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

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

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

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

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PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE BELCHERTOWN STATE SCHOOL:

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

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

INFORMATION ON THE BELCHERTOWN STATE SCHOOL

From: The ATLAS OBSCURA WEBSITE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK: THE BOYS AND GIRLS OF BELCHERTOWN by Robert Hornick

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

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

AMAZON  

NON-FICTION WRITERS ASSOC. 

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

Title: HE CAME IN WITH IT

Subtitle: A Portrait of Motherhood and Madness

Author: MIRIAM FELDMAN

Narrator: ANN RICHARDSON

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

Length: 11 HOURS and 4 MINUTES

Publisher: DREAMSCAPE MEDIA

Type of Book: AUDIOBOOK

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: JULY 21, 2020

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

DESCRIPTION:

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

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

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

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

Photograph from Miriam Feldman’s Facebook Page

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

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

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

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

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

One of Miriam’s paintings

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

MY REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Miriam Feldman

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

Miriam and her husband Craig

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

Nick

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

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

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

From the author’s Facebook page

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

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

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

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

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

AUDIBLE

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

INSTAGRAM – TURNER PUBLISHING

TWITTER

AMAZON    

Narrator Ann Richardson

ABOUT THE NARRATOR:

Overview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

LINKEDIN 

AUDIBLE 

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER 

AMAZON

Ok

WHAT IS NAMI?

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

WHAT IS SCHIZOPHRENIA?

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

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

Symptoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

Causes

Research suggests that schizophrenia may have several possible causes:

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

Diagnosis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treatment

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

Related Conditions

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

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

FIND THE HELPERS:What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope is AVAILABLE NOW!!! Fred Guttenberg lost his daughter Jaime to a school shooter – this is his story.

Title: FIND THE HELPERS  

Subtitle: What 9/11 and Parkland Taught Me About Recovery, Purpose, and Hope

Author: FRED GUTTENBERG

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS, SELF-HELP

Length: 198 PAGES

Publisher: MANGO PUBLISHING

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 15, 2020

ISBN: 9781642505351 (Hardcover)

Price: $19.95 USD (Hardcover)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

FIND THE HELPERS tells the story of Fred Guttenberg’s journey since his daughter Jaime’s death and how he has been able to get through the worst of times thanks to the kindness and compassion of others. Good things happen to good people at the hands of other good people─and the world is filled with them.

They include everyone from amazing gun violence survivors Fred has met around the country to former VP Joe Biden, who spent time talking to him about finding mission and purpose in learning to grieve.

https://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=53148682

https://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=61068732

MY REVIEW:

FIND THE HELPERS is a book that never should have had to be written. What I mean is that Fred Guttenberg should never have had to lose his daughter in a “school shooting.” His daughter, Jaime, should be at home right now thinking about her life goals, competing in dance competitions, and giggling with her friends over boys. Instead, she has been dead for the past two years and her family is grieving the loss of a vibrant, intelligent, and caring young woman.

Gun violence and mass shootings have become commonplace in the United States and that is the horrific truth.

After losing his daughter in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, grief-stricken father Fred Guttenberg dedicated himself to fighting against gun violence in America. He did not want any other family to have to lose a loved one to gun violence.

This book does talk about the shooting and it’s aftermath, and does talk about the epidemic of gun violence in America today. However, FIND THE HELPERS is more about the people he has met and who have appeared in his life at the exact moment he needed someone.

“This book is not about gun safety or what happened at Parkland. Instead, [the Author] share[s] the story of the journey [he has] been on since Jaime’s death and how [he’s] been able to get through the worst of times thanks to the love and kindness of others.” Fred Guttenberg states that his book: “…focuses on when good things happen to good people at the hands of other good people.” He states that “To fight, you have to have hope. And this book is about nourishing the soul so that you have the stamina to fight. This book is meant to be a beacon of love and hope and compassion.”

The stories he relates in FINDING THE HELPERS all speak of the people he has met since his daughter’s death and how each of those people have been “helpers” to him and to his fight against gun violence.

“Guns don’t discriminate; bullets don’t discriminate. When they hit you, they do not know if you are a Republican or a Democrat. They do not know if you are for or against gun safety. They don’t know if you are black or white. When they hit you, all that you know is that they are likely to kill you.”

