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Luanne Ollivier
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The Bone Tree
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.94
36 used & new from CDN$ 18.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Iles does a great job of quickly recapping, May 7 2015
This review is from: The Bone Tree (Hardcover)
devoured Natchez Burning, the first book in Greg Iles's planned trilogy and have been eagerly awaiting the second entry - The Bone Tree.

The Bone Tree picks up right where Natchez Burning left off. Iles does a great job of quickly recapping, so that new readers could jump into the book. (But seriously, you need to read the first book)

Lawyer Penn Cage is the mayor of Natchez, Mississippi. Between himself, his newspaper editor fiancee, his father Tom and others, they have uncovered and exposed the dirty underbelly of Natchez and surrounding Louisiana. Secrets, killings and corruption, racial hatred, greed, crime and political malfeasance of the worst kind imaginable. The perpetrators are so well placed and have been in power for so long that it seems nothing can take them down. And then comes the revelation that this shadowy group may have been responsible for the deaths of American leaders. (Gentle readers be warned - there are graphic scenes and descriptions)

Iles's plotting is simply spectacular - intricately imagined and complexly drawn with a hefty dose of (frightening) fact mixed in. I did check out many many references online to see if they were real - they were. In fact it's almost impossible to try and explain the book - there are so many threads and characters. Each and every character Iles brings to the page is fully developed and the reader can't help but become engaged (or disgusted) with every player. I've been a fan of Penn Cage from the first book, but Tom and his old ranger buddy Walt were the underdogs I was cheering for this time. The 'bad guys' are well - just plain ugly.

I described Natchez Burning as powerful, gripping, thrilling, sweeping and simply spectacular - and I'll use those same words to describe The Bone Tree. 800+ plus pages of absolutely epic reading. Read an excerpt of The Bone Tree. A reading guide is also available.

This reader will be waiting and watching for the third and concluding book. There's no date or title as of yet, but Iles says "The release date of the final book in the trilogy is not set in stone at this time. I have a feeling that the TV series currently in the works might make me let go of that final book faster than I might otherwise have done, which I hope is good news for readers"

Finding Jake: A Novel
Finding Jake: A Novel
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Laney is fine, but Simon is the last parent waiting - ..., May 2 2015
3.5/5 We've all read the horrendous stories and watched the news footage - shootings at schools....

Bryan Reardon's new novel, Finding Jake uses a school shooting as a starting point for his book.

Simon is a stay at home dad to Laney and Jake, while his wife heads out to her job as a lawyer each day. One fateful day, there is a shooting at the children's high school. Simon rushes to the school and anxiously waits to be reunited with his kids. Laney is fine, but Simon is the last parent waiting - and Jake is the only child missing. The suspected shooter was a loner, with Jake being his only friend.

Simon has had many doubts about his parenting skills over the years. He found it hard to mix in with the stay at home moms in the neighbourhood. He projected many of his own fears and insecurities on his children. Laney seemed to be unaffected, but Jake is a quiet child, preferring his own company.

As he waits for new, Simon relives Jake's life - from a baby to the young man he is today. And Simon's doubts, questions, self-recriminations, fears and anxieties about himself, his role as a parent, his childrearing abilities and his son are laid bare on the page. How well does he know his child? Where is Jake? His body was not inside the school - where could he be? Is he alive? Could he possibly be involved? What more could he have to protect his child? What did he do wrong?

Everything we learn is from Simon's point of view. It is as much a search for who is son his as it is a self exploration of himself as a father, husband and person. Despite his self realization, I found it hard to like Simon. As Simon's memories progress through the years, the picture we have of Jake changes. The ending was not at all predictable, though unsettling.

I found the back and forth between the past and present quite addictive. Reardon's prose have such a ring of authenticity to them - he eloquently articulates the fears we all harbour as parents. Reardon himself left an office job to stay home with his twin newborns.

