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Luanne Ollivier
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SUMMER AT LITTLE BEACH STREET BAKERY
SUMMER AT LITTLE BEACH STREET BAKERY
by Jenny Colgan
Edition: Paperback
59 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Beach bag worthy, March 25 2016
Jenny Colgan's newest book is Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery. Now, it's a follow-up to Little Beach Street Bakery, but you don't need to have read it to enjoy 'Summer'. (Although you might want to pick it up as well and tuck both into your summer reading beach bag)

Polly Waterford has made a place for herself in the tiny Cornish town of Mount Polbearne - she's running a successful bakery (she doesn't own it yet, but...) has bought a home (yes an operating lighthouse!), has a fabulous boyfriend (Huckle, a transplanted American honeybee keeper) and a pet puffin named Neil. Life is good. Until....

.....a new owner takes over the bakery - and that changes everything.....Polly faces uncertainty again on every front....

Colgan has created a wonderful backdrop and setting for her characters. I love quaint little towns and quirky characters and Mount Polbearne is just that. (I think I'd be quite happy living there) Polly is a great lead character - she's someone you'd love to have as a friend. And it's impossible not to cheer her on. Huckle is great, but it's Neil the puffin who takes best supporting character. Without saying much more than Eep, he'll steal your heart. (He does have his own twitter account @neilthepuffin) I wasn't completely sold on friends Kerensa and Reuben - they were a bit over the top. But they play their designated roles perfectly.

Colgan's description of the breads and baking had me salivating as I read. I've always dreamed of having my own business and enjoyed following Polly's start-ups.

Summer at Little Beach Bakery has everything you want in a great chick-lit book - love, loss, drama, humour and yes - a just right ending. There are many more stories waiting to be told in Mount Polbearne - I hope Colgan has plans for another book set here.

Jojo Moyes contributes a blurb to the cover - "Deliciously warm and sweet." I absolutely agree. Tuck Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery in your beach bag - it's perfect summer reading!

The Killing Forest
The Killing Forest
by Sara Blaedel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.73
32 used & new from CDN$ 20.34

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars combine to make a great plot. The setting is different, March 22 2016
This review is from: The Killing Forest (Hardcover)
The Killing Forest is the latest (8th) book in Sara Blaedel's Louise Rick series.

Rick is an investigator with the Special Search Agency, a unit of the National Police Department in Denmark.

The Killing Forest opens with fifteen year old Sune preparing for his 'coming of age' ceremony, to be held in the forest by an ancient sacrificial oak tree. Sune's family practices an ancient religion, drawing direction and inspiration from the ancient Norse Gods.....with their own interpretations. Sune is horrified as the ritual progresses and runs into the forest to escape his father and the group. Louise Rick is called in a week later - the boy is still missing. This case brings the past into the present for Louise - her boyfriend was killed in this same town years ago.

Ancient beliefs, an old crone who knows the secrets of the past, an insular group determined to thwart any attempt to undermine them with any means necessary and a young boy on the run, combine to make a great plot.

The setting is different, both the town and forest are ominous and full of secrets, the plot is inventive, drawing on unfamiliar territory that had me quite curious and the main character is one I really like for her tenacity and drive. I enjoy a continuing storyline and am pleased with the direction Louise's personal life in present day is taking. I'm even warming up to her best friend, Camilla, who has annoyed me in the past. The tie in to the past with this case offers up answers to unanswered question from previous books. The danger builds slowly and even though the reader is aware of 'whodunit', my interest never flagged.

The Killing Forest is another great entry is a series I will continue to follow. Mark Kline has done a great job with the translation - the reading is smooth, without any 'wooden', clunky text.

The Watcher in the Wall
The Watcher in the Wall
by Owen Laukkanen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 30.18
31 used & new from CDN$ 20.64

4.0 out of 5 stars And just like the suicide forums, March 21 2016
I've been a fan of Owen Laukkanen right from the beginning, with the release of his debut novel, The Professionals. His newest book, The Watcher in the Wall, is the fifth in the Stevens and Windermere series. (It can be read as a stand-alone)

Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere are partners on a joint FBI and BCI task force. It's Stevens' daughter who brings their latest case to them. A classmate has committed suicide. Tragic enough on its own, but the death is being shown on the internet. The boy was a member of an online suicide forum, where members share their thoughts, tips and ------ encouragement.

