Your-Story-Read-the-Winning-Texts-of-the-2018-OBPO-Writing-Contest-Winners!-Part-One-Etobicoke

My essay called Why #IBelieveHer was published on the Ms Magazine blog in 2016. 
https://msmagazine.com/2016/04/18/why-ibelieveher

YOU STILL LOOK THE SAME by Multiple Award Winning Canadian Author FARZANA DOCTOR and Narrated by the Incomparable ULKA SIMONE MOHANTY has Finally Been Released – Sample Included With This Post

Title: YOU STILL LOOK THE SAME (Audiobook)

Title: YOU STILL LOOK THE SAME (Audiobook)

Author: FARZANA DOCTOR

Narrators: FARZANA DOCTOR and ULKA SIMONE MOHANTY

Release Date: MAY 1, 2022

Genre: POETRY, DIVERSE BOOKS, MULTICULTURAL INTEREST, CANADIAN

Length: 1 Hour and 21 Minutes

Publisher: ECW PRESS

Received From: THE AUTHOR 

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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DESCRIPTION:

A moving collection of poetry about navigating mid-life, full of humour and wit, from acclaimed novelist Farzana Doctor.

This debut poetry collection from acclaimed novelist Farzana Doctor is both an intimate deep dive and a humorous glance at the tumultuous decade of her forties.

Through crisp and vivid language, Doctor explores mid-life breakups and dating, female genital cutting, imprints of racism and misogyny, and the oddness of sex and love, and urges us to take a second look at the ways in which human relationships are never what we expect them to be.

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MY REVIEW:

FARZANA DOCTOR is a Canadian author and now poet who has won many, many literary awards. Each one was well deserved. 

I admit I am not usually a big fan of poetry. I find much of it to be pretentious, sometimes even condescending to the reader. Thus is 100% NOT the case with “You Still Look The Same.”  In fact I enjoyed listening to Farzana’s debut poetry collection immensely. 

I love the fact that Farzana chose to narrate part of her collection and choosing Ulka Simone Mohantyto narrate the rest of the poems was the perfect choice. Both narrators were easy to understand, as well as speaking clearly and concisely. This allowed the words of the poems to be the listener’s focus … as it should be.

Each haiku and other poems showcased the author’s talent for description. I believe this is because Farzana Doctor wrote fiction books first, before trying her hand at poetry.

In my opinion, one of Farzana’s greatest gifts is her ability to connect with her audience. I found this to be true with her novels, and it is even more evident in her poetry.

It is my belief that audiobook listeners, especially women, will find that Farzana’s experiences will resonate with them.

I was already a fan of Farzana Doctor’s books. With YOU STILL LOOK THE SAME I am now an even bigger fan.

If you have not yet read any of her work, you are doing yourself a disservice. I suggest you run, not walk, to your nearest Indie bookstore to pick up your copy of this collection. While you are there, do yourself a favor and pick up copies of her other books as well. You just might find that you have a new favourite author. 

I rate “You Still Look The Same” as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

*** Thank you to #FarzanaDoctor for choosing me as one of the winners of this audiobook through a #giveaway on her Instagram account. ***

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To read my review of Farzana’s book ALL INCLUSIVE. Click HERE.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

FARZANA DOCTOR was the WINNER of the NOW Magazine Best Author of 2015.

Farzana Doctor is the author of Stealing Nasreen and Six Metres of Pavement, which won the 2012 Lambda Literary Award and was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award.Farzana is one of CBC BooksTen Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now and the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Grant.

To learn more about this author visit the links below:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK 

TWITTER 

INSTAGRAM 

LIBRO FM

AUDIBLE CANADA

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https://player.vimeo.com/video/675983527?h=96df725851

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ABOUT THE NARRATOR:

Photographer: Teren Oddo

Ulka Simone Mohanty is an actor, voice actor, dancer, choreographer and occasional professional chef.

This multi-hyphenated artist is known for her voice work on Pixar‘s Oscar and Golden Globe winner Soul, Warner Bros’ Jellystone and NBC Universal‘s Nina’s World; her film and TV work on FOX‘s The Moodys, and a supporting role in the sci-fi movie, Needle in a Timestack; and her choreography work on Disney‘s Rivers of Light,  The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic, and Disney-Pixar collaboration  Up! A Great Bird Adventure.

