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Luanne Ollivier
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Twenty Questions for Gloria
Twenty Questions for Gloria
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Love the cover tagline, April 29 2016
3.5 Twenty Questions for Gloria is the new YA read from Martyn Bedford.

Fifteen year old Gloria is drawn to Uman, a newcomer at her school. He's unlike the other boys, in both manner and mind. He sees through her 'perfect' life to the boredom that simmers below the surface. And it is that boredom that has her rashly accepting his offer to go on an 'adventure'.

And here's where the great tag line on the cover comes in to play...."Two go missing - one comes back."

It is Gloria who returns. What happened? Gloria's family and friends, the reader - and the police want to know. The answers are to be found in the twenty questions of the police interview.

I thought this way of telling Gloria's story was unique. Each question reveals a little more and we slowly learn the truth. But we are also privy to Gloria's thoughts - and some of the things she decides to keep private.

There is the mystery of what happened of course, but the thrust of the book is an exploration of young love, self examination and an emotional snapshot of teen life, angst, hopes and dreams.

I too, was drawn to Uman - Bedford has created an unusual, intriguing protagonist. His dialogue is witty, his actions - although somewhat rash - are true to his own self. His background is sad, but for me he has a resilience that is innate. So, for this reader, it was Gloria's slow self realization that I became invested in. With each question and answer, we see how her awareness grew over the time away.

When I was young, I was offered a chance to go on an 'adventure' as well. I said no, but after reading the book I wondered - what if I'd said yes? The ending was just right - and what I had hoped for.

Black Rabbit Hall
Black Rabbit Hall
by Eve Chase
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.95
18 used & new from CDN$ 10.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic debut, April 25 2016
This review is from: Black Rabbit Hall (Hardcover)
I absolutely adored this book!! Black Rabbit Hall is Eve Chase's debut novel. I can't imagine how she will follow it up - but I will be waiting for her next book.

1969: Amber and her siblings live with their parents at Pencraw Hall, affectionately called Black Rabbit Hall by the children. Life is idyllic, until a single stormy night irrevocably changes the direction of their lives forever.

30 years later: Lorna and her fiancé John are driving the back roads of Cornwall (England) hunting for a Pencraw Hall, that advertised itself as a wedding venue. When they finally come across it, Lorna feels a odd sense of.....something....recognition?

I love dual narratives, past and present being slowly revealed, until the stories inevitably collide, revealing the final connections and resolution.

Amber and Lorna are both wonderful protagonists, each with a distinct voice. I found myself more caught up in the past. Perhaps because it is these events that shape the future? I grew so invested in the lives of the Alton children and found myself cursing the antagonist of the book out loud. I'm trying to not give away too much, but oh my goodness - she is truly, truly nasty.

All the absolutely delicious elements of a Gothic tale are in place - a creaky, crumbling old mansion filled with the detritus of its glory days, a cantankerous old woman in situ who has been hanging on to her secrets for many, many years and a housekeeper who has lived her whole life in that mansion as well. Dark woods and overgrown gardens surround the house, adding to the wonderful atmosphere Chase has created.

Chase drops clues along the way - single sentences that say so much about what has happened. I found myself talking out loud again - quite saddened by some of those past events. And just as some of those past events are revealed, the narrative changes to the present day. For me, this always guarantees being tired in the morning, as I just have to read 'one more chapter'.....and then another and another.

Black Rabbit Hall is hands down one of my fave reads for 2016.

Precious Cargo: My Year of Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077
Precious Cargo: My Year of Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars " Excerpts from an unpublished novel called The Seekers are interspersed between chapters - it's easy to see the inspiration and, April 21 2016
3.5 Craig Davidson's latest book is a memoir entitled Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077.

Davidson has achieved success as an author numerous times. But at one point, he was struggling to keep the coffers filled. And so...."I took a job driving a school because I was penniless; it was that simple."

But Davidson ended up finding more than monetary gain. He drove Route 412. "Special needs. Six students. One wheelchair, five walks."

Davidson started keeping notes (with permission from the families) on his charges, his thoughts, their interactions - and the changes that year brought. Those notes are this book. "Anytime those kids said something hilarious or quizzical or profane or insightful or humane - well, I'd rush to my notebook (not while active driving!) and jot it down."

