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 26, 2013

"The Book of Killowen", by Erin Hart

Book 4, in the Nora Gavin series

As in the previous installment “The Book of Killowen” is born from events and figures from Ireland’s rich past and mysterious present. The author’s vivid imagination has added to her historical mystery a tad of science and a wonderful murder caper to captivate us.

Nora Gavin, her protagonist is a forensic pathologist who has found a new life in Ireland with her lover, archaeologist Cormac Maguire. They are called to investigate murders rooted deep in Irish history, often involving ancient bodies found in bogs.

This story begins as each of the previous books did, with an archaeological discovery. The inspiration came from real life experience when in 2006 a heavy machinery operator digging in the bog in the County of Tipperary spotted a leather bound book. With this in mind Ms. Hart spun a fascinating tale.

Nora and Cormac are sent to Killowen to investigate a ninth century body found in the trunk of a car submerge in the bog. Pinned under him was the body of Benedict Kavanagh, the missing pop philosopher who is known to tear apart rivals on his television debates.

While on the case, Cormac and Nora lodge at a nearby artists’ colony, organic farm, and sanctuary for eccentric souls. … Working parallel with local detective Stella Cusack, they soon discover that the people there have a lot of secrets…

The story is told from a different point of view weaving the past and the present together in different chapters. It is a richly layered creation, an entertaining mix of forensic, archeology and history that teases with hints and slowly reveals its dark secrets. This story is character driven and there are a number of them to keep track of. The author has crafted a wonderful glimpse into the world of monasteries and ancient manuscripts and once again has provided a texture and multifaceted plot that held my attention from beginning to end. The author doesn't linger on background stories so I highly suggest starting with “The Haunted Ground”, the first installment, in order to fully comprehend and enjoy this series

Friday, July 19, 2013

"Bailin', by Linton Robinson

This is definitely a unique story with apparently lots of humour well I guess I have a lousy sense of it. I was not able to grasp the essence of the story, where it was leading to and simply thought it was due to poor writing (too much slang) and a lousy plot, well apparently I am totally out in the left field since many have expressed the opposite. This Bonny and Clyde à la 21st century was not able to tickle my fancy in the first few pages and upheld my full attention subsequently, although I did manage with great patience to read it to the last page hoping everything will gel eventually, it never did. In retrospect, this romantic western crime comedy was without any doubt not meant for me I should have read between lines and paid more attention to the synopsis before tackling it.

Let me be fair to the writer, he is after all a professional writer with a fertile imagination and great capability to simulate particular accents, those who can understand the nuance will most likely enjoy it. This book is a crime lite set in Texas and features lovebirds doing just fine shooting up South Texas and making hair-rising getaway and eventually getting over their head with real robbers and crooked politicians, mixed up with an embezzler nerd, a grizzled bounty hunter, wild bikers, etc. This is a caper like you never read before narrated in a southern drawl with plenty of local slang. It has unique twists along the way and cock-eyed romance to entertain. Some may find the writing to be rich and spunky and have amazing characterization unfortunately I fail to see this….. Well my lost.

"The Murder Exchange", by Simon Kernick

This thriller/mystery may be Simon Kernick’s second novel but far from the second one I have read through the years. I am just catching up with his repertoire. In fact, I have highly recommended his novels in the past and I have a sneaking impression I will do so for many more years, yes I admit being a huge fan….

“The Murder Exchange” is a gritty exploration of London’s underworld. The engaging plot is cleverly written, has a touch of humour to it and provides numerous twists to keep us tuned in and flipping pages. Told from the points of view of its two lead characters and in alternate chapters, this dual narrative delivers an interesting contrast and proves to be an excellent way of building the tension, albeit confusing at first. Mid-way through the book the action really kicks off and the reading gets exciting, though some twists seem rather far-fetched and some scenes have plenty of violence. Mr. Kernick’s books are known to be fast paced and for pulling the readers in a matter of a few chapters, this one is no exception. We have a wide scope of characters all intricate in their own way and surprising brief appearance from recurring ones (or maybe they appeared in later books).This novel is another excellent read hard to put down.

Monday, July 8, 2013

"The Aviator's Wife", by Melanie Benjamin

This fiction is the story of Anne Lindbergh the wife of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. In her notes, the author clearly writes that while the basic timeline is accurate, her motivation was to tell Anne’s entire story and make her the heroine. Some parts are the factual skeleton of the story although its mind and heart are the work of her vivid imagination.

The first person narrative captures remarkably Anne’s life: a deeply intelligent, courageous and resilient woman who was too often overshadowed by the dominant personality of her husband. While the story is of a marriage it is primarily the story of a pioneering aviatrix: the first American woman to earn a glider pilot’s license, a fearless navigator and one of the first licensed radio operators who became her famous husband co-pilot.

We have of course the familiar and tragic side that everyone knows. In details we see how along with her husband they were continually hounded by the press and needed to wear disguises in order to go out in public. How Anne grieved over the loss of her firstborn in private because her husband forbade her to do so in public. Never contradicting him and tried to justify his isolationist leanings prior to WW11 and build an entire life for herself and her children when Charles all but abandoned them in his increasing unrest after the conflict ended. She then learned to talk back and to tell her own story famously in “Gift from the Sea”. Anne also had a surprising adulterous affair in middle age, refused to be buried next to her husband, this national hero who had three secret families including seven additional children. Of course I am only mentioning a few of the events mentioned in the novel.