She has also appeared as a chef on The Food Network‘s Cutthroat Kitchen and has voiced numerous video games and audiobooks.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
https://ulkamohanty.com

GOODREADS

TWITTER 

INSTAGRAM  

IMDb

VIMEO

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL
ARTICLE AND INTERVIEW

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ONE FOOT OVER THE EDGE by Shane Mutlow is A Canadian Soldier’s Personal Account of Rwandan Genocide and its aftermath. Gritty and raw … This book doesn’t pull any punches and is not for the faint-of-heart.

Title: ONE FOOT OVER THE EDGE
https://shanemutlowauthor.com

Subtitle: A CANADIAN SOLDIER’S PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF THE RWANDAN GENOCIDE

Author: SHANE MUTLOW

Release Date: AUGUST 5, 2021

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS, MILITARIA, MENTAL HEALTH, PTSD

Number Of Pages: 133

Publisher: TELLWELL PUBLISHING

Received From: THE AUTHOR

ISBN: 978-0-2288-5987-1

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

The scars we show become lighthouses for those about to hit the same rock.”
– ANONYMOUS.

The above is a quote from the screenplay written by Katelyn Wells, adapted from the book ONE FOOT OVER THE EDGE.

A true story of a young Canadian Soldier returning home from a war-torn Rwanda, after witnessing the most horrific genocide since WWII.

Corporal Shane Mutlow was held at gunpoint for two days by local forces, not knowing whether or not he would live to see another day. Labelled “whereabouts unknown” twice and held against his will while on a major operation by Rwandan government officials, Corporal Mutlow was sent off-road every day into unknown territories deep within the Rwandan jungle.

The genocide in Rwanda left Canadian troops completely unprepared for the tragedies they would be subjected to, from the suicide of a brother-in-arms on Christmas Day to returning home from his deployment to a wife and children who would never know the horrors he had endured.

Just six months spent in the midst of the Rwanda genocide would change this young soldier’s life forever.

Shane Mutlow bore witness to what the world wanted to ignore.

This is his story.

Portions of each sale of this book will be donated to Fortitude Farms, a facility which provides equine therapy for those who suffer with mental illness.

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MY REVIEW:

With the Russian invasion into the Ukraine, people are talking about war for the first time in a long time.

As such, it is perhaps the perfect time for people to read Shane Mutlow’s memoir titled; “ONE FOOT OVER THE EDGE – A CANADIAN SOLDIER’S PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF THE RWANDAN GENOCIDE.”

I believe that most Canadians take our military for granted or are unaware of the extent of their involvement in armed conflicts around the world.

One of the worst atrocities in world history was the Genocide in Rwanda. 

Canadian soldiers were sent to assist the United Nations Assistance Mission In Rwanda (UNAMIR), author Shane Mutlow was one of those soldiers.

While most of the Canadian soldiers who were sent to Rwanda spent their time in a single area of the capital city and saw little action, this was not the case for Shane Mutlow.

Unfortunately, Shane saw first hand the brutality and horror that has come to be synonymous with the Rwandan “Civil War.”

Written by a member of the military, this book offers civilians a glimpse into the fact that Canadian soldiers put not only their physical well-being on the line, they put their mental health on the line as well.

Historically, members of the military who admit weakness of any kind have been viewed as weak. This type of thinking needs to change.

It is much easier to pretend that their experiences had little or no effect than to admit to needing help. It is for this reason that it is essential that veterans write and speak honestly about their experiences. ONE FOOT OVER THE EDGE does exactly that.

The author has included several photographs which allow the reader to feel more connected to his story.

As a self-published book, it would benefit from a professional editor and proofreader, but these flaws do not take away from the impact of the story. Normally these typographical errors would be enough to drop a couple stars off of the rating I give to a book, but in this case they just add to its authenticity. It is for this reason that I chose to rate “ONE FOOT OVER THE EDGE” as 4 out of 5 Stars.      ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

**** Thank you to the author for providing me with a complimentary copy or book. ****

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Mutlow is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, where he spent time at 1 CDHSR as a radio operator, and at 3 RCR, where he served with a parachute company.

Shane has been to many different countries while serving in the military.

He was deployed on an UN tour, UNAMIR, in Rwanda, Africa, from 1994–1995, and witnessed the aftermath of the genocide caused by the civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi clans.

He has had a successful career working at an engineering firm prior to his retirement in 2014.

His story is twenty years in the making and is one that needs to be told.  

