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Luanne Ollivier

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Blood on Snow: A novel
Blood on Snow: A novel
by Jo Nesbo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.72
2 used & new from CDN$ 16.72

4.0 out of 5 stars I've read and enjoyed every adult book Jo Nesbo has written, April 24 2015
This review is from: Blood on Snow: A novel (Hardcover)
I've read and enjoyed every adult book Jo Nesbo has written. His Harry Hole novels are a favourite. But I've also enjoyed the stand alones - including his newest book - Blood on Snow.

1976 Oslo, Norway. Olav has worked for crime syndicate boss Daniel Hoffmann for a number of years. But, it took him a bit to find the right job within the organization. He turned out to be no good as a pimp, a getaway driver, a robber or a drug dealer. But....he found his niche as a fixer. Olav doesn't fix things - he to fixes people. Permanently.

All seems to be going well, until Daniel Hoffmann gives Olav his latest assignment - Daniel wants his wife fixed. This time the job doesn't go quite as it should....

"When exactly do you reach the point where you know so much about your boss that he starts to get worried? And when you do you know he's beginning to wonder if he ought to fix the fixer?"

Now, after that cold blooded description, what you wouldn't expect is to feel sympathy for Olav - but I did. There's more to Olav than meets the eye. Nesbo has created a wonderful anti-hero - one I was actually rooting for.

All the elements of Nesbo's writing that I enjoy are packed into just over 200 pages. Short sharp dialogue, brutal situations and an intensity throughout it all - but always with an undertone and a conscience lurking beneath the violence. Astute readers will capture and appreciate the nods to Hugo's Les Misérables as Olav's tale unfolds.

Blood on Snow is easily devoured in a night's sitting and is a treat for those fans missing Harry. (me included!)

A Desperate Fortune
A Desperate Fortune
by Susanna Kearsley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And for all the people who have recommended her books to me over the years - you ..., April 21 2015
This review is from: A Desperate Fortune (Paperback)
Okay, I admit it - A Desperate Fortune is the first Susanna Kearsley novel I've read. And for all the people who have recommended her books to me over the years - you were absolutely right - she's a wonderful writer!

Kearsley employs my favourite style - a past and present narrative that switches between present day Sara, and Mary in 1732.

Sara has been hired to decode a recently discovered diary dating from 1732. But the owner insists she travel to Paris to work on it. Sara is a gifted puzzle solver and she quickly discovers that the diary belonged to Mary Dundas - a Jacobite exile. As she makes more headway, she recognizes that the book has historical significance beyond Mary's personal thoughts.

I just loved the idea of a coded book finally being revealed after almost three centuries. Of the two story lines, I was more caught up in the past, eager to see where Mary's journey took her.

But that's not to say I didn't enjoy the present. Sara was an interesting protagonist - Kearsley has created a lead character with Aspberger's Syndrome. There have many books with male leads with this syndrome, but this is the first female lead I can think of. I thought Kearsley did a good job with her portrayal.

Both storylines contain a romantic element. Again, I thought Kearsley wrote Sara's story with a realistic, sensitive view of this syndrome. But it was Mary's story that captured me completely. I loved her mettle, her hopes, her determination and her 'affair of the heart'. (And I think I'm a little in love with Mr. M. as well) I loved the stories within a story - Mary is a lover and raconteur of fairy tales. And again, Mary's life mirrors some of her beloved tales.

The author has a strong sense of time and place. Kearsley brings to life a time frame I truly did not know much about, in an interesting and engaging fashion. (The author's notes at the end are fascinating - they detail her historical research for the book.)

Turning the last page left me feeling satisfied - but also sad that the book had ended. This definitely won't be my last Susanna Kearsley book.

Down Don't Bother Me: A Slim In Little Egypt Mystery
Down Don't Bother Me: A Slim In Little Egypt Mystery
by Jason Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
27 used & new from CDN$ 6.84

5.0 out of 5 stars But - the audio version was fantastic! The reader was Johnny Heller - one of ..., April 20 2015
Now in addition to having an eBook and a physical book always on the go, I also have an audio book queued up as well - sometimes to help me fall asleep.

Well, there was no way I was falling asleep listening to Jason Miller's debut novel Down Don't Bother Me. In fact - I stayed up much later than I had planned!

Miller's protagonist is Slim, an Illinois coal miner with a propensity for finding people. It's not a job for Slim, but he's helped out folks before. But this time, he doesn't have much of a choice. A reporter is found dead in the mine - and the photographer working with him is missing. Luster, the mine owner, wants to run his own search for the photographer - who just happens to be his son-in-law. Well, Slim is a single father, so when Luster dangles a pension as a carrot, Slim takes the job.

