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Luanne Ollivier

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The Dying Hours (Tom Thorne Novels)
The Dying Hours (Tom Thorne Novels)
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Love this series, April 18 2014
The Dying Hours is the eleventh book in Mark Billingham's Detective Inspector Tom Thorne series - one of my favourite crime series.

The Dying Hours picks up right where the last book (The Demands) left off. Thorne closed the case, but not by the book. Over the last twenty five years, Thorne has bucked authority, ignored orders and operated by his own set of rules. But, it has finally caught up to him - he's been knocked back down into uniform and off his beloved Murder Squad.

Called to an apparent suicide, Thorne's radar 'tickles the back of his neck'. Something is 'off' and he asked the higher ups if it could be investigated further. His suspicions are brushed off, as is Thorne. More than brushing off really. There are many in the department who have it in for Thorne - and this demotion gives them every opportunity to put him in his place.

"The lecture about making choices, the gleefully sarcastic comments about what had happened in that newsagents five months before. The line that had stung more than anything else - Stop playing detective."

But we know Thorne is right - Dying Hours opens with a chilling prologue from the killer. A person with a list of names and a goal. As the book progresses, there are further chapters from this person. As a reader we know what he's done. And we're just hoping someone takes Thorne seriously.

The Dying Hours was an excellent crime novel on so many levels. Billingham's plotting is always inventive, dark and devious, designed to keep the reader wondering - and up late at night. The procedural details of the investigation always fascinate me.

But it is Thorne himself that makes this series such a standout. I'm always a sucker for 'buck the system' characters and Thorne is a prime example. But in this latest, he has to stop and ask himself some hard questions. What about his relationships? With his girlfriend and her son, with colleagues, with friends, with superiors? What is he willing to sacrifice in his pursuit for answers and justice? Who can he trust?

The Dying Hours kept me captive for an entire day when I was off sick. A riveting read is probably some of the best medicine one can ask for. Read an excerpt of The Dying Hours. The last line of the book did nothing but whet my appetite for the number twelve - The Bones Beneath.

The Long Shadow
The Long Shadow
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Intricately plotted, April 16 2014
This review is from: The Long Shadow (Kindle Edition)
The Long Shadow is the eighth North American release in Liza Marklund's Annika Bengtzon series.

The Long Shadow picks right up from the last book, Lifetime. Annika's personal life is in shambles - her husband has left her for another woman, he has custody of their children and her home has burned down. She's just learned that she'll now be reporting to a man who used to be her subordinate at the Swedish newspaper she works at.

She's sent to Spain to report on the death of a former Swedish national. It looks like they were originally just targets of the latest European crime wave - pumping gas into the victim's home until they pass out, then robbing them. (This is frighteningly true!) But something went wrong this time - he and his family have been killed. Or was it deliberate?

Annika is a tireless reporter. Or perhaps obsessive is a more apt description. She's headstrong, impulsive and plunges headlong into her stories, often to her own detriment. But, she trusts her own instincts and follows them regardless. It often pays off - she saved the life a young boy in the last book. And this time is no exception. Annika knows this current story is much deeper than her editor thinks. When he wants her to move on to other pieces, she lets him believe she has - then pursues her own leads.

Marklund's plots are quite detailed and intricate. I do enjoy her style as it really keeps the reader engaged and on their toes. Having followed the series, I was easily able to keep up with the players and past references. But new readers might find the number of characters, established relationships and connections a mite confusing. Much of this book's plot is tied to previous cases. An interesting twist is slowly revealed through flashbacks to someone's childhood.

Woven throughout is the secondary storyline of Annika's personal life. I think Marklund has handled and written this very well throughout the series. . Although I've heard some other readers remark that this secondary storyline muddies the waters of the main plot, I disagree. I quite like seeing the two sides of Annika's life - personal and professional. For me, it makes the character more realistic and believable when we see vulnerability in such strong personality.

