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, June 30, 2012

"The Shadow Patrol", by Alex Berenson

Book 6, in the John Wells series

Alex Berenson excels in creating a meticulously plotted novel in which his protagonist, John Wells, is not only memorable for his skills but also for the man he turned out to be. He is given well-known human frailties, makes mistakes and occasionally finds himself in the middle of sticky situations but always manages to come out with only minor scratches and the same driving force he went in with. The writer’s portrayal of Afghanistan, its people, their cultures and politics and their country side in general goes a long way in creating an atmosphere in this novel.

The story opens when CIA headquarters in Afghanistan are blown up by a suicide bomber, killing all the top staff. The ensuing investigation uncovers the bomber’s identity to be a trusted Afghani worker. John Wells is summoned to oversee how this person could have slipped by security and to flush out any other sleeper agents that may have infiltrated their ranks. Early on in the investigation, rumours circulate that there are possibly some U.S. soldiers that have been lured into the drug smuggling trade and their actions may have compromised security. His undercover role leads him to the Kandahar Air base and a team of Delta Special Force soldiers. When the renegade soldiers and the Taliban find out there is an investigator hot on their trail, John soon find himself with a big target on his back and no place to hide.

The writing is fast-paced with a thin thread of humour throughout. Although well-crafted the story wasn’t as gripping or as captivating as in the past. Unfortunately the sub-plot did little to hype the suspense and was quickly lost in the background but nevertheless there are no signs that this series is running out of steam.

"Champagne for Buzzards", by Phyllis Smallman

Book 4, in the Sherri Travis mystery

This has been an ever pleasing series right from the start and is still on an uphill curve. The characters are the driving force and are continuously fine-tuned to keep up with each new adventure they face. I like this series for its sharp and funny dialogue and the smooth seductive way the author brings you into the heat of the action. The writing is precise and to the point and comes across in a Southern manner: slow, laid back, drink in hand enjoying the moment style. In this latest tale there is a dark side it focuses on sexual predators and slave labour.

In this story, Sherri is planning a surprise birthday party for her lover, Clay Adams, at his newly acquired Riverwood ranch located in Independence. It has a reputation of nasty horses and seven foot snakes.

Sherri is quickly introduced to Florida’s back country and its darker side. It can be as mean and unforgiving as the seedy side of any big city. The discovery of a body in the back of her pickup and suspicions that their psychotic neighbours may be at the root of this is an introduction into a whole new lifestyle. Sherri will quickly become up close and personal with a volatile situation that is quickly spinning out of control. Her nature is to be hands on and pro-active in order to find out what is really going on, all this really inflames her neighbour, Boomer Breslau. When he finds out he is up against a feisty female he vows not only to kill her but everyone in Riverwood. The peaceful setting of the ranch is chattered with the frequent sightings of highly modified all-terrain vehicles, armed to the hilt and hell- bent on revenge at any cost. 

This is a very entertaining story, one you can breeze through in no time and enjoy every moment.

"The Business of Dying", by Simon Kernick

“The Business of Dying” is this author’s first book so after enjoying his latest books immensely I knew I had to go back in time to search out the roots of this author’s imagination.

Mr. Kernick’s first novel is a mystery with a twist providing the reader with plenty of action and intrigue. The engaging protagonist, Dennis Milne, a full time cop and part time murderer, is always at the heart of it all. The storytelling flows smoothly and delivers a saga that engulfs your imagination till the last page.

The story is fast of the mark with the coldblooded execution of two customs agents and an accountant. This assignment is handed to Dennis by London’s toughest members of society the underworld elite that expects results, with them failure is not an option. As a reader my attention was immediately seized by the captivating description of London’s underbelly life, a world that is generally hidden from the public and a culture that thrives on fear and secrecy. 

Dennis’s day job as a London detective investigating the death of a young girl found by the side of a canal is on a direct collision course with his underworld assignment. Working both sides against the middle is a no win situation that puts Dennis in the very precarious position of being the hunter and hunted at the same time. The result is an edge of the seat drama that turns into Dennis’s worse nightmare. He becomes a man on the run with no place to hide.

The author has combined an interesting first person narrative with emotionally complex characterisation. Dennis is portrayed as a person with a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The powerful prose, tight plotting, clever structure and the conundrum Dennis is faced with are the driving force behind this novel.

With Dennis on the run I can’t wait to see what the author has in store next.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"The Disciple of Las Vegas", by Ian Hamilton

Book 2, in the Eva Lee series

This second instalment is a treat, a financial mystery that is far more captivating and even better than the first. The protagonist is a forensic accountant, a feisty and sexy woman, an expert in martial arts that hunts down thieves that have defrauded her clients of millions of dollars. She has the reputation of going to any extreme to obtain favourable results and she does all of this with the help of her partner, a septuagenarian she respectfully calls “Uncle”. 

This time they are hired by Tommy Ordonez, the richest man in the Philippines who has been swindled out of $50 million, their incentive is a 30% recovery fee.

Eva’s research tracing the money trail takes her to San Francisco, Vancouver, and Las Vegas where she finds an online gambling ring run through a First Nation server. With a strong forensic sense and a keen ability to detect anomalies, Eva soon uncovers links to the infamous gambler and poker great, David “The Disciple” Douglas, who she believes that with his partner, Jeremy Ashton, have been cheating the online system and have successfully moved the money into hidden accounts. 