A bit of a difficult and dark premise, but one that is unfortunately real. The antagonist that Laukkanen has created is truly despicable and twisted. And just like the suicide forums, not that far from the truth. Who are you really talking to in chat room? And how do you know that photo is real? Ugly, chilling and oh, so very creepy.

The relationship between the two lead characters has evolved and changed over the course of the books. They have very different personalities which bring a different view, attitude and approach to their cases. The Watcher in the Wall sees Windermere take the lead - and some risky moves. This case has become personal for her, triggering memories from her teenage years. (But I have to admit, the cooler headed Stevens remains my favourite)

The action doesn't stop and the pacing is frantic as the pair race to save another teen before they make a terrible, final decision. As I read the final run up to the ending, I was envisioning an action film. (and it would make a good one) But, some of the final plot situations do ask the reader to suspend disbelief. So, I did. Here's an excerpt of The Watcher in the Wall.

The author's notes at the end were compelling:

"The Watcher in the Wall is inspired very loosely by real-life incident, but it's also a fairly personal book for me. I've dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts since I was a teenager, and it's only now, two decades later that I've started taking real steps to deal with it. In some ways, this book is a response to the dark stuff......Please don't suffer in silence. There's no shame in speaking up and I promise, you're not alone."

There's a nice little cover blurb from John Sandford..."Laukkanen is slam-bang brilliant." And yes, if you like Sandford's books, you're going to like Laukkanen.

Free Men: A Novel
Free Men: A Novel
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Smith creates detailed back stories for each of them even as they run towards what they hope will be a better life. Chasing them, March 18 2016
This review is from: Free Men: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
3.5 Katy Simpson Smith opens her latest novel, Free Men, with a quote from Albert James Pickett's 1851 book, History of Alabama, and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi, from the Earliest Period.

"About this time, a bloody transaction occurred in the territory of the present county of Conecuh....The part consisted of a Hillabee Indian, who had murdered so many men, that he was called Istillicha, the Man-slayer --- a desperate white man, who had fled from the States for the crime of murder, and whom, on account of his activity and ferocity, the Indians called the Cat --- and a blood-thirsty negro, named Bob."

And this is the jump off point for Smith's novel. 1788. She puts this unlikely trio together, on the run from not just their pasts, but a murder they all have a hand in. Smith creates detailed back stories for each of them even as they run towards what they hope will be a better life. Chasing them is another white man, just as determined that they be captured.

I loved that Free Men was based on documented historical fact. Each man is given a chapter and a unique voice. Smith's prose are rich with details, descriptions, emotions, hopes, dreams, fears and more. Freedom, guilt and relationships with women are themes Smith explores through each set of eyes. Free Men is not a book you can rush through. Smith's pacing is slower and her work is quite beautiful, but I did find myself having to put the book down every so often, returning later to pick up the story, as I found it to be a heavy read. But a good one.

The Girl in the Red Coat
The Girl in the Red Coat
by Kate Hamer
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.52
24 used & new from CDN$ 3.22

4.0 out of 5 stars And this is what I love about debuts - there's no history, March 14 2016
The Girl in the Red Coat is Kate Hamer's debut novel. It's garnered lots of attention as a finalist for both the Costa Book Award for First Novel and the Dagger Award. And this is what I love about debuts - there's no history, no expectations of what the story is going to be, no familiarity with the author's style or storytelling - it's a story just waiting for the reader to discover it.

Eight year old Carmel is a dreamer, often getting lost - both physically and mentally. Her single mother, Beth, struggles to keep Carmel with her in public places as the girl likes to hide. And then one day, Carmel hides too well. Her mother cannot find her.......but an older gentleman does. He says he's her grandfather and that her mother has been hurt - Carmel must come with him.....and she does. (The foreshadowing and foreboding that leads up to this is wonderful.)

The Girl in the Red Coat is told in alternating viewpoints/chapters - between Beth and Carmel. Beth's chapters are marked in days - and then years as the search for Carmel continues to turn up nothing. But as readers we know where Carmel is and what has happened to her.

Now, those looking for an intense suspense/mystery novel won't find it here. (Indeed, I could not slot this book into any genre.) Instead, Hamer deftly and intimately explores the aftermath of such a loss/crime/event from two very differing viewpoints. How does life go on? For both. Carmel's chapters were hard to read as they are from a child with no immediate clear picture of the deception that has occurred. But as a mother, I found Beth's just as wrenching as she tries to cope.

