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, July 29, 2011

"First Daughter", by Eric Van Lustbader

Book1 in the Jack McClure series

This new series joins the many political thrillers available to today's readers. The story revolves mainly around politics and religion and an outgoing President who makes his decisions based on his religious beliefs.

The story is tightly plotted with many twists and turns and enough cliff-hangers to keep us flipping pages. It opens with the abduction of Alli Carson, the 19-year-old daughter of U.S. President-elect, a month before her father's inauguration. P.E. Edward Carson seeks the help of his long-time friend Agent Jack McClure, his daughter Alli was once a roommate of Jack's daughter Emma who died in a tragic accident. P.E Carson knows Jack well enough to understand that his determination and devotion will drive him to extremes to find Alli and bring her home safely. On Jack's personal side he has learned how to hide and deal with his dyslexia however he is still struggling with the loss of Emma and the subsequent separation from his wife. There is trouble stirring in the world of politics, the outgoing administration wants their Christian philosophy to dominate, they firmly believe it is a secularist movement that is behind the kidnapping and refuse to consider any other possibilities.

The plot thickens when Jack goes renegade, working strictly against protocol; he runs a parallel investigation to the Secret Service and other government agencies. While on the path of this dangerous and calculating kidnapper, Jack chooses to trust his own instinct and unique abilities to stay one step ahead of the villain....

This thriller has oodles of farfetched action to entertain us. I felt the religious sub-plots boarded too much on extremism and hindered the pacing quite a bit, if there was an underlying message between the lines, I am afraid I totally missed it. Jack's life is portrayed as rather sad and depressing, he is a man that lost everything dear to him and subsequently hides himself in his career. His character is well- develop: a flawed but brilliant hero with unique and extraordinary abilities. The villain has a sci-fi overture not quite fitting to this thriller....and the rest of the characters fall into my run of the mill category.

After all is said and done, I must admit this novel will be filed into my ho-hum category....not bad but not memorable.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"A Place of Hiding", by Elizabeth George

Book 12 in the Inspector Lynley series

Ms. George has created a tale of human relationships, a story of betrayal and devotion. This mind bending who- done-it investigative suspense brings us to the Channel Island of Guernsey to solve the murder case of millionaire Guy Brouard.

The story commences with China River and her brother Cherokee travelling from California to deliver architectural drawings to Guy Brouard, a rich philanthropist with eccentric ideas. Shortly after their arrival, Brouard is murdered and the police quickly target China as the prime suspect and arrest her. Cherokee goes to London to seek help from one of China’s old schoolmates Deborah St-James. Deborah and her husband agree and leave for Guernsey to see what they can do to prove her innocence. As they poke around, they find the locals are very tight lipped; the skeletons in their past relating to WW11 Nazi occupation always seem to surface. They discover Brouard’s death has a definite link to the past and many could gain from his demise, they feel the police have not expanded their suspect pool enough and are overlooking many important details.

This complex mystery features Deborah and Simon St-James, two supporting characters often found in Ms. George’s earlier novels. Once again, she has sidelined her normally main protagonists, Barbara Havers completely and Thomas Lynley has only a cameo role at the end of the story. I find the author is becoming long winded; too much detail and too many sub-characters can easily be overdone and turn into a drag. The plot is not as convoluted and is far better than the previous novel “A Traitor to Memory” but I find it is still slow moving and plods along at times. Nevertheless I did like this novel and particularly had fun trying to guess who done it…I was totally off the mark till the very end

"Amagansett", by Mark Mills

Also published under the title “The Whaleboat House”

Amagansett is a clever story set in 1947, in a small working class village east of the Hamptons. The white sandy beaches and dunes have been inhabited by rugged fishermen for years and have come to attract the wealthy and cultured city folk during their summer vacation. As travel became easier, a different class of people frequented the area, rich sports fisherman put a strain on locals whose livelihood depended on the ocean’s bounty for their survival. Where tension grows, trouble is sure to follow…..

Its central plot: part mystery, part thriller and part historical fiction involves money, elite members of society, conniving bad guys, corrupt law enforcement, a war hero and a sexy cop. It opens when Conrad Labarde and Rollo Kemp, fishermen, snag what appears to be a dead weight. When they pull it out of the water much to their horror they discover the body of Lillian Wallace, a beautiful socialite and daughter of a powerful man.

Deputy Chief Tom Hollis is lead investigator and one of his first priorities is to question family and friends. This turns out to be quite a challenge, the locals are not cooperative and all appear to be hiding something. To make things worse, his superiors pressure him from the other side, they want him to wrap up his investigation without delay and declare the incident an accidental drowning and move on. Something smells fishy…..

