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Luanne Ollivier

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The Art of Crash Landing: A Novel
The Art of Crash Landing: A Novel
by Melissa DeCarlo
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.39
26 used & new from CDN$ 12.10

5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite reads for 2015, Sept. 30 2015
Oh, do you ever get that delicious little frisson of excitement when you read the first few chapters of a book and realize you've stumbled across what is going to be a really, really good read? Melissa DeCarlo's debut novel, The Art of Crash Landing is one of those books - I absolutely loved it!

Mattie Wallace is 30 years old. And pregnant. And homeless. And broke. Screwing up her life is nothing new for Mattie. She's a bit (well maybe a bit more than a bit) of a train wreck. When she finds out that she has inherited her grandmother's house in Gandy, Oklahoma it's a bit of a surprise - Mattie had no idea she had a grandmother. Her alcoholic mother never mentioned where she grew up or that her own mother was alive. With nowhere else to go, Gandy is the the direction she steers her mother's old Malibu.

"There was a time when I believed my whole life stretched before me, rich with promise. Now? Not so much.

But when she arrives in Gandy, no one really wants to talk about her mother. And the ones that do paint a very different picture from the mother Mattie grew up with.

Where to start. First off, I really didn't like Mattie at all in the first few chapters. She's abrasive, manipulative and self serving. Or is that just a way to protect herself from hurt and disappointment? As the book progresses, there are glimpses into the Mattie beneath that exterior. And I found myself soundly in Mattie's corner, hoping she can find the promise in life again. "Sometimes my entire life has felt like one long exercise in lowering my expectations."

Gandy is populated by a varied and eclectic cast of characters, many who are just as prickly as Mattie, yet oddly compelling. So many of them appealed to me - one was Fritter the librarian. (And as someone who works in a library, I found myself laughing out loud at some library scenes that were spot on) But I think that Queeg, Mattie's stepfather, is my favourite. His quiet, understated, unfaltering love for Mattie is moving.

As Mattie continues to ask questions around town about her mother, the mystery deepens. What happened thirty five years ago to her mother? From the girl Gandy knew to the single woman who gave birth to Mattie? And as Mattie pursues answers, she also remembers her Mom - and the reader learns more about both women.

DeCarlo kept me completely off balance as I read - I had no idea where the story was going to go and many of the character's revelations were so unexpected. Her plotting is fresh, original and just so darn good.

The Art of Crash Landing is absolutely one of my favourite reads for 2015.

Dance of the Bones: A J. P. Beaumont and Brandon Walker Novel
Dance of the Bones: A J. P. Beaumont and Brandon Walker Novel
by J. A. Jance
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.00
30 used & new from CDN$ 21.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Jance book is like settling down on the porch to catch up on ..., Sept. 29 2015
3.5 Picking up the latest J.A. Jance book is like settling down on the porch to catch up on the latest with an old friend. That latest is her new book, Dance of the Bones. And the old friends? Well, this is the 22nd book for J.P. Beaumont and the 5th book featuring members of the Walker family.

Detective Brandon Walker is retired as is Special Investigator J.P. Beaumont. 1600 miles separate them, but a cold case from 40 years ago, brought to light with new evidence from The Last Chance group will have them working together. Faithful Beaumont fans, take note - Brandon has the lead role in this novel.

Prospector Amos Warren and his partner Big Bad John Lassiter had a violent argument in a bar full of witnesses. When Warren's body is found, it is Lassister who is convicted. Except - we know who the real killer is - the opening prologue details Warren's death. The reader is along for the ride as the two men try to track down the real murderer. Knowing 'whodunit' early on did not detract at all from my enjoyment of the book.

Readers not familiar with the Walker clan and their friends may find the first few chapters a bit busy - there are many characters and the relationships go back many years. (Dr. Lani Walker is my favourite) But, Jance does provide enough backstory that the reader will be quickly brought up to speed.

The Walkers live in Pima County, Arizona. Every chapter opens with lore and legends from the Tohono O'odham, people of the desert, that mirrors much that is happening in the book. I really enjoyed these and the way that Jance wove First Nations culture into her book.

Jance's mysteries are not cozy, but they're not difficult overly difficult to suss out either. For me, it is the characters that draw me to Jance's writing. It's comfortable and comforting to reconnect with characters I've enjoyed over the years. And I'm always curious as to their lives will evolve from book to book. This melding of two series with a new cold case group may provide many opportunities for other crossovers.

