4 Stars for the extraordinary tale of a man who spent 27 years alone in the woods – A new book by MICHAEL FINKEL called THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ ย 

Title: THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS      

Subtitle: THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF THE LAST TRUE HERMIT

Author: MICHAEL FINKEL      
Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY

Length: 203 PAGES  

Publisher: PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

Type of Book: HARDCOVER

Release Date: MARCH 7, 2017   

ISBN: 978-1-101-87568-1  

Price: $25.95 USD / $32.95 CDN

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Photograph of Knight’s camp in the Maine woods. Photo Credit: Maine State Police

DESCRIPTION:  “In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries.”

Photograph of Knight’s camp in the Maine woods. Photo Credit: Maine State Police

“Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded lifeโ€”why did he leave? what did he learn?โ€”as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.”    

MY REVIEW:  

This book is a New York Times Bestseller, and after reading it, I can understand why. The subject matter will draw you in and you will find yourself developing an opinion on the “hermit.” 

Mugshot of Christopher Knight Photo Credit: Maine State Police

I find it fascinating that anyone could just one day decide to walk into the forest with minimal supplies and not come out again for decades.

I am sure that most of us have had the thought that it would be great to get away from it all, but even so, our idea of that “retreat from the world” almost always has a limited time frame. Humans are just not wired to be completely solitary … at least, most of us aren’t. As proof of this, think about jail. When an inmate severely misbehaves, the punishment is solitary confinement, and even the toughest, meanest, most hardened criminals attempt to avoid it. In fact, in 2015, the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna, Austria adopted revised rules banning solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment. The changes are referred to as the “Mandela Rules.”     

Christopher Knight is “the hermit” who this book is about. He is an anomaly to the belief that people need contact with others to survive. 

Christopher stole food and other essential items to help him survive, and created a hidden camp that wasn’t far from civilization and yet, somehow he was able to stay hidden and alone for over twenty years. Author Michael Finkel has done a terrific job of trying to understand the nonunderstandable and readers will be unable to put this book down. 

Photograph of Knight at his camp in the Maine woods. Photo Credit: Maine State Police

This book is very much worth reading, and even though it includes a sketch of Christopher Knight’s camp as well as a sketch of the geographic area of Maine where his camp was located, I was extremely disappointed that the actual photographs taken by police were not included in this book. I would also have liked to have a photograph of Christopher Knight included as well. It is due to the lack of photographs that I am rating THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS as only 4 out of 5 Stars. ๐ŸŒŸ ๐ŸŒŸ ๐ŸŒŸ ๐ŸŒŸ

*** Even though the pictures are not in the physical edition of this book, there are multiple photographs available on Michael Finkel’s website; perhaps they will make it into future editions of this book.***   

Because I was curious as to what Christopher Knight looked like, I searched on YouTube and found this video:    

 

     

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

MICHAEL FINKEL is the author of “The Stranger in the Woods” and “True Story,” which was adapted into a 2015 major motion picture, starring James Franco and Jonah Hill.

He has reported from more than 50 countries and written for National Geographic, GQ, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine.

His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting, The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Non-Required Reading.  

Michael lives with his wife and three children in western Montana and southern France.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE        

GOODREADS     

TWITTER   

FACEBOOK        

AMAZON              

CHAPTERS          

GOOGLE BOOKS    
Watch the following video for an author interview:

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THE VISITORS by Catherine Burns is one of the creepiest books I have ever read. 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ ย  ย 

Title: THE VISITORS

Author: CATHERINE BURNS

Genre: FICTION, THRILLERS, HORROR 

Publisher: LEGEND PRESS    

Type of Book: EBOOK     

Received From: NETGALLEY   

Release Date: OCTOBER 3, 2017

ISBN: 9781785079160     

Price: $14.99 AUD     

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ   

MY REVIEW:

THE VISITORS by author Catherine Burns is creepy with a capital “C.”

This tale will have readers questioning the lives of their neighbors and possibly their own family members.

Freaky, eerie, and terrifying are all appropriate adjectives to describe this realistic psychological thriller. THE VISITORS is equal parts thriller and horror. In fact, I believe this book should (and probably will) be turned into a movie. If that happens, I will be at the front of the line.

Catherine Burns has created two of the most horrifyingly realistic characters I have ever encountered.

