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Heather Pearson "Heather" (Ontario Canada)
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Bitter Chocolate: Book 2 of the Alcott Family Adventures (Hot Chocolate 1)
Bitter Chocolate: Book 2 of the Alcott Family Adventures (Hot Chocolate 1)
Price: CDN$ 7.58

5.0 out of 5 stars warm family, brutal murder, great reading, July 15 2014
This is one of those stories that makes you want to wrap yourself in a cuddly blanket, grab a cafe mocha and then sink down on your sofa for a good read. The Alcott family is a warm and inviting clan .

The patriarch, 92 year old Bernie, is the founder of Alcott Chocolates. His young, former caregiver, Bambi, is expecting their child. His other daughters Madge, Lila Mae and Dorothea, also pregnant, have welcomed Bambi into their family and cherish her like a younger sister. In fact, Bernie and his daughters treat all their staff as family. When a murder happens in the home of Lila Mae's cook/friend, the family circles around her with support.

You might think that a family as wealthy as the Alcotts would be snobby and look down on others, but they aren't like that at all. Each year they organize the Chocolate Ball as a huge fundraiser for the local animal shelter. Oh how I wish I could attend and sample some of those Alcott Chocolates. Along with the good, they also have a few skeletons in the closet so to speak. It isn't long before these are brought out to air.

One of my favourite passages is the hiring of Bernie's new driver. It clearly shows their care and concern for their father as well as their employees.

The story moves quickly along a several month timeline but it doesn't feel rush in any way. There is ample attention to details, particularly the wonderful food that is prepared by Amelia and Carmichael. A cup of that cafe mocha please. At the end of the book are recipes for some of the tasty dishes described in the novel.

There are a lot of characters in the story and they are all summarized in a helpful family tree found at the beginning. I referred to it several times as a refresher of who's who. This book can be read on it's own, though you will want to start with Hot Chocolate and not miss one minute with the warm and inviting family.

Isolation
Isolation
by Denise R. Stephenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.32
10 used & new from CDN$ 16.35

4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening read, July 9 2014
Ce commentaire est de: Isolation (Paperback)
Set in the future, people start dying from what appear to be common illnesses, yet they fail to respond to the usual treatments. Various illness strains have began to combine with other strains forming super bacterias. In almost all cases, once you contract one of these illnesses, there is no cure. Agribusiness plays a big role in the spread as soon most crops have been identified as disease vectors.

The human response to limiting the spread is slow. First are laws to prevent people from touching their faces. Not an easy thing to implement and many older people find this difficult. Then there are the babies, how do you stop your infant from putting his or her fingers in his or her mouth. But it has to be done, it's required by law.

Throughout the novel, we follow the lives of several people. Gary had never known a life with touch, but he was curious about the past. He chose to go into nursing as that seemed right with his urge to nurture people. Cathy grew up before all this happened and was used to hugging and touching. Her daughter Maggie was young when the illnesses began, and her grandson Pele had never known a touch from another person. Trevor had finally found his place in the world. His OCD, combined with his rigid belief in adherence to rules, earned him a top position as an Enforcer. Important for survival but feared by much of the population. And finally, we have the scientist/professor. He used to work with food and drugs. These people typify some of the responses to this unfolding disaster, some fall apart and others thrive. I can't say I loved all these characters, but they all seemed appropriate and probable.

Scattered among the chapters are images of newspaper articles taken from the world press as events unfold. These provide some of the science behind what has happened and the spread of the diseases and curtailment of daily life. They read like true news stories, which made the book seem all the more real. More than once I had the urge to use hand sanitizer.

Just before the mid point of the book, I was thinking that I had enough of the build up of the disease, I wanted the author to get on with the story. I took a break and when I came back and continued reading, that's exactly what happened. The author had timed it perfectly, I'd had my saturation of disease and now was ready to continue with the living.

Yes, the book is fiction, though it is based on much truth and science. I did get hints that if blame were to be laid for these outbreaks, it would be on those who value money over food quality and safety. I did enjoy this book but at the same time it has left a bit of chill making me question some of my food choices. (not a bad thing at all). This would make a great book club selection.