In the beginning Davidson is unsure as to how this job will work out, but he soon becomes invested in his charges - and more involved with one student outside of the bus. We come to know each student, their personalities and their peccadilloes. Davidson is a staunch vocal (and physical) defender of the 3077 kids, but soon comes realize that that it is his own perceptions, uneasiness and awkwardness around the disabled that are fueling his temper. When he lets that go, the 'disabled kids' that he's driving lose that descriptor for him and simply become 'kids.' Kudos to Davidson for being so honest in describing his own behaviours - a few of actions did surprise me. In some ways, Davidson is just as fragile that year as some his charges.

And over the year, Davidson finds himself changed..."If I was broken, then the bus fixed me. You guys fixed me. The physical truth is that I drove you. The deeper truth is that you drove me. Drove me to step out of my own sickened skin, to stop feeling sorry for myself and to see the world for its beauties more than it's agonies..."

Excerpts from an unpublished novel called The Seekers are interspersed between chapters - it's easy to see the inspiration and metaphorical matches for the kids on Route 412.

I'm a bit disappointed that Davidson's contact with the riders ended at the end of that school year. I would have liked to know where the kids are today - especially Jake, who described Craig as his 'older brother.'

As they say, the best stories in life are the real ones. And this recounting of a year in the life of a school bus driver and his riders is a darn good one.

Etekcity Living Color LED Desk Table Lamp: Touch Control, Color Changing Base, Adjustable Brightness Light, White
Etekcity Living Color LED Desk Table Lamp: Touch Control, Color Changing Base, Adjustable Brightness Light, White
Offered by Etekcity Corp
Price: CDN$ 49.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I love this lamp!, April 21 2016
I love this little light! I was looking for a small/desk reading lamp for my desk. I got a lot more than that with the Living Color Lamp. It works perfectly - there are three levels of lighting - from just there subtle to bright enough to read by. (LED) I'm also going to use it as an extra light by my sewing machine and hand needlework. And it will move around to where I need it as it is portable. The base is small enough to be used just about anywhere. The lamp is rechargeable - a USB cord is included with a plug adaptor so it can be charged in an outlet or directly into a USB port on your computer. It's charging as I write this. The lamp head is bendable - moving a full 180 degrees up and down, with some side motion as well. A light tap or touch is all that is needed to activate the on/off for both lights.

But for me, the fun part is the 'living color' base. There's a rainbow of colors available, depending on your mood. Simply turn on the base with its own on/off button, run your finger over the circular spectrum ring and hold for 3 seconds on the color you want. (I have played with this many many times already - I'm partial to the hot pink) The color base and white light can be used in conjunction with each other or separately. The base could be used as a night light. A cleaning cloth is included for use on the base and light.

The unit can be completely turned off/on with the button on the bottom. This button is red while charging, green when fully charged. My only suggestion would be to locate this button on the side, to avoid having to lift the light up to turn it off.

It's an attractive, functional light that I'm really happy with and happy to recommend. I received this product in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion. All opinions are my own.

Lacy Eye
Lacy Eye
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Inspired by true events, April 18 2016
This review is from: Lacy Eye (Kindle Edition)
3.5 Jessica Treadway's latest novel is Lacy Eye. The cover's tag line......What if you began to suspect your child of an unspeakable crime...had me intrigued.

Hanna and Joe's youngest daughter Dawn, was always socially awkward and a step behind, "like there's something missing." When she goes away to college, they have high hopes that she will settle in and find her place in the world. What she does find is an older boyfriend, one who isn't quite what he says he is. Shortly after a visit by Dawn and Rud, Hanna and Joe are the victims of an unthinkable crime. Rud is convicted, but with an appeal looming, the crime must be revisited. Hanna's memory of that night is completely blanked out. While others question if Dawn was involved, Hanna steadfastly defends her daughter.

Steadway does a great job of drawing the reader into Hanna's mindset - the fear of reliving what happened, the frustration of not being able to remember and worst of all, the uncertainty that clouds her relationship with Dawn. Treadway takes us from present to past and back again as she slowly reveals more about Dawn, Hanna, Joe, their relationships and what might have led to where they are now. I was conflicted about the characters - I had a hard time liking Hanna and her husband, despite them being victims. Dawn is just as much a victim in many ways. I think it would have been interesting to 'see' things from Dawn's point of view as well.