Pleasantville
Pleasantville
by Attica Locke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.42
28 used & new from CDN$ 18.32

4.0 out of 5 stars 5/5 l read and enjoyed Attica Locke's second novel, May 2 2015
This review is from: Pleasantville (Hardcover)
3.5/5 l read and enjoyed Attica Locke's second novel, The Cutting Season, a few years ago. (my review) But, I hadn't read her first book Black Water Rising featuring attorney Jay Porter. Porter returns in Locke's newest book Pleasantville.

1996. A young girl goes missing after a night of handing out flyers in the Houston neighbourhood of Pleasantville. Two other young women have been killed on the streets in the near past, but the crimes remain unsolved. There's also a fierce electoral race running for the mayor of Houston - and Pleasantville has put forward a candidate. When a family member of the local candidate is arrested for the murder of this last girl, Jay is brought in to defend him. But is he guilty or is the accusation a political tactic?

I enjoyed Jay as a lead character. He's not a perfect man, but he's trying his best as a single father. He's also struggling with doing the right thing for his clients in the class action suit from Black Water Rising, but is growing tired of it all.

Locke has penned a complex political/legal thriller, with the murder part of the plot taking a back seat. It's very well written. But, I found myself having to put it down every so often as the plot has so many myriad threads and players that I started to glaze over. I found the first part of the book slow going, but things picked up as the action moved into the courtroom. This is a personal bias though, as I find political machinations tedious. But, that being said, Locke's plotting is also excellent - and somewhat frightening. I honestly think that what she has presented in a fictional setting has its roots in reality - and corruption. Locke explores that theme, as well as family, class and race with a deft hand.

It was only on reading the author's notes that I discovered that Pleasantville is an actual place in Texas. I wonder how much of Locke's story is based on fact?

Tides of Honour
Tides of Honour
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars historical fiction in times of war - a favourite of mine, April 27 2015
This review is from: Tides of Honour (Kindle Edition)
3.5/5 Ahh, historical fiction in times of war - a favourite of mine. The tagline on the cover of Genevieve Graham's new book Tides of Honour made this a must read for me - "Halifax 1917 - Love in a Time of War. Canadian historical fiction!

Tides of Honour opens in 1916 with Danny Baker returning home from WWI to the small fishing outport of East Jeddore, Nova Scotia - minus a leg. While in France, Danny had met a young woman named Audrey. Both smitten, they had struck up a written correspondence that sustained them both through troubled times. They plan to marry when the war is over, but with the loss of his leg, Danny tries to end it. Tides of Honour is told from both Danny and Audrey's perspective, with both protagonists having their own chapters.

Graham has woven a lovely historical piece around war, the aftermath and it's effect on individuals, communities and society. The Halifax Explosion is part of history every Canadian should know about and Graham depicts it very well. But, it is romance that is at the heart of this novel. Graham hits all the right notes for a love story - love found, love lost, barriers (social, mental, physical and there's a well drawn antagonist it's impossible not to dislike) and a rocky path to resolution. I became caught up in Danny and Audrey's story - hoping for a happy ending. I did find that there were perhaps one too many 'push me, pull me, yes or no moments' near the end of the novel. And, I question a plot point involving Audrey, given her interest and support of the Suffragette movement. But that aside, I was caught up in their story from start to finish.

I loved the setting - I've traveled to Nova Scotia and visited both Halifax and the area around Jeddore. Graham did a wonderful job bringing these locations to life - I was able to easily envision them. The easy community, friendliness and perseverance of the Nova Scotians is just as well portrayed through the supporting players. Graham herself makes her home on the island - her first hand view shows in her work.

Tides of Honour is an easy, enjoyable read perfect for the back porch after dinner.

Blood on Snow: A novel
Blood on Snow: A novel
by Jo Nesbo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.52
3 used & new from CDN$ 14.49

4.0 out of 5 stars I've read and enjoyed every adult book Jo Nesbo has written, April 24 2015
This review is from: Blood on Snow: A novel (Hardcover)
I've read and enjoyed every adult book Jo Nesbo has written. His Harry Hole novels are a favourite. But I've also enjoyed the stand alones - including his newest book - Blood on Snow.

