THIS IS NOT MY LIFE: 

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 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟   

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

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


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

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

I was intrigued.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Clipping from THE TORONTO STAR



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. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

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


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        

TERROR’S END describes the life, crimes and trial of Canadian Serial Killer – Alan Legere

Title: TERROR’S END

Subtitle: ALLAN LEGERE ON TRIAL

Authors: RICK MacLEAN, ANDRÉ VENOIT and SHAUN WATERS

Type of Book: PAPERBACK

Genre: TRUE CRIME, NON-FICTION, CANADIAN CRIME 

Length: 358 PAGES

Publisher: MCCLELLAND & STEWART INC.  

Release Date: 1992

ISBN: 0-7710-5595-1

Price: $6.99 CDN (IN 1992) 

Rating: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟

Serial killer Allan Legere, who was already in prison for one murder, escaped from custody in May 1989 and killed four more people during a 201-day manhunt. (CBC)


When we think of serial killers, we generally think of them as being a United States problem. ( I apologize to my US based readets, but it is true).

Most people (especially Canadians) would  NOT think of Canada, which is famous all over the world for its friendliness and peaceful nature, as a hotbed of criminal depravity  – a fact that I am immensely proud of being a born and bred Canadian.

Until reading this book, I would have said that there were only two Canadian Serial Killers that I could think of; those being Robert Pickton from British Columbia who murdered prostitutes that he picked up on the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia and the disgusting piece of filth that is Paul Bernardo who definitely deserved the death penalty (if it had been available in Canada.) So, when I began reading this book and learned of Alan Legere I was very surprised.

When I think of New Brunswick and the people who live there, I think of gorgeous scenery, lakes, the ocean, and amazingly courteous and helpful people. I have visited New Brunswick many times and I love it. Even in the cities, people are friendly and accommodating. It is difficult to fathom that a serial killer was born and bred in such a wonderful province. However, that is exactly what happened.

MIRAMICHI REGION, NEW BRUNSWICK – Photo Credit = Don Richard – Obtained from http://www.mightymiramichi.com

Allan Joseph Legere was born and raised in the Miramichi area of New Brunswick. His reign of terror over the people of that area took place in and around 1986. 

One of the mugshots taken of Serial Killer Alan Legere

 This book contains so many spelling and grammatical errors that I feel like the publisher of this book should be ashamed of themselves. I assume that the reason for these errors was that they rushed the book through the publication process in order to get it onto newsstands and into bookstores as quickly as possible so as to take advantage of the public’s intense interest in the case at the time. However, in my opinion, there is simply no excuse for the sheer number of typos and spelling errors. It is RIDICULOUS.

Aside from the errors, the book seems to encompass the complete details of the crimes themselves, as well as what took place in the courtroom.

Official courtroom sketch made during Legere’s trial

Official Jury Sketch from the trial

The authors also managed to adequately convey the feelings of fear that the residents of the Miramichi area felt at the time the crimes were occurring as well as the anger and outrage citizens felt once the horrific details were released.

I also want to mention my disdain for Alan Legere on a personal note. Yes, he killed multiple people, but in my opinion he was / is a cowardly piece of scum. He chose elderly people as easy targets (probably because he knew he might be overpowered by younger, stronger opponents. He even murdered a elderly priest who had never wronged anyone in the ultimate act of cowardice. 

All in all, the book did hold my interest most of the time, but the details were so tediously described in some passages that I felt my attention wandering and set the book down for days on end.


It is for the reasons outlined above that I have chosen to give this book only 3 out of 5 stars. 🌟🌟🌟

To view the YouTube video of Alan Legere – THE MONSTER OF THE MIRAMICHI click on the link below:

  http://youtu.be/mxogJzNr3dM     

LIFE WITH BILLY by Brian Vallée is the true story of the horrific abuse suffered by Jane Stafford at the hands of her spouse – 5 Stars 

Title: LIFE WITH BILLY

Author: BRIAN VALLÉE

Genre: NON-FICTION, TRUE CRIME, CANADIAN BOOKS

Length: 238 PAGES

PUBLISHER: A SEAL BOOK – FROM MCCLELLAND-BANTAM INC.

RELEASE DATE: JULY 1986

ISBN: 0-7704-2239-X

PRICE: $6.99 CDN

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

This book is one I picked up many years ago and has been sitting on a shelf for years. My husband picked it up and read it which prompted me to do the same.

This book was published in 1986 and the version I have is that 1986 book. It reflects the attitudes of that time period and even some of the desvriptive words that are included would NEVER appear in books written nowadays. For example, when describing one of the people who knew Billy Stafford, it says: “Warrington, a black, channels his energies into improving race relations in his province.” No modern author would ever describe a person as “a black” since it sounds derogatory, but in 1986 there was nothing wrong with using those words as descriptors.

