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 29, 2014

"The First Night", by Marc Levy

From the Ethiopian Highlands to the frozen wastes of Northern Urals, Marc Levy concludes with this novel an epic that began with “The First Day”. This is a good story for entertainment but not much more. The adventure is just as upbeat as the first volume with double plays throughout, many characters and honest heroes. Unfortunately it drags a lot and it is more worthy of a fairy tale to anything else.

Once again, the story begins on a rather sedate pace when the archaeologist Keira found herself kidnapped from the waters of a Chinese River. Adrian, her astrophysicist lover, considers all hope to see her safe and sound takes all his courage with both hands and goes to China in the hope of delivering her from the prison she is being held in. Once out, our two protagonists continue scouring the globe to find pieces of their puzzle that would reveal the secret of those mysterious stones found in “The First Day”. However the Secret Scientific Organization is hot on their tails….

Now, we have totally implausible chases and numerous twists to struggle with while getting into the race. Keira and Adrian cannot do anything without something happening to them. The pacing seemed almost more visual than literary I wonder if it was not intentional….Despite the hyperactive moments that features world travel, gun battles and the allegedly passionate love this adventure left me lukewarm.

The writing is nice, fluid but is rather long-winded for my taste. There is a fair amount of scientific details but where in the boundary between facts and the imaginary side in this novel? I was drowning in all those details, is it nonsense or not, right or wrong, I deducted it was…

The characterization is a bit banal nothing impressive but we do find a tremor of human interest in the relationships between the main players.

Even if this story does not make the top of my list of favourites it is nevertheless a good escape from our everyday life.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"The House of Velvet and Glass", by Katherine Howe

“The House of Velvet and Glass”, a historical fiction set in 1915 Boston is a thoughtful journey that transports us to the turn of the twentieth century. The story captures a moment in time and executes meticulously period details as we are whisked between colonial Shanghai to the luxurious halls of the Titanic, the opium dens of Boston’s Chinatown and the opulent salons of its upper crust.

Richly written to create lush descriptions and vivid characterization the story inserts us into the Allston’s family saga. Told in three parts: flashback aboard the Titanic, during lan Allston’s, head of the family, time in China as a young sailor and from Sybil’s, the older daughter, point of view.

This is primarily Sibyl’s story, a young woman torn from the loss of her mother and sister since the sinking of the Titanic and is now driven to seek answers from a crystal ball (scrying glass) given to her by a medium during a séance. While the story unfolds we are enveloped with a wonderful prose and an amalgam of tragic stories. Although not a lot of action takes place and the pacing is rather slow I never thought this was a boring read at any time, on the contrary. It is so filled with interesting characters and unique look into the spiritualism of the period that curiosity took hold and never let go. Some may say Ms. Howe rambles a lot and the core plot may be lacking but in whole “The House of Velvet and Glass” is an interesting read..

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"11/22/63", by Stephen King

The novel is about a time traveller who attempts to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy. It is of no surprise that this sci-fi story quickly became a bestseller once published and stayed on that list for many additional weeks.

Those around in the 1950’s and early 1960’s would acknowledge that Mr. King did intensive research to accurately portray the real-life events and people of the time. We have minutia details such as the price of beer, article of clothing, appliance, etc. Boy did things change since then….

This isn't the usual horror stories fans are accustomed to but rather one that reaches an entire different audience, those readers who love historical fiction with a mixture of the ordinary and the supernatural, pretty weird but I assure you quite entertaining. It is also rife with answers: can we change history, can a man make a difference and does love surpass everything. But there is also a darker side: a what if…what if history is too mighty to redirect?

This is a book for weight lifters my electronic version once leaded on my Blackberry Playbook was over 1500 pages so it was clear in advance that the protagonist would undertake a long trial mission…..Out of the rabbit hole suddenly back on Sept 9, 1958, it’s 11.58am. Each trip and no matter how long you've stayed in the past….only two minutes have gone by in the present….

This novel is an intensely character based novel. The slow intimacy in the narrative is compelling. Mr. King’s manages to maintain suspense throughout the pages by inserting very effective twists on the theme and bringing back powerful emotions. 11/22/63 is a marvelous re-invention of time.

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Mission to Paris", by Alan Furst

Book 12, in the Night Soldiers series

Mr. Furst returns once more to pre-war Europe, nothing is formulaic about his novels each stands on its own although some may recognize old faces form time to time.

In “Mission to Paris “, the author lures his protagonist Fredric Stahl, twice Oscar nominated movie star to the “City of Light”. Fredic thinks he is in France to play the leading role for paramount in “Après la Guerre”. But in Europe 1938 things are not really as they seem after all it is a frightening time as the Continent is moving towards war.

