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Luanne Ollivier

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Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time
Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time
by Steve Jenkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.99
30 used & new from CDN$ 18.13

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Esther will put a smile on your face!, May 31 2016
Okay, the title caught your eye didn't it? Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time. And how about that cute little piggy face?

Well, inside the pages of Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter's new book, written with Caprice Crane, you'll find the story of Esther, the mini pig that was, well, a big pig.

Steve and his partner Derek are animal lovers. They were living with a pair of dogs and cats in their home in a large urban area in Ontario when an old high school friend of Steve's contacted him. (After 15 years of no contact...)

" Hey Steve. I know you've always been a huge animal lover. I have a mini pig that is not getting along with my dogs. I've just had a baby and I can't keep the pig."

Uh huh. So combined with that 15 years and the words 'mini pig', alarms should be going off right? Nope - Steve ends up meeting the woman and bringing home the cute little animal. It's the word 'huge' in that email that is quite prophetic. 'Esther' isn't a mini (surprise!) - instead, she ends up being a full blown commercial size pig. Yes, a 650 pound pig in a 1000 sq.ft. home!

I really enjoyed Steve's voice - I suspect he would be a hoot to meet in person. He's passionate, impetuous and downright funny. I found myself laughing out loud many times. Derek seems to be a bit calmer and more practical. But their love for Esther is the same.

Loving a full sized pig does bring some inevitable changes - physically, mentally and lifestyle. How those changes occurred and how they literally affected and inspired hundreds of thousands of people is a wonderful, heartwarming tale. Esther's story will bring a smile to your day, have you taking a second look at where your food comes from, perhaps inspire you to investigate a vegan lifestyle, support rescue operations and more.

Oh, and my book has a nice little blurb from Ricky Gervais: "Funny, moving, and heartwarming. The greatest love story ever told between two men and their pig." Yup, that about sums it up. A fun read that will leave you smiling.

Before the Fall
Before the Fall
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 13.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We all have stories, our lives unfolding along crooked lines, colliding in unexpected ways.", May 31 2016
This review is from: Before the Fall (Kindle Edition)
Noah Hawley is an incredibly talented writer. His highly anticipated new novel, Before the Fall, releases today.

Eleven people board a private plane for a short flight from Martha's Vineyard to New York City. Sixteen minutes into the flight the plane crashes. The only survivors are a four year old boy and the last minute addition to the flight - a down on his luck painter. The three crew members, the wealthy owner, his wife, daughter, bodyguard as well as his also wealthy friend and his wife all perish.

The media storm surrounding the survivors is immediate. As the search for the plane and bodies gets underway, speculation, theories and conspiracies abound.....with the media providing ample fuel.

Hawley takes us back to before the plane crashes - exploring each character's past until the moment they step on the plane. Each person's story is rich and full. This is what I love about Hawley's writing - the completeness of it. Even though we only have a short time to hear each character's voice before the crash, their backstories keep them firmly in the present. But it was Scott and young JJ that held me enthralled as they try to come to terms with having survived and navigate the media circus.

As more details and confirmations emerge from the present investigation, each 'before' story adds another possible reason or act that could have contributed to or caused the crash. Which character is it? Or was it simply an accident? That mystery is only revealed in the final few chapters.

"Everyone is from someplace. We all have stories, our lives unfolding along crooked lines, colliding in unexpected ways."

Hawley delivers a blistering look at how media shapes our opinions, our lives and the public's thirst for sensational and lurid details about someone else's life. A sense of entitlement to know and expose those details to the world. And how that can affect lives and outcomes.

The publisher has attached the 'thriller' label to this book. I don't quite agree with that, but I do agree that it's a heck of a good read.

The Weekenders: A Novel
The Weekenders: A Novel
by Mary Kay Andrews
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.88
29 used & new from CDN$ 23.21

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The new MKA for your beach bag, May 30 2016
Summer reading has officially begun when Mary Kay Andrews releases her latest book - and it's here! The Weekenders has just released - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. I always love her covers - doesn't this one just shout beach!

