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 »

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Cockroaches", by Jo Nesbo

Book 2, in the Harry Hole series

“Cockroaches” is, in fact, the second outing for the detective, making a belated appearance in translation in Canada. It employs similar shock tactics found in the first book “The Bat” sending the Norwegian sleuth out of his comfort zone smack into unknown territory. This time we find Harry in the picturesque seediness of Bangkok....

Sent to Thailand by his boss to investigate the death of the Norwegian ambassador in a seedy motel room Harry soon discovers that he will need to unravel layers of deception before he could get to the bottom of his investigation and solve the case.

While deep into his hunt for the whodunit we have a glimpse into the excesses of expat life, travel the seedy underbelly of a vibrant city and plunged into the corruption of those wanting to protect their positions. The setting makes for the perfect backdrop for this novel where Harry out of his natural element excels in what he is doing. His character is handled with authority and so is the large cast of colourful and dynamic supporting players. In this early installment we get to know the background about Harry’s family life and romantic history and that helps making sense of his self-destructive streak and battles with addiction that continue throughout the series. The plot is a real guessing game complete package when it comes to suspense and mystery but the drama gets overly done, loosed a bit of tempo as it stirs up a few nerves and cracks its solid punch at the end.

I like this series for its entertainment and its exotic local .

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"The Beast", by Andes Roslund, Börge Hellström

Book 1, in the Ewert Grens series

Being engaged in a book about pedophilia, torture, human savagery and prisons can be quite a challenge. These co-authors know only one way to get from point A to point B: straight and to the point. This thriller is absolute darkness, a masterful reflection on the concept of justice. It is not the run of the mill mystery and not for everyone.

This story is raw especially at first. But as difficult as it may be, this rawness is for us to reflect on the second part of the book. The true basis behind this novel noir is how we react to what we read and this is where we find the talents of these co-authors come to play and excel in doing. The prose is razor sharp and different views are dealt with and zoom alternately between the investigators, prison inmates and personal, crimes committed by Bernt Lund and the parents of the victims. It chronicles the activities in detail graphic and brutal language. Everything that happens stems from the murder of two little girls in a basement of a Swedish town, the arrest of the pervert who did it and his subsequent escape from prison. My synopsis may be too simple but the story is far from it.

The second part is absolutely brilliant which invites us to reflect on the possible sentences for sex offenders, the death penalty, on the paradox of Justice and the power of public opinion. The story also illustrates the potentially serious consequences of letting people take the law in their own hands. There are numerous characters to keep track of and the name can become confusing but everything really gels well if you stay with the flow.

Gruesome but a very interesting and captivating story that kept my full attention from start to finish.

"Dissolution", by C.J. Sansom

Book 1, in the Matthew Shardlake series

Set in the 16th century during the dissolution of the monasteries. This first story features lawyer Matthew Shardlake and follows him in his attempts to solve the murder of one of Thomas Cromwell’s commissioners in the monastery at Scarnsea on the south coast of England. The period is shortly after the beheading of Anne Boleyn and during the religious revolution. “Dissolution” is elegantly written and is a riveting portrayal of Tudor England.

At first this novel seems to be your classic whodunit, a fairly standard murder-mystery genre which includes bizarre and grisly murder, some red herrings, a few twists and a lot of suspense, of course a little bit of romance to boot. But reading along you fast discover that the vivid backdrop of Cromwell’s war against the monasteries, all the tension between the Papists and the Reformers that brew throughout the pages, the remorseless portrait of a violent and the terrifying business of encountering the king and authorities are so brilliantly done to place this novel in a league of its own. The narrative style is competently handled by the well-rounded Shardlake in a straightforward prose using words as true to the era as possible. A sub plots has a subtle love triangle nicely done and others are weaves effortlessly into the main plot to tease us till the gasping ending.

This is one atmospheric novel I enjoyed quite a bit and looking forward to “Dark Fire” its sequel.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"The Blood Banker", by David Prever

Mr. Prever’s debut novel was offered as a free download which I stumbled upon some time back and decided why not give it a try. The synopsis promised to provide a gripping story with action sequences so engaging it would be difficult to put it down. From time to time I do give my attention to first time writer and I am rarely disappointed, this one joins those who managed to have kept me glued to every word and engaged by the suspense from start to finish.

I admit having enjoyed the moments spent with this thriller, one set in the world of high finance where bankers take their own lives…The first chapters pulled me in and I wanted more and I got more. As the story moved along and picked up pace it became a nail biting experience and when all the pieces of the puzzle came together it was most satisfying.

This lean and well- written novel is a smooth blend of police and journalistic skills mixed with financial jargon. The characterization is believable and well- drawn and the plot takes us into the murky water of power. All went well till the conclusion where we are left hanging on loose ends and with so unanswered questions...or is this some twisted ending to pique our interest in a sequel….Some minor hicks are noticed in spelling and mixed words although this did not distracted me it was nevertheless an annoyance. A little tweak here and there is all that was needed….

