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Reviews Written by
Heather Pearson "Heather" (Ontario Canada)

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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by North, Claire (2014) Hardcover
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by North, Claire (2014) Hardcover
by Claire North
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 30.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine the possibilities, Oct. 8 2015
With every death, Harry August is born back into his life to once again live it over from the beginning. . He is born with the memories intact from his previous lives. Talk about confusing for a young person. In time, he becomes aware that there are others like him and that they form the membership of the Cronus Club. These members seek each others company and seek to aid those in their second and subsequent lives. Sort of like a self help group for those with the same rebirth affliction.

Living like this would have it's challenges and rewards. The boredom of repeating school versus the knowledge to bid successfully in sports pools or the stock market. At first, I found the story line somewhat confusing, rather the same as Harry did in the youth of his second life. The concept of the relived life became easier to accept the more I read of Harry's re-iterations.

I enjoyed watching him explore his realities. After a while, I ceased denying this possibility and began to embrace the opportunities open to him and could even have envied him.

There were several sections that I reread a few times to ensure my understanding. I didn't want to risk missing any important clues. There aren't that many books that make me want to reread sections and enjoy doing it.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable book that kept me reading at all hours. I am left imagining the possibilities of such an existence.

Claire North is a pen name for author Catherine Webb. She also writes as Kate Griffin.

Port of No Return
Port of No Return
by Michelle Saftich
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 26.33
11 used & new from CDN$ 15.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A Rewarding Story, Oct. 8 2015
This review is from: Port of No Return (Paperback)
This is the moving story of several Italian families from Fiume, a port city in the north east of Italy. Set during World War Two, one of the fathers, Ettore Saforo, had been forced to work for the occupying Germans, as were many people at that time. The city had been bombed numerous times and was devastated, both physically and morally. His family was left homeless while he tried to evade arrest by the invading Yugoslavian army.

This was the plight of hundreds of thousands of families across Europe. Many had no where to return home to after the fighting ended. Jobs were few, which meant families couldn't be supported. Author Michelle Saftich explores what these people did have left. They had family and friends to support each other and to rebuild their sense of community. From that came hope of what they could accomplish with each other and with physical and mental effort.

The Port of No Return brought another human component to a long ago war. I'd heard about the blitz of England and the concentration camps, but almost nothing about the other involved countries. I knew that my grandfather and his regiment had served for some time in Italy. All he told me about was that as he and his fellow soldiers had walked through the streets, the Italian women would rush out of doors, were so happy to see them that they offered them whatever fresh fruit they were fortunate enough to have.

This is also a very timely book. As I sat wondering about these Italian families and their quest to immigrate to a welcoming country, my thoughts turned to the million plus refugees who are now flooding into Europe. Where there was despair decades ago, there is now hope and and the prospect of a new and safer future. Michelle, helped to bring every day Italy and Europe to life for me. In my mind it had been a tourist destination, not one in which everyday people lived and loved. Now I can imagine the farmers, the firemen, the students and all those people needed for a community, a country, to thrive. The fictional characters of this book became real to me and I wept for their loses but also for their strength and perserverance.

Port of No Return is an excellent debut novel and I am looking forward to future works by Michelle Saftich.

If I Fall, If I Die
If I Fall, If I Die
by Michael Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
2 used & new from CDN$ 15.16

5.0 out of 5 stars What is there to fear, Oct. 4 2015
This review is from: If I Fall, If I Die (Paperback)
Diane Cardiel has agoraphobia, and hasn't been outside in years. She is subject to panic attacks and sees everything as dangerous. She has passed these fears along to her son Will who has also remained indoors for the past eight years. He decided for himself that it was easier to go along with staying inside than to go out and upset his mother.

Now that he's twelve, he decides to go outside and investigate a bang/explosion at the front of his house. This leads to a meeting with a boy, Marcus, about the same age as himself, followed by a rash of excursions outside. After a short time, Will determines that it's time for him to attend school where he makes a friend, Josuah and he continues to inquire about the now missing Marcus.

This has lead him to question all that his mother has told him. Since he's spent all his time alone or with his mother, he hasn't formed relationships with any others and has to figure out this new world by himself. To complicate matters, he also has to figure out the girl thing. Will has no idea who to trust and what to expect from the outside world. He doesn't know what is reasonable to try and what is too risky. Things that would normally be learned over years of trial and error, he has to learn in a crash course before he gets himself in too deeply or dangerously.

Throughout the book, I was nagged by the question of the transfer of the mother's mental health issues being transferred or impressed up the child. How does one deal with such a situation. I was rooting for Diane, I was eager to learn whether the impact of Will's ventures outside would have an impact on her.

The story is told from both their perspectives which I felt was a good approach. This is a situation that affects both of them, though in very different ways. It wasn't touched on much, but it was interesting to see how the outside responded to Diane's situation.

I really enjoyed this story and look forward to more novels by debut author Michael Christie.

If you enjoyed Room by Emma Donoghue you'll probably enjoy If I Fall, If I Die.

