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The Lake House: A Novel
The Lake House: A Novel
by Kate Morton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.00
28 used & new from CDN$ 24.64

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars is an absolutely fantastic read. I was hooked from the opening page, Nov. 23 2015
Kate Morton has done it again - her latest release, The Lake House, is an absolutely fantastic read.

I was hooked from the opening page...

1933. "Back when it first happened she'd considered confessing, and perhaps, in the beginning, she might have. She'd missed her chance though and now it was too late. Too much had happened: the search parties, the policemen, the articles in the newspapers pleading for information. There was no one she could tell, no way to fix it, no way they would ever forgive her. The only thing left was to bury the evidence."

What happened? Who is speaking?

Morton again employs a then and now narrative from 1933 to the current 2003. (I love this format - but it keeps me up very late reading 'just one more chapter'!) One of the main characters is writer Alice Edevane, who pens "crime novels reviewers liked to describe as 'psychologically taut' and 'morally ambiguous whydunits' as much as they were whos or hows." But, the greatest mystery in Alice's life is what happened to her wee brother Theo in 1933. Alice now makes her home in London, but still owns the Edevane family's Cornwall country house, unlived in for over seventy years. Detective Sadie Sparrow is on forced leave from the London force and retreats to her grandfather's home in Cornwall. While on a run, she stumbles across the abandoned estate deep in the woods.

Delicious, delicious premise!

Morton transports us back to 1933, a time of innocence, a time of stricter social mores, a time where duty and responsibility took precedence, a time where 'things' were kept quiet and secrets were born. Morton's description of the country estate, Loeanneth, the rooms, the halls, the grounds - and the lake house, were vivid and detailed, creating a rich backdrop for the events that take place. And in seventy years, we see the estate through the eyes of Sadie. The grounds seem to echo and exude the memories of the family and its past glory. "Something niggled about this place. An odd feeling had come over her since she'd climbed through the gate, an inexplicable sense of things being not quite right."

The characters were just as richly drawn. I had a strong mental image of every character, no matter how minor their role. (I must admit to Alice being my favourite.)

And then there's the plotting. Brilliant. The past is slowly revealed in the 1933 chapters, with bits and pieces being added as the book progresses. Morton has the reader thinking one way, then changes direction with each new revelation added. In the present, that same past is being just as slowly uncovered. The reader is lucky enough to be privy to both stories - we know more that Alice and Sadie. Or do we? I was quite sure I could predict where and what the endgame would be - and I'm happy to say I was wrong. Along with the intensely intricate plot Morton has woven, a secondary theme of mothers and motherhood is explored.

As Sadie says..."there was nothing as thrilling as unravelling a puzzle, particularly one like this..." The Lake House is absolutely, positively recommended - it's one of my fave reads for 2015.

Midnight Sun: A novel
Midnight Sun: A novel
by Jo Nesbo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.87
2 used & new from CDN$ 24.87

4.0 out of 5 stars he's a bad guy with a good streak and a conscience, Nov. 18 2015
This review is from: Midnight Sun: A novel (Hardcover)
Midnight Sun is the second book in Jo Nesbo's Blood on Snow series.

What ties these two together is The Fisherman, crime kingpin of Oslo. Jon worked for The Fisherman selling drugs and other 'special' jobs as needed. Except Jon couldn't do it - he couldn't kill. So now he's run to a remote village at the top of Norway where the sun never sets. And he took along drugs and money that weren't his to take - and The Fisherman wants it back....

A local woman, Lea, and her son Knut, give Jon shelter in an old hunting cabin. But after a few days of the sun never setting, the flat unending landscape and being alone in the small cabin, he craves people - and alcohol. So he heads to the village....

Nesbo's description of the village and the landscape creates an sense of otherworldly isolation that mirrors what Jon is feeling. The eclectic residents and their behavior keeps both Jon and the reader wondering what could happen next.

Even though Jon, aka Ulf, is a 'bad' guy, he's a bad guy with a good streak and a conscience. The reader can't help but hope that he escapes those after him and that maybe, just maybe, he's got another shot at a good life. Sami culture and the Laestadian religion are woven into the story - redemption is a major theme and plays a part in more than one character's life.

I love the noir, staccato pace of Nesbo's writing - think of a Tarantino movie put to print. For me, another great read from Nesbo.

