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 »

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"The 8th Confession", by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Book 8 in the "Women's Murder Club" series

Like the previous novel in this series, this is fast read, one to buzz through in no time. If you are a suspense and heavy plot addict, this is a light version and fans will find it quite enjoyable.

"The 8th Confession" is an another glorified police procedural novel based around three cases: one includes streetwise con artists who recruit girls and turn them into crack dealers, another is an ex-beauty queen on trial for bludgeoning her father to death and the third is a psychopath who targets San Francisco's elite, murdering them with a krait, a type of snake. Detective Lindsay Boxer is called to investigate and the hunt to solve the mysteries requires the collective skills of the entire "Women's Murder Club".

This is another novel depending on writer James Patterson's reputation and his list of familiar characters.

"No Such Creature", by Giles Blunt

I have read and enjoyed immensely the entire Giles Blunt collection of novels. "No Such Creature", is a stand alone that is totally different from the John Cardinal series. This novel has a humorous side to it, has a much lighter concept which is mixed with serious and sad moments.

This is a tale of two unconventional thieves, one an old English actor and the other his great nephew. It is a story of sightseeing and larceny while travelling across the American southwest in a Winnebago.

Problems arise during their last summer's adventure, Max and Owen encounter more than they expect when they discover they are pursued by a mysterious group known as the Subtractors, and also Max's old friend who wants part of the take....This is a multitude of crime capers with drama and violence. The lack of honour amongst thieves adds to the excitement. This was not enough for Mr Blunt he also adds romance and romantic competition with the introduction of Sabrina, all this creates interesting predicaments.

I found this novel quite captivating and comical. Max's theatrical approach to his profession and his Shakespearean language add humour to the suspense. The dialogue is highly entertaining and the characters quite likable, Max and Owen bicker throughout the novel but it is obvious that they are family. Sabrina's description of her life with a criminal father is very moving.

This is a fun and enjoyable read.

"The Elegance of the Hedgehog", by Muriel Barbery

This is one clever novel written in a simple formula that draws the reader gradually into a philosophical fable.

Narrated alternately at each chapter, the story is dominated by Renée Michel, an unassuming concierge in her 50s who happens to be an autodidact who believes life is less complicated and more enjoyable by not displaying outwardly the depth of her knowledge. Paloma Josse is a precocious 12 year old daughter of a diplomat and socialite who lives in the same ritzy building as Renée, she believes adulthood is meaningless and plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday and burn down the building she lives in.

The author tells Renée story in the first person and Paloma's is quoted from a dairy type notebook labelled "Profound Thoughts". They both share a friend in Monsieur Ozu, a mysterious, wealthy Japanese man who also resides in the building.

This story creeps up subtlety and takes hold of your attention without notice. It may seem slow at first but the author has written an exceptional tale about how one is perceived based on class, beauty and their position in life.
The described adventures of the characters show that even people from different backgrounds are not all that different and have a lot in common.

Although rich in texture and philosophy I found the story quite entertaining. It is a character study of three individuals and their inner thoughts towards life in general. This novel is not all substance it has a humorous side to it, one that made me smile and laugh at times.

"The Elegance of the Hedgehog" is a poignant and delightful read.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Wolf Hall", by Hilary Mantel

To enjoy this novel it may be preferable in my view to have a good knowledge of the 16th century Europe and be a literary aficionado.

The story attempts to capture the political and social turmoil during the period of Henry V111, when his desire to divorce challenged the church's power. The story is told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell.

The novel is large (650 pages) and is densely populated with characters, requiring a list in order to keep track of them. It is one of those novels hard to get into. I found reading it was an arduous task, Ms Mantel's style of writing is lofty and subtle, the presentation quite confusing and extremely hard to follow without a good foundation of this historical period.

I would agree with those saying the story weaves like a drunken sailor (my apologies to sailors). I suspect the author has made a straight forward story way too complicated to be credible and interesting to the average individual. I have rarely put a book aside before the ending, it was definitely not meant for me and I am happy I borrowed it from my local library.

"Dead Men's Dust", by Matt Hilton

Book 1 in the Joe Hunter series

Take a deep breath before starting; you are in for an exciting ride. From the start you will be plunged into an intense thriller that will grab you attention and hold it till the very end.