This is Shane’s first book, but it will surely give the readers an insight into the horrors and setbacks that our Canadian soldiers and veterans struggle with when they arrive home after being in a theatre of operation.

Shane continues to reside in Pembroke, ON, with his wife Justine and daughter Madison.

His two boys, Nicolas and  his daughter Addison, Zachary and his fiancée Avery live out west and frequently come to Pembroke for visits.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK 

INSTAGRAM

TELLWELL PUBLISHING BLOG

GOOGLE BOOKS

LOOKOUT NAVY NEWS ARTICLE

SMASHWORDS

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Why Self-Publish with Tellwell?

• A full-service team approach: experienced editors, designers and other experts to ensure great quality

• The highest royalties and smartest distribution model in the industry

• Step-by-step guidance so you don’t get confused or stuck

• International reach, with distribution in North America, Europe and beyond

• A caring, small company feel in contrast to a large “factory approach” to publishing

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

FACEBOOK 

TWITTER 

INSTAGRAM 

YOUTUBE

LINKEDIN

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For more information about Canadian veterans and PTSD go to the following websites.

RWANDA VETERANS OF CANADA
https://www.facebook.com/RwandaVeteranCanada

CATCH THE SPARROW- A Search for a Sister and the Truth of Her Murder by Author, Poet, and Artist RACHEL REAR – RELEASED TODAY – Buy your copy today of this 5 Star Read NOW 📚

Title: CATCH THE SPARROW

Subtitle: A Search for a Sister and the Truth of Her Murder

Author: RACHEL REAR

Release Date: TODAY

Genre: NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS

Number Of Pages: 256

Publisher: BLOOMSBURY USA

Received From: NETGALLEY

ISBN: 978-1635577235

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

The gripping story of a young woman’s murder, unsolved for over two decades, brilliantly investigated and reconstructed by her stepsister.

The photo of Stephanie that her dad
gave police in 1991.
COURTESY OF RACHEL REAR

Growing up, Rachel Rear knew the story of Stephanie Kupchynsky’s disappearance. The beautiful violinist and teacher had fled an abusive relationship on Martha’s Vineyard and made a new start for herself near Rochester, NY. She was at the height of her life-in a relationship with a man she hoped to marry and close to her students and her family. And then, one morning, she was gone.

Rachel Rear with her step-father in 2008

Around Rochester-a region which has spawned such serial killers as Arthur Shawcross and the “Double Initial” killer-Stephanie’s disappearance was just a familiar sort of news item. But Rachel had more reason than most to be haunted by this particular story of a missing woman: Rachel’s mother had married Stephanie’s father after the crime, and Rachel grew up in the shadow of her stepsister’s legacy.

A photo of Stephanie’s beloved cockatiel, Chubie.

In Catch the Sparrow, Rachel Rear writes a compulsively readable and unerringly poignant reconstruction of the case’s dark and serpentine path across more than two decades. Obsessively cataloging the crime and its costs, drawing intimately closer to the details than any journalist could, she reveals how a dysfunctional justice system laid the groundwork for Stephanie’s murder and stymied the investigation for more than twenty years, and what those hard years meant for the lives of Stephanie’s family and loved ones. Startling, unputdownable, and deeply moving.

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MY REVIEW:

CATCH THE SPARROW by author, teacher, and artist Rachel Rear is a True Crime book that is truly unique. 
I have read literally hundreds of true crime books and stories. They all follow a prescribed pattern and almost all are written by journalists. The best true crime books contain interviews and photos provided by the victim’s family. However, this book rises above the rest.

In it, Rachel Rear writes the story of the disappearance and ultimately the murder of Stephanie Kupchynsky. So, what makes this book so unique you ask. Well, Rachel Rear happens to be Stephanie Kupchynsky’s stepsister. That in itself is interesting and offers an inside look into the story. To make this book even more compelling is the fact that Rachel and Stephanie did not become stepsisters until after Stephanie had gone missing. 

In no other book have I been so enthralled. It is difficult to believe that this is Rachel Rear’s first book. CATCH THE SPARROW is researched with the meticulousness of a seasoned journalist. This research makes the book a true deep dive into the disappearance and murder. Rachel’s familial connection offers readers a view into what happens to a family who go years, and even decades without answers as to what happened to their loved one.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Whether or not you are a fan of true crime, you need to read this book.