(I have no idea if Nesbo will ever resurrect Harry Hole - but I do miss him.)

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge
The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge
by Charlie Lovett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.27
29 used & new from CDN$ 12.85

4.0 out of 5 stars but their hearts lacked the true wealth of love, of family, Nov. 16 2015
3.5 Have you started your holiday reading yet? No? Well, here's one to add to your list - The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge by Charlie Lovett. (And I have a copy to giveaway as well as a bonus book!)

You read that right - further adventures. Lovett imagines what might have occurred after Scrooge was visited by the three ghosts and changed his outlook on Christmas - and life - in Charles Dickens' book A Christmas Carol.

Well, Scrooge is celebrating year round - wishing everyone he meets a Merry Christmas each day of the year. But those who benefitted from Scrooge's change of heart twenty years ago have also lost their way. Partner Bob Cratchit is a workaholic, nephew Freddie ignores the plight of those around him and Scrooge's creditors can't see the human side of his largess, only the debts. So one summer's day, Scrooge calls upon the ghosts to help them as they did him so many years ago.

Lovett writes in the style of Dickens (sometimes employing phrasing and referencing Dickens' other works) to recreate the tenor, tone and message of A Christmas Carol.

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge is a lovely reminder that "...scores and hundreds understood the ways of wealth and money and even of philanthropy, but their hearts lacked the true wealth of love, of family, of Christmas joy, which, he now saw, might have been theirs all the year round."

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge is a quick little one night read. Guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit - hopefully year round!

Price: CDN$ 6.66

4.0 out of 5 stars But what I do know is that I'm going to enjoy it. Elizabeth fought wildfires as a profession for ..., Nov. 11 2015
This review is from: Smoke (Kindle Edition)
I've been a fan of Catherine McKenzie from her first book. She's just released her fifth novel - Smoke. Each of the previous four books have been completely different reads - I never know what to expect when I start one of her books. But what I do know is that I'm going to enjoy it.

Elizabeth fought wildfires as a profession for over ten years, travelling to where she was needed. Its taken a toll on her personal life though. So, now she stays put, living with her husband in a quiet mountain town in the Rockies. Instead, she works as an investigator for the town's attorney. But when an out of control fire threatens the entire town, her skills as an arson investigator are called into play again.

Elizabeth's ex-friend Mindy is also worried about the fire. She knows something is 'off' with her teenage son - and has been for quite a while. And whether or not she wants to admit it, she wonders if he might have had something to do with starting the fire.

Smoke is told in alternating chapters from both women. I really enjoy dual narrative novels - a second look at a same event and/or two stories that will intersect farther down the road as more is revealed.

Although the fire is the stage for the novel, there's much more to Smoke. The personal lives of Elizabeth and Mindy are explored - motherhood, friendship, love, marriage and secrets. While Elizabeth is the 'lead' character, I found myself more drawn to Mindy. I didn't like Elizabeth's secret keeping from her husband - and her justification for those choices. Mindy has made some questionable choices as well, but I was more inclined to forgive her. Her 'redemption', if you will, appealed to me more. McKenzie does a great job of creating a 'mean girls' group that Mindy hangs out with. (But I do want to know what happened to the siphoned library money?) The petulant and aggressive teens are also well drawn.

The mystery of who started the fire runs through the entire book of course. I did have the 'whodunit' sussed out before the end, but quite enjoyed the journey to the final reveal. The fire, the methods used to fight it and the mindset of a firefighter were well researched and believable.

I'm always intrigued by cover choices and titles. I'm not overwhelmed with this cover, but the title made me think of the old adage - "Where there's smoke, there's fire." And its applicable in so many ways to much of the plot line and many of the characters in Smoke.

Smoke is another engaging, easy read from McKenzie. Those who enjoy contemporary women's fiction with a touch of mystery will enjoy Smoke.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Bilingual)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Thomas Mann
Price: CDN$ 14.99
2 used & new from CDN$ 13.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars going unnoticed and being on good terms with all the different groups at his high ..., Nov. 9 2015
3.5 I'm not sure why, but there's a plethora of 'dying teen' movies being made. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is recently released from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. It's based on the novel of the same name by Jesse Andrews.