Marion Zetland is the kind of middle-age woman that is times past would have been labelled a spinster or even a hermit. However, she fails to fit those molds exactly since she doesn’t live alone. Her older brother lives in the house as well. Marion’s brother John is continuously verbally abusive to her and she seeks solace in a bed full of her teddy bear “friends.”

Their family had money once and the siblimgs grew up in the same Georgian townhouse that they still occupy. Once a grand home, the siblings have allowed the house to fall into disrepair. In fact, even Marion, who seems to have stopped growing both physically and emotionally around the age of twelve, realizes that if she ever had a visitor, they would think that she and John were hoarders.  

Though Marion is odd, John is not only strange, he is also creepy and often sadistic toward anyone who crosses him. The worst thing about John is his secret in the cellar. Marion knows very little about what goes on down there. She just knows that is where he spends most of his time and she tries to put it out of her mind.

When John suffers a sudden heart attack, Marion realizes that she will have to go to basement. It is there that she has to face John’s secret, and she will be forced to decide what to do about it.  

As readers delve deeper into the pysches  of both Marion and John, what they find will astonish, disgust and horrify them.   

As a reader this is a book that really is ‘impossible to put down.’ I suggest that once you are ready to read this book, that you set aside an entire weekend. Tell the kids to order pizza ’cause Mom is too busy reading. 

I rate THE VISITOR as 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Captivating and astonishingly readable, THE VISITORS is one of the creepiest books I have ever read. There are no police chases or secret service agents trying to save the world in this book. It doesn’t need any of that. Instead, it focuses on the characters and does this so well that it deserves it’s 5 Star rating.


**Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. My review was not required and is completely voluntary.

                                      One of the book’s alternate covers    

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 


CATHERINE BURNS was born in Manchester.

She is a graduate of Trinity College, University of Cambridge and worked as a bond trader in London before studying at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography and teaching film theory at the University of Salford.


The Visitors is her debut novel.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

GOODREADS      

TWITTER    

FACEBOOK        

GOOGLE PLAY    

AMAZON        


ABOUT THE PUBLISHER: 



Legend Press was set up in 2005 and is focused primarily on publishing mainstream literary and commercial fiction. We are based in London, UK.

Legend Press is now the most successful independent in 30 years to start up with no capital and runs a range of successful across-industry initiatives and joint-ventures. Legend Press is part of the Legend Times Group.

To learn more about this amazing independent publisher, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE     

TWITTER    

FACEBOOK        

INSTAGRAM     

F.O.L.D. BOOK BASH was terrific – Check out the amazing and diverse authors, poets and publishers I met on Saturday.



F.O.L.D. stands for FESTIVAL OF LITERARY DIVERSITY 

Today at City Hall in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, FOLD hosted the 2017 Book Bash. 

WHAT IS A FOLD BOOK BASH?

  • A one-day book market designed to give authors and book selling organizations a space to promote their books. 
  • A chance for the community to learn about books written by local authors
  • The ability for consumers to learn about and to purchase multicultural books that reflect the diversity of the city and  country in which they live
  • A chance to meet the authors of those books and to have them autographed 
  • As well as the chance to listen to authors read from, and talk about their books. 

    FOLD is the first and only literary festival in Canada to focus on diverse authors and stories.

    The first Festival of Literary Diversity was held in May 2016 and included more than 25 unique sessions held over three days with over thirty of Canadaโ€™s most exciting authors.

    Mark your calendars for May 3rd to May 5th, 2018 for the next Festival. There will be quite a few authors and publishers with many different sessions to choose from.

    CHECK IT OUT – YOU’LL BE GLAD YOU DID. 

    AUTHORS I MET ON SATURDAY  & SOME AMAZING BOOKS YOU NEED TO OWN


    #1. 

    JAEL RICHARDSON 


    Jael Richardson
     is one busy woman. Besides being the Founder and Creative Art Director of the Festival of Literary Diversity, she is also an author in her own right.

    Her book THE STONE THROWER: A DAUGHTER’S LESSON, A FATHERโ€™S LIFE is a memoir based on her relationship with her father, CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey. The memoir received a CBC Bookie Award and earned Richardson an Acclaim Award and a My People Award as an Emerging Artist and was adapted into a childrenโ€™s book in 2016. 