The detail with which Rachel delves into her stepsister’s life cannot help but have readers invested in finding Stephanie’s body and in determining exactly who was responsible for taking this vibrant young woman’s life and in seeing that justice prevails.

The feeling and love that Rachel feels for her deceased stepsister comes through loud and clear in her writing.

I recommend this book with the highest possible rating. I am 100% convinced this book will be on the NY Times Best Seller List for many, many weeks.

I rate CATCH THE SPARROW as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo by Elena Mudd

Rachel Rear, a New York City public school teacher and actor, holds an MA from Columbia University and an MFA from the New School.

She has been published in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and numerous other publications, however, this is her first book.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 
http://www.rachelrear.com/

GOODREADS

SHOP LOCAL CANADA

FACEBOOK  

TWITTER 

INSTAGRAM 

LINKEDIN

AMAZON  

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Bloomsbury has a tradition of publishing literary fiction from all over the world, and a wide range of distinguished non-fiction from memoir, biography, and history to politics, science, food, and sport.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

FACEBOOK 

TWITTER 

INSTAGRAM   

CATCH THE SPARROW – A Search For A Sister and the Truth of Her Murder by RACHEL REAR releases in 8 days – A True Crime Tale Like No Other

Title: CATCH THE SPARROW

Subtitle: A Search for a Sister and the Truth of Her Murder

Author: RACHEL REAR

Release Date: FEBRUARY 1, 2022

Genre: NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS

Number Of Pages: 256

Publisher: BLOOMSBURY USA

Received From: NETGALLEY

ISBN: 978-1635577235

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

The gripping story of a young woman’s murder, unsolved for over two decades, brilliantly investigated and reconstructed by her stepsister.

The photo of Stephanie that her dad
gave police in 1991.
COURTESY OF RACHEL REAR

Growing up, Rachel Rear knew the story of Stephanie Kupchynsky’s disappearance. The beautiful violinist and teacher had fled an abusive relationship on Martha’s Vineyard and made a new start for herself near Rochester, NY. She was at the height of her life-in a relationship with a man she hoped to marry and close to her students and her family. And then, one morning, she was gone.

Rachel Rear with her step-father in 2008

Around Rochester-a region which has spawned such serial killers as Arthur Shawcross and the “Double Initial” killer-Stephanie’s disappearance was just a familiar sort of news item. But Rachel had more reason than most to be haunted by this particular story of a missing woman: Rachel’s mother had married Stephanie’s father after the crime, and Rachel grew up in the shadow of her stepsister’s legacy.

A photo of Stephanie’s beloved cockatiel, Chubie.

In Catch the Sparrow, Rachel Rear writes a compulsively readable and unerringly poignant reconstruction of the case’s dark and serpentine path across more than two decades. Obsessively cataloging the crime and its costs, drawing intimately closer to the details than any journalist could, she reveals how a dysfunctional justice system laid the groundwork for Stephanie’s murder and stymied the investigation for more than twenty years, and what those hard years meant for the lives of Stephanie’s family and loved ones. Startling, unputdownable, and deeply moving.

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

MY REVIEW:

CATCH THE SPARROW by author, teacher, and artist Rachel Rear is a True Crime book that is truly unique. 
I have read literally hundreds of true crime books and stories. They all follow a prescribed pattern and almost all are written by journalists. The best true crime books contain interviews and photos provided by the victim’s family. However, this book rises above the rest.

In it, Rachel Rear writes the story of the disappearance and ultimately the murder of Stephanie Kupchynsky. So, what makes this book so unique you ask. Well, Rachel Rear happens to be Stephanie Kupchynsky’s stepsister. That in itself is interesting and offers an inside look into the story. To make this book even more compelling is the fact that Rachel and Stephanie did not become stepsisters until after Stephanie had gone missing. 

In no other book have I been so enthralled. It is difficult to believe that this is Rachel Rear’s first book. CATCH THE SPARROW is researched with the meticulousness of a seasoned journalist. This research makes the book a true deep dive into the disappearance and murder. Rachel’s familial connection offers readers a view into what happens to a family who go years, and even decades without answers as to what happened to their loved one.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Whether or not you are a fan of true crime, you need to read this book.

The detail with which Rachel delves into her stepsister’s life cannot help but have readers invested in finding Stephanie’s body and in determining exactly who was responsible for taking this vibrant young woman’s life and in seeing that justice prevails.