The storyline meanders at times, slowly unraveling into a “who-done-it” coloured with local myths that are expertly told through fisherman folklore and tales of the sea that go back to the times of the Montaukette Indians. A flashback to the war and other nuggets of history and some tender love moments all add colour to the story.

This tale is powerfully told and shines in its depiction of the fishermen’s ways of life and their sacrifices during the war. The dialogue, characterization and plotting are riveting. Some may find the pacing to be a bit slow, I did at first but soon found myself absorbed in this intricately woven tale. This is an excellent and captivating novel.

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie

This tale has been enchanting us since its creation. Originally written for adults and highly successful since its debut, this mischievous character has appeared in several works of fiction and adaptations, including the widely known animated film version by “Walt Disney”.

Peter Pan is a boy who can fly and magically refuses to grow up. He spends his childhood adventuring Neverland as the leader of a gang of Lost Boys. His escapades include mermaids, Indians, fairies, pirates and ordinary boys. The adventure is triggered after Peter Pan suddenly appears at the Darling residence, looking for his shadow in the children’s bedroom….

While reading the Ereader version of this unique and entertaining story of Tinker Bell, Peter Pan and all the characters, it brought back fine memories of my youth, many enjoyable hours spent with Disney’s mythical creations. The story is dark, sad, rather creepy and very violent, it also highlights how precious childhood is and how adults view it. I rather think if it were not for the animated versions still burnt into my mind, this book would have been a ho-hum read.

Flying around is great fun …..The only way to travel…..all you need is a good sprinkling of fairy dust…..

In my opinion, this is a childhood fantasy that is more dependent on visual effects than words alone

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Naked Heat", by Richard Castle

Book2 in the Nikki Heat series

Without any doubt this charming series is intended for fans of the TV program 'Castle'. Each new addition mimics the warm chemistry created by the show. The plot sends the readers' imagination on a wild ride that has ample cute and amusing twists. This latest is undeniably entertaining, although the writing is run of the mill and predictable; we nevertheless find red herrings, snippets of police work, moments of tensions and romance between the two leads and a snappy dialog.

'Naked Heat' centers on the murder of a well-known gossip columnist famous for her revealing articles on people in the public eye. It is rumoured that she is about to release a career making tell-all, one that will blow the minds of all concerned. We follow Nikki Heat and her partner hotshot reporter/writer Jameson Rook and her team of detectives on the trail of the murderer of this high profile columnist. The clues some good some misleading takes us through a maze of information, a world of secrets, cover-ups and scandals as they trade barbs and innuendos all the while taking heat from the press and their superiors.

This fun and fast read will appeal to both regulars of the TV show and enthusiasts of simple, exciting mystery novels.

"The Ghosts of Belfast", by Stuart Neville

Also published under the title 'The Twelve'

This novel is a stunning debut thriller; tension-filled from start to finish telling the fictional story of Gerry Fegan, a former IRA assassin who is haunted by ghosts of his twelve victims.

I was grabbed from the first pages and I couldn't read fast enough to see the outcome. The tale begins with the central protagonist, Gerry Fegan, driven to the brink of insanity, haunted and tormented day and night by the terrible memories of the twelve people he killed. Since his release from Maze Prison, he spends his waking moments in a state of inebriation in an attempt to seek refuge from the visions and guilt that continually haunt him.

One day through a vision, he sees a possible way out, eliminate the people who contracted these murders and hopefully banished the ghosts of guilt forever and lead a normal life. One by one, Fegan seeks out the master minds and makes them pay for their misguided decisions, a life for a life, gradually clearing the burden hanging heavy over his shoulders.

This novel is full of energy creating an escalating sense of tension as you go deeper into it. The author has created a harsh and unrelenting story that dabs into the political and religious landscape of today's Ireland and the fragility of its peace accord. The prose is sharp and emotional. ' Ghosts of Belfast' is a mystery novel with a different spin, brilliantly done and brims with its strong characterization. We see how leaders with self centered ideas manipulate the minds of average people and turn them into puppets, some haunted by their actions for the rest of their life.

I enjoyed my time spent with this thought provoking thriller

"Bury your Dead", by Louise Penny

6th book the Chief Inspector Gamache series

'Bury your Dead', won numerous awards in Canada and other countries for being the 'Best Crime Novel' in 2010 and consequently became profitable for everyone in the business. Browsing reviews from different sites before I finalized my thoughts, I discovered most readers' qualified it as extraordinary; the best in the series'.seems I am one of the few to question this assessment.'OMG did I dislike one of Louise Penny's cosy novels? What did I miss?