Fredic makes the movie and gets entangle with all sorts of characters and attracts the attention of the Germans who are very interested in him. All they want is for him to come to Berlin and be a judge in their film festival… This is an unsubtle attempt to recruit him to spout out pro-Nazi sentiment. Fredric is very skeptical that accepting the offer would be good for his career. Saying no may not be an option and from there he finds himself in direct opposition with the propaganda meisters….Fredic seeks help from the American Embassy and in doing so he inevitably becomes one of their useful courier and information gatherer …….

“Mission in Paris” is an historical spy fiction that gives us clues into the propaganda warfare that the Nazis and the French sympathizers waged on France. The novel is entertaining enough although I found the denouement to be rather weak and its third person narrative to be a bit cheesy at time. There are crackerjack scenes but they lack in suspense is as if the author ran out of steam describing them. I like the happy ending, rare and unlikely did they happen in those days.

Although this novel is good it is definitely not Furst at his best and definitely not the one I preferred the most.

"The First Day", by Marc Levy

Did you ever wondered what kind of consequences could be triggered when an astrophysicist and an archaeologist put their heads together and set out on a quest to unearth the hidden secrets of the origin of the world. You have a heartwarming fiction that flits with fantasy and leads us on an intriguing journey in time and space around the world. Inevitably weaving through the adventure is a love story and the mysteries of life.

This is a smooth read and quite unbelievable some even would say that this unpretentious story is peppered with inaccuracies, that everything is sewn with white thread and that the characterization is stereotyped and highly predictable. But if you do not listen to this you will enjoy every page as you flip one after another till you reach the last words.

The beginning of the novel is very promising. An ambitious young archaeologist finds a mysterious object in Africa, a pendant that is supposed age of four hundred thousand years and which, under high energy, can produce a representation of the night sky with its stars as it presented itself to the eye of an observer on the earth there are four hundred thousand years.

Determined to find its origin Keira teams up with Adrian, an accomplished astrophysicist and an old flame and together begin their investigation. Unknown to them, they are not the only one interested in the mysterious object…..The story is narrated by Adrian, a very passionate scientist.

Mr. Levy creates suspense which is purely artificial and one could only wonder what pushes all the scientists around the world to make so much fuss around a mysterious pendant. The author provides only vaguest of causes and banalities. Having said this in no way does it take away from being a good read and I really enjoyed the story. I simply zipped through it in no time and devoured its simplicity of the style one that combines very well scientific explanations with adventure, romance and globetrotting. Along the way I was taken in the course of history, masterminded assumptions and moved….what else can I say….. Its sequel “The First Night” continues where this story left us hanging….

Monday, January 6, 2014

"Looking Good Dead", by Peter James

Book 2, in the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace crime series

This second novel is a wonderful follow up to the debut novel “Dead Simple” and has plenty of threads to connect the dots if you haven’t read it. Roy’s second outing is just as good, if not better than his first. The plot and pacing are simply terrific. There are plenty of farfetched scenes although terribly predictable will not disappoint, take the book for what it is and you will find it a rattling good read.

One of the pleasures of this book is Roy: a true professional at the top of his game, an intuitive policeman tormented by his wife disappearance, a man with a penchant for consulting clairvoyants on murder cases and one interesting distraction : his emerging romance with the local pathologist. What else do we want in a terrific protagonist?

This sharp and punchy sequel brings our troubled Brighton cop into the snuff world. The author particularly excels describing the very creepy villains that play roles in some of the scenes…The first murder comes early on- the brutal murder of an attractive junior lawyer broadcast over the internet. After picking up a discarded CD on a commuter train, Tom Bryce inserted it in his computer only to be shocked with what he witnessed. His brain said he was watching a movie but when her name showed up in the news he contacted the police and here the investigation began as Roy came into the picture……and we are left with sustained suspense throughout the pages till we reach the terrifying conclusion….

Once I started this book I had a hard time putting it down it was such a page turner.

"The Eagle's Plume", by Gerard de Marigny

Archangel: Mission Log # 1

This is the debut novella introducing a new series where Scipio, a character from the Cris De Niro Thriller series branches out as an advisor to the U.S. military on security protocols in Afghanistan.

His first outing doesn't go smooth at all. As soon as he arrives at Chapman Airfield he witnesses a terrorist attack and Scipio soon discovers that a former Taliban leader has returned and is plotting a major strike against a high profile American target…..

Fans of the Cris De Niro and the Watchman Agency will recognized Mr. de Marigny’s unique style one that expertly fills page after page with spectacular action and hot suspense. Not a breather at all during the 113 pages of the book’s length. Yes small but intense, well writing to captivate us, no unnecessary words to fill time and space and a wonderful hero to boot. What else do we want…