    To learn more about Jael, visit the following links:

    OFFICIAL WEBSITE      

    GOODREADS          

    TWITTER    

    FACEBOOK          

    INSTAGRAM        

    CHAPTERS              

    This is me with Jael at the 2017 FOLD Book Bash

    #2. 

    DEJA BEALS has been writing poetry since the age of sixteen. She finds her inspiration for her poetry in family, friends and everyday experiences.  

    Dฤ–JA BEALS has been writing poetry since the age of 16. You would never know that during those early writing days, her poetry was filled with incorrect grammar. Now, like Dรฉja herself, her writing has matured and
     developed. Her work has blossomed to include a range of topics such as love, faith and everyday experiences.

    Dรฉja finds her poetic inspiration in family, friends and her daily experiences.

    She is known for her silly moments, big laugh and even bigger heart. She has been said to have wisdom beyond her years and uncanny insight which adds depth to her writing. She is currently living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

    To learn more about this author visit the following links:

    OFFICIAL WEBSITE     

    Dร‰JA’S OFFICIAL BLOG     

    GOODREADS      

    TWITTER     

    FACEBOOK     

    INSTAGRAM    


    AMAZON          

    DISCOVERING DIVERSITY PUBLISHING    

    3, 4 and 5.

    I met these three very gracious and amazing women at the FOLD Brampton Book Bash. 

    About the multitalented Catherine Graham – Not only has she written the fiction novel QUARRY but she is also only days away from the launch off her new poetry collection THE CELERY FOREST which is being published by Wolsak and Wynn

    Author and Poet – CATHERINE GRAHAM

    QUARRY is a fictional story set in Southern Ontario during the 1980s. Only child Caitlin Maharg lives with her parents beside a water-filled limestone quarry, but her idyllic upbringing collapses when she learns her mother is dying. After a series of family secrets emerge, Caitlin must confront the past and face her uncertain future. 

    THE CELERY FOREST      

    Like Wonderland or Oz, Neverland or Narnia, The Celery Forest is an extraordinary world filled with strange creatures and disorienting sights. But the doorway to the Celery Forest is not a rabbit hole or an old wardrobe. The doorway is an MRI. For poet and novelist Catherine Graham, this is the topsy-turvy world she found herself in after learning she had breast cancer.

         More than a survivorโ€™s tale, these poems are a map through unknowable terrain, infused with awareness and forgetting, written by a poet with the visionary ability to distill our sense of wonder into something we can hold.
    TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CATHERINE GRAHAM, VISIT THE FOLLOWING LINKS: 

    To learn more about this author visit the following links:

    OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

    GOODREADS 

    TWITTER   

    FACEBOOK    

    INSTAGRAM      

    AMAZON       


    CHAPTERS         

         
    #4.  

    Publisher & Author Alexander Leggett  

    CEO and Founder of Two Wolves Press, Alexandra Leggat is the author of the novel The Incomparables as well as several other published works. 

    Alexandra started Two Wolves  Press as a way to nurture talent without compromise  โ€“ to work closely with Two Wolves writers to follow and trust their intuition and publish โ€œinstinctual fictionโ€. 

    Two Wolves Press publishes Catherine Graham’s novel QUARRY and
    Aileen Santos’ SOMEONE LIKE YOU.

    To learn more about this Publisher and author, visit the following links:
     
    OFFICIAL WEBSITE   


    GOODREADS     

    TWITTER   

    FACEBOOK        

    INSTAGRAM      

    AMAZON     

    CHAPTERS       

    MORE INFO COMING IN MY NEXT BLOG POST. 


    THE MASK OF SANITY by Indie Author JACOB APPEL will have readers on the edge of their seats. A 5 Star Must Read Psychological Thriller!!!

    Title: THE MASK OF SANITY        

    Author: JACOB APPEL    
    Genre: FICTION, THRILLER, PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER

    Length: 256 PAGES

    Publisher: THE PERMANENT PRESS  
    Type of Book: HARDCOVER   

    Received From: FREE FROM THE AUTHOR    

    Release Date: MARCH 31, 2017

    ISBN: 978-1-57962-495-8 

    Price: $28 USD (Hardcover)

    Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ 

    OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

    On the outside, Dr. Jeremy Balint is a pillar of the community: the youngest division chief poorly, he reveals the depths of his cold-blooded depravity.

