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Luanne Ollivier
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The Distance: A Thriller
The Distance: A Thriller
by Helen Giltrow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
2 used & new from CDN$ 18.77

4.0 out of 5 stars For thriller fiction fans, Sept. 17 2014
The Distance is Helen Giltrow's debut novel.

Giltrow's premise intrigued me - Charlotte Alton, a London, England society woman has a secret life - she deals in information and in those circles is known as Karla. Karla makes things - and people disappear. Simon, a former client, a hired killer, reappears after Karla helped him disappear a few years ago. He's back in the game and needs her firm's help with smuggling him into a prison to carry out a hit. But it's not just any prison....it's a self governing prison colony set up in an abandoned village. The inmates are running things. To go in would be crazy.....

Wow! The Distance delivered one heck of a breakneck read. Both Karla and Simon are large than life characters. Karla is able to access, interfere with and manipulate data, people and situations. Simon, well, Simon takes a beating and keeps on ticking. (way beyond what I think any body could handle, but hey it makes for a wild story) The driven nature of both of these characters accelerates the plot into overdrive. And had me yelling "No.....why would you...." more than once.

The protagonists are intriguing, but The Distance is a plot driven book. The narrative switches between Karla and Simon, offering the reader a chance to see what's happening from all sides. But, no one is telling the truth, and everyone has their own agenda. What we think we know is turned upside down a few pages later. The last few chapters are excellent, throwing in a turn I suspected might be coming, but with even more twists included. The ending is excellent, leaving the door open to a second book with these characters perhaps? (Kinda hoping that's true)

I was fascinated with the idea of a self governing prison colony in current times. Giltrow's prison is stark, bleak and brutal. Her descriptions paint very vivid and visceral images. The ease with which Karla manipuates information is frightening. I can see this book as a movie - maybe with Matt Damon or Mark Wahlberg. Not sure who I would choose for Karla.

Gentle readers be warned, there is graphic violence in The Distance. Fans of powerhouse non-stop thrillers that will keep you up - this one's for you.

The Sandman
The Sandman
by Lars Kepler
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.47
4 used & new from CDN$ 12.47

5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously creepy..., Sept. 15 2014
This review is from: The Sandman (Paperback)
I love a good thriller, one that captures you from the opening lines....The Sandman, the newest North American release from Lars Kepler, had me hooked....

"His bloody hand has started to freeze as he carries on walking. His name is Mikael Kohler-Frost. He has been missing for thirteen years, and was declared dead seven years ago."

And only a few pages later..."Even though Jurek Walter is Sweden's worst-ever serial killer, he is completely unknown to the public."

But he is known to Detective Inspector Joona Linna.

Linna is an enigmatic character, but an intuitive and tenacious investigator. He sees the clues and likes to 'get into the killer's head' as well. There are secrets in his own life that have only slowly been revealed over the course of the last three books. That plot line is expanded on and woven into the main storyline in The Sandman with great effect. I was glad to see Saga Bauer, a cop with a damaged psyche, return as well. She and Linna are both unpredictable characters that intrigue me.

I've used the word creepy before to describe Kepler's books and I would use it to again to describe The Sandman. The settings, the plot, the characters and their actions are all unsettling, keeping readers on their toes - and looking under the bed. There is violence in the book, but it is the prelude, the knowing that something is going to happen and the not knowing when, that ramps up the tension and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Kepler captures the fears of nightmares and insidiously weaves then into his books.

There is no predicting where Kepler's plots will go. I am surprised every time, which I appreciate. I read a lot of mysteries and thriller, so being kept off kilter is refreshing. Read an excerpt of The Sandman.

Whoever is designing the covers for Kepler's book is doing a great job - they're disquieting and chilling before you even turn a page. Neil Smith was the translator for the this book and he did a great job - no wooden phrases or awkward language.

The Sandman is the fourth book in the series and I think it's my favourite so far, although they're all fantastic reads. And I loved the ending. Now more than ever, I'll be waiting and watching for the fifth in this series - The Stalker, due out in N.A. in 2015.

The Vintner's Daughter
The Vintner's Daughter
by Kristen Harnisch
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.60

4.0 out of 5 stars The beautiful cover and a blurb by one of my favourite ..., Sept. 12 2014
This review is from: The Vintner's Daughter (Paperback)
3.5/5 The Vintner's Daughter is Kristen Harnisch's debut novel. The beautiful cover and a blurb by one of my favourite historical authors, Roberta Rich, convinced me to pick up the book.