The setting was brought to life with detailed descriptions of ex-pats and luxury. And corruption and crime.

This is an excellent series with a character I quite like, even though she's not always likable. Definitely recommended. I'll be watching for the next in the series. And on a side note, I was thrilled to discover that the Annika books have been made into films. And my library carries them!

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Charming caper novel, April 14 2014
3.5/5 As I've mentioned before, I have a fondness for heist tales, be it book or movie. Well, Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg has come out with a fun caper story, with a twist - The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules.

Seventy nine old Martha and her four friends reside at the Diamond Retirement Home in Sweden. The administrators running the home have slowly but surely eroded the seniors' enjoyment of life, through tasteless meals, strict rules, rising costs and worse. They're bored. Surely even prisoners are treated better than they are!

Hang on....what if? You can see it coming, can't you.....

Martha and her newly formed League of Pensioners gang come up with a plan. They'll commit robberies and have themselves sent to prison. Surely they'll be treated better there! And a little bit of extra cash wouldn't go amiss either.

And half the fun is in the planning. Who is going to suspect five old folks with walkers? Well, it turns out they have a knack for crime, although their plans don't always execute quite the way they intended..

What I really enjoyed were the seniors themselves, their thoughts, interactions and desire to live an interesting, full, rich life despite their advancing age. I think older people are discounted far too often. Ingleman-Sundberg's take on her seniors' lives has a large dose of truth woven throughout. Her imaginings of what they might do to change their circumstances were really quite entertaining. For me, not quite the laugh out loud funny mentioned on the cover blurbs, but definitely charming. You'll be cheering for the 'gang'.

Being a crime fiction fanatic, I had to stop myself from picking apart plot points that were a bit far-fetched in places and just go with the story. Although, I can see this being made into a movie - and it would be fun to cast. There seem to be a lot of 'feisty old folks' films being produced lately.

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules is a bestseller in Sweden (1.2 million copies sold!). I found the translation to English a bit wooden in spots and some references may have been 'lost in translation. If you enjoyed The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Window and Disappeared, you might enjoy this book.

Forgetting the Girl [Import]
Forgetting the Girl [Import]
Price: CDN$ 25.41
16 used & new from CDN$ 17.41

3.0 out of 5 stars Just okay for this viewer, April 11 2014
This review is from: Forgetting the Girl [Import] (DVD)
I'm a fan of Film Movement and their award winning films. Film Movement has launched a new brand, Ram Releasing, that will be showcasing films of a different genre - thrillers, suspense, even horror films. And that's right up my alley - I love scary films. One of their first releases is Forgetting the Girl from director Nate Taylor.

The film opens with Kevin Wolfe filming a 'if you see this...' talk. Kevin is a photographer specializing in head shots. He asks out every woman whose portrait he takes. And most say no. The few that do say yes rarely say yes a second time. And it those women that Kevin wants to forget. To forget he engages in activities such as a shopping spree or joining the gym. The one person he can't remember and doesn't want to forget is his sister, who drowned when they were both children.

Spoilers below.

I thought Christopher Denham did a good job in the role of Kevin. He presents as an affable young man with a ready smile for those whose attention he wants. But there's something off about him. His sense of desperation and obsessiveness isn't far beneath the surface. And something else is behind that glib exterior as well. Lindsay Beamish is Jamie, his suicidal make-up artist, who is infatuated with Kevin. She too turned in a good performance. There are a few other characters as well. Kevin's grandmother Ruby is there to act a historical record of Kevin's past. Jamie's sponsor seemed awkward and seemed to only be there to underscore Jamie's fragile state. (The camping trip was ridiculous) And the creepy, porn watching landlord? A very obvious red herring. Although I must say, his brief role was frightening - especially in the elevator with one of Kevin's clients.

The exploration of Kevin's 'forgetting' would have been suitably creepy if it only applied to his adult life. And this would have sent the film in the direction that the trailer seemed to promise. I found the trailer misleading - the darkest bits of the film are showcased and seem to promise a different film than was delivered. Kevin's attempts to remember his sister just grew tiresome after a few times.

