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Luanne Ollivier
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The Tilted World: A Novel
The Tilted World: A Novel
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!, July 9 2014
Oh, where to start.....I absolutely loved The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly! I literally started the book on a Sunday morning and feverishly read until I turned the last page the same night.

Franklin and Fennelly have set their book in 1927 Mississippi - at the time of one of the greatest natural disasters ever to occur in the US. The flood flattened 'almost a million homes, drowning twenty-seven thousand square miles and the water remained for four months. Over 330,000 people were rescued from trees, roofs, and levees."

Dixie Clay Holliver lives along the Mississippi at a bend in the river called Hobnob. Dixie's life isn't quite what she imagined it would be when she married Jesse. Turns out that Jesse is a moonshiner. The loss of her infant son has only added to her grief at the direction her life has taken. But, Dixie does the cooking now - she's better at it than Jesse.

Teddy Ingersoll is a revenuer. In this time of prohibition, Teddy and his partner Ham are always on the move. On their way to Hobnob to investigate the disappearance of two other agents, they come across the lone survivor of a shoot out - an infant boy. Inexplicably, Ingersoll is determined to find a home for the child. When they arrive in Hobnob, Dixie Clay is mentioned as woman who might take in an orphan.

And with that, Dixie and Ingersoll's lives and fates are crossed.

The Tilted World is such a strong novel is every sense of the world. The characters are brilliant. I was so captured by Dixie Clay - her strength, fortitude and abilities belie the hurt beneath her tough exterior. Ingersoll is much the same, with that same strength and fortitude, but no real purpose or direction in his heart.

The setting is just as much of a character in the book as Dixie and Ingersoll. Franklin and Fennelly have done a phenomenal job in bringing time and place to the page. The detailed descriptions of the town, the woods and most of all, the water created vivid mental images for this reader.

Dual narratives are used in The Tilted World to good effect, allowing the reader to be privy to the thoughts of both protagonists.

The Tilted World exemplifies storytelling at it's finest. I was completely caught up in Franklin and Fennelly's tale. I knew what I wanted to happen, I was afraid of what might happen and I couldn't read fast enough to see what did happen. The Tilted World is absolutely recommended.

All Day and a Night: A Novel of Suspense (Ellie Hatcher)
All Day and a Night: A Novel of Suspense (Ellie Hatcher)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great read from Alafair Burke, July 7 2014
I tell you, Alafair Burke just gets better and better with every book. (And she was pretty darn good to start with!)

Her latest release is All Day and A Night, the fifth book in her Detective Ellie Hatcher series.

A psychotherapist is murdered in her office. The murder includes unusual elements that echo astring of murders committed almost twenty years - details never revealed to the public. Anthony Amaro was convicted for the murder of those five women and sentenced to life without parole aka all day and a night. Could he be innocent, as he has proclaimed from day one? An ambitious lawyer named Nancy Grace and Carrie, a woman with ties to one of the victims, think he might be. The District Attorney also thinks his case deserves another look. Hatcher and her partner Rogan are assigned to take a 'fresh look.' Is that fresh look going to be hampered by the fact that Ellie is in a relationship with the DA?

I really enjoy Ellie as a character. She's tough, outspoken and driven. I enjoy following the evolution of a character and Burke lets Ellie make some personal decisions in this latest novel. Rogan is a favourite as well - although we are aware of his personal life, it's not to the same degree as the lead role. I would like to see and know more about him.

The antagonists in this book are strongly drawn. Nancy Grace is very easy to dislike, as is Amara. Carrie keeps us guessing as she provides a back and forth perspective on Amara's guilt or innocence.

Burke has created a great set of recurring characters, but the real strength in All Day and A Night was the plotting. The police work is logical and straight forward, allowing the reader to piece together the clues along with Rogan and Hatcher. I had my suspicions about three quarters of the way through, but Burke threw in enough twists and turns to keep things really interesting. Burke's law background gives her legal and criminal situations added dimension and the ring of truth.

Readers new to Alafair Burke would be able to easily read and enjoy this latest novel without having read previous books in the series - although I encourage you to pick up Burke's back list.

