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 »

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"The Red Pole of Macau", by Ian Hamilton

Book 4, in the Ava Lee series

This series is a light read, mostly fast paced, quite entertaining and never fails to arouse my interest. Ava, the heroine is finely drawn and so different to the usual protagonist I simply cannot stay away and I am always looking forward to read all of her next challenges and see how she will tackle them. It has been entertaining so far….

The protagonist is a very kick butt and in charge type of character although she does show a vulnerable and soft side when it comes to her love ones. In this mystery Ava finds herself with unexpected family commitments and needs all her skills to assist he brother, Michael, out of a real-estate deal that went terribly wrong. Of course we are in for a fascinating international excursion that takes us from Toronto to Hong Kong and Macau.

Michael and his friend Simon have sunk over $20 million into a Macau shopping center project that turned out to be a scam and the developers are now using strong- arm tactics to extract more investments from them. The Lee’s financial security is at risk and went Simon gets kidnapped Ava springs into action like a ninja meticulously planning a rescue operation and with the help of Uncle’s shadow network, Simon and the money should make it home…..

There is a lot of suspense but it is somewhat diluted with too much description of cuisine and the way the players are dressed. May Lyn, a character in the previous book returns and gives a helping hand although she comes out totally as a nondescript individual…the plot is totally unbelievable but it is rather what makes this series what it is.

It is easy to zip through “The Red Pole of Macau” in just a few hours after all it is not a thick book. The story is good enough although not one that grabbed me and held my attention the way the others did. To my eyes the old formula is getting stale and too predictable it is time to give it a boost.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"The House of Special Purpose", by John Boyne

I love how John Boyne spins historical events and makes his stories unexpectedly compelling reads. “The House of Special Purpose” is a wonderful mix of trodden grounds of the fall of the Romanov Dynasty with a fictional and well thought narrative that goes back and forth in time in and snippets of important moments in the life of Georgy and Zoya Jackmenev, two of the survivors. This fiction brings to life the lovely myth that has sustained the romantics at heart for many years, the speculation that Anastasia may have escaped the tragedy.

Told in a series of flashbacks, 82 year old Georgy reminisces on his past as he sits by his wife deathbed. Haunted by what he had witnessed he recounts how as a young man he was ripped from an impoverished home and thrust into the inner circle of the Romanovs as bodyguard to Tsarevich Alexei, heir to the empire, and eventually fell in love with the Grand Duchess Anastasia. He inevitably became privy to the secrets of the Tsars and his family, the machination of Rasputin and events leading to the final collapse of the empire. His memories reveal shocking secrets…..

This is also a touching love story of two young people in a rebellious Russia and how they gave up everything in order for their love to survive. The story jumps in time and places a lot and you really need to kept up and stay focus otherwise the switchback ride can be quite disconcerting. Mr. Boyne has the fantastic skill of engaging his readers by the ways he smoothly intertwines facts and fiction together. I relish how the factual characters were depicted in an intriguing, honest and enjoyable way. The story may embellish aspects during this period in Imperial Russia in ways some may dislike I found it to be a refreshing and an audaciously imagined alternate in history.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"The Bucket Man", by James Neville

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The “Bucket man” is a kind of travelogue into the world of fake antiques, a wonderful book and an immense eye opener. Reading it felt as Mr. Neville was recounting his memoirs although I am not certain it is truly all his. 

The few 100 first pages or so were a reminiscence of the author’s life in the Services very boring IMO and many times I contemplated abandoning it but as most of the time I persisted and thank goodness I did. After resigning his commission and being disowned by his father, James had to make a life for himself. He met a woman on a train and began an intrigue that led him into the world of antiques. His creative imagination enabled him to establish a unique business that later on became a highly sought model. James became what we know in America as a “Picker” and we follow his adventures through the back roads of the UK in search of the golden egg….

In time James develops the knack for hidden treasures in the most unusual places and scouring the backwoods and dirt tracks he unearth collectible relics with historical and pop culture value. Sometime he made money on the deal sometime not but one sure thing he had was a string of hard working artisans refurbishing his finds into brand new antiques ready for a trade.… Along the way he encounters a diversity of characters from the aristocracy, scrap dealers, crooked businessmen, interior designers and many others. 

The book is definitely not for everyone. The author explains in minute details the world of a “picker”, the intricacies involved in the refurbishing each article and how complicated and sometimes dishonest the wheeling and dealing is. This story is well written and very informative one thing for sure after reading this book you will pause before purchasing what is sold as genuine antiques…

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"The Crime Trade", by Simon Kernick

It is of no surprise to find as in his earlier installments that “The Crime trade” centers around the ganglands of north London where the good guys tend to mix quite well with the bad ones. It is a dark place with dramatic effects---shot outs in parking lots, police confrontations with drug smugglers, some elements of abuse and torture. But to say this crime thriller is depressing would be false on the contrary it has some underlying humour to it and sizzling dialogue that propels us through the twisted tales. By the end, one can fell as entertained as well as unnerved.

