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, January 28, 2011

"Judgment and Wrath", by Matt Hilton

Book 2 in the Joe Hunter Thriller Series

If you are a thriller seeker and love high octane stories there is nothing like a romp through the pages with protagonist Joe Hunter. The style follows pretty much the same format as its prequel "Dead Men's Dust" providing the reader with plenty of action, lots of shooting, endless chases and testosterone at its best. The main characters are Joe Hunter and his sidekick Jared Rington (Rink), two professional investigators with an army background and one very sick and macabre master assassin named "Dantalion".

In this highly captivating adventure, Joe is hired by Richard Dean to save his daughter Marianne from the hands of Bradley Jorgenson, who happens to be rich, a bully and Marianne's boyfriend. Richard believes she is being abused and sucked into a world of power and fast living. He wants his daughter safe at home and out of a toxic environment at any cost.

Bradley's company is a major player in military contracts and the money involved and his connections have attracted many envious people inside his company as well as outside. Joe finds himself in the middle of a hornets nest, he is not the only one targeting Bradley and Marianne, others have a different agenda, and amongst them is a hired assassin.....

This is a fast pace thriller, be prepared for never ending action. From the time Hunter sets up shop next to the Jorgenson estate to plot Marianne's extraction to the end you are plunged into an intense, violent and head spinning suspense that is filled with plenty of twists and unexpected turns. You are immersed in a narrative that is without any doubt one of this series' trademarks, it alternates between the first person point of view of Joe hunter and the third person narrative of the bad guy (Dantalion). Mr. Hilton's ability to set a scene and make his characters shine are what makes Joe Hunter's exploits an adrenaline packed experience, edge of the chair gripping from start to finish.

I am hooked; I am now a Matt Hilton junky...

"The Girl from Junchow", by Kate Furnivall

Also published under the title "The Concubine's Secret"

This novel is a captivating and fascinating sequel to "The Russian Concubine", a tale of love and danger set in the late 1920's Junchow and Moscow. The story takes us on a journey, surrounding the intricacies of Lydia Ivanova's life, a life of drama graced with a touch of passion.

Lydia believes her father, Jens Friis, is still alive but held captive in Stalin's Russia. Determined to find him she teams up with her brother Alexie and close friend Popkov. The dangerous search leads them to bars of the seedy underworld where bribery of camp workers is one of their prime sources of information. In a world where they have to continually watch their backs, they befriend and betray those with key information, a treacherous game that eventually directs them to Moscow.

In Russia, with everything at stake Lydia becomes entangled with a soviet officer and Alexei is drawn into the hands of Russian criminals. Popkov finds himself in the precarious position of trying to keep his friends safe even at the risk of his own live.

On another front, Chang An-Lo, a high ranking officer who is advancing rapidly in the Communist party of China, is delegated to view the factories built by the Stalinist regime. He so happens to be Lydia's romantic partner while she was in China. As fate would have it, Lydia and Chang meet up at a party honouring the Chinese delegation and discuss old times. Their past strong romantic connection quickly has Chang sympathizing with her predicament and vowing to help her gather information and help in the possible rescue of her father.

Ms. Furnivall rich writing is very entertaining, gripping and provides all the thrills we are accustomed to. The dialogue is crisp and the setting vividly recreates Stalin era Russia. Lydia is maturing beautifully and is portrayed as a strong and loveable character; we easily fall into her spell. Some of the plotting may lack realism with its characters getting out of sticky predicaments and injuries a bit too easily for the times, but the interaction between characters is outstanding and is one of the attributes that makes this fantasy novel one of the best

Monday, January 24, 2011

"The End of Marking Time", by C J West

This fiction is a disturbing account highlighting the seriousness of the problems within the prison system. The tale is a bit off the beaten track, borderline experimental and told in a unique and particular way.

The protagonist, Michael O'Connor, an accomplished thief since a very young age, is finally caught after a long string of burglaries. He never considered what he was doing to be abnormal or even wrong but the justice system saw it differently, his lack of remorse earned him a stiff sentence. His luck took another drastic turn on his way to prison when a fellow prisoner's breakout earned him a bullet and four years in a coma.

During the four years laps, the judiciary system is overhauled and a stronger emphasis is placed on re-education instead of incarceration. Under the new system, Michael's world changes again, he is required to wear a locator bracelet, further his education and function as a law abiding citizen. The system is designed to educate, test and measure the decisions he has to take in normal life. His past history takes its toll and he finds it difficult to understand what is expected of him. At what point will he realize that his decisions determine his freedom and could possibly have life or death consequences.

The story is told mostly in Michael's own words, the language and tone reflect an easy-going and simple protagonist. The author presents an interesting look into the reform of the penal system. He has written quite a dystopian scenario regarding crime and its punishment, an untypical mystery with a psychological twist.

I had a hard time getting into the story, although it was captivating enough at first, as I read on, my interest dwindled. I slowly lost empathy for Michael as he spun in circles trying to solve his assignments, I found myself not caring or interested in his predicament even when it took an unpredictable turn. The end result left me totally un-fizzled. I had accepted the fact that this looser would never see the light or be an asset to society.

Yes Mr. West, I did press that red button....Was this your objective?