Riley Griggs' family is one of the oldest on Belle Isle, North Carolina, developing summer homes and managing others. It's Riley's 'happy place.' Riley and her daughter Maggy are headed over to the island to open up their home on the Memorial Day weekend. Riley's husband Wendell is supposed to join them, but he's a no show and the ferry leaves without him. But, when Riley arrives there's a foreclosure notice on her door.....

The Weekenders is a little bit heavier in tone than previous releases. There's murder, family problems, health concerns, financial woes and lots of secrets. But all of that is accompanied by Mary Kay's trademark romance and overall 'chick lit' feel.

I liked Riley as a character and empathized with her plight. A wee bit of me was angry with her for not being a bit more proactive when it came to her own finances. No chick lit romance is complete without some push/pull, yes/no, back and forth before - well, you know. Loved the love interest in this book. And of course there needs to be a best friend sidekick, who's a little brash, but who would do anything for her bestie. And Parrish is all that. Daughter Maggy is a handful - and Andrews depicts that teen 'tude very well. The rest of the supporting cast is just as well drawn and explores other social and family issues.

That murder? Well, there's lots of suspects to choose from - and whodunit wasn't quite who I expected it to be at all!

Mary Kay's settings always leave me wishing I lived there. And Belle Isle was no exception - descriptions of weathered wood, whitewashed walls and the sound of waves sounds absolutely perfect to me.

The Weekenders was an engaging, entertaining, satisfying escapist read to start off my summer. (Pack drinks and snacks in in your bag too - it's a delicious 450+ pages.)

CUISINART CBT-2000C Hurricane Pro 3.5 Peak HP Blender, (Gun Metal)
CUISINART CBT-2000C Hurricane Pro 3.5 Peak HP Blender, (Gun Metal)
Price: CDN$ 494.93
6 used & new from CDN$ 475.00

5.0 out of 5 stars This blender won't be hiding in the back of the cupboard....., May 23 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (what's this)
When I was 'starting out', I had appliances that would 'do the job'. But as those appliance quit working, I started to replace them with better models, ones that I thought would do more and last longer. Cuisinart is the name you'll find on most of the appliances in my kitchen now.

The blender was one of the last to need replacing....mostly because it was tucked back in the cupboard, really only taken out to make smoothies. And even rarely for that lately as I got sick of taking the whole thing apart to clean every time.

When I unpacked the Hurricane Pro, the recipe book was on top and I stopped to read it first. As I read, I got even more excited about trying out this new blender. I don't know why I hadn't even considered some of the possibilities listed - breads, breakfasts, nut milks, soups, dressings desserts, baby food, mixed drinks and yes - smoothies and shakes! Doh, it's a blender!

The base is solid with a good weight - there's no way this unit will shake itself off the counter. It's also going to be easy to keep clean - the gray coloured finish won't show fingerprints. The large but lightweight (64 oz) blender jar is BPA free - a must for me and has both metric and standard measurements markings. (Fun fact - the centre piece of the lid can be used to measure - 1 and 1.5 oz. - remember those mixed drink recipes...)

But what really stands out is the power - this is commercial technology made for home use. My electrician son couldn't get over the fact that the Hurricane has a 3.5 HP motor and a speed range from 1500 RPM to a max of 30,000 with the Turbo boost dial. (3 year warranty on the whole unit and 10 years on the motor) There are six stainless steel blades, providing even more power to your blending. It wasn't overly noisy considering the power. We experimented with ice cubes - no problem at all and no having to clear the blades. Next up was a fruit smoothie. Again, no problem with a block of frozen berries. There are actually two smoothie settings - one green and one for fruit. The pour spout is wide and no dripping.

The LCD readout is clear and detailed, letting you know how much time is remaining, has an automatic shutoff and you can design and save your own settings with the memory feature. The Hurricane has 'BlendLogic' technology - it will sense the 'load' and adjust the speed as necessary. Amazing! Remember how much I hated having to pull my old one apart to clean it? Well, no more - there's a clean cycle on the Hurricane. Yep, no more cutting myself on the blades.