“We do have a real crisis in this country, a real emergency. In the United States of America, over 40,000 people now die every year from gun violence. That is a higher rate of death than from traffic accidents.”

The two quotes I included above are, to my mind, very telling. Now, just to make it clear, I am a Canadian, not an American. Being Canadian means I grew up in a country where gun violence happens, but nowhere near as often as it does in the United States. Fred Guttenberg asks a question in his book that I, and millions of others, would love to have answered. Fred asks: “Why doesn’t President Trump consider 40,000 people dying a national emergency?” The author also writes: “It is sad to realize that if all gun violence were only committed by illegal aliens, this President would be working overtime to do something about it.” I believe that to be true.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, invited Fred to the 2019 State of the Union address, and once again invited Fred Guttenberg to be her guest at the 2020 State of the Union address. He was hopeful, but knew it was unlikely, that the President might address the gun violence issue during his speech. Fred Guttenberg was right to be skeptical. During the speech, Fred’s emotions got the better of him when Trump’s only reference to violence against American citizens was once again blamed on illegal immigrants. “He was blaming violence on them, and that was inaccurate.” When Trump announced that he would protect the second amendment, and Republicans in the audience jumped up and cheered, “… [Fred] lost it. [He] had been quiet all night, but at that, [he] stood up and yelled back, saying only nine words: ‘What about victims of gun violence like my daughter?’ Within seconds, [he] was confronted by security… [His] outburst got [him] handcuffed and detained by the Capitol Police.” He was detained and questioned, but was ultimately released (but not until Trump’s speech had concluded) when Speaker Pelosi intervened on his behalf. These events made national and international news. I say, GOOD FOR HIM. Someone needed to say something to the current President who seems to care only about violence caused by illegal immigrants and ignores the epidemic of gun violence that is prevalent in U.S. society.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Fred Guttenberg, his family, and his mission to stop other parents from having to bury their children due to some 郎 with a gun.

I am rating FIND THE HELPERS as 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My only semi-negative comment is that the title can be misconstrued and I hope that people will look past that and will run out and buy this book. In fact, Christmas is coming soon and this book (along with a t-shirt and orange enamel pin from the ORANGE RIBBONS FOR JAIME charity) would make a fabulous gift for every parent, first responder, and educator on your shopping list.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Photographer: Julia Brownley

Fred Guttenberg began his public life after the murder of his beautiful 14-year-old daughter Jaime in the Parkland school shooting on Feb 14th.  The day after the murder, Fred decided to attend a public vigil in Parkland. While there, the Mayor asked him to speak. His words shook a nation and he has not stopped since.

Only four months prior to the murder of his daughter, Fred’s brother Michael passed away in October 2017 from cancer related to his service in 9/11. He was one of the original first responders at the WTC with a team of doctors who got trapped in the WTC as it collapsed. Amazingly, the room that they hid out in did not collapse and Michael and his team of physicians spent 16 days at ground zero taking care of others.

Following his involvement in these two distinctly American Tragedies, Fred has traveled the country talking about both events but also talking about perspective, perseverance, and resilience. He discusses pivotal moments in our life and how we respond to those moments. Fred uses his speech to inspire others.

Prior to these vents, Fred Guttenberg’s professional life included over a decade of experience in sales and management with Johnson and Johnson, followed by almost 15 years as an entrepreneur, having built a business that consisted of 19 Dunkin Donuts, which he sold in November 2016.

Fred and his wife Jennifer now spend time challenging our elected officials to do more. They began a nonprofit organization dedicated to Jaime’s life called “Orange Ribbons for Jaime.” He has been a regular on TV news programs and myriad of online and print media. Through the formation of the non-profit, this is now his full-time mission.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE  

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

AMAZON

WIKIPEDIA

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

ABOUT ORANGE RIBBONS FOR JAIME:

On February 14th, 2018 our 14-year-old daughter Jaime Guttenberg, along with 16 other victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were tragically murdered by a troubled former student.