This story is unpredictable in every sense fresh twists and plenty of them kept derailing thoughts, so easy not to see them coming. It shows us what genuinely goes on under our nose with odd exaggeration here and there. However I did find this one not as lively and exciting as the other books and it is so easy to get lost in the description and the back stories.

Although this is not part of a series the tale involves interconnecting characters who weaves in and out of each books. They are part of a strong cast of familiar and new faces and the tight plot also includes a large group of secondary players.

Synopsis taken from the author’s site:

Stegs Jenner has always lived on the edge.

No ordinary cop, he's never happier than when he's working undercover, consorting with criminals and fighting to bring them to justice. But suspicion falls on him when he strikes out on his own and the operation he's involved in goes horribly wrong.

DI John Gallan and DS Tina Boyd are called in to investigate.

What they cannot know is that their inquiries will take them both into the heart of one of London's most notorious criminal gangs - and one of them into the rifle sights of the enemy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

" The English Girl", by Daniel Silva

Book 13, in the Gabriel Allon Series

Nothing is straight lined in Gabriel Allon sagas we have more twists to divert the trajectory of the story into different directions than we see in a lot of thrillers. This is one of the reasons I have stayed faithful to this series throughout the years.

I can hardly find faults with this one after all it was a hard one to put down. Mr. Silva is an excellent storyteller and knows how to keep his readers turning the pages. His writing style is mostly active, very visual allowing us to form a picture surrounding the plot, characters and the setting. This very suspenseful and intriguing thriller moves at a rapid pace and has a great number of gripping scenes. Also as in every book Gabriel attempts to restore a portrait when he is not on the job as an Israeli operative.

The plot takes off when Madeleine Hart, the mistress of England’s Prime Minister, is kidnapped on the eve of an election. Her kidnappers demand a ransom for her return and that Gabriel Allon make the delivery. He quickly teams up with Christopher Keller and this unusual alliance is thrust into the game of shadows where nothing is what it seems…

This story is totally engaging and along the way we are also treated to a short history lesson while on Israeli soil, jaunting through Corsica and Russia. While trotting through France and England several characters we met in previous books make an appearance and add their personal touch to this exciting, humorous and well developed saga…

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Until the Night", by Giles Blunt

Book 6, in the John Cardinal series

I agree with those saying this series is getting better with each book it is of no surprise that with this latest Mr. Blunt won the Arthur Ellis Awards for best crime novel in 2013. Congratulations Mr. Blunt.

“Until the Night” is a dark and convoluted mystery beautifully written with exceptionally solid characters. This is a must read for fans of this series. A caution, some may be offended by the crude language and the sex scenes that pepper the chapters.

The mystery has two captivating stories cleverly interwoven in the typical Blunt’s style and technique. It opens with what looks like an ordinary case of adultery gone wrong. A man found dead in a cheap motel, the woman accompanying him has vanished and the likely suspect is the lovers’ outraged husband. One thing leads to another and the investigation uncovers a string of missing women and leads our duo of Cardinal and Delorme into a decades-old injustice committed in the high Arctic. In alternating chapters “The Blue Notebook” details what happened on an Arctic research station in the past. Reading this immediately captured my interest, it is gripping with tension and drama and of course Mr. Blunt’s powerfully describes the spell of the Arctic landscape with all of its beauties and horrors…this is quite an atmospheric mystery. Both plots are clever with plenty of twists and turns to have kept me on the edge of my seat till the final page. This book is most satisfying.

In a final note the author acknowledges this was one of those books requiring considerable research.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Mad Hannah Rafferty", by Tony Sullivan

This is moving story of a young woman, a child of the late 50’s, searching for the love she lost after her father’s death. Her life slowly unravels till one day she is forcibly detained in a psychiatric institute where she writes hidden in a bathroom cubicle her memoirs on toilet paper and begins to piece her life together.

“Mad Hannah Rafferty” is a disturbing conundrum of mental problems. Through Hannah’s words and many flashbacks we learn that her father was a deluded political visionary who had an adulterous relationship. She was brought up by a step mother obsessed with religion and to bring her husband back to the true faith (of course hers). At his death Hannah is entrusted with his unfinished political leaflet for her to complete. One thing leads to another and burdened with a bad relationship and a dysfunctional family Hannah suffers a crippling breakdown and ends up in an asylum.

Nothing in life is black and white and this story excels in chronicling Hannah‘s decline. This ironically and compelling novel is not gruesome or sad by any means and provides some humorous moments describing the political attitudes of the time (this book was first published in the early 90’s) and how young revolutionaries come to face the harsh reality of life.

The story opens slowly and is hard to grasp at first but once it started to swirl with Hannah’s many thoughts it was harder to put down. This book is nicely written, first class dialogue and wonderful descriptions. Hannah’s depiction is outstanding and so are her supporting characters.

I didn't know at first what to make of this book. In hindsight after these thoughts I must say it wasn't bad at all.