    At a cultural moment when the media bombards us with images of so-called sociopaths who strive for good and criminals redeemed by repentance,The Mask of Sanityoffers an antidote to implausible tales of evil gone right. In contrast to fictional predecessors like Dostoyevesky’s Raskolnikov and Camus’ Mersault, Dr. Balint is a man who already has it all –and will do everything in his power, no matter how immoral, to keep what he has.

    MY REVIEW: 

    Jacob Appel has a true gift. His vivid descriptions of place are minimal in length but are still somehow able to paint an exact picture in the readerโ€™s mind. His genius shines through mostly with his uncanny ability to get inside the heads of his characters and to take his readers with him. His writing makes each character seem less fictional and more real.

    Jacob’s vast educational and life experience and his background in the medical field make this book even nore scary. I can’t help but wonder if this book is based on a past patient or maybe even one of Jacob Appel’s  colleagues. I really hope not.

    In this book the protagonist is a respected physician. A married father of two adorable girls, Jeremy Balint seems to lead the perfect life.

    However, when he discovers that his wife is cheating on him with a colleague, one he had considered to be a friend, Jeremy does not react out of anger. Instead, he calmly decides that his marriage must be saved at all costs. Instead of confronting his wife, he hatches a diabolical plan. That plan, and his execution of it will both shock readers and have them glued to the book’s pages.

    Psychopaths and sociopaths have historically been portrayed as loners. They seemed easy to identify since they were seen to be “creepy” and no one was all that surprised when they found out that he (and it was ALWAYS a he) murdered someone. This gave people a sense of relief. If they stayed away from creepy men, they were safe. The reality is much more terrifying. As author Jacob Appel is aware, true sociopaths do not fit that description at all.

    In fact, since sociopaths are masters of both manipulation and of adaptation, it is quite likely that all of us know or live close to at least one of them. This book brings that fact home unlike any other.

    If you are a fan of psychological fiction you will LOVE this book. It is a MUST READ and I rate it enthusiastically as 5 out of 5 Stars. ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ 
    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Jacob M. Appel is the author of the following novels:

    Wedding Wipeout (Cozy Cat Press)

    The Biology of Luck (Elephant Rock Books)

    The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up  (Cargo Publishing)

    And

    The short-story collections:

    The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street (Howling Bird Press)

    Coulrophobia & Fatana Morgana

    Scouting For The Reaper (both Black Lawrence Press)  

    and

    The essay collection Phoning Home (University of South Carolina Press)

    His short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including:

    – Literal Latte

     The Colorado Review       

    – The Nebraska Review

    – The Boston Review     

    – The Greensboro Review

    Jacob has taught at Brown University, Columbia University, and the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

    He holds a BA and MA from Brown University, an MA and an MPhil from Columbia University, a JD from Harvard, and an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU.

    (In other words, this is one incredibly  intelligent and extremely well-educated individual.)    

    Jacob Appel teaches writing classes at Gotham Writerโ€™s Workshop which hosts classes both in New York City and online.

    All these “jobs” as an author and a teacher would be more than enough to keep a regular person extremely busy, but these are all second (and third, and fourth, etc.) jobs for Jacob.

    In a way he is like Superman.

    Jacob Appel is a mild-mannered, well-respected Lawyer, Doctor and Bio-Ethicist by Day and he turns into SuperWriterMan whenever and wherever he is needed. (As far as I know, he doesnโ€™t own a cape or do quick-changes in phone booths which is probably a good thing since I am not sure if there are any phone booths left. 

    Jacob holds Graduate Degrees from Brown University, Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Harvard Law School, New York University’s MFA program in Fiction and Albany Medical College’s Alden March Institute of Bioethics.

    He taught for many years at Brown University and currently teaches at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

    To learn more about this author visit the following links:

    OFFICIAL WEBSITE   

    GOODREADS      

    AMAZON    

    CHAPTERS          

    To read my review of Jacob Appel’s fantastic short story collection “MIRACLES AND CONUNDRUMS OF THE SECONDARY PLANETS” Click on the cover below:

    To read another of my reviews for Jacob Appel’s Literary Masterpiece and short story collection EINSTEIN’S BEACH HOUSE,” Click on the book cover below:   

    This is one of the best short story collections I have ever had the privilege of reading. 

    I am a fan of Jacob Appel’s and after reading this book I guarantee you will be too.    


    * I received a free copy of this book from the author, however,  this did not effect my review or my rating in any way. 