The Keeper of Lost Causes
The Keeper of Lost Causes
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Edition: Audio CD
Price: CDN$ 41.86
39 used & new from CDN$ 19.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch detective story, Oct. 4 2015
Deputy Detective Superintendent Carl Morch has seen a lot in his 25 years on the job. Upon returning to work after a deadly shooting that left one of his partners dead and another paralysed, Carl is promoted to head of the newly created Department Q which has the objective of solving Copenhagen's cold cases.

The first case he examines is that of Merete Lynggaard, a politician who disappeared without a clue five years earlier. With the help of his assist Assad, Carl dives in to the case and finds more than a few loose ends.

Carl is a top notch detective but he is tired and worn down. Sitting at his desk with his feet up and newspaper is not a bad way to spend his day at the office. His assistant Assad has different ideas. He wants to get to the cases and prods Carl along.

As the case proceeds, we learn that Carl is a stickler for following up every single possible lead even when he figures they won't lead anywhere. This is the type of dogged determination that I want to see in my fictional detectives.

Carl's story follows the day after day investigation while Merete's story runs along side, starting on a path more than five years ago and progressing quickly to converge with Carl's present day.

I found both Carl and Assad to be very likable characters. Carl's life is far from perfect. This makes him human, he is disgruntled with being shuffled to the basement, but once he starts an investigation he has to carry it through to it's conclusion. He can't skip steps or overlook leads to create an expedient end. Assad is a willing assistant. He want to learn and be helpful, at times pulling Carl along with him. He undoubtedly has many secrets in his past. I want to see both of these men again in future cases. Likewise, I grew to care for Merete, and wanted to see justice for her. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the Department Q series. I was enjoying this book so much, that I ordered a paper copy for my husband. (this book was also published under the title Mercy in some countries)

I listened to thePenguin audio book as read by Erik Davis. 15 hours 37 minutes unabridged

Erik Davis did an excellent job as reader. He brought these characters to life and his use of accents and Danish pronunciation kept this book in place.

Stone Song: A Novel of the Life of Crazy Horse (American Dreamers)
Stone Song: A Novel of the Life of Crazy Horse (American Dreamers)
Price: CDN$ 3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A warrior with honour, Oct. 4 2015
In Stone Song, author Win Blevins tells a fictionalised story of the Lakota warrior His Crazy Horse. While the events, locations and most of the people involved are based in fact, the thoughts of Crazy Horse are as imagined by the author. To bring this warrior to life, Mr. Blevins carried out extensive research into the beliefs and practices of the Lakota people.

His Crazy Horse is thought to have been born in the winter of 1840-41 and died September 5, 1877 at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. There are no known photographs of him.

By all accounts he was a skilled warrior and brought much honour to his family and people. At the same time, he was a private and a humble man. He was not known to wear the marks to show his battle accomplishments.

This is a long book full of descriptions of the lands and the people. Much time is spent exploring the beliefs and practises of the Lakota. These lengthy descriptions served to introduce me to the mind set of these people, which is much different from that of white people who were the newcomers to the Americas at that time. It was interesting to learn of the many challenges facing the tribes at that time. The white soldiers were ever pushing the Lakota from their traditional lands. Yes, they were invited to live on agencies, camps controlled by the military, and become dependent on the skimpy generosity of the government, but that would be merely a shadow of their former lives.

By the end of this book, Mr. Blevins had succeeded in bringing life to the legend of His Crazy Horse. While I can't really identify with him as a warrior, I can see him as a man who only wanted to be allowed to live his life as his spirits directed and to provide for his family. His Crazy Horse left this world long ago, but he is is still remembered and the stories of American Indians are still unfolding to this day.

The Gardener
The Gardener
by S. A. Bodeen
Edition: Audio CD
Price: CDN$ 19.99
4 used & new from CDN$ 13.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A well rooted coming of age story, Sept. 21 2015
This review is from: The Gardener (Audio CD)
After a brief stop at his mom's work, Mason had intended to spend the weekend with his life long best friend. While waiting for his mom, he plays the video of his father reading a children's story and the audio has a startling effect on one of his mother's charges at the Haven of Peace nursing home. After awaking from her catatonic state, Laila asks Mason to help her flee. So much for a peaceful weekend.

What's a young man to do when the most gorgeous girl he's ever laid his eyes on asks for his help. He helps her of course. He didn't realise the events he'd set in motion.

This is a coming of age story unlike any other. Mason has struggled with social issues since at the age of five a neighbour's dog savaged his face. He knows his mother keeps secrets, but he can't imagine what they might be and how big an impact they might have on his life.

I enjoyed the developing relationship between Mason and Laila. From the moment he felt her need, he shifted into the role of protector and didn't falter. A worthy quality for a young man.

The scientific research in this book is fascinating. I haven't the slightest idea whether it has even the remotest possibility of success in the real world, but it is understandable why some might want to see it succeed. It prompted me to ponder limits for scientific research. Just because we can do something, it doesn't mean we should.

I listened to the unabridged audio version from Brilliance Audio as read by Luke Daniels. 6 hours. Mr. Daniels did an excellent job of portraying the characters and bringing them to life, particularly Mason's father.