2 Autumns, 3 Winters (Version française)
2 Autumns, 3 Winters (Version française)
DVD ~ Vincent Macaigne
Price: CDN$ 17.99
15 used & new from CDN$ 15.37

3.0 out of 5 stars Just okay for this viewer, July 4 2014
2 Autumns, 3 Winters is from French director Sébastien Betbeder.

Thirty something Arman literally bumps into Amelie while out jogging. He contrives to run into her again and eventually does. Arman's best friend Benjamin suffers a stroke and while recuperating, makes a connection with his physical therapist.

Those are the players. And the rest of the film is a series of vignettes and ruminations from the characters on life, love, moments and memories.

Some of the film is shot so it appears as though a hand held camera was used. I dislike this style - I find the movement jarring and hard to watch. The addition of labelled chapters also added to the 'homemade' feel.

In much of the film, the actors are speaking directly to the viewer. (And sometimes when they are in a scene with another actor) Although you would think this would provide an intimate relationship between actor and viewer, for me it didn't. Initially I was interested in the four, learning of their lives and wondering what would happen over the course of the film. But as the film progressed, I found myself becoming tired and frankly somewhat bored with the almost repetitiveness of their ruminations.

From the director: "I wanted the narrative to be dense, to alternate between serious, critical moments in the lives of these young people, and more incidental moments that have no real impact. I wanted to talk about death and shopping at the grocery store, about love and reality TV."

Initially I connected with the main character Arman (Vincent Macaigne). His attempts to meet Amelie (Maud Wyler) were engaging. And I liked him at the end of the film. But in between, he seemed to almost overact. And I know this is petty, but I found myself tuning out and instead his hair became my focus, instead of his lines. He's always flipping it back, it's dirty and greasy and growing it long and doing a comb over does not hide the large bald spot at the back.

There are many film references that will be noted by avid film buffs. Through my own lacking, I was unable to appreciate many of these homages.

2 Autumns, 3 Winters was just too 'arty' for this viewer. However, the bonus short film, Business Trip, that Film Movement always includes was just excellent.

The Kraken Project
The Kraken Project
by Douglas Preston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.44
35 used & new from CDN$ 11.63

3.0 out of 5 stars Wyman Ford 4, July 2 2014
This review is from: The Kraken Project (Hardcover)
3.5/5 Douglas Preston is one half of the successful writing duo Preston and Child. In audition to their co-written titles, each author also writes on their own!

Preston's latest release is The Kraken Project, the 4th book in his Wyman Ford series. Wyman is a former CIA agent with skills and knowledge that are called into play in unusual circumstances.

Melissa Shepherd is the AI (Artificial Intelligence) programming genius behind "Dorothy" NASA computer probe scheduled to head to one of Saturn's moons. But when a test run goes wrong in the lab, Dorothy thinks for herself - and escapes into the Internet in order to 'live'.

Her knowledge and ability to learn is reaching frightening levels - and she has no intention of 'going back in the box.'

Ford is tasked with finding Melissa, who has gone into hiding. Will the two of them find Dorothy before she wreaks havoc? But others are looking for Dorothy as well - and their motives aren't as noble.

The Kraken Project is a good summer beach read. Suspend disbelief on some of the plot points and just go with it. Preston knows how to come up with a good idea for a story and build in lots of action to keep the story moving along. Ford is a likable protagonist. We get a few glimpses into the personalities of our two lead characters, but for the most part, the book is strictly plot driven. Although, Dorothy has a personality too. I'm not sure I enjoyed Jacob, the young teenage boy added in as Dorothy's companion. I found him too whiny and his dialogue and actions seemed quite wooden and forced. (same for his father) An easy read, but not the best from Preston in my opinion.

Preston could not have predicted at the time he was writing his novel that the computer 'Eugene' would pass the Turing Test, fooling humans into thinking that it too was human. Kinda scary - fiction becoming fact!

The Ways of the Dead: A Novel
The Ways of the Dead: A Novel
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great debut - first in a new series, July 1 2014
4.5/5 It's no secret that crime novels and thrillers are my favourite type of book to read. I'm always on the lookout for new authors in these genres . And it's always a good bet to see a blurb from one of my favourite authors. Such is the case with Neely Tucker's debut fiction novel The Ways of the Dead.

