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 »

Saturday, March 31, 2012

"The Payback", by Simon Kernick

Ok I admit, I am hooked after reading only two books from this author, I have been drawn from the start into the excitement of Mr. Kernick’s fast moving action packed dramas. “The Payback” drags you into the gory and mystery filled action right from the first murder and with each new victim the suspense intensifies, the constant twists and turns make it a hard novel to put aside. 

This latest caper set in the Philippines highlights two of Mr. Kernick’s most popular protagonists: Tina Boyd, the exciting and feisty police office and Dennis Milne, a former cop who is now earning his living by accepting contract killings. A third player is Paul Wise a recurring villain, he is well known as an international crime boss and cruel pedophile.

It opens when Dennis is sent to Manila to carry out an “assignment” for his employer Bertie Schagel (Paul Wise’s right hand man), his target is a journalist. Tina is also in the city, on leave from the force with the hope of settling accounts. She has scheduled a meeting with the same journalist to gather information as to the whereabouts of Paul Wise, the man who left her for dead and killed her ex-lover. When Paul realises he is targeted by Tina, he gives the order to have Dennis eliminate her also. When Dennis realises his second target is a beautiful, innocent woman and a police officer he is unable to fulfill his boss’ wishes and knows by doing this he has put an even bigger target on himself. His only alternative is to join forces with Tina and go after the head of the snake. Their encounter is completely explosive and when you add to the mix a notorious villain you have a fast-paced and action-packed plot that is guaranteed to put boredom at bay for another day.

Mr. Kernick’s characterization is outstanding, Dennis, for one is portrayed as a cold-blooded murderer but he has so much depth and heart it is hard not to empathize with him at times, the others characters are equally well developed in their own roles. The author has provided a lot of Dennis’ back history to make this novel exciting on its own and has brought to light some loose ends from previous installments. However my gut feeling is I should have started with “The Business of Dying ”, all of his novels are definitely on my TBR list, time will tell.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Slash and Burn", by Matt Hilton

Book 3, in the Joe Hunter Thriller series

If you are looking for an entertaining, easy to read action packed story, do not look any further, this series showcasing Joe Hunter will certainly live up to your expectations. Joe is definitely the man to have on your side when things go south and drastic measures have to be considered.

The story opens when Kate Piers shows up at Joe’s Florida beach home and reveals her sister Imogen is missing and may be in serious trouble, she is in desperate need of help from someone with the expertise Jo has acquired over the years. He is well-known for his success rate and his ability to thrive in this type of situation. Since Kate is the sister of one of Joe’s buddies from the Special Forces he has no second thoughts, a family member in distress always has priority.

In the first few pages, Kate and Joe travel to Imogen’s Kentucky home, but as soon as they arrive they are targeted by thugs representing Robert Huffman, Imogen’s former employer and local businessman with ties to organized crime. We are quickly plunged into a tale of non-stop gunfire, Steve McQueen type car chases (Opps I am showing my age) and fistfights. Imogen has become a liability, she knows too much and Huffman will leave no stone unturned to silence her and now the appearance of Kate and Joe complicate matters even more, throwing a monkey wrench into Huffman’s plans.

This book may be violent and on the gory side at times but it goes with the territory when we need an adrenaline fix. There is not a dull moment, in their quest to find Imogen, Kate and Joe face plenty of life-threatening situations and shady characters and when things get so hot they need help, Joe knows he can always count on his buddies from the Forces, Rink and Harvey, to cover his back and even the odds. As the action and the body count rises, suspense intensifies and putting the book aside becomes harder and harder. I was hooked to the end.

Joe Hunter series has a plethora of tough characters. The theme is refreshing, dramatic and well-constructed with plenty of twists and turns to captivate any reader. Mr. Hilton has the perfect recipe to engage those who thrive on this type of action.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Half-Blood Blues", by Esi Edugyan

Esi Edugyan's "Half-Blood Blues" is a period story of the jazz culture with colourful scenes of jamming sessions, drinking and bickering among a mixed-race ensemble called the Hot-Time Swingers. The novel interweaves two chronologically distinct storylines one during the turmoil of the 1940's Europe and the other decades later. We see how old friends struggle to reconcile with a past that strongly influenced their future and their contribution to the music world, a recap of their personal side and their creativeness as artists.

At the center is Sidney "Sid" Griffiths, an African American bass player who performed with the Swingers in Berlin with his band mates and childhood friends, Chip C. Jones a rather tasty homophone and Hieronymus "Hiero" Falk, a "mischling" born in Germany with roots stemming from Africa. "Sid" is the narrator who takes us back and forth in time while he recounts his memories of events.

