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Content by Luanne Ollivier
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Reviews Written by
Luanne Ollivier
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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$ 508.89
4 used & new from CDN$ 493.95

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$ 30.23
27 used & new from CDN$ 21.38

0 of 1 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$ 18.99

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$ 33.17
23 used & new from CDN$ 24.05

1 of 1 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$ 28.96
25 used & new from CDN$ 21.82

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$ 14.39
30 used & new from CDN$ 9.99

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
8 used & new from CDN$ 19.35

2 of 2 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.

OXoqo IP66 Bluetooth Speaker Portable Waterproof Wireless Outdoor & Shower Speaker, Bluetooth CRS 4.0 Stereo with Built-in Mic, Universal Compatible with iPhone iPad and Android Audio Devices(Black)
OXoqo IP66 Bluetooth Speaker Portable Waterproof Wireless Outdoor & Shower Speaker, Bluetooth CRS 4.0 Stereo with Built-in Mic, Universal Compatible with iPhone iPad and Android Audio Devices(Black)
Offered by OXoqo
Price: CDN$ 25.99
3 used & new from CDN$ 25.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great little speaker!, May 2 2016
I love this little speaker! I was looking for a bluetooth/wireless speaker to take to the beach/outside gardening etc. without exposing my Iphone to the elements. (no sand thank you). This wee little guy (about 4 inches by 3/4 inch) is just right. You could set it down anywhere, but I am quite taken with the carabiner clip. I've been walking around with my music on my belt loop.

Connecting to bluetooth was really easy - a flashing blue light lets you know you're connected, solid is on but not connected. (Although I think it makes the other way 'round)

The sound is surprisingly good for such a small unit. And it cranks up pretty loud without much distortion.A USB charging cord is included as is an audio in cord - tried this on the Ipad - worked great too.

Now, this item is being marketed as waterproof. I'm not sure I completely agree with that description. There is a waterproof, silicone type skin on the speaker. This would certainly protect the unit, but it seems to me water could get in through the speaker's mesh holes. So, I would say its more water repellant than waterproof.

I went outside and got roughly 30 feet away out in the garden (another place I'm going to use it) and was still connected. Battery life is listed as 5 hours. Still haven't worn down my first charge yet, but I can't see myself needing more than 5 hours at a time. Wonderfully portable, great sound, just what I needed!I received this product in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

OXoqo Fashion Wireless Bluetooth Sport Earphone, Workout Exercise Running Gym in-ear headphones with Mic, Compatible with iPhone iPad and Android Phones(Red)
OXoqo Fashion Wireless Bluetooth Sport Earphone, Workout Exercise Running Gym in-ear headphones with Mic, Compatible with iPhone iPad and Android Phones(Red)
Offered by OXoqo
Price: CDN$ 24.99
2 used & new from CDN$ 24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good value for the price, May 2 2016
Came in a nice little carrying case, small enough to slip in my purse or pack back. Additional earpads/earhooks and a charging cord are also included. The instructions (wish the type was bigger - and this is just a personal pet peeve - typos ) indicated that the earphones needed to be charged first. I did find that the end that would be plugged into the earphones was somewhat loose. It took a few tries to realize that I need to be more firm with the insertion. I was initially worried about damaging the plug/earphone if I was too forceful. But once I figured that out, no problem. Charging was quicker than the time listed. Talk time is listed as 4-6 and 150 hrs for standby. I still haven't burned through the first charge so can't give you my times. LED lights let you know when its charging and also when connected.

Connecting to my wireless device was very easy. No problems at all. The unit will actually say connected or disconnected for you to hear.
The commands for controlling volume up and down pause and play) are intuitive except for this pair. Last song is push + and next song is push-. I think it would make more more sense to have it the other way around. But that's a minor thing. There's no volume limiter - so be careful with limits. I set it before I put the buds in. The sound is pretty good for such a small unit. I'm not an expert on these things, but the music was clear and great tone.

Answering the phone will take a bit of memory for me as to which side of the multi function button you need to press. But the sound was clear for it as well. And the person I called could hear me just fine.

I like the colour and the neck strap. I did find the earbud units a bit large for my ears overall, but that's a personal thing. But once they're in, they stay put - I tried jumping, bending and running with them. For the price, a pretty good deal. I received this product in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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