Happy Reading

Toni's bookshelf: read

The Godfather of Kathmandu (Sonchai Jitpleecheep, #4)
Ape House
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Operation Napoleon
Walking Dead
The Sentimentalists
The Heretic Queen
The Midnight House
Cross Fire
Peony in Love
Finding Nouf: A Novel
City of Veils: A Novel
First Daughter
A Place of Hiding
Peter Pan

Toni Osborne's favorite books »

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Taking Stock', by C.J. West

This suspenseful fiction plunges the reader into the greedy financial world where people in power have no shame and no remorse embezzling money. If you are attracted by stories in today’s press of high-stakes thievery, fraud and corruption you will enjoy reading “Taking Stock”.

I was hooked right from the start, glued to every word and totally captivated by the development. This page turner was very hard to put aside. In a few words this is the tale of Erica Fletcher, a computer whiz whose job is to set up and develop a new program to facilitate transactions in the world of money management. Unknowingly she is being setup by her boss Brad to be the prime suspect in a scheme defrauding the investors of the “Boston Management Firm” of an estimated 200 million dollars. When she discovers the vulnerable position Brad and his powerful allies have placed her in, she must use her expertise to outwit and outsmart and expose the real Teflon criminals.

We have brilliant characterization; Mr West has developed his players with pizazz making each one easily identifiable and mostly believable. Other than the main characters, some important ones are: Sarah, an auditor, who unwittingly assists Brad and sets her venomous sights on Erica, Stan, a man of ethics, an assistant and trusted ally of Erika, needs to prove her innocence, Gregg, the customer services manager, has a hopeless crush on Erica and will do anything for her, and finally Herman…I will let the reader discover him... This is only a sample of the very engaging cast of characters.

Out of all this author’s novels to date, I favor this one by far. The action and suspense keep the story in steady motion; there is not a dull moment. This is as good as it can be. Well done Mr West, I am looking forward to reading your next novel

" The Alexandria Link', by Steve Berry

Book2 in the Cotton Malone series

This daring and thrilling novel opens with a confrontation between Malone and his ex-wife Pam over the handling of their teenage son's kidnapping and their narrow escape from the fire bombing of his bookstore. This has all the appearances of an attempt to blackmail Cotton into revealing a secret he sworn to never disclose...the existence of the Library of Alexandria.

This sudden turn of events has Cotton returning to his roots as a secret agent and teaming up with wife Pam. They are lead from Amsterdam, on to Lisbon, England and to the Sinai desert as they follow a series of clues that will hopefully lead them to the Library and the safe release of their son.

This is one fast paced and intriguing tale that intertwines facts with fiction beautifully. Pros and cons of different religious believes of the world are questioned and of course, like the last novel another secret society comes to light with its members of influence and power both political and financial. As usual some may find this controversial.

Mr. Berry has resurrected his full cast from "The Templar Legacy" and provided another wild adventure full of double crossing to leave the reader breathless and quite entertained. I enjoyed the author's take on what I consider a James Bond -Indiana Jones type of thriller.

" The Princess of Burundi", by Kjell Eriksson

Book1 in English translated from book4 in the Ann Lindell series

This crime story spins a tight and mysterious plot. The main thread begins with a jogger on his morning run finding the mutilated body of John Jonsson, whose hobby is tropical fish and is famous for his aquarium.

The readers are introduced to this story without the background of the previous novels. With a cold start we find out that the main character Ann Lindell is now on maternity leave but unable to distance herself from work, she is always in touch with her partner Detective Ola Havre. He and a tight knit group of officers are the prime investigators in the Jonsson's case, a case Ann cannot resist getting involved.

The story evolves around John's older brother Lennart the main suspect and well known criminal, other members of John's family and a nutcase that John had a previous altercation with.

I found it rather hard to get into at first and contemplated many times abandoning it. The story is quite complicated and progresses somewhat sluggish at times. It has many threads to follow with characters which I presume where developed previously. The lack of background left something missing it was like coming half way into a story. However by the end, when Detective Ola Haver and Ann Lindell begin to feature more prominently both professionally and personally the mystery becomes more absorbing and interesting and the roles the characters are better appreciated.