In this first instalment we follow Joe Hunter on a journey across the USA in search of his missing brother John. John is deep in trouble, he owes money to very dangerous people and has several enemies in hot pursue of his hide... Joe is a former military man, a tough and skilled scrapper, volatile and unpredictable, and his friends are as mean as they come.

In a parallel story we learn of a twisted psycho serial killer Tubal Cain trying to beat Ted Bundy's killing record. Slowly with sharp and smooth writing the author impressively merges the two stories. From start to finish it is a culmination of violent events.

In my view, the pacing and fast action throughout made this novel quite captivating and hard to put aside. The storyline of a killer planning his next killing was riddled with old clichés and predictability but the plot never bogged down and remained exciting. I particularly loved the cat and mouse chase that took place across the States and the climactic showdown in the Mojave Desert. On the other hand I found the main character missing development; Hunter was rather bland and lacked personality compared to the highly eccentric serial killer.

In all, it is a good first novel well worth reading. I am looking forward to its sequel....

"The Brutal Telling", by Louise Penny

Book 5 in the Inspector Armand Gamache series

In her latest novel, Louise Penny brings her readers back to the village of Three Pines where we will find Inspector Gamache facing another murder scene.

When a body has been found in Olivier Brulé's Bistro, Inspector Gamache is summoned to Three Pines with his investigative team from the Sûreté du Québec. It is soon discovered that the victim an elderly gentleman was murdered elsewhere and strategically relocated to the bistro. Why was the body left at the only café in town and why is the owner Olivier Brulé appearing to be so evasive when questioned, does he have something to hide?

With old fashioned leg work and teamwork we are lead into a suspenseful tale of whodunit in a tiny rural community that has a colourful history of its own and a seemingly dream lifestyle and location to many a city dweller.

The story has several clues and possible culprits creating an intrigue that keeps the reader guessing till the very end. With the discovery of priceless art treasures and the name Charlotte, Inspector Gamache is lured to Queen Charlotte Islands in search of further clues. Skilful writing paints a dazzling and vivid picture of both communities and their surroundings capturing the unique culture of its people. The mysterious community of Three Pines is richly characterized as an idyllic village, a place to linger and wander about, a modern day Shangri-La.

"The Brutal Telling" is more than your typical mystery; it is a trip into the inner soul. In her writing, Miss Penny manages to reach her readers' emotions by highlighting what is often taken for granted: our interaction with each other, gruesome details are left to the imagination making it a light mystery.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Pandemic", by Daniel Kalla

This novel is a compelling and over the edge thriller, Daniel Kalla has written a real page turner one hard to put down.

The story opens in a remote corner of China; where a new and deadly flu is spreading amongst the population of Gansu Province. WHO immediately sends a team headed by Dr Noah Haldane to investigate. They soon discover that this new virus is far deadlier than SARS and is being spread intentionally with devastating effects...WHO struggles to contain the outbreak but the virus has already spread to Hong Kong, London and America....

The author has injected a frightening dose of reality into this tale of biological terrorism; it is scary to think, could this really happen, how safe are we? Kalla has skilfully interwoven tidbits about epidemiology and viruses into the dialog of a large cast of characters, heightening the tension to this fast paced thriller.

This is one book that will make you think twice about the stranger coughing beside you....

'Resistance", by Daniel Kalla

If you enjoy scary medical thrillers, this one will take you on an unforgettable roller coaster ride. Daniel Kalla has given us a shockingly realistic novel that explores what could happen if an ultra resistant bacterium immune to all known antibiotics was released into the general population.

When an ultra resistant form of group "A" strep is spreading like wildfire throughout hospitals in Seattle, Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest, doctors are seemingly helpless and can only watch as their patients die one after the other. Dr Catalina Lopez and Dr Graham Kilburn join forces trying in some way to halt the growing epidemic. Unknown to them, there is a conspiracy to spread the disease and an overwhelming desire to stop at nothing....

Kalla has created many strong characters and a large cast of interesting secondary ones. The scenario is action packed full of surprising twits and the writing shines with medical and scientific expertise.

On the other hand....If you have the sniffles, this story could leave you suffering from hypochondria

"In the Woods", by Tana French

The story is narrated in the first person by Adam"Rob" alternates back and forth in time between 1984 and the present day.