Girl in the Woods: A Memoir
Girl in the Woods: A Memoir
by Aspen Matis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.80
33 used & new from CDN$ 19.48

4.0 out of 5 stars She purposely found a college a great distance from her childhood home to try and find ..., Sept. 25 2015
Aspen Matis's newly released memoir, Girl in the Woods, had me captivated from first page to last.

From the book's cover: "On my second night of college, I was raped. Shattered and alone, I fled to the Mexican border and headed north through 2,650 miles of desert and mountains to Canada, walking the height of America in search of home. This is the story of how my recklessness became my salvation."

More and more, we hear and read stories of walking as a form of therapy and healing. And I agree - walking clears the brain and allows time to think. The physicality of walking such a distance through so many climates is truly overwhelming and simply remarkable.

Matis led a sheltered childhood, allowing her mother to make many of her decisions, including dressing her (up until she was sixteen) Yet, on the other hand, she had attempted other solo extended hikes by lying to her parents about where she was. She purposely found a college a great distance from her childhood home to try and find her own footing. But she is unprepared in many ways, both mentally and emotionally for what life away from home will bring. And as the introduction says - the second day there....

I found the first few chapters of Girl in the Woods so compelling and couldn't put the book down. I couldn't wait to see where this walk wold take Aspen - both figuratively and literally. Real life is so unpredictable. Does Matis make choices that everyone would agree with? Absolutely not. Some of those choices put her life in danger - more than once. But, the courage to attempt such a journey has to be applauded. That journey is not just physical - Girl in the Woods is a 'coming of age' story for Matis as she struggles to shed her passivity and find her own footing in the adult world. A large part of that is dealing with the rape and her own sexuality.

The descriptions of the trail, the people and the scenery were detailed and vivid and had me imagining what it would be to do such a walk. But this couch potato will continue to live vicariously through others who share their stories. Inevitable comparisons will be made to Cheryl Strayed's Wild. The two women's walks were at different points in their lives and their journeys reflect that.

I am fascinated with memoirs - the baring of someone's personal life for public consumption - and criticism. I can't criticize someone's choices and life - I can only say thank you for sharing. Does Matis find her happy ending? Yes - "the trail has shown me how to change" - and no - but that's another story. Isn't that life though? Moving ahead one step at a time, never quite knowing what's around the next bend. Girl in the Woods was a really good read for me.

No Cure for Love
No Cure for Love
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I was excited to see that No Cure For Love was being re-released on the 20th anniversary of the ..., Sept. 16 2015
This review is from: No Cure for Love (Kindle Edition)
3.5 As a die-hard Peter Robinson fan, I was excited to see that No Cure For Love was being re-released on the 20th anniversary of the first publication. I've read all of the Inspector Banks series and the recent stand-alones, but this is one title I had never gotten my hands on.

A great prologue sets the tenor for No Cure For Love. Actress Sarah Broughton has received yet another letter from a decidedly unbalanced and dangerous 'admirer'. Detective Arvo Hughes of the LAPD Threat Management Unit is contacted by Sarah's agent. Sarah herself doesn't seem as worried as her agent - and Arvo. Until an offering is left on the beach outside her home. And Arvo discovers that Sarah has a past she's not keen to talk about. The threats escalate as does the action and mystery. (This plot could be set in today' world given the rise of society's celebrity worship)

"...he also knew that all the statistics in the world can't protect you from the random element, the unpredictable, the one that just doesn't fit. Call him the psycho, as Joe had, or the serial killer, whatever you want, but know that he will take all you think you know, believe and understand, and turn it inside out right in front of your eyes before ripping it to shreds." Robinson has created a downright frightening antagonist.

Arvo is such a great character! I can see bits of Banks in him. Arvo is a movie fan ('50's sci-fi), instead of music. But he too is just as engaging a character - more than capable and tenacious on the job, affable but vulnerable in private. I enjoyed his partner Maria as well and the give and take between her and Arvo.

This is early Peter Robinson. I can see definitely see a difference between current works and this past book. His style has matured and is now one of the best mystery series out there. However, I do have to say that I enjoyed this book. Sarah is an actress on a television police drama. Picture t.v. cop shows from twenty years ago and you'll have the feel of No Cure For Love. The whodunit is excellent - there are some references to the final reveal that sharp readers will catch.