Hamer throws in a bit of a unexpected bit with Carmel. Her 'getting lost' has a reason - and her 'grandfather' believes it has a purpose as well. I'm not quite sure how I felt about this part of the plot, but as I said at the beginning, I do like being surprised as I read. And I couldn't stop reading - I wanted to know what happened and if the two would ever be reunited. Are they? You'll have to read the book to find out. The Girl in the Red Coat was a great debut. I'll be watching for Hamer's next novel.

The Crooked Heart of Mercy
The Crooked Heart of Mercy
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars love, redemption and salvation, March 10 2016
3.5 The Crooked Heart of Mercy is Billie Livingston's latest novel.

Ben and Maggie are an estranged couple. The unthinkable happened - their small son Frankie died in a tragic accident. But that accident was preventable - and both parents are more than aware of that. How do you carry on living after such a death? And this is what Livingston explores in The Crooked Heart of Mercy - loss, love, redemption and salvation.

The Crooked Heart of Mercy is told in alternating chapters from both Maggie and Ben.

Relationships of all sorts are explored in the novel - spousal, parental, fraternal, and many more. Ben and Maggie both have brothers and they too are struggling to find their way in life. Well, not just them - every character in the book is having a hard time. Most of them are marginalized - wounded or broken in one way or another - substance abuse, loneliness, isolation, aging, health and more. I found myself feeling incredibly sad as I read. And yes, the book heads towards that redemption and salvation ending, but even when I reached the last page, I couldn't shake the sadness. The sadness that comes with the repetition of the phrase...."We'll survive. That's what we do." And yet, that's what we all do, isn't it?

Still Mine
Still Mine
by Amy Stuart
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.68
25 used & new from CDN$ 14.68

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars but I felt a wee bit annoyed at the pacing of it, March 8 2016
This review is from: Still Mine (Paperback)
3.5 Still Mine is Amy Stuart's debut novel.

Clare is on the run - from a past that slowly comes to light as the story progresses. She is on her way to a rundown, remote mining town called Blackmore. Why? She's there at the direction of a man named Malcolm - to see if she can discover anything about a missing local woman named Shayna.

Stuart is spare with details in the beginning - it absolutely ensures the reader will keep turning pages, eager to see who and why. And I did, but I felt a wee bit annoyed at the pacing of it. Malcolm is alluded to many times, without any idea of who he is and why Clare is following his directions until we're a fair ways into the book.

The setting was good - dark, atmospheric and totally mirroring the tone and plot of the book. It had the feel of a cross between Justified and Winter's Bone - rundown town off the beaten track, poverty, drugs, violence and simmering undercurrents.

And I held onto that image as I read - it allowed me to ignore my pragmatic nature and not question Clare's decisions. Her past seems to let her easily slip into the town's underbelly. I did have a harder time with some of the other locals - why they 'adopted' her so fast. An old man letting a woman he just met look after his dementia stricken wife alone was a bit of stretch for me.

There are two stories running concurrently through Still Mine - Clare's and Shayna's. Journal entries interspersed between chapters give the reader a good idea what has happened to Shayna even as Clare continues to try to find her. Although Shayna's disappearance is at the centre of the plot, I found myself much more invested in Clare's story.

I liked that I couldn't predict what was going to happen next in Still Mine. Stuart keeps the reader guessing right to the end. And the ending was perfect - opening up the door to the sequel that Stuart is working on - and I will be watching for.

The title is very clever - no spoilers, but it can be taken two ways.

In Real Life: A Novel
In Real Life: A Novel
by Jessica Love
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.76
25 used & new from CDN$ 14.84

4.0 out of 5 stars 5 In Real Life is the new young adult novel from Jessica Love. Hannah is the quintessential 'good girl' - good ..., March 7 2016
This review is from: In Real Life: A Novel (Hardcover)
3.5 In Real Life is the new young adult novel from Jessica Love.

Hannah is the quintessential 'good girl' - good grades, listening to her parents and never breaking the rules. Her biggest vice is talking online to her friend Nick. Nick from Las Vegas that she's never met in four years. Nick that really knows her and gets her. Nick that maybe she maybe likes as more than a friend......

"My best friend and I have never met. We talk every day on the phone or online, and he knows more about me than anyone."