The novel is highly recommended and won best in its class by the Swedish Crime Academy. However, I found it missing in imagination and lackluster. It was a disappointing read but nonetheless I am curious to see if I will change my opinion reading the sequel.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Bad Luck and Trouble", by Lee Child

Jack Reacher book 11

This series is totally addictive; hard not to love Jack Reacher a loner with few ties, tough ex-military, and one that is fanatically interested in codes, numbers and probabilities.

The story starts high above the California desert, when a man is sent free-falling into the night. Frances Neagley, a woman from Reacher's old military unit manages to find him using a code that only members of their unit would recognize. Decoding her message, Reacher reunites with the remaining survivors of his team and plunges into the heart of the conspiracy that is killing old friends. They soon find themselves embroiled in government operations and international terrorism.

This action packed novel is as good as it can get, Mr Child has created well drawn heroes and a solid story with elaborate schemes. Its tale is gripping from the start and you find enough twists and turns and double crossing along the way to keep you entertained to the last page. This is an unbelievable nevertheless enjoyable read full of excitement from start to finish.

"Missing Joseph", by Elizabeth George

Inspector Lynley, book 6

This is one captivating and intricate mystery, with it, Ms George has given us a brilliantly plotted story that reaches emotional levels deeper than most can offer. We find strong character development involving the relationships between Simon and Deborah St James, Thomas and Lady Helen Clyde, Barbara Havers and her mother. We also find a large cast of new characters adding complexity to this murderess tale. The characterization in this novel is one of her best.

This fine piece of fiction starts when Deborah and Simon St James with the hope of healing the rift in their marriage embark on a holiday to see the vicar of Winslough. When they find he has fallen victim of a suspected accidental poisoning, Simon calls in his old friend Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley to help them in solving the mystery...

One may think the story simplistic at first but with time we are drawn into a hypnotic and unforgettable experience. True to her form, we are skilfully led between plots and sub-plots to come to an unexpected conclusion.

The author is more descriptive in her sex scenes than usual, some may not like this but I found it gave a tab of realism.

Those who have followed this series will most likely enjoy this one as well

"Cross Country", by James Patterson

Alex Cross, book 14

This is another novel true to the author's style, short chapters, a story tense in development and an over the edge ending. This time, Alex is taken onto the heart of Africa where there are little or no rules.

The story starts when Alex Cross and Brianna (fellow detective) are called to a disturbing scene in Georgetown. A family has been brutally murdered it hits close to home when Alex discovers that the wife was once his college sweetheart. Leads into the investigation uncover ties to a group of Nigerians operating around DC. When another family is slain, Alex pursuits his instincts and travels to Africa searching for the killers on their own turf...

This novel highlights the atrocities we hear about in places like Darfur and Sierra Leone at times in a graphic manner, describing the rampant corruption of some government officials and the use of orphaned children in murderess gangs to terrorize the population. It also describes the other side: the loving and caring people that suffer the consequences.

This is an enjoyable mystery and a real page turner, one that gives us an insight into the history of a troubled part of the world in a way only Mr Patterson can.

"The Templar Legacy", by Steve Berry

Book1 in the Cotton Malone series

This novel can join the many growing stories surrounding the legendary Knights and the secrets they withhold and have guarded with their lives for so many years.

It opens with Cotton Malone a former covert agent for the department of U.S. Justice visiting his former boss, Stephanie Nelle. He learns that she has been on a quest to find the Templar's "Great Devise", intrigued, Cotton decides to join her.

Action starts when Stephanie is accosted by a purse snatcher and a subsequent wild foot chase causes the perpetrator when cornered to commit suicide. Action increases even more when Stephanie realizes the notebook she received under mysterious circumstances is the real target of the thieves and possibly holds the key to the Templar's fortune. Tensions are raised another notch when a modern day Templar and his followers make Cotton and Stephanie their prime targets, each have their own objectives. Danger lurks at everyone corner as their paths cross...The suspense prevails till the end...

M. Berry created a likable modern day sleuth in Malone but unfortunately Stephanie is a bit too naive to be credible considering the job she has, the characterization could have been better developed. I liked the plot, it is fast-paced, exciting and has its fair share of twists and turns. The narration is great and the addition of humor to the dialogue is a plus.

