2018 Reading / Reviewing Challenge

One of my fellow Book Bloggers has decided to run a great challenge for 2018 and I have decided to join her. For more information, check out Gingermom’s Blog.

THE CHALLENGE:

To read a book whose title starts with each letter of the alphabet.

I even have a few books ready to be read:

A – AIRWOMAN by Zara Quentin

B –

C –

D – DEGREES OF LOVE by Lisa Slabach

E –

F –

G –

H –

I –

J –

K –

L –

M –

N –

O –

P –

Q –

R –

S –

T –

U –

V –

W –

X –

Y –

Z –

Want to join in?

Are you an author who would like to have your book included in the challenge?

Send your book by mail to:

Amie’s Book Reviews

17 Gordon Drive

Alliston, Ontario

L9R 0J1

Canada

I can’t wait for 2018 and all the amazing new books that are being released.

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 🌟🌟🌟🌟  

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 🌟🌟🌟🌟

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 life—why did he leave? what did he learn?—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. 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

*** 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:

COMING EVENT – Attend the Toronto Book Launch of THE TORONTO BOOK OF THE DEAD on Friday, September 15th at 7.30pm – FREE ADMISSION 

Friday, September 15, 2017 – 7:30 PM

Book Launch: Toronto Lit Up

Spacing Store

401 Richmond Street West
Toronto M5V 3A8

Cost: FREE

IFOA and Dundurn Press invite you to the release of The Toronto Book of The Dead by Adam Bunch as part of the Toronto Lit Up book launch series.

bunch-adam-the-toronto-book-of-the-dead-2

“Toronto has witnessed countless lives lived and lost as it grew from a muddy little frontier town into a booming metropolis of concrete and glass. The Toronto Book of the Dead tells the tale of the ever-changing city through the lives and deaths of those who made it their final resting place.”

15-dundurn

 

 


Toronto Lit Up is a three year initiative, spearheaded by the Toronto Arts Council and IFOA, designed to spotlight Toronto’s writers and empower local artists with career-building opportunities.

toronto-lit-up-logo-magenta-2Toronto Arts CouncilPrint


Participants

  • Adam Bunch

    Adam Bunch

    Adam Bunch is the creator of The Toronto Dreams Project, and has written about the history of the city for Spacing Magazine, Torontoist and the Huffington Post. In 2012, he earned an honourable mention for a Governor General’s History Award. Adam lives in Toronto.

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