One day in Knocknaree (near Dublin), twelve year old Adam Ryan and his close friends Peter and Jamie were playing in the woods when an unexplained event happened, his friends disappeared without a trace to never be found. Adam was discovered pressed against a tree, his shoes filled with blood and no recollection of what had transpired.

Twenty years later, Adam now "Rob" a detective in the Dublin police force is drawn back into the mystery when the body of a little girl is found at the site of the old tragedy. With the help of his partner "Cassie", Rob hopes not only to solve the present case but also the twenty year old mystery of the woods.

I enjoyed this novel even with all its predictability, redundancy and its slow moving plot. It is a long book; the author had a tendency to be a little long-winded. A lot of time was spent identifying the relationship between Cassie and Rob and left us with the old cliché of male/female partnership. The characters are multi-dimensional and dynamic some may love Rob and some may not, Cassie on the other hand is a spunky, smart, witty and likable character. The character driven plot wavers between domestic issues and political issues; it never really finds its footing and ends on a very disappointing note.

"A Thousand Spendid Suns", by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini gave us in his second novel a heartbreaking story of two girls who grew close, women bonding in the chaos of war. The rich and violent history of Afghanistan provides a backdrop that informs and saturates the story for a span of over 40 years. This is one unforgettable and provocative epic tale, one novel everyone should read.

Right from the start you are pulled into a world of cruelty and despair with Hosseini's rich narrative capturing the intimate details of the lives of his two heroines: Mariam and Laila. Both born into different families and during a period suffer under the same circumstances. Mariam, an illegitimate child born in 1959 is forced into marriage by her father at the age of 15 to an abusive and cruel man. Laila was born into a loving family before the Russian invasion, she was educated and had dreamed of travel. The emergence of the Taliban changed everything; a bomb killed Laila's family, Mariam's husband took her in and she soon became his favourite...this is their story....

All the praise this novel received is well deserved; the story is straightforward and beautifully written. Hosseini eloquently depicts the years of Afghanistan's unimaginable tragedy from 1964-2003.

"Exit Music", by Ian Rankin

Inspector Rebus, book17

With this installment Mr Rankin has written a great send off, a suitable finale for his protagonist Inspector Rebus. Each chapter is a count down to his last days before retirement. True to the author's style, suspense builds till the end making this story not only entertaining but also intriguing.

Under pressure to solve the murder of a Russian poet and a local sound recordist, Rebus and Siobhan quickly find out this case is connected to the underworld led by Big Ger Cafferty, Rebus's nemesis. We follow them trying to solve the mystery and as we turn pages frantically trying to guess who committed the crime; we are plunged into a plot that is rich and complex with subtle twists. Rebus is in prime form, still argumentative, opinionated and getting in trouble with his superiors. All the characters are masterfully crafted as usual, Siobhan is as gutsy as ever and we route for her success, will she be able to replace her mentor, I am sure we will be treated to more thrilling adventures in the future

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Cold Plague", by Daniel Kalla

This is Daniel Kalla at his best. I am a big fan of thrillers and of this author; none of his books have disappointed me. Cold Blood is fast paced, smartly written to capture ones interest and is extremely suspenseful, a real page turner.

The story starts when a group of scientists discovers a way to tap the water from pristine Lake Vostok located beneath the ice of Antarctica. We follow their research and exploit at the South Pole. Clever marketing has people worldwide lining up for a taste of the therapeutic water and its healing powers.

Meanwhile we have an outbreak of a new type of Mad Cow being discovered in France killing humans within a few days. Summoned to investigate is Dr Noah Haldane and his team from WHO. Racing against time, their mission is to find and eradicate the cause promptly before more people die....

As these intricate plots move along at a fast pace we are given enough clues to make the connection between them. Returning to the stage in strong force are those lovable characters we met in Pandemic....maybe we have a new series being born here.....

Cold Blood is an exciting medical thriller that brings to light not only the delicate balance between economic interest and health interest it also highlights the questionable morals of marketing and the dedication in the health care profession.

After reading this story, I think I will stick to drinking tap water.....