But things speed up as both Kevin and Jamie start to lose control and things hurtle towards an inevitable, but sadly surprising ending. Forgetting the Girl was just okay for this viewer. However, the two trailers included for coming releases, App and Hide and Seek do have me intrigued.

The Weight of Blood: A Novel
The Weight of Blood: A Novel
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great debut, April 7 2014
Laura McHugh is garnering lots of attention with her debut novel, The Weight of Blood. (And it's all good!)

Seventeen year old Lucy Dane was born in the Ozark mountain town of Henbane, but has never been fully accepted by the community. Although her father is a native son, her mother Lila was an outsider, with rumours and suspicions constantly being whispered about her. Lucy doesn't remember her - she disappeared when she was a toddler.

Other people have disappeared from Henbane as well - including a friend of Lucy. Lucy wants answers - about her mother and her friend. And so she begins nosing about.....perhaps not the wisest choice in a town full of secrets - and secret keepers.

As a reader, we know much more. In part one, McHugh cuts the narrative between Lucy's present day search for answers and Lila's arrival and life in Henbane. Although a generation apart, Lila and Lucy's stories seem to mirror each other. Other voices are introduced in the next two parts, bring a different perspective and shedding further light on both the past and present.

McHugh does a great job in setting the tone of the novel. Details and descriptions of everyday life, the locale, the customs and the mood of the town and its inhabitants are richly drawn. I had vivid pictures of Lucy and Lila sitting on the same front porch.

Of the two main characters, I found myself most drawn to Lila, perhaps because I wanted things to be better for her. Lucy makes some rash choices that had me thinking 'oh no!' more than once. But, I did want her to find answers. Both for herself and me. I had a fairly clear idea of where things were going to end, but the journey there was a very good read. Tension filled and a page turner.

A few of the supporting cast of characters were a wee bit cliched. But, the reader has no trouble discerning who is 'good' and who is 'bad'. Or do they? For the lines are blurred in The Weight of Blood. Where does loyalty lie?

"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin."

I thought McHugh's choice of the name Henbane for the town was somewhat revealing.. Henbane is 'a coarse and poisonous plant of the nightshade family, with sticky hairy leaves and an unpleasant smell.' The case of Lucy's missing friend is based on a horrifying true event.

I reviewed a book last month that fell into a newly (to me) coined genre - grit lit. The Weight of Blood has a distinctly Southern Gothic feel to it, but I would also tag it as grit lit. Dark, dangerous and grittily atmospheric. The Weight of Blood is an excellent debut and has marked McHugh as an author I'll be watching. Her second novel Arrowood is in the works.

Kill Fee
Kill Fee
by Owen Laukkanen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.44
29 used & new from CDN$ 17.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Another action packed read, April 3 2014
This review is from: Kill Fee (Hardcover)
Kill Fee is the third novel from Owen Laukkanen. I've read and really enjoyed his first two books. Kill Fee again brings together Minnesota State Investigator Kirk Stevens and special agent Carla Windermere.

Killswitch - murder for hire. And the contact method? On the web. The puppet master behind these hired assassins is fiendishly clever and extremely ruthless. But, he's also greedy. And that greed starts the dominoes falling...

Laukkanen's novels are always cleverly and inventively plotted. The choosing and training of the killers is perhaps not so far from the truth. And the online 'shopping' is not far fetched either. Kill Fee is packed full of action, twists and turns and reads like an action film. (It would make a great movie) In every one of Laukkanen's novels, I always end up rooting for one of the 'bad' guys. In this case, it's one of the hired killers.