    ZENN DIAGRAM by Wendy Brant will pull you in and won’t let you go. A 5 Star Must Read Book!

    Title: ZENN DIAGRAM

    Author: WENDY BRANT       

    Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION

    Length: 328 PAGES

    Publisher: KIDS CAN PRESS 

    Release Date: APRIL 4, 2017

    ISBN: 978-1-77138-792-7 Hardcover

    List Price: USD $17.95, CAD $18.95

    Grades: 9 To 12 / Ages: 14 to 18  

    Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ   

    Unique. Utterly readable, with awesome characters and a guy that teen girls will have crushes on. Zenn is the latest book-boyfriend of choice.

    Eva Walker’s life is unlike anyone elses. She is a loner, a math nerd, an orphan and she feels like a freak. Out of all these labels, the most significant one is Eva’s loner status.

    You would think the math nerd status would be the reason she was a loner – not so. Eva is a loner by choice. Why? Well, she has a gift (curse?) Anytime Eva touches someone, or even touches someone’s property, such as a cell phone, she immediately knows all about them – including their secrets and their fears.

    Now, some may think that this would be an amazing gift to have, but it never turns off. Imagine going on a date and having to listen to the guy’s dirty thoughts about you the entire time you’re with him. Yuck!

    The only time that Eva is thankful for this strange ability is when she is tutoring someone in math. She just has to touch their calculator and she knows exactly what they are struggling with. This makes her an excellent tutor. It is through her tutoring that she meets Zenn.

    When she is assigned to tutor Zenn Bennett, she is nervous. Who wouldn’t be? Zenn is absolutely gorgeous and he does it without even trying.

    When she accidentally touches Zenn’s jacket she is rocked by what she sees. The violence of the vision is like nothing she has ever seen or felt before.

    Eva must decide whether or not to confront Zenn and the horrifying vision or whether to keep it to herself and stay safe; but alone.

    This novel has so many twists and turns that readers will never be bored and they will not want to put this book down.

    There is romance, there is tragedy, there is guilt, remorse, fear and mystery. This book has it all.

    Author Wendy Brant has written a young adult novel that will suck you in from the very first chapter. Both her world-building and her character development are top notch.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in a single sitting. I must warn potential readers that once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop, so you should make sure you set aside some time to curl up with this fantastic book.

    I rate ZENN DIAGRAM as 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

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


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (In Her Own Words):

    So my name alone should give you a clue that I graduated from high school when bangs were big and clothes were baggy. I went to Northwestern University and majored in journalism even though I had no desire to be a journalist. I’ve been married to a great guy for a whole drinking-aged person’s life. I’ve got two amazing and yet very different (and very tall) teenage kids. I like crappy food, pinning inspirational quotes on Pinterest, have a tendency to start paragraphs with “anyway”, and I wish I were funnier. I would love to be one of those really, REALLY funny bloggers (like Insane in the Mom-Brain) that makes you pee yourself a little bit. I am only moderately funny. I admit that. It’s one of my great sadnesses in life.

    โ€‹โ€‹I started writing fiction when I was 10, but tried to be practical with the whole journalism thing. Didn’t take. Shortly after college, the fiction-writing desire reared its non-practical head and I’ve been writing ever since.

    To learn more about this author visit the following links:

    OFFICIAL WEBSITE  

    GOODREADS      

    TWITTER         

    FACEBOOK     

    INSTAGRAM   

    AMAZON.CA     

    AMAZON.COM               

    CHAPTERS/INDIGO         

    PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE         

    THIS IS NOT MY LIFE:ย 

    Title: THIS IS NOT MY LIFE

    Subtitle: A MEMOIR OF LOVE, PRISON, AND OTHER COMPLICATIONS    

    Author: DIANE SCHOEMPERLEN

    Genre: NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY, MEMOIR, CANADIAN NON-FICTION

    Length: 351 PAGES   

    Publisher: HARPER COLLINS 

    Release Date: FEBRUARY 7, 2017

    ISBN:  978-1-44343-420-1  

    Price:  $24.99 CDN

    How I Received This Book: This book was one I purchased for myself at CHAPTERS

    Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ   

    Any memoir that begins with the words this one does is bound to be both interesting and shocking. Author Diane Schoemperlen is NOT the type of woman who I pictured as one that would fall in love with a man in prison – especially one who had been convicted of murder. I’m not sure who I thought of as the type to fall for a prisoner, I just know that a well-known author and journalist would be the furthest choice from my mind.