1976 Oslo, Norway. Olav has worked for crime syndicate boss Daniel Hoffmann for a number of years. But, it took him a bit to find the right job within the organization. He turned out to be no good as a pimp, a getaway driver, a robber or a drug dealer. But....he found his niche as a fixer. Olav doesn't fix things - he to fixes people. Permanently.

All seems to be going well, until Daniel Hoffmann gives Olav his latest assignment - Daniel wants his wife fixed. This time the job doesn't go quite as it should....

"When exactly do you reach the point where you know so much about your boss that he starts to get worried? And when you do you know he's beginning to wonder if he ought to fix the fixer?"

Now, after that cold blooded description, what you wouldn't expect is to feel sympathy for Olav - but I did. There's more to Olav than meets the eye. Nesbo has created a wonderful anti-hero - one I was actually rooting for.

All the elements of Nesbo's writing that I enjoy are packed into just over 200 pages. Short sharp dialogue, brutal situations and an intensity throughout it all - but always with an undertone and a conscience lurking beneath the violence. Astute readers will capture and appreciate the nods to Hugo's Les Misérables as Olav's tale unfolds.

Blood on Snow is easily devoured in a night's sitting and is a treat for those fans missing Harry. (me included!)

A Desperate Fortune
A Desperate Fortune
by Susanna Kearsley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.43

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And for all the people who have recommended her books to me over the years - you ..., April 21 2015
This review is from: A Desperate Fortune (Paperback)
Okay, I admit it - A Desperate Fortune is the first Susanna Kearsley novel I've read. And for all the people who have recommended her books to me over the years - you were absolutely right - she's a wonderful writer!

Kearsley employs my favourite style - a past and present narrative that switches between present day Sara, and Mary in 1732.

Sara has been hired to decode a recently discovered diary dating from 1732. But the owner insists she travel to Paris to work on it. Sara is a gifted puzzle solver and she quickly discovers that the diary belonged to Mary Dundas - a Jacobite exile. As she makes more headway, she recognizes that the book has historical significance beyond Mary's personal thoughts.

I just loved the idea of a coded book finally being revealed after almost three centuries. Of the two story lines, I was more caught up in the past, eager to see where Mary's journey took her.

But that's not to say I didn't enjoy the present. Sara was an interesting protagonist - Kearsley has created a lead character with Aspberger's Syndrome. There have many books with male leads with this syndrome, but this is the first female lead I can think of. I thought Kearsley did a good job with her portrayal.

Both storylines contain a romantic element. Again, I thought Kearsley wrote Sara's story with a realistic, sensitive view of this syndrome. But it was Mary's story that captured me completely. I loved her mettle, her hopes, her determination and her 'affair of the heart'. (And I think I'm a little in love with Mr. M. as well) I loved the stories within a story - Mary is a lover and raconteur of fairy tales. And again, Mary's life mirrors some of her beloved tales.

The author has a strong sense of time and place. Kearsley brings to life a time frame I truly did not know much about, in an interesting and engaging fashion. (The author's notes at the end are fascinating - they detail her historical research for the book.)

Turning the last page left me feeling satisfied - but also sad that the book had ended. This definitely won't be my last Susanna Kearsley book.

Down Don't Bother Me: A Slim In Little Egypt Mystery
Down Don't Bother Me: A Slim In Little Egypt Mystery
by Jason Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.66
29 used & new from CDN$ 5.03

5.0 out of 5 stars But - the audio version was fantastic! The reader was Johnny Heller - one of ..., April 20 2015
Now in addition to having an eBook and a physical book always on the go, I also have an audio book queued up as well - sometimes to help me fall asleep.

Well, there was no way I was falling asleep listening to Jason Miller's debut novel Down Don't Bother Me. In fact - I stayed up much later than I had planned!

Miller's protagonist is Slim, an Illinois coal miner with a propensity for finding people. It's not a job for Slim, but he's helped out folks before. But this time, he doesn't have much of a choice. A reporter is found dead in the mine - and the photographer working with him is missing. Luster, the mine owner, wants to run his own search for the photographer - who just happens to be his son-in-law. Well, Slim is a single father, so when Luster dangles a pension as a carrot, Slim takes the job.

