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 »

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Never Smile at Strangers", by Jennifer Minar-Jaynes

Do we really know the people around us?

The small Southern town of Grand Trespass Louisiana comes alive and slowly reveals its secrets when Tiffany Perron vanishes from her home in the bayou and in aftermath the lives of four desperate locals are changed for ever.

This atmospheric drama recounts how their lives are affected after Tiffany’s disappearance.

We discover:

1) Why her best friend’s relationship with her boyfriend becomes strained.

2) Why Becky, her sister, falls for a 15 year old boy with dangerous intentions.

3) How a mother of two came to cope with her husband’s affair with Tiffany, the missing girl.

4) How a disturbed man traumatized by the murder of his mother has coped with raising his troubled teenage sister and slowly over the past four years manifested a fear and hate of the opposite sex.

This stand-alone thriller/mystery is Jennifer Minar-Jaynes first novel to be published and I found it to be quite entertaining. The story is told in a third person narrative at a leisurely pace, it expresses the different points of view of a good number of characters as they tell their experiences. As we progress deeper into the story emotions go into high gear when we are taken deep into the killer’s psyche, chilling moments of suspense create a black hole that slowly takes control of your thoughts. The writing is clear, the prose innovative and the characters intriguing although on a minor note I did find the plotting wandered a little and the wishy-washy conclusion was a tad on the disappointing side. A rushed ending always leaves me with an empty feeling however the writer may have a sequel in mind to tie up loose ends. Overall I enjoyed my time with this book.

"The Debt", by Simon Kernick

There is no doubt Simon Kernick is one of my favourite authors so when he offered a free download of this short story I jumped at the occasion. I admit I am not normally a fan of short stories I usually find them frustrating, just as I become totally absorbed into the drama it ends abruptly and leaves me with that empty feeling and wanting more. I realize this is just a teaser to attract readers to his other well developed, suspenseful and exciting novels.

Synopsis taken from Goodread.com

A debt is a debt is a debt

It’s not your debt. It’s your cousin’s. And he’s done a runner.

So now the local gangland bosses have come to you for repayment. They aren’t taking 'no' for an answer, but they will take your fingers - one by one - if you don’t get hold of the money. Very soon.

You’ve got to think fast. You’ve got to act fast. And then you’ll have to get out of here – as fast as you can.

"Heat Rises", by Richard Castle

Book 3, in the Nikki Heat series

This series is as entertaining as the TV show “Castle”, one of my weaknesses is that I am a huge fan of both. All three books have been a wonderful read, whoever the real author may be (Richard Castle is a character), he is one that has a knack with words. With his graceful prose he knows how to produce a page-turner that has endless boundaries.

“Heat Wave” is a fun romp through the world of imagination. It pairs the tough and sexy NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat with hotshot reporter Jameson Rook in the most dangerous case so far. It opens with the bizarre murder of a parish priest in a New York bondage club. Through the investigation the book takes us deep into the world of sex and bondage and everything related.

As usual Nikki’s case becomes even larger than first expected. The writing creatively sends your mind on one red herring after another adding plenty of intrigue and flavor to the story. At one point, clues direct the investigation back to home base were Nikki finds herself caught in the middle creating shock waves for all. Nikki really shows her skills while doing all the legwork from facing down the brass at headquarters to saving her own skin.

The plot is quick paced and entertaining there is enough going on to keep boredom at bay and your mind spinning while trying to speculate what is going to happened next. This is not a complicated mystery but is fun to read perhaps the best one yet.

"Getaway", by Lisa Brackmann

What kind of trouble can a single girl on vacation by herself get into? This is the challenge “Getaway” reveals. I found this story to be very engaging, one that kept my imagination in over drive throughout the pages.

Welcome to Puerto Vallarta

After the unexpected death of her husband, Michelle Mason needs a change of pace to reset her outlook on life. A trip to the beautiful Mexican Beach resort of Puerto Vallarta could be the ultimate solution to her grieving process.