"If this is Tucker's first novel, I can't wait for what's coming next." - Michael Connelly

I love opening scenes that grab my attention right away and have me wondering what's next...

1999. Teenager Sarah Reese takes lessons from a celebrated dance instructor in Washington, DC. But the studio is on the wrong side of the tracks. And Sarah is in the wrong place at the wrong time.....

Sarah's case garners lots of attention as her father is the Chief Judge of the Federal Court. And it catches the eye of reporter Sullivan Carter as well. But Sully sees a bigger picture - there's more to this story. And no one seems to want him to uncover it....

The best protagonists for crime books are the walking wounded, the ones who buck authority, the ones who just can't let things be or let justice go unserved. Sully Carter fills the bill on every count. He's battling PTSD, alcohol and anger issues, his bosses and manages to step on toes everywhere he goes. He's also a confidant of the one of DC's crimelords. Flawed but driven.

Neely's dialogue is effortless and believable. The plotting was really, really good. Actual events in the 1990's were the inspiration behind the book. But Neely takes his novel in directions I didn't predict. (another big plus)

Neely's background is rich and wide and varied. His own experience as a journalist is evident in his writing. Neely's descriptions of time and place were vivid and I had strong mental images of the streets and back alleys of the neighbourhood.

The Ways of the Dead is gritty, grim and oh so good. I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Connelly's blurb - I too will be watching for the next book in this series.

Mating for Life: A Novel
Mating for Life: A Novel
by Marissa Stapley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.86

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A debut to share with the women in your circle, June 30 2014
Mating For Life is Marissa Stapley's absolutely wonderful debut novel.

Former folk singer Helen has three daughters, Liane, Fiona and Ilsa. They all have different fathers and very different lives. But all four women have one thing in common. They are all facing changes, crossroads and crises in their lives.

Helen has eschewed matrimony her whole life. Now at sixty, she's found the man she would like to grow old with - but he wants marriage. Liane too, is contemplating marriage - but is she in love? She's attracted to the man on the next dock, but discovers he is married. Ilsa is on her second marriage, but her eye is wandering also. What is she willing to gamble - and what is she prepared to lose? Fiona is the one everyone can count on - to do the right thing and have everything planned. Her marriage is seemingly perfect. Seemingly - until a secret her husband has kept for many years is finally exposed.

There are many other women in the novel as well - acquaintances, friends and other family members - each with their own set of circumstances that Stapley brilliantly examines through actions, conversations and self examination.

The women's conversations and emotions were honest and believable, providing much food for thought in the reader's own lives. Fidelity, friendship and family and most of all, finding one's self and roles in life, are the focus of Stapley's evocative debut.

Stapley has a wonderful way with words. . I found myself rereading a few passages as I enjoyed the ideas and imagery so much....

"...she kept driving, turning her head to look out at the water, knowing she should be focusing on the road but unable to remember the last time she had driven along a road with no particular destination. Maybe never. The sun hit the waves, which smashed against the breakwater. 'Make a U-turn', the GPS instructed. She turned it off. On the other side, there was calm, and a pair of swans paddling together into the sun. She watched the swans until her chin was at her shoulder, then turned to face the road again and redirected her car so that she was once again heading in the right direction."

The Muskoka cottage country is the setting for many of the main scenes/get togethers. I enjoy reading about an area I'm familiar with. Stapley must be as well - the setting is easily pictured. (As are the scenes set in Toronto)

Stapley prefaces each chapter with a short blurb describing the mating habits of various animal species, from snapping turtles to bears to birds and more. Make sure to take the time to read them - they are directly relatable to that chapter. (As well as being informative)

Mating for Life was an engaging read. I found myself caught up in each woman's life, wondering at the choices they were making and where they would land. I appreciate that Stapley has not written cookie cutter lives for her characters.

An excellent debut and a book you'll want to pass on to the women in your life.

The Bees: A Novel
The Bees: A Novel
by Laline Paull
Edition: Audio CD
Price: CDN$ 26.30
13 used & new from CDN$ 24.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of buzz around this debut, June 29 2014
This review is from: The Bees: A Novel (Audio CD)
Well, there's been lots of buzz surrounding Laline Paull's debut novel, The Bees. (sorry, couldn't resist!) And that buzz is well-deserved!

