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, February 12, 2010

" Gourmet Rapshody", by Muriel Barbery

This novel is quite original, it is richly written to offer a character study of a dying man’s last thoughts. It is a very short novel that provides a mix of philosophy peppered with humour and spiced with culinary vignettes.

The protagonist is Pierre Arthens, a food critic, given forty eight hours to live by his cardiologist. On his death bed surrounded by his dear ones, Pierre makes a desperate effort to reminisce his favourite moments in life, he does so by describing his most passionate experiences in the art of cooking and the ultimate stimulation of ones taste buds.

Of course food is the central point of this novel, Ms Barbery writes eloquently about the gastronomic exuberance of a person that claims to be the best food critic in the world. The rapturous food passages are lusciously mouth-watering. The short chapters are told from various perspectives of Arthens’ entourage (including pets), his doctor, his lovers and RenĂ©e (a character in the novel “The Elegance of the Hedgehog“) and how his life has impacted them. The narrative flips back and forth between the bedridden maestro and his friends and their fond memories of the past.

The poetic writing takes the reader on a journey into one of the pleasures of life….

"Playing for the Ashes", by Elizabeth George

Book 7 in the Inspector Lynley series

This is one edge of the seat gripping mystery offering several plots within its main plot, a great work of detective fiction, one of Ms George’s best.

The story opens when the body of England’s leading batsman Kenneth Fleming is discovered in a burnt out country cottage, an apparent victim of arson. Inspector Lynley and his partner Barbara Havers are called in from Scotland Yard to help the local police. Further investigation reveals a multitude of suspects, it seems that everyone knowing Fleming had motive to kill him. Once again they find themselves embroiled in a case where nothing and no one is really what it seems…..

This astonishing story is brilliantly written, an intricately woven tale of psychological suspense. Through her characters, the author explores in depth the hate-love relationship people have for each other and their reaction facing adversity. Olivia who provides much of the story in her own words is a rich and complex character. We also have the continuing saga in the personal life of Lynley and Lady Helen with Barbara Havers slowly adjusting to her new home.

This is one absorbing story that will keep the reader guessing to the very last page. It is very captivating, I highly recommend it.

"Last Night in Montreal, by Emily St John Mandel

This debut novel by Mandel is a breath of fresh air, quite enjoyable. It is wonderfully and expertly written to provoke emotions without being of any specific genre. The novel has its share of mystery with a psychological undertone. I believe it will appeal to those who enjoy reading novels based around a variety of topics and styles.

The novel brings together the stories of four people: Eli who follows Lilia to Montreal after she leaves him, Christopher, the private detective obsessed with Lilia’s case, Michaela, the detective’s daughter, who holds her own secrets and of course Lilia herself. Their stories cast a spell of intrigue right from the start.

It opens when Lilia Albert walks out on her latest boyfriend Eli leaving no clues to where she is going: she simply left, that is what she does best….. She has been on the run since the age of seven when her estranged father abducted her from her home in Quebec, changing identity, hair colour and travelling throughout the states never stopping long in one place. Her father eventually settled down but she was never able to, it was in her blood. On their trail for over 11 years is Christopher the P.I. hired by her mother. Through the years he has made finding her an obsession.

The story is brilliantly paced weaving back and forth from present to past with multiple points of views.

Eli’s passionate and haunting search for Lilia in Montreal spins mystery into the tale with many unexpected twists that will delight the reader. The narrative turns dark and profound at times and the visual details and characterization shows that Ms Mantel excels in her craft and knows how to bring out the empathy in her readers.

This is a complex and well portrayed novel

"The Red Scarf", by kate Furnivall

This is an epic that expertly creates the atmosphere of the time and place, an admirable work of historical fiction that vividly transports the reader to a Siberian labour camp during the 1930’s. The novel portrays the hardships endured by the detainees while dramatizing the convictions that motivated the Soviet leaders and the resistance.

The story is the ultimate will to survive of Sofia and her friend Anna while incarcerated in a desolate work camp in the frozen Russian taiga. Their only relieve to the rigid and cruel life of endless work and starvation is the storytelling of Anna’s growing up in a charming life and about her childhood friend Vasily who she is desperately yearning for. It is at this time that Sofia vows to escape, find Vasily and come back to save Anna.

The bold escape is somewhat unrealistic but nevertheless a riveting and suspenseful journey across the desolate tundra. She eventually ends up in Tivil, where a gypsy partisan shelters her and nurses her back to health. Sofia faces one dilemma after another and many twists and turns along the way but eventually finds Vasily. The pace of the story never lets up even when more and more complications arise with the introduction of Aleksei Fomanko but Sofia is relentless in her quest to fulfill her promise to Anna.

This is a unique and engrossing story based around the troubled times of Soviet Russia told with a stunning narrative and amazing characterization. It is a wonderful novel that I highly recommend.

"The Rules of Vengeange", by Christopher Reich

Book 2 in the Jonathan Ransom series

Like its prequel “Rules of Deception” this new addition to the series is a suspenseful thriller. We find all the espionage and intrigue that one would wish for in an exciting novel. The story is fast paced, filled with energetic and descriptive action and charismatic characters that have an overabundance of stamina. This novel is definitely intense, a real page-turner, an adrenaline rush.

The story picks up a few months after “Rules of Deception” ends. After a few sabbatical months from his work with the Doctors Without Borders, Dr Jonathan Ransom attends a medical conference in London where he has been invited as a guest lecturer. Soon after settling into his hotel room he receives a note from his wife Emma whom he hasn’t seen for over six months. At the end of “Rules of Deception”, Emma went into hiding from her former employer “Division” a secret branch of the American Intelligence Agency.

With practically no training in espionage, Ransom follows Emma through the streets of London, only to witness her detonating a car bomb. Completely caught off guard by her action, he is left astounded and is blamed for the carnage and arrested. While Emma with all her acquired skill disappears into the surroundings. Escape is his only option but he quickly becomes one of Interpol’s most wanted. His mission involves many countries in the search of Emma, he needs to know what or whom she is involved with now and what has just transpired.

One of the high points of this novel is the writer’s colourful and descriptive writing giving Ransom a super heroes’ ability in evading police. The relentless pursuit scenarios are guarantied to capture ones interests from start to finish.

This series has become an addiction and I am looking forward to see what else the author has in store for us.

"The Charlemagne Pursuit", by Steve Berry

Book 4 in the Cotton Malone series

Mr Berry is without any doubt a master at twisting historical events. In the past he has created intriguing and intense stories that stimulate the reader’s imagination.

The story begins with Cotton Malone being held at gun point; it becomes evident that someone else wants the classified Navy files regarding the disappearance of his father and all crew members of a submarine in mid Atlantic. Cotton realizes there must be more behind this incident, there are more questions than answers, and he needs to know the truth.

The main plot is the interesting and captivating part of the novel. True to his style, Steve Berry propels his protagonist in a deadly pursuit, a quest where revelations will be as shocking as they are unexpected…..As the story moves along, sub-plots kick in. They are a series of choppy events that are abnormal, absurd and implausible and did not appear to connect to the main plot.

The story in whole moved at a fast pace and provided: intrigue, conspiracy, treachery and lots of violence. My mind tended to wander with the sub-plots; they were a distraction and did not enhance the story, I found this to be disappointing and not at par with his previous novels