The feeling and love that Rachel feels for her deceased stepsister comes through loud and clear in her writing.

I recommend this book with the highest possible rating. I am 100% convinced this book will be on the NY Times Best Seller List for many, many weeks.

I rate CATCH THE SPARROW as 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo by Elena Mudd

Rachel Rear, a New York City public school teacher and actor, holds an MA from Columbia University and an MFA from the New School.

She has been published in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and numerous other publications, however, this is her first book.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 
http://www.rachelrear.com/

GOODREADS

SHOP LOCAL CANADA

FACEBOOK  

TWITTER 

INSTAGRAM 

LINKEDIN

AMAZON  

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Bloomsbury has a tradition of publishing literary fiction from all over the world, and a wide range of distinguished non-fiction from memoir, biography, and history to politics, science, food, and sport.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

FACEBOOK 

TWITTER 

INSTAGRAM   

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

Title: UNSILENCED

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

Author: HOWARD C. SHANE   

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

Length: 254 PAGES

Publisher: BROOKES PUBLISHING

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: NOVEMBER 1, 2021

ISBN: 9781681255156

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

DESCRIPTION:

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

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

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

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MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

From: AsylumProjects.org

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

WIKIPEDIA

BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

AMAZON

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

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

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

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

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

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PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE BELCHERTOWN STATE SCHOOL:

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

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

INFORMATION ON THE BELCHERTOWN STATE SCHOOL

From: The ATLAS OBSCURA WEBSITE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK: THE BOYS AND GIRLS OF BELCHERTOWN by Robert Hornick

HORSEPLAY – True Crime Memoir – Heroin in the 80s in Vancouver written by the undercover operator who lived it every day. A Fantastic Read and a Must Read for True Crime fans

Title: HORSEPLAY
www.horseplaythebook.com

Subtitle: MY TIME UNDERCOVER ON THE GRANVILLE STRIP

Author: NORM BOUCHER

Genre: NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME, MEMOIR, ADDICTION, HEROIN, UNDERCOVER POLICE WORK   

Length: 272 PAGES

Publisher: NEWEST PRESS

Received From: THE AUTHOR

Release Date: NOVEMBER 2020

ISBN: 978-1-988732-98-5

Price: $21.95 CDN / $17.95 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

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.

MY REVIEW:

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:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
www.horseplaythebook.com

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM – AUTHOR

INSTAGRAM – PUBLISHER

TWITTER

LINKEDIN

iBOOKS 

AMAZON 

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

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“Where Is My Happy Ending?” is a newly released follow up to Karen Harmon’s first book. This is a 5 Star read and the perfect, uplifting book to read in these uncertain times.

Title: WHERE IS MY HAPPY ENDING?  

Subtitle: A JOURNEY OF NO REGRETS 

Author: KAREN HARMON

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS, HISTORY, CANADIANA

Length: 365 PAGES

Publisher: TELLWELL PUBLISHING

Received From: THE AUTHOR

Release Date: JULY 2020

ISBN: 978-0-2288-2948-5 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-2288-2949-2 (Softcover)
ISBN: 978-0–2288-2947-8 (EBook)

Price: $23.00 CDN (Hardcover)
Price: $18.00 CDN (Softcover)
Price: $8.99 CDN (EBook)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

On her mother’s urging to go on and have a big, beautiful, and adventurous life, Karen leaves her home in the country at the tender age of seventeen. Abandoning her family, her horse, and her teenage dreams, she embraces life in the big city of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Looking for love in all the wrong places while maneuvering through dead-end jobs, the night club scene, and a slew of unsavory characters, Karen finds herself perpetually searching for Mr. Right. Lacking direction in a lifestyle that involves drugs, alcohol, and the wrong men, Karen wonders when her knight in shining armour will arrive.

Where Is My Happy Ending? is a true story about a girl who enters adulthood after having been raised in a home plagued by mental illness.

Left to her own devices, Karen stumbles through the highs and lows, tragedies and turmoils of the 1970s disco scene, ’80s era of modern love, and into the 1990s, not sure how she got there or how to get out.

Karen’s wit, storytelling abilities, and simplicity in looking at life will keep you engaged from start to finish, with an evident reminder—it’s not what the world can bring to you, it’s what you can bring to the world.

