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 »

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"The Girl Who Played with Fire", by Stieg Larsson

Book 2 in the "Millennium" trilogy

The heroes of the past are back in this second story which is even more eccentric than the first one. A tale that is violent, complex, outrageous , barely believable and filled with strange characters but one that is highly captivating and totally engrossing, a great sequel to " The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".

Lisbeth Salander , is one of the most original and memorable characters to surface in a long time. Playing an even more central role this time as she is the prime suspect in a triple murder. Hunted both by the police and enemies from her past she goes into hiding. Blomkvist, is one of the few who believes in her innocence and makes it his mission to find her and uncover the real culprit.

Mr Larsson writing is colourful and suspense filled. The storyline is intricate, a real puzzle, it is packed with incidents, thrills and details, it juggles many stories in parallel while it moves back and forth in the life of Lisbeth and ultimately has a surprisingly violent ending. He has Criminal Inspector Bublanski and his team tracking down Lisbeth and on another level he has Blomkvist and private investigator Armansky on a quest to exonerate her. In another twist he has Lisbeth, herself on a crusade to revenge her past and come to terms with the horrors she has suffered. Many secondary characters, good guys and villains are added into the mix, a bit mind bending to keep tabs of but very entertaining.

The end is a cliff-hanger leaving some loose ends, the perfect recipe to follow up with a subsequent instalment. I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Matterhorn", by Karl Marlantes

A novel of the Vietnam War

This is a time when U.S. political tensions are at a boiling point, campuses erupt in violence and protesters take to the streets, racial agendas dominate the enlisted ranks and young Americans are embroiled in brutal combat at the other end of the world. A conflict that will divide the population like never seen before.

The author's astonishing writing immerses his readers deep in the thick of the action: they quickly feel they are part of the story, witnessing the fighting side by side with the courageous soldiers.....Before setting out in this spellbinding novel, make sure you have plenty of repellent, do not forget to keep dry, leave your fears behind and lets go forward....a mission is awaiting..... Emotions will be so real you will soon understand what I mean.

The year is 1969 during the monsoon season deep in the jungles and the sweltering mountains of Quang Tri province, Vietnam. Bravo Company First Platoon lead by a green Lieutenant Waino Mellas and his seasoned officers Fitch, Hawke and Kendall are given the orders to claim and establish a strategic point (the Matterhorn) , an advance fire-support base. The reader quickly learns that a simple sounding plan presents more than one enemy to the soldiers: Mother nature, the unfamiliar and unforgiving terrain, the fear of being isolated and the very capable opponents are just some of the life threatening hostilities they are bombarded with.

Just when the Lieutenant and his men think they have time to catch their breath and count their loses new orders hit them almost as hard as any enemy. Higher command orders them to abandon everything and embark on another dangerous but crucial mission: sever N.V. supply lines at all cost.

The men that are still standing are more and more concerned, will the final cost be worth it. Totally exhausted and feeling demoralized they wonder if new technology and long range communications have left command insensitive to their plight.

Chapter after chapter, the author immerses his readers through one intense battle after another, it is a very exhausting read. The story is told from the point of view of lieutenant Mellas and with extensive dialogue between the soldiers in a language that is dense in slang, jargon and technical terms. The author has provided a detailed glossary, I found it hard to refer back and forth at first but the price of knowing and understanding the terms early on paid dividends, patience enhanced my reading pleasure.

The author himself a decorated veteran of the time has written a complex novel (sometimes difficult to read) of what " Tour of duty" meant to those who served and hopefully to those who will take the time to read this gruesome account of trying times. Will mankind ever learn.......

This is one outstanding novel filled with emotions and lasting impressions. Very well done Mr Marlantes.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"The Spies of Warsaw", by Alan Furst

“The Spies of Warsaw” is a fiction recounting the work of European spies in the months leading to WW11. The year is 1937 and Germany is secretly preparing to invade Poland…..

The story is of Col. Jean- François Mercier, a French embassy’s military attaché in Poland whose job is to handle routine diplomatic work and attend nightly social obligations. His position provides him with the perfect cover to obtain crucial information on Germany‘s war plans. Behind the lines he covertly runs a small network of agents specializing in obtaining information on what the German command has planned for its industries. Edvard Uhl, a German Engineer, is Mercier’s main contact and one of his most valuable informants.

The plot evolves around Mercier and his dealings with both the Russians and the Germans. We have an abundance of low keyed and un-dramatic espionage creating a tone that is rather cold and impersonal. It reads more like a history book or a documentary.

The main characters are well represented but the author tends to represent the Nazi and the French military in a keystone cop manner.

This is hardly a page turner, the storyline is weak and lacks suspense but does captures the darkness of the time and brings forward some intriguing elements surrounding the exploits behind intelligence gathering. As we may expect with spy novels, there is always a need for a spicy romance, this one leaves no surprises, Mercier is smitten by the mysterious Anna Szarbek, a beautiful French lawyer of Polish parentage with uncertain loyalties and unclear ambitions….

Although this novel is good, it is far from being my favourite of the year

"Strip", by Thomas Perry

If you read and enjoy thrillers full of bad guys duping other bad guys you will definitely love this bunch of misfits.