"The Boleyn Inheritance", by Philippa Gregory

In this marvellous novel, Ms Gregory brings out from the depth of history Jane Boleyn, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard she also adds all sorts of wild cards making this a poignant historical thriller. The story is told in the first person with the three alternating voices of this trio. Each is replaying their brief, vulnerable and sad life while trying to make their way through the years of the most volatile court under Henry V111's tyranny.

The novel picks up with Henry's third wife, an arranged marriage to Anne of Cleves; this created an alliance between England and Cleves thus avoiding a war. He soon realises the futility of it and turns his attention to the Queen's maid-in-waiting Katherine Howard. Life with the King thirty years her senior is not what Little Kitty (14) had expected, after a year together, her childish behaviour and flirting aggravates Henry's bad temper. She soon finds herself in the shadow of the axe that had claimed so many before her.

Jane Boleyn who was a trusted friend of many Queens turns out to be the perfect spy for her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. She stops at nothing to promote the ambitions of her family ...no one is safe .... With the constant betrayals not even her....

This is an enjoyable read one that captures the imagination by creating a strong atmosphere, its details emphasising the sheer horror suffered during the years under the rule of Henry V111. An entertaining work of historical fiction, I am looking forward to reading Ms Gregory's other work.

"Passchendaele", by Paul Gross

Passchendaele is a romanticized story around the extraordinary achievements by soldiers fighting a battle on blood-soaked grounds for almost four months, one that would become synonymous with the horrors of the First World War. Paul Gross highlights the determination, commitment and triumph of Canadians during this troubled time.

The book has a bit of everything: interesting characters, some temptation (drugs and sex), a passionate love story and in the background WW1 and its graphic battle scenes.

Sergeant Michael Dunne, a soldier who is brutally wounded in France returns to a Calgary military hospital where he meets and falls in love with Sarah an attractive nurse. When Sarah's brother David signs up to fight in Europe, Michael feels compelled to return to Europe with the hope of keeping David safe.

I was somewhat disappointed, I expected Gross would have elaborated more about the Canadian involvement in the battle it doesn't kick in till two-third into the book. Much of the story was dedicated to time in Calgary following the adventures of Sergeant Dunne and his girlfriend a drug addicted nurse. Sarah's brother comes in and out with his own problems and story.

As for the battle, it was muddy, bloody and pretty descriptive; it also had a sense of déjà vu. The novel literary wise has its ups and downs, it emphasizes life and sacrifice during the time of war.

Is this a love story or a war story, the decision is up to the individual reader.

"Dear John", by Nicholas Sparks

This is a light and enjoyable novel, one that will give you a few hours escaping reality and plunging into a sappy and romantic fantasy.

This is about army sergeant John Tyree narrating his love for Savannah Curtis, the girl of his dreams, and their relationship. It is the typical boy meet girl love story in the post 9/11 world. Boy goes to war and girl waits for him to finish his tour of duty. Here the specific war is not important, the author doesn't delve into the effects it had on his characters. When John re-enlists it weighs heavily on their relationship. Will their love survive.....

This novel is a quick read; the characters are realistic enough and likable, the plot is very predictable and not complex. The story hovers around the ideals of love and how fragile it can be. Added are some unrealistic twists leading to appropriate sadness and some heart wrenching moments, bringing tears to your eyes. If you are a fan of soap opera, this book is for you.

"Death du Jour", by Kathy Reichs

Temperance Brenna, book 2

This talented author offers a great plot and a rich cast of characters. Her entertaining and fascinating writing is peppered with enough clinical expertise to pique ones interest without overstocking the imagination. The kind of forensic detail that only Kathy Reichs can provide...

Once again, we are taken into intriguing murder investigations by Tempe, a guru, in anthropological forensics

"Death du Jour", involves multiple cases weaving from Montreal to North Carolina. It opens as Tempe Brennan is trying to locate the remains of a long-deceased nun, a challenge on its own. Sister Elizabeth Nicolet is up for sainthood and her bones are needed, the body is not where records show it.

Simultaneously, Tempe is called to assist Homicide Detective Andrew Ryan in an arson investigation North of Montreal. Leads bring them to the nucleus of a strange commune in the Carolinas. Unclear at first, a connection is uncovered between the cases. Tempe and Ryan find themselves in a struggle to save more lives...

This is a multi-faceted plot, written in a thrilling manner, enjoyable and easy to follow.