It all starts in 1940 Berlin when the group is forced to flee Germany and is rumoured to have had a vague offer to play with Louis Armstrong. Griffiths and his band mates escape to Paris where they discover a rapidly changing world, one that is gradually succumbing to Nazi power and the racial hatred that follows. Their lives are in constant fear with little hope on the horizon, the trio is broken up when Hiero is arrested and disappears, only to leave a few scattered recordings of their sessions together.… 

The second storyline brings us to 1992 as we follow Sid and Chip's journey back to Europe in search of Hiero hoping to rekindle the bond they had and come to peace with their past.

This is an emotional story with rich and well-drawn characters. The plot is powerful and thought-provoking as it deals with sensitive issues over a span of several decades. The beautifully energetic narrative captures the rhythmic patois of the jazz musicians and has created a unique voice for its narrator. At first I found it difficult to follow, not being familiar with the lingo, however, once I overcame my handicap and addressed it as a new challenge I fell right into the beat and enjoyed every remaining page, it added another dimension to a very interesting story.

Congratulations Ms. Edugyan for winning the Scotia Bank Giller prize for 2011.

"Old Enemies", by Michael Dobbs

Book 4, in the Harry Jones series

This is a story of international conspiracy where more than one life is at stake, an exhilarating race against time where the past will come back and decide the future. It starts in the Swiss Alps, a teenage girl is thrown from a helicopter and her boyfriend is severely beaten and abducted to Trieste, a city filled with undercurrents of past hatreds. This is no ordinary kidnapping; it is about power rather than money. 

The main plot centers on the kidnapping of a 16 year old boy used as a bargaining chip to pressure his father into withholding the publication of a diary written by one of South Africa’s most influential people. As one of UK’s most powerful man in the newspaper industry, he has a strong say as to whether the career killing information is to be released to the public. The revealing details about the acting President could jeopardize his chances in the upcoming elections and many supporters are willing to go to great limits to make the diary disappear or at least suppress it until after he is back in full power.

The boy’s terrified mother contacts Harry Jones, her former lover who she walked out on many years ago. Harry soon finds himself drawn into a high stakes political game one that is much higher than he can ever imagine and along the way he discovers personal secrets that have been held from him for many years, secrets that were never intended to be revealed. 

The storyline has all the ingredients to make it a sizzling thriller and the action slowly builds suspense as secrets of those involved are uncovered. The action is mostly played out in the picturesque city of Trieste Italy and showcases an evil African politician and the extremes he and his sadistic followers will go through to attain wealth and power.

It is always a plus to read a series in sequence but Mr. Dobbs provides enough background to plunge anyone in Harry’s adventures without being lost. This is a first-class novel that is very hard to put down and will probably simulate the readers’ interest in following other exciting exploits of the writer’s protagonist.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"The Winter Palace", by Eva Stachniak

This historical fiction is an imaginative recreation of the Russian court from 1743 to 1764, an epic story of three amazing women who lived at the palace. We are introduced to Empress Elizabeth, the youngest surviving daughter of Peter the Great, German princess Sophie and in a shrewd move the author invented a fictional character, Barbara (Varvara) an orphaned Polish girl who became a court spy for both rulers. This story is essentially hers and her narration takes us behind every closed door in Elizabeth’s court.

 In 1744, Princess Sophie of Prussia comes to the Russian court for her betrothal to the Grand Duke Peter (Elizabeth’s nephew and heir to the throne). Sophie converts to Russian Orthodoxy and after her wedding becomes Catherine, the Grand Duchess. Sophie soon realizes she needs an insider, someone to be her confidante, giving her a heads up thus protecting her against those who are determined to see her fail. With Varvara by her side, Sophie/Catherine becomes a legend, surviving trials, tribulations, and the coup that allows her to rise and assume the throne of all of Russia.

This passionate saga captures the atmosphere of eighteenth century Russia exceptionally well stressing the importance of loyalty, the key to a powerful monarchy. Success is often determined by a person’s ability to conspire, spy and manipulate everyone around you. The reader is slowly drawn into the day to day life of Imperialist Russia examining the intrigues and extravagance from the point of view of a servant, at times this description was a little over done. I was disappointed at first to see Catherine being portrayed as a hazy and opaque figure and never really achieving the importance of a leading figure then I remembered that Varvara is the prime player.