Flora 717 is born a sanitation worker in her hive - the lowest of the low. But Flora 717 is an anomaly - she can speak. One of the Sage Priestesses take notice of her and Flora is moved to the nursery to feed the young. Then against all odds, she becomes a forager, flying outside of the hive to find pollen and nectar to feed her hive. She is brave and kind and tries to serve her queen and live by the hive's dictum -'Accept, Obey and Serve'. But Flora 717 has another ability, one that goes against everything she has been taught from the moment she was born. And it is this instinct that now changes not just Flora's life, but that of the Queen and her hive.

Now, you might be saying to yourself - really? Bees? Trust me - you'll quickly become immersed in the life of the hive and truly invested in the character of Flora 717. And as you read or listen, you get caught up in her hopes and aspirations, in the struggles of her and her kin and in the day to day life of the community and the hive's struggle to survive. For there are predators. Humans make a brief appearance in the first and last chapters, reminding us of the fragility of nature and the harm our chemicals wreak.

The details of the hive and of the lives of bees were both informative and fascinating. Did you know that "It takes twelve bees their entire lives to gather enough nectar to make one teaspoon of honey?"

The architectural structure of the hive was quite detailed and vividly drawn.

From the author: "I realized that the most astonishing creatures and events are happening everywhere - it’s just a question of scale whether we notice them or not." Paull's novel has definitely made me stop and take notice when I see bees busily buzzing in my flowerbeds, then flying away. Makes you wonder....

I chose to listen to The Bees. Orlagh Cassidy was the reader. She is a favourite narrator of mine, but I am very used to listening to her reading thriller and action books. I wondered how she would handle a distinctly different piece of work. The answer is - excellently. Cassidy's voice is unique, with lots of hidden gravel and nuance. She chose a voice for Flora that I both enjoyed and suited the mental image I had created of Flora. Cassidy interpreted the book very well, using tone, speed and inference to bring Paull's prose to life. There are some books I just know I have enjoyed more by listening, rather than reading them. The Bees is one of those.

The Bees has been aptly described as a combination Watership Down meets The Handmaid's Tale.

Elizabeth Is Missing
Elizabeth Is Missing
by Emma Healey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 14.97
2 used & new from CDN$ 14.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant debut, June 29 2014
This review is from: Elizabeth Is Missing (Hardcover)
One of the best things about my job is being asked "What have you read that's really good lately?" Well, Emma Healey's debut novel, Elizabeth is Missing, is one title I'll be recommending over and over again this summer. I really, really loved this book. Okay, you loved it Luanne, now what's it about?

Maud is in her eighties and is slowly but surely losing her memory, her ability to live alone and to take care of herself. But the one thing she cannot forget is her friend Elizabeth. Maud is convinced she is missing, no matter what her daughter Helen, her carers and Elizabeth's son Peter says. She need to find her - Elizabeth is missing. Maud writes many notes to remind herself to continue to look for Elizabeth. And she does, putting herself in harm's way and her daughter at her wit's end.

But there is a second narrative as well, from Maud's past as a young girl in Britain, shortly after World II has ended. Maud is an unreliable narrator. As the past and the present become tangled in Maud's memory, the reader is not quite sure of what is truth, what is memory and what is what might have been. But as I read, I had suspicions creeping in......

It is difficult to watch Maud struggle with knowing she is losing her memory. She is determined to hand on to her pride, her dignity and independence. And desperate to know what has happened to Elizabeth. Healey's writing captures Maud's frustration, the lost time and the fear so well. But Healey does inject humour into Maud's life as well. She is a feisty soul. Her daughter Helen is just as well drawn and provides a real and touching look at the difficult, often painful role of being a child and/or a carer of someone with dementia or Alzheimer's. I thought Helen's granddaughter Katy was very well written as well. She jokes and laughs with her grandmother and loves her very much. I wonder if there's a bit of Healey written into Katy.

Elizabeth is missing is both a mystery and a story of lives, heartbreaking, yet life affirming. Above all, it is a brilliant read, guaranteed to grab you and not let you go, even after the last page is turned. (have a tissue handy) Part of what made this book so poignant was Healey adding in part of her life and memories, with a nod to her grandmothers, Nancy and Vera.