What we have here, is the story of an aging, arrogant, impotent gangster hanging onto his ego, supported by a puppet staff bullied into carrying out his orders in order to retain power and his supremacy in the underworld of flesh peddling and money laundering.

Manco Kapak owns a few clubs in the LA area and moves money for a major drug distributor. One night while making his daily deposit someone robs him at gun point. For a man of his status the loss of money is irrelevant, he cannot show weakness, a strong message has to be sent. His reputation shaken he dispatches his henchmen to flush out the guilty. In haste, they mistakenly finger Joe Carver, a man with nerves of steel and a few skeletons in the closet of his own…..What follows is a multitude of nail biting events.

Some other memorable characters are bad ass Spencer, Marco’s trusted body-guard and then there is Carrie, a woman with the DNA of a tiger and a passion for blood and money. You will love her, she is fascinating, frightening and one of the most exhilarating to follow.

The muscle headed mobsters show their true colours when faced with competition from their own kind. Killing over money, turf and petty grievances are all in a days work.

This is a kaleidoscope of sadistic double-crossing characters. Good cops, bad cops and petty criminals make this novel what it is. We are presented with a scenario that is very well drafted, diverse, intriguing and a story that will bring hours of reading entertainment.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", by Stieg Larsson

Book1 in the "Millennium" trilogy

The late Stieg Larsson deserves all the accolades and rewards posthumously bestowed upon him for writing such an engaging and engrossing novel. In my humble opinion it is a literary accomplishment that brought hours of enjoyment and definitely lived up to its hype.

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering and her body was never found. Her beloved uncle, the powerful industrialist Henrik Vager, is convinced that she has been killed by a member of his dysfunctional family. In an attempt to prove his suspicions, he hires the disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed computer hacker, with major issues of her own, to investigate.

In their search, the pair discover that Harriet's disappearance may be linked to other grotesque murders and that the Vanger clan will go to any means to keep their dark and appalling family secrets hidden....

The first part of the novel is dedicated to the characters and setting of the two main plots, some may find this tactic to be long and dragging but I found it to be a useful progress to understanding where the mystery was leading. The first plot evolves around Harriet Vanger disappearance and in the second the reader is plunged into a financial intrigue involving the head of a Swedish corporation.

The players are a cast of misfits brilliantly realised to be despicable and lacking ethical fortitude, some are asocial and smart, others complex and sympathetic and some are dramatic or totally disturbing. The character development is outstanding and the plots are so intense I found myself deeply engaged. This is a striking novel full of passion written with a prose that is bright and functional.

I enjoyed this novel immensely and highly recommend it.

"The Ghost War", by Alex Berenson

Book 2 in the John Wells series

The follow up to "Faithful Spy" is a smart and captivating spy novel of tic and tack scenarios between rulers of two powerful nations vying for ultimate control and on the brink of war.

The action moves quickly and the author triggers many different plots at the same time. It opens with an American destroyer accidentally ramming a Chinese trawler killing students on board and triggering strong nationalism and hatred towards the U.S. . Beijing quickly goes into crisis mode and its people are rallied into a state of mind where action overrides good judgement. Chinese authorities spurred by its people, take drastic measures further inflaming the situation. A power struggle ranging between the leadership of the Chinese military and the civilian wings adds even more volatility......

Mr Berenson true to his style and with his clear writing , injects complexity and intrigue in his sub-plots by involving the Taliban, a North Korean spy and shady people willing to turn against their own for the right price. The action is very intense and is vividly portrayed using military jargon, at times distracting but adds flare and colour. The protagonist, John Wells is developing nicely into a super hero ready to do everything for his country. Many other supporting characters although not as loveable as John play an important part in this thriller.

Mr Berenson , has the knack of being able to grab the attention the readers to the very last page through his highly captivating portrayal of events. I am sure the author has other exploits for John, and I am looking forward to them

"Shadows and Strongholds", by Elizabeth Chadwick

This novel is a convincing and captivating historical fiction set in 12th century England. The tale follows the life of Brunin FitzWarin and is written creatively to pique the readers' attention and immerse them in a suspenseful medieval epic.

It opens with Lord FitzWarin taking drastic action and sending his 10 year old son Brunin to serve as a squire to his trusted friend and ally Joscelin de Dinan. Lord FitzWarin knows his son is at a turning point and needs to overcome the shyness that is holding him back. Joscelin de Dinan is the right person to groom him and teach him the fine art of knighthood.

The mentoring turns Brunin into a strong young adult and his close relationship with Hawise, Joscelin de Dinan's daughter, changes from childhood play to trust and admiration and eventually romance...Oh! those pesky medieval hormones...... Brunin weds her before joining his father and father-in-law on an upcoming battle with King Stephen in a quest to keep Henry of Anjou on the throne.....

While away at war, the two families suffer, a Welsh invasion seizes the FitzWarin estate and de Dinan's rival asserts his claim on Ludlow.

The fast-paced plots are captivating and the writing delves deep into the emotions of its characters. It provides an interesting look into medieval feuds and the deadly rivalry between those in power and those seeking power. A veritable page turner chronicling adventures, courage and love.

"Shadows and Strongholds" is a romantic story, loosely based on facts and events told by troubadours of the time.

I find this time period very interesting and I am strongly entertained by Ms Chadwick's take on it