In LIFE WITH BILLY, the reader learns early on in the book that Billy Stafford was killed by a shotgun blast and that the “murderer” was his wife, Jane.

As you continue to read, you realize that Jane Stafford was more of a victim than the person she killed.

This is the true story of an abused wife who just could not take another beating and who in desperation and fear did the only thing she could think of to stop the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse once and for all.

The location of the isolated hamlet of Bang’s Falls, Nova Scotia where Jane and Billy lived.

This story is NOT for the faint-of-heart. The descriptions of the abuse Jane suffered are truly horrific and her husband, Billy was a true sadist and in my opinion, was as evil as it is possible to be.

Billy Stafford was a man who was basically a bully and a sadist. He forced Jane to commit many acts of sexual depravity and who abused not only her but their son as well.

One of the police officers who arrested Jane was overheard saying that she deserved a medal. It is my belief that Billy damaged her psyche so severely that she became a shell of a person who was not living – she and her son were merely existing.

This book was published at a time when spousal abuse was treated as a matter between husband and wife and was not a problem that law enforcement wanted any part of. The killing of Billy Stafford shone a spotlight on this issue in Canada and the United States. The media coverage was extensive and battered wives who thought they were alone finally realized that they were not alone at all.


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

PURCHASE “LIFE WITH BILLY” ONLINE 

UNOFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE TO DISCUSS THE BOOK & THE MOVIE   

MORE INFORMATION


WHAT HAPPENED TO JANE AFTER HER TRIAL AND PROBATION ENDED  

1991 – Jane with her new husband on their honeymoon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Sections

  1. News
  2. GTA

Brian Vallée, 70: ‘Terrific journalist’ was everyone’s best friend

Award-winning journalist and passionate campaigner against domestic violence, Brian Vallée, dies at 70.

Combatting domestic violence was a consuming passion for Brian Vallée. He is seen here at a 2008 book signing for The War on Women, which chronicled cases of women murdered by their male partners, and the failure of the justice system to protect them.

Combatting domestic violence was a consuming passion for Brian Vallée. He is seen here at a 2008 book signing for The War on Women, which chronicled cases of women murdered by their male partners, and the failure of the justice system to protect them.  (COURTESY OF NANCY RAHTZ)  

A tireless voice against domestic violence.

A master of the tourtière meat pie.

But above all else Brian Vallée “was a terrific journalist,” said Ron Base, Vallée’s best friend of 40 years and former colleague at the Star.

“He strongly believed in accuracy. He would go after a story with a doggedness I always found quite remarkable.”

The former Toronto Star reporter died from cancer in St. Michael’s Hospital on Friday morning.

4 Stars for THE TEN WORST PSYCHOPATHS by Victor McQueen – BOOK REVIEW

10 worst psychopaths cover pic

 

Title: THE 10 WORST PSYCHOPATHS

Subtitle: The Most Depraved Killers in History

Author: Victor McQueen

Type of Book: EBook

Length: 100 pages

Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime, Mental Illness

Release Date:  October 30, 2015

Publisher: Arcturus Digital

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

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

“This book looks at some of history’s most notorious and infamous psychopaths … [it] will look not only at serial killers but also at others who have brought mayhem, betrayal, death and destruction in a world that failed to recognize them for the dangerous individuals they were.”

I was curious as to who, in the entire history of the world, that the author would choose to profile as  the ten worst psychopaths of all time. Sadly, there are many to choose from.

A few of his choices were obvious and expected such as the inclusion of Ted Bundy in the book. Other choices were less obvious but still made sense. But the inclusion of one individual in this book actually shocked me.

Initially I disagreed with the author about the inclusion of one individual, but upon further reading and after noting what exact characteristics are exhibited by genuine psychopaths, I have to admit that I now agree with author Victor McQueen that the person in question is indeed a true psychopath.

Deviant behaviour has always fascinated the general public. Regular people often express disbelief when someone they know  is found to be responsible for acts of depravity that most people could never imagine, let alone actually commit.

Through the reading of this book you will come to realize that the world is actually full of psychopaths and you will come to know how to identify them.

DID YOU KNOW:

“Studies suggest that ‘high-Flyers’ in the business world tend to score more highly on the psychopath scale…Politics is another field in which psychopaths tend to flourish.”