I agree with those saying that Louise Penny ran out of ideas in this one, after creating so much murder and suspense in Three Pines she seems to have lost focus and direction in this one. The action moves to Québec City, dead of winter, Carnival time, where we learn the loveable Inspector has suffered a traumatic event. Initially I wondered, did I miss something, where, when and how did this event happen?

This latest instalment is a rather quiet introspective story that intertwines three plots:

1) Inspector Gamache while in recovery mode decides to spend some time with his mentor in Québec City and rehash some of his memories that still haunt him and try to tie up some loose ends. While there, he stumbles upon the Lit& His Library/Museum at the time when a body is discovered in the basement. Naturally our Québec 'Columbo' takes the reins of the investigation, an investigation that brushes the delicate aspects of history between the French and Anglo communities.

2) While in flashback mode Gamache rehashes the events of a deadly police investigation that went terribly wrong. A deadly raid that always comes back to haunt him.

3) Another case that has also haunted him over time is brought to the forefront. He was never happy with the outcome and asks Jean Guy Beauvoir to revisit the case with the hope of answering some of his unanswered questions. It is a step back in time covering the events in the novel 'The Brutal Telling'

The author hopscotches her way between plots that are not linked in an awkward manner making it very hard to follow, even with a full background of the previous novels, I found it a challenge. MS. Penny passion for Québec can be overwhelming at times, French terms and expression add atmosphere to the prose but may not have full effect if not understood. Gamache wandering the cobble stone streets of the Old City munching a baguette or a croissant spells tourist rather than a native of the province in my books'.The pacing pussyfoots all through the story, the only serious action surfaces in the last pages with Gamache's step by step recount of the botched investigation.

This was a tedious read, a disappointment. I preferred when Inspector Gamache focused on one case at a time

Friday, July 1, 2011

"The Water Rat of Wanchai", by Ian Hamilton

An Ava Lee novel, book1 in the series

I didn't know forensic accounting could be so exciting...After reading this book I will never see numbers the same way... This story is one that is immediately engaging, quite original in nature and fun to read. I couldn't zip through the pages fast enough, a fascinating tale to the end.

Ava Lee, a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant specializes in recovering massive debts, at 5'3', 115lbs she may not seem to be a threat but her sharpness and unorthodox way of operating have guaranteed her success where others have failed. She works out of Toronto for a Hong Kong based company run by a mysterious man known as "Uncle". They are hired on a commission bases by people who suspect they have been defrauded and hope to recover some of their missing funds.

In "The Water Rat of Wanchai", Ava accepts to track down the $5 million owed to one of "Uncle's" relatives. His nephew financed a major order of cooked shrimp for a large U.S. retailer, after the money was paid out; the retailer reneged on his responsibility to repay the debt.

The first part of the book may be a bit slow and the narrative slightly devoted to everyday life however I enjoyed Ava's travelogue to Seattle, Hong-Kong, Thailand, and British Guyana on the trail of the missing money. Her encounters bring her deep into a culture of fast deals, corrupt law enforcers and the way of life of the Thai katoeys. The storyline has sufficient detail to capture the essence of each port of call to make it exciting and captivating without side tracking the main plot.

The second half of the book picks up a notch when we learn Ava is not your ordinary accountant she can also hold her own with tough kung-fu moves in a world where physical intimidation rules. The action is explosive even brutal at times, the suspense is well constructed and stimulating. Ava, the protagonist, is not only smart, tough, feisty and impeccably polite but also a tough b--ch when the going gets rough; she has definitely the DNA of a tiger, a cold blooded heroine fit for the big screen.

This a great book and I am looking forward to reading more of Ava Lee's action packed adventures

"The Insider", by Reece Hirsch

This debut novel is a gripping and gritty tale staring San Francisco corporate attorney Will Connelly who becomes unwittingly ensnared in a complex scheme involving the Russian mafia and a terrorist plot to release Sarin nerve gas on the BART train system.

The story opens when Will is attracted to his office window by a body plummeting to his death; he soon discovers it is one of his close colleagues Ben Fisher. It turns out Ben was lead negotiator for a client's quest to merge with "Jupiter Software", a world leader in the development of encryption software. This important case cannot be held up and Will finds himself thrust into the prominent position replacing his fellow attorney. As he digs deeper and gets involved, he discovers that Jupiter has a secret deal with NSA and could be complicit in a covert spy operation.

