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Luanne Ollivier
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The Farm
The Farm
by Tom Rob Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.18
39 used & new from CDN$ 8.76

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
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

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.

No Safe House
No Safe House
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great summer binge reading!, Aug. 18 2014
This review is from: No Safe House (Kindle Edition)
Linwood Barclay's latest novel, No Safe House, has been sitting on my kitchen table looking at me for over a week now. I resisted - knowing that I had some vacation time coming and I would binge read it until I literally couldn't keep my eyes open. I did - and it was worth it!

Barclay usually writes one off suspense novels, but this latest is a follow up to 2008's No Time For Goodbye.

Barclay grabs the reader from the get go with a prologue that just sets the breakneck pace for the rest of the book. You'd think that after what Terry, Cynthia and their daughter Grace went through seven years ago, life would leave them in peace.

"I don't know where I got the idea that once you've come through a very dark time, after you've confronted the worst possible demons and defeated, them, that everything's going to be just fine."

Uh-uh, it's not... When Grace goes along with a bad idea her sketchy date has to take a Porsche out for a joyride, it starts a domino effect that plunges the family into yet another nightmare.

Barclay cuts the narrative between Terry and others with their own agenda. It did take me bit to figure out that there was more than one group - these chapters are initially quite cryptic. I do enjoy this style of storytelling, but have to hold myself back from flipping ahead 'just to see'.

Barclay's plot is quite inventive - I had no idea where things were going to. The little click when things start to fit together is quite satisfying, but there are many, many pieces to Barclay's puzzle and just as many twists and turns. I did think that the one of the plot devices was a bit far fetched, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book at all.

The writing shoots straight from the hip - there no unnecessary descriptions or involved self explorations, just fast paced dialogue and action. Barclay does the 'regular guy thrown into a crazy situation' story extremely well.

No Safe House was excellent escapist reading

...And one last thing - you might want to think twice about who has a key and the alarm code to your house - the neighbour, the dog walker, the babysitter, the cleaning lady....

The Fever: A Novel
The Fever: A Novel
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars YA readers will enjoy this title, Aug. 13 2014
3.5/5 3.5/5 Megan Abbott's latest book, The Fever, is the first title I've read from this author.

Abbott starts off her book with a group of girls discussing "The first time, you can't believe how much it hurts." My initial thoughts were okay, teenage girls and sex - this isn't going to hold my attention. But the next chapter changed the way I though the story was going to go - and my interest was piqued.

Deenie's friend Lise has what seems to be some sort of seizure at school. And then so does another girl - and another. The cause isn't clear - is the polluted lake the teens were swimming in? Is it the vaccination the girls have all had? Is it an STD? Is it...?

The cause remains a mystery as the the town struggles to deal with more and more girls getting sick. Except Deenie. Beneath that layer, the teens have their own ideas, struggles and sly machinations going on. Secrets are everywhere.

Abbott tells her tale from multiple viewpoints - that of Deenie, her father Tom (a teacher at the high school) and heartthrob brother Tom. Abbott draws her characters well - these are a pack of teens, not a group of girls. They are backbiting, manipulative and self absorbed, but could they be dangerous as well? Abbot's portrayal of teenagers is by turns frightening and troubling, yet probably very accurate. The addition of an adult perspective from Tom gave the book balance.

Abbott manipulates the reader as well - snippets of information, connections and background are slowly revealed as every character reveals a little more every time its their chapter.

Abbott's writing style is excellent and the premise had me eager to get the to end. I was so very curious - what could the cause be? I admit to being slightly deflated by the end result, but had enough warning in the final chapters as what the endgame would be. And I can see why all my young adult pages at the library love her books!

The Table of Less Valued Knights
The Table of Less Valued Knights
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Just plain fun to read!, Aug. 12 2014
Oh my goodness - Marie Phillips's new book - The Table of Less Valued Knights - was soooo much fun to read!

You know the story of King Arthur and his brave, valiant Knights of the Roundtable right? But have you heard the tales of those demoted to the (rectangular) table of less valued knights - the elderly, the infirm, the cowardly, the incompetent and the disgraced.

One member of that lesser table is Sir Humphrey. Lagging behind to leave after one gathering, he is the only witness to a young woman looking for a Knight to accept her quest. And against all the rules - he accepts the maiden's mission to find her kidnapped fiance.

And that's the beginning of a rollicking romp of a tale featuring a small giant, a magical sword, an elephant, dwarfs, an evil King and his oafish brother, a crone's apprentice, a lady of the lake, a beautiful maiden, a runaway Queen, a castle or two, more than a few duels and.....

What sets this book apart is Phillip's clever, clever writing. The dialogue had me in stitches the entire time. Phillips weaves modern day situations such as customs forbidding transport of food products across borders into her tale to great effect. The absurdity of some of it reminded me of Monty Python skits. And I have to say The Princess Bride as well. (Quite frankly, I think The Table of Less Valued Knights would make a great film as well!) Of course being a fairy tale type of story, there is a happy ending, but I'm wondering Marie, if perhaps there are further adventures in store?

This was such a delightfully fun read, absolutely guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It's one of my fave summer 2014 reads.

Someone Else's Skin: Introducing Detective Inspector Marnie Rome
Someone Else's Skin: Introducing Detective Inspector Marnie Rome
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars First in a new crime series, Aug. 11 2014
Someone Else's Skin is Sarah Hilary's debut crime novel featuring Detective Inspector Marnie Rome.

Hilary introduces us to Rome in a crime scene involving a stabbing from five years ago - one that was personal. Fast forward to present day. Rome and her partner are heading to a women's shelter to interview a witness. But when they arrive, they walk in on a murder - a stabbing. The eight women in the shelter all saw something, but none of their stories match. Who is telling the truth? Why would anyone lie? What secrets do these women have?

Great premise, great characters. Rome is a strong female lead - smart and preferring to operate on her own terms - sometimes to her detriment. The past effects her view of the present and she often makes judgement calls with those memories colouring her decisions - not always the wisest move. Rome's partner, DS Jake is a great character as well - not a cookie cutter supporting character. He has his own back story and plays a major role in this first book

I thought I had a good inkling of where Hilary was taking her story, but she offered up more than one twist that changed the direction of the story. Her exploration of domestic abuse and our perceptions and misconceptions of this crime are thought provoking. Racism and homophobia are also up for discussion.

Hilary's writing is sharp, the dialogue believable, the investigation flawed enough to keep things moving forward and the reader interested and the final chapters are an action filled finale - all adding up to a cracking good read. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Someone Else's Skin.

In the author's notes at the end of the book, Hilary thanks her agent 'who refused to let the slush pile have me." My thanks to her agent as well - I really enjoyed this character and Hilary's writing. I'll be watching for the second in the series - No Other Darkness - due out in the UK in Spring of 2015.

We Were Liars
We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
Edition: Audio CD
Price: CDN$ 25.83
22 used & new from CDN$ 20.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but I wasn't blown away, Aug. 6 2014
This review is from: We Were Liars (Audio CD)
3.5/5 E. Lockhart's latest book We Were Liars is one of this summer's hottest YA titles - although it will appeal to adults as well.

My adult daughter brought it to the cottage to read this summer on the recommendation of a friend and she really enjoyed it. So, I picked up the audio version for the commute back and forth to work.

The publisher's synopsis says it all:

"A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth."

Our narrator is Cadence, one of the Liars. She is struggling to remember what happened that summer, but can't quite put the pieces together.....

Lockhart is very clever. After the final chapter, I realized that much is revealed along the way if you pay close attention. There are fairy tales interspersed that also mirror real life. Pay attention to these as well. I must admit to figuring out the twist before the final pages, but still really enjoyed the story. But, to say anymore would be to spoil the book.

I chose to listen to We Were Liars. The reader was Ariadne Meyers. Her voice was totally believable as a teenager. She captured the confusion of Cady well. She provided different voices for numerous characters that suited and were easy to differentiate. Her voice was clear and easy to understand.

This was a good read, with a nice twist, but I'm in the minority I think - I wasn't completely blown away.

The Catch: A Novel
The Catch: A Novel
by Taylor Stevens
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.56
30 used & new from CDN$ 12.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Great female protagonist, Aug. 4 2014
This review is from: The Catch: A Novel (Hardcover)
The Catch is Taylor Stevens' fourth entry in her Vanessa Michael Munroe series.

Vanessa Michael Munroe is....well, she's deadly, with incredible physical skills and she's brilliant - she speaks many languages and easily assimilates into the situation or culture she finds herself in. She can read people and situations and think three moves ahead. For a living, she hunts people, finds information and fixes things. After her last case resulted in a horrific personal loss, Michael has retreated to the continent that seems to draw her back time and time again - Africa.

She's laying low, having taken a job with a small company that provides security for ships travelling the waters that Somalian pirates troll, providing information and greasing palms. When the owner pressures her to join the latest security job as a guard, she finds herself in the middle of a mess. The owner is lying, the hold is full of Russian guns, but it seems to be the captain that the pirates are after. And Michael's quiet retreat is no more.

Stevens has again crafted another intricately plotted thriller. Munroe is on her own this time, with no back-up. The action slowly builds through the first few chapters and then hits high gear for the rest of the book. The details of the settings and culture are vivid and detailed.

But, it is the character of Michael that is the real draw of this series. It's so much fun to have such a kick*** female character. The action scenes are great, but there's a deeper level to this character as well. She is the walking wounded and Stevens does a fantastic job depicting Munroe's inner emotional turmoil and her physical struggle to control herself. Each book out, we learn a little bit more about Munroe and her background. Having read of Stevens' background, I wonder how much of her own life has been woven into her books.

The Catch has a satisfying ending, but the door is open for the next entry is this series....one I'll pick up for sure

The Country of Ice Cream Star
The Country of Ice Cream Star
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars To quote Kate Atkinson - Astonishing, Aug. 4 2014
I am invariably drawn to post-apocalyptic fiction, fascinated with an author's imagining of what life may be if the world as we know it ends. Sandra Newman's depiction of a ruined world is brilliant in her novel, The Country of Ice Cream Star.

Ice Cream Star lives with the rest of the Sengles in the woods, scratching out a living by hunting or scavenging in 'evac' houses. Life is hard - and short. By the time a person reaches eighteen, the 'posies' set in - and death is inevitable. When a white man is flushed from an evac house, he brings the possibility of a cure, for he is old - at least thirty years. Ice is determined to find the cure to save her brother Driver, who has just turned eighteen, as well as the rest of her people.

This was such an amazing book on so many levels. Newman's plotting is rich and wide and so very, very inventive. The story is told in first person narrative from Ice Cream Star's viewpoint. I was completely captured by her voice, her attitude, her fears, her strengths and so much more.

I think readers will either choose to stay up late or put the book down after the first few chapters of The Country of Ice Cream Star. Newman's prose are amazingly original - it's language you will recognize, but words have changed and evolved over the course of the intervening years since the collapse of our time. From the back cover blurb:

"My name be Ice Cream Fifteen Star. This be the tale of how I bring the cures to all the Nighted States, save every poory children, short for life. Is how a city die for selfish love, and rise from this same smallness. Be how the new America being, in wars against all hope - a county with no power in a world that hate its life. So been the faith I sworn, and it ain't evils in no world nor cruelties in no read hell can change the vally heart of Ice Cream Star."

I enjoyed discovering the meanings of 'new' words and finding the remnants of the old tucked among them. I was able to imagine the words spoken aloud, the cadence and the rhythm and patterns of the Sengle patois. The Country of Ice Cream Star would not be the same book told in everyday English. That being said, I can see it frustrating some readers - mores the pity.

Factions of all sorts have sprung up in this new world and remembered faiths, traditions, societies and their mores have been bastardized. Newman's descriptions, dialogues and settings were so very vivid. And again, I loved finding the remnants of the past hidden in the rubble of this world. The action and tension is palpable as Ice races to find a cure before her brother succumbs. Newman also deftly explores Ice Cream Star's sexuality. I found myself drawn into the hunt for the cure, only climbing out when forced to. (Darn job gets in the way of serious reading time!)

The Country of Ice Cream Star is an epic read with a unique hero, a brilliant plot, oodles of adventure and ingenious world building. I loved it. Who else did? Another of my favourite authors, Kate Atkinson, has a one word blurb on the front cover..."Astonishing.." Yep, that sums it up in one word.

The Old Blue Line: A Joanna Brady Novella (Joanna Brady Mysteries)
The Old Blue Line: A Joanna Brady Novella (Joanna Brady Mysteries)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars but my favourite is Sheriff Joanna Brady, Aug. 1 2014
3.5/5 J.A. Jance writes a number of series, but my favourite is Sheriff Joanna Brady.

The Old Blue Line has been marketed as 15.5 in the series, as it is a novella. (The newest novel, Remains of Innocence has just released.)

The Old Blue Line is actually Joanna's husband, Butch Dixon's story. Jance takes us back to the days before Butch met Joanna.

Butch lost everything to his ex-wife seven years ago. He's made a new life for himself and no runs the Roadhouse Bar and Grill. But when the ex-wife is found murdered, Butch is the prime suspect. Even in death, Faith is out to get him. But Butch has friends - namely The Old Blue Line gang - retired cops and lawyers that are determined to clear Butch's name.

Butch has always been a great supporting player in the Brady books, but we really don't know too much about his background. This little novella is told completely in Butch's voice. ( Joanna only makes an appearance in the last few pages.) The mystery in this case is short and sweet, as is the book, but it's still enjoyable. It was more about getting to know Butch better. Although, I'd like to see more of The Old Blue Line gang in future books.

I actually chose to listen to The Old Blue Line. The reader was James Eckhouse. Eckhouse's voice is pleasant and easy to listen to, with clear diction. He's an expressive reader, using his voice to good effect. Eckhouse works as an actor and is good 'performer' in audio format as well.

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