Now, I'm sure the written book will Miller many fans. But - the audio version was fantastic! The reader was Johnny Heller - one of my favourites. He has a low, gravely, worn voice that completely embodied the mental image I had of Slim. Heller's interpretation of Miller's story was perfect rhythm, cadence and tone.

The setting is just as great. Slim makes his home in Little Eygpt - one of the last colliery towns in Illinois. Its down and dirty, populated by a wild variety of characters - methheads, environmental activists, gangs and everyday folks just trying to make a go of it.

I'm going to applaud the supporting cast as well. Slim's daughter Anci is a firecracker - smart and wise to the ugliness of the world even at twelve. I enjoyed the relationship between Slim and his girlfriend Peggy - the give and take, the yes or no. Every protagonist needs a sidekick and Slim has a good one with Jeep - a big, strong guy who is like a brother to Slim. But, the standout of course, is Slim - he's rough around the edges, but smart, caring and a guy you'd want to have in your corner. He's a lead character you can't help but get behind and cheer for.

What sets off these relationships, and indeed the whole book, is Miller's dialogue and descriptions. Miller's prose are folksy, real, gritty, and so addictive to listen to. I don't think I would have enjoyed the written book as well. The audio just brought the novel to life. The descriptions of the mines and the men who work them were atmospheric (and for this reader claustrophobic!) I could taste the coal dust as the men emerged into the light.

Now, I need to mention the mystery as well - which was wonderfully plotted. I couldn't predict where the story was going to go and happily went along for the ride through the back roads of Little Egypt, eager to join the search for the photographer.

This is the first in a planned series and I will absolutely be listening to the next entry. Highly recommended. Down Don't Bother Me is a great entry in the 'grit lit' genre. Fans of Elmore Leonard's Justified will enjoy this novel.

The Dead Key
The Dead Key
by D. M. Pulley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.27
35 used & new from CDN$ 12.16

4.0 out of 5 stars I found myself quite annoyed with Iris's actions, April 16 2015
This review is from: The Dead Key (Paperback)
3.5/5 I collect old keys and I often wonder about what they unlocked and who used them.

D.M. Pulley's debut novel The Dead Key starts with keys and goes from there....

The Dead Key is told in two narratives - the past is 1978 and the present is 1998. And everything revolves around The First Bank of Cleveland. Twenty years ago there were allegations of fraud, staff had disappeared at the bank and more. One night, with no warning to the remaining staff or customers, the bank is shuttered. It has remained locked up and seemingly forgotten for the last twenty years. Except for the security guard who has been on site for all of that time.

1998 - Engineer Iris Latch goes in to map out the building for a possible buyer - and comes across the lost keys to the still locked safety deposit boxes. 1978 - young Beatrice Davies is a new employee of First Bank who stumbles upon some goings on that aren't quite right. The two women are investigating the same mystery, but I found it was Beatrice I was drawn to. I found myself quite annoyed with Iris's actions, choices and attitude.

But it is the forgotten building untouched for twenty years that had me intrigued. Vending machines still plugged in and working? Family photos on desks? I would love to be an urban explorer in this building. I really enjoyed Pulley's slow revealing of the physical bank and its secrets.

What has lead to the closing of the bank is revealed through the two women's investigations. Corruption,greed and larceny figure heavily into the story line. I did find that some of the plot points in the story needed to be taken with a grain of salt, but overall I thought the The Dead Key was a good debut novel. Recommended for the beach bag or plane ride.

It was only after finishing the book, that I discovered The Dead Key was based on fact - D.M. Pulley did indeed come across a basement full of unclaimed safety deposit boxes.

The Work Boyfriend
The Work Boyfriend
Price: CDN$ 3.82

4.0 out of 5 stars the high school love behind and has lived with Rob for the last ..., April 8 2015
Do you ever wonder about that high school boyfriend? Where he might be? What if you'd stayed together? Is the man you're with now The One?