This arrived in time for the long weekend, so I had a chance to try out many of the features/recipes. There are some dietary restrictions in our home, so I've made quinoa flour, almond milk and almond butter so far for that family member. And being a holiday weekend, some deck food. The Creamy Caesar Dressing - start to finish in the blender - 65 seconds. Chunky Guacamole - no more potato masher for me. But there's still lots more to try - I'm going to be mixing my baking ingredients in the blender from now on.

And rather than being tucked away in a cupboard, the Hurricane will be living on the counter within easy reach and use. There's an off/on switch on the back, so it be left plugged in. I absolutely love it.

I Let You Go
I Let You Go
by Clare Mackintosh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 30.20
29 used & new from CDN$ 20.88

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!, May 9 2016
This review is from: I Let You Go (Hardcover)
I Let You Go is Clare Mackintosh's debut novel......and oh boy is it good!

I'm always on the lookout for my next 'psychological thriller' read. Taglines such as...."The next blockbuster thriller for those who loved The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl... “a finely crafted novel with a killer twist.” (Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train)".....definitely catch my eye. The comparison has been used on quite a few books since last year - sometimes living up to the promise and sometimes not. I Let You Go absolutely hits the mark!

The starting point of the novel is the hit and run killing of a five year old boy. DI Ray Stevens and his team, including newcomer Kate, are given the case. The mother is heartbroken, the public is outraged - and the team is struggling to find anything leading to the identity of the driver.

Jenna Gray provides another POV. Devastated over the accident, she retreats to a small Welsh village and an isolated cottage. " I never thought I would run away. I never thought I would need to." What secrets is Jenna holding on to?

Mackintosh had me hooked from the first pages. But it was the ending of Part One, that had me shouting out loud - What!? Mackintosh had completely bamboozled me! And I loved it! I ended up going back and rereading a few chapters, just to see when and where the wool was pulled over my eyes.

With the amount of mysteries and suspense novels that I read, I find I can almost predict how some novels are going to progress. Not so with I Let You Go. And so finding out the rest of the story kept me up 'til the wee hours. That first 'gotcha' is not the last - there's more than one twist to this tale.

I do have to mention the antagonist of the story as well - he is a piece of work. His chapters just made my skin crawl. I'm being deliberately obtuse in this review - I simply don't want to give anything away - the unexpected turns need to be - well - unexpected. But, if you want to - here's an excerpt.

Mackintosh spent 'twelve years in the police force, including time on CID and as a public order commander'. Her descriptions of the investigation and the team have the ring of authenticity. I also enjoyed the secondary plot line involving Kate and Ray. The title? Almost every character can use the line "I Let You Go" in their lives.

Close Your Eyes
Close Your Eyes
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great series, May 9 2016
This review is from: Close Your Eyes (Kindle Edition)
Close Your Eyes is the newest - and 8th- book in Michael Robotham's Joseph O'Loughlin series.

O'Loughlin is a clinical psychologist who has worked with the police in the past as a consultant profiler. He has retired himself from that job, focusing instead on teaching, his daughters and his health as he copes with living with Parkinson's Disease.

When DS Cray calls him for help, his immediate response is no. Until she tells him that one of his past students has injected himself into a murder investigation with negative results. He's calling himself The Mindhunter, telling everyone O'Loughlin taught him everything he knows, and using Joe as a reference. It's not true and is enough to have Joe saying yes and agreeing to taking a look at the case - two murdered women. The killer has his own chapters - letting the reader know that he's watching the investigation as Joe begins to make progress......

I like Joe very much as a lead character. The way he thinks and his processes of deduction. But it his his personal life that rounds the character out, making him more 'real' to me. Things are always progressing, changing and evolving - his marriage difficulties, his mistakes and his interactions with his daughters as they navigate growing up. His oldest daughter, Charlie, plays a larger role in this novel. (And I must admit to wondering where Robotham would take things next - I found the ending quite surprising.) O'Loughlin's health concerns also set this character apart from many other crime leads. The Parkinson's is portrayed realistically. Every good lead character needs a sidekick. In this series, it's now retired police Detective Vincent Ruiz. He's tough, intelligent, loyal and brings an alternate view to the crimes being investigated.

