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, April 28, 2012

"The Secret Soldier", by Alex Berenson

Book 5, in the John Wells series

I am a huge fan of this series and with “The Secret Soldier” Mr. Berenson’s ability in storytelling shines. I really enjoy his forensic details and the picture he paints of deadly situations in highly volatile locations. This time we follow the intrepid former Special ops soldier John Wells on a mission while he tries to defuse an impending war on Arabian soil. It is believed a terrorist group that is even deadlier than Al Qaeda is at the heart of the well-orchestrated plan.

The action starts with simultaneous terrorist attacks in Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, they are protesting King Abdullah’s hold on power of Saudi Arabia. The King believes his family is conspiring against him and want to over through him and place his more fundamentalist brother Saeed in his place, he also suspects they are secretly funding a group of terrorists to cause unrest in the Arab world and trigger a war with the West. The King faced with few options and few people he can trust calls on John Wells for his expertise in highly volatile situations and offers him a financial reward that is very hard to walk away from, especially when you are doing a job you love and excel at. John takes the assignment and soon finds himself in the middle of a very explosive plot with numerous sub-plots facing terrorists and counter terrorists. Things are moving at the speed of light and it is very hard to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys and those who only want to make trouble in order to reap the benefits in the long run.

With all of the violence and carnage that we have read about in the past decades in world news, it is easy to see where this thriller got its roots. With the help of well-placed research notes, Mr. Berenson gives the reader just enough detail to explain the intricacies and complexities of the Arab culture. As an adrenaline junky I especially enjoyed the endless action and the excellent characterization. The ending left just enough unanswered questions to open the door to another exciting sequel.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Addicted to Love", by C.J. West

What an alluring title and an intriguing synopsis.

This story is set in the idyllic mountain town of Highland Falls where the residents have a penchant for romance, love permeates in every household. The story explores mainly the seed of undeniable love that blossoms into a heated passion between Wes Holliday, a wealthy entrepreneur, and Leah Donovan, a hairstylist. But not all is merry in the quaint town, trouble is simmering and it all began with a love potion…

The story opens when the local sheriff is murdered and Wes is recruited as interim replacement to keep order. Wes does not have a law enforcement background and is left quite puzzled by this appointment especially when his best friend thought he would be the obvious choice.

Right from the start the story begins to unravel and focuses too much on the protagonists’ obsessions… Leah’s burning sexual needs take center stage and Wes’s mind is easily lured to below the belt. With so little resistance Wes’s newfound responsibilities are overpowered by their mutual lust…..hum…

As the body count goes up a pattern starts to emerge, happily married men are falling victims to their wives sudden change in behaviour. At this point I thought we were getting out of the bedroom and into the real suspense side of the plot. I was soon disappointed as I turned the pages the action became so predictable and the outcome so obvious that my mind started to wander and I fought to maintain interest. The transition between chapters was choppy and became even more rushed towards the end when all hell broke loose and the town fell into chaos. But have no fear our super hero, the great interim sheriff manages to save the day and get on with his life.

Mind altering drugs and the search for the ultimate high are the main topics in this story but unfortunately the conclusion leaves us a very controversial message…… I am a fan of Mr. West and have enjoyed all of his previous novels this one is a bit of a letdown. I was left debating whether this was an entertaining romance or a captivating suspense I found the two together was not a good marriage. If you are not familiar with this author I would suggest reading “Sin and Vengeance” it is a much better display of the author’s talents

"Portrait of a Spy", by Daniel Silva

Book 11 in the Gabriel Allon series

Once again Daniel Silva takes his readers on an exciting action-packed journey into the world of terrorism. This political thriller explores a lot of current events through the eyes of his protagonist, although meant to be entertaining above all it nevertheless leaves a breathtaking portrait of courage in the face of global terror.

The story opens when we learn an American cleric has set up an Al Qaeda like operation in Yemen and has unleashed a wave of suicide bombings. The bloody carnage leaves the citizens of Paris, Copenhagen and London in a state of fear and disbelieve and the world wonders where the terrorists will strike next? 

Gabriel Allon, a renowned art restorer and former Israeli spy, has retired to Cornwall England with his wife, Chiara, to follow his passion in the field of arts. One day, a chance observation at London’s Convent Garden jolts him out of retirement and into the service of the U.S government. He is recruited to devise a daring plan to destroy the network of death that is causing havoc and targeting more and more countries. With the help of Nadia al-Bakari, a reclusive Saudi heiress, Gabriel and his team will traverse the murky divide between two very different cultures. 

After reading a number of books very little has changed in this series, Allon is still trying to retire but after so many years with the Mossad as a spy it is hard to distance himself from the trade. King Saul Boulevard and their allies in the US always have one more mission up their sleeves and need an experienced professional to execute it, Allon is one of their preferred operatives and they always have a convincing story to entice him back. 

Mr. Silva has skillfully mastered a formula that combines the art world and counter-espionage to create a suspense filled plot with depth and endless action, guaranteed to sustain the reader’s interest for hours.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Madame Tussaud", by Michelle Moran

“A Novel of the French Revolution“

“Madame Tussaud” is set during a difficult and complicated time in French history when the population became more and more dissatisfied with the monarchy. While the subjects were hit with rising taxes and left starving and had little to call their own, the royals were spending foolishly and living high of the hog. The masses became so discouraged with the direction of the country, they reached a point where they did not trust or support anything King Louis XV1 and Queen Marie Antoinette did. This was a very volatile and dangerous time; France was on a downhill spiral and the ensuing events left its mark on history for ever. 

The story is mainly of Marie Grosholtz, a talented artist who worked at her family wax museum sculpting figures that reflected events of the time: Paris late 1780’s. This was a very trying time for their profession and their Salon de Cire, in order to make a living and protect the family they had to walk a very fine line between two distinctive groups with opposing agendas. One group was the royalty with an endless supply of money and the other was represented by Robespierre and Marat, the two notorious revolutionary instigators whose propaganda speeches eventually bring the population to rise against the monarchy.

It didn’t take long for the situation to get out of hands. The ruling class retaliated by implementing the guillotine and went from town to town massacring all those in their way but eventually the people with their numbers overran the Bastille…. During this period, Marie was mandated to prepare the death masks of prominent people who were recently beheaded but soon became unable to do this gruesome task, there was no apparent end in sight. When she refused she was immediately sent to the gallows to wait for her turn at the guillotine….Fortunately that day never came and while in prison she meet and married Mr. Tussaud. It was a domed marriage, not many years after their release they each went their separate ways. 

The novel begins as a sedate look at the wax museum and the events that brought the French monarchy to its knees, the details of the time and the part Marie Groshotlz played became so captivating I had trouble putting the book down. The devastation caused by the Revolution and number of beheadings and killings in search of social fairness was overwhelming. This is a fantastic historical fiction that takes us back in time and provides a fabulous perspective of a woman whose name and artistic endeavours are well-known even to this day. The author provides a brief description on what is fact and what is fiction at the end of the book.

Ms. Moran is highly skilled at making history interesting.