    Diane’s memoir begins in 2006 with the following sentence:


    “It is safe to say that never once in my life had I dreamed of being in bed with a convicted killer, let alone one with his teeth in a margarine container in the kitchen, his mother in the next room, and the word HI! tattooed in tiny blue letters on his penis.”

    Now, if that sentence does not make you want to read more, then, this review is probably not for you either.

    I was intrigued.

    What would an educated and highly intelligent woman find attractive about a convicted killer? What the heck was wrong in her life that she would see prison as a viable dating venue? How could she ever feel safe around him?

    Diane met Shane at a soup kitchen where they both volunteered. He was still incarcerated, but he was allowed out while escorted by a nun to work at the soup kitchen. No one, Diane least of all, had any idea what his crime had been or how long he had been in jail. In fact, at first, she thought he was just another volunteer.

    Eventually Diane and the rest of the volunteers learned the reason he was in prison. Diane describes the moment like this:


    “This was when we finally learned why he’d ended up in prison in the first place and that he’d been there for almost thirty years. Now we understood that in the language of tattoos, the tear-drop below his left eye meant he had killed someone. Now we knew he was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. Whatever initial alarm we might have felt about this was tempered by the fact that it had happened so long ago and that he had become an essential and popular part of the kitchen crew. We saw him as a person who had paid his debt to society and deserved a second chance.”

    This blows me away. I cannot say for sure what my reaction would have been, but I doubt that learning Shane had killed someone is something that I would have been able to overlook. But, that is the exact reason why I wanted to read this book. Well, that and the fact that author Diane Schoemperlen is not only Canadian, but she and I live in the same province (Ontario) and our homes are only a three hour drive apart.

    I found this memoir to be compelling reading. Diane does not shy away from difficult topics. She opens the readers eyes to what life is like for those incarcerated in Canadaโ€™s prisons and how these prisoners become institutionalized. What I had never considered before was how the loved ones of these inmates end up institutionalized as well.

    Yes, this book contains details about the often ridiculous world that is Canada Corrections, but it is ultimately a story about the desire for love and acceptance and to the lengths people will go in their quest to achieve those feelings and the seemingly bizarre choices they make that they normally would not. 

    Diane Schoemperlen’s memoir is beautifully written and well thought out. Since it is written after the relationship ended I do however believe that she has glossed over many of the events. But I also believe that she did not do so with the intention of deceiving readers, rather because, in her own mind, she didn’t want to sensationalize her fear. It is human nature to downplay fear-filled moments after the fact – I believe this is an unconscience psychological defense mechanism. 

    Clipping from THE TORONTO STAR



    MORE THOUGHTS ON THIS BOOK


    *** Caution – This section may contain spoilers ***

    I have done some research and I believe I know exactly who “Shane” is and if I am right, he committed multiple murders, multiple prison escapes and multiple robberies. However, whether he killed one person or three people, he is still a murderer who was sentenced to life in prison. I also do not believe the bit about his “teardrop tattoo.” I think this was included to throw off those who might be curious as to “Shane’s” actual identity. 

    Despite the sentence of life in prison, somehow “Shane” is now allowed to live and work amongst the rest of us. WHY?

    Personally, I used to naively believe that when someone was sentenced to life in prison, that they would actually remain in prison until they died. SILLY ME!!! I guess I should have known better. I could probably rant for many, many more paragraphs about why I think it is wrong to allow murderers to be free to walk the streets of my home  province, but I will refrain from doing so here in my review of THIS IS NOT MY LIFE by reknowned author Diane Schoemperlen.

    Suffice it to say that Diane’s book/memoir is a MUST READ. This is true not only for those who love a good read, but also for everyone who has even a passing interest in Canada’s jail system and what I perceive to be its fallibility (which should be every Canadian of voting age.)


    I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars. ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

    Diane Schoemperlen is the Governor Generalโ€™s Award winning author of twelve works of fiction and non-fiction, most recently By the Book: Stories and Pictures, a collection illustrated with her own full-colour collages, which was longlisted for the Frank Oโ€™Connor International Short Story Award. She is a recipient of the Marian Engel Award from the Writersโ€™ Trust of Canada.