Robotham has crafted another great plot. There are many suspects to choose from and Robotham keeps the reader guessing until the final pages for the 'whodunnit".

It's that blending of 'professional' and personal that make this series work for me. Can't wait for the next entry in this series. Robotham is one of my favourite authors - for me, he simply can't write a bad book. He just can't write fast enough for me!

Wilde Lake: A Novel
Wilde Lake: A Novel
by Laura Lippman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 30.15
26 used & new from CDN$ 20.76

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stand alone from Lippman, May 5 2016
This review is from: Wilde Lake: A Novel (Hardcover)
I've read all of Laura Lippman's books. I don't bother looking at the flyleaf at all anymore - I just know I'm going to enjoy whatever story she's crafted. Her Tess Monaghan series is a perennial favourite of mine, but the stand alones are just as good.

Her latest stand alone, Wilde Lake, has just released.

Lu Brant has just been elected as the first female State's Attorney of Howard County, Maryland, filling the chair that her father once held. She decides to make her presence known by taking on a recent murder case - a woman beaten to death in her home by a homeless man.

Lippman employs one of my favourite story telling techniques - past and present in alternating chapters. As Lu prepares for the impending court case, names and events from her own past begin to pop up. And so we relive Lu's life from age six until it collides with the present day - with a very loud crash.

Ahh, Lippman is such a storyteller. I was immediately caught up in the characters and the plot. Lu is a difficult character, bristly, stubborn and somewhat unpredictable. I felt sympathy for young Lu but funnily enough that sympathy did not extend to adult Lu, even though I knew the past shaped her present. I didn't really like adult Lu at all.

There is more than one mystery in Wilde Lake. That of the accused drifter of course, but also events in the past - seemingly all stemming from one night in her brother AJ's life. " Most of what I know about that night is from reading old court documents and press accounts over the past few months." But as we learn more about the Brant family from Lu's memories, it seems that one night is just one event never fully spoken of. There are others. From the outside looking in, the Brants have an idyllic life - from the inside looking out, the view is not quite the same.

The mysteries are joined by an exploration of family dynamics, tensions, deceptions, what we would do to protect our families and loved ones and the consequences of those choices. There ate many 'reveals' in the last few chapters. There was one late addition that I thought was a bit of a stretch, but on reflection, I could see the groundwork being laid in the chapters dealing with the past.

I enjoyed Wilde Lake - although it's less of a true mystery than some of my favourite Lippman books, it kept me engaged from first page to last.

Interesting side note - Lippman grew up in Columbia, Maryland (the setting for this book) and also attended Wilde Lake High School. (also featured)

Mission Hill: A Novel
Mission Hill: A Novel
by Pamela Wechsler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.94
28 used & new from CDN$ 13.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Debut novel, May 4 2016
This review is from: Mission Hill: A Novel (Hardcover)
3.5 Mission Hill is Pamela Wechsler's debut novel.

This first novel in a planned series introduces us to Abby Endicott, Chief of the Boston DA's Homicide Unit.

Abby is a bit of rebel - she's tough, wealthy, but prefers to work for a living, she butts heads with the higher ups, feels rules are made to broken and her personal life is, well, let's say - unsettled and complicated. I think she's an interesting protagonist - I like that I couldn't predict her actions, reactions or the path she would take. She's not warm and fuzzy and I didn't agree with or like all of her choices, but she's intriguing. I'll be curious to see where Wechsler takes her in future books.

When she's called out to Boston's latest homicide, Abby's personal and work lives collide. Wechsler has crafted a good plot, incorporating murder, lies, corruption, gangs, courtroom drama running parallel with a personal plotline.

Wechsler is herself a lawyer and worked as a criminal prosecutor for fifteen years. That insider knowledge gives credence to her plot and characters. Her descriptions of time and place are excellent as well, drawn again from personal knowledge. Wechsler has also worked as a legal consultant and writer for television dramas. I did find that the action in the final chapters read more like a script with short staccato sentences. I just didn't find myself caught up and drawn into the drama of the closing scenes, though I thought I should be.