"It was a few months after she (Nancy) died, that I began to write Elizabeth is Missing in earnest, combining the exploration of dementia prompted by Nancy with some of the stories I'd collected from Vera."

As I read, I too thought often of my own grandmothers, now both passed away. And it made me love the book even more.

Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek
DVD ~ Hyeon-ju Son
Price: CDN$ 17.99
17 used & new from CDN$ 17.15

4.0 out of 5 stars A grain of truth in this thriller, June 20 2014
This review is from: Hide and Seek (DVD)
Hide and Seek, from director Huh Jung, is Ram Releasing's latest DVD release. It was one of the highest grossing film in South Korea in 2013.

Okay, I admit it - I love a good scary movie. Sometimes I love it from behind a pillow but still...

Hide and Seek opens with mysterious person in a motorcycle helmet, simply standing and staring. This person appears throughout the film. I gotta tell you, that inaction is just as frightening as overt violence - it's the anticipation that something might happen that builds tension.

Our main character is Sung-soo. He has a beautiful wife and children, gorgeous home and plenty of 'things'. But he's also unsettled, suffering from insomnia and OCD. When he gets word that his estranged brother has gone missing, he goes to his apartment. And sets off a chain of events with that visit. Those symbols he sees by the doorbells of his brother's building? They're now appearing in his own building...

What great settings there were in this movie. The brother's apartment is in an industrial, crowded and ready to be demolished building. In contrast, Sung-soo lives in a luxurious, clean building with security. (I just have to mention that I've never seen a cleaner, brighter parking garage.)

Hide and Seek starts off with many lovely, creepy scenes, setting the tone. Outright violence is only introduced in the last half hour of the film. And even then, it's not over the top or gratuitous.

The acting, although a little overdone in places was good, with the villain being played particularly well. (don't want to provide spoilers) And as in any good thriller, there are those..."Why would you.... go back in, don't turn your back, leave the children alone...moments.

In watching the interviews with the director and actors, I learned that the premise for this film had its' roots in reality. Squatters - making their homes in other people's homes. Very creepy. And very real - a quick search on the Internet turned up numerous examples.

Ram Releasing is a genre offshoot of Film Movement, specializing in horror and thriller titles. Hide and Seek falls into the thriller zone and was definitely worth watching!

Before I Wake
Before I Wake
by C.L. Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.99
21 used & new from CDN$ 7.63

4.0 out of 5 stars What a great debut, June 14 2014
This review is from: Before I Wake (Paperback)
Before I Wake is C. L. Taylor's debut novel. And I have to tell you - it's really good.

Present day. Susan sits by a hospital bed, hoping her comatose daughter will wake up. It was a dreadful accident, Charlotte stepping out in front of the bus like that. Or so Susan thought until she found Charlotte's diary - and the cryptic line - "This secret is killing me."

Taylor then cuts the narrative to the past and we are privy to Susan's diary, before she married and had Charlotte. The journal is troubling and worrisome, giving the reader a good idea of where Susan's life might be headed. We want to shake Susan out of her fantasy world but we can only keep reading as things deteriorate.

And just at a pivotal moment, Taylor switches back to the present. Susan needs to know the secret her daughter was keeping. Maybe, just maybe, by discovering the truth, she can help Charlotte wake up. But her attempts to ferret out the truth have her lying to her husband, badgering Charlotte's friends and more. She begins to dig up small tidbits of information, but no one believes her. In fact, they all think she's having an 'episode'. After all, it wouldn't be the first time would it?

Present day Susan is an unreliable narrator We just never really know if she is telling the truth or telling the truth as she imagines it to be. But her earlier diary is quite the opposite. And is in fact, quite frightening in the scenario that Taylor portrays.

Taylor's characters are all quite well drawn and definitely evoke reactions from the reader. Although the main plot idea has been done before, Taylor adds enough spin to make it her own. I quite enjoyed the past and present timeline and the cliffhanging chapter endings. The suspense starts in the first few pages and doesn't let up until the very end. (Although, it did keep me reading long past the time I should have shut off the light.)

Before I Wake was an excellent psychological suspense read. Taylor herself has a degree in psychology and that knowledge is used very effectively at building her story, in both timelines.

A recommended read and I'll be watching for Taylor's second book.

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