Greg Gaines has worked hard at blending in, going unnoticed and being on good terms with all the different groups at his high school. Oh, and he makes quirky little films with his 'co-worker' Earl. He's coasting along just fine. Until his mother insists he spend time with Rachel who is battling cancer. They really don't know each other very well....but things change as he and Rachel become unlikely friends. Greg is forced to confront the truths that Rachel lays out - about both herself and him.

Great casting! Thomas Mann is wonderful as Greg - his glib banter and self-deprecating manner hide his lack of confidence. The connection between him and Rachel (Olivia Cooke) is absolutely believable. Cooke masterfully underplays her role - any louder or affected would not have worked. I must admit that Earl (newcomer R.J. Cyler) kinda stole the show for me. Again the relationship between Earl and Greg really works. Molly Shannon as Rachel's mom brought me some Saturday Night Live flashback moments. Jon Bernthal plays teacher Mr. McCarthy. Although his appearance is quite different, I still had a hard time not associating him with his Walking Dead role.

Now you might think that the plot would veer off into doomed dying girl teen romance territory. And I thought it was going to as well. Not so. Instead, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl explores friendships on many levels, coming of age, loss, love and more. Humorous, sad, quirky. An indie kind of take on what seems to be a newly recurring style of 'teen' film.

Cinematically, I found some of the long lens and fish eye shots took away from the movie for me. I started focusing on whether or not that staircase could truly be that steep instead of the dialogue happening. But, movies play a large role in Greg's life and the film, so I can understand why director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon would add some artistic touches. (Now this is just me, but I really didn't enjoy Greg's movies - and while Greg's final film has it's moments, I wasn't blown away)

All in all, I enjoyed Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - winner of the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Depraved Heart: A Scarpetta novel (Kay Scarpetta)
Depraved Heart: A Scarpetta novel (Kay Scarpetta)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I just haven't enjoyed the last few books - they seemed mired in ..., Nov. 4 2015
3.5I started with the first book (Postmortem) in Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series way back in 1990 when forensic mysteries were becoming popular. Her latest release, Depraved Heart, is the 23rd entry in this series.

Now, I must admit, I just haven't enjoyed the last few books - they seemed mired in extraneous detail and became repetitive. But I was willing to give this latest a go. And up front, I want to say, I did enjoy Depraved Heart.

Scarpetta and Marino are at the scene of what appears to be the accidental death of a wealthy young woman when a video link appears and starts playing on Kay's phone. Although her policy is to never interrupt a scene investigation with personal calls, she is powerless to stop watching. The video is a twenty year old video of her niece Lucy - and her then lover Carrie Grethem. Grethem was thought to be dead, but surfaced in the last book and attempted to kill Kay. It looks like she's back and still determined to wreak havoc with Kay and her family.

"The FBI placed the niece I raised like a daughter into a psychopathic monster's care, and that decision changed the course of our lives. It has changed absolutely everything."

Depraved Heart picks up two months after the abrupt ending of the last book, Flesh and Blood. Readers who have kept up with the Scarpetta books will have a better understanding of this perpetrator and plotting.

One key element of Depraved Heart is the concept of 'data fiction'. "It's what can happen if we're so reliant on technology that we become completely dependent on things we can't see. Therefore we can no longer judge for ourselves what's true, what's false, what's accurate, what isn't. In other words if reality is defined by software that does all the work for us, then what if this software lies? What if everything we believe isn't true but is a facade, a mirage?"

I was fascinated - and somewhat disturbed - with this notion. (I thought of how much time I spend online...) Are the videos (yes there's more than one) true? Or false? Is Benton lying to her? Who and what can she believe and trust? The reader sees the entire book unfold through Scarpetta's eyes and thoughts.

Marino is a perennial favourite of mine and this time Scarpetta seems to be a little kinder towards him. For the life of me, I have no idea why she stays with Benton. Lucy just annoys me, but I think there's more of a forthcoming story with her new partner Janet.

The book takes place during a twenty four hour period. The book moves along quickly as Kay and Marino attempt to deal with both their latest case - and the apparent danger to Lucy. The tension is palpable as everyone's actions and motives are called into question. I was easily caught up in the story and possibilities. Cornwell does weave an intricate plot, one I appreciated. (But one glaring omission by investigators, that is mentioned and is part of the final whodunit, will be caught by sharp eyed readers.)

