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 »

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"The Ambassador's Wife", by Jake Needham

Book 1, In the Inspector Samuel Tay series

It was my first experience reading this author and it was most satisfying. It is always an enjoyment when a plot is expertly crafted and offers complex twists to challenge us and a good healthy dose of mystery with few grisly details. No need to look further this crime fiction set in Asia provided all of the excitement needed.

It opens with the battered body of an unidentified Caucasian woman discovered in what was supposed to be an empty room at the Singapore Marriott. A second body is found in Bangkok in a seedy apartment close to the American embassy. Both women are Americans and have been beaten viciously, shot in the head, stripped naked and crudely displayed. Inspector Samuel Tay of Singapore CID is assigned to the case….a case that no one wants him to solve…

Samuel Tay is an unassuming protagonist, a little cranky, he definitely smokes too much, doesn't like Americans, loathes fat tourists in their shorts and flip-flops and downright gauche with women. I enjoy novel series that allows their protagonist to grow on its readers and slowly hook them. This is definitely one of them.

The story takes a while to speed up but after setting meticulously the scene, there is a very strong awareness of location and atmosphere that are vividly portrayed throughout the pages. When it takes off in supersonic mode the story is driven into dark territory of spooks while Inspector Tay holds his own against the forces tugging him away from his task. The narration is sometime funny especially when Tay describes his feelings of the authorities and Singapore’s hellish temperature. I like the dry sense of humour that occasion pops up.

Very engaging novel in every aspect and will look forward to its sequel

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Mistress of the Revolution", by Catherine Delors

"Mistress of the Revolution” is written in the form a memoir by a fictional character, Gabrielle de Montserrat, a beautiful minor noblewoman from Auvergne now living in England. Gabrielle relives her childhood, youth and the French Revolution that dramatically changed the life of so many. Although the author has taken great liberties with many of the settings this tragic story manages to convey both the excitement of the early days of the Revolution and the Terror endured by the nobility and the vast majority of the population.

This intricate portrait of a turbulent era is quite enthralling, what a page turner this experience turned out to be. At first the pacing may seem slow but it drastically changes during the Revolution and the tale swiftly becomes exciting. There is such a richness of details and the skilled handling of the 18th century language was amazing. I couldn't help but be plunged deep into a story full of romance, drama and passion not to leave out actual historical events and figures that populated the pages. Gabrielle is the lead narrator. She is a feisty, complex character and a victim of the status of women of the time. She also has a love interest in Pierre-André Coffinhal, the typical man found in romance novel but is forced by her meddling brother to marry a nasty piece of work. We find Gabrielle embroiled in the massacre at the Champs de Mars, the fall of the Tuileries, the prison massacres and the many tribulations that came her way. The description leaves quite an impression, admirably depicting the tension and volatility of an era when one wrong move could mean the guillotine….chilling….

This is a very captivating novel I enjoyed immensely

Monday, March 17, 2014

"The Dead of Winter", by Peter Kirby

I am always attracted to stories set in my home town of Montreal so when I noticed Mr. Kirby’s debut novel I simply couldn't resist and I had to give it a try. Right from the start the story drew me in and I let myself be carried forward and enjoyed every moment I spent reading this captivating crime thriller.

The plot deals with the deaths of five homeless people on Christmas Eve. Inspector Luc Vanier, the protagonist, is the lead investigator. Montreal is as colourful and gritty as ever and at that time of the year the city is pummelled by endless snowstorms and freezing temperature. The author is very adept in describing every bit of it. Through his grit and determination and his old fashioned detective work we step in the world of Inspector Vanier and follow him along with his team as they pursue the trail of a serial killer. Deeper they dig, more people seem to be implicated: from high ranking member of the clergy and the boardroom of Montreal’s business elite to the back kitchens of the dispossessed.

This story is a classic procedural thriller ferociously well-crafted, fast- paced with many red herrings, endless clues and a plot development that is most catching and quite realistic. We have scenes of a wonderfully city that casts its icy shadow and a group of fantastic characters to entertain us even if the main player can border on cliché.

This is an enjoyable novel and I am definitely looking forward to “Vigilante Season”, its sequel.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"The List", by J.A. Konrath

The story revolves around a group of people with a number tattooed on one foot. One of them is, a Chicago Homicide cop named Tom Mankowski, the main protagonist. It opens with the discovery of a headless body… gruesome indeed but hold on folks, this is just the start….

Of course we find Tom as lead investigator. Looking into the circumstances he discovers that the corpse has a number seven tattooed on his left heel, strange enough Tom has seen this before on his own heel, his is number five. This revelation opens the door to a great puzzle putting Tom in middle of it…..and the fun continues….