One-Dish Vegan: More than 150 Soul-Satisfying Recipes for Easy and Delicious One-Bowl and One-Plate Dinners
One-Dish Vegan: More than 150 Soul-Satisfying Recipes for Easy and Delicious One-Bowl and One-Plate Dinners
by Robin Robertson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.85
43 used & new from CDN$ 9.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Best vegan cookbook I own., July 7 2014
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
Ihave made at least a dozen recipes from this book and keep coming back for more and we aren't even vegan. my husband ate three servings of the Cheesy Mac and didn't even care there was no dairy cheese, which he loves. If you are not vegan and want to give it a try, this is the book for you. If you are already vegan, you'll still want this book as the food is so tasty yet easy to make.

Saints in the Shadows (The Madame Budska Series)
Saints in the Shadows (The Madame Budska Series)
Price: CDN$ 3.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Psychics and New Orleans go hand in hand, July 7 2014
After her father's untimely death in New Orleans, Maud travels to New York city to continue her studies in fabric design. She doesn't make it to the classroom, and instead finds herself working as a barrista during the day and as a waiter in a very exclusive restaurant on weekends. This second, well paying job, allows her to rent an apartment in a converted house. Maud is un-nerved by her new neighbour Lina and her alter ego Madame Budska, who works as a psychic.

For as long as she can remember, Maud has had dreams that seem to be sending her messages, prophetic messages. While Maud ties to ignore these, Madame Budska encourages her to pay attention to the meanings hidden within.

I loved this book. I felt quite comfortable with Maud and wanted to join her at Lina's for tea. If Lina were my neighbour, I know that I'd be confiding in her almost from that first meeting.

As much as I loved the story, there was a section near the beginning where the writing was a bit choppy. It was only a short section and it didn't interfere with the story telling.

It is an interesting selection of clients that visit with Lina or should I say Madame Budska. They each have very public personas, but as Maud gets to know them, she realises those are mostly facades and don't fully reflect the inner person that is kept well hidden from the public. Even Lina presents two faces and the reader is left to determine whether there really is a division between the two.

When I was about two thirds through the book, I found myself already hoping that there would be a follow up story. I want to know where Maud goes from here, how her relationship continues with Lina and what about her love life, will that budding romance find a way to flourish.

Madame Budska is a worldly woman and has her own Facebook page where you can "Like" her and then join her for virtual tea like I did. If after meeting Maud and Lina, you want to read more of their stories, you can leave a message with Madame Budska and she'll pass it along to author Alana Cash, perhaps via one of those dream messages. At present, a second book is not in the works, but when I asked Alana, she said she is certainly open to the idea.

Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin, Book 1): An Elemental Assassin Book
Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin, Book 1): An Elemental Assassin Book
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and a great sandwich recipe, July 2 2014
I loved this book. It's set in a familiar American south, but the population is unusual. Elementals, dwarves, vampires and giants live along side humans in all segments of society. Gin is a stone elemental; she can feel the stone and draw power from it. She is also an assassin.

She's been hired to take out a man who's been embezzling from his company. When she shows up for the hit, everything goes wrong and sets in motion a series of events that leaves her on the run, her handler/foster father dead and a cop as her partner. Not her usual day.

Also working along side Gin and Detective Donovan Caine, is her foster brother Finn Lane. He works as a banker, though has received the same career training as Gin. He's a good man to 'have your back'. Complicating the case ,s Mab Monroe. She is wealthy, an elemental and has her fingers in every pie in town. Not a woman to be crossed.

I read this book over the course of two days and loved every minute. I was glad to learn that this series currently has 12 books as well as some short stories to fill in a few story gaps. Visit author Jennifer Estep's website for a complete list.

i was intrigued by one of the sandwiches that Gin makes for the boys. Peanut butter and pumpkin, sounds strange, but tempting. I just had to try it. I didn't think there was anything that could make a peanut butter sandwich taste better, but now I know, it's canned pumpkin.