The title? "Legal definition of Depraved Heart - 'Void of social duty and fatally bent on mischief.' Mayes V. People, Illinois Supreme Court. 1883."

The ending leaves the door open for a continued story in this vein. Although I quite enjoyed this latest entry more than the last few, a wee bit of me thinks it's time to end this ongoing storyline and give readers a fresh mystery and investigation next time 'round.

Poles Apart
Poles Apart
by Terry Fallis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.42
2 used & new from CDN$ 20.42

4.0 out of 5 stars Everett's location choice for his new apartment is a great comedic plot device, Nov. 3 2015
This review is from: Poles Apart (Paperback)
Poles Apart is the fifth novel from best-selling and award winning author Terry Fallis.

Blogs are de rigueur reading nowadays. I must admit I read and follow many, many blogs on widely varying topics. (And thank you you're reading this one!) Some bloggers share personal details, but others choose to remain anonymous. Such is the case with the blog that is at the center of the plot in Poles Apart.

Eve of Equality is a new feminist blog that becomes an overnight success when it posts a story on the owner of a chain of 'high-end' strip clubs that are opening up across the country. Why would the author not acknowledge their success? Television shows, radio hosts, newspaper articles and even a book deal await this feminist movement advocate! Well, the author happens to be a man named Everett Kane, who truly is an ardent feminist. But who will take a man's writing on feminism seriously?

As Everett attempts to keep his identity private, there are others just as determined to find out who he is. Everett's location choice for his new apartment is a great comedic plot device. It also brings in a great cast of supporting players and a romantic possiblity. Everett is in Florida to help his father recover from a stroke. Dad is a unique personality with some good lines, as is the recuperating feminist pioneer also in residence at the home.

The dialogue is great fun, witty and smart and the characters are all a little left of centre - you can't help but mentally cheer for them. The plotting is somewhat telegraphed but is great fun. But mixed within this comic tale are many grains of truth. Everett's blog posts, musings and beliefs can all be read and taken quite seriously as they contain many valid points.

Poles Apart is another witty, charming read from Terry Fallis, again underscoring whey he has earned the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour more than once. Although No Relation remains my favourite Fallis book, I quite enjoyed Poles Apart.

Open Heart, Open Mind
Open Heart, Open Mind
by Clara Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 10.00
24 used & new from CDN$ 10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Great read. Amazing and inspiring woman, Oct. 29 2015
This review is from: Open Heart, Open Mind (Hardcover)
You can find me glued to the television during national and world sports coverage - especially the Olympics. I remember watching Clara Hughes race over many Olympics - she is a six time Olympian with six medals to her credit - in two sports - speed skating and cycling. She has numerous other accolades and victories.

But what you don't see on television is what's going on behind the scenes, what it takes for an athlete to rise to this level, the obstacles they've met, the obstacles overcome and who they are besides being a public figure and athlete.

Clara Hughes' newly released memoir, Open Heart, Open Mind, lays all of that bare. Hughes' father was a verbally abusive alcoholic, Clara drank, did drugs and skipped school. When she did start to channel her energy into competitive sport she landed with a coach who was results driven, caring little about her mental health. Hughes has suffered from depression for most of her life. In 2010, she put her own struggles in the public eye when she became the national spokesperson for the Bell Let's Talk mental health initiative - "A wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada."

I am always appreciative of reading someone's memoir - the bravery in sharing your life with the public. Hughes shares both professional and personal. I was fascinated by the behind the scenes look at a professional athlete's training and performance. Clara's athletic accomplishments are extraordinary. But it is her personal triumphs that are outstanding. Hughes has taken that same energy and drive that she used in sports, applied it to her mental well being and advocating for others through numerous projects, such as Right to Play.

The title? Hughes participated in a Squamish First Nations brushing-off ceremony in 2010....

...."Another elder addressed each of us in turn, opening our hearts to the energy of the flame and brushing away negativity. He told us, I cannot heal you of your pain. Only you can heal yourself with your open heart and your open mind."

Wise words. Great read. Amazing and inspiring woman.

A Place Called Sorry
A Place Called Sorry
by Donna Milner
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.56

5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful. " Her newest book, Oct. 26 2015
This review is from: A Place Called Sorry (Paperback)
I read Donna Milner's debut novel, After River, back in 2008. In re-reading my review, I see that I described Milner's writing as "quite simply, beautiful."