Just when Catherine’s dreams are about to materialize and my interest was at a high point the end came to a screeching halt. Apparently in the next installment “The Empire of the Nights” we will see things from Catherine’s point of view and maybe this will help to paint a more complete picture of the times.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Spin", by Catherine McKenzie

“Spin” is about a young woman, Katie Sandford, a thirty year old struggling writer who loves to party in excess with her friends and who desperately wants to work for a music magazine called The Line. She finally gets the opportunity of a lifetime, an interview with the magazine. She is so nervous and excited she gets hammered the night before and shows up late and severely hung-over for her interview. Definitely not a way to impress a future boss….However they do see some potential and give her a job with their sister magazine Gossip Central, not the job of her dreams but nonetheless a foot in the door. As a test trial, the editors give her an assignment to write a tell-all story about Amber Sheppard, a starlet, from “The Girl Next Door”, a girl who has hit rock bottom and recently entered rehab for drug and alcohol addictions. Katie may be just the perfect person to befriend Amber and join her at the facility to search out the dirty little secrets to a killer exposé.

This is a chick-lit novel at its best, funny, charming, personal and honest with all the OH NO!, AW!, GOSH! You can imagine. The story is filled with delightful twists and turns and the most loveable of characters, some may even compare it to Bridget Jones Diary. Granted, the storyline is a little predictable but it is certainly interesting and very relevant in today's celebrity worshiping culture and of course no women’s contemporary fiction would be complete without a handsome love interest, in this case it is done perfectly adding plenty of spice and colour to the mix…. Aaaaw!!!! Those hot moments will get you every time.:)

The novel is absolutely captivating, an enjoyable spin to the rather sensitive subject of substance abuse and the long road to recovery. A beautiful debut novel, well done Ms. McKenzie

"Hawke", by Ted Bell

Book1 in the Alexander Hawke series

 “Hawke”, is a twenty first century pirate tale which takes place on the Caribbean Seas near the island of Cuba. This action adventure thriller introduces its main character, Alexander Hawke, as a rich English aristocrat Spy working for both the UK and US governments. The main emphasis throughout is based on intense action scenes and the showdown is a classic case of revenge in over drive.

 Soon into the story we have a strong sense of déjà vu, scenes that mirror strongly those of Ian Fleming`s James Bond are frequent. The book is very predictable, it is a rip-roaring tale with plenty of stereotype clichés, unbelievable characters, and exotic machinery and out of this world action sequences. This fast- paced adventure was quite exciting and held my attention till the very last page.

 The stage is set with seven year old Alex witnessing the gruesome murder of his parents by pirates while on a sailing trip in the Caribbean. We are then fast-forwarded thirty years and Alex is send back to the Caribbean on a covert operation to find a stealth submarine armed with all the latest gadgets and believed to be in the hands of unstable militants planning a coup d’état on the Cuban government and a threat to U.S. interest in the area….. It is a race against time...

 This novel gives you quite a wild ride into the world of fiction.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Outrage", by Arnaldur Indridason

Book 7, in the Reykjavik Murder Mysteries

This is a classic crime novel, a traditional police procedural that could be read independently of the rest in the series. This time, Mr. Indridason has provided the reader with a different view of his protagonists and given one of his subsidiary characters a leading role.

Exhausted after dealing with an extremely difficult case, Inspector Erlendur has taken an abrupt leave of absence and gone back to the Eastern Fjords where he grew up to pursue some personal matters leaving Detective Elinborg, one of his trusty colleagues as prime investigator in any new cases .

The skillfully paced and structured story starts when a man picks up a woman at a bar and brings her back to his apartment for an evening of fun. When police are called to his apartment they discover a murder scene, a puzzling scene with no sign of break-in or struggle. The male victim is wearing a t-shirt that immediately says there is something wrong with this scenario. Upon further investigation, the detectives find a vial of Rohypnol in the victim’s pocket and under the bed a woman's shawl giving off a strong and unusual aroma. These preliminary findings are the start of a complicated case that can make or break an investigative team….

Detective Elinborg also has more than one challenge on her plate, family life and this investigation will test her abilities in more ways than one. She is sharp, determined and has good instincts. In this case, others quickly lock in on a suspect, but her gut feelings tell her there is a lot more to the story, broadening the scope of the investigation eventually takes her to a remote village to flush out the real culprit.

I find the author’s idea of bringing another member, a female Inspector to the forefront a refreshing change. The mystery flows smoothly and is layered with Detective Elinborg’s problem solving abilities, on and off the job, giving the reader a sensitive side to the team’s everyday challenges. Mr. Indridason is skilled at creating interesting characters and drawing us into their world of suspense and intrigue.

This novel is another great addition to M. Indridason`s repertoire of mysteries.