The novel may not have been one of my favourites; however it did succeed in stimulating my thoughts towards the justice system.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"The Greatest Knight", by Elizabeth Chadwick

Book 1 in the life of William Marshal

Set in England and France 1167-1194, the story is a convincing and compelling blend of facts and fiction exploring the life of William Marshal, one of England’s greatest knights during the Middle Ages. William rose from obscurity as a son of a minor aristocrat to a champion in his field, a confidant to kings, a magnate and eventually one of England’s respected regents. Elizabeth Chadwick has given us once again a rich and detailed novel filled with excellent research and a fascinating look into a historical character.

As a child, William was sent to serve in King Stephen’s court where he learned the importance of loyalty and honour along with the art of knighthood. His finely tune skills won the respect of Henry11 and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, he eventually became a marshal, tutor and model to the royal princes.

As a champion on the tourney, William faced danger and the petty jealousy that doges any royal favourite. Haunted by scandal he is eventually banished from court but his services are nevertheless sought throughout Europe and when William's honour is finally restored, he returns to court with greater acclaim and power than ever.

His devoted loyalty was rewarded when he was given the hand of 19 year old Isabel de Clare, heiress and daughter of Richard Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke. Marrying her came with many perks, such as land in England, Wales, Ireland and Normandy. From his humble beginnings as a penniless knight, William Marshal became one of the richest men in the country.

Ms. Chadwick brought to life an extraordinary story about a fascinating man in history (her notes at the end of the novel are useful to distinguish facts from fiction). Most of the characters are well defined historical figures although I am partial to the fictional character, Clara, William’s mistress and confidant, their association added romance and intrigue. The prose and narrative are straightforward and colourful leaving a vivid image to immerse the readers into the splendour of a medieval setting.

There is so much going on in this stunning novel, I hope my short summary is successful in piquing everyone’s interest. She is one of my favourite historical fiction novelists.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"The Silent Man", by Alex Berenson

Book 3 in the John Wells series

The tale involves the theft of Russian made nuclear warheads to be used in an effort to trigger a U.S.-Russia conflict. Muslim terrorists calculate the ideal time and place would be Washington during the State of the Union address, payback for decades of Western domination and oppression.

The story is vividly told and plunges its readers into a scary minute-by- minute fictional account of how the militants steal two nuclear weapons, smuggle them into the U.S and on an isolated New York farm create a devise that will help bring them closer to the world they dream of.

Meanwhile, back in the States, an old nemesis from a previous encounter, Pierre Kowalski, mounts a deadly assault killing several people and severely injuring Exley, Wells' fiancé. This is sweet revenge; Wells had severely humiliated him in the previous novel, "The Ghost War". Wells has a strong suspicion as to who is behind the attack and due to personal interests and against the advice of his CIA superiors; he makes it his mission to bring the attackers and their mastermind to justice. Tracking them to Russia, he manages to kill several of the assassins but is unable to cut the head of the snake, his ultimate trophy. The cat and mouse game between himself and Kowalski rages on until Wells realises Kowalski has an important bargaining chip, information on the nuclear plot against the U.S.

This international intrigue is mildly enjoyable; I found the adventure lacks some of the rapid-fire pacing I like to experience in a thriller. However, it does provide some white-knuckle suspense and could be considered chillingly plausible. The plotting is very predictable for this day and age. John Wells, the main character, is still a complex blend of smarts and cynicism and Exley's role along with the romance between the two is weak and quite boring. The exploits of the secondary characters and those of the hero, in my opinion, place this novel in the class of a Jack Bauer "24 " series, very interesting at first but eventually loses its allure.

Needless to say my interest in this series is waning

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"The Defector", by Daniel Silva

Book 9 in the Gabriel Allon series

Daniel Silva provides once more an exciting and captivating tale that will keep the readers focused in an endless need to see what will come next, the series is very addictive. The 9th instalment is an edge of the seat thriller, able to compete with the best for the reader's attention. Although "The Defector" is a sequel to "Moscow Rules, there is just the right amount of background given so this novel can fly on its own, no doubt it will hook many new readers. Who knows it may pique their interest enough to read past novels.

The tale picks up 6 months after the dramatic conclusion of "Moscow Rules". Once again Gabriel is thrown into turmoil with the shocking news from London that defector Colonel Grigori Bulganov has disappeared without a trace. Colonel G.B., a known double agent, is now suspected of being a turn coat once again but Gabriel has another theory. Colonel G.B. had betrayed Kharkov, a billionaire arms dealer, on many levels and Gabriel suspects the time to get even has arrived. Many things have changed in Russia but punishment for treason remains the same. With this fact in mind, Gabriel realizes his team of operatives have a very small window to prove his theory.

At the pinnacle of the investigation, Gabriel's ability to multi task is put to the test with news of his wife's abduction. Could this be payback for his past history with Kharkov and his present theory, is there a link between the two abductions? The reader is quickly drawn into the escalating war between the two adversaries.....Did I use the adjectives addicted and hooked before??? :)...

Mr. Silva knows how to capture the reader's attention; intense and exciting action and scenes that are gut-wrenching and gruesome at times are all part of his plot and sub-plots. He uses a touch of romance along the route to soften the tone. The story although a little far-fetched is highly entertaining, all the characters have been well developed and have progressed beautifully with time. Mr. Silva has definitely created and adopted a style that works but I find Gabriel's character is on the verge of becoming one-dimensional and too predictable.

This novel is a page turner hard to put down.