Deanna McFadden explores that question - and a whole lot more - in her debut novel, The Work Boyfriend.

Kelly has an interesting job - okay it's not quite what she wanted to do, but it'll do for now. She did leave Chris, the high school love behind and has lived with Rob for the last ten years. She's happy with him. Except...well, he wants to get married. And Kelly is adamant that she doesn't want to. And lately it's Garrett - her friend at work that she thinks she might want to be with.....

"There is a moment when you are travelling, in the instant before you realize you are hopelessly and truly lost, when you lose all sense of the right direction. That feeling was pervading my relationship and my life these days."

All the elements are here for a fun chick lit read, but McFadden takes her novel a step beyond that. The Work Boyfriend is an exploration of what it means to grow up, to be an adult, to make choices that are right for yourself - and others. There are numerous supporting characters - friends, co-workers and family, each with their own opinion and take on being an adult.

Now, it might be my age - I'm pretty sure I've settled into adult life safely - but I found myself getting frustrated with Kelly. But I understood where she was coming from, even though I found her hard to like. Who I did identify with was Kelly's mom. She's had some hard knocks along the way, but persevered, figured it out and is happy. And yes, sometimes mom does know what she's talking about.

McFadden has set the book in Toronto - it was fun to recognize places and spaces I've visited. And some of the Canadian references had me chuckling. Anyone else remember doing The Canadian Fitness Challenge?

The Work Boyfriend is by turns funny and poignant, but always with a ring of truth. Every reader will be able to identify with one of the characters or situations as Kelly tries to figure out what direction her life needs to go now. McFadden has an easy way with words and a keen eye for the human condition. The Work Boyfriend was a enjoyable, easy read with just the right ending.

Behind Closed Doors
Behind Closed Doors
by Elizabeth Haynes
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.83
27 used & new from CDN$ 8.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haynes does not delve into unnecessary graphic detail) I really like Lou as a character ..., April 6 2015
This review is from: Behind Closed Doors (Paperback)
I've been a fan of Elizabeth Haynes since I stumbled upon her first book - Into the Darkest Corner. She was quickly added to my list of 'must read every book they write' authors.

Behind Closed Doors is Haynes's fifth book and the second to feature Detective Inspector Louisa Smith of the Briarstone Major Crimes division.

Teenager Scarlett Rainford disappeared ten years ago while on vacation with her family in Greece. Was she taken? Or did she run away? She - or her body -was never found.

Until now. A raid on a local brothel with ties to organized crimes turns up a woman named Katie working there - and Katie says her real name is Scarlett Rainford.

Lou is shaken - she was a young constable who worked on the case ten years and she's always wondered what happened to Scarlett. Did they look hard enough? Did the Greek police follow every lead? And most frightening of all - what kind of life has Scarlett had for the last ten years?

Haynes employs a dual narrative in Behind Closed Doors. We discover what happened to Scarlett in her own voice from ten years ago, but we're also in present day with Louisa as she attempts to piece together what happened to Scarlett all those years ago - and why she is so reticent to reconnect with her family. This technique always guarantees a late night for me. I need to read just one more chapter (and then another 'one more') until I chase down the threads of a character's story. Scarlett's narrative was particularly addicting. (Despite the horrific nature of Scarlett's past, Haynes does not delve into unnecessary graphic detail)

I really like Lou as a character - she's driven, dedicated, not perfect and a bit vulnerable. Her personal storyline reveals a woman torn between job and partner. (Quite fun that her love interest is Canadian!)

The plot and subject matter of Behind Closed Doors is dark and difficult. Haynes handles the crimes, the procedures, the investigation and more with a practiced insider's eye, as she has worked as a police intelligence analyst. A number of these type of reports are part of the book and detail a parallel plot line revolving around organized crime mobs.

Now, I had my suspicions as the book moved towards resolution. I was right in some aspects, but wrong in others. Haynes's writing, plot and characters kept me fully engaged and compulsively reading until the last page was turned.

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