Retrieving the money won’t be an easy task but with the help of Carlos and Andy, Uncle’s two thugs and sociopaths, she will have no problem persuading Douglas and Ashton to give up the goods. A little arm twisting can go a long way in convincing a person to make the right decision…..

Meanwhile an old case comes back to haunt her, Jackie Leug, an old nemesis, wants revenge and he has targeted Ava to make his point……

This story is simply irresistible, once started you will be hooked to the last page it is that thrilling and captivating. The plotting is fast-paced and exciting with tense moments, some bloody scenes and lots of kick ass martial arts result in an adrenaline rush through a maze of twists and turns. Eva is one of the most interesting and original heroines I have seen in a mystery for some time. 

Her development has grown beautifully since she was first introduced to us in “The Water Rat of Wanchai” and I am looking forward to what she has in store for us next.

"Carte Blanche", by Jeffery Deaver

The 37th original James Bond novel

“Carte Blanche” updates James Bond’s backstory to fit the 21st century setting and to appeal to a new generation. In Mr. Deaver’s version, James Bond was born in 1979 and is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan instead of WW11 and the Cold War as originally penned by Ian Fleming.

The story is set in mid-2011 and takes place over the course of a week. James Bond, a former Royal Naval Reserve officer, is employed within the 00 section of the Operations Branch of the Overseas Development Group, a covert operational unit of British Security.

The main plot brings the intrepid Spy to Serbia where an enforcer named Dunne is planning to derail a train carrying 300kg of methyl isocyanate with the ultimate purpose of contaminating the Danube. Of course Bond is there to save the day and at the same time the intelligence gathered leads him to a connection with Green Way International, a waste disposal consortium. Given the green light by his handlers, Bond investigates the inner workings of the company and its enigmatic leader, Severan Hydt, a man with an intense morbid fascination. Bond poses as a Durban based mercenary in order to infiltrate the company’s South Africa holdings and get close to the head man himself, Hydt. From this point on the action develops into your typical James Bond flavour, fiction on steroids, peppered with excitement and suspense. 

As in any version Bond will be Bond, while in Africa, he meets Bheka Jordaan, a colourful female police operative, who will become his strongest ally and Felicity Willing, a charity spoke person, who will charm the pants off of him. He soon finds out the alluring Felicity is a master at deception and uses her assets to benefit her own agenda……

In a sub-plot Bond looks into a KGB operation code named “Steel Cartridge”. He suspects his father was a former Cold War spy and was silenced by the Russians in a clean-up operation. He learns his mother was also linked to the trade and may have been a Soviet mole….

This novel has all the attributes of a modern fiction, short chapters, gripping action and an underlying message. The story progresses with a slow tempo, however towards the end, the writer deploys a few twists with dazzling results and I was in a nail biting mode from then on, unfortunately this was short lived. Early on the action is predictable but nevertheless entertaining. 

I like the new James Bond but prefer the satirical, dry wit operative of the Cold War version. The new Bond lacks the flamboyant panache of his predecessor. In this book, the villains have a tendency to overshadow the protagonist. They are the binding force that hold the story together.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Kill Alex Cross", by James Patterson

Book 18, in the Alex Cross series

I have been a faithful follower of the Alex Cross series for many years now and I am always looking forward to reading what he has in store for us next. In this latest saga, things have been turn up a notch, it is faster and a little more exciting. 

The story opens when the President’s son and daughter are abducted from their school. Contrary to the wishes of many other influential people, the President requests Alex, a man who has not let him down in the past, to be the lead investigator. Alex is well-known to go the extra mile and think outside of the box to get favourable results under extreme circumstances.

Just as Alex seems to have the case of a life time on his hands he is drawn into other sub-plots. Terrorists are wreaking havoc in Washington D.C, they have assassinated the Secretary of State and at the same time they are tempering with the city’s main water supply. On a personal side, Alex’s grandmother, Nana, brings home a street child whose criminal action will eventually lead her to becoming a family member.

The plotting is a rollercoaster ride that progresses rapidly through short chapters and brief dialogue, it seems the newer the novel the more condensed the chapters are. However Mr. Patterson is well-known for his simple and entertaining style. This time to topic is based on terrorist activities with some neat twists to captivate us. Some of the players are your classic stereotype terrorists, their actions are somewhat predictable. They continually bad mouth the U.S.A. and when caught or have completed a mission they are perfectly willing to become martyrs for their cause and in this tale cyanide capsules are the recipe of the day. The recurring characters as well as Alex and his family haven’t change much in a long time however Ava who is being introduced as new member will surely change the dynamic of the family. 

I have mix feeling about this series but I seem to always come back to see what’s new.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"The Other Queen", by Philippa Gregory

Ms. Gregory is well liked and known for her interpretation on historical events and providing her readers with hours of enjoyment. I admit being a huge fan of hers and I normally cannot put any of her novels down. 

This is the story of Mary Queen of Scots time spent while under the guardianship of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Bess of Hardwick. The story starts well by setting up the ambitions of the three main characters. They narrate their inner thoughts and views in alternating chapters and we see how they interact with each other and what ultimately motivates them. 

From this point on, the attention grabbing moments are few and far apart. The repetitive abortive plots to put Mary on the throne of England in my opinion lack the spicy details required to attract the average fictional history reader. Reading chapter after chapter about three self-absorbed characters slowly became a turn off to the point where my mind started to wander and think about better things to do. Perhaps I was just not in the mood for this novel or maybe Ms. Gregory was rushed to produce another manuscript. It is not the MS. Gregory I have enjoyed in the past.