On one side, “The Aviator’s Wife” is a well-crafted historical fiction that vividly brings to life people and events from the past in a narrative that is highly emotional and very passionate. The author has produced an exquisite work of sympathy towards Anne in her long and difficult journey in life. This is a captivating tale of love and hate, admiration and resentment that also maintains interest and even suspense throughout. On the other side, Anne is a frustrating protagonist and a weak character, too much of a wet noodle but again this was another era where most women were expected to be submissive. The melancholy style in which the novel is written became annoying in the long run…way too mushy for my taste…..But having said this, it was a nice perspective of Anne Lindbergh and well worth reading.

"Hitler's Peace", by Philip Kerr

I am a huge fan of this author since my introduction to the Bernie Gunther series some time ago. I simply could not stay there waiting for the next installment so why not backtrack and “Hitler’s Peace” became my preferred choice.

This is briskly paced and a sharp standalone spy thriller set in 1943 when Hitler and his advisors see that they are losing the war and unconditional surrender is out of the question. Hitler and his advisers then work on a secret plan to manipulate the Allies to turn their backs on the Russian State.

With this as background, Willard Mayer, a former Princeton philosophy professor currently working as an intelligence analyst is given an unexpected assignment from the President of the U.S.A to examine the facts surrounding the Katyn Forest Massacre and to be part of his entourage to the Teheran Conference where the “Big Three” (Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill) would meet to strategize about the war.

Meanwhile general Schellenberg plans to kill the Allies leaders in order to save the Fatherland from further destruction and then begins the high stakes game of deals and double-dealing. The body count mounts, twists spins the tale and eventually every piece of the puzzle falls into place.

This is indeed an interesting concept and a great fiction based on facts, Mr. Kerr explains which one are true at the end of the book. The story is told in the first person narrative by the protagonist, Willard Mayer, a pretentious and somewhat bland character. The book is populated with overpowering historical figures that once on the stage could have overshadowed everything else. With excellent portrayal of them, Mr. Kerr did manage to make them appeared less stringent at times. Some side escapades were a fun read and brought a light touch to the suspense. Despite its flaws (a fiction is a fiction) this fast paced novel left me wanting more as I flipped the pages.

“Hitler’s Peace” is an interesting and entertaining novel I enjoyed quite a bit..

"The Hidden Light of Mexico City", by Carmen Amato

This is a wonderful fiction, a sort of Cinderella story in disguise. Through her words Ms. Amato rich narrative draws a picture of the Mexico’s society and how its Caste System has had an impact on every aspect of life. The story illustrates how this inequality has given strength to the drug cartels, fosters a culture of corruption and made people take risk to escape to the United States.

The main players are Luz de Maria Alba Mora, a poor house maid sometime artist, and Eduardo “Eddo” Cortez Castillo, a rich Mexico City attorney. Opposite as can be on the echelon of society, Maria and Eddo unexpected and vulnerable relationship can only be a liability for a high profile attorney. It soon comes to the forefront when Eddo investigates links between the Minister for Public Security and one of the most elusive drug cartel leaders and definitely not a good time to uncover a political double-cross fueled by drug money.

This story is a mixed of fairy tale romance between Maria and Eddo and high suspense when Eddo follows the money trail deep into the underworld of Mexico’s drug culture. We have many exciting chases and some violent scenes in alternate chapters but we also have many tender moments. This is definitely a character and dialogue driven thriller.

“The Hidden Light of Mexico City” is a quality novel written with passion, has a polish prose, a beautiful style, great characterization and above all an excellent and creative plot that sounds authentic. I must admit being hooked from the start and engaged till the very end. Well done Ms. Amato can’t wait to read the “Cliff-Diver”..

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Vows to Kill", by Mark Capell

Right from the start this thriller had me hooked. It provided one of those exciting plot that teases you on the first page, grabs you in the intensity of its suspense and never lets go till all the pieces are neatly wrapped. Based during the 6 weeks leading up to the wedding it is a race to see who wants the protagonist (Lee Eyre) dead. The pacing is non-stop and lets you ponder while the story moves on. At no point during the book was I able to guess the outcome and was rather baffled by the discovery at the end.

This is an intricate layered story which interweaves a myriad of characters' lives. We follow a police officer, his fiancé, his ex-wife, his co-workers and some shady characters. Each adding their touch to the puzzle, a puzzle that kept on getting better and better as it was pieced together. "Vows to Kill" is a wonderful crime novel with skittish romance that is quite entertaining.

The premise of the book is the following:

Lee Eyre is a detective who receives an email saying: "I will kill you on your wedding day". Is this a joke or a threat? Lee is about to marry Lucy but has avoided telling her about his past, a past stuff with nightmares. Lee's approach has been to bury and pretending the events never happened. He now must investigate a crime that hasn't happened yet...his own murder......

"Vows to Kill" was my first experience reading this author and it was an excellent one.