Product description:

The body of a French banker lies under a train on the London Underground: the first of three of three “banking suicides”' A tragic result of the economic downturn. Former tabloid reporter, turned blogger, Danny Lightfoot needs a story. And something about the tube death doesn't add up... In a race to reveal the truth, Lightfoot uncovers a laundered money trail that leads, via Hong Kong and the world's largest online criminal cartel, to the heart of British government...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth", by Chris Hadfield

Being a Canadian I must admit being slightly biased in my assessment of this impressive, modest and charming book written by one of Canada’s much loved hero and one of the world`s most famous and recognized Astronauts.

In his modest mémoir Mr. Hadfield recounts for most part a life working diligently toward the ultimate goal: becoming an astronaut and going into space. It wasn`t always easy for him and the book relives the most important moments of his climb to success. In fact, a feat he accomplished three times before retiring.

Drawn from his personal experiences, the book is structured and written in a straight narrative as a kind of self-motivation book in life lessons highlighting the importance of setting goals, working hard and staying humble and most importantly being a strong team player, never being a drag on anyone and being prepare for anything. His accounts are not only interesting they are riveting and fun to read. He easily communicates his space experiences and discusses at length the questions we all have in mind (how do you manage this and that?). This book is infused with the same integrity and honesty that his personal and professional life reflects: a nice guy in every sense, a man who made space exploration sexy again.

Running throughout his mémoir it is clear that Mr. Hadfield was profoundly moved by his travels and often expresses his appreciation to taxpayers. He shows great humanity, humour and wisdom in his words. He doesn't talk much about his personal life but does praise his family for putting up with him and helping him to reach his dream.

This book is definitely worth reading and I recommend it without reservation.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

"The Proper Use of Stars", by Dominique Fortier

This novel is the fictional account of the disastrous attempt by Sir John Franklin and his crew to discover the mythic Northwest Passage. In 1845 they embarked on the Terror and the Erebus for a three year voyage only to be lost for ever in the unforgiving Tundra. What happened is the meat of this stunning story.

This story partly inspired by genuine events and based on real persons is an inventive and elegantly narrated weaving treads in a seamless tapestry of diary entries, scientific diagrams, letters, poems maps and musical sheet. This book reads beautifully as a series of superbly crafted vignettes.

Francis Crozier, Sir Franklin right hand man, provides the principal source for the Arctic narrative. Through his eyes he slowly dismantles Franklin image revealing him as he sees him and how he led his crew on a suicide mission. Through his diary, we see how the crew struggled in the savage wilderness till the very end.

In stark contrast, while Franklin’s crew are starving, Lady Jane Franklin and her niece Sophia both are feasting at elaborate tea parties and indulging in the refined world of balls. The author has a real eye for beauty and due to the richness and complexity of her language the Victorian drawing rooms and the high drama of the freezing Arctic come vividly alive. Throughout the novel continues contrasting the two separate worlds and reflecting life in both setting. This juxtaposition is well done although the setting that started beautifully soon lapsed into monotony.

Not everyone will like this style I for one had difficulty adjusting to the narrative and I prefer to see lots of action in historical fiction, this one is more dialogue driven than anything else. Although the story is familiar the spin given by Ms. Fortier is nonetheless quite original.

"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie", by Alan Bradley

Book 1, in the Flavia de Luce series

This is a delightful old fashioned mystery set in the English countryside in 1950. It features Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old amateur sleuth who pulls herself away from her beloved chemistry lab in order to clear her father in a murder investigation. This debut novel was written in 2009 and was well received by critics, 5 more books were written for adults and have since been published.

Flavia de Luce is a brilliant, bold, adorable and a gem of a character. She comes alive on the page and her voice is so distinctive, a precocious young heroine with extraordinary vocabulary (she certainly has a doozy one) it is hard not to be engaged by this compelling lead detective. Although I was totally absorbed by this tale I do question to whom this book was meant to appeal? When an 11 year old girl is the protagonist you would think a younger audience is the target but when a language has such a deep level and details paint realistic experiences it makes for a tedious read and may be a bit much for the younger minds. Oh! Yes I remember this series is for adults…. Hum…ok.

Flavia is far too mature for her age, putting this aside was my best bet to enjoy this mystery at its fullest. In fact I now say this story is rather captivating, one that moves quickly giving us bits and pieces until we have the final picture. There are a lots of clues covertly hidden waiting for us to discover and this is a fun pleasure. Added to all this mix is a touch of humour. This is an uplifting adventure that was slow to grab me but it finally did as I further read along.

Next “The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag” is on my TBR list….I give Mr. Bradley thumbs up for picked such original titles.