Seventeen year old Sara Thibault's father is a vintner in the Loire Valley, France in 1895. With no sons, he has passed on his knowledge to Sara, who hopes to continue the family legacy. But when her father dies, and her sister marries badly, Sara's vision of the future quickly changes. The sisters run to America where Sara eventually wends her way to the Napa Valley wineries.

Historical fiction fans are going to enjoy this one. Harnish has chosen a different and quite interesting platform for her novel. The descriptions of wine making techniques were all new to me. The vineyard settings and methods were richly drawn and well researched. Part of the novel takes place in New York City and this setting is also well portrayed. This is a time period and place I enjoy, so the US setting was my favourite. Harnisch touches on social issues of the time as well - the Suffragette movement and Prohibition.

But at it's heart, The Vintner's Daughter is a character driven novel. Sara is a protagonist that the reader can't help but root for. She's facing insurmountable odds, but her loyalty, drive and feisty spirit carry her forward. Oh, and did I mention the romantic elements? Uh huh. In addition to the dastardly brother in law, there's another brother who is the opposite side of the coin. And he just happens to be a vintner....

Harnisch has taken a familiar story of family loyalty, loss, love and redemption and given it her own stamp with the wine element. Fans of historical romantic fiction will enjoy The Vintner's Daughter - best enjoyed with a glass of wine

Cop Town
Cop Town
by Karin Slaughter
Edition: MP3 CD
Price: CDN$ 32.77
12 used & new from CDN$ 17.62

4.0 out of 5 stars and the racial lines in the department are just as bad. There's a simmering undercurrent of tension in the ..., Sept. 10 2014
This review is from: Cop Town (MP3 CD)
I'm a huge Karin Slaughter fan and have devoured every book she's written from the Grant County series to the Will Trent books. I knew there was a new book coming, but hadn't realized it was a stand alone until I started reading.

Coptown takes us back to 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia. Kate Murphy has joined the police department. But her first day on the job may be her last. She comes from a privileged background that's hard to hide. Women are not accepted by the old blue line, and the racial lines in the department are just as bad. There's a simmering undercurrent of tension in the city just read to boil over. Someone is killing cops. Kate's new partner is Maggie Lawson. Her brother and uncle are forces to be reckoned within the Atlanta PD. But that respect doesn't filter down to Maggie. Maggie decides to investigate the cop killings with or without her uncle's blessing - and Kate is along for the ride....

Oh wow, Slaughter grabs the reader by the throat from the first pages and just never lets go. The portrayal of time and place is gritty, grim and disturbing. Racism, homophobia and sexism permeate the halls of the Atlanta PD and the pages of Coptown. Slaughter provides a disturbing look at a time not that far in the past.

The plot is well developed. I enjoyed riding along with Kate and Maggie while they run their own investigation. The perpetrator is only exposed in the last few chapters and isn't someone I had suspected at all. There is no rest for the reader or listener - the action and the tension is turned 'on' throughout the entire book.

I really liked the character of Kate. She's quite multi layered - seemingly soft but with a harder core that's needed and heeded as she rides along with Maggie. Maggie frustrated me a bit. She is as tough as nails, but lets the closest people in her life treat her (really) badly. We're not treated to as much of an in depth look at her mindset. Supporting player Gail was excellent - her attitude and lines were pitch perfect. I'm hoping that some of these characters make cameos in the next Will Trent book.

I chose to listen to Coptown. Kathleen Early was the reader and she's a narrator whose voice I enjoy. Early has read other Slaughter titles I've listened to so it was somehow familiar to hear her read this book. She provides a nice Southern genteel accent for Kate that was just right. Maggie's tough, brusque tones were captured well. Early captures the vitriolic attitudes and dialogue of the male characters. You don't hear that it's a female reader, rather it's the words that make a statement.

Coptown is not for the faint at heart. There's violence - lots of violence and disturbing language that may offend some. But there's also some quite funny moments and a bit of steamy romance as well.

I quite liked Coptown, but I enjoy a good, gritty read. I must admit to cringing at some parts, but Slaughter simply can't write a bad book in my eyes.