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Sandwich

Mix equal amounts of peanut butter and canned pumpkin.
Spread on one side of one slice of bread.
Top with slices of banana.
Drizzle with honey and then dust with cinnamon.
Top with another slice of bread or eat open face.

Khaki = Killer: A Young Adult Paranormal Thriller (The Color of Evil Series)
Khaki = Killer: A Young Adult Paranormal Thriller (The Color of Evil Series)
Price: CDN$ 4.28

4.0 out of 5 stars You'll want to read the whole series, June 23 2014
It's not easy being a teen, and sometimes it is downright dangerous. Such is the case with Tad McGreevy and his friend Stevie Scranton. During their ten years friendship, they have endured more than most people do in an entire lifetime. Tad has what could be termed a super power, that allows him to see colour auras around a person indicating their personality (including that of murderers who appear as khaki) and has been pursued by the violent Pogo the Clown aka Michael Clay, while Stevie has been abused by several adults in his life including a lengthy period during which he was kidnapped and held captive. Their friendship has endured all this, though it is about to be challenged yet again.

The students at SkyHigh in Cedar Falls have been dealt a cruel blow when popular cheerleader Melody Harris Carpenter falls from the top of a pyramid formation and lapses into a deep coma. Shortly after ward, two more girls from the class go missing with no hints of there where abouts.

Stevie really shows his mettle in this third instalment of The Color of Evil. I've really grown to like and almost admire him. He has shown that you don't have to be a victim all your life, you can find the strength and the power of good and become a better person than your circumstances might seem to suggest. Way to go Stevie. The assortment of both good people and bad people in this story reads true to life as any daily news can attest. It also reflects a realistic interaction between the teens and adults. Tad and Stevie do their best to help find the missing girls, but they know when it is time to turn to the adults in their lives and involve them. Be sure to read Connie's comments at the end of the book where she talks about her inspirations for the various situations.

While reading, ensure that you pay attention to the chapter headings. The story does skip around in time which tended to keep my off balance by not being able to predict what could happen next. Great way to add to my suspense.

This book did have a different tone that the previous two in the series, The Color of Evil and Red is for Rage . I found those two more creepy and on edge, where this one was more of a story telling and getting on with life. There was still the suspense of not knowing what would happen in the various situations that developed, but I didn't find myself turning on lights and flinching at every sound. I would suggest that you not read this as a stand alone, but to start at the beginning of the series. There are a lot of characters re-introduced in the opening chapters and you'll be missing their back stories if you start here. And besides, you really do want to read The Color of Evil to learn just how loathsome Pogo the Clown really is.

** Red is for Rage will be available free on Kindle June 26-30, 2014.

1222: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel
1222: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel
by Anne Holt
Edition: Audio CD
Price: CDN$ 19.75
6 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Audio Book, June 18 2014
Retired police Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is not an openly warm person who invites confidences. When she is stranded at an isolated mountain resort due to a train derailment during the worst winter storm in Norway's history, all she wants is to be left alone. The other 268 survivors just want to get warm and be rescued as soon as possible. None of them had any suspicion that there was at least one murderer in their midst. Hanne is quite content to leave the case alone for when the police can arrive, but is spurred to action when a second murder is discovered.

The story is set in a hotel in the remote area of Finse along the route from Oslo to Bergen at an elevation of 1222 metres. The temperature is so cold and the storm so severe that no one can come in and no one can leave. It might be a great place to commit a murder, but not to escape from. Will rescue come before the murderer can strike again.

I liked the way that the Norwegians on the train seemed to take the whole situation in stride. They just sat back and waited, with the exception of a few who were demanding of attention and intervention. These people made for interesting events and possibilities. Even though the majority of the story took place in the lobby/sitting area of the hotel, I never felt confined. Hanne is such a large and commanding character than I never had the urge to leave her presence. She seems a cool, indifferent person, but she is drawn to young Adrian and likewise, he is drawn to her. I do hope that this unlikely relationship continues in a future book.