This is a well told story and should appeal to a wide range of YA readers.

Price: CDN$ 0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars truly a cliff hanger, Sept. 21 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It would be a blast to be invited to attend a work event at a Victorian era mansion and be required to dress in period clothing. Katherine received such an invitation late one Friday evening as her shift at Biddle and Bailey auction house was coming to an end. Attending the ball was magical, and wearing the gorgeous dress borrowed from the textiles department and the red pendant from the distinguished gentleman made it even better.

Some one hundred years earlier, Sebastian de Winter, the Earl of Ravenhurst, the very estate where the ball was being held, was still struggling with the disappearance of his betrothed on the day they were to wed.

Katherine and Sebastian are intriguing characters. Neither are who and what they seem on the surface. Katherine is a knowledgeable but naive young lady while Sebastian has much responsibility and a wide variety of experiences. They are complement by his aunt Isabelle and her young husband Devlin, both of which are playing fast and loose with the other person's affections.

I love time travel romances. It is always a feat for the author to introduce the travelling character to the new time stream in a believable manner. Author Lorraine Beaumont did a good job of transporting Katherine. Just the right amount of confusion and indignation rolled up together. I do think she went a bit far in being cryptic about why Katherine is really there and she lost me for several pages. Once I got past that part, the plot was really moving along and I was settling in for a late night read and then it ended abruptly. What, if I had been reading a paper copy I would have been looking for missing pages or perhaps a mis-print that skipped some chapters. Alas, a most serious cliff hanger. Nothing to do but move on to the next book, Shadows of Yesterday.

The Returned
The Returned
by Jason Mott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.95
80 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, Sept. 15 2015
This review is from: The Returned (Hardcover)
This is a book that will haunt you with possibilities long after you finish the last words. The dead have started to return to the world of the living. They are ready to pick up their lives from the moment when they passed. At first, they don't even realise they were, or is that are, dead.

The living, the true living - those who haven't died- don't know what to make of this change. Are these really their departed loved ones or just shadows of them.

As I read this novel, I was struck cold by the possibility of this happening. As much as I love those who have passed from my life, how could I want and ill person to live again in such a state, how could I welcome back a person who I have lived longer without that I did with. Is this a miracle sought by many, or is it something else entirely. These and many other questions confront the people and society as a whole in The Returned.

As much as I wanted to rush through this story to find out what happened, I had to keep putting it down to consider my feelings about the event and how I would react. Would I accept this situation as a miracle and be patient and let it play out, or would I be spurred to some sort of action. Author Jason Mott has handled this topic with a restrained hand. He gives just enough information to move the plot forward, without revealing too much.

A most thought provoking read. I have been somewhat haunted by these questions since I first read this book and I still have no answers. This would make a good Book Club selection.

Cards Against Humanity
Cards Against Humanity
Price: CDN$ 30.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, irreverant game that works with a mix of ages and backgrounds, Sept. 14 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Cards Against Humanity (Toy)
I bought this game at my son's request. I knew nothing about it. I have played it several times since and totally enjoyed myself. It is irreverent, tasteless, funny and social. Love it. Best game at our house. The cards are of a good quality and are standing up well to repeated use.

Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future (Lock In Series Book 1)
Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future (Lock In Series Book 1)
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 12.93

4.0 out of 5 stars Humanity and technology hand in hand, Sept. 13 2015
A great flu has struck the world with over 2.75 billion infected resulting in over 400 millions deaths. The survivors are divided into three groups: those who suffer no lasting symptoms, those who appear and function normally though have experienced significant changes to their brains, Integrators, and those who's brains are fully aware, but their bodies are not responsive, they are locked in.

As a result, the worlds technical resources are directed to deal with the locked in. Advances neural nets are developed, as are PTs, personal transports, these are artificial bodies that the locked in person can link with via their neural net, allowing them to have a life outside their non-responsive body. Going one step further, the neural nets can be used by the locked in people to share the bodies of the Integrators.

This story takes place about twenty five years after the original onset of the 'flu' which is now named Hayden's Syndrome. It is common place to work and socialise with locked in people via their PTs. Rookie FBI Agent Chris Shane (locked in) and partner Leslie Vann (former integrator) are called to the scene of a crime where a working integrator has killed someone. Who is at fault, the integrator who is unaware of the actions of his client, or the unknown locked in client.

Running parallel to the investigation are social unrest and protests by the locked in to drastic cuts in their funding. Some are also against research to find a cure to the flu which is still virulent. A cure could spell the end of this new culture.

This is a fascinating story. Mr. Scalzi has created a complete world that is well adapted to the post-flu reality. He has striped away that which is irrelevant. Agent Chris Shane functions well in a PT, it never is an issue of whether Chris is male or female, either way, the agent is most capable of completing the investigation. Likewise, cultural heritage is not an issue. The PT suits are function based and haven't been described as fashion conscious. I applaud a world where gender and race take a back seat to ability.

Before reading Locked In, you might want to read Unlocked: An Oral History of Hayden's Syndrome.

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