Orange Ribbons For Jaime will honor our daughter by supporting programs that were important to her, as well as those dedicated to pursuing common sense gun safety reforms.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

INSTAGRAM

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

THE MOURNING REPORT by Caitlin Garvey is the most raw and honest book I have ever read about grieving the loss of someone you love to the ravages of cancer. 5 Stars and every one of them earned through tears – both the author’s and my own. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Title: THE MOURNING REPORT

Author: CAITLIN GARVEY

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS, MENTAL HEALTH, GRIEF

Length: 168 PAGES

Publisher: HOMEBOUND PUBLICATIONS 

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: OCTOBER 6, 2020

ISBN: 9781947003835

Price: $15.95 USD

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

Two years after her mother’s death from breast cancer, Caitlin, then 20 years old, was admitted to a psychiatric facility after a suicide attempt. In the wake of this enormous loss, Caitlin questions her religion, comes to terms with her sexuality, and searches for a way to live with severe depression and anxiety.

Years later, unable to come to terms with her mother’s death, Caitlin decides to embark on a “grief journey,” interviewing the people involved in her mother’s dying process: a hospice nurse, a priest, an estate planner, a hairstylist, and a funeral director. If she figures out how they can function after being so close to her mother’s death, then maybe she can learn how to navigate her own life. Each chapter of The Mourning Report is centered on each interview and the memories, anxieties, and reflections that is stimulated. It asks what it means to “move on.”

MY REVIEW:

*** TRIGGER WARNING ***

This book contains talk of depression, grief, a suicide attempt and suicidal ideation. If any of these topics are triggers for you, I suggest you either skip this book, or proceed with caution.

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

“I’m scared to live, and I envy those who aren’t…”

Caitlin Garvey lost her mother to Breast Cancer when Caitlin was only twenty years old. Unable to find her way through her grief, she attempted suicide and ended up in a locked psychiatric facility.

Caitlin was depressed and her anxiety levels were off the chart. Her time in the hospital was helpful, but even after she was released, she was still suicidal.

“[She] began this book out of desperation to feel unbound, to feel a comfort that could allow [her] to move forward in [her] life. [She] wanted to revisit [her] memories of the few days before and after [her] Momma died, the moments when [Caitlin] felt the smallest and the most detached from the world. [She] hoped that [she] could pick up the pieces of [herself] that [she] left behind. [Caitlin] hoped to feel whole, not fragmented, and that [she] could remember more of [her] Momma and get a fuller version of her story.”

“[Caitlin] interviewed five people, all of whom were a part of [her] Momma’s dying process:”


Those five people were:

1. Her mother’s hairstylist who was also her close friend. In fact, it was this woman who styled her mother’s hair for the wake.

2. The family priest

3. A nurse/administrator at Heartland Hospice Care

4. The author’s parent’s estate planner AND

5. An embalmer/funeral director

“[She] thought that if [she] could figure out how these five people functioned after being so close to death, [she] could better navigate [her] own life. [She] hoped they could give [her] some guidance.”

Each chapter focuses on the interviews between Caitlin and the person she was interviewing. Each time, she discovered more, not only about her mother, but about herself as well. Personally, I found these conversations both fascinating and insightful.

THE MOURNING REPORT is probably the most raw and honest grief/depression memoir I have ever read. Caitlin does not shy away from the truth and admits that “[She was] mad at myself for wanting to die when all [her] Momma wanted to do was live.”

Caitlin’s honesty and integrity left me with a feeling of having peeked inside her psyche and having gone along on her journey of healing.

There is just no rating other than 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ that would be truthful. In fact, I plan to go back and read THE MOURNING REPORT again in a few weeks.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever lost someone close to them. As well, anyone who has an interest in mental health, depression and suicide prevention should be sure to read The Mourning Report.

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

QUOTES:

“I wished to trade bodies with her so that I could swallow her sickness, and she could be healthy and take care of me.”

“Since 2010, I’ve tried 13 different medications, a mix of anti-depressants, antipsychotics, anti-anxieties, and ADHD medications. I’ve had five different therapists. Still I feel trapped in my body and trapped by a brain that constantly tells me I’m not good enough, or significant enough.”

“I feel dead, but I can still hear my heartbeat.”