I totally enjoyed listening to this audio book I feel that I learned a bit about Norway, on the surface, stark and cold, but once you look below the surface, all sorts of richness, emotions and depths emerge.

This book was translated from the Norwegian to English by Marlaine Delargy. She has included some familiar English terms, though they do not deter from the enjoyment or readability of the story,

I listened to the audio book as read by Kate Reading. Blackstone Audio, unabridged 10 hours 39 minutes. Ms. Reading brought Hanne to life for me. I could feel the resignation in her voice, that she was making this trip only because she had to, and would have rather been anywhere but in a hotel in Finse.

While 1222 is the eighth book in the series, it can be read as a stand alone novel.

Monument 14: Sky on Fire
Monument 14: Sky on Fire
by Emmy Laybourne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 14.43
48 used & new from CDN$ 3.42

5.0 out of 5 stars be prepared to read this in one sitting, June 9 2014
Ce commentaire est de: Monument 14: Sky on Fire (Hardcover)
The story of the Monument 14 school kids continues in Sky on Fire. The group is now divided physically, but they are determined to re-unite.

This is a very fast paced telling with no time to site back and relax. It is a one sitting read, as you won't want to put it down once you start.

We learn more about the strengths (moral fibre) of the characters and we finally feel the governments response. We also learn how others in the community have reacted to this catastrophe. These varied responses seem very true to me.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Savage Drift, the next book in this series.

Monument 14
Monument 14
by Emmy Laybourne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 13.71
40 used & new from CDN$ 4.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - didn't want to put it down, June 9 2014
Ce commentaire est de: Monument 14 (Hardcover)
Set in Monument, Colorado, fourteen school kids experience a fantasy and a nightmare rolled in together. First you get a lengthy time off school and are locked in a huge department store with no adults to stop you from indulging in your favourite treats. Unfortunately, locked in the store with you are a bunch of other kids, from kindergartners to other class mates you are not on good terms with.

A series of ecological disasters means that its not safe to exit the building or to breath the outside air. You have lots of physical resources but very little information from the outside world. Then when the outside comes knocking at your door, you question whether you can trust it/them and when is it safe to open that door.

A big shout out to all those school bus drivers who care for our children every day. Mrs. Wooly, is the school bus driver who brings these fourteen students to safety and then ventures out in search of help.

Our narrator is Dean Grieder, a junior in high school. He already has opinions of most of the older kids and quickly labels the little ones. It was interesting to watch how his thoughts and feeling for them changed through the course of the story. Not all of his assumptions held true once he started living with and working with these people everyday. He found strengths in them that he could never have guessed at.

I really want to tell you more about how NORAD is involved and about the trouble with blood types, but that would reveal too much. Monument 14 and it's related stories would be a great choice for your summer reading, oh yes, and don't forget to share it with your pre-teen and teen child, they'll love it as well.

The Silent Reporter (Hyder Ali #1)
The Silent Reporter (Hyder Ali #1)
Price: CDN$ 0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading, June 5 2014
Making your way as a reporter is hard business specially when you are the most recent hire. Hyder Ali is on a six month contract with The Daily Times and researches and writes which ever stories his editor assigns. This is interrupted when he learns of the death of his favourite college professor. The death seems to be a clean cut suicide, but right from the start, Detective Tom Nolan feels something is a bit off. Even though he's been on leave for the past year, and spent most of it drunk, his instincts are screaming at him that it's not so.

Hyder is an interesting person. His choice of career and his heritage and religion are unknowns to me and I feel I learned a fair bit about each throughout the reading.

Detective Nolan is a character that I've seen in various stories previously, but that didn't make him any less appealing. How was this drunk and despondent cop going to pull himself out of the gutter and get the bad guy.

I'm looking forward to the meeting of these two characters in future books.

I really enjoyed this story. It had a great plot line that kept me interested till the final pages and the straight forward language made for easy reading. A few times the awkward wording had me re-reading a line and it could have used another pass through by an editor to catch some missing and mis-used words, but on the whole these didn't detract from the enjoyability.

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