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, May 30, 2014

"Castro's Daughter", by David Hagberg

Book 16, in the Kirk McGarvey series

I picked this book up with blinders on from my local library, not knowing anything about this author and even less about the series. I was curious about the title and the synopsis sounded interesting, so I gave it a go. Rarely do I let myself be lured in such a way, I usually read a bit about authors new to me….not this time…I should have dug a bit deeper.

To my disappointment, this book was pure fiction. The story is of Maria Léon, a Cuban Intelligence colonel and Castro’s illegitimate daughter and her quest to fulfill her dying father’s wish and seek the help of Kirk Mc Garvey in her search for Cibola, the fabled Seven Cities of Gold.

The lead character is Kirk McGarvey, the legendary former director of CIA now resting on some Greek island after the death of his family (apparently in one previous installment). To pull Kirk in, Maria needed to get through to Otto, a CIA computer geek and Kirk’s friend, and to get to Otto, she needed a ruse and Louise, Otto’s wife was the star candidate….and the ball started rolling…and rolling….and rolling and the story got heavier as it moved along in a series of contrived events.

The first part was terrific with lots of conniving action but soon the plot grounded to a crawl almost stopped and completely fell apart towards the end. Apparently to make matters worse we can expect the subject to be rehashed in the future. The main character is boring or maybe tired after a long series or simply was caught in a very bad executed plot. The personalities of the secondary characters, almost too many to keep them all straight, were weak in their manipulation and deception. On a positive note, although I found this story unreal and over the top I was curious enough to never have let my mind meandered too far….:) and I stayed with it to the very last words. I may not think this story to be the best but apparently this author is very well liked for his wonderful style and captivating storylines…..Too bad I choose the know him with a so late installment I may have otherwise loved this one. My lost……

Thursday, May 22, 2014

"Dirty Martini", by J.A. Konrath

Book 4, in the “Jack” Daniels Mystery series

I am fast becoming a huge fan of this series. As in the previous novels, the story unfolds at a good clip, kept me on the edge of my seat with nail biting action, subtle suspense and a page turning thrill ride till the very last page. If you haven’t read the previous installments no need to worry, you will not get lost in the back story the little there is is well balanced to put everyone at easy and be comfortable with the characters and their interaction.

As far as I can see each story focuses on the moment rather than continuing in an episodic storytelling style. The pacing is fast, steady and never slows down. No breathing space between the hectic episodes. This is one heck of a story expertly plotted and wonderfully told. Jack’s story is told in the first person and glimpses into the villain through a third-person present tense narrative. Mr. Konrath writes the perfect bad guys, who are fun to hate and Jack is a perfect blend of tough and soft. Her partner Herb and her nemesis Harry McGlade join her in this fourth and greatest case….so far.

This is one freaky and shocking story and here is the synopsis:

Chicago homicide detective “Jack” Daniels faces her toughest adversary yet: someone who calls himself the Chemist is poisoning the city’s food supply. But that’s just the start of what he has planned, something big-really big aiming to kill fifty thousand people in the single biggest act of terrorism the US has ever seen. Can Jack stop him — and decide whether to accept boyfriend Latham’s surprise proposal — without destroying her reputation, her sanity and everything she holds dear?”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Vigilante Season", by Peter Kirby

Book 2, in the Inspector Luc Vanier crime novel series

What it is not to like when an author chooses your home town as backdrop for his mystery. Of course this novel is purely a work of fiction….or is it? After all, wouldn't it be inevitable for Mr. Kirby, a lawyer by profession, to explore the seedy side of a city he knows so well and provide his readers with an atmospheric book on the gritty streets of Montreal. Isn't it natural to be influenced and to explore social issues, relationships, politics and everything that may hit the headlines and work around this to provide us with an exciting read? Of course and with “Vigilante Season” we find once more a window into human nature in times of conflict.

This second installment deals with drug dealers and prostitutes in a neighbourhood going through gentrification. The authorities are barely present and there is so much budgets cutbacks, a local militia has stepped in to help clean up the neighbourhood in an effort to impose their will. Inspector Luc Vanier is back to investigate the brutal murder of a drug dealer and in Mr. Kirby’s Montreal, thugs and lowlifes rub shoulders with the elite.

This is a riveting story of corruption and street crime, fast-paced and an enjoyable escapism. The plot covers a lot of ground, this isn't simply a mystery it also solves it. The main theme centres on a fictional struggle for authority and justice and what happens to a neighbourhood when it has been abandoned by the police and politicians. While the side plots have Vanier helping his son to overcome his PTSD and to lighten the subject the most appropriated tad of romance crosses the pages. The story is well-written with a Montreal state of mind and goes beyond a straightforward narrative. We have first-rate characterization where good people do bad things and bad people do good things (or think they do). Another great novel and an author on my watch list.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"The Confabulist", by Steven Galloway

“The Confabulist” is a historically rich and ingeniously told story about illusion and the ways tricks of magic can for better or worst alter what we perceive and give credence to. The clever and entertaining narrative portrays the vivid alluring world of a first class magic show and weaves together the life, loves and the sudden death of one of the world’s greatest magician, Harry Houdini, with the story of Martin Strauss, an ordinary man, as his life turns upside down after accidentally killing the great magician.