“I stare at the people in the cars next to me, and I wonder how it feels to be them, and I wonder how freeing it must feel to be able to drive to work without considering crashing the car.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Caitlin Garvey is a writer and English professor in Chicago.

She has an MFA in creative writing from Northwestern University.

Her work has been published in Post Road Magazine, JuxtaProse Magazine, Apeiron Review, The Baltimore Review, The Tishman Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and others.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

THE BALTIMORE REVIEW

GOODREADS

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM – AUTHOR

INSTAGRAM – PUBLISHER

TWITTER

GOOGLE BOOKS

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CHAPTERS

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THE COLD VANISH: Seeking The Missing In North America’s Wildlands goes on sale TODAY. A fascinating look into an issue that seems to be largely ignored.

Title: THE COLD VANISH

Subtitle: Seeking the Missing in North America’s Wildlands

Author: JON BILLMAN

Genre: NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME

Length: 368 PAGES

Publisher: GRAND CENTRAL PUBLISHING – A DIVISION OF HACHETTE

Received From: NETGALLEY

Release Date: JULY 7, 2020

ISBN: 9781538747568 (eBook)

Price: $14.99 USD (eBook)

Rating: 3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jacob Gray’s bicycle and trailer were discovered close to a trail in Olympia National Park

DESCRIPTION:

For readers of Jon Krakauer and Douglas Preston, the critically acclaimed author and journalist Jon Billman’s fascinating, in-depth look at people who vanish in the wilderness without a trace and those eccentric, determined characters who try to find them.

These are the stories that defy conventional logic. The proverbial vanished without a trace incidences, which happen a lot more (and a lot closer to your backyard) than almost anyone thinks. These are the missing whose situations are the hardest on loved ones left behind. The cases that are an embarrassment for park superintendents, rangers and law enforcement charged with Search & Rescue. The ones that baffle the volunteers who comb the mountains, woods and badlands. The stories that should give you pause every time you venture outdoors.

Through Jacob Gray’s disappearance in Olympic National Park, and his father Randy Gray who left his life to search for him, we will learn about what happens when someone goes missing. Braided around the core will be the stories of the characters who fill the vacuum created by a vanished human being. We’ll meet eccentric bloodhound-handler Duff and R.C., his flagship purebred, who began trailing with the family dog after his brother vanished in the San Gabriel Mountains. And there’s Michael Neiger North America’s foremost backcountry Search & Rescue expert and self-described “bushman” obsessed with missing persons. And top researcher of persons missing on public wildlands Ex-San Jose, California detective David Paulides who is also one of the world’s foremost Bigfoot researchers.

It’s a tricky thing to write about missing persons because the story is the absence of someone. A void. The person at the heart of the story is thinner than a smoke ring, invisible as someone else’s memory. The bones you dig up are most often metaphorical. While much of the book will embrace memory and faulty memory — history — The Cold Vanish is at its core a story of now and tomorrow. Someone will vanish in the wild tomorrow. These are the people who will go looking.

Jacob Gray

MY REVIEW:

This book is unique. It is part memoir, part dissertation on the numbers of missing people who have “cold vanished.”

Exactly what is a cold vanish?”

A cold vanish is when a person goes missing, usually in the wild, leaving no clues. These people are often never found, and those who are found, are most often not found alive, and are usually discovered accidentally by other wilderness visitors, not by those who have searched for them.

“If you Google “missing person” and the name of your nearest national park or national forest, you will find clusters of the disappeared.”

The National Institute of

Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice, calls missing persons (and unidentified remains) ‘the nation’s silent mass disaster.’ They estimate that on any given day there are between 80,000 and 90,000 people actively listed with law enforcement as missing.

The Department of the Interior knows how many wolves and grizzly bears roam its wilds, but has a hard time keeping track of visitors who disappear. The Department of Justice keeps a database, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, NamUS, but reporting missing persons is voluntary in all but ten states, and law enforcement and coroner participation is voluntary as well. So a lot of the missing are also missing from the database.”

THE COLD VANISH is required reading for those of us who are fascinated by true crime and for those who follow such podcasts as “Missing,” and “The Vanished.

According to NamUS, more than 600,000 persons go missing in the United States each year; thankfully, many of these are quickly found alive. Sixty percent of the missing are male, 40 percent are female. The average age for a missing person is thirty-four.”