Don't Look Back: A Novel
Don't Look Back: A Novel
by Gregg Hurwitz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.44
24 used & new from CDN$ 17.32

4.0 out of 5 stars You better run through the jungle, Sept. 8 2014
It's no secret that I love to read thrillers. When asked for recommendations at the library, I offer up Linwood Barclay, Harlan Coben and Gregg Hurwitz as really good authors in this genre.

Hurwitz's latest book, Don't Look Back, uses a premise that I never tire of - an everyday person put into an untenable situation with everything on the line. Fun escapist reading, akin to watching action movies.

After a divorce, Eve decides to follow through with a planned trip to a wilderness escape in Mexico, despite the fact that she'll now be travelling alone. When she wanders off the path on one of the first outings, she comes across a frightening looking man practicing throwing machetes at a human target. She quickly ducks down and finds a broken camera on the ground. She grabs it and quickly runs away. But when she looks at the photos, she sees disturbing images of this same man. She also discovers that the owner of the camera is a former guest of the resort - now gone missing.

All the right ingredients are here for a thrilling read - a very scary guy with his own agenda who you won't see coming, a tropical storm that knocks the power out and along with it any outside communications. Throw in that everyday woman with a young son back in the States and you've got a great David and Goliath match. Welcome to the jungle....

Eve is a well drawn protagonist, not overly capable in the beginning, but growing into her untapped strengths as the danger grows. There's a mixed cast of supporting characters, but much like those scary suspense films, not all of them make it 'til the end.

Hurwitz's choice of setting was well described and offered up lots of additional danger via the jungle and the wildlife. The swarm ants make my skin crawl.....

As for the antagonist, his agenda is an oft used one lately, but it's still very effective at engaging and enraging the reader. And will have readers frantically urging Eve on. Although I did find myself skimming over some of his diatribes.

Hurwitz has crafted a page turning thriller that you'll end up devouring in no time flat. Don't Look Back went to the beach with me one day and was almost done by the time I headed home. The action is non-stop and the tension ratchets up and up with every page turned. Over the top? Yes, in parts it is, but go with it, it's a heck of a good escapist piece of fiction. Think scary movie at the drive in.

The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel
The Dead Will Tell: A Kate Burkholder Novel
by Linda Castillo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.80
26 used & new from CDN$ 15.73

4.0 out of 5 stars it looks like a case of suicide, Sept. 3 2014
The Dead Will Tell is the sixth entry in Linda Castillo's series featuring Kate Burkholder.

Burkholder was born into the Amish community that surrounds the town of Painters Mill, but chose to leave. She's now the Police Chief of that community. Her background makes her invaluable when dealing with the Amish community. Her calm manner and determination to solve cases make her an ideal cop.

When a man is found hanging in his barn, it looks like a case of suicide. But a clue left at the scene says murder. When another death happens on the heels of the first, Kate finds the common ground between the two deaths. It's the past that connects them. Thirty five years ago, an Amish father and his four children were killed in their home and the wife and mother was never found. What has stirred this up after all that time? Has the mother returned after all these years? Who wants revenge?

Kate is an likable, engaging character. Castillo includes an ongoing personal storyline for Kate, bringing some romance to her books. Kate has now moved into with Agent John Tomasetti. Tomasetti has his own troubles - the man responsible for killing his wife and child has just been freed from prison. And he's having trouble accepting that. I'm not as enamoured of him as Kate is. And I still don't get why Kate only calls him by his last name?!

The whodunit is nicely played - not overly hard to solve, but still enjoyable. And Castillo includes a nice little twist. Procedural details aren't overly employed, instead Castillo moves things along with deductions and action. Although I must admit, the killer and their impetus is more than a little twisted. Castillo's premise and use of the Amish community and their way of life is interesting and different enough to separate it from other series. An easy read for the porch, not earth shattering, but entertaining.

Fans of Iris Johansen would enjoy this series.

Sweetland
Sweetland
by Michael Crummey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.00
2 used & new from CDN$ 16.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, Sept. 1 2014
This review is from: Sweetland (Hardcover)
I think Michael Crummey's writing is simply brilliant. His latest book, Sweetland, is newly released. Knowing I would become immersed in Crummey's storytelling, I saved it to devour on a week off.

Oh, where to start? I simply don't think I have the words to do this book justice.