The title? Lacy eye - "trying to make something prettier than it actually was." Choosing to see only what we want to see, not necessarily reality. Turning a blind eye you might say.

Treadway has taken inspiration for her book from a real life case. Those looking for a mystery or fast paced thriller won't find it in Lacy Eye. Instead, it's a slow building read to the final (expected) answer of whodunit.

Journey to Munich: A Maisie Dobbs Novel
Journey to Munich: A Maisie Dobbs Novel
by Jacqueline Winspear
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.24
26 used & new from CDN$ 19.78

4.0 out of 5 stars I love this character, April 14 2016
I read the first book in Jacqueline Winspear's wonderful Maisie Dobbs series back in 2003 - and was promptly hooked. The latest entry (#12) - Journey to Munich - is newly released.

Maisie has been many things - housemaid, student, nurse, psychologist, private investigator and an agent for the British Secret Service. Maisie is such a wonderfully drawn character - her intellect, determination, courage, kindness, loyalty and stalwartness have all endeared her to me. Winspear has moved Maisie's personal life along from that first book - although not always in a direction I wanted - and I have happily followed along.

But I also appreciate Winspear's plotting. She draws on historical fact, social mores and customs of the time periods and mixes in an always intriguing mystery.

The series began in the years of WW1 and Journey to Munich finds us on the cusp of WWII. A British citizen has been held captive for two years in Dachau. The Germans have agreed to his release - but only to a family member. Maisie is sent in to facilitate that release, appearing as the man's daughter. I found the impetus for this plotline fascinating....

"Journey to Munich was inspired by a story told by my mother of a man she worked for in 1944, when she was seventeen years old.......told her that before the war he had been set free from a German concentration camp into the hands of the British government after they had paid for his release."

A secondary plotline involving someone from Maisie's recent past tests her personally. There were a few plot points that thought were a bit unrealistic, but they didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Winspear does a fantastic job of bringing time and place to life - the months just before all out war is declared again and the danger that was Nazi Germany.

And the ending is just perfect - I can't wait for the next installment in this series. Although this book could be read as a stand alone, I recommend starting with the first book.

The Passenger
The Passenger
by Lisa Lutz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.52
24 used & new from CDN$ 19.10

3.0 out of 5 stars I loved the cover of the book and was curious to ..., April 13 2016
This review is from: The Passenger (Hardcover)
I've read Lisa Lutz's Spellman series in the past. They're award winning light-hearted whodunits à la Janet Evanovich.

Her latest book, The Passenger, is a bit of departure from her previous books. I loved the cover of the book and was curious to see the change in tone.

Tanya Dubois is on the run after her husband accidentally dies. Now, why wouldn't she stick around - it was an accidental fall after all? But Tanya was someone else before and now that she's on the run - again - she'll be another new someone. Tanya's past is alluded to - the original reason she left her childhood town and took off - and as the story progresses, we are privy to emails that slowly point us in the final direction.

As Tanya flees, she crosses paths with Blue - another woman on the run. The two join forces for a while - with deadly repercussions. And their identities change again. And again.

I thought this was a great premise. But sadly, I found it just didn't deliver the punch I was hoping for. After awhile, the constant reinvention just became expected and somewhat tiresome. I found some plot points a bit far fetched. (For anyone else who has read it - the school? Really?) I never really bought into this deadly duo. While their actions are murderous, I never felt the frisson of fear I would have expected from them. And honestly, I just didn't like either of them. But, I really wanted to know what the original impetus was for Tanya's flight, so I saw the book through to the end. But, I was let down by the somewhat pedestrian reason- and the last plot 'twist' was just unbelievable.

The publisher uses 'blistering thriller' and "amazing psychological thriller" as descriptors for The Passenger. For this reader, they're a bit ambitious. This was just an okay read for me.

Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip  [Blu-ray + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip [Blu-ray + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Walt Becker
Offered by Shopville Canada
Price: CDN$ 24.49
11 used & new from CDN$ 10.44

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Latest from Alvin and the gang, April 4 2016
Ready, set? Adjust your ears to Chipmunk level and plug in the movie. This latest entry has the boys up to their usual mischief, mayhem and music, but then Dave throws a curveball. He's met someone he really likes......and she has a son Miles, who's a bit of a bully. Well, of course the chipmunks don't want either a marriage or a mean brother, so they decide to sabotage the relationship. Except Dave and Samantha are in Miami. You got it - road trip - with Miles.

The humour is juvenile (kids will love the pratfalls and bathroom humour) but there's a few jokes that only adults will get. Kids are also going to love the chipmunks' antics, the trouble they get into and the confusing and confounding of adults. Notably the homeland security officer who has it in for the trio. There's a few tug at the heartstring, warm and fuzzy (sorry couldn't resist) moments as well.

The integrated animation is absolutely amazing. The music is fun - you haven't lived until you've heard Funk You Up in chipmunk squeak. With a PG rating, there are a few situations that might require some explaining from parents, but this one is cute, fun family viewing. Silly - absolutely. Are kids going to love it - absolutely!

Etekcity Class II Laser Measure Distance Meter 164-Feet (50m) Yellow
Etekcity Class II Laser Measure Distance Meter 164-Feet (50m) Yellow
Offered by Etekcity Corp
Price: CDN$ 99.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Did what it promised to do., April 4 2016
4.5/5 We are doing quite a few room renovations and sprucing up. I thought this meter would be great for figuring out square footage for paint, flooring, tiles etc. (Because I really don't like doing the measuring tape and calculations.) Measurements can be taken in metric or imperial. The instructions are pretty straight forward. I will need to keep them handy for the first while. But yes, it does figure it out for you. Skeptic that I am, I tested the meter several times for accuracy. Met the mark. Good for up to 164 feet. Measurements can be taken from the front, back and there's a narrow pull out for hard to read places. The laser itself was easy to see, even from a distance. 50 readings can be saved. Screen is backlit. Unit beeps to let you know it's working/taken a measurement. Very handy when you're working by yourself.
The stake out function would be great for calculating fence posts/railings/plant spacing but I also discovered you can choose a small repeating measurement as well. I'm going to be hanging a row of pictures and I want them evenly spaced. So I'll start from the corner and let the unit calculate the even spacing for me.
Small, compact design. Easily fit in my hand. Seems quite sturdy. with padded edges in case it does drop. But, it came with a wrist strap and a carrying case that can be attached to your belt to prevent those drops. Batteries were included. Laser shuts off after 30 seconds and unit auto shuts off after 3 minutes. My one complaint would be that the clear button is also the off button. 1/2 star off for that. Other than that, the meter does what I expected and it has found a place in our tool cupboard. This item was provided to me for evaluation, but my opinion is without bias.

Fool Me Once
Fool Me Once
by Harlan Coben
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.24
32 used & new from CDN$ 11.00

4.0 out of 5 stars I love the impossible situations Coben imagines and following along with ..., March 29 2016
This review is from: Fool Me Once (Hardcover)
Harlan Coben's latest book is Fool Me Once.

Coben returns to a format he does very well - a lead character thrust into an impossible situation that couldn't be possibly be true....could it?

Special-ops vet Maya has returned home from war, suffering from PTSD. Her sister was murdered while she was overseas and that only adds to her burden. Unbelievably, her husband is also murdered four months later. A caring friend gives Maya a nanny cam to keep an eye on the woman looking after her young daughter Lily while she goes back to work. Ready? While reviewing the footage from the camera, she sees Lily with someone - her dead husband Joe.

I love the impossible situations Coben imagines and following along with the lead character as she tries to unravel the mystery and find the truth. Coben has concocted another inventive plot, sure to keep the reader engaged. And in trademark Coben fashion, there's a nice little twist at the end.

But, what took this one from five stars to four for me was Maya. Unfortunately, I just didn't connect with her, even though I felt like I should. I also found Joe's family to be a bit cliched. And some plot points stretched credulity.

Fool Me Once isn't my favourite by Coben, but definitely an entertaining read for the beach.

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