So when Spring Break rolls around Hannah decides it's finally time to break some rules. Hannah, her friend Grace and her older sister decide to head to Vegas....to meet Nick.

Love has come up with a great premise - someone's online presence can be completely different from 'real life.' (and have you watched Catfishing?!) I was completely taken with Hannah. I loved her voice and her thoughts and found myself casting back to those uncertain teenage years. And Nick reminded me of someone from those teen years as well - kind, quiet and a keeper. The supporting cast is somewhat cliched, but serve as perfect foils for the main plot.

Love captures the yes...no...maybe so dynamic perfectly. Missed cues, missed opportunities and missteps populate the pages of In Real Life. Is In Real Life based in reality? Parts of it yes and parts of it no - some of the Vegas behaviour was a bit over the top risky. But putting that aside, it was a fun, cute, escapist piece of light contemporary teen romance that I quite enjoyed. With a few little nuggets of wisdom thrown in that anyone can appreciate...

"You don't have to choose Hannah. It's not success or fun. It's not life or love. You don't have to just pick one door to walk through."

The Sherlock Holmes Book
The Sherlock Holmes Book
by DK Publishing
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.34
32 used & new from CDN$ 16.27

5.0 out of 5 stars this book is so amazing! ", March 6 2016
I am and always have been an avid mystery fan. The puzzle, the clues, the chase and that satisfying mental click when the final pieces fall into place. And really, is there any more iconic mystery character than Sherlock Holmes?

Big Ideas is a new series from DK. And one of the titles in that series is The Sherlock Holmes Book. Oh my gosh, this book is so amazing!

"...The Sherlock Holmes Book provides a complete guide to all aspects of Holmesiana. It is a celebration of Conan Doyle's' most fascinating creation, the Great Detective Sherlock Holmes.

And I mean complete. Looking for a timeline and details on the author and his creations - check. But here's what I loved. Holmes appears in 56 short stores and four novels. Each story (in chronological order) is explored in detail in The Sherlock Holmes Book. An 'In Context' box liststhe date and the characters. Quotes from the story, info boxes talking about the time period, social mores, devices, postcards, pictures, ephemera and more accompany a dissection of the story. Which leads to my big idea.....

I'm going to go back to the beginning as well and re-read the Holmes novels and stories one by one, following up with the companion chapter from The Sherlock Holmes Book. I'm going to take my time and savour re-discovering the world of Sherlock Holmes.

The last fifty pages of the book explore Victorian London, Holmes on stage and screen, detective fiction, the art of deduction and more. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Sherlock Holmes Book. If you love Holmes, you'll love this book.

As with all DK books, the layout was great, glossy stock, colourful and eye catching. Oh yeah - filled with wonderful information! This was the first of The Big Ideas Simply Explained titles I've looked at and I was impressed.

Baking with Mary Berry
Baking with Mary Berry
by Mary Berry
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.80
29 used & new from CDN$ 18.16

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet book for your sweet tooth, March 6 2016
This review is from: Baking with Mary Berry (Paperback)
I must admit, I'm not the best cook, but I do enjoy baking. (And the consuming of baked goods!)

I'm not sure how I haven't come across Berry's cookbooks before - she has "six decades of cooking experience and more than 80 cookbooks to her name and is considered Britain's queen of baking. And I've only just discovered The Great British Bake Off, where Berry is a judge.

This a perfect cookbook for those looking for basic, satisfying recipes perfect for beginners or experienced bakers.

The first chapter deals with techniques - most of the basic skills I was familiar with but others were new to me, such as steaming a pudding and different types of pastry. Berry really does cover it all, from muffins, loafs to cakes, pies, tarts, cookies - and British favourites. This was my favourite chapter! Devon scones, treacle tarts, Banoffi pie, sticky toffee pudding and more. Absolute comfort food that reminds me of my gran. Every recipe looks delicious and there are some unusual pairings I have to try - Chocolate and Beet cake!?

The layout of the book is clean and easy to read. The recipes call for ingredients most bakers will have in the fridge or cupboard. The methods are also clear and easy to follow with only 3-7 steps in each. My only wish is that colour photos had been included with every recipe. Those that are look delicious. No nutritional info is included. But butter, sugar and chocolate are, so it's probably better to just enjoy a treat without worrying.

This is a cookbook I'll be using and enjoying for many years.

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