There's been a 'romantic' - or perhaps attraction is a better description - subplot between Stevens and Windermere that began in the first book and has continued. This undercurrent does provide us with a more personal glimpse at the characters and adds another layer of tension to the plot. But by the end of Kill Fee, I was growing tired of the back and forth. Personally, I think it's time to put it to bed.(Sorry, couldn't resist)

A definite page turner and thoroughly entertaining. Fans of John Sandford and Lee Child would enjoy this series. Both authors have provided cover blurbs for Laukkanen's books. Kill Fee can certainly be read as a stand alone, but the first two books are definitely worth picking up. And I'll be waiting for the fourth.

The Divorce Papers: A Novel
The Divorce Papers: A Novel
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Loved the style, but too much legalese, April 3 2014
3.5/5 The Divorce Papers is Susan Rieger's debut novel.

I quite liked the cover (it seemed to promise a fun read) and was excited about the epistolary style Rieger chose for her novel. I really like this format - it makes the reader feel like they are much more involved with the story, almost as if you're reading the documents, letters and notes at your own desk. This style also makes it easy to see the story from many viewpoints, with having to depend on one narrator.

Sophie Diehl is a criminal lawyer at a firm in New England. When the partners who would normally handle a divorce for a wealthy client's daughter are unavailable, Sophie is asked to conduct the intial interview with Mia. Just the one. Until Mia decides that Sophie is the only lawyer she wants.

Through the aforementioned notes, letters, documents etc., we come to know Sophie and her life very intimately - her best friend, her lover, her own family, and her boss and peers at the law firm. I was truly drawn to Sophie - she was wonderfully engaging and I became invested in her story. I also liked Mia - her missives are a little more heated. Who I did feel sorry for was Jane, the eleven year old daughter of the divorcing couple - it was heartbreaking to read the letters she pens. The rivalry amongst the lawyers was amusing as well. Rieger has done a great job with the personal correspondence.

Rieger is a lawyer, so she's writing what she knows. But for this reader, I became bogged down in some of the 'lawyerese'. Initially I read every document, but soon start glossing over case law excerpts and financial charts. It was too much information that seemed like an actual case. I was more interested in the people, and not so much with the dollar values and legal jargon. Rieger has set her book in 1999. I wonder if that's the time frame she's most familiar with legally? I think the book would be more relevant if it was set in present day.

Rieger is a talented writer and I enjoyed The Divorce Papers and this format, but not quite as much as I was hoping to

Black Chalk
Black Chalk
by Christopher J. Yates
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.56
9 used & new from CDN$ 16.61

4.0 out of 5 stars "It was only ever meant to be a game.", March 31 2014
This review is from: Black Chalk (Hardcover)
Black Chalk is Christopher J. Yates's debut novel.

"It was only ever meant to be a game. A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results."

Black Chalk opens in present day with an unnamed narrator remembering his first days at Oxford and the beginning of the game. The narrative flips between then and now....fourteen years later when we know something has gone horribly wrong. Our narrator is not mentally stable, rarely ventures outside, doesn't open his curtains and has an elaborate system to remind himself to eat and drink. He begins to write down his memories of that time - but are they reliable?

I was quite sure I knew which of the six was the narrator, then found I was mistaken - and that my assumptions about the path the book would take were all quite wrong. Yates drops little hints throughout via small offhand comments or bits of foreshadowing that had me constantly guessing as to who the survivor be.

Reading Black Chalk was like watching a frightening film - you know, that creepy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know characters are making decisions that can't end well. And yet, you can't stop watching (reading) until you know how it ends.

And Black Chalk was frightening. Although Yates has penned a fictional work, I think the origins of it are based in truth. As I read, I thought of hazings gone wrong at schools, the desire to 'fit in', to be the 'winner'. But at what cost? And who decides to 'up the stakes'?

"And none of them seemed for even a moment to consider that, for the Game to end, they would have to subject one another to greater and greater humiliations. It couldn't remain light-hearted forever."

And it doesn't. Yates takes his characters and plot to some dark places. Black Chalk is a twisting labyrinth of a tale with something terrible waiting at the centre. My only quibble is the ending - I found it a bit unsatisfying. But I think it's just my desire for all threads to be neatly tied up and resolved.