This book is divided into eleven sections; one for each psychopath and a foreword. Each section contains the history and background of the individual, including their formative childhood years. Then it goes on to detail the psychopath’s crimes and actions. If relevant, it includes how and when they were arrested and details of their sentencing. However, some of these psychopaths eluded justice and if that is the case, that information is included as well. Basically, this book tells you everything you would want to know about each individual.

What makes this book different from the multitude of other serial killer books out there?

That is easy to answer. The difference is that the people highlighted in this book are not all serial killers, and not all serial killers are psychopaths. After you read this book you will know exactly what I mean by that statement.

I loved the fact that this book not only gave details of individuals psychopaths, but it also highlights facts that will both shock and surprise readers.

You will come away from this book with a better understanding of the identifiable behaviours and character traits that are exhibited by true psychopaths. Armed with this new knowledge, you might even be able to identify a psychopath near you!

I rate this book as 4 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The only complaint I have regarding this book is the abrupt ending. The final chapter is all about Ted Bundy and after that the book just ends. I would have really liked there to be an “In Conclusion” chapter. Even though the similarities between each psychopath are apparent after reading about each person individually, it would have been nice to have it all wrapped up in a conclusion chapter. If I was the author, I would have included a chart with all the names on one side and a list of traits and commonalities across the top. I would then have filled out the chart by indicating which characteristics applied to each person. This would have made a stunning visual for the reader.

11aPsychopath

 

 

4 Stars for KENTUCKY BLOODBATH by Kevin Sullivan – AUDIOBOOK REVIEW

  
Title: KENTUCKY BLOODBATH: Ten Bizarre Tales of Murder from the Bluegrass State

Author: Kevin Sullivan

Type of Book: Audiobook – Unabridged

Narrator: Kevin Pierce

Length: 2 hours and 58 minutes

Genre: True Crime, Non-Fiction

Release Date: August 14, 2015

Publisher: WildBlue Press 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

~ I received a free copy of this audiobook through AudioBookBlast in exchange for an honest review.

This audiobook is a compilation of ten criminal homicide cases that took place in the state of Kentucky over the past 50 years. 

The title “Kentucky Bloodbath” is very appropriate. The murders and heinous attacks that are detailed in this audiobook are truly bloody and horrific.

I enjoy reading true crime novels, but this one is particularly graphic. That is because it is not just a single story about a single crime.

~ I would caution potential listeners that this audiobook should not be played where anyone under the age of eighteen might hear its content.

The length of this audiobook is perfect. It is neither too long nor too short. I listened to this audiobook on my daily commute to work and was able to hear the entire book in two days. 

Author Kevin Sullivan has extensively researched each of the ten murder cases and has included background information on each of the victims and perpetrators. This makes listening to this audiobook much more interesting since there is almost always something the listener can relate to and therefore he/she becomes personally invested in each story. 

Kevin Sullivan has included small details that highlight the decade in which each murder took place. This assists the listener is forming a picture in their mind of where and when the murder took place. 

I admit that I had never heard about any of these murder cases prior to listening to this audiobook, but I did find them interesting. 

I rate this audiobook as 4 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and would recommend it to those who have a particular interest in true crime stories.

4 Stars for BLIND RAGE by Anita Paddock – AUDIOBOOK REVIEW

Cover image obtained from www.audible.com

Cover image obtained from http://www.audible.com

BLIND RAGE

Author: Anita Paddock

Type of Book: Audiobook – Unabridged

Narrator: Kevin Pierce

Length: 3 hours and 55 minutes

Genre: True Crime, Non-Fiction

Release Date: September 10, 2015

Publisher: Pen-L Publishing

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

* I received a free copy of this audiobook through Audiobook Blast dot com in exchange for an honest review.

In May 1981, Ruie Ann Park’s body was found by her adult son in a pool of blood in her own home. Her home was located on top of Log Town Hill overlooking the Arkansas River in Van Buren, Arkansas.

This is a photo from the Park family photo album of their home. Standing out front is a young Sam Hugh Park. Photo obtained from http://blindragebook.blogspot.com

This is a photo from the Park family photo album of their home. Standing out front is a young Sam Hugh Park.
Photo obtained from http://blindragebook.blogspot.com

She was beaten to death and left for dead. The police and townspeople assumed her son was the murderer. Why?

This murder took place in an era where being gay was proof of being deviant and therefore he was an easy target for law enforcement.

But the years would uncover a much more sinister story. Until the night of the murder, the Park family seemed to have an almost perfect life. For fifty years they were the owners of “The Press Argus” newspaper.

Hugh Park was connected politically and his wife, Ruie Ann, was a local historian, a journalist, and a teacher. They had a biological son who Ruie Ann thought was brilliant and could do no wrong. The couple also adopted a daughter, named Linda who seemed to become the father’s favorite.