MY REVIEW:

According to the author, this book was inspired by the Me Too Movement. She says that: “It dawned on me that every woman I know has had some situations, some unsavory characters in their life, and it felt right to share mine.”

Karen left home at the age of seventeen. She moved from a rural property where she had her own horse and moved to Vancouver – the big city. It was the era of disco and Karen embraced the freedom that came with life in the 1970s.

She had her share of crappy jobs and crappier boyfriends and shares her experiences with her readers.

In addition to telling of her own exploits, she seamlessly integrates the trends of the era and her detailed descriptions of the music of the day and the backdrop of historically significant events allows the reader to connect deeply with the story.

There were several times when I actually laughed out loud and ended up reading certain sections to my husband to explain my outbursts. He ended up laughing along with me.

This may be a personal memoir, but Karen is all of us, women (at least those who were born in the 60s and 70s.)

Karen was correct when she mentioned that every woman experiences scary, or at the very least, unsettling situations. I know that I have a few stories that would terrify those who love me if they knew about them.

The author’s ability to paint a picture with words is such that many other authors should be jealous of. For example, when visiting friends of her boyfriend in the resort town of Canmore, Alberta, she describes the scene with vivid clarity. I was easily able to picture the setting in my mind.

Kevin and Patsy were the caretakers for a resort that consisted of ten small cabins, keeping within the Rocky Mountain Alpine theme. The cottages looked like images in a children’s storybook; gingerbread houses that were missing the decorations of gumdrops, candy canes and Smarties. Dark brown miniature log homes, with scalloped white trim and matching window boxes, now void of flowers, were piled with snow to the bottom of the window ledges. These cozy rental dwellings all had chimneys puffing out smoke from the stone fireplaces within.”

Can you see this idyllic setting in your mind’s eye? I know I can.

In the end, although there are some not so wonderful things that Karen experiences, the overall feeling and theme of this book is HOPE.

The author’s message to readers is to “Never give up and never stop believing in yourself.” All of us could use this advice from time to time.

This true story is very much worth reading and I will be patiently awaiting the next book in her series of memoirs. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long.

I rate WHERE IS MY HAPPY ENDING? as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and because author Karen Harmon is Canadian, I rate this book as 5 OUT OF 5 Canadian Flags

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karen Harmon is an author born in North Vancouver, British Columbia, where she resides today.

Educated and employed as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant for the School District of West Vancouver, Karen can also be found teaching a variety of exercise classes as a BCRPA fitness instructor in both North and West Vancouver. Karen takes health, family and fitness seriously but can find humour in almost any situation.

As a mother of three adult children Jessica, Emma and Mackenzie, Karen shares her co-parenting with her husband Paul of twenty-three years.

Karen is passionate about reaching out to the marginalized people in
her community through health and fitness. Her main hobby has been cycling with her “bike trip friends” yearly since 1993 all over British Columbia and parts of the United States.

On social media, Karen has over 8,000 followers and has travelled to Belgium, Germany, Holland, Paris, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia to host events and speak to her many supporters.

She offers an
inspirational message of hope and how to find a successful balance
with family, friends, education, work and play.

Karen is currently accepting invitations for speaking engagements and writing festivals.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

AMAZON  

LINKEDIN

CHAPTERS / INDIGO BOOKS

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

https://www.doogood.online/karen-harmon?fbclid=IwAR15x8L7oBCJ86-ZQFZfGXjaQc2JvB6Nh7514MVxs-z3begUgunlDHH-kXo

LOOKING FOR NORMAL by Award Winning Canadian Author KAREN HARMON is available NOW. This memoir will touch your heart and will stay with you long after the final page

Title: LOOKING FOR NORMAL  

Author: KAREN HARMON  

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS, HISTORY, CANADIANA

Length: 268 PAGES

Publisher: TELLWELL PUBLISHING

Received From: THE AUTHOR

Release Date: 2018

ISBN: 978-0228802532 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0228802525 (Softcover)

Price: $23.00 CDN (Hardcover)
Price: $18.00 CDN (Softcover)

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

DESCRIPTION:

It’s been said that we cannot choose our family members, but what do you do when the drama they bring becomes more than you want to deal with?

You hop on the train that will take you to the land of promise, an alluring place across the mountains, called British Columbia.

LOOKING FOR NORMAL is the account of two people, each struggling to leave the desperate and dysfunctional circumstances of their  lives, to establish themselves in a completely different environment and a new location.