Moses Sweetland has lived on Sweetland Island, Newfoundland for his entire sixty nine years - as did his father and many generations before that. There were a few trips off island for work, but this is home. Until the government decides that the community needs to be 'resettled'. (This is very real - both past and present) The offer is generous and all of the residents accept the package - except Moses Sweetland. But the government's offer stipulates that everyone must agree and sign before the offer goes through. The first half of the book introduces us to Moses and the other residents of the village. Crummey's residents are unique and unforgettable - from the woman who has not set foot outside her house in forty years to the barber who hasn't cut anyone's hair in almost that long and more. Moses's young nephew Jesse was particularly moving. But it was the character of Moses that grabbed me and simply wouldn't let me go.

Moses's crusty exterior and brusque manner disguise his emotions and 'softer side.' His self sufficiency and work ethic reminded me so much of the hardworking older generations in my life. Taciturn men (and women) who 'just got on with it'.

Crummey tells his story with bits and pieces of the past explained and explored in separate chapters. From these, we are privy to the events that have shaped Moses's life. Sweetland is divided into two parts. Crummey caught me totally unawares with the final pages of the first part - I felt like I had taken a punch to the stomach. I had to go back and reread just to make sure I had it right. This was not what I wanted to have happen! I had become totally invested and immersed in Moses's world and tangibly felt his loss and pain.

Does Moses take the offer? As this is in the flyleaf, it's not a spoiler. Yes, he does. But does he leave the island? No. And that's the second half of the book. Moses and the land he loves. Alone.

Crummey has described his setting so vividly. Crummey himself is Newfoundland born and bred and his voice captures the tone and timbre of a land and it's people. I felt like I was walking along with Moses as he heads up to the mash, down to his stage and up to the keep. The land and rocks, the ocean and the weather are all characters in the book as well. Much more so in the second half as Moses battles the elements, his memories and the thought that he might be going mad. As much as I loved the first half of the book, it was the second half that had me in tears.

I stayed up very, very late to finish this book. My house was still, the night was still. I headed outside after turning the last page. I live in a rural area and my neighbours are a ways away. I sat and looked at the stars and I thought of Moses alone on his island. Sweetland is the kind of book that will stay with me for a long, long time. A life lived. The strength and resilience of the human spirit. Those that go about getting things done without fanfare. The battle between past and present. The land and people that make up Canada.

Sweetland is such an amazing read - highly, highly recommended

Grigris (Version française)
Grigris (Version française)
DVD ~ Souleymane Démé
Price: CDN$ 17.99
17 used & new from CDN$ 15.31

4.0 out of 5 stars Great viewing, Aug. 29 2014
This review is from: Grigris (Version française) (DVD)
This is what I love about Film Movement - the opportunity to watch critically acclaimed films that I would not have discovered on my own. Grigris is a 2013 Cannes Film Selection, from Chad director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.

Grigris loves to dance, despite having a disabled leg. He works with his stepfather, but earns extra money dancing at the local club. It is at the club that he meets and falls in love with Mimi, a prostitute. When his stepfather falls ill, Grigris needs to earn extra money to pay the hospital. And so he turns to a local criminal for a job. Despite his good intentions, Grigris runs afoul of this man and he and Mimi are in grave danger....

I was fascinated to read how Souleymane Démé ended up playing the part of Grisgris. Haroun saw Démé dancing in his country of Burkina Faso and hired him for his film. While an accomplished dancer this is Démé's first film role. Mimi is played by Anaïs Monory and this is her film debut as well. I though both actors did a great job. I was absolutely astounded by Démé's dance moves - he is an amazing dancer. But Haroun does not make the film about Grigris's disability, instead it is about controlling your destiny. Our hearts and hopes are with Grigris and Mimi as they struggle to find a life for themselves. And isn't that what any of us wants?

I loved the setting - seeing a country I knew nothing about - from both a city and a rural point of view. The soundtrack was fitting, from both the club music to the background sounds. There are parts of this film that are difficult to watch - there is some violence, but the level of poverty is just as difficult to watch. But there is joy as well - I think my favourite part is the village and the women who live there. There are a few slow scenes where the camera could have moved on fifteen seconds earlier, but I really enjoyed this film.

As always, there is a short included. This time it's a monochromatic animated film called Feral, an Academy Award Nominee. The story is a familiar one - a feral child found in the woods.