One day while walking the beach, she meets a striking young man and consequently falls head over heels for Daniel. Later in her hotel room, her dream date turns into her next nightmare when someone breaks in and beat the living ….out of him right in front of her eyes. Days later her predicament escalates when on her way to visit Daniel she is stopped at a police road- block and is accused of being part of a drug trafficking ring. To further seal her fate, Daniel’s friend Gary comes to her rescue, he is a rescuer with an agenda that will eventually draw her deeper into the underworld of drug trafficking. She quickly realizes her only hope of survival is to play the game and try to outsmart her handlers.

This story is adrenaline packed and a lot of fun to read even with its dark side. It is heavily flavoured with sex, violence, some humour and a lot of drinking and drugs. The mood and the gritty prose go a long way in creating the atmosphere, the suspense and the excitement seems endless as the protagonist tries to claw her way out of one predicament after another. This mystery offers not only an exotic and colourful setting but plenty of intrigue to captivate us throughout. A good read all around.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"Akitada and the Way of Justice", by Ingrid J. Parker

Tales of crime in Imperial Japan

This book is a collection of eleven divers stories arranged in chronological order illustrating Akitada’s career, the author’s sleuth protagonist.

This can be a wonderful introduction through superb pieces of literature to the exotic world of ancient Japan and to the Sugawara Akitada Mystery series. On another note, if you have read part of the series it can be asset in filling in some of the protagonist missing years, a win-win situation for all. The author’s introduction of each section tells us when and where the drama took place and where it falls into the series. She also has skillfully condensed an action packed intrigue with an 11th century adventure into each of the eleven stories. All through the stories Akitada exceptional range of emotions plays an important part in setting the stage and outcome of each tale.

I am usually not a big fan of short stories, but in this case I will make an exception, the presentation is very well done.

"Rise to the Call", by Gerard de Marigny

Book 3, in the Cris de Niro series

I have always enjoyed thrillers with a geopolitical overtone and “Rise of the Call” has definitely given me hours of enjoyment. This story is a wonderful and exciting journey into the world of terrorists and the forces that try to stay one step ahead of them. The key to making book 3 the best so far is definitely the colourful characterization and fast moving action scenes that are peppered with oodles of suspense.

Although the story is fictional, the novel illustrates in a very dramatic manner what could happen when evil threatens world peace and the beliefs of a minority overshadow the welfare of mankind in general. The threats are so realistically portrayed they are guaranteed to increase you heart rate, a scary thought if you stop to think about it. The men from The Watchman Agency are faced with a barrage of circumstances alarmingly similar to events of recent decades.

In a few words, “Rise of the Call” opens with Cris, founder and leader of the Watchman Agency, invited to ring the opening bell at the NY Stock Exchange. While en route, he meets a childhood friend who asks for his help in finding his son, a nuclear scientist, working on a secret project for the CIA. He has not been heard from him for quite some time and he is worried sick something drastic has happened. Cris’s decision is a no brainer it is exactly why he created the Agency. The trail eventually leads his team to an Iranian terrorist plot inside the Unites States and a major threat facing the Middle East with Israel the epicentre of a nuclear war.

In one of the multiple threads we see the personal side of two of the members, a relationship that is slowly developing and I am sure the author has something up his sleeves for the future.

I hope I have piqued your interest in this exciting thriller. It has been a great series so far and I am looking forward to reading book 4, “Project 111”.

"Fifty Shades of Grey", by E.L.James

Book 1 in the Fifty Shades trilogy

Quoted from Wikipedia:

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is an erotic novel largely set in Seattle. This first instalment traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. This novel is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism.

My thoughts:

Media hype and curiosity got the better of me and lured me into reading this twisted story. In my opinion, it is definitely not a literary work of art. The heroine’s dialogue in a backstreet language weaves between her subconscious voice and her desires creating a never ending spin that goes on and on. As I read page after page of descriptive sex scenes from vanilla to kinky and the more explicit it became the more I wanted to laugh. The whole premise borders on dumpster sex…. maybe hamburger but definitely not haute cuisine. The author has created some sustained tension to tease her readers but sex and one’s dreams are definitely the meat of the plot. To say this novel deploys every cheap clich├ęs in existence would be an understatement. Enough said time to move on….