    ACCOLADES, MEDIA AND PRIZES won by “THIS IS NOT MY LIFE” 



    – One of five finalists for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize 

      
     – Mar 02, 2017 – 41 minute video

    About this Video: 

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

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


    MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE ARTICLE with video interview        

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

    Title:  THE LAURAS   

    Author: SARA TAYLOR

    Genre: FICTION, LGBTQ

    Publisher: CROWN PUBLISHING, HOGARTH  

    Release Date:  AUGUST 1, 2017  

    EDITION: HARDCOVER

    ISBN: 9780451496850

    Price: $26.00 (USD)

    Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ    

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I wish there was a way to give more than 5 out of 5 stars, because this book is a masterpiece of fiction and I have no doubt that it will win many awards and will end up on Bestseller Lists everywhere. ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ 

    THE CHARACTERS:

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

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

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

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

    MORE

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

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

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

    IN CONCLUSION:

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

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

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

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

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

    To learn more about this author visit the following links:

    OFFICIAL WEBSITE    

    BLOG 

    GOODREADS     

    CHAPTERS / INDIGO BOOKS    

    AMAZON   


    Read an interview with Sara Taylor HERE.


      

    MY LIFE HEREAFTER by Lynette Ferreira is a Young Adult book with an interesting take on what the afterlife looks like. 4 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸย 

    Title: MY LIFE HEREAFTER 

    Author: LYNETTE FERREIRA  

    Genre: FICTION, YOUNG ADULT FICTION, SUPERNATURAL FICTION

    Length: 252 PAGES

    Publisher: SELF-PUBLISHED

    Release Date: NOVEMBER 7, 2016

    ISBN: 9781326846404

    Price: PAPERBACK  $10.99 USD

    Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

    DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK (FROM NETGALLEY): 

    EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME EVEN THOUGH IT SHOULDN’T. Everything is exactly the same as before that day which she can now only vaguely remember. The day her school bus ran over the cliff. The day she and most of her fellow students ended up here. The twins, Mark and David, were also on the bus, but David did not come here with them. David was sent across the valley to the other side. Mark convinces Sunel to help him find his brother, no matter what the dangers might be. Fiction: Supernatural Thriller

    MY REVIEW: 

    This is a Young Adult / Middle-grade fiction novel that imagines a possible scenario of just what is waiting for us in the afterlife.

    When young teenager Sunel finds herself and sixty of her former classmates have died, she is initially in a state of shock. 

    To make matters worse, she is the reason the bus crashed. This means she is the reason everyone is dead. 

    As the shock wears off she finds herself in a world that is very similar and yet very different from the one she left behind.

    My favorite scene is when the teens are led into the Hall of Judgment and are told they will be called in one at at a time. Upon entering the testing room Sunel sees three doors.

     “The first door says Recycle. Next to Recycle, there is Rehabilitation. And next to Rehabilitation, there is Rapture.” I thought this was very clever.

    This book touches on many interesting and important topics. It is not often that you find a YA book that openly discusses the afterlife. It seems to be a topic that Young Adult authors do not embrace for some reason, and the few authors who do write about the topic choose ghost story-type tales. 

    Kudos to Author Lynette Ferreira for tackling such a controversial topic.

    This book also has elements of other issues important to today’s youth such as bullying and peer pressure as well as taking responsibility for one’s actions.

    With the variety of characters, readers should be able to find at least one that they identify with. I think that young teens and middle grade readers will enjoy this book and hopefully it will open up dialogue about the issues detailed in it’s pages.


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


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

     

    Lynette Ferreira is the author of more than twenty fiction novels.

    She writes stories about first love, really cute boys, kissing and all the drama.

    Her stories always address social issues and are most times set in a supernatural world.

    She does not really like the cold, is afraid of the dark, and loves anything in, on or smothered with chocolate.

    She lives in Northern Ireland with her family.