Twenty years have passed - is Arvo still on the job? Still in the same unit? (Goodness knows, stalkers abound) Could we maybe have an update - a new book featuring Arvo? Maybe a cross pond tale with both Banks and Hughes? Hmmm, sounds good to me! I'm quite pleased to have added No Cure For Love to my collection.

The Zig Zag Girl: A Magic Men Mystery
The Zig Zag Girl: A Magic Men Mystery
by Elly Griffiths
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.09
25 used & new from CDN$ 10.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elly Griffiths writes one of my favourite series - the Ruth Galloway mysteries, Sept. 15 2015
Elly Griffiths writes one of my favourite series - the Ruth Galloway mysteries. Having devoured the last one, I was resigned to a least another year 'til the next. And then....I discovered that she has started another series! The Zig Zag Girl is the first in the Magic Men Mysteries.

Post WWII England in 1950 is the setting. Detective Edgar Stephens is assigned to a horrific crime. A young woman's body is delivered to the station - in three pieces in three boxes. And Stephens can't help but be reminded of a magic trick - The Zig Zag Girl. Now, why would he be reminded of that? Well, Stephens was part of a covert team during the war that used tricks and deception to discombobulate the 'Jerrys".

Stephens has kept his distance from the unit in the years following the war. But this murder and his investigation inevitably reunite him with the Magic Men. Notably Max Mephisto - the inventor of the Zig Zag Girl trick.

What I absolutely love about Griffith's books are her characters. They're appealing, unusual and engaging. Each has a rich background and personality - I liked them immediately and look forward to seeing them again. Edgar and Max each have a voice in the Zig Zag Girl, so we get a view from each of their perspectives.

What I also liked was that the mystery has to be solved the 'old fashioned way' - without the use of cell phones, computer databases and modern technology. Instead we're along for the ride as Stephens and Mephisto follow the clues and connections, making their own deductions.

Griffiths uses misdirection, one of a magician's tricks, to keep the mystery going, sending the reader's suspicions in the wrong direction. (But clever readers will suss it out) The setting is fascinating - the world of variety shows and magicians was fun and full of detail.

The Zig Zag Girl was a great introduction to a new set of characters - this reader will be looking for the second in this series. (But Ruth is still my favourite!)

And the inspiration for this new series? There truly was a group of camouflage experts in WWII called the Magic Gang. And Griffith's grandfather also was on the variety circuit as a comedian

Little Glory [Import]
Little Glory [Import]
DVD ~ Cameron Bright
Price: CDN$ 19.98
14 used & new from CDN$ 15.58

4.0 out of 5 stars I love indie films - they don't cater to the masses ..., Sept. 11 2015
This review is from: Little Glory [Import] (DVD)
I love indie films - they don't cater to the masses and you just never know what gems you'll find.

My latest indie watch is Little Glory starring Cameron Bright (Twilight Saga), Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones) and young Isabella Blake-Thomas.

Bright (Shawn) and Blake-Thomas (Julie) play siblings living with a widowed, abusive, alcoholic father. When he suddenly dies, Shawn is sure he can raise Julie on her own, counting on his father's life insurance policy. Their Aunt Monica is just as sure that Shawn can't raise Julie and sues for custody.

Of course, the viewer wants Shawn to step up and take charge. But despite his proclamations that he can do it, he falls short over and over again. And the viewer despairs - and begins to despise Shawn for his selfishness and the hurt that he causes to Julie. And he does some pretty crappy stuff. Bright plays the part well - he's absolutely believable as a swaggering young punk. (There's a wee bit of an Elvis-like smolder in the eyes, don't you think?) Blake-Thomas was really good as Julie - she gives a strong performance as a kid used to navigating the moods of her male relatives, but needing and craving more from life. The one role I had trouble embracing was that of Jessica, Shawn's girlfriend. I found their initial meeting oddly awkward and unconvincing. Her attempts to be enigmatic just seemed stilted and somewhat foolish. I never really bought into their relationship. The supporting cast of Shawn's friends were perfectly played - vulgar, rude, arrogant and one of them is downright dangerous.

Balancing the ugly out are some poignant moments as both siblings grieve for their mother. And there are bright spots as Shawn does step out of his immature, self-absorbed state and interacts positively with Julie - and you hope that it sticks......