This is a gripping tale that could be quite controversial for some. It gives a modern day twist to a clandestine society, The Templar's, a group that controlled kings and popes and possessed a staggering amount of power and wealth. The writer comments on the historical accuracy in his notes at the end.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"A Demon Awaits", by C.J. West

Book 2 in the Randy Black series

The novel picks up where "Sin & Vengeance" ended with a recap of Randy's brutal arrest.

Beaten to within an inch of is life by officers left unconscious and heavily sedated in ICU, Randy's mind goes into overdrive with barbaric visions that he will endure for the rest of his life. While recovering, these grueling visions never leave Randy and he decides to make amendments and searches for forgiveness. But the author has other intentions...

The thriller becomes exciting and the pace picks up when Randy trying to reform only manages to slip deeper into a world of crime. With his creative writing Mr West cleverly takes his readers on a wild journey where Randy and trouble are synonymous. Haunted by his past he is manipulated by his attorney, the cops and the judge, who have their own agenda. Randy is trapped with not one to trust but Cassie, a reporter.

This novel has a strong and intriguing cast of characters most have an evil side; it is wonderfully narrated to provide a tone that gives a fair share of mystery. The main plot sets a fast pace, sub-plots add intrigues that cover many issues: such as opinions on how to deal with violent criminals and the conflicts created by the different beliefs of Islam and Western religions. The ending has a tender side and opens the door to a future drama with a romantic overtone.

The author will surely throw us a different spin in the next saga. What else will happen to Randy!!!! Seems nothing is predictable.

"False Impression", by Jeffrey Archer

In this thriller, the author brings his readers along with his protagonist Anna Petrescu on a chase around the world from New York during the tragic events of 9/11, to England, Romania, Hong Kong and Japan. The novel combines criminal conspiracy, a Van Gogh, a ruthless assassin, a Romanian art expert and Bryce Fenston an opportunistic and ruthless banker.

The story is quite exciting, slow at start but maintains a steady pace throughout. It opens with the prospective sale of an original Van Gogh and the timely murder of its owner, one of England's aristocrats Victoria Wentworth. At the same time, in New York, Bryce Fanston calmly awaits confirmation from his accomplice so he can foreclose on the assets of Victoria.

Missing and presume dead after 9/11 Anna an art expert and former employee with damaging information on Bryce uses the event to escape America and avenge Victoria's death. The mystery unfolds when Anna's suspicions attract the FBI and Interpol. Working together they discover the links and motives between the Van Gogh and Victoria's murder.

The novel gives us a bit of art history, also all kinds of twists and turns and heart stopping intrigues. Anna's ultimate determination had me riveted as I followed her to exotic locals around the world. Maybe the plot becomes implausible towards the end; Anna is way too clever and cool to be real, but she is smart and loveable. We have all the elements needed to make this a pager turner: vicious murders, a tab of romance, clever double crossing and a shocking ending.

Mr Archer is a great storyteller; I find it surprising to see so many reviewers disappointed with this novel.

"Turtle Valley", by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Set in the heart of Shuswap Lake B.C. during a raging forest fire, this fiction spins a magical tale of mystery and romance, one whose characters are haunted by ghostly memories.

The story starts slowly with Kat returning to her family's home to help her aging parents prepare in case of an evacuation order. To add to the stress she is accompanied by her young child Jeremy and her husband Ezra who is recovering from a stroke and can be very irritable at times. An added problem is the fact that her former lover Jude who she still has feelings for lives across the road from her mom and dad.

Tensions build when the out of control flames rush down the hillside posing an eminent threat to the valley and its inhabitants. Kat hurries to put the family's heirlooms in order and with the heighten adrenaline and stress everyone's mind starts to play tricks on them. The family house's haunted past comes to life, some see a creepy old man and the shadow of an old lady appear and disappear into thin air and no one can explain why the burners of the stove are on.

The eerie plot and the revelation of the family secrets are somewhat predictable. I found the torment between Kat and Ezra drawn out and that some of the scenes are hard to grasp no matter what dark secrets they may reveal. The writing gets magical when Turtle Valley catches fire and all hell breaks loose. The author's descriptive scenes of falling ash and trees turning into roman candles as the fire rages through are guarantied to leave a strong image in ones mind. In whole, the author's writing is quite engaging, the plot is unique and captivating, and the cast of characters is diversified and well developed.