That being said, I think Mission Hill is a good first book. The groundwork has been laid in regards to players and settings. Wechsler is currently at work on the second Abby Endicott novel - I look forward to her next case.

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge
The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge
by Michael Punke
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.36
35 used & new from CDN$ 1.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Great story based on fact, May 2 2016
Michael Punke's 2002 novel, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, isn't one that I would have noticed or picked up were it not for the 2015 award winning film of the same name.

And that would have been a shame, as it's a he** of a good read. What surprised me even more is that it's based on factual historical events and persons. (At the end of the book, I went online to suss out the real story - absolutely fascinating reading)

1823 America. Hugh Glass is one of the best trackers and frontiersmen around, working for The Rocky Mountain Fur Company. When he is severely mauled by a bear, his compatriots carry him as far as they can in the winter mountains. Company Commander Captain Henry pays two men - Fitzgerald and Bridger - to stay with Glass until he dies, then bury him properly. But Fitzgerald has different ideas..... he decides that staying with Glass isn't worth his while. He forces young Bridger to leave Glass to die on his own and the two take off. But not before they steal Glass's gun and knife, leaving him alone and exposed to the elements.

And here's where the revenge part comes into play......Glass is as tough as nails and bent on revenge. And he wants his gun back. What follows is a nail biting fight for his life as Glass begins crawling towards the fort two hundred miles away where Fitzgerald and Bridger are to meet up with the rest of the company.

Punke has brought in many factual events and people - the conflicts between the native tribes and the white men who have come to trap and settle their land. The wilderness and the men living in it are brilliantly described, but it is Hugh Glass who captures the reader. The injustice done to him and his single minded desire to seek revenge on Fitzgerald will have the reader on the edge of their seat, urging him to take one more breath, one more step forward until.....

As I said not my usual fare, but I absolutely loved it. Punke is an absolutely wonderful writer.

The Revenant [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
The Revenant [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Price: CDN$ 19.99
6 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brutal and brilliant, May 2 2016
It seems to me lately that the best movies I've watched have been based on really great books. Such is the case with Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's award winning film The Revenant. (Based on Michael Punke's book) I always try to read the book first and then watch the movie. The book was fantastic and I hoped the movie would be as well.

The Revenant on Blu-ray and Digital HD is newly released from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

And my hopes that the movie would be good were met and far exceeded. Leonardo DiCaprio won an Academy and Oscar Award for Best Actor. The film won numerous other prizes.

DiCaprio portrays Hugh Glass, a frontiersman/tracker in 1823 America with a fur company, who is severely mauled by a bear. With both winter and hostile natives on their heels, the company commander assigns two men, Fitzpatrick and Bridger to stay with Glass until he dies, bury him and then catch up with the rest of the company. Also with Glass is his son Hawk, who is sure his father can survive. Seemingly close to death, everyone figures it won't be long 'til the end.

Fitzpatrick, played by Tom Hardy, decides that he doesn't want to wait around for Glass to die and instead chooses to leave him on his own. Hardy brilliantly interprets the despicable character of Fitzpatrick. I don't know how many times I yelled at the screen.

But it is Leo who steals the show. He has very little dialogue, but his physical acting and his facial expressions (especially his eyes) transmit so much more than words could have. His courage, grit, perseverance and determination to hunt down Fitzpatrick becomes the viewer's goal as well.

Not far behind Leo is the cinematography - the backdrops are simply spectacular - the choice of actual settings instead of green screens brings the wildness and wilderness of the time and place to life. Costuming and physical props are just as believable. The bear attack is also really believable. (and a bit hard to watch)

Iñárritu has changed some of the events from the book - most notably, Glass's reason for revenge. But it works. This reason is more personal and will have the audience even more invested in Glass's drive for revenge. With every tortured step and obstacle thrown in his way, I was urging him forward, just as determined that he have his retribution. Iñárritu has also changed the ending from the book. It wasn't what I expected and I watched it two or three times. In the end, it seemed right and fit with the 'extra' character(s) that he had brought to his version of the story.

Brutal and brilliant, The Revenant is a welcome addition to my film library.

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