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"The Double Game", by Dan Fesperman

“The Double Game” is a thrilling old-school espionage novel with roots stemming from other authors works of art. The storyline is sprinkled with famous names such as John le Carre, William Buckley and many others. The plot is intellectual and action driven and mirrors what the layman perceives as the work of real spies such as the CIA during the Cold War Era.  It plays on the idea that a best-selling novelist was actually a CIA agent deeply embedded with the KGB of the time. With skillfully developed characters and a plot containing many twists and turns the author has adeptly switched back and forth in years and maintained an elevated sense of suspense, a real guessing game till the very last page.  

Narrated in the first person by the protagonist, this smart and suspenseful story opens in 1984 with young journalist Bill Cage interviewing American espionage agent turned novelist Edwin Lemaster. His revelations will soon prove to be the catalyst and the end of Bill’s career.

We jump in time to two decades later, when Bill is working in public relations spinning stories for his clients. One day out of the blue he receives an anonymous letter encouraging him to follow up on the 1984 allegations behind Lemaster’s disclosure. This enticing and strange note is full of cryptic references to some of Bill’s favourite spy novels and proves to be the first of many literary bread crumbs that eventually has Bill travelling to Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Deciphering each instruction is a maze of information, an adventure through spy novels that brings him closer to the truth…..

This story develops and is presented in a different manner it quickly draws you into the world of espionage by bringing back memories and the adrenaline rush created by classic spy novels.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"The Lost Symbol", by Dan Brown

Book 3, in the Robert Langton series

Set in Washington D.C. this thriller follows “Angels & Demons “and features the rugged, good-looking Harvard “symboligist” Robert Langdon and is based primary on Freemasonry for its theme and major characters.

This story is more of the same formulaic blend of hi-speed chase and mystical rituals that has Robert on a frantic quest for a priestly lore hidden beneath the monuments of Washington DC.

Robert is summoned to Washington by his mentor, Peter Solomon, to speak at a prestigious Smithsonian fundraiser but once there his friend is nowhere to be found. He soon finds out he was tricked and lured there for other reasons, moments later, in an adjacent room, screams are heard when the tattooed severed hand of Peter is found.

Robert realizes the tattoos are an invitation to unlock mysteries of the ancients….and here we go with the style of writing admirers have come to expect, a very predictable ride followers have been on before. Every few pages the plot arrives at a precipice and then just leaves you hanging. When the action resumes and the tension is on upswing once again we are faced with a barrage of punctuation and italics. I really didn’t expect deep thoughts, reach writing, a well-constructed pool of characters or a realistic storyline, nevertheless I was entertained by this rather silly far-fetched mystery.

I don’t know what Robert has up his sleeve for the next adventure but I will probably have it on my to be read list, a change of pace and a good laugh is always reinvigorating.

Friday, January 4, 2013

"The Absolutist", by John Boyne

This story is about Tristan Sadler, a young veteran of World War 1 who is dealing with intense shame and guilt, a consequence of his involvement in the war. Told in the first person narrative by the main character, Tristan recounts how he and his best friend, Will Bancroft, faced an intense personal dilemma, some emotions had to kept secret and never displayed or shared with others. It took a huge amount of courage to fight their internal feelings and the war they were waging on the battle field that faced them.

The story opens in September 1919 with twenty one year old Tristan Sadler on a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to Marian, Will Bancroft’s sister. The story unfolds slowly and moves between the war and his visit with Marian. She slowly finds out the truth about her brother and what really happened to him. Tristan and Will had meet during basic training at Aldershot and they soon developed a close relationship that lasted till they served in the trenches of Picardy where Will was court-martialed for cowardice and executed on the battlefield in 1916.

Mr. Boyne prose concentrates on emotions throughout this wartime story which depicts primarily the relationship between the two soldiers. The brutal and very descriptive war scenes in general are told in the present tense and the narrative shifts to the past tense when Tristan reveals his true feelings to Marian. 

This skillfully crafted and very thought provoking story builds tension and emotions till its bitter conclusion and the result is a very moving story that looks at war from a different perspective.