With "Turtle Valley", I felt slowly plunged into the world of fantasy with a touch of realism. Well done Ms Anderson- Dargatz

Saturday, October 10, 2009

" Arctic Chill" by Arnaldur Indridason

5th book in the series starring detective Erlendur

This crime novel is another winner and surely will become a world wide hit. As usual Indridason writes about controversial topics that are relevant in today's society. This one raised issues of immigration, multiculturalism, racism and poverty.

The story starts when a ten-year-old boy of Thai origin is found dead, frozen to the sidewalk in a Reykjavík suburb in mid-January.
Taking on the challenge are our recurring heroes: Detective Erlendur and his racy colleagues Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg. While unraveling the mystery, the writer overlaps the storyline with a second plot concerning a woman who has disappeared. This triggers a flash back for Erlendur, memories of his brother who was lost in a storm when they were young.

To make the storyline exciting the author uses powerful images and a tight prose to weave his sub- plots. To appreciate this writer, his work should be read in chronological order in order to fully understand the relationships between his characters and the ongoing life of detective Erlendur.

Arctic Chill is very involving and effective crime fiction. This is another novel in what has become an addictive series for me

"Rules of Deception",by Christopher Reich

Jonathan Ransom, book1

This is an exciting thriller, it has everything: a likable hero facing enormous amounts of danger and scuttling out of it, exotic locals with amazing settings, an over the edge story that will keep you turning page after page.

The prologue is slow to start, then, what appears to be a butterfly flying around a high-security compound is discovered to be a mechanical device…the alarm is sounded…..

Next we meet Jonathan Ransom and his wife Emma both serving with Doctors Without Borders on a ski trip in the Alps. Both risk takers, they encounter severe weather and an avalanche sweeps Emma to her death. Jonathan has to face insurmountable odds to determine what happened, only to find out that his wife has been leading a double life as a spy.

In this first rate fiction, we follow our hero in his quest to dig out the truth about his wife. The numerous characters we encounter along the way are colourful and engaging. The story is sharply written, sophisticated and suspenseful giving us a few surprises on the way. The plot unfolds skilfully, with never ending chases and many miraculous escapes, various murders, double-crosses and lots of deceptions.

Things were a little dramatic at times, implausible but it made for an exciting fantasy, James Bond’s style.

'Nothing to Lose", by Lee Child

12th book in the Jack Reacher series

After reading many of his previous novels, I found this one a disappointment.

The story started promising enough with Reacher walking into the town of Despair Colorado. The town people are not keen to see strangers in this area and they show it. What are they hiding? As time passes, Reacher becomes more and more determined to find out.

Reader boredom sets in with an endless description of bar brawls fights with police and generally everyone insight. We would imagine the action to be full of twists and turns but it is so repetitive the plot becomes tedious, convoluted and implausible, wandering all over the place.

A major problem is with the protagonist; he is becoming a one dimensional character that never really develops. His antics have become way too predictable.

I hope Mr Child can rekindle his sense of creativity, the one I have enjoyed in the past.

"Chicago Way" by Michael Harvey

This novel holds all the old clichés you can attribute to a PI story. With a witty and basic prose (sparse and snappy), the author gives us a story that has lots of twists and turns and great effects.

The story begins when Michael Kelly (an ex-cop, now a PI) is approached by a long time buddy from the police force to look into a cold case of a young woman brutally assaulted, stabbed and left for dead. Kelly is drawn into a mind bending investigation that will have him face the mob, a serial killer and a double crossing friend...

This debut novel of Mr Harvey has put his expertise as a journalist and his experience on the television documentary (Cold Case Files) to the forefront. This provides us with an engaging story that captures the gritty part of Chicago's atmosphere, a memorable cast of tough characters right out of "The Untouchables", it also spins a murder mystery provocatively and gives us an out of the left field ending.

If you were attracted to a 60's style detective hero that had the stylish patter of Jack Web's protagonist, Joe Friday, were a fan of the TV Show "The Untouchables", or loved Raymond Chandlers' character Philip Marlowe, you will enjoy reading this one

"The Russian Concubine" by Kate Furnivall

This gripping tale brings us to war torn China circa 1920. After loosing her husband in a Bolshevik round up of Russian elites, Valentina and her daughter manage to escape, eventually locating to Junchow, China, in a Whites-only settlement where survival is harsh.