    To learn more about this author visit the following links:

    OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

    GOODREADS       

    TWITTER    

    FACEBOOK   

    AMAZON   

    4 Stars for the unique middle-grade novel BRAINWALKER – Ever wondered what it would be like inside your father’s brain? Now you can find out. ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

    Title: BRAINWALKER

    Authors: ROBYN MUNDELL and STEPHAN LACAST

    Genre: FICTION, MIDDLE-GRADE

    Length: 260 PAGES

    Publisher: DUALMIND PUBLISHING

    Release Date: OCTOBER 1, 2016

    ISBN: 9780997652505   

    Price:  $9.99

    Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ


    BOOK DESCRIPTION (From Amazon)

    One teen’s incredible journey may just blow his fatherโ€™s mindโ€ฆ

    Fourteen-year-old Bernard thinks outside the box. The only problem is that neither his school nor his ultra-rational physicist father appreciate his unique ideas. When he reacts to a stressful situation at school by mooning the class, his suspension sends him straight to his fatherโ€™s workplace. After his frustrated father leaves him unattended, Bernard does what any teen would do: wander into the particle accelerator and accidentally get transported through a wormhole! 

    Edit It doesnโ€™t take long for Bernard to realize heโ€™s in deep trouble. Not only did the wormhole drop him in the middle of a civil war over a depleted resource, but the battle is actually taking place inside his fatherโ€™s brain. Bernard has one chance to save the dying side of his fatherโ€™s creative brain from the tyrannical left side. Can he use his outside-the-box thinking to save his fatherโ€™s life?

    Brainwalker is a young adult sci-fi fantasy novel that turns the world of neuroscience on its head. If you like incredible fantasy worlds, fast-paced entertainment, and the human mind, then youโ€™ll love Robyn Mundell and Stephan Lacastโ€™s amazing journey inside the brain. 


    MY REVIEW:

     This middle grade novel is wonderfully written and readers from ages 8 – 12 will love this book.

    The author has imagined an entire world inside the brain of a boy’s father.

    I loved the fact that the boy and his father were very different and that they had trouble communicating and understanding each other.

    When the boy is sucked through a wormhole and ends up inside his father’s brain, he finds himself on a mission to save his father’s life.

    During his quest he ends up learning more about his father and more about himself in the process.


    A great read with a terrific message.


    I rate this as 4 out of 5 stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

      


    FAVORITE QUOTES:


    “Blind faith is stronger than truth. Far stronger.”


    “Remember, what you call luck is the meeting of opportunity and flexibility.”
     


    ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

     

    Robyn Mundell is an award winning playwright. A graduate of New York University, she performed in dozens of plays in New York. She studied with such theater legends as Uta Hagen, Lee Strasberg, and Stella Adler.

    Robyn wrote and performed in several of her own plays including Pieces of Oand Traveling Bowls of Soup, produced by Pulitzer-prize winner Beth Henley.Traveling Bowls of Soup opened at the Met theater to rave reviews and received several Drama-Logue awards. Robyn has since been selling original screenplays and TV pilots to major film companies and networks. She is the daughter of Canadian Nobel laureate Robert A. Mundell, and is married to actor-playwright Raymond J. Barry. Together, they have four children.

    STEPHAN LACAST

    French-Born Stephan Lacast likes to think of himself as a geek, which depending on your  dictionary means either โ€œknowledgeable about computersโ€, or โ€œboring social misfit.โ€ At the age of twelve his idea of fun was building computers and programming, and by fifteen he was a contributor to a computer magazine. A graduate of Paris-Dauphine University, he holds a Bachelor in Economics, a Master in Business Administration, and a Master of Advanced Studies in Information Systems.

    After teaching at Dauphine University, Stephan went on to work as a consultant and engineer for one of the top ten Information Technology services companies in Europe, before deciding to leave Paris and move to the United States.

    To learn more about BRAINWALKER visit the following links:

    OFFICIAL WEBSITE

    TWITTER

    FACEBOOK 

    INSTAGRAM 


    To follow my book reviews sign up to follow my blog. Also visit me on 

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

    Title: VIRAL

    Author: M.A. BARRETT

    Genre: FICTION, CONTEMPORARY FICTION, LGBTQ, SOCIAL COMMENTARY

    Length: 260 PAGES

    Publisher: KIN(D) PRESS

    Release Date: NOVEMBER 15, 2016

    ISBN: 978-0-9983602-5-6

    Price: $15.99 USD (SOFTCOVER)

    Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    My favorite quote from the book is:

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

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

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

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

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

    * The videotape everything phenomenon that is sweeping our world

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I rate it as 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

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


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

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

     

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

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

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

    GOODREADS 

    MEDIUM      

    TWITTER      

    PICTARAM    

    INSTAGRAM      

    AMAZON 

    BARNES & NOBLE