Little Glory is another take on 'coming of age' from writers John Engel and François Verjans and Director Vincent Lannoo. I had thought things would play out as I expected, but a nice little twist was thrown in at the end.

The movie is set in a worn out working class neighborhood and is shot in somewhat sepia tones in the beginning, echoing the tiredness of it all. The soundtrack was quite good. Take note that this film is unrated - there are a few disturbing scenes.

The Mistake I Made
The Mistake I Made
by Paula Daly
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.64
2 used & new from CDN$ 15.64

5.0 out of 5 stars like you were listening to a friend tell you a ..., Sept. 10 2015
This review is from: The Mistake I Made (Paperback)
I've read Paula Daly's first two books - Keep Your Friends Close and Just What Kind of Mother Are You? - and devoured them both in a day. Her new book, The Mistake I Made, was also a one day hammock read!

Okay, so right off the bat, I wanted to know what the mistake was. Single mother Roz is struggling to make ends meet after losing her business, inheriting her ex husband's credit card debt, falling behind in the rent and still trying to give her young son what he needs. She works long hours as a physiotherapist, but never seems to get ahead. An eviction notice is the final straw - and her decision to accept an offer that will help her get out of debt is....a mistake. Remember that Robert Redford movie Indecent Proposal?

Daly's writing has a delightfully chatty, conversation tone to it, like you were listening to a friend tell you a slightly salacious tale. One you'd lean closer to hear....

I like scary movies, but I must admit to watching some parts from behind a pillow. Shouting out 'why would you go in the basement'!? I felt a bit like that with Roz. She definitely makes some questionable choices. While she can rationalize them, the reader just knows that bad is going to lead to worse.....

Daly helps that along with some excellent foreshadowing at the end of chapters, guaranteeing that you won't be able to put the book down.

"It would be this decision, within the list of bad decisions, that would send our lives on the roller-coaster trajectory that was to change everything."

Daly writes great psychological thrillers. Her characters are not always likable, but they're just trying to do the right thing. And sometimes to do the right thing, you have to do a few wrong things....There are a few plot points that ask the reader to suspend disbelief. And I encourage you to do so. The Mistake I Made is an entertaining, psychological suspense novel that you won't be able to put down.

Fun fact: I was quite fascinated by Roz's physiotherapy diagnoses, having visited one myself many times. And only on looking at the author's notes, discovered that Daly herself was a physio until turning her hand to writing.

A Pattern of Lies: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 7)
A Pattern of Lies: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 7)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars I just love this series, Aug. 31 2015
Charles Todd returns with the latest (#7) in the Bess Crawford series - A Pattern of Lies.

Bess is a Sister with England's Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service. She has served her country since the beginning of the war in both France and England. It's 1918 and the hope is that the War will soon be over.

A chance encounter on a leave plunges Bess into another mystery. (For in addition to being a stellar nurse, she's just as adept at solving mysteries) Mark Ashton, an officer and former patient invites Bess to his family home to visit with his mother. The family owns the Ashton Powder Mill in Kent - the scene of a horrific tragedy that killed over a hundred men. Ruled an accident by the Army, the villagers think differently. Bess is stunned by the hostility shown to the family. As the rancor - and the danger - rises, Bess agrees to see if she can help. There's a possible witness to the event that can clear patriarch Phillip Ashton's name - he's a tankman in France.

Oh, I just love this series! I think it's the slow, meticulous building of clues, the measured connecting together of pieces of information, observations and snippets of conversation. It's such a change from my usual fast paced murder and mayhem mysteries. The thoughtful, careful pacing of the book lets the reader settle in to relax, enjoy and travel back in time. Todd does a fantastic job of bringing the war and the time period to life. Descriptions of time and place generate vivid mental images. I really enjoy the glimpses into the war nurses' everyday lives. A sense of honour, duty, and loyalty is infused in the character and the plot, again underscoring the time period.

I like Bess - she's strong minded, strong willed, clever, caring and tenacious. Familiar supporting characters return - Bess's father, Colonel Sahib (I have such a strong mental image of this British officer who served in India with the Gurkha's), Simon and Sergeant Lassiter, a cheeky Australian officer who seems quite fond of Bess. There is attraction between Bess and the two men - I often speculate which one will be her choice. (The Aussie would be mine!)