Those statistics surprised me. I knew that many people go missing, but 600,000 in a single year? That is a staggeringly high number. With budgetary constraints and other logistical issues, it proves that those who volunteer their time and resources to locating the lost are an invaluable resource for the families of those who have cold vanished.

Jacob Gray went missing in Olympia National Park in April of 2018. His father put all other obligations aside and spent innumerable hours, days, weeks and months searching for his son. The author was able to tag along on his search and this is the story around which this book is designed. More than just a reporter, it became clear as the search dragged on without resolution, that Randy Gray (Jacob’s Dad) and author Jon Billman became friends.

Although the author occasionally goes off a bit of a tangent, all in all, the story is well-written and has certainly opened my eyes to the issue of people missing in the wilds of North America. I am thrilled that the Author has chosen to donate 20% of all author royalties to the Jon Francis Foundation.

I rate THE COLD VANISH as 3.5 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Billman is a former wildland firefighter and high school teacher. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Eastern Washington University. He’s the author of the story collection When We Were Wolves (Random House, 1999).

Billman is a regular contributor to Outside and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, and Zoetrope: All-Story.

He teaches fiction and journalism at Northern Michigan University in the Upper Peninsula, where he lives with his family in a log cabin along the Chocolay River.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

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AUDIBLE  

CHAPTERS

PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

………

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, reaches a diverse audience through hardcover, trade paperback and mass market imprints that cater to every kind of reader.

Our imprints are Twelve, Grand Central Life & Style, Forever and Forever Yours. Our authors include Nicholas Sparks, David Baldacci, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robin Roberts, Sandra Brown, Brad Meltzer, Preston & Child, Nelson DeMille, Mario Batali, Jodi Ellen Malpas, Seth Grahame-Smith, Candace Bushnell, and many more.

To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
http://www.grandcentralpublishing.com

TWITTER

FACEBOOK

PINTEREST

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES THAT WERE MENTIONED IN THE BOOK:

“In 2011, [David] Paulides launched the CanAm Missing Project, which catalogs cases of people who disappear – or are found – on wildlands across North America under what he calls mysterious circumstances.”
David Paulides, an ex-cop from San Jose, California, is the founder of the North America Bigfoot Search (NABS), established in 2004.
National Outdoor Leadership School
The Jon Francis Foundation is a Minnesota based nonprofit that helps families with loved ones missing on public lands.
Another title by Jon Billman

END OF THE ROPE: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood by Acclaimed Canadian Mountain Climber and Author JAN REDFORD is available now. This memoir will make you laugh out loud, as well as cry your heart out. This is one Canadian book that shouldn’t be missed. 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ END OF THE ROPE is the story of her struggle to make her own way in the mountains and in life; to lead, not follow.

The blue book cover is the Canadian cover. The other cover is the United States book cover.

Title: END OF THE ROPE

Subtitle: MOUNTAINS, MARRIAGE AND MOTHERHOOD

Author:  JAN REDFORD

Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHIES AND MEMOIRS, CANADA, CANADIAN NON-FICTION, MOUNTAIN CLIMBING, FAMILY DYSFUNCTION 

Length: 400 PAGES

Publisher: PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE CANADA

Release Date: APRIL 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-345-8231-5

Price: $32.00 CDN (Hardcover)

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

DESCRIPTION:

In the tradition of Cheryl Strayed’s “WILD“, the gritty, funny, achingly honest story of a young climber’s struggle to become whole by testing herself on mountains and life.

As a young teenager, Jan Redford runs away from a cottage where her father has just put her down for the zillionth time and throws herself against a 100-foot cliff face.  Somewhere in that shaky, outraged kid is a bedrock belief in her right to exist, which carries her to the top. In that brief flash of victory, she sets her sights on becoming a climber.

Falling in love with climbing eventually leads to falling in love with the climbers in her tight-knit western Canadian climbing community. It also means that the people she loves regularly vanish in an instant, caught in an avalanche or by a split second of inattention. It almost crushes Jan when her boyfriend, the gifted climber Dan Guthrie, is killed. Instead of marrying Dan, she marries one of his best friends, a driven climber who was there for her when she was grieving and becomes the father of her two children. Not what either of them planned.