Now, I'm sure the written book will Miller many fans. But - the audio version was fantastic! The reader was Johnny Heller - one of my favourites. He has a low, gravely, worn voice that completely embodied the mental image I had of Slim. Heller's interpretation of Miller's story was perfect rhythm, cadence and tone.

The setting is just as great. Slim makes his home in Little Eygpt - one of the last colliery towns in Illinois. Its down and dirty, populated by a wild variety of characters - methheads, environmental activists, gangs and everyday folks just trying to make a go of it.

I'm going to applaud the supporting cast as well. Slim's daughter Anci is a firecracker - smart and wise to the ugliness of the world even at twelve. I enjoyed the relationship between Slim and his girlfriend Peggy - the give and take, the yes or no. Every protagonist needs a sidekick and Slim has a good one with Jeep - a big, strong guy who is like a brother to Slim. But, the standout of course, is Slim - he's rough around the edges, but smart, caring and a guy you'd want to have in your corner. He's a lead character you can't help but get behind and cheer for.

What sets off these relationships, and indeed the whole book, is Miller's dialogue and descriptions. Miller's prose are folksy, real, gritty, and so addictive to listen to. I don't think I would have enjoyed the written book as well. The audio just brought the novel to life. The descriptions of the mines and the men who work them were atmospheric (and for this reader claustrophobic!) I could taste the coal dust as the men emerged into the light.

Now, I need to mention the mystery as well - which was wonderfully plotted. I couldn't predict where the story was going to go and happily went along for the ride through the back roads of Little Egypt, eager to join the search for the photographer.

This is the first in a planned series and I will absolutely be listening to the next entry. Highly recommended. Down Don't Bother Me is a great entry in the 'grit lit' genre. Fans of Elmore Leonard's Justified will enjoy this novel.

The Dead Key
The Dead Key
by D. M. Pulley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.12
29 used & new from CDN$ 11.75

4.0 out of 5 stars I found myself quite annoyed with Iris's actions, April 16 2015
This review is from: The Dead Key (Paperback)
3.5/5 I collect old keys and I often wonder about what they unlocked and who used them.

D.M. Pulley's debut novel The Dead Key starts with keys and goes from there....

The Dead Key is told in two narratives - the past is 1978 and the present is 1998. And everything revolves around The First Bank of Cleveland. Twenty years ago there were allegations of fraud, staff had disappeared at the bank and more. One night, with no warning to the remaining staff or customers, the bank is shuttered. It has remained locked up and seemingly forgotten for the last twenty years. Except for the security guard who has been on site for all of that time.

1998 - Engineer Iris Latch goes in to map out the building for a possible buyer - and comes across the lost keys to the still locked safety deposit boxes. 1978 - young Beatrice Davies is a new employee of First Bank who stumbles upon some goings on that aren't quite right. The two women are investigating the same mystery, but I found it was Beatrice I was drawn to. I found myself quite annoyed with Iris's actions, choices and attitude.

But it is the forgotten building untouched for twenty years that had me intrigued. Vending machines still plugged in and working? Family photos on desks? I would love to be an urban explorer in this building. I really enjoyed Pulley's slow revealing of the physical bank and its secrets.

What has lead to the closing of the bank is revealed through the two women's investigations. Corruption,greed and larceny figure heavily into the story line. I did find that some of the plot points in the story needed to be taken with a grain of salt, but overall I thought the The Dead Key was a good debut novel. Recommended for the beach bag or plane ride.

It was only after finishing the book, that I discovered The Dead Key was based on fact - D.M. Pulley did indeed come across a basement full of unclaimed safety deposit boxes.

The Work Boyfriend
The Work Boyfriend
Price: CDN$ 3.82

4.0 out of 5 stars the high school love behind and has lived with Rob for the last ..., April 8 2015
Do you ever wonder about that high school boyfriend? Where he might be? What if you'd stayed together? Is the man you're with now The One?

Deanna McFadden explores that question - and a whole lot more - in her debut novel, The Work Boyfriend.

Kelly has an interesting job - okay it's not quite what she wanted to do, but it'll do for now. She did leave Chris, the high school love behind and has lived with Rob for the last ten years. She's happy with him. Except...well, he wants to get married. And Kelly is adamant that she doesn't want to. And lately it's Garrett - her friend at work that she thinks she might want to be with.....

"There is a moment when you are travelling, in the instant before you realize you are hopelessly and truly lost, when you lose all sense of the right direction. That feeling was pervading my relationship and my life these days."