His life changes drastically when the police consider him the prime suspect in Ben's murder and possibly guilty of insider trading. Framed and the new target, Ben realizes he must use all his smarts to stay alive and keep Jupiter and it's highly sought after technology from falling into the wrong hands.

I like this novel; it is quite a stellar debut. The threads are non- stop action expertly woven together to provide an interesting and timely story. The plot is tense, fast paced and unpredictable, never a dull moment. I like Mr. Hirsch's writing; it flows smoothly, it is titillating in its humour with clever twists here and there, his words are well chosen, I found it to be a refreshing read. Although most characters are vividly portrayed and believable, Will comes across as naïve and gullible falling for every scheme in the book, not the qualities we associate with a skilled negotiator but likeable just the same:)

Well done Mr. Hirsch, I am looking forward to your next novel

"A Traitor to Memory", by Elizabeth George

Book 11 in the Inspector Lynley series

"A traitor to Memory" is a complex novel, large in scope and one that encompasses the psyches of many of its characters. Unlike the previous novels, Lynley and Harvers take a back seat to let Gideon be the star.

I will be brief in my summary; this story is intricate and over 1000 pages, it includes hidden agendas, secrets in the closet and a fair amount of danger.

It opens with the death of Eugenie Davis in a deliberate hit and run "accident". Superintendent Malcom Webberly asks Detective Constable Barbara Havers and Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley of New Scotland Yard to collaborate in the investigation of this gruesome vehicular homicide. Webberly has a special interest in the victim, twenty years earlier; he was the lead investigator in a tragic bathtub drowning of a two year old girl, daughter of Eugenie Davis. Their new investigation leads them to a wealth of suspects and early on they discover solving the present murder requires them to revisit and solve the nagging unanswered questions on Eugenie's daughter's untimely death...

Meanwhile, Gideon, an accomplished violinist also Eugenie's son, is struggling to overcome his sudden brain freeze and inability to play. His therapist takes him through his childhood memories and has him record them in a journal in an effort to stimulate hidden secrets. Unfortunately, this long drawn-out affair offers little to the plot; the never-ending chapters are wordy and considerably slow paced.

This novel is not your usual Ms. George murder and police procedural mystery. It attempts to delve deeper into the human psyche and explores the delicate side of memory frailties, the make believe lies we tell ourselves and the bonds formed within a dysfunctional family. Although it basically remains a whodunit, it is not as captivating as her previous novels. The twists and turns create confusion instead of intrigue and suspense, seeing the whole picture becomes a challenge. The plot has many loose ends, threads were started and dropped, and characters disappeared in limbo leaving a void in continuity. Lynley and Havers played a small role in this investigation and I missed the camaraderie between them and the chemistry they always bring to Ms. George's novels.

There is a difference between 1000 long pages and 1000 exciting pages...need I say more

"Alice in Wonderland:, by Lewis Carroll

Written in 1865, this classic is a tale of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by creatures who assume human characteristics.

'Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late, the Rabbit say to itself..and when he actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket and hurried on and popped down a large hole, curious Alice, went after it never considering how she was to get out again.

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? She tried to curtsey as she spoke...Ma'am is this new Zealand or Australia?... "Curiouser and curiouser" cried Alice... Now I'm opening like a largest telescope...Good-bye, feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.... When suddenly thump, thump, the rabbit was still in sight as it turned the corner saying..Oh dear! Oh dear! How late it's getting... ( from the book)

And it goes on and on...and on. Of course the plot and the narrative are totally nonsensical but if you let your imagination roam and let yourself fall into its spell you will be transported along with Alice to a magical world with its memorable characters such as Mad Hatter having tea parties, and the terrifying Queen of Hearts threatening to behead everyone. You will meet Cheshire the cat, the turtle, the Duchess, Bill the Lizard, the Mouse, the Dodo, the Lory and Caterpillar and many more weird characters all the while growing and shrinking from drinking lotions and potions saying "Drink me". Ultimately you will move around very fast and achieve nothing...till you wake up and realize this was all but a dream...

This adventure has inspired numerous comic books, films, TV movies through countless adaptations and hundreds of editions of the book throughout the years. This story was one of the freebees on my e-reader so I decided to give it a go. Early in I missed the visual aspect I have always associated with Alice, but as my imagination kicked in and the characters came alive, it became easier to understand the humour and wits that played within the words and admit it was a refreshing experience. However my fondest memories take me back to the animated version created by the late Walter Disney and his Studios. Who ever said a picture is worth a thousand words really knew how to leave a lasting impression in a little girl's mind.