This is a sometimes humorous, sometimes sobering, yet always intriguing true story of family drama, and love found in the midst of heartache, addiction, and mental illness.

It takes readers through the Depression Era of the 1930s, on through the War and Post-War years of the 1940s and ’50s, to the Free Love of the 1960s and ’70s.

Against all odds, Vincent and Frances find each other in the land of promise, and begin the adventure of creating a new, better family experience:  one filled with laughter, hope, and undying love.

They discover that family is not far behind, and through each new episode of dysfunction, they create a lasting legacy of strength, hope, and love within their own children.

This is a heartwarming true story that encourages readers to look on the lighter side of life, to enjoy all that life brings, and to treasure family regardless of what struggles may come.

MY REVIEW:

I have had the benefit of “talking” to the author and she informed me that the original idea behind this book was to create a book that detailed her parent’s lives so her children would be able to feel like they knew them. It is a wonderful idea and I love that Karen decided two things:

1. To not sugarcoat her telling of the lives of her parents,
and
2. To share their story with the world.

Too often when telling others about our parents, or even those who came before them, we edit out the warts of their lives. It is human nature to want people to like us, and somehow that seems to extend to our ancestors as well. No one wants to admit that the blood that flows through our veins or that the DNA in our makeup has any taint to it at all. But, humans are never completely good, or completely bad. And, just because our ancestor did something or had an illness, does not mean that we have the same illness or even the same tendencies.

In LOOKING FOR NORMAL, we learn that Karen’s Grandparents and parents were not perfect (whose were?) We also learn that her parents were determined to create better lives for themselves and to break the family cycle of unhappiness.

The story begins with the following:

“Frances hated her mother. She was taught by the nuns that it was not “Biblical” to hate. So, she decided to leave her mother and the Catholic Church in one fell swoop. Both forces in her life had deceived and criticized her. In Frances’s eyes, both were hypocritical.”

Now, if reading that short paragraph does not entice you to want to read more, well then, you must not have an inquisitive bone in your body. For me, that very first paragraph had we wanting to know more.

Why does Frances hate her mother? What would make someone go to the extreme of saying they hated their mother? What terrible thing or things had she done to Frances? And, why did she hate the church? What had they done to be hypocritical? What did they criticize her about?

So, on I read and what I discovered was a compelling tale which began with Frances (the author’s mother) at the train station in 1941 waiting to catch a train to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

“Frances took one last look at her family. Standing on the platform with them, she felt adventurous and defiant, with no fear of the unknown as she bravely embarked on this journey towards her future… She was physically and mentally abandoning this town, her family, and all the narrow-minded, crazy people in it.”

The courage to pick up and move to a city she had never seen, and to do it as a woman alone, was almost unheard of in 1941. That she did this at a time in history when women were viewed as property of their fathers or husbands, says multitudes about her character and fierce determination.

I do not want to give away too much of the story, so suffice it to say that every reader who picks up this book will be rooting for Frances to find love and understanding.

In addition to being a fascinating story, LOOKING FOR NORMAL also transports readers into the past. This book allows us to glimpse what life was like for ordinary people during the last few generations. It is a true gift to read a true story such as this which is set not in the United States, but right here in Canada.

I enjoyed this book immensely and was thrilled to have the next book in the “series” already on hand so that I could continue to follow the history of the author.

I rate LOOKING FOR NORMAL as 5 out of 5 Enthusiastic Stars.

I will be posting my review of the second book – WHERE IS MY HAPPY ENDING? in the next day or two.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karen Harmon is an author born in North Vancouver, British Columbia, where she resides today.

Educated and employed as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant for the School District of West Vancouver, Karen can also be found teaching a variety of exercise classes as a BCRPA fitness instructor in both North and West Vancouver. Karen takes health, family and fitness seriously but can find humour in almost any situation.

As a mother of three adult children Jessica, Emma and Mackenzie, Karen shares her co-parenting with her husband Paul of twenty-three years.

Karen is passionate about reaching out to the marginalized people in
her community through health and fitness. Her main hobby has been cycling with her “bike trip friends” yearly since 1993 all over British Columbia and parts of the United States.

On social media, Karen has over 8,000 followers and has travelled to Belgium, Germany, Holland, Paris, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia to host events and speak to her many supporters.

She offers an
inspirational message of hope and how to find a successful balance
with family, friends, education, work and play.