As the war is drawing to an end, I wonder where Todd will take this series in peacetime. This reader will be eagerly awaiting the next book! Read an excerpt of A Pattern of Lies. Fans of Maisie Dobbs would absolutely enjoy this series as well.

Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art
Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art
by DK
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 38.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 38.99

5.0 out of 5 stars they've put together a great selection of books in their Fan Expo Boutique, Aug. 26 2015
Fan Expo? Well, the term Comic Con might be more familiar to you, but Fan Expo Canada is currently the 3rd largest pop culture event in North America! And its happening Sept 3-6 in Toronto this year. You might be saying to yourself - Luanne are you going? Umm, no, not my thing (although Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead is going be there....) But boy, oh boy is it up my husband's alley!

DK Canada is also going to be there - and in anticipation, they've put together a great selection of books in their Fan Expo Boutique.

"Want to find out more about the Avengers impressive roster of members? (Was Ant-Man ever a member?) Do you feel the urge to brush up on your Star Wars backstory in anticipation of the upcoming Star Wars The Force Awakens? (who did R4-P17 belong to?) Each of the titles here are perfect for fans who want to discover more about their favourite heroes, villains, TV shows and films! Fully illustrated with fantastic archival photographs and illustrations and expertly annotated text, these are books to fuel any fan's love."

And fans are going to love Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art. My husband did!

The book is arranged chronologically, starting with covers and superheros from 1938 right through to 2013. Each entry has a full colour picture of the comic cover, accompanied by a blurb detailing the year, the artist and the significance of each. (Note: not every cover is a full page - some are two up.) I loved comics when I was younger as, I had access to a young uncle's collection from the 1950's. I must admit - I ended up picking up the book a number of times and flipping through, and then I just went back and started at the beginning. It's absolutely fascinating to see the evolution of cover art from pre-war years to the current movie craze.

Many I recognized, but there were some I'd never heard of - how about Patsy Walker who evolved into Hellcat? Or Millie the Model - I'd love to own this one. My husband was all over the ones he remembers - The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, X-Men and a host of others. And some were new to him - Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy!? (I was called over many times to 'see')

DK books are always quality - thick glossy stock, vivid, true colours, great information - and addicting. Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art is, well, simply marvelous. It's a great coffee table book - and everyone who has visited in the last few weeks has picked it and found something they just have to comment on.

75 Years of Cover Art comes in a tough protective sleeve and also has two prints included that could be framed. Hubby's rating - five star. (And I thought it was pretty great too!)

The Hesitation Cut: A novel
The Hesitation Cut: A novel
by Giles Blunt
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.00
2 used & new from CDN$ 15.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Hesitation Cut, Aug. 26 2015
I am a big fan of Giles Blunt's John Cardinal mystery series. But I've also enjoyed his stand alone novels that cover a broader range of style and themes.

Blunt's latest novel, The Hesitation Cut, is another stand alone novel that is dark, unsettling and so very hard to put down.

Brother William has lived in the Our Lady of Peace Monastery for the last ten years. He's outwardly happy with his life and his work in the library. But when Lauren, a young female poet comes to the monastery's library to do some research, life changes - for both Brother William and Lauren.

Brother William can't stop thinking about her - her looks, her voice, and that scar on her wrist. She just seems so sad......Brother William makes Lauren his next calling - he can help her, save her and look out for her. And so, he leaves the monastery and heads to New York City as Peter to find her.

And he does. But Peter's desire to help evolves into desire alone. Obsessive desire.

Neither Peter or Lauren is a likeable character. (The character I liked the most was Lauren's on again off again boyfriend Mick - and he has serious flaws as well.) As the story progresses, both characters alternate between victim and perpetrator. Obviously both characters have mental health issues and their meeting is simply the fuse for an implosion in both their lives.

That fuse is slow burning. The reader is helpless, along for the ride, as Blunt builds the tension and the suspense with another layer, another incident and another nuance until it seems there can be no turning back. Sharp eyed readers will take note of a few off the cuff remarks that hint at something more in Peter's past.

As he did in Breaking Lorca, Blunt has crafted an intense psychological study in the pages of The Hesitation Cut, exploring love, hope, devotion, faith and obsession. But it's also an excellent thriller that keeps the reader wondering what is going to happen next - and to whom.

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