Their golden life ended in divorce and the children remained with Ruie Ann, who stayed in the marital home, becoming bitter and more and more demanding of the daughter who couldn’t seem to up her mother’s expectations.

Fast forward to adulthood…

The son, Sam Hugh, had once had a promising legal career but this ended because of his penchant for young men, alcohol and drugs.
It was this history that set him firmly in the sights of law enforcement when his mother was murdered.

In comparison, adopted daughter, Linda, seemed to have a much more normal life. She graduated from college, married a lawyer and moved a few hours away from her overbearing mother.

So, if it wasn’t the ‘degenerate’ son, who killed Ruie-Ann Park? If you don’t already know the ultimate outcome if this murder case, the answer will surprise you.

I enjoyed listening to this audiobook and thought that the author did a terrific job of describing both the Park family’s history as well as the complex family dynamics. She was able to stick to the facts and weave them into a compelling tale that listeners are able to follow easily.

The narrator, Kevin Pierce has the perfect voice for true crime audiobooks. He seems to have an ingrained sense of which words and sentences to emphasize, as well as a gift for pacing. His voice never overwhelms the story itself which allows the listener to focus not on the voice, but on the content of the audiobook. I rate the narration of this audiobook as 5 out of 5 stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My only complaint is that after the author spent so much time detailing the family history, it seemed like once the murderer was arrested (three years after the crime took place) the story starts to have huge holes in it. Listeners/readers are not given detailed information about how the death of another family member took place. It is eluded to that it was a suicide, but no details were given. I believe this information should have also been included. Also, once the murderer is arrested there is barely any information about the legal process. I would have liked a few more details.

Overall I rate this audiobook as 4 out of 5 stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

To find out more about this book visit http://www.pen-l.com/BlindRage.html

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Author photo obtained from http://blindragebook.blogspot.com

Author photo obtained from http://blindragebook.blogspot.com

Anita Paddock is a widowed author who currently resides in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Anita attended Van Buren High School, graduating in 1958 and enrolled in the University of Arkansas from 1958-1960 and graduated from Little Rock University in 1962.

To learn more, visit http://blindragebook.blogspot.com

ABOUT THE NARRATOR:

Narrator photo obtained from www.acx.com

Narrator photo obtained from http://www.acx.com

Kevin Pierce is a full-time audiobook narrator and has received many awards and accolades on both Audible and ACX.

For more information visit http://www.kevinpiercepresents.com

EDMUND KEMPER: The True Story of the Co-ed Killer by Jack Rosewood – BOOK REVIEW

Cover image obtained from www.amazon.com

Cover image obtained from http://www.amazon.com

EDMUND KEMPER: The True Story of the Co-ed Killer

Author: Jack Rosewood

Series: Historical Serial Killers and Murderers – True Crime by Evil Killets: Volume Two

Type of Book: eBook

Length: 72 pages

Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime

Release Date: June 22, 2015

Publisher: Wiq Media

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

* I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Edmund Kemper is probably the sickest serial killer ever to have walked the Earth. His crimes are still talked about today and his deviant behavior both fascinates and appalls many people still to this day.

Edmund Kemper was born in Burbank, California in December of 1948. His was a troubled childhood with a mother that should have never been allowed to procreate.

Edmund was always awkward. His body was massive; weighing almost 300 pounds and reaching a height of six feet, nine inches.

His deviant thoughts started long before his killing spree did. He harbored gory and elaborate fantasies full of rage.

This book is his story. Readers need to be warned that this is not a story with a happy ending, and those who have sensitive stomachs should not read this book.

Kemper began his decapitation fantasies as a child and practiced by beheading the dolls of his sisters. This was soon not gratifying enough for this twisted psychopath and he moved on to torturing and killing the family’s pet cats. “Kemper’s rage against women – revealed first through the dolls with long, blond hair, and later through the cats – was a result of his abysmal relationship with his mother.”

He would eventually kill ten people; including hitchhiking co-eds, his mother and both his grandfather and grandmother.

To learn how he became the vicious psychopath that he is today, you need to read this book.

I have mixed feelings about this type of book. While I find deviant psychology fascinating, I hate that the killers get so much more attention than their victims. However, it is a sad truth that people are more interested in the killer than the killed.

I would have liked it if there was a bit more detail about each of the victims.

Despite that, the author has done a good job of condensing the story into only 72 pages.

There are some editing/proof-reading errors, but once I pointed them out to the author, he has assured me that they will be fixed immediately.

I rate this book as 3.5 out of 5 stars. ⭐⭐⭐

L. E. Sterling

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