All the elements are here for a fun chick lit read, but McFadden takes her novel a step beyond that. The Work Boyfriend is an exploration of what it means to grow up, to be an adult, to make choices that are right for yourself - and others. There are numerous supporting characters - friends, co-workers and family, each with their own opinion and take on being an adult.

Now, it might be my age - I'm pretty sure I've settled into adult life safely - but I found myself getting frustrated with Kelly. But I understood where she was coming from, even though I found her hard to like. Who I did identify with was Kelly's mom. She's had some hard knocks along the way, but persevered, figured it out and is happy. And yes, sometimes mom does know what she's talking about.

McFadden has set the book in Toronto - it was fun to recognize places and spaces I've visited. And some of the Canadian references had me chuckling. Anyone else remember doing The Canadian Fitness Challenge?

The Work Boyfriend is by turns funny and poignant, but always with a ring of truth. Every reader will be able to identify with one of the characters or situations as Kelly tries to figure out what direction her life needs to go now. McFadden has an easy way with words and a keen eye for the human condition. The Work Boyfriend was a enjoyable, easy read with just the right ending.

Behind Closed Doors
Behind Closed Doors
by Elizabeth Haynes
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.96
27 used & new from CDN$ 9.44

4.0 out of 5 stars Haynes does not delve into unnecessary graphic detail) I really like Lou as a character ..., April 6 2015
This review is from: Behind Closed Doors (Paperback)
I've been a fan of Elizabeth Haynes since I stumbled upon her first book - Into the Darkest Corner. She was quickly added to my list of 'must read every book they write' authors.

Behind Closed Doors is Haynes's fifth book and the second to feature Detective Inspector Louisa Smith of the Briarstone Major Crimes division.

Teenager Scarlett Rainford disappeared ten years ago while on vacation with her family in Greece. Was she taken? Or did she run away? She - or her body -was never found.

Until now. A raid on a local brothel with ties to organized crimes turns up a woman named Katie working there - and Katie says her real name is Scarlett Rainford.

Lou is shaken - she was a young constable who worked on the case ten years and she's always wondered what happened to Scarlett. Did they look hard enough? Did the Greek police follow every lead? And most frightening of all - what kind of life has Scarlett had for the last ten years?

Haynes employs a dual narrative in Behind Closed Doors. We discover what happened to Scarlett in her own voice from ten years ago, but we're also in present day with Louisa as she attempts to piece together what happened to Scarlett all those years ago - and why she is so reticent to reconnect with her family. This technique always guarantees a late night for me. I need to read just one more chapter (and then another 'one more') until I chase down the threads of a character's story. Scarlett's narrative was particularly addicting. (Despite the horrific nature of Scarlett's past, Haynes does not delve into unnecessary graphic detail)

I really like Lou as a character - she's driven, dedicated, not perfect and a bit vulnerable. Her personal storyline reveals a woman torn between job and partner. (Quite fun that her love interest is Canadian!)

The plot and subject matter of Behind Closed Doors is dark and difficult. Haynes handles the crimes, the procedures, the investigation and more with a practiced insider's eye, as she has worked as a police intelligence analyst. A number of these type of reports are part of the book and detail a parallel plot line revolving around organized crime mobs.

Now, I had my suspicions as the book moved towards resolution. I was right in some aspects, but wrong in others. Haynes's writing, plot and characters kept me fully engaged and compulsively reading until the last page was turned.

The Pocket Wife: A Novel
The Pocket Wife: A Novel
by Susan Crawford
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.09
31 used & new from CDN$ 13.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Here's another great read for those who love psychological fiction - The ..., April 1 2015
Here's another great read for those who love psychological fiction - The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford.

Dana's neighbour Celia has been found murdered - and Dana was apparently the last person to see her. Apparently - because Dana can't remember much of their visit. Sure, they were drinking, but....

But, Dana is also bi-polar and off her meds. And she's scared - because what if she's the one who killed Celia? But her husband is acting oddly as well. And so is Celia's husband. What about the nosy neighbour?

Oh yes, we have got ourselves a wonderfully unreliable narrator! Which of Dana's memories are the truth? What is imagined? Who is the actual murderer? Crawford captures Dana's fractured thinking extremely well. I love this type of narrator - there is no way to predict which way the story is going to go. I enjoy watching for subtle clues in behavior or dialogue that would perhaps point the way to the truth.

Celia's death is at the heart of the novel, but Crawford also explores a marriage in trouble, mental illness and familial relationships in The Pocket Wife - all to great effect. Detective Jack Moss is investigating Celia's death, but he has a rich personal storyline of his own and his own narrative, rife with doubts as well.