This is not your typical thriller although it has lots of violence, some intrigue and a puzzle to solve. What set it apart from the others I have read through the years is the tad of horror and supernatural we find here. I found the plot to be interesting at first but as it moved along it became quite outlandish, completely unrealistic and constantly jumping from one place to the other. The dialogue and writing style is quite crude with a great chunk of jargon and some clumsy humour. The premise may be brilliant but it sizzled out quite fast, it seemed the author wanted to make an action type comedy but I failed to see anything funny, one thing though, we do have endless action. I have mixed feeling about this story, partly captivated and taken in with the action but rather disappointed with the silly characterization. Not my preferred story but not to say it was a bad one, it was not meant for me. My first experience reading this author may not have been the best I will nevertheless take a second look with the Jack Daniels series.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Crisis Four", by Andy McNab

Book 2, in the Nick Stone series

This series follows Nick Stone a very clever, ruthless and effective EX-SAS trooper hired by the British Intelligence on the most dangerous operations. In this mission he is tasked with finding and eliminating one of their operatives, Sarah Darnley.

Reading this book we have to keep in mind that it was written prior 9/11. This is a story filled with lots of action and suspense as well as death and betrayal.

A glimpse into the story:

Nick hunts Sarah down in the wilderness of America and soon finds himself involves in a scheme masterminded by Osama bin Laden targeting U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Leader Yassir Arafat while the three leaders are going to be in Washington for a peace summit. Nick is no more than a few days in on his mission that he is smack in the middle of a cat and mouse game that can only turn deadly…Welcome to the gloomy side of Special Operations.

My thoughts:

In his plot the author shares his military knowledge at great length, explaining in minutia every action, tactics, types of ammunition, etc. Some may find this interesting although I did for most part, I thought this was overly stretched enough to have hindered the pacing making this story not as exciting and far less captivating. If I ever wanted to evade surveillance, track someone or ever extract an individual this book provided all the information needed. If you like a plot which is heart stopping with violence and has a lot of insanely scenes and even dubious one, you are well served here. But if you expect great characterization, you will miss out. The players IMO have flat personalities and their actions are not particularly credible especially towards the conclusion. But again this is a fiction meant for entertainment and it does so in many ways. I particularly love the first person narration and Mr. McNab uses it perfectly with all the characteristics we expect from a macho operative…

Good book although not my favourite in this series so far.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

" Rising Sun, Falling Shadow", by Daniel Kalla

This wonderful story continues the intrigue, the medical drama and the love stories that began with “The Far Side of the Sky”. Although this sequel can be read on its own I strongly suggest reading the first to connect with the characters and understanding them better while each is coping with a shattering loss.

During the Second World War Shanghai was one of the last havens for Jewish refugees, after the Japanese occupation the Jewish population was forced into the squalid ghetto of Hongkew. Life was no picnic…….There is a fair amount of characters to get to know and once I shorted them all out it was easy to let my imagination follow the tempo as the story moved along at a briskly pace.

When the Nazis tighten their control on Japanese officials, tension in the ghetto mounted and life for the residents became hell. We follow the Adler family, their friends and allies in their struggle, living in deplorable conditions and forced to confront one dilemma after another in order to survive. Each moment fearing the Kempeitai, as well as the Nazis, hiding in basement, and defying each other in order to join the Resistance, some had to run the Jewish hospital and give lifesaving surgery to their tormentors while the young smuggled cigarettes and jewelry for some extra money.

The author has built tension throughout his words and captured the sounds and smells and tastes of Shanghai during this terrible time, creating an incredible and terrifying world. This emotional thought provoking tale of love and loss, courage and betrayal tells how far people will go to save those they love. The story is very character driven and focuses mainly on their interaction and how they coped.

This is an exciting page turner very hard to put down. I am happy to know there is a sequel in the making.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Ashes to Dust", by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Book 3, in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series

I don’t know why I put this author on the back burner for such a long time. I had totally forgotten how wonderfully different Thora Gudmundsdottir, the protagonist is. Thora is a lawyer by profession who has a very unusual clientele and is the type to poke her nose into the investigating side of cases as well as defending her clients. If you haven’t read the previous installments don’t worry this one works pretty well as a standalone.

Although the book is long, it doesn’t drag by any means. As in her previous stories there is quite a bit of interviewing and re- interviewing of witnesses and lots of traveling back in forth from the big city to where the action takes place. Ms. Sigurdardottir weaves a very complicated crime thriller with a liberal helping of “what-ifs” to keeps us guessing till the very end. The winding plot takes us down many avenues and is fueled by the infinite peculiarities of human behavior.

The star is also Iceland with all its glorious scenery. “Ashes to Dust” takes place in parts on the Heimaey Islands. In 1973, the small community came to international attention after volcano Eldfjell erupted and the inhabitants were temporarily evacuated. With this as background the author pinned a clever, rich an intriguing mystery with surprising twists and turns and handled Iceland past and present to the full effect in her tale of hidden crimes and family secrets.

Here is a brief outline:

The volcanic eruption buried a number of houses in lava, including that of Markus Magnusson, who was 15 at the time. In 2007, an excavation of his childhood home reveals three bodies and a severed head that appear to be decades old. Markus tells the police he knows nothing about the bodies, but the single person who could have verified his version of events is found dead, her apparent suicide soon revealed as murder. With the searchlight of suspicion cast on his affairs, Markus must rely on Thora, his determined lawyer, to defend his interests.