No doubts, most of what we read is made up for our entertainment and it does that with excellence. The story is intricate and flows beautifully through distinct chapters to immerse us into the lives of the two main players. The first person narrative follows Martin as he slowly replaces facts with false memories and the third person follows Houdini’s long life trickeries around the world. The story tells how this illusionist danced between effect, method, misdirection and reconstruction to choreograph successfully his magic and evocative flashbacks details his rise to stardom and his crusade to expose mediums and charlatans. We are also given the idea that Houdini may have been a spy working for both the U.S. and British Intelligence and this notion is somewhat believable. And of course we have the inevitable love story for a tad of romance.

This novel is a fiction and may not be for everyone but real or not…..let your imagination match the magic of this wonderful tale told by a master story teller and enjoyed every moment for what it is….entertainment..

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Then We Take Berlin", by John Lawton

This convoluted mix of reality and fiction is essentially a biographical narrative in the life of John Holderness as he transforms himself from an East London burglar to a British intelligence man working under the tutelage of Lieutenant Colonel Burne-Jones. The story opens on the eye of President Kennedy’s 1963 visit to Berlin then moves backward to London in 1941 and slowly progresses till all the strands in the narrative lead to a conclusion in 1963, Berlin.

This book is far from the ordinary spy- thriller American novelists are so famous for. Missing are the spectacular stunts, the blow outs, the mysterious escapes, and the beautiful damsel in distress. The theme and atmosphere are compelling, after all Europe is ravaged by the atrocities of war, lives are shattered and it is a race to obtain the services of nuclear scientists. This book is meaty and richly written to highlight the tragic circumstances that divided Berlin into East and West sections and how smuggling goods and people was a way of life. The author goes all out for us to visualize every movement and for us to know his characters, well indeed he takes is merry time to make his points. I was hoping the pacing would eventually pick up but it never did and with a meandering mind I finally made it to where the story abruptly stopped and I was left wondering what came next…..Oh maybe a sequel will wrap up the loose ends one day…..

I did find the historical descriptions to be quite interesting even if Mr. Lawton’s vision was far from being my cup of tea. Unfortunately I cannot say this was one of my better read.…..

Sunday, May 4, 2014

"Rusty Nail", by J. A. Konrath

Book 3, in the Jack Daniels Mystery

This is a direct sequel to “Bloody Mary” it starts where the plots left off with the investigation into a cult that practices mutilation and posts them as snuff films.

It is evident right from the start that this would have a gory story with plenty of graphic details and enough creepiness to let our imagination do its work. There is enough horror described here to turn our stomach but thank goodness for the cleverness in the way Mr. Konrath has melded humor into the gore. The style is by far not for everyone the author has no fear of detailing death and torture and showing how sick murderers are and how they enjoy what they doing. This story seems to want to outdo the previous one in its depravity. As in the previous books, the story alternates between the first person narrative by Jack and the third person present tense from the view of the killer. There is a lot of action and much happens with the various characters in just a few pages. Konrath found his true formula with a strong no nonsense female lead character, clever narration, short scenes and fast-paced story…….and a wacko cat….

Jack's personal life continues to be a mess. Her mother is still in a coma. Latham and Jack have split up. Mr. Friskers the cat is still psychotic.

If you in the right mood you will appreciate this novel for what it is.…..entertainment..

Thursday, May 1, 2014

"Boston Cream", by Howard Shrier

Book 3, in the Jonah Geller Mystery

This is a series that is getting better has it moves along. I admit not having read it in sequel but having done so did not remove any of my enjoyment. Each plot is rooted from real events that made the headlines at one time or another. I am a huge fan of mystery series and the Jonah Geller series is high on my preferred list.

“Boston Cream” takes Jonah to Boston where he investigates the disappearance of David Fine, a young surgeon and a transplant specialist. Hired by the man’s father he sets off with his business partner Jenn Raudsepp, who knows the city well. They follow a twisted trail that involves panoply of individuals from the doctor’s boss, members of the mob, a rabbi, a lawyer and a grocer who had also vanished. Since the local authorities are baffled and haven’t made any progress into the missing cases, Jonah takes the lead and with a thorough investigation he uncovers that the disappearances are directly linked to an organ harvesting ring led by Irish mobsters. As the story unfolds Dante Ryan (a recurring character) joins in and they are quickly thrown into a world of organized crime ….where mayhem is sure to break out…..and it does so in an exciting and captivating cat and mouse game….

This is a darker book that the previous in the series and far more violent in many aspects. The plotting is intriguing and weaves a tight and taunting story. The pacing is steady, action packed and non-stopped till the finale. The characters are solid, very good and have a good ear for dialogue. This 3rd book has all the attributes I expected from this genre: the villains are scums, the police are mean and incompetent and a PI from out of town to the rescue….what is not to like….

This is a series on the roll……