But I have no doubt you're going to enjoy The Pocket Wife. Definitely recommended. I'll be watching for the next book from this author!

Crazy Love You: A Novel
Crazy Love You: A Novel
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars 5/5 Crazy Love You is the latest book from Lisa Unger, March 31 2015
3.5/5 Crazy Love You is the latest book from Lisa Unger.

I've read and enjoyed many other books by Unger, so I just picked this one up with no idea what it was about. Crazy Love You is a bit of a departure from Unger's previous works.

I was intrigued by the premise...

Ian was the kid picked on in his small town - fat boy was a favorite slur thrown at him. His only friend was another outsider - the troubled Priss.

Ian and Priss grew up and made their way to New York City. Ian has found success as a graphic novelist. His Fatboy and Priss series is a phenomenal success. But when Ian meets Meghan, Priss feels pushed aside - and angry. After all she's stood by Ian from the beginning, hasn't she?

As Ian continues to draw and write his series, time lines become blurred. Are events drawn in the panels happening in real life? Is he imagining things - or truly making them happen? Or is it Priss manipulating his life?

Unger keeps the reader off kilter - we're never really sure what's real and what's imagined. Is Ian crazy? Priss is elusive - we're never really sure about her and what her intentions are.

Unger's writing flows easily and I became completely engrossed in following Ian down the rabbit hole. (He was still a difficult character to like though) But, where the book fell down for me was the ending. It was just a bit too 'been there, done that' for me. And it seemed to go on for too long with much of Ian's feelings and experiences recapped over and over again.

I think Unger is a great writer and will be absolutely picking up her next book. For me though, Crazy Love You just wasn't a stand out.

The Kind Worth Killing: A Novel
The Kind Worth Killing: A Novel
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I adore psychological suspense novels - they're probably my favourite genre. So, March 30 2015
I adore psychological suspense novels - they're probably my favourite genre. So, if you too enjoy them, Peter Swanson's new novel, The Kind Worth Killing, is one you'll want to pick up!

Ted Severenson is on a flight home to Boston when he strikes up a conversation with his pretty seatmate Lily. He's had a few drinks in the lounge before boarding and the conversation takes an odd turn along the becomes a little more personal...and a lot more dangerous. Ted's wife Miranda is cheating on him...

"What are you going to do about it?"
"What I'd really like to do is kill her."
"I think you should, she said."

What a deliciously devious premise! (somewhat reminiscent of Strangers on a Train.)

Swanson employs multiple narrators in The Kind Worth Killing - Ted, Lily and Miranda. Readers are privy to pieces of the plot that not every character has - and this ratchets up the reading tension. Highly effective - and tiring. I had a hard time putting this one down - I wanted to get back to each character's viewpoint, so I read far longer into the night than I should have!

The characters are unlikable, everyone has their own agenda and nothing is as it seems. I love not being able to predict the path a novel is going to take. Swanson does a fantastic job of keeping the reader off kilter with numerous twists and turns. And the ending - the ending is a brilliant last page gotcha.

Absolutely recommended!

The Other Joseph
The Other Joseph
Price: CDN$ 9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars offered up a great opportunity to do just that, March 25 2015
This review is from: The Other Joseph (Kindle Edition)
Every so often I need to take a step back from my usual genres and pick up something completely different. Skip Horack's new book, The Other Joseph, offered up a great opportunity to do just that.

Roy Joseph has lost most of his life - his beloved older brother Tommy died in the Gulf War, his parents are both dead and he lives within the narrow confines of a life constricted by a felony conviction. He's chosen to live in a remote area with only a dog for company and he works an isolated job on the oil rigs. Roy has exiled himself from life.

When a young woman contacts him and say that his brother Tommy was her father, he sees a chance - a chance to reconnect with life again, to redeem himself, to perhaps be happy.

Roy's journey physically takes him from Louisiana to San Francisco. He visits locales from their childhood and calls on those who knew his brother along the way. Broken and wounded characters litter the road between Louisiana and San Francisco.

Horack's prose are rich and powerful. They are stark and spare, underlining Roy's solitude. I was overwhelmed by Roy's life - his broken, isolated existence. It was just so very, very sad. I wasn't able to read the book straight through - I simply had to read in small doses. I wanted so badly for the the trip to be Roy's redemption. And of course you're asking - was it? It's hard to say - the ending is not what I wanted at all - Horack did surprise me. I'll have to go with an ambiguous yes and no answer.

The Other Joseph was a moving, eloquent read - one that will leave echoes with you after the last page is turned

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