Mind Of Winter
Mind Of Winter
by Laura Kasischke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.44
23 used & new from CDN$ 15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Madness or Horror, March 27 2014
This review is from: Mind Of Winter (Hardcover)
3.5/5 Do you ever decide to read a book solely based on the cover? The cover of Laura Kasischke's newest novel Mind of Winter seemed to promise a deliciously creepy read. And it was.

On a snowy Christmas morning Holly Judge awakes.... "and knew: Something had followed them home from Russia."

Well, I was hooked. What could this something be? A spirit? A ghost? A demon? Or something of this world - bad luck, misfortune, debts?

Kasischke gives Holly free rein as the narrator of Mind of Winter. The entire book is told in a stream of consciousness from Holly. From the opening pages I thought something was 'off' with Holly. Her whirlwind mind sucks the reader into her confusion. And then her Russian adopted daughter Tatiana is introduced and my suspicions shifted. And then shifted again. Holly is able to easily explain away all of her daughter's odd behavior. And we are again left wondering what is truly happening.

Interspersed amongst Holly's thoughts are memories. Memories of Holly and Eric's trip to Russia to pick up their adopted daughter. There are clues tucked away into those memories that gave credence to my suspicions.

The blizzard that isolates Holly and Tatiana is the perfect backdrop for what may be a descent into either madness or horror. I admit to feeling slightly underwhelmed with the resolution.

Still, Mind of Winter was an atmospheric, one sitting under a solitary lamp late at night read.

Four Friends
Four Friends
by Robyn Carr
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.96
32 used & new from CDN$ 7.69

3.0 out of 5 stars An easy read, March 26 2014
This review is from: Four Friends (Paperback)
Every once in awhile, I need to step away from my usual murder and mayhem and read something different.

Robyn Carr's latest book, Four Friends, seemed like a good choice. (And I really liked the cover - I have some old chairs that may just receive a bright coat of chalk paint this spring.)

Carr quickly introduces us to four women living in the same fairly affluent neighbourhood. They're all in their forties, with successful careers and enviable lives. Or so you would think, looking from the outside in.

But there are cracks in each....Gerri discovers that her husband has had an affair. And so has school principal Andy's husband. Sonja, who doggedly pursues every alternative health therapy going, overwhelms her husband, and he leaves. Their newest neighbour, widow BJ, is quite private with her life, but is slowly drawn into the lives of the other three.

Carr candidly explores women's friendships as well as other relationships - maternal, familial and spousal. She does this through a variety of crises and solutions that touch on health concerns, drugs, drinking, sexuality, spousal abuse, mental health, infidelity and more. The lives of the four women's families are brought into this exploration with the children and partners begin given a voice as well.

At times I felt a bit overwhelmed with the sheer volume of crises that befall these four. But again, we never know what goes on behind closed doors do we?

Take charge Gerri was the lead character and I have to admit that I found her to be the most annoying. She's definitely someone I would avoid in real life. One of her lines in the first few pages had me laughing, rather than empathizing, (although it seemed to be written in all seriousness). ...."When Gerri had been brought to her knees by a killer hemorrhoidectomy, Sonja was there, drawing the sitz bath, making broth, administering pain meds and, of course, she was armed with the perfect, natural, gentle laxative. Gerri had learned you just don't give the right laxative enough credit until you find yourself in that position." The character I was actually drawn to the most was gentle Bob the carpenter and his dog Beau. His calm, measured way of dealing with things was quite appealing. His relationship with feisty Andy was my favourite 'situation' of Four Friends.

I applaud Carr for tackling so many current, topical and relevant issues. But for this reader, there were just a few too many. Some of the characters and situations seemed 'textbook' rather than engaging. Still, Four Friends was an easy read and a good diversion for an evening for me. And a reminder to appreciate your friends.

Established Carr fans will not be disappointed.

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