End of the Rope is raw and real. Mountains challenge Jan, marriage almost annihilates her, and motherhood could have been the last straw…but it isn’t.

How she climbs out of the hole she digs for herself is as thrilling and inspiring as any of her climbs–and just as much an act of bravery.

MY REVIEW:

Upon initial perusal of END OF THE ROPE, potential readers may think the same as I originally thought: with a subtitle like Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood, I expected this to be one of those annoying books about a woman whose life is perfect; one who has it all, and who is now going to “teach” readers how they too can have it all and become the perfect “Super-Mom.” YUCK!!! (Plus, I call Bullshit on those people – I think they are full of crap.)

On the surface, potential readers might think that if END OF THE ROPE  isn’t about being a “Super Mom” then it must be about mountain climbing, and only mountain climbing. Wrong again, this is definitely not the case.

Yes. It does contain quite a few mountain and mountain climbing stories, as well as some of the multitude of accomplishments of the author – female Canadian climber, Jan Redford.

This surprising and engaging memoir is so much more than just a story of mountain climbing, and so much more interesting.

Jan Redford tells the story of her life so far; a life that has been anything but normal, and anything but easy. 

Jan Redford learned to climb after high school, in Wyoming at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). She writes about her time at NOLS at the age of eighteen that: “I felt like I’d been sleepwalking through my life, and climbing propped open my eyes. Made me fully alive.” She knew from then on that Climbing would be a large part of her existence for the rest of her life.

While Jan Redford’s life did revolve for many years around her climbing and the climbing “lifestyle,” Jan is much more than just a climber.

In reality, this is a memoir about growing up in a highly dysfunctional family – one that presented the image of perfection to those around them. That outer, superficial image of the perfect family was a sham. Jan’s father was an alcoholic and her mother, although physically present, was emotionally absent. The entire family lived in an atmosphere which required everyone to ‘walk on eggshells’ lest they pull the pin on the ticking time bomb that was the family patriarch. Who could blame Jan for wanting to run away as far, and as fast as possible?

Climbing was the escape that offered Jan not only a way out, but also a way forward. The West Coast of Canada offers amazingly scenic mountain ranges and a large, insular community of like-minded individuals. It was in this climbing community Jan found her home and her people.

Tales of the antics of her youthful indescretions will have the reader fondly remembering their own youth capers. 

END OF THE ROPE is a story of running away and finding yourself. Falling in lust. Challenging yourself. Finding your soulmate and losing him to the mountains you both lived.

It is a tale of being hurt down to the core of your soul, digging deep and doing what is right for you; no matter what other people think or say.

As it states in the subtitle, this book is about Mountains, Motherhood and Marriage. Each of these three M’s will bring Jan joy and happiness as well as unspeakable pain and sorrow.

END OF THE ROPE is a memoir not to be missed.

Any book that can cause me to laugh out loud, snort in disbelief and/or  exasperation, as well as have me in tears is a book that I will not soon forget. END OF THE ROPE did all of these things to me, and more. Because of this, I would be doing a disservice to potential readers to rate this book as anything lower than 5 OUT OF 5 STARS. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jan Redford may be an awesome mountain climber, but she is an even better writer.

In August 2020, the Paperback version of this book is being released. It can be pre-ordered now at your favorite bookstore.

I would love to hear back from any of you that go on to read END OF THE ROPE. After you finish reading it, come back here to let me know what you thought.

To read an excerpt from this book click HERE.

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

And be sure to also follow me on Social media where I sometimes offer chances to win books. ** I might just be offering a chance to win books sometime over the next few weeks.** 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Photo by Jannicke Kitchen

JAN REDFORD is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU and holds a master’s in creative writing from UBC.

Her stories, articles, and personal essays have been published in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Mountain Life, Explore, Catapult, LitHub, and anthologies and have won or been shortlisted in several writing contests.

She lives with her family in Squamish, BC, where she mountain bikes, trail runs, climbs, and skis.

Her memoir, End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood is her first book.

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

OFFICIAL WEBSITE
http://www.janredford.com

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FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

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PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE