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Luanne Ollivier
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Murder, D.C.: A Sully Carter Novel (Sully Carter Series)
Murder, D.C.: A Sully Carter Novel (Sully Carter Series)
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed Tucker's first book and was looking forward to his ..., Aug. 3 2015
Neely Tucker's debut novel, Ways of the Dead, introduced us to reporter Sully Carter. I really enjoyed Tucker's first book and was looking forward to his just released second novel - Murder, D.C.

Sully knows there's more to the story when Billy Ellison, son of one of Washington's most wealthy, influential and revered black families, is found dead in a park known for gang and drug activity. Repeatedly warned off by his newspaper, Billy's family and the local gangs, Sully is like a dog with a bone - he won't back down and he won't let go.

Which makes for a helluva good read. The plot of Murder, D.C. was inventive, drawing on both fact and fiction. I enjoyed riding along with Sully as he slowly uncovers bits and pieces, ferreting out the truth amongst the lies to arrive at the final reveal. I had my suspicions along the way, but was surprised by many of the turns the book took. (And this is a good thing - I enjoy not being able to predict a plot)

The best protagonists for crime books are the walking wounded, the ones who buck authority, the ones who just can't let things be or let justice go unserved. Sully Carter fills the bill on every count. He's battling PTSD, alcohol and anger issues, his bosses and manages to step on toes everywhere he goes. (many times on purpose) He's also a confidant of the one of DC's most feared crimelords. In this latest book, Tucker continues to fleshy out Sully's character, exposing more of his personal life and the reasons behind his runaway train of a life. Alexis, a photographer, Sully's friend and sometimes lover was a great addition to the story. I loved her attitude and view on life. I hope we see more of her in the future.

Both characters have a history as war correspondents. Neely's own background is rich and wide reaching. His experience as a journalist is evident in his writing. (And I wonder how much of Sully is drawn from the author himself) Neely's descriptions of time and place are vivid and I had strong mental images of the streets, back alleys and underbelly of Washington. These books are set in the late 1990's - when Washington was known as the murder capital of the U.S. (Hence the title)

I look forward to Sully's next story.

Belle & Sebastian [Import]
Belle & Sebastian [Import]
Price: CDN$ 31.80
19 used & new from CDN$ 20.38

4.0 out of 5 stars it was a featured film at many festivals and was the Grand Prize Best Film at the New York International Children's Film Festiva, July 31 2015
This review is from: Belle & Sebastian [Import] (DVD)
When I saw this new release from Film Movement - Belle and Sebastian - I just knew it was one I had to watch. As with all Film Movement releases, it was a featured film at many festivals and was the Grand Prize Best Film at the New York International Children's Film Festival.

My now twenty something son absolutely adored the cartoon series about a boy and his giant white dog. We had a very large white Alaskan Malamute at the time and I know he played out many adventures with Murphy in the backyard.

The film takes place in 1943 in the French Alps. Sebastian lives with an old shepherd named Cesar. The village is worried about a 'beast' who has been attacking the local flocks and have vowed to kill it. Young Sebastian comes across the dog the villagers are seeking and instead, befriends it. The dog becomes Sebastian's protector. For there is danger in the village - the Nazis have occupied it - and the villagers are moving Jewish refugees across the border into Switzerland. You guessed it - Belle and Sebastian are a part of that.

This is such a great movie for families. There's danger, adventure and of course a dog who is so very special. Who wouldn't want to imagine themselves as Sebastian? Prepare to have your heartstrings tugged. (For younger viewers, please take not that there are some some animals killed as part of the story.)

The movie is worth watching for the scenery alone - the views and vistas of the French Alps are absolutely magnificent. The scenes shot in the snow are real - and just as magnificent.

Young Félix Bossuet is such a natural actor. His lines were believable and his facial and body language also spoke volumes. It was easy to believe him as just a boy and his dog. Tchéky Karyo plays 'grandfather' Cesar. I had literally just watched him in the television series The Missing and enjoyed his performance. I thought he did a great job in this film as well. And a review of the actors would not be complete without mentioning the dog - well trained and perfect casting!

Families watching with children will likely choose the English dubbing. It seemed a bit off to me in the beginning, but wasn't badly done at all. I did find that of the dialogue could have used a bit more editing before being used - some of the phrases and language just didn't seem to fit the time and place. I chose to watch with the subtitles instead. There's a 30 minute plus feature included on the making of the film as well.

Director Nicolas Vanier did a great job of bringing Cecile Aubry's classic book to the screen and a new audience. And now I'm going to pass my copy on to that twenty-something son....

Finding Audrey
Finding Audrey
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars depression doesn't come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, July 29 2015
This review is from: Finding Audrey (Kindle Edition)
The opening prologue of Finding Audrey - the newest novel from Sophie Kinsella - had me hooked. We're quickly introduced to the Turner family - as they attempt to dissuade Mum from throwing her son Frank's computer out the upstairs window. Dad and younger son Felix are outside, pleading with her to not do it. The last family member is Audrey - who is watching from inside the house with her sunglasses on.

The novel is told from Audrey's view. Her voice and the reason for the dark glasses are immediately compelling....

"The trouble is, depression doesn't come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don't realize at first. You keep saying 'I'm fine' to people when you're not fine. You think you should be fine. You keep saying to yourself: 'Why aren't I fine?'"

Kinsella does a fantastic job tackling the issues of anxiety and depression. The exact circumstances that led to Audrey's current situation are never fully detailed - which is perfect. Instead the focus is on Audrey and her progress. And that progress picks up speed when she meets Frank's friend Linus....

I loved this book! I found myself laughing out loud many, many times. And just as many spent on sympathizing with Audrey's plight.

The characters are so engaging. It's impossible not to like Audrey. Her brother Frank's strategies and ploys to circumvent Mum's computer ban are epic. Wee Felix has few lines, but his sweetness is tangible. Dad is a bit of a bumbler and Mum is a bit of hard nose. (It was Mum I had the hardest time liking) But what they all share is a love for Audrey and a desire to help her feel better. Each family member is coping and supporting her in their own way. Linus - well, Linus is lovely. And I truly hope there are teen boys like him out there. Audrey's psychiatrist, Dr. Sarah, was also a great addition to the supporting cast. Her quiet advice is full of many truths.

Finding Audrey is about Audrey finding herself - and realizing that "...life is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn't matter if you slip down. As long as you're kind of heading more or less upwards. That's all you can hope for. More or less upwards."

Kinsella injects her humourous style into her first YA novel, but also handles real and serious issues with a realistic eye. Well done.

The Longest Ride [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
The Longest Ride [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Scott Eastwood
Price: CDN$ 24.96
8 used & new from CDN$ 16.42

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars based on the best selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, July 23 2015
The Longest Ride, based on the best selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, has just released on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Director George Tillman Jr. does a fantastic job of bringing this love story to the screen. (And staying true to the book)

Bullrider Luke (Scott Eastwood) is 'back in the saddle' trying to return to the top of his sport after an injury, when he meets Sophia (Britt Robertson) - a college student ready to graduate and pursue her dream job in the art field. When the two meet, sparks fly - but can love overcome dreams and ambitions? What, if any, choices and sacrifices will each be willing to make?

What makes The Longest Ride such a wonderful film to watch is the parallel story set in the 1940's. Luke and Sophia rescue Ira (Alan Alda) an older man and his box of letters from a car crash. Sophia continues to meet with Ira and from her letter reading we relive the love story of Ira and his wife Ruth. (Oona Chaplin is fantastic as young Ruth. Jack Huston is young Ira) The two stories mirror each other across the generations, through good and bad, only serving to illustrate that love takes sacrifice and the path to happiness is never smooth.

Watching The Longest Ride is going to make you happy though. Who doesn't love a love story? Great sets and scenery, a perfectly cast group of actors, some tastefully done steamy scenes, lots of action in the bull ring and an ending that's just right, all add up to a sweet, satisfying movie night at home. The Longest Ride is perfect to share with that special someone in your life or maybe as a girl's night at the movies. (As one supporting character says early on "I want a cowboy." Uh huh.)

Tillman took great care with realistically portraying the bull riding. Two of the special features on the disc follow Eastwood's training as well as the real riders. Fascinating stuff. There's also some good interviews with cast members, director and Sparks as well.

The title refers to the eight seconds a rider must stay on the bull to score, but The Longest Ride is also a nod to relationships - staying the course through a bumpy ride as well. Well worth watching for this movie lover!

Longest Ride [Blu-ray] (Bilingual) [Import]
Longest Ride [Blu-ray] (Bilingual) [Import]
2 used & new from CDN$ 54.31

5.0 out of 5 stars based on the best selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, July 23 2015
The Longest Ride, based on the best selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, has just released on Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Director George Tillman Jr. does a fantastic job of bringing this love story to the screen. (And staying true to the book)

Bullrider Luke (Scott Eastwood) is 'back in the saddle' trying to return to the top of his sport after an injury, when he meets Sophia (Britt Robertson) - a college student ready to graduate and pursue her dream job in the art field. When the two meet, sparks fly - but can love overcome dreams and ambitions? What, if any, choices and sacrifices will each be willing to make?

What makes The Longest Ride such a wonderful film to watch is the parallel story set in the 1940's. Luke and Sophia rescue Ira (Alan Alda) an older man and his box of letters from a car crash. Sophia continues to meet with Ira and from her letter reading we relive the love story of Ira and his wife Ruth. (Oona Chaplin is fantastic as young Ruth. Jack Huston is young Ira) The two stories mirror each other across the generations, through good and bad, only serving to illustrate that love takes sacrifice and the path to happiness is never smooth.

Watching The Longest Ride is going to make you happy though. Who doesn't love a love story? Great sets and scenery, a perfectly cast group of actors, some tastefully done steamy scenes, lots of action in the bull ring and an ending that's just right, all add up to a sweet, satisfying movie night at home. The Longest Ride is perfect to share with that special someone in your life or maybe as a girl's night at the movies. (As one supporting character says early on "I want a cowboy." Uh huh.)

Tillman took great care with realistically portraying the bull riding. Two of the special features on the disc follow Eastwood's training as well as the real riders. Fascinating stuff. There's also some good interviews with cast members, director and Sparks as well.

The title refers to the eight seconds a rider must stay on the bull to score, but The Longest Ride is also a nod to relationships - staying the course through a bumpy ride as well. Well worth watching for this movie lover!

A New Hope (Thunder Point series Book 8)
A New Hope (Thunder Point series Book 8)
Price: CDN$ 7.22

3.0 out of 5 stars ... the 8th entry in the Thunder Point series by best selling author Robyn Carr, July 22 2015
A New Hope is the 8th entry in the Thunder Point series by best selling author Robyn Carr.

I don't read a lot of romance, but a co-worker mentioned that she had enjoyed quite a few Robyn Carr titles. I was looking for an easy, feel good read, so A New Hope seemed like a good bet.

Ginger Dysart has suffered great personal loss. Still grieving, she moves to the small town of Thunder Point, Oregon, to help out her cousin. Carr quickly introduces us to the many residents of the town, each with their own story and personality. I must admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed in the beginning, with the sheer number of story lines and connections.

Ginger is a likable character, as are most of the players. Thunder Point is that mythical little town, where everyone knows your name (and your business) the neighbours pitch in and help is always just around the corner. Idyllic and a perfect setting.

At a local wedding, Ginger is hit on by a drunken Matt Lacoumette, who has also suffered loss. Sober, he comes by to apologize to Ginger and.....well, you can see it coming can't you? No surprise - - their relationship grows from no thanks, to friends and onward. Carr grows this relationship nicely, with more than a few truths and some thoughtful introspection along the way.

My only complaint would be the inclusion of what I viewed as somewhat gratuitous sex scenes. No, it's not me being prudish. I just thought they felt forced, or injected into the story as a prerequisite element. I was enjoying the story without these insertions.

What I did really enjoy was that caring town and its residents. Carr has included a wide variety of characters, from young to old, each with their own story. It's easy to see why readers get hooked on such series. It's lovely to imagine such a place as Thunder Point might exist.

The growing relationship between Ginger and Matt is of course a given, despite the setbacks thrown in their paths. But that's why we read romance isn't it? For that happy ever after. Readers will find that ending in A New Hope.

The Hand That Feeds You: A Novel
The Hand That Feeds You: A Novel
by A.J. Rich
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.75
28 used & new from CDN$ 18.18

3.0 out of 5 stars I didn't overly like her, despite her being the protagonist, July 22 2015
3.5/5 The Hand That Feeds You is a newly released psychological thriller from A.J. Rich. (A pseudonym and collaborative effort from authors Amy Hempel and Jill Clement.)

Morgan Prager comes home to her apartment to a horrific sight. Her fiancé Bennett is dead - seemingly killed by Morgan's three dogs. When she attempts to notify his family of his death, she can't find them - or any trace of the man she was to marry. Nothing he told was true. Morgan met Bennett through an online dating site and a questionnaire she created for her thesis on victim psychology. Could Morgan be the victim herself?

And of course, along with Morgan, the reader wants to know who Bennett was as well.

I was intrigued by the premise and Morgan's search for who Bennett really was. But I found myself reading as an observer, removed from the story and not as a engaged participant. I just couldn't connect with Morgan. I didn't overly like her, despite her being the protagonist. She alternates between being self aware to downright naive. But she remained flat for me, never generating a strong response.

The inclusion of death by dog was quite different. Dogs, dog rescue, dog temperament and dog law play a large in the plot of The Hand That Feeds You. Hempel is a founding member of two dog rescue organizations and her knowledge adds much to a distinctly different whodunit plot. I learned quite a bit, but sometimes I felt like this information and storyline detracted from the main plot. I did think that the idea of someone falsely representing themselves online was excellent - and timely.

Rich does include a lot of extraneous detail - about food/drink/prices that seem like filler, as well as other odd bits, such as a description of a 'green' funeral that really don't have anything to do with the plot at all.

The whodunit is fairly obvious, despite the choices offered, but I kept reading as I wanted to confirm my suspicions and find out the fate of the dogs. I found the ending and resolution a bit rushed in the less than two pages allotted to it.

The Hand That Feeds You was just an okay read, for me, and fell short of the publisher's description of 'smart, thrilling, sexy, and emotionally riveting.'

The Tea Book
The Tea Book
by DK
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.75
27 used & new from CDN$ 19.82

5.0 out of 5 stars DK Canada has a great Food and Drink Boutique with a selection of food ..., July 19 2015
This review is from: The Tea Book (Hardcover)
I've been drinking tea as long as I remember. Some of my fondest memories are having tea parties with my grandmothers when I was young. We used a tiny china tea set (that I still have) and very milky tea! I'm still a tea lover and drinker to this day.

DK Canada has a great Food and Drink Boutique with a selection of food and beverage titles for the foodie in your life. One of their newest titles - The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard - definitely caught my eye!

Gaylard is a tea sommelier - " the tea sommelier has the challenging task of convincing tea drinkers that there is much more to tea than a mug and a tea bag. Beyond the bag there is mystery, history, travel, industry, culture and ceremony: a whole new world to explore."

I have tried some loose teas, but I do generally use the same brand of bag and a mug, so I was up for learning something new and venturing beyond my usual fare.

Gaylard's book starts literally from the ground up, detailing the anatomy of a tea plant, the growth and harvest. (From seed to plant ready for plucking can take 5 to 7 years) I truly had never thought to consider the process of plant to cup before - up to nine processes! I drink quite a bit of tea - and am happy to report there are quite a few health benefits to tea, including stress relief and higher bone density. Who knew? Herbal teas have long been known to have medicinal properties. Gaylard has included a 'wheel of wellness' - matching an ailment (headache, cough etc) along with a tea that might help.

I loved this fact - tea bags were an accidental invention. In 1908 a tea merchant sent his clients samples in a silk drawstring bag. They clients brewed the tea in the bags instead of removing the leaves. And tea bags were born! I've discovered while travelling in the US to say 'hot tea' - which is sometimes met with puzzled looks. This stat explains those looks - "80% of tea consumed in the United States is in the form of iced tea."

Brewing and infusing techniques, including equipment such as infusers, water temp, type of water, infusion time and measured amounts to use are covered in meticulous detail, accompanied by charts, coloured pictures and drawings.

Just as tea with my grandmother was an occasion, so is it across many cultures. Gaylard explore ceremonies and traditions in numerous countries. (The British afternoon tea was familiar and a favourite)

A large chapter on tea recipes was an unexpected bonus! There are cold, hot and alcoholic tea recipes, using all types of tea. How about making your own bubble tea?

The Tea Book is a complete, comprehensive guide to the world of tea from start to finish - seed to sipping. Gaylard knows her tea - and I now know a lot more. And I think I'm ready to supplement my bag and mug with some loose tea! The Tea Book is another great reference book from DK - filled with great clear, concise information, complemented by colour photos and drawings.

After the Storm: A Kate Burkholder Novel
After the Storm: A Kate Burkholder Novel
by Linda Castillo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.80
28 used & new from CDN$ 18.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's the seventh entry her wonderful Kate Burkholder series, July 15 2015
Linda Castillo's newest book, After the Storm, has just released. It's the seventh entry her wonderful Kate Burkholder series.

Kate is the Chief of Police in the town of Painters Mill, Ohio. The area also has a large Amish population. Kate was born into the Amish community, but chose to leave and live as an "Englischer". She has an understanding of both communities and it serves her invaluably in her work.

A prologue from the past sets up the premise for After the Storm. And in the present, a tornado tears through the area of Painters Mill, wreaking havoc - and exposing that past. A set of bones is found under the wreckage of an old barn - and it was no accidental death.

I loved settling in for what I knew would be a great read - and catching up with Kate.

Kate's personal life is a continuing storyline across the books. Her relationship with State Agent John Tomasetti has reached a new level - and new hurdles. I like the continuity across the books as the personal lives of the characters change and grow with each new entry. The supporting cast is solid and dedicated to their Chief. Kate's own conflicts between the community she was raised in and the world she now lives in also provide a great secondary story line. Castillo use lots of detail to bring the Amish settings, culture and language to life.

The whodunit is nicely played - not overly hard to solve, but still enjoyable. Castillo does provide lots of suspects along the way for the reader to choose from. Procedural details aren't overly employed, instead Castillo moves things along with deductions and action. I do wonder if these crimes (because some of them are quite ugly) happen in the Amish community? A quote from Kate: "The Amish have all the same weaknesses as the rest of us. Including the human capacity for violence."

Castillo's premise and use of the Amish community and their way of life in her books is interesting and different enough to separate it from other series. After the Storm was an engaging, enjoyable read - a perfect porch read.

The Fold: A Novel
The Fold: A Novel
by Peter Clines
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.51
41 used & new from CDN$ 19.50

4.0 out of 5 stars but I know a good story when I see it, July 14 2015
This review is from: The Fold: A Novel (Hardcover)
I don't read a lot of science fiction, but I know a good story when I see it. I've also seen techno-thriller attached to this book as a label, which I think is better fitting.

The Fold is the first book I've read by Peter Clines, but it won't be the last.

It was the lead character that caught my interest in the first few chapters and held me until the very end.

Mike Erikson is a small town teacher in New England. He's happy at his job and enjoys his students. He also happens to be a genius with an eidetic memory, able to recall anything and everything he's ever seen, read or heard. He doesn't advertise this ability, preferring to live the quiet life he's chosen. One friend is aware of his skill set though - and asks Mike to take a look at a project he's funding. He's not sure if the group is telling him the truth about their results.

The project? Time travel, using a 'fold' of time that allows the user to travel great distances in a single step. Mike is intrigued.......and quite sure that the group is indeed harboring secrets - dangerous ones.

Well, of course I wanted to know what the secret was! The premise was great and the journey to the answers was intriguing. The story moved along at a fast pace, with lots of action as Mike ferrets out the truth and the resulting chaos. Cline's writing flows easily and was fun to read.

Mike's recall is fascinating - he uses ants as a mental depiction - black for memory, red for analysis. He was a a really likable character. The supporting cast is a mixed bunch - and although some of them are a bit clichéd (the lead scientist is quite obvious in his obfuscation) - they provided a good foil. A secondary plot involving a love interest between Mike and Jamie, one of the scientists, lends a personal note. Clines injects humour along the way as well.

I liked the ending, it's open ended enough for further books with Mike. I do hope this is the case - I would absolutely love to listen to another one - as long as its Ray Porter narrating. ;0)

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