Karen is currently accepting invitations for speaking engagements and writing festivals.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

AMAZON  

LINKEDIN

CHAPTERS / INDIGO BOOKS

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

https://www.doogood.online/karen-harmon?fbclid=IwAR15x8L7oBCJ86-ZQFZfGXjaQc2JvB6Nh7514MVxs-z3begUgunlDHH-kXo

CLARKSTON’S CURSE – One Child’s Quest to Make Sense of the Tragedies in Her Hometown by Ann Margaret Johns is now available. You will be shocked by how many tragedies happened in this small town. This true story will shock and amaze

Title: CLARKSTON’S CURSE

Subtitle: ONE CHILD’S QUEST TO EXPLAIN THE SERIES OF TRAGEDIES IN HER HOMETOWN

Author: ANN MARGARET JOHNS

Genre: NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS

Length: 236 PAGES

Publisher: BOOKS GO SOCIAL

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: 2017

ISBN: 9780999345702

Price: $14.99 USD (Paperback)

Rating: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Based on actual events, Clarkston’s Curse is the compelling true story of a child growing up in a small town plagued by tragedy.

Fleeing the violence and uncertainty of Detroit and big city living, Ann Margaret’s family moved to Clarkston, Michigan, population 1,024. But this sleepy town has a dark side.

Between 1969 and 1982, more than forty unexplained accidents and incomprehensible murders struck residents of this rural community.

A true story of mystery, murder, family, and friendship, Clarkston’s Curse is a first-hand account of what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 70s in a small town where tragedy struck with unsettling frequency. More than forty families are forever changed, and thirty people – young and old – didn’t survive to tell their tale. Ann did.

MY REVIEW:

Memoir author Ann Margaret Johns grew up in the small community of Clarkston, Michigan. This quaint town, had just over one-thousand residents at the time.  

This idyllic setting should have been the epitome of the perfect place to experience an all-American country childhood. However, although her childhood was filled with such activities as tobogganing and skating on the local pond, it was also the setting in which she began to believe that her town was cursed due to the almost unbelievable number of tragedies and deaths that took place.

The town of Clarkston certainly had a dark side…

People kept dying in strange ways and in large numbers.  What do I mean by this? Well, here is one example:

The Standring’s were hosting a party in their home that spring. Eric Standring, a sophomore at Clarkston High School, accompanied family friend Paul Lammonds from the party to Paul’s home to fetch a guitar. Two hours later, Eric returned covered in blood and incoherent. Deputies found Paul Lammonds’ body in his home. He’d been beaten to death. Eric had never been in trouble before that night, at least that’s what I heard. No one knew what came over the boy to make him do what he did. Paul’s early, tragic, and unexplained death was the first of many to come in our idyllic small town.”

Other deaths were determined to be accidental, but even these were strange and unusual. There were a couple separate deaths of men working on their cars and ending up crushed beneath them. There were even instances of children being dropped off on doorsteps and raised by the family inside, despite not knowing where the child had come from. There were multiple drownings and an incredible number of car accidents – many of which were almost too weird to be believable.

The author does list all her sources in the back of the book. I also looked up some of the cases online and was able to find newspaper reports that validated her claims.

“Over a 12-year period from 1970 to 1982, this village of 1,300 witnessed 11 different murders – NOT including the notorious serial killer who visited their small town as well.”

“In addition to the murders, Clarkston experienced another 30 unexplained and accidental deaths, from car wrecks to drownings, from freak accidents to plane crashes.”

Fascinating, unusual, unlikely, improbable, yet all true. If you enjoy real life mysteries and true crime, you will not want to miss this book.

As for the rating of this book, I have to admit that I am conflicted. The subject matter is compelling and my interest was piqued early and the level never waned, but, it is exceedingly obvious that this was written by an amateur author and is in need of a professional editor. I found several typos throughout the book. It is for this reason that I am rating CLARKSTON’S CURSE as 3 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐ 

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ann Margaret Johns is a fourth generation Irish immigrant, passionate writer, and CPA by trade who, in spite of the tragedies she witnessed, still lives in Clarkston, Michigan. These days, you can often find Ann and other characters from Clarkston’s Curse sharing stories and a bottle of wine in one of Clarkston’s quaint restaurants.

Ann is currently working on a series of children’s books and memory care books for seniors.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
http://www.annmargaretjohns.com

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INSTAGRAM

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