Her newest book, A Place Called Sorry, has just released - and Milner's writing has only gotten better.

1930's British Columbia. Young Addie Beale makes her home on a cattle ranch in the bush in British Columbia. Sorry is " a scanty little settlement located twelve hard bush miles from our ranch....the place where a number of side roads, not much more than widened paths, converged onto the trail that once led to the Cariboo goldfields."

Addie loves the land as much as her grandfather and father. Her grandfather has only ever hinted at the life he led before the ranch. As age creeps up on him, he slowly begins to reveal his secrets to Addie as she reads him the journals he wrote as a boy. Milner employs a then and now narrative that moves the story forward until past and present intersect. I quite enjoy this story within a story style.

I loved Milner's characters - I became so invested in them and their lives. The gentle wisdom of Addie's father and grandfather, the interactions between the three, the burgeoning friendship between Alan and Addie, hurt and heartache and joy. There is one exception - Mrs. Parsons the malicious, vitriolic schoolteacher. I simply wanted to rip her from the pages and throttle her.

It took me over a week to read A Place Called Sorry. Why? Because I became so emotionally involved in the book - I was so angry at the prejudice and so saddened at the injustice and treatment of the First Nations people. I became completely caught up in both the past and the present lives of Chauncey and Addie and found myself many times with tears running down my face. I was so tempted to flip ahead to the last pages and assure myself of the ending. But instead, I put the book down and walked away, returning to unfold the story as Milner wrote it. The ending? Couldn't have been better. "Loving someone does not require their presence in your life. Sometimes forgiveness is simply remembering that love."

Milner herself makes her home in British Columbia. Her descriptions of the land painted vivid mental images for me. Her exploration of the past was simply outstanding, blending fact and fiction together. "We're the newcomers here. There's something to be said about our European arrogance of believing it's our God-given right to go wherever and however we please. "The Chilcotin War was real - and the reverberations have echoed across the decades. The B.C. government only last year apologized to the Tsilhqot’in people.

Readers will know of my love for book covers - this one is absolutely perfect for the story. As is the book itself - A Place Called Sorry was a five star read for me - absolutely recommended!

The Great Christmas Knit-Off: A Novel (Tindledale)
The Great Christmas Knit-Off: A Novel (Tindledale)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars And here's one feel good read you absolutely need to put on your Christmas ..., Oct. 21 2015
You might just be saying to yourself - Christmas books already Luanne?! Well, I've had snow at my place already. And yes, I'm going to say it.....only nine weeks 'til Christmas. I absolutely adore reading Christmas stories in the weeks leading up to the 25th.

And here's one feel good read you absolutely need to put on your Christmas reading list - The Great Christmas Knit-Off by Alexandra Brown.

Sybil's life has unraveled - she's been jilted, left at the alter by her ex-fiancee - who took off with her twin sister - at work, she may be the one responsible for a large amount of missing money, transferred with a mistaken key stroke - and more. When her bestie takes over running a wee little pub in the village of Tindledale, Sybs decides to visit and get away from her life for a weekend.

Uh huh, you know what's coming don't you? Warm, wonderful, friendly, quirky characters inhabit the village of Tindledale and Sybs is immediately welcomed. When she discovers a wool shop, she knows she's found a kindred spirit in Hettie, the aged owner. But Hettie's nephew is determined to put her in a home and take over her property. Oh, and did I mention the handsome (single) village doctor?

Sybil is a character the reader is immediately drawn to - she's someone you'd love to have as a friend. The reader can't help but cheer her on as she starts to reclaim her life and move forward. There's a lovely sense of community as the residents work together to save Hettie's store. Romance of course figures into the plot - with the requisite missteps, mistakes and miscommunication. Good and bad (that nasty nephew) battle and there are many poignant moments with Hettie as her past is explored and revealed.

Me? I'd love to be part of the knit and natter group. (There's also a pattern included at the back of the book for one of Sybil's projects.) Or settle in for a pint at the Duck and Puddle and catch up on the latest. Make yourself a warm cup of tea - or better yet a cup of cocoa - and settle in for a perfect, heartwarming Christmas read. (This is the first book in Brown's new series set in Tindledale.)

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