The Farm
The Farm
by Tom Rob Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.18
36 used & new from CDN$ 8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars believing his parents are happily pursuing their dream, Aug. 25 2014
This review is from: The Farm (Hardcover)
Tom Rob Smith is the award winning author of the Child 44 trilogy, but an author I hadn't read until now. His newest release is The Farm.

Daniel's parents, Tilde and Chris, for personal and financial reasons, have decided to move from England to Sweden - Tilde's birth country. They buy a small farm in an isolated community and look forward to a bucolic retirement. Daniel keeps meaning to visit, but for his own reasons, keeps putting it off, believing his parents are happily pursuing their dream.

But when his father calls saying his Mum isn't well and has in fact has been hospitalized, he is shaken. Then his Mum calls, saying she has fled Sweden - and Chris - and is on her way to see him in England. She is cryptic, saying she will only reveal what has been going on in when she gets there. But, he must believe her.....his father is dangerous and her life is in danger....If he doesn't believe her, he is no longer her son.

What a great premise! Smith slowly lets Tilde tell her carefully documented story, complete with her proof. The reader is inexorably caught up in Tilde's slowly built case. But Daniel is torn - this is not the father he knows. Could his mother be mistaken? The reader is never sure of what is the truth - Tilde's 'evidence' seems quite plausible, but her manic paranoia makes her an unreliable narrator.

I really enjoy this style of book - not knowing who is telling the truth, trying to find the thread of what has truly happened in the narrative. I thought Smith did a fabulous job with this.

It was only after I finished the book and was reading more about Tom Rob Smith, that I discovered that the inspiration for The Farm was his from his own life. (Spoiler if you click through). In fact, this book is a mirror of that situation - underlining why I thought the writing was so compelling. While Smith's personal situation was resolved much quicker, the fictional tale had me wondering until the final pages what was real and what would happen.

I really enjoyed The Farm.

After I'm Gone: A Novel
After I'm Gone: A Novel
by Laura Lippman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.00
37 used & new from CDN$ 16.41

4.0 out of 5 stars Character driven novel, Aug. 19 2014
I'm a long time Laura Lippman fan. My favourites are the Tess Monaghan novels, but Lippman's last few books have been stand alones. The latest is After I'm Gone.

Sandy is a retired Baltimore cop, currently on contract with the BPD as a consultant, handling cold cases. When searching his files for the next case to handle, a picture of dancer Juliet Romeo falls out. and the next case is chosen.

Juliet was the girlfriend of Felix Brewer in 1976. She was found dead ten years later and her murder was never solved. Felix also had a wife named Bambi and three daughters. When the feds decided Felix was going to prison for fraud, he decided he couldn't do the time - and disappeared. He left behind the two women and three girls, all who never knew where he went or what happened to him. Twenty six years later Sandy re-opens the case.

Lippman's story flips from past to present and from the viewpoint of each of the women throughout the years. We're there at the beginning, meet the girls as they have grown, the women as they have aged and are with Sandy every step of the way as he explores the present, trying to find answers in the past. Although no one is very forthcoming.

Lippman has created a rich story. The characters are very real, their emotions and actions tangible. Although I wondered 'whodunit', I was just as intrigued by the lives of these women and how Felix, even when absent, affected each of their paths. The secrets, lies, loves and hopes of each character was very well portrayed and explored. But the character I enjoyed the most by far was Sandy. He too has a rich back story that fleshed out his character. He's not a super sleuth solving everything with clever (and impossible) deductions, but is instead a very human, fallible man determined to find answers. I liked his voice and his way of thinking.

I was pretty sure where the story was headed (and was quite happy about the journey there) when Lippman threw in one last twist, just to keep readers on their toes. Lippman herself lives in the Baltimore area which adds greatly to her settings and descriptions.

When I finished the last pages of the book, I stopped and wondered about someone 'disappearing'. Is it possible? Are they ever successful at staying gone? And then I read the author's notes and discovered that the novel uses the true case of Julius Salsbury as inspiration.

Devoted Laura Lippman fans will enjoy Crow's cameo (and Tess's too). By the final pages, I was thinking to myself that Sandy is a character I'd like to see more of. I may just get my wish - Lippman's next book, Hush, is due out in February 2015.

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