The author masterfully describes the struggle to survive in a dangerous location where there is a clash between cultures, abuse is prolific and life has little meaning. Don't let the title fool you, the story revolves mainly around Lydia, and she is not a concubine but a teenager living with an alcoholic mother. Lydia is forced to steal in order to eat and pay the rent. We follow her adventures through the streets of Junchow on an endless battle against poverty.

Some may find this novel long and tedious but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only was it entertaining but it was also an enchanting and gripping love story that captured eloquently the hopes and dreams of the people of Russia as well as those of pre-revolutionary China.

We are introduced to a cast of memorable characters and the fast moving story line will keep most on edge. It is an amazing book, a real page turner that provides us with a bit of everything: history, romance, espionage, action and deceit. Rarely have I read a novel that covers so many topics in such a gripping manner.

"Paths of Glory", by Jeffrey Archer

This tale supports the theory that mountain climber George Leigh Mallory may have been the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest during his second expedition in 1924.

Written with vivid imagination, Mr Archer relates the life and some of the events surrounding this historical man. From Mallory’s infancy, up to his dark experiences in the trenches of the First World War and on to those two famous expeditions which ultimately brought him to the Himalayas.

The story is very dramatic but we won’t find any twists of faith as the outcome has left many unanswered questions from the start. When Mr Mallory’s body was found in 1999 some facts where discovered that opened many new scenarios. The whereabouts of his climbing partner Mr Alexander Irvine is still an unsolved mystery.

This is not a conventional biography; it reads more like a movie script, broadly covering the facts, simplifying and embroidering events. It ends with a moving memorial service and a post 1924 update of family and followers.

I enjoyed “Paths of Glory” for its simplicity and its entertainment. It is a great story one hard to put down. For those wanting a more precise account of these two heroes, there are many other resources.

"Murder Stone", by Louise Penny

Published in the USA under the title “A Rule against Murder”

This is an intricate mystery that gives us a new spin in the life and character of Inspector Gamache. Here we see a more personal side of him and his relationship with his wife Reine-Marie.

This old fashion story opens at the Manoir Bellechase, an isolated lodge by Lake Massawippi where the Inspector and Reine-Marie have enjoyed celebrating their wedding anniversary in the past. This year, they find themselves sharing this luxurious inn with a highly dysfunctional wealthy English family, who have come to pay tribute to their deceased father. Murder is suspected when a member of the family is found dead, a victim of unusual circumstances. Naturally, the charming Inspector Gamache gets involved, digging beneath the family bitterness to solve the devious crime.

Ms Penny is meticulous in her description of this very unpleasant family, all have secrets to hide and the narrative superbly captures the resulting emotions and tension. Humour is successfully added to portray this greedy, selfish family. True to her tradition she also gives us what we come expect: the usual attention to the domestic details, such as menu and gardening and other day to day activities of the Inn.

Although I enjoyed this novel, I admit it is not my favourite. I found it is slow in action, too centered on the family and a murder lacking plausibility.

"7th Heaven", by James Petterson, Maxine Paetro

Women’s Murder Club series, book7

This novel is captivating, full tension and violence right from the start. It opens with a couple of serial killer arsonists invading homes of wealthy individuals restraining them and setting them on fire. Action doesn’t stop there it goes on none stop, Patterson and Paetro truly know how to deliver a thriller and provide the challenges it takes to keep the readers glued to the edge of their seat. To add further mystery, the authors intertwine the case of a rich chronically-ill young adult missing after visiting the home of a known prostitute, Junie Moon.

The investigations are spear headed by Investigator Lindsay Boxer and Yuki Castellano looks after the district attorney side. Yuki’s direct involvement puts her in the limelight and harms way. The authors add interesting twists and turns during one of the trials when Junie Moon’s conflicting testimonies are aggressively cross-examined.

Is there a link between the two cases and what can it be? We find the answers when Claire Washburn (chief medical examiner and Cindy Thomas (star crime reporter) join their partners.

Another classic James Patterson novel: quick brisk chapters, a sharp story line, an emotionally charged and shocking ending. If you like Patterson’s